In researching library anxiety in college students, I seem to have identified a gap in the flow of information. While the problem has been recognized, studied and written about for years, books and peer-reviewed articles on the subject can easily be accessed, studies have been conducted and recommendations made, most everything is directed at the information professional and not at the effected community of users. The abundance of research and writing has not translated into practical, usable, understandable applications for the anxious college students themselves. So, while clear efforts have been made for academic librarians and other information professionals to be made aware that this is a very real issue and that there are obvious ways to combat it, very little effort seems to have been made to give the same courtesy to the individuals it effects.
Look for a lofty academic article on the topic either online or through your library database and dozens will appear at your first search. Look for a magazine article, a blog, a discussion forum, or even a libguide on the topic and the search will yield few if any results. That really will depend on how savvy you are in your searching, how much effort and how many failed searches your willing to put into it. The students who are experiencing the feelings of embarrassment, fear, shame, ignorance, and apprehension are left with few if any information sources. They are left to believe that they really are alone in their anxiety.
The first step to making a change, should be to make the students themselves aware that this is a real thing and they are not alone. All of the information literacy classes and programs and activities in the world can be planned and implemented and studied and written about, but unless the students themselves are made aware and their feelings validated, it will continue to be like beating our heads against the same brick wall expecting it to fall.
Socially anxious – library anxious – students, by the very definition of the issues they face, can be seen as information non-seekers. They are not the students delving deep into the databases and journal articles we provide. They are the students afraid to look, afraid to ask. They are the individuals who suffer in silence and think no one else is feeling the same way. They are not likely to find out on their own what library anxiety is and how to overcome it. They are not going to form their own groups, or start their own forums. But those things are exactly what they need.
The information professionals who have access to those studies and recommendations, who have been made aware of the problem, should be seeking ways to get the information to those students where they are. There should be magazine articles, blog posts, libguides, discussion forums aimed specifically at the individuals themselves, seeking to both inform and bring together. Libraries should be making efforts to let the students know they are not alone and the problem can be reduced and even eliminated.
Perhaps I should just take the initiative… write an article… start a blog… form a discussion board… propose some of my ice breaking ideas in my own academic library…
Yes, perhaps I should take the initiative. Perhaps I will take the initiative.