LOEX 2021: day 3

Well – this will be a shorter blog post than the previous one. Due to a holiday here in Norway (Ascension Day – kind of weird that we have a day off here on Ascension Day, seeing as Norway is one of the most secular countries in the world, but anyway..) I couldn’t spend all evening at a conference. I did manage to go to one (and a half) session, and I’ll be writing about it here.

Activating the ACRL Framework: Active learning design for library instruction

I have been very interested in the ACRL Framework from the start. We don’t use a framework here in Norway, but I have been writing and talking about this framework as a possible model for a national framework here.

Meghan Kowalski and Catherine Meals from University of the District of Colombia and Faith Rusk from San Fransisco State University talked about how the framework is theoretical and how they wanted to build something more practical from it. The librarians wanted to try something new, even though most of their teaching efforts are performed as one-shots. They decided on building some modules that could be reused and work in a variety of settings. The librarians collaborated in two-hour meetings during six summer weeks when there was less activity in the library, and they had discussions, brain dumps and they made an activity bank for class activity.

The ACRL framework is built around six different frames, and it is conceptual in form. The frames reflect different aspects of information literacy. Some of them are easier to use directly in class than others. The librarians in this session found that students had a very binary outlook on source evaluation; a source is either good or bad in their eyes. The librarians tried to used active learning principles and the Research as Inquiry frame, and by tossing a beach ball between students in the class room they managed to get students to talk about sources. They used the Scholarship as conversation frame to prompt a class discussion on an everyday topic. This discussion was meant to show the students that the academic discourse has many similarities with the everyday discussions in our lives.

The librarians talked about some challenges in this approach, too. It is not always easy to get the faculty onboard, they said. Faculty has limited time with students and they are often only interested in giving a little time to librarians to cover the most basic things, like teaching students to use one particular database etc. Librarians often want to go deeper, to teach more theory, more genre etc. while faculty only want them to give the students a particular piece of information. Another challenge is the constraints of the one-shot. There is no possibility of follow-ups or reflection or process approach to give the students a chance to advance through the levels. The framework is based on threshold concepts and the advancement from novice to expert. How do you do this during a one-shot?

Screen dump from presentation talking about the mismatch on what we want and can do vs what the faculty want, one-shot problems and challenges with level.
[Screen dump from presentation]

The librarians have published an article on their experiences with this project so far.

At San Fransisco State University, they have worked on a toolkit for teaching, the SFSU Toolkit. They hope to be able to measure or see the effect of better training as an argument to better embedded in the institution.

The librarians started a padlet for all of us who participated where we could suggest ideas for teaching activities according to the frames. There were several good ideas there, and I intend to look for more that I can use when I teach (even though we don’t use the framework).

There were many questions for the Q&A, and I cannot remember half of them, but there was an interesting discussion on bias, and how we need to focus more on this issue. I felt that it was interesting seeing as I have spent more time on this in class, particularly with seniors, these last couple of years.

Writing and research are inseparable: helping instructors integrate research in writing instruction across the curriculum course planning

I only got to see half this session, so apologies if it makes less sense than the other session abstracts here. Two librarians and a writing instructor from UCLA talked about their efforts to make the Writing and research integration planner. The planner was made as a scaffold to develop writing and research throughout the curriculum, particularly in writing intensive courses. They shared the planner here. They have activity suggestions for writing, searching etc., and they used backwards planning to make it.

[Screen dump from presentation]

The presenters use the planner for writing courses, and they have made a video that is used as a flipped classroom activity to save time in the classroom.

An example of how they work in the writing course: the students are given a question for reflection that they think about. Then the students are given a prompt (below). The students get some information on what the goals of different writing activities are, what to do if they fail etc. They also discuss genre, like what the intention behind a case study is, what makes a good case etc. They train the students in making good problem statements, too. The librarians and faculty collaborate and co-teach, and the video and the planner is used to create structure and collaboration.

Here is an example of a prompt given:

The problematic essay prompt they give to students in class.
[Screen dump from presentation]

Well – that was all I got before I had to go.. I’ll watch the rest when the video is available.

LOEX 2019: Collaboration

Those who read this blog on a regular basis or follow me on Twitter know that one of my first interests within teaching in libraries is collaboration with faculty staff. Without having working relationships with teachers and other faculty staff, we do not stand a chance of outreach. Without them, the library remains an island where visitors shove a plank across when they need librarians, and take it with them when they leave. We need our collaborators to make a bridge to the students, and to maintain the bridge when it is in place. Before I am in dager of overusing the metaphor, I will get on with what I learned within this are on LOEX 2019.

Ula Lechtenberg and Zach Claybaugh, Sacred Heart University held an excellent session on “Sharing our compass: Faculty development and information literacy”. (A picture of the compass can be seen in their presentation) The north, east, south and east positions on the compass were substituted with: “Mapping the Quest”, “Packing”, “Unpacking” and “Repacking”. Lechtenberg and Claybaugh used this compass to explain their journey on how they built a new course on information literacy for teachers.

Anyway – Lechtenberg and Claybaugh talked about how their mandatory information literacy course had been cut, and a portion of it had been moved to a first-year seminar. This created some problems. Lechtenberg and Claybaugh, inspired by a similar idea at the University of Arizona, decided to make a new IL course/ workshop for teachers. Teach the teachers!

Lechtenberg and Claybaugh had emphasised interaction in their course, and they used both Round Robin and World Café as methods to get the participants to interact with each other and with librarians. Ahead of the course, learning goals for students were developed. The learning goals were connected to the ACRL Framework, but to avoid all the “tribal language”, librarians had developed learning goals that the participants could understand. For example: “Students will be able to develop creative search strategies to navigate different systems and locate materials relevant to their research assignments”. The course participants could choose three learning goals that they wanted to explore, and they moved around to the tables where their learning goals were discussed. On each table, a librarian facilitated the discussions. The World Café is a similar idea, but the participants were supposed to share ideas, stories etc. that they had from the course, and these were noted on the tablecloth on the tables. These ideas and stories were shared when a new group came to sit down. The topics on each table were connected to the ACRL Framework.

IMG_0620

Claybaugh has made a useful library guide on teaching information literacy for instructors. It is available here.

Several presenters had cited this article from Cowen & Eva (2016). I have saved it, and I am going to get started on it soon.

It is important to find the right partners on campus. Find the ones that have access to students.

IMG_0621

I have been thinking a lot about this session after the conference. I think that we, due to the continual understaffing at the library, the workload and information overload for teachers, that we need to get a better grip on how to deal with collaboration and outreach. I really want to make something along the lines of what Lechtenberg and Claybaugh did here, but I guess I am too much of a realist to be able to imagine having a two-day course here for teachers. I can’t imagine many (or any?) teachers that would make this a priority. I am thinking about other ways to get this done. Maybe in mini or micro sessions? Maybe integrated at staff seminars? Maybe a MOOC?

IMG_0625

Service provider or academic partner: Where to draw the line?

jente sandstrand

Drawing a line?

I have long wanted to write something about the contributions from academic librarians in research projects. First, I wanted to wait until the term was over because I wanted time to think about this, and then I waited because I wanted to find the right words. I wanted to get this right, because this is important to me. Today, I am writing this even though I could have thought some more or found better words.

I have worked in academic libraries for 15 years. During that time, I have changed and the libraries I have worked in has changed along with the institutions they have served. Perhaps even more interesting is that the role of the librarians have changed, too. A few lines of explanation is perhaps needed. (I`ll get to the point, I promise..) I said that I have changed. Yes, I have changed in many ways, but professionally the most significant change has been that I have changed my focus. When I started 15 years ago, my focus was always “Whats in it for my library”. I was very library centric. I wanted a good budget for the library because I wanted freedom to build a good collection, nice furniture etc. (I was a school librarian back then, btw.) After working in a school library, in a ministry library and in a university library, my focus has shifted. I still want the library to have a good budget, but not for the librarys sake – for the patrons. I want a good budget so that we can provide services and academic support to enhance learning and research. I think I have also learned the value of evidence-based practice in libraries. It is important that we have solid research as well as user experience and our own experience and bring this together to build good library practice. It may not seem as a very significant change on paper (or blog), but for me it has changed the way I work. The libraries have changed, too. From being mainly a document provider and a more distant partner (delivery-on-demand) for students, the digitalisation and research support needs have made it possible and necessary to provide new services and to see our roles in a new light.

There are plenty of articles, book chapters etc. that discuss the roles of academic librarians. I am not going to list everything that I have, but see my article on library-faculty collaboration to get an idea (Øvern, 2014). The main point I want to make here and now, though, is that library-faculty collaboration is often problematic because of the skewed power relation between the parties. The librarians know that the route to the students goes via their teachers, and we are desperate to find a way in to the classrooms. Therefore, we usually not only obey our masters` first whistle, but even assume almost doglike admiration for the teachers that see our contributions as something worth “sacrificing valuable class time” (yes, that is a direct quote, but I`ll not give the source) for. (OK. Maybe I exaggerated a little, but then again, maybe I didn`t.) It doesn`t help that we are so trained as service providers, that we find it extremely hard to just say no to people. This way, I think we also often are stuck in unproductive “collaborations”, because we are afraid that if we protest or suggest very different models for teaching, the teachers will stop asking us to contribute all together. But if we never suggest what to us may seem as better ideas, then they will never see our potential as real academic partners either. Librarians generally know more about the faculty than vice versa, an assymetry that both groups are aware of, but only the librarians find problematic (Christiansen, Strombler & Thaxton, 2004, p.117). And as Ekstrand and Seebass (2009) found: librarians are regarded as excellent (service) parners, but that is not the same as seeing them as valuable academic parners (p. 84). Librarians are not integrated in study programmes and often forgotten in planning sessions.

These power relations become even more problematic when it comes to research support. I have several times been asked to help with literature searching etc. in research projects. Once or twice only, have I been told that I will get co-authorship for my efforts. Once or twice. Of course, I wouldn`t dream of demanding co-authorship if my only contribution to the project would be something like suggesting appropriate databases or handing over some search terms that could useful or something like that. But where do I draw the line? When does it become acceptable for me to say, I can do that, but only if I am listed as a co-author?

This is an example (not from reality, but quite close):
Two faculty members, one of whom were also connected to another university, asked me if I could provide support for them for a systematic review. When I asked what kind of support they were looking for it was clear that it is more than just suggesting search strings and doing a few introductory searches in some databases. It was much more than that. Basically, they wanted me to set up tables, do the searches and use a flow chart. In a systematic review, the design of searches, and getting it right in all the databases as well as putting it into tables and flowcharts represents a lot of work. It would be like building the foundation of a house. Yet, I was not offered co-authorship. I asked them a few more questions on their deadlines etc., but before I had received answers and decided to muster up the strength to ask for co-authorship, they informed me that they had found another librarian (from the other university) to do the job.

It seems there is always somebody who is ready to answer when they hear the whistle. Why it was so important for me to get co-authorship? The contribution would have been the same whether my name was on it or not. Yes, but if I could have had my name on it, then I could have sacrificed the very little R&D time I have to my disposal without having to postpone my qualifications programme. If I am to succeed with this, then the little time I have to produce some new knowledge will have to be put to good use. Egotistic? Sure. But for the faculty involved it wouldn`t have mattered as much to share that research point (Norwegian measurement system), but for me it was important. Again – the power relations are not balanced.

So – what should I do? What should WE as a profession do? Is it ok that faculty get a “yes” from somebody else if they get a “no” from me? When should I say no? When should I demand co-authorship? Why is there no guideline for these partnerships?

Where do I draw the line? (Seriously, I`m asking.)


NOTE: This blog entry was not written to, in any way, suggest that faculty is in the habit of exploiting librarians or are trying to belittle me or my contribution. This is not my experience. I have many working collaborations with excellent faculty members that are productive, constructive and interesting. Even in the example I mentioned above, I don`t think that this was done by malice or as an attempt to put me in my place, but rather as a pragmatic way to get the help they wanted as quickly and efficiently as possible. This blog entry was written to emphasise the sometimes problematic situations that arises from the skewed power relations between faculty and librarians, and I have no other agenda than to share my experience with this, and to hope for better guidelines. It is not my intention to offend either faculty or librarians, and I hope therefore that any lack of clarity of thought or words will be forgiven.


References:

Christiansen, L., Stombler, M., & Thaxton, L. (2004). A Report on Librarian-Faculty Relations from a Sociological Perspective. The journal of academic librarianship, 30(2), 116-121. doi:DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2004.01.003

Ekstrand, B., Seebass, G. (2009). Integrativ informationskompetens: Diskursöverbryggande samarbete mellan akademi och bibliotek. In B. Hansson, A. Lyngfeldt (Ed.), Pedagogiskt arbete i teori och praktik (pp. 83-101). Lund: BTJ Förlag.

Øvern, K. M. (2014). Faculty-library collaboration: two pedagogical approaches. Journal of Information Literacy, 8(2), 36-55. doi:http://dx.doi.orghttp://dx.doi.org/10.11645/8.2.1910

Workshops for nursing students

Student asking questionIt is that time of the year again – oh, yeah! Bachelor`s mania. It is stressful for us, for the students and for the guidance counsellors, but it is also fun to work with the students on their theses. Most of them are really into it. They all want to get a good grade, of course, and maybe that even is the main reason to work hard for many of them. But many also seem genuinely interested in their subjects, and that kind of motivation is always easier to further encourage, of course.

The nursing students who are writing their bachelor`s theses are organised into groups of 2-4 students. This year there are 75 or 76 groups, I think. A few years ago we decided to offer workshops for nursing students, as they were just too many to handle on individual sessions for our staff. Students who are interested in tutoring from the library can sign up for a workshop at a given time (usually we give them four, two-hour sessions to choose from), and I team up with guidance counsellors from the institute. I use Google Forms for the sign-up forms, and then I divide them into their sessions. The students state their research questions/ purpose when they sign up, and that gives me an opportunity to check out some areas of research beforehand. When the deadline is up, then “the ship has sailed”, and the students who did not sign up will receive no offer of tutor sessions from the library during the work with their bachelor`s thesis. Troubleshooting? – yes. Help with searching strategies etc.? – no. It`s just a survival thing.

This year, 36 groups signed up for the sessions before the deadline. The workshops took place in a computer lab, and there were nine groups per session. I got help from four guidance counsellors, though not all four in every session – usually two helpers in each session. The students sit in groups and search for articles for their thesis, and I work my way through the groups until I have seen them all. Some need help finding search terms, some need a little help with narrowing down their searches, some need help to identify sources, some need a little encouragement, some need some guidance when it comes to methodology and so on. It really is great to meet them this way. I learn a lot, too.

I really find it interesting to work this way, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to do this together with the teachers/ guidance counsellors. We all learn from each other, and I wish we could do the same for all the other students and institutes, too. It is really intense, though, so I went to bed at 9.pm both days, totally exhausted:) Well – thats Bachelor`s mania for you!

Sales techniques in libraries

sales-expert-skiltMy boss drew my attention to this articles in “In the library with a led pipe”(1) today: Liaisons as sales force: using sales techniques to engage academic library users.

The article is about how liaison librarians can use sales techniques to promote library services. The term “sales” often brings forward negative associations about pushy, aggressive people who just try to get you to spend money on things you don`t need. Still, if you try to rid yourself of these negative images, you can see that “selling is about helping people find solutions to their problems and challenges” (under heading “But liaisons don`t learn sales skills”).

The article lists four major elements of selling that can be used for liaison librarians:

  1. Selling is a positive and necessary part of a liaison librarian`s job: Meaning that we cannot just sit in our offices and think that the users will come to us. We need to promote our services to help our patrons. To sell something is to find out what they need and try to fill that need.
  2. Effective selling requires goal-focused interactions. This means that we have to have a goal for the conversation. Not something highly idealistic or “big”, but something pragmatic and simple, like “I want this patron to know we have access to a reference manager”.
  3. Enthusiasm for the library`s resources and services. I think this should probably have been number one on this list. We have to believe (!) in our services and their usefulness to our patrons. If you want a faculty member to book an information skills session, you have to believe that it will be useful to the students. I think this point cannot be emphasised enough.
  4. Ability to investigate the needs of the customer: meaning, we have to figure out what they really need. I think we could all probably be better at this. It`s not about what we think they should know, but what they themselves think they need.

The authors examine how to use a specific sales method, called SPIN Selling®, to promote library services. Well worth a read, too.

I`ll end here with a quote from the conclusion:

“By approaching every interaction with the mindset that it is a potential “selling” opportunity and dedicating time for effective preparation, liaison librarians can develop a skill-set that adds significant value to their user community by matching existing services, spaces, and collections with users in ways that enhance their success.” (Under heading “conclusions”)

Reference:

Solis, J. and King, N. (2017). Liaisons as sales force: using sales techniques to engage academic library users” [online] URL: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2017/liaisons/ (18.01.17)

(1) Note: “In the library with a led pipe” is a blog that I used to follow, but stopped because I was frustrated by all the great content there that I never had time to read:) Now, this peer-reviewed blog has become an open access, open peer-reviewed journal. I highly recommend having a look at it.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions”

Girl with appleI am looking into a few journal articles that I was recommended to read on faculty-library collaboration; a subject that has interested me greatly. I have recently written an article about it (in review process now), and when reading these articles I keep coming up against some of the same questions that these authors have asked: Why, when faculty clearly sees the importance of information skills (some studies shows that up to 97 percent of teachers view information skills as very important), are these skills so poorly integrated?

Some authors suggest that faculty find that students should learn information skills by “osmosis” (McGuiness 2006), something that they acquire naturally while being students, instead of skills that needs to be taught. This thought never even occurred to me before reading about it. Interestingly, as Bury (2011) noted, the percentage of faculty who believe that these skills are developed naturally, drops significantly the closer the faculty are to the students (ex. professors vs lecturers). So – I`ve always thought that the reason why information skills are not integrated into the subject contexts/syllabi/course descriptions is that teacher don`t know enough about it or that  they fail to see that it is something that students struggle with, but maybe it is simply a matter of different opinions on how these skills are acquired? I think I need to let this sink in a little..

To be fair, I am in daily contact with dedicated faculty staff that really want to see their students pick up on this and to help the students understand how to find their way through the academic writing jungle. I can respect that we have different opinions on how to do it – but I would really like to be let in on the discussion more.

As DaCosta (2010) wrote: “As with the previous research it was anticipated that  faculty would show a positive response to whether students should be information literate. It is a bit like global warming and energy efficiency: The majority of people feel that we should all do more to “save the planet” but not so many are willing to give up their cars to do so!” (p. 207).

I certainly hope that faculty is not offended by my little epiphany here, but I just had to write up my thoughts here before it all fades away.

 

Literature

Bury, S. (2011) Faculty attitudes, perceptions and experiences of information literacy: a study across multiple disciplines at York University, Canada. I: Journal of Information Literacy, 5(1), s. 45-64.

DaCosta, J. W. (2010) Is there an information literacy skills gap to be bridged? An examination of faculty perceptions and activities relating to information literacy in the United States and England. I: College & Research Libraries, 71(3), s. 203-222.

McGuinness, C. (2006) What faculty think–exploring the barriers to information literacy development in undergraduate education. I: The journal of academic librarianship, 32(6), s. 573-582.

Being a teaching librarian – a few thoughts on organisation of teaching activities

Student asking questionThe spring term is coming to an end, and I am trying to tie up some loose ends and to reflect a little on what I have done this year.

One of the things I have been doing today is to look at a project that will happen this autumn. The university college in Sogn and Fjordane is going to be working on a very interesting project concerning the effect of the information literacy courses they give. I am very interested in this – it was the main subject for my master`s thesis a few years ago now. I am probably going to give a presentation at a seminar in Sogn and Fjordane in connection with this project, and I had a chat with one of the librarians in charge this morning. We have never met, but we had an interesting little chat on what the purpose of the project is, and on how we can learn from each other. I talked to her about organisation of teaching activities. She seemed very surprised when I said that we (at GUC) have one librarian in charge of teaching at all faculties. In Sogn and Fjordane (and probably many other places) they have liaison librarians who teach at their own department or faculty. Here, I am responsible for teaching on all faculties (but I do have great collegues who help me out a lot, specially with EndNote courses and follow-ups there). It may seem a little strange that I teach on all faculties, but actually this has worked well so far. It`s easier for me to have control over our teaching activities, and to make sure that our teaching models work for all faculties.

Of course, I do not have a deeper understanding of all subjects being taught at all faculties, and this has been the argument most often used against the kind of model that we have, and it is a fair point. Still, even if I only had teaching responsibilities on one faculty I couldn`t possibly have been an expert on all the subjects. If that is what we wanted and/or needed most, we would probably have to be replaced by subject specialists.

The way I see it there are more pros than cons in favour of “our model”. Pros include: having control and making it easier to tailor “cross-faculty” courses (we have a number of those), seeing the need for new teaching models and methods is easier when you see the whole board. Cons include: not being a subject specialist it is harder to tailor courses in e.g. structured literature searching because the academic disciplines have different demands.

I am thinking a lot about library-faculty collaboration these days, and one of the things that I am really happy about is that I have been able to be a part of the tutor groups for the bachelor`s theses in the nursing department, and that I have been able to team-teach with an excellent professor there this year. It has made it much easier for me to see the needs of the department. This fall I will do something of the same in another faculty. The experiences that I take with me from the nursing department may not be directly transferrable to the other faculty, but I think that I will be able to use much of what I have learned. I am not a subject specialist, but I don`t need to be, because I am team-teaching with the professor, and she is the subject specialist. Together, I hope that we`ll be able to give the students our perspectives and to share our experiences.

I don`t think there is a perfect model, and I certainly think that we have to “knead the dough” much more, but I really think that we`re onto something here. I am really looking forward to this autumn, and I can`t wait to hear more from other librarians who have different models. I hope they have lots of thoughts and experiences on the subject.

Spring semester thoughts

Well, the undergraduate students at all three faculties have now handed in their theses and the library is almost completely deserted today. Many are cramming for their exams, but I think some are also taking a well-deserved break (Constitution day tomorrow and with Whit coming up this weekend we can enjoy a longer weekend). I am usually very, vey relieved when the bachelor`s theses have been handed in because the weeks leading up to the deadline tend to be crazy busy. Freaked out students everywhere. But this year it was different – still lots of students (and some were very stressed), but most of them were patiently waiting in line to be helped and many only needed a little help to get it right. We (=the library staff) have talked about it several times this spring: When will the tsunami hit this spring? It always comes.. but this year it really didn`t. I think there are several reasons: a.) we arranged group tutor sessions where we had up to seven groups at once in the computer lab (=great success: the students loved it and it saved us a lot of time) b.) some of the students that have been resource-intensive earlier years have had better support in their first and second years and some of their issues on writing might have been solved earlier c.) faculty staff have attended more seminars and we have been working closer together – and I think therefore that some of the students` problems have been solved with their academic supervisor instead of in the library

— and there are probably other reasons as well…

Now, the theses have not been marked yet, so I have no idea on whether it has been a good thing that the tsunami never hit this year or not, but I really do hope that the students are getting more self-reliant and better at academic writing.

I have been fortunate enough to have been a part of the goup of academic supervisors for the nursing students this year. I have been to all of their meetings and have been invited to say something about the progress (seen from the library`s point of view) and have been able to discuss ideas and give my opinions as well as hearing those of the supervisors. It has been really useful to me (and I hope that my input has been valuable to the supervisors as well, of course). I feel like I can get things done and in a much better way when I am integrated in their fellowship, and I hope that I`ll be able to continue this working relationship with them.

In a couple of months this years bachelor`s theses should be registered in our institutional archive (only dissertations marked A, B or C and where the authors have sign a publication agreement can be published..). Lots of interesting subjects, so go on – have a look🙂

Happy Constitution Day/ Whit weekend!