30 March 2006

Biblioliteracy - What's a Bibliography, citation or reference list?

Quotes of the Week - "Tell me and I forget. Show me and I remember. Involve me and I understand." Chinese proverb
"Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three." Confucius

We as librarians tend to focus a lot on the 'keywords, journal database searching and less on the result of the searching which is a reference list, or bibliography to support the research, whether it's a 1000 word assignment, Honours paper or a Masters thesis, the end result is a well cited paper or presentation. In the University sector it would seem we are doing faculty and students a disservice if we do not place importance on the end result. Let's teach from the end to the beginning - show students that information seeking, finding, using and evaluating is done with the core competency being that of a well referenced paper, or well researched scientific report or presentation. How do students do this well if they don't first fully understand the different types of references, or the Referencing style which is expected? Give examples of well referenced and poorly referenced papers so that the learners have 'standards' to work with. Academics could provide this or librarians could consult with teaching staff. This would be the start of information literacy education, as I see 'referencing' competence as a fundamental competency in higher education and we could be using it as the pivot or foundation for teaching information competency. I was a sheep and followed the traditional method of teaching the 'analyse your topic' bit first, but now after reflecting upon and reading the literature, feel that it isn't an ideal teaching or learning method. Isn't it better to start from 'concrete' and current knowledge before moving to the abstract and unknown. Isn't a large proportion of higher education and assignment submission woven around finding appropriate references? Teach citations first, because many high school students don't know that there are so many different information sources (they could learn all about these, from the citation list), and the different parts, how to identify, etc.) They will also learn from the start to use the Reference list of each article to find other articles, to find 'expert' authors in the field, etc. Then, move on to the commonly accepted beginning of infolit classes, 'analsying topic / identifying information need'

Stage 1 - the challenge is working out how long to spend on this and who introduces it, academic or librarian

1. Citations/Bibliography/Reference List - elements of a well-rounded reference list, elements of each citation in the reference list and distinguishing between different information sources through the reference list (supports learning from the concrete, and known to the unknown)

2. Give them a mini bibliography with elements missing so that they have to find the missing parts, highlighting the importance of using an information management tool or personal 'filing' method with a checklist to ensure all the information for a citation is recorded.

3. Get them to choose the search tool to find the 'citation' information, (perhaps supply with a small list of possibilities) and ask students to justify why they chose that tool.

Stage 2
Start traditional infolit - keywords, etc.etc. When we have no prior knowledge of authors, or citations, you need to do 'keyword' or subject searching, etc.etc.

My reflections as well as a comment from a colleague in the field has prompted me to work on an Information Competency Framework which also incorporates the CAUL Infolit Standards. I have made a start and this is the introduction - "This framework has been developed on the premise that our role in higher education, particularly libraries, is to develop information competence in University Graduates. This framework does not support the notion of teaching them absolutely everything about one particular library. When students leave University, things unique to the library like the call number system, locations, selection of databases, etc. will be different but the things that remain the same no matter where we are in the world are the ‘competencies’, those skills which can be transferred, those intrinsic information competencies and critical thinking abilities that the student takes with them." The things unique to the library will be discovered at point of need (powerful learning) either through peers or the Information desk or Circulation service points. Who said information/reference desk service is a dinosaur?

24 March 2006

What is your leadership style?

Quote of the week - Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
~ Dwight Eisenhower

I read a brilliant article written by Rooke, D & Torbert, W (2005) about leadership which helped me understand the actions and 'modus operatus' of one of my previous supervisors whom in my opinion was very much the opportunist unfortunately. I have also had the experience of working for a manager who was more a Diplomat, and therefore easily swayed by the opportunist. I also have had the pleasure (allbeit brief) during my working life of working for a supervisor who was of the Achiever variety. This lady was the circulation supervisor at the time & is currently the Enquiry Centre Manager. If you are a manager of staff, and experiencing high staff turnover, perhaps it's time to take a look at your leadership style, at least have a read of this article, it may just enlighten you as to why good staff don't stay. If you read the article and see yourself at the bottom leadership style, perhaps you need some formal management training. Why not keep a journal of your actions and decisions? Start a Blog, so that you can reflect on your management strategies and style, acknowledge the pattern and then work out strategies to change your leadership style - strategies which are of the Achiever or Strategist variety. After all, it's not soldiers in a computer war game, or pawns on a chess board that you are responsible for, it's real people, with real skills, real goals, real career paths which should be supported responsibly, and ethically lead and managed. As the saying goes to 'err is human' but to be repeatedly calculating and manipulative is serial-minded opportunistic leadership which needs addressing. Perhaps management is not your forte' and best left to those who are real 'management in the making' and keen to better their skills and those of their subordinates and climb the ladder of leadership styles, not the $corporate ladder. Wouldn't you ultimately like to be a Strategist? If it seems too big a challenge, then perhaps you need a career change, like being a popular magazine gossip columnist, perhaps that's where you really fit?
What's my leadership style? - Achiever who can think outside the box!
These 7 leadership styles are also discussed in the following .pdf article. http://www.nsw.ipaa.org.au/00_pdfs/cooper.pdf

Rooke, David., & Torbert, William - 7 Transformations of Leadership.
Source: Harvard Business Review; Apr2005, Vol. 83 Issue 4, p66-66, 11p,
1 chart, 2c

16 March 2006

Biblioliteracy - Bibliographic slip up!

Quote of the week - "After all is said and done, more is said than done." [Author unknown]
Have you ever been confronted by someone who is in desperate straits trying to find the missing piece of a bibliographic reference because when they originally found the article, it was ages ago, and noboby told them they'd need to keep all the pieces together so that when it came time to publish it would be a cinch, and furthermore this paper is due in today! In my 11 years in an academic library, I remember going to the nth degree for a number of students, researchers and academics to help them find the 'missing piece' of a reference, more often than not, they left with big smiles, because most of the time it was our library catalogue and databases where they originally found the article. Well, I hope you are all very kind to everyone who does this, because guess what, I have just done it myself. What, a librarian? Yep, I'm afraid so. Alas, I don't currently have Endnote or any other bibliographic software loaded on my computer. Must do this! I have recently been researching Blogs and the use of blogs in the education and library environment. I intend to Blog about this in coming weeks, but however, I want to write a properly referenced, full length article of the non-asignment type. So, the other day, I started compiling the reference list comprising the articles I currently have, and guess what, some pieces were missing! I retrieved 2 articles from an electronic database, but had no idea whether it was from vendors such as Proquest, or Ebsco. I had a hunch it was from Ebsco, but didn't know the exact database; MasterFile Premier or Business Source Elite? Oh why didn't I make sure I had ALL the information in the first place! {My access is through the State Library of Queensland subscription databases, by the way, Thanks for this wonderful service, it helps non-working by choice librarians keep up-to-date}. So, what did I do, I had to log back in and then look up the HTML version of the article which gave me the database name. What does it take to get this through the head? We can talk till we are blue in the face about this "keep all your bibliographic information from the start", but as the saying goes, 'to err is human'. This little experience has got me thinking though, should we teach 'from finish to start', or 'end to beginning'. Perhaps we need to give students the exercise of compiling a mini reference list, and give them some incomplete citations (subject specific or course specific). When they discover they can't finish without the missing piece, they will then have to find it. This will get them thinking about the most likely 'tool' and also using the 'tool'. What a learning experience this would be! Has anyone tried this? Did it work?

09 March 2006

Is citation count a good basis on which to give a particular author credit or favour?

Quote of the Week - A computer is almost human - except that it does not blame its mistakes on another computer. {Author unknown}

To the question of citation counting. The answer would seem to be a resounding no. I asked myself this question after reading an article whereby an author of a library-related article outlined in the course of the article, quite a number of flaws with literature written by other librarians. An author may have been cited 20 times, but this is not conclusive the author was cited favourably. The paragraph in which the author was cited and indeed, the articles written by the author should be evaluated in order to determine if the author is truly an expert, whether they have delved deeply or just written superficially about the topic. Be wary of crediting someone on the basis of citation count alone. If someone has been cited 100 times, it might be the case that 90/100 times another author may have highlighted flaws, or discrepancies and incomprehensive observations on the part of the original author's research or article. This question was raised many years ago by Garfield, (1978) in his article entitled, "Is citation analysis a legitimate evaluation tool?"
The following is an abstract of this article: "The general adverse criticism that citation counts include an excessive number of negative citations (citations to incorrect results worthy of attack), self-citations (citations to the works of the citing authors), and citations to methodological papers is analyzed. Included are a discussion of measurement problems such as counting citations for multiauthored papers, distinguishing between more than one person with the same last name (homographs), and what it is that citation analysis actually measures."
Citation searching has its place and is a very powerful research tool in order to track research in a field or research done by a particular person. To use a quantitative numbers-based process alone is shoddy and it is advisable to use other methods to evaluate the quality of what is written; expert panels, peer reviews, etc.

05 March 2006

Why teach an 'old dog' tricks they already know?

Isn't this insulting to the dog? How about University students? Wouldn't you be insulted if you had to re-hash 'information skills' that you already developed, because at the age of 45 years, having held a number of jobs in your time, one of which was in public relations, you now find yourself back at Uni to do a Teaching degree and spend time learning skills you already know. This is just one of many students who may be enrolling in University courses [subjects] and whom have Intermediate Information Literacy skills but are required to start at beginner level. This is a case in point for Pre-testing, or Entry Level testing of Information literacy Skills in Undergraduates. The article by O'Connor, accessed 3 March 2006, showcases methodology and instrument types which could be useful. Is it sensible for an Intermediate infolit level student to be doing 2 first-year courses which both have 'embedded' or 'incorporated' infolit skills? This gives credibility to the 'Generic Information Literacy' case, whereby students could be 'credited' for skills they already have. They could start a Bachelor of Education and alongside this, begin the Intermediate or Advanced Information Literacy Skills course. Throughout the year students could undertake the Assessment activities and then at the end of the year a more 'formal' type of assessment which would indicate the success of the student and the success [or otherwise] of the Information Literacy course. At the end of the degree, students could undertake an 'Exit-test' of information literacy skills. Wouldn't it be nice?
O'Connor, L; Radcliff, C and Gedeon, J. Assessing Information Literacy Skills: Developing a Standardized Instrument for Insitutional & Longitudinal Measurement.
Manuel, K. (2003) Assessing student learning: Strategies and lessons from the library instruction classroom.
Another interesting approach - Mogg, Rebecca

03 March 2006

Why Generic Information Literacy? Equity and Graduate Attributes!

When I say 'generic' I mean 'general' to a Program or course of study, so there would be some 'subject specific' examples for the students, however, I also mean 'transferable' skills. Wouldn't this be a more 'equitable' approach to incorporating information literacy into University degrees and ensuring that ALL, not just some, students, have been exposed to information literacy standards which they can transfer into not only their working life but into everyday life. Owush-Ansah (2004)argues in his paper that it's too common a practice in academic libraries whereby some students don't receive any infolit skills training and others get a double dose because the approach to infolit is not a campus wide approach. It's one thing to teach students how to use "Expanded Academic ASAP via Infotrac", but another thing entirely to teach them "Why use it?" Is it really necessary to spend the first year teaching tools, or should we be teaching "Why would you use this tool instead of that tool? Perhaps we need to rethink 'structured' databases, and 'structured' classes and let students do a bit of the 'discovery' for themselves. Maybe we should teach them about 'Scope Notes' and "Help" screens and how to help themselves, because this is what you do in the 'REAL WORLD' when you don't have access to every fulltext, online database imaginable! Debra JONES (1996p.2 of 7)agrees with this premise as she states that the focus of library instruction should be to teach real world learning strategies that apply in the workforce. The real challenge for librarians is to design classroom activities which teach the students to Independently interrogate the database or search tool and have fun at the same time! What about the fundamentals such as starting broad, mapping out a search strategy, finding alternative terms, using 'broad' searching strategies in the database and then focusing or narrowing a search using Truncation, Wildcards, Phrase searching, or using limit options. These are the things that remain the same, but the databases or search tools which students may have access to upon leaving Uni does not remain the same. If they understand the Fundamentals, they can then transfer these to any 'Interface', anywhere, anytime. This remains the same in the face of meta-searching or federated searching, because how do they understand the "results" if they don't know how the results are retrieved. Some librarians are heading in a sensible direction with these activities. How and when do they learn to think critically about information, to evaluate it, determine if it adds to the body knowledge, whether they need a primary source or secondary source, whether the newspaper article is biased, and the legalities of information use and sourcing and referencing? Equity is an important issue in the information literacy agenda and should be addressed more closely by those in a position to promote and implement a University wide information literacy course. Do ALL students receive a minumum standard and consistent level of exposure to these important graduate attributes at your institution?
Owusu-Ansah, Edward K. (2004)Information Literacy and Higher Education: Placing the Academic Library in the Center of a Comprehensive Solution. Journal of Academic Librarianship, Jan2004, Vol. 30 Issue 1, p3-16, 14p; (AN 12560937)