12 Sep 2014

Four librarian webinars in September

Check out the following upcoming webinars. Topics covered include audience research methods to inform website redesign efforts, library self-service software (not limited to self-issuing technology), a talk on 25+ free tech tools in support of patron engagement and digital literacy skills development and, finally, a discussion around the issue of library censorship (banned books).

Redesigning Your Website: Know Your Audience: Five Low-Budget, High-Impact Research Methods
Tuesday, 16th September, 6pm – 6:45pm (GMT) (Provided by Systems Alliance) 
It's critical to make informed decisions about content, navigation, and design when creating or redesigning your website. Through a user-centred design approach, you can better understand who your visitors are, how they perceive your organization, and how they interact with your website.

What do site visitors need? What are the key messages that drive them to take action? What are their abilities and limitations? These questions are best answered by going directly to the source: Your audience.

This webinar will explain how a small investment in audience research can provide the insight you need to improve your visitors’ experience. How can you get to know your audience?

The webinar will cover the following audience research methods:
• User Personas
• Focus Groups and Interviews
• Card Sorts
• Usability Testing
• Surveys

Library Self-Service Software and Devices 
Thursday, 18th September, 7pm – 8pm (GMT) (Provided by the ALA) 
Self-service library technology is everywhere nowadays, from machines that can scan and sort books automatically to self-checkout stations and book vending machines, allowing patrons to access library materials and services without a personal interaction.

This session will discuss how this technology can best serve the library’s users as well as its staff. Our panel of experts will tackle questions such as:
• How can self-service devices and technology most effectively work for you and your library?
• How does this technology change the nature of how you interact with your patrons?
• If you’ve got a limited budget, which type of machines should you look at to meet your needs?

Taming Tech Tools for Libraries 
Thursday, 18th September, 7pm – 8pm (GMT) (Provided by WebJunction) 
Join this webinar to explore a toolbox of 25+ free tech tools that you can use to help your library better serve patron needs and to work smarter. With so many new tech tools popping up everywhere, we are all working on a wild frontier of possibilities. But how do you know which tools are worth “taming” to help you provide better library services? In this webinar, tech-tamer Kieran Hixon will unpack a toolbox of 25+ free tech tools that can help your library better engage with patrons and build digital literacy skills. From completing daily tasks to growing advocacy efforts, these web based tools can help you work smarter.

Banned Books Regional Issues 2014 
Wednesday, 24th September, 5pm – 6pm (GMT) (Provided by the ALA)
In 2013, there were 307 reported requests for books to be removed from America’s libraries, potentially putting those volumes out of reach of students, readers, and learners of all types. While every corner of the map faces unique issues related to library censorship, these issues also catalyze passionate freedom-to-read advocates dedicated to getting these books back on library shelves.

In this one-hour webinar, we will “travel” from London, to South Carolina, to Texas, to California, to talk with three activists about the problems they face and their efforts to un-ban books.
• London, UK: Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, will start us off by discussing issues faced outside of the U.S. and how Index chooses to respond.
• Charleston, South Carolina: We will then travel to Charleston -- where the graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel has been a flashpoint in a university funding controversy -- to hear from Shelia Harrell-Roye, a committee member from Charleston Friends of the Library. With the 2014 Banned Books Week focus on graphic novels, Harrell-Roye will discuss what her group has been doing to support this critically acclaimed book.
• Houston, Texas: From Charleston, we will move to Houston to hear from Tony Diaz, author, radio host, and leader of El Librotraficante. Diaz is a champion for banned books and for ethnic studies textbooks in both Arizona and Texas.

This banned books journey will end in Thousand Oaks, California, where a representative from SAGE (the webinar sponsor) will take your questions for these three defenders of the freedom to read.

5 Sep 2014

The value of the MLIS

Guest post by Sarah Kennedy.

It’s that time again when students are getting themselves ready to start or go back to college and that has me thinking about my ‘back to school’ experience entering the Masters in Library and Information Studies in UCD back in 2012 and how valuable the experience was for me.

I have to be honest and say I never expected to walk out of college and straight into a paid library job. Be that as it may, I didn’t realise just how difficult it would be trying to get a job in the library world. However, having said that, I don’t at all regret my decision to go back to college and study for my MLIS in UCD. I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park when I made my decision and I am of the belief that a bit of hard work to get where you want to be in life isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It makes you even more focused and determined.

Following the MLIS I had a fantastic experience on a JobBridge scheme but of course we can’t survive on JobBridge schemes and unpaid work experience forever. They are fantastic for gaining necessary experience but staying on these schemes long-term isn’t sustainable for a lot of us (and nor should it be). I think in the current climate it is important to also ‘think outside the box’ (in this case librarianship) and maybe examine non-traditional roles where people with the skills gained through the MLIS can excel. For example, I currently work in the Research Department of my organisation, a role I wouldn’t have gotten were it not for my experience in the MLIS, both in terms of the research modules I was required to complete and the research I was involved with for my Capstone project. Currently, I’m involved in literature search and review, data management and data analysis, all of which I gained the skills to do during my MLIS year. 

And research isn’t the only non-traditional role in which MLIS graduates could find themselves. The MLIS offers a good range of diverse modules that could lead you in various directions, for example information architecture, web publishing and social computing modules were all on offer when I was doing my degree. And now, this year’s intake are offered Mobile Application Development and a module on E-health.

Of course, like me, many will have done the course (or are thinking about doing the course) with the expressed desire of becoming a librarian but I believe that the really important thing is that upon graduation we are out there using our skills and showing people what information professionals can do. At the same time I also think that should the climate change and library jobs become more available then being qualified and having experience in diverse areas should only help your application rather than hinder it. You will be able to offer qualifications and something different to your employer. In truth many library jobs are now becoming so varied that they are merely a shadow of their ‘traditional’ selves with librarians taking on tasks like social media marketing, research, troubleshooting IT issues and web design and management, so every extra skill you can bring could be hugely valuable.

I would hope that a potential employer would see that I am able to understand different research methods, have experience with funding applications, have undertaken data analysis etc. and that this would make me an asset in a library environment where I would be able to understand the needs of the library users involved in research activities or even assist with conducting research on the library service itself.

Plus, because of the MLIS and my work experience I still have all the traditional skills that are important like cataloguing, teaching and designing information literacy courses, understanding issues in digital librarianship, dealing with reference questions etc. And these also translate to non-traditional jobs if that is where you choose to stay. For example, cataloguing modules make you understand the importance of organisation of information, labelling and making folders and files easier to navigate and find. This is an asset in any organisation.

One other very important part of the MLIS that I really have to mention is the fact that it is where I started building a network of information professionals. Without developing connections with my peers and being able to discuss various modules and group assignments with them I would never have had the confidence to branch out and seek to expand my network. (A network, which over the past 18 months, has been hugely important and beneficial to me.) Information professionals are among the most generous people I have ever witnessed when it comes to lending advice, sharing knowledge and ideas. I really commend SILS for inviting guest speakers, hosting the careers breakfast and promoting groups like NPDIreland, thus encouraging their students to reach out and get involved even before we’ve left the course. I also enjoyed that the management module involved going out to organisations and meeting experienced professionals thus benefiting from their knowledge. I would even encourage more of this, perhaps with library visits to view different library management systems etc.

I believe and I think that many would agree that being an information professional, be it as a librarian or in a more non-traditional role, means lifelong learning and continuous professional development are essential aspects of the job. It is important that we continually seek out new opportunities and knowledge as new technology changes our field. I would have to say that the MLIS in UCD was a great base for me and that while the lecturers taught me a great deal, they also encourage their students to investigate and build on what they are discussing in class through great constructivist approaches and assessments. This approach is extremely beneficial for life outside of college and encourages CPD.

For those going back to do the MLIS that already have library experience or have done the GradDip I think the addition of the new, more technical modules is very welcome and makes returning all the more worthwhile.

For all these reasons I would say the MLIS has a great deal of value. It has been extremely valuable to me and will, I am sure, continue be valuable to me in the future.

I wish the very best of luck to the class of 2015.
Posted on Friday, September 05, 2014 | Categories:

2 Sep 2014

Library Ireland Week 2014: Diary of a Staff Exchange

Guest post by Bernadette Mellon, Library Assistant, Maynooth University.

Each year the Library Association of Ireland (LAI) organises a week of events to promote libraries throughout Ireland. One of the events that takes place during ‘Library Ireland Week’ is the ‘Library Exchange Scheme.’ This allows staff from different libraries exchange for a day to experience ‘a day in the life’ so to speak. I had read interesting accounts of various exchanges undertaken by my colleagues and I decided it was time to experience it for myself. Our Deputy Librarian, who is responsible for staff development, suggested that the John J. Jennings Library at Stewarts Care Ltd., in Palmerstown, Dublin, might be able to facilitate the exchange. I contacted the Librarian, Siobhan McCrystal and she was kind enough to agree to host my visit.


The John J Jennings Library, named after a former Chairman of the hospital, is situated on the Stewarts Care Campus at Palmerstown in Dublin. Stewarts Hospital is a charitable foundation and provides care for people with intellectual disability. It also offers support for people with severe disabilities regardless of age, religion and socio economic background. The Library at Stewarts Hospital was officially opened in 2000 and is the result of a partnership between the HSE, Stewarts Care Ltd., and South Dublin County Council to address the information needs in Stewarts and to provide a public library service to the wider community in Palmerstown. Siobhan McCrystal’s article “Value Added: Case Study of a Joint-use Library,” An Leabharlann, Vol. 21(1), March 2012  gives a very good insight into the various roles and user groups.

The Library at Maynooth University caters for upwards of 8,000 students from all walks of life and in 2013 opened a new state of the art library which will facilitate the needs of our students into the future and greatly enhance their university experience.

Exchange Day 3rd April 2014

Bernadette Mellon at the John J Jennings Library
While Library Ireland Week is in November each year, Maynooth University has scheduled exchanges outside this period, because it is a particularly busy time close to start of term. April 3rd was agreed as the day I would go on my exchange. Also, because of staffing constraints in Siobhan’s library, it was agreed that rather than a return visit to the Library, Siobhan would be invited to attend some events in the Maynooth University Library to suit her schedule.

I set off with a slight trepidation. What would my experience be like? I was greeted warmly by Siobhan and immediately noticed the colours around the library. I realised that the books still had their covers on and this was adding colour to the room. It was such a small thing but very obvious. Book covers are removed in our library so the colours tend to be more uniform, black, grey and green. Siobhan took me through what would be the normal morning procedures, logging on to their library management system ‘Open Galaxy’ which is used by all South Dublin County Council libraries. Checking emails, answering phone calls and dealing face to face queries from service users and staff, were all part of the routine. The post was delivered that morning by a very happy and chatty service user accompanied by his guide dog.

Siobhan explained that patrons registered with Stewarts Library can request books from any South Dublin County Council Library. Books are transported in boxes to and from the relevant library depending on the request. The library collection consists of up to date best sellers, which are shelved alphabetically under author, while medical and course books for students are catalogued using the Dewey Decimal System and shelved accordingly. The library also has a dedicated section for children with up to date books, a multisensory collection, DVDs and talking books. Daily newspapers and magazines are available. Brochures and information pamphlets are also available. Library holdings can be accessed by searching http://library.sdublincoco.ie. Internet access is free to all patrons. Assistive technology is available if needed. Printing and photocopying facilities are available for a nominal fee. Stewarts subscribe to 30 medical journal titles but have access to hundreds of other journal titles through their membership of the Irish Health Care Libraries Group (a co-operative of Irish healthcare libraries sharing journals). Databases and journals are available on the IDAAL website.

Needless to say the morning flew by and Siobhan very kindly treated me to lunch in the staff canteen which provided an array of delicious hot and cold meals, sandwiches, wraps, tea and coffee. We had a chat over lunch about the events of the morning which included a visit from local school children who were celebrating ECO Week by listening and singing along to songs about the environment ‘as gaeilge’.

It was fortunate that Mary, the library assistant was off that day as it would have been a tight squeeze behind the desk. With group visits etc., there is very little space. After lunch it was just as hectic with people dropping in to use the internet, choose a book, or just relax and read the paper. The ECO event was repeated in the afternoon for some of the service users who sang along with gusto. As with the morning the afternoon went by very quickly and it was with reluctance that I took my leave of Siobhan and her wonderful library. That evening the library was hosting a music appreciation class for the local community and a monthly book club meeting was scheduled to take place the following week. The book club, with members from the local Palmerstown area, meets monthly. We were really pleased when the club picked “Silence Would be Treason: Last Writings of Ken Saro-Wiwa” for their February read. The book is based on letters held in Maynooth University Library.

I thought prior to my exchange that as the library building was small in comparison to the library at Maynooth University I might find the day going by very slowly with little happening. How wrong I was! The John J Jennings Library is a hub serving the wider Palmerstown community as well as staff and service users at Stewarts Hospital. It is a library first and foremost but it is also a place where people can relax and feel welcome, whether it be on their own, with a group or just taking time out to chat or sit and reflect. A wonderful atmosphere of belonging prevails in this library, one that I reluctantly left. I learned so much about a library service that is quite different to my experiences in Maynooth University: it was certainly a very enriching experience.

I would like to thank Siobhan for her patience and time in making this a special day to remember. I would definitely recommend a library exchange visit. Go for it, you never know what you will discover.

Posted on Tuesday, September 02, 2014 | Categories:

18 Aug 2014

Report on LILAC 2014

This is a guest post by Liz Dore, Faculty Librarian for Science & Architecture, Glucksman Library, University of Limerick & Ronan Madden, Arts & Humanities Librarian, University College Cork Library.

This ‘report’ provides a rough overview of this year’s LILAC conference in Sheffield, and looks at some of the highlights and key themes from our own perspectives (bearing in mind that LILAC is a big conference - one person’s experience can be quite different from another’s!)

For those who haven’t attended before, ‘LILAC’ is the ‘Librarians Information Literacy Annual Conference’, organised by CILIP’s IL group in the UK. As you might expect, the focus is on information/digital literacies & information seeking. The conference this year was held at Sheffield Hallam University, right in the centre of Sheffield. It was held over 3 days, with 3 keynote speakers and 8 groups of parallel sessions (84 sessions in total). Over 330 delegates attended.

There’s a lot going on at a conference like this, so if you are planning to attend at some stage (and the venue next year is Newcastle) our advice is to plan it in advance if possible. Pick some aspects of IL that you’re interested in, and look for those on the conference programme. It’s worth booking parallel sessions in advance too, as some of those fill up quickly.

Keynote 1: Bill Thompson

The first presentation that stood out for us was the first keynote by Bill Thompson – he’s a journalist, technology critic and broadcaster with the BBC. He drew upon CP Snow’s well-known 1959 ‘Rede lecture’, where Snow spoke about a cultural split, as he saw it, between the humanities and the sciences. (Snow, Charles Percy. The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1959)

Bill Thompson explored the idea that the split now is between the technologists / coders V the users, and that ‘those who rule the bits, rule the world’. Applying this to libraries he suggested that if we, as librarians, are to claim that we are information or digitally literate, then we really need to understand technology. While we don’t all have to be coders/programmers, it is important to have an appreciation of code and a genuine interest in the information world e.g. who actually controls it.

Parallel Session: University of the West of England, Bristol

‘Value and impact of librarians’ embedded IL teaching on student skills development’

This session focused on the important topic of evaluating the impact of IL. The presenters spoke about what they call their ‘LIVES’ project, which evaluated four of their existing embedded programmes across a range of subject areas. They used impact evaluation methodology developed by Markless and Streatfield, and held focus groups and interviews with students and academics. Overall the ‘perceived impact’ of their IL interventions was positive at 84%

Reported outcomes included:
· better searching behaviour
· wider use of sources
· an improved attitude to the role of librarians

The main motivating factors (for the students) included:
· linking the IL with assessment
· clear subject relevance
· a practical element
· held at the right time
· available or advertised through Blackboard

 Of course Library/Faculty partnership was key. Now, based on their evidence, they are in the process of putting together their own IL Framework and a Library T&L strategy.

Parallel Session: Champlain College, Vermont 

Online inquiry-based IL instruction: designing & delivering a blended IL programme

This presentation from Alan Carbery was interesting because he spoke about how their library’s existing IL programme, which was embedded and based on inquiry-based learning, had to be abandoned when the university changed its curriculum.

There were no longer any core modules into which they could embed their IL. They were forced to go back to the drawing-board and map all of the students and all of the courses. They realised they were no longer going to be able to reach all of the students for face-to-face sessions. Their main aim was to avoid a situation where some students would get no IL, so they decided to opt for a blended approach – where it was no longer possible to get to see students face-to-face they slotted their information literacy content into the VLE. They did so using videos to prompt online discussion, and he showed us an interesting example of how they did this for the subject of copyright. They found that students are very willing and able to engage in online discussion, and overall they feel that their new blended approach is richer than what they had originally been offering.

Parallel Session: University of the West of Scotland 

Hidden Vegetables: a collaborative approach to embedding information & academic literacies

This one really highlighted collaboration. It was co-presented by the Science Librarian and the ‘Effective Learning Tutor’. Together they worked with the academics to embed information and academic literacies within the science curriculum at the university. They had been using ‘Personal Development Profiles’ in a generic sense, outside of the core curriculum, without a lot of success until they embedded the PDPs, along with the key literacies and graduate attributes, within the faculty’s core ‘scientific investigation’ courses.

Both the science librarian and the effective learning tutor taught sessions for these courses, for which the students were required to write essays as well as reflect on their learning in their e-portfolios. The key literacies included in the courses were information searching, referencing, academic writing & reflective learning. Overall, what they had managed to do together, working with the relevant academics, was to knit the graduate attributes to the learning outcomes of these courses, which were assessed by way of the essays and the e-portfolios.

Parallel Session: University of Leeds

Off to a Flying-Start: Supporting Student Transition
‘Off to a Flying Start’ was about supporting student transition. With academic colleagues the library developed an online interactive resource to address the transition from school to university. Initially the resource was rolled out to 11 schools and by 2013 it had reached 34 schools.

The content is both generic & subject specific. The information is sent to students as soon as they are accepted into a course. This example shows the section on being an independent learner, with students speaking at the top of the page and a member of the department in the second half. They conducted surveys to assess the effectiveness of the resource. Initially new students are most concerned with finance and settling in to University. Becoming an independent learner & coping academically became a concern once they had settled in.
Students get an overwhelming amount of information at the beginning and in many cases don’t retain a lot of it. Students liked to hear and see direct experiences from other students. Independent learning and referencing aspects were popular. They also expressed a preference for interactive activities, local/practical information and suggested that to examine a day/week in the life of a student might be helpful. Students liked the videos and the visual elements of the resource. Recommendations for supporting transition include: circulate information using a ‘drip feed’ approach, promote through all available channels, use content that is ‘fun’, engaging and light, and keep the content available throughout the year because as students settle in their priorities change and they understand the context better. The tone & level is important – it can be useful to have other students deliver content where appropriate.

Keynote Session 2: Alison Head, University of Washington

Truth be told: How Today’s Students Conduct Research

Alison Head is the director of Project Information Literacy, a series of research studies carried out in the US on how students study and conduct research and what it is like to be a student in the digital age – it is the biggest study undertaken in information literacy.

Alison gave us 7 ‘take-aways’:
•Students say research is more difficult than before
•Getting started is the hardest part (defining, narrowing a topic)
•Students struggle to find context (‘big picture’, unlocking language, keywords, how far to go)
•Students tend to use the same ‘go-to’ sources (course readings, Google, JSTOR, Wikipedia)
•Wikipedia is a ‘pre-search’ tool
•Lecturers are ‘research coaches’, but very often don’t provide enough guidance on how to research
•Library is seen as ‘a refuge’ (but not necessarily a place to ask for help with research).

Based on the above she suggests that libraries need to offer proactive information services (not just at a reference desk) and also continue to embed IL in courses. She believes that being able to evaluate information for quality is a key 21st century competency.

Parallel Session: London school of Economics 

SADL up: Putting students in the driving seat for digital literacy

The focus was on exploring the role of student ambassadors and how they can become involved in promoting digital literacy and assisting the development of best practice in embedding within the curriculum. This was a collaborative project involving teaching and learning, the Library and IT. Ten students from two departments were recruited (using tweets, call outs in class, through the VLE). They were called ‘Student Ambassadors for Digital Literacy’. Some of the reward incentives were Amazon vouchers and Mozilla online badges. Four ‘workshops’ were arranged to discuss four themes: searching, reading & writing, managing & sharing, the digital footprint. One of the findings which emerged was that the notion of the ‘digital native’ is meaningless. Students are individuals and each adopts their own individual information strategies. They interweave assignment work with other online activity.

This works builds on previous work at LSE such as the development of their ‘Digital & Information Literacy Framework’, and a ‘Teaching, Learning & Assessment Committee report’. They hope to continue working with ‘SADLs’, but with a clearer expectation for their role, and the requirements for the workshops.

Parallel Session: University of Staffordshire 

An ID& AL Loop

 The ‘ID&AL Loop’ is about how assessment feedback can encourage students to attend Information, Digital and Academic Literacy generic workshops. Lecturers require students to attend the workshops based on the standard of their first year assignments i.e. they return the essay ‘prescribing’ attendance if they feel it is required (so it goes beyond induction). They are also widely advertised on campus and held in February, and again in April. Booking was through LibGuides. The sessions included study skills, library topics and IT skills. 

They were also advertised widely on-campus as ‘Get a Better Grade’ workshops, and then later in April as ‘Keep Calm and Pass Your Exams’. Timing was important, with February proving to be the right choice for them. These workshops are in addition to generic and subject-specific sessions that are run for new students in October. They plan to make more of the workshop material available on-line to cater for their distance learners. They are also considering using open badges to encourage attendance. The overriding advantage to the Library is that it is seen as an academic partner in terms of feedback across the university.

Major Themes from LILAC 2014?
In conclusion, some of the key themes and messages that we took home from LILAC (from the sessions we attended) were as follows:

1. The importance of listening to and collaborating with:
- academics
- students
- anyone involved in T&L within an institution e.g. T&L directors, units, committees, academic tutors

2. Transition and induction: how much information is the right amount? – important to get it right, and also how much should be online/blended or face-to-face?

3. Embedding: still best practice to embed within core subject modules linked with assessment. Generic IL sessions (aside from induction/transition) can serve a useful ‘remedial’ purpose.

4. Buy-in: libraries can achieve this by linking digital & information literacies with graduate attributes, student retention and employability at College/Faculty and University level.

5. Evidence of impact strengthens the case.




15 Aug 2014

The MSc in Information and Library Management at Dublin Business School (DBS)

This is a guest post by Marie O Neill Head of Library & Information Services at Dublin Business School (DBS)

I am pleased to announce that the MSc in Information and Library Management at DBS is now validated by Quality Qualifications Ireland and the Library Association of Ireland.  

The programme is an MSc to meet growing demand for MSc qualifications in the labour market. As an MSc, the programme is technical and applied in its approach to delivery and assessment and has a strong IT focus offering modules in Information Technologies, Network Resource Management and Information Architecture. The programme is also offered on an evening basis to accommodate applicants in full-time employment.

Employability is a key focus of the programme which incorporates an employability module, the Personal and Professional Development Module (PPD) with the opportunity to complete a built-in work placement. The PPD module also includes guest speakers from the information and library management sector. Graduates of the programme have gone on to secure positions in libraries such as the National College of Ireland, Trinity College Dublin and An Bord Bia.

The college is keen to grow new areas of opportunity for information and library management graduates. In a recent survey undertaken by DBS Careers Department, 92% of general IT and business employers surveyed expressed an interest in employing graduates of the programme. DBS will be working in the future with a wide range of employers to highlight the value a professional information and library manager can bring to an organisation.

One of the programme’s chief assets is its faculty. We have been very fortunate in terms of attracting well known LIS lecturers and practitioners who have been with the programme since its inception. DBS Library also facilitates requests from students of the programme wishing to base assignments or dissertations on real world library projects. Some of you may have attended our inaugural annual library seminar in June 2014. The seminar gave a flavour of projects that we are working on. Slides are available here.

We would like to thank all those who have contributed to the programme to date including faculty, alumni and the many library and information professionals in Ireland who have been extremely generous with their time and expertise in relation to guest lecturing, provision of work placements and graduate opportunities. Thanks also to Quality Qualifications of Ireland and the Library Association of Ireland for their significant input during the validation and accreditation process and to the many other library professionals and academics who also participated. A final thanks to Liverpool John Moore’s University and the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals in the UK who accredited the previous articulation of the programme.

DBS is now taking applications for the September intake of the MSc both on a full-time (over one academic year) and part-time (over two academic years) basis. Details of open evenings can be obtained here. Further information about the programme can be obtained by consulting the DBS website here or by contacting Brenda Kerr (Brenda.Kerr@dbs.ie) or Marie O’ Neill (Marie.ONeill@dbs.ie).

Posted on Friday, August 15, 2014 | Categories: ,

12 Aug 2014

Open Access - a personal perspective

This is an updated version of a post published elsewhere.

In March 2012 a work colleague and I travelled to Hangzhou, South East China to spend a month at Hangzhou Municipal Library. This was done as part of an exchange programme with our home library of University College Cork. We learned and experienced much there and when we came home we wrote an article about our experience. The article, to quote the abstract, "considers an on-going exchange programme between the Boole Library, University College Cork (UCC) and Hangzhou Municipal Library, South East China. The authors describe the exchange and their impressions of working in a different library setting."
The article Cultural Revolution: Reflections on an Exchange was published in An Leabharlann in October 2013
An Leabharlann is a subscription magazine and access is included with your membership of the LAI. But the editors kindly allow authors of articles published in it to place a copy of their piece, the actual finished article as published in An Leabharlann, into a repository. For us, this meant we could place a copy into CORA [Cork Open Research Archive]  This we did and the article can now be found here by those interested.
It is the impact of placing the article into CORA that I now wish to talk about for the remainder of this post.
The article was placed on CORA at the beginning of November 2013. As of August 09 2014 it has been viewed 678 times. This is extra (and more geographically dispersed) readers than it would have received had it been only visible to those people with a subscription to An Leabharlann or a library that subscribes to it. And there are some interesting – to me at least – other statistics. As well as being viewed in Ireland (178 times) and China (40 times) – which you would expect due to the content of the paper – it has been viewed 260 times in the USA, 21 times in the UK, 13 times in the Ukraine, 9 times in the Russian Federation, 7 times in the Netherlands, 6 times in France and one or two times each other countries around the world. This got me thinking: I wonder who those 260 people in the USA are. And what did they think when they read it? What would they think of this exchange? Would they have heard of Hanghzhou before reading this paper? Would they have heard of University College Cork or even Cork before reading this paper? Why is somebody from the Ukraine or Russia reading an article on an exchange between an Irish and a Chinese library? But isn’t it great that people at the other side of the world can actually do this. Without having to pay for the privilege of doing so. And all thanks to the beauty of Open Access.
Further it made me think will this paper have any impact those reading it? Probably not. It is after all merely a descriptive piece detailing a specific experience. But it does make me wonder why more people don’t see the value of placing their research output in repositories or other OA areas? Why do so many researchers and authors still insist on and persist in publishing with journals with paywalls and publishers who place stringent restrictions on, what is after all, their work - work that they the author will have spent hard months toiling over. Do they not want their work to be seen as many people as possible. I know I do and I’m not a serious researcher. I want anything I write to be read by as many people as possible. And surely an academics raison d’etre is to publish and be read and have their work disseminated. OA is a key way to do this. And it is free. What is not to like?
And if one needs any further convincing of the role and importance that OA can play in dissemination of material: I did a Google search of the title by phrase and the first three results on the results page were all for CORA. An Leabharlann, unfortunately for the hard working people people that compile and publish the journal, is nowhere to be seen in the results on the two pages of results. Google sees the value of OA. And I wonder if a simple algorithm can show the value and power of OA why don't more academics see it?
Posted on Tuesday, August 12, 2014 | Categories:

7 Aug 2014

The benefits of citation analysis in individual student research consultations

Back in 2012, Thomas Reinsfelder suggested that students exposed to a one-on-one consultation with a research librarian after writing a first draft will show a greater improvement in the quality of sources used on the final paper than students who did not meet with a librarian.

This statement is based on the premise that personal research consultations that include the analysis and progressive monitoring of citations can be quite effective in improving the qualitative outcome of continuous assessments produced by undergraduate students.

The rationale here is straight forward. Individual meetings allow for greater attention to detail, consideration of specific academic needs and the ability to address students’ assignment focused concerns. Librarians have a unique learning opportunity here as they can find out about how students select and use information sources. They can also monitor and review the progression of individual works, i.e. from initial assignment draft to final product. The citation analysis element focuses on the quality and appropriateness of sources cited – rather than type and/or format – within the context of a student’s early draft paper and the final pre-submission version.

It is difficult to quantitatively measure the effectiveness and impact of research consultations enjoyed by individual students. For example, Donegan (cited in Reinsfelder, 2012) compared test results and identified little difference in the research skills displayed by students who received individual research support vis-à-vis those who merely availed of group based instruction. Others (Gale and Evans; Williamson, Blocker, and Gray cited in Reinsfelder, 2012) note that individual research consultations were perceived as a positive and effective library service.

Importantly, another study notes that citation analysis is a useful design element in library instruction programmes, as it alerts librarians of the number of citations in student papers (representing effort) and the types of sources used (indicating quality), especially those requiring use of library resources and research tools (Hovde, cited in Reinsfelder, 2012).

Measuring citation quality
It is important to identify adequate criteria and a solid process for rating the quality of an assignment bibliography presented by a student. Through the ‘objective’ measurement of a draft paper, one hopes to improve the quality and appropriateness of information sources used in the final version. Common measures include 1] quantity of sources, 2] format or type of source (digital/analogue; grey literature, journals, monographs), 3] currency, 4] variety, 5] relevance to the topic under discussion, 6] authority/legitimacy/quality of information used (e.g. based on the idea of quality on the reputation of the source, i.e. publisher and author; scholarly vs. popular), 7] consistency in citation formatting.

Rating scale reliability
It is important to consider that the development for any type of assessment scale requires considerable time and effort. When applied in the field, ‘objective’ rating scale measurements are coloured by individuals’ (subjective) assessments. This, in turn, can lead to incongruous outcomes when applied on scale for validity and reliability testing. Consequently, continuous scale variables fine-tuning and re-assessment is required to ensure successful application (see e.g. the efforts made on behalf of the READ Scale and Project SAILS).

The good news is that in the analysis of this rating scale scenario, one-on-one consultations with a librarian during the paper writing process did result in sources of higher quality being used on the final paper than on the draft paper. The comparison of relevant test results, through the application of the above rating scale, noted  a significant statistical difference.

Crucially, no statistical significant difference was noted in the quality of sources used in draft and final papers of students (the control group) who did not enjoy a consultation (one might even use the horrible phrase "an intervention...") with a librarian.

Faculty who supported this project noted that students who enjoyed a one-on-one research consultation with a librarian improved the ultimate outcome on their work significantly. In particular, students developed a better understanding of the different types of sources out there and their appropriate use within the academic research/writing context. Another interesting perception was that students were encouraged to develop new ways of thinking about research assignments.

The bottom line is that strategic partnering up with the library for assistance and expertise is a no-brainer approach in aiding faculty and student success. The use of rating scales (in this case for rating the quality of sources used by students) can be helpful in measuring and evidencing the success of such partnerships.

However, the establishment of such a service necessitates that expectations are carefully managed and calibrated. Research consultations are time and energy consuming for library staff. It is also important to state that not every student on campus can avail of such a focused service due to obvious staffing constraints.

Source and further reading:
Reinsfelder, T. (2012). Citation Analysis as a Tool to Measure the Impact of Individual Research Consultations. College & Research Libraries,73(3), 263-277.
Mackey, T. P., & Jacobson, T. (2010). Collaborative information literacy assessments: Strategies for evaluating teaching and learning. New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc.