Classes for the fall semester begin in just over a week! When did the summer pass me by???? Meeting with Ellen Kintz (ANTH) yesterday has helped me to start thinking towards library instruction sessions. I’ll also meet with RM (taking over as ANTH Dept. chair) on Monday to discuss the continuation of the ANTH-Library collaboration. To prepare myself for the meeting, Ellen and I talked about what we feel are the benefits of the work that has been accomplished between us over the past 5 (!!!) years.

  • Pre-tests show that students are grossly unaware and unprepared to evaluate and use scholarly resources
  • With embedded library instruction, students dramatically increase their scholarly skills – research and information literacy must be directly related to course requirements and projects, introduced very early in the targeted semester, and practiced throughout the semester in short modules (used as a vehicle for course content and student research)
  • Practice makes perfect and students need to be graded on their library literacy and scholarly work
  • Instruction from one course crosses over into other courses and dramatically improves students’ scholarly work (transferable skills)
  • The strongest and most enthusiastic ANTH students ended up with jobs in the library (student reference assistants and CTAs), further improving their skills, as well as their friends’ through mentoring and informal training
  • Students become more skilled and quicker at their research, improving critical thinking skills – students have reported completing their research projects at an advanced level and faster
  • Students become empowered as critical thinkers about information on the web, as well as in articles and books – they become more aware of the scholars in their field and begin to identify themselves as active scholars rather than passive students
  • Faculty-librarian collaboration and brainstorming improves the process and the product
  • Collaboration between faculty, librarian, and students creates a dynamic learning community with contributions from all ( i.e. FAMSI identified by a student; the Khipu Database Project, Tuskegee Syphilis Project via NPR and PBS and HIV/AIDS in Brazil video identified by faculty and/or librarian)

I’ll need to gather up some data to bring with me to our Monday meeting. Not that RM needs any convincing of the positive results a collaboration can bring (otherwise she wouldn’t be meeting with me), but Ellen has been such a force in pushing this working relationship along, gaining steam with every new year, so the new relationship with Ellen out of the equation will need to grow on its own.

My colleague, Bonnie, just gave me a bit of good professional news (as opposed to her good personal news!).  A biology professor has apparently picked up on the good work that has been happening between teaching faculty and librarians at SUNY Geneseo and she would like to work toward a similar approach for one of her classes.  Furthermore, a chemistry professor who has been present many times when the librarians share information on the faculty-librarian collaborations is asking Bonnie for more library instruction sessions this semester.  I’ve been recently wondering if I should continue to push for the Faculty Learning Community focused on F-L collaborations, but it does seem like the more conversation, sharing and modeling that happens, the more professors are listening and suggesting partnerships.  This is fantastic news!

So, my next step in the short run . . . I have printed out a number of recent articles about faculty-librarian collaborations and I would like to report in on the data, with possible thoughts of my own.  This is a goal I have had since starting this blog, but finding the time has been a challenge.  Just trying to write something every once in a while has been a challenge.  And there’s so much to say!  I will continue to invite guest writers to share their collaborations as well.

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From Julie Grob, Digital Projects and Instruction Librarian, Special Collections, University of Houston Libraries.

Like most instruction librarians, I typically teach one-shot classes at faculty request, although my classes focus on the rare books that are held in Special Collections. In the fall of 2006, faculty member Dr. David Mazella, an eighteenth century scholar in the English Department, contacted me with a different kind of instruction request. He was interested in doing more to enhance undergraduate research skills, mirroring the goals of a new Quality Enhancement Plan for the campus called “Discovery-Based Learning: Transforming the Undergraduate Experience through Research.” Dr. Mazella was designing a pilot course that would coalesce around the ideas of inquiry-based learning, undergraduate research, primary source materials, and information literacy. The course would parallel research he was doing for a book project called 1771: A Geography of Feeling. Students would read books from the year 1771 that were related to four key cities – London, Edinburgh, Philadelphia, and Kingston, Jamaica – and then do independent research using rare books and journals to develop their own lines of inquiry related to those texts. Dr. Mazella believed that such a course would require the ongoing contributions of a librarian.

I was eager to take on the challenge of working with Dr. Mazella on the 1771 course, which he would be teaching for the first time in Spring 2008. What was particularly exciting was that I was not being asked just to suggest places where library instruction sessions might be slotted into an existing course, but to help build the information literacy component of the course from the ground up. We decided to schedule four visits to the library during the semester, one in which students would learn database searching skills and three in which they would work on assignments utilizing eighteenth century materials in Special Collections. During the planning period, I combed our existing collection to find relevant materials, and applied to my library for a Micro-Grant that allowed us to purchase $2000.00 worth of rare books and journals geared specifically to the course. I also worked with Dr. Mazella on developing Special Collections assignments, in some cases proposing the actual construction of the assignment. One suggestion I made was that we should create worksheets with questions to be answered that forced students to immediately become involved with the materials, thus reducing their anxiety over handling old and rare items.

Once the course got rolling, the advantages of the faculty/librarian semester-long collaboration model became apparent. For one thing, it offered me the opportunity to do assessment after the first Special Collections instruction session. I posted a link to a SurveyMonkey questionnaire on the courseblog, and received valuable input that I used in planning the next Special Collections visit. Dr. Mazella and I were also able to build on earlier library instruction sessions and plan a more complex assignment for the final visit. Previous Special Collections assignments had required that students examine one item in depth, and conduct research on that item using databases such as MLA, JSTOR, and Project Muse as their homework. But during the final visit, we asked students to identify a keyword in the rare book they were perusing that they could use as a stepping off point for their database searching. One student who was examining the slave autobiography The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, chose the keyword “agriculture” from the text, which led her to an exploration of how Jamaican slaves worked with sugar crops and livestock. By selecting keywords directly from eighteenth century texts, students were able to draw a direct connection between primary source materials, database research, and the development of new lines of inquiry. Both Dr. Mazella and I were pleased with the outcomes of the course, and “1771” will be offered again next spring.

I received a pretty good response to my e-mail to the Social Science Department Chairs. Unfortunately, I communicated too late in the semester and was only able to sit in on one dept. meeting – Anthropology – but others responded nontheless.

In the ANTH meeting, professors seemed interested in the idea of teaching students to find required article readings (rather than spoonfeeding them) which would help professors avoid having to manage extranneous files in MyCourses. The new Department Chair, RoseMarie Chierici, later e-mailed me with hopes of getting her fall courses set up before she left for the summer, but unfortunately timing between her schedule and my trip to LOEX and later vacation to Florida didn’t work out. We will get together when she returns from her fieldwork. Barb Welker and Paul Pacheco, other professors at the meeting, also seemed interested and I know that Barb and I will be working together in the fall. I have worked extensively with Kristi Krumrine, and will be working even more closely with her during the summer camp, and I know she’ll be on board with this new method of getting required readings into the hands of her students. The demonstration of SCOPUS also peeked professors’ interest even if their own personal research focuses may not be met (i.e., lots more journal articles than books in SCOPUS). Barb left the meeting wanting to jump into SCOPUS and see what was available on her research topics. Furthermore, Ellen and I discussed an activity that would help familiarize her students this semester ( Spring 2008 ) with SCOPUS. The worksheet to be completed by students and looked over and signed by a librarian ended up counting 50% of ANTH 282 students’ final exam grade. Since I was away on vacation when students ultimately finished the worksheet and had it verified by a Reference Librarian, I’m not sure how the process went over.

For those departments who had already met for the last time of the semester before my e-mail, I heard back from Sociology, Foreign Languages, and Psychology. Each Dept. Chair said that they would pass on my e-mail to their faculty and hopefully as the fall semester gets closer, I can talk to interested professors one-on-one. I didn’t hear from Geography or Political Science, but will follow-up with them, as a whole or on an individual basis, as the fall semester approaches.

Okay, my e-mail to department chairs in the social sciences is out.  I am hoping to sit in on the last of their dept meetings before the semester is over to introduce Scopus and suggest teaching students (beginning in the fall) how to find course readings through the Library’s full-text databases rather than struggle with the copyright issues involved in e-reserves.  Now that E-Res is migrating to MyCourses, professors will be on their own for locating, printing/scanning and uploading articles and e-books to their course pages.  Why not teach students a lifelong skill (being able to find specific resources on their own through the Library’s databases and/or the free web) rather than just handing them the required texts?  We are in a digital age and our actions in the educational process should support this.  Once students access their first and second required readings, the further practice throughout the semester can only enhance and cement the necessary skills.  We may be seeing less questions at the Reference Desk concerning the location of particular resources available in our full-text databases.

I spent a beautiful spring day at a one-day workshop in Brockport, NY today. The focus: how libraries and librarians integrate themselves into campus culture using a LMS. Many good sessions although after spending three days at the Computers in Libraries (CIL) conference, today’s workshops just flew by. I could have actually sat through a few more presentations. But a little at a time is a good thing. I was happy that the venue was so close to home. The keynote speakers came from Penn State and I was immediately reminded of speakers from CIL, also from Penn State, and they presented on similar topics. The modules/tutorials/library course guides (however you want to call it) sound fantastic. And Penn State uses ANGEL, which is great since Geneseo is on the same system. For librarians not familiar with and/or adept at HTML, the PA librarians have figured out a way to get the necessary resources into the professors’ and students’ hands in the online environment. What sounded like the perfect system became very confusing as it was never explained, until later, that the templates Penn State uses have been customized in-house. Luckily, they are very willing to share the templates and have suggested this to ANGEL, but were rebuffed since “no one else was expressing a need for such resources.” If other librarians and IT depts were aware of these capabilities, there would be many of us clamoring to avoid reinventing the wheel. I will definitely have to contact the higher-ups to make my recommendation.

Other interesting sessions included the use and/or development of tutorials, using Captivate, Camtasia, and other software programs. This gives me the idea of creating an interactive tutorial/scavenger hunt for the DIG students this summer. Not only can I make the hunt come alive and make it interesting and fun for our middle school students, I can be teaching them basic research skills in the process – something that during the two week camp, I may not have time to do. I may need to enlist the help from a few librarians to create the tutorial that I envision. Student assistants may be out of the question at this point since they are so swamped with final projects and exams.

The last light bulb that popped up over my head today pertains to the situation of E-reserves. With the implementation of ANGEL, the library’s e-res system as we know it will fade away at the end of this semester. Currently, the LOR (learning object repository) for course reserves looks like a mess, and without library intervention, I’m not so sure that professors will be as diligent about cleaning out their reserves list at the end of each semester. I have already run into the problem of outdated material in an ANTH course I worked with this semester. The only syllabi I could find within the ANTH course, using ANGEL, were 2-3 years old. And the list of resources within the list were unweilding. So, my thought . . . I will see what dept meetings I can visit before the end of the semester and suggest to faculty that rather than hassle with adding articles and books to their course reserve list (time consuming to find the sources, create the PDFs, link them and then figure out whether the documentation falls within copyright parameters), I can check to see if the library has access to the materials and, if so, recommend a brief session and/or online tutorial (probably the better idea, which should be an attractive choice to busy professors worried about time constraints for delivering their course content) demonstrating to students how to access these chosen resources. Once they have the skill, it will be practiced many times over throughout the semester, cementing this process into their minds. With any luck, students in these courses will no longer come to the reference desk asking questions about how to know if the library owns such and such journal/article/book. Because course readings will be part of a student’s final grade for the semester, it will be to their benefit to perfect the skill of knowing how to access particular, pre-designated materials. Without accessing the required source, they cannot do the reading, which in turn prevents them from coming to class prepared to discuss their homework reading assignment. This may later affect their performance on course exams. I have already been utilizing such a strategy in Ellen’s courses (ANTH) and I haven’t heard of any problems from the students. As the saying goes, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

The additional benefits of meeting with academic departments before the semester is up is to remind the professors of new and existing resources in the library that they may want to consider and experiment with over the summer. Scopus seemed to be hugely popular with the science faculty, but they were the only ones to attend the demonstration earlier this week. Scopus is a great tool for the Social Sciences as well. The alterior motive, of course, is to remind the departments with whom I work that I am at their service, during the summer and certainly in the fall semester.

I just attended a database demonstration for one of our newest purchases. Lots of science faculty there, which was wonderful to see. Apparently, our teaching faculty can be lured in with free food. 🙂 I was able to talk summer camp stuff with our Chemistry partner. Eric has fantastic ideas when it comes to teaching the middle school students in the sciences. They loved him last year and were even asking for him this past weekend. He and our resident Archaeologist will make a tremendous teaching team. It’s interesting to work with professors beyond the typical one-shot library sessions. I think in a more collaborative and teaching-intensive environment, professors can truly see what librarians are capable of in the classroom. Research skills become merely the means for students to learn the content. Once students are empowered with research abilities, their world of knowledge opens up. I have definitely seen this in cooperative classes with Dr. Kintz, Anthropology. But it’s essential that librarians and faculty teach together beyond that one-shot session.

The database demo becomes a perfect opportunity to connect with faculty who we typically don’t work with. It’s important to see where their needs and interests lie. It’s essential to get a conversation started, whether it’s over a shameless “carrot” of free food and technology or before/after a campus-centered meeting. Librarians must become increasingly involved in campus activities so that they can get their face out there and become a recognizable member of the college community. Even to this day, I find it difficult to leave the library when there is so much work to be done at my desk. But without “outside” visits, friendly lunches, cooperative volunteer/service work, no one on campus will be aware of all that the library has to offer. Professors and students know to a certain extent, but they are always amazed when you can keep wowing them with new discoveries. I heard that very level of excitement from Eric who was just discovering the power of Scopus.