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!

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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: http://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED532601 (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 www.libraryatoz.org by Josh Filhol. Images released under a CC by 4.0 licence.

An illustration created for the Library A to Z project http://www.libraryatoz.org 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!

#LibraryAtoZ

Google Power Searching

I’m starting Google’s Power Searcher MOOC. I believe I heard about this originally on the Yahoo School Library network and it sounded interesting and professionally relevant. The website blurb states that the MOOC is taught by Google Search experts and “will help you search smarter so you can find the information you need – even in the most challenging situations”. Sounds like this will tie in nicely with the information literacy material I’m developing at school, especially because Google is the tool of choice amongst students (and probably staff too). Though I’m not sure what “challenging situations” I will find myself in!? Thanks for reading, I will blog my experience as I go along.

 

 

IAML UK-Irl Annual Study Weekend 2014

A blow by blow account of last weekend when I attended the International Association of Music Libraries (UK & Ireland branch) Annual Study Weekend in Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

Gardens, Fitzwilliam College Cambridge

I found my third ASW equally as rewarding as the previous two and am grateful once again to the Music Libraries Trust for enabling me to attend. This year I attended the Academic Music Librarian Seminar on Friday afternoon since it was relevant to my work in a school library. Though the session was aimed at the conservatoire and HE sectors, it was still pertinent and interesting. Karen McAulay (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) gave a talk about a short course she is taking called ‘The Teaching Artist’. This was enlightening on many levels and everyone enjoyed learning the latest education buzzwords like ‘backwash’ and ‘scaffolding’. I hope to have a look at the books she mentioned as I am currently embarking on designing some information literacy skills training at school. Emma Greenwood (Trinity Laban) shared about using special collections to support research. As a historical performance nerd, this made total sense to me but it seems that getting non-HiP lecturers to utilise library resources is more difficult. This thread was picked up in other talks and during the round table discussion. Conservatoire librarians highlighted the difficulty with instrumental tutors who are part time and less available and think library resources are the same as they were 20 years ago when they were studying. Geoff Thomason’s (RNCM) presentation was another useful one and I will definitely try to incorporate some of his research skills teaching methods into my work such as splitting students into three groups, each of whom uses only a certain resource type to answer a research question.

The ASW proper started off with a lovely reception and the exhibitor’s presentations. I managed to win a freebie (guitar pick) from Rock’s Back Pages which will be useful at school! I enjoyed Barbara Dobbs Mackenzie’s (IAML president) report on RILM and the new search options within EBSCO. The first presentation concerned music hubs and was given by Matthew Gunn (Cambrideshire Music Hub). This was very informative and built on what we heard about the hubs last year. I plan to see what my own local music hub is up to now, particularly whether they link with schools. The evening recital by Francis Knights of music from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book was the perfect end to the day.

Reading Room, University Library Cambridge

University Library, Cambridge

University Library, Cambridge

Saturday started with visits to various libraries in Cambridge. I toured the University Library. ‘Fortress’ was the first word that struck me to describe it but, inside it is actually quite warm, inviting and wood panelled, with a distinctive art deco charm.  We toured the closed access areas and various reading rooms. Their approach to space as a legal deposit library was certainly innovative: a ground floor courtyard was moved up one floor, plants and all, to allow for more storage space. Of course now I am thinking why didn’t I ask what was in the tower?? (see picture) Upon returning to college, we had a few sessions before lunch. Though I’m no pop music scholar, I always like to see what Academic Charts Online can do as demonstrated by Roger Press (Academic Rights Press) in his R&I session. Richard Chesser and Andrea Patterson (British Library) gave a whistle-stop tour of what’s happening with digital music at the BL. This was cutting edge stuff and included digitisation projects with Gale Cengage and the letters of Vaughan Williams. Various prizes were awarded on Saturday and this was a great moment to recognize excellent music services, music dissertations and music scholarship, which winners can then bring back to their home institutions to demonstrate what a fantastic job they are doing. Susi Woodhouse (Consultant) gave another delightful musicological talk on the Black Bear Music Club which was active in Cambridge in the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries. This talk ended with a group sing of one of the glees the club performed—and I think Susi was very pleased with our can-do attitude! Next was a new type of session that the conference committee dreamed up called ‘Quick-Fire Rounds’. I went to sessions by Graham Muncy (Vaughan Williams Society) on forging partnerships with music societies, Karen McAulay on social media and Helen Mason (Trinity Laban) on learner development/user education. These were all useful and informative, but very quick! Ideas I gained were using Diigo for storing and sharing online bookmarks and doing a treasure hunt type game (with chocolate!) to teach users where to find things in the library. Wrapping up Saturday was a presentation by staff from the National Jazz Archive that highlighted their collection not only as a treasure trove of jazz history, but also as a history of twentieth-century society and culture through the eyes of jazz.

Sunday began with a third R&I session. Rupert Ridgewell (British Library) gave us a sneak peak of the new Cecilia and Concert Programmes Project websites and we heard the latest from Library of Birmingham music library staff. Ros Edwards (Henry Watson Music Library) gave a fascinating presentation on Henry Watson, the man and his collection, and also about their new digs in the refurbished Manchester Central Library. Claire Kidwell (Trinity Laban) presented the latest copyright reforms—in understandable English—that were relevant to music librarians. Rachel Cowgill (Cardiff University) talked about her research into music clubs in World War I London, particularly one called Ciro’s near Trafalgar Square. Finally we heard about fundraising and grant writing from two successful grant writers, Ruth Walters (Westminster Music Library) and Ruth Curries (Royal Philharmonic Orchestra). Their collaborative project in currently underway and is centred on WWI composers and music.

Other highlights of this year for me were seeing old and new faces. It was great catching up with people I’d met at previous ASWs. Similarly I enjoyed getting to know the first timers. The setting was also very special. The Fitzwilliam College gardens were stunning and being in such a picturesque, musically-rich city like Cambridge was a real treat. Thank you again to the Music Libraries Trust for supporting my attendance and to the IAML (UK & Irl) conference committee for organising another brilliant weekend.

Parterre Garden, Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge

The ABC’s of Info Lit

I am working on a number of projects at work now, one of which is an information literacy programme. I recently proposed a framework and scheme of work to management and am developing the material now. The winds are favourable and hopefully this will move forward soon.

The project grew out observations of the wider library community and of my school. The wider library community, especially in university and school libraries, takes a big role in delivering information literacy skills training. Every school librarian I’ve talked to does something like this.  At my school I’ve talked with teachers and observed lessons in the library and information literacy is a big gap in the curriculum which no one at present is filling. So I see this an opportunity for me to better support teaching and learning and a natural expansion of my role.

My own experience of information literacy has been fairly extensive, the biggest example of which is probably my Masters dissertation on amateur musicians in Restoration London (2012). I joke that even though I am a trained researcher, I still can’t find stuff sometimes and use Google and Wikipedia all the time. But the point is I know where to start looking and how to evaluate information; this is not necessarily an intuitive skill…

Unfortunately all the reference books in the library were disposed of before my time, so I will be working mainly with online resources. I envision the IL skills to be a bookable resource where teachers book their class in for training related to a specific piece of work. These skills would then be transferable across the curriculum. Topics I’d live to cover include:

  • Beyond Google- how to search online
  • Referencing and the copy/paste culture
  • Evaluating sources for trustworthiness and credibility
  • Research skills for life (job hunting, careers, health, etc.)

A (real) example case in point:  a group of Year 11 science students had been sent in to work in the library. I went over to challenge them on some behaviour, and in the process I asked what they were working on. The project was researching the uses of ethanol and the worksheet gave various instances (ethanol in medicine, etc.) that they were supposed to fill in with information they’d found. They hadn’t gotten very far, so I asked why not? They said they didn’t know where to start looking for the information they needed.

This is why we need info lit- to be able to find and use the information we need. Talking with other school librarians tells me this will definitely be an uphill battle against ingrained habits, but I at least want to give it a shot! Will keep you posted.

Thanks to Darren Flynn and other school librarians for letting me re-use their material!