Monday, August 18, 2008

Library Assessment Conference (LAC)

Library Assessment Conference (LAC), August 4-6, 2008, Seattle, Washington, Sponsored by Association of Research Libraries, the University of Washington Libraries and the University of Virginia Library.

Mike Crumpton and I (Kathy Crowe) attended this conference and also presented “Using Evidence for Space Planning” which discussed the in-house survey, observational studies and focus group research that we’ve been doing for the past year. It was an excellent conference both in content and organization. They also provided great parties and good food, too! I encourage you to visit the web site which has the power point presentations.This is the 2nd LAC; the first was held at the University of Virginia in 2006. The proceedings for that conference are in our collection and also available as an e-book. The organizers included Jim Self and Steve Hiller who visited us last fall. Our wonderful colleague at Wake Forest, Wanda Brown, has done a fine job of summarizing the plenary sessions on the WF blog and it’s been posted on the Library Assessment blog as well. So there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Mike & I attended different concurrent sessions except for a couple so I’ll summarize the ones I went to and he can do the same. I will also mention there were good poster sessions as well and the abstracts for those on the conference web site.

Information Literacy

iSkills at Cal State and U of Central Florida

iSkills is the info lit test developed by ETS. They’ve used it at UCF and the entire Cal State system. I was particularly interested in the fact that at UCF they used information literacy for the SACs Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP). I’d love to do that here. At Cal State San Marcos they used iSkills with their Gen Ed assessment.

Qualitative Research

Personas and a User-centered Visioning Process / Cornell

They used anthropological methods for their web re-design. Personas were composite sketches of their target users groups. They did 36 interviews and developed 10 personas to assess research patterns of users.

Patterns of Culture: Re-aligning Library Culture to Meet user Needs

With support from a Mellon Foundation grant they used ethnographic methods to interview faculty and students and did also observational studies to learn how they obtain information, do research and prepare for teaching. They also asked students to do photographic diaries of their study habits. The research helped them develop a plan to align library resources and services more closely to user needs. They also produced a research model for other libraries to use.

Mixing Methods, Bridging Gaps : An Ethnographic Approach to Understanding Students

The presenter is an anthropologist. His study examined how doctoral students do research and use libraries. He found they like tried and true resources (e.g. WOS). They are not expert researchers. They’re unaware of many software programs such as EndNote. They don’t use librarians much unless they’re embedded.

Data into Outcomes

What if we Don’t Provide the Computers? Assessment for Reduction

At the undergrad library they received funding to develop a pilot to reduce the number of PCs and create an area for laptops. They did an in-house survey and focus groups. They asked students to put what they’d want in a laptop room on a post-it and put them on a wall. They also gave them blank floor plans to fill in. They learned that environment was very important and so were peripherals (mice, keyboards). They reduced the number of PCs from 100 to 30 and designed a much more attractive area. I think it’s just starting this fall so don’t know how successful it will be.


Using the READ Scale (Reference Effort Assessment Data): Qualitative Statistics for Meaningful Reference Assessment

Librarians from several institutions that have used READ reported on their methods and applications. READ is a 6- point scale tool. Librarians assign a number based on the level of a question. 1 is directional and 6 would be a very in-depth consultation. The scale has been tested at several institutions and more will be invited to use it. I think it looks like a fairly easy way to assess the level of questions to help determine staffing patterns. There’s more info at this web site and in the Ref Assessment ARL Spec Kit # 268I have not yet looked at either of these documents. SUNY Albany has used it with DeskTracker.

Systematic Quantitative and Qualitative Reference Transaction Assessment:An Approach for Service Improvements/ Cornell

The presenters described a reference transaction tracking system they developed at Cornell. They collaborated with Computer Science students to create the Reference Statistics Reporting System. In the first year the dataset included 70,000 transactions from 24 service points which were analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. This system sounded rather complex to me.

Information Competence Assessment Using First Year and Upper-Division Writing Samples/ Cal State Channel Islands (it IS in California not England!)

They tested ISkills along with the rest of Cal State (see above) and didn’t feel it worked for them. It did not really show the value of the library in the system. Cal State gives Info Lit grants (wouldn’t that be wonderful?) so they developed rubrics to assess information skills along with the Composition Program. They applied the rubrics to research projects which they felt placed value on the student output.

Library Instruction Made Easy: Practical Tips to Get you Started with Little Training, Money or Time./ U of Nebraska Omaha

They worked with faculty to develop pre and post library instruction instruments which they administered via Blackboard. Sounds a lot like what Amy & Lynda have done! I’m thinking we might be able to tie this into WEAVE as well.

Assessment Plans

Mike & I both attended this session since we want to develop a plan here. Four institutions presented on how they developed their plans. Their plans are on this web site.

The above summary is from Monday through Wednesday. On Thursday I attended two half-day workshops. The first was Getting Started with Learning Outcomes Assessment: Purposes, Practical Options and Impact with Megan Oakleaf of the Syracuse Library School. Megan covered several different methods and possibilities of assessing information literacy including standardized tests (SAILS, iSkills, ILT), pre and post-tests, and using rubrics from an assignment such as a worksheet or paper. I could tell she was pushing the last method primarily. I got a lot of good handouts that I need to read more thoroughly. This workshop was a bit rushed. Fortunately, I’ve been accepted to Info Lit Assessment Immersion in December and Megan will be a faculty member there so I’m looking forward to hearing more from her.

Mike & I both attended a 2nd half-day on Successfully Implementing the Balanced Scorecard presented by Jim Self and Donna Tolson from UVA. The BSC comes from Business and emphasizes developing measurable goals or metrics from three perspectives: finance, customer services and process. Indicators are then identified for each goal along with methods and targets. An example of this process would be:

Goal in the User perspective: Develop high quality collections that reflect the needs of the Library’s users and support the Universitys’ mission.

Metric: Circulation of new monographs

Target 1:60% of all newly cataloged print monographs should circulate within two years.

Target 2:50 % should circulate within two years.

Method: A program will extract data from the SIRSI records documenting circulation of print monographs over a 2-year cycle.Only items circulated to users (not binding, etc.) will be counted.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Got data?!

From August 11-15, I attended an intensive workshop hosted by the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research on providing social science data library services. Beyond being incredibly helpful and thought-provoking, it was also a wonderful place for meeting data librarians from around the world (one Brit and two Canadians were in attendance). Considering the number of data librarians is pretty small (about 300 members in our international organization), it is rare that we get to meet up very often.
Data boot camp, as it is sometimes lovingly referred to, is much like Immersion for instruction librarians (Amy will write about that soon!). In addition to learning specific skills and techniques for finding and using statistics and data, we discussed the types of services we provide and our roles in the library. We also worked with large data sets and practiced subsetting data for pretend patrons. All of these trainings and discussions built up to planning for our service now and in the future. I will be launching our web presence this fall and have much more information to share about data services at UNCG's University Libraries.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

MLA 3rd Annual Information Literacy Conference, Charlotte NC

Who hosted this event? Not the Medical Library Association...not the Music Library was the other MLA - the Metrolina Library Association. This day-long meeting (June 19th, 2008) had enough variety in topics and speakers to make the trip worthwhile. Below are highlights of two sessions.

Keynote speech "Learning Centered Approaches to Instruction"

Presented by ACRL Information Literacy Immersion instructors Susan Whyte, Library Director, Linfield College and Beth Woodard, Central Information Services Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, from 9-noon.

Whyte and Woodard did a good job of engaging the audience. They used instructional approaches recommended in books by Mary Ellen Wiemer in order to get the audience thinking about effective library instruction. Such as

  • Each person was given crayons and asked to draw his/her idea of the best and worst student. Group discussion followed. I've seen this activity before but still enjoyed it. Any chance to play with crayons!
  • The audience was divided into small groups and given a list of brief quotes on learning and instruction. Each participant was to summarize a different quote and react to it within the group, then W&W led a discussion among the entire audience. This is where the presenters really shone. It was a flawless example of exciting, productive group exercise. W&W emphasized that the key to group success is in making sure that each member has a responsibility. Remembering a few experiences leading or participating in group exercises, I'd add: give clear instructions and make the individual tasks BRIEF with plenty of time for group interaction.

Some of the points made during the morning were

  • Planning LI - "Understanding by design" ask yourself what it will take for students to learn x, y, and z
  • During the session - Give up control, allow the unexpected to happen. Don't use canned searches, instead explore a live search with your students.
  • Content - more is not better. Students only remember 20% of material that they hear, so present less content but encourage students to work with it and allow time for them to reflect on it. Woodard and Whyte went beyond the standard "brief lecture then practice" recommendation into some truly fruity examples. Very commendable but I can't see myself pulling off their suggestions with the hard-bitten, practical, "just give me the bottom line" health professionals who have a big presence in my liaison areas.
  • Follow-up - if the instructor is amenable, give students a follow-up assignment. Either a practice of skills from LI session or an email to you briefly reporting 1) what s/he learned and 2) what s/he still wants to know
  • Assessment - Contact the instructor afterwards or go for coffee to talk about how the session went and whether it was helpful. Track consults after the LI session.
There was more, but I can already see eyeballs rolling so I'll cut it short. I'll want to take a look at some of Weimer's works. The LI Immersion would be an awesome way to get in touch with my inner teacher-ness, but that isn't practical for me in the near future. Mebbe I can get the gist of it from Amy or other attendees?

Breakout session 3B "Librarians: Teaching Partners Across the Curriculum"


  • Steve Cramer, Business Librarian, University of North Carolina at Greensboro: Integrating IL into core management and marketing courses
  • Susan Keely, Reference and Bibliographic Instruction Librarian, North Carolina School of the Arts: A multi-part instruction program for international students
  • Lea Leininger, Health Sciences Librarian, University of North Carolina at Greensboro: Opportunities for LI in the health sciences curriculum
  • Susan McClintock, Head of Reference, Meredith College Library: Challenges and successes of an IL program integrated into General Education
Steve and I were, of course, brilliant. We did a great job of capturing the attention of an end-of-conference day audience.

McClintock's presentation was especially inspiring. She'd spent about 20 years building relationships with faculty. Then, when the Gen Ed program was revised, she participated in the planning. At first she pushed for a required, semester-long info literacy class. That stalled the planning, so she came back with another proposal, which was adopted. Meredith College now has library-coordinated information literacy being delivered by librarians or by other faculty across the curriculum. Each student participates in library instruction at three times during his/her career, as part of Gen Ed. I'm happy to contact Susan for more info.


Friday, August 8, 2008

Reference Renaissance in the Mile High City

I just attended the 1st Reference Renaissance conference in Denver, CO -organizers plan to add Power Point presentations and other materials. I served on the Planning Group for the conference and also on the Program Committee. While RUSA was a co-sponsor, this success of the event was largely due to the work of Brenda Baily-Hainer, President of BCR, who did a fantastic job organizing the event. Attendance was even better than the Planning Committee hoped – we initially guessed that we’d have between 250-300 and actual attendance was around 500, so I’m anticipating that this conference will be held again. Attendees and presenters were a mix of public and academic librarians. Among the most pervasive themes of this conference was looking at ways to extend and improve the services we offer –and I heard lots of conversation on reevaluating services to decide what we give up in order to offer new services that better fit the current environment. David Lewis, Dean of the University Library at Indiana Univ. Purdue University Indianapolis, delivered the keynote address focusing on changes in library services brought about by various technologies - he discussed innovation and creativity as key to staying relevant.

One of the sessions I attended that gathered lots of attention was a comparison between traditional and hipster librarians with discussion of traditional, system centered librarianship and the move to user centered library systems with the future holding another shift to knowledge centered librarianship. Staffing models for reference desks with declining numbers of questions were discussed – a couple of studies were mentioned showing that most ref. desks have about 15-20% of questions that are true reference questions and presenters shared different plans of changing staffing models. I saw three sessions talking about gathering and using reference statistics, including some home grown statistics gathering programs. And I guess you have to travel to find out what is going on locally – there was a panel presentation including librarians (and one software developer with his own company) from Duke, UNC and NC State who talked about an open-source web chat system that they have developed and may soon offer to other libraries – it’s called Libraryh3lp and sounds like it has a lot of potential. I also attended interesting sessions on in house training for librarians. Very difficult to pick and choose here because so many of the sessions sounded so interesting : some of those that I wanted to see but missed included one from Yale University on a new text reference service, and another on Custom Search Engines which enhance traditional static guides. Proceedings will be published by Neal Schumann, but probably will take about a year.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

TNT’s High Tech / Low Cost Solutions for Libraries

On August 4, Amy Harris and I co-presented at a NCLA workshop for the Technology & Trends Roundtable. We presented with Lauren Pressley and Giz Womack of Wake Forest University and Ed Hirst of Rowan Public Library. The session was held at the gorgeous Koury Center on the Elon University campus.

The purpose of the workshop was to help newer Web 2.0 users get up-to-date on the current offerings and how they could be used in their libraries. Giz started the session with a great interactive quiz (using clickers!) to gauge the knowledge levels of the participants. We then covered the basics of Web 2.0, social networking, google docs, blogs and wikis, social bookmarking with Delicious, Library Thing, and Drupal. At the end, we divided everyone up into interest groups and held mini hands-on workshops.

We had 35 participants and they seemed to enjoy the session quite a bit. Many mentioned that getting ideas on using these tools in real life situations was very helpful. Amy and I also enjoyed hearing the perspectives of librarians from other campuses.

Welcome to the professional development blog!

OK, so we may be borrowing (stealing) a bit from Wake Forest here. But when someone hits on a good idea, why not go with it? The professional development blog is a forum for open discussion about the work-related conferences, workshops, and other professional development activities attended by staff of UNCG's University Libraries. We hope for this to be a forum for sharing ideas and encouraging innovation. Amy Harris and Lynda Kellam can post for you or make you part of the posting community. Come get web 2.0!