Why do Students Seek Help in an Age of DIY? Using a Qualitative Approach to Look Beyond Statistics


  • Marc Vinyard
  • Colleen Mullally
  • Jaimie Beth Colvin




National statistics indicate that academic libraries are experiencing declines in reference transactions, but the references services in some libraries continue to thrive. While many studies explore reasons that students do not seek assistance from librarians, there is limited research explaining why students do ask for help. The authors conducted a study to answer two questions: (1) How do undergraduate students look for information? (2) What prompted the students to seek out help from a librarian? To answer these questions, the authors conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with undergraduate students who had received reference assistance. An important theme that emerged from the interviews was students’ preferences to search independently without assistance. Despite this “do-it-yourself” mentality, students aware of library research consultation services still continue to seek out assistance for librarians when stressful and time-consuming research questions arise. The findings from this study will help librarians better market their research services and understand how students perceive the help-seeking process.

Author Biography

Marc Vinyard

Marc Vinyard (marc.vinyard@pepperdine.edu) is Research and Instruction Librarian, Colleen Mullally (scanloncolleen@yahoo.com) served as Assessment Librarian (2014–2016), and Jaimie Beth Colvin (jaimiebeth.colvin@pepperdine.edu) is Research and Instruction Librarian at Pepperdine University Libraries, Pepperdine University, Malibu, California.