An interactive, multimedia instructional system introduces undergraduate students to the process of doing library research. This system is used in the lobby of the W.E.B. DuBois and reference area of the library for use whenever the library is open.
Students enter the University with little expertise in library research. When they are asked to research a subject and write a paper, they now use a multimedia system to receive training about the search process, about the Library of Congress Catalog System and about the idiosyncrasies of our particular library organization (i.e., how the holdings are split among main library and its satellites, what's available at the other Five Colleges, etc.). The system provides an introduction to library research that cover these topics and students can return to the system time and time again for reference and to search out new information about more specialized topics.
Reference Librarians field far fewer of the commonly asked questions (i.e. "Why are there no journals after 1990 in the stacks?", or "How do I get access to government documents in the Special Collections?"). The system does not replace the direct training done by librarians, but allows broader and timelier access to the same material so that the community's reliance on the time-constrained "live" delivery method is diminished.
An additional advantage is the ability to use pictures, floor plans and maps to convey more information than classes do presently. Graphics were scanned in from existing documents and digital photographs and turned into interactive hypermedia. Moreover, animation techniques have been used to give the course humor and life.
The online course covers the same material as the current course and more. An advantage of the hypermedia approach is that information can be organized so that users ranging from beginners to expert can all benefit. Beginners will find the introductory materials of most interest, and can return to the system as their sophistication increases. More experienced library users can skip to the sections on advanced topics to home in on specialized information about collections and services.
The course is divided into several sections. The first is a general introduction to the UMass library system via a hypermedia tour, followed by a typical story (animated) of a student's first UMass library search. The second section looks in more depth at the main activities students engage in when using the library: using indexes to find subject materialsStudent in Library, then locating and borrowing the relevant periodicals and books. These are preceded by an introduction to the Library of Congress cataloging system.
The course was developed using off-the-shelf software, specifically Macromedia's Authorware and Director. An important aspect of the project was the training of several library staff members in the use of Authorware, so that they have the ability to update the course as necessary and even develop new applications in the future.
MaryJane Canavan, Reference Librarian, W.E.B. Du Bois Library
Emily S. Silverman, Reference Librarian, W.E.B. Du Bois Library
David M. Hart, Executive Director, Center for Computer-Based Instructional Technology
Ryan Moore, Center for Computer-Based Instructional Technology
University of Massachusetts Amherst