Friday, June 17, 2011

Poster session and other mini updates

Hi everyone!

Don't you love the summer? I always appreciate the opportunity to take a step back from my daily grind and work on some interesting projects (which, for me, usually have nothing to do with my science liaison responsibilities). This summer, I'm helping start up a first-year library orientation/tour/scavenger hunt/game. I'm really hoping that this ends up with me being able to dress up in a monkey costume for the event! I'm also trying to redo the kind of support we offer for citation management software (and got IRB approval for a survey I did to get some feedback, so with any luck, I can publish the results at some point). I'm also starting to weed our computer science materials, though I won't concentrate more on that until after ALA.

Speaking of which, I'll be at a poster presentation sponsored by STS (the Science and Technology Section of ACRL). It's taking place Monday, June 27th, in the Convention Center Room 395. My poster's talking about a weeding project I did last summer for the biological sciences - in a nutshell, I tagged books with book bands, invited faculty to a mini library party, and asked them to write their recommendations on the book bands. It was pretty fun, and I got some great feedback .. and now you don't need to come to the poster session. ;)

My only other update is that one of the physics faculty that I met with last spring contacted me to ask if I wanted to give a session on library research to graduate-bound undergraduates from various science programs on campus. Since their research interests are varied, I'm trying to focus on some common denominators that they can use both now and in their graduate careers - some searching tips, but also setting up RSS feeds in databases and an introduction to why citation management software is a good idea to learn before you really need it!

I'll let you all know how the monkey costume thing goes.. I should also be starting to work with physics and environmental science later this summer to prepare for my involvement in some of their classes (fingers crossed).

Monday, April 18, 2011

Short updates

Hi everyone -

I just realized it's been a while since my last post. I'm still getting the feel for this whole blogging thing. :)

Things I'm currently waiting for or working on:
- Waiting to hear back from physics about plans for the fall. They wanted to discuss our ideas with the rest of the department. I may or may not hear before summer, but plan to talk to them before August, anyway.

- I'm starting the process for weeding our computer science collection. This is partly stimulated by the collection management team's goal to weed the collection every 5 years, but more because we now own Safari Tech Books .. and our collection's never been weeded. Ever!! After talking with the head of physics (who is also the acting chair for computer science), I feel pretty confident going ahead with this. I'm currently waiting to get some spreadsheets of older computer science titles (I'm going with pretty low-hanging fruit, but will then look through the collection and mark additional titles that I think should be weeded), and will then start contacting faculty to get input.

- I'm giving a poster presentation at ALA this summer. It'll be during the STS Poster Session, which is Monday, June 27th at 11:30 am. I'll be discussing the weeding project I went through last summer weeding our QE-QR collection. I weeded about 1200 books (which should give you an idea of just how outdated our collection can be), and had a lot of faculty help in doing so. I'll probably write a bit more about it when I start putting my poster together .. probably in late May or June. :)

- I'm hoping to meet with some of the biology department in May. My main partner in crime in that department (and the one that I partnered with to develop a couple of IL sessions and assignments this spring) has not been particularly responsive to my e-mails, which is making it tough. Hoping to catch him at the right time when he won't be quite so busy (i.e., right after finals)!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Meeting with Physics

I invited the (newly-hired) chair of the physics department along with the past-chair, who has also served as the library liaison and self-identified as having interest in information literacy.

I arranged with our events coordinator to have catered box lunches (sandwiches). The physics faculty members were extremely quick to e-mail me their lunch preferences, btw! Anyway, the events coordinator was out sick today, and for whatever reason, the lunch never arrived.

So, we tried to go our University Club (aka faculty club, but really, anyone can walk in), but it's closed today. So, we ended up dining at the student dining hall. It wasn't too crowded and we got a table to ourselves, so it worked out just fine.

I explained what I saw as part of my job - to ensure that students in the science majors graduated with an appropriate level of research skills. I brought along the ACRL IL Standards, but I've never actually referred to that, and it didn't come up today. I also brought physics' strategic objectives and assessment plan for their department, since it maps out what they aim to teach students in their major, and how they will measure whether that's working or not - so IL fits right into that.

They acknowledged that IL was something they hadn't really coordinated very well, either in their plan or in their classes. They agreed that the first required physics class was a great place to include some of these skills, and that the senior capstone (also required of all physics majors) would be good for the most specialized, advanced skills (including citation management through something like EndNote or Zotero).

I asked them to come up with a list of skills (aka learning objectives) relating to IL for each of these classes, and from there I could work with the professors to come up with ways to implement them in each class. They're going to take these ideas back to the rest of the department to make sure everyone agrees that IL is worth teaching, and will come up with the lists together.

Can I just say how awesome physics is? :)

It really helps that they are a relatively small and extremely cohesive department. They routinely work together already to make sure that their classes are on target and work well with each other, so I had high hopes that the meeting would go this smoothly.

After the IL discussion, I talked a bit about collection management stuff, and walked away with some good ideas on how I can better support them, and what kind of information they use on a regular basis ("Books, increasingly less", as one of them said).

If anyone wants to hear in more detail what they use and to what extent, feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I'm happy to expound on that.

BTW, best practice tip - after this kind of meeting, type up as much as you can and save it somewhere! I know I won't remember most of this, and my notes are not nearly as extensive as my memory is right now. It will definitely help to have something to refer back to in the future.

One final note, I've started getting more e-mails and appointment requests directly related to 4 classes in environmental science and biology that I've taught this semester. I always wonder where they were going for questions in the past, but it's very gratifying to know that the students are remembering me and know to go to me for questions.

Still to come: psychology. I was supposed to meet with the department in January, but it's been delayed .. well, several times. I've been told that I'm still on the agenda, and I don't want to be too annoying about reminding them. We'll see. Also need to start formulating a plan of action for math!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Meeting with departments

Okay, so here I stand, trying to schedule meetings with 7 different departments. Partly based on contacts I've made with each department and their historic involvement with the library, I've developed strategies for most of them:

Biology: I had actually talked to the library liaison (each department has a faculty member who serves as the library liaison for the department) about information literacy in the fall, in anticipation of this meeting with the associate dean (before I knew that she wanted me to meet with the departments separately), because I figured it would be helpful to report on any advances I'd made with them (or, what I thought would be the case, my lack of success in being able to get anyone's ear).
Anyway, he agreed to start implementing some information literacy modules in two of his classes - one, a general biology intro class (for which there are several sections - he teaches one) and one a graduate-level seminar. I taught both classes two weeks ago .. I'll post more specifically about the undergraduate module a bit later, because it was fun and interesting for me, but I'm waiting for a bit more follow-up before I summarize the results. In April, I'm going to try and schedule a meeting with him, the head of the department, and the UG studies committee chair to talk about possible next steps. Encouraging!

Chemistry: One of the new professors (note to people doing this - NEW PROFESSORS ROCK .. they are often grateful for any assistance you can provide, and are generally more receptive and adaptive to changes within their syllabi) approached me in January and said that they're redoing their lab structure, and would like me to be involved. This was likely brought about because I was able to teach the chemistry lab I mentioned in my last post (which was taught by the other new professor in the department .. again, new professors rock). I'm guessing she liked it and told the other lab professors that I should be a part of the conversation. So, I figure it's best to let that play out on their timeframe.

Computer Science: Totally stumped on this. I have literally never heard from a faculty member in this department (library liaison included .. even when I purchased Safari, which I was sure I would get some feedback on!). Since computer science used to be merged with physics, my plan right now is to ask physics for advice. Lame, I know!!

Environmental Science: I am lucky in that the head of the department is also the library liaison. Additionally, I did a weeding project last summer/fall, and asked for his assistance, so we have a decent relationship. I've also taught more library sessions in environmental science than any other program, though requests have not been consistent every semester. Anyway, we sat down and talked earlier this week! HOORAY!!
Summary of the meeting: he agrees that the environmental science majors are not as adept at finding and evaluating sources as they should be. Next fall, he will be teaching a year-long first-year seminar, and we're going to collaborate on ways to integrate information literacy into the seminar. We're also going to explore involvement with the senior capstone, a final project all ENVS majors go through. This is far less than the dream in my head of "okay, Rachel will visit every ENVS250 class and discuss subject-specific databases and scientific article evaluation, while in these others classes she will cover these other aspects, and maybe also cover EndNote for the seniors" .. but it's definitely a start.

Math/Stats: This is my other ???? department. No history of instruction, some requests from books, historical resistance to some proposed weeding in the past (gulp!). I don't hear much from them. Like computer science and physics, I really question how much information literacy they really NEED. I'm going to wait on this one for now.

Physics: I've scheduled a meeting with the head of the department and former library liaison and general friend to the library (and a faculty member that I personally know to be refreshingly blunt on topics - no need to dance around issues with him) .. that meeting is happening in 2 weeks. I've gotten permission from my boss to provide lunch, trying to arrange that without having to pay for it or pick it up myself. Hoping for sandwiches .. I figure this will help with the "hey, we're really grateful for your willingness to listen" (and by we I mean just me, really) message. I've already told them that I don't really have a good understanding as to how I can best support them, but would like to hear their ideas. I'm guessing my involvement will center around their senior capstone, which sounds great to me.

Psychology: Oh, psychology. This is my only Ph.D. program. I've been consistently surprised at how little I hear from these faculty, considering how many of them there are. They are undergoing a number of changes, which has made thing a bit harder - for example, the professor for the undergraduate research methods changed this fall, which I didn't realize until spring. We've now been in contact and have mapped out a plan for my involvement (and I got to come in to the graduate-level research methods class too, which was great) with that class, but I haven't heard from him as to when this will happen.
Psychology was the other department I'd targeted to meet with prior to the associate dean meeting. I contacted the head of the department and asked if I could come to a faculty meeting to show them several new resources we've acquired recently (that I'm pretty sure they aren't aware of, despite my e-mails) and also to discuss how I can "better support them and their students". I really don't know how much information literacy will be covered, but a girl can dream. I'm hoping questions like "how well do you feel your students are doing research for their assignments and papers?" might spur some discussion .. because faculty are NEVER satisfied with the level of student papers. :)

So, slowly, slowly. My dearest hope is to be teaching in new classes (i.e., classes that have not had information literacy) in at least 3/7 departments next fall.

My quest so far ..

So, I've been talking about my ongoing quest for programming information literacy in the sciences at my university for a while on Adventures in Library Instruction. (Side note, I love the ambitious language .. adventures! quest! Clearly, we're all having way too much fun with this.) In Episode 23, I finally caved and said I'd start a blog to document my ongoing journey.

Lo and behold, I'm making good on my pledge. So what am I going to talk about? Well, the long (and not always straightforward path) toward trying to institutionalize information literacy outcomes in each of my science departments on campus. I'm currently liaison to:
- biology
- chemistry
- computer science
- environmental science
- math/stats
- physics
- psychology

Some basic stats about my university: around 10,000 students, half undergrad, half graduate. We are a strongly social-science leaning school and have not historically been known as a destination for science folk. The provost is currently working on improving our science departments.

None of these disciplines currently has a formal instruction partnership with the library (or myself). I've been asked almost every semester to come talk about PsycInfo in the undergraduate psychology research methods class, and a couple of undergraduate environmental science seminars. Last semester, I came in to a chemistry lab to talk about searching Web of Science for methodology articles. That's really it. My goal, at the end of this, is to support these departments in teaching research skills (which I broadly define as the ability to recognize, search for, evaluate and use the appropriate scientific information in their classes) such that each student that graduates with a science degree here will have more or less the same level of information literacy competency relevant to their field.

Ambitious, huh?

There are some underlying factors that are either motivating this or I think will help me:
- we already have some good partnerships, most notably with the freshman college writing class (which about 2/3 of first years take - the others opt out), the business school, and the school of international service.
- the university is currently taking a look at its gen ed program, and it's expected that whatever replaces college writing will be required of everything. This means that I can safely assume that all science majors should walk into their major with a basic understanding of how to search for library resources.
- the provost has remarked (more than once) that he doesn't think librarians should be in the classroom (cue boos, hisses, and heckling). I would really love to get some partnerships in place before he really starts thinking of ways he could make this happen. (or at least have more faculty support if he tries)
- all departments are required to create department-level learning outcomes for their students, along with how they will assess the degree to which students are obtaining these outcomes. This has been an awesome resource not only to figure out what's going on in each department, but where information literacy may or may not be happening.

A brief timeline of relatively recent activity:
- I talked to my boss about my goals. She suggested scheduling a meeting with several of us to meet with the associate dean for undergraduate studies (who happens to be in the biology department), because I felt like I couldn't get far without administrative "up high" support.
- As a result of scheduling this meeting (including a pow-wow of said librarians on how we should approach this), I talked to the associate dean firsthand .. who said in lieu of one big meeting, she'd actually like me to talk to departments individually, and recommended that I meet with the head of each department and the chair of each department's undergraduate studies committee (who knew such a committee even existed?!).

So that's where I stand. How will my quest fare?? This tale will continue. :)