Celebrating Student Re$earch

selective focus photography of multicolored confetti lot

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

I love graduation season. I love seeing pictures of folks in caps and gowns and reading posts about gratitude and accomplishment. (If you or a loved one just graduated, congratulations!) In the spirit of celebration and reflection, I started thinking about the library award committee I have been chairing the last two years and discovered that I never blogged about the first award cycle for the Abresch-Kranich Library Award, and the UC Merced Library just finished awarding the second set of scholarships this spring.

In 2018, we had two winners, Melissa Becerra and Nathan Parmeter. Each student received a $500 scholarship thanks to our donor, Arlene Kranich. You can read more about the award and our student winners in “New Scholarship Pays Homage to Persistence and Research.”

Last spring, my former Central Valley colleague Ray Pun also interviewed me about the award for the Credo Reference blog for the HIP (high-impact practices) in Action series. You can read the interview in “HIP in Action: Undergraduate Research & Awards.” It was great exposure for our library and UC Merced, and I hope the interview helped inspire other libraries.

In 2019, we also had two student winners, Marisela Padilla Alcalá and Sarah Lee. You can read more about our student winners in “Two Students Honored for Excellence in Use of Library Resources.”

After the second award cycle, I have a better idea of when and in what specific areas I need to ask for help. I also have ideas for changes to the workflow. I’m currently on vacation, but before I left, I started drafting my process with changes I might want to make regarding the timeline. The review and reception happens during the busiest time in the instruction season, and the process will go much more smoothly if we can open and close the application earlier. Currently, it opens Nov. 1 and closes Feb. 1, but opening it on Oct. 1 and closing it in mid-January will help me get the applications out to the five-member review committee more quickly. After a quick chat with the university librarian, he agreed with the earlier deadline, and we also determined that we should hold the reception before spring break, which is always in March. There are also some other changes I want to make, and I’m very thankful that two of my colleagues who have helped with reviewing student applications are interested in helping me streamline this process, which may also involve changing the award rubric. We’ll be doing this work in June.

Does your college or university library have a research award of some kind?

Library Instruction West 2018

Library Instruction West 2018 was held at Colorado Mesa University (CMU), in Grand Junction, Colorado in July. (I’ve been working on this post since early August, and it’s now almost mid-September!). The campus is absolutely beautiful.

My colleague and friend Laureen Cantwell also did a tremendous job organizing the conference at CMU.

This was my second time attending LIW, and its become one of my favorite conferences, and not just because Christal and I had a successful presentation. I like its smaller size, and its focus is specific to the work I do. I met some wonderful folks (I need to contact them as a follow-up!), and all of the talks and workshops I attended were useful and interesting.

Here’s a round-up of what I attended, along with some notes.

Pre-Conference Workshop with Maria Konnikova

Psychologist, science writer, and professional poker player, Konnikova is the author of  Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (2013), emphasizes the importance of slowing down, especially when it comes to solving problems, which is the tactic that Sherlock Holmes uses to solve crimes. In this workshop, she walked us through breathing and visualization exercises and then we played a game of Mafia. (I don’t really enjoy playing games, especially in front of people I don’t know, so when it came for my turn to be accused, I just wasn’t into making my plea and said I was okay with the group just voting me out. LOL! This is a true story. I felt incredible relief leaving the circle.) The point I took was that slowing down really is helpful for creativity.

She also shared two mindfulness apps that she uses, Primed Mind and Headspace.

Embracing the Mystery: Mindfulness, Creativity, and Critical Thinking Techniques from Sherlock Holmes

In this keynote, Konnikova continued her mindfulness theme. Mindfulness helps unclutter your mind, or better organize your mind attic, as Sherlock Holmes calls it. It helps train attention muscles as our brains can’t actually multitask (our brains just switch rapidly through something called rapid task-switching).

If you read the Konnikova piece I linked re: the mind attic, she references a really interesting study that was done about the effect of technology on our mind attics. In our networked world, we are able deploy memory but in a different way.

In a recent study in Science, Betsy Sparrow and a team of researchers from Columbia, Harvard, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison found two important effects: first, when people are primed to think about computers, or when they expect to have access to information in the future, they are far less able to recall the information. However—and this is the second effect—they are far better able to remember where (and how) to find the information. (Konnikova, n.d.)

In the piece, she asks us to consider going through our mind attics on occasion, as the information we’re storing helps us with making decisions. While the post doesn’t necessarily say how, if you consider her book, mindfulness can help.

Just 5-10 minutes of mindfulness a day has many benefits, including clarity of thought, emotional stability, and better problem-solving skills (the Bill and Linda problem). For an example of how mindfulness can help in education, Dr. Amishi Jha‘s research has been very influential.

Mindfulness helps broaden your visual field. I wrote a big fat YES!!! in my notes when she mentioned that folks who are depressed aren’t able to pay attention to as many details. When I was 21, I went through something that really put me in a fog, so I started seeing a counselor. Almost a year later, I walked into his office and asked about the new painting behind his couch. It had actually been there the entire time! I was absolutely shocked. That’s when I knew I was feeling better. I had more clarity.) This keynote also encouraged me to get back into my yoga practice. It’s difficult, but slowing down is something I need to do to help me reset, allowing me to look at things more clearly.

Discovering Student-Centered Instruction: Applying the Framework Using Backward Design

I attended this mostly as a refresher. It reminded me a lot about a planning session my colleagues and I had to begin drafting some digital learning objects for a new GE course. I had also just finished the Thing 22 module of the 23 Framework Things.

I had just given my presentation before this one, so I wasn’t quite in the right mindset to fully engage with the task. I was still trying to tackle one section of the worksheet by the end, but the worksheet is a really helpful planning tool. I’m having trouble locating it and will need to reach out to Cordova and Wanucha to post it here, but it is adapted from the Information Literacy by Design template at ulinstructors.web.unc.edu.

Checklists Are Not Enough: Exploring Emotional Intelligence as Information Literacy

For some students, the issues they are choosing to investigate are highly personal. As a librarian who teaches in a one-shot environment, one of the greatest challenges is rapport. We don’t know the students, and the students don’t know us. I really care about students’ feelings, and I could be inadvertently causing some kind of internal crisis when I’m asking students to consider other factors when developing research questions and finding information.

So often, students are creating questions for which they have already decided what the answer should be, even if its not supported by the literature, but how we approach this issue needs to be done sensitively. Because humans have the tendency to reject information that doesn’t line up with our preexisting beliefs [an interesting study that was referenced is Kahan (2011)], it can be challenging for students to accept reliable sources of information that contradict their experiences and values. Passing the CRAAP test or other checklists isn’t enough (I think most of us agree that these are too simplistic; in the library literature, Meola began discussing this in 2004). How can we help students work through this? How can we help students cultivate awareness of their values? This is an important part of information literacy but one that isn’t addressed specifically in our practice, but there are elements of it in the Framework, and several librarians have done some writing on the role of emotional intelligence in library instruction.

In “Indigenous Information Literacy: Nêhiyaw Kinship Enabling Self-Care in Research,” a chapter in The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship, Loyer (2018) explains that “[l]ibrarians need to address the student’s whole self..in IL instruction.” In Critten’s (2016) “Death of the Author (ity): Repositioning Students as Constructors of Meaning in Information Literacy Instruction,” which can be found in Critical Literacy for Information Professionals, argues that “[t]he library classroom should be a place where students confront their prejudices.” In a blog post title “Wiretaps and CRAAP,” Kevin Seeber (2017) writes:

“Our ability to evaluate information, and explain that process to others, has to involve recognizing that we, and the people with whom we interact, are whole human beings, each of us bringing a set of lived experiences that are unique. And those experiences, as much as anything, are going to drive what we accept as ‘real.”

And in “Motivated Reasoning, Political Information, and Information Literacy Education,” Lenker (2016) writes, “Information literacy education should broaden its scope to include more than just knowledge of information and its sources; it should also include knowledge of how people interact with information.”

Heinbach offers some practical ways that we can help students better interact with information. For example, we can ask students to think about questions they should always ask themselves when evaluating information, such as, “What are my existing biases?”  We can also have students reflect on any previous life experiences that may have influenced the selection of their research topics. Another method she mentioned that I think would work to help students think a bit more deeply about sources they are evaluating and reading is to have them reflect on how much a particular source helps them learn. Another activity is to have students come up with their own evaluative criteria (I have done this latter activity in an upper division writing class). Heinback also referenced a crowdsourced list of activities and strategies to help counter cognitive dissonance from Kirker and Stonebreaker’s LOEX 2018 presentation.

Check out the presentation at bit.ly/liwfeelingsIL. It was very thought-provoking, and I am looking forward to doing some more reading and work on this topic. I think it has the potential to really help students developing their critical thinking skills in ways that can help shape their responses to information well after college.

Activities for Evolving Student Needs: Teaching Discovery and Citation through Competitive Play 

I know what I said earlier about not really liking games (LOL!), but this was a fun session, and it provided me with ideas to bring back to one of the Spanish instructors I have been working with who isn’t thrilled with the citations students have been producing in their composition papers. (Part of that has to do with just not spending any time outside of sending them to Purdue OWL; one three-month freshmen writing course is not enough.) At the end of the spring semester, she and I got together to discuss activities to help her students with MLA, and I had mentioned that an adaptation of Citation Relay might be helpful and fun. I was so pleased to see that Citation Bowl is another version of the Relay, and it’s a better fit since it’s based off of citations created by citation tools, which is what I had suggested since that’s how students are using to cite (I encourage these tools, but students need to know they aren’t perfect).

What I really liked about the Discovery Puzzle is that students have to both use a search tool and focus on the information available at the item record level. In a webinar I recently attended about critical reading, one of the librarians noted that students also need to learn how to read results lists, and this exercise is one way to encourage a closer examination and help students identify the information they need to create citations. Very clever.

Also, for sources that show that play is a helpful way for adults to learn (child development scholars and practitioners already know that children learn through play), check out:

Teaching the Craft of Writing an Effective Research Question

Although these lessons are used in a for-credit information literacy course, I think they can work in a one-shot environment if instructors would be willing to have students do some pre-work. I’m going to share these lessons with my colleagues because our hope with the new GE curriculum is that we can spend time on research as inquiry for the in-person lesson. We have developed some digital learning objects to help tackle other things students need to know but that can be more readily done online. Note that these lessons are not necessarily in any order. Also, many of these activities have think-pair-share and group elements, but I’ll leave it up to you to read the full lesson plans.

Lesson: Characteristics of Effective Research Questions

Prior to the first lesson, students have to read a chapter in Turabian’s (2010) Student’s Guide to Writing College Papers, which helps them learn the characteristics of effective research questions. (But I believe Markowski said that even if they don’t read the chapter, it doesn’t break the class activity; for one-shot librarians, I think this is crucial.) In class, the students go over the evaluative criteria again and, working in pairs, are provided with a sample research question to improve upon.

Lesson: Peer Review Research Questions

Markowski noted that while students are able to improve sample research questions, evaluating their own research questions is still challenging, but having students peer review each other’s questions is another way to help them transfer what they have learned about effective research questions.

Lesson: Moving Beyond Scenarios

This lesson can help students narrow down research interests into focused statements about their investigation that can then help them pinpoint a research questions. Students are provided with a real-world research scenario (I believe the examples selected are for a specific course) in which they have to condense the topic into a fill-in-the blank statement (I have used variations of this before):

I am working on the topic of _______________ because I want to find out _______________ so I can suggest to _______________ what to do to improve _______________.

From this statement, they then compose a question. The question must also meet the criteria for an effective research question.

Lesson: Topic Brainstorm

I believe this lesson is taken or adapted from Rebuilding Research Writing: Strategies for Sparking Informational Inquiry (2014), which is aimed at high school instructors (I’m adding this to my Goodreads account!).

This lesson has students think about how their specific interest links to a bigger (societal) issue. I think this could be a really effective way to help students who may be selecting specific topics based on current events be better equipped, at least in mindset, to find scholarly information that connects to, but is not exactly the same as), their chosen topic. For example, a student from a Spanish composition class (think of this as the equivalent of first-year writing but in Spanish) wanted to write about a racially-charged incident involving a Republican student group on campus, but the issue was that she needed to use scholarly sources…in Spanish. It was challenging encouraging her to think about, say, activism on college campuses or how colleges and universities are grappling with free speech, etc.

In the Problems Around the World activity, students draw a series of three concentric circles. In the middle (Me) circle, students list something that effects them. In the next circle (Community), they try to tie the issue to something in the community, and then try to tie that to something happening in the country (Nation). I’m sure that there are other ways to label the circles, but I think this is a clever exercise.

Lesson: Narrowing a Topic Brainstorm

What I like about this is that it really shows students that pre-research is a valuable part of the research process. It’s a step that needs to be more clearly spelled out for students. It’s not enough to say to do it; we need to show them how.

In this lesson, the instructor shows students how to develop a topic based on sources. The instructor comes to class with three peer-reviewed articles related to a topic, such as sustainable agriculture and then produces a topical mindmap. From the results of the mindmap, the instructor then poses who, what, where, when questions to the topics in order to fish out a particular line of inquiry. Students then work with a partner to discuss their interests and pose who, what, where, when questions to each other’s topics.

Socially Responsible Pedagogy: Critical Information Literacy through Social Justice

Ernesto Hernández is a former University of California (UC Irvine) and Instruction for Diverse Populations (IS-IDP) committee colleague, and I was excited to attend his program. Before I left to LIW, I had taught a lesson for CRES 101 Race and the Media, and the instructor invited me back to teach for her class again the spring. I plan to write to her about the assignment shared in this presentation because I think it ties in nicely.

Hernández and his colleague Beatty teach Information Navigator (LIBS 1704), which is a required, lower-division course at Weber State University. General education courses must meet the following outcomes: content knowledge, intellectual tools, responsibility to self and others, and must also emphasize connected and applied learning. Courses also must involve a big question and signature assignment. LIBS 1704 is anchored in critical librarianship and based on the understanding that “librarians have a political responsibility to students to engage in critical inquiry that interrogates information about race, class, dis/ability, sexual orientation or gender.” The big question is “How does information literacy help bring awareness to social justice issues?”

For the signature assignment, students produce a research project based on social justice-oriented imagery. Students have to create a group presentation using sources that tie to their topic and the class’ big question. They can choose from seven different images and can opt to write about the artwork itself, or they can use it to launch an investigation about the themes central to the art. The students actually select the “topic” by selecting an image. For example, students who choose “Sun Mad” might write a paper about how pesticides affect farmworkers. Both Hernandez and Beatty agree that using images in this way is a helpful way for students to learn about social justice topics and also provides librarians opportunities to tie topics like these into courses.

Check out the slides at bit.ly/liw18images for more details.

What We Talk About When We Talk About Bias

In many ways, this was a perfect pairing with Heinbach’s Checklists Are Not Enough: Exploring Emotional Intelligence as Information Literacy presentation. I was really happy I went to both of these.

I realized that my notes at this session were not good, so I reached out to Leuzinger about obtaining a copy of his slides. Here is the PDF version of his presentation: What We Talk About When We Talk About Bias

Research as Inquiry in First-Year Composition

Springmier, a librarian, and Miller, a composition instructor and writing center director, delivered a presentation about how Sonoma State University has been able to re-imagine its first-year composition program. Using Baer’s (2016) Information Literacy and Writing Studies in Conversation: Reenvisioning Library-Writing Program Connections, ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, and the WPA’s Framework for Success in Post-Secondary Writing, they worked to change the conversation about research and move away from one-shot instruction to collaborative work focused on the research as inquiry frame of the ACRL Framework. (It many ways, I feel like this parallels with the work we are trying to do for the new Spark Seminars at UC Merced.)

Springmier and Miller developed a new, accessible language that brings together both librarian and composition pedagogy, which also shows that the library is an equal partner in teaching research and information literacy. The library then re-marketed its library instruction by packaging instructional activities on a library guide that correspond to the new pedagogy. They introduced these activities, which can be taught by either librarians or instructors, in a series of workshops aimed at writing instructors. (We do this with TRAIL at UC Merced, but, with Spark, we are creating learning objects in Canvas.) I’d really love to talk to Springmier about the research as inquiry guidelines that she and Miller created at Sonoma; I think this could potentially help us be better able to communicate with faculty about the ideas behind the Framework.

Check out the slides at schd.ws/hosted_files/liw2018/e5/LIW.pptx for more information.

I have so much reading to do and ideas to try out as a result of LIW 2018. I’m really looking forward to LIW 2020! If you haven’t attended before, I highly recommend it.

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.

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.

UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium

My instruction colleagues and I presented a poster at the UC Merced Assessment as Research Symposium earlier this month, “Assessing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software.

Assesing the Value of Library Instruction Using Qualtrics Survey Software

Here is our abstract:

In fall 2016, the library created two online exit surveys (Option A and Option B) in Qualtrics, an online survey tool, and used the surveys to collect student feedback after library instruction sessions. Library instructors selected a survey to use after each session. Option B survey questions were designed to elicit responses regarding students’ attention, relevance, confidence, and satisfaction levels, per Keller’s ARCS Model of Motivational Design Theory. Option A surveys used similar questions but also asked about students’ comfort level with library instructors. Results from both surveys indicated that students find value in learning about databases and specific search strategies. Option A survey results indicated that over 95 percent of students felt comfortable contacting their library instructor later in the semester. Option B survey results indicated that over 96 percent of students agreed or strongly agreed that participating in a library instruction session increased their research confidence. The evidence suggests that library instruction sessions are beneficial for students and that library instructors are approachable.  Though online exit surveys in general and Qualtrics more specifically may present challenges, there are also benefits for educators.  The library offers recommendations for individuals and programs interested in using this lightweight form of assessment.

I served as lead on the project since I crunched the numbers and interpreted the data from this fall’s instruction surveys. Over the summer I had also crunched and interpreted data from the spring surveys. It’s a time-consuming project, but I have come to enjoy working on it. I anticipate crunching the numbers from this spring’s surveys as well.

A special thank you to our Library Communications Coordinator Breanna Wright for designing our poster. I did a rough sketch using columns in Word with the information we needed and provided redacted Excel data, including charts, and she made it beautiful. We got lots of nice compliments on the design.

Library Outreach in Public Health

I meant to do a check in regarding my new job for both September and October, which I will get to eventually, but I just had to share about my library outreach success story.

As you may recall, the UC Merced Library launched a liaison program in late August. We have a small staff, so we don’t have subject specialist roles that involve collection development in that area. Four us were assigned to the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts. There are a number of minors, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in these areas, so we split them up. My primary areas are public health, management, and economics. Public health has both an undergraduate and doctoral program.

Our task for the semester was to begin connecting with the graduate group chairs. A colleague and I met with the Social Science graduate group chair to explain about the liaison program and possibly get ideas for how to communicate with the faculty and graduate students working in public health, management, and economics. Since public health is the only social science program with a graduate program, the conservation leaned more towards public health. I had already talked with our Head of Collections and Deputy University Librarian about previous conversations the Library had had with public health faculty, so that gave me some history. The grad group chair also briefly went over these previous  conversations, mostly related around access to some specific journals and data services. The grad group chair gave me the contact name of a professor who teaches a professional seminar for first-year doctoral students and said he would send me an email list of all of the graduate students in public health. The list he sent me included not only student names and contact information but also had the name of each student’s faculty mentor. I made contact with the professor of the class the grad group chair had mentioned, asking if there was something we could do for her students. I sent out a couple of messages, knowing it was a busy time of year, and waited.

While waiting, I discovered that there is a Public Health Seminar Series. I had missed the first talk already, but I contacted the professor who coordinates this series, explaining who I was and that I thought it might be beneficial for me to come to these talks to learn more about public health research. She was very welcoming and seemed pleased about my interest. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole talk due to an appointment, but I took notes and followed-up with the coordinator about the featured researcher’s work. (If you’re interested, the researcher is Dr. Joan Casey, and she discussed her article “High-Density Livestock Operations, Crop Field Application of Manure, and Risk of Community-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection in Pennsylvania.”)

A little more time passed, and I decided that I needed to contact the students directly. Rather than send out a text-heavy email, I opted for this simple Smore newsletter to introduce myself, the new liaison program, and offer some general services. I also included the link to the article that was discussed at the Public Health Seminar Series for those who, like me, may have missed the citation or were not able to attend the talk. I sent the newsletter to two groups–the students and faculty mentors. I was able to craft different introductory statements in the email that was sent via Smore, so I explained to the faculty mentors that their students had received this information from me. (P.S. The newsletter was viewed 120 times! I also found out that we have a subscription to Mail Chimp, so I will try that next semester.)

The professor I had been trying to contact got a hold of me within a couple of hours after sending out the newsletter! She asked if I could give a session on how the librarians might be able to support students conducting systematic reviews. Thankfully, my colleague, who is the secondary liaison for public health, had done a MOOC on systematic reviews. She sent me some of the materials, so I could look at them. I found a number of useful online guides other libraries have created, which helped me learn more about systematic reviews. After doing some more research on the topic, we created a lesson plan.  The online guides I had looked at also served as the foundation for an online guide we created for the students (below is a screenshot).

Screenshot of Systematic Reviews Guide

We gave the workshop last week, and, although there were parts I could have been better in, it was successful! Some of the students took notes and asked us several questions. We also got good feedback from the students as we were packing up. They seemed happy to have a guide to refer to when doing their own systematic reviews.

The happy story could end here, but it doesn’t. It gets even better.

I sent out a second newsletter with the link to the systematic review guide, information about signing up for an ORCID ID (this campaign had been part of our Open Access Week programming), a reminder about the third installation of the Public Health Seminar Series, and some videos related to using RefWorks. I got a thank you from the professor about coming into her class for the systematic reviews workshop after sending out this second newsletter.

The third installation of the Public Health Seminar Series was this past Tuesday. The talk was given by Dr. Kurt Schnier, an economics professor at UC Merced, who has done work related to organ donation. He spoke about an article under review, “Subsidizing Altruism in Living Organ Donation.” Almost all of the students who had been at the workshop were there, and they recognized me. After the talk, a student asked me about making an appointment to learn how to use RefWorks. When I first walked in, I had heard her talking to someone about some issues she was having accessing an article via Google Scholar, so I asked about that, too. As I was getting up to go, the students mentioned that they were staying to talk to the researcher about his work a bit more, and they asked me to stay!  As the students gave their introductions, I asked the series coordinator if it was okay if I stuck around; it was fine.

It was very interesting to hear some of the students’ concerns. For example, a student was worried that the research she was working on now might pigeon-hole her somehow. The economics professor gave a very good response–that the skills they are learning as graduate students can be applied to the research they will be doing in the future. His background is also varied–he looks at both environmental and health topics through the lens of economics–so that helped eased some of the concerns. I appreciated the connection to lifelong learning; as a librarian, I try to emphasize to freshmen students that the information literacy skills they are learning will help them not only in completing their immediate assignment but throughout their college career and beyond. Even if students aren’t writing papers in the future, they can use what they have learned about information in their work and daily lives.

At the end of this discussion, another student asked me if the library had any book clubs. We don’t, but I am going to look into this. When I got back to my office, I emailed the student who had asked about RefWorks, asking when she would like to come by, and I also asked her about the articles again. She got in touch with me this morning, and I was able to help her track down the articles.

I’m really excited about the the connections I have begun making with our public health graduate students.

From ‘Design Thinking’ to ‘Design Knowing’: Re-conceptualizing Librarianship as a Design Discipline Webinar

My interest in design thinking began when I took the Hyperlinked Library MOOC in Fall 2013, although I only completed half the modules. The following summer, I took User Experience as an independent course through San José State’s iSchool Open Classes. If you’ve happened to poke around in my blog (it’s really to a means to keep track of what I read, conferences, projects, etc.), you’ll find that I’ve written about my interest in learning and instructional design.  I’m still contemplating a second Masters or certificate. My current job is focused on instruction, which includes the design of learning objects to aid the research and instruction process. I’d like some more formal learning and training.

I finally had the opportunity to watch the May 12, 2016, recording of the Blended Librarians Online Community webinar “From ‘Design Thinking’ to ‘Design Knowing’: Re-conceptualizing Librarianship as a Design Discipline.” Rachel Ivy Clarke recently earned a Ph.D. at the University of Washington Information School; her research centers on this topic, and you can follow her @archivy, contact her at raclarke@uw.edu, or visit her website at archivy.net. The webinar stems from a letter Steven Bell wrote in response to an August 2015 report called “Re-envisioning the MLS: Findings, Issues, and Considerations.” Clarke reached out to Bell after reading his letter, which sparked her interest in the subject of approaching librarianship from a design perspective. Steven Bell has also previously written on this topic in his November 2014 Library Journal post “MLD: Masters in Library Design, Not Science.”

Here is the webinar description:

Although librarianship is often traditionally framed as a science, librarians have always been designers: creators of tools and services ( everything from indexes to curricula to  ) that connect people with information. Librarians have never really explicitly conceptualized their work as design work or viewed themselves as designers. Recent years have seen an upsurge of interest in applying “design thinking” to library work, but librarianship also aligns with “design knowing”—foundations of knowledge in design that differentiate it from science.  (2016)

This was a really great webinar to explore both how design is a form of knowledge different from the sciences and humanities and the ways in which librarianship is a design discipline. It’s a compelling argument, and I am impressed with Clarke’s work.

Here are my notes with the examples Clarke used in the webinar.

“Designerly Ways of Knowing”

Design is concerned with the artificial world–making things in order to solve problems. Nigel Cross, a design scholar, developed “designerly ways of knowing” that span across different design fields. Clarke argues that these also span librarianship. She has pinpointed three “designerly ways of knowing,” which include creation of problem solutions, generation of knowledge through making, and design evaluation methods.

1. Creation of Wicked Problem Solutions

Designerly ways of knowing include the of creation artifacts, or things, to solve “wicked” problems; the way we frame these kinds of problems makes a significant impact on how the problems are solved. In librarianship, we create artifacts to solve information problems, including tangible items, such as indexes and pathfinders, or digital items, such as an online catalog or LibGuides; conceptual systems, such as the Library of Congress Classification and Dewey Decimal Classification systems; and events, such as story times, or services, such as instructional curriculum.

Wicked problems are unique problems in that whatever context they are in, they can’t be solved the same way in a different context. They are interconnected, challenging problems without a single answer and aren’t solved through a traditional scientific approach; solutions, instead, are ranked as either better or worse and will vary depending on what aspect of the problem is being addressed. For example, solutions like a library catalog will vary depending on what is seen as the main problem–is it more to help people access materials, for inventory control, or to introduce people to diverse materials? Wicked problems also have many stakeholders with different perspectives, like librarians, administrators, and patrons. Are classification systems designed to help librarians, patrons, or both librarians and patrons?

2. Generation of Knowledge through Making: Iteration, Reflection, and Repertoire

We generate knowledge through the making processes, which include iteration, reflection, and  drawing on a repertoire of knowledge. The process of creating artifacts is as important as the results; the design cycle supports the idea of iteration. Clarke indicates that the design process is gaining traction in librarianship, and I find that she is correct. Check out Design Thinking for Educators and Design Thinking for Libraries. Clarke remarks, however, that reflection does not seem to be as strongly represented in design thinking as it relates to librarianship. She suggest that we are reflecting all the time without actually talking about it and that we might not recognize this as a legitimate form of knowledge in our profession. We typically might think of reflection as occurring in the test part of the design process, but reflection is intrinsic in the process–it is ongoing, or “in action,” as explains Clarke. (I really think she is onto something; I also see this in the research process. Reflection is not strongly emphasized in information literacy, either, but it is essential throughout the process. I know that professors sometimes have students write a reflection at the end of a research assignment, but some have students write in journals about the research process while students are working on a research assignment. Interestingly, at the end of the webinar when Clarke was taking questions, she commented that many people were mentioning that information literacy is a wicked problem.) Design also relies on repertoire; Clarke argues that librarians are often drawing upon past knowledge, experiences, and ideas they see to make decisions for their libraries.

3. Design Evaluation

Evaluation methods in design are also different than in science. Scientific evaluation methods like replication don’t work well for design work. Design is meant to come up with different solutions, not repetition. One method for evaluation in design is rationale–the justification and reason for design choices, which is based on how the problem has been framed. For example, if the purpose in keeping the Dewey Decimal Classification system is for a school library to be able to work more closely with the public library, that’s a better classification design for the school library to use than an author and genre classification system. Another method involves constructive critique–what works and doesn’t work in this particular design? The feedback furthers the artifact and furthers knowledge.

Implications: Research, Education, Practice

Librarians do all of these things. Clarke is arguing that we make design more explicit in research, education, and practice.

She and I also agree on a lot of things regarding current LIS research. I was tickled that she touched on the complaints that library research is not research-y enough; it’s more “this is what we did and how we did it.” I know I have been critical of that in the past myself, but that’s because I wasn’t thinking about our discipline as being a design discipline. Librarianship isn’t a hard science, and it isn’t a humanities discipline. I always tried to explain it as an applied field, but what does that really mean. Is it education? Clarke argues that these traditional measurements aren’t appropriate; she explains that research through design is emerging in user experience and interaction design fields, which may use some traditional evaluation methods but is not necessary for the research to be valid. How a library reports that they did something, which includes the rationale behind it, is valid research. We do need increased avenues for critique, and Clarke mentions that there does seem to be a growing interest with the rise of the critical librarianship movement. For example, critical librarianship critiques that the Dewey Decimal System, which comes from the Victorian era, emphasizes knowledge categories in white, Christian terms. However, the movement is still not grounded specifically in design. Perhaps our profession could arrange spaces where people could bring in their designs for critique as another mode of research; the Museums and the Web conference does this.

Clarke argues that Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) programs in North America offer no design courses. Students are introduced to design through MOOCs and workshops, or they become introduced to design while on the job. Taking the Hyperlinked Library MOOC and User Experience a few years after I graduated with my degree is what really got me thinking more about design. Clarke notes that the University of Washington is launching a new (online) course for its MLIS program in Fall 2016, Design Approaches to Librarianship. Clarke also says that MLIS programs lack the “studio environment” with ongoing feedback, a safe pace to practice and fail, how to reflect, and how to give and receive critique. Given that one of librarianship’s core values in lifelong learning, she argues that MLIS programs should encourage students to be proactive in increasing their skill sets. Not everything is going to be taught or learned in library school. I could not agree more!

Clarke believes that if we re-frame librarianship as a design discipline, we will create better designs. These better tools and services will help libraries be better at advocating about the library’s values, which may lead to more funding. Clarke claims, “Embracing design offers potential for empowerment.” Clarke shares a study she read about user experience librarians that showed that even these librarians do not see themselves as designers. It could be because the actual design work is being carried out by other departments, such as the IT Department. Since these librarians aren’t designing the tool, they feel like they have no power over how it will look or work. Many librarians also buy tool and products from vendors. Some of these perspectives could be changed with increased education, but workplaces could also build design tasks into job descriptions or offer support for design projects. As many libraries are beginning to have makerspaces and other kinds of innovation labs in their spaces, Clarke believes it is imperative that we consider thinking about librarianship from a design perspective. She asks, “How can we empower others to be makers if we don’t fully understand making ourselves?”

Thinking about librarianship as design also offers some broader considerations. Clarke sees that the values of librarianship–privacy, democracy, intellectual freedom, diversity–is what separates us from other information professions. She says, “Values are always embedded in design artifacts.” She explains that if we aren’t designing our systems, software, furniture, buildings, etc., our values are not carried out into the design.

I deeply enjoyed this webinar, and I watched it pretty closely, stopping the recording often to take notes and jot down the examples Clarke gave in showing the audience how the work of librarianship is entrenched in the discipline of design. I’m very interested in reading more of her work and more about design.