Are you a new or exisitng staff member who would like to find out more about the University’s libraries?
Join an Academic Support Librarian on a 20 to 30-minute in-person tour of one of our ten Library sites. Find out about key library services, including EdHelp, borrowing, printing, and study spaces. Discover the general print collections at the Library and explore the subjects covered. Suitable for staff in all roles.
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.
Here we are midway through the first semester, and you may start to feel like you should be looking ahead to your end of semester assessments. Often students feel a bit overwhelmed before their first hand in, but here at the library we’re keen to help you feel confident from the start. Read on to find out why LibSmart is one of the best ways to prepare for your research and writing….
1. LibSmart shows you the basics of finding information in easy-to-follow lessons
Split into five simple sections, LibSmart I takes you through everything you need to find good material to base your assignments on. You’ll learn about how to search the library catalogue, how to double check your course reading, and suggestions of where to go for follow up resources.
2. You can dip in and out of it any time that suits you
One of the great things about LibSmart is all new students are already enrolled! You just need to log in to learn and click on the ‘Essentials’ tab on the left to find it. It’s there whenever you need it all year long, so if you’re feeling like you need to be productive at 11pm one evening then log on and complete a module. We’re sure you’ll either learn something new or you’ll feel more confident that you’re on the right track.
3. The whole of LibSmart I can take less than one afternoon to work through
We designed LibSmart I so that it’s not a huge effort for you to complete. We know your time is precious and that you may have classes to get to, work shifts to make or social activities that are a huge and important part of your student experience. We wanted to make the information in LibSmart as accessible as possible, and while you can take it at whatever pace you like, we know that some students like to rattle through it in just one day. Whichever route you chose, we appreciate the time you spend there.
4. You’ll learn valuable skills on how to get started with referencing
Referencing is one of the top enquiries we Academic Support Librarians receive – people are confused by it or don’t understand what, where and how to do it properly. LibSmart I has a really useful introductory module that can help you get to grips with the foundations of referencing, and offers top advice on how to find the right style and systems for you. If you’re feeling stuck with where to start then this is the place to go.
5. It’s so much more than just library stuff!
We know it’s a lot to ask students to spend a few hours on looking specifically at library catalogues and databases especially when this isn’t prescribed reading on any particular course. However, students who’ve spent time on LibSmart believe it’s really made a difference to their experience as a student.
When I signed up, I assumed the course was just an introduction to the library but it has really been a guide to how academic research works. I wonder if more people would have signed up for this if they had realised it was not just a tour of the library to see where the books were kept. Along with the one hour “Study Skills” course I did, which was also surprisingly useful in its content, I feel I got as much learning from these free courses as the main one I paid for.
If you’re interested in giving LibSmart a go, you can find out more on our website.
Alternatively if you’re keen to get started straight away, just visit Learn and click on the Essentials tab on the left hand navigation. It’s all there ready for whenever you need it!
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: