Monday, February 18, 2013

Problem-Based Learning Fellows Program

My institution offers a Problem-Based Learning (PBL) Fellows Program for faculty members.  After attending a presentation by one of the participants in which he discussed what PBL is and how he used it in his courses, I decided that PBL could be a useful way to do library instruction as well. 

Consequently, last spring, I applied for and was accepted into the program.  One of the questions on the application asked which course we would considering adapting for PBL.  Since I don't teach any semester-long courses, I had to come up with an alternative idea.  Each year, I work with a professor in his general education course to provide library instruction.  More so than any other faculty member, he has always asked me for new ideas for improvements and changes to the assignment that involves library research.  He takes those into consideration and also alters the assignment every time he teaches the course.  Knowing his enthusiasm for improvement and change, I asked if he'd be willing to experiment with PBL in the course, and he readily agreed. 

The PBL Fellows met for two days over the summer to train on the basics.  During day 1, we completed a PBL exercise where we were the students.  On day 2, we co-lead a group of physician assistant students through a day-long PBL exercise.  We paused every-so-often to separate from the students for a while so that we could evaluate ourselves and each other on our performance in the PBL session.  This was definitely very helpful, although my evaluation took place during a time in which the leaders of the PBL Fellows program were not available.  However, many common mistakes were made by the fellows, so it was easy to take away ideas for ways to modify my actions to best fit PBL techniques.

More recently the fellows met to discuss how we planned to implement PBL in our courses.  We were given the fall to prepare and come up with ideas with the expectation that implementation would take place this spring.  Over the winter holiday, I worked with the professor of the general education course to create an outline for the assignment.  Because he is the content specialist, he did most of the assignment creation, and I made suggestions/modifications based on what I know of PBL.  At this point, we have a working outline that probably needs to be fleshed out a bit more.  The PBL sessions will take place over five 75 minute class periods, and I will be participating beyond my role as a librarian. 

I think PBL has a lot of useful applications to library instruction, and I am currently planning to do a series of posts to explain what PBL is, how librarians can use it, common errors made by those employing PBL techniques, and of course, my experiences implementing PBL in a general education course.  Hopefully, this will be both helpful to me as I sort out my ideas and of interest to anyone who thinks PBL might be useful in library instruction.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

The Hardest Part of Research for Students

In the fall, I put up a feedback poster (previous feedback posters mentioned here and here) that asked students to complete the phrase: The hardest part of research is...

The responses were unsurprising:

I was able to roughly categorize almost all of the responses into the following categories:
  • Getting started: “knowing where to begin,” “starting it,” “the beginning”
  • Avoiding distractions: “ignoring the cat”
  • Locating information: “looking for articles” or “navigating research terms to find the best results”
  • Evaluating information: “being critical about your sources/citations” and “sorting the wheat from the chaff”
  • Organizing sources: “keeping everything organized”
  • Procrastination: “turning on self-control” and “calculating how long you can procrastinate until the situation becomes desperate”
  • Writing the paper: “write up the paper” and “editing”
We then used this as an opportunity to inform students that librarians can help with many of these things.  For the others - procrastination and writing the paper - we directed them to another department called the PACE Center, which offers procrastination and time management workshops, as well as tutoring and writing assistance. 

We posted our response on our blog and in print on the window where the above poster was previously located.  I meant to put it on our Facebook page but since I queued the blog post to go live at a later date, I forgot. 

Speaking of which, is there a good way to tie social media together?  Perhaps some sort of tool?  It used to be that our blog could feed directly into Facebook, but then Facebook removed that feature.  It's time consuming to remember to post these things in several locations, so I'm open to any and all suggestions!

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Wheel of Time: On Time at a Library

I know I'm biased, but libraries are wonderful.  The final book in the epic Wheel of Time series released today.  My local public library system had 21 copies listed as "in processing" yesterday which means they already had the book (otherwise it would have said "on order").  As of 11:30am today, two of the branches had their copies on the hold shelf waiting for eager patrons to pick up.  Sadly, my branch is not one of these, but I'm still hoping they'll have it ready by the end of the day.

If not, I can wait.  Impatiently.  I hope....

Also, I know someone who pre-ordered it through Amazon and probably won't get it until the weekend.  That may be a shipping choice he made, but still, go libraries!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Reading on the Subway

I'm enjoying this fun blog of pictures of people reading on the New York Subway, so I thought I'd share. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reaching Out to Parents

After reading College Libraries and Student Culture: What We Now Know (which I highly recommend!), I am more interested than ever in finding out how we can reach out to parents.  Among many other things, the book talks about where students turn for research help.  I doubt anyone will be surprised to learn that they first go to their professors, then to their peers and family members, and then maybe to librarians.  I can always do more outreach with faculty, but this got me thinking more about how to reach out to parents.

I want to start small (and perhaps stay small - I wear many hats and don't have a ton of time for new endeavors).  Librarians staff tables at the various student resource fairs, and there is one resource fair where parents are likely to be present: Accepted Students Day - when students come to campus to meet their advisers and register for classes. 

This Saturday just happens to be Accepted Students Day so I'm trying a two-pronged tactic.  I have a sign up sheet for any parents who would like to receive periodic email updates from the library (our newsletter and maybe at most 2 emails a semester).  I'm not convinced there will be a lot of takers but I see no harm in trying.  I'm also working on a flier for parents that talks about when to send their students to a librarian, the various ways to contact a librarian, how a librarian can help, and, of course, library hours. 

We'll see how it goes.  The resource fair at Accepted Students Day is during a time when students have a lot of things to accomplish (including lunch, which is at least in the same room as the fair) so we don't always get a lot of visitors to the Library table.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

I'm Published!

Don't get too excited, it's a book review not an article.  However, at 800 words in length, it's a pretty lengthy review.  I highly recommend the book, too.  The details:

The Book: Listening to the Customer by Peter Hernon and Joseph R. Matthews (find in a library)

Where I Reviewed It: Appears in the March/April 2012 issues of Marketing Library Services.  You are only able to read it if you subscribe to this publication.  However, their copyright agreement allows me to post the review in a few months, so I will do so then.

The General Verdict: A great read for anyone who is responsible for library marketing or wants to know how to improve their customers' opinions of their library. 

Thursday, March 08, 2012

I Wish My Library Would...

I mentioned previously that we are using posters to get feedback from students.  We put up our second set of  feedback posters in January.  The more popular one was the one that read "I wish my library would...."  You can see for yourself:

Of course, the most frequent comment was about this year's reduction in the print quota, something the library had nothing to do with.  We have heard most of the other comments before as well, although there were a few new ones.  However, we chose to treat this as an opportunity to respond to these concerns again, and in some cases, more thoroughly.  Responses have been posted where the poster was previously located (see image below) and are slowly being posted on our blog and Facebook page

My favorite response is the one answering the request for more online resources.  This time I included actual data, such as:
  • We added the following databases recently and will be adding one more soon
  • We spent X amount of money on electronic resources alone in 2011-12
  • One of our full-text databases costs X amount of money
Students (and faculty!) have no idea what library resources cost the library/university, and the few I've informed about one price or another have been horrified.  This time we just opted to put it out there for everyone to read.  I also told them how much we pay for some of the educational DVDs in response to a request for more.  Once again, very few people outside of the library world realize these DVDs can regularly cost us $150-$500. 

For each separate response, there is space for students to write in additional questions and comments, but so far no one has done so (although one person did correct my spelling when I wrote roll instead of role...).  I have definitely seen some students reading them, so here's hoping this helps us to continue to improve the library's image!