C&RL Spotlight

C&RL has selected a new social media editor in Ellen Filgo and are happy to welcome her. Through some discussions with Ellen, we have determined that there is opportunity to change the Spotlight up a little. The Spotlight has served as a kind of bridge between the scholarly, research-oriented content in C&RL and the more applied cases and best practices focus of C&RL News. While there is overlap between the readerships, the expectations of each are different. The Spotlight is intended to bring research to the attention of the C&RL News readership; however, these papers are not necessarily framed in such a way that the implications and benefits for practice are obvious. In addition, in an effort to be responsive to new forms of media and the popular venues for getting timely information, we are reframing and refocusing.

Therefore, the Spotlight will highlight the takeaways and practical implications of the journal articles published in the current issue of C&RL. The abstracts are well written and provide a summary of the studies, but we feel it is also important to focus on the results and the transferable knowledge. In this way, the Spotlight may be a more effective bridge between the scholarship and the practice of academic librarianship, as was intended.

Ellen will also be disseminating the activities of the journal and the work of the authors in various social media venues in a targeted effort to bring readers—specifically library practitioners—who will most benefit from the practical implications of the research.

In this issue, as sometimes happens, the confluence of review and publishing processes has resulted in what looks like a very deliberate thematic issue. The preponderance of the articles address various aspects of user behavior or perception with regard to online platforms, resources, or services supported by libraries.

Sarah P.C. Dahlen and Kathlene Hanson. “Preference vs. Authority: A Comparison of Student Searching in a Subject-Specific Indexing and Abstracting Database and a Customized Discovery Layer.” “Discovery layers may be a less intimidating way to introduce new students to searching for information and they can be useful for finding known citations and conducting searches on esoteric topics. Subject-specific indexing and abstracting databases provide a less overwhelming set of search results as well as better options for advanced searching within a discipline, making them of particular utility to upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty.”

Study results indicated:

  • Not all students prefer discovery tools.
  • The tools that students prefer may not be those that give them the best results.
  • Default configuration matters.

“While we did not find instruction to have a significant effect on student satisfaction with search tools or their ability to find higher quality sources, further research in this area could inform instructional practice and speak to the value of academic librarians.”


Paula R. Dempsey. “Resource Delivery and Teaching in Live Chat Reference: Comparing Two Libraries.” “This study is in service of professionals reflecting on practice. In the unpredictable flow of chat, the ideal interaction is nearly impossible. How can these findings help librarians to bring practice closer to the ideal? First, the work that goes into creating research guides calls for using them effectively in the virtual context. Librarians might engage students in using research guides rather than risking negative closure by:

  • Guiding the student to the relevant section (e.g., “Do you see the Articles tab?”).
  • Pointing out specific databases for the topic rather than telling students to “search the research guide.”
  • Sending a link to a sample search in a suggested database to show students that it includes relevant resources.
  • Mentioning that a subject specialist in the library created the guide and is available for follow-up.

Second, in designing and promoting research guides, it is important to recognize frontline virtual reference staff as stakeholders, especially student workers, paraprofessionals, and nonspecialists. Reviewing transcripts and surveying staff can reveal recurrent questions suitable for discipline-specific instructional modules (e.g., how to find psychology case studies, curriculum guides, or legal cases) to incorporate in research guides.”


Ayoung Yoon and Teresa Schultz. “Research Data Management Services in Academic Libraries in the US: A Content Analysis of Libraries’ Websites.” “This study does not suggest the need for all libraries to develop the same level of website, as the core services needed in institutions would differ depending on the types and characteristics of institutions. . . . How key information is displayed and how the libraries’ services that they intend to provide are introduced are thus important to libraries’ efforts to reach out to potential users and researchers. The results of this study reveal many aspects of library data management webpages that need to be improved, including service development and the thoroughness of information offered.”

Conclusions include:

  • “. . . some libraries’ data management webpages seem not to provide a good basic introduction to their services, and they also lack clear explanations of what data management is and the purpose and intended audience of the data management webpages and services.”
  • “. . . it is worth noting that data deposit was the most frequently offered service.”
  • “It is also interesting that data management planning was the second most offered service. However, for less than half of libraries to provide this service seems not to be enough, considering funding agencies’ emphasis on data management planning and researchers’ need to meet funders’ requirements.”

    Anna Mierzecka, Malgorzata Kisilowska, and Andrius Suminas. “Researchers’ Expectations Regarding the Online Presence of Academic Libraries.” “Studies in the literature implied the existence of serious discrepancies between the humanities/social academics and scientists. In spite of that, findings of the survey presented in detail in the previous section of the article, lead to a general conclusion that Researchers’ expectations regarding the online presence of academic libraries the academics’ primary information needs concerning their libraries are in fact quite unified.”

  • “Two potential reasons and behavioural patterns of the scholars can be suggested here. The first is related to the emergence of the so-called digital humanities. . . . Further, the ongoing development of web tools, applications and resources such as language corpuses, digital libraries and museums or raw data sets, continues to influence both the research topics and methodologies, and the skill levels of the scholars.”
  • “The other reason for the preference for online to offline services may be traced to the state evaluation of institutions of higher education and output of their academic employees performed by the government agencies in last decade both in Poland (2012) and Lithuania (2010). As indicated by the current surveys of the information behaviours of the humanists in Poland, as well as by the previously reported ones, researchers have become more deliberate with regard to journals they read and attempt to publish in.”

“Such an attitude influences information searching behaviours in general, information about journal titles, publishers, citations or other indicators can be more easily found online. Journals available online have become an obvious choice, as easy access means better chances for being cited and consequently earning a higher rank in the evaluation process, both in the case of individuals and academic institutions.”


Leila Belle Sterman and Jason A. Clark. “Citations as Data: Harvesting the Scholarly Record of Your University to Enrich Institutional Knowledge and Support Research.” “Taking advantage of this ‘celebration point’ to motivate researchers and make the incremental post print submission process into a single simple task that is timely and beneficial has greatly benefitted our repository. The citation app project has taught us how to harvest and digest data feeds in ways that create value for university partners. Moreover, the library has found a new service in research promotion and advocacy that demonstrates new and emerging roles for research libraries.”

“This process has allowed less redundancy of gathering publication data. As offices on our campus have become aware of this metadata resource it has streamlined data collection from scientific institutes on campus when applying to grants, and allowed Colleges to easily celebrate the publication achievements of their faculty. In fact, our data continue to be reused and we were recently informed by our MSU Communications department that they are now using the citation data (accessed via our API) to populate department level pages with publications data through the campus content management system. Even beyond the benefits of data reuse, this project is a way for academics to see the library differently: we want to ensure that the campus is informed about the information and services that the library has currently, not just the books and analog materials they may associate with libraries.”


Heather Brodie Perry. “Information Literacy in the Sciences: Faculty Perception of Undergraduate Student Skill.” “This study provided information and insight into what faculty are looking for when their undergraduate students are doing literature searches and evaluating their search results. Greater insight into the needs and wants of faculty can assist librarians in providing better instruction to patrons.

  • The research indicated that librarians should focus on primary literature when working with students in the sciences. Additionally, librarians should be aware of the difficulties students encounter when working with the primary research, from recognizing it to evaluating it, to reading and understanding it.”
  • “Increased emphasis on the evaluation of scholarly literature should also be considered, as this is an important skill gap. As faculty suggested that students believe everything they read, establishing an appropriate level of skepticism in undergraduates is likely an important issue.”

While instructing students in finding and evaluating the literature was important to the faculty in the study, only 33% used librarians in the classroom for instruction.”


Hilary Bussell, Jessica Hagman, and Christopher S. Guder Research Needs and Learning Format Preferences of Graduate Students at a Large Public University: An Exploratory Study.” “Both on-campus and online students discussed difficulties in finding and accessing research materials in the qualitative portion of the study, though the survey results indicated that overall, students were more confident in their ability to find and cite sources in comparison to other research-related skills.” “The students differed, however, in their self-described need to find and analyze data and to develop certain intellectual and personality attributes to become effective researchers. These needs were only identified by students in the on-campus programs . . . students in the online programs . . . focused on access and searching challenges.”

  • “The quantitative findings show that master’s students have significantly less confidence than doctoral students in several research-related skills. These skills include both what could be considered more foundational (e.g., citing sources) and more advanced (e.g., storing and managing data).”
  • “Additionally, online students reported lower confidence levels than on-campus students in foundational skills related to accessing materials needed for research.”

“The qualitative findings suggest that on-campus as well as online students are open to learning research skills through online formats. This is backed up by the survey findings, with the two most preferred formats overall being videos that can be watched when needed and websites with text and images.”

Some additional findings include:

  • “The live online workshop format was rated at or near the bottom by both online and on-campus students and by both master’s and doctoral students. . . . The fact that “a video that I could watch when needed” was rated the highest overall . . . suggests that it is the synchronous nature of the live online workshop that graduate students do not like . . .”
  • “Unlike their online cousin, in-person workshops were ranked as one of the more highly preferred formats by graduate students. Given the low attendance at workshops offered by Ohio University, the researchers found this result particularly surprising . . .”
  • “By contrast, in-class presentations were one of the least preferred formats . . . these results suggest that graduate students want to be able to choose when and where they learn the skills they need for their research.”
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