A colleague and I were talking this morning about how quickly search processes change. There are fewer hard and fast rules for finding information anymore.
Example: A student comes to the reference desk with an article citation and wants the full text. First the librarian checks the catalog for a paper or electronic holdings for the journal’s title. That yields nothing. Next, we check the electronic journals list that isn’t completely integrated into the catalog. Again nothing. Ok, so next let’s check the university down the street for a subscription. No dice. So, finally we suggest using interlibrary loan as the student groans over the possibility of a 2 week wait.
As a last resort the librarian simply Googles the title of the article as a phrase and guess what?! The author has self archived it and posted it to her website as a .pdf file.
The point of this story (which I’m sure anyone in reference services has experienced) is that the traditional processes of tracking down full text don’t always work anymore. So how are we to teach students the “how” of searching and retrieving?!
The answer is to stop providing generic information literacy instruction and instead move to a discipline-specific set of critical thinking skills. Searching and retrieving skills vary from in academic disciplines so instead of trying to teach an often convoluted set of searching skills, lets try teaching students how to do it in their disciplines. Is self archiving a common practice among researchers in their field or is there a core group of 5 journals where 80% of the research is published?