E-Resources and You

Here’s a quick hypothetical question: if you cut yourself by accident and started bleeding badly, who would you go to for help? A medical professional with all the necessary training and years of experience? Or the guy next door whose medical expertise extends little farther than the application of Band-Aids and knowing how to dial 9-1-1?  I don’t know about you, but there is no doubt that I would go with option number one. After all, who in their right mind would pass up the years of knowledge and experience possessed by a medical professional in favor of whatever Joe Shmoe picked up from watching TV and surfing the Web?

Now, take that reasoning and apply it to online research. When you’re stuck writing a paper, and you need to look up an important date or a crucial name, where do you turn to first? If you are anything like most students today, you would probably zip on over to Google or Wikipedia and get your answer there. And who’s to blame you?  Those sites were created for speedy research.  But are websites like Google and Wikipedia really the best places to turn?

Enter college library e-resources. Our very own libraries here at UC Irvine are teeming with such resources, just waiting to be snapped up and put to use by needy students. The UCI library website is a treasure trove of research tools and links to other professional research sites. Using the search engines there, you can comb through reputable, scholarly sources and find just the information you need. Plus, whatever information you find there is almost guaranteed to be more trustworthy and reliable than whatever tidbits you were able to glean from your Google search. Why then do students consistently forego the incredible resources at their fingertips in favor of quick, superficial search engines like Google?

One very likely reason is that students either don’t know that such resources exist or don’t know how to use them effectively. It was not until I took an English 101W class did I become aware of the vast stores of knowledge the UCI library research system provides access to. Our teacher made it clear to us that Google wouldn’t cut it, and he gave us a crash course in navigating the library’s e-resources. The search engines were foreign, and it took some getting used to, but once I got the hang of it, I never wanted to go back.

The UCI library e-resources allow you to search through reams of professional, scholarly writings, including essays, critical responses and nearly anything else you could think of. The resources provided here were invaluable to me, not only for that class, but for every class since.  E-resources are especially tantalizing to an English major like myself, but they are by no means exclusive to one major or another. Anyone and everyone can benefit from UCI’s library e-resources. Whether you are working on a research paper or just want to get some more insight into that book you just read, the library e-resources are the place for you!

The biggest obstacle preventing students from making use of their local e-resources is the ease and speed with which one can look something up on websites like Google or Wikipedia.  In mere fractions of a second, you can press a button and be presented with hundreds or thousands of links to the information you want.  However, much of the content dredged up by Google search engines and Wikipedia libraries is user-generated. This is a far cry from the reliability found in campus library e-resources, but until students eyes are opened to this fact, they will likely continue using Google to get answers to their questions as quickly as possible.

The big issue facing campuses now is how to increase student awareness about the e-resources possessed by their school library.  I myself had never even thought of using such resources until they were introduced to me last year, and I wish I would have known about them earlier. One viable option is to require incoming students to attend a mandatory orientation geared toward familiarizing them with their campus’ e-resources. Another option would be to offer free e-resource guides, both online and in the libraries themselves. That way, maybe students would take a few minutes for self-improvement before finding a comfy spot for their afternoon library snooze.

Spencer Grimes is a fourth-year English major. He can be reached at sgrimes@uci.edu.