This is a summary of a mentorship project undertaken for ILS 503,
Foundations of Librarianship, taught by
Prof. Jodi Williams, Southern Connecticut State University, Spring
2003. My mentor was Elaine Jayne. The
names of the other bibliographic instructors have been changed to Smith
and Radcliffe, to protect their identities.]
I entered into a mentorship agreement with an Instructional Services Librarian at a Michigan university in January 2003. Although I have worked as a Special Format Cataloger in the Cataloging Department of the Library for the past three years, I had very little experience with the mission of the Central Reference Department.
My goals for the mentoring project were to:
Understand the elements of an effective Bibliographic Instruction session.Bibliographic Instruction
I am fortunate to work in an academic library: there is a wealth of information available on bibliographic instruction. More than 20 serials are related to librarianship, and the Journal of Academic Librarianship provided several articles to ponder. Ms. Jayne suggested that I read the Sourcebook for bibliographic instruction (Chicago : Association of College and Research Libraries, 1993) which furthered my understanding of the “why” and “how” of B.I. There are many electronic resources available regarding B.I.1 One of my first moves was to subscribe to the ALA-sponsored electronic discussion group called the Information Literacy Instruction List (ILI-List). I ended up giving a great deal of thought about the need for information literacy, especially how necessary it is for students to develop critical thinking skills and proper research techniques. Diane Nahl, chair of the Library and Information Science Program, University of Hawaii at Manoa, stated in an email to the ILI-List: “If students do not advance in information literacy as they progress in their degrees many are inadequately prepared to utilize information in those disciplines and in their future work.”2 This statement made an impression on me when I first read it. I don’t think we should underestimate the importance of literacy, and in this age, literacy means information literacy.
Observation of Prof. Smith
I was able to sit in on a bibliographic instruction session on February 6, 2003, that Prof. Smith presented to an English 105 class. The assignment given to the students was to compare and contrast film analyses, specifically films that emphasized psychological issues.
Prof. Smith began by introducing himself and talked for a few minutes about the libraries and services offered. During the course of this introduction, Prof. Smith used the libraries’ home page as a prop and explained that even though students may think everything they need is on the Internet, the University Libraries offer something not there: books. He passed three substantial monographs around the room, McGill’s Survey of cinema, the Motion picture guide, and Film review annual; all of which are shelved in the Reference Section of the library.
Prof. Smith demonstrated how to use the library’s website, pointed out the link to the online public access catalog (OPAC), and then touched on the difference between magazines (general interest, popular works) and film criticism journals (scholarly works). He also pointed out the link to Research Resources (4th line down on the library home page) and the link to movie reviews (right column, halfway down the list of How to find at the university). The first database on that page is InfoTrac General Reference Center Gold, which provides citations to movie reviews done since 1980. In other words, it’s useful for finding relatively recent reviews, but not the place to find information on older films. One film the teacher had asked the students to consider was “Girl, interrupted” about which Prof. Smith admitted he knew nothing. Using the keyword search, Prof. Smith typed in ‘girl interrupted’ and the search returned 74 hits, 40 with full text articles. He pointed out to the students things that they should notice in the search returns: author name, article title, magazine or journal title, date, volume number, page number(s).
Unfortunately, he did not notice that the second hit was for a review of a Korean movie that used the phrase ‘girl interrupted’ in its title (a false drop), nor did he mention the possibilities or associated problems with false drops. At that point, though, the computer crashed and had to be rebooted, so the topic was overlooked. Prior to the computer crash Prof. Smith went back and forth between the OPAC and the InfoTrac database. The students seemed confused by this, and I wondered why he didn’t use multiple windows to display the information.
The students began their own searches for information following the 25-minute B.I. session. I stayed around for a while to assist Prof. Smith as he helped them find articles.
Overall I think that Prof. Smith probably presented the material to these students the same way he has to hundreds of others. I don’t think he made a positive impression on the students, and I was disappointed in the session. He seemed so out of touch. To be fair, though, I don’t think that I caught him on an especially good day. His colleagues think the world of him, and that is one of the reasons why I am questioning my perception of the session.
Observation of Ms. Elaine Jayne
I observed the bibliographic instruction session taught by Ms. Jayne to a BIS 142 class on February 20, 2003. Ms. Jayne met the group of 19 students, their instructor, and 2 observers in the library atrium and spent a few minutes explaining the layout of the facility, pointing to a map and the various areas accessible from the main entrance. Ms. Jayne also explained the Library of Congress call number scheme, which the University Libraries follow. Books are shelved beginning with the Bs on the 3rd floor, going down to the Lower Level and ending with the Ys. The As and Zs are both on the main (1st) floor, as are Central Reference, Circulation, and the large computer classroom. She then led the group on a brief tour through the Central Reference Department, pointing out computer terminals that are dedicated to specific databases, before ushering everyone into Classroom A.
Ms. Jayne spent some time talking about the differences between scholarly journals and popular magazines. New issues of journals and magazines are stored on open shelves in the Lower Level of the library, near the Science Reference Desk, and are bound as needed and then shelved in the regular stacks. The exception to this is Advertising Age, which is kept as a paper copy only until microfilm is received, and then it is thrown out.
She also talked about the Libraries website and the OPAC (Online Public Access Catalog). The OPAC does not have articles, only the titles of materials. To find an article, students must look at an article database for either abstracts or full-text information. The concept of keyword searching came up, as well as the need to narrow a search by using the word AND or to broaden a search by using the word OR. Truncation, she explained, is the use of a symbol at the end of a shortened word to get all of the variations of the word.
Access to the databases is restricted to students, staff and faculty at the university, so when they are on campus it is not a problem: the computer recognizes them as authorized users. But to connect to the databases from off-campus, the proxy server must be used, so Ms. Jayne showed the students how to find the instructions for it on the Library website. Since the students in this class were all business majors, Ms. Jayne told them about the business-related databases and journals. The database they are most likely to use is ABI/Inform; many limits are available. By way of example she suggested that they do a subject search on two subjects: “pharmaceutical industry” and “consumer advertising.” Newsbank is a full-text database of articles found in newspapers. By entering search terms such as “pharmaceutical*” and “advertising” the students would run what Ms. Jayne termed a ‘gonzo search’ which I understood as one that would return a large number of articles.
In her conclusion, Ms. Jayne said that students may use the networked printer in the classroom during this instructional session to get free print-outs, or they could buy a copy card from the machine on the 2nd floor (copies are 7 cents each with the card, 10 cents each without the card). The copy cards work with the networked printers in the library as well as the copiers.
I noticed that some students were asleep during the class and wondered if there weren’t some way to make the session more interactive. I asked the business instructor what she thought of the session. She said that she was pleased with the way Ms. Jayne was able to keep the students’ attention and that this was a very successful session. Ms. Jayne is a consummate professional: nicely dressed, soft-spoken, calm and precise, with a hint of humor and warmth. Her preparedness and competency were inspirational.
Observation of Prof. Radcliffe
I observed the bibliographic instruction session on February 25, 2003, given by Prof. Radcliffe to an English 105 class. Prof. Radcliffe seemed very much at ease in front of the class. She began by introducing herself, explained that the librarians and staff were there to help the students, and then talked about the Central Reference Desk and hours that the libraries are open. During the introduction she demonstrated and talked about online services offered by the libraries: Live Chat, Email Reference, and the “Ask a librarian” page. Prof. Radcliffe also told the students about the various libraries at the university, and their locations: music, education, visual resources, regional history and archives, special collections, and the science reference desk.
The students were given handouts as they entered the class: the "Engl105" sheet, a map of the Library, and a Library bookmark. Prof. Radcliffe explained the Library of Congress call number scheme, and added that in our library, “A” and “Z” categories are found on the 1st floor, but otherwise the call numbers begin on the 3rd floor and end on the lower level.
Prof. Radcliffe provided information to the class about the library home page, and explained when, why, and how they would need to use the proxy server to access the electronic collections.
Prof. Radcliffe next asked each student what topic she or he intended to research. Most of the students were attentive; a few seemed unprepared. Still, nearly every student replied, and the topics were as diverse as the class: police [issues], stem cell research, business, teacher shortage, material design: lighting, intellectual property law, standardized tests, photography, journalism, poetry, marijuana policies, media and advertising, gender and sexism in the media, elementary education.
Once Prof. Radcliffe had an idea what the students needed, she demonstrated how to use the OPAC – no articles there! – but explained that this is the place to look for books, journals (by title), music, videos. She suggested that they use Guided Key Word searching and used the phrase “stem cell research” as an example. The most recent books came up at the top of the results, and Prof. Radcliffe asked the students to look at the Library Bookmark to see where that particular call number could be found, and then she had them look at the map of Waldo Library to identify the location. The students were quite attentive as Prof. Radcliffe showed them how to see if the book is checked out, and what subject headings are associated with the title.
The next demonstration was in the First Search database (link found in the lower right hand corner of the Indexes and Databases page of the Libraries website). The phrase searched was “intellectual property” and to further refine the search, Prof. Radcliffe selected the Legal Periodical database. The initial search returned 4506 hits, but adding the word “legislation” to the search reduced the number of hits to 53. This demonstration allowed Prof. Radcliffe to explain the citation about journal articles. A second search in the database for “non lethal force” did not yield any articles, leading Prof. Radcliffe to speculate that the phrasing might not be correct. A Venn diagram had been drawn on the whiteboard in the classroom, and Prof. Radcliffe touched on the concept of Boolean searches as well as truncation.
Because the students were now at the point of searching the databases for themselves – and potentially finding things that they might want to print, Prof. Radcliffe spoke about the copy cards (available for $1.00 in vending machines near the copy center, central reference desk, and science reference desk: 50 cents for the card, and 50 cents’ worth of use; cards could be “reloaded” as needed). She also explained that the library copiers and printers were not free: per-page costs with a copy card are 7 cents; without a card, 10 cents; or articles could be emailed and printed on personal printers at no extra charge.
During the course of the lecture, Prof. Radcliffe mentioned the Searchpath tutorial several times. She reiterated that she was available to help them with any project. The examples and discussion took about 35 minutes. The students had another hour to search for information, and Prof. Radcliffe spent that time going from one student to the next as they worked on the classroom terminals.
My overall impression of Prof. Radcliffe was one of observing a relaxed, competent, and pleasant professional doing her job. I found her lecture to be helpful, concise, and very well done.
The current system for scheduling Bibliographic Instruction sessions requires the B.I. scheduler (Ms. Jayne) to walk halfway across the library and check the classroom and staff schedules which are noted on a paper calendar marked in pencil. This is inefficient, at best. Utilizing computer based calendar/scheduling software would offer the Central Reference Department a less time-consuming and more accurate method to schedule and coordinate meetings and B.I. sessions. An electronic calendar would also offer a resource to staff who are away from campus, via the web.
Ms. Jayne had some information on electronic programs and she suggested that I spend some time searching the archives of ILI-List to learn what other academic reference departments used. One package that I investigated is “When to work.” The program was ultimately rejected due to budget constraints. My next step was to learn if there were modules available in the software already loaded on our computers, specifically, through Endeavor (the company that programs Voyager, which is the software back-end of our OPAC) or Novell (the server/client software utilized throughout the university). Because the university and library have already purchased Novell’s groupware program (GroupWise version 6), Ms. Jayne and I decided to go with this package.
Eventually, this task became the primary focus of my mentorship project: learning to use the calendar/scheduling functions of Novell’s GroupWise6 electronic messaging program and then sharing that knowledge with Ms. Jayne. Stumbling blocks came up that made this more of a challenge than I had originally anticipated: Ms. Jayne and several other reference librarians use Macintosh computers, but Novell does not offer a server-Macintosh client. Mac users must access GroupWise via the web, and this interface lacks some important features of the Windows client. Some librarians indicated to me that they were too busy to learn how to use the software, or even if they took the time to learn it, they would be reluctant to implement the knowledge (“I’m old-fashioned, I prefer a paper calendar”). The greatest difficulty, though, was that the program itself is complex, sophisticated, and not especially easy for me to learn (even though I consider myself fairly computer-savvy!). I downloaded the PDF files that serve as manuals, purchased a book and a visual aid for the program, found the user’s group for GroupWise on the web, and spent many hours reading about GroupWise6. I eventually created a power-point presentation as a visual aid to accompany the introductory lesson I taught to Ms. Jayne, Prof. Radcliffe, and two staffers on how to use the calendar function.
I was fortunate to have had assistance with the software from the systems engineer who maintains the library LAN (local area network). She coordinated my needs with the university’s Office of Information Technology and helped me over some of the humps in learning the program. Assistance was also found in an unexpected place: the assistant to the Dean of Libraries has been using the GroupWise calendar for several years. She maintains the schedules and appointments for the Dean and two Assistant Deans, and was very optimistic that it would serve the Reference Department well.
That introductory lesson took up 90 minutes, with the power-point presentation projected on the wall and my 4 “students” working on their own GroupWise calendars in the small electronic classroom. I gave each student a handout with quick reference information, and alternated between speaking at the front of the room and leaning over their shoulders as they created practice appointments and meetings with each other.
I learned a couple of things in the process of teaching: I am not a very polished public speaker, even in front of people I know, and no one is going to be able to learn how to use this program in just one session. That makes it similar to the daunting task of providing bibliographic instruction to college students: one session is not enough! I suspect that I will be working with Ms. Jayne and the Central Reference Department sporadically through the next 4 months, in the hope that they will be up to speed by September when the Fall Semester begins. Of course, I cannot say whether or not the department will embrace this software, even with all of the work I did on it. The deciding factor, in my mind, will be if the Dean of Libraries dictates that all faculty and staff must actively use GroupWise6, meaning that some librarians would have to quit using the old style email programs on the VAX server. As this is a department of strong, stubborn personalities, that may be easier said than done.
This became a very minor aspect of the project; I spent less than 6 hours on it. Many tasks that librarians perform in the course of a day are actively counted and reported to the Assistant Dean of Resources. I was aware of this to a certain extent, because I have to keep track of nearly everything I do as a cataloger. Because I am familiar with Microsoft Excel, the spreadsheet software program used to track statistics, I was able to assist Ms. Jayne with the stats from Fall Semester 2002 by reorganizing the layout and accounting schemes.
I didn’t get an opportunity to speak with the Assistant Dean of Resources about the reasons for keeping statistics, but figured that there might be some relevant information at the Michigan eLibrary web site. The statistics are kept by the State of Michigan and cover a wide variety of topics, from the number of librarians and staff in each state university library (as well as the number of enrolled students), to the kinds of resources available at each institution (number and types of holdings, for example). The most recent publication available at the MeL web site concerning academic statistics is the Michigan Academic Library Statistical Report 2001 Edition.
On the page for Library Services, Public University, I learned that the University’s Library provided information services by way of presentations to 518 groups (total attendance 8,804 individuals) in 2000. The library was open for 108 hours in a typical week, had a gate count of 19,049, and performed 1,650 reference transactions.
The stats for every state university in Michigan are on the same page, providing an opportunity to compare and contrast the activities between each institution.
Assessment and evaluation
This was also a very small part of my project; I spent less than 4 hours on it. I sat in on a meeting of the Assessment Team in late March and listened as they spoke of their concerns regarding the effectiveness of B.I. sessions.
“Information literacy,” “lifelong learning” and “critical thinking” are phrases heard again and again in the academic environment. Everyone says it, but it is clear that not everyone actively supports the concept, or requests for bibliographic-, course-related-, and one-on-one-instruction, would be significantly greater. Developing ideas on how to get the university faculty behind the B.I. program, specifically the English Department, became the primary focus of this meeting. Curriculum requirements now are such that all incoming freshmen must take a writing course. General education students, or those with undeclared majors, take Engl-105. They are the majority of the approximately 4,500 incoming freshmen each Fall. Business majors take Bus-142, and students in the College of Engineering take IME-102. Relationships between librarians and faculty in the College of Engineering and the School of Business are quite good, and most of their freshmen come into the library for instruction at least once, sometimes two or three times in that first year. The situation with the English Department is problematic, however, in that the coordinator for Engl-105 schedules 70 sections each semester – and has not demonstrated a great interest in requiring, or even encouraging, her staff to make sure that the students are scheduled for library instruction. The problem here is two-fold: most of the teachers for Engl-105 are graduate teaching assistants, and there is some concern regarding how much they use the library facilities and resources.
Several ideas emerged during the meeting: the possibility of having the English Department require the use of Searchpath, the library’s tutorial on information literacy; holding open workshops on B.I. for graduate teaching assistants prior to the start of Fall Semester; creating a website specifically for Engl-105; and/or creating a mission statement for Information Literacy that could be incorporated into the university’s mission statement. A short-term goal is for the Central Reference Department to cultivate a closer relationship with faculty in the English Department. The long-term goal would be for Central Reference to develop a questionnaire that could be giving to incoming freshmen and graduating seniors on the topic of Information Literacy. This is likely to happen sooner in the College of Engineering as an assistant dean there is also very interested in assessment and accreditation issues.
Overall, I learned a lot about bibliographic instruction, and enjoyed the project very much. I especially enjoyed the collaborative nature of the work that took place in each section. Sharing ideas and knowledge with colleagues whom I respected, and who I feel respected me, made all of the hours I put into this very worthwhile. Learning about statistics and assessment has helped me understand the role of the library within the university community as well as the statewide academic community. I wanted to develop insight into the importance and relevance of what I do – what the libraries do – and these sections of the project really helped with that. I think that the GroupWise6 calendar/scheduling project will come to fruition, but it will take time and hard work on the part of Prof. Vassar and the Central Reference Department to develop and incorporate the habit of electronic scheduling. I have been invited to share my knowledge of this program with my colleagues in the Cataloging Department; I wouldn’t be surprised if every department eventually incorporates this into their daily routines. Learning how to use the software was challenging, but I feel very good about it now. I think that it was a great experience that will serve me well in my future career as a librarian.
I am especially grateful to Elaine Jayne for being a mentor to me. I really enjoyed spending time with her and watching her interact with colleagues and students. I don’t think that I have the personality or the desire to teach, but I am learning to be a competent researcher. I’m sure that there is a place in the library world for me, and this project was the confirmation.
1. http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/TeachingLib/BIResources.html One of the many reference sites, nicely done.
2. Nahl, D. 2003, March 10. Thinking like a librarian. Message posted to ILI-List electronic mailing list, archived at http://bubl.ac.uk/mail/ilild/