Creative Library Teaching Workshop – Leeds Beckett University, May 2015

The title of this workshop really interested me. I have a background in performing arts and have dappled in creative writing (scripts for plays and short films, poetry, outlines for full length novels and/or screenplays) so I was keen to see some new ideas that I could perhaps incorporate into my teaching.

We started with Lego Serious Play and were asked to build our ideal librarian. Not having played with Lego either seriously or for fun for a very long time, it took me a while to look at all of the pieces, work out which ones went together and which didn’t and then how was I going to overcome the problem of wanting to use a piece that just won’t go together with another piece! Consequently, my ideal librarian was still a work in progress (a lot like me) while everyone else was able to finish their representation. In the second exercise we had to create a model for what we would like to get out of the day. I fared somewhat better, but then got so focused on putting the model together that I forgot about the narrative that was supposed to accompany it. Fortunately for me, I like telling stories and don’t mind making things up on the fly (sometimes, not as a regular habit) so was able to cobble something that sounded vaguely related, though by the noises from the surrounding participants (oh yeah, hmmm…, oohh, etc), they didn’t really buy it. Oh well. I know that I was supposed to love this because it would free up my thinking by ‘thinking with my hands’, but my head kept getting in the way and I didn’t get out of it what the facilitator hoped I would.

I had also made a bit of a mental calculation regarding the Lego:

  1. This activity would possibly be too expensive to do (each pack costs about £4, needing at least 20 packs and then how do you manage the packs to make sure that all of the pieces are still there at the end of every session?)
  2. This would take up a lot of time in a lesson so what am I not going to teach as a result.
  3. The students may not find it beneficial (at least not the health students) mainly because I can’t see how it would be beneficial to teach information literacy in this manner. People did bandy about the idea of using it to represent building a search strategy, but I’m still not convinced. I’m happy for someone to show me different, if anyone thinks otherwise and can show me what to do with it. I guess for engineers or perhaps some other disciplines it could be useful.

Perhaps using the Lego to demonstrate building a reference could be useful, but it comes back to the points above and especially 1 and 3. I shall ponder this a bit more…

The next activity on the building things agenda was using play-dough if Lego was too expensive. The downsides to this is that it can be messy and the dough was a bit dry so moulding it wasn’t easy as it kept falling apart. I found this activity slightly easier, but I think it was because I’d already done the two previous model making exercises. Similarly though, I’m not sure how I would use this in my sessions to represent either doing a literature search or using evidence based practice resources.


Our next set of exercises involved using collage. As a small group (4) we were given a book chapter that we had to visually scan, then cut out pieces that we thought were pertinent to the chapter. Once these were cut out, we had to decide where they would sit on an outline of a body. We broke the chapter up into 4 parts and then had to come together again and say where we thought our little snippet should sit on the body and why. Sometimes pieces had to move because when they were in the whole part of the chapter, it made more sense for it to be part of the arm rather than the torso. This exercise was interesting, and if I was teaching critical appraisal, I may look at using something like this.

We moved on to cutting up an article or front page of a book (photocopied, naturally) into the different parts that make up a reference and then someone else had to put it together using all of the parts. Verena showed us something similar (in her talk at the conference round up a couple of weeks ago), that she’d picked up at her games workshop. I could see that I could incorporate this into my workshops though time (distributing all parts necessary (finding the article, scissors, referencing guides, etc) may be the deciding factor. You also have to make sure that everyone is using the same style of referencing, which our table didn’t. This obviously made things very difficult to get the correct answer.

Our final collage exercise was about evaluating web resources. There were two pages of questions we had to consider on various aspects (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, purpose) and were told to just start cutting it up and then talk about it later. It seemed that most people didn’t want to cut up the sheet and instead made notes to answer the questions. Our group disagreed with the facilitator that we could do the same thing with the dismembered article as we could with the whole piece. What if we discarded something that was needed to answer another question? We thought that instead of cutting up the article (blog post), we could make it a colour coding exercise. That is, currency is blue, so highlight the parts that refer to the currency with your blue pen; pink is relevance, and so on. This might not take as long to set up, but there is the issue of making sure that each group has the appropriately coloured set of pens. Potential of being implemented… maybe.

After lunch, we embarked on using story prompts and this is where my creative juices really started to flow. They gave us all a set of story cubes and asked us to tell the story about our relationship with information literacy. The others in my group didn’t get it to start with, but as this spoke directly to the story teller in me, I led the way and got everyone sharing their story.

It was beautiful 😀

We also used a set of cards with images of things that happen in a library to tell a story around the table of an adventure in a library.

Having a direction (my relationship with information literacy) and an image that you could use for inspiration I think was key in the story telling exercises. The facilitators thought that stories tended to stick in our heads better than a list of facts so I’m now thinking of how I could tell a story to teach the literature searching process. A challenge? Yes. Insurmountable? I think not.

At the end of the day, we had a reflection exercise on all of the activities we’d done that day and what we were going to take away and try and implement in our teaching. Overall, I think the one I will try to incorporate will be the story telling. It may not be the same style as we used in the workshop, but it has definitely given me something to think about and to think differently about how I deliver what I teach.

By Catherine


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