Photo of Katie Fraser

www.chuukaku.com

Katie Fraser's blog and website

I'm an academic librarian, working in the UK Higher Educational sector, supporting academics and students. Prior to this, I was a researcher, working with social and learning technologies.

My interests include the application of all kinds of technology, research support in libraries, learning spaces (my Librarianship dissertation studied an Information Commons project), evidence-based practice and the professional development of library and information workers.

You can find out more about more about me from the links to the left. Note that the views expressed on this website/blog are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of any other individual or organisation.



Information Literacy as a graduate attribute: Are employers getting a good deal?

January 24th, 2012

Event programme

Event programme: the mince pies were lovely.

This post is a copy of the original, hosted at the University of Leicester institutional blog at http://uollibraryblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/information-literacy-graduate-attribute/. It is replicated here to preserve this blog as a central record of my professional development.

This event was a University of West London (UWL) event focusing on information literacy and its relationship to graduate attributes. Graduate attributes are qualities that a university aims for graduates to obtain (many universities have explicit lists of these expected qualities) and tend to be linked explicitly to the employability of students. With employability high on the agenda at universities I think most university libraries are keen to make sure that the value of information literate graduates is reflected in such discussions, so we were all eager to find out more.

Transport issues meant that I missed the introductory talks from the University of West London, but arrived in time for Ruth Stubbings’ talk. She got us all thinking about both the small and big picture of information literacy: what it meant to us personally, and then how it should be seen more globally. In the context of this event her broad perspective seemed very relevant, particularly her discussion of who ‘owns’ information literacy: practically I felt this was currently librarians, but the consensus was that this should be much wider, with discussion focusing on how information literacy could be ‘quality assured’ at governmental level.

Next up was Marc Forster, discussing information literacy as a graduate attribute in the context of nursing. Nursing is a profession with a heavy focus on evidence-based practice, with nurses needing to find up-to-date information on health. He had worked on a standalone module in UWL’s virtual learning environment, which is supported by nursing tutors (as first point of help) with Marc advising those tutors. Marc will be evaluating the course as part of his PhD on the experience of information literacy by nurses, the results of which I’m sure will be interesting reading.

Jason Eyre then discussed a project he’d been doing with information literacy in social work (another discipline with a focus on evidence-based practice). Jason had worked with key stakeholders in De Montfort University’s social work course to establish a mediated discussion board, intending to facilitate conversation between students (on placements and thus crossing student and practitioner boundaries), practitioners, the department, and the library. Although the discussion board received limited use, it’s development and evaluation allowed him to gather a whole range of data students’ experience of information behaviours. A particularly interesting finding was that while the academic environment encouraged written, formal and critical information seeking, the practitioner environment used verbal, informal information seeking, with a strong respect for authority. Jason concluded that ‘authentic’ tasks were needed, and that students needed to be supported in developing criticality as a verbal skill, to allow transition of evidence-based practice from the academic to practitioner environment.

The last talk was from Jo Lozinska from the University of West London’s Careers section spoke about trying to help students articulate and communicate the skills that they gained at university. She went through some application forms for graduate jobs, picking out areas where they had to demonstrate information skills, particularly problem solving and decision making skills. It was very interesting to see information literacy discussed in this context and to see someone from the ‘other side’ making these connections.

Finally, we split into groups to discuss whether we needed to reassess our information literacy teaching to make them relevant when students became graduates (short answer: yes!) and some of the issues around this. Key needs identified included making sure that the library, student development and careers gave out a consistent message.

This was a timely session with some highly thought-provoking presentations. I think my strongest resolution is to make more of an effort to think about the employment context that students will be (or, for professional courses, are) experiencing: how the information literacy support I provide will translate into that context, and how I can improve the likelihood of that translation.


DREaMing of a Library and Information Science research network

November 1st, 2011

This post is a copy of the original, hosted at the University of Leicester institutional blog at http://uollibraryblog.wordpress.com/2011/11/01/dream/. It is replicated here to preserve this blog as a central record of my professional development.

Last week I attended the first workshop of the AHRC-funded DREaM project. DREaM stands for ‘Developing Research Excellence and Methods’ and the project aims to create a network of Library and Information Science researchers across the UK. As an academic librarian with a research background I’m very enthusiastic about the potential for research to improve our practice, and I was delighted to be given a new professional’s travel bursary by the DREaM project, and to have my attendance supported by the Library. In return for my support from Leicester, I’ve been asked to think about how the methods discussed in each workshop might contribute to better understanding the community our academic library serves, and improving our services.

The DREaM workshops are being very thoroughly documented by the team running them: both slides and videos of the presentations are available at the Workshop 1 webpage. I’ll link to, rather than replicate, that content, and focus on my personal thoughts about each method from my own practitioner-researcher perspective.

Introduction to ethnography – Dr Paul Lynch
Ethnography is an approach used to understand culture, usually through immersion within that culture. Better understanding the culture of academic library users, students and staff, is clearly key to improving our service. My MA Librarianship dissertation used ethnographic interviews to look at how students viewed and understood library space, and I think there’s a lot more to be done on understanding how students use and want to use libraries.

In the workshop, Paul Lynch discussed the dual role of the ethnographer – as insider (participant in a culture) and outsider (observer of a culture). I suspect my ability to produce an ethnography of library users is limited by my increased distance from both student and academic roles, so this method may be out for me.

Introduction to social network analysis – Dr Louise Cooke
Social network analysis looks at the networks which exist within groups, and patterns in links between individuals, by asking members of a group to report on their own relationships. During the workshop I could immediately see the relevance of this method to my own work: a major part of my role is acting as liaison between the Library and academic departments, and recording the existence and nature of links between librarians and academic staff would be absolutely fascinating.

I could never use this method with my own departmental contacts: asking individuals to report on their relationships with yourself would be ethically unsound (and probably produce inaccurate results!) However, there is clearly potential to apply this technique elsewhere within the university: perhaps looking at networks between librarians, other academic support staff, and lecturer / researchers within one of the Colleges I don’t directly support.

Introduction to discourse analysis – Professor Andy McKinlay
Discourse analysis is a technique for analysing gathered data, rather than a method for gathering data itself. It involves analysis of what people say (or write) through understanding of the context in which it is said: the social norms embedded in that context, and how language is used to construct a way of seeing the world.

There’s clearly expectations, norms and values implicit in how users talk about the Library. One of the most common comments at from students walking into the David Wilson for the first time is ‘Where are all the books?’ I think that one sentence (and all its implicit assumptions about libraries) could keep a discourse analyst going for days! I could see focus groups, or even analysis of how students describe the Library to each other, on- and off-line, as a really useful way to surface these concepts, and work with, or think about changing them.

Unconference and ethics discussion
The workshop also included bonus research-related sections. In the middle of the day, an unconference session encouraged us to discuss what we wished: I outed myself as a methodological pluralist (i.e. one who believes there is no one best method for studying the world, and has dabbled in several!) and learned about the research interests and priorities of others in our emerging network. At the end of the day, Professor Charles Oppenheim led a section in which we debated ethics in a number of research-related scenarios.

Both these additional sessions really got me thinking about my role as a practitioner-researcher. There are a limited number of participants with dual roles in the DREaM network, but plenty of participants who have been on both sides of the divide at different times in their careers. I think there are lots of interesting discussions to be had about how practitioners use and carry out research, and I look forward to these workshops starting a few. Perhaps we can even kick off here: I’d be pleased to get feedback on some of my suggestions so far…


Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice Conference

July 14th, 2011

At the start of this month I was lucky enough to wangle my way into a sponsored practitioner place at the 6th international Evidence-Based Library and Information Practice (EBLIP) Conference, which was held in Salford in the UK this year. It was a fantastic conference, with lots of food for thought about developing and evaluating my everyday practice. In returned for our sponsored places the LIS Research Coalition asked us to write up a day of the conference each. My write up of day one is available on the LIS Research Coalition blog and I wrote a little bit more about EBLIP overall on the University of Leicester library blog.