On Being a Librarian

Trends, Achievements, and Perspectives

Pilot Project Pre-Piliot takes Flight

Last year I wrote a post about my excitement to develop an information literacy pilot study for the small comprehensive university. In that post, I reviewed a pilot study delivered in two very different subject areas – Math and Philosophy – throughout a term. That pilot study was designed to:

  • Identify potential practical problems in delivering a larger scale integrated program
  • Uncover attitudinal perspectives towards this suite of literacies
  • Uncover localized interdepartmental problems that would affect the program delivery process
  • Identify resources required for program delivery

This year I am installed as Academic and Research Librarian at a small comprehensive college.   Over the past fall term, I participated in a “pre-pilot”, if there is such a term in collaboration with core subject faculty and library workmates. Though we use the term “pilot”, this collaboration has been grounded in the building of understanding, relationships, and competencies before considering a formal pilot program.  The aims of our efforts are to determine the interest in information literacy workshops, and scope of possible future programs.

I have reflected upon what has proven to be a very productive term, not only for me professionally, but also for the development of integrated information literacy skills at the college. Some professional competencies that I engaged and further developed include:

  • Learning and writing HTML code and CSS
  • Developing, delivering and analyzing an assessment tool
  • Refining interpersonal communication competencies collaborating with core subject faculty, community of practice, and library workmates
  • Consulting on practice, within a community of practice, across provinces and institutions
  • Testing and using educational technologies
  • Developing learning objectives for competency-based learning experiences
  • Developing criteria for session competency outcomes
  • Designing instruction sessions
  • Estimating variability in outcomes
  • Determining the resources required for the planned program
  • Assessing collected data and feedback
  • Developing a research question and research plan

First Steps

This endeavour started just weeks after I arrived at this wonderful college in late spring 2014. Reviewing my duties and responsibilities with library workmates and the manager, I initiated the process to develop an Information Literacy Skills Development program (ILSD). The specific duties and responsibilities that the Manager, Library Services wrote for my work include:

  • Working collaboratively with library colleagues and college faculty to integrate information literacy and research skills across the curriculum.
    Contributing to the library’s bibliographic instruction program, which includes designing, teaching, integrating, and promoting library research instruction sessions as well as assessing and measuring instructional learning outcomes.
  • Serving as the contact person and faculty liaison for all general inquiries for library instruction as well as for coordinating and scheduling all library instruction activities.

Working different comprehensive college in the role of Information Fluency Program Coordinator for a year, and then three subsequent years as a research and instructional librarian at a comprehensive university, I brought a diverse and rather fulsome skill set to this activity. My first-hand experience was coordinating and delivering an established program and designing and assessing a new integrated program. As the subject matter expert, I know well the mechanics of design, delivery, assessment, adaptation, and essential cross-campus partnering necessary to create a relevant and responsive, integrated program.  The opportunity to set some ground work for a later fulsome and sanctioned pilot program included continuous and ongoing assessment and evaluation of each session.

Throughout that first summer, I worked closely with the outgoing librarian, several core subject instructors, and my new library workmates. We determined a path for developing research and how-to guides, modified existing, and developed new, supporting documentation and collateral resources, and laid the foundation for an information literacy skills development program. The developed introduction to information literacy workshops and instructional sessions, available to all college faculty and students, is primarily three-tiered, adaptable and scalable, grounded in constructivist theory, and delivered with sound pedagogy.

Level One

These are customizable single-shot sessions are engaging, learner-directed, competency and learning objective-based sessions. Sessions at this level are considered overviews and introductory to research only, and aligned with the ACRL standards, the course assignments and curriculum, and the institutional strategic plan.  For example, a session might review the interlibrary loan system and introduce learners to the library’s print collection using the online catalogue.

Level Two

A second level offers the opportunity for two or three information literacy skills development sessions inserted at the point of need for information and skill development in the course term. This model is also called a multi-pack option. These sessions are in-depth, interactive, learner-directed,  and based on competency and learning objectives. These customizable sessions reflect the course subject area (business, nursing, tourism, psychology, etc.), are designed to meet established learning and curriculum objectives, and are aligned with the institutional strategic plan and the ACRL standards. Level two is significantly different from level one regarding structure and scope, information literacy skills development facilitation, some library services reviewed, and the number of relevant information literacy standards met. These sessions offer greater opportunity to cover more information literacy standards and to incorporate enhanced in-class activities and assessments. As with level one sessions, collaboration, and consultation with core subject faculty is essential not only to the design of the program and each session but also the delivery of each session. Faculty and I consult on various in-class activities, team-teaching opportunities, and the mechanics of each session delivery with the use of appropriate educational technologies. Examples of this level include:

  • research strategies and identifying bibliographical elements
  • avoiding plagiarism, paraphrasing, and citation
  • evaluating sources and differentiating between source formats
  • finding and accessing articles using the library’s electronic resources and using the features and functionality of the online database interface

Level Three

Level three is integrated or embedded into a course, grounded on sound pedagogical practices, and scaffolds learning from one session to the next. Collaborating with core subject faculty and my community of practice is essential to the success of any library program. There is a wealth of literature and published studies and research on the topic from which the core subject faculty and I glean information for program and content delivery and structure.   Each session builds on the previous, is aligned with course outline and curriculum, supports the institutional strategic plan, and is competency-outcome based.  The core subject faculty member views these as integrated into the course outline.  One topic is instructed to in each session. Specifically, the sessions may be scheduled as follows:

session one – pre-assessment, introduction to print and electronic resources, differentiating between scholarly and popular and trade publications, identifying peer-reviewed journals

session two – research as conversation, citation tracking, identifying bibliographical elements, managing sources

session three – avoiding plagiarism and specific citation style workshop including writing paraphrases and citations

session four – research best practices, finding and accessing relevant scholarly articles in a specific subject area, searching within e-books, revising search strategy, finding background information

session five – using 3 – 5 different database interfaces, using Boolean operators, sending, saving, and printing articles, using intermediate interface tools (personal accounts)

session six – summary, review, and post-assessment

Fall 2014 ILSD Pre-Pilot Outline ONE

The Manager, Library Services identified English 100 as the most appropriate course where information literacy skill development sessions would reach the most students as this course is a requirement for many college programs. Sessions structured, in consultation with core subject faculty,  are as follows:

  • Five focused and topic targeted sessions for each ENGLISH 100 section
  • Learning objectives aligned with ACRL IL Standards and the institutional strategic plan
  • Library instruction topics support course outline, curriculum, and assignments
  • Participation marks attached to attendance

Student feedback was exceedingly positive. Here are some remarks captured through the short answer section of the assessment tool.

“This was the most beneficial library workshop I have been too (and I’ve attended almost 5 of them, two at UBC). Your enthusiasm and excitement make the workshop more enjoyable. Thank you so much for being so helpful and happy!”

“This was an extremely informative and useful session! I hope more people are aware of what is available to them. Thank you so so so much!”

“Thank you for helping me learn how to do work cited. My previous teachers from high school never quite explained it that well.”

Winter 2015 ILSD Pre-Pilot Outline TWO

Reviewing the assessment responses, information literacy standards to which sessions aligned, and course outline and content, the core subject faculty presented a variation of the previous term’s ILSD pilot sessions. Session variation was further defined and adjusted through our collaborative process. This term’s ILSD  session specifics includes:

  • Five sessions per term in each ENGLISH 100 section each covering different topics aligned with and relevant to faculty subject matter
  • Student groups are required to meet with librarian for in-depth research and presentation development consultation
  • Librarian provides session feedback to students and instructor
  • Learning objectives align with ACRL IL Standards and institutional strategic plan
  • Consultation with librarian attached marking scheme – out of class time sessions
  • Session assessment and feedback instrument available through the University of Alberta Information Literacy Assessment & Advocacy Project (ILAAP).

More opportunities to develop a suite of competencies in the context of developing a responsive, reliable, flexible, relevant, and effective integrated information literacy skills development at this college with a full pilot program conducted in the next couple of years.

I am optimistic that the activities this term garnered additional information from which the core subject instructor and I use to define learning objectives for a possible fully integrated information literacy skills development program to begin at some point in the future. We do anticipate that it will be another year of program delivery and development before a pilot program or formalized ILSD integration.

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