Baseline -some Library Services reflections

Library Services: base lining for the DIAL project

Supporting digital literacy

Developing and supporting information literacy is a core element of the Library Services offering, an essential element of academic liaison :

The purpose of Academic Liaison is to foster good communication and effective partnerships between Library Services staff and UAL colleagues, particularly academic staff, in order to ensure that library services which support teaching, learning and research are relevant, timely and successful. It is based upon collaborative working to facilitate effective student and staff support, and includes the development and delivery of programmes to foster and build information literacy skills

(Library Services definition of academic liaison December 2011)

 Library Services deliver and support the development of information skills /  information literacy,  and increasingly this means digital literacy as we manage hybrid collections – print and electronic.

Digital literacy defines those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society

The JISC definition of information literacy is useful in this context:: the ability to find, interpret, evaluate, manipulate, share and record information, especially scholarly and educational information, for example dealing with issues of authority, reliability, provenance, citation and relevance in digitised scholarly resources.

 We build information literacy skills in the following ways:

  • In induction and “information skills” sessions provided by course librarians. This is probably the most significant way, A course librarian will show students how to use the catalogue, Summon, and focus on specific relevant online resources.
  • In the libraries and other spaces – answering queries, providing one to one support
  • Through Smart Research sessions, dedicated sessions for staff on using the e-library
  • Through participation in the RNUAL the program for research students, covering both the use of the e-library and an introduction to UAL Research Online, so introducing information on e.g open access, creative commons
  • On line support  (The Information Skills section of Library Services  web site, information supporting the e-library, and on the UALRO web site)
  • The Learning Zone provides support and skills development in various online packages and applications
  • Through the provision of online training through
  • Open access staff supports the acquisition of basic ICT skills

Some (personal) reflections

  • Its hard to quantify the scope and impact of digital literacy support, though the time spent providing information skills sessions is quantified. The content of these sessions is generally designed locally, so as to be relevant to particular course, and therefore subject area, and not usually shared across the libraries. We will discover much more in the course of the DIAL project.
  • Course librarians will typically provide an introduction to the library space, and usually also provide more focussed sessions, including how to use the library’s discovery tools (catalogue and resource discovery), and exploiting the high quality resources that Library Services subscribes to, i.e. the individual databases.
  • Although we have some content online we have not created an online tutorial as many other HE libraries have done, sometimes as part of part of a broader online study skills project. We do promote sector initiatives such as the Virtual Training Suites tutorials (no longer funded).
  • All libraries are acutely aware that unless they make their resource discovery tools easy to use, they risk being sidelined, which is why we have recently moved from MetaLib to Summon, which bills itself as “Google for libraries”

Staff skills and confidence

  • This varies considerably, and its hard to assess levels of use and awareness without undertaking a competency review. As in most areas there are pioneers and early adopters as well as people who would like to develop their skills further.
  • A lot of work has been done on digital literacy in the HE Library sector, with a series of influential reports such as the CIBER reports   so awareness of the issues around digital literacy is high. We know for example that students are thought to have difficulties evaluating the quality of digital sources, and this is an area that we should lead in, as well as describing how to use various resources.
  • This is an area where skills partly depend on personal practice and outlook, which is then bought into a work environment, as well as on formal professional development.
  • Our use of Web 2 is patchy, but some core services e.g. Library New blog, Resources and Systems staff wiki, CSM Twitter, and Library Face book, Learning Zone Twitter and Face book. This is an area we plan to co-ordinate and develop further.
  • Working collaboratively- we tend to rely on email and shared drives, ie the University infrastructure, rather than collaborative tools, but make some use of wikis
  • Enhancing our own skills would be potentially transformative – for our own ways of working, supporting students and staff and engaging in a broader information literacy community.




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