How Online Libraries Help Students Succeed

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Online Library

At no other time has more information been available, more quickly, to more people. Finding information, discerning its quality, understanding it, applying it, and attributing the content to the appropriate author are skills students must develop to be successful.

The most common academic assignments require the appropriate use of scholarly resources and various respected perspectives. It is by reflecting on these works, and on one’s own perspectives, that critical thinking and original thought come into being. Original thought must be understood in the context of what has come before, or it cannot be effectively applied.

Online libraries and librarians play a key role in building the bridge between the knowledge that already exists and opportunities for learners to apply what they have developed through critical and creative thought. At a time when students can get a quality education online, an effective librarian must be knowledgeable in these six areas:

Content Management

A simple Internet search can bring back overwhelming amounts of content. Librarians are needed to organize the information, determine what is worth keeping, tell students where to look, and focus students (and faculty) on the best sources. A librarian is also helpful in asking the “right” question to solicit the best responses.

Information Literacy

This is the content area of the librarian. It includes not just finding information, but knowing when it is needed, evaluating its credibility, integrating it into one’s understanding, using it for a specific purpose, and applying it appropriately.


Whether standing at a reference desk on campus, responding to an email, or putting together an online tutorial, the librarian must know how to teach.


Establishing a positive relationship with students in a face-to-face setting is similar to, but not quite the same as, having professional online relationships. Both are equally important. Technology has redefined how relationships are developed and maintained, and those who use technology will find that they are more likely to achieve their goals if they are able to build partnerships that are not restricted by location.


Copyright law and avoiding plagiarism are important areas of expertise for a librarian. The easier it is to find and use others’ original ideas, the more important it is to do it correctly. Illegal use of original work in a course, or cutting-and-pasting content from a website into one’s homework without proper citations are both increasing areas of challenge for the academic community. Ideally,/ librarians can provide needed guidance.


Most information is no longer in print form. It is stored and found electronically. As it is likely that there will always be more students than there are librarians, the latter must know how to use technology to scale their expertise. The number of students in online academic settings continues to increase, and as such, the tools they need for success must be online as well.

Consider how you might utilize the information found in an online library, and the knowledge and skills of a librarian, to support your own critical and creative thinking. Share how a librarian might support you to elevate your own knowledge and skills, and thereby optimize your effectiveness as an educator and global citizen.

Written by Mindy Sloan, Associate Vice President of Student Success for Bridgepoint Education


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Are you currently a licensed RN?

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