Services for Journalism and Creative Writing Students at City University Library

Alexandra Asman, City University 

In my role as the Subject Librarian for Arts at City University, London I support the departments of Journalism and Creative Writing, acting as the first point of library contact for the school which also includes Music, Translation, Publishing and Cultural Policy. I liaise with the departments to actively engage staff and students with the library service and the collection, working with academics to select resources and build up high quality collections and providing information literacy training and research support services to its staff and students.

Journalism is the largest of the departments I support with over 190 undergraduate students studying for a BA (Hons) Journalism and 250 postgraduates studying a range of courses such as Financial, Newspaper, Magazine and Investigative Journalism.

Along with the basics of searching databases and accessing online journals, the skills required for searching newspaper databases and AV resources are all delivered in information literacy training in the first semester of year one for undergraduate journalists. After that we have traditionally offered 1:1 training sessions and reference services for those who need support further down the line. The most requested training sessions tend to be on searching Nexis UK to find specific news items or country information.

The most popular reference resources for undergraduate journalists are the newspaper databases, Nexis UK, Factiva and Press Display which provide student with access to over 20,000 international news sources. In their 3rd year students are also asked to analyse newspaper content in its original print format and this is where our subscription to the digital archive of the Daily Mail and The Times comes in useful. As there is a broadcast element to the degree, the TV recording and media archive service, Box of Broadcasts, is a popular resource for academics and students alike. Academics can create playlists of clips of radio or TV programmes to align with their weekly lectures and students can record and store news reports or documentaries to analyse in their assignments. This resource has especially taken off in the modules looking at conflict reporting and environmental journalism and in recent weeks I have supported students in finding European news coverage of the crisis in Syria and of the 2013 UK flooding for their dissertations and final projects.

Postgraduate journalism students come from a range of different academic backgrounds, perhaps relating to the specialism they have decided to study. They may not have studied journalism before and their library support needs are therefore more varied than at undergraduate level. Training sessions for postgraduates take place in the first semester of their programme. After a general introduction their sessions quickly become much more focused than those given to undergraduates and are concentrated on the specialism of the MA. For instance students on the MA Science Journalism are taught to use Web of Science and Financial Journalism students are introduced to the financial resources available at City such as Bloomberg and IKON. Examples of complex postgraduate research enquiries include a student asking for help to find statistical immigration information on Sri Lankan refugees who came to the UK, Germany and Denmark between the years 1983-1988 for which we searched OECD iLibrary and an investigative journalism student researching the coverage in the British broadsheet press of the troubles in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 1970s and 80s.

Unlike Journalism, the Creative Writing department specialises only in postgraduate master’s courses covering literary novels, crime novels, narrative non-fiction and play and screenwriting. All of the programs demand the completion of a full-length play, novel, screenplay or non-fiction book meaning the range of resources and the type of help they require will vary immensely depending on the individual. During the first term the students will be familiarised with searching databases such as Academic Search Complete, Art Full Text, and JSTOR and introduced to Box of Broadcasts, Drama Online and Nexis UK. However, as the outlines for their final projects advance, particularly where they are research related, they are encouraged to book a 1:1 training session or contact me via email to explore further the resources we have that can support their development. The emphasis their programmes put on using information resources in a creative and imaginative manner, and using research materials in an analytical and informed way, makes this kind of close engagement a very rewarding part of my role.

Whatever programme students are following, and whatever their level, my aim is to help them to become independent learners able to use resources open to them confidently and effectively

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