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


Talking about metrics to the University community – notes from the February 24 2015 practice exchange

Gail Nichol reviewed the recent discussions between the Library and senior university members  on how to support the acquisition of reputation metrics for use by faculty, departments and divisions.  Several librarians  shared stories of how they are currently supporting faculty and departmental requests for information.

Trends we noticed:

  • Although the H-index isn’t perfect, it has become the de facto tool for inter-institutional and inter-departmental comparisons.  Most understand its limitations.
  • Supporting faculty and departmental requests for metrics is time-intensive, with no one-size-fits-all approach.  Nevertheless, there is an important role for U of T librarians to support these kinds of requests at the divisional, departmental and individual level.
  • It is not easy to construct profiles even with tools like Web of Science and Scopus, that enable automatic generation of H-indices, so wider exposure to these kinds of tools and their capabilities is an area of interest. Be patient, there’s a learning curve.
  • Librarians are interested in further training and development to support their work in the area of metrics, and expressed interest in creating an information space to share information, strategies, and approaches to various requests.

Materials from today’s session:



Summary: Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment

Below is a summary of the points made in the white paper: Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy: Creating Strategic Collaborations for a Changing Academic Environment

We will be discussing the paper at the June 5 Librarians’ Information Literacy Practice Exchange.  In addition to the summary below, take 5 minutes to read Kevin Smith’s April 29 blog post, Meet Me at the Intersection, which brings together many of the key points using a recent, vivid example.


This paper argues that librarians need to realign their activities to integrate issues of scholarly communication into their support for teaching and learning.

“Every librarian in an academic environment is a teacher.” (p. 4) The need for librarians versed in information literacy principles and techniques to incorporate scholarly communication into their information literacy programs and cases extends to every level of student, from undergraduate to graduate.  Additionally, the paper contends that individual library structures, which are in many ways are still grounded in divisions of public service and collections services,  may benefit from redesign in order to foster librarians’ deeper knowledge and capacity in both information literacy and scholarly communication.

The facts:

  • Students are not just users of information but are becoming authors and editors of new knowledge, through avenues such as:
      • student journals, as authors of published articles
      • creation of blogs, Wikipedia articles, videos, social media and online content. Many students want  to publish their content online.
  • Publishing is in a state of turmoil. The existing model of scholarly publishing is unsustainable and no single replacement model has been found, resulting in much experimentation.
  • Digital technologies are extremely fragmented; users have much greater unmediated access to scholarship now; sharing of knowledge is commonplace and in many cases, expected.  With this comes new pressures to understand intellectual property, ethical use of copyright materials, appropriate application of fair dealing/fair use. Users need help navigating these complex pathways, and as librarians we need to understand the life cycle of scholarship, its environment, and the need to respond to specific questions on a case-by-case basis
  • Universities face increased materials costs but lower budgets; increased student enrollments; reduced library staff; and increasing pressure on universities to demonstrate value and student success.
  • The published item is no longer the ultimate and preferred vehicle for all things scholarly, e.g. multimodal journals, born-digital content
  • Boundaries between disciplines are shifting/blurring
  • Increasing openness allows additional, non-traditional voices to add to the scholarly dialogue.

Information literacy implies an awareness of the social, economic and legal conditions for scholarly communication within specific disciplines.

  • Librarians have come a long way from delivering “bibliographic instruction” and increasingly see themselves as essential partners in both student learning, and as driving forces in scholarly research. They seek to create high-impact teaching and learning experiences.  Issues of scholarly communication offer many “teachable moments”
  • Adapt our teaching approaches to support students working in the digital environment, integrating new types of content into our teaching.  Our challenges now go far beyond bibliographic and textual information.
  • Students — even early-stage undergraduates — can benefit from an understanding of “the forces that shape the information they consume” (p. 7)

Some ways this can be achieved:

  • Become involved with student-run journals and formal undergraduate research programs. These offer opportunities to consult with students on economic, technological, and legal aspects of publishing.
  • In research-based courses, create experiential learning opportunities that explore elements of the scholarly communication process
  • Consult with grad students on their dissertations beyond the lit search. Help them with publishing questions that inevitably arise (e.g. reuse of figures; repository selection, access issues)
  • Partner in open online courses (e.g. MOOCs) that require advice on copyright, access and use of content
  • Develop information literacy programs that are more fully integrated into the curriculum and include scholarly communication topics
  • Incorporate interesting case studies and “active learning” into class projects
  • Treat publishing as “course work”
  • Create learning opportunities where students gain knowledge/information from peers and their environment (ie not just literature searches)
  • Help students understand best practices in the use of copyrighted and free materials
  • Help students understand the causes of  barriers to information access after they leave university
  • Help student authors use Creative Commons licenses in their work
  • Support students wanting to add senior papers or honors thesis to the institution’s digital repository — in doing so learn about copyright, OA and digital publishing

  • Help students learn new ways of thinking about evaluating, using, citing many different kinds of media
  • Help students find and use data, incorporating this into assignments. Not just numeric, but also textual data.

    Help students understand how their choices as users and creators of data affect access, reuse and preservation.

  • Teach the economics of publishing:  e.g. the academic “gift economy” where faculty volunteer labour which is sold back by publishers

  • Help students understanding the life cycle or “social life” of information, including how impact is measured
  • Educate students and faculty about disseminating the results of their work for maximum reach

  • Help students understanding emerging concepts of “peer review” (e.g. crowdsourcing post-publication)
  • Make presentations to stakeholders — faculty, departments, research groups, grad student meetings
  • Create online instructional materials aimed at different audiences
  • Build expectations of basic scholarly communication knowledge into liaison librarian role descriptions

How can librarians develop our skills and abilities in this area?

  • While information literacy roles are reasonably well integrated into many librarians’ activities, scholarly communication is much newer.
  • Liaison or subject specialist models have focused mainly on collection building, reference and disciplinary instruction support.  The comprehensive liaison model affords new opportunities to become valuable partners in new initiatives and services to the communities served.
  • Share best practices in teaching across disparate areas. “All librarians regardless of job title need to learn, understand, and practice the best approaches to instruction in their many different environments.” (p. 16)
  • Collaborate with differently-skilled librarians to develop educational programs to support information fluency among students, faculty and staff (defined on page 14) Collaborations enable librarians to become transliterate  — understand the interaction across all literacies, digital, visual, textual, data
  • Partner with faculty to help students develop new skills and new habits
  • To be resilient in the face of changing roles, we need to be willing to practice and model innovation organizationally. Explore options for organizational change that break down barriers between information literacy and scholarly communication





Feb 21 Practice Exchange on Assessment notes

Notes and resources from the February 21 Practice Exchange on assessment.

 Resources mentioned in the session

 Some of the resources mentioned in the session are posted:


These were mentioned as useful resources for designing information literacy instruction (although they are ostensibly aimed at students) :

Badke, William. Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog, 3d ed (New York: iUniverse,  2008)

Booth, Wayne C,  Gregory G. Colomb & Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research, 3d ed (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008)   (ebook)

  Notes from the discussion

Assessments can have different purposes, eg learning outcomes vs accountability.

Things that have worked

ADVANCE SURVEYS: In preparation for a series of sessions, sending an advance survey asking students about things like their level of study, area of research, and what they hope to get out of the session.

ON THE SPOT TOPIC SELECTION: A multiple choice poll-everywhere type survey at the beginning of class to let students identify areas they most want/need instruction on from among a list of topics you’ve prepared for. This lets you target your instruction and helps with the problem of trying to cram too much into a session. It assumes students will be good judges of what they need to know, so it’s usefulness probably varies by group.

3-2-1 AT THE BEGINNING OF A CLASS: using these at the beginning of a session is a great icebreaker that allows you to take the temperature of a class while getting everyone involved right off the bat.

Pre-tests can be enormously useful, but some care is needed when using them lest they have unintended consequences or ‘backwash’. One participant noted that a multiple choice pretest targeting at-risk students may have had a demoralizing effect on the very group it was intended to help.

More on 3-2-1s & other forms of assessment

3-2-1 FOR POST ASSESSMENT: example : 3 things I learned, 2 things I can use right away, 1 thing I have a question on (muddiest). Engages students in reflection on what  they’ve just been taught and provides us with feedback. TIP: Make the last section a ‘tear off’ so you can collect and review the muddiest points and students can take home their recollections of ‘things I learned’  and ‘things I can use right away’. You can do this type of assessment with online tools like Survey Monkey and Google Docs as well.

Online polls are probably not as useful for small groups.  A simple show of hands might be used instead, for example.

ACTIVE LEARNING ON EVALUATING GOOGLE RESULTS: students were asked to search on topics like the Chernobyl disaster, post-modern art, consumer trends in the use of tablets. The topics were tailored to produce search results and generate strong, sometimes opposing viewpoints.  Students quickly got very animated and involved. They were asked to assess things like: are any results scholarly, who are authors, what are their affiliations, what do you think is the best result, when was information last updated, do the authors cite any evidence, would you use this in an assignment. The exercise takes about 35 minutes plus 5-10 minutes of discussion, so it is time consuming and probably most feasible within a multi-class series or a course, but it quickly engages students with the practice and norms of information literacy.

USING ASSESSMENT RESULTS TO UPDATE LIBGUIDES/FAQS . Tell students in your session that filling out the assessment form is important because you will update the Libguide or other resource with their questions and your answers. Students really like this and it works very well, however it involves a significant amount of after-class work for you.

FIND OUT WHAT THEY ‘REALLY’ DON’T KNOW: Newer students in particular often simply don’t know what they don’t know. Early assessment can help determine the right jumping off point for a session.

Given the limited impact of 1 shot sessions, should we be doing 321 type assessments more and other types of assessments less?

Faculty feedback

Short surveys sent to faculty are useful for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that faculty are often reluctant to give critical feedback face to face right after a session. A pdf containing some examples of short surveys for faculty compiled by Rita Vine is attached. These types of surveys try to obtain data  on whether a session impacted the quality of the student assignments.

Faculty assessment addresses some of the limitations of student self- assessment as well as timing issues (ie allows post-assignment assessment).

At one university performance assessment for librarians includes a demonstration of the impact of teaching sessions, for which faculty input is often sought.


Notes from the first Practice Exchange – examples of successful teaching practices

Tuesday January 15 2013 brought with it the inaugural Practice Exchange, a meeting of U of T librarians interested in exchanging ideas and information about their teaching. The first session focused on examples of successful teaching experiences.   Below are a few of the things participants mentioned and chatted about as things that have worked for them:

Grading and/or assigning a weight to library/research assignments

Quite a few participants have found that that grading library/research assignments boosts student engagement and aids learning.  Some mentioned that even a weight of 1% can guarantee attendance at instruction sessions, and a weight of 2-5 % of final grade worked well for one library.

UTSC reports very positive results using a sort of ‘pre-assignment’  assignment. In this scenario, a smaller research assignment precedes a larger one, and serves as an introduction to the research task and gets students to think about and get some feedback on their research before the deadline for their larger assignment. The instructor(s) devised a short assignment requiring some article searching and an assessment of students’ own research. Instructor feedback reports much higher levels of student engagement with their research using this structure.  Anyone interested in finding out more about this can contact Sarah Fedko,

One method of grading that has worked well is to grade on a completed/not completed score, rather than pass/fail.

Medicine has found that a shared rubric/marking template for the markers helps ensure consistency when a number of people are grading. They have had success with a fairly a detailed template.

Timing assignments for early identification/self-identification of students who need some research instruction to  allow them time to get ‘non-last-minute help’  works well.

Leveraging the authority and social connections of students :

Making and displaying videos of upper year students speaking about ‘what I wish I had known about the library when I started’. Rewards like a Tim Hortons card for the interviewees helps with participation.

Using student ambassadors to provide peer to peer library instruction. Students first receive training and are expected to produce reports on their experience/learning.

Student societies have proved to be productive resources for marketing library messages.

Talking to student reps from course committees and attending course committee meetings provided great information for sessions that might be useful and interesting to students

Assigning subject areas to residence dons and encouraging other students to approach them for help has worked for UTSC, the idea being that students are more willing to approach other students for help.


Video and photo contests to promote engagement with the library have worked well for UTM and others. Contests also produce a lot of corollary benefits like providing library website content, supplying the winners (and perhaps all participants) with something for their resume, and just generally promoting library good will.

One contest for undergrads on St. George required students to obtain faculty support for their proposal. The library ran related sessions to like “how to write an abstract” and “how to do a conference presentation”.  Benefits include skills training, promotion of library-faculty contact, library-student engagement, and faculty–student contact.  Structuring the contest to let students use work they had already completed lowered the entry barriers and helped encourage participation.

Involving faculty in contests by asking them to judge or vote has been successful.

Possibility: bring others schools into the competition.

One contest required the top 3 contestants to present ‘dragons den’ style to determine winner.

Student societies may be a source for prize money for contests.

Collaboration/moving into non-traditional areas of instruction

Observed: Career advancement and job skills may not be areas we think we have expertise in, but nevertheless we have things to offer and things we can do that our users want in these realms.

Collaboration with other departments is often the linchpin of such sessions and it may be that much of the library effort for such sessions consists of outreach and organization more than instruction per-se. For instance a round robin resume workshop where participants broke up into groups and passed around their resumes to one another then had a group conversation about things they liked or thought worked well. The library’s input during the actual session was fairly light, most of the library’s work for the event was around organizing the event.

A class on “How to read a scholarly article” that proved very successful was another good example. A writing instructor was key to the session, and the library-writing center collaboration premised the session. Students read articles in class, and the library came up with questions for them to work on in groups of two or three. Most of the library input was on the organizing and preparation side as the session was led by a writing instructor.

Potential partners abound. Some examples include the career center, the writing centers, and student societies.


Communities of Practice (CoPs) best practices summary

Law librarian John Bolan, who is one of this year’s seconded librarians to CTSI, prepared this summary of best practices for communities of practice. The document was part of John’s research on how best to implement our practice exchanges for instruction librarians, which will start in January 2013. Thanks John!


Moving Forward on the Librarians Teaching Program and Practice Exchanges

CTSI’s seconded librarians — John Bolan, Angela Hamilton, Joanna Szurmak,  and I — have been continuing the tasks of developing a program of professional development for librarians who teach at the U of T.

Development of this program commenced in 2010, when the first group of CTSI-seconded librarians (Patricia Bellamy, Sarah Fedko, and Sheril Hook) developed several long term goals, and conducted a needs assessment for professional development of librarians who teach.  (You can read about those goals and review their final report.)

The results of this assessment revealed a need for a varied program of professional development, integrating formal learning, reflective practice, observations, and especially opportunities to share and learn from colleagues through communities of practice, also known as practice exchanges.

With a new group of librarians in 2011-12 (Patricia Bellamy, Whitney Kemble,Joanna Szurmak, and Rita Vine) our work focused on development of the formal learning aspect.  In the 8- week Fundamentals of University Teaching program offered each Spring through CTSI, 6 of the 18 participants were U of T librarians.  The experience was meaningful for all participants. We will continue to integrate a small group of librarians into future offerings of this program, and involve previous participants in break-out sessions for new librarian participants.

We also embedded librarians in CTSI’s popular Course Design/Re-Design Institute, as part of our continuing goal of building connections and partnerships between librarians, teaching faculty, and CTSI learning specialists.  Librarians continue to partner with CTSI staff to embed issues of information literacy into CTSI faculty workshops and the Teaching Assistants Training Program (TATP), and we intend to extend our work in this area in 2012-13.

We’re now ready to take the next step, that of implementing and assessing regular practice exchanges among librarians who teach at the University.  Interest in regular opportunities to share and learn from colleagues came up in the 2010 needs assessment, was reiterated as important by Fundamentals participants,  and has been an area of interest among members of the Instruction in Library Use Committee.  John Bolan of the Law Library will be coordinating and assessing a pilot of two semi-structured sessions, which will take place in January and February.  More information will be sent soon on dates and topics, and we hope that this will become a continuing forum to support the development of practice excellence in our organization.

By the way, if you’re interested in learning a bit more about communities of practice, there is a good brief summary in the latest issue of UBC’s Teaching and Learning Centre blog.