Saturday, June 30, 2007

Map of information literacy research

Yesterday I was in Hatfield for a day of the Umbrella conference, mainly to stand by the poster, a Map of Information Literacy Research that I devised, drawing in particular on work by students on the Information Literacy Research module. I hope it will stimulate more conversation on what we need to know more about, and what are priorities for research.
I have put the poster (as a pdf of a ppt...) on Slideshare at

The description is "It is a mindmap of information literacy research: areas of information literacy & information behaviour that are/could be researched, plus branches addressing the issue of who is researching and why they are researching. It includes some findings from delphi studies undertaken in 2006 and 2007, investigating what UK library/information people think are top priorities for information literacy research. The poster is authored by Sheila Webber, Sheila Corrall and the Information Literacy Research classess 2005/6 and 2006/7 (Department of Information Studies, University of Sheffield)"

There was an information literacy track at the conference, although in the end I spent most of my time with the posters, except for going to Alex Byrne's keynote. Several colleagues presented at Umbrella too - Sheila Corrall on "IT governance", Paul Clough and Simon Tucker on "Trends in multimedia retrieval" and Philippa Levy on Theories of Change for evaluating educational projects. Paul and Andrew Cox also did a "Web 2.0" poster. I might pick up on some of these things in a future entry.

Photo by Sheila Webber: Kings Cross, on my way to Hatfield.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Appraising IL programmes

I’ll continue blog the session that I chaired this morning at the i3 conference. Hesham Azmi talked about Critical appraisal of information literacy programs: an evidence based approach to assess an Information and Research Skills course in Qatar University. QU is the largest, and only state supported, university in Qatar. They have 9000 students, mostly undergraduate. They have done well in getting information literacy into the core curriculum and identified in the core learning outcomes for students. There is information about this in another Italics article, namely
Azmi, H. (2006) “Teaching Information Literacy Skills: A case study of the QUcore program in Qatar University” Italics, 15 (4).

Hesham has used the ACRL Characteristics of programs of information literacy that illustrate best practices guidelines to evaluate the programme (these can be found at As he discovered, there is surprisingly little in the literature reporting on use of the guidelines (or indeed any whole-programme evaluation). He gave a glimpse of how their programme measured up – I think he said that they matched over 50 of the 80+ criteria. To investigate their programme they examined relevant documents, and are gathering data via questionnaire and interview. They are just analysing things now, and he intended to put a ppt with even more results on the conference webpage. I think this will be very interesting. One criticism I have of the ACRL guidelines themselves is that they don’t include anything about the teachers of IL keeping up with the field of IL or being expert in IL, which I think is a bit strange, as I don’t think it can be assumed that this will be the case (in particular, the issue of keeping up with latest developments that should be informing and enriching the curriculum)

Before describing this, Hesham had set this project in the context of Evidence Based Practice and Evidence Based Librarianship. That led to an interesting discussion and in this post on the i3 blog I say some more about this, and about other research-related issues identified at the end of the session I chaired
Photo by Sheila Webber: Poster session at i3.

Information Literacy: from theory to practical implications

While it's fresh in my mind I'll blog the session that I chaired this morning at the i3 conference here in Aberdeen. Agneta Lantz and Christina Brage presented Information Literacy: from theory to practical implications. I’ll deal with that first, and the other paper in the next blog entry. Agneta began by describing the context at Linkoping University, where library involvement has developed to an information literacy programme including credit bearing classes with interesting titles like “Civic information: the citizen in the information age” and “Information literacy and learning”. Agneta described their model of applied information literacy and the theories or concepts they had drawn on when developing it. They have explained this in their article (the article also gives information about some of their classes)
Lantz, A. and Brage, C. (2006) “Towards a learning society: exploring the challenge of applied information literacy through reality based scenarios.” Italics, 15 (1).

Agneta went on to give some details of the study which they have done with 112 students, interviewing 30 of them, and also using other data e.g. exam papers. They were aiming to identify students’ experiences of learning information literacy. They identified categories of “dependence” and “independence”, with most students experiencing “dependence” at the start of the class (e.g. lacking confidence, difficulties in synthesising, not understanding the structure of scholarly literature). By the end of the class, more students were indicating that they felt confident or had got to grips with some information literacy and writing skills.

The implications drawn from this included a need to develop students’ writing abilities more explicitly (writing process is part of their IL model) and also the needs to address students’ feelings and thinking, not just their “skills”. One comment after the talk was that IL was not always associated with writing skills, even in the educational context. I would also add that the model is focused on “task”, which again might not match all aspects of IL. However, the way the model brings together writing and IL does seem interesting and useful to me in quite a few academic contexts.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Haggis canapes at the reception last night.

i3: Presentation and panel

On Monday Bill Johnston and I presented our paper on Chemistry academics’ conceptions of teaching information literacy. In it we described the research approach, and the nature of the sample (20 academics from 11 different universities were interviewed). After analysing the transcripts of the interviews we identified three conceptions of pedagogy for information literacy:
1. Implicit in teaching students to understand chemistry.
2. Designing a path for students through a chemistry course
3. Challenging students to respond independently, critically and creatively with information
This was different from the other three disciplines we studied in that in Chemistry the “teaching information literacy is someone else’s job” category we discovered in Marketing, Engineering and English was not present - information skills were seen as essential for learning chemistry. One thing we highlighted was the differences in the types of information, information behaviour between disciplines. We also felt that the third approach was rather more exciting and stimulating than some of the more pragmatic search-focused approaches to teaching students IL

In fact the tension between a search-focused view of IL and one which is more holistic emerged as one of the issues for me. In a plenary session yesterday some of the session chairs were asked to identify questions that emerged, and many of them were to do with information literacy. I did write down some of the questions, but in a rather scrawled way, so this is my impression of a few of the questions (I might come back to them when blogging other sessions).

There was one question concerning whether information literacy needs to be defined differently in different contexts, and with a different approach to education. In fact with this one it seemed to me that everyone that spoke agreed it was the case, but was arguing as if others might disagree. There seems to me to be an obvious point that all education is context specific - management education would be approached very differently in a company, or a first year class, or a masters class, for example, even leaving aside the “different kinds of information in different contexts” angle that you get with IL. There was a question about whether information literacy had an aesthetic dimension (this arose from a presentation earlier in the day that I hope to blog about).

The rather dry way in which it can be taught was mentioned, with an interesting question about whether a focus on things like controlled vocabularies meant it was bound to seem rigid and unexciting. Someone pointed out that information seeking tended to be associated with negative concepts - things you mustn’t do etc., search failure and so forth, and that the pleasure/passion dimension of information literacy could be explored more.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Reception at the Town House on Monday evening.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

i3 conference

I am now at the i3 conference Information: Interactions and Impact (i3) conference being held 25 - 28 June 2007, at the The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland. It's been a wet time here in the UK, and I'm just hoping that my house in Sheffield isn't a victim of the floods (it's up a hill and nowhere near the river, so hopefully not...), but there has been rain here too (see hopeful sign at Dundee, where I stayed on Saturday). Yesterday Bill Johnston and I gave our presentation, which I will probably blog later today. In the meantime I'll mention a talk by Malin Oglund coauthored with Johanna Hansson on Information Literacy, Lifelong Learning and social inclusion at public libraries.
A few points that emerged:
- the fact that many people do not recognise that they need information, so a social inclusion role for public libraries is helping people to discover their information needs.
- the need to get an alignment or interaction between: the way you use the library space, the way you select and organise etc. the "collection", and the way you encourage or develop competencies in the people who use the library.
- that the public librarians should think about whether they aim to compete, complement or compensate for other services (private like bookshops and public like leisure services). She saw the first 2 options as more active.
Malin and Johanna have in particular focused on looking at services to children.
The powerpoint is at . The conference website is at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Plagiarism and IL

Yesterday Bill and I were talking to an academic here in the Marketing Department (I'm still at Strathclyde) about helping to deter plagiarism through information literacy - it might lead to a session with staff and teaching assistants in a couple of months time. Obviously were were talking about how this can fit in with an overall approach and conception of IL, and (at a nitty gritty level) some of the activities to do with sel;ection, evaluation and synthesis that can help develop students' understanding.
On this topic: last year I flagged up the 2nd Plagiarism conference that took place in June 2006 beforehand, but I don't think I ever mentioned that the full text proceedings are available online at
Just to pick out one of the papers: Gourlay (2006) reports on a survey (questionnaires with some follow-up interviews) at Napier University. Students identified searching for academic material, paraphrasing, and writing in an academic style. A quote from the conclusion points up the problems that students have, when at school they haven't been pulled up for things which count as plagiarism at University "The survey and interview data reveal widely differing transition experiences among respondents. However, a common theme was a sudden change in academic culture and expectations in terms of writing when making the transition from school or college to university. Some students reported that the expected norms of academic writing at university were not expressed to them, and that they have developed as writers through trial and error." (p10)

Gourlay, L. (2006) "Negotiating boundaries: Student perceptions, academic integrity and the co-construction of academic literacies." In Proceedings of the 2nd International Plagiarism conference. JISCPAS.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Thistle, Glasgow, June 2007.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

A presentation from yesterday

I have uploaded a presentation to Slideshare indicating how I have used the findings from our project investigating UK academics' conceptions of information literacy & teaching IL. It contains some bullet points concerning ways I've used it with students, librarians and academics. This was one of the presentations from the seminar yesterday. The slides are on this page.

Photo by Sheila Webber: Me in the Travel Inn here. In the background is a strange purple painting that appears to be in every Travel Inn room, at least all the ones I've been in recently - unless the picture's following me around in a spooky manner? I find it difficult to believe anyone could buy one copy of it, let alone hundreds. It must have been very cheap.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Introducing pedagogical research

This was the title of a one day seminar that Bill, Stuart and I contributed to today, organised by the Higher Education Academy and taking place at Strathclyde University, Glasgow. It was aimed at people who weren't "expert" educational researchers, but were interested in learning more about different options for research methods.
We were doing a session on The phenomenographic approach in which we were talking about what phenomenography was, how we had applied the approach and what we did with the findings. The structure of the day was that there several parallel sessions am and pm (e.g. on case study approach, or postmodern methods, or threshold concepts) each lasting 90 minutes. The people attending comprised an interesting mixture of academics, educational developers and researchers and at least one librarian (who has been using phenomenography to explore conceptions of IL).
I attended the session on "threshold concepts" in the afternoon: these are "lightbulb" or "portal" concepts in a subject that (once grasped) enable someone to progress - transformative concepts. There was a conference in this area last year, so rather than try to explain any further I will refer people to that conference website "
. I can't mount our presentation at the moment as we were fiddling about with it here and it's on Stuart's memory stick, not mine. We're thinking of doing our session again, possibly at Sheffield.
Photo by Sheila Webber: First strawberry, just before I ate it, June 2007 (this is the same strawberry shown in the pot a few days ago)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

POP-i and Lollipop

I mentioned the Umbrella conference in the last post. At this conference there will be a talk by Ronan O'Beirne and Debbi Boden about POP-i "a collaborative non-commercial venture between Imperial College London and the City of Bradford Metroplitan District Council, Library Service to develop an on-line learning programme for Information Literacy aimed at public libraries". The POP-I website is at
and gives the aims and background of the project.

This is being redevloped for the Higher Education sector, as Lollipop, and the website for the programme is at (guests can login at the moment - see password on the page).
Photo by Sheila Webber: Pink geranium, June 2007.

BIALL conference (2)

Just another couple of notes from the BIALL conference. Ann Hemming, who now works for LexisNexis, talked about How can technology support the synergies between Education and Knowledge Management ?. Some of her points are included in her article about e-learning (written when she was still with Hugh James Soliciters):
Hemming, A. (2006?) "As inevitable as internet." Legal technology journal, 1.
and I notice she is talking on a similar theme at next week's Umbrella conference. E-learning does indeed have its value, but in fact both her presentation and that of Phil Bradley demonstrated that there is still value in having a real enthusiast develop their argument live in front of you.

Phil Bradley talked about Web 2.0, which he put forward as a very strong opportunity for information professionals (provided we did not let the IT people get in our way!). His ppt will be on Slideshare: it wasn't there when I just looked, but he said it would be soon, and there are number of other presentations on Web 2.0 by him at

Photo by Sheila Webber: There was a nice freebie pack by LexisNexis on their stand, which I sneaked away.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

IL marketing/education for law: BIALL conference

Yesterday I gave a talk, Information literacy: marketing and educational views … and some research, at the British & Irish Association of Law Librarians (BIALL) conference, held here in Sheffield. Sheffield celebrated by tipping down with rain (so I paddled to the conference dinner!) and although it had cleared up by yesterday, there were still problems with the trains (flooding) so the audience for my almost-last-in-the-conference talk was reduced. It wasn't actually as bad, though, it looks in the photo below (of previous speaker David Connolly): the plenary sessions were in Sheffield City Halls (capacity 2000, see entrance in first photo) so the 200+ delegates were inevitably somewhat spread out.

I have uploaded my presentation to Slideshare, and you can get it here. The abstract I put on Slideshare is as follows: "Sheila identifies a tension between the librarian's role as marketer and educator, and proposes relationship marketing as a context for lessening this tension. Research into chemistry and marketing academics' conceptions of information literacy is described. Sheila proposes how this might be applied to a legal environment, and says that understanding your clients’ approaches to information literacy could be fruitful for training and marketing. The presentation finishes by giving highlights into recent research by O'Brien and Rhodes into legal information professionals’ priorities for information literacy research." Slideshare provides some code to embed the presentation in your blog, but when I tried it just now it crashed the browser and lost the post, so I'm not trying that again today!

There was a question afterwards about the research technique that James O'Brien and Chistopher Rhodes used in their study (which was done as the main coursework for the IL Research module). This was the Delphi technique, and there is some more info about it on (where else) Wikipedia:

Friday, June 15, 2007


Alerted by a post to the lis-infoliteracy discussion lits about a talk How Can We Improve Online Reading? by Professor Alan Liu, Dept of English, University of California (working with the Transliteracies Project) at 2pm 4 July 2007, De Montfort University, Leicester (free, email Sue Thomas , I was led to the DMU Transliteracy blog "Transliteracy is the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks."

Whilst on the subject of literacies, Dr Joolz has moved her Digital Literacies blog back to blogger:
Photo by Sheila Webber: Pink rose posed (but it did come off a climber just behind, almost in my garden), June 2007.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

ICS projects

There are a couple of projects sponsored by the HEA Information and Computer Science subject centre

Enhancing librarians teaching skills: the key aim is to "re-purpose existing teaching material created by the EduLib project to make it interactive and reflective, so that it will help librarians / information workers to enhance their teaching skills and therefore enhance the student learning experience." It is led by Ruth Stubbings

Beyond Google: developing training skills for LIS students: "This project aims to provide practical advice and guidance on how library and information professionals can demonstrate to end users the value of information resources beyond the public Internet. ... The aim will be achieved through the production of a video which can be shown to library students in a variety of formats. " Leader: Martin de Saulles
Photo by Sheila Webber: Black cat on next door's wall, June 2007.

Evaluation article

I encountered an article that describes an initiative in a more refreshingly honest way than some I've read. A teacher and librarian at McMaster University together identified evaluation frameworks for different types of information on the "Credibility" "Content" "Currency" model. They got the students on their undergraduate health course to take tests of their ability to apply the evaluative frameworks. The authors observe "We can only infer that this test, like many others, did not generate great enthusiasm. In retrospect, it was perhaps not a good idea to have imposed the artificiality of an assessment on this exercise. We should have stressed the significance of obtaining this skill and left it up to the students to practice it on their own and take it seriously or lightly as they chose to."
Later on they admit that they intended to follow up the cohort, but here a note of sadness enters since "midway through the term, the position of the education resources specialist was made redundant, so we could not follow through in upper-level courses" They also thank the "delightful and enthusiastic students at the University of Calgary who took MDSC 203", a nice touch which you don't often see.
Rangachari, P. and Rangachari, U (2007) "Information literacy in an inquiry course for first-year science undergraduates: a simplified 3C approach."Advances in Physiology Education, 31, 176-179.
Photo by Sheila Webber: First strawberry, just before plucking, June 2007 (here it was as a flower(I think).

Monday, June 11, 2007

Media Literacy

The 10th Media Literacy newsletter was published in May on the Ofcom website (UK watchdog for media and communications industries). The newsletter page is here. Amongst some of the organisations it mentions in the newsletter is the Associate Parliamentary Media Literacy Group (APMLG) "set up to promote a greater understanding of the importance of media literacy within [UK] Parliament and more widely" with a minimalist website at The Ofcom Media Literacy group published a good deal of research last year, but things have gone a bit quiet, although Media Literacy does still appear to be on the UK political agenda (mostly in terms of protecting children and empowering disadvantaged groups)
Photo by Sheila Webber: Strawberry flower (and beetle), May 2007.

Saturday, June 09, 2007


The Gypsy Librarian provides reading notes on a number of articles. The most recent article he writes about is:
Bronshteyn, K. and Baladad, B. (2006) "Librarians as Writing Instructors: Using Paraphrasing Exercises to Teach Beginning Information Literacy Students." Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32 (5), 533-536.
As I think I have said elsewhere, I do some work with students in a couple of modules on synthesis and abstracting, both of which are genuinely difficult to do well. Paraphrasing is also a challenging area and one where I want to do more with students.
See Gypsy Librarian's blog entry here

Photo by Sheila Webber, Wild rose, Sheffield, June 2007.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Canadian IL

The Canadian Information Literacy Interest Group has a group of that name on Facebook (you will only get to this address if you are a member of Facebook):

While I'm mentioning Canada and Information Literacy, I notice from the above that the 7th Annual Augustana Information Literacy in A cademic Libraries Workshop has been announced for December 10, 2007: Presenter is Lisa Hinchliffe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: see
Photo by Sheila Webber: Bee on icelandic poppy, my garden, June 2007.

Visual Literacy

At you can view "posters" under the theme Eye to I: Visual Literacy Meets Information Literacy which are part of the 2007 American Library Association conference. Titles include "Analyzing the Dynamics of Race with Information & Visual Literacy", "Is Seeing Believing? Visual Literacy and Web Evaluation" and "Embedding Information Literacy into a Visual Literacy Course". Some posters are ppts in pdf, some are Camtasia presentations etc.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Rose in my garden, June 2007.


There is a questionnaire on the Netskills site which "aims to gather: opinions of library staff about the essential teaching skills they feel are required by librarians; experiences of different methods of skills development; examples of good teaching practice".The results will be presented at the UK Umbrella conference in July.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Copyright, e-Resources & i-Skills Conference

Copyright, e-Resources & i-Skills is a one-day conference on 27 June at City of Sunderland College: Usworth Sixth Form College, Washington, UK. Delegates will receive a free CD containing i-skills tutorials to take away, including a How To Copy Right! tutorial. More information at

Photo by Sheila Webber: Lily of the valley bed, May 2007.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

UWE seminar (3)

This is the 3rd and final post on the seminar at the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol. In the afternoon, Marcus Lynch, from the Faculty of Environment and Technology, talked about his Creativity and design module. A lot of interesting ideas emerged, for example:
- the idea of researching the nature of a diary, log or journal as part of creating it, with students having to justify the final format of the journal
- a “Desert Island disks” activity, use as a way of surfacing the notion of “criteria”
- bringing in magazines and articles for students to scan through, cite and tag.
He has a blog at in which he blogged regularly about the class.

Marcus (and Praminda Coleb-Solly who taught the class with him) also brought in their learning diaries - physical diaries which they used (I think Marcus’ was red), and reviewed periodically. Ursula Lucas also talked about how she kept a log to parallel the learning diary that the students were required to keep. She mentioned that she used time in which the students were working on tasks in class.

This reminded me of the blog that colleagues in English (at Sheffield) kept in WebCT whilst they were collaboratively teaching a class, and obviously of the blog that my colleagues and I used (and still do, a bit) whilst teaching “Inquiry in Information Management”. One idea is reflect on your own experience, just like you are asking the students to do. It brings home how difficult the activity is!

I want to give students more guidance on reflective writing next year and both Ursula and Marcus mentioned books by Jennifer Moon*, which I’ll have to get hold of. Ursula also made a telling comment about how students can be “good at picking up a surface approach to reflection” i.e. learning the sorts of things that lecturers want to read in reflective work! She described an exercise in which students had to turn descriptive statements (e.g. “The workshop was fun and quite interesting”) into reflective ones. Another exercise which I’d like to incorporate in teaching next year is one on “How am I doing” in relation to the module learning outcomes. There is always the danger of learning outcomes being ritual statements paraded at certain points in the class.
* Learning Journals: A Handbook for Academics, Students and Professional Development &
A Handbook of Reflective and Experiential Learning: Theory and Practice
Photo by Sheila Webber: Victoria Square, Clifton, Bristol, June 2007.

UWE seminar (2)

Here is the PowerPoint that I used at UWE yesterday
. In it I identify the categories for IL and pedagogy for IL that we identified in academics in Marketing, Civil Engineering, Chemistry and English. I also talked a bit about the ways that I had used the research: with my students, with colleagues in my Departments, and with academic staff elsewhere in Sheffield Uni. In the breakout session, the delegates at the UWE seminar briefly considered their own approach to IL and that of colleagues. We discussed this in small groups and then fed back on three points: an issue that was contentious or problematic, an area on which there was agreement and an unanswered question.

In my breakout group for the first we had both “time” (constraints) for staff and students and the linked issue of getting people engaged with IL in the midst of their busy lives. Of course there is also the issue of getting some students engaged in learning generally, but it can be even more difficult to get them to take IL seriously. The thing we agreed on was the importance of IL ;-)) and the unanswered question was “how?” I don’t think we identified a neat answer - well, I don’t think there IS a neat answer. Some of the academics at the event were interested in exploring further what IL meant in their subject/Department, which obviously I think is a productive route. There was good support for seeing librarians as partners in learning, but as ever there aren’t enough librarians to go round...
Photo by Sheila Webber: Beech tree, Victoria Square, Clifton, Bristol.

Monday, June 04, 2007

UWE seminar

Today I was contributing to seminar at the University of the West of England (Bristol, UK) Information Literacy, reflective practice and critical thinking: how do they inter-relate? There were about 28 participants; academic staff from various Departments plus librarians. I will post my presentation (which focused on the conceptions of information literacy research) tomorrow, when I'm back in Sheffield.

It was a very interesting day, and also included a session from Ursula Lucas (a Professor in the Business School) "Case study: developing students as critical consumers of business information: a reflective practice framework." This provided the theoretical background for, and a practical description of, a module called "Accounting in context." There is some information about this at

Photo: Malcolm McEachran and Jackie Chelin, two of the organisers.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Global Information Society Watch

This project (a joint initiative of the Association for Progressive Communications and the Third World Institute) has published The Global Information Society Watch 2007 report "the first in a series of annual reports" which "looks at state of the field of information and communication technology (ICT) policy at local and global levels and particularly how policy impacts on the lives of people living in developing countries." It includes "Studies of the ICT policy situation in twenty-two countries from four regions are featured" and the focus is around the World Summit on the Information Society, with a critique of what happened at/between the WSIS meetings and what is happening (or not happening) subsequently.

Photo by Sheila Webber: Cat on the heath, Blackheath, April 2007.