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.


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