by Tarica LaBossiere
Our law library hosts three digital study aid libraries – LexisNexis Digital Library, West Academic, and Wolters Kluwer Online Study Aid Library. Between these three subscriptions, our library is able to place over 700 titles at the fingertips of each student. Our goal is to ensure that our students know what popular supplements are available and how to access them.
Looking at our monthly statistics, it seems we are successful. There is plenty of traffic to each digital sight, with West Academic taking the lead in visitors, and Wolters Kluwer following up at a close second. Much of this success is due to workshops put on by the library in conjunction with each 1L required Legal Skills and Professionalism (LSP) course. A brief 30-45-minute library presentation at the beginning of each year introduces the incoming 1L students to the friendly faces of our law library and vast array of supplements simultaneously available to every student through the University, for free!
Most students are eager to explore what study aids and supplements our digital databases have to offer. They’re even more thrilled when they see popular titles suggested on their 1L syllabi without having yet braved the stacks of the library. Still, even knowing these titles are just a click away, we have a few traditionalists who are adamant about obtaining their study aids in print.
“I don’t like e-book formats.”
“I can’t use an e-book to follow along with others.”
“The digital database is confusing; print is just easier.”
“I like to handwrite my notes.”
“I just like to have something in my hand while I study.”
Although the cost of purchasing a study aid or supplement will lure potential naysayers to the free online content, sometimes a little persuasion is necessary to help students see that e-books are not the lagging inconveniences they anticipate. These are just a few ways I’ve taken to softly nudging our e-book averse students into embracing the unstoppable digital age.
- Active Demonstrations to Showcase Beneficial Features
Many students have interacted with some type of e-book prior to coming to law school. Some students harbor a rational, yet misconceived fear of digital materials stemming from past e-book trauma. Visions of plain black and white text glaring from a too bright, too small tablet immediately spring to mind. Critical reading and/or notetaking of any text presented in similar fashion seems next to impossible to manage #thankyounext.
We as librarians know that not every e-reader was created equally. My Kindle Cloud Reader does not function the same as an ePub or a PDF download. Our job is to showcase the most efficient usage of these tools, and show our students that many of their preconceived fears of e-books are unwarranted.
As previously mentioned, we first introduce our digital databases to students during their 1L required Legal Skills and Professionalism course. This ensures that all 1L students are at the very least made aware of the existence of the online databases. Knowing that the database exists piques their curiosity, and a majority of students either seek out the database themselves or follow-up with a reference librarian for more guidance.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to advertise all of the different features of all three digital databases within our limited time frame. Conversely, extending our presentation runs the risk of information overload. It’s a curiously odd tightrope librarians walk ensuring our audience is presented with necessary information requested without overwhelming recipients and consequently drowning the information initially cherry-picked to pass on. Not to mention each online databases different licensing restrictions – which means different printing limits and different offline features.
Still, the purpose of this blog post is to provide tips to entice students, not scare them away. A quick demonstration can assuage multiple fears students have about approaching online materials, and let them know that that the e-book will not just be the bare bones of the text. We want to dissuade any preconceived notions students may have about digital materials, and give an accurate representation as to what they look today.
“Yes, the digital copy looks exactly like the print copy.”
“Yes, you can see the page numbers.”
“Yes, you can even print.”
Following the in-class demonstrations, the second-best place to demonstrate key digital database features is conveniently at the Reference Desk. When covering the Reference Desk, I always have access to my laptop. When students come to the reference desk looking for specific study aids or course supplements, (if available) I will access the online content first. When I load the online content, students are interested in the many features they either didn’t know was available or didn’t know how to use. This brief one-on-one time gives great insight to digital database look-and-feel. Even if they choose to check-out the print source for the material they were initially interested in, at least they were able to take a brief tour of our online database and may consider using the tool when needed in the future.
“Did you know that you can share notes internally with the online database?”
“Internal links are a Godsend for in-text navigation.”
“I find it easier to just highlight a term and search it then have to go to another source just to define a term.”
- Know Your Stuff!
All of the above noted features quickly become useless if a student is unable to perform a required function when needed. This is where we, as librarians, shine. Nothing says this database might be overly complicated than if our reference librarians are having trouble using it. Comfortability with our digital libraries puts students at ease. Simplicity navigating an online database and its many features lessen frustrations, and allow students to explore without pressure or complication. Simple tutorials reduce an immediate and/or ultimate aversion to online databases.
“The audio-books aren’t playing?”
“I lost my notes!”
For each digital library, a training session was held by a database representative to make sure the librarians understood not only what was being offered, but the best way for students to access. Getting to know the databases personally also helped us to field questions to the database representatives before students asked them of us.
Once again, all of the above features are next to useless if our students aren’t able to perform each function when needed. In each database, students must create an account to have full access to all of the pertinent features when checking out an e-book on the digital library database. Although all university students can access limited materials through our library proxy as a guest, many of the touted features – including offline access, highlighting, bookmarking, and transferable/shareable notes – are features that can only be used with a personal account. Unfortunately, this process can become a bit frustrating for students. More login combinations in addition to their Canvas account, Sharklink (university account), and legal research databases. Not the most pleasant, but understandable in the face of privacy and security concerns. Suggesting the highly recommended, “Keep me logged in/Remember my username and password” button will also easily allay these minor frustrations before becoming a significant issue for any user.
Overall, our goal is to provide access to all accessible resources. The primary goal for academic law librarians remains primary access to legal resources for all our students, faculty, and alumni. E-book access remains a forever burgeoning, yet under-assimilated resource, with various options for access. I’m excited to take advantage of the simultaneous access e-books offer, and I hope each student I interact with is, at the very least, aware and unafraid of the benefits that come with using our e-book, digital database subscriptions.