Visiting LSE – part 3

As I have said in part 1 and part 2 of my notes from my visit to LSE, I met a lot of dedicated people at the LSE library and the CLT (Centre for Learning Technology – where Jane Secker works). One of those people where Maria Bell, and I was happy that she took time out of a very busy schedule to talk to me.

Maria talked to me about the LSE library`s efforts on teaching information skills to students, and about their work with PhD students. She is not only responsible for the teaching programme – she is also a liaison librarian for the Department of Law and the European Institute. Maria talked about a course they offer students on a voluntary basis (i.e. not mandatory for the students). The course is open to all students, and it can last from 60 to 90 minutes. They also tailor special courses more directed at special groups, for example students on the master`s programmes.

The library has a very nice information skills training website that explains more about their teaching programmes. I will have a good look at it soon.

Maria talked about how all the academic support librarians maintain subject guides online for their departments/subjects. I found this very intersting. I have long thought about making subject guides for our students, but the thought of always trying to keeping them updated and “fresh” has stopped me from actually doing it. I have debated it with some co-workers, too, and I think we have decided against it for now, but it was interesting to learn from Maria that all the academic support librarians have access to publishing on their own subject webpages and can keep it updated themselves. Obviously, LSE is a much larger institution than GUC, and at GUC library, the responsibility for keeping the library website updates lies with one person, but still.. interesting. They have linked the subject guides in Moodle.

One thing that I`ll ask about here at GUC is how we prepare our PhD students for data storage for their research projects. Maria said that this was something that they include in their courses for PhD students. It was clear to me that this is something that the LSE library has thought a lot about, and – as I wrote in part 2 – it is to be the object to a pilot study. I look forward to hear more about their results. Maria also talked about how they include information about copyright issues to their PhD students. This is a subject of vital importance to researchers, and we have talked about how to include this information, not only to our PhD students, but also to students on master`s programmes.

The LSE library hands out small postcards where the PhD students can fill in information about their field of research, topics of interest etc. and they hand it in to their academic support librarian. They also check boxes if they are interested in being contacted by others who study something relevant to their topics of interest. I loved this idea! Will bring it up with the head librarian as something we could do here. Warwick university does something similar (in electronic version), called “research match”.

Another librarian that I was happy to meet in person (after having followed her on Twitter for a while), was Clare McClusky from York St. John University. She is an Academic Liaison librarian for the Faculty for Education and Theology there, and she has contributed in Jane Secker`s and Emma Coonan`s new book “Rethinking information litearcy” (I attended the book launch, btw. Thanks to Emma and Jane!). Clare was one of the speakers at last years LILAC conference, and I attended her session there. It was great to be able to discuss her ideas with her in person. Clare is an energetic and really dedicated librarian, and her energy was really contagious! We had a great discussion on strategies to teach IL and her work with ANCIL and other projects. One of the things Clare told me about was how differently the teachers at York St. John saw her role as a librarian. Some of the teachers regarded her as a valuable partner in their teaching efforts while others saw her as a mere service person who could be used for procuring books etc. It seems to me that these ideas are universal, and that librarians in all kinds of academic libraries have had similar experiences. Although I think we are moving forward with this issue and that we have come a long way, there are probably still people who would never see me as more than “the administration”, and who would never think of me as an “academic” partner. The very clear line between administration and faculty seem to fade a little to me, as there are now academics working in the administration and vice versa. Still, we have a way to go. The library seems somethimes to be in a difficult situation between the two. Although we (at GUC) are organised under the “joint administration”, we are really much closer related to the faculties – but we cannot be organised in one faculty seeing as we only have the one library and that we give service to all three faculties. So – we are stuck in the middle, and yet.. most of the time this works out well.

Clare told me about how York St. John University had made an information litearcy strategy already 10 years ago – very early on, but that it had taken three years to get it through various committes etc. and then they had to revise it a little before it could be used. When York St. John became a seperate university they had the chance to look at this with fresh eyes and a new set of ideas, and they now have a coordinator on the “intermediate level” (sorry – lack of better word.. all notes in Norwegian:) who makes sure that the communication flows better between levels in the institution. Good idea!

When Clare did her research about how the teachers regarded her role as a librarian, she used SCONUL`s seven pillars to explain her role, and after this she felt that she was more often included in the faculty and she saw some progress with regards to how the teachers regarded her role. I thought it was a very interesting idea that Clare went out to the teachers, gained an insight into how they perceived her and that way was given a chance to talk about it. Thanks for taking the time to talk about this, Clare!

The last day of my visit, librarians from Cardiff University came to LSE to give a talk on their Digidol project. Unfortunately, I was not able to hear their seminar as I had to leave after lunch to catch my flight. The event was recorded, however, and I hope to have a look at it soon.

As I hope these blogposts show, I had a great few days, and I want to thank Jane Secker and the rest of the CLT and Maria Bell and her team at the LSE library for arranging everything for me. I hope to see you in Norway some time! I`d also like to thank Emma Coonan (who I got to meet at the book launch:), Clare McClusky and Joe, Janet and Cathie (sorry – don`t remember last names..) from Cardiff who I got to have a very nice lunch with. Thanks!



Visiting LSE – part 2

The LSE library

The LSE library

LSE Library

LSE library

As I said in part 1 – last week I visited London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where I met a set of dedicated and interesting people who all had something to share.

I was at LSE to hear more about what they do to teach information skills, and about ANCIL (“A new curriculum for information literacy”). Dr Jane Secker talked about ANCIL and how they spent time discussing what information literacy (IL) is and what they should call it. This didn`t surprise me at all. As I think I have said before on this blog – in my mind there is no real way of finding out what IL is, because there is no “it”. Some see it as a set of generic skills and others see it as a process to do with lifelong learning, and some say information literacy to describe finding and evaluating research results. Jane told me that in the beginning of their work with ANCIL, they had discussed the focus of information literacy, and what it should contain. Some had a very narrow view of this, and thought it was mostly about technology (and perhaps wanted to call it “digital literacy”), while others thought of it as a more holistic approach to finding and evaluating information. ANCIL is described at their blog and in more detail in Jane Secker and Emma Coonan`s new book, “Rethinking information literacy”. In short, the authors have made a model of 10 so-called “strands” (transition to higher education, becoming an independent learner, academic literacies, mapping the information landscape, resource discovery in your discipline, managing information, ethical dimension of information, presenting and communicating, synthesis and knowledge creation, and social dimension of information). The strands all start with the learner at the core and go through key skills, subject context, advanced information-handling and learning to learn. It`s an interesting model, and I look forward to reading more about each strand in the new book.

One of the things I found very interesting is how the LSE library is working to support the researchers. I had a very interesting talk with Natalia Madjarevic on how the LSE institutional repository works, her work on bibliometrics and the library`s new pilot project (to come) on data management for researchers. This is something of great importance, and I hope that they publish something on it later. How do researchers store their data? In the cloud? On their laptops? What happens to the raw data? I should ask about this here at GUC, too. Maybe we need to think about setting up a better solution for safe storage of data, or at least talk about it to our researchers to make sure that they have thought about how they manage their data sets?

Natalia also told me about how they have started using Summon as their library catalogue (for end-users), and how they have started teaching Summon to undergraduates, in stead of trying to get them to search all the various databases separate. This discussion on discovery tools is interesting – on the one hand those who say that teaching the students how to use a discovery tool is easier, they get better, more relevant results, and the librarians can spend more time on the more specialised search “needs”, and on the other hand there are those who say that discovery tools are just a fad, and that adding a layer is doing nothing for the students (and that Google Scholar does it better for free anyway..). LSE has bought Summon for a year and is now testing it.

Another thing Natalia talked about that I found interesting, was the way the LSE library works with bibliometrics. The librarians are sometimes asked to perform analysis, and they use Publish or perish for this. Analysis could include finding out how many citations an LSE researcher have gotten compared to other researchers in the same field, for example. This takes time and effort, but it is interesting for the school to compare themselves to similar institutions. The LSE library also have training sessions on bibliometrics for researchers. Hmmm… something to think about..

More from my visit to LSE to come in part 3.. (long days – I have plenty of notes:)

Visiting LSE – part 1

students at LSE library

Students at LSE library

Once in a while, particularly if one is feeling a little disengaged or just in need of a fresh idea for work, it`s a great idea to go on a study trip. Of course, it is not always easy to get funding etc., but I was really lucky and got some funds from a project that I have been involved with (thanks!). And what better place to go than the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)? I have wanted to go for years, ever since I had it recommended on twitter, and I was really glad that Dr Jane Secker, a copyright and digital literacy adviser whos work I have been following for a while, was willing and able to arrange things for me there!

I was particularly interested in Jane`s work on “A new curriculum for information literacy”, known as ANCIL, and the LSE course “MY592: Workshops on information literacy” (for PhD students), but I also wanted to see the LSE library and hear more about their general teaching programs.

ANCIL is a research fellowship in two-phases. The first phase was conducted by Jane Secker (LSE) and Emma Coonan (Cambridge University Library). Emma wrote a report about the theory on teaching information literacy (IL) while Jane looked at what they should teach (in IL) and how. They read much, talked to experts and practitioners, and they found that, although teachers were interested in IL, they had a very narrow understanding of the term and they didn`t know what role the librarians could play in teaching information skills. What Emma and Jane did was new, and the research led to “A new curriculum on information literacy”. Two fellows, Helen Webster and Katy Wrathall at Cambridge, followed up on this with a second phase, looking at strategies to implement this new curriculum at several higher education institutions in the UK. This second phase was about trying to put the Jane and Emmas work into life. Wrathall and Webster worked at this from two different angles. Webster took the bottom-up approach, looking at how tutors could convey this to undergraduate students, while Wrathall took a top-down approach, finding out how the new curriculum could be implemented in the institution`s strategies.

Maria Bell, academic support librarian with responsibility for the IL teacing programs at LSE, did a survey on how IL was taught at LSE. She found that it varied greatly from department to department, and that many of the programs at LSE have few (or no) requirements as to writing academic essays etc. that would require the students to have information skills. Many of the programs only have (or at least only grade) traditional school exams.

A new report called “Undergraduate support at LSE: the ANCIL report” has just been published. The report looks at how the new curriculum is being implemented at LSE, the need for undergraduate support and how this is being delivered, and the roles of the academic support librarians. I read through this report briefly, and I found it very interesting. Some of the problems mentioned in the report seems universal. I`ll have another look at the report next. week.

… more about my visit in part 2 (to come)..


“Do or do not. There is no try.”


CC-licence by “sw77”

Today, while trying to prepare classes for tomorrow and catching up with e-mails etc. after three days at the London School of Economics (more on that later:)), I was reminded of the immortal words of Yoda from StarWars: “Do or do not. There is no try,” The phrase has become so popular and well-known that it is (almost) a cliché now.. and for good reasons. I just got an article I submitted to a journal back from peer review, and one of the things that I am asked to correct is changing the words “must” to “should”, and “should” to “could”. The words “the data is evidence of..” should rather be “the data indicates..”. I am doing the revisions, of course, and maybe they are right. Maybe I have been more conclusive than I really have reason to be. But is that always so? This blogpost: about academic writing says it well, I think. Hmm.. food for thought!







Yoda Fountain at the Presidio, San Francisco