Graduate student focus group on the libraries

In spring 2016, the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) held focus groups for first-year Master and PhD students to learn more about this cohort’s needs. The first focus group topic was about library resources and services, and seven students attended to share their experiences. Guided questions to get the group thinking about their library experiences were as follows:

  1. What type of challenges do you face when looking for or using information and research?
  2. Talk to us about how you use the library – both physically and virtually.
  3. What would you like to see offered at the library?
  4. What are your frustrations in using the library?

This focus group activity was an opportunity for the libraries to think about how graduate students find and use research help, and how we can make this process easier. The SGS graduate student focus group feedback slides, which were presented at the July Library Teaching & Learning Committee meeting and the August Reference Services Committee meeting, outline the key findings.

Using short stories and drawings in information literacy instruction

From Navroop Gill:

Yesterday [June 16] at our meeting, I shared a little about the speakers I had seen at WILU, David Brier & Vicky Lebbin who are at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Their approach to information literacy incorporates short stories and drawings which they have found to be highly engaging methods for students.

I’ve attached their handouts which provide ideas of how to structure lessons using these techniques ( just a note: they had read through hundreds of short stories to find ones that were suitable for IL!)

Their articles if you’re interested:

Brier, D. J., & Lebbin, V. K. (2015). Learning information literacy through drawing. Reference Services Review, 43(1), 45-67

Brier, D. J., & Lebbin, V. K. (2004). Teaching information literacy using the short story. Reference Services Review, 32(4), 381-385. doi:10.1108/00907320410569734


Proquest Databases @ U of T – Liaison Update Forum

Links and materials from the June 14 2016 Liaison Update Forum to review methodologies and communications options related to the discontinuation of selected Proquest databases.

  • Library web site: “Libraries approach to collection building” (includes links to Confluence-posted content for library staff)
  • Presentation slides: PQC methodology June14
  • Proquest Central documentation (in Confluence)
  • Sample questions and responses from today’s discussion: Each scenario was reviewed by a small group of librarians, who developed a strategy for response.  The responses were shared with the entire meeting for additional suggestions and changes.
Scenario 1 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 1 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 2 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 2 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 3 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 3 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 4 Group 2 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 4 Group 2 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 4 Group 1 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 4 Group 1 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 5 (click to enlarge)

Scenario 5 (click to enlarge)

SPARC-CARL Webinar on Supports for Tri-Agency Policy

Now Online: SPARC-CARL Webinar on Supports for Tri-Agency Policy

The recording and slides of the SPARC-CARL Webinar, “Library and Research Services Supports for the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications,” are now available on the CARL website. / / L’enregistrement et les diapositives du webinaire de SPARC et de l’ABRC, « Politique des trois organismes sur le libre accès aux publications : Soutien offert aux chercheurs par les bibliothèques académiques et les services de recherche universitaire » sont maintenant disponibles sur le site web de l’ABRC. Session en français  English-language session

Webinar: Research Impact Metrics for Librarians

Thank you to all of you who attended today’s webinar on research metrics, Research impact metrics for librarians: calculation & context | May 19, 2016.  This was a great overview of the challenges of metrics. Although the presentation focused on sciences, the content of the slides may be helpful to all of us who need to become better acquainted with benefits and limitations of key metrics tools.

You can now view the presentation on demand at your convenience with audio.

Additional documents:

Liaison Librarians Update Forum March 1 2016

The March 1 Liaison Update Forum featured a presentation from Professor Susan McCahan, Vice-Provost, Innovations in Undergraduate Education, on trends in undergraduate education that have impact on her portfolio at the U of T.  The forum also  showcased 3 additional lightning round presentations.  Each presentation was followed by small group discussion and an open Q&A session.  Presenters kept track of the questions  and have kindly recorded and shared their responses for this post.

  1. Professor Susan McCahan, on Trends in Undergraduate Education Watch the video (best in IE – volume is a little low in the beginning)
  2. Laure Perrier, Gerstein Science Information Centre, on Research Data Management: UToronto Libraries Update Powerpoint || Q&A
  3. Erica Lenton, Gerstein Science Information Centre, on Creating a service through community & collaboration  (Evidence Synthesis Service) Powerpoint || Q&A
  4. Courtney Lundigan, Graham Library, Trinity College, on Re-imagining Liaison at UTL (update on progress of the Liaison Future Directions Working GroupPowerpoint || Q&A

Liaison Librarians Update Forum December 4 2015

The December 4 Liaison Update Forum showcased 6 lightning round presentations.  Each presentation was followed by small group discussion and an open Q&A session.  Presenters kept track of the questions (which were submitted on index cards to preserve anonymity) and have kindly recorded and shared their responses for this post.

  1. Stephanie Orfano: Thinking beyond fair dealing: Questions facing the Scholarly Communications and Copyright Office (…and how you can help)  Powerpoint || Q&A
  2. Caitlin Tillman: Talking to faculty about Downsview Powerpoint || Q&A
  3. Judith Logan: Choosing the right platform for your web content Powerpoint || Q&A
  4. Carey Toane: EntComp: Establishing an entrepreneurship community of practice at UTL Powerpoint ||Q&A
  5. Dylanne Dearborn: Research data management at the U of T Powerpoint ||Q&A
  6. Gail Nichol: I’ll follow you if you’ll follow me: How Scopus can track your research impact, connect you with others in your field and keep you up to date Powerpoint || Q&A

Putting ourselves in their shoes: What really matters to our community?

On October 13, thirty library staff members gathered in the BlackBurn Room to explore our communities’ needs from their perspective.  

librarians working on activity

The event was structured about the concept of Value Proposition Design, a way for businesses and other organizations to develop service and communication strategies that resonate with their clientele.

Although this exercise comes from a business setting, our facilitator, MJ D’Elia, assured us that applying it to a library context can be fruitful.  MJ manages the Learning and Curriculum Support Team at the University of Guelph Library and teaches an introductory entrepreneurship course.  He’s spoken at the OLA Super Conference about applying business startup thinking to libraries.

This event was intended to help us in several areas:

  • To reflect on our services from the standpoint of different segments of our user community
  • To communicate our value more effectively
  • To better understand our user community as a collection of different user groups or segments with differing needs, rather than as a single homogeneous group
  • To discover services or products that do not resonate with our community as much as we’d hoped and flag them for further investigation

For most of the workshop, we formed small groups focused on a specific user segment such as first year undergraduates or faculty with a research focus.  Participants had the option of signing up for a segment ahead of time or joining a group whose segment interested them.

Customer profile map

In first portion of the activity, we had to think of what life might be like for our user segment.  We documented our conversation with post-it notes on a piece of chart paper in three distcustomer profile mapinct sections:

  • Gains and outcomes: These are the broad goals that an individual in each customer segment may have.
  • Jobs and tasks: These are the things that the individual must do to accomplish their goals.
  • Pains and frustrations: These are the things that get in the way of accomplishing their goals.

A final-year undergraduate student may have an outcome of getting a job after graduation; the task of finishing their senior thesis; and the pain of student debt.

Here’s an example of a finished map:

finished customer profile map

You can see a transcribed version of each group’s map here.

Value map

value_mapIn the next section, we thought about what products and services could either help alleviate the pains and frustrations or help achieve the desired gains or outcomes from the previous activity.

Participants remarked that this section was more difficult because it was hard not to think of library services from a staff perspective.  We realized that many of the products or services that we thought of pains relievers or gain creators were farther removed from our segment’s most important pains and gain.  It was also sometimes hard to differentiate between gain creators and pain relievers.

Here’s an example of a finished value map:

value map finished

You can see a transcribed version of each group’s map here.

Value proposition statements

Then it was time to take the thinking we’d done and create statements that clearly articulated how library products or services benefit our specific segment.  We gave ourselves the freedom to explain existing services or think up new ones based on the value.

The value proposition statements all followed the same template:

Our [product/service] helps [customer segment] who want to [job/task] by [verb] [customer pain] and [verb] [customer gain].

Here are some of the statements we came up with:

  • Our carrel services help(s) PhD candidates who want to do research by reducing effort and time and providing convenient research space
  • Our TSpace research repository help(s) grant fund recipients who want to comply with funders’ OA policy by providing an OA compliant platform and satisfying requirements for future funding applications
  • Our course research guides help(s) 1st year students who want to do well on their assignments by reducing stress and showing quality resources

Several participants remarked that this was the hardest part of the afternoon.  Not only was being succinct very difficult, but again we found ourselves writing from a library-centric perspective.  It was also difficult to articulate clearly just how our services/products addressed specific pains and gains.

After we drafted the statements, we took 20 minutes to walk around the room, read other groups’ statements, and write anonymous comments on each sheet.  This helped the group who wrote the statement see how other library staff reacted to it.

feedback on value propositions statements

In the debrief, some participants remarked that receiving honest, anonymous feedback was very useful since we are often too gentle in our feedback with one another.

MJ reminded us that in a real world scenario, we would be testing these statements with people from the user segment rather than other library staff.


This event reminded us how small a place the library takes up in some of our community members’ lives.  They are busy with deadlines, social and family obligations, and any number of other stresses.  This means that we need to be as effective as possible in communicating how we help make their lives easier. That takes practice.

It also emphasized just how difficult it can be to align our resources and services with the actual, lived experiences of our community. The basic premise of the activity was to think about the jobs, pains, and desired outcomes of our community, but how do we know if we were right or even close?

User experience (UX) research is essential when we’re designing new services or reviewing existing services. Lisa Gayhart, User Experience Librarian, is developing a UX toolkit that will help you design and deliver UX studies.  In the meantime, you could consult with her or check out some of the many UX resources for libraries: