ALA Poster Session – Assessment into Action: Meeting the Needs of Adult Learners

Here is the online version of my poster session for the ALA Annual Conference in Anaheim. My topic is academic libraries and adult learners:

Assessment into Action: Meeting the Needs of Adult Learners
What do you do with students you rarely see in the library? University of Wisconsin-Green Bay has a growing adult learner population, most of which take classes solely online. Reaching these students can be challenging. Librarians conducted an assessment of adult students to investigate their needs. This poster session will focus on the assessment results and the outreach plan put into place. It will highlight several initiatives, including librarian-faculty collaboration with introductory courses, the embedded librarian program, and the targeting of library services to adult students. It will also address using data to argue for increased budgetary support and collaboration with offices outside the library. Based on preliminary feedback from students and faculty, an increase in reference questions, as well as high usage statistics from librarian-created tutorials and discussion boards, the outreach plan is working. The poster session will include charts of the assessment data, handouts of the assessment tool, teaching and marketing materials (LibGuide, tutorials, newsletters), and photographs of embedded librarian best practices.

Materials:
Embedded Librarian Tips (PDF)
Library Survey for Adult Degree Students (PDF)
Library Survey for Adult Degree Faculty (PDF)
Adult Degree Library Guide for Students (Libguide)
Adult Degree Library Guide for Faculty & Staff (Libguide)
Adult Degree Library Welcome Video (YouTube)

Poster:

Introduction

Introduction

Assessment, Outreach Plan

Assessment, Outreach Plan

Embedded Librarian Program

Embedded Librarian Program

Promoting Services, Advocating for Support

Promoting Services, Advocating for Support

Creating Current Events Guides

It’s been too long since my last blog post. Too many projects!

Well, I thought I’d blog about one of those projects: I’ve worked on creating research guides at my library that focus on current events. So far, I’ve done guides on the Occupy Movement, the 10th Anniversary of 9/11, and the killing of Osama bin Laden. It’s a good way to:

  • direct patrons to trustworthy information (e.g., the Wikipedia page for Occupy Wall Street is tagged for a “neutrality” check)
  • promote the library’s digital resources
  • spotlight books in the collection, and
  • demonstrate that the library is at the forefront of the ever-changing information environment

We use the popular LibGuides program at my institution. It’s easy to create individual guides and you have some flexibility for organizing your content. Of course, you could always create a simple webpage, too.

In my current events guides, I generally try to provide the following information:

  • Brief intro to the topic
  • Latest headlines (RSS feed via Google News or Yahoo News)
  • News & Media sources
  • Embedded Video (e.g., PBS Video–particularly Frontline and News Hour clips, C-SPAN Video Library, and CBS News allows embedding of its individual news clips)
  • Background Info (e.g., CQ Researcher database articles)
  • Catalog search & a few selected book titles on the topic
  • List of relevant databases to search for articles on the topic
  • Suggested keywords/search terms
  • Primary sources

Once you have the guide published, make sure and provide a direct link from your library homepage, and promote it on the library’s blog, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. If particularly pertinent, send out an email or contact individual faculty members/teachers.

There are lots of great examples of libraries that have put together current events guides. Here are a few select ones:

Know of a good current events guide? Share it here!

Quick Tips for Presenting & Teaching

I recently got some new office furniture. Well, newer. Goodbye 1970s desk and hello 1990s desk! In transferring my belongings from the old furniture to the new furniture, I started to go through some files. As I have progressed in my library career, I have become less concerned with saving every little piece of paper (plus the TV show Hoarders scares me!)–and of course, the online environment helps keep me less cluttered.

What I came across in my files was a list of tips and advice for presenting or teaching instruction sessions. I’m glad I saved it! Dated 2002, it was from my favorite library school class I had at Indiana University – “Education of Information Users” (How to Teach) — with instructor/librarian Emily Okada.

The tips and advice were gleaned from observing instruction sessions and also included classmates’ own peer feedback from our mock teaching presentations we did in class. At first, I though the advice might be dated, but presenting/teaching has not changed for the most part. The tips are applicable to information literacy sessions, or any presentation/conference session. Hope I’m not breaking any rules by posting it–no names are included.

If you are just starting to present/teach, or need a brief refresher, this is a great starting point. Here is the handout:

Quick Tips for Presenting & Teaching (PDF)

If It Looks Boring, It’s Probably Scholarly

For first-year college students–and many beyond the first year as well–the concept of using a scholarly journal is new. At the reference desk, I often get questions as to whether something is “scholarly” or not. It doesn’t help that professors use interchangeable terms for the same thing: scholarly, peer-reviewed, refereed, academic. No wonder students are confused!

In the “olden” days of library research, it was pretty simple. Students would come into the library and grab a journal, magazine, or newspaper off of the shelf. They could hold the periodical in hand, flip through it, and get a good idea of its contents. Now with online databases, this is not always possible–and if it is, it’s not intuitive. You are often staring at one article on your computer screen. As libraries continue to cancel print subscriptions, online access will not only be the primary way students access content (as has been the case for the last decade), but the only way.

Teaching Strategy
When I teach information literacy sessions, I often go through the different types of periodicals (scholarly, trade, magazines, newspapers). This is especially true if the professor has limits on what students can or cannot use. In some classes, no magazine or newspaper articles are allowed.

This week I did an information literacy session where scholarly journals, specialized magazines and trade publications were OK to use, but the professor did not want students using general interest magazines (Newsweek, Time, etc…). The students’ assignment was to take the issue of teen pregnancy, examine the causes, and develop a list of solutions.

To help students understand the different types of articles, I passed out this handout:

Is it a Magazine or a Journal?

Then, since the students were all studying the same topic (teenage pregnancy), I gathered five different articles from the databases and passed them out to students. I put the students into groups and asked them to do two things:

  1. Figure out which category each article belonged to: scholarly, trade, magazines, newspapers
  2. Rate the articles (on scale of 1 to 5) in terms of how useful it would be for the assignment

The five articles I choose, included:

  1. Scholarly journal article on sexual and reproductive rights of pregnant Ecuadorian teenage girls (Demonstrates narrowed focus of scholarly articles. Not useful for students’ assignment since it focuses on Ecuador).
  2. Scholarly journal article that evaluates an “abstinence-plus” sex education curriculum (Useful because it discusses one possible solution for teen pregnancy).
  3. Trade publication for social workers that provided statistics on teen pregnancy in the U.S. and tips for working with pregnant teens (Useful because it provides good statistics and background information).
  4. Magazine article published in The American Conservative about MTV’s 16 and Pregnant program (Specialized magazines were OK to use, but this one had political bias that should be avoided).
  5. Newspaper article from The Washington Post about a government sex ed program (Good basic info on a government program, but students not allowed to use newspaper articles).

Also, a little humor can go a long way in getting your points across to students (e.g.):

  1. “If it looks boring, it’s probably a scholarly journal.” Students laugh, and then you can emphasize that although they “look” boring, they often have the best information.
  2. “Attractive people–and politicians–appear on the cover of magazines. Ugly people appear on the covers of trade publications.” (As I hold up a copy of Library Journal–ouch!). But it emphasizes that trade publications are geared towards people in a specific job or industry.

I give students a few minutes to examine the articles and then we have a discussion on the different types of articles and I ask them which ones they think would be most useful for their assignment. I’ve done this activity in many sessions and it usually goes over well. I think it’s important that students know how to identify the types of sources they need before they actually start searching. From there, we delve into the library databases and I get fewer questions like, “What kind of article is this?” A win-win for students and the librarian.

Library Instruction: No More Lecturing, No More ‘Death by PowerPoint’

How do you ‘connect’ in the classroom? I can remember some of my first library instruction sessions I taught back when I was a newbie librarian. Those sessions were, in a word, boring. It involved “Death by PowerPoint” screen shots of canned searches from the library catalog and databases. The students didn’t even have computers to follow along. They didn’t want to be there, and neither did I.

However, I gradually improved and then became quite comfortable with library instruction. Gone were the PowerPoints of canned searches (hey, it’s actually fun when the librarian fails during live database searches!). I liked asking students for their research topics and using those as search examples. It’s stump-the-librarian time! A new computer lab allowed for more interaction and hands-on training. I also began to diverge from lecturing for a majority of the class time. Turn the students loose, walk around, and conduct mini “research” sessions as you go. I began to see information literacy as my favorite part of the job.

Now when I meet with first-year or introductory courses for library instruction, I start with an activity to help connect with the students, set the stage for what we’re going to cover, and to actually show them that they do possess some of the skills we’re going to use. If I’m remembering correctly, the activity I use was originally posted on the ILI-L discussion list. If you’re the librarian who originally posted it, let me know, so I can give you credit. A co-worker (the awesome Debbie Campbell at Millikin University) and I tweaked it for use in our classes.

Here’s the activity:

On a whiteboard, I write out: Where does information come from? (in general, not just for assignments/class projects)

Students inevitably answer things such as: books, Internet, journals, magazines, newspapers, Google, Facebook, cell phone, TV, people, etc…
We discuss that information comes from a variety of sources.

Then I ask: What do you want your information to be like?

Popular answers are usually: truthful, accurate, authoritative, easy to understand, quick to find, brief (short).
Then I emphasize using authoritative and accurate information. And although it’s nice if the information is “short,” that might not always be the case with the research process. But I point out that we’re here to help them navigate through it!

The last question I ask is: What do you want that information to do for you?

Popular answers include: give me examples, give me ideas, help support my opinion, make my writing better, get me a good grade.
I point out that these are all good examples. Then I make the case that they use the skills of finding and evaluating information everyday (You just showed me up on the board!) and that they just need to take those skills and apply it to the library’s resources.

In total, the activity takes around 5 minutes, but helps get students thinking about the information they use, or are about to use. Then I segue into a demo of the library’s resources applicable to their assignment. I also show them how to get to the LibGuide that I have designed for their class. Don’t throw the kitchen sink at them!  The demo/search examples lasts around 15-20 minutes, and the remainder of the class time is given to the students to do their own research. I supplement the individual research time with a search strategy handout (example I used at SNHU). I rove around the room while the students do their research and complete the handout.

I’d be interested in hearing from other library people on what they like to do in library instruction sessions!

Where does information come from?

Brainstorming with students