Karen McAulay, ‘Blending Librarianship with Research and Pedagogy‘, SCONUL 69, 56-59 (July 2017)
On 7th June last year, a Zimbabwean researcher asked the following question:-
How effective is user education provided to students at academic libraries?
There is a problem that most academic library users after introduced to the library and educated about the library use and services the library offers among other things, but still they find it difficult to use the library. What really might be the cause?
I immediately jumped in. The conversation still continues, fitfully. (I can copy my response here, but unless I have permission from everyone in the discussion, I can’t ethically share the whole conversation. It wasn’t until this evening that I realised that maybe I could ask everyone if they would object to the conversation being copied into Storify, so it would be openly available and not within the ResearchGate walls.)
Anyway, I’ll share my response of 13th June, and then I’ll wait to see what the others say. If necessary, I suppose I could ask individuals for their permission to quote them.
Can I (modestly) reference a paper I wrote last year? Library Review
Vol.64, Iss.1/2, (2015), 154-161, ‘Sexy Bibliography (and Revealing Paratext)’
I have also blogged about library user education as part of my studies for a postgraduate certificate in teaching and learning in higher education https://karenmcaulay.wordpress.com/e-portfolio/ and I am continuing this study in a project for submission next year.
Can I briefly make a few points here?
- Firstly, we’re not teaching new undergraduates “library science”. They just want to know where to get started in the library. Don’t start by trying to turn them into mini-librarians!
- Secondly, students learn best at the time of need. So we provide regular training working in collaboration with teaching staff, and with one eye on the teaching and submission schedules. If students have their first essay coming up, they will be more motivated to listen and learn from us!
- Thirdly, make the teaching relevant. They are going to write about Prokofiev? Find examples of electronic resources that you have ensured WILL FIND appropriate information on Prokofiev!
- Lastly, flip the classroom. Embrace good pedagogical practice and involve the students rather than lecturing them. Ask what they think/recommend. Build on what they know (This is called a “constructivist approach”) Use multimedia to engage. I could go on, but maybe I’d better stop for now!
How effective is user education provided to students at academic libraries? – ResearchGate. Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/post/How_effective_is_user_education_provided_to_students_at_academic_libraries#58715ff45b49529a6b48ff14 [accessed Jan 7, 2017].
Interestingly, the last lines- the citation – were added automatically by ResearchGate when I copied the text. Maybe they’ve taken care of it that way! I still worry that ResearchGate participants might be the only ones able to open the link. Could someone check the link for me, please?
My trade union is the EIS-ULA, a Scottish lecturers’ union which also admits academic librarians. Today I opened the December bulletin to find an update on the next REF (Research Excellence Framework), which takes place in 2021. I’m surprised it is as far away as this! I know there’s a new tranche of funding in 2018, so there’s something I’m not understanding here! Anyway, the 2021 REF will reportedly take into account the findings of the Stern Review, which was commissioned by the Scottish Funding Council. It’s potentially of some interest to me, assuming I still have a research role five years from now.
There’s also a paragraph about the Teaching Excellence Framework, an English initiative which first ran this year. It seems to be a matter of choice whether Scottish universities sign up to this, and I don’t know if my own institution has any plans yet. What I do know, however, is that we are concerned about pedagogy – otherwise I wouldn’t be voluntarily doing the PGCert in Learning and Teaching.
I’m posting the link to the December bulletin to ensure that it’s here for reference later, should I need it. I’ll also post it on my Resources (bibliography) page:-
Pickles, Matt (2016), ‘Shouldn’t lectures be obsolete by now?’, BBC News: Business, 23rd November 2016 (oneline) http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38058477 [accessed 23.11.2016]
I read an article on the BBC News Business pages today. The author, Matt Pickles, expresses surprise that the lecture format persists, despite demonstrable evidence that they’re often not the most effective way of teaching students, and that active learning works much better. Some universities are catching on, but it seems others aren’t bothered, because they’re more concerned about their scholars’ research profile than their teaching skills.
That’s not true at my institution – for a start, we’re a conservatoire, so whether you “do research” or are an expert practitioner and perhaps don’t consider your practice as research, much of the work is practice-based in any case. And secondly – we wouldn’t be studying for PGCerts if we didn’t think teaching was important!
I’m a bit atypical in being a musicologist, and although I like to get my research performed, my research isn’t actually in performance or composition. I’m also atypical (oh, I love being a nonconformist!) in studying for a PGCert with the aim of improving my teaching for the librarianship side of my work first and foremost. My research takes place on one day a week, and any spare home time I can fling at it, but I only get rare opportunities to teach my research interest.
But what I can say is that I much prefer to speak to groups small enough to be able to converse with students rather than lecture them. And if I’m teaching how to use e-resources, or bibliographic /referencing skills, it’s infinitely easier with a group or even a single student. You can’t converse in a lecture, and my minor hearing impairment makes it even more difficult. (Why would I pose a question to people at the back of a lecture theatre, when I probably couldn’t hear their reply?!)
— Carol Vaughan (@CFVaughan) November 18, 2016
I’ve just found this tweet in my feed, and it set me thinking. The person who posted it (Cristina Costa, at the University of Strathclyde) has been at a Scottish information literacy event. I was aware of it through following Twitter, but didn’t hear about it in time to consider attending.
The image attached is a circle divided into four quadrants:-
- Develop Skills – Educators, Skills and Confidence
- Improve Access – Learners, Access [??]
- Empower – Leaders, Drive Innovation
- Enhance – Curriculum and Assessment
So, in my rather unique position as simultaneously academic librarian, postdoc researcher and PGCert student, where do I fit in? Today, I was talking to third year undergraduates about online resources, referencing and bibliographic referencing software. We didn’t go into any details about how exactly RefMe, Mendeley or Zotero work – in an hour to cover all the above, it was enough to mention that they all do roughly the same thing, and are worth considering. In a sense, it was ME developing my skills as an educator (1), at the same time as I was improving the learners’ access (2) by informing them about what was available and how best to exploit it.
Their regular course-leader was sharing the seminar with me, so I like to think that sharing knowledge about the library’s online resource provision was empowering my colleague (3), whether by providing reminders about facilities or imparting new knowledge. That, naturally enough, would (hopefully!) enhance the curriculum (4), and the assessment of student projects will in due course also demonstrate just how much they used the information we had given them (4 again). However, I am not involved in the final assessments, so on this occasion I just have to hope that what I shared will prove worthwhile.
AN ASIDE, ABOUT REFME
On the subject of RefMe, I should mention that although we looked into the institutional, enhanced version, the cost was too high, so students will have to make do with individual free access. RefMe does have impressive capabilities, and is easy to use. I haven’t embraced it fully myself, because really, one needs only one bibliographic referencing tool, and I have Mendeley on every single device I ever use.
However, I downloaded RefMe to my android phone earlier this week. I wanted at least to be able to demonstrate it to students. Disappointingly, it wouldn’t scan ISBNs, wouldn’t retrieve details of books that I was pretty sure should have been retrieved, and although I’ve emailed the RefMe helpdesk, they haven’t responded yet. I hope there will be an easy, obvious answer, because I hesitate to recommend it to students if there’s an android glitch that isn’t being talked about. Meanwhile, I’ve uninstalled it, and await a reply! I’ve also tweeted a query. No reply to that, either.
I downloaded a research paper about RefMe, a couple of months ago. Sat down to read it properly just now, and – well, yes, I had already added it to my Mendeley bibliography. (Shh, don’t tell RefMe!) But it’s impressive, it really is. The accuracy rate is hugely better than asking students to do their referencing manually using sample templates. Here’s the report.
Hakim, Yaz El et al, 2016, The impact of RefME on the student experience. Online. https://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/719144/Time_Saver_Whitepaper.pdf (Accessed 2016.11.20)
But I’m still waiting for my reply as to why I can’t scan barcodes or search for items on my Android. So I’m still wondering whether I ought to recommend it to Android users! Frustrating.
I was working from 1-5 today, because I was owed a few hours. So, I had planned two meetings, one in my capacity as music librarian, and the other regarding a research grant application.
What happened? Two more people came asking for help in the 15 minutes before my first meeting. I helped the first – it was a quick question – and asked the second to come back later. The first scheduled meeting happened, the second didn’t happen for unavoidable reasons, and then I had what I hope was a helpful second student consultation with the person whom I hadn’t time to help earlier.
And then I blogged some notes on my afternoon, on the library blog – Whittaker Live. Reproduced here, to avoid duplication of effort. But before I do that, I’m just going to comment that it made me realise – again – how enthusiastic our postgraduates are, and how eager to get things right. Also, I was reminded that logging into e-resources, and referencing and citation, are things we librarians just take in our stride. They’re much bigger hurdles for our students, especially if they’ve been out of education for even just a few years.
In library terms, we would refer to these incidents as queries, though ‘consultation’ is probably closer to the mark. In actual fact, it’s 1:1 teaching, though some of our RCS teachers probably assume that teaching only takes place in classrooms or studios!
This afternoon saw a quick question about our students accessing online resources from outside the Conservatoire – and a quick answer. RCS staff and students need to go to our Library web-pages, click on the appropriate e-resources link, and then pick their chosen e-resource (or e-book, or e-journal). Use Shibboleth institutional access from there – pick the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, then your usual RCS login. We don’t use Athens – so avoid anything mentioning it.
Then came two two individual consultations about Karen’s favourite things. First, a fairly in-depth discussion about saving citations, then using the Harvard referencing style, and creating a bibliography. The Whittaker Library has guidelines about Harvard referencing on our part of the RCS Portal. (Find them here. If you need more, just Google “Harvard Referencing”, and you’ll find plenty of other guides!)
If you’re referencing a lot of non-standard formats, the best advice is to find an example for something approximately close to your reference, then tweak the example to fit your purposes, making sure the author’s name and date of the source are listed first. If you’re referencing something online, then you’ll need to give a hyperlink, and also the date you accessed the item. All this is in our guide.
The next query was back to e-resources again, but this time about content rather than access. We talked about finding info about specific musical works. Naxos sleeve notes are useful. JSTOR can be useful, too. Oxford Music Online is better for facts about the works’ composition dates, opus numbers, where they stand in the composers’ output, etc, but may not necessarily give you anything in-depth about individual works.
So, having delved briefly into online resources, we also looked at CD and vinyl sleeve notes – plenty more info in that direction! And good old Cobbett’s Cyclopedic Survey of Chamber Music. It may be old, but could be a good starting place.
On Saturday, the PGCert and MEd cohorts had a “live” study day at Speirs Locks. We talked about ethics and forms of questioning, and about sourcing reading material, and citing it.
Questions of ethics are a new area for me. Really, ethics feature more in the social sciences; they hardly crop up at all when the subjects of your research are not only very, very historical, but their descendants- if traceable – are usually flattered that you’re researching their ancestors!
Forms of questioning? Well, it made me think about my research project, because I’m beginning to think I’ll need to use several modes of information-gathering.
- Draw on anonymous library surveys already done
- Use Survey Monkey – probably surveying the students in my own cohort, because they will appreciate what I’m doing (and why), and will also have a vested interest in anything I can organise to help them with their own research efforts!
- A few short interviews. If – at the end of my Survey Monkey survey – I can ask whether respondents consider themselves “highly techie”, “moderately comfortable with online technologies”, “quite uncomfortable” or “tech-averse”, then hopefully I could conduct interviews with one or two of each.
When it came to discussing sources of information and referencing, though, I quickly found myself halfway between teacher and student, because librarians really do have a head-start in this field. We had some interesting conversations – and it became quite clear that if students don’t initially have a satisfactory experience, they’ll quickly look elsewhere, or use Google/Google Scholar, or beg assistance from a friend at another institution.
My concern, therefore, is that students should learn how to use what we have, even allowing for the fact that our syndicated subscriptions do mean we have patchy coverage of some e-resources. If a publisher allows the SHEDL group full access to certain journals but not others, or certain years, then it can be a frustrating experience for the reader. We can’t avoid that, but we can try to ensure that students know what they’re doing so they won’t fail at the first login request.
It would be lovely to go to Waterstones with each student and their tablet/laptop, to help them practise logging in from outwith the Conservatoire. Sadly, there aren’t enough of us library staff to do that! (Nice idea, though …. I wonder if it would be feasible with groups of students? But then again, distance learners aren’t all local and certainly aren’t all around during office hours. Ho-hum … )
It’s always good to get together with the rest of the cohort, though. It helps make our studies feel “real”. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re doing a certificated course, unless you meet the others and talk about common interests.