Teaching efforts spring semester 2014

teaching computer lab

Illustration: Colourbox.com

I have previously been writing much about how teaching becomes a more important part of my workday, and I thought I just wanted to have a look at the numbers for the spring of 2014 now. So far this semester, I have spent 76,5 hours teaching and tutoring. My boss has spent 52,5 hours (mostly on EndNote) and Giulia has spent two hours. Combined we have spent 131 hours teaching.. so far (this includes preparation time).  The numbers for the same period last year was 136 hours, so basically the same as last year. The previous years we have had a very rapid expansion of our teaching efforts, and from 2005 to 2013 the number of teaching hours increased from 43 hours annually to 261 hours (including preparation time). The numbers seem to be leveling out now, and I think that this is a question of resources available at the library. We have reached a threshold.

The demand for teaching within our subjects have increased, and particularly within tutoring we see that there is an almost endless need. As Alison Head noted in her excellent LILAC14 keynote, librarians will probably be important “context-makers” (in lack of a better word) in the future. I thought about this a lot yesterday when I had three hours teaching for 70 nursing students – in a lecture hall. I was team-teaching with a teacher and we were trying to prepare them for a home exam they will have in a few weeks. When I was talking about how to find information and so on, very few of the students wanted me to demonstrate the databases; they were much more interested in the screening process and how to write their methods chapter, and they said that they wanted to talk about how to form good research questions. I know that this has been issues all the time that I have been working here, but still– I have never heard the students be so explicit about this before. They know how to handle the databases, but they don`t know how to use the results and how to describe what they have done. We have to help them find the words to describe what they are looking for and what they want us to help them with.

LILAC14 – day 3 and some general reflections

My last day of LILAC was a short one. Due to the flights (yes, plural), trains etc. to get home, I had to leave the conference before the last parallel sessions and closing panel.

ID&L feedback loop (Parkes & Pope)

Feedback is one of the most important things we do in higher education, and it is a recurring subject on student satisfaction surveys. Parkes and Pope said. Still – we find it hard. We say that it is important that students take the feedback seriously and work on the things we ask them to work on. However, as it turns out, students very often misunderstand the feedback that they get. (JISC has a good website on assessment and feedback, btw.) At Staffordshire University the library started generic courses called “Get a better grade”. They had not expected the courses to be a huge success, but they really were. Students had to book sessions, and Parkes and Pope thought that this was part of the reason the course became a success. The students committed more to it when they had to book in advance. Also, the simple title was good. (The library had previously held open workshops. Teachers read assignments, graded and indicated to students which workshops they should go to, but this did not work. The students did not come.) The library did massive marketing of the “Get a better grade” workshops. 59 percent of those who had signed up for the workshop attended and this is actually pretty good. There were three sessions: study skills, library resources, IT. Parkes and Pope also emphasised the importance of giving this workshop at the right time during the semester and simple feedback (smileys). After the workshop, the librarians decided to use the momentum and they started “exam support workshops” with sessions like “finishing touches to your document”, “keep calm and pass your exams” and “referencing”. These were moderately well visited. “Get a better grade” workshops have now been included on the academic calendar.

Keynote: What value and benefits do we add? Why information professionals are essential to successful digital, health and information literacy delivery. (Arnold)

The beginning of this keynote was unfortunately very muddled due to technical difficulties with the microphone. Silly tech problems can really ruin things. Anyway, Arnold began by (over-)selling her organisation, the SLA (Special libraries association) which is pretty much like CILIP in the UK. Arnold continued to talking about why we need to change what our profession is about. The general population have very strong associations to what a librarian is and do (all about the books). If you image google “librarian” you get lots of images of women with books. If you image google “knowledge worker” you get totally different images. (But what on earth is a knowledge worker? Who is not working with knowledge? Oh, boy. The words we use..) How do we change people`s perceptions?, asked Arnold. Nora Paul (1999) wrote about the transition from old to new skills. The report “IFLA future trends” that came out last year was about things like lifelong learning, universal access etc. What does this do to the library profession?

The SLA did a survey. They came up with five main points on what we have to do to change our image: 1.communicate your value, 2.understand the drivers (how organisations work), 3. managing the process, 4. keeping up your technical skills, 5. provide decision-ready information (right info, right time, right format). We have to keep up our tech skills to stay ahead of the field, go to conferences and to be information curators for our users. All professions must prove that they add value to their organisations or society as a whole. Why must librarians be reminded of this? Do we think that we have intrinsic value??

Arnold`s keynote didn`t give me any “eureka moments”. In fact, I think most of it was pretty old news (something also noted on twitter if I remember correctly). But to be fair, keynotes are usually meant to give you an overview of something or just some thoughts on what is going on within a field, so I never (Alison Head`s keynote excepted) have high expectations.

IFLA (2013) IFLA Trend Report [online] URL: http://trends.ifla.org/ (May 5, 2014)

Paul, N. (1999) The changing role of the news librarian: use of the Internet worldwide. In: Information Sources for the Press and Broadcast Media.

old to new skills slide from keynote

Kate Arnold`s keynote. Slide on the transition from old to new skills.

Some general reflections

I think LILAC is a really good conference for teaching librarians. I do hope that they manage to keep it focussed, and that it does not become too large (like I feel the Internet Librarian International has become). Most of the sessions I attended this year gave me some ideas on how to improve my own practice. This is, I think, some of LILAC`s strength – that it attracts speakers that tries to keep it practical. It is easy to find the “take away”, the tips, the methods that can be implemented right away. That is why it doesn`t matter that much that the keynotes are of varying quality. I really liked Alison Head`s keynote. I think her work shows that it is possible to work with larger datasets and that librarians can get more involved with students` learning, and it inspired me to read her work (again) to see if I can use it to improve my practice. Other high points from LILAC14 included the session on reflective pedagogy (day 1) and writing and getting things published (day 1). As always, I find that socialising with other librarians usually gives me more ideas and information than anything else, and I really enjoyed both the networking event and the conference dinner this year. There were so many great people. I am, as ever, amazed at how many funny and inspiring librarians there are:) I loved spending some time with old acquaintances as well as forming new ones. Going to a conference now and then can really bring the spark back – and LILAC is a great way to get some new ideas.

Buzzwords this year (OK, so not really that new, but I certainly heard them a lot):

  • Annoted bibliography
  • Embedded
  • Plagiarism
  • Online/ MOOCs/ off-campus/ availability
  • Retention