Archive for the ‘library inductions’ Category

Great expectations

November 16, 2007

Half way through our ten week information skills programme, it is becoming increasingly clear how student expectations can sometimes differ from what training we offer. 

I have asked myself: Why is this the case? It is partly due to the way the programme is marketed. The posters and flyers consist of dates and times, venue and the named session, but nowhere is there any mention of the aims and objectives of the session or the learning outcome.

If our team ever does something similar again, I think it would be worthwhile to say what the session does and does not cover. In general, our team offers basic introductions to different topics, e.g. the library catalogue, NORA, referencing, search strategies etc. And this is the reason why our publicity needs to be rebranded and our sessions should be promoted as: An introduction to… or Getting started with…. 

In some cases, students expect us to deliver training that is more subject specific, e.g. Searching on specific databases, which is the remit of Information Specialists. 

Some students request training on primary research methods and collection of data – which is the remit of academics.  And in other cases, students request training on specialist software packages, eg. Photoshop, Xilinux and Simulink – which are available in one of the computer labs but which have nothing to do with the library! 

I can understand how this misunderstanding may arise but there is a definite need to communicate clearly what our role as library trainers is! This can be achieved by more effective marketing and liaising more closely with academics and Information Specialists – to make sure we all convey to students what training each one of us offers. And if there is a gap in what is offered – then let’s communicate with each other about how this training need gap may be filled.  

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Library Skills inductions – keyword searching

October 9, 2007

An assignment on the importance of communication: What sort of communication? face-to-face, verbal, written, nurse-patient communication, nurse-doctor communication or something else? 

This week I have come to realize that it is difficult to deliver a library skills induction without including information on what keywords are, and how to identify them. It’s all very well showing them how to use the library catalogue and how to search on our library tool for information sources, NORA – but this is insufficient when students come to writing an assignment on a topic where they have a blank slate with no reading list. Our induction worksheet includes one example of keyword searching using our own examples, but some students find it difficult to identify keywords for their own assignments.  

The starting point has to be: what are keywords? Keywords are the significant words which underpin what a topic or assignment is about. The next step is to illustrate the difference between significant keywords (communication) and non-significant words, (importance) in the example above. And thirdly, a worksheet with perhaps ten examples of assignment titles could be helpful, where students have to pick out the keywords.  

  • In which ways can people reduce their carbon footprint?
  • Describe the best way of setting up a computer network for a small business of forty people?

 Our team has developed a separate set of information skills sessions, which will run for 10 weeks after the main inductions on a range of topics such as searching for books on the library catalogue, searching strategies, getting started on the Internet etc. Attendance at these additional skills sessions are voluntary.  

Sometimes you realize that something is not working as well as it could, only after you have delivered the session. I do think our team needs to consider a way of incorporating keyword searching into our library skills induction sessions to make them more successful. 

Library and IT inductions for students

October 3, 2007

The library Help Desk has been very busy in the last few weeks since enrolment. The main query is ‘I can’t logon’. From experience in the next few weeks common questions at the library help desk will be ‘I can’t find this book’ or ‘I can’t find any relevant journal articles on NORA.’ 

For the last three weeks I have been involved in delivering student inductions at our university library. We offer a range of options, including a library induction, an IT one, a joint IT and library one, and a library skills induction. Each one of the induction sessions is intended to be no more than an introduction to the library’s facilities, services and resources. 

We cover the library catalogue, our one-stop information tool NORA to access all the library resources, Blackboard, our online tutorial Skills Plus and IT issues, such as  logging on, e-mail, the U drive, the USB pen, printing and photocopying, and the borrowing of laptops. Sometimes, time permitting, we do a demonstration of the library catalogue and NORA and try and use relevant examples from the student’s own course assignments. Some of the sessions involve some hands-on practice using the resources covered in the presentation.

So, how well are these sessions attended? And, how useful are induction sessions to students?  

Attendance varies greatly, ranging from a full house to a small proportion of the total class size. So where is everyone else? Have they not been informed of the venue for the training session? Can they not get out of bed for a 9 o’clock start? Do they feel so confident in using the library resources that they don’t feel the need to come to one of the sessions? Or, simply, do they not have the time to attend?  

For those that do attend I think they find the sessions worthwhile. Many seem to keep ‘on task’ during the workshop session and some ask relevant and pertinent questions. I don’t suppose we really know how effective our sessions are unless we ask them to complete an evaluation form. And this is only truly meaningful a few weeks after they have had the induction.