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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Customers do not want to return Research materials

Author:  Lorette S.J. Weldon, EdD, MLS, Creator and Teacher of  Learning and Teaching Memory and Study Skills: The Way to Information Literacy,


In special libraries, corporate libraries, and state archives, I have encountered losing library material to staff.  You know, the ones that ask you for specific documents and stash them away in their offices when you give them those documents.  They tell you that they will return it but when those documents get to their offices, those staff members begin to create their own library on that subject area.  They will not return it.  I guess those documents made them feel complete in their work environment.  But, what about the other staff members who come to you looking for that same document or book or journal?  What do you do when the customer does not return the library materials?

When I started to teach reading to undergraduate college freshmen, I would always be amazed by how many students would not have library cards.  One out of 24 students would have a library card.  Why did this happen?  The students told me that everything that they needed to read was on the Internet or through their Kindles.  Now, not including the one with the card, five of the 24 students would say that they had been to a library when they were kids.  The undergraduate college freshmen would be 18 years old and older.  Those library cards were long gone or they had moved and did not get a card for the county that was their residence.

My class’ first assignment was to get a library card.  At least half of them were successful because they had a driver’s license or other forms of identification.  The others had to become a library-buddy (one student had a library card and one did not) to share the materials.  Everyone would have a chance to go to the library.  No excuses.

Beginning the Hunger for Reading

I picked out the closest library to the college and I created movies of the library to prepare them for their big semester project.  I discussed the different library policies and tested the students on them so that they would know what to expect going to this particular library.  When we had class, I would show them where they could find different library materials for different types of research.  I created little maps for each student’s research project pertaining to where to find the sources in that library.   The students would then go to the library, find sources related to their subject, and then check out those materials to match the research that they wanted to do.  

The big semester project was to read a biography about a famous person on the reading list and then do more research on an aspect of that person’s life.  What made that person famous?  After they would single out a specific part of that person’s life, they would get to work on how to research that element of that person’s life.  For example, a person could have become famous because the person died from a specific kind of cancer.  The student would look up that type of cancer and relate it to the biography.

The course had the students go back and forth to the library to retrieve articles about a certain element of the celebrity’s life that made them famous.   Every class period had the students give a 2 minute presentation on what they had found so far. 

The Connection

As the semester progressed, the students began to make connections with the person whom they were reading about and began to discuss struggles that seemed similar to struggles that they had in life.  The discussions made the class become more connected with their research project and with each other.  This made the project worth more than just a grade.

When the semester came to a close, more than half of the students did not want the biographies to be finished.  They completed their projects.  Some of the students complained that the library did not give them enough time to finish their books. They felt that 3 weeks were not enough time to finish reading the books that they had checked-out from the local library.  Even though the students renewed their books twice, some had kept their books over the due date and were charged a late fee. 


After the course was over, one student came up to me after the final exam and told me that he loved the biography he had read for the semester.  He could not put it down so he read it again.  He told me that he intended to read it another time after that.  It was the first book he had ever read from the first page to the last page.  I told him that he would need to return the book to the library so that he would not have to pay a late fine and so that someone else could read the book.

This student smiled at me.  He had the book held firmly in his hands like holding a trophy and said, “I will return it when I have finished reading it.”  This student wanted to hold on to his “reading prize”.  After a year had gone by, I saw that student again in the hallway.  He told me, proudly, that he had the book that he had read for my class, on the top of his bookcase.  I still insisted that he needed to return the book. 

The result with the student was the same as for the staff in special libraries, corporate libraries, and state archives.  Holding on to research materials made them both feel complete.  The student was made complete by holding on to this book, the first book he had ever read, like a trophy, while the staff held on to the research materials that made them feel secure in their projects. 

What can be done to get customers to return research materials to their research collections? 

IN THE FUTURE, I WILL DISCUSS the possible differences between Googling, Wikipedia, and Scholarly Research.