Thursday, I took my composition students to the library for a refresher on using Aladin for research, and I was left with some confusions about their comprehension, level of comfort, and intuitive/creative/logical ability to use the catalog to browse effectively. At the end of the class, instead of looking at the books we’d pulled and beginning to evaluate them as sources, I was astonished to find that so many simply left!! Why would this happen? Granted, we weren’t in our usual class, and granted, I wasn’t talking at them but roaming around the room addressing individual questions in between directing the larger class, but why would you simply assume the class had ended? Aaah! I suppose I need to require another brief writing assignment–browse through these books, and choose one to evaluate briefly as I’m asking you to do for project 3….
One of the things we went over specifically in the session was how to browse effectively using the catalog. After asking students to find two of the secondary sources from which our coursepack readings were drawn, we went into more interesting waters–students were to browse the catalog for sources relevant to the next projects, finding two books that appealed to you and that may be potential sources for the final essay on film in the 1920s. We specifically addressed the LOC subject headings, and the fact that computers are not smart–if you mis-type something, or if you don’t use the right terms or search options, then the computer will not “know what you mean” and find it. I hope the session resulted in some useful skills, but I don’t know. We’ll see next class, when I’m going to reprise the last portion of the project–looking over a selection of (relevant!) books on the subject and evaluating them for nature, audience, research, utility, and so on.