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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

What Does an Information Literacy Coordinator Do?

As I've mentioned previously, I started my position as Information Literacy Coordinator at CSU Channel Islands on July 1 of this year (2014). My libraryfolk have a general idea of what my position entails, but I'm pretty sure my friends and family just nod their heads and smile and have no earthly clue what I do. So, here's a post about what exactly it is that I do all day.

Information Literacy

First, let me start with a brief statement about Information Literacy, since that. Is a huge part of my job. What is it? It's the set of skills and critical thinking applied to a person's need for information. So, the recognition that one needs information to solve a problem or question; determining the best place to find that information; critically reviewing the information and its source for relevance, validity and reliability; deciding on the best way to incorporate that information into decision-making...all of these fall into the realm of information literacy. Generally in higher ed, the librarians on a campus engage in information literacy instruction (or just 'library instruction') to help train students in these skills, particularly as it relates to their particular assignment in a class, and more broadly as it relates to their academic discipline. So we teach students about critically reviewing information, choosing databases, publication cycles, different types of publications and their target audiences.

We also teach students research skills, such as developing keywords for their topic, researching and reviewing relevant information, and refining their topics and searches as they go through the iterative research process. We teach them how to navigate the often confusing and unintuitive interfaces of various research databases. We teach our students that research is a process, one that comes with various twists and turns, and that the deeper they get into the research process, the more likely it is that they may refine or change their research questions. We teach class sessions, some of us teach semester-long classes, we lead workshops for students, we lead workshops for faculty interested in targeting information literacy in their syllabi and assignments.

Here at CSUCI, information literacy is actually one of our general education outcomes, which means that faculty teaching GenEd courses *must* integrate information literacy components into their courses. What this means for me in my role is that there is great support University-wide for our information literacy efforts and outreach.

The nuts and bolts of my work as InfoLit Coordinator in my first semester has largely been getting my feet wet in teaching information literacy sessions. When I am assigned a session, I contact the faculty member to set up a meeting to discuss their assignment, and what they want students to get out of our session. (This doubles as an opportunity to get some face-to-face time with faculty and build relationships. more on that in a minute.) From that discussion and the faculty member's assignment, I draft an outline for the session, and send it to the faculty member to make sure we are on the same page. Then I teach the session, and those range from 45 minutes to 90 minutes, depending on the class.

Sometime between next week and next semester, I'll also be the one assigning session requests to librarians. All form requests for requesting information literacy sessions will come to my email inbox, and I'll distribute them around to whomever is available. I've got access to everyone's Outlook calendars, access to classroom scheduling, and access to the Excel log where we keep track of info lit sessions by class, library instructor, class instructor, time to prepare, length of session, and number of students. Having seen my Chair, Debi, do this effectively and in an orderly fashion all semester, I'm ready to take the reins.

Another part of my infolit job is outreach to faculty. I've spent a lot of time this semester inviting faculty out for a coffee, stopping by offices to introduce myself, and generally making a benign nuisance of myself to get to know as many faculty across as many disciplines as possible. I'm starting to understand what faculty want most from our information literacy program, and areas that we might be able to grow into.

I do outreach to other campus offices. We are currently hiring a director for our Writing and Multiliteracy Center, and I imagine I'll be involved in partnerships and programming with that entity. I've spoken with our director of disability services; as a graduate student who struggled with an acquired disability, I have a particular passion for making connections with that office and their students to help them be as successful as possible. I'm building a great relationship with our director of Teaching and Learning Innovation, who offers resources to train faculty to deliver blended (a combination of online and in-person) learning. I've chatted with our director of Academic Technology, English faculty, Business faculty, Math faculty, Econ faculty, Education faculty, Spanish faculty...the list goes on. In every case, I've been met with enthusiasm and open-mindedness. In most cases, I've been able to either get them to schedule an information literacy session, or we've discussed partnering for other things. An example: a meeting with a member of the Spanish faculty has turned into a possible spring term plagiarism workshop for the Spanish department students and a possible initiative to involve gringa faculty in some Spanish language learning. (We are designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and 40% of our students are Hispanic.)

Yet another aspect of my work is outreach to students. Students I've taught in my information literacy sessions all get my contact information, and I exhort them to please contact myself or the reference desk if they come across any stumbling blocks or want guidance as they navigate through various resources. This means I see a steady stream of students for research consults, where we take the time to discuss their research assignment in-depth, and we craft a strategy for their research together. I've found our students to be enthusiastic, and having just a little bit of direction or support makes them much more confident in their research. I've started some notes about what kinds of workshops our students might benefit from, and hope to pilot a few of those in the coming years.

I also work the reference desk about 5 hours per week, where I (wo)man the desk, and answer questions of all sorts - directional, research, printing, and whatever else comes up.

Service
 
Because I'm in a tenure-track Assistant Librarian position, I have  service responsibilities as well. In the University setting, "service" usually refers to serving on various department and campus committees and serving the community in a way related to your position.

In terms of service, my plate looks a little weird for my first year on the job. I'm currently a member of the Academic Senate Executive team. I was interested in seeing how the campus sausage and Senate agendas were made, and not many folks volunteered. We meet about once every two to three weeks during the semester, and review items for the upcoming Academic Senate meeting, respond to faculty concerns by serving as a clearinghouse for questions and other issues, and sometimes we get to see announcements or other information items before the general university faculty. Generally, we route concerns to the proper authority or committee. Occasionally we are asked to review system or campus issues.

Due to the serendipity of starting the semester relatively uncommitted compared to most of the other members, I am also co-chairing the Faculty Affairs committee with a veteran faculty member. This committee reviews (and creates, as necessary) issues and policies impacting the faculty. A few of the things that crossed our plate (though some are still there, much like broccoli) this semester included developing a policy on student rating of faculty instruction, discussing a nepotism policy, reviewing General Personnel Standards, and making a recommendation on requirements for online courses. It's intriguing to see how everything hangs together, and to see how the work impacts the faculty at large. Many of the issues that come to the Faculty Affairs Committee are sent by the Academic Senate Executive team.

Both of those positions are odd for a first-year faculty member, since a lot of campus knowledge and historical context is important for both. I became involved because I was interested and because few others could clear their schedules to do so. Both appointments end in May 2015, and in August I will most likely become a committee member on (an)other committee(s), such as curriculum.

I've not yet been involved in local community service, since I've spent my first semester getting acclimated to campus responsibilities and recovering from some health issues, but I am excited to start exploring local volunteer opportunities in the spring.

Research

Research is also a requirement of tenure-track faculty. For those not familiar, in the traditional sense this usually means that you conduct some sort of study, write it up in official academic-sounding language, and either try to get that paper published in an academic journal that other scholars in your field read, or present the paper at a professional conference. Here at CI this commitment isn't just called "research," but "research, scholarship, and creative activities." So, for English faculty, having a novel published may count as a creative activity under the research umbrella; for computer science faculty, developing a successful new program may count for this requirement. We are encouraged to be creative,and to be able to articulate how it furthers knowledge in our subject areas. CI is also not shy about the fact that our community places a great deal of value on interdisciplinary work, and collaborations with faculty in other disciplines is highly encouraged.

Research Project #1
Those of you who know me know that I love school, so papers tend to be my strength. I like to connect my research to my librarianship work, so I have a few research projects in the pipeline right now. In the spring, a faculty member in Communication and I are going to conduct a study comparing two classes she will be teaching (on the same subject). One class will get a traditional face-to-face library session, the other class will receive online multimedia training and an "Ask-the-Librarian" discussion board. Then we'll compare the learning outcomes of both classes to see if there is any difference in how students exhibit information literacy learning outcomes. Why this research? (This question is important--my time is valuable, and I want my research to be important to my work.) We want to identify whether or not online modes of information literacy instruction are as effective as in-person. If they are, this may be an option we can add as a supplement to the work we already do for faculty, and it may be an option if we have to scale our operations to a larger student body in the future.

Research Project #2
Another research project involving a bunch (a cardigan?) of librarians as well as a collaborative partner in Florida will measure our students on a library anxiety scale, to see if this phenomenon, which tends to be negatively correlated with critical thinking and information literacy, exists in our student body. At other universities, the scale has shown some serious disparities between students of different races. Why this research? If we find that CI students do suffer from library anxiety, we can target interventions to new and existing students in at-risk populations to help them overcome it. That would hopefully mean better student use of library resources, our students becoming better critical thinkers, and ultimately a mor gratifying path to graduation for our students.

Research Project #3
This project has actually been in-progress for nearly a year--my dissertation to complete the EdD program. Currently, academic librarians as a profession have a very good idea of what leadership skills and qualities are necessary to be a good library director. What we do not know is where academic librarians develop those leadership skills and qualities before they become directors. This project does that sort of career-path analysis on academic library directors at master's-granting colleges and universities. Why? Well, if a librarian wants to become a director some day, it would be nice if they had a map of what sort of work is most likely to best prepare them for the role. In addition, you can hardly walk three steps without tripping over a leadership institute nowadays. This research could actually inform those institutes as to where their applicants are most likely to have skill gaps, allowing them to better target both their audience and training opportunities.

I'm in the death throes of finishing this up; my dissertation advisor currently has a revised Chapter 4 (the data analysis) and is reviewing it. The dissertation will only go through Chapter 5, so I can see the finish line. I'm hoping to have the whole thing done, dusted, and degreed with a defense sometime in February, and to graduate and be Doctor Harris-Keith in May.

Research Project #4

This project does exactly the same thing as Project #3, but it collects data from academic library directors at baccalaureate-granting institutions instead of the master's level schools. Why? Well, there are over 800 baccalaureate-only colleges. That's a lot of academic library directors. It would be useful to know if the leadership development opportunities along their career paths mirrored directors at different institutions, or if they differ in some important way. Plus all of the reasons given for #3.

The Nutshell

In a nutshell (albeit a large one), that is my job. I love it. I enjoy teaching enormously, and I get jazzed at seeing the light bulbs go off in a class when students really start to understand things. I love helping a student on the edge of a breakdown find that they knew what to do all along, they just needed a wee bit of guidance. I love working with faculty, and seeing other grown folks nerd out about their love for their subject area, the way I do about librarianship. I get a kick out of finding intersections between my work and ways to improve teaching and learning in other disciplines. I enjoy reading journal articles by others researching in librarianship, and hearing about what my colleagues at CI and around the world are doing. There are always new ways to present old information, better teaching practices to test out, and new sparks of inspiration.

Most of all, I love that I get to be a part of a student's college experience, hopefully in a way that empowers them and helps them toward graduation. I had the very good fortune to attend a college where the faculty were highly invested in helping us succeed and helping us find our passions, and I try to do my best to pass along that personal helping hand to each generation coming through college. I have a lot of questions about life, but wondering what sort of work I should do is not one of them.











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