Last week I attended, and spoke at, an exchange of experience seminar on Information Skills for Undergraduates organised by and for library staff at the Bodleian Libraries of the University of Oxford. Below is my summary of the event.
First to speak was Hazel Rothera, Senior Subject Librarian for Education at Oxford Brookes. Her talk was on the development of a virtual tour and online induction for Harcourt Hill Library. The focus was on producing online content with little or no knowledge of web design. Of particular interest to me was the shift towards an online induction. One project I am working on at the moment is to review our department’s offering at induction. The logistics of booking tours and taking students round the library physically is always a challenge. Part of the induction at Hazel’s library was a treasure hunt type exercise which aimed to engage students with the physical library without the need for organised tours. This in conjunction with the virtual tour provided students a full induction to the basic workings and services of the library.
My presentation came next. I chose to talk about the central information skills workshops that the library offers. As we are currently developing these I chose to go on a journey through the evolution of the programme. We started off delivering a series of Beyond Google workshops on the Warwick Skills Portfolio Award. The content of this duplicated much that was already done within subject specific training and therefore take-up was poor.
Last year we withdrew our offering on this programme to focus on finding out what our users’ really wanted from information skills training. This was done through a series of focus groups and trial information handling sessions. The key findings from these were that students wanted training at point of need and that they had different priorities at different times of the year. In term 1 the focus was on managing information, in term 2 they were most concerned about subject specific research skills, and in term 3 it was all about jobs and internships. They also identified certain databases and software that was of particular interest. So, we decided to focus on one of these and run a series of stand alone workshops on EndNote Web. These were open to all, but the take-up was largely from 2nd and 3rd year undergraduates and students on taught postgraduate courses.
Thinking about the future, and following on from the success of the EndNote workshops, I would like to develop a series of information skills seminars. Using the key themes that came out of the focus groups, or specific databases that were identified, such as Factiva, to drive the content.
After a short break for tea and cake Kate Jackson, Legal Research Librarian at the Bodleian Law Library took the floor to tell us about the Legal Research and Mooting Skills Programme. This is an information skills programme run jointly by the library and the department. One thing that came out of our focus groups at Warwick was that students are more likely to attend and see the importance of information skills and library training if their lecturers promote it to them. A programme like this that is embedded within the undergraduate courses in law and has an element of assessment included that goes towards the final course mark is the perfect way to deliver the necessary information skills.
The remainder of the morning was taken up with a workshop on developing learning pathways, facilitated by Louise Clarke, Bodleian Social Science Librarian. We identified four stages within an undergraduate course where there was an opporuntity to deliver information skills training. These were; pre-arrival, induction, on specific modules and tied to an extended essay or dissertation. We split into four groups, each taking one stage and discussed:
- the range of information skills that could usefully be developed at this point
- what methods of delivery would be most appropriate
- any current best practice
My group looked at the pre-arrival stage. We first discussed the range of information we might want to provide about the library at this point. The main focus was to convey the difference between research at school and at university and the range of services and resources that were available through the library. We also considered the idea of developing an understanding of how to search effectively, evaluate results and the difference between searching the Internet and subscription resources. In terms of delivery, we considered the idea of producing an online guide, using the LibGuides software, that could act as a central hub for a variety of content. There would need to be some textual information, but could also be videos and a quiz to provide some interactivity. This could be promoted through the welcome packs sent out by colleges and departments and via Facebook and/or Twitter.
Rounding off the day was Kerry Webb, Deputy Librarian at the English Faculty Library at Oxford, speaking about effective marketing strategies for training programmes. She highlighted Kotler’s revision of the 4 P’s principle which picks out these key elements of promoting a product or service:
- Customer value
This was yet another extremely interesting and useful event. It really was an exchange of experience and I’ve come away with lots of ideas for how to develop and promote our services at Warwick.