Hand me my glasses and affix a Kick Me sign to my back, because today I’m going to blog about…wait for it (trumpets blare)…The Library! I know, I know, but keep reading, because it’s going to be awesome and you get to meet a WVU grad who’s really nice, super smart, and knows her away around a search engine like nobody’s business.
Not that I missed the endless wandering through stacks or all-nighters in the study carrels from my undergrad days, but within a few days of starting in the IMC program, a question suddenly came to mind: I’m in Seattle and WVU is in Morgantown, so how am I going to get to the library? It didn’t take long to find out that a lot has changed since the mid-1990’s in the world of collegiate libraries, just about all of it for the better. At WVU, this means that nearly any database you could find in the on-campus libraries in Morgantown is also available online to IMC students and other distance learners. And, while Google has the algorithm to find most information online, these databases have the information that most publishers don’t want to give away for free. When a Google search leads to the dreaded paywall, chances are the same article is waiting for you in the library at no extra cost — it’s included with your tuition.
For this, we can thank the members of the e-Resources Committee at WVU Libraries and their chairperson, Penny Pugh. Penny is the award-winning Head of Reference at the downtown campus library in Morgantown and the person most IMC students will communicate with if they email, IM, or call for reference help during their time in the program. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of navigating the library’s resources during the past two years, but Penny still had some new tricks to show me during a phone conversation last week. Here are the top three, as determined by yours truly:
- Summon: Sure, you can look through all of the marketing databases one-by-one, but this brand-new tool searches across all of them instantly and is dead simple to use. The links to the actual articles can be a bit buggy, but it’s a fast-as-Google way to find out what’s available on your subject du jour.
- LibGuides: Penny is sometimes asked to create resource pages for specific classes. The ones for Marketing and Advertising were created for undergrad classes and look handy for IMC research, too.
- Google Scholar (via WVU): When you access Google Scholar via the WVU Library, you’ll get direct links to any article in the search results that’s available through the library.
Penny is a WVU alumni who has seen reference materials at the library migrate from paper to Bitnet to CD-Rom and, during the past ten years or so, to the Internet. With a firm belief that good research can “add immeasurably to student success,” Penny spends most of her time working with students from the business, humanities, and journalism/IMC programs, both at the reference desk and in the classroom. Her #1 tip for students, both current and prospective, in the IMC program is to remember that “research is a recursive process,” so it’s important to “carefully read the (search) results you got, try to understand why you got it, and if it meets your needs.”
My undergrad days were over before all of this information moved online (heck, before Google even existed), so I’ve been amazed by all that I’ve been able to find and discover online while completing my IMC coursework. ABI/INFORM and Google Scholar are my go-to starting points for research. If you’re a current student, where do you normally start your research? Prospective students, what would you like to know about the library before you start in the IMC program?