Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions to Improve Instruction

I finally was able to watch the recording of Lisa Hinchliffe’s Credo webinar, “Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Anticipating Student Misconceptions to Improve Instruction,” in which she provides an overview of the preliminary results of a qualitative study she conducted to determine what librarians believe are first-year students’ misconceptions related to information literacy.

In 2017, Library Journal and Credo Reference conducted a survey to learn how two- and four-year institutions tie information literacy to the first year experience. The survey results, “The First-Year Experience Instruction Survey: Information Literacy in Higher Education,” indicate that students are not well-prepared to conduct academic research, lack experience using libraries, don’t understand that they need to learn research skills, and are overconfident in their abilities. Librarians’ challenges in teaching information literacy include limited contact time with students, having too many outcomes, not having specific assignments to contextualize lessons, and not sharing the same expectations as course instructors. There were over 400 comments related to the findings.

Hinchliffe and her research assistants were curious to know if there are student misconceptions that drive errors in information literacy practice. These misconceptions are plausible inferences based on previous experience. Once we can identify these misconceptions, we can help students unlearn habits and strategies that worked for them in high school but may not serve them as well in college [see Wiggins and McTighe’s Understanding by Design (2008)]. Hinchliffe and her assistants coded responses to the report that seemed to answer “What is challenging about teaching first-year students?”, removed duplicates, and then synthesized the responses into nine summary misconceptions to form an initial inventory.

Students:

  1. think that they shouldn’t ask for help
  2. don’t see themselves as “scholarly apprentices” (view themselves outside the community of practice)
  3. think of research as a linear process
  4. think of the library as the place to find books
  5. equate relevancy search rankings as a measure of quality vs. relevance to the search statement they enter
  6. conflate achieving access and information quality (don’t understand that finding information isn’t the same as finding “good” information)
  7. believe that free online resources are sufficient
  8. believe that Google is a sufficient search tool
  9. believe they are information literate (Hincliffe later explains that students interpret information literacy as a cross between computer and digital literacy)

In the second phase of this project, Hinchliffe and the research assistants held librarian focus groups online to discuss the misconceptions. The librarians noted other student misconceptions, including:

  • all library resources are credible
  • every question has one right answer (rather than seeing research as an opportunity to explore possible answers)
  • the library is the place to study or work with fellow students (no mention of collections or resources)

As a practicing librarian with a limited five years of full-time experience, I have an anecdote for each of these. While further research needs to be conducted, what strikes me about this is that we can redirect some things we do in the classroom to help dispel some of these misconceptions. Hinchcliffe also reminds us that the best way to do this is to provide students with the opportunity to encounter these misconceptions so they can self-correct their assumptions.

I am very much looking forward to seeing how this research continues to take off and what it might mean for those of us in the front lines. I also think having a discussion around these misconceptions might be particularly good to have with librarian colleagues who teach, as well as course instructors.

Combating One-Shot Fatigue

This semester, we geared up to teach quite a few mini workshops. Previously, most of our workshops focused on RefWorks, and attendance has always been low (it’s hard for students to come to something that is voluntary when their schedules are jam-packed!), but we decided to try something new. While most of the workshops were 20-minutes each, a few were 50 minutes.

The 20-minute workshops were my boss’ brainchild. Last fall, we tried to do a Research Starters series, and while we didn’t an uptick right before finals, we opted to try them again in the spring but throughout the term, both before and after spring recess. While I’m not saying we had sky-high attendance this semester, it did help that a few writing professors gave students some extra credit for attending up to three workshops.

In addition to teaching a few of the Research Starter workshops, I had planned to teach a whole slew of other workshops. I was very excited at the beginning of the semester, but after some mental health issues, I had to take a step back and reduce my load. I am going to try to teach the LGBTQ+, women’s, and race/ethnicity research workshops I had wanted to teach in the coming fall (I plan to team up with the apropos Student Services programs for these.) I did, however, teach two additional workshops, including one on Google Scholar and online consumer health information (the latter one needs a little more work; I did run out of time when planning for it).

When I worked at a community college library, I read Green’s “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path” in C&RL News, and it really stuck with me. I know that not everyone loves GS, but, let’s face it, we all use it. Like Wikipedia, I use it before almost every research consultation. I also like to help students understand a tool that they will encounter if they haven’t already. The Google Scholar workshop I designed was 50 minutes, but I plan to adapt it to a 20-minute workshop in the fall. The students who came to the workshop had never used it before but the name recognition made them curious! I loved that. One of the students who attended had actually emailed me a few minutes before asking me if there was still room–of course!–and she literally threw on her shoes and walked over from the dorms. *praise hands*

I know it can be frustrating to create workshops that are not highly attended, but I love working with undergraduate students and getting more face-to-face time with them. And, sometimes, one-shot instruction can get old and feel limiting when working within predominantly faculty-led outcomes. I felt so much freedom when reading Nicholson’s “‘Taking Back’ Information Literacy: Time and the One-Shot in the Neoliberal University” in volume 1 of Pegowsky and McElroy’s The Critical Library Pedagogy (2016):

Information literacy allows the library to demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders in the form of outputs and impacts; the one-shot is important because numbers on spreadsheets make our work visible. Information literacy is, in no small part, a matter of fiscal survival. [Johnson cites Drabinski’s “Toward a Kairos of Library Instruction,” which I have read; read it for an overview of how info lit fits into the curricular changes in the 1980s. It is behind a paywall.] Nevertheless, moving away from an exclusive or predominant focus on teaching within the curriculum to explore ways to engage students and faculty outside of it–even when these activities aren’t seen to count as much as minutes in the classroom–would alleviate frustrations and stress.

I’m not saying I’m engaging in #critlib with Google Scholar, but I am definitely addressing the limitations I feel with my teaching by planning and giving workshops on a variety of topics.

ALA Midwinter

I attended ALA Midwinter in Denver, Colorado this February, which was a good experience, but when I got home from the trip, I felt worn out. I had a very busy fall. During the conference, I was wrapping up a book review, putting together a conference proposal, and working on my review documentation. As I sat in my room munching on a salad while writing, I realized this was not dissimilar to what I was doing at home most nights after work–still working, not spending time with others, not exercising, etc. I had been stretching myself too thinly and not taking care of myself. I took a step back from social media, turned down requests, canceled a few things, and used some sick days to start getting a little help. Making the right steps to get myself back on track have helped me feel a little better, and I plan to begin writing here a bit more now that I have some more energy. As a way to jump back in, I have a quick Midwinter overview.

This was my first time attending Midwinter, which I attended to co-lead ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group (LMOIG) discussion with my co-convener Jen Park. It was lovely to meet her in person, and we actually ran into each other in the restroom on the way to the ACRL Leadership Council meeting. I’ve really enjoyed working with her!

LMOIG Leadership Team

After the Council meeting, we attended the Opening Keynote, given by #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Kahn-Cullors and #1000blackgirlbooks founder Marley Dias. It was a humbling experience, and I was amazed to meet them both and receive signed copies of their books, one of which I gifted to a co-worker.

I only attended a few other meetings, but I enjoyed the Undergraduate Librarians Discussion Group (UGLi DG) meeting. I also experienced falling snow for the first time.

I visited the Denver Public Library, which has seven floors and is home to the world renowned Western History Collection.

Reforma held a fundraiser at Museo de las Americas; the museum had just opened a new exhibit on pachuco culture. (I somehow missed Junot Díaz appearance at the fundraiser, though! And this is a small gallery! I’m hoping he showed after I left, but I did leave at about 10 pm.)

Lowrider piñata

I think I had the most fun at the Denver Art Museum. I actually liked that it wasn’t that large, and I managed to see everything except for a few things in a just a couple of hours. I’m not one to write reviews, and I actually wrote one for their Facebook page. In case you don’t have a Facebook account, here is the text:

I really enjoyed my visit!

I was actually able to see most of the museum in a couple of hours, which was perfect as I am in Denver for a librarian conference full of meetings. As a librarian, I was very moved by Xiaoze Xie’s book censorship exhibit. I also thought the Stampede: Animals in Art exhibit was a lot of fun.

I happened to come by during the #heartsforarts campaign and spotted a few make-and-take craft carts and the participatory poster about what visitors treasure about the museum. I also saw an area that has soft seating and Spanish- and books available for young children. I really like that there are interactive activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

I love the integration of Spanish throughout the museum, as well–from the descriptions of items to the books available for children. I would love for my mom to come visit as her predominant language is Spanish.

I also took note that the museum is free for all children 18 and under. What a wonderful way to make art available to our youth!

From fun exhibits, interactive elements, and integration of both Spanish and English, I highly recommend this family-friendly art museum.

I generally don’t go on many excursions between conference sessions, but I’m glad I took the time to do a little exploring in Denver. In June I’ll be attending ALA Annual in New Orleans, which will be full of programs, including a co-sponsored program by the LMOIG and University Libraries Section Academic Outreach Committee, and, hopefully, a little sightseeing, too.

La Biblioteca Podcast

In 2010, I had a summer fellowship in the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress. An interesting collection I came across was the Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT), which contains recordings of authors from Latin America, Spain, Portugal, the Caribbean, as well as U.S. Latino authors. At the time, none of it was digitized. In 2015, some of the recordings were put online, but I somehow missed that memo. I rediscovered the collection just recently via Reforma‘s listserv because two of the Hispanic Division’s librarians, Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González, posted a message about a new podcast related to the collection called La Biblioteca. You can find the podcast at the LOC podcast site or on iTunes. (I included the episode descriptions below.)

I’m really excited to listen to all of the episodes and also plan to share this resource with our Spanish and Latin American history and literature professors. Although none of us in the library are subject specialists, we made the attempt to divide up liaison duties based on interest and/or past partnerships. I am happy that some of my work now includes communicating with faculty in the Spanish and Latin American Studies programs.

SEASON 1:  The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape

  • Episode 1: “The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape: An Introduction”
    The Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape (AHLOT) is one of the Library of Congress most unique literary collections. Founded in 1943, this audio archive has captured the voices of more than 750 poets and prose writers from the Luso-Hispanic world reading from their works. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán González speak with Georgette Dorn, who has been the curator of the collection since the 1970s.
  • Episode 2: “Listening to Mario Vargas Llosa”
    Peruvian Nobel Laureate Mario Vargas Llosa recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1977. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with professor of Spanish Charlotte Rogers (University of Virginia) and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of other events with Vargas Llosa at the Library, including his interview with writer and journalist Marie Arana during the Library of Congress’ Living Legend Award ceremony in April 2016.
  • Episode 3: “Listening to Carlos Drummond de Andrade”
    Brazilian poet Carlos Drummond de Andrade recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1974. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with the director of the Portuguese program at Georgetown University, Vivaldo Andrade dos Santos, and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Drummond’s recording for our archive, as well as some translations of his poems.
  • Episode 4: “Listening to Álvaro Mutis”
    Colombian poet and author Álvaro Mutis recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1976. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with professor of Spanish, Charlotte Rogers (University of Virginia), and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Mutis’ recording for our archive, as well as an excerpt from the lecture “The Literary Legacy of Álvaro Mutis,” delivered by Dr. Rogers on May 13, 2016 here at the Library.
  • Episode 5: “Listening to Raúl Zurita”
    Chilean poet Raúl Zurita recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1985. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with Literary critic and translator Dr. Anna Deeny, and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Zurita’s recording for our archive, as well as some translations of his poem
  • Episode 6: “Listening to Octavio Paz”
    Mexican Nobel Laureate Octavio Paz recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1961 Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with former U.S. Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Paz’s recording for our collection.
  • Episode 7: “Listening to Pablo Neruda”
    Chilean Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1966 Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with writer an editor Mark Eisner, and poet Marjorie Agosín and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of Neruda’s recording for our collection.
  • Episode 8: “Listening to Gabriel García Márquez”
    Colombian Nobel Laureate Gabriel García Márquez recorded for the Library of Congress’ Archive of Hispanic Literature on Tape in 1977. Reference Librarians Catalina Gómez and Talía Guzmán-González speak with writer an journalist María Arana and discuss an excerpt from this historic recording. The episode also includes clips of García Marquez’s recording for our collection.

Stat Lit & Other Small Writing

Although I finished graduate school six years ago this week, and I have been working as a full-time professional librarian for four years, I’m still a new librarian. However, now that my role is more specific, I feel more confident about spending most of my professional time and energy in instruction and outreach. I actually a couple of small pieces of writing in these areas this year, and I also have another couple of pieces coming out this spring.

I didn’t intend to set and meet any writing goals in 2017, partly because I struggle with selecting topics (the irony is that I help students with this) and partly because I thought that if I even expressed it in my goals statement, I’d jinx myself. But, somehow, I found things to write about on a small scale. Just recently, a colleague from Immersion tweeted a post about writing from The Librarian Parlor. In “‘I Wish I had Known That!’ Advice from the Field, A Librarian Parlor Series,” guest contributor Alison Hicks‘ first bit of advice for reluctant writers is to start small, from book reviews to reporting on professional development activities. Her post was very encouraging, and, if you’re newer to writing like I am, I hope you’ll be inspired by her advice. Starting small has been very liberating for me because it’s low-pressure.

In June, Lynda Kellam (who is awesome and was not at all bothered that a newbie librarian cold emailed to ask for help!) and I published “Keeping Up With…Statistical Literacy.” Keeping Up With… is an ACRL series focused on “trends in academic librarianship and higher education.” Last December, I was doing some reading on statistical literacy while researching lesson plans related to statistics and government information. I hope to one day be able to collaborate with a faculty member to create a lesson on statistical literacy for a class or do some more work in this area. (Um, and the world’s statistical literacy guru actually reached out to us about our little piece. It was super exciting!)

This year, I’m serving as co-convener of ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group. In December, my fellow co-conveners and I published a short bibliography of free and low-cost marketing resources, including our brand-new LibGuide, in College & Research Libraries News. Check out “Marketing for the Beginner: Resources from the ACRL Library marketing and Outreach Interest Group.” The guide is linked in the article. We hope folks will find it useful and continue to contribute to the guide.

College and Research Libraries News

When I was about to transition to my new position at UC Merced, I submitted a chapter proposal for the Library Outreach Cookbook, which is part of a series of bite-sized ideas for librarians. This spring, I learned that my proposal, “Pass Me Smore Books, Please! Promoting New Print Library Books at a Small Community College Library,” was accepted for publication. I submitted the final draft this summer, and the book should be out in February 2018.

I’m also working on reviewing Video Marketing for Libraries: A Practical Guide for Librarians for Public Services Quarterly. It’s due in February.

Video Marketing for Libraries: A Practical Guide for Librarians

I’d like to set some other writing goals for 2018, but I’m pretty pleased to have taken the plunge in 2017.

Abrescy-Kranich Library Award for Student Research Excellence

Over the summer, I was part of a team that helped develop a new undergraduate student research award, the Carter Joseph Abrescy and Larry Kranich Award for Student Research Excellence. The award recognizes an undergraduate student research paper or project that was completed within the last 12 months for a credit-bearing course that demonstrates effective use of library resources and services. We will either award one winner with $1,000 or two winners with $500 each. We researched several library research awards from different institutions to create the criteria. Students will need to submit an abstract, their paper or project, bibliography, and a reflective essay about their research process. We also developed a rubric for reviewers to use when scoring the applications.

We hit a bit of a snag when it came to the money side of the initial set-up, so we got behind schedule for the launch. We were able to work with Financial Aid and Scholarships to use their undergraduate scholarship system to house the award application materials. Working with Financial Aid and Scholarships has been a great experience! The Scholarship Coordinator is very patient, and she does prompt work.

In s surprising turn events, I’m now chairing the committee. My colleague has several big projects, so she and I switched reins about three or so weeks ago. I’m a bit nervous chairing something like this, but it’s the next logical move for me in terms of committee work and event planning. My supervisor, who was also on the planning group, has been very helpful with my questions and in offering feedback.

Originally, we were going to begin advertising the award in October, but since the financial side wasn’t ready, it’s going to be a very tight turnaround during this initial year. I’m pleased to report that we were able to launch the award the Friday before finals. Whew! Applications are due Monday, Feb. 12, and the winner(s) will be announced by March 15. The award ceremony will take some time in mid-April. Our communications coordinator put out a quick email message to the campus community about the award, and she’ll be working on a larger campaign when students return from winter break. We are very fortunate that the scholarship system alerts students who have previously applied for scholarships about new scholarship opportunities, so over 1200 students received an alert. I’ve also made some other strategic contacts about the award.  Now that the award is live, we can be begin advertising earlier in subsequent years.

Right now, I’m working on recruiting members for the selection committee. The selection committee is a team of five: three librarians (as chair, I’m not one of the reviewers) and two faculty members. The faculty members, we hope, will be representatives from the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Center (UROC) and Undergraduate Council. The chair of UGC has been in contact with me and has some good ideas.

I’m looking forward to seeing our submissions and awarding a student (or two!) with a prize for their research. I’m also curious about working with Development for the awards ceremony.

#GivingTuesday

#GivingTuesday is upon us! I’ve written about organizations worthy of donation before, and I wanted to mention some of these again, as well as other organizations/groups in my work and home communities that are worthy of your consideration.

Libraries

Earlier this month, my fellow community members voted to renew the 1/8 cent sales tax for the Stanislaus County Library system’s 13 branches. It will go up for renewal again in 12 years. The volunteers behind the Save Stanislaus Libraries campaign worked tirelessly to get the word out, and Measure S was passed with over 80 percent approval.

Say Yes to S yard sign

I encourage you to donate to your local library foundations and friends group or consider donating to EveryLibrary to help other communities’ libraries that are on the ballot.

Now, I haven’t talked to anyone about this yet, but I really want to take part in ALA and REFORMA’s new Adopt a Library program for the Caribbean. If you have a willing organization, this may be a good project to take on!

Colleges & Universities

Going to college was a big deal for me. I recently attended a reception as an alumni of the Rogers Scholars award, which has been in place at my alma mater since 1991. The students’ stories really resonated with me.

Rogers Scholars Luncheon & Reunion invitation

A couple of years ago, the plant my dad worked at closed down, so he took an early retirement. Up until my dad retired, both of my parents were cannery workers. As in they operated machinery. My dad was a dryer operator, and my mom runs a machine that covers fruit cups with plastic film. My mom is an immigrant from Mexico who received little education; she went up to the equivalent of the eighth grade. Growing up, I knew I needed to go to college to have more options than my parents, but I was so stressed out about the cost, I opted to go to school locally. I was able to finish school with zero debt by living at home and receiving scholarships and grants.

I know what a difference scholarships can make in a student’s life, which is why I give to my undergraduate alma mater’s One Purpose campaign. When I worked at Merced College, I also made monthly contributions, and now I give to student scholarships at UC Merced. I also need to start making donations to San José State University, my graduate alma mater, and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF). A very generous HSF donor contributed $11k to my graduate education, and I had also received a scholarship from HSF as an undergraduate. I feel passionately about investing in young people. I hope you’ll consider donating to your alma mater or a local college or university.

Information Sources

I also contribute to my local NPR station, Capital Public Radio; Creative Commons; and the Internet Archive. However, I also want to contribute to Wikipedia. I just love these sources that much. Do you donate to any information sources?

Faith-Based Organizations

When I worked at the Stanislaus County Library, I discovered our town’s local World Relief office, which works to house refugees. A volunteer was showing an Ethiopian man around the library, and I thought it was awesome.  (Bonus: If you’re interested in libraries and refugees, check out Libraries Serve Refugees.)

Hometown Gems

This could get long, folks, but I also wanted to share that a few years ago, a friend and her husband had a wedding anniversary party at our town’s historic State Theater, and, as gifts, we made donations to the theater. A friend of mine recently got married, and, in lieu of gifts, he and his wife chose two organizations where friends and family could donate in their honor–Merced County Courthouse Museum and the Humane Society of Stanislaus County. If you’re in Modesto, consider giving to the McHenry Museum. What are some hometown gems you can’t live without?

Do you have #GivingTuesday plans? I know not everyone is in the place to give, but if you can, do!