ECU librarian Katy Kavanagh helps students learn to use the resources available at Joyner Library. Many of those resources will be needed for student to completed required essays and projects during their tenure at ECU. To add some spice to the online reference guides, Kavanagh incorporated cartoons into the material. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)
ECU Librarian uses cartoons to engage students in research tutorials
By Jamitress Bowden
ECU News Services
Students tackling research for the first time may appreciate the effort East Carolina University librarian Katy Kavanagh puts toward engaging them in the task.
Kavanagh has updated Joyner Library online resources by integrating cartoons into undergraduate student research aids and tutorials. Research guides are web pages that help students with research assignments. The guides include tutorials on research methods and the resources available through Joyner Library – both online or in books. Other, more specific guides help students conduct research in their intended career field or in topics related to their majors.
The idea to use cartoons began when Kavanagh attended a workshop about teaching with technology. The presenter suggested using avatars, or cartoon characters, to present an online persona to students. She took advantage of that notion and saw an opportunity with the research guides.
|A portion of one of the cartoons ECU librarian Katy Kavanagh created to jazz up research guides is shown above.
Kavanagh decided to develop a cast of cartoon characters to "breathe some life into [the research guides] and make it a little more interesting." The cast is made up of distinct-looking cartoons with oversized heads who ask questions and offer help to each other while referencing the sources available at Joyner Library.
The colorful characters range from Jack Calico, "an ECU student who has not slept for several days," to sassy ECU Librarian Anne Bonny who sports a purple and gold outfit as she helps students in the Library 101 research guide.
ECU Freshman Alexcia Hodge said Kavanagh achieved her goals. The research guides were able to hold her attention, she said, and the introductory session was beneficial. "I feel like if we didn't have that session, it probably would have hurt me because I would have found out about (a resource) later and now I can plan better," said Hodge.
A majority of ECU students are introduced to the research guides and other free resources during English 1100 and 1200. English faculty bring their students to Joyner for an instruction course to show what is available and make them feel comfortable conducting research on their own.
Dr. Tracy Morse, director of composition in the Department of English, said the guides serve as a resource for students to generate ideas and provide guidance towards proper documentation.
"By asking students to engage in research early," Morse said, "we are able to provide students a slower pace to complete the project…in order to help them understand good research methods."
The guides tailor library resources to each student's needs. Kavanagh said the online guide format allows distance education students to have equal exposure to library resources.
"We have so many online students. We like to give the people the same access to services, whether they live in Alaska or somebody who's right here and can come in," said Kavanagh.
Faculty members are invited to submit their courses to Kavanagh so that she and fellow librarians may create a research guide for specific courses. Kavanagh said librarians across the research services department work on the research guides in different disciplines.