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I was recently privileged enough to be able to attend LILAC (Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference)  for the first time. This is the 6th time this conference has taken place and it is basically the big British/Irish conference event for librarians and information professionals interested in information literacy or “information skills”, a term which seems to be quite commonly used interchangeably with “information literacy” in the U.K. and Ireland.

I was told that about 300 librarians attended this year and that a larger number were international delegates than ever before with a total of 19 different countries represented. I found it extremely impressive and inspiring to learn that LILAC basically evolved because two librarians saw a need for this type of conference and then made it happen. Those two librarians are Debbi Boden, Director of Library Services, Saltire Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University and Jane Secker, Learning Technology Librarian (see her blog Social Software Libraries and E-Learning) at the London School of Economics. Today LILAC is organized by CILIP’s Information Literacy Group but basically every year some eight people man a committee which seems super efficient and professional and they just ensure that LILAC gets organized and run well and that an appealing programme is put together. I was struck by how full the programme was and I liked the fact that the sessions ran 45 minutes at most. This meant that you learned a lot about many different projects and initiatives and personally I found I got more out of it than at conferences where sessions run longer but there are fewer of them.

Here’s the title, abstract, and link to the slides for the long paper (45 minutes) I gave at LILAC 2010 on March 29th. Note that the conference organizers request quite lengthy abstracts. It was attended by about 70-80 librarians and there was a Q&A afterwards. I was glad to see such an interest in this topic area and I hope this may strengthen my network of librarian colleagues who share this research interest of mine.

Title: An Investigation of the information literacy instruction practices, attitudes and knowledge of university faculty: findings and recommendations based on survey and interview research at York University.

Conference Presentation (slides)


This session will provide a critical review of key results from research conducted with full-time faculty in a wide range of disciplines at York University, Toronto. Findings regarding faculty perceptions of the meaning and value of information literacy instruction will be shared, in addition to results, shedding light on faculty behaviours and beliefs, when it comes to the practice of information literacy.

Results obtained and recommendations made are based on a two-stage research process. Survey research formed the focus in stage one, and interview research (involving a semi-structured interview approach), allowing more in-depth investigation of selected issues, was the research method adopted in stage two.

Relevant disciplinary differences will be outlined, with a focus on comparison of results between the Science and Engineering disciplines, the Social Sciences and Humanities disciplines, and the Professional disciplines. The session will also examine the extent to which the findings of this study either corroborate or differ from results of similar studies uncovered by a recent review of the Library and Information Studies literature.

The session will begin by exploring faculty perceptions of the meaning of information literacy and the importance of information literacy instruction in fostering information literacy competencies. Faculty views on the relative importance of instruction in different information literacy skills areas in higher-level education are also summarised. Faculty perceptions and experiences of information literacy competency levels among their students will be discussed. Faculty opinions of student skill levels at different stages will be highlighted, i.e., lower level undergraduate students, higher level undergraduate students, and postgraduate students.

Results indicating the approaches typically adopted by faculty to engage students and motivate them to learn information literacy competencies are shared. The role of the research assignment in fostering information literacy competencies, in faculty’s estimation, will be discussed.  Findings regarding levels of faculty engagement in teaching information literacy competencies, either by themselves or in collaboration with a librarian, will also be summarized. Results will also be highlighted regarding the nature of information literacy instruction typically incorporated within the classroom by faculty, the amount of time typically allocated to this instruction, as well as their general experiences and estimation of it.

Survey results showed that the number of faculty, who opt not to incorporate information literacy instruction within their classrooms, is nearly equal to the number who do. Therefore, examination of the reasons for the non-adoption of information literacy was critical in this study and key findings from both survey and interview research will be highlighted.

Finally, faculty beliefs regarding appropriate roles, formats, pedagogies and methods for the effective teaching and learning of information literacy competencies will also be shared. Faculty views on how information literacy instruction might be more effectively promoted at York University will also be discussed.

Based on this survey and interview research, the speaker’s summary of implications for practice and research will be shared.

As part of my role as Visiting Professional Scholar at the School of Information and Library Studies (SILS) at University College Dublin, I was invited by the Head of the School, Diane Sonnenwald, to give a guest lecture. Postgraduate students at the School, as well as faculty were invited. A notice was also sent out to alumni of SILS about the talk and librarians in the Dublin area were also welcome to attend.

I decided to give a talk which would reflect on some new and emerging directions in selected service areas in Canadian academic libraries. I learned a lot in putting this together both from the literature, and from reflecting on what has been learned from practice both at York University Libraries and academic libraries beyond it (especially Canadian ones). I owe thanks to a lot of people who helped me hugely in pulling together the content I needed for this presentation. I acknowledged them all with thanks in my presentation.

The talk took place on November 30th, 2009, and the title and abstract, and a link to the slides is provided below. Audio will follow soon!

Future Forward: Reflections on New and Emerging Service Directions in Canadian Academic Libraries.

Many Canadian academic libraries are revisiting directions and priorities for user services delivery. This talk will give an overview of selected new emerging trends in this area, including a summary of the factors driving these changes, the core characteristics of services provided, and opportunities and challenges experienced along the way.

This presentation will draw in quite large part on research conducted and new service directions at York University Libraries (Toronto, Ontario). The speaker will highlight what has been learned through shifts in service design locally, through research on effective and innovative practices at other Canadian academic libraries, and through the study of emerging trends in the academic library world beyond the local context.

Four types of Canadian academic library service will be the focus of discussion and critical reflection. Noteworthy and forward-looking developments will be featured, and illustrated with examples.

(1) Some key trends in the design of learning spaces (including the learning commons concept) with reference to some Canadian academic libraries widely regarded as best practice models;

(2) Heightened emphasis on the library role in supporting the research agenda in higher education, both through emerging services to support faculty and postgraduate student research (such as institutional repositories, bibliometrics, Virtual Research Environments), and strategies for strengthening librarians’ own research productivity;

(3) Selected examples of new directions in reference services, such as Ask Ontario, a successful collaborative virtual reference service;

(4) Recent trends in information literacy policy and planning, with emphasis on standards adopted, increasing attention to teaching critical information literacy, new opportunities for curriculum integrated approaches, resulting from the OCAV University Undergraduate Degree Level Expectations (UUDLEs), and greater adoption of standardized assessment tools, including SAILS, ETS iSkills, and WASSAIL, to facilitate an ongoing evidenced-based approach to the design of information literacy programming.

Link to Presentation Slides.

Forgive me for the sparsity of postings recently. Busy times, what can I say. But expect to see more here in the months to come.

I gave a presentation at Sheffield University recently. I approached Sheila Webber, an information literacy scholar I admire hugely, and whose blog I follow regularly, about visiting the Department of Information Studies at the University. I was interested to learn about information literacy research at the Department, especially relating to faculty and information literacy. Sheila also showed me the Information Commons at the University, which impressed me. And I had the privilege to sit in on one of her classes.

Sheila invited me to give a talk on my research during my visit, which I gladly did. The title and abstract appear below and to download the slides and audio just follow the link to relevant files on YorkSpace, York University’s institutional repository, provided at the bottom of this post.

This presentation was given on October 27, 2009 and was a Centre of Information Literacy Research event. It was attended by a mix of faculty and graduate students in the Department of Information Studies, Sheffield University and professional librarians. I plan to engage in a second phase of this research after Christmas, which will involve conducting interviews with faculty at York University. I’m very interested in hearing form any other librarians or scholars engaged in similar research.

Talk Title: An Investigation of the Information Literacy Instruction Practices, Attitudes, and Knowledge of University Faculty: Results of a Web-based Survey at York University, Canada.

Abstract: This presentation provides an overview of key findings and recommendations of a survey of full-time faculty at York University, which investigated their information literacy instruction practices, attitudes, and knowledge. The session examines the extent to which the findings of this study either corroborate or differ from results of similar studies uncovered by a recent review of the LIS literature. Findings regarding faculty perceptions of the importance of information literacy instruction, and of information literacy competency levels among students are discussed. Data regarding levels of faculty engagement in teaching information literacy competencies, either by themselves or in collaboration with a librarian, are also shared. Findings are also highlighted regarding the nature of information literacy instruction typically incorporated within the classroom by faculty, as well as their general experiences and estimation of it. Results regarding faculty awareness of, and support for different formats and methods of instruction delivery are summarised. Based on these survey results, the researcher’s summary of implications for practice and research are shared.

Link to slides and audio file in YorkSpace.

I’m learning many things about Irish libraries during my sabbatical in Dublin. At a recent meeting I found out about the online tutorial called and then I took a look and came away very impressed. I’m told it’s not quite finished, but even what is available already is inspiring.

So what’s it all about? The target audience for this tutorial is graduate students including those engaged in Research Masters programs, PhD studies, or hired as postdoctoral staff.  This tutorial comprises seven units all designed to enhance the information literacy competencies of this target user group.  It forms part of the Strategic Innovation Funding Generic Skills Project titled “Enabling Fourth Level Ireland” (for more background information read this) . The Strategic Innovation Funding (SIF) programme is administered by the Higher Education Authority (HEA).

The three main partners in producing this tutorial are the libraries at the National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG), Trinity College Dublin (TCD) and University College Cork (UCC). The content creators are subject librarians at each of the partner university libraries. The multimedia development for this course was done by EMEDIA.

The seven modules are: (1) Introduction to Information Literacy, (2) Research Resource Discovery, (3) Evaluating Your Search, (4) Tracking Down Results, (5) Managing Your Information, (6) Ethics in Using Information, (7) Publishing & Disseminating. It’s a multimedia experience in that there is audio and video. Much of it is presented by the information literacy guide, Ruth, who with her nice voice and clear diction takes the user through the steps.

Sequential progress through the tutorial isn’t necessary and it’s appealing that you can dip in and out of it based on your own skill base. And there are also exercises giving the learner a chance to test their own understanding.

There are also quite a few text-based slides. And when it comes to demo-ing certain concepts or skills, screencasting software has been used. The examples used in this tutorial focus on cancer or biomedical type research but it’s been designed to ensure a broad disciplinary appeal with skills learned being transferable for the most part to other disciplines.

I believe the plan is to make this tutorial available to other higher education institutions, who might wish to use and adapt it for their own purposes. I’ve not come across any tutorials of this calibre focused specifically on graduate level information literacy competencies, but of course feel free to enlighten me. In any case, I think this project and the people behind it deserve a lot of credit.

Helen Fallon is well known in librarian circles in Ireland for the workshops she does on writing for publication.  And if you’d like to learn more about the writing program she’s started for Irish academic librarians, this article is very interesting. Helen has also put together this really useful blog called ANLTCwriters, which started up in February 2009.  I talked about ANLTC in a previous post.

This blog is designed to facilitate discussion about publishing and writing particularly about librarianship and related areas. So you’ll see tips and information posted by Helen Fallon, but also by other librarians who are subscribed.

It’s a great blog for anyone interested in publishing in librarianship to follow. These are the kinds of things you’ll find here:

  • Announcements re the launch of new library journals.
  • Postings alerting librarians about calls for book chapters, and calls for papers (both for conferences and journals).
  • Links to and information about useful articles/web sites with tips on  successfully writing for publication in librarianship or sometimes in academe more broadly.
  • A bibliography on the theme of writing for publication.
  • Articles related to the general theme of publishing, e.g., open access publishing.

Go here to subscribe to this blog’s feeds.

Barbara Fister has written a thought-provoking article in a recent issue (March 2009) of Library Issues about the role of faculty development in promoting teaching and learning of information literacy competencies  in higher education.

In a nutshell, the idea behind faculty development and information literacy is that librarians, rather than focusing largely on teaching students, instead devote a big chunk of their time and commitment to “teaching the teacher”, so to speak, or at least in collaborating closely with faculty to help them become the main facilitators of learning in classrooms where information literacy is being taught.

In some ways I have issues with the term “faculty development” because I think it sounds a bit condescending and am not even sure it captures exactly what it’s all about, because ideally it should be about faculty and librarians learning from each other, I’m pretty sure!

In any case, terminology aside, I’ve long thought that this is an approach well worth pursuing seriously for a number of reasons, which I explain below. And in my next post, I’ll share what I’m learning about ways to introduce faculty development programs which work.

  • There are only a limited number of librarians to go around, at many universities and colleges in North America and further afield. So even if our ideal is across the board curriculum integrated information literacy, where librarians are doing the bulk of the teaching, this is typically an unattainable ideal on most campuses.
  • Faculty are based in classrooms already, and play a huge role in shaping the curriculum and assessment protocols. In this sense, they are well disposed to facilitate the intertwining of the learning of subject content and disciplinary process so fundamental to the concept of information literacy. This doesn’t mean that librarians do not feature in the equation, but rather their role becomes more one of consultant in framing learning outcomes and designing assignments etc., as opposed to the frontline face in the classroom.
  • As Fister points out, while librarians have been champions of information literacy and are serious about it, “because learning  is what libraries are for”, information literacy is by no means librarians’ exclusive turf. As Gullikson (2006) points out ACRL’s Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline highlight the fact that of the 87 outcomes outlined in ACRL’s Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education the vast majority of outcomes are identified as being most appropriately taught by faculty alone (61), while a far fewer number are identified as being best taught by faculty and librarians in collaboration (25), or by librarians only (9). While I’m not saying I wholeheartedly agree with the way in which various responsibilities are divvied up here, I do strongly believe that many of the information literacy competencies require team-teaching by faculty and librarians (especially standards one, three, and five), and some are just plain best taught by a faculty member if you ask me.
  • Some faculty are teaching information literacy skills themselves already. If faculty, librarians and other relevant players on campus, e.g., educational developers and writing centre professionals joined forces to build an effective pedagogical strategy for information literacy, faculty would find an infrastructure in place, which would just serve to strengthen what they seem, in some cases, to be already choosing to do anyway.

    So what, pray tell,  is my source for saying faculty are teaching information literacy competencies on their own anyway, completely independently of librarians? Don’t classic articles, such as Hardesty’s 1995 article “Faculty Culture and Bibliographic Instruction: An Exploratory Analysis”, explain that the very nature of faculty culture mitigates against faculty doing this? While this is one of my favourite articles, and many of its teachings remain timeless truths, I still think it pays to remember that faculty attitudes toward “taking the bull by the horns” with information literacy, may be changing, if ever so slowly! I think one reason for this is that faculty are really quite appalled in many cases, by what I’ve heard described as the “copy and paste generation”, where students have to be pushed to use anything but Google, critical thinking about sources of information leaves a lot to be desired, and concerns about plagiarism or improper citing are common. McNamara Morrisson certainly found this in interviews with faculty at the University of Guelph in 2005. And in my survey of York University faculty conducted in 2007, this was the single biggest concern when faculty talked about students’ research assignments not being up to snuff. And this same survey revealed that of the faculty who do introduce information literacy competencies in to their classrooms (equal to about half of survey respondents),  53.9% of this group say they are doing this themselves, compared to 34.8% who say they do this with a librarian, and 11.8% who say that just a librarian does it. And this study doesn’t stand alone, in finding this. Gonzales’ survey established that of the some 60% of faculty, who do not have a librarian come to their class, 28% said they prefer to teach these skills themselves. Leckie and Fullerton found that between 30-50% of the Science and Engineering faculty they surveyed are teaching aspects of information literacy in their classes, at least some of the time.

  • The other point, is that there seems to be evidence of growing interest by faculty in the library filling an educative role in the domain of information literacy targeted at faculty rather than students, at least if studies involving surveys of faculty in North American universities are to be believed. Gonzales reports 68.2% of faculty are in favour of instructional opportunities for themselves, while the Cannon study finds that 70% of Social Sciences and Humanities faculty are supportive of this instruction method. Leckie and Fullerton asked Science and Engineering faculty to indicate levels of interest in library instruction options and options leading to the enhancement of the faculty members’ own information literacy were by far the most popular (some almost 70% of faculty in each case).

Articles Referenced in this Blog Posting:

Anita Cannon, “Faculty Survey on Library Research Instruction,” RQ 33, no. 4 (1994): 524-41.

Barbara Fister, “Fostering Information Literacy Through Faculty Development,” Library Issues 29, No. 4 (Mar. 2009).

R. Gonzales, “Opinions and Experiences of University Faculty Regarding Library Research Instruction: results of a web based survey at the University of Southern Colorado,” Research Strategies (April 18, 2001): 191-201.

Shelley Gullikson, “Faculty Perceptions of ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education,” The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32, no. 6 (November 2006): 583-592.

L. Hardesty, “Faculty Culture and Bibliographic Instruction: An Exploratory Analysis,” Library Trends 44, no. 2 (1995): 339-67.

Gloria J. Leckie and Anne Fullerton, “Information Literacy in Science and Engineering Undergraduate Education,” College and Research Libraries 60, no. 1 (January 1999): 9-29.

Laurie McNamara Morrison, “Faculty Motivations: An Exploratory Study of Motivational Factors of Faculty to Assist with Students’ Research Skills Development,” Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research 2, no. 2 (2007).

pomodoroThe Pomodoro statue, “Sphere with Sphere”, is located outside the Berkeley Library at Trinity College Dublin. Every time this summer, when doing research as a “Visiting Reader” at the library, I see tourists photographing this famous and beautiful sculpture. Arnaldo Pomadoro is an Italian sculptor. Other of his “Sphere with Sphere” works can be seen at the Vatican, in Washington D.C., in New York, Indianapolis, and in Berkeley, California.


This statue can be found outside the John Paul II Library at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. I was immediately struck by it on my arrival at the library recently to meet with the Librarian and Deputy Librarian there. This is a striking bronze statue by Imogen Stuart of Pope John Paul II with Irish youth. This is surrounded by the “heritage wall” listing the names of benefactors to the University.

I am engaged in work for the School of Information and Library Studies, at University College Dublin. I’m helping the School with a needs analysis, and through meetings and a survey, I’m gathering information about the Irish Continuing Professional Development (CPD) landscape, and about what needs and gaps exist. With this information I’m aiming to establish what a future role for the School might look like in this arena.

It’s been extremely interesting, and I’ve learned a tonne in the process about Irish libraries, in general,and about lots of great initiatives, projects, and resources that are ongoing.

One is the Academic and National Library Training Co-operative (ANLTC) – yes, do they ever love their acronyms here, as, indeed, we do in Ontario! In a nutshell, is a cooperative training and development program, which has been in existence since 1995. They engage in regular needs analysis (usually a survey, sometimes reported on their web site) to establish what members (includes universities and national libraries on the island of Ireland – so the Republic and Northern Ireland) want.

ANLTC has representation from all members and they work together to organize about a dozen CPD events a year, on a cost recovery basis. They also share hosting of the events. Each event typically involves an external speaker, and quite often this person may come from the U.K., but experts from the local institution are often brought in also, so that you have the expert external speaker view plus the value of local context and case studies. They tell me the average cost is usually about 120 Euro for a day long course. Each institution is guaranteed two places.

You can see the great range of programs they have offered on their web site.

I thought this is a model which OCUL could probably adopt without too much difficulty – it seems like an easy win-win model. Kudos to Irish libraries and ANLTC!

I’d just like to thank those who have commented to me either on the blog or in person about this post.Certainly there are interesting and relevant points on both sides of the debate, in terms of whether anyone should be able to walk in to academic library space or not.

I’d stressed the value of the educative role of academic libraries and facilitating access to information, where we can, as a key reason I’d fall in the “not to swipe” camp, though I appreciate it’s not an entirely straightforward question.

Thanks to those who point out that:

  • Academic library space is increasingly at a premium, and it can be hard to accommodate even our own students.
  • Those who enter academic libraries do not always have the best intentions in mind, and in some cases, walk-in access can leave legitimate users more open to risk of theft, for example. On this note, I spent time recently at one of Dublin’s public libraries. Obviously public libraries, by their very nature, open their doors to all.  I did notice though that quite often there would be an announcement on the intercom to advise library patrons to look out for their possessions in this busy open public space. This seemed one way of approaching the matter.
  • In practice, it can be hard for us to make our information available, even where we want to, due to vendor licenses. And this is certainly a significant factor, though guest access, where research use is intended, is permissable in some cases.
  • In a meeting I had with two librarians at an Irish academic library recently where access gates are used, they talked about:
    • how, on the one hand, their gates give technical difficulties, with the result that they’d actually had to deactivate the swiping requirement for some of the summer months (which reminds me that this morning at another academic library in Dublin, I saw one of the student orientation guides, say to the students he was bringing on a tour, that the library gates often don’t work, and that it can lead to queues, as students have problems getting their cards to register as they enter the library).
    • on the other hand, they had a case, where funding was sought for a library project from different faculties. One faculty stated their disinterest in helping with funding, giving as a reason for this that their students seldom use the library. Hello access stats! The swiping stats that they had enabled them to show how many students were, in fact, visiting the library from that specific faculty (which actually turned out to be a lot), and this made a difference in making the case for funding!

Lots to ponder!

Right now I’m  a “Visiting Scholar” (that’s what they are calling me at any rate, so I have graciously accepted this title!) at the School of Information and Library Studies (SILS) at University College Dublin . This will be from July to December of this year.

Being in Ireland brings me in touch with academic libraries here. Firstly, my work with SILS is facilitating this, and secondly academic libraries are just a place I like to visit anyway. One of my own personal research goals for this year’s sabbatical was to earn a deeper appreciation of the differences between academic libraries in Ireland compared to Canada. Already I’m learning from the way they do things here. Or in some cases, no doubt, observed differences are there for good reasons, and reflect differences in higher education structures or cultures that should be respected and honoured.

I’m going to post several times on this theme. But I thought I’d start by commenting on one difference I’ve noticed so far, with a few reflections on this.

There may be exceptions, but from my knowledge and experience of Canadian academic libraries, anyone can visit them, in terms of being allowed to enter their doors.

In Ireland, I am yet to visit an academic library which does not require those entering to provide proof that they are legitimate library users and have some form of library card or university/college ID. This used to involve a manual check by a security person at a lot of academic libraries, but generally nowadays students, faculty and others with requisite ID must swipe their cards when they both enter and exit the library. There are often provisions to offer access to alumni, community borrowers  etc., but they need to get some form of library card  before they can enter the library’s doors.

I’m sure many pros and cons could be discussed but I thought for me these are the key points on each side of the debate:

To swipe…

Statistics, statistics, statistics. On a visit to one academic library in Dublin, the librarian told me about the useful statistics you can get where students, faculty etc. are required to swipe their ID cards on entering and exiting the library. Not only do you get a gate count, as we do at York University Libraries, for example, as well as information on what time people entered, but you also know who they are, what program they are in, what year they are in, whether they are an undergraduate or graduate student, or an alumnus, or a faculty member, etc. Basically the library benefits from a wealth of information linked to the user’s university or college record. And you can keep a log of when people leave, e.g., obtain insights on the duration of library visits. And I must admit I thought that data could be mighty useful in informing development of library services, and in identifying user groups, where more outreach needs to be conducted.

Or not to swipe…

Freedom of access to information is the bottom line for me here.

While I’m a huge believer in the importance of assessing what we do at academic libraries, and I see the value the swipe statistics could add here, I don’t think that this can come before the fundamental principle of libraries facilitating freedom of access to information for all, in so far as it is possible for them to do so. Of course, the vendor licenses for many of the e-resources academic libraries purchase, explicitly state that they must be used by registered students, faculty and staff only. And many academic libraries in Canada and elsewhere are requiring some form of ID before visitors are allowed guest access to library computers.

But when it comes to entering an academic library’s doors, keeping barriers to a minimum is arguably desirable. I like to think that academic libraries are there to educate, inform and inspire not just those who are teaching, researching or studying there, but also alumni, researchers from other universities, community users etc. Academic libraries in Ireland, do make provisions, for this kind of user and others to have access to their collections, don’t get me wrong! But first they typically require one to get a library card.

Might eliminating that step be best? I can’t help thinking that if, for example, a community user, is instead allowed to enter an academic library, at will, he/she will feel more inclined to not only go there in the first place, but also to return. Just that ability to enter, without having to first prove his/her right to have that access, has the rather appealing outcome of immediately being able to browse the book stacks, find a spot to read within the library space, and even consult a reference librarian. Indeed, maybe said community user has always been curious about their local academic library, and decides to just pop in, scope it out, and leaves with the feeling that he/she very definitely want to come back, and get started on a pet research project that he/she has been pondering for a while. And maybe that leads him/her to go back to university or even start university education for the first time. Arguably a less likely outcome in a scenario where he/she has to apply for a library card (which very likely involves a fee) even to be able to enter his/her local academic library’s doors.