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.

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.