VIRAK 2017: Day 2 parallell sessions

[Other VIRAK posts: Day 1 panel & keynote, day 1 parallell sessions and day 2: keynote]

Right after Tara Brabazon`s keynote, I had to go to my own parallell session, so I only had time for a quick “hello” to her.


Programme: Day 2

Parallell session: “E-veiledning” [e-tutorials]

Astrid Kilvik at the Medical Library in Trondheim, Monica Marchant from the library in Ålesund and I have been working on a resource for nursing students at our three campuses. We have built a collection of examples regarding the bachelor`s thesis and literature review techniques. Astrid and I presented the resource, and had a live demo where the participants could see what it looked like. (I have included some screenshots to make up for the live demo in this presentation: Presentasjon VIRAK-pdf ) I`ll probably write more about this later, but we got a lot of questions after our presentation, and it was great to see that people were so interested.

Gunnhild Austheim (West University College) had the second presentation in our parallell session. She had experimented with something called “Guide on the side”. She had observed something similar at a university in the US. At University of Arizona Libraries they had developed an open source software that allowed the librarians to build help pages that would pop up when patrons were using the databases. At Western Norway University of applied sciences, Austrheim built something similar, based on the one from Arizona. She had help from Magnus Enger at Libriotech to develop the plattform to fit the solution. The product was not completely finished, and Austrheim explained how they were working with the content.

During this presentation, I was thinking about how useful something like this could be, but I also thought about how important it is to make something that is short, concise, and to the point. In almost everything that librarians (yes, I know I am being a little unfair here) build, we always want it to include everything. Just look at many of the libguides and other information pages that we have seen through the years. We always want to give the full picture, and to be so thorough that they (meaning users) cannot find any faults. I am thinking about all the times I have given students WAY too much information, just because I wanted to cover everything in one go. It is an art to give them what they need exactly when they need it when it comes to services online. I think such a “Guide on the side” idea is great! – if we build something that gives the students the small snippets they need when they need it, and if we resist the urge to cover everything. I think we all need to think about good examples, images etc. and less text based instruction overall.

Parallell session: “Formidling” [communication]

This was a session with several PechaKucha (PK) presentations from ongoing or recently completed projects. It is a good format (PKs) when presenting short summaries from projects. I heard my colleagues from the NTNU Oppgaveskriving/VIKO project present our project: what it is and how we did it.

I also heard Sunniva Evjen from HIOA talk about how she had used a kind of modified PK for library students, and how they felt about using that format. It was interesting to see that the students weighted different things before and after the project. They found that it is important for librarians/library students to be better at presentation and communication of results, but also to get to the point quickly. PK was therefore an interesting tool/method to achieve this.

Parallell session: “Akademisk skriving” [academic writing]

Ingerid Straume`s presentation was called “The use and misuse of pedagogic theory”. She talked about how emerging writing centres use elements from information literacy and academic literacies, and it is interesting for libraries to see how these fields can be “merged”. The traditional roles for the library was connected to acquiring literature and displaying it/ communicating about it. But more and more emphasis is now on academic support for patrons, and our role in learning development. This should be taken into account when we also talk about our role in writing centres.

As the libraries are growing out of their traditional roles and the library profession is increasingly being professionalised as its own field of research, the need for theorising is increasing.

The production of theory, within academia, is a way of getting legitimacy, and it is important for librarians to contribute to create theory. However, not all pedagogic theory can be directly transferred to something tangible in practice, but it is still important to create it. Having a wider spectre of theoretical knowledge can widen the horizon and make conversations about libraries much more interesting.

Greek and Jonsmoen talked about the writing centre at HIOA. They said that few teachers want to invest time to increase their students` writing skills. HIOA have organised many “one-shot” writing classes, but the students are not exactly showing up by the dusin. The faculties want simple solutions, but it does not work. They need to invest time, know about their own weaknesses (e.g. lacking knowledge in referencing styles etc.), be able to do follow-ups and so on.

Nobody want to take responsibility for academic writing. “The students already know how to do it” is often heard. Maybe teachers often lack some of these skills themselves? Students find it hard to understand the demands and to understand the “lingo”. They receive lots of written assignments, but most of them need help to develop their skills. They do not just pick it up “by osmosis” [as I think McGuinness put it]. Many teachers see developing writing skills as something extra they have to take care of, not something students need in order to learn.

So – who has the knowledge about texts and text standards, enough to help the students? Textual knowledge is part of the overall subjects, and it can only be developed there.

There are so many different participants in academic writing that it is difficult to coordinate efforts and to create a bigger picture. Writing centres, libraries, teachers, tutors/TAs.. the list is long, and we make it difficult for the students to get the big picture. Students come with a background, and we have to find a way to further develop the knowledge they already have.

I have had the pleasure of hearing Jonsmoen before, and I have used at least a few of their papers before. Although I had heard some of these points before, it was still interesting to hear them talk about their own roles as part of the writing centre at HIOA, and very interesting to hear them take a critical look at their practice. I can warmly recommend these articles by these authors:

Greek, M. og Jonsmoen, K. M. (2013) Skriveveiledning til økt fag- og tekstforståelse, Norsk pedagogisk tidsskrift, 97 ER(04-05). Tilgjengelig fra:

Jonsmoen, K. M. og Greek, M. (2012) «HODET BLIR TUNGT – OG TOMT» – om det å skrive seg til profesjonsutøvelse, Norsk pedagogisk tidsskrift, (01). Tilgjengelig fra:

Jonsmoen, K. M. og Greek, M. (2016) Lecturers’ text competencies and guidance towards academic literacy, Educational Action Research, s. 1-16.

Parallell session: “Informasjonskompetanse” [information literacy]

Librarians from BI Norwegian Business school presented their project, that has now become a regular thing at two campuses, “KildebrukBar”. The translation doesn`t really make much sense, but it is a play on words: Kildebruk= using sources and Bar= Bar, but bar is also an ending, like “ful” (useful).

Anyway: the librarians had put up a real bar, with fruit and (nonacoholic, of course) drinks complete with drink umbrellas, outside the library. They would help students with their sources and citing/referencing. There was no booking, just drop-in. The students could get help with citation styles, what information to include, what to do with particular sources that did not fit the examples in the style etc. The librarians would not proof read any bibliographies, but they would point out a few where information was missing and so on. The librarians felt that they often started there, but ended up discussing the bigger issues, like whether or not sources were of high quality etc.

The librarians said that timing and marketing was everything here, but provided that the students knew about the event and that it was timed right so that many students were writing at the time of KildebrukBar, the students showed up, and there were often long lines at the bar.

Interestingly, the number of students that visit KildebrukBar is now falling a little or is stabilising, but the circulation/reference desks receive these kinds of questions more evenly throughout the semester now.

Anita Nordsteien from University College of South-East Norway presented a paper about nursing students` information literacy. She had analysed 194 bachelor`s theses to find out how they used information. Nordsteien had worked with faculty staff to implement a new model of teaching information skills to nursing students, and she had performed the analysis afterwords, to see if there was any improvement.

The model included many interventions, and the nursing students received a lot of training in these skills, where most was tool-based and quite traditional. The analysis showed that the nursing students had improved.

It was two very busy days, and I had less time to network than I would have liked, but it was a good conference, and I enjoyed myself. It is a relief to see that there are so many projects going on in Norway, and it is always a pleasure to meet Norwegian librarians who are dedicated and engaged in their work. For me, there were particularly two events that will stick with me for a long time: the panel on day one and Tara Brabazon`s keynote on day two. There were many other good presentations, too, and I had fun, but I think these two events will be remembered best by me.

The next VIRAK conference will be held at Agder University in 2019.


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