LILAC12: day 3

After two days chock-a-block with information, I found it a little hard to get into gear on day 3, but still.. I have some notes from the lectures I attended..

Student centred active learning approach in an online information literacy credit course for doctoral students

Vilve Seiler and Kart Miil from  University of Tartu Library talked about their IL courses for PhD students. The librarians had been curious about what IL related needs the PhD students had, and they emailed all PhD students to ask them about their needs. They found that, even on PhD level, the students needed extensive training in literature searching. The librarians started the course called Introduction to Information Research. It is an online course that gives 3 ECTS. The course is given over the course of 9 weeks and there are usually from 70-80 students attending. The librarians did a qualitative analysis of the students` feedback, and found that the students were surprised at the usefulness of the course and that the students liked feedback from their peers (other students).

The librarians are responsible for teaching, giving assignments and marking/grading.

Information literacy and the case of the ‘natives’

Mary Antonesa and Claire McAvinia from NUI Maynooth talked about how new methods are essential to reach the digital natives. We need to get IL out of “library land”, said Antonesa and McAvinia. Digital natives want information fast and through few entry points. The librarians had done extensive qualitative resarch on students` use of virtual learning environments (VLEs) and found that students use VLEs to get access to lecture notes and other course materials. They do not care about all the extra functionality, like chat and so on. They only use VLEs to keep updated on their studies, not because they particularly like the technology.

The teachers have noticed that the students have large gaps in their information skills, but these are hard to identify and it is frustrating to feel that they are unable to fill these gaps. Students, on the other hand, see IL as something off the top, something they have to deal with on top of everything else.

I had an interesting Twitter conversation during this lecture, and when I said something like: “Digital natives aren`t necessarily IT savvy”, Rurik Greenall (@brinxmat), responded: “”Digital natives” don’t have the experience of those who grew up with the command prompt; and these are the current digital elite”. How true! (And a little sad..) and he continued “they’re “application savvy”, but not “IT savvy””.. also very true.. But these are important things to remember. Many teachers (and some librarians) think that students today know everything there is to know about IT and therefore forget to teach them essentials.


Tara Brabazon came on stage and started a show like I don`t think I have ever seen the likes of. I was confronted with a few of my own prejudiced ideas, for one..

The first few minutes all I could think was: “Oh no, this is going to be all about form without content”, but then, when I could look past the wild style (very cool, though, I must say.. 10 out of 10 style points!), I could listen to what Brabazon had to say.

She talked about how the Information Overload can be compared to eating. As long as food is on display, we will eat. Dieting only works when we have fewer food choices to make. It`s the same with information searching, it is easier when we have fewer choices.

We have to go on an information diet, said Brabazon. Fewer media gives more meaning. Speed of delivery transforms the evaluation of the content.

We need to give mandatory courses for first-year students, Brabazon said. That way we can build relationships with students from the first semester.

Faculty status for librarians!, Brabazon shouted. We are not shop assistants.

We must demand more from our students. They tend to “over share” instead of actually reading, writing and working. Brabazon talked about results presented in the book “Academically adrift” that I have blogged about before. A great read, btw. We must demand more, Brabazon said, and the students will rise to the occation.

We need to spend time on information dieting:

  • Moving the students from Google to Scholar
  • Spend time teaching them vocabulary
  • Reduce the use of text books and introduce them to known theorists within the field
  • Teach them to use the bibliographies

Librarians are a cheap and effective way to retain students, and we must teach with integrity and engagement. We must believe in education – that is important to be able to teach!

Some thoughts..

I have often criticised librarians for not engaging enough in useful research, and not assessing our teaching methods enough. I was therefore so (!) pleased to hear about all the great projects going on around the world. I had a great conference experience, I learned a lot and I hope that I`ll be able to test some new ideas here. I was certainly inspired to do so. One of the things I will try to remember is that small changes can often make more impact than I think. Not everything has to be a large project with lots of resources. It can just be little ideas that make everyday life as a teaching librarian easier.

I want to thank all librarians that I met at LILAC12. You inspire me!

LILAC12: day 2

The first day at Librarian`s Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) had been great and I was really looking forward to day 2! .. and here are my notes from that day.


I admit that I had never heard of Lord Puttnam of Queensgate until I read about him in the conference programme. He had several “groupies” in the audience, though, and as I followed the twitter stream I understood that I had been very ignorant indeed, not to have realised the fame of the man at the podium in front of us. Lord Puttnam started his keynote by saying that access really is not the issue anymore. Being able to use the information, though, is a currency – a currency that cannot be printed. The schools and libraries are vital to this point, Lord Puttnam said. The digital society is just that –  a society, and it is a learning society. We have yet to master all the conventions.

We need to teach our students the art of great oratory, Lord Puttnam said. It is like going back in time to the Ancient Greeks who put great emphasis on oracy. It is an art that must not be forgotten.

Technology has had very little impact on the educational sector, Lord Puttnam continued. A surgeon from 1912 would have no business in a modern operating theatre, but a teacher from 1912 could easily teach in many classrooms. If a teacher only uses technology to improve already existing methodology, there is no reason to suspect that she will get better results. We need a whole new digital pedagogy, not just a technology enhanced pedagogy, Lord Puttnam said.

Even though Lord Puttnam gave a good keynote, there was very little new there, I thought. No revolutionary new ideas and no real practical solution to some of the problems he mentioned. So, all in all.. ok, but nothing more, IMHO.

600 years and not standing still

St. Andrews University in Scotland is the third oldest university in the English-speaking world, and the librarians from St. Andrews were talking about the new start the library got about 5 years ago, when the leadership decided to invest in library and IT services as part of their research support “upgrade”. St. Andrews is a research intensive university and the leadership saw the need to improve academic support. The library got resources to get more staff, and they put together a liaison team to support the researchers. St. Andrews use a system called PURE (used by three libraries in the UK), which is a research information system. St. Andrews emphasises the use of and publishing in Open Access journals, and has put together a “Simple guide” as a starting point to discussions with researcher about these issues. They have also made a resource web site with information on publishers, open access, permits etc. They do not expect the academic staff to read all this information, but it is a place of reference where the librarians can advise the staff to look.

St. Andrews also have a journal hosting service. Second-year students are encouraged to send in articles to the journal “Ethnographic encounters”, and the articles are peer reviewed by fourth-year students. (What a great idea!)

Lesson study: Collaborating with fellow teachers to plan, observe, and reflect on lessons

Eric Jennings at University of Wisconsin(UW) presented findings from a project called “Lesson study”. A journal article from the project has been accepted to College and Research libraries, and will probably be published within a year. I`ll be on the lookout for it. This lecture was really interesting, and I can`t wait to test some of the ideas I got.

Lesson study originated in Japan, but has been embraced in the US. It is a method that looks to planning, teaching and observing and revising a specific session. (Cathrine Lewis is a well-known theorist within this field, and I will try to find the time to read at least “The essential elements of Lesson Study” published in Northwest Teacher in 2003, and “Lesson Study comes of age”). At UW, the librarians had observed that many of the students in “Freshman English”, who attended an information literacy session was overwhelmed by the jam-packed information load in the sessions. The students couldn`t keep up, thereby getting bored and lost interest. (A common problem for all who try teaching information skills on a “one-shot instruction” based programme, I think. We try to make the students “mini-librarians” in one hour= impossible.)

At UW they put together a team of librarians and teachers who decided to have a look at this lesson. They worked systematically and agreed on nine goals for the lesson. This was soon “boiled down to” two main goals that they called “focussed goals”. Basically it was about teaching the students where to go to search, and to be able to search for different topics. The students had to have some common ground before the lesson, and they therefore had to watch a movie on the Information cycle (made by Penn State University) before coming to the lesson. They also had to decide on a subject for their paper. This is important. They have to have an information need before class! (Couldn`t agree more, btw. How will you know where to look, if you don`t know what you`re looking for?) I cannot go in to details here about the content of the lesson. I hope that Jennings` slides will be available on the Lilac webpage, and you can have a look.

The students responded about there being too much talk/information from the librarian at the beginning of the class, and the librarians revised, breaking the lesson into shorter bulks. The students liked that they were able to find better keywords with real world examples, and the good discussions during the lesson. Most of all they liked the active learning. And that, said Jennings, is the most important thing.

One thing that I liked, and that I have actually already tested here, is that they paired the students in class, and the students got some minutes to explain to their partner what subject they were interested in. The partner then searched for articles that could be relevant, and chose one article for their partner. Great idea!

Reinventing classroom space to re-energize IL instruction

Suzanne Julien from Brigham Young University in the US talked about how the librarians at BYU had transformed the classroom that they were giving IL instruction in. The traditional instruction had been boring and the teaching librarian had felt “trapped on stage”. The library had recieved funds to buy chairs (have a look at them here) with table for laptops and “shelf” (in lack of a better word) to place bags on. They then removed all the traditional chairs and desks, and let the students organize themselves in groups (they could just roll around with their chairs:-). The classroom became much more flexible, the teaching librarian could move freely around and was able to guide the groups.

BYU also bought iPads that were used in these classes. The reason was that they wanted students to be able to move around without thinking about chargers and so on. Besides, having everyone on the same platform made it easier to teach. The iPads were charged on a separate charging trolley in the classroom, and the students handed in their student cards as a deposit for the iPads – this was to avoid spending time on checking the iPads in and out every time. One problem on the iPad, though, was that the students couldn`t take personal notes on them. The iPad is intended for personal use, and they do not work that well for multiple users. At BYU the students now use their own laptops most of the time.

The room`s layout now makes the students much more participatory and “chatty”, with each other and the librarian. The librarian is seen more as a guide than a traditional teacher now. BUT: demo takes more time. The students are looking down more, and it takes some time to get them to look at the screen.

Julien talked so well about this that I wanted to call my boss right away and ask him to buy these chairs and to get me a classroom where I could have them:-)

Conference dinner at the Old Fruitmarket - Glasgow

Conference dinner at the Old Fruitmarket - Glasgow

The last two lectures I attended that day where not that helpful to me, and I hardly have any notes about them, so I think I`ll leave them out.

Another great day at LILAC12! What a great conference this turned out to be!

The conference dinner that night was held at the Old Fruitmarket in Glasgow, a really cool venue. The food was excellent and we had fun! Way to go, Lilac committee:-)

LILAC12: a conference for teaching librarians (day 1)

There are several good conferences for academic librarians out there, Librarian`s Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) is just one of them. This week I attended this conference for the first time. Travelling to Glasgow was a little tiresome with a long stop-over in London. It was a really intensive programme and I was unfortunately not able to experience much of Glasgow, but I managed to have afternoon tea at the Willow Tree. Hurrah!
So anyway, back to business.. I was really impressed by LILAC. It was such a focussed conference and I think all the sessions were well suited to teaching librarians. I hope I will be able to return later.
We (teaching librarians) all seem to be facing many of the same problems:
  • One-shot instructions that are detached from the academic setting
  • We are boring ourselves and the students trying to fit too much information into
  • these short sessions
  • Getting good collaborations going with faculty staff
  • Making good decisions about what tasks we can let go (prioritizing)
  • Managing an ever increasing work load

There is some comfort in knowing that there are many of us dealing with the same problems, but the main thing is that so many great librarians are working on solving some of these issues. I went to a lot of lectures these days, and I had the pleasure of hearing about big research projects, papers and longitudal studies as well as those small projects and tips and tricks that just makes your work flow a little smoother. Even though I cannot write about all the lectures, I will present a few here.

Pre-conference workshop

I attended one of the pre-conference workshops: “This house believes that librarians and their services are the barrier to information literacy”. Although the presenters were a little too intense for my liking, the workshop was interesting. We sat in groups and talked about the barriers to IL and some possible solutions to the problems. Some problems that were mentioned were:

  • We use a language not understood by our patrons
  • Who are we speaking to? We need to assess our audience in each setting
  • Who are we supposed to be teaching? Should we “ditch” the students in favour of the teachers?
  • Many librarians feel lost in a pedagogical setting, and feel uncomfortable being a teacher.
  • We are too dependent on individuals. We build personal relationships to a particular teacher, and when either the teacher or the librarian leaves the workplace, we have to start all over again building a new relationship

Some solutions we talked about:

  • We have to put ourselves in the students` shoes. What are their needs?
  • All teaching librarians must have some pedagogical training
  • There is a need for both a policy on IL (a top-bottom approach) and a bottom-up approach where the initiatives come from the patrons and librarians
  • We have to participate at conferences where the teachers and academics are. It is important to get out more from our own sphere.


The keynote, held by Megan Oakleaf, was very interesting. She taked about how we must take a more holistic view of the entire student experience and integrate IL in the courses (hear, hear!). The title of her keynote was “Play the ACE: Assessing, communicating and expanding the institutional impact of Information Literacy”. The focus has moved from the collections to how the collections are used, Oakleaf said. The libraries do not exist in a vacuum and there is always a context where the library must belong. We cannot just believe that things are a certain way – we must prove our worth and our value. That means that we must define some goals, work by them and assess ourselves to see if we met our goals – and these goals must be aligned to the institution`s goals. I think this is very important, and I love the fact that this now seems to really “sink in” in the community. We do not know enough about how the students learn their information skills, what they learn and if their skills are transferable.

Oaklef gave us a form where we could have a look at different learning goals and the means to get there, and we were asked to answer what we thought had impact. It was a useful tool, and I think I`ll introduce that here at GUCLibrary.

Megan Oakleaf`s form on impact

Megan Oakleaf`s form on impact

Oakleaf also taked about a report she wrote for the ACRL on the value of academic librarianship. The report can be found here.

The roving librarian

When the librarians at University of Huddersfield realized that the students weren`t coming to the library, they thought “Well then, we`ll come to them”, and that was when the idea of the roving librarians were born”. The librarians got tablets and positioned themselves at the students` coffee shop etc. They discovered that they suddenly could contact non-library users in a new way. They needed a logo and had a designer make “Roving librarian” logo that they use in marketing, e.g. “The roving librarian will be at the Street Café at 2 pm on Wednesday” – “Bringing information skills to you” was the byline.

The librarians mentioned some success criterias:

  • Timing and place (a cafe or any other place where it is easy to meet students and easy to talk)
  • Regular times (students know when to expect to meet a librarian)
  • Have an opening phrase to get the conversation startet (e.g. “What do you think about Summon?”)
  • Have some free stuff to give them (candy, pens..)
  • The librarians must have some understanding of the subject areas
  • Make it personal!
  • Walking in pairs – get help from collegues

Reading lists – time for a reality check?

That was the question asked by librarians at University of Northampton. They analyzed reading lists at their university, and the findings where discouragingly bad. Only 42 % of the information given on reading lists were correct – i.e. lots of “bad information” out there. 23 % of the books where out of date. 25 % of the books where available in e-format, but only 3 % were labelled as e-books, and 73% of items on the reading lists were books. The average number of items on the reading lists were 35,5 items. Studens find the amount daunting, and teachers think it`s hard to get students to use other sources than the ones on the reading lists.

The librarians at the university re-developed a couple of reading lists and made them annoted, using symbols to label the e-content and “staff picks” (the items specially recommended by the teachers). Some may argue that this is to “spoon-feed” the students, but these reading lists were used by first-year students and they needed a place to start. This was just meant as a starting point for the students, and the librarians observed that it is possible to learn information skills with help from such a reading list.

Interesting lecture. I wish I had the time for a similar project here!

The last lecture of the day (for me) was:

Web scale discovery

Librarians from the University of Sheffield talked about what we want from discovery services. We want:

  • Single search entries
  • Good, modern GUI
  • Enriched content (like book covers etc)
  • Recommended content
  • Etc.

There are some pros and cons to one-stop information shopping. Is it just “dumbing down” the information search process, or is it a way for librarians to use more time on advanced searching instead of helping patrons with simple searches?

John Dove from Credo talked about the different kinds of reference searches: 1. the known item searches and 2. the exploratory searches. The exploratory searches are searches where the students lack the knowledge on where to get started and lack the terminology to know what to search for/understand the retrieved lists.

The question is: even though we are trying to make it easier for the students to search, are we not in fact just adding another layer? Are we making searching easier? It was a question that I took with me out from the lecture hall, and that I don`t know the answer to. I guess it depends on what kind of search you are doing? Maybe discovery services can be great for exploratory searches, but annoying for a known items search?

Anyway, it was a great day with lots of input, and I hope I get time to do some follow-ups here. I`ll at least try to read the report that Megan Oakleaf wrote for the ACRL. I think it will be worth the effort!