It certainly has been a long time since I have blogged. For shame- especially when so much has been happening in my own private library world. I’ll start by saying March was insanely busy for me- and I loved every minute of it. Today I’ll go over my visit to London Metropolitan University. I asked to visit this university after finding their Information Literacy Strategy available online. I think it’s safe to say that a good majority of the students enrolled at London Met have never read a sentence of this document, but for someone navigating their way through ILS and implementation, this was a great find for me. The language was not only readable, but also applicable and useful. After pouring over the documents included in the strategy, I knew I had to contact the person/people responsible for its creation- enter Anne Foley. Although Anne did not produce this document alone, she played a huge role in its formulation AND she was the subject liaison librarian for a number of areas I cover within my role at UCS. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to pick someone’s IL brain, as well as collect more mental data about what other professionals in my role do at their own universities.
The following is my official report from my visit:
The London Metropolitan Library currently employs 14 subject librarians for their estimated 23,500 FTE students. That is a ratio of approximately 1,680 students per librarian.
London Met currently has four libraries, but will soon be reduced to three. The library I visited was on Holloway Road, which is at the main London Metropolitan campus.
The purpose of my visit was to observe the subject librarian, Anne Foley, who is responsible for Public Health, Sociology, Social Policy, Social Work, etc. and to discuss how London Met has implemented their information literacy strategy into embedding it into the curriculum. Anne was one of the key developers of the information literacy strategy, and worked with the university’s part-time information literacy technologist in order to create the structure to be embedded into courses. I particularly wanted to discuss this endeavour with Anne, as I would like to use their model of delivery for implementation at UCS.
Upon arrival, I was given a proper tour of the library, which is referred to as the Learning Centre. This space houses both the library and Career Services. Their learning development team also resides in the building, with a dedicated space for instruction and drop in sessions. There is an obvious priority to offering computer access to students at this location, as the entire first floor houses rows of computers. There is a seminar room for student use; however librarians have priority in order to conduct teaching sessions. On the mezzanine level, there are four study sections, much like the pods at the UCS Library, however, they are not enclosed and are not available for booking. The book stock is accessible by lift or stairway into an older part of the building.
Because London Met uses RFID (by 3M, I believe), the traditional area usually referred to as the Issue desk or circulation desk, is a help desk. On certain days of the week, Anne uses this area for her drop-ins. After discussing the matter with her Library Services Manager, an agreement was reached whereby Anne would use the end of the Help Desk area for her students. Because this service is new, Anne was unable to comment with regard to how effective it has been with any certainty.
The enclosed room for sessions had about 15 computers, a table, and projector. On this day, there was bold signage which informed students that the room would be in use during the planned session, and that only students involved with the session were allowed to work in the room at that time. This is in contrast to my general practice at UCS, as I do not mind students using our seminar room, as long as there is space.
The session prepared for the day of my visit related to plagiarism and referencing. Tutors in Public Health asked Anne specifically to cover this information for students, as there were a number of plagiarism concerns after the first assessments were completed and marked. An invitation was made to the students via the VLE by Anne, and names were recorded before the session. This session was offered during students independent study time, therefore, it was voluntary. Eight students took advantage of this offer, all international.
Before the session began, Anne invited me to her office where she discussed how she records sessions for each module, including her presentations, which are often emailed to the students after sessions.
Currently, Anne, the information technician, and the Psychology subject librarian, Dr. Charlie Inskip, are working collectively to develop a Library Skills module to sit on the side of all courses on the VLE. This open access module will contain numerous resources related to information literacy. The intention for this module is to allow for more autonomous learning in students. When a student has a question about something related to information literacy, or library skills, they will be referred to this section, instead of being provided the direct answer in the first instance. Instead, students will be expected to access this module for answers. The librarians are working together to ensure the information provided within the module is applicable to students, regardless of the course they are enrolled in. Speaking to Anne about how this module was formulated and its validity was useful for my current project work. We then proceeded to the session room.
In order to prepare for the session, Anne readied her PowerPoint and made sure there were enough chairs pulled to the table for the students. As students arrived, Anne asked them to log in to a computer and then sit at the table. She also asked them to wear name tapes, stating that she prefers to be able to call people by their first name.
Once all of the students arrived, she had a short chat about why they were there and what she planned to talk about. Anne then proceeded through her presentation, which addressed the issues of plagiarism with regard to referencing, as many of the mistakes were made accidentally. Anne proved examples and asked the students to discuss whether or not they thought plagiarism occurred. This seemed particularly useful. It engaged students and invited them to participate in the session. In fact, the majority of the session was set up in a round table-type discussion. It was only at the end of the session that the students were asked to use the computers. The students were asked to use an example of a legitimate web resource, provided by Anne, and create a reference for it. This exercise proved necessary and helpful, as most of the students struggled with the process. The session lasted an hour and a half.
After sitting in on Anne’s session, I was invited to speak to the Psychology subject librarian, Dr. Charlie Inskip and the Early Childhood studies librarian, Denise Adams. I spoke to each librarian for an hour at a time.
The subject of conversation with Dr. Inskip related to information literacy and what Dr. Inskip does in his role to keep the academics engaged with his services as a librarian. I was informed that Dr. Inskip visits the open work area of the academics once a week, inviting feedback or issues. Dr. Inskip surmises that if the academic staff see him, they are likely to speak to him regarding library issues or services. Dr. Inskip also shared his subject guide pages with me, which are comprehensive and well organized.
Finally, I spoke to Denise Adams, who is the liaison for Youth Studies, Early Childhood Studies, Sociology, etc. We discussed good practice for assessment with regard to information literacy material being embedded into the curriculum at London Metropolitan. Denise informed me that she was currently undertaking courses for Higher Education Practice in order to build her skills as a teacher. This was encouraging to me, as I have also started my work on the PgCHEP module. Denise and I discussed methods for assessment with the students, especially noting that the assessment is not part of student marks, and therefore somewhat difficult to measure. Both Denise and I highly recommend an assessment model with a reflective approach for students. Denise uses the one-minute model, paired with the “Muddiest Point” method. These methods are similar to the strategy I have been using, the Plus/Delta model. Both of these approaches ask the student to relate back “something” they’ve learned, as well as “something” they are still not clear about. This approach not only helps librarians reflect on their own practice and session content, but it also encourages the student to assess their knowledge, with the hope they will consider areas they need to improve on during their academic career.
By and large, the visit was a success. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other librarians, see other libraries functioning, and discuss good practice measures, in both information literacy, but also professional development.
Now that we’ve gotten past all formalities, I should say that visiting London Met turned out to be very productive for me, as I was able to observe another professional in the “arena” teaching students. I found myself typing away notes on my ipad whilst trying not to miss anything in the presentation. It was such a positive experience and it made me think about the way I have been presenting to students. As it is said, practice makes perfect. This is, not surprisingly, also true for librarians presenting workshops for students. During my first few sessions, I knew I would feel nervous and would be wanting to impress the students with my professionalism and knowledge- but I was also sticking to a script I had played in my head. I don’t know if it matters that I was fully aware of this whilst doing it, but I would venture to guess that it at least demonstrates my ability to reflect on “performance.”
Since visiting London Met, I’ve tried to employ more informal methods by which I conduct a session. That being said, I don’t try to joke around with the students or be a friend to them rather than a professional doing her job- I am just more aware and prepared to deal with going off script and am not as concerned about what the students “think” of me while presenting. Instead of worrying that the students will think that I am not competent, I have been telling myself to think more about them and what questions they may have, but are too afraid to ask.
I think reflection is valuable, especially to someone like me who does not have a teaching background and is, essentially, teaching for the first time, however, I also believe there is something to be said about thinking too much about what YOU are doing. Just because I am highly critical of myself and my performance does not mean that students think the same way. They are more likely to care about understanding the words I am saying and the concepts I am attempting to explain rather than my silly American accent or sugar crumbs on my sweater from my lunchtime bag of sweets. It is important to be aware of how I am presenting myself as a professional to the students, however, it is of no use if they cannot find any means by which to relate to me.
Will post more about my own March Madness soon!