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Re: Another Librarian Lecture

February 11, 2013

This is my 4th consecutive semester at Siena and 6th librarian lecture. This sort of statistic seems to be typical among Siena students. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. The key to this idiom is the fact that fishing is a useful skill for this otherwise hungry man to learn. The relation of this idiom to the numerous librarian lectures that so many Siena students have been forced to attend is the fact that these lectures are trying to force upon us a useless skill disguised as a useful skill. After attending 6 of these lectures, the only bit of knowledge I have gained is the fact that you cannot impose the relevance of an irrelevant and outdated institution upon someone after 6 mere hour-long lectures over the course of two years. I have a feeling they are going to try a 7th next. Persistence is not a virtue. Why would any rational person choose to use the library’s unnecessary and inefficient resources to complete a project when they have access to Google Scholar?

Siena is an undergraduate institution, with a majority of business students. We have one Master’s program, in Accounting. The overwhelming aim of students, especially business students in relation to non-core English related classes, is to receive high marks with as little effort and risk as possible. The risk bit in that assumption should rule out plagiarism, while the effort bit should rule out all but the most accessible of resources—aka Google Scholar. Yes, one could argue that the library’s various search engines are a close second in terms of accessibility. However the vast majority of the library’s other services, the services which are endlessly discussed in these lectures (inter-library loans for instance), are those services which are prohibitively inefficient. The instant gratification that online services offer is valuable. In fact I would argue that this accessibility is more valuable than the marginal increase in the quality of the less accessible sources that the library offers.

Graduate students are after the PhD, which requires an unholy number of accurate and detailed sources dating back years prior to what has been digitized. There are no limits to the value of a dissertation. Undergraduate students are after the grade, which is capped at an A+. In my experience the grade a paper receives does not correlate to the quality of its sources, but rather to the intelligence of the discussion. In fact in my experience most professors do not bother with anything more than a superficial source check. Cheers to those bold few who choose to cite books’ abstracts instead of reading them. The library offers a valuable service, to an extent; the lectures less so.

Quantitative Anyalysis:

Assumptions: Siena has an estimated 3,200 full time students. Each of these students pays $30,200 in tuition expenses alone. Each of these students takes 5 classes per semester. Each class is approximately 2,300 minutes per semester. This comes out to approximately 380 hours of classes per year (Fall + Spring semesters). This is approximately $80 of tuition per hour of class. Each librarian lecture runs approximately an hour.

Analysis: Assuming students average one lecture a year over the course of their 4-year education. This comes out to ¾ hours of unnecessary librarian lectures per student per year; assuming that the first lecture for any single student can be considered necessary. So these extra librarian lectures waste approximately $200,000 of Siena students’ tuition per year. I wonder, is that more or less than the library’s actual budget?

For the sake of knowledge, let us change the estimate. If every student were like myself and had been forced to attend an average of 3 librarian lectures per year—under the same assumptions—then the librarian lectures would be wasting approximately $700,000 of Siena students’ tuition per year; in addition to the library’s actual budget. The information these lectures provide can be obtained freely by actually visiting the library. Which is, coincidentally, what anyone who intends to use the information these lectures provide must do anyway. So these lectures are both redundant and wasteful in the extreme.

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3 Comments
  1. I agree with you that hearing the librarian lecture several times will not change our way of researching. At freshman orientation, one of the things we had to listen to was a librarian tell us what resources were available to us and I think that was plenty. As a junior, I have heard the same thing in several classes. While it is useful information, hearing it again and again isn’t very helpful. while the online databases are very helpful in my opinion, I agree that the inter-library loan system is not so helpful since you have to wait several days for the material to arrive.
    I thought that the link you posted about persistence not being a virtue was interesting. The dogs had been sprayed several times but still didn’t leave the skunks alone. I think it was an interesting and good connection made in this blog.

    • Too kind. That link was meant to be a bit funny, apparently it wasn’t (in hindsight is was pretty bad.) Unfortunately there isn’t much to link to regarding such a Siena-specific issue.

  2. I appreciate your honesty. Certainly 6 presentations in 4 semesters is overkill.

    Just a side comment on library resources at an undergraduate institution: Certainly they exist to support your undergraduate classwork but they are also there to support both student and faculty research. Admittedly, it’s not something I thought about when I was an undergraduate student but it is a big piece of the picture. That being said, PhD students and graduates use Google too!

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