5 Questions to Bring to Your Next Library Staff Meeting

The other day I came across a post from Education Week that posed five questions for K-12 schools to consider when trying to integrate technology into the classroom. They’re equally relevant for academic libraries. Here they are (with some minor changes):

1. How are you using data?

More specifically, how are you using data to transform learning for digital and information literacy? That’s a very good question since a library’s primary data sources come from circulation, reference, and database/web traffic statistics.

What about learning? Certainly, most libraries measure learning of information literacy through some form of assessment. But, unless it’s a validated instrument that includes both pre- and posttest measures, it doesn’t really tell you much in terms of students’ prior knowledge or what was gained during the instructional process.

So, how can you use data to transform learning? For libraries, I say start collecting more qualitative data. What are your students’ information literacy experiences prior to coming to college? How are their current experiences in using the college library? How are their current experiences in writing research papers? What are the topics of those papers? Are they currently struggling with reading and writing assignments (grades don’t always reflect this)? Combining that qualitative data with the quantitative data that is already being collected will give you a better picture of how you can develop your information literacy program.

Another way to gather data is through discussion forums in your LMS. If your library has a course page (and I think all libraries should), try setting up a Q&A forum for students to answer each others’ library and research questions. This would have to be monitored, and would require occasional librarian input, but it would provide incredibly insightful data on students’ research strategies. You might be surprised by how much (or how little) students know. And the peer mentoring aspect fosters a participatory learning environment.

2. How are you using open sources?

For librarians, open source is becoming an increasingly important issue. Librarians are the gurus of information, and should be continuously finding, evaluating and curating open source materials for students, faculty and staff. And not just curating it, but communicating new finds with the campus community. Communication is the key to wider adoption.

3. How do you personalize learning?

Students are coming into college with a wide range of skill levels in terms of information literacy (well, maybe not for the highly selective schools). And the path to information literacy is also dependent upon more basic literacy skills, like reading comprehension. So it stands to reason that at your typical college, a whole lot of students are entering without the adequate skills needed to become information literate.

Personalized learning is a common sense solution to this problem. In order to personalize learning though, you need to know what students know upon entering college. Initiatives such as ETS’s iSkills Assessment is one solution. Another solution is a self-paced introductory course that must be completed as a prerequisite to other courses. Students could take a pre-test that highlights just the skills they need to learn in order to pass the course. Then, they would complete the individual modules as needed. This type of self-paced instruction could easily replace the introductory library section that is often found in freshman orientation courses. It would also allow librarians to step in and provide one-on-one instruction where needed.

4. What can you stop doing?

I love this question. What can you stop doing? Probably more than you think. Are there databases that duplicate open sources (or each other for that matter)? Can you stop collecting reference-only books, and start circulating everything? Can you stop buying print reference and just buy their e-book counterparts? Can you reduce the number of PCs in your library, and just check out netbooks or Chromebooks?

5. How can you get faculty to learn, connect and integrate technology into teaching?

This is a question for both librarians and instructional technologists (and blended librarians) to think about. Instructional technologists are good at identifying appropriate technologies for faculty to integrate into their classrooms. They are also good at providing technology training.  However, I think librarians are the real key in getting faculty to make the connection and fully adopt those technologies in their classrooms. Why? Because librarians actually go into the classroom and can enthusiastically demonstrate the wonders of those technologies. But, in order to do that well, librarians need to know more than how to use the technology. They need to know how to fully integrate the technology into learning. That also requires training, either through workshops taught by instructional technologists, or even better, through additional education and certification.

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