Are you a student who is struggling with academic writing? Are you a staff member who knows of a student who isn’t quite getting the hang of writing at University level?
Perhaps you need to book an appointment with our Royal Literary Fund Fellow. Mary Paulson-Ellis is a well-respected expert in the field of writing, and has been a writing mentor, workshop leader, tutor and writer-in-residence for many organisations including the National Centre for Writing, the National Galleries of Scotland and the Edinburgh International Festival. She is also a committee member for the Society of Authors in Scotland, and student feedback from her first semester working at Edinburgh has been enthusiastically positive. She specialises in helping students in any discipline hone their writing skills and she does this by arranging one-to-one appointments with students in the Main Library.
The service is free, confidential and individual to each student’s needs. To find out more about the service you can visit our RLFF page, or to book an appointment please email Mary directly.
As well as bringing you news and updates from the library, we like to use this blog to report on some of the Continued Professional Development activities we get up to as Academic Librarians. This week several members of our team attended a webinar presented by the Journal of Information Literacy on the topic of Writing about Information Literacy, and we found it to be both useful and inspiring so we thought we’d share some of our key findings.
The session opened with a brief introduction to JIL, who they are and what they do. JIL is the professional journal of the CILIP Information Literacy Group, and if you’ve not encountered them before then they are a well respected publication in UK information literacy:
Founded in 2007, the Journal of Information Literacy (JIL) is an international peer-reviewed journal and is aimed at librarians, information professionals and academics who teach and/or research aspects of information literacy. The journal includes articles from established and new authors that investigate many different areas of information literacy, including school, academic and national libraries, health care settings, and the public sector such as the workplace and government.
A few of our team had previously attended sessions run by Editor-In-Chief Dr Alison Hicks and Managing Editor Dr Meg Westbury at the LILAC conference, so we knew we were in for an hour of useful tips, tricks and key information for submitting to this (but also any) journal.
The presenters addressed different types of submission they might accept in JIL, including Research Articles, Project Reports and Book or Conference Reviews, and briefly described the requirements for each. They looked at the submission process (and why it might feel that it takes so long!) and also suggested how to respond to feedback in a useful and concise way. There were lots of tips about how to stay focused, and a book recommendation for those of us who are worried about the best writing environment:
Overall those of us in the virtual room felt it was a really valuable hour which made academic writing seem accessible and useful to us as library practitioners. Unlike our colleagues in the States, publishing academic work is not a requirement for our jobs here. However we do engage in professional development activities to ensure we’re well informed about new developments particularly across the academic library sector, and reading and contributing to journals is just one of the ways we can do that. While it can seem difficult to make time to write and publish alongside our day jobs, the team at JIL seem to be more than willing to help develop fledgling writers and would be a great port of call for anyone looking to get started in writing about the Information Literacy initiatives in their institution. This session was presented in collaboration with the Information Literacy Group’s New Professionals team, though we would probably say it was useful for anyone considering writing up their work for publication – we certainly found it useful as not-so-new professionals!
If you’re interested in reading and writing more journal articles about library work, why not consider joining the Library Journal Club? We welcome members from any area of Library Services who have an interest in reading and critically discussing publications about libraries. We meet regularly both in person and on Teams, and have a trip to the Library of Mistakes planned for December! You can find us on Teams here.
In our third and final post about the LILAC conference (you can find part one here and part two here) I wanted to touch on the topic of becoming better teachers. Although there was so much to take in from the conference – as you’ll have read from Ruth and Christine’s posts – one of the most impactful things I learned from the sessions was that the work we do is so important and impactful on our students, and it’s in all of our best interests that we consider that we have a powerful role to play in teaching.
The session I attended on the topic of Students, academic reading and information literacy in a time of COVID really reminded me that there can be a marked difference in the information we think our students want, and what they actually want. The panellists explored the results of the Academic Reading Format Information Study (D Mizrachi, 2021) which shows that over 70% of students prefer to use print books for academic study, with only 8.7% preferring ebooks. A later examination of student trends during the pandemic showed that 73% of students who responded in the US would not complete all their prescribed readings for their course due to their availability online. These results surprised and somewhat concerned us, particularly as many institutions operate on an e-first policy for library acquisitions now. If students don’t want ebooks, are we doing them a disservice by putting such emphasis on online access? Do we need to communicate and provide better training in order to help make these resources more accessible? Ultimately these questions could be answered by working more directly with students and not making assumptions about what information needs they have.
There were also inspiring sessions to encourage us to continue to develop as professionals ourselves, because by allowing ourselves time to write and research and read more about developments in our profession, we not only share the student experience with those we teach but we also develop better praxis for ourselves. All three of our academic support librarian delegates attended the Getting Your Writing Groove Back workshop run by the Journal of Information Literacy representatives, and I think all of us found it both fun and instructive. As a result we’ve already restarted the L&UC Journal Club, and look forward to building research and writing further into our current workplace activities in the future.
Slide from Getting Your Writing Groove Back presentation, by the team from the Journal of Information Literacy.
My final thought on becoming better teachers as librarians is that we need to seek out recognition of the work we’re already doing. The fact is that many library workers don’t consider themselves teachers, but by attending this conference I was able to hear many people from around the country talk about the impact their work has, and it reminded me that we’re already doing lots of this. Whether it’s creating subject guides or video demonstrations of resources, writing web content or blogs to help highlight useful databases, or directly providing instruction in front of hundreds of students, we are teachers too.
Ruth already spoke about the inspiring words of Marilyn Clarke and Emily Drabinski, but I must return to their keynotes as they both drove home the point for me. Libraries are important and library workers have influence. We must be intentional in the work we do. We have the power to affect great change in the lives of our students and our institutions, whether it’s including a range of examples in our work to help our students feel like they belong in their classes, or challenging them to find a wider variety of voices beyond their prescribed reading. We are supporting their learning and we need to recognise the power we have in order to use it to be the best teachers we can be.