We’re very excited to let you know that from this year onwards all students at Undergraduate and Postgraduate level will automatically be enrolled in our LibSmart online information literacy course! If you’ve not encountered LibSmart before, it’s a great way to get to grips with finding and using information available to you via the Library. It’s asychronous which means you can dip in and out whenever suits you across the year, and we tend to find people use it either at the start of term when they need to start looking reading material up, or right before they start research for their assignments.
LibSmart I is our foundation level course, helping students get a good baseline in using our library catalogue, searching for reading materials for courses, and understanding the best places to go for help. We also talk about referencing and plagiarism, something students will need to understand at every level of university life.
LibSmart II is a bit more specialised – it takes a subject-specific look at different topics that people find tricky to work with, such as systematic reviews, data mindfulness and digital news sources. We walk you through different types of resource and processes for working with this information, and hopefully leave you feeling confident of where to start with your assignment or research project. We recommend you complete LibSmart I first, but if you’re feeling confident and ready to dive in to LibSmart II then you’re welcome to start wherever you like!
And if the achievement of completing a module alone doesn’t bring you joy, we also award you some lovely digital badges for each module you complete. You can save them and use them as evidence of the self-directed learning you’ve completed via LibSmart – something that could look very attractive to future employers!
Earn digital badges for every module you complete in LibSmart I and II.
Log in using your UUN (normal university username and password)
On the left hand navigation, select ‘Organisations’
Locate LibSmart I: Your Library Research Starts Here (2023/24) from the list, or LibSmart II: Advance your Library Research (2023/24).
Click into the course and start working your way through!
If you would like some further information on LibSmart you can find out more on our LibSmart webpagewhich includes information about the modules available and a look at what previous students have found most useful about the course. Of course if you have any questions please leave us a comment or email us.
I attended the CALC Conference on 24th and 25th May and can thoroughly recommend this annual event to other professionals interested in critical librarianship. The gathering was welcoming and introduced the day by stating “we will operate within a spirit of liberation at this conference”. If you have not heard of CALC before, their website states that “The Critical Approaches to Libraries Conference aims to provide a space to discuss all aspects of critical practice in libraries and librarianship including (but not limited to) decolonisation, critical pedagogy, equality, diversity and inclusion in library work and the representation of marginalised groups in the workforce, academia and literature.”
The 2 day conference was packed with a diverse range of topics and speakers, so I can only highlight a few here. At the end of the blog post I have included links to further reading.
Some of my key take-aways were:
When designing a support resource for ebook accessibility question your assumptions about students understanding of platforms, and co-design courses with students.
When investigating library ‘decolonisation’ initiatives there is no such thing as “neutral”. Be clear about your positionality and privileges. Find actionable recommendations to solve a problem (move beyond critiquing, to action). Look at Algorithms of Oppression book (on DiscoverEd).
In the Day 1 conference Keynote: Decolonising bibliographies, referencing and citational practices Dr Gurnam Singh shared so many important reflections for where we find ourselves right now, such as:
“Enlightenment belongs to humanity not to Europe!”
“Colonialism is an economic endeavour and is still happening”.
“Critiquing the canon means exposing the othering and silencing of people”.
Dr Singh discussed the various types of colonisation to be aware of such as settler colonisation, extractive colonisation, and plantation colonisation.
(Colonialism is generally classified by one of five overlapping types according to the practice’s particular goals and consequences on the subjugated territory and its indigenous peoples. These are: settler colonialism; exploitation colonialism; plantation colonialism; surrogate colonialism; and internal colonialism.)
Dr Singh then went on to compare the fixed hierarchies of arborescent thought versus rhizomatic thought’s interconnected multiplicity and networks of thought, which rejects fixed categories and sees connections and dialogues.
Some of his comments might be challenging to some people, such as “Citation rankings are monetised and racist, and so therefore is the REF [Research Excellence Framework]”. It is true that currently citation rankings perpetuate certain dominant authors and global voices, which position Western discourse as the most “valid” or important. Dr Singh said “When an article has 10 authors you just know its gaming the citation rankings – its fraud. The publishing industry is colonial – it’s based on colonial attitudes.”
“Decoloniality is about building a new humanity not going back to a “purer” time. This isn’t a specialist subject, its about being human. Maybe AI could release us to be humans and not robots?”
Other topics covered by other speakers included multilingualism in public libraries; using reflective practices to extend the impact of teaching in libraries; developing collaborative cataloguing codes of ethics; setting up Library Decol Working Groups in academic libraries; exploring working class roots of library staff and their experiences in the mostly middle class populations of HE library staff; being a neurodivergent librarian in HE; using critical race theory in medical curriculum decolonisation work; and using the Homosaurus for cataloguing in a public library consortium.
We were encouraged to develop the attitude that everybody brings something to the workplace – a richness of their own, rather than making assumptions about the limitations of people based on their assumed backgrounds, identities, or experiences of “othering”.
I can thoroughly recommend attending this very affordable and welcoming conference!
As we’re midway through the second semester, many eyes are turning to assignments and thinking ahead to final exams. Did you know that we’ve recently secured a trial of the interactive resource Skills for Study?
Based on the bestselling The Study Skills Handbook by Stella Cottrell, Skills for Study offers an interactive and personalised solution to help students hone their academic skills while developing skills required by employers:
Confidence with Numbers
Getting Ready for Academic Study
Referencing and Understanding Plagiarism
Critical Thinking Skills
Group Work and Presentations
Employability and Personal Development
Projects, Dissertations and Reports
Reading and Note-making
Each of the modules comes complete with exercises, activities, and module assessments along with supplementary videos, articles and blogs. We know how popular the Study Skills Handbook is for students from a range of disciplines, so here’s how to access this interactive resource:
That’s it, it’s that easy! More information about the trial is available on the E-Resources trials page. Our trial ends on the 24th April so have a good look before then, and if you want to offer any comments on this or any of our other E-Resource trials then please consider filling in the trial feedback form.
Whether you’re the type of person who makes New Years resolutions or not, we hope you’ll consider resolving to get comfortable with referencing this year. We have lots of resources available to help you with citations in your assignments, and we know it’s something many students struggle with and so can often leave to the end of their work. Some top tips for getting ahead of the referencing panic:
Record the information you read as you go. You can do this using a reference manager, bookmarking tools in your browser or DiscoverEd, or good old pen and paper. Whatever method you’re comfortable with, starting off with good organisation will help you down the line.
Leave more time than you think you’ll need. Do you usually give yourself a day or two before the assignment deadline to sort references? Double it! Triple it! Build in contingency time for writing up and correcting references – and for asking for help if you need it – and if you end up not needing all that time then submit early and then reward yourself with a treat for being ahead of the game!
Be consistent. There are lots of referencing styles out there (you may already be familiar with Harvard, APA, Chicago, OSCOLA), but whichever one you use for your work, be consistent in how you reference. Make sure you have all the component parts of each type of reference and then style them in the same way each time – this helps you spot when information is missing as well as looking good.
Use the tools available to you. This includes reference managers like Endnote, Zotero and Mendeley (or any others!), or even ‘quick’ citation engines like ZoteroBib or Cite This For Me. We highly recommend you use Cite Them Right Online which is a database we subscribe to for all staff and students to use – it will show you how to construct references for every type of material in a huge range of styles. Not sure how to reference a personal email, a blog post or a youtube clip? Use Cite Them Right to check! NOTE: Please make sure you check any reference that is created by a citation tool, as they are not guaranteed to be accurate.
Get help in plenty of time! Still feeling lost at sea? We’ve got training sessions on the MyEd booking system and also recordings on Media Hopper (click on ‘174 media’ below the title card for the full list of videos) designed specifically to help you. There’s also part of the LibSmart online information literacy course dedicated to the basics of referencing, and we have a whole subject guide on the topic. If all else fails, contact your Academic Support Librarian and ask for a one-to-one appointment where we can sit down with you and work through the problems you’re facing.
Do you have any top tips for referencing? We’d love to hear them, you can leave them in the comments or tweet us @EdUniLibraries.
We’re midway through the first semester now, and many students will have settled into the routine of lectures, seminars and practical class preparation. You may even be thinking ahead to the end-of-module deadlines moving ever closer, and beginning to consider how to research and write assignments. For some students this can be stressful or confusing as they realise they don’t really know where to start with looking up resources to back up their work. Don’t panic though, we’ve got you!
Enter, LibSmart! This is our online information literacy course which you can access via Learn at any time throughout your studies. It’s self-enrol and open to absolutely everyone, and will provide you with a great grounding in how to access resources online and via the library, and how to reference your research correctly. There’s five modules in LibSmart I and although we recommend you work through them all, you can dip in and out of the bits you feel you need a bit of help with.
If you’ve completed that, you may find that you want to go a step further. In that case, check out LibSmart II which has ten modules on a variety of different topics all designed to help you get to grips with a specific focus. Unlike LibSmart I we don’t ask you to work through all the modules here, just pick ‘n’ mix your favourites! You might be interested in health information and systematic reviews, or legal information and government and policy research. Maybe you’re unsure of what’s in our Special Collections and you’d like to explore that more fully. Students who’ve completed these modules before have said that they’re extremely useful and relevant to their work.
If this sounds interesting to you, you can find out more on the LibSmart webpage. Remember you can access LibSmart any time you like throughout the year, and for each module you complete you get a digital badge!
It’s been a bit quiet here on the ASL blog for the past couple of months and that’s because August and September are always spent preparing for the start of the new semester. Now that we’re well underway we’ve been busy doing inductions and welcome sessions to highlight some of our excellent services to new and returning students. In case you’ve missed any of the vital information we like you to have, here are some helpful links!
Library pages: You can find loads of helpful information about our services and library sites here. Look for opening hours, information on borrowing, and how to request resources here.
DiscoverEd: what we call a ‘library discovery tool’ is really what you might call the library catalogue. Look here for readings and research or just to explore the library collections! There’s a great guide on using DiscoverEd here. It’s a Microsoft Sway document but if you need a more accessible version please get in touch with us.
Resource Lists: online reading lists to help you find the core material for classes. Your course organisers have curated these to make sure you can easily access what you need. This link will take you to guides and videos for using Resource Lists too.
Library Subject Guides: these are curated pages of information that our team make up to help you with your studies. There are guides available for a huge range of subject areas and topics of interest.
LibSmart: this is our online information literacy course that you can enrol on any time throughout your time at University. We know not everyone comes to uni feeling confident about finding information, especially online, so this course has been built to guide you through some foundation skills. Follow the five modules in LibSmart I to help you get used to finding information and using the library’s collections, and dip in and out of LibSmart II’s modules on any subject that interests you!
These are just some of our top tips to help you get started during your time at the University of Edinburgh, but if you have questions at any time you can contact our team of librarians to help you get what you need. There’s a list of who deals with each subject on our website so please do get in touch, or leave us a comment on this post.
Check in with our blog regularly as we’ll be posting throughout the year about the upcoming Dissertation Festival, top features of LibSmart, new training sessions we offer, and much more!
Our recent post on Decolonising and Diversifying the Library introduced the short seminar series the ASL team ran during lunchtimes in July. We’re delighted to be able to follow up that post with the news that recordings of all three sessions have now been added to Media Hopper. Please use the links below to access the videos:
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.
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 usingthis 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.
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.
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 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 canreveal 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.