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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 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.

LILAC 2010: Part two – Reflections on Teaching

April 15th, 2010

LILAC Programme and Worksheet

LILAC Programme and Workshop Worksheet

Following on from my previous post on LILAC – LILAC: Part One – Workshop Presentation I wanted to reflect on sessions I’d been to discussing teaching. Over the summer one of my priorities is to think about the teaching I’ll be doing in my new job. LILAC started to help me with this, and there were a few sessions I wanted to pick out to share.

In her talk on librarians as teachers Claire McGuinness found librarians often seemed insecure in their teacher identities and covered some reasons why it’s been argued librarians are not ‘true’ teachers (e.g. not doing the same type of teaching as academics).

Claire’s discussion of teacher identify resonated with a talk I’d attended at the SRHE Conference in 2009 on The challenges for new academics in adopting student-centred approaches to learning by Ian Sadler. Ian found that unfamiliarity with material meant new academics were often nervous about experimenting with pedagogy. Perhaps the insecurity of librarians can be attributed to us being seen as ‘new academics’ as a profession, and I wonder if this has impact on the kinds of teaching we attempt.

Another aspect of teacher librarian development is training, and a session with Amanda Click and Claire Walker about on-the-job training was also helpful. They discovered that line managers of new instructional librarians are twice more likely to think they’re providing training than the instructional librarians themselves! There’s an interesting point there about making sure new teachers feel like they’re supported, and signalling when it’s appropriate for them to reflect and regroup.

A lot of the things Amanda and Claire found new teacher librarians had tried were similar to the teaching development section of my chartership plan, and it’s good to know that new teachers found reading and membership of professional groups beneficial. It was also great to hear the enthusiasm in the room for peer observation and review as a method for developing teaching skills during questions, and something I’ll definitely be exploring.

Finally, I already mentioned Andy Jackson‘s workshop on generic graduate attributes in my institutional blog post but also wanted to mention how empowering it was to realise how we can put information literacy teaching into a wider context, such as social and ethical responsibility. While still at De Montfort I sat in on a session discussing plagiarism run by a colleague, and was really interested to see students’ grasp of the issues behind such authorship and intellectual property. I really believe that getting students to relate their learning to what they know already is important in getting students to understand, remember, and apply information literacy skills. I guess therefore it’s vital to embed what we teach in a wider setting of ethics, citizenship and life skills.

What have I learnt? Being a better teacher is partly about practice and confidence. But attending LILAC has helped consolidate some ideas that have been swimming round in my head about the importance of pedagogy and contextualisation in making student skills useful and transferable. How can I make the ideas I cover in my sessions relevant to students, and is it even possible to make sure these ideas stick with students in future study, employment and lifelong learning? My next step is to actually try and answer these questions while designing my teaching: sounds like a process to document in my chartership portfolio!

After two years of attendance I can’t recommend LILAC enough. It seems to be a really great conference, the sessions are peer reviewed, and I always seem to come away with a new perspective on my professional development. I hope I’ll be able to go next year!

LILAC 2010: Part one – Workshop Presentation

April 15th, 2010

Clarion Hotel, Limerick

View of the Clarion Hotel, Limerick, my accommodation, from bridge by the Conference Venue

It goes to show that funding student places at a conference pays off! Last year I visited LILAC 2009 in Cardiff on a sponsored student place and this year I was back again presenting a workshop!

The workshop was called Building research student communities: is there a role for library and information services (slides can be found via the link). The workshop was based on activities at De Montfort University and the theory of  Communities of Practice, and was written with my colleagues Melanie Petch, Lecturer in English Language from the Centre for Learning and Study Support and  Jo Webb, Head of Academic Services.

The workshop seemed to go well, although the timing slipped a little so there wasn’t time for as much interactivity as I’d have liked. Still, it was fantastic to feel like I was moving towards the centre of our very own librarian Community of Practice and I really enjoyed being an active participant in the conference.

I’ve already written a little about the event in relation to my new job on our library blog in a post called Information Literacy within our Institution: Thoughts from LILAC. However, as I mention there, I felt LILAC was strong in both supporting reflection on work, and reflection on personal professional development, so wanted to take a chance to reflect on some sessions that had covered the latter, which I’ve done in my second post: LILAC 2010: Part two – Reflections on Teaching.