It’s finally published! Allison Benedetti, Lili Luo and I wrote an article on using vignettes in LIS research.
The NYC for Standing Rock committee has created a resource for understanding the controversies and protest surrounding the Dakota Access Pipeline.
“This syllabus brings together the work of Indigenous and allied activists and scholars: anthropologists, historians, environmental scientists, and legal scholars, all of whom contribute important insights into the conflicts between Indigenous sovereignty and resource extraction.”
The syllabus contains key search terms, maps, a timeline of U.S. settler colonialism, and suggested reading arrange by theme and topic.
“Empirical research is first and foremost a logical rather than a mathematical operation.” (Babbie 2012).
For me, this reminder makes quantitative methods of analysis a bit easier to approach.
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 […].”
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.