Students' perception of the impact of user education on the use of reference resources: an Iranian experience.

Author:Mohammadi, Mahdi


The 21st century is the age of science. Scientific knowledge is created and communicated largely through teaching and research. University libraries are an integral part of teaching and research. Teaching and research depend upon the library, and achievements in teaching and research are not possible without the library. Expenses for library resources are considerable, and users should therefore be familiar with library materials and their applications. User education is a vital part of this process. Instruction in using reference works is an important and effective aspect of user education. Studies show that about 60% of students could not make use of reference works and that about 90% considered user education vital (Prorak, 1994: 69). Librarians can train users better and more carefully than other experts. Library user education provides a collection of skills that have a close relationship to other educational goals.

Problem Statement

The volume of scholarly and scientific publications is very large, with about 1,000 new books and 9,600 periodical titles published daily in the United States alone. The amount of available information is too large for anyone to access all materials and resources. Users must be able to discriminate and select. Selection is not possible without sufficient knowledge. User education is necessary for the best use of information resources. Information literacy is a major subject in the field of library user education programs. The American Library Association (ALA) defines information literacy:

"To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information" (Webber and Johnston, 2003).

Research on user needs and abilities can strengthen information literacy efforts. This study is a survey of students' familiarity with reference resources and their applications.


The study has three hypotheses:

* Most students do not know different approaches to information-seeking through reference resources.

* There is a significant difference between trained students (those who have passed courses "Familiarity with library and librarianship" and "Bibliology" by library and information professors) and untrained students (those who have not had any education in library and information science)

* Teaching a course entitled "Familiarity with library and its materials" is the most effective form of user education.

Research Questions

In this survey, we try to answer the following questions:

* What is the level of students' familiarity and proficiency in using reference works?

* Do students feel that user education is a necessity?

* What are the best methods of user education from the student point-of-view?

* Who can provide the best user education?


This study is a descriptive survey. The population is all students at Qom Islamic Azad University (QIAU), which has about 6,800 students (Diploma, Bachelor, and Master of Science, and Ph.D). About 350 students were selected using the Krejcie and Morgan formula. Information was gathered using a questionnaire of 22 questions (20 short-answer and 2 open -ended). Data analysis includes descriptive statistics, mean, standard deviation, charts, and student T-test.

Related Studies

User education in libraries evolved at the end of the nineteenth century (Salony, 1995). Vogel (1972, quoted in Atarodi, 1996) performed the first user education study. He found that, "there is always a barrier between librarians and university users (students). The library building and its different parts are barriers ... between patrons and the library."

Whitaker (1976) asks two basic questions: why do some people use libraries more than others, and why is using some libraries easier than others? He indicates that the main factor affecting library use is familiarity with how the library, as a whole, can be optimally used. Users who are more familiar with library and its facilities can use them more easily. Phipps and Dickstein (1977) studied methods of user education in a library among new students and found no significant difference between the lecture method and programmed user education.

Some studies have concluded that library education can have a positive impact on the quality of students' education. For example, Breviks (1982; quoted in Tiefel, 1995) demonstrated that there is a significant relationship between library user education and student grades. Moreover, Prorak (1994) looks at user education for music students, and found a significant relationship between user education and student grades.

Parirokh (1997) looks at the role of university libraries as contributors to independent learning. The findings show a lack of awareness by both librarians and instructors of theories and teaching methods that promote independent learning skills as well as educational environments that do not stimulate independent learning.

Clarke (1999) reviews the development of user education within...

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