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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 emerging and traditional technologies, research support in libraries, learning spaces, 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.

Library Day in the Life — Day 1 — 24/01/11

January 24th, 2011


Leicester's New Walk in snow

Leicester's New Walk in snow

This is my third set of posts as part of the Library Day in the Life project, although it’s the sixth round of the project as a whole, which aims to record typical (and atypical) days of library workers around the world. You can find all of my posts within this project under the librarydayinthelife tag. For those new to this blog, I am an academic librarian, providing scientific subject support at a UK university.

A slightly strange day for me: usually I work on Tuesday, Wednesday and on Friday morning, but this week I moved my Friday morning to Monday afternoon so I could attend a talk in Leicester’s new ‘Intrepid Researcher’ series.

As usual on a half day, one event sucks away all time except that I have to wade through my emails and ‘must do’ work items, sorting out immediate problems – such as a workshop arranged for a day I’m not in next week. Then I headed off for the talk.

The seminar was Ray Land, talking about the educational implications of ‘Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge’ (more on Threshold Concepts here). It’s a topic I know a little about as I produced an annotated bibliography and short literature review on it in an exercise during my MA Librarianship course. I was particularly interested in attending because I’m reflecting on my teaching in my chartership, and because most of the sessions I am teaching this year are new to me, so I’m curious to identify topics students struggle with (find ‘troublesome’. Jo Webb informs me that Moria Bent has looked into applying this theory in the context of information literacy, as evidenced by a brief mention in their joint presentation together here – I’ll update if I can find anything with more detail. Critical analysis is one idea Ray mentioned which I have particularly identified students struggling with in my classes.

Often my days (especially my half days!) offer little chance for reflection, so I always try to take the chance to go to a session like this, which offers some structured space to think about how I do what I do. However, it meant that this, a little constructive chat with other attendees, and email checking was practically the sum of my day!

Using Prezi to teach

September 1st, 2010

Screenshot of part of the Prezi

Screenshot of part of the Prezi

My last post ended in somewhat of a challenge to myself: to use my love of playing with new technologies to experiment a little with the format of my teaching. I’ve therefore been trying out Prezi, the “zooming presentation tool”, as a way of presenting a teaching session I’ve been working on.

It’s still very much a work in progress, which is why I’ve gone with a screenshot rather than a link to the Prezi itself! However, I’m quite happy with how it’s going.

Because Prezi is a big canvas you can move around, zooming in and out, it acts as a mindmap of the stuff I want to cover in my session, and has encouraged me to think about how different aspects of the teaching link together, and how to make a narrative out of them. This has helped me develop the session, and hopefully should make it more coherent.

Another benefit is that I can use this mindmap as an archive of the presentation and the resources I cover, allowing students to retrace my actions, and acting as a tangible reminder of how I interpreted the resources. As well, of course, as mundanely linking to the resources I covered!

However, now I’ve arranged the Prezi as I want I’m starting to think that I could take the information back into a Powerpoint presentation, using other cues to indicate when a concept is a key idea, and when its more of an aside – which I’m currently using zoom to indicate. The zooming mechanism has acted as a useful tool for making me distinguish between key points, the meat of the presentation, and hints and tips, but it isn’t the only way I could present these different types of information now I have identified them.

I suspect the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, and I won’t really decide what I think of Prezi until after I’ve used it in a session! Furthermore, the educational technologist in me knows that even if it is a success, it may just be the novelty of the tool catching students’ attention and not its inherent usefulness as a way of displaying information and ideas. However, the new teacher in me isn’t above using a little bit of novelty in an attempt to help students learn! That said, I will post the Prezi here after I’ve used it in my teaching, and see what conclusions I can draw on its effectiveness.

Information Literacy within our Institution: Thoughts from LILAC

April 15th, 2010

This post was originally written by me and posted on the University of Leicester library blog at It is replicated here to preserve this blog as a central record of my professional development.

LILAC Tweet Wordle

Word Cloud of tweets during LILAC 2010 courtesy of

Just before Easter I attended the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference, held this year in Limerick, Ireland. It was my first chance to step back and think about my new role as an Information Librarian at the university, so great timing for me.

I attended a range of different talks on areas relevant to my own personal development (on librarians’ roles as teachers, and case studies of online tool use), but in this post I’m focusing on talks which I felt had institutional significance in terms of what we’re doing with information literacy, how we’re doing it, and what else we can do.

What are we doing?
The amount and kind of information literacy teaching inevitably varies within as well as between institutions: different courses and different disciplines have different needs. However, when responsibilities for information literacy are split between different departments and services across a university there are obvious benefits from tracking who does what: to make sure students acquire key skills, and to identify opportunities for collaboration. I believe librarians, as specialists in the area, have the responsibility to make sure these skills are developed, even if we are not always responsible for delivering them ourselves.

Gillian Fielding’s presentation on The Information Literacy Audit at the University of Salford described an institutional audit as one way of doing this. The team at Salford took a checklist of key information skills to programme leaders across the university to determine what training was provided, how it was provided, at which level (pre-entry, induction, year 1, 2, or 3, or at Masters or PhD) and by which department / service. Despite difficulties with timing of the audit 70% of undergraduate course leaders participated, and it seemed like a really good way of opening up dialogues between central services and departments about what needs covering and how it can be offered. It certainly sounded like information I’d find useful, although they did have large number of subject specialists to carry out the audit compared to us!

How are we doing it?
One of the big themes of the conference for me was about how the library collaborates with others in the university. In fact, the workshop I was at the conference to lead (focusing on central services’ roles in supporting research student communities of practice) was looking explicitly at the library’s role in the wider university community. Sophie Bury from York University in Canada covered a similar theme in her presentation on academics’ views of information literacy.

The academics she surveyed pretty universally agreed that information literacy skills (as defined by the ACRL standards) were important. Furthermore, the majority thought librarians and academics should be working together to deliver sessions, a finding that she noted was echoed in some previous studies, with others suggesting that librarians should be handling this area. However, she also found a fairly even split between academics believing that sesssions should take place outside or within class time. This is an ongoing issue: sessions which take places outside of class time are not as well attended, but it’s easy to understand why academics are reluctant to jettison discipline-specific content for more general skills. How we fit information literacy into the student experience AND the student timetable is something I’ll be thinking about more over the summer as I look at my teaching for next year.

What else can we do?
Finally, as well as more ‘traditional’ information literacy, the conference also got me thinking about ways in which information literacy teaching can impact on a broader range of skills (see also Selina’s previous post about Critical Appraisal). Stephanie Rosenblatt from California State University gave a talk entitled They can find it, but they don’t know what to do with it looking at students’ use of academic literature and found that students were already competent enough at finding scholarly literature (the main focus of her teaching) but that they didn’t know how to use the academic materials. Should librarians be developing a more rounded approach to teaching information literacy? Aoife Geraghty and her colleagues from the Writing Centre at the University of Limerick discussed a way in which centralised student services could work together to support such activities.

Lastly, Andy Jackson from the University of Dundee ran a workshop on generic graduate attributes, challenging us to develop attributes such as ‘cultural and social and ethics’ into teaching Endnote and Refworks use. This was immense fun (once we’d worked out that attribution and intellectual property could be seen as cultural and social ethical issues!) and made me think about all the different angles and educational opportunities that even the most basic software training workshops offer.

Where Now?
The conference ended with a Keynote from Dr Ralph Catts talking about developing our research methods and evaluation (in time for the conference next year!). The appeal for librarians to involve educational researchers in their planning and evaluation was a little misplaced for me (I have a background in educational research, and was rankled by the implication that librarians universally lacked the ability to evaluate, rather than the resources to do so). However, I think his message about the importance of evidence in instigating, developing and evaluating our practices was sound. I definitely hope to use the research I learnt about at LILAC in the next few months, and I hope to do more reflection and evaluation as I settle in to the post.