People Sources

by Colette Hayes

Discussing people sources with some awesome media studies students. Photo by David Silver

Discussing people sources with some awesome media studies students. Photo by David Silver


A media studies professor at the university where I work recently asked me if I’d share one of my favorite library “tidbits” with his class. (This particular professor prefers this casual approach, as opposed to traditional one-off info lit sessions that freshman and sophomores receive as their library orientation).

This year, I decided to bring the students to our library’s collection of masters theses and doctoral dissertations, which are shelved in one concentrated area. I wanted to show the students the acknowledgements pages of these projects, and I especially wanted to show them the many, many people that theses and dissertation writers thank in those pages.

While struggling through my own thesis, I became obsessed with reading acknowledgement pages. They served as a reminder that I could and should ask for help, and that research and writing is NOT always a solitary activity, but a collaborative one. I consider talking to people about my research and writing — indeed, asking for help — as one of the most important things I learned to do while completing my thesis.

And so I shared this with the undergraduate students I spoke with that day, and asked them to consider reaching out to library resources, AND people, in their travels at the university.

People resources are invaluable to research. They can lead us to new sources, help us find existing sources that we might not know about, and offer corrective feedback that search engines cannot. They can question our logic, challenge our ideas, and ask for clarification. Used in tandem with online and hard copy sources, people sources fill in gaps to make our research as solid as it can be.