Library School – Organising Knowledge

I’ll be writing two posts continuing in the library school module recap vein. They will cover the modules I completed in Semester 2 (Spring 2015). Here is my general post about the librarianship course.

Organising Knowledge is the first module in the lineup. This was not one of my favourites, but it was redeemed by the assignments as usual. They were well thought out and offered a lot of latitude in pursuing a topic that was of interest to me or relevant for work.

The course content covered ground that had been done in other modules, so that felt a bit same-y. However looking at information behaviour again was helpful as a prelude to studying information retrieval. Having done a postgraduate degree already, I found some of the information retrieval section old news. We covered citation styles, how to evaluate sources and completed several searches on online databases. However it was good to think critically about the systems themselves, i.e. how is the database structured? What are the search facilities available? The longest chunk of the module was on organising knowledge and covered indexes and catalogues…and I actually have yet to finish that section because I had to abandon it in order to complete the assignments!


Database Diagram FAIL by Tony Buser. Flickr CC license.

The assignments were very helpfully spaced out with one due in the middle of the semester and the second one due at the end. The first assignment was a bibliography on a topic of our choice and also an analytical report. I did mine on jazz resources since this is relevant to my work. I found this assignment very counterintuitive because I could easily find a multitude of sources but the point of the work was to demonstrate your facility with searching strategies. The goal was not the sources themselves but rather how you got to the sources. So instead of finding material in my usual manner, I had to self consciously use various search techniques (Boolean logic, browsing, chaining, etc.) to show my capabilities which I guess was a good thing to push my boundaries. I also got to explore some new databases such as Zetoc and Times Digital Archive and I enjoyed researching the literature on searching and information behaviour to support my discussion.

The second assignment was an essay addressing a challenge facing information storage and retrieval and how this is being addressed. This was a research-driven assignment and I chose information literacy since it’s an area I’m interested in. People are doing interesting research in this area and there are many good solutions to try out when addressing challenges mainly relating to finding and using information in an academic/university context (the rest of us are apparently content to just muddle through the first few hits on Google). For example a study by OCLC (1) found that users overwhelmingly tend to start their information search on a search engine like Google rather than the library website and rely on common sense to evaluate websites. Clearly libraries can play a role here in educating users in an a university on the why and how to critically evaluate sources, not to mention how to find the results you need beyond simple keyword searching. This whole topic was fascinating, I’d recommend the research on the ‘Google Generation’ by Rowlands et. al (2008, 2011) and also Assessing information needs in the age of the digital consumer (2009) by Nicholas and Herman.

One final thing, the set textbook was Introduction to modern information retrieval (3rd edition, 2010) by G.G. Chowdhury. It was very scholarly but some of the content seemed out of date, especially considering it was updated in 2010. We covered CD-ROM databases (anybody remember Encarta??) among other things that I didn’t know were still around. Despite needing some updating, this book is a comprehensive reference book for the subject.

(1) OCLC (2011) Perceptions of Libraries, 2010: Context and Community A Report to the OCLC Membership. Available at: (Accessed: 19 May 2015).

Library A to Z

This week a great library advocacy campaign, the Library A to Z, is launching. As a backer of the project, I also wanted to do my bit by promoting it on my blog. The Libray A to Z is a simple concept really. They’ve created “a visual A to Z celebrating the wide range of services, resources and facilities that make libraries so fantastic.” This week a whole mess of important people and the media will be receiving the Library A to Z packs. Check out the website for more information and to access the materials which are available to share under a Creative Commons license. I’ve also got some spare postcards if you’d like one!

A is for access; advice; answers; archives; art; audio books…

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

Here are a few reasons (if you need any more) why I think libraries are fantastic, from my perspective as user and library staff.

  • ‘Third space’ – Working in a school library, I saw this aspect of libraries very clearly. The third space is somewhere that is not home or school where young people can go. The library while not exactly heaving after school still met a real need for students who needed somewhere to stay for various reasons and provided a safe and conducive place to do homework. Student groups would also use the meeting room space.
  • Literacy, especially digital literacy – No one would deny that libraries have a positive impact on literacy. Nowadays we talk about ‘digital literacy’ which includes online searching, digital know-how, and helping meet people’s information needs in today’s information society. It also covers issues such as authority/credibility and plagiarism. I’ve read about digital literacy in the news recently and in my studies. Research is showing that people struggle with digital literacy, yet it is highly desirable by employers. From first hand experience I can also attest that literacy is a huge focus in education now! The work that school (and other) librarians do in this area is brilliant, unmistakably needed and should be championed and expanded by leaders.
  • Facilitate and support knowledge and learning – This aspect of libraries has been so evident in my work in a conservatoire library. It is truly a living, breathing thing. Students come all the time to borrow sheet music to study and perform, books to support their learning in modules, CDs to inspire their creativity and to use the study spaces. We support many performances around the College by providing orchestral and choral sets, and even jazz vinyl for a guest DJ.
  • Place to save money! I love buying books, but it is nice to save some money by using my local library!
  • Place to discover new stories, authors, local news and events – My local library, as the local information hub, is a great place to browse new books and also learn about what’s going on locally.

But that’s enough from me, check out the Library A to Z, which puts this all together in a much more interesting and graphic way!