Cynthia M. Akers
Terri Pedersen Summey
Academic librarians often face challenges reaching out to students and gathering feedback about library resources and services. As Kuhlthau (2004) discovered, the information seeking or research process contains a strong affective element. As students proceed through the research process, they experience a diverse range of emotions, including anxiety, isolation, and frustration. Students may be intimidated by the library and often perceive that they are the only individuals having difficulties. This perception might inhibit students from asking for assistance, especially from library staff who appear to be older, more knowledgeable, and more confident. Because of this apprehension, students may avoid the library and not be aware of the library resources and, more importantly, the services available to them.
Although librarians work hard to ‘spread the news’ about library resources and services, they interact mainly with other faculty outside of the library. Interactions with students are often in a more formal library instruction setting or one-to-one at the service desks within the library when students are brave enough to approach someone. Often, students may seek out other students, including student employees, as informal peer mentors. “When a student sees a classmate working in the library, there is an existing relationship upon which communication can be built. If the questions posed by our anxious student are met with good answers, a bridge to the library has been built” (Baird 2006, 4).
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