Category Archives: Library Induction

Summarising Library Resource Seminars

I’ve recently given seminars on catalogue and database searching to all our traditional music students, and to our first year B.Ed. students.  Biteable animations are proving a fun way to summarise what they’ve learned with me.  They have a certain sheer surprise value, too.  (Today, the speakers were set louder than I’d expected, so they surprised me, too!)


Librarians: Part of your Learning and Teaching Strategy

We’re having a three-day Learning and Teaching Conference here at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland this week.  Today, Information Services department gave some quick updates.  Here was my invitation to teaching colleagues to make the most of the skills that we Performing Arts Librarians can share with students at appropriate points in their courses.  I am quite keen on the Biteable format – it’s quick and snappy, and it seemed to go down quite well!

Librarians as a Learning and Teaching Resource

I had an idea – and it worked!

Doc mugI have often thought that when students have problems using Shibboleth institutional logins for our e-resources, the best solution would be to go for a Costa coffee – then we could practice logging in and searching the different resources.  There’s only one problem – I can hardly ask students to take me out to coffee, and also, they’re often distance-learners.

Yesterday, we solved one of those problems.  We took a class out to coffee, admittedly not Costa, but by arrangement with a nearby cafe – they sold 30-odd coffees, and we all played with our various electronic devices in search of specific keywords that I had set the students in advance.  I won’t go into detail here – it might turn into an article later! – but suffice to say, I was delighted by how well the exercise went.  It had involved a bit of advance preparation, first on my part and then on the students’, but it was certainly worth the effort.  Away from the usual instant access via Eduroam, there was no option but to engage with the institutional access process, and these students had remarkably little bother with it.

Funnily enough, in years gone by, when I tried to teach catalogue use in a computer suite, there seemed to be too much temptation for students to play with Facebook or other social media.  But yesterday, I didn’t give that possibility a thought, and because the students had an engaging task to do, it didn’t seem to happen.  (If it did, then certainly not to any noticeable extent!)

Active learning? Certainly.  Scaffolded learning? Arguably, yes.  We started with what the students knew, then I offered some more suggestions, and these were added into students’ own search strategies, with improved results.

Analyse 2016 Library Survey for Research Context

I allowed myself the whole of February for this, so I am quite pleased that I’ve done a large part of my analysis already.  I’ve been through all the survey responses for 13 of the 33 questions that were asked: I picked out questions that might yield clues about how students viewed general library induction, and library e-resource training.

I’ve also made a rather nice table charting respondents’ usage of various e-resources, mapped against expressed interest in receiving training in the same resources.  (If there’s one aspect of research in which I share a common interest with the social scientists, it’s in beautiful graphs!)  I have my own interpretation of these statistics, but I’ll meet up with one of my colleagues to discuss them before reaching final conclusions, just in case another person might have a different interpretation of the same figures.

The respondents’ answers and freetext comments, combined with the e-resource usage and training interest data, will inform the intervention(s) that I plan to devise.



Here follows the analysis of the questionnaire. (1346 words):-

Information gleaned from the 2016 library user survey at RCS: Analysis

Responses have more than doubled between 2009 and 2016.

Since 2014, student responses have made up 85-89% of total.  In 2016, there were 176 student responses, and 32 from staff.  58-64% of responses self-identified as School of Music; 25-34% as School of Drama.

79% of student responses were by undergraduates, and  21% of responses were by postgraduates (total 100%).  11% of student  respondents were international.


88% of respondents used the library for books and music.  Second and third most popular reasons were to use IT facilities (69%) or to study (61%).   To use the catalogue (41%), borrow DVDs (39%) or use electronic resources (38%) were the next most popular reasons – significantly lower.  All other reasons scored less than these. Note that the question did not ask why respondents visited the library, but what they used the library for, so catalogue and e-resource use need not have taken place within the library space.   Significantly, catalogue and e-resource use are nonetheless important activities, albeit a long way behind the use of books and music.


In terms of using the library space, using the PCs was the most popular activity (71%), with laptop use or silent study coming significantly behind (58% each). None of the 18 comments concerned e-resource use or difficulty finding/accessing any kind of resource.


73% of respondents have used the catalogue remotely; 27% have not.  This answer leads into the next, more important one:-


58% of respondents usually find what they’re looking for; 31% sometimes do – a total of 89%. Less than 3% “hardly ever” or never find it, leaving 8% who have never used the catalogue.  These figures show room for improvement.  On the face of it, retrieval of suitable materials is not always successful.


If they found the item in the catalogue, 58% usually find it on the shelf, and 32% sometimes do – a total of 90%.  Again, the high figure belies the reality: “usually” and “sometimes” is not the same as “always”. If the item was reportedly available, then quite a few students are failing at the shelves. The following question confirms this:-


62% of respondents agree that items are easy to find, and another 11% strongly agree – a total of 73%.  16% neither agreed nor disagreed; 10% disagreed and 1% strongly disagreed.


72% of respondence received induction; 12% did not; and 16% said the question was not applicable (perhaps because they were taking a second degree and were either continuing students or did not perceive the need for induction).  Any extra instruction or self-help might increase confidence in subsequent library use.


53% of respondents found the content of induction helpful; 41% slightly helpful; 6% not helpful.  Of the thirteen comments, one thought the content insufficiently course-related; another suggested a refresher session later on would have been helpful, and a third suggested that people without HE library experience could have used more instruction about the classification scheme.  (Three merely wrote “n/a” and another “didn’t [sic] pay attention”.  It’s impossible to know whether students were referring to the library tour, and/or to any librarian input to initial lectures.  Certainly, the library tour can only be a brief introduction because so many students attend each tour.  Instruction in finding books,from catalogue to shelf, is effectively impossible with these numbers.  A podcast or video-clip might be very useful here.


63% thought timing just right, and another 30% had no particular opinion, leaving 8% (11 individuals) dissatisfied.

There were 15 comments.

  1. Six felt the induction came too soon/ would have been better later, for better retention
  2. Another would have liked a refresher a few months later.
  3. Confusingly, two would have liked their e-resource introduction earlier/at the same time as their library induction.

This demonstrates that “one size fits all” does not work with library induction.  Stand-alone podcasts or video-clips could help fill the gap.


88% were aware we had e-resources. 12% were unaware.


  • Naxos 38%
  • E-journals 25%
  • E-books 24%
  • JSTOR 24%
  • Oxford Music Online 23%
  • Digital Theatre Plus 22%
  • Classical Music Library 20%
  • NONE 18%
  • Library resources on Mahara 16%
  • Drama Online Digital Library 13%
  • IPA Source 13%
  • Classical Music in Video 10%
  • BUFVC 9%
  • Classical Music Reference Library 9%
  • British Library Sounds 8%
  • Classical Scores Library 8%
  • Library Music Source 6%
  • Naxos Music Library Jazz 5%
  • Opera in Video 5%
  • Ingenta Connect 4%
  • SCRAN 4%
  • Contemporary World Music 3%
  • Garland Encyclopedia of World Music 3%
  • Jazz Music Library 3%
  • Periodicals Archive Online 3%
  • Dance in Video 2%
  • RILM Abstracts 2%
  • Stan Winston School of Character Arts 2%
  • ZETOC 2%
  • Popular Music Archive 1%
  • Times Digital Archive 1%
  • Web of Knowledge 1%
  • Smithsonian Global Sound 0%
  • Teachers TV from Education in Video 0%

18% of respondents said they had used no e-resources. That’s more than just those who were unaware.  We need to continue to reach out through social media marketing and by cooperation with the academic staff, and to find ways of demonstrating the benefit of quality, subscription resources over simply web-searching or Wikipedia.


  • 36% would not have liked more training in any, which could be any combination of confidence in what was known about, ignorance of what was actually available, or apathy about taking the trouble to find out.  However, in order of demand, the following responses were made:-
  • 21% would have liked more training in E-books
  • 16% in E-journals
  • 14% in Classical Music in Video
  • 14% in Classical Music Library
  • 14% in Digital Theatre Plus
  • 13% in JSTOR
  • 12% in Drama Online Digital Library
  • 11% in Library Music Source
  • 11% in Naxos
  • 10% in Classical Scores Library
  • 8% in Oxford Music Online
  • 8% in Teachers TV from Education in Video
  • 7% in Library Resources on Mahara
  • 6% in Jazz Music Library
  • 6% in Popular Music Library
  • 5% in American Song
  • 5% in Opera in Video
  • 4% in Contemporary World Music
  • 4% in Garland Encyclopedia of World Music Online
  • 4% in International Bibliography of Theatre & Dance
  • 4% in IPA Source
  • 4% in SCRAN
  • 4% in Web of Knowledge
  • 4% in ZETOC
  • 3% in Naxos Music Library Jazz
  • 3% in Periodicals Archive Online
  • 3% in Smithsonian Global Sound
  • 2% in Dance in Video
  • 1% in RILM Abstracts
  • 1% in Times Digital Archive
  • 0% in Stan Winston School of Character Arts

There were five comments.

  1. Two (out of 208 completed surveys) wanted more about all resources.
  2. The question was about e-resources, but one reader wanted more Education (BEd) books [sic!]
  3. One wanted animation resources
  4. One asked for the present writer to get a RefMe visit for staff.  (In fact, the writer did arrange this for course-leaders, but our institution decided against an institutional subscription. RefMe might not be keen on making a second visit for staff, after this!  It could nonetheless be mentioned in class sessions or via social media, as could Mendeley and Zotero.)


Of 29 responses, very few alluded to library induction and/or e-resources.

  1. One person asked for an information sheet about the electronic resources. There is one, both on paper and on Mahara, but for whatever reason, the respondent seems not to know about it.
  2. Another person asked for a fuller range of e-journals, “or at least the ability to use those of Glasgow University more easily”. This is a question of provision rather than instruction.  (Additionally, students cannot use e-resources via another institution, unless they’re officially registered with that institution.)  It does suggest that readers could benefit from increased awareness of what actually is available through RCS subscriptions.
  3. One observed that their “course, such as it is, is not really directed towards using library facilities”. In the interests of anonymity, the School in which this reader studies, cannot be named here!


Ongoing User Education

In recent weeks, I spoke about the library and e-resources to our new jazz undergraduates, and gave part-of-a-lecture to all the new BMus and BEd undergraduates, about finding resources (paper and electronic) for their first academic assignment.

I also made a powerpoint and recorded a voiceover about using the catalogue and our e-resources, which was shared with the new PGCert and MEd students, and that has also gone online for future use.  What I need is feedback, though.  I did ask for students to let me know if the ppt was helpful.  No-one has.  (I think I’ll send a MailChimp message to the entire cohort – it might get some response.)  But last night I got an email asking for e-resource help, so I checked out the things I was asked about, and emailed a reply.  This was at 23:58 on a Saturday!  (Do I get a gold star for being super-helpful, over and above the call ….?!)   However, I couldn’t solve the problems. We didn’t have one thing, and don’t seem to have access to another.  I’ll check it out again at work tomorrow.  I really shouldn’t check my work emails on a Saturday night …

I was meant to give another undergraduate session on Wednesday, but there was a schedule change that I didn’t hear about, so that is to be rescheduled.

All part of the parachute lecturer’s rich tapestry of life.  These lecturers with their regular teaching schedules don’t know they’re born!!

Project Planning

I have to do a research project for my PGCert. I’m not in a position to write at length at theBowskill moment, but I can say that it will concern finding effective ways to engage students in library induction and instruction.

Nicholas Bowskill, Student-Generated Induction: a Social Identity Approach: a Staff Development guide (s.l.: Nicholas Bowskill, 2013) ISBN: 9781480113299

I wrote about this approach a couple of weeks ago, when I put together a Storify about a conference I’d read about.  In order to be able to quote it later, I’ll give details here:- my Storify is entitled,

Shared Thinking: Student Induction Event (mainly as reported by Sue House)

This is my introduction:- ‘I am myself thinking about student engagement in library-led seminars and tutorials – it’s the focus of my PGCert project. So when I read librarian Sue House’s tweets from a Shared Thinking event at York on Tuesday 5th July, I sat up and looked, because she cites lots of useful info & references.’

and the link is this:-

I got the book for the library, and have only read the first chapter or so, to date.  Two caveats: it is about student induction to university, not just to the library. Secondly, it relies on electronic voting software to a quite significant extent. That is not going to happen in a library situation, where 20 students are standing crowding round one librarian!  Neither will it happen when the librarian is given ten minutes to introduce a concept at the beginning or end of a lecture.  Still, the idea of constructing a “group view” – based on something the author calls SharedThinking – is something that interests me. I’ll reflect on it at greater length another day.

My internet connection is so slow that this posting has taken 28 minutes, including uploading one wee picture! Another reason for calling it a day.

More observations as I continue reading (11.1.2017):- the book is based on social identity theory, and can be used to run a workshop for staff involved in conducting induction sessions.  Thus, the course itself models future induction sessions.   A course organiser should aspire to ‘curate the social identity of the group’ and encourage the formation of peer relationships.  The intention is that induction should be participative and social, rather than just ‘telling students what they need to know’.  The theory is based on ‘the discipline of social psychology’, but this practice is supported by – yes, ‘classroom technology’ – clickers and interactive whiteboards.

My initial reaction, as before, is that this won’t work in a library tour setting. Students aren’t seated, and they can’t write down their personal view, move into small groups, share views, feedback to the whiteboard, create questions, vote on significant aspects and have a plenary discussion on issues arising.  I don’t doubt that it is a good approach, but not for an initial library induction.

In terms of induction design, Bowskill lists the disadvantages with ‘an individual view of induction’ (the Piagetian principles of working out what it takes for an individual to make sense of what they are being taught), or ‘a structural view of induction’. My favourite constructivist theories are being demolished! Bowskill thinks students will be overwhelmed with a series of presentations on different aspects of induction by different staff. Too much information.  So, we come to Bowskill’s ‘identity based view of induction’, based on social identity rather than personal identity, ie forming a shared sense of social identity in the group – an ’emotional sense of togetherness’ which will support student retention. (Bowskill, p.15).  It’s based on student-generated induction, and classroom technologies.   He also cites two articles by V. Tinto, on learning communities and collaborative learning.  (My reading list gets longer all the time!

  1. Tinto, V, ‘Learning communities, collaborative learning and the pedagogy of educational citizenship’, AAHE Buylletin 47 (1995), 11-13
  2. Tinto, V, ‘Learning better together: the impact of learning communities on student access in higher education’, Journal of Institutional Research 9(1) (2000), 48-53)

Tinto apparently talks about developing the students into learning communities.

Bowskill adds that students are most influenced by their peers, so without taking this into account, we could be wasting a lot of time trying to influence them ourselves.  He does emphasize that after students have together come up with their own information needs for induction, the tutor has a responsibility to add anything that the students need to know but have not asked about.  ‘Our relationship with the group becomes one of supporting and supplementing their conversations with the things they couldn’t know about. It’s the idea of induction and support coming from within the group.  This is a long way from the idea of us telling them what we think they need to know.’ (Bowskill, p.38)

As Sue House was tweeting from the conference, she observed that a good idea was to start an induction session by asking students what they hoped to get out of it, and ask at the end if it had been helpful.  Yes, we could do that.  Sue commented (5th July 2016, 4:33 pm), ‘Different identities can be switched on and off depending on cues in the environment.’  The aim is to encourage the students to form a social identity of ‘we, all new students here’, rather than a feeling of being a lone individual.

I think I’ve read enough, here.  I can’t read a whole workshop script from beginning to end.  (There are slides for reproduction onto PowerPoint, at the end of the book, and there’s a bibliography including the Tinto articles I cited.)  I do see the basic principles, and the purpose for doing induction this way.  The book can go back to the library.  And this blogpost hyperlink can go into the blogpost dated 2017.01.11.