Back into the habit

May 28th, 2013 § Comments Off § permalink

Profhacker has some ideas on how to restart your research habit this summer:

One of the best ways to get back to a research project that’s been cooling off for a while is to work a little bit on it most days. Doing some bibliography searches, free-writing in an idea notebook, or reviewing your last set of research notes even for just 20 minutes each day can help restart your creative and critical processes.

I’ve been out of research mode for almost a year now. It’s time to get back in the swing of things with fresh projects and critical explorations.

Using social networks for research: an ebrary study

February 27th, 2012 § Comments Off § permalink

ebrary recently published the 2011 results of their second Global Student E-book Survey, which includes a special addendum on student use of social media in academic research. Of those who responded, 41.3% said they use social media for research or study purposes. When asked why not, students gave a variety of answers, including: social media is for fun; the information is unreliable; not applicable to non-group research; a distraction. Other interesting results:

    • Over 69% said they were “likely” or “very likely” to use social media it to connect with other students with similar academic interests.
    • More than half (57.1%) said they were ”likely” or “very likely” to pose research questions to peers, but fewer than half (33.1%) were ”likely” or “very likely” to pose research questions to librarians.
    • When asked about the use of social media sites for specific purposes (question 26), Facebook was used for most activities, except “pos[ing] a research question to your librarian.”

Question 28 is particularly illuminating (“What research capabilities would you like to see in a social media site?”) and provides some direction for IHEs developing or enhancing their course management systems. Based on my reading of the data (and in conjunction with results from question 25), here are four recommendations:

    1. Develop systems that allow students to create groups based on academic (or pseudo-academic) interests. (This can also be an opportunity for librarians to connect with students).
    2. Develop systems that allow students to pull data to/from other social networks but that keep those networks separate (e.g. share an article from CMS to Twitter or vice versa with showing my Twitter handle or CMS ID).
    3. Develop systems with a variety of collaboration tools, esp. file sharing and documents editing.
    4. Links to features in other electronic resources: e.g. TOC notifications, impact factors of articles, saved searches, bookmarks.

I’m not opposed to course management systems and, in fact, find them to be quite useful for organizing coursework and connecting users in a class. Given that the majority of research happens in digital spaces, it makes sense for IHEs to create platforms that allow seamless transitions between research and collaboration. ebrary’s survey seems to indicate that popular social networks fall short of providing users with collaborative research space. We have an opportunity, here, people.

Current research: July 2011

July 13th, 2011 § Comments Off § permalink

One way I stay up-to-date with the general discourse  of academic librarianship (and, specifically, information literacy) is by regularly reviewing scholarly publications. While blogs, Twitter, and other online networks let me know what librarians are thinking at this very moment and offer a more organic approach to peer learning, refereed publications clue me in to issues that are significant enough that someone was willing to spend months, possibly years, or their professional life investigating them.

Unfortunately, my life is an out-of-control batting machine right now, I’m the poor schmuck locked in the cage. The four articles below have been sitting on my desk for few weeks now. Hopefully, I’ll have the chance to read them more closely, but in the meantime, I wanted to call your attention to them.

Carlson, J., Fosmire, M., Miller, C.C., & Nelson, M.S. (2011). Determining data information literacy needs: A study of students and research faculty. Portal: Librarias and the Academy, 11(2), 629-657.

From Abstract: “This paper articulates the need for a data information literacy program (DIL) to prepare students to engage in such an “e-research” environment. Assessments of faculty interviews and student performance in a geoinformatics course provide complementary sources of information, which are then filtered through the perspective of ACRL’s information literacy competency standards to produce a draft set of outcomes for a data information literacy program.”

Daugherty, A.L. & Russo, M.F. (2011). An assessment of the lasting effects of a stand-alone information literacy course: The students’ perspective. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 319-326.

From Abstract: “The authors wished to measure the degree to which a library information literacy course establishes a foundation for life-long learning.”

Mestre, L.S., Baures L., Niedbala, M., Bishop, C., Cantrell, S., Perez, A., & Silfen, K. (2011). Learning objects as tools for teaching information literacy online: A survey of librarian usage. College & Research Libraries, 72(3), 236-252.

From Abstract: “Based on information gathered from two discussion sessions moderated by members of the Education and Behavioral Sciences Section’s Online Learning Research Committee a survey was conducted to identify how librarians use course/learning management systems and learning objects to deliver instruction. [...] A description of a ‘Toolkit for Online Learning’ created by the Online Learning Research Committee is provided.”

Snavely, L. & Dewald, N. (2011). Developing and implementing peer review of academic librarians’ teaching: An overview and case report. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 37(4), 343-351.

From Introduction: “This article is intended to explore peer evaluation of teaching in higher education in general and of library instruction in particular, then propose a methodology for the development of a set of practices of peer review of course-related library instruction for an individual institution [...].”

Enjoy!

Personal information management in academia

December 9th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

I’ve been thinking about Personal Information Management (PIM) for the last few weeks as I’ve been wrapping up my semester course work. For my class on Human Information Interactions, I developed a short annotated bibliography for research on how faculty and researchers organize information. I initially had some trouble locating articles that dealt specifically with PIM in academia: most research examines information workers outside of the university. However, there were a handful of useful studies and I thought I would share those in case anyone else needed a good starting point.

Introduction

While scholarly communication has received significant attention from researchers in the field of human information behavior, less attention has been given to how scholars actually organize their files in the pre- and post- publication stages of research. As the world of academic research becomes increasingly digital, networked, and transparent, information scientists should turn their attention to the underlying structures, methodologies, habits, and perceptions of personal archiving in a university environment. Not only is it easier in a digital environment to track the scholarly communication process, but by focusing on these activities, we will see how digital networks are changing the ways scholars create, store, and disseminate information at all stages of research, from planning to publication and beyond.

The field of Personal Information Management (PIM) provides a theoretical and practical framework for discussing the technical details of the research process. Unfortunately, even though there are numerous PIM studies on engineers, travel agencies, financial firms, legal firms, etc., researchers have rarely turned a critical eye upon their own practices. Perhaps, as many of the works below suggest, this is due to the realization that PIM is uniquely tailored by each individual: no one system works for everyone. Those studies that do exist are fairly limited in scope, usually focusing on a single tool (e.g. email, bookmarks) or a single user group (e.g. computer scientists, graduate students). Few studies broadly discuss PIM in a university environment.

The following works were chosen because, in part or in whole, they deal with PIM in a university environment by faculty and researchers. Together, they provide a rough outline of the major concerns for PIM in academia: How much information should be saved? How will it be organized? Who should be responsible for its organization and preservation? What motivations drive information storage? What barriers exist and what are the implications for scholarly communication? For more information on PIM in general, I recommend the works of William Jones and Jamie Teevan, especially their Personal Information Management (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2007) and Peter Williams, Jeremy John, and Ian Rowland’s 2009 article “The personal curation of digital objects: A lifecycle approach” (Aslib Proceedings, 61(4), 340-363).

Bibliography

Boardman, R. & Sasse, M.A. (2004). “Stuff goes into the computer and doesn’t come out”: A cross-tool study of personal information management. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 583-590). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.

Boardman and Sasse are constantly referred to in the literature that exists on how faculty and researchers organize personal information. Their research provides data and a methodology for creating an empirical foundation for PIM. In the study, information about how users in an academic setting organize information was collected across multiple tools (email, files, and bookmarks) and over time. All the participants except for one were from the university community and the majority of the participants were researchers. Using interviews, observations of the work environment, and long-term observations of file management, the authors examined the structures, maintenance, and retrieval preferences of the participants.

This research provides useful information for understanding how some individuals organize information and how they feel about their personal organizational methods. For example, the authors discovered that when users had similar hierarchies of file folders and hierarchies of email folders (termed “overlap”), users did so according to their roles (e.g. teacher) or projects (e.g. research proposal). Additionally, the users that filed items more frequently (daily) and had established organizational systems exhibited a sense of pride at their ability to organize their files over the years, even while simultaneously recognizing flaws in their system. This confirms what other studies have suggested: that the best PIM system is a highly personalized one.

Most importantly, the authors conclude that the categories used to describe information organizers in previous studies, such as Whittaker and Sidner’s “pilers” and “filers” (Whittaker, S. & Sidner, C. (1996). Email overload: Exploring personal information management of email. Proceedings CHI 1996, 276-283.), were not granular enough to describe all users. The participants in this study used multiple PIM strategies across multiple tools and did not easily fir in the previously established categories. This study provides a broader framework, based on previous research but adapted to describe the results of this experiment, for discussing the various PIM strategies.

Foster, N.F. & Gibbons, S. (2005). Understanding faculty to improve content recruitment for institutional repositories. D-Lib Magazine 11(1). Retrieved November 22, 2010, from http://www.dlib.org/dlib/january05/foster/01foster.html

In this year-long study funded by a 2003 Institute of Museum and Library Services grant, Nancy Foster and Susan Gibbons of the University of Rochester River Campus Libraries system sought to understand how faculty manage information. The purpose of their research was to find innovative ways to market and adapt IR systems to meet faculty needs, ultimately increasing participation. The article’s goal is not to explore PIM, but its findings provide insight into how faculty manage personal information and the information needs of individuals in a research environment.

The authors asked faculty members what they expected from an IR system. The majority of faculty indicated that they wanted tools for authoring, archiving, disseminating, locating, and reading research. They also expressed a desire for tools to control versioning, access information anywhere, and control access by other users. Faculty want their research to be archived with similar materials (related by subject), which suggests how they conceptualize the context of their personal information in a networked environment. In many cases, faculty had already created systems and methods that met these needs without specialized software: e.g. emailing files to oneself or to family members as a versioning control system. The broad array of responses indicates the wide range of information needs.

The observations and documentation of the faculty at work were based on anthropological participant observation. The data was gathered and analyzed by a diverse team that included reference librarians, computer scientists, an anthropologist, a programmer, a cataloger, and a graphic designer: an aspect that makes the research particularly insightful. The latter half of the article is primarily concerned with how to use this information to market buy-in for IR systems. For the purposes of this bibliography, it illustrates one practical benefit of understanding how faculty organize information.

Gandel, P.B., Katz, R.N., Metros, S.E. (2004). The “weariness of the flesh”: Reflections on the life of the mind in an era of abundance. EDUCAUSE Review, 39(2), 40-5.

The authors of this commentary on the current state of knowledge management in higher education offer a CIO’s perspective on the future of personal information organization. Grandel, Vice-Provost for Information Services and Dean of University Libraries at the University of Rhode Island; Katz, Vice-President of EDUCAUSE; and Metros, Deputy CIO and Executive Director for eLearning at Ohio State University, combine their extensive experience working with various stake-holders in the information landscape of universities to offer simple solutions to the problem of information abundance and recommend ways to encourage faculty buy-in on institutional repositories.

The authors claim that before the age of the computer, there was a fairly stable equilibrium between the demand for information and the supply of people to teach that information, but that now we live in an era of information abundance. The shift from an industrial to a knowledge economy, the falling cost of computer processors, the rapid adoption of information systems for all aspects of operations, and the growing acceptance of education as a life-long process have all contributed to a growing dependence on information resources in higher education. The future promises to be an age of abundance as individuals discover and utilize their ability to archive any and all aspects of human life in digital form. This includes the production of scholarly works.

The authors suggest that we think of the information landscape in terms of “ecologies” and of individuals as the organisms within that ecosphere. How will we study these organisms? How will we adapt our ecosystem to meet the needs of these individuals? What necessities will this ecosystem requires? These questions, though not asked explicitly, are suggested as the authors discuss the roles in which administrators, librarians, archivists, and publishers play in this new ecosystem. Grandel, Katz, and Metros conclude by recommending that institutional repositories be easy to use and seamlessly integrated with [faculty] desktop systems to encourage use and provide a stress-free way of incorporating tacit and explicit institutional knowledge into the networked ecosystem of information. Their image of the future calls to mind a great university-run Memex, both individual and institutional in its scope. For the purposes of this bibliography, this article provides an institution-wide perspective on the implications of PIM when integrated into a networked environment.

Kaye, J., Vertesi, J., Avery, S., Dafoe, A., David, S., Onaga, L., Rosero, I., et al. (2006). To have and to hold. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 275-284). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.

Kaye et al. set out to discover how academics at one Ivy League university organize and archive their information and to understand the values inherent in their organizational system. The authors posed a set of questions to 48 academics, took pictures of their information spaces, and qualitatively analyzed the results. They discovered five principle reasons for personal archiving: (1) retrieval, (2) legacy building (3) resource sharing, (4) fear of loss, and (5) identity construction. While the organizational systems varied from one individual to the next, each system tended to utilize one particular medium (e.g. bookshelves, boxes, file folders, digital bookmarks) that was influenced by the organizer’s principal values (the five stated above) and work lifestyle (e.g. single office vs. multiple office).

Kaye et al.’s study suggests that the need to retrieve information is neither the only nor the most important reason for personal archiving among academics. Additionally, the study states that no one system was significantly more effective at information retrieval than any other. Academics archive material for reasons that are not always rational (e.g. fear of loss) or immediately transparent (e.g. identity construction). Based on this knowledge, system designers should develop information systems that reflect the values inherent in personal archiving. Currently-used systems can be judged according to these values. The authors also suggest studying the relationship between personal identity and the customization of desktops, blogs, and personal websites when designing digital archiving tools.

Marshall, C.C. (2008). From writing and analysis to the repository: Taking the scholars’ perspective on scholarly archiving. In Proceedings of the 8th ACM/IEEE-CS Joint Conference on Digital Libraries (pp. 251-260). New York: Association for Computing Machinery.

Catherine Marshall of Microsoft Research and the Center for the Study of Digital Libraries at Texas A&M University, studied the information behaviors of 14 computer scientists with a significant number of publications in their field in order to understand how they organized information related to their research. The participants in this study were more familiar with computing environments and thus illustrated more complex PIM practices. Marshall used semi-structured, open-ended interviews and observations over the course of six months to gather her data.

The participants in the study typically made an effort to archive six types of materials: (1) paper sources of their publications, (2) digital copies of the same, (3) research codes (4) data sets and logs, (5) bibliographies of related work, and (6) email. These files existed in various forms of completion, across multiple tools, and among multiple collaborators, illustrating the complex nature of scholarly communication in a digital, networked environment. Of particular note, Marshall discovers that personal archiving is more a side effect of collaboration and publication than a unique, intended process. If files are shared with colleagues via email, then email becomes the tool used for version control and storage. In her words, personal archiving is at once both “opportunistic” and “social.”

This study also raised a number of interesting questions about PIM, including: if two or more authors are collaborating on a single publication, who has the authoritative version? At what point do data sets become archive-worthy: as raw data or after the data has been worked on? Do citations stored in BibTex files need to be complete or just enough so that they are recognizable? Marshall ends by offering implications for collaborative information management, for personal scholarly archives, and for institutional and disciplinary repositories.

Winget, M.A., Chang, K. & Tibbo, H. (2006). Personal email management on the University Digital Desktop: User behaviors vs. archival best practices. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 43(1), 1–13.

This article offers a summary of the findings of a three-year project that examined the records management behaviors– particularly email management– of faculty and staff at two North Carolina universities. In-depth interviews were used to collect information about the subjects’ organization methods, retention habits, and concerns about digital information. While the majority of the article discusses the practice of record retention in the legal context of a state-supported university, it does provide some useful data for understanding how faculty and staff at a university manage their email, including: how important emails are stored; how emails are organized; and how attachments are stored.

Winget, Chang, and Tibbo discovered a variety of behaviors when it came to how important messages were stored, including saving them to a hard-drive or network drive, printing them out, moving them to a sub-folder, flagging them, moving them to another format (e.g. Microsoft Word), and leaving them in the inbox. The majority of respondents (88%) used a folder system to organize emails, most ranging from 11 to 50 folders. 89% of the respondents saved attachments outside the email program. Like other studies, this shows the variety of methods university faculty and staff use to organize information. While there are certainly strong tendencies to organize information in a particular way, no one system is shown to be more effective than another.

Winget, M.A. & Ramirez, M. (2006). Developing a meaningful digital self-archiving model: Archival theory vs. natural behavior in the Minds of Carolina Research Project. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, 43(1), 1–12.

The goal of this paper was to examine how users, specifically university faculty, might choose to self-archive digital objects. The authors interviewed two faculty members, one scientist and one humanities scholar, and asked them to consider and collect what they would submit to a digital archive and discuss how they would organize it. The two faculty members took two very different approaches. The scientist intentionally excluded lab notebooks (an item the authors considered to be of great academic value), created a lengthy narrative of his career to accompany the materials that he did include, and mostly referenced his publications by providing links to PubMed citations rather than submitting the actual documents themselves. The humanities scholar provided materials related to the development of a single monograph. These included documents that illustrated the creative and iterative process of translation (of poetry) and contextualized the monograph within the scholar’s work and professional connections. For example, he included pre-prints of the work that contained notes from other colleagues.

Winget and Ramirez spend much of the article making recommendations for future developments of digital archives. Concerning personal information management, they discovered that the desire to self-archive at the early stage of one’s career is inhibited by (1) lack of need to reflect and “look back” and (2) the hesitation to publish mistakes, especially in light of a rigorous tenure process. The article also illustrates how two people can chose two radically different approaches to organizing information and deciding what information is worthy of preservation. Additionally, Winget and Ramirez point out that these approaches were contrary to archival best practices.

Zimmerman, E. (2009). PIM @ academia: How e-mail is used by scholars. Online Information Review, 33(1), 22-42.

In this study, Eric Zimmerman, Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs and Director of Research at Interdisciplinary Center Herzlia in Israel, assesses the relationships between email use and scholarly work. While not an original research question, this study, performed decades after the introduction of email, is unique in that it is undertaken at a time when it is understood, based on previous studies, that the vast majority of scholars today are comfortable using email technology.

Zimmerman surveyed 390 faculty members of the humanities, social sciences, and sciences at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. The surveys were distributed via email and paper formats and asked faculty members a number of questions regarding email use, level of comfort, skill level, and the application of email for scholarly communication. Of 17 predefined uses, faculty mostly used email for: proposal development use, manuscript submission, research collaboration, and participation in committees.

Other important findings include: (1) a negative correlation between age and self-described email skill: older users expressed lower levels of comfort using email; (2) 45% of those surveyed feel overloaded, but almost 65% expressed little difficulty in organizing email; and (3) scholars with more publications tended to use email more frequently. Additionally, Zimmerman found that while respondents view email as a benefit to scholarly work (rated on a Likert scale), when the results are broken down by school, humanities faculty generally rate its benefit lower than social sciences or sciences faculty.

The results of this study suggest that email is perhaps the most widely used tool in the scholarly communication process, serving the processes of communication, collaboration, drafting, peer-review, manuscript submission, versioning, and archiving in the publication process.

I hope this information is helpful. If you have additional resources on Personal Information Management in universities, please share in the comments!

Fall update: getting back into research mode

November 2nd, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Notebook, laptop and coffee

photo credit: DeaPeaJay

Getting back into research mode takes a bit of adjustment. Course assignments for LIS classes notwithstanding, it’s been over 3 years since I tackled legitimate academic research outside of my coursework. The time has come to jump back on the wagon* and I’ve been thinking: how will it be different this time around?

Before, I was working on a master’s degree in the humanities, now it’s a master’s in the information sciences. Before, I was studying a text, now I’m studying people. Before, my organizational system was entirely analog, now it is almost entirely digital. I want to explore some of these changes in more detail.

Transition #1: From Humanities research to the Information Sciences

This is the hardest of all the transitions. When I first learned how to do proper research, I was studying English literature and using methodology texts like Booth’s The Craft of Research (University of Chicago Press). Now, I look to reference works such as Creswell’s Research design : qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (Sage Publications) and Neuman’s Social research methods : qualitative and quantitative approaches (Pearson). More than just the subject matter and the audience, the way that I think about a research project in terms of its objectives, its methodology, and its impact has fundamentally changed. For one, it has become more social. While humanities research, especially in the digital realm, is moving toward more collaborative opportunities, the subject has traditionally been a place for the solitary researcher. The infrastructure of scholarly communication and peer review requires a certain amount of cooperation, but the humanities scholar can do her most complex research almost entirely on her own. To some extent, it is even expected. With LIS research, the expectation is very different. Quite often, research is done as part of a team. Working well with others is a prerequisite for the job and, at least in my LIS program, heavily emphasized.

Transition #2: From working with texts to working with people

Not only has the method changed, but so has the medium. As a humanities grad student, I focused all my time and thought on a particular text or groups of texts. My attention was spent examining the words on the page, searching for an essential “thing” in the work. As an LIS students, my attention is drawn to the thoughts, actions, and needs of other people, the user. Research in the information sciences focus on the relationship between people and information, how they interpret it, how it affects them, and how they use it. What is most practical is often deemed as the most essential. While social theory, cognitive science, and hermeneutics certainly play an important role in literary and historical theory, in the information sciences, they are the sina qua non.

Transition #3: From analog organization to digital organization

If the conceptual changes were not enough, my work flow has changed dramatically since my days as a humanities student. It was not until late 2007 that I fully jumped on the bandwagon of digital knowledge management. Up until then, I still kept notes on paper (or printed them out) and stored research in binders and hanging file folders. I preferred monographs to serials and print editions to electronic (which probably crippled many of my undergraduate papers). Still, it was easier to manage all the information that way: if I couldn’t lay it all out in front of me, it was too much. Now, I keep everything in digital format. I have not gone as far to adopt a universal inbox like Evernote; I still set up hierarchical folders for all my information. But everything is synced to the cloud and all my information is available from multiple devices.

Moving forward is going to be rough. Once I manage to settle on a topic and begin the research process, I will probably find myself stumbling along the way. Obviously, some of my findings and thoughts will work their way to this space. My plan is to build the foundation for a legitimate research project by the end of next year (when I will graduate) that could be continued (possibly with funding) in more depth under the auspices of some institute of higher education. We shall see. Until then, my objective is to get back into research mode and to start thinking like a serious academic again.

So what are your thoughts?  Have you transitioned from one field of research to another?  What was your experience?  Please share it in the comments!

—–

*I made a promise that if a certain opportunity didn’t pan out (it didn’t), I would utilize my free time toward a research project. Hence…

Current research: September 2010

September 16th, 2010 § Comments Off § permalink

The upcoming issue of Reference Services Review has a great collection of information literacy and instruction articles. Here are three that caught my attention:

Johnson, A.M., Sproles, C., & Detmering, R. (2010). Library instruction and information literacy 2009. Reference Services Review, 38(4).

Every year, the Reference Services Review publishes a bibliography of Library Instruction and Information Literacy research. This year’s collection includes open access journals (such as the  Journal of Information Literacy and  Communications in Information Literacy), blog posts (notably In the Library with the Lead Pipe), and a number of monograph titles. The authors also broadened the international scope of the bibliography to include reports of IL efforts in many areas outside the United States. Of particular note, the authors indicate that approximately 20% of the publications listed this year concern collaboration, especially with writing instructors at universities.

Mizrachi, D. (2010). Undergraduates’ academic information and library behaviors: preliminary results. Reference Services Review, 38(4).

In this preliminary stage of a larger study on the “information ecologies” of undergraduates in situ (i.e. their dorm rooms), Mizrachi examines the information seeking habits of students at the University of California, Los Angeles. Two of the results should not be surprising given similar research: (1) that the majority of students did not begin with library resources in their research but rather turned to publicly available websites and course-related materials; and (2), as at least one student noted, that going to the library wasn’t seen as necessary for passing the course. However, Mizrachi highlights two findings that are contrary to popular beliefs about “digital natives” and could be useful for librarians trying to convince administrators of the myth of the all-digital future of libraries. She finds that for many of the students, the library is important as a physical place and is viewed positively by most of the students. Mizrachi also found that many students preferred to read articles and resources on paper, rather than on the screen, and that many do not take their laptops to class.

Mizrachi offers a number of recommendations that are worth contemplating, including: (1) not discouraging the use of public resources but rather highlighting the richness of library resources; (2) recognizing students’ awareness of their need to focus; (3) promoting critical thinking skills; and (4) using library student workers to create “positive interactions” with their peers using library resources.

Miller, I.R. (2010). Turning the tables: a faculty-centered approach to integrating information literacy. Reference Services Review, 38(4).

In this study, Miller (Eastern Washington University) describes a three-year “student research skills initiative” that sought to improve information literacy skills among undergraduates by working with faculty to redesign the curriculum and integrate IL skill building activities. What is particularly striking about this study is the high level of buy-in and engagement from faculty and university departments. Grant funding was used to pay faculty members a stipend to participate in a multi-day workshop at the beginning of the semester, integrate IL standards into their course assignments across the curriculum, and provide quarterly feedback. Faculty valued the experience and recognized the importance of IL skills and librarians’ expertise.

Current research: July 2010

July 19th, 2010 § Comments Off § permalink

Allow me to share with you some recent research on information literacy that I’ve come across in the last month.

Armstrong, J. (2010). Designing a writing intensive course with information literacy and critical thinking learning outcomes. Reference Services Review, 38(3).

In this article, Armstrong describes her attempt to incorporate information literacy (IL) learning outcomes and critical thinking (CT) skills into a quarter-long capstone course in American Cultural Studies. After students choose their research project in the second class session, the librarian-professor spends three class days covering research methods. In general, the way in which the assignments are organized throughout the course are “designed to move students through the logical stages of the research and writing process and also to engage them in the dialectical relationship between research and critical thinking.” Students are expected to exhibit a variety of IL and CT skills throughout the course, culminating in their final research paper. Since IL and CT skills are viewed on a learning continuum, a variety of assessments are used: qualitative and quantitative examination of citations used; a research methods questionnaire (e.g. “How did you do your research”, etc.); pre- and post-course student evaluations; and overall course grading. The article provides a thoughtful source of inspiration for librarians planning semester-long IL-based courses.

Green, R. (2010). Information illiteracy: examining our assumptions. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(4), 313-319.

Based on her research, Green advocates a move away from the binary view of information literacy: those who have skills and those who don’t. IL instruction, according to the author, tends to take the approach in which we as librarians and IL professions attempt to instill IL skills in students with the assumption that they need to be “retaught” everything they think they know about the information universe. Green’s research, which examines doctoral dissertations of American and Australian students, suggests that through the process of developing a literature review students pick up IL skills, though they do not name them as such. She advocates seeking the learner’s perspective and “taking up critical questions of how people become information literate and whether direct information literacy interventions are necessary in order to prevent information illiteracy.” See also the “Notes and Resources” section for a great bibliography.

Su, S.-F. & Kuo, J. (2010). Design and development of web-based information literacy tutorials. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(4), 320-328.

Su & Kuo used ACRL’s PRIMO database, a collection of peer-reviewed online tutorials, to examine 37 of  154 tutorials and determine common factors such as objectives and teaching strategies, tutorial content, estimated browsing time, and visibility on university websites. Their findings summarize the “best of the best” and provide useful benchmarks for librarians developing web-based IL tutorials.

Current research: May 2010

May 6th, 2010 § Comments Off § permalink

Not much has come across the wire this month, but here is one article that caught my attention:

Samson, S. (2010). Information literacy learning outcomes and student success. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(3), 2002-210.

While the results of this article are, for the most part, only applicable to the university setting in which they were developed, the methodology is elegant and viably reproducible by any other university seeking to analyze its  instruction services in terms of information literacy standards. The University of Montana, a mid-size doctoral university, identified learning initiatives and outcomes for its students and integrated information literacy practices based on those initiatives/outcomes throughout the curriculum. Basic IL instruction is provided to first-years while advanced IL instruction is offered to upper-division students in the area of their major.

Samson, the Head of Information and research Services at Mansfield Library, then compared the final projects of randomly selected English Composition students to the portfolio projects of randomly selected capstone courses. The analysis compares evidence (or lack thereof) of effective IL techniques in relation to five of ACRL’s IL standards. Samson notes that evidence of the fourth standard (“use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose”) was the most difficult to quantify.

Given that a university has a solid, across-the-board IL policy, this methodology could be an effective and illuminating way to build a general picture of IL effectiveness.

Current research: April 2010

April 13th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Wakimoto, D.K. (2010). Information literacy instruction assessment and improvement through evidence based practice: a mixed method study. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 5(1), 82-92.

In this study of undergraduates at California State University, East Bay, Wakimoto evaluates student learning and satisfaction among students enrolled in an information literacy course during the 2008-2009 academic year. Using pre- and post-tests, she discovers that students’ understanding of IL increases, especially to the degree to which they view it as personally relevant. Students expanded their definition of IL, recognized that information comes from more than just textual sources and, in some cases, indicated that IL made them feel empowered to help others and their communities. Of particular importance, Wakimoto states that “contrary to anecdotal evidence”, students enjoy learning about information literacy, especially when they perceive it as personally relevant to their own lives. She suggests that more emphasis on this aspect of IL should be made during instruction.

Schroeder, R. & Cahoy, E.S. (2010). Valuing information literacy: affective learning and the ACRL standards. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 10(2), 127-146.

In this paper, Schroeder & Cahoy examine the ACRL Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education and the AASL Standards for the 21st Century Learner and recommend that librarians and educators give more attention to the “affective” learning outcomes of information literacy instruction.  They define the affective domain as comprising “a person’s attitudes, emotions, interests, motivation, self-efficacy, and values.” They recommend adding affective outcomes to the current ACRL standards which would, in effect, “humanize the ACRL standards, reminding academic librarians and educators of the positive feelings that they must continually strive to develop in their students.” They acknowledge that many librarians already address the issue of “library anxiety” and other feelings associated with library research in their classes, but not systematically, “consciously”, or through established professional standards. Schroeder & Cahoy also recommend that instructors discuss the stages of Kuhlthau’s Information Seeking Process with students so that they are more aware of their own feelings and anxieties, but the authors recognize the time constraints that many instructors have, recommending that they ask students to self-report data when possible.

Current research: March 2010

March 15th, 2010 § Comments Off § permalink

Luo, Lili. (2010). Web 2.0 integration in information literacy instruction: an overview. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 36(1), 32-40.

Dr. Luo, assistant professor at San Jose State University, examines the ways in which librarians employ Web 2.0 technologies in instruction courses. Using survey results from 50 respondents, she identified three primary uses: (1) to organize and manage course-related materials for personal use; (2) to facilitate the delivery of content to students; and (3) to illustrate information literacy concepts. Luo additionally discusses how librarians use blogs, wikis, social bookmarking, YouTube, and bibliographic tools. There were two examples of Web 2.0 uses that struck me as innovative. In one example, a librarian developed a wiki for each instruction session. Students were able to log in throughout the semester to access handouts, powerpoints, and find contact info for the librarian that taught the class. In the other example, the photo tagging feature of Facebook was used to illustrate subject headings in the catalog. I find this to be a brilliant way of illustrating how to effectively search a catalog with controlled vocabulary and to explore some of the advantages and disadvantages of arranging information in this way. Of particular note for those who think all millennials are technophiles, Luo notes that some students see these tools as “toys” and either don’t take them seriously or don’t possess the technical knowledge to use them.

Smith, Debbi & Oliva, Victor. (2010). Becoming a renaissance reference librarian in academe : attitudes toward generalist and subject specific reference and related profession development. Reference Services Review, 38(1), 125-151.

Smith & Oliva surveyed reference librarians from institutions ranging in size, location, and budget. Some of those surveyed were full-time reference librarians and others did reference part-time or in addition to their primary duties. Smith & Oliva found that overall, reference librarians prefer being generalists rather than specialists and that the skills associated with reference interviews are more important than specific subject knowledge. Most surveyed feel that advanced degrees are not helpful and there is a distinct difference between getting an advanced degree to deepen subject knowledge and getting training for reference in a particular subject area. Regarding professional development, most librarians self-educate by reading news, professional journals, browsing reference collection, meeting with teaching faculty, reading core journals, watching educational TV programs, etc. Those who did these things more frequently were more comfortable at the reference desk.

Prescott, M.K. & Veldof, J. (2010). A process approach to defining services for undergraduates. portal: Libraries and the Academy, 10(1), 29-56.

Focus groups and surveys were used to determine what services were most important to users. The responses focused on access: namely, that is should be centralized, convenient, personalized, and easy to use. What was most interesting to me was the fact that the biggest challenges for undergraduates are: (1) work/life/school balance; (2) lack of study space; (3) lack of awareness of services available to them. Knowing this, how can academic libraries adapt their services to meet the needs of their users (especially with #1)? The most important take-away from this study is the strategic process the authors describe: it is iterative, reflective, and cautious. There is a constant give and take between the priorities as determined by the planning group and the priorities determined by surveying users and stakeholders. It shows the benefits of constant reassessment at each stage of the strategic planning process.