Monday, June 23, 2008

Article Note: On BI Drive-by sessions

Citation for the article:

Arant-Kaspar, Wendi and Candace Benefiel. "Drive-by BI: Tailored in-class mini-instruction sessions for graduate and upper-level undergraduate courses." Reference Services Review 36.1 (2008): 39-47.

Read via Emerald.

This was one of the neat little articles I have read so far this year. It has a few practical ideas, and it provides enough practical information for an instruction librarian to implement the ideas in his/her setting. In a nutshell, the article outlines how to conduct a quick session, about 15 minutes, of relevant BI to classes at their location. You basically show up with a very well planned session, made relevant to the class, and implement the lesson in a short period of time while emphasizing your services and availability to provide assistance. It is a nice example of mobile instruction, which is something I always believed in, and that back in the day when I was in instruction I used to do quite a bit. I do admit that I would have loved to try out the 15 minute session idea with some professors. The possible concern would be that some professors would assume the short presentation would take the place of a more substantial session, but I think with proper planning and promotion, this could actually lead to additional library instruction time. My bet is we just have to take a chance and work at it. Do note this service is meant for upper-level courses and graduate courses, which are the ones most in need for specialized resources. However, I am sure it could work for a more basic class with some modification, but overall, the idea is to reach a lot of the kids who many assume already know the stuff, so to speak.

Some highlights from the article:

  • The authors give the three keys to the success of their program:
    • "building a collegial relationship with teaching faculty;
    • providing useful and specifically targeted bibliographies for each class; and
    • the willingness of the liaison librarian to follow-up and function as a resource person for later in-depth research assistance for students" (39-40).
The last point on that list is very important. The librarians have to be willing to put themselves on the line and to be accessible. That was one of my crucial roles in my previous work: to be accessible to the students. If you are doing your job correctly, students will come to see you for further assistance. Being accessible to them is crucial, and it is something I cannot emphasize enough.

  • Some of the things they have done (from page 40):
    • general tours
    • research brown bags
    • web-based tutorials
    • one-on-one consultation sessions (I did a lot of those in my day. They were probably one of the best parts of my job. To be honest, it is something I miss.)
    • class instruction sessions
    • training instructors in basic writing and literature classes on library resources and tools, to empower them to do tours themselves (I am sure if I made this suggestion here, I would probably get insulted since the concern would be they would not need the library anymore. I think there can be some room for this. Back then, one of the ideas I was interested in was in training the Supplemental Instruction tutors in some library resources so they could do some triage with students, knowing when to send them to the library. It was one of the things I did not quite get to.)
    • individualized instruction for faculty (I think we should try to exploit this some more.)
    • broader work with departments on things like research methods courses and course requirements (we are still a long way on that one, but I have faith we can get there.)
  • "Easy access to the internet and the basic familiarity of most students with popular search engines such as Google or Yahoo! may contribute to a false sense of ease in regard to academic research methods" (40). We have seen recent articles on Google making people dumber and even the GPS making us dumber. I think we must be in the middle of another meme about technology making us less smart or less efficient readers; that is something I would like to explore in a later post, but there is the underlying point that people often get a false sense of security because they can use Google or a GPS. I have a few thoughts on student skills here and here, and a few other times.
  • One of the challenges we constantly face in library instruction: "Instructors may assume that their students already know how to do library research, that they received instruction in their lower-level courses, or that they do not need to have these skills" (40). I heard that line in one form or another quite often, and overcoming that perception does take work. But it is possible, in large measure, if you are accessible and provide a good product. And the authors agree with me on that: "as with most services, delivery of a quality 'product' will encourage repeat business and good word-of-mouth for expansion of the service" (45).
  • Description of the activity from the article: ". . . the brief 'drive-by,' a scheduled in-class public service announcement (PSA)-like session to give students a sneak peak at resources and show them a friendly face from the library. The drive-by BI session offers an alternative, one which helps students overcome their trepidation about coming to the library, gives them a personal contact, and introduces the specialized resources they require" (41). Note that for this to be most effective it has to happen at point of need.
  • Note that the article includes sample e-mail and flyers to help advertise this kind of activity on page 42.
  • Again, the librarian has to be flexible: "A large part of the success of such a program lies in the flexibility of the librarian, both to visit classes when it is most convenient for the instructor, and to travel to the classroom building" (43).
  • Page 44 features a sample presentation outline.
  • The authors remind us that it is important to assess the activity as well. For the most part, they used forms they already had available for library instruction, so no need to reinvent the wheel.
  • Benefits of the service: "This solution has a number of benefits, the most significant of which is that the librarian can bring library instruction to an audience that would otherwise have no exposure, providing an introduction to library resources and research methods to the students, while aptly demonstrating the necessity and advantages of library instruction to the instructor. In addition, it counters the stereotype of the passive librarian behind the desk, waiting for somebody to come ask a question" (46).
  • And to address concerns: "This new service has not cut into the regular library instruction sessions, only augmented them and drawn new groups to the library both physically and virtually" (46).

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