Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Do academic enquiry services scare students?

Robinson, Catherine M.; Reid, Peter


Catherine M. Robinson


Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to clarify the ways in which students seek help in libraries, and their feelings about using library enquiry services. In this way, it should bring practical benefits to academic libraries seeking to design and introduce new forms of reference service. The paper also aims to touch on the issue of whether anonymity offered by digital reference services is likely to make more students ask for help. A major aim of this study is to find ways to encourage those students who need help, to seek it. Design/methodology/approach - This paper uses the results taken from 12 qualitative interviews with undergraduate students to examine these students' help-seeking methods and their use of academic library reference services. Findings - The study finds that the reasons for not using enquiry services were various and complex and included a lack of awareness of services, embarrassment or shyness, anxiety caused by mechanical barriers and affective barriers. The interviews revealed that shyness is more widespread than libraries might imagine and seemingly confident students can find asking for help embarrassing in some circumstances. Originality/value - This paper focuses on students' thoughts and opinions, and it is this student-centred approach which gives particular insight into the reasons students do not seek help. This adds to the body of qualitative research examining undergraduates' help seeking methods and provides practical advice for encouraging students to ask for help.


ROBINSON, C.M. and REID, P. 2007. Do academic enquiry services scare students? Reference services review [online], 35(3), pages 405-424. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 7, 2007
Online Publication Date Aug 7, 2007
Publication Date Sep 30, 2007
Deposit Date Jun 8, 2009
Publicly Available Date Jun 8, 2009
Journal Reference services review
Print ISSN 0090-7324
Publisher Emerald
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 35
Issue 3
Pages 405-424
Keywords Reference services; Undergraduates; Qualitative research; Library users
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations