Aberystwyth University Library TeachMeet – 04/06/14

Ffion Bell (@bibliotekaargh) has kindly provided a report on the free LibTeachMeet event that took place at Aberystwyth University earlier this month.

On Wednesday 4th June 2014, a LibTeachMeet was held here at Aberystwyth University – and it went very well! In this blog post I will describe how it came about, and what actually happened on the day.

As a Graduate Trainee at the university, part of my time has been spent with the Academic Services team. Teaching is a major part of their work; providing training on specific resources as well as research skill courses and inductions to the library service.  When the opportunity offered by the CILIP Information Literacy Group of funding to host an event came up, it sounded perfect.  In the past year I had been able to attend a few different events, such as unconferences and LibraryCamps, and had really enjoyed the experience. I would always return from the day feeling inspired and with a new energy – I also liked that the informal atmosphere (and low costs) allowed a very wide range of people to participate and explore the library field.

I was tasked to find out more, and put an application together.  After checking out some previous LibTeachMeet events around the country, I did a quick presentation to my colleagues in the team – and luckily they agreed it would be a good thing to do.  Aberystwyth struck me as a brilliant place to host an event like this – with the large university library, National Library of Wales, and lots of other institutions all in a relatively small town. And though Y Gwyll (‘Hinterland’) would have you believe we’re all murdering each other and/or driving around incredibly bleak landscapes in total silence, people really are very friendly! 

On the day

On the day itself, despite having had many confirmations from people, your angsty correspondent (Hi!) was worrying that nobody would turn up.  But of course they did, and by 2pm a good group had begun arriving.  We started off with introductions – while Academic Services was well-represented, other members of the library staff had also come along. Members of the Department of Information Studies faculty joined us too, as well as colleagues from the excitingly far-away Bangor University.

First up, Sahm Nikoi told us about his research on what we can discover from first year undergrads on information literacy and learning transition. He’d previously presented at the LILAC conference so it was brilliant to hear more about it – and have some good discussion about it in an informal setting.

Next, Joy Cadwallader asked us to consider reading list provision in a time of £9k fees.  It was interesting hearing what students expected, and the challenges faced by the university library service in addressing that.  It made me reflect on how I had used reading lists during my own time at different institutions – and led to discussion among the group on the balance between providing very prescriptive reading lists, and encouraging individual research/information literacy skills among students.

Juanita Foster-Jones, a member of DIS at the university with a special interest in information literacy, began with the statement ‘IL is broken – discuss’. This was a presentation on the fact that the traditional ‘Seven Pillars of Information Literacy’ should be, and are already being, reconsidered.  In our discussion, we were brought to the conclusion that there is a strange dichotomy between what students are taught as being ‘good research methodology’, and how their own professors conduct research. It’s highly apparent that the latter very often just ‘whack things into Google’, as it were, as a starting point – then discover things by serendipity. The question was raised of how to foster the natural curiosity that this method demonstrates in undergraduates.

After a break for tea, coffee, and some tooth-achingly sweet confectionery (mmm!), Elizabeth Kensler gave us a bit of a lightning round-up of how the Customer Services team deliver front-line assistance to student, staff, and anyone else who visits the library.  She noted the very wide variety of skill levels they encounter, and the skills needed by staff to help them appropriately.

To finish off, Allen Foster (Head of the Department of Information Studies here at Aberystwyth), asked us to think about information literacy as a narrative or journey in itself – how the learning process is ongoing for all of us.

This was a really great experience – both as an opportunity for some really good knowledge sharing and discussions, and for me to organise. I’m going to be moving on from Aberystwyth very soon, but I really hope it’ll become a regular event. Thanks to the CILIP IL Group we got the opportunity to start something really great!

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