Tuesday, 19 April 2011

LILAC 2011: Day 1, Monday 18 March

Yesterday I went to the first day of the 5th Librarians' Information Literacy Annual Conference, LILAC, organised by the CILIP Information Literacy Group, a sub-group of the Community Services Group. I took copious notes throughout the day, and here's a sort-of digest of what I thought of it all.
'Spiral-Bound Notebook' by incurable hippie on Flickr
Low-tech note taking

I must confess that information literacy (IL) isn't one of my main areas of interest or expertise: the impetus to go to LILAC came from Niamh and I having our proposal for a paper about Librarian TeachMeets accepted.  That isn't to say that I don't think that IL is important, or that I didn't find the conference useful, but it's fair to say that I hadn't done all the background reading that some other delegates might have done...

Workshop sessions
The day started with three rounds of pre-conference workshops.  I went to Andy Jackson's '22nd-century librarians and the death of information skills', which wasn't really about either the 22nd century or the death of information skills, but invited us to explore the way our teaching practice will have to develop in order to encompass 'graduate attributes' as well as the 'graduate skills' that our 'learners' (his term) are expected to develop.  The attributes are professional qualities such as 'intellectual curiosity', 'ethical behaviour' or 'global environmental responsibility', which are hard to teach and hard to measure, but ultimately (apparently) make people employable. This session was a good start to the day because we were asked to think about some of the learning and technology challenges that we, and our learners/readers/users currently face, although I found it a little frustrating that the title wasn't really addressed in the content.

Next I attended Emma Finney and Deborah Harrop's Effective approaches to thinking like a researcher. The aim of this session was to demonstrate some of the tools they've used in the series of sessions they run for bioscience students. The four aspects of research that they cover are exploration, analysis, evaluation and interpretation.  I was impressed with the practical nature of the tasks used, I like to learn by having an example to work from or framework to start from, and this is the method they use. For exploring a new topic they provided  a series of headings (basic ideas, key concepts and theories, numbers and facts... I didn't write them all down) under which to gather preliminary thoughts about a subject area.  This is good for two reasons: it helps to show that you do know something about a new topic, even though you might not have realised it, and it give a basis for research - what are the key terms, what areas do and don't you know about.  The evaluation task had us examining a piece of scientific writing and finding the errors in it - this was a way of modelling good writing for the students.  Again, I think it could be an effective way of encouraging them to also evaluate the quality of their own writing.

The third workshop was given by Jo Ashley. 'Learning literacies through collaborative enquiry; collaborative enquiry through learning literacies' looked at the reasoning behind a collaborative IL project undertaken by music first-years at the University of Liverpool. The students, as part of a first-year compulsory study skills course, were divided into groups to work on wikis intended to provide next year's first years with information about the course, the department and study skills. I thought this was a lovely idea that could have been taken further than they did - instead of dividing the students into groups, I'd have been really interested to see how a single wiki edited by all might develop, and it was a shame to hear that most of the finished wikis haven't actually been made available to the new cohort.

Keynote: 'The digital transition, information behaviour and information literacy' by Dave Nicholas, of UCL
There's no denying that Dave Nicholas is a lively and engaging speaker.  Certainly many tweeting delegates seemed impressed with the way he delivered his talk.  That aside, though, I'm afraid that I remain unconvinced.  Not because I don't agree with his powerfully stated assertion that there's a lot of information out there, that people are probably, on the whole, 'skittering' through it bouncing from thing to thing to thing (rather than digging down into the detail of a single item or idea), and that we could find out a lot about that by looking at 'deep log' records of what's going on. But his points for action at the end of the speech were essentially as follows:
  1. Realise that we're in the future and everything is different
  2. Understand what's going on and what people are doing
  3. Then do something about the fact that people 'lack a mental map, have no sense of collection, and a poor idea of what is good/relevant'
  4. Think about whether having all this information is good, and how we're going to deal with it.
I realise that keynotes are supposed to be broad-brush, inspiring, not nitty-gritty, but this was a bit too vague for me. 

Our paper: 'LibTeachMeet: Librarians learning from each other'
I've already blogged about that over on the camlibtm website... I'm pretty pleased with the way the presentation went.  It certainly fulfilled our main objectives of letting people know about TeachMeets, and encouraging them to try it ourselves.  I think we could have included more detail - what people talked about, how we publicised it and recruited speakers, more about our web presence, etc. Much of this was covered in the questions, but if the audience had been less keen to ask, then they would have missed out.

Other parallel sessions
Lucy Keating's paper Taking up the RIN challenge: supporting researchers’ use of web 2.0 was the highlight of the day for me. Lucy presented her paper really well, and had lovely slides, and her project could easily be adapted for other locations and purposes. Lucy is responsible for arts and humanities subject liaison at Newcastle University.  In response to her local impressions of researcher use (or rather, non-use) of social media for research purposes, and also in response to the Research Information Network report 'If you build it, will they come?' she decided to develop a resource to encourage greater use of social media.

The resource she developed is currently focussed on this netvibes page, although Lucy is clear that the content is key, not the carrier.  Her aim was to develop something simple, non-patronising, objective and not evangelical, with free access and highlighting free resources, with real subject examples, that would be easy for her to maintain.  Total costs so far have been £37, and she's put it together herself in and around her regular work.

The key to this is that it's a 'why to' guide not a 'how to guide'. It's brilliant.

The last session I went to was Advancing information literacy: ensuring accountability via assessment by Leslin Charles, the coordinator of a team of teaching librarians at Berkeley College.  In brief (Leslin gave an excellently detailed talk) she and her team have developed procedures to document all of their teaching and its outcomes, so that they are continually improving what they do, and are able to demonstrate their value to faculty members.  They are in the fortunate position that information skills are recognised as a core part of assessment by their accrediting body, but even for those who can only dream of that level of recognition this presented a good way to manage your work, and a means to demonstrate value and gain increased recognition.

Meeting people
I also had the chance throughout the day, and the evening networking session, to meet people, mainly those I already new from Twitter and LISNPN things. It was particularly lovely to meet Lynne, ldnlibtm mastermind, in person for the first time.  It feels a bit like cheating to mainly network with people I already 'know', if only online, but I suppose it counts as cementing existing networks.

I am very grateful to the CILIP University, College and Research Group for awarding me some funding from the Alison Northover Bursary to cover the cost of travelling to, and attending the conference.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this post, which I enjoyed reading and comparing with Above the parapet's follow up to LILAC. Congratulations on delivering what I am sure was an excellent talk.