Month: November 2014

Teaching Citation

As a point of philosophy, I’ve never seen much value in creating note-perfect bibliographic citations.  What learning objectives are we hoping to achieve through the production of such lists?  By way of background, I co-teach two sections of a first-year English composition course, and I recently delivered a “citation and referencing” session for each of those two sections.  I have conflicted feelings about devoting class time to citation, and I’m not alone in that sentiment, either — the librarian fellowship has been trying to shake off bibliographic instruction for many years now, and while the profession has had a degree of success, the popular mind still conceives of librarians and library workers as the go-to citationists.

The genesis of this librarian-citation association is, I’m sure, an interesting one, but I wonder if the business of citation shouldn’t just be handed over to writing centers, campus tutors, and automated modules.  That the handover hasn’t occured is, I assume, resultant from the fact that many faculty still expect their students to produce a formally pristine reference, and that librarians are seen as the only sufficiently pedantic party to offer instruction on the matter.  I won’t deny our profession has its share of pedants and obsessives, but even that element can’t seem to muster much energy for citation instruction anymore.  So where do we go from here?

At Schewe Library, I’d say nowhere.  An “anything-other-than-citation” culture hasn’t really developed here, and my guess is we’re probably 5-years away from it evolving naturally.  During one of my “citation and referencing” sessions, one of the students rightfully noted that we might just as well reference using a URL/hyperlink and call it a day.  I couldn’t agree more, and given that the “big 3” citation styles — APA, MLA, and Chicago — were developed decades, and in some cases, generations, before commercial Internet service, it seems preposterous that we would still be referencing with them.  But such is life, I suppose.