A Librarian’s Lament

I rencently posted this lament on LM_NET listserv.

I am feeling very depressed about our student’s lack of critical thinking with regard to information found on the web. I am correcting the works cited lists for our 10th grade globalization research papers. In spite of spending time teaching and doing activities using our wonderful databases (Gale’s Student Resource Center, Gale Opposing Viewpoints, and EBSCO) – students STILL persist in getting the vast majority of their information from Google et al.

In spite of 2 years of teaching how to determine a site’s reliability – the students continue to turn in lists of sources that are of marginal use, or – worse yet – completely unreliable. I truly worry about how our students will ever grow up to be thoughtful, accountable citizens if they continually accept blindly the first 10 results that show up on Google. And yes – I know our mission is to teach them to be competent users of information in all forms. I don’t expect them to get everything from databases. Google is a wonderful tool – but it is only 1 tool. I DO spend significant time teaching how to determine the reliability of the sites they locate via Google. And yet…..

Here is what I have seen today:

Research Topic: Future technological advances in the military

Web site:

The American Chemist and the War’s Problems at
This is a copy of a journal article written in 1916!

Research Topic: The future of Nuclear Power in the United States.

Web site:

Advantages of Nuclear Power
Who is the author of the site? It states his name – but gives no information about him. Does putting and M.D. after his name make him an expert? The parent site appears to post random articles.

Research Topic: High Definition Television – the Effects of this technology on the future

Web site:
Dolan: High Def on DBS
This page is a short paragraph on KeepMedia. At the end of the paragraph it says:

“Read the rest of this article by subscribing to Premium Access! Or, buy just this article for $2.00”

How I wish I could add “Or – GO TO YOUR FRIENDLY LIBRARIAN, who will get it for you at no charge to you – either from a database or by requesting it to be faxed as part of our interlibrary loan service.”

The rest of the websites on this student’s list were all advertisements for High Definition TV. Nothing at all from a database or from some sort of objective website.

SIGH!!!!! I am not sure what I am looking for here. Perhaps just a kindred soul who is struggling with these same issues. Perhaps some sort of activity that will make the importance of website evaluation SINK IN. I do gather these kind of sites as examples for the following year. The kids all chuckle about them – but then bounce along their merry way – not willing to take the time to look deeply at where the “information” is coming from. Is it a maturation thing? Although my seniors
certainly did not cover themselves with honor when asked to do a web evaluation activity this year. See the following:

Are You Internet Savvy?

Thanks for “listening”. Keep checking back. I am sure there will be more to come as I continue grading works cited lists.

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