Everyone’s noticing the cost of living at the moment. And when you’re a student juggling your studies with a job, time is money. Here’s ten tips to help save money and time by using the library.
Last month, three of our Academic Support Librarians team attended the LILAC conference. LILAC is a conference for librarians and information professionals who teach information literacy skills, are interested in digital literacies and who want to improve the information seeking and evaluation skills of library users. You may have seen our previous post about LILAC 22 here.
Much of the conference covered issues of critical information literacy, including long and slightly intimidating words such as critical pedagogy and decolonisation, and it was great to have the space to explore what these mean.
Keynote speaker Marilyn Clarke, Director of Library Services at Goldsmiths, University of London, spoke on Decolonisation as a means to creating an equitable future.
Marilyn clarified succinctly the difference between decolonising and diversifying library collections; diversifying ≠ decolonising, we need to ask the question why are these voices underrepresented?
She highlighted fantastic work at Goldsmiths to dismantle Eurocentric structures in the library and university, including funds for the ‘Liberate My Degree’ collection set aside for student book purchase suggestions to address gaps in the library collection. At the University of Edinburgh we have the Student Request a Book service which empowers students to request purchase of books and other resources to be added to the Library collections.
When cataloguing their Zines collection, librarians gather suggestions for keywords (used as a finding aid in the catalogue) from the authors themselves, to ensure the language used is representative. This is not just about addressing race, but also other systemic oppression such as LGBTQ+ and class.
In the final keynote of the conference, Emily Drabinski, Critical Pedagogy Librarian at the Graduate Center, City University of New York, explored how information literacy can reveal and challenge structures of power, and equip our students with tools to recognise and understand power dynamics.
By power, this mean the ability to change things, do things, influence things – we all have power in different ways and different situations. As librarians who help people find, use and understand information, we need to take societal values and power structures into account.
For example, who designed this database? With whom in mind? What is included in the database and what isn’t, and who makes those decisions? That feeling, where you get no results from a search, or too many, or their wrong – that’s not you, that’s the way the system is constructed with power.
Myself, I will be doing more to incorporate discussions of power into my teaching. It’s something I do when teaching literature searching for Systematic Reviews in medicine and biomedical sciences (these aim to find and synthesise all clinical evidence on a topic), where comprehensive searches and minimising bias are a core foundation of the review methodology – and as such, knowing what is included in a database, and crucially what is excluded, is crucial. But we can introduce this criticality earlier in students’ academic careers. I am not sure yet what that will look like exactly, but it’s exciting to consider.
Ruth Jenkins, Academic Support Librarian
The LILAC 2022 conference in Manchester this April was a challenge and a pleasure to attend : my first real life, in person conference for two years! I put aside my laptop with the distraction of its constant stream of email to concentrate on being present in the conference and using my LILAC notebook and pen.
Alongside my colleagues, I was there to present papers about the projects we’d delivered in the COVID years, including LibSmart, our online information literacy course. We’ve developed LibSmart I to develop student information literacy skills to support student transition into the first years of an undergraduate course, and LibSmart II to support student transition into Honours and PG dissertation research. We had lots of great questions about the courses, and interest from Uppsala and Gothenberg Universities in Sweden who are keen to develop similar projects.
Student transitions in information literacy was a key theme of the conference. I attended a session by Paul Newnham on Information literacy and the transition to university education : Reflections and initial findings from Lancaster University. This research study aimed to understand student needs for information literacy and how the Library can support students with information literacy and critical thinking skills. Using qualitative data from groups in Blackpool Sixth Form College and Lancaster University, the study found that both lecturers and teachers thought that students’ ability to find information had deteriorated over the last 10-15 years. However there was wide understanding of the importance of referencing and plagiarism.
Yes, exams are important. We know. But we also want you to remember that at the end of the day, it is your wellbeing that is the most important.
We all know how stressful exams can be and how they can negatively affect our wellbeing. As the Library, we try not only to support you in learning but also to support your wellbeing, especially at these times. Thus, we’ve put together some resources from the Library that you might find helpful when trying to escape your exams for a moment, get some well-deserved rest and gain the energy and strength to continue with your revisions and exams.
Listen to music
Did you know the Library offers you access to databases that allow you to listen to millions of songs from pop and rock to classical music? You can check them out here.
Visit our museum and art collections
While it’s not always possible to physically visit a museum or gallery, you can still do a lot of exploring of the University collections online. If you, however, have some time to physically go somewhere, we also recommend the National Museum of Scotland or the Scottish National Gallery. Both are free and within the walking distance of George Square! Remember that to visit Scottish National Gallery, you must book a ticket beforehand.
Enjoy a film or drama performance
You can access a wide range of TV programmes, documentaries, films, drama, and theatre performances through the Library. Check out what Box of Broadcasts (BoB) has to offer!
Read some fiction
Reading may be the perfect escape from your exams. Our databases give you access to millions of positions!
Meditation is one of the best ways to relax. Have you tried mindfulness or spiritual meditation? Maybe now is the time to do so!
And if you feel stressed because you cannot get a seat in the main library, make sure to check out the additional study spaces available.
Communications Officer Intern
The Subject Guides are a useful tool in getting started with your research. Whether you’re an Engineer or a Classicist, they contain a wealth of information for navigating library resources, including journals, databases, and bibliographies, available to students here at the University of Edinburgh. Part of my role as Digital Engagement Intern involves reviewing and creating guides within the remit of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, and I’m delighted to share our newest Subject Guide in Disability Studies.
This guide has been created to both assist students in the academic study of Disability and highlight ways the University can support you with any additional learning needs you might have. We’ve included access information for students using the Main Library, advice on how to make your device more accessible, and details of several groups and societies for students to get involved with. As well as supporting students, we’ve also included various materials to assist staff in creating more accessible learning environments, signposting additional training and resources available at the University.
We hope that this guide will serve as a helpful tool for students and staff to access the support that’s available by bringing these resources together in one guide that will continue to grow over time. If you have any feedback or suggestions on ways this guide can be improved, then we would love to hear from you!
You can access the Disability Studies Subject Guide to clicking on the link or navigating to the webpage at the following URL: https://edinburgh-uk.libguides.com/disabilitystudies.
Digital Engagement Intern (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)
Dissertation. A word that scares and confuses many students, including me. It seems like a difficult and mysterious concept that most of us must deal with at some point on our academic journey. I have been wondering for a long time if there is any way I can make the whole experience of writing it at least a bit easier and less scary. I must admit that this year’s dissertation festival has provided me with a lot of tools and information to do just that.
During the dissertation festival, I attended three sessions: Introduction to reference managers, Improve your research skills with SAGE Research Methods, and DataLiteracy for Beginners. They were all very informative, both for students currently writing their dissertation, but also for students like me, who are only beginning to think about their dissertation now.
The first event was an overview of four reference managers. I really enjoyed the fact that the presentation did not only cover one reference manager but as many as four. This gave me a chance to get a feel of all of them and choose my favourite one (which, I must admit, has got to be EndNote). The second event covered SAGE Research Methods database, which I was not aware of before, yet I found it to be a very useful resource. The last event I attended emphasized the importance of critical thinking while dealing with various kinds of information, especially the statistics part of it.
I enjoyed all the events a lot! The only thing I would change about these, would it be their form. I prefer to attend in-person events, especially after covid ‘trauma’ that we have all experienced – it would be nice to see all the presenters and attendees offline. But well, one cannot have everything, maybe next time!
Overall, I recommend every student to attend the next edition of the dissertation festival, whether they are in their fourth, third or second year. All events provided me with great tools that I will not only use while writing my dissertation but also other coursework.
Communications Officer Intern
For over 400 years, more than 15 million men, women and children were victims of the transatlantic slave trade. And on 25th March every year, the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade offers the opportunity to honour and remember those who suffered and died at the hands of the brutal slavery system, while also raising awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice today.
At the Library we have access to a range of digital resources that give you access to original primary source material from archives around the world that allow you to find out more about the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the victims of slavery. These are a few that you might like to explore:
Slavery: supporters and abolitionists, 1675-1865
(also known as Slavery Through Time: from Enslavers to Abolitionists, 1675-1865)
As part of the 2022 Dissertation Festival, running from 7th-18th March and facilitated by the Academic Support Librarians, Digital Skills and IAD teams, I was invited to attend an online event exploring how to make the most out of resources related to Gender Studies in your dissertation. A recording of the event is available to watch (42 minutes):
Beginning your search with Subject Guides
Throughout my time as both a Digital Engagement Intern within Library & University Collections and an undergraduate student, I’ve become aware of just how valuable the virtual Subject Guides are for beginning your research, whatever your field of study. The Gender Studies Subject Guide provides access to databases, journals, periodicals, bibliographies and so much more, as well as initiatives and research projects conducted at the university.
Going beyond DiscoverEd
Of course, DiscoverEd is a fantastic tool for navigating the rich resources available through the university, and this event was a great reminder than you can improve the scope of your searches further through Boolean operators and considering the terminology you use. Although the terms we use around gender and sexuality have progressed, it’s worth recognising archaic terms, particularly when accessing historical databases. This event also highlighted the new Yewno service which allows you to build visual maps through cross-referencing keyword searches across library databases. All you need to do to access it is log-in via your institution and there are lots of handy instructional videos to help you get started!
Accessing the Centre for Research Collections
The second half of the event discussed some of the collections held by the university, including the Lothian Health Service Archive which contains a wealth of health-related material. A key takeaway for me was in recognising the multidisciplinary nature of Gender Studies and how much material is available in other historical archives and databases. I was a bit daunted about accessing the Centre for Research Collections at first but having a clear idea of what you’re looking for and using the support materials available online will help you get the most of it the rich resources within them.
Whatever your topic, the Dissertation Festival has a wide range of online events which will help you get the most out of the resources available to you.
Digital Engagement Intern (Equity, Diversity and Inclusion)
A large part of the work that the Academic Support Librarian team complete relates to training and providing Information Skills guidance, whether that’s in our individual schools or sessions which are open to all. If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll already know about LibSmart, our online information skills course, but did you also know about some of the other training on offer?
Have you heard about Library Bitesize?
These short introductory sessions deal with a range of topics that we think will provide a good foundation in areas our students need to know about. They’re 30 minutes long and are run by ASLs and the Digital Skills team to help you get more information about skills and resources you might need to support your studying. While they’re aimed at beginner level and are particularly appropriate for Undergraduates, we think these are of use to students at any level of study. Just some of the topics include:
- Building complex searches for systematic reviews
- Choosing a reference manager
- Finding historical documents online
- How to reference and avoid plagiarism
- Introduction to copyright
- Introduction to resources for film studies
- Introduction to China-related information resources
For more information on upcoming sessions and information on how to register, visit the Digital Skills Resource Finder and search for ‘Bitesize’, or view the upcoming sessions directly on the MyEd Event Booking System.
What if you need more in-depth training?
If you’re looking for advanced training sessions, you may be interested in our collaboration with the Institute for Academic Development. Together we run longer sessions which are usually attended by postgraduate students, though undergraduates are welcome too! These are themed around research and referencing. For example:
- (UG, PGT and PGR) Citing sources and creating bibliographies with Endnote
- (UG, PGT and PGR) Citing sources and creating bibliographies with Mendeley
- (UG, PGT and PGR) Citing sources and creating bibliographies with Zotero
- Finding Academic Literature (CAHSS)
- Finding Academic Literature (CSCE)
- Finding Academic Literature (PGR) – CMVM
- Finding Academic Literature – CMVM (Veterinary Medicine)
- Finding Academic Literature – School of Engineering
We also run ‘Getting the best out of the library’ sessions for PGT and PGR students at the start of term, and are part of the IAD’s mid-semester welcome event for postgraduate students. For more information visit the IAD’s Postgraduate pages.
If training sessions don’t work for you, what about a one-to-one appointment?
All our ASLs offer individual appointments to help students address specific questions about their work or research. A range of appointments are available via the MyEd Event Booking System – search for ‘literature search clinic’ to find available appointments with librarians from each college, or find the subject area specific to your needs.
We hope that with all these options for training available you will find something useful to support your studies. If we don’t offer a suitable session for your preferred learning style, why not get in touch with us to discuss?
By now we hope the name LibSmart is familiar to you. Whether you’ve seen a slide in a presentation from an Academic Support Librarian, a page on the display screens in the library, or you’re just an avid reader of this blog, we hope you know that our online information literacy course is up and running, ready for any staff or students at the University of Edinburgh to self-enrol via Learn.
You may also know that for every module you complete in LibSmart you receive a Digital Badge, issued to you by the ASL team via Badgr. We’ve been keeping an eye on the number of students enrolled and also the number of badges we’ve issued for each module, and we’re starting to see some trends emerge even though it’s still early in the academic year.
For LibSmart I, we’ve definitely seen the most badges issued for the first module Getting Started With The Library. This isn’t a great surprise as it is the first module and therefore a logical place for people to start. We’re also seeing great numbers in our Your Information Landscape module which helps students orientate themselves with the resources that are helpful for their subject area. We’ve also seen the most growth month-to-month in our Referencing and Plagiarism module, perhaps because we’re getting close to assessment time now and people are making sure they’re familiar with how to reference correctly for their assignments.
When it comes to LibSmart II, we’ve had a nice even spread of badges being awarded across all modules. The most popular so far has been Data mindfulness: finding and managing data for your dissertation, which shows a real appetite for assistance with dissertation and thesis work. This is great news as this is exactly what we hoped LibSmart II would do – help those at an advanced stage of study complete the big pieces of work! We’ve also got a three-way tie in second place for the Health Literature, Digital Images and Special Collections Fundamentals modules all having the same number of badges awarded. Because we assume these would appeal to students of quite different disciplines, it’s great to see the word is getting out to different schools!