Wednesday, May 15, 2013

ACRL 2013 Conference Notes: Contributed Papers on Undergraduate Information Literacy

ACRL Contributed Papers Group 1
Topics: Information seeking strategies, undergraduate research, and basic IL instruction
Date: Friday, April 12, 2013, 1:30pm

As noted previously, the conference proceedings with the contributed papers are at this link. I am also linking the specific titles below (these links go to PDF files). 

I. "When the Helicopters are Silent; The Information Seeking Strategies of First Generation College Students."

  • (A big reason I was interested in this paper is that we have a significant undergraduate population at my current workplace that is first generation students. So, anything I can learn to help me serve them better I am interested)
  • This is a review of traits of first generation students. However, according to the speaker, no previous study has addressed the information seeking behaviors of first generation students. (By the way, if you want a decent book on today's incoming college students, Generation on a Tightrope provides a nice overview. See my review.)
  • The paper reports on four focus groups. The study was asking about daily information seeking behaviors. 
  • Methods of information gathering by the students: 
    • Formal university systems. These were seen as confusing by students. The fact that there are advisors at various levels of a campus was confusing.
    • Family: Family can encourage, but they cannot provide advice. Note that students also often try to "protect" the family from campus information, if they are not doing well, etc. 
    • Informal college networks: Campus organizations, friends. They seek out people who look like them. (In this regard, we may have an advantage locally thanks to our labor program, which enables us to hire and train students to work in reference, thus providing the students with "someone like them" with librarians to back them up)
  • Overall, the students felt information poor. They were also confronted by jargon. Frustrated and confused, they stop asking for information. 
    • Campus services are usually fragmented. In high school, you turned to your guidance counselor (who pretty much was "one stop shopping"). In college, you have various units and departments such as financial aid, the bursar, the registrar, etc.
    • Librarians see themselves as sources of information. However, students still feel that libraries are confusing places; in larger settings, the library can be seen as fragmented (again, we can have local advantage given we have one central location, and our extreme focus on student service). As a result, students may avoid the library. 
  • This can go back to meeting the students where they are at. 

II. "Supporting the Dissemination of Undergraduate Research: An Emerging Role for Academic Librarians."
  •  Undergraduate research is gaining popularity. (We certainly have examples of that here locally with the capstone projects and their end of year presentations)
    • This was inspired by the 1998 Boyer Report "Reinventing Undergraduate Education." 
  • This kind of student needs targeted information literacy support. 
    • Partner with the undergraduate research office or program director. 
    • Offer specialized workshops in support of dissemination and production of research for undergraduate researchers.
  • Scholarly communication and dissemination. 
    • These students are creating new knowledge. 
    • Modern information technology makes publishing easier, so address formal and informal publication venues such as social media. 
    • See for more on the topic. 

III. "They Not Only CAN But They SHOULD: Why Undergraduates Should Provide Basic IL Instruction."
  • (I was definitely interested in this paper given our student workers and their abilities. This is certainly something that would fall within their abilities if trained. Something to consider down the road perhaps)
  • Reasons to do it: 
    • Pedagogy: Peers do learn from peers. This can foster cognitive collaboration. 
    • Their Lib RATs (Reference Assistance Technician)( in a way are very similar to our reference student workers).
    • Increased instructional capacity and flexibility. You can teach more sessions and do more when you need them. 
    • Librarians can then focus on more advanced skills. 
    • Gain traction for instruction by sharing evaluations. 
    • The instruction peers provide a built-in focus group. 
    • Opportunity costs go do down. This can create librarian opportunities beyond instruction (however, careful here: some could get the idea of reducing library funding with this). 
  •  Evidence for success: 
    • Increased demand. 
    • Evidence from student session participants; used Likert scale surveys. 
    • From faculty participants, also using Likert scale surveys. 
  • See to learn more.    


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for addressing this topic! Thirty years ago, I was just such a "first timer". While my parents wanted me to further my education and were supportive in their own way, they completely lacked the knowledge and experience to go beyond a well meant "just do the best you can". This absence of information was compounded by the fact that early on, I was identified as very bright and gifted. Being placed in an honors academic track does not necessarily confer understanding of the subtle points of academia. My high school counseling staff, being overworked as in most schools, assumed that the bright kids could and would figure things out for themselves. Navigating the confusing world of testing, selection, financial aid, etc. was beyond difficult.

Retention rates at so many schools are abysmal. I just wonder what percentage of the dropouts have been first gen attendees. I especially wonder about students similar to myself: low income Anglo who lives in the suburbs and earns high scores and good grades. It is perhaps an odd demographic, but it exists. Students of all types are so well served by those such as yourself - those who know and care enough to serve. Thank you :)

Angel Rivera said...

Thank you for stopping by, Anon, and you are welcome. I don't think I have seen a lot in the LIS or Higher Ed. literature on dropouts who are 1st Gen students. I don't think the low income Anglo kid (suburban or otherwise) is an odd demographic, but it is certainly one not many people think about overall.

The navigation issue is one we probably need to continue working on in higher ed.

Best, and keep on blogging.