By Sarah Hayes, A&E Editor
Halfway through his presentation, reference librarian Chris Niemeyer asked the audience of nearly twenty students if any of them had used the MOBIUS system. Only three students raised their hands. He later asked if anyone had visited a MOBIUS library in person. The number of students who raised their hands dropped to one.
Luckily, the students were attending a Commit to Success (CtS) workshop covering the process of finding resources for writing academic essays, including how to utilize the MOBIUS system. This particular series of workshops takes place in Lucas Hall 107 and is run by the Multicultural Student Services Office. Niemeyer, who ran the workshop, is an employee of the Thomas Jefferson Library, where he is also in charge of library instructional services on top of his duties in reference work.
This specific workshop was created with students’ needs in mind. “It was brought to our attention that many students were unaware of the wealth of resources available to them through the campus library,” said Natissia S. Small, assistant dean in the division of student affairs. Based on student surveys, Small’s department developed the library orientation workshop for CtS with the intent of improving academic importance as well as making more students aware of what the Thomas Jefferson Library (TJL) can do for them.
On February 15, Niemeyer walked attending students through several components of the library including the online catalog, databases, research consultations, and searching for articles and books via the Summon system. All of these things are available to users through the University of Missouri-St. Louis Library website, accessible via the UMSL home page.
The databases are a particular point of pride for the campus library, with access to millions of articles spanning practically every discipline and subject a student could ever look up information for.
“You name it,” Niemeyer pointed out, “we got it.”
One point he strongly stressed during his demonstration of the databases is that the articles he was pulling up via Summon were not ones people would be able to find via Google; UMSL pays subscription fees to access these databases, and the material on them are entirely unique and proprietary to those services.
“[These articles are] something you can Google all day and all night until your fingers fall off,” said Niemeyer, “you’re not going to find it for free online.”
MOBIUS was a favored topic during the workshop. Niemeyer has been a known advocate for more widespread usage of the MOBIUS system by college students, and that was readily apparent during his presentation. The MOBIUS system is a collection of libraries with material from colleges and universities inside Missouri, in which patrons of the system can borrow books from any collection that MOBIUS has access to. While the MERLIN cluster is the individual group that UMSL belongs to, the overall MOBIUS system ranges to include colleges from all across the state and has even expanded to include outside states, such as Illinois and Colorado. Next to the databases, the MOBIUS search engine may be one of the most useful but little-known tools a student has at their disposal while at UMSL.
Niemeyer went into great detail on the various ways students could search and request books through the MOBIUS system. He also covered more TJL-specific processes, such as the web chat with a librarian option on the library website and making an interlibrary loan request. He fully acknowledged that sometimes things can go wrong on the website or students could get frustrated while using it and need help; at that point, he champions for contacting a reference librarian, either over the phone or in person.
“Databases make mistakes,” he said before jumping into the various ways students can get around the issues academic databases give users, such as automatically generated citations. If students do not know how citations should look then they can be fooled by the database’s errors, such as putting first names first or typing everything in all caps, with all the information “just screaming at you.”
The event ended with Niemeyer asking the student attendees for any further questions, but those were far and few between them. It is no surprise, though; the thorough attention and step-by-step process Niemeyer gave to walking them through the various aspects of using the library online left little room for confusion. With all the information that was provided during the workshop, including a very concise and clear handout covering library research 101, students should be able to walk into the Thomas Jefferson Library with confidence and the tools to succeed in research work.
The Commit to Success workshops are scheduled to run through the rest of the spring semester and will all take place in Lucas Hall 107. The February 15 program is one of four specifically tailored to address the different aspects of academic writing, which includes research and how to find sources college professors deem appropriate.
Students are highly encouraged by the college to attend all of the workshops provided for free by the Multicultural Student Services department. For Small, the workshops are “strategically developed to address many of the academic, social, personal, cultural and professional interests which assists with the holistic development of UMSL students on campus.” It can also be used as a networking opportunity for students to reach out to fellow peers and professionals in their respective fields.
The next CtS workshop is on February 25 at 4 p.m., and is titled “Career Spotlight: My Journey from UMSL Student to Professional”. UMSL alumni will be sharing their stories of going from a college setting to an actual career. For more information about the Multicultural Student Services, students can visit them online at www.umsl.edu/~mcraa/.