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!

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