Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Too much information!

Well, it’s been a busy time in the Library. The first few months of term, up until the October break, are always a bit mad really. It’s been made worse this year by us being one person down. One of the team left unexpectedly during the summer so we’ve been frantically trying to cover the gap. It doesn’t help that it’s one of our smaller sites we’re short at so some of us from the larger site are constantly having to go and cover. A new person has been appointed but PVG checks are taking forever. We were hoping to have her in post by the October break but no sign yet.  Oh well, maybe by Christmas...
I’m quite looking forward to the October break. I’m not off myself, as many of my colleagues are, but will enjoy the more peaceful and relaxed environment of the college during vacation time. I’ll hopefully get some time to catch up with my large backlog of cataloguing. I’ve been concentrating mainly on user education since the start of term so other things have slipped little.
I’m pleased with how the user education sessions have gone this year, or I should probably, more accurately, call them Information Literacy sessions. It’s not something that gets done automatically and last year I only did 11 sessions altogether. I’ve done a lot more publicising and pushing the sessions this year though, have 33 sessions booked, and am currently around two thirds of the way through these. That’s a 200% increase on last year (I think that’s right. Maths is not my area. I’m much more a word person!)
Due to staffing issues (i.e. me being the only person who teaches these sessions at our larger site) we’ve had to restrict it to ‘degree link’ courses only. These are HNC/D courses where the college has set up a direct progression link, often into 3rd year, with one of our partner universities. I currently teach three different sessions.
E-resources – 30 minutes. Introduces students to the variety of e-books and online databases available through the Library’s VLE pages.
Successful searching & Evaluating information – 60 minutes. Touches on Boolean search techniques, offers alternatives to Google and, if students insist on using it, making good use of Google’s advanced search techniques. Also gives tips on evaluating information sources.
Harvard referencing – 60 minutes. Short presentation explaining the basics of referencing and plagiarism followed by a practical session where students reference books, journal articles and websites.
As is common with most things like these, where it’s not part of the formal curriculum, they have been really popular with some course areas and others have not responded at all. In some ways I’m quite glad though. Don’t think I could have coped with many more classes all at once. And why did they all want Monday or Tuesdays? I think I’ve barely been in the office on a Monday or Tuesday for the last 6 weeks!
Most students respond fairly well to the classes. I talk about how the online resources and search techniques will help them here at College, but also be really useful in making the transition to University level study. I emphasise that the universities will expect the students to carry out independent research and will have ten times the amount of e-books and online databases we do. I also promote the associate membership schemes of our local universities, which enables the college students on these courses to access all their resources immediately. It’s a really good scheme.
Many of the teaching staff have commented positively on the sessions I’ve done with their classes so I’m hoping to build on it next year and get a few more departments interested. I’ll definitely need to work on the scheduling issues though.
So, all-in-all, a busy few months and I’m looking forward to it easing up a little. Only 10 weeks till the Christmas holidays!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Information literacy culture & transformative change

I attended a presentation yesterday entitled ‘Information literacy culture & transformative change’. The talk was given at Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen by two American librarians, Carroll Wetzel and Courtney Bruch. It seems that this was a shortened form of the talk they will be giving at the LILAC conference in Glasgow in a few days time.

Around 25 people attended the talk and it seemed to be a mix of mainly RGU librarians, lecturers and a few of us from other organisations. Given that the talk was free, and held during the Easter holidays when we’re all a little less pressed for time and can do these kind of things, I suppose it was no surprise that there were so many attendees to just an hour long talk. These kinds of things are few and far between in Aberdeen and it’s good to get out of the office every once in a while.

The event started with coffee and registration, with a short time for some networking and chat. Sadly I didn’t manage to get over my inhibitions at doing this kind of thing and just sat and observed other people. I think it was worse as I knew they were all mainly RGU staff who were familiar with each other and it’s less easy to break into a conversation under those circumstances. However, I know I’m not very good at networking and it’s something I should work on if I’m going to get the most out of presentations and conferences.

The presentation began with Prof. Dorothy Williams of RGU introducing Carroll and Courtney and detailing some of the work they have been doing. From the introduction alone it seems they are working at a much different level than many UK librarians and that the US has a very different way of doing things. This was especially brought home when Carroll spoke about her library offering $3000 stipends to academic staff willing to collaborate on research with the library. Everyone just looked slightly bemused (and envious) at this statement!

The talk itself contained a lot of jargon. Maybe I’ve been out of university for too long, but I personally found some of it quite impenetrable.  There were a few students sitting behind me and it did seem to have resonance with them, as one of them made a comment at the end that they had studied a key author that Carroll and Courtney had talked about and this was a set part of the course. Perhaps I need to brush up on this kind of thing.

The essence of the presentation was that without organisational change it is very difficult to achieve a fully implemented information literacy programme. Carroll and Courtney discussed resistance to change from an organisational and librarian perspective and felt that addressing these was key to moving towards being a ‘learning organisation’ where everyone is committed to creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge. Only then can an organisation see the true value of information literacy and address it fully.

At the beginning of the presentation Carroll asked us a couple of questions. She asked if anyone in the audience felt that information literacy was embedded into our organisational culture and if any of us were happy with the amount of information literacy programmes we were able to provide. Nobody agreed with the first question and I think many, including myself, were surprised when two librarians said yes to the second one.

In a nutshell then, they were preaching to the converted. We all know that information literacy is not regarded as hugely important within our organisations and that it is often seen as something that the library does, but on a very ad hoc and informal basis. Librarians are not really seen as having something to offer when it comes to enhancing the student experience and I think that is especially true of FE libraries. Many of our courses are vocational and the students and staff don’t see why they need information literacy. I have heard it said that young people today already know how to use the internet. They grow up using Google and are well used to finding information that they need. Knowing how to download an MP3 file, use itunes or Twitter, or watch movies online are very different skills though to finding information for academic purposes and I don’t think that is recognised yet.

The presentation did make me think though about how I can do more to improve information literacy within my organisation. I’m not aiming for organisational change (that’s a little ambitious!), just to see what I can do at my individual level. In previous years we had managed to have a small, but well received, set of information literacy courses that were delivered to specific classes. These have lapsed in the last year due to changes in the way the college runs its teaching teams, but maybe I need to get back in there and try again. I should definitely discuss with my manager the possibility of talking to staff in the more academic areas of the college – Social Sciences, Science, Business & management etc. These are areas where many of the students intend progressing to university after their college course. Information literacy, and making students aware of the tools available to them, could be of real benefit here.

On the whole, although I found the jargon a little too much, the presentation was interesting, informative, and made me think. I suppose I can’t ask for much more!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

World Book Day

Decided to mark World Book Day in a different way this year. In the past we've done events where we asked for book donations for charity, but this year we thought we'd run a short quiz on our BlackBoard VLE and offer a £15 Amazon voucher as a prize. Most of the library team contributed questions from which we pulled together a set that we liked and I then sorted out the technical side of it. I'm quite pleased with how it looks. Blackboard's pretty easy to set up things like this and I found a public domain clipart site, which requires no attribution of it's images, to get some nice colour and pictures into the quiz. We've sorted out publicity through our VLE and student net, and also our staff intranet. We've put up posters and plasma screen presentations too. The quiz has been available since Monday, but only 36 people have done it. Very disappointing.  Ok, the prize isn't a huge amount, but quite nice to have for just 5 minutes of multiple choice questions. We knew we wouldn't be inundated with entries, but I'd have quite liked to have reached 100. The quiz is still open tomorrow, so you never know. We could have a last minute rush, but I somehow don't think we're going to get there. Oh well. It was fun to do, but we'll have to think again for next year.

Monday, February 6, 2012

CPD23 defeat

So I think I'm going to admit defeat and give up on CPD23. I was full of good intentions at the start of it but time just ran away from me. Given that it was all supposed to be done by the end of November, I think I need to accept that I'm not going to do the remaining 13 tasks and move on. I do feel slightly guilty, as I think it was a good scheme, but I've learned that I just couldn't commit to doing that many tasks in such a short time. Some weeks were fine, as there was only one thing to do. I had real difficulty though in the weeks where there were a few things to look at and some of them were pretty time consuming.

I don't feel too discouraged though as I did learn quite a lot from the things that I did complete. It made me think more about my online presence and try out a few tools that I might never have looked at. It's also made me start up this blog and I'll aim to try and continue with it. I am still attempting to do my charter so will record some of my progress here. I'm also doing interesting things at work as I'm setting up a Harvard referencing course on BlackBoard, working on a promotion for World Book Day and trying to think of ways to encourage teaching staff to engage more with the library. I've also enjoyed reading other peoples blogs of 'day in the life' so may try to do something like that next year. (on the other hand, this may be the last entry. We'll just have to see how it goes!)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New header

I have to admit to being very pleased with myself as I have managed to create a lovely new header and logo for my blog. I don't use Photoshop but found some tutorials on the web that I was able to adapt to the version of Photoshop I have access to. It took a little while to get my head round it but I think I'm pleased with what I managed to come up with. Although the blog title refers to the L-Space of Terry Pratchet's Discworld, I've always had a (very) amateur intereset in astronomy so I also like to think about the other meaning of 'space' too. I'd recently changed my blog background to an astronomy one to reflect this so thought I'd like to stick with stars for my logo image. It'll need a few tweaks yet to get it just right, but I'm pretty happy to have got this far without too much trouble.
Although we didn't cover Photoshop in the CPD23 things I think that carrying out some of the tasks for the things has encouaged me to play around with stuff that I maybe wouldn't have before. I still haven't managed to finish the 23 things but it seems to have achieved it's aim in pushing me to try new things and extend my skills. Oh well. 13 things down, 10 to go. Not convinced I'll get all the way there but watch this space...

Thursday, November 24, 2011

13- collaborative working

Ok, this is going to be very short as Blogger seems to be objecting to me publishing anything of more than a few lines. We have a shared network drive at work so that our team, which is split across three sites, can all see, and work on, documents that are relevant to the whole team. Although Google Docs and Dropbox look interesting, they're just not necessary to us for work purposes. I can see that if we didn't have this shared drive though then collaborative working tools would be great. We do have access to a Wiki, set up in the PB system, but it's rarely used. I think we all forget it's there sometimes. On the whole I think I'd maybe use dropbox for charter documents, so I don't have to rely on remembering my USB stick, but it's not relevant to my working practices. The only thing that worries me is that nothing on the web stays there forever. Therefore, I'd make very sure that any documents I stored online were well backed up!

test post

Just checking if this is working as I've been having problems with publishing Thing 13.