28 Jul 2014

Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree - Literature review produced by CILIP

Inskip, C. (2014) Information literacy is for life, not just for a good degree: a literature review, CILIP, UK. Full text.

CILIP recently produced an interesting literature review written by Charlie Inskip from UCL concerning how IL fits into the landscape of lifelong learning and the workplace. Inskip contends that “what were initially thought of as being generic skills and competencies do not successfully transition from education to the workplace, and do not sufficiently enhance job seekers employability”. In this context, perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by academic libraries and librarians is to consider how we can translate the information literacy competencies, behaviours and practices developed throughout university life into useful and meaningful workplace skills.

Below are some of the issues raised in Inskip's discussion:

Bruce (1999) suggests language and semantics could play a key role in strengthening the links between the spheres of education and the workplace. For instance, many information literacies could be mapped more directly and explicitly to common professional competencies and skills, such as environmental scanning, information management, professional ethics, and R&D. Indeed this problem of language resonates across numerous studies (Kluseck & Bornstein, 2006; Hart Research Associates, 2010; Conley & Gill, 2011), which find “many jobs recognized the importance of information skills under another name” [emphasis added] (p. 6).

Overcoming this problem may well require deconstructing our traditional library language in order to consider how we might repackage IL into something more meaningful in the professional context. It may also involve a shift away from a traditional resource-centred IL approach, towards an increased emphasis on those elements which are often most valued in the workplace, such as the importance of information and communication networks (both formal and informal), and critical thinking (Crawford & Irving, 2011).

As well as developing a ‘new language’ to describe IL, further opportunities to strengthen relationships, visibility and links might include:
  • building partnerships with professional and workplace communities to understand the role that information plays
  • recognising the contextual nature of professional environments and workplaces and
  • situating IL within a framework of ‘practice’ rather than ‘skills’ (Lloyd, 2011) 
In this synthesis, Inskip manages to highlight some of the areas that academic libraries can work at to reduce the disconnect between information skills and practices in higher education and the workplace  - language being one of the most important in my view. I think libraries have probably always struggled with 'language' to some extent, be it describing boolean logic or explaining databases to our users. Whilst students encounter new and unfamiliar language everyday in their studies, it is more closely situated within the context of their discipline and so more meaningful to them, whereas library terminology is likely to be more difficult to connect with in the absence of a similar frame of reference Whether this means translating IL into something more generic and transferable, or contextualising it further (as with evidence-based practice for example), or both, I'm not sure yet.

Posted on Monday, July 28, 2014 | Categories:

24 Jul 2014

Further thoughts on Internships, MLIS grads, library jobs…

This post was previously posted at Yetanotherlibrarianblog on October 22, 2013.

In my previous post I looked at the issue of Internships in the Irish Library and Information Science world and posted some questions their use raises. I finished by saying I would attempt to offer some replies to the questions I raised in the post.

But first, before that, I would just like to mention the positive feedback I received on the post. Particularly the comments posted on the blog by some people who have been directly effected by the JobBridge programme initiative. I would recommend reading these comments as they showed me some of the very real life problems and issues caused by the current use of the JobBridge program by the library profession in Ireland. How this relates across other sectors I have no idea but I would hazard that it might be pretty similar. I would also like to thank those over active Twitter users who commented on, and subsequently retweeted the post and friends who happily talked to me about their thoughts on the post.

Finally, before I proceed to answer the questions I just have to put a very big IMHO proviso before the answers – all of these answers are very much my own opinion and whilst I value my opinion quite highly I’m alas aware that not every body else might value it quite as highly.

1 – The first question I asked was should recent MLIS grads take a Library Internship position if the opportunity arises?

I answer this as if I was in the unenviable position of having to make that decision - I would say yes, a very big YES - take the position, even if it is an 18 month internship. Reasoning? Taking one is the only way, realistically, that you are going to gain any real library experience in the library climate of today. And without this real practical experience the chances of actually getting a ‘real job’ are going to be terribly slim. The situation now is that Ireland is producing more MLIS graduates than it ever has – at a time when there is an utter dearth of positions available to meet the employments needs and wishes of those graduates. It’s basic economics – your supply is far outstripping their demand. With this imbalance those who therefore are lucky enough to get those limited ‘real jobs’ are, I would think and hope, going to be qualified and have practical experience. The relatively recent days of obtaining an entry level library assistant job with no experience and just a Leaving Certificate are long gone. Entry level posts now will, because there are so many graduates, require a primary degree, a post graduate degree and some level of practical experience. Internships realistically are the only practical experience provider in the library game at the moment in Ireland.

2 – If there are no library jobs out there, and seemingly not much prospect in the near future, is it worth somebody’s while undertaking library school and getting a library qualification?

I would answer this by saying if you really want to work in the Library / Information field then yes it is most definitely worth doing a course. In the coming years, good luck to anyone without a MLIS qualification trying to get an information science related post. I would also say if you are hoping to get real work any time soon on the back of it look at being pragmatic and maybe do a course that will prepare you for the only sectors that seem to be hiring – Archives and Repositories and in the small number of private libraries, such as legal libraries, out there.

3 – If there are no jobs is it ‘moral’ for university departments to keep taking in graduates and taking their money when there doesn’t seem to be any realistic chance of a job afterwards?

I will nail my dark colours to the mast here - I personally feel it is not moral for a University to offer fee based courses when they are aware there are no jobs in that field. But equally I can not condemn any institution for doing so. I live in the real world – we live in a capitalist society – the market decides. People are part of the market. As long as we are willing to pay for a service, businesses and institutions, also part of the market, will offer these services. This is bright as day common sense and makes the world as we know it turn.

4 – Should libraries be hiring interns for nine months (or soon to be 18 months)?

I can see why libraries are hiring interns – in the public sector there is more or less a freeze on hiring and an increasing number of retirements are leading to big gaps in services. There is a belief that these gaps have to be plugged and, unfairly for the MLIS graduates, the JobBridge programme is an easy way for libraries to find and hire cheap and qualified labour. So from the perspective of the library and library managers, yes they should be hiring MLIS interns. But it would also be nice to think that the contract was two way and the Intern would get something tangible from the experience. It would be nice to think that the hiring library was also looking out for the best interest of the Intern – not just using them to plug up a gap for the duration and cast them aside when it finishes. Interns can be good for libraries – they bring in fresh blood, new ways of looking at old things, they still seem to be passionate about the profession , they have the enthusiasm of youth, they believe in libraries. They are as many now jaded librarians once were. But libraries need to be good for interns – they need to involve them in projects, make them a part of a team, teach them everyday, train them, mentor them – make them better prepared for that next post that comes up. They need to make them competition for people already working in the field for the limited positions that come available in the future.

5 – If interns keep plugging the gaps in the libraries will ‘real’ sustainable jobs ever be offered again?

This is a very real worry. If libraries and library managers can plug the gaps on the cheap it makes sense to do so – there is little money to go round and anyway that can save money, without reducing or undermining the service, needs to be looked at. If the interns are being hired to supplement the existing staff then the current existing gaps will be plugged and services will continue to be offered – to the end user it will be business as usual which is good news for library managers and those who fund them. But in the long term is this sustainable? I don’t really think it is. How long and how far can this actually go? A point will surely come when morale amongst this transient, for that is what they will be, population of MLIS grads will reduce – there needs to be the ultimate hope of a sustainable library / information science profession to keep people in the profession.

6 – Are there enough unemployed MLIS graduates looking for employment to enable gap plugging for many years?

Probably! Yes even!

7 – Do the people doing the hiring believe that libraries can be staffed solely with interns as some job bridge adverts are advertising?

What can I say? I would certainly hope not! I would hope that the people doing the hiring are more than mere bean counters. I like to think they look beyond the bottom cent. I would hope they have an idea of what is involved in the day to day running of a library. I would hope they can move from the strategic sphere into the operational sphere and see what is required for the day to day running and operation of a library. Much of what we do on a day to day basis needs practical experience, which is not taught, in library school. It’s all very well having the theory but it needs to be backed up with something substantive.

8 – Can a para or non professional qualified person run a library service to the same standard as a qualified experienced professional librarian?

Of course they can. But if you are library manager doing the hiring you would have to be lucky, very lucky, to get the sort of person who can come into a library with no experience and actually start to run it to any sort of decent standard from day one. Experience does count. How much experience obviously will depend on the position but I personally, if I were in the enviable position of hiring staff, would not hire a candidate who does not have experience.

8 – If non qualified staff can run libraries then why bother getting a qualification at all? Why waste your money or time getting the qualification when it is not needed?

If it is the case that in the future libraries are going to be run by non academically qualified staff then obviously there would be no need to get such a qualification. But I think with the amount of graduates being churned out finding a person with an LIS qualification is not going to be the problem. With the current downturn in library positions it will be finding a person with experience.

9 – What do all these questions say about where we, as a profession are, in 2014? And where do we go?

I would think we are in a particularly sensitive place. With no jobs being created, at least in the public sector where most Irish library and information science related staff work, it creates uncertainty for those qualifying and who have recently qualified. If there are no positions now what happens in ten, fifteen, twenty years when people who would have been gaining experience at the lower ranks have not gained experience and the only positions becoming available are higher rank positions…  MLIS graduates need to be gaining lower tier experience now to ready them for the higher tier positions in the future. As things stand now this is not happening.

And where do we go? Unfortunately, in Ireland, for new LIS professionals, I think the only way is the Interns / JobBridge route. This is the only experience to be gained. But this creates problems as set out in points five and six. The other alternative is cutting off the nose to spite the face – for people not to take internship positions but this, I feel, will not benefit people who are really seeking LIS work. It’s a case of taking the medicine for the duration, getting better [at your job] and hopefully getting your reward, a real job, somewhere down the, hopefully not too long, road. Because, to be honest, if you can get that full time position, there is no more rewarding enjoyable fulfilling job out there. IMHO.
Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Categories: ,

16 Jul 2014

Teachmeet@UCD Library: Upcycle and Upskill, 27th June 2014

Guest Post by Áine Finegan, Assistant Librarian, Mason, Hayes & Curran

I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend a TeachMeet at UCD Library on the 27th June 2014. It was my first time at such an event and it was great to have the chance to focus on instruction and
training in libraries, especially as this is a key area in my current role. TeachMeet began with networking activities in the lovely new collaborative working space in the James Joyce Library. We then moved into a learning space for the “practice shares”, an opportunity for attendees to present on topics currently relevant to them.

Gráinne McCabe from RCSI gave us an overview of the challenges faced by her team in holding “Bring Your Own Device” training sessions where library users bring their own laptops and smartphones to the sessions. BYOD presents logistical challenges such as library staff having to deal with different devices, some of which may need programmes installed. Time can be wasted getting people set up which leaves less time for actual instruction. However there are benefits in utilising BYOD for training sessions as the informal set-up of group tables and flexible seating is more favourable when compared to a traditional PC lab environment. Keeping sessions dynamic was also noted as being a key part of their success. Gráinne emphasised making the best use of the space available to you by being prepared before the session and making yourself aware of acoustics and other spatial issues.

I presented the second practice share called “Rethinking Inductions”, where I gave an overview of how and why the library at Mason Hayes & Curran decided to revamp our current induction process for new trainee solicitors. Moving towards a workshop format with lots of interaction and more time for engagement was the key change in helping new trainees get the most from their library induction. The main point I aimed to convey was that it’s a useful exercise to review existing training formats even if they appear to be working well as there’s always the potential for improvement.

Aisling Conroy from NCAD gave us an overview of how the Visual Resources Centre at NCAD library supports students of art and design in their research. ArtStor and the NCAD Digital Image Library provide online access to images from across the world in all periods of history of art and design, which greatly furthers research possibilities for library users. The Visual Resources blog run by the Centre promotes online resources and helps users keep up-to-date with new materials being added.

Anne Madden from St.Vincent’s Hospital was the last of the presenters with the intriguingly named “Teaching the ask” practice share. She encouraged us to help our library users think critically by asking them questions which help them to learn to ask their own questions. There was also the useful reminder of keeping focused on “jobs to be done” – what the user needs to accomplish and how you can help them to accomplish it. Finally Anne suggested that an enthusiastic tone and an appearance of interest in the research or problem can do wonders in having a positive and successful interaction with our users.

After reviving ourselves with tea and cake, we worked in groups to discuss “Teaching Challenges”. These challenges were submitted by TeachMeet attendees at the beginning of the event so it gave us the opportunity to engage with issues our colleagues are experiencing. After the group discussions we then shared our perspectives on the challenges with everyone at the event. Interestingly, the same topics and concerns seem to have been discussed in all the groups, which highlights that despite our different library environments, so many of the issues we face are shared. Some of the challenges discussed were teaching for future need, aiming to establish the library as a positive space, using instruction space as effectively as possible and seeking peer-to-peer feedback. It was very useful to hear how others deal with the variety of issues and was encouraging to feel that we are all working towards similar goals.

Thanks to Jenny Collery, Michelle Dalton and Avril Patterson for organising such a great event – I’ll definitely be back!


*Image and poster design by Melanie Simpson, copyright UCD Library.

15 Jul 2014

CONUL Information Literacy Seminar June 10th 2014

This is a guest post by Ger Prendergast Subject liaison librarian, Business and Social Sciences UCC Library

CONUL Information Literacy Seminar June 10th 2014 (Long Room Hub Trinity College Dublin.)

Programme
It’s been a while since I heard anyone mention Ranganathan’s five laws of library science. The first speaker at the CONUL Information Literacy Seminar, Chris Pressler from DCU brought us back to basics with his presentation What do librarians really think about-radical tradition in a time of change. In doing so Chris showed that in today’s ever expanding information world, Ranganathan’s fifth law, ‘The library is a growing organism’ has never seemed more relevant. Librarians think about (among other things) organizational change, student support, data, research, expertise & academic status. It was good to hear Chris say that the library would continue to be important as a physical space in spite of ever increasing access to e-resources. According to Chris, we as librarians need to be creative and take risks and think about different approaches to what we do. Be unexpected!

Ronan Maddden (UCC) and Liz Dore (UL) spoke about the key themes of LILAC 2014 which they attended in Sheffield this year. The message to future attendees at LILAC was to plan in advance and book sessions if possible.

The Pecha Kucha presentations are an integral part of the CONUL IL seminar and provide a useful overview of what is happening with IL in other libraries. This year’s sessions were lively and engaging, as ever.

The morning Pecha Kuchas began with a presentation from Evelyn Bohan on integrating the Library & IT helpdesks at NUI Galway. A need to cut costs and demand from students to have IT & library queries dealt with in one place were the main drivers for this change. Effective change management was seen as an important factor in the success of the implementation of the service.

The next two Pecha Kuchas dealt with gathering statistics. Laura Connaughton of NUIM spoke about Gathering meaningful statistics using KnowAll Enquire, an enquiry management software package. This was purchased by NUIM in 2012 and set up for several library departments as well as subject librarians. It retains information about individual queries thus building a bank of knowledge which can be used to answer future queries. A custom reports function allows you to sort queries by contact method or subject and identify busy times. An infograph can be generated which allows information gathered to be shared with users.

Lorna Dodd’s Lego themed presentation described how UCD library uses Unishare, a unique UCD product, to collect statistics. This links to student records as it works within the student hub system. Past queries from individual students can be retained by the system thus giving a holistic view of student activity. A major advantage of this system is that there is no direct cost to the library and no maintenance and IT issues.

The final Pecha Kucha of the morning came from Dr. Irina Ruppa-Malone the Academic Writing Centre (AWC) manager from NUIG. The AWC offers one-to-one tutorials on essay writing. Students bring their written work to the centre and an AWC tutor works with them to improve their writing. Group workshops and online courses are also available.

Ruth O’Hara, a PhD student from NUIM, provided a useful insight into libraries from the user perspective. Unsurprisingly, opening hours, finding material, access, study spaces and access to pcs were all areas of concern for the student. Ruth mentioned that students found a staff presence on the floors more student friendly than having to approach an information desk. She urged librarians to let people know what services we offer as students don’t always know.

The last session before lunch was by Mary Antonessa from NUIM. Mary presented some preliminary findings from her Doctoral thesis which she hopes to submit to the School of Education, University of Sheffield shortly. She discussed her work which takes information literacy out of Library and Information Science and positions it into Education. By doing this she explored how information literacy is more than a library skill and how it is a knowledge concept necessary for teaching, learning and research in Higher Education. She spoke about the value of critiquing information and how this is increasingly a challenge considering the vast online information landscape that staff and students continue to struggle to negotiate. She also spoke about libraries have a critical role to play as partners in the teaching and learning and research goals of our institutions.

The first presentation of the afternoon was from Irene Glendenning from Coventry University. Irene spoke about the IPPHEAE project. This is an EU funded project which investigated policies and procedures in place in Higher Education Institutions across Europe for detecting and preventing student plagiarism. Findings for Ireland indicated that poor quality systems or inconsistent use of systems in some institutions may have led to cases of plagiarism. The number of Irish students (77%) who selected both inability to cite and reference and difficulties in paraphrasing as reasons for student plagiarism, along with the finding that there was uncertainty as to what actually constituted plagiarism, suggest that there is plenty of work for librarians to do here.

Virginia Conrick presented the first Pecha Kucha of the afternoon. Entitled UCC first year student experience: where is the library? the presentation highlighted the evolution of the library undergraduate programme which is run for first year students in UCC library. The programme takes place over four weeks at the start of the academic year with four workshops on different aspects of IL.

Jessica Eustace-Cooke from TCD spoke about Professional use of social media, a tutorial which she developed for Nursing & Midwifery students. While social media has many uses professionally, inappropriate use can impact negatively on our professional lives. She advised separating your private and professional information on social media as well as respecting privacy, confidentiality and professional boundaries.

Jenny Collery’s presentation dealt with her experience of adapting a plagiarism tutorial from IT Tallaght and translating it into Irish for use in UCD. Jenny worked with Bord na Gaeilge and the School of Irish in UCD on this project. She used social media, professional lists and conferences to showcase the product. Bord na Gaeilge promoted it to the Irish language community. Two other colleges now link to the tutorial and it has had 216 pages views to date.

Catherine Cooke from DIT spoke about The move to Grangegorman campus and the challenges involved in adapting an old building for library use. The additional space in Grangegorman means that there will be more facilities available for the delivery of IL sessions.

The final Pecha Kucha of the day was an interesting presentation from Jack Hyland of DCU who adapted an interactive business information literacy tutorial for female only students in PNU Saudi Arabia.

Many thanks to the CONUL Teaching & Learning Committee for organizing this useful and informative seminar.

11 Jul 2014

Four librarian webinars in July

Below is a select list of four free webinars that take place in July and might be of interest to you.
The topics include Excel, library service design around mobile-device use, MEDLINE training and some latest library-tech news brought to you by courtesy of NLC.

Understanding the Excel Data Model
Tuesday, 15th July, 5pm – 6pm (IST)
The Excel data model is revolutionising how you can work with data in Excel. In this webinar, you will learn what an Excel data model is, how to get data into a data model, how to extend the data model by using Power Pivot.

References for this webinar:
- Create a Data Model in Excel (how-to)
- Find out which data sources are used in a workbook data model (how-to)
- Tutorial: PivotTable data analysis using a Data Model in Excel 2013 (tutorial)
 
Wednesday, 16th July, 7pm – 8pm (IST)
How does your library welcome users with mobile devices like tablets, laptops, and smartphones? More people are opting to bring their own devices, and this has an impact on the way libraries provide services. Library space is being used differently, and library staff are being asked to provide assistance in new ways.

Come to this free webinar to learn how to meet the mobile needs of your community by adapting your library space and providing support to staff. Carson Block (Carson Block Consulting) and Scott Sime (Johnson County Library, Kansas) will share their expertise on this subject. Walk away with practical tips for how to:
- Make library space more mobile-device friendly
- Prepare staff to provide mobile-device assistance
- Assess and improve IT infrastructure
- Approach funding
 
Database Training: MEDLINE
Tuesday, 22nd July, 4pm – 5pm (IST)
This class is for participants who want to learn to search all versions of MEDLINE effectively. Use of subject headings, subheadings, limits, field codes and search history will be covered.

Tech Talk with Michael Sauers
Wednesday, 30th July, 4pm – 5pm (IST)
In this monthly feature of NCompass Live, the Nebraska Library Comission’s Technology Innovation Librarian, Michael Sauers, will discuss the tech news of the month and share new and exciting tech for your library. There will also be plenty of time in each episode for you to ask your tech questions.
Posted on Friday, July 11, 2014 | Categories:

8 Jul 2014

DBS Library Annual Seminar 13th June 2014

Guest post by Siobhan McGuinness - a knowledge assistant with A&L Goodbody and a research assistant with UCD.
This post was previously published on her own blog at A Library Bubble: Scribbles & Squiggles of a LIS pro

DBS Dublin Business School's library has always been very open and encouraging since I found their internship while doing my Masters in Information and Library Studies. The reassurance they provided was second to none and the advice and help given to me entering this profession was truly inspiring. I did not avail of their internship having secured employment, so I was thrilled to hear the announcement of their first seminar.

The agenda was very diverse and I was looking forward to hearing all the many wonderful projects DBS library had established, as there was six different presentations I am going to focus on three as I found these particularly exciting.

Firstly I shall outline Brian Hickey's presentation on "The Opportunities and Challenges of Hosting in the Cloud". This topic always interested me as there are many elements facing organisations that wish to make this move or individuals that are already availing of these many services.

Brian was very engaging and brought the topic into the library profession very easily, as I have been using the likes of Dropbox and Google Doc's in college and now as work tools I can understand the advantages of cloud computing, however when you begin to think of the many challenges that face us and threaten our data it becomes a very dark cloud.

Acknowledging these threats and challenges is the only way to move forward and understand the benefits that cloud computing can bring to an organisation or an individual. So what is the cloud? As I began to do my own little bit of research I came across a gem of a book called "A Brief Guide to Cloud Computing", by Christopher Barnatt, non techie and straightforward it answered the easy yet mindfully bashing question; where is this cloud?

As Brian had outlined in his example of amazon's web services (AWS) http://aws.amazon.com/what-is-cloud-computing/ so does Barnatt

"the cloud is made up loads of giant data centers AKA 'server farms' - run by the like of Goggle, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Apple and a host of other traditional and emerging computer giants" (Barnatt, 2010)

However the main issue Brian was aiming at it the many challenges that face large organisations that want to migrate to the cloud, here many took to twitter to begin a very interesting discussion. The need to know who has your data, what they can do with your data and the most important find out who they are, so many questions to be asked and so many times it seemed the answer is far from our reach which is very frightening in today's world of big data and how we freely give our data from our phones and computers through social media to these giant corporations.

Brian was very informative providing a checklist of things to do prior to moving to the Cloud, two points I would like to expand on are the governing laws and jurisdictions and forensics and criminal investigations, these are very nerving points to be discussing. On an individual level using the cloud for uploading documents that contain simple information maybe you have a cookery blog, the information contained in these files would not be detrimental to the owner if this information was open to abuse, however if this individual is using the cloud and storing information that is maybe, interviews used for a government study and these files were abused then the potential of breaching the participants consent and breaching a whole other forum of ethical issues leaves the individual's credibility in shreds.

The need to research Data Protection Issues is the first step if that means getting your hands dirty understanding legal jargon then so be it, it is at the end of the day your own professional credibility at stake. Next is the forensic and criminal investigations linked to the cloud, so if we were attacked an all our data abused how do we as an individual or organisation launch an investigation to tell the truth, still very much a new area and an increasingly interesting one, as there are so many different ways of a potential attack there are also many ways of investigations, as Brian nicely summed it up it is like a crime scene, who touched what, who walked where, what fell where, how did it break that way, who broke in, etc etc, which is very good after watching all those CSI episodes, but getting my head around the cloud aspect and the volume of potential suspects, it really does prove a huge feat.

Brian nicely added many links for further reading which I am very grateful for.

Moving onto the next presentation, is Dr Clare Thornley and "The role of Librarians in Measuring the impact of research". Dr. Thornley was very informative in the role a librarian can play in research, at the moment I am currently holding a position as a Research Assistant and find that the skills as an Information and Library Professional are perfectly matched. In an academic setting of course the need to play this role is altogether more important; however for any Librarian that is engaging in their CPD will also avail of these many inspiring and driven points.

The impact research has on society can be told in many different ways, for me it must deliver a deeper meaning to society, be it a better understanding of something that we tend to brush aside or a change that will impact each individual in this generation and many more to come, from cancer research to addiction research it all has to have a meaning and change to the pool of people it is aimed at.

Measuring this impact is the tricky part and it is where you as an individual will need to know if you are going to develop and continue your CPD, writing an article is fine and all, however when asked in an interview in five years' time, what impact did your research have on your profession? If you don't know well that is very embarrassing, you will need to know if it was added into other papers of similar topic or debated or challenged in ways that engaged you further.

This presentation opened up new questions for me as a new Information and Library Professional, as I do hope to engage in the LIS research to develop my professional profile. Your research can bring many rewards and by showcasing your papers at the many library conferences will add to how you measure the impact, there is nothing better than showcasing your research to a room of people and then listening to their thoughts opinions and debates for you to then analyse and ponder for further study.

Lastly Maria Rogers and Keith Brittle on "The Benefits of Cross Institutional Collaboration".

Collaboration within this context is seen in the academic sector of libraries with Dublin Business School joining with the National College of Ireland, however collaboration works in many sectors of librarianship.

Within the context of academia firstly the integration seen above is in the field of information Literacy, and how these two professionals can compare and contrast their outlines for information skills classes and how they can improve their guides that they provide to their students, as each college is similar, their libraries will have core aspects that ring through to both professionals. The benefits seen here is that instead in working in silos developing similar projects that they can now share their experiences and create better materials for their users. Collaboration is good when you have similar interests and goals, as one question was raised in the seminar how to collaborate with a library that is different from you in order to include new ideas, Maria answered it honestly saying it is easy to collaborate on something that you both are doing in your line of work so therefore the goals, interests, and achievements are already the foundations, when you are working with someone that is different it can become a teacher - learner space and goals and achievements can become too high or out of reach and ultimately may fail, not in all circumstances but it can be more difficult to maintain.

This area is a great interest of mine, as I am currently collaborating with the #uklibchat team on Twitter and it is an new way of working with LIS professionals. Having an insight into collaboration has really opened my eyes and how this can really help a new professional in the start of their career.

Again a huge thank you to DBS Library staff you were all so wonderful and nice and accommodating, and #librarypints turned into a very interesting evening!

26 Jun 2014

Teaching spaces – are we making the most of what we’ve got?

Guest post by Maura Flynn, Nursing & Midwifery Librarian at UCC

Another important component of teaching is the space you teach in. I feel that the space is often overlooked but it can have a huge impact on your delivery of a particular class. I personally always like to see a new space before I teach in it, but when I had gone to see a room previously I didn’t particularly think of what the space could be, rather I focused on assessing the software and functionality of the PC and noted the layout as it was.

As part of the course on Teaching and Learning we critically reflected on the spaces that we frequently taught in. I learned that many teaching spaces are far trickier than my own and that there are many ways to engage students regardless of the particular space. For example, even in a huge tiered lecture theatre, greater diversity can be employed than simply lecture style delivery.  In such a space there is scope to get students to do group work for a short period of time and a teacher can always move amongst the students, even if it’s just temporarily by walking up and down the stairs or walk way! The challenge to teachers is to renegotiate and redefine spaces to fit our purposes and engage students.

Computer Lab within University College Cork. Image credit: Maura Flynn
  
Presenter view of same computer Lab within University College Cork. Image credit: Maura Flynn

This room holds approximately seventy students. My classes in that particular room vary as I sometimes have small groups of about thirty in the class and sometimes have larger groups of about sixty five. I find this room to be more challenging to work in than smaller rooms. If I have a smaller class there other students who are not part of the class often wish to remain in an area of the room or come in during the class and use a PC. This can transpire not to be problematic if they are quiet and refrain from printing, but it is not my preferred scenario. The students can also have issues seeing the screens and hearing me due to the large size of the room. It can also be very difficult to engage and interact with each person in a large room.

Some basic strategies which I find helpful in this room include having a remote microphone to hand if it’s required by the students and enlarging the display of my own screen on occasion to ensure that the students at the back of the room can see. I also try to have a remote laser pointer with me to demonstrate specific components clearly and I hope in the future to source a remote to allow me to move through a PowerPoint while moving around the room. Before individual classes I have also sat in a number of seats around the room to determine the visibility of the screens projecting different resources and to determine how it will feel from a student perspective to attend a large class in that room.

For most classes I also prepare a sheet of specific tasks and exercises for each individual to complete at various times during the class. I feel that it’s important that the students have an opportunity to independently practice what is being demonstrated and communicated, rather than exclusively just either watching me demonstrating or expecting them to follow along in real time. In a large class particularly it can be difficult to make sure that everyone is following the required processes and steps, but using such an approach is helpful. It gives me a chance to walk around, engage with students and view direct evidence of understanding. Students often ask me questions when I walk around the room amongst their desks, which I doubt would always be shared if I continued to present relentlessly!

Upon reflection though, I have realised that I had previously been far too reliant on the students using the PCs. Because of the presence of the computers I hadn’t given sufficient thought to using the teaching time and space differently in order to engage a greater variety of learning styles. In large classes particularly I had overlooked and underutilised a lot of other tools, even some which involve multimedia (which ironically I think I would have been more likely to utilise occasionally in a traditional lecture style presentation set up).  I also underutilised group work and props when teaching large groups and focused primarily on the students using their PCs for the entire class. Within my own classes, some students tell me that they are not very comfortable using computers and do not routinely use them, so I think that diversifying the classes more would be beneficial for these students. For example, using group exercises which involve the students planning their literature searching strategy efficiently, prior to using a particular database could easily be done using pen and paper or indeed colourful sticky notes. I feel that this may make it easier for any student struggling with computer literacy to conceptualise the process involved and encourage teamwork and peer support amongst the students.

Another space within which I frequently teach is a smaller computer training room based within the Library.

Information Skills Training Room within UCC Library. Photo credit: Maura Flynn

Information Skills Training Room within UCC Library. Photo credit: Maura Flynn

This is by far my preferred room. The capacity of this room is fourteen. Each person has their own PC and they have good visibility of a large screen and there are no issues with any students being able to hear me clearly. This room is very pleasant to work in. I feel that the small capacity enables me to provide more individual attention and interact more easily with the students. Interestingly, I have always experimented far more with different approaches in this particular room than in the larger room.

I’m cognisant that some of the issues I’ve raised above relate also to the group size as I feel that it is undoubtedly easier to facilitate active learning with smaller groups rather than larger groups. McGuinness (2011) provides many suggestions for engaging larger groups, including: buzz groups; think-pair-share and structured note-taking, which can be done in virtually any teaching space. Such exercises can allow students to stop and reflect on their learning and raise questions. It allows a teacher to determine direct evidence of student learning and helps one to determine key points which may not have been understood of which may have been misunderstood. They also allow us to provide feedback to students, which can be tricky in a large group.

Essentially my own learning in this regard has been that planning and preparation for each class should include a thorough assessment of the space available with a view to creating a dynamic teaching space rather than simply using the existing teaching space in the most obvious way. Secondly, although a lot of the teaching that I do will involve using students learning how to use electronic databases, the classes do not have to consist exclusively of computer work. Indeed depending on the individuals being taught, short breaks from the computer work to work in small groups, standing up and using props such as flipcharts and sticky notes may be more effective. Thirdly, I am more aware now that even within large groups and large spaces there is plenty of scope to use the space differently and dedicate some time to different activities to allow students time to stop, reflect and question things which they do not understand and provide teachers with direct evidence of learning.

I would love to hear about ways in which you reconceptualise teaching spaces.
Posted on Thursday, June 26, 2014 | Categories: ,