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On Thursday, June 14, Mary Scanlon and I attended the 7th Annual Metrolina Information Literacy Conference in Charlotte. This one-day conference is packed with useful presentations and is a great way to get new ideas for both practical teaching skills and strategies for working with faculty members. There were four sessions, and four tracks (Collaborate, Sharpen, Remodel and Engage) with an option from each of these tracks during every session. The closing session was an entertaining keynote presentation by Jessamyn West, who blogs at Mary and I divided up a few sessions, and attending a few sessions together, so we’ll each talk about three of the sessions we attended.

Session 1: Collaborate: Fostering a Community of Collaboration: Scaffolding the Student Research Process

This session really presented the partnership that has flourished between Amy Burns, a Reference librarian at Central Piedmont Community College, and Jaime Pollard-Smith, an English professor there. They have worked together in both online and face-to-face environments and have done a great job creating assignments and projects that clearly incorporate the use of the library. Jamie started the presentation by assuming her role as teacher and led us through three techniques she uses in her class before the students attend a library research session:

  • looping: students write about their research question for 5-10 minutes. This can include what they “know” about their topic, questions they have, where they think they should look, etc… Then they circle the most interesting thing they wrote, and then write about that for 3-5 minutes, and then circle the most interesting thing they wrote… At the end, they should hopefully have a list of keywords and a more focused idea of what their question is and how they might tackle it.
  • 20 questions: the students write down their research question, and then move around the classroom, finding out what questions the other students would ask regarding their topic. This can help students see their topic from a different perspective.
  • ticket into/out of the library: before the students come to the library session, they must email Jaime: their topic, why they are interested in it, what do they want to learn from their research, their research question and what they learned from their pre-writing exercises. Before they can leave the library, they have to get a ticket out of the library by getting a solid source approved by one of the instructors.

I found these exercises really useful. Frequently, classes are supposed to come to the library with research questions prepared, but often that doesn’t happen. A condensed version of the looping technique could help focus them and give them a place to start their research for the session.

Session 2: Collaborate: LAF: Librarians and Faculty as Teaching Partners

Michael Frye from Winston-Salem State University presented on their program to facilitate librarians and faculty working together on planning courses. The instruction team at O’Kelly Library took advantage of a change in the gen ed requirements to reach out to faculty and help them plan or revamp courses to incorporate information literacy skills. Frye, a life sciences liaison, demonstrated the work he did with Stephanie Dance on a course about infectious diseases. He was embedded in the class, and they created several activities that combined the course content with info lit skills. One example was a bingo game with different columns (geography, gender, etc..) and when someone thought they had a “bingo” they would have to create a search strategy out of their bingo words (male, lymphoma NOT smoker). Frye also shared a great video their department produced that they can use for marketing to other faculty.

Session 3: Remodel: Liberating LibGuides: Designing Guides to Support Student Research

Judy Walker of University of North Carolina-Charlotte started her presentation by saying that she hates LibGuides! She doesn’t like the way LibGuides “boxes” you in with its design and formatting, so her presentation was driven by implementing design strategies within the LibGuides structure to make the guides better. Her Prezi presentation, as well as her documentation, is all on a great LibGuide. A few of the main points she raised:

  • Eye reading patterns have changed: when reading print, our eye moves in a “z” pattern across the page. Online, our eye moves in more of an “f” pattern, with the majority of the focus on items in the top, left 1/3 of the page. Put the most important information in that area.
  • Make sure that your columns are balanced in length, and break-up information into smaller chunks.
  • Be consistent in terminology, headings and placement of information across different guides and individual tabs.
  • Don’t overwhelm your users with information! Present only a few examples, and the most important for the task(s) they have been asked to do.

I plan to use these tips as I clean up my LibGuides. The LibGuide she posted has lots of great information, including useability studies and articles that discuss website usage, so check it out!

Keynote Speaker: Myths and Facts about the Digital Divide

Jessamyn West gave an interesting and entertaining presentation on the state of the digital divide, and why it isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The website linked above includes West’s presentation, the sources she discussed and the statistics that she presented. The thing I found most interesting was the way that she presented that there are really multiple divides, not just one “digital” divide, and that there are many reasons why people don’t use technology or get online:

  • economic divide: can’t afford the technology or access, or access doesn’t come to where they are located
  • usability divide: physically can’t use, or don’t know how, to use the technology
  • empowerment divide: are intimidated by the technology, or have their introduction to the technology at a stressful time (unemployment, taxes, etc…)

From start to finish, Metrolina had great presentations that made me think about my teaching and relationships with faculty members, as well as different ways of approaching my work with our patrons. I would recommend that others interested in teaching look for it next year!