Times have changed beyond recognition for college librarians: we are no longer thought of as softly-spoken, book stamping people with a bun and a cardigan, and our job titles have changed too: research/information specialists, learning resources tutors, e-librarians and more. We can confidently say that we know a lot about Web 2.0 and new technologies and how good it is to embed them into teaching and learning… All very well but when it comes to embedding them into the library instruction, (instructional programs designed to teach library users how to locate the information they need quickly and effectively), is it actually worth it?
I work at Somerset College as research & library services manager and many of my colleagues may ask – ‘Is it worth creating various interactive tutorials or embedding other media with the use of digital tools for the sake of a one hour session?’
Let’s be honest here, learners rarely master research or referencing skills in a one hour library instruction session. The sheer amount of information all around them in different types and formats may even leave them more overwhelmed. Alongside this, the numerous methods of referencing information sources can turn learners to the web, (sites like Neil’s Toolbox, for example), and without the proper understanding of how citation works in real terms or what it consists of this is not always a good thing.
This has been helped at some colleges by the induction of an integrated study skills module into the curriculum; this means that librarians are delivering library instruction sessions throughout the academic year. Although, this is not the case everywhere and library staff are often heard saying that getting numerous library instruction sessions booked in for learners would ‘eat away’ at precious tutorial time with their lecturers.
I believe that there are two areas where we can teach learners how to use library materials and reference usage correctly:
- Create effective communication to enhance participation
- Support a learner-centred/interactive approach to activities enhanced by the use of technologies.
Here are some thoughts on how we can help make this happen:
- Communication is fundamental and it does create transformation, awareness about libraries and their services gets cascaded to learners via academic staff almost instantaneously. In my experience most colleges have staff development departments or units, as they are sometimes called, that can help with organising training sessions for academics. How about thinking of a cunning title that will encourage curiosity and ultimately better attendance (we called one of ours ‘Library at Your Fingertips’)
- Another idea…… librarians ‘roving’ around with tablets (iPad, Samsung Galaxy or their equivalents) and mingling amongst learners and staff demonstrating library resources in less traditional learning environments (see University of Huddersfield’s Project 2012: The Roving Librarian)
- As for teaching materials, rather than venturing into the vastness of cyberspace in search of ready-made tutorials, it can be rather satisfying to create your own that can turn a traditional library instruction into an interactive learning experience. Such tutorials, if uploaded onto a virtual learning environment (VLE), can be particularly helpful in reaching a large number of learners 24/7. What’s more – they are also tailored to individual learning needs and their study levels. Creating an envisioned tutorial through the use of freely available Web 2.0 digital technologies can be a huge accomplishment for librarians and learners alike. Read our full case study for more information
- At Somerset College our latest development with harnessing technologies involves the use of e-clickers. A vital feature of the TV games’ shows such as Who Wants to be a Millionaire and Jeopardy! are now mimicked during the referencing and research teaching sessions. The use of e-clickers helps to engage learners during their library instruction and results in an increased participation and competitiveness with their peers. Instant feedback provided on screen helps librarians assess learners’ understanding of the subject matter during the session.
- Involving learners in creating tutorials could improve their digital literacy development and employability skills. In doing this you could also be enhancing your own technical skills.
College libraries are always on the lookout for new emerging technologies to see how they can be utilised in improving library instruction and the learning experience. JISC RSC South West has been pivotal in helping us with researching and implementing new technologies as well as showcasing best practice in their use across the academic region. The JISC RSC South West has been key in providing that all-round continuity!