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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.



USTLG Information Literacy Meeting

May 16th, 2011

This post is a copy of the original, hosted at the University of Leicester institutional blog at http://uollibraryblog.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/ustlg-information-literacy-meeting/. It is replicated here to preserve this blog as a central record of my professional development.

Programme for the day

Programme for the day

This Monday I attended the University Science and Technology Librarians’ Group (USTLG) Spring meeting on Information Literacy. It was my first USTLG meeting (regular blog readers will have gathered that we try and send at least one science librarian to each) and was at the University of Sheffield, where I studied for my MA in Librarianship. The full information literacy presentations are available on the USTLG website.

The talks fell into three themes: two on researcher support, two on outreach, and two on online tutorials, alongside a presentation from the British Standards Institution, which sponsored the lunch. I’ll tackle the talks in terms of theme, rather than in the order they occurred.

Researcher Support

Moira Bent, from the University of Newcastle, spoke about the revised version of the 7 Pillars model of Information Literacy. This model, well known in the library world, mapped the different skills an information literate person should possess. The revised model addresses some concerns which have been raised in recent years: it is no longer linear, the focus is not just on skills, and each ‘pillar’ has a simple name (Identify, Scope, Plan, Gather, Evaluate, Manage and Present).

To further increase the model’s ease of application, a ‘research lens’ has been produced: looking at which skills and attitudes researchers would find productive under each pillar. The lens draws some of its terminology from theResearcher Development Framework, the UK’s widely-endorsed model of researcher development, in order to ensure its relevance. Moira emphasised that she was keen to use other ‘lenses’ to more increase the accessibility of the model in the long-term, perhaps for schools, undergraduates, or the workplace.

Further pursuing this theme, Sheila Webber, from the University of Sheffield, spoke about the influence of PhD supervisors on information literacy. She related Brew (2001)’s model of conceptions of research and Lee (2008)’s work on conceptions of supervision to simply demonstrate how a supervisor’s views were likely to influence the types of training they directed PhD students towards. She also made the interesting point that information literacy might not look the same in every field: a small field might be relatively easy to keep up-to-date with, while other PhDs might require a broad interdisciplinary approach and need a student to access many different tools and literatures.

Outreach

The two talks on outreach looked at science / technology librarians working with academic departments: one from Evi Tramatza at the University of Surrey, and one from Elizabeth Gadd at Loughborough University. Evi’s was a real success story, about the work she’d done to embed herself into the departments she supports using a focus on shared ground, pilot lectures and the support of the wider library to make sure she delivered on her promises.

Elizabeth talked about a more specific contribution she’d made towards improving teaching for a Civil Engineering literature review assignment. Elizabeth’s talk really emphasised for me how useful evidence can be in developing teaching: she’d used simple measures of the quality of the reviews before and after the teaching was introduced to demonstrate its impact, and was building upon this with other departments. You can see more of the evidence she used in Loughborough’s Institutional Repository.

Online Tutorials

Lastly, the two talks on online tutorials. The first was David Stacey, from the University of Bath, talking about the library’s role in creating an online tutorial on academic writing skills. This was a great illustration of how different specialists across the university (including the library and a Fellow from the Royal Literary Fund) had worked together to obtain funding to create this helpful resource. Unfortunately the tutorial is not currently accessible to those outside Bath (there’s some screenshots in his presentation slides) but they may produce an Open Educational Resource (OER) in the future.

The second, I already knew a little about, as Leicester is an observer on the project. This was the East Midlands Research Support Group (EMRSG), represented at USTLG by Elizabeth Martin from De Montfort University and Jenny Coombs from the University of Nottingham, who have been working together to produce a resource for researcher training. Again, this project was a triumph for collaboration, with four different universities – Loughborough and Coventry being the other key players – working together to get funding. I was really pleased to see how far the project has come since the last meeting I attended: they have developed a fantastic resource, with videos of senior researchers explaining core concepts and plenty of interactivity. Again, screenshots are available in the presentation slides right now, but the group intend to make an OER available in Jorum and Xpert in the future.

Overall, this was a great event, with good breadth, and plenty of practical ideas to bring back (particularly the focus on evidence and collaboration). I’ll look forward to my next USTLG meeting.


A Stealth Librarianship Manifesto: Some thoughts

February 14th, 2011

Blue skies over the library

Blue skies over the library. Maybe I should have had a shot of one of the departments here instead!

John Dupuis, author of the Confessions of a Science Librarian blog, recently wrote a fascinating post entitled A Stealth Librarian’s Manifesto (please do go and read it) talking about the need for academic librarians to insinuate their way into the communities they serve. There’s also comments on the blog about how this manifesto applies to other sectors. I was halfway through commenting on his post, when I realised that I had one of my own brewing.

The stealth librarian’s manifesto had me nodding most of the way through. We should become part of our users’ landscape. We should be integrated into research and teaching and we should be collaborative. With all these I agree. However, I baulked slightly at the separation from the information profession the manifesto encouraged in parts: “We must stop going to librarian conferences” and “We must stop joining librarian associations”? Yikes!

On reflection I think this reaction is partly about my background. As an ex-academic (at the PhD student level) and relatively new librarian (I graduated from my librarianship course just over a year ago) I’m very conscious of what I’ve learnt from the knowledge and expertise of other librarians. I’m wary of the danger of ‘going native’ – a concept from anthropological ethnographic research, where those studying a culture can come to identify with it so strongly that they become estranged from their own culture. I still think that there’s a lot I have to learn from other information professionals, and I don’t want to lose sight of the new ways of seeing the world I’ve learnt as a librarian.

However, this reservation isn’t meant to be a cutting critique of the manifesto. I can see how those who are more established librarians already feel confident within the profession, and see progress as pushing the other way and focusing more on the community they don’t yet know. There’s a perfect balance where librarians are embedded in both communities, participating in the lives of the groups that they support, yet secure of their own identity as professionals, secure of their own expertise.

I think maybe I’m getting to the stage where I’m secure enough as a librarian to start pushing the stealth angle a little harder. I’ve taken some steps towards becoming involved in the communities I serve, particularly in terms of conferences and social networks, which is where I’m comfortable. One of my next big aims in the role is to increase how embedded I am in the on-campus scientific community, where my liaison so far has been a little too reactive (as opposed to proactive) for either the manifesto or for my own preference. There’s other constraints here – I have found it more challenging to become a part of both library and departmental communities in my current part-time role – but that’s all the more reason to invest my effort in this area, and develop some stealth librarian skills.


Science Online London conference reflections

September 5th, 2010

It occurred to me recently that when I post to the University of Leicester library blog I lose the record of my activities in this, my supposedly central record of my activities! Therefore I’m going to experiment with linking in my contributions to this (and any other blogs) under the imaginatively named ‘contributions to other blogs’ category.

My reflections on Science Online London, an event looking at use of the web in science, can be found at http://uollibraryblog.wordpress.com/2010/09/05/science-online/ but I’ve also copied it in full below.

Science Online conference bag

Science Online conference bag

Yesterday I visited Science Online London (the second day). It’s subtitle is ‘How is the web changing science?’ but it’s a general mishmash of people from various walks who share an enthusiasm for science and the web, talking about what they’re doing, and how they can share this enthusiasm.

For me, the breakout sessions were the most interesting portions, so I’ll summarise those briefly with some reflections on what I learnt from them.

Tracking researcher identity: pragmatics and ethics

The first session I attended was looking at an author ID system, ORCID. Such systems try to avoid confusion between academic authors with similar namesby assigning them a unique ID. I’m already signed up to Thomson Reuter’s ResearcherID system, to give an example. This is a more top down alternative to the bottom up approach where databases use algorithms to try to differentiate between different authors. I understand these algorithms are usually successful, but perhaps because of my limited academic output, I’ve found myself lumped in with other “K Fraser”s on more than one occasion.

ORCID aims to overcome some of the reluctance researchers have to sign up to proprietary author ID systems, and offer a central, open and transparent registry instead. The session came alive in the discussion of what such a system could do – such as create a far more nuanced record of who had contributed what to a paper than the traditional author order could capture – and the ethics behind it – should a researcher’s ID keep track of rebuttals of their work? There are a lot of positives to such a system from a librarian’s perspective (easier author search, simplified tracking down of academics’ papers for the institutional repository) so it was great to have a balanced discussion from a range of stakeholders.

What scientists want (and how to give it to them)

The second breakout session I attended was part of the ‘unconference’ (essentially some sessions which were crowdsourced from attendees the previous day). This session focused on ‘users’ (which turned out to be scientists). The most interesting bits for me were a discussion of what scientists wanted from technology (they want better publication and information gathering tools: librarians take note) and one slightly awkward but fascinating section in which a marketing specialist tried to get the scientists to identify the best way to market to them.

Obviously I had my ears open for the marketing questions, as sometimes it’s hard for the library to ‘sell’ services to academics. The main message was that scientists will come and look for information as and when they need it, and so when they do come looking, you’d better be i) easy to find and ii) prepared with a pitch and some examples of how great your services are. I’m currently mulling over ways to achieve these two things as a librarian: suggestions welcome!

The “broken publishing system”: whose responsibility is it?

The last session I attended was ostensibly a discussion of open access publishing, but centred mostly on impact factors, a way of recording how widely read journal are, at the title level. Discussions with Nancy, our library bibliometrician have already highlighted to me that judging a paper by which journal it’s in is a flawed idea, but I was surprised to hear that no one in the room – publishers included – thought they were useful or valid. Somehow impact factors have been seized as a key evaluation metric, and everyone is only interested in them to the extent that others are using them to evaluate their output!

All were agreed that something should be done to avoid this focus on impact factors, but disagreement centred on whether small acts of protest at this system (opting out, voting with your feet) or a coordinated protest (demanding an overhaul of the system at the highest levels) were needed. Again, suggestions for action welcome!

Conclusions

Overall, this was an interesting conference to attend, and I felt I learnt a lot about how scientists view the services on offer to them. Oddly, however, I think maybe I’d be more comfortable presenting at it if I attended again: a lot of the sessions were based on the assumption that the audience was composed of scientists, and I felt like more like an observer than a participant in the discussion sometimes. However, participant observation is a time-honoured way of getting to know a culture better, and I’m sure I’ll use my observations to help inform the library’s development of services over the next year: maybe with something new to contribute to the discussion of scientists online at the end.