Event Reviews 2012

Manchester NLPN Autumn Event 10th November 2012

by Catherine McManamon on behalf of Manchester NLPN @ManchesterNLPNhttp://manchesternlpn.wordpress.com/

The Manchester New Library Professionals Network held an Information Literacy themed event at Madlab, a community space in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. In keeping with the network’s overarching aims, the event sought to provide delegates with a deeper understanding of Information Literacy from a practitioner’s perspective, along with knowledge that could be adapted and applied pragmatically in their current and future roles across library sectors.

Teaching Information Literacy

The event began with an interactive session courtesy of Emily Shields and Rosie Jones which focused on the practicalities of planning and delivering information literacy workshops.

The attendees were initially encouraged to think about their own IL teaching and learning experiences. In groups we discussed and selected pictures that represented this; feeling overwhelmed with where to start, how to pitch sessions and uncertainty over which aspects of IL to focus on were repeated themes. Developing this further, delegates were asked to affix coloured post-it notes to posters to indicate their learning preferences – whether they liked or disliked such things as handouts, role-play, online guides and paired discussion. The results elucidated a key message: being sensitive to different learning styles and recognising the variety that exists within any one classroom is crucial to the success of your teaching.

Having established the importance of making learning events an active process, it was noted that where you have a range of styles not all elements will be a perfect fit. Conscious of this, the speakers highlighted the good practice of working through teaching plans and designing at least one element that will suit each style. In order to ensure engagement and allow an element of self-directed learning 6 different types of interactivity were explored:

  1. Icebreakers
  2. Voting
  3. Technology
  4. Problem Solving
  5. Peer Instruction
  6. Creative Presentations

For each point, Emily and Rosie shared their own teaching experiences and offered practical ways of incorporating these elements into workshops. For example, an icebreaker can be as simple as asking students to put a sticker on a flipchart corresponding to where they currently seek information as they enter the room.  This has the benefit of getting students involved and allowing the trainer to gauge their experience at an early stage. Similarly, voting – this is not dependent on specialist technology; it can be accommodated easily by asking students to vote using different coloured card to indicate their answers.  Again this has the combined effect of getting students to think and act on the information you have imparted, as well as helping the trainer to establish how much they have understood.

The speakers actively put into practice many of these techniques throughout the workshop. The positive effect served to highlight the inadequacy of sessions where students have simply been talked at for an hour. This workshop made clear the importance of engaging learners if we are to raise the profile of IL beyond the library and beyond academia. It provided many practical ways to achieve this in our own teaching.  The starting point for credibility is excellence in professional practice – in short this requires a clear sense of learning objectives, a nuanced understanding of how different people learn and the application of different teaching techniques to ensure objectives are fulfilled accordingly.  In this way the value of IL and recognition of the competency of librarians as teachers will not be confined to the library.

Information Literacy and Social Media

The second presentation was delivered by Sue Lawson and focused on the role social media has to play in supporting and promoting Information Literacy amongst library users.

Sue began by demonstrating that a Google search for “free Wi-Fi” delivers no hits on the first page to indicate local public libraries offer this – highlighting the huge amount of advocacy that needs to be undertaken.  Librarians can harness social media platforms to target this, and in the process both enhance public current awareness about library services and help users to learn from the many new,

participatory digital environments. Sue pointed to the Welsh Information Literacy Project and felt there was much to learn from how it fits around the community to redress levels of digital exclusion that stem from a lack of technical and IL skills.

The rest of the session explored the different ways various social media platforms could be incorporated into a service to broaden its’ reach and impact – including the use of Flickr, Twitter and Facebook accounts. Sue recommended that a seemingly non-related library tweet or post with relevant links such as “follow Take That on their UK tour” could be an engaging way to encourage users to understand maps and develop other digital skills.

The aim of social media accounts may well be to attract new users – to educate and provide added value in the service, however, putting too much emphasis on the didactic elements may work against us. Sue advised that we be shouldn’t be too obsessed with being an “information professional” in our social media profiles – instead posting a range of lively, non-library events can attract new followers who will then see your library-related posts.  Putting this into practice, the Manchester Libraries Facebook page is used to promote library resources and events, but also to promote interesting websites and other cultural events in Manchester.

Sue’s presentation attested to the ubiquity of social media and offered useful tips to use profiles in a way that is attuned to the information needs of library users. The session encouraged us to think about how libraries can use social media to help communities be truly information literate in the digital age.

Information Literacy and Reader Development

The final session of the day was presented by Alison Bond-McNally who explored the significance of Information Literacy in her role as a reader development librarian.

Unlike the Higher Education library context where IL can be incorporated into teaching and learning support frameworks, the importance of IL to public library users is not always immediately apparent.  However, by analysing CILIP’s definition Alison demonstrated that IL is most definitely central to core public library services.

Alison emphasised that encouraging users to recognise that valuable literature is not confined to novels, i.e. analysing and assessing different types of material, is the first introduction to IL for many users. The purpose of reader development is to encourage people to have reading confidence: “to give them the courage to take risks in their reading, to read for pleasure or information but to read widely and creatively and well.”  In order to do this, librarians must give people the tools to make their own reading choices.

In order to facilitate this readers must be assured that their reading is valid and

good, whether it is Heat Magazine or Dickens. Delegates were introduced to different tools that can be used to mediate and filter choice, and reminded that like any information source the resources differ vastly in their quality and relevance.

We explored Reading Group Set Lists, Book Blogs, Book Reviews in Newspapers,      Amazon Reviews, National and International prizes, TV & Radio Shows and recommendations from friends, colleagues and peers. The skill comes in finding and interpreting those tools: IL in a nutshell.

Outcomes and feedback

A key outcome of the event was a heightened recognition of the nuances of IL within different sectors and contexts.  The presentations delivered a multiplicity of practical skills and tips that could be used to support and develop the day to day professional practice of attendees, and which could be cascaded in the workplace.  Many delegates attested to this in their feedback:

“The subjects discussed useful to many library professionals – a good and broad selection of skills to gain”

“Useful for broadening knowledge and hearing about areas that may be useful in my future career”

“Interesting real-life experiences discussed, practical issues and dealing with problems”

“Great to focus on practical teaching skills for information literacy – not something you get on the MA. Very Useful”

“Excellent practical advice for implementing our skills”

“I enjoyed hearing about Bury public library and literature as part of Info Literacy. Also, interesting to hear about teaching something I will have to do in the future”

“Information literacy teaching session by Rosie and Emily was applicable to many sectors and offered tips to improve teaching. Enjoyed networking too!”

London LibTeachMeet 14th May 2012

by Lynne Meehan on behalf of the London LibTeachMeet team.

A London LibTeachMeet was held on 14th May 2012 at UCL with the theme ‘Supporting Diverse Learners’. A LibTeachMeet is an informal event that involves short (5 minute) presentations usually about innovations and best practice in teaching with time for discussion and networking. For more information about LibTeachMeet please go to: http://www.camlibtm.info/about/ (website of the group that held the first LibTeachMeet).

After an initial networking activity we began our first round of talks. The evening began with a presentation from Sue Merrick entitled “Curating with students and teachers”. Sue showed us various ways she curated content for use by students in her school, of particular interest to the attendees was the site Jog the Web which could be used to collate and curate internet content. Next was Ka-Ming Pang presenting on behalf of Carly Miller on the topic of outreach programs in public libraries to reach homeless people. This presentation provided an interesting insight into the problems faced by public libraries trying to reach a disengaged group, a situation that we could all empathise with, no matter which sector we came from.  Adam Edwards introduced us to a game he plays with students at the University of Middlesex. The game consisted of cards labelled with different resources on them and then another set describing the resources. In small groups we had to match these together. This led to further discussion about why we made the decisions we had. This was a fun game that would be great way to introduce resources and their reliability in a teaching class. The pressure was palpable as a room full of librarians tried to get the right order. Kate Lomax talked about new trends for learning such as ‘23 things’ and ‘Code Year’, (a site which allows you to take part in interactive programming lessons) and started a discussion about how we could take these initiatives further to involve more reflective elements. It also led me to think about the possibility of using ‘23 things’ or ‘Code Year’ type initiatives to provide skills training to our users. The final talk before the break was Anne Pietsch who gave us an introduction to several types of audio technology, which we could use to enhance the learning resources we offer. This was a useful presentation which raised awareness of technologies that we were not all aware of.

After a small break the final session began with a talk from Barbara Band who introduced us to different ways to engage reluctant readers in her school. She used copies of book covers and excerpts to get a class of pupils to talk about books. For example, they would discuss what they thought the book was about just from looking at a range of covers. She used this method, rather than a pile of books to reduce the anxiety and feelings of intimidation they can bring to low/non-readers.   This talk was a great reminder that libraries can be a place of anxiety for some people and provided an innovative way to address that anxiety. Suzanne Rushe introduced us to an activity she uses to highlight the cultural differences of the students at her University to the staff in the library. Members of the audience were given cards which indicated which alien race they belonged to and what greeting that race used. They then had to find out who else in the audience belonged to the same race as them, by exchanging greetings. This game did make some members feel uncomfortable which highlighted the feelings that some of our library visitors may feel. Alison Chojna talked about the skills days they run at London South Bank University. These are all day drop-in sessions covering a wide range of information literacy skills. The students have workbooks to work through and library staff are on hand to help with any questions. From an academic perspective, it was an interesting to see an alternative to a traditional skills session which usually relies on cooperation from academic departments. It was particularly interesting, considering how successful the sessions were and how many students they reached. The final talk of the night was from Julia Abell who talked about mixed ability groups when teaching and how she developed flexible and adaptable sessions to teach such classes. Many of us experience these types of classes and it was useful to see the techniques and methods that Julia used and how we could incorporate these into our own practice.

Over 40 attendees came to the event and they all either strongly agreed or agreed that the objectives of the event were clear.

The LibTeachMeet was well received, 22 delegates strongly agreed that they learnt something useful to their role. What attendees liked most were the short presentation style mixed with being able to network.

What the delegates they liked most:

“Short, snappy, informative”

“Great range of speakers, loved practical examples of activities and ways to encourage attendance”

“Chance to learn a lot of different things – bound to find something of use, no matter who you are”

Outcomes

A major outcome of the London LibTeachMeet is to highlight how much information and how many ideas can be exchanged in a short space of time. Also how setting time aside to exchange ideas with other library staff can inform and improve your own practice. We can learn a lot from each other regardless of role or sector. Below are some comments from attendees on this.

“Realising that although we were from different sectors, we still share a lot in how to promote and use IL”

“Meeting other professionals in an informal way”

“listening to other’s experiences and networking”

For me personally I found it a useful and enjoyable evening, coming away from it with several new ideas to incorporate into my own practice. I would like to thank everyone on the organising team for all their hard work bringing this event together as well as thanking the CILIP Information Literacy Group for sponsoring this event.

All presentations and/or links to resources used are available on the London LibTeachMeet website.

Jen Laurenson also blogged about attending the LibTeachMeet: http://butidolikecardigans.wordpress.com/2012/05/19/london-libteachmeet-2012/

Manchester Librarian Teachmeet: 17 January 2012

by Sam Aston.

The event took place at the University of Manchester Library and was part of the wider North West Academic Libraries (NoWAL) Continuing Professional Development Strand.

The Teachmeet was sponsored by the CILIP CSG Information Literacy Group who provided the refreshments.

There was a good variety of attendance from across higher education in the region but also by some school and college librarians. There were 10 speakers and these were split into two halves of the morning with small group discussion around common topics allowing people to share experiences and network with others.

There were a variety of topics covered, with induction and library bingo being strong themes….? We must be thinking about September already.

All in all a good morning was had and I certainly took more then a couple of actions back to the office and I hope that others did too.

There is a blog where the slides will be available in due course.