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Librarians as researchers when we find the time!

This week I’ve done two talks with the theme of librarians as researchers including a lecture at the Department of Information Studies at Aberystwyth University and a workshop at Cambridge University Library. One of the key problems in doing research is finding the time. The day job really does get in the way and cloud the brain when trying to get some clarity of thought. But I guess that is an occupational hazard of being a practitioner researcher – you wear two hats, have twice as much to do but twice as much fun! No time to be bored. Missing my train today has allowed me to grab some time in the day to stop and reflect for a moment which is what I think I meant on Tuesday when I urged would be researchers to modify their attitude to time. I didn’t mean sit up half the night working as I’ve been known to do. But grab time when you can in the day and make the most of long (or short) train journeys for some thinking space!

There is a great write up from Tuesday’s workshop by Georgina Cronin. Our slides are really similar to those from January this year when Emma and I spoke at York St John. But I think I’m even more convinced than earlier of the huge benefits of being a practitioner researcher. Surely the desire to keep on learning has to be a good thing and the benefits of doing this should be more widely acknowledged in so called service departments. My slides from the lecture in Aber are also on slideshare.

All of a whirl


I think the saying is “it never rains then it pours” or something and that sums up the last week. After battling with getting some recognition for the importance of digital and information literacies for the best part of 10 years all of a sudden I have a paper at a committee next week! It’s on the back of the ANCIL at LSE study I carried out last year that we finally published in LSE Research Online last week. It’s been circulated internally for a while though.

But in addition, we had a party to celebrate the launch of Rethinking Information Literacy last night. We also have a NetworkEd seminar from colleagues at Cardiff later today on their digital and information Literacy strategy. We’ll be recording and it will in on the NetworkEd website. And an exciting project with a school in Hackney on information Literacy too might be in the pipeline!

Also this week I’ve had a visitor from Norway – Karen Marie Overn who I met at Lilac and who works at Gjovik University College. We have had a great few days talking about embedding information literacy, the role of the librarian and the challenges and highlights of working in this field! So many similarities between our (very different) institutions. What a week!

Rethinking information literacy now published!


Happy new year! I got the new book edited by me and Emma today. Very exciting! Its published by Facet and called Rethinking Information Literacy. It’s a collaborative effort with ten chapters written by some great colleagues in the information Literacy field! I recommend you take a look!


It struck me today that the work I did at Cambridge with Emma Coonan to develop ANCIL (A New Curriculum for Information Literacy) is an example of an open educational resource. We have put the curriculum into LSE Research Online, the DSpace at Cambridge but it could be shared in the new database, LSE Learning Resources Online or perhaps we should deposited in Jorum?

Several people have asked about using ANCIL and it is licensed under Creative Commons, Attribution, ShareAlike licence, which means you are free to use it and adapt it provided you give credit to Emma and I and you share your work under a CC Licence. It occurs to me that it would be great to get people to upload their work to a information literacy OER collection, so someone searching for our work can find all the various adaptations that might develop. Otherwise how will we know what people are doing with our work? We need some sort of bibliometrics for measuring the re-use of teaching materials, similar to the citation analysis we have for research.
There also must be a better way to organise information literacy OERs to improve their findability, and it’s something I have been exploring with my DELILA project partner, Nancy Graham, but also something we have been talking to UNESCO about. As a start Nancy is going to update the list of OERs on the Information Literacy website, but if anyone has any bright ideas about how we could harvest resources from a variety of sources to build some sort of virtual collection, then do get in touch with me. Surely there must be lots of ideas from the library community about how we could organise these materials?

Both these projects are occupying my mind at the moment, and so I have created two new web pages recently, one on the ANCIL audit at LSE and another on OERs. Any feedback or comments is very welcome!

Thinking about digital and information literacy

Anonymous statue in Budapest

This week and last week I have been teaching on the PGCert at LSE (the course that is Higher Education Academy accredited and qualifies you to teach in higher education). I’ve been teaching first year students on Module 2: Supporting Student Learning and second year students on Module 5: Course Design. I have been really struck by how when we come to talk about technology and its role in the design of a course, and its role in supporting student learning, a lot of the students wanted to talk about what I call digital and information literacy. Most of them have not used this terminology – the phrase ‘research skills’ seemed to arise, but some people did talk about students technical abilities. The overwhelming message seemed to be that many teachers were concerned that using the VLE (in our case Moodle) as largely a repository of information is helpful and convenient for students, but not always the best for them in the long run. Particularly if they are not given the opportunity to learn research skills. A common complaint was ‘when the link is broken in Moodle my students don’t know how to find a reading in the library’.

That’s why its really timely that we are conducting a review (or audit) of information and digital literacy support at LSE. I have written a short post about this on the ANCIL blog, as it relates directly to the work I did as part of my Arcadia Fellowship. I’m hoping to run a panel discussion at this year’s Teaching Day event at LSE to debate whether Moodle discourages ‘active learning’ in our students and I’ve managed to get a group of LSE teachers together to join me.

One final thing on this topic, I’ve been really pleased to see the information and digital literacy resources that we converted for the DELILA project are been featured at the moment on the Jorum website. If you’ve not seen them do take a look!

What people really need to know about the internet

Two weeks ago we hosted our second NetworkED seminar at LSE which was given by Professor John Naughton, who I had the fortune to work with last year as part of the Arcadia programme at Cambridge University Library. John’s new book was released in January this year, entitled, From Gutenberg to Zuckerberg: what people really need to know about the internet. We live streamed the event but also recorded it so you can watch again via the NetworkED website. We had a really lively session with colleagues from academic departments and support services attending. I was particularly struck but one of the first of John’s key points, that we need to take the long view of the development of the internet and so early in internet history, it is almost impossible to predict the changes that it might bring about. He used the analogy of the printing press and how just 25 years after it’s invention in the 15th Century, it would be unimaginable for people to foresee the changes that the print revolution would bring about. There are nine key ideas in John’s book including the fact that most people have no idea how a technology they have come to rely on works, that disruption is a key feature of the technology and that the copyright laws are out of step with what is now technically possible. I’m enjoying reading it and recommend you take a look!

Happy New Year – I’m on You Tube (again!)

Happy New Year – I’m on You Tube (again!)

Happy New Year! I’ve had a busy few weeks and also discovered since upgrading to Windows 7 / Office 2010 (which I like a lot) I can’t seem to get into my blog at work, which means I have to remember to write posts in the evening – and I’ve not got round to this until this evening. Actually it’s not a major problem as I do tend to spend most evenings with a laptop or ipad on my knee! I read today about a student exercise in one of LSE’s Media and Communications courses to get students to spend a day with no access to communications media and then to reflect on how the experience made them feel. Many of them struggled as I think I would. I can switch of my phone (I don’t Tweet every day or go on Facebook) but could I live without any communication media, if we count the radio, the TV and the internet? (I would certainly struggle to do my job).

Anyway, what’s all this about a You Tube video? Shortly before Christmas Helen Webster and Katy Wrathall, who were working on the Arcadia Fellowship to look at implementing the New Curriculum for Information Literacy in the Michaelmas Term, got in touch saying ‘John wants to make a video about ANCIL that will go viral.’ How we all laughed, the four of us in a video? It will never happen! But it has. It remains to be seen if it will go viral though! Do take a look at the You Tube video  and post any comments – John’s done a great introduction.

And we are all very much looking forward to running the first of our upcoming ANCIL workshops on Thursday at the libraries@cambridge event. We have a list of upcoming events on the New Curriculum Blog and don’t forget to take a look at the Implementing ANCIL wiki.

The meeting of the fellowship

I’m making a deliberate reference to Lord of Rings, as I think it does feel like a group of us have been on a quest, not to find a ring to rule all rings, but to explore the future of academic libraries in the digital age. The quest is no less exciting and we have all had adventures on the way, and for some fellows the journey is not quite over. But today and yesterday we came together at the Moller Centre, Churchill College to reflect on what we have achieved.
Over the past three year Cambridge has funded 19 Arcadia Fellows to work on 17 projects, all guided by Professor John Naughton. Four of us have worked on the New Curriculum for Information Literacy (does this make us the hobbits because personally I had always fancied being an elf?)

Yesterday some of us presented a short overview of our project (for five meetings) and it was followed by around 25 minutes of discussion per project. So we heard from: Ed Chamberlain, Huw Jones, Tony Hirst, Helle Porsdam, Lihua Zhu, Stefanie Hundsberger.

In addition Emma and I gave an overview of our project and were followed by Katy Wrathall and Helen Webster who are working on implementing ANCIL this term. I was really pleased with the reaction we got from the group. I had assumed people would have looked at our work, but it was nice to get a fresh and positive reaction.

Today we are hearing from the remaining fellows, Isla Kuhn, Yvonne Nobis and Esther Dingley. I’m writing more detailed notes on each talk which I’ll share later, but it’s great to be here and reflect on each project, explore common issues and discuss areas for future research. Last night a few of us went for a lovely meal with John who is a great believer in giving people time to think. Being back at Wolfson College last night made me realise how fantastic this opportunity was for me. Arcadia really was time to think, for all of us, and I think it had made us all better at our day jobs. Just being back here has started me thinking again, so watch this space!

Annual lecture in Aber

I’ve just got back from Aberystwyth, where I was giving a lecture this morning at the Department of Information Studies, in the Information and Society module, this time on Information Literacy Research. I’m really pleased to be invited back to Aber at least once a year and enjoy reminiscing about the seven years I spent there, and catching up with old friends. I was met at the station last night by Lucy Tedd and we had a breezy walk along the prom and a warming pre-dinner drink at the Olive Branch on the front. We had a lovely meal with colleagues from DIS and the Head of Department, Gayner.

I had a 2 hour slot for my lecture from 10-12 this morning, so included some time for discussion and a coffee break. It was interesting to hear from the students about what information and digital literacy meant to them. Most used the term information literacy and quite a few students on the course this year from overseas talked about their experiences in school and public libraries. We talked about the challenges of getting staff to work with us over these initiatives. I gave an overview of the types of information and digital literacy support we provide at LSE and then briefly talked about the DELILA project and my Arcadia fellowship and the development of the new curriculum for information literacy. I hope that I inspired some of the students to perhaps consider doing their dissertation in this area. I also promoted the LILAC Student Awards to them before having a quick lunch at the Treehouse (my favourite cafe) and hopping on the train back to London.


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