Friday, May 11, 2007

Article Note: On the benefits of buy-in

Citation for the article:

Harrison, J. and Rourke, L. (2006), "The benefits of buy-in: integrating information literacy int each year of an academic program," Reference Services Review, Vol. 34 No. 4, pp. 599-606.

I found this article to be a bit on the idealistic side. It assumes a good relationship with faculty and administration, which in many places can be lukewarm at best. However, the article does provide some good advice and ideas. So here go some of my notes and thoughts.

  • On the formal relationship between librarians and first-year students. I personally find this intriguing and exciting. The authors write, "this mentoring relationship includes one-on-one consultations and guidance for the students in their graduating year; this student-librarian collaboration enables to the students to define and refine their major research areas and sources of information" (599).
  • I found this a bit surprising in relation to the LIS literature. According to the authors, "there is very little in the literature on librarian-to-student mentoring of research skills, which is one of the most noteworthy aspects of our integration program" (600). My hunch is that a good amount of the mentoring described happens informally, so it does not get written up in the journal literature. You may find some of it the librarian sector of the blogosphere, but at least my limited observations have not seen any.

The article moves on to describe the program and how their instruction librarians got involved. The mentoring and assessment, to be honest, is not that much different from what I do. The only difference is that I lack a formal support structure. The authors state that students in their last semester are paired with a librarian and,

"The librarian provides the student with research assistance and guidance as the student prepares and writes a major (20 pages) interdisciplinary research paper. Librarian and student are paired based on the student's research topic and librarian's interest and expertise. They are required to meet at least twice each semester, although in many cases there were several additional meetings. Librarians were able to address areas of concern, help clarify topics, introduce resources, and refer to services" (603).

A lot of this is my job description. A difference is that I do not get the "luxury" of being paired based on interest and experience. Very often I help students with topics way out of my specialization areas, and I do just fine. After all, part of being a good librarian is the ability to be open to continuous learning. It's called reference work. I don't point this out to disparage the authors' work. It simply goes back to my remark that a lot of this work is already getting done, often informally, frequently with minimal support, and it is not getting written up in the journals.
  • Another example to illustrate scalability. "For example, in the first-year course, we know that most of the students were 17 years old and likely to be very new researchers. Therefore, we introduced library and research concepts and created an assignment that involved the use of basic library reference tools such as online and print encyclopaedias. As the students' level of IL competence improved, we moved on to more sophisticated assignments and research tools. We helped them tackle sources such as journal articles and websites, and later with creating a sophisticated annotated bibliography in their final semester. We were able to provide two 1.5-hour IL sessions to classes in each of the four years of the program" (602).
  • As always, there are challenges. "Another potential challenge is the increase in librarian workload that will result from a greater number of mentored students" (604).
  • You need to share the load to make it work. "Three of us have overseen this project- two liaison librarians and the manager of IL. In a practical sense, it would be very difficult for one person to manage the workload associated with this endeavour. Spreading the duties over three people's schedules allowed for more quality time to be spent on the project. In addition, working as part of the librarian team, each with a different learning, work, and teaching style, has provided the opportunity to learn from each other" (605).
  • And you need administrative buy-in and support. "Also, it would work best if a project charter were adopted by library administration to formalize the structure of such a project, in order to ensure institution-wide acceptance and enthusiasm, rather than starting with an idea and hoping for the best. Aligning and rooting a project such as IL/curriculum integration or librarian-student mentoring within the context of an organization's strategic priorities will also increase the chances of effective long-term delivery and success. With buy-in by librarians, students, and faculty, you may find yourself reaping the benefits of program integration" (605). For me, a lot of things like the Gypsy Librarian on Vox blog are ideas that started out of a need that I implemented hoping for the best. I saw a need, and I tried to do something about it without waiting for anyone else to catch up. However, the thing I wish at times that my superiors would understand is that many more things could be accomplished with a bit more institutional support (I think my immediate superior understands it, but sadly, the ones above are indifferent, to put it mildly).

Some items related to this article I want to look at later:

  1. Mancuso's white paper. It can be read at the site, but it also provides options for PDF.
  2. The Seven Pillars of Information Literacy.
  3. U of Guelph Integrated Library Plan 2005-2010. This is a PDF document.

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