Lunchtime seminars: Decolonising and Diversifying the Library

We held our first of three Decolonising and Diversifying the Library lunchtime seminars last week, on the topic of Diversity in First Year Scots Law Reading Lists. The recording (39 minutes) has been uploaded and is now available on our Media Hopper Channel.

Opening slide from Diversity in First Year Scots Law Reading Lists presentation

We’ve got two more sessions scheduled in this mini series, starting with tomorrow’s look at Supporting diversity through the ECA Library Zine collection and Artists Books collection with Academic Support Librarian Jane Furness. Join Jane at 1pm on Thursday 14th July to hear about the ECA Library artists’ books and zines collections and the ways in which they celebrate the diversity of makers working in these fields today. Book using this link to the MyEd booking system.

The following week we have a special showcase of the work of our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Digital Engagement intern, Tristan Craig: Diversifying your Reading from a Student Perspective : Digital Engagement (EDI) Internship Showcase

Promoting the use of a diverse range of sources has several pedagogical benefits. It encourages students to become more autonomous learners by going beyond their reading lists and to think critically about the types of sources they’re engaging with. It also prompts them to consider the historical biases inherent in the dissemination of knowledge and look for a variety of voices to conduct more balanced research.

In this presentation Tristan will reflect upon his experiences and discuss how staff can support students to become confident in finding and using diverse sources. To book for this session on Thursday 21st July at 1pm, use this link to the MyEd booking system.

For more information on these sessions or if you have ideas for what you’d like to see in future lunchtime seminars, please contact us by email or leave us a comment. 

LILAC 2022: Being Better Teachers

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. Slide is entitled 'Myths about writing' with a picture of a stuffed unicorn on the left. Full slide content is available via the LILAC Conference website.

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.

SarahLouise McDonald
Academic Support Librarian

sarahlouise.mcdonald@ed.ac.uk

LILAC 2022: Power structures in library and information services

Geese wandering freely alongside a canal in manchester.

Geese and goslings on Rochdale canal

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.

Keynote speaker Marilyn Clarke and chair Elizabeth Brookbanks sit beneath a screen with Manchester 2022 and a bee logo projected onto it.

Marilyn Clarke with discussion chair Elizabeth Brookbank at LILAC 2022.

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

https://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/rm-and-consultancy/academic-support-librarians

LILAC 2022 : Student transitions in information literacy :  from school to HE, from learners to researchers

Ruth Jenkins, SarahLouise McDonald and Christine Love-Rodgers at LILAC 2022

Ruth Jenkins, SarahLouise McDonald and Christine Love-Rodgers at LILAC 2022

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.

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Critical Approaches to Libraries 2021(CALC) Day 2

It is once again Conference Season, where academic librarians would usually be collecting a variety of colourful lanyards, discussing who had the best snacks with mid-morning coffee and which exhibitors had the best swag. It’s a great time to network with colleagues from other institutions or sectors, and to make new contacts and finally put a face to the name of those twitter accounts. However, as we rounded the bend on a year of online working, we’ve all become quite well versed in the pivot to not only online teaching but also online events. Although we’re used to communicating through a screen – and the related Zoom Fatigue – CALC was an event to get excited about. The speaker list was diverse and exciting. The topics felt relevant to the work we’re doing, or want to be doing. The days looked well thought out and not too overwhelming. The ethics of the conference organisation included an optional additional fee to allow the organisers to provide bursary places free of charge to those from marginalised backgrounds.
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