Tag Archives: Information skills

Roving librarians: literature review

Literature consulted for the Roving librarian project: http://www.mendeley.com/groups/2075353/roving-librarians/  Join the group.  Particularly interested in roving outside of the physical library space.  Looking at mobile technology, especially tablets for this purpose.


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The Roving Librarian: keep taking the tablets

View the talk I gave at LILAC 2012 on the Roving Library project at http://eprints.hud.ac.uk/13312/


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Roving in Canalsidewest

Good time roving in Canalsidewest this afternoon.  Found my colleagues based down the main groundfloor corridor, stopping students as they walked past the stall.  They’d used the Summon banner to make the stand more prominent.  Although it was less busy than the Business School they had had a few good chats with students, some lasting 5 to 10 minutes.  Students usually started off saying that everything was fine but then when questioned would say, “well there is one thing…”

Two interactions I observed really stood out.  The Computing Subject librarian approached a passing student who admitted that he used Google Scholar in preference to Summon.   Martin then told him how much the  library spent on on-line resouces that couldn’t be accessed through Google.  He pointed to his tablet which was ajoined to the keyboard and sat on the desk, and showed him the single search box.  This led to a question about tutorials which he’d just been upstairs to ask about.  He asked if he needed a password.  Martin asked him if he knew about Digital Tutors.  He then found out that he is studying Digital Media and found one of his reading lists on the MyReading software.  Now he really has his attention.  I asked him to complete the questionnaire and he says that he will use the electronic library more and wanders off clutching a Summon leaflet.

The second encouner also featured the Computing Librarian.  The student he spoke to t first seemed very confident.  Yes he did use Summon, but then came the admission that he sometimes had problems with Athens.  Turned out he was search Google Scholar!  He then mentioned what he was looking for.  Martin said “we’ve got lots on that, have you got two minutes?”  The student is now leant over the table.  Martin keeps referring to his search technique.  Uses question such as “Do you do things like that…”  He shows him the search strategy he has used and points out a key book.  He advised him out to limit results to eBooks, Scholarly journal articles etc.  The student seemed to get it “so the more you refine it the better results you get?”  He particularly liked the fact that you could limit results by date.

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Roving on The Street (Business School)

Usual strategy
Just spent 30 minutes roving on The Street with my Asus Eeee Pad Transformer (minus keyboard), moving between the cafe and the main thoroughfare.  The librarian before me had set up a mini stall on the actual street but I still prefer to speak to students in the cafe – find that a student on the move is more reluctant to enter into a conversation as they are usually just passing through and have less time to spare.  Students eating/drinking at the tables are usually willing to engage with an enthusiastic friendly librarian – obviously I ask them first and apologise for interupting their break.  My usual opening question is – Do you use Summon?  I find that this general question usually prompts a positive or negative response.  If the answer is “yes” I usually ask them if they are experiencing any difficulties – there is usually some issue that they are grappling with, ranging from too many results to the problem of identifying scholarly material. If they have time, I then repeat their search using my tablet. 

Today’s experience
Today I tried a different strategy in addition to the Summon one.  This was to ask a group of Masters students if they use the databases that we have that can’t be used on Summon – databases like Fame, GMID etc. The students admitted that they didn’t know we had these resources and I was able to show them how to access them and explained the type of information they can access.  At Huddersfield since acquiring Summon we have witnessed a steady decline in the usage of such databases – the emphasis by the library and by lecturers in on using Summon (or Summons as many call it!)  and students are failing to scroll down the Summon home page and see the links to the other resources to which we subscribe. 

This hunch was backed up by a member of staff who happened to pass the stall just as I was about to pack up.  She works in the placement office and said she is often promoting Fame to students applying for placements but they have usually not heard of it.  I have agreed to produce a one page helpsheet which can be included in the placement information sent to students. 

Other successes: the Masters students mentioned above gave me details of a book (Brassington/Petit – Principles of Marketing) they are struggling to get hold of – we looked it up using the MyReading software and linking to the library catalogue to find that several copies are missing and the remaining copies are all on a two week loan impeding effective circulation.  I will investigate this later. 

I spoke to a student who had never used Summon and was able to explain the benefits and leave her with a handout.  Normally I would have asked her what topic she was currently studying and done a search but the network connection seem to fail at this point!  She did tell me she would like the library to purchase more audio books.  Again, another point to follow up.

I feel that I have just spent a very profitable half hour, helping students but also learning more about their information searching habits and also helping to build relationships and having the kinds of conversations that arguably I would never have had if I had spent that half an hour in my office or even staffing thelibrary’s  subject enquiry point.

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My skills

My skills?  I wouldn’t class myself as being very technical.  I’ve had a dabbled in social networking:  posting messages on a blog, I engage in live tweeting at conferences, and I subscribe to Facebook.  In the past I have helped support lecturers in using the VLE, particularly in linking to full-text journal articles.  For this I could I used to write some basic HTML code to provide live links and became adept at troubleshooting those links that hadn’t worked.  I have also produced an interactive quiz on referencing for use on Blackboard.  I have used this with classes of post-graduate students to enforce learning and also promote discussion.  To accompany the quiz, I produced a referencing guide using Dreamweaver.

When I completed the Certificate in Training Practice many years ago, I was required to keep a reflective diary.  I kept up this practice, and would regularly analyse my teaching sessions and where I felt I could improve,  make appropriate changes.  I think using a blog, such as this one, is a great aid to reflection.  I’m quite enjoying sitting with my laptop on my knee writing and expressing myself.  It seems to need a lot less effort than writing your thoughts down on paper.  I also like the fact that have a delete key gives me more control over my writing!  The only thing which is driving me slightly mad is knowing how to customise the blog.  It’s taken me ages to change the menu entitled “about” to “about me” and I lost the menu “home” in the process!  Any ideas on how to get it back?

Liz has just asked me about my skills as a librarian.  Yes I suppose I do have information searching skills which have been developed over the years.  I’ve been a librarian working in the Higher Education sector and supporting Business Studies students now for around 18 years!  Libraries have changed so much during this time.  When I started CD-ROMS were just coming in but the Internet hadn’t been invented.  Using technology to aid searching has made my job so much easier – you just need to know what keywords to insert, how to refine your search if you get too many hits or change the keywords if you retrieve nothing.  Evaluating the retrieved information sources is also a skill I have learnt especially when I’ve done team teaching with academic staff and heard them related to student how to select journal articles to use in their dissertations.

A skill I have very recently acquired is learning to cook with an aga!  In February I moved into a house with a gas aga cooker.  I had one quick lesson on how to control the temperature and found out which was the cooler simmering oven as opposed to the hotter roasting one.  Using Mary Berry’s The aga book I have learnt how to roast a chicken and cook a casserole.  I am hoping to improve my culinary skills to cater for my family when they come for Christmas!

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Have more time to cha cha…

Searching Smarter searching faster is a youtube video made by the University of Sydney that I have been using in my Information SKills teaching sessions at the University of Huddersfield.

It really does help break up the session and gives the students some light relief from my talking and it illustrates the points I’ve made in a very humourous way.  It seems to work less well, however, with the International students.  I used it when teaching the European Business students last Friday and none of them laughed or even smiled.  I asked one student at the end if he had understood it and he said he had but I’m not sure that was the case for all students.

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