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Contribution to Book
What an Experience: Library Staff Participation in Ethnographic Research
Studying students : the Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester (2007)
  • Helen Anderson, University of Rochester
  • Ann Marshall, Indiana University - Purdue University Fort Wayne
The University of Rochester’s River Campus Libraries are known as innovative and forward thinking, especially in the areas of reference outreach, online catalogs, institutional repositories, and Web-based services. Still, the library staff wanted to do more to reach students and their instructors in support of the university’s educational mission. But to do more, we realized we needed to know more about today’s undergraduate students— their habits, the academic work they are required to do, and their library-related needs. In particular, we were interested in how students write their research papers and what services, resources, and facilities would be most useful to them. As Katie Clark, director of the Carlson Science and Engineering Library, remarked early in this project, “Papers happen,” but we did not know how they happen. Thus, in the summer of 2004, a group of librarians and the River Campus Libraries’ lead anthropologist met at a park on the shore of Lake Ontario for lunch and a discussion of some research we might do to enlarge our knowledge of undergraduate work processes. Many of us had participated in a previous study, supported by a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services, to examine the work practices of faculty members in order to build a better institutional repository (Foster and Gibbons 2005). Based on the success of that study, we decided to use similar anthropological and ethnographic methods to examine how undergraduate students write their research papers. The information collected in this study would guide the libraries’ efforts to improve library facilities, reference outreach, and the libraries’ Web presence.
  • academic libraries,
  • research,
  • undergraduate students
Publication Date
Nancy Fried Foster and Susan Gibbons
Association of College and Research Libraries
Citation Information
Helen Anderson and Ann Marshall. "What an Experience: Library Staff Participation in Ethnographic Research" ChicagoStudying students : the Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester (2007) p. 55 - 62
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