Is Library Database Searching a Language Learning Activity?

  • Bordonaro K
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This study explores how non-native speakers of English think of words to enter into library databases when they begin the process of searching for information in English. At issue is whether or not language learning lakes place when these students use library databases. Language learn· ing in this study refers to the use of strategies employed by students 10 develop English vocabulary knowledge. This study found that international students do seem 10 engage in language learning when using library databases, and it identifies and describes their strategies. [I ibrary database searching is . akey activity that takes place in and through university libraries in North America on a daily basis. Asa core activity, searching for information through library databases offers students an important way to ac-cess and retrieve relevant material for their academic needs. Library database searching has been the topic of inves-tigation in the library literature mainly through the lens of information-seeking behavior. How people find information is of great interest to the profession both on a theoretical and on a practical level, because a better understanding of their information-seeking behavior may lead to better meeting their information needs. This study looks at the activity of library database searching through a different lens, that of language learning. Language learning as used in this article refers to the use of strategies employed by non-native speakers of English to improve and expand their knowledge of English vocabulary. The key reseJrch question of this study is: Is librJry database seJrching a IJnguagl' leamingactivily in addition to being J meJns for finding information? Why this question may be important is that international students who are non-nJtive speJkers of English comprise a IMge and growing minority of university students in North America. In the current academic era in which internationaliza-tion efforts at universities in both the United States and Canada Me intensify-ing, it might behoove us to better under-stand how international students usc our libraries. An investigation of language learning in this context mJy underscore our own importance in terms of both sup-porting students' information needs and in helping them to develop their English language proficiencies to better navigate the academic world.

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  • Karen Bordonaro

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