Tag Archives: Electronic resources

I wrote an article once …

Actually, I’ve written at least a couple of dozen articles and published my thesis as a book, but this weekend I decided to write an article for submission to the Scottish Journal of Performance.  I started roughing it out yesterday, and sat down to work at it properly, late this afternoon.  Suddenly, a light went on.  Hang on, hadn’t I written an article about library ‘user education’ once before? Sure enough, there it was in my CV: ‘But how do I tell them?’, in the librarianship journal, Personnel Training and Education 8.3 (1991).  I was fascinated to discover that not only had it been cited in a lengthy Australian study, but I was even quoted as observing, 23 years ago!, the lack of pedagogical theory in librarianship writings on user education!

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Judith Peacock, From Trainers to Educators: Librarians and the challenge of change (1999)

Emboldened by my early success, I’m now feeling much more optimistic about the paper I’m working on today.  Today’s effort is so very obviously better – I can tell that my writing has matured – although, after 23 years, I shouldn’t really be surprised.

However, this is interesting:  Peacock quotes me noting the absence of something that I’ve only just, THIS YEAR, had the opportunity to make good.  The wheel comes full circle, you could say!  Except that, in one sense, it’s like looking down the other end of a telescope.  23 years ago, it was six years since my postgraduate diploma at library school, four since I’d reluctantly abandoned the PhD that I’d set aside during my librarianship training, and electronic resources consisted largely of databases for scientists and lawyers.  Now, having completed a PhD on a totally different subject, and gained Fellowship in my professional body (the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals), I’m in the mature years of my career.  E-resources are for everyone, and I’ve finally had the opportunity to do the Teaching Artist short credit-rated course that occasioned the writing of this blog.  In the article I’ve been writing,I’m addressing the same subject again.  But it’s like standing outside the Conservatoire knowing the land was once occupied by tenements.  Same territory, but completely different environment!

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Reflecting on my Teaching Practice as an Academic Librarian

Much of my ‘teaching’ is not what you’d call teaching – but I author many library guides on different aspects of our service provision,  to provide information and instruction, ie, not only what we offer, but also how to use and get the most benefit out of those resources.  And upon reflection, I decided that this was indeed part of my teaching ‘practice’.  Reflection’s a good way of owning and identifying what you do as part of your professional practice, and in a sense, validating your decisions for what you do.  I don’t just “happen” to write these guides – they’re written intentionally and for specific purposes.

If you’re a student or teacher at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, you’ll be able to log into Moodle and Mahara, and see all the guides we offer – I authored all the music and most of the general ones.  Here.

If you’re an external reader, you won’t be able to see my guides, but you’ll be able to access the lists of all our electronic resources via the Library and IT webpages. Here.

We’re very keen to get our e-resources exploited as much as possible, so that our readers get maximum benefit out of them, and that way we’ll get good value for our subscriptions. This is why I’m producing little bite-sized chunks of training that I shall share first with my colleagues, and then ultimately with our readers.  If I can find podcasts – eg YouTube clips – that can be repurposed, then I’ll share them.  Otherwise, I’ll be devising my own using an app like Jing. (It’s a screen-capture technology with the option of recording your own voice narrative to describe what you’re doing. TechSmith describes Jing as, “a free and simple way to start sharing images and short videos of your computer screen. Whether for work, home, or play, Jing gives you the ability to add basic visual elements to your captures and share them fast.”)

I’ve done two of these “Essential Training” e-resource guides so far – if I upload too many at a time, my colleagues might be less keen to look at them!  I have about ten resources on my list, and I began with British Library Sounds, then Classical Music Online.  If you’re part of the Conservatoire community, here’s the Mahara link.  If you’re not a registered Conservatoire IT user, that link won’t work, but I can show you some screen-shots, below.  First, the Library homepage on Mahara, and then a shot of my first two guides:-

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The ‘Essential Training’ page won’t necessarily stay in that format once I’ve done all ten guides, but for now, it keeps them together so my library colleagues can dip in and explore resources that they’ve maybe not looked at for a while.

Concurrently with this project, I’m also preparing for my “Research Skills and Bibliiographic Software” seminar with our research students.  That’s “real” teaching, of course – I’ve posted my lesson plan, contextual study and theoretical paper on the homepage of this blog.  Yesterday morning, I conferred with one of our research lecturers to ensure she was happy with what I was proposing to offer in my seminar.  And yesterday afternoon, after a session getting updated on the Scran database by one of their educational officers, I decided to try composing an invitation to our research students, using one of Scran’s “Create” formats.  I’m not sure about the image I’ve chosen, though.  Scran has a lot of historical images, and I found a couple of pictures of early computer technology, including an early computer at the University of Glasgow.  It took me as long as my subway ride home last night, to decide that I didn’t like one of the images, and I didn’t want TWO separate pages of invitation.  This afternoon, I fiddled some more, and came up with a single page that is closer to my intentions:-

  • Date, time, place, and purpose must be clear
  • Students must be asked to look at some e-resources beforehand
  • Students must be asked to bring laptops, ipads, or whatever handheld devices they normally use
  • I was tasked with producing a single-sided pdf, so all this info must fit onto an economically-worded poster!

My second draft, then, looks like this:-

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I had another attempt at making a pdf invitation, subsequent to this.  You can view the PDF here:- Research Skills Invite

 

Contexts for Learning, and Positive Changes

Context: Library or Classroom-based, but not formally assessed

Looking at my own practice, I am trying to think about the context in which ‘my’ students are learning.  This has always been slightly problematical in library teaching, because attendance is not mandatory.  Until a couple of years ago, new students had a tour of the library and a hands-on demonstration of how to use the catalogue.  A lecture was also provided for music students, to introduce them to key e-resources, such as Oxford Music Online (the world’s most prestigious music encyclopedia) and the streamed music services. (There are also a number of leaflets offering guidance to different aspects of the library service.)

Realising that for most students, this was too much, too soon, the library induction package was un-packed, so that new students got a basic library tour in the first week, and then we liaised with course-leaders to provide more detailed, tailored instruction later.  The theory behind this was that students would be better able to take in what they were being shown, if it wasn’t all thrown at them at once; and when they were beginning to need more resources, they’d be more motivated to come and listen.

Some course-leaders were admirably pro-active, whilst others didn’t take up the offer, or provided informal tours of their own, quietly ignoring the e-resources offer.  Moreover, we have no control over whether individual students attend or not.  The context, then, is basically on-site provision of training (we’ve no way of knowing whether students found their way to the Moodle podcast that Gordon made for us a couple of years ago), but without the formality of a fully academically endorsed (or assessed) course component.  We get the impression that library induction and training is viewed by the students as “not really part of the course”, and “not really necessary”.

With the seminars I provide for research students, it’s a smaller group.  Students are encouraged to attend, but are not always available to attend on the day/time allotted by Research Dept staff.  However, those that do attend are always keen to participate and share their opinion, so although it’s still not mandatory, there’s more enthusiasm and appreciation!  By this stage, students have realised that proper academic discourse requires them to read widely and cite correctly, so there’s an awareness that the instruction I provide may be useful to them as they write their dissertation.  (Also, strangely, there’s respect for me amongst researchers who know I’ve ‘been there’ and am now engaged on postdoctoral work, whereas I guess undergraduates perceive me as ‘just a librarian’, and not to be taken as seriously as their tutors.   Librarians universally hate their fuddy-duddy stereotype!)

So, what positive changes could I make?  For new students, I still think the library tour is worthwhile. It’s quick and cheerful, and just tries to convey the most basic information about the library, but more importantly, it introduces students to the subject librarians.  For the more detailed e-resource instruction,  I still think these resources need to be demonstrated, much as an experiment might be demonstrated in a science lab.   By way of a parallel, you don’t say, “here’s a bunsen burner and few chemicals, do try them out!”, but after demonstrating them, pupils might then try them out under supervision.  Similarly, our new undergraduates need to be shown WHAT is available and how they work, and then invited to try them.  Unless each entire class of new students is allocated time in the IT suite, though, we have to content ourselves with telling them about the resources, giving the handouts, and hoping that some of the information will be remembered.

I’m beginning to wonder if there might be any mileage in emailing student groups later, to follow up the session and get some kind of feed-back. I am uncertain about mounting quizzes etc, because not many students will do a quiz that is not part of their assessed work.  (Backwash, as Biggs says.)  How does one constructively align teaching that is not assessed, but regarded as supplementary and optional?   One is informing the students about what is on offer, and directly pointing out resources that are likely to be useful.  Tasks can’t be set for later submission – it is all rather frustrating!

With the research students, there are fewer individuals, and the direct email follow-up might be even more effective.  I could also use social media, though I’d first have to persuade students to “follow” the library on Twitter, or subscribe to the Whittaker Live blog. Only two people have ever bothered to subscribe (though the blog has plenty of drop-in traffic) – this doesn’t look a very effective way of getting targeted information to them.  I would need more advice before I ventured to start discussion on Moodle or Mahara.  It seems a sensible idea, but if research students don’t “hang out” there, then it wouldn’t have much practical effect.  our Teaching Artist collaborative space works so well that it would be great if all the research students had a space like this of their own.  Maybe Marius could advise me if they do?