1 Jun 2017

Review of the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC), 10-12 April 2017




Guest post by Caitríona Honohan (MSc ILM MA BMus ALAI ) is a Subject Librarian at Trinity College Dublin and Secretary of the Academic & Special Libraries Section (A&SL) of the Library Association of Ireland (LAI). Her email address is: caitriona.honohan@tcd.ie

I attended LILAC for the first time this year at Swansea University Bay Campus in its beautiful setting right beside the beach. When I submitted a proposal for the Call for Papers back in October, it seemed like a distant possibility. I had recently received a Bursary from the Cataloguing & Metadata Group (CMG) of the (LAI) to disseminate the research from my Dissertation The Information-Seeking Behaviour of Advisers to Policy-Makers for Homelessness in Ireland and so I was delighted when the proposal was accepted for a Short Paper, details of which can be found here. The Bursary and the support of the Library of Trinity College Dublin enabled me to attend and present at this great conference, and I’d like to acknowledge both for this opportunity.

The conference was very well-attended, with over 270 delegates from all over the world. In each Parallel Session slot there were six choices, so some quite difficult decisions had to be made. After a plane, bus, two trains and a taxi, we arrived at the venue. The food was excellent, and the Conference Team couldn’t have been more friendly and approachable, easy to spot in their Conference T-shirts. And so to the content - below is a brief snapshot of the key points which I took away from the sessions I attended. For a more comprehensive overview, I recommend the video recordings of the Keynote Speakers and the slides from all presentations, which can be found here.

Josie Fraser is a Social and Educational Technologist, and her Keynote The library is open:  librarians and information professionals as open practitioners presented a brief history of Open Educational Resources, a term adopted by UNESCO in 2002, the same year as the first Creative Commons licenses were released. 2017 is the Year of Open. She discussed the concepts of Free versus Open, and outlined the definition of Open Educational Resources: free learning resources that have been openly licensed or are in the public domain and can be used or reused for free. OER formats can include text (print or digital), audio, video or multimedia. The key is that resources should be as open as possible. She gave the example that all TED Talks have CC BY licenses so that they can be freely used as long as credit is given. She encouraged us to investigate the website of Right Copyright, a recent campaign calling for “freedom to teach without breaking the law” and calling for “a law that recognises museums, libraries and NGOs as having an educational function”.

Barbara Allan is an Independent Consultant and her Keynote Making an impact beyond the library and information service encouraged us as librarians to think beyond the usual networks and expand our circles beyond the library. She discussed decision making in universities, highlighting that different universities have different power structures and different groups have different priorities, so the more we think beyond our own department the more effective we can be. She encouraged librarians to make an impact in these ways: Link our work to strategy; Enhance our skills and techniques; Join boards and volunteer to chair committees; Make an impact on small scale projects working with range of stakeholders; Publicise projects internally and externally and Apply for external funding and national awards.

Alan Carbery is Associate Library Director at Champlain College, Vermont, and his Keynote was entitled Authentic information literacy in a post-truth era. At Champlain College, there is embedded information literacy instruction reaching every student seven times throughout their undergraduate studies. This programme of instruction relies on fifteen unique separate information literacy classes. Alan encouraged us to think about how we can introduce authentic information literacy to our own students, considering the real-world context of information today for students’ lifelong learning. He illustrated examples of showing historical documents to students to highlight ideas of power in gender and issues of social justice as expressed through information. He referenced Eli Pariser's TED Talk on Filter Bubbles, and said that 2017 is the year the filter bubble chicken came home to roost! He recommended IFLA's Guide to Spotting Fake News, and encouraged us to encourage students to ask more questions to enable them to become more informed global citizens.

Jess Haigh’s Parallel Session Embedding interventions for better critical writing and reading described her research with Jane Mullen on the difficulties some undergraduate students have in reading and thinking critically. She highlighted the "vocational" backgrounds of some university students, and the fact that some students have very little experience of academic sources. She described how these issues often become apparent with final year students, and so they have created interventions placed into the second year curriculum at the University of Huddersfield. She described various technologies that she has investigated, eg Kahoot!, Videoscribe for creating whiteboard-style animation videos and the interactive presentation software Mentimeter. She demonstrated the interactive classroom tool Nearpod for an exercise on finding resources using keywords, synonyms and related terms, focussing on enabling students to think about language in context. She stressed the importance of using subject specific examples that students can relate to.

Lorna Dawes’ Parallel Session Dissecting informed learning: a birds-eye vew of information literacy in first year college courses outlined her research investigating how faculty members experience the teaching of information literacy. Her interviews included asking faculty members to think of key concepts or big ideas that they think their students struggle to understand, and to describe their approach to teaching and how they evaluate their teaching. She believes that we as librarians need to facilitate students to make the connection that authors write in different formats e.g. in journals and also in blogs, explaining that her research showed that faculty members are generally more interested in content than format. She also found that faculty members evaluate information literacy teaching by assessing how the students demonstrate what they’ve learned in their papers.

Assessing first-year medical students’ information-seeking behaviors: implications for instruction was presented by Sa’ad Laws. He and his colleagues Ross MacDonald and Liam Ferneyhough are based at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar, and teach Evidence Based Medicine (EBM) Instruction on the Medicine, Patients and Society course for first-year medical students. Their recent research has focussed on the types of resources that students are using for Background Questions, enquiring if they use online resources that are aimed at patients/consumers, at medical students or at medical professionals. They also investigated the quality of resources as measured by Information Literacy standards and by clinical standards, and discussed how the two correlate. Preliminary findings have shown that 57% of their students are using Medical Consumer resources, 24% are using Medical Professional resources and only 19% are using Medical Educational resources.

Charity Dove’s workshop The instrumental instrument was completely different from all the others that I attended as we were on our feet for most of the session, practicing vocal exercises and moving around. There was a lot of laughter, and I think everybody enjoyed it as much as I did! Having had singing lessons in the past I was familiar with most of the vocal techniques as practiced for singing purposes, but using them to maintain the speaking voice as a teaching librarian was a very interesting concept to me and I learned a lot from the session.

Melody Chin’s Parallel Session Do faculty and librarians see information literacy in the same way? A study of alignment described her research in the Singapore Management University in a collaborative project with Daniel Walker at Bond University, Australia. 63 Faculty and 22 Librarians with a teaching role took part in the study investigating how faculty and librarians perceive the concept of Information Literacy. Their survey was structured around the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, and the results showed that faculty members placed Research as Inquiry as the most important Frame, while librarians placed Searching as Strategic Exploration on top. Authority is Constructed and Contextual was ranked as being least important by both groups. When asked about the ways that Information Literacy training has impacted on student performance, academics responded that improved references, more thorough research and better quality assignments have been noted. Librarians have noted better reference questions.

Pip Divall’s Writing for Publication: using training and blogs to promote publishing in a hospital trust discussed a Writing Club at the University Hospice in North Wales, set up by Pip Divall some years ago and revived recently. The Writing Club consists of sessions on a number of topics, e.g. Writing up Case Reports, Statistics, Systematic Reviews and How to make best use of Social Media. There are also informal peer review sessions for people to share experiences about their writing. She holds two-hour workshops on Writing for Publication, sharing tips such as having friends/colleagues write an abstract for your paper, to ensure clarity. The recent Write Case Reports sessions were aimed at junior doctors but were actually attended by more senior researchers also, e.g. clinical chemists, pharmacists and biochemists.

Lorna Dodd’s Parallel Session Embedding information literacy through critical skills and a new curriculum focussed on the new undergraduate curriculum at Maynooth University and how the library has been instrumental in embedding Information Literacy within it. She described the process of how the library designed three critical skills modules for the new curriculum and explained that librarians not only deliver sessions themselves but also train the other tutors who deliver the sessions, working closely with the Critical Skills Co-ordinator Dr Brian McKenzie. The curriculum thus has a key focus on critical skills to prepare students for work, life and citizenship, including problem solving, critical thinking, analysis, reflection, communication skills, understanding academic standards and ethical responsibility. Information Literacy has become the centre of the critical skills modules and thus has become truly embedded in the curriculum.

Syrian New Scots information literacy wayfinding practices: phase 1 research findings was presented by Konstantina Martzoukou. Her research with Simon Burnett has investigated the information needs of "Syrian New Scots" (the preferred name for refugees in Scotland), their information literacy practices and the barriers and drivers they encounter. The research included holding focus groups and focussed on the Information Literacy dimensions in Health, Employability and Welfare Rights, Education, Communities and Social Connections and Housing. Preliminary results have shown that concepts of a shared rhetoric / common communication space are very important and that interpersonal encounters are generally preferred over technology-based information. Konstantina facilitated a discussion on how public libraries can help, and directed us to the report Ambition and Opportunity : A Strategy for Public Libraries in Scotland.

The final Parallel Session I attended was Russell Hall’s “The real world”: information in the workplace versus information in college. His research focussed on workplace information literacy, specifically how recent graduates use information in their daily work lives. He conducted interviews with 35 alumni of Penn State Erie, The Behrend College (PSB) and investigated the information techniques/mindsets that they brought with them from their undergraduate studies to the workplace. His research showed that people-based information is more important than text-based information in the workplaces of the participants. Several of his interviewees also reported that peer-reviewed research is often not available in the workplace because of the high cost of access, a point that also came across in my own Dissertation research.

After the three days, I returned home with my head buzzing with ideas, and it wasn’t until I came to prepare this review that I had the time to fully reflect on the learning, from memory and my combination of typed and handwritten notes. I also followed the Twitter feed at various points during and after the conference. All in all it was a very positive experience, many thanks to the Conference Team and I definitely hope to attend LILAC 2018 in Liverpool!


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