Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives
January 30th, 2012
I rise happily as the sun splays its brightening fingers across the sky, reaching for the steep hill to my back yard, worrying away night’s heavy veil, and revealing scrub sage bushes and burned husks of downed pine trees. I stand at the open doorway of my room and watch the outside world stir as my dog sniffs out scents from nocturnal prowlers who find the gaps in the fence making their way to better yards, and am amazed at the expanse of my view.
I leave my dog at her daycare bounding her way through the gates to meet her pals. My mind races with thoughts of nearly innumerable last minute changes I must make to a lesson plan and presentation for this morning’s library instruction to a group of first year nursing students. My lesson plans are tight though allow for organic adaptation as I respond to the session’s participants’ information needs. A consequentialist I am, and several points in my lesson plans allow for versatile accommodation to changes. Still, my mind is tumbling other ideas that I might incorporate.
The session is incredibly active with engaged students, super keen to exercise newly wrought skills on EBSCO’s interface and CINAHL headings. I find I do some inductive research when I instruct. I find too many students don’t know about the library resources – yeah, I hear you, too, say we already know that – but I find that even if their instructor directs them to library resources, these students are not likely to explore on their own initiative. It seems we have to push them into the resources making those direct and meaningful connections between these resources and students’ successes at university. I use the FAB model in most of my instruction. While based on constructivist principles, scaffolding concepts both on a micro- and macro-level, using the FAB format explicitly connects resources to students. Here’s how it works.
Features, Advantages, and Benefits (FAB) is a simple model to present material, tools, resources, etc. First, I present a specific feature, demonstrate the advantage of that feature, and finish with an outcome clearly beneficial to the student. For example, the EBSCO interface. When introducing students to any database within the EBSCO suite, I present a compelling FAB for creating personal accounts within EBSCO. Students are often frustrated because they cannot remember a particular search they have done in a previous session where they found some great articles. They might also want to find an article they saw on a previous search. I present Features of a personal account such as adding articles to folders and saving searches. I move to demonstrating Advantages of using those Features. Students nod and I often hear puffed “Ah hah!” moments. Clearly explaining how these Features mechanically work sets the support for the third component of this model – Benefits. Connecting the Benefits of adding files to folders, saving and sorting those folders, and saving searches to actionable consequences for a student sharpens the point. Students see clearly that this feature helps them save and sort search results easily, retrieve searches efficiently, and reduce much anxiety that they usually bring to searching through any database.
I meet with our new Chief Law Librarian immediately after the instruction session. Wow, what a great meeting. I miss most meetings of our reference staff because I am not scheduled to work on meeting days. Coming away from this personal meeting with a colleague has me buoyed at the prospects of working with law databases and law library users.
An opportunity to work with colleagues is a gift. A precious gift. One such project currently underway is to prepare our MARC records for submission to AMICUS. I spend this time reading background material and reviewing MARC codes.
Reference desk time! I look forward to time spent at the desk engaging our users in dialogue about our services, providing opportunities for them to discover new approaches to research and various tools, and giving them quiet encouragement toward their goals. The reference desk space at the Learning Commons has an unfortunate design. I have been told it was built without consultation with library staff. Harrumph. The configuration is without universal design. There is no place to consult with students. Though the desk is equipped with two monitors, they are different sizes and therefore different resolutions. What we see on our monitor is not the same as what the students sees on the monitor facing him or her. The student-facing monitor is often set up on a poorly placed pony wall. This makes it impossible for reference staff to conduct reasonable reference interaction. I physically move that monitor to the desk at the same level as my monitor and make space where I can give the student the keyboard and mouse for his or her use. Certainly not an ideal work station but manageable.
My turbo-tail-wiggling dog bounds into my truck for the ride home. We head out to skijor in Valleyview Nature Park. http://bit.ly/wtk9b7. Well, it was a bust. Not a whisker of snow here . . . so I decide to run trails with Kona and adorn her with blinking lights and bear bells.
Ah . . . lying abed as though on a gossamer cloud of delicious dreams.