LILAC conference – my top four sessions

As Hilary mentioned in her recent blog on LILAC, I also attended the conference in April, at the lovely campus of the University of Nottingham. It was the first conference I’ve attended that wasn’t law librarian-focused, and it was an opportunity for me to hear some interesting sessions and pick up some useful tips on information literacy, and to learn about some innovative ideas for training and inductions.

These were my favourite four presentations:

New barristers’ information literacy during their transition from education to the workplace

In this talk by Anne Binsfeld, an assistant librarian at Lincoln’s Inn Library, she discussed the research that she’s conducted into how new barristers experience the transition from education to the workplace in terms of their IL experiences. As I teach aspiring barristers on the BPTC this was of particular interest to me, in terms of whether we could offer them additional or different training, in order to ensure that their IL and legal research knowledge is sufficient before they move on to the professional legal world. Anne had conducted interviews with pupils and newly qualified barristers, and she found that some of them struggled with carrying out the type of legal research required for professional practice. Most of them had developed their IL and research skills on the job, either through self-led practice, or through the assistance of others such as pupil supervisors and chambers librarians. Anne concluded that the IL which the new barristers developed at university is dissimilar to the IL that they need in the workplace, and that further research is required to gain more understanding of their IL needs, and the best way to develop IL competencies in new legal professionals. She suggested that for law librarians, IL training needs to focus on authentic practice and include situated learning – something to think about when training BPTC students in future!

I’m not calling you a liar, but don’t lie to me

This session was delivered by Sabrina Thomas and Eryn Roles, librarians at Marshall University in West Virginia, and Kat Phillips, a librarian at Penn State University in Pennsylvania. They have developed an alternative to the CRAAP Test, the IL test used for assessing and evaluating sources of information (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, and purpose). They began by explaining why they felt that it was necessary to develop an alternative – that the CRAAP Test is a set of standards, and that they thought it would be useful to have a more flexible system, which would enable more active and dynamic assessment of sources. They suggested that in a ‘post-truth’ world of fake news, misinformation and high emotions, it is difficult to get students to engage in responsible information gathering practices. The system which they have developed is called If I Apply, and it is designed to get students and researchers to set aside emotions and to engage with logic and reason when assessing sources, even on topics about which they have strong views. Like the CRAAP Test, If I Apply is an acronym for various terms, starting with three personal steps (the ‘If I’ part):

Identify emotions attached to topic
Find unbiased reference sources for proper review of topic
Intellectual courage to seek authoritative voices on topic that may be outside of thesis

And then source steps:

Authority established. Does the author have education and experience in that field?
Purpose/point of view source. Does the author have an agenda beyond education or information?
Publisher. Does the publisher have an agenda?
List of sources (bibliography)
Year of publication

They suggested that the test enables researchers to not just evaluate and assess sources, but also to identify their own personal emotions and honest opinions on a topic, and to address those biases, for example also including counter-arguments, not just those sources which match their own views. They have used If I Apply in both online courses and embedded into a course, and found that it worked effectively in both scenarios and has received positive feedback from teachers and students.

Wiki literacy: using Wikipedia as a teaching tool

This talk by Caroline Ball and Jonathan White, academic librarians at the University of Derby, focused on the use of Wikipedia as a teaching tool. They have developed a Wikipedia module which is part of the journalism course at the university, and they discussed how it works in practice and the aims of the module, which are based on the Information Literacy learning outcomes, and include enabling students to write and edit articles, to assess and evaluate sources, and to learn about research and citations, plagiarism and copyright, using images and media files, and online safety. The module sessions are designed to be very interactive, with hands-on Wikipedia editing, as well as activities including a speed-dating peer review, photography masterclass, and ‘Google yourself’ digital footprint activity. The module has two assignments – an individual one in which students need to substantially edit a Wikipedia article, adding content and references; and a group one involving a portfolio of mixed edits, such as writing new articles, adding missing references, or translating existing articles. They found that feedback on the module was very positive from both students and from academics, with the latter in particular changing their views on the value of Wikipedia from “it has no value whatsoever” to “you’ve made me reconsider what Wikipedia is and what it’s for”. They are now planning to use Wikipedia as part of library skills sessions and workshops in order to teach concepts of research and referencing, and are also in talks with the history department to develop a similar module focusing around local history.

“It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this”; Developing a role-playing video game for library induction

I signed up for this session almost entirely due to the title! But also because it sounded like it would provide an insight into an innovative way of delivering a library induction. Darren Flynn and Becky Collins, academic liaison librarians at Coventry University, have developed a RPG called Book Runner to use in library inductions, and they explained why they did so, how it worked, and how they evaluated it afterwards. They decided to build a game due to a change in the delivery of library inductions at Coventry, and the opportunity to have longer inductions that this entailed. The university also has a disruptive media learning lab, with whom they were able to collaborate to develop the game. They built it using RPG Maker, a website on which you can make your own game using easy to use tools, which was important as they were time-limited. They listed and prioritised the learning outcomes and then worked out how to incorporate those into the game, while ensuring that it was fun and easy to play.  The game includes tasks and quests that are usually part of a RPG, but with the user guiding their character around a recreation of Coventry University Library, and completing challenges designed to teach them about the library and its services, but in a fun way and incorporating jokes and pop culture references.

Darren and Becky evaluated the game through user testing, usage statistics, and qualitative and quantitative responses. They found that usage was particularly high in October and November, and that most users accessed the game through the LibGuides link, rather than during in class play during the induction itself, suggesting that users were coming to the game independently, or wishing to continue playing it after the induction session. After playing the game the number of users who agreed that they felt confident of being able to find books and e-books on the library catalogue, of being able to find subject-specific resources online, and of being able to locate the subject librarians office showed a significant increase over those who felt the same before playing the game. Feedback from students was also positive, with responses suggesting that they found it an entertaining way of learning about the library and its resources.

We were then give an opportunity to try out the game ourselves, and I found it a fun experience that reminded me of playing similar games (albeit not set in a library!) as a child in the 1990s. You can try it out for yourselves: https://libguides.coventry.ac.uk/induction/Book_Runner.

Overall I found LILAC to be a very interesting and worthwhile experience, and I plan to implement at least some of the ideas and innovations that I heard about into future teaching and inductions.

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