University Students Are Unaware of the Role of Academic Librarians


  • Kirsty Thomson Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom



academic librarianship, information commons, students, reference librarianship


Objective – To discover students’ perceptions of information commons staff, and to determine how these perceptions influence the use of library resources.

Design – Post-experience survey with one follow-up interview.

Setting – The University of Sheffield, a post-secondary institution in England.

Subjects – All undergraduate and postgraduate students were invited to take part. Just over 1% of the student population, or 250 students, completed the survey.

Methods – Information about the survey was sent to students’ institutional email addresses. One follow up interview was carried out via email using the critical incident technique.

Main Results – Students do not understand the academic roles of librarians. They are unlikely to approach library staff for academic support, preferring to turn to instructors, other students, friends, and family. Most students had positive opinions about assistance received in the Information Commons, but a small number reflected on previous bad experiences with staff, or on a fear of being made to feel foolish. The vast majority of students who did not seek help in the Information Commons stated that this was because they did not require assistance. Most students do not perceive a difference between Information Commons staff and library staff.

Conclusion – Students have positive views of Information Commons staff at the University of Sheffield, but have low awareness of the roles of professional librarians. Librarians need to develop partnerships with academic staff and strengthen their presence in both physical and online learning environments to promote their academic roles.


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Author Biography

Kirsty Thomson, Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom

Subject Librarian




How to Cite

Thomson, K. (2012). University Students Are Unaware of the Role of Academic Librarians. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 7(2), 67–68.



Evidence Summaries

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