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Electronic resources, used properly, are becoming essential for students. Claire Hodkinson reports
With the huge demands on students' time - juggling academic study, work placements and life's other commitments - having round-the-clock access to electronic resources such as online libraries, databases and Google scholar makes it all a little bit easier.
University libraries now offer many of their resources online. All UK university students can access journals that the institution has subscribed to using their Athens password, which is issued along with login details when they join the library.
In addition, the RCN library offers its members free access to a wide range of nursing-specific resources. M embers use their RCN membership number for this. But e-resources are only helpful if they are easy to access, navigate and understand. Without clarity, they can cause anxiety and confusion, particularly if assistance is predominantly virtual and personal tutorial contact is minimal.
To gain maximum benefit from e-resources, students should adopt a strategy. At the beginning of their course, knowing the answers to the following questions can ease their journey:
What can the library offer?
The library web pages can be a good starting point, especially if an induction is not offered.
Where can I go for specific help?
Some libraries offer drop-in sessions, workshops, roving support workers, specific subject librarians or peer-assisted study sessions (PASS).
What are the differences between e-resources and how are they used?
Too much choice can lead to information overload and the wrong resource being used. Students should be clear about when it is appropriate to use each type of resource, such as a database to search for journal article abstracts.
Tutors will often arrange for literature search sessions to be held in lectures or as hands-on workshops. If such sessions are not available, students should check their library web pages for training sessions.
Where can I find online help?
Many journal and book databases include help pages and/or 'ask a librarian' pages. The latter are often routed to specific people in the student's institution and allow students to send their query and its search history to the library team. These are useful for librarians because they can track the student's search and identify problems more quickly.
Are there clear objectives?
Students need to be aware of the objective they want to achieve if they are accessing help through a librarian or via a scheme such as PASS. Time is limited for both parties, so it is helpful for the student to brief the librarian beforehand.
Library research skills tutorial: www.ulrls.lon.ac.uk/tutorial/libraries
RCN library service: www.rcn.org.uk/development/library