By Matthew Houston
Algonquin’s library is the backbone to many programs, and for some it is the only way they can exist. That’s the view of Brenda Mahoney, one of Woodroffe campus’ two librarians.
The nursing program and construction engineering technician program are among those that rely on the library’s databases.
This time of year, Mahoney is supposed to be comparing database usage over the past year to see which ones are used by students and faculty and which she needs to cancel.
But faculty requests for her to instruct classes on how to properly use library resources and find legitimate sources for their research has taken up too much time.
“If it means the teachers think the library is important and they need the instruction early, that makes me very happy,” she said.
Awareness of the services is key.
“I’ve had students tell me they didn’t even know we had a library. Sometimes I have faculty asking us to get databases that we already have,” she said.
With the rise of degree programs and more research directed programs at Algonquin, the library has been undergoing a change in the materials they collect.
“Before our collections were very practical, the material was newer rather than historical. Now with post-diploma courses and longer duration programs those students do need to look at things in a historical context,” Mahoney said.
To acquire these collections the library has formed a consortium with eight other libraries, both academic and public, called Sm@rt Library. Now, students can borrow from other libraries directly without having to wait three days for an inter-library loan, as long as they get a card from Algonquin. This is one of the ways Algonquin is trying to make accurate information more easily accessible; and students need the help. Project Information Literacy, a study which focuses on the challenges young adults face when conducting college level research, found that when faced with a research project students felt worry, anxiety and stress.
“Students thought that everything could be found online and they knew how to do it, but they didn’t, ” said Helena Merriam, coordinator of the library and information technician program at Algonquin.
One of her program’s main focuses is teaching information literacy, which involves the ability to both find and filter information to get the best data and sources.
As information becomes more easily available, the vast quantities can be too much for students to sift through. To help, the library has been developing tools to make the library system more intuitive to use.
Lib Guides allows students to have a library page dedicated to their subject, while One Search allows students to search almost all the databases at once. One Search conducted over 9.5 million searches last year.
Apart from the school library, public libraries offer useful services as well.
“Libraries are more than just books,” said Shannon Scharf-Parij, a library and information technician student. To her, public libraries are more like community centres, and a stomping ground for new Canadians. They offer free language classes, help with job searches, and can also help you form a business plan for a new company.
Rebecca Leclair, another student of the program, did her placement with the Ottawa Public Library’s Homebound Services, which delivers books to disabled and elderly individuals who can’t get to the library’s themselves. She said that most people in the library system love to learn, and most of all enjoy seeing others being curious and seeking out new information.