Photo of Katie Fraser

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.

Libraries and the student experience

August 5th, 2009

The SRHE (Society for Research into Higher Education) Student Experience Network is running an event at the Information Commons (IC) on September 10th entitled 24/7: The Life of University 24-hour Libraries.

I’m coordinating two sessions at the event. The first is a formal presentation, alongside my dissertation supervisor, Professor Philippa Levy, talking about my dissertation on the IC. The second is a tour of the library “through students’ eyes” replicating and commenting on some of the tours students gave me of the IC in my research. This will provide an introduction to the IC for those who haven’t seen it before, alongside actual student experiences of the IC: which ties in quite nicely with the focus of the network!

Places are free, although they’re limited and I’m not sure what the rate of uptake is so far. You can find out more, and register for a place, by contacting Matthew Cheeseman on Matthew is the coordinator of the event, and has produced some fascinating ethnographic work on the IC from his position as a folklorist, which has been really valuable in my own ethnographic approach to learning about students’ use of the building.

Note: photo is an old one from my visit to Sheffield as a prospective student. I need to take some more photos of the place now I’m studying it!

Staff interviews and other dissertation activity

July 4th, 2009

This week I have been conducting interviews with staff at the university, in order to construct a Theory of Change for the Information Commons project. In simple terms, this is a model of the expected outcomes for the project, and the steps that were taken by those involved to achieve those outcomes. The model will be compared with my student data to see which outcomes I have found evidence for, and where inconsistencies lie.

The Information Commons is a beautiful building, if relentlessly modern. I’ve posted pictures of the outside before, but here’s one of the interior, which I used as a probe in the student interviews. I might go round and take some pictures myself soon, as empty out-of-term building means no consent forms. The varying levels of use of the IC have impacted on my project in several ways. I had to conduct my student interviews during my coursework period, as exams were approaching, and getting students to give me a tour of the IC would have been unworkable at its peak use. Still, it put me ahead of the game, which I’m not complaining about that now.

When I first started this project I was more focused on the student part of my project than the staff aspect, but over the last week I’ve really loved doing the staff interviews and finding out about how the IC was put together. I was astonished to find out that it was in planning back in 1998 when I first came to the university as an undergraduate! My favourite bit is seeing how staff use some of the ideas and interests I’ve had in the MA in their jobs at senior levels. The opportunity to get involved in projects like the IC is something I’d love, and it’s made me even more enthusiastic about a career in academic libraries. I just need to find a job now!

Note: Photo was taken by Flickr user paolomargari and used here under Creative Commons licence.

Dissertation time

June 11th, 2009

Right, coursework is all handed in and there’s just the dissertation left to go in my MA. Still having a few health problems: I’ve managed to get on top of most things, but my vision is still proving a bit problem. I’m back at the computer having turned my brightness settings down low, but paper is proving a bit of a problem, so I’m trying to do what I can when I can (while getting various referrals to try and sort out my vision).

The most manageable task at the moment seems to be transcribing the interviews I’ve got so far (I’m a touch typist, and I transcribed a lot during my PhD etc. so I’m a fairly dab hand at churning this out). I would have preferred to type these up as I recorded them, so I was fresh from the interview, but was involved in about seven layers of coursework at the time. I typed up my first interview today, and it was quite interesting to go back over it and see the kinds of themes that came up.

Just as a reminder, I’m looking at the use of space in Sheffield University’s Information Commons with the student interviews, and the next stage of my research will be to interview staff and find out about their expectations for the IC, and how they compare with actual use. I need to do a bit of reading before the staff interviews, though, so holding on to see if I can sort out my eyes first!

The student data is really interesting, though. There seem to be lots of layers to the decision making processes of students when deciding which space to use: study preferences, aesthetic preferences, habit, social behaviour, territoriality etc. Should be fascinating stuff to unpick these a bit further and see how they interact / combine in different individuals.

Note: Image taken at LILAC 2009. I like the fact that the signs told Welsh speakers to use the door to escape in case of fire, but didn’t tell them how to open the thing. Of course, maybe the Welsh are just naturally good at opening doors.