Monday, 27 June 2011

London Library Teachmeet

What happened?
A Library Teachmeet was held at University of Westminster 20th June for two hours. In this time 12 speakers demonstrated, in either five or two minutes, the tips they use when teaching information literacy to students. Fiona O’Brien and Emma Woods welcomed everybody and explained to the audience how they had had to focus on their main selling points to prove their worth. They claimed that they mainly delivered what they considered was a tripartite relationship – resource development, building relationships and learning and teaching activities, The Teachmeet had been organised to improve the latter as they believed it to be the ‘bread and butter’ of an academic librarian’s role.

Hannah Wood told us how narrative is fundamental to learning. She has collected student examples of researching and  collated them; she then uses these in classroom situations. Students connect more to the stories as they recognize them and they also like hearing about other people’s mistakes. She asks them questions like ‘what would you do in this situation?’ or ‘have you experienced this before?’Students then tell their own stories which in turn activates prior earning and helps them to remember.

I think this is something that can definitely be used in the sessions we deliver. This expands on something that was mentioned at the CoFHE LASEC  CPD event, where it was mentioned that getting positive quotes from students helped them feel more connected. I especially like how it ties in with prior learning, something that my teaching course explained was very important in ascertaining at the beginning of the lesson; it also makes the subject much more relevant. Keeping a log of all stories is a very practical way of implementing this – I think it could also highlight gaps in students’ training needs.

Daphne Chalk-Birdsall gave us an introduction to a database called Archigram Archival Project. She explained that it makes the work of the seminal architectural group Archigram available free online for public viewing and academic study. She maintained that this site was especially important to international students as the high visual aspect of the site helped students’ understanding.
While the site isn’t relevant to our students, the importance of using visual aids is and it looked like an amazing resource for students of architecture.

Alice Cann spoke about the challenges of teaching a class with too much content. She has a two hour period available to deliver study skills sessions to students, which doesn’t include a welcome induction. Rather than giving tips, Alice wanted to know the answers to this. She wondered whether it is best to give the basics, i.e. the most important pieces of information or to give a little bit of everything.
This is a continual problem. I think that Alice is lucky to have a two hour slot as she can incorporate a lot into this, however, students may get bored in the meantime. Ideally, the sessions would be split up throughout the year in a drip-drip approach. I think the answer to this question is to give students practice of the most relevant databases to their course and ensure they understand why to use them. The trainer can then very briefly give a description of other sites and how to access them. Overall, the most important pieces of information they take away, in my opinion, are how to access resources and where to get help.
Sian Aynsley demonstrated the new NHS Librarians’ website London Links . It is a site where all NHS librarians share good practice with a trainers toolkit and have a coordinated approach to discussing issues of mutual concern and to planning and implementing strategies.
The site looked clearly laid out and professional and I can see how having such a site raises the librarians’ profiles across the sector. It has a few links to interesting articles relating to mobile technologies and students’ learning.

Deborah Lee  introduced the quick quiz. She uses this when training staff and students. It assesses factual understanding before going on to exercises or practice – these can be adapted to reflect what happens in the quiz. The questions should be closed, e.g. yes or no, right or wrong etc and she throws in a few difficult trick questions at the end. This all helps to review what students have learned but also to reinforce their learning too.
 Our LRC team has done this to a certain extent with Quizdom and I have used it myself to check that people have been listening. I think using closed questions is something to remember as this will speed up the process and stop rambling. I think that care should be taken not to pick on people though as it can be unpleasant to feel under scrutiny and the ability to parrot something back does not necessarily mean that understanding has taken place.

Stephen Johnson  spoke about improving Information Assurance in central government. He mentioned the recent cases of HMRC losing data because it was not secure, how the Transplant service had inaccurate data which caused problems and how the Victoria Climbie case showed that vital information was not available when it was needed. Stephen claimed that security, accuracy and availability were the key factors to instill in people when teaching them to be responsible for information.
A useful reminder that as librarians we have access to a lot of student data and we should take care not to let it get into the wrong hands.

Angela Young and Zoe Thomas focused on self-reflection for trainers of information literacy. They gave out a checklist of things to do during a workshop, e.g. assess prior knowledge, gave contact details and so on. This served both as an aide-memoire and as a place for self-reflection as it included questions such as ‘how were the participants?’, ‘how did you feel?’ etc. It also gave them a place to record any tips for progress. They said that having an induction mentor was really useful and that by collating the self-reflection sheets they could assess what progress had been made.

The LRC does this to some extent already by using a feedback spreadsheet. What this has emphasised is the need for us to do something with the information that we already have, for example, the students’ comments, before we put together a programme for next year. I do not think we need an individual induction mentor, however, it would be good practice to share what works well and what doesn’t in each of our inductions, perhaps we should include a little column for each on the spreadsheet.

Paula Funnell and Roddy Lander spoke about Information skills drop-in sessions they had recently implemented as a response to a low uptake of their organised group sessions The previously delivered sessions weren’t compulsory and required students to sing up – either not enough people would sign up or they would forget they had done so. They sent a questionnaire to students asking them how they would prefer for the information to be delivered and the response was mainly at drop-in sessions. They now deliver the sessions at the same place and at the same time every week where they often get a variety of numbers and questions turn up. Other suggestions from students were to have practice exercises to take away, online tutorials and/or a simultaneous online presence, for example, the librarian could be in a chatroom with students asking questions.
Even though this is what the students say works I think there also needs to be complementary alternatives. Many students don’t think they need help, are too shy to ask for it or are part-time so find the set times difficult. I think information skills need to be delivered in a variety of ways, by all means have the drop in sessions but don’t limit it to that – have simple online tutorials too to complement them. I like the idea of a chatroom but it could make it difficult to answer more complex enquiries.
Rowena Macrae-Gibson demonstrated a new website called Upgrade at City University The site is a one-stop shop for all information, including careers and welfare, however, it is completely led by the library and contains referencing and information skills information. It used to be on Blackboard but after experiencing problems with it the content was transferred to a website – this also means that anybody can access it, including potential students.
 We seem to be going in the opposite direction – from a website to the VLE – Moodle. I like that this site integrates all the main services the students need and simplifies everything for them The site is clear and easy to use,  it ensures that things like information skills are given the same level of importance as everything else on the site and it gives students a cohesive approach to their institution.

Ruth Harrison’s inductions consist a 20 minute basic introduction followed by a 15 minute treasure hunt in which they answer questions set by the library. Whoever gets most right answers and the quickest time will win a box of chocolates and all those who took part receive one chocolate. The students like finding out about the library by themselves and feel a sense of ownership.

I think it could be difficult to financially justify this even though it may help students to remember where things are. However, I have seen our students doing this set by their teacher – it would perhaps be a good idea to send a questionnaire to staff who do this so we can highlight the most important parts. In Ruth’s induction, staff weren’t allowed to give answers – we may have to review our signage and leaflets if we did this.

Edith Speller  maintained that doing exercises in class was very important for students to retain information. It also made it easier to gauge the level of students.
This is important for us and something we usually do. The Quizdom exercises may have given the students less chance to practice with their resources but they did make them more fun and acted as a memory recall device.

Hannah Bennett devised a quiz called ‘What kind of LRC user are you?’ This was based on games she had seen people playing on facebook, such as ‘what kind of friend are you’ or ‘what sort of cheese are you?’ The results would range from library superstars to newbies. She used a site called which also produced statistics of the number of students and their results. She said that students became quite competitive and they enjoyed it.
As we already have Quizdom, we most likely don’t need to use the site, especially as it formulates statistics too. The quiz idea sounds interesting and wouldn’t take too much time up- it could be used at the beginning of inductions. It could also be used in the online tutorial pages to encourage students to use the resources if they don’t get a superstar rating.

Action Points for Kingston College LRC:
·         Collect examples of student’s comments and experiences of searching prior to getting help as well as inspirational quotes when something has gone well.
·         Consider what the most important information is that students leave with in all inductions.
·         Review each year of all inductions, how they went, comments etc. Possibly keep a log of how inductions go – maybe just for new staff to help them improve and they can discuss this with their mentor.
·         Online induction presence, including mini quizzes to assess learning and needs
·         Find out which teachers do treasure hunts and be involved.

Well, I think I have enough covered! Any questions or comments on any of my observations or reflections do feel free to comment!

P.S. It was lovely to see all the people I know and some that I don't, plus those who I follow on Twitter!


  1. thanks for this insight into the goings on at ldnlibtm - some really great ideas and topics covered, and very useful for non-attendees like me.

  2. Thanks for the write up about my quiz :) We have quizdom but I haven't got into using it in inductions yet. How do you use it in yours? As the online quiz has a url you we also put it on the VLE but I am not sure how much take up it has had.
    Hannah (Library Gossip Girl)

  3. SarahWolfenden16 July 2011 at 15:11

    Hi Hannah,
    We use Quizdom when we don't have a computer room to allow students to practise using their eResources. We give a small talk and then use the Quizdom to test their knowledge - they tend to like it and get into it as thier competitive streak kicks in!