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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.

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 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.

And breathe….

November 13th, 2011

Victoria Park, Leicester

Victoria Park, Leicester, of which I have been seeing twice as much.

It’s November already? How did that happen? Well, the answer is that I have been working non-stop since the start of October, doing literally twice as much as usual. At the end of the last academic year one of my colleagues at Leicester left us for pastures new, and I have taken on some extra work, covering her post. I’m working full-time on a temporary contract until the end of this calendar year, (we’re currently in the process of recruiting her replacement).

The start of the academic year is notoriously the busiest time for academic librarians, so it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. As well as the usual departments I support (Chemistry, Geography, Geology and Physics and Astronomy) I’ve added on Criminology, Education and Lifelong Learning to give a total of 7 departments. It’s been good to try my hand at social science support again (I used to support Business, and have kept my eye in with Human Geography) but I doubt anyone could to sustain the combination of posts long-term: it’s just too wide a spread of disciplines!

Because the majority of teaching we do is loaded into the first semester, October was packed with sessions. Including one-to-one appointments with students and staff, I taught (or at least talked) for 39 hours 45 minutes. That’s over one week of working hours! Repeated exposure has been a good way of reducing the nerves I have about standing in front of a class, and also has allowed me to experiment a little with how I approach concepts by slightly varying what I cover over several similar repeated sessions. However, I’ve missed the luxury of ‘properly’ planning a session and reflecting back on it!

Things are just starting to calm down in terms of numbers of hours of teaching per week, and I no longer fear losing my voice. But what do I do with myself now? Well, catch up with everything else, of course!

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!