IFN614 Unit

This page contains the blog entries from one of my units “Information Programs” from my Uni days. The posts are copied here, original entries can be found here. Due to the lack of multiple page functionality on child pages on blogs, I could not copy the comments and feedbacks here, these can be accessed from the unit’s url.

 

Week 3 | Service Review | Reflecting on a Reference Service experience

It was understood from this week’s class that there are basically two types of referencing namely the physical (face-to-face) and virtual (online). Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) in Anthony Verdesca (2015) has defined reference as reference transaction; “information consultations in which library staff recommend, interpret, evaluate and use information resources to help others to meet particular information needs.”

The full functionality of a library was not known to me before studying in QUT. Where I have come from, people mostly associate libraries with books only. There the librarians are usually high school graduates whose job responsibilities are to stamp out books, shelving/re-shelving and ensuring silence in the library etc. There were no auto-checkout systems we have here. Having said that, when I had first seen the libraries here, I was truly overwhelmed. The library does much more than what I was accustomed to; there is simply so much information available on the library website that sometimes I get lost. That is the time I resort to physical reference. I am a frequent visitor to the QUT Library and I go with a range of issues from using Endnote, Lynda.com to finding references for my assignments. This issue aligns with The Laura Saunders (2012) article that says a Reference Librarian should be a ‘jack of all trades’ and must train themselves in other areas too, not just in reference section.

The first line of help is always the ‘Library Helpdesk’, these people on most occasions teach/demonstrate how search is performed on the library databases. They also teach us about the advanced search features but if you need help beyond that these staff would escalate the issue to the next level of support. This kind of service is known as the ‘tiered service’ as explained in ‘Laura Saunders (2012) that libraries may staff the service desk with non-professionals who answers only the basic questions and refers the complex questions to the professional reference librarians. However,Keren Barner (2011) argues that there isn’t one best organizational structure for academic libraries rather dependent on user needs, wants and capabilities.

In addition to the face-to-face, I have also used the virtual reference service on two occasions. Since I could not come to the library personally, I contacted the staff on ‘Chat to a Librarian’ service of QUT Library. Compared to the face-to-face, I found this service poor mainly because the librarian on the other side of the chat took forever to respond to a simple query. When I could finally get their attention, the information they provided was not what I was looking for. On both the occasions I was little dissatisfied with the service. However, it is not enough to say virtual reference isn’t good across the academic and public libraries. Laura Saunders (2011) states the importance of virtual service to reach out to remote and distant users. In fact, she recommends a hybrid of face-to-face and virtual service, the so called ‘blended format’ to cater to the needs of all the library patrons.


 

Week 5 | Point of view | Academic libraries should support leisure reading..

I am of the opinion that academic libraries should support their customer’s leisure reading and I would like to lay down my point of view based on the following 3 points:

  1. User experience
  2. Promote library use
  3. Low literacy rate

The reason leisure reading materials are becoming extinct in the academic libraries is due to budget shortage and not seeing the provision according to Erin M. Watson (2013). However, Pauline Dewan (2010) argues the survival of the academic libraries is dependent on the user’s need and preferences and libraries need to evolve based on the users. If academic libraries want to retain their patrons and justify their existence, the need to cater to all kinds of user’s needs is imperative; after all modern libraries are all concerned about providing the best user experience according toPauline Dewan (2010), and that includes the popular reading materials. For instance, as a QUT student , I have borrowed from the library more novels than prescribed text books or subject guides, still it can be little frustrating when the QUT Library doesn’t have the novel I intend to read. Buying books from the Amazon is not an appealing idea considering you need the book for one time use only.

There is a growing concern among the libraries that if internet can fulfill the library patrons’ information need, they would no longer need to visit the library building Pauline Dewan (2010). Therefore libraries need to prove that they have more to offer than what appears. The best way to do that is to get the readers hooked to their popular reading collections. Today where social technologies dominates the entertainment and leisure activities, it is easy to get distracted therefore mainstream reading is at the risk of becoming unpopular and so is the library. In such situations, most students hate to go the extra-mile to procure reading materials but may be persuaded to read if the materials are readily available and handy. Jenkins et al (2012) states that leisure reading is viewed as the opportunity to promote academic library use and to support extra-curricular indirectly. In fact academic libraries must serve as the one-stop shop for its patrons and students so they need not take their reading pleasures elsewhere.

According to reading facts (2013), 1 in 4 children cannot read by the time they leave primary school, 35% of adult do not read for pleasure. It also states that reading is a challenge across demography therefore it is important to motivate students because motivation is essential for acquiring literacy skills. Research shows that there is a high correlation of good health to active reading habits. Hence it is important for the academic libraries to support leisure readings so that the reading habits will be inculcated in students at an early age. The reason for declining interest in reading in college/university students is attributed by the emergence of the internet (web 2.0). Research reports that people still read for pleasure but it is under pressure having to compete with other activities. Therefore Pauline Dewan (2010) believes that academic libraries can help in changing that trend.


 

Week 7 | Twitter Chat | Information and Digital Literacy Twitter Chat Reflection

Information Literacy (IL) and Digital Literacy (DL) has my vested interest and personal relevance because

  1. I am majoring in ‘Information Management’
  2. I come from developing country where internet is relatively new; only 33.9% of the population has access to it (Internet World Stats 2014)

 

Association of College and Research Libraries has defined IL as

“Information literacy is a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”

 

Neelie Kroes, former vice president of European Union said that the internet is a utility like electricity and everyone must have access to and yet according to ITUNewsBlog about 4.3 billion people are not online yet. The reasons why these people are getting left behind is elderly people cannot cope with the technology, poor people do not have internet connections at home, less educated people do not find the relevance and the disabled people lack the required skills and expertise (The internet is important to everyone).

The week-7 Twitter Chat was about IL and DL, there were 7 Twitter Champs but we were joined by our peers and guest participants, @kathleensmeand @libridol and of course our course coordinator @katiedavis. We deliberated on the 4 questions @katiedavis designed for us and we had 1 more question thrown at us by @kathleensme, so there were in total 5 questions to discuss.

At the onset we discussed the importance of information and digital literacy programs. According to Christine Bruce information literacy is essential for the 21st century living, it is seen as a catalyst to achieving personal empowerment and economic development. The World Wide Web (WWW) is overloaded with information therefore IL and DL skills are required to be able to access, interpret and evaluate the information. @staceySarasvatiand @MysliwyL tweeted stating that IL&DL programs are needed for participating in the digital life and to enable people engage and collaborate with the online world respectively. Interestingly, @kathleensme chirped in and justified IL&DL as social justice. She argues that

“Information is a right, not a privilege, if you can’t access information you miss out socially and economically”

 

The importance of the programs were further fueled by other fellow Twitter Champions; they said it is important to address the issue of digital divide, employment, to enable people to make informed decision and to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich.

What does it mean to be information and technology literate? Christine Bruce put forth the difference as being able to interpret and critically analyze information (information literate) and possessing technological skills required to deliver the information (technology literate). However, fellow twitter champs felt that technology literate is a vague term because it does not state the level of technological expertise required by a person to be called so.  @RobynneKay put it simply as the ability to recognize information need, locate, evaluate and use information effectively.  Another interesting definition was supplied by @WillBWood who said tech literate is to be able to utilize technology as a vehicle for information access, storage, management and dissemination.

Next we discussed the skills and knowledge required by the library staff to support customer’s use of technology. It was agreed that library staff need to possess basic level of tech skills but opinions were varied with respect to this topic. Even Christine Bruce relented that it is not easy to determine the level of IT infrastructure required for the task mainly because it is dependent on the users.

On being asked about the programs, products and services libraries should offer to support IL and DL, the Twitter champs suggested many programs and products. For instance, @xKirstyJade said iPad skills for the senior citizens. Others suggested libraries should run classes for using Centrelink online portal, coding classes for high school children and technology training for small businesses and so on. Still it may be reasonable to argue that libraries should study the need of their community and run the programs and services that will contribute to the IL and DL. On that note@libridol tweeted that technology is a burden if you don’t understand the point of learning it.

The last question was extra thrown in by our guest @kathleensme, she asked the group how to help people manage if the government services went online by 2017. Many voted for having Centrelink website familiarization training. Interestingly, @katiedavis stated,

“I routinely use centrelink website as an example of why information design is so important. Big problem if all services going online”

@libridol wrapped up the chat on a very interesting note, he said it all boils down to empathy in the end. IL and DL is not only understanding user’s need but also user’s fears.


Week 9 | Program review | Makerspaces – Children’s craft activities

I went into week 9 Twitter chat without any idea of what Makerspace is because I did not get time to do the readings. Therefore I could not enjoy the chat as much as I hoped to.  Since makerspace seems like quite a popular topic among the libraries I decided to review the program with respect to Makerspace.

I googled makerspace programs and was quite overwhelmed by the response; it seems most libraries under Brisbane City Council offer the programs on various date. The ‘children craft activities’ offered by the Mount Gravatt Library was ideal for me because it was in time for this week’s activity, it is nearby my place and it kept my son engaged while I review the program.

About Makerspaces Concerns and Considerations has defined makerspace as

..space that has been designed to allow users to create, build, and learn new projects and technologies.

My son and I took the bus to the Mount Gravatt Library at half past nine this morning. The program was scheduled from 9AM to 12PM. The library is a beautiful single storied building in a nice community. I asked the man behind the desk about the program and I was immediately handed piece of paper, a photo frame made out of cardboard with stand and a container full of multi-coloured crayons.  With these things in my hand, I couldn’t tell him that I was there for myself (to review the program) not for my toddler.  Since the program, craft activities for children aged 2-8, was for children and seeing me with a toddler he naturally assumed I was there for my son. I took the things and proceeded to one of the tables in the corner.

When we reached the spot, I was quite surprised to find that we were the first to arrive for the program. During my 2 hours there I saw fewer than 20 people in the library, perhaps because it was the weekend. A man was reading newspaper in the corner, 5 people were using the computers and the rest were browsing the catalogues and the shelfs. As stated by Catlin Bagley makerspace activity does not really require a big space but a small space in the corner for the library patrons to get hands-on learning which would not be available in them otherwise outside the library. This is particularly true for the craft activity my son was engaged in then.  He only used a small portion of the six-seater table. An hour later we were joined by a mother-daughter duo for the craft activities but they did not stay long because the daughter was reluctant to draw.

Pezu availing the Makerspace Program
Pezu availing the Makerspace Program

I was quite surprised not many turned up for the program, which brings me to question the whole purpose of having the program.  During our 2 hour stay nobody came to ask us how we are doing (there were 2 librarians on duty today).  Maybe it is due to the simplicity of the activity or maybe it is because there were few attendees or maybe the librarians assume their patrons are regular and already familiar with it. For whatever the reason, if the libraries do not do things differently, this craft activity can be carried out anywhere therefore it does not justify the need of libraries to carry out makerspace programs.

Still I strongly support the library’s inclusion of the Makerspace programs. It could possibly be the libraries best contribution to its community. It would benefit those people who cannot afford a laptop or internet (wifi) connection or for parents who cannot afford time and money for their children. The environment too is best suited for learning. The maker programs highlighted in the ‘Library incubator project’ seems like looks like the socially beneficial activities. I would like to stress that running maker programs are good but firstly libraries should do some research on the kind of programs that will best work for them and their community. The children’s craft activities at Mount Gravatt Library seems unnecessary if the participants’ turnaround is anything to go by. The Brooklyn Public Library is a good example of planning strategically is important while designing any makerspace program.


 

Week 11 | Trends reflection | R. Support -The trends towards supporting HDR students

It is a common knowledge that Australian universities give much importance to research, in fact most universities want to be known for their excellence in research. I have come from a country where the entire country has only one university, that too is a group of institutions and colleges scattered across the country brought under one umbrella in a name of a university. Therefore, research was a new concept for me in my first year in QUT. I failed to comprehend how research could benefit the university or boost Australia’s economy, therefore Alice Keller’s comparative studiesabout research support in European countries and Australia proved insightful for me. It highlighted an overview of the government and universities’ perceptions with respect to research. From her study it is evident that research performance is very important to both universities and the government, however, her argument that teaching may occupy second place to the research may not go down well with under graduate and masters by course work students.

Higher degree research (HDR) students are given special treatment in the Australian universities in terms of study support because increasing number of successful HDR students can bring financial advantages. For instance, QUT Library has a dedicated webpage for research only; on the library website there are one tab for ‘students’ and another for ‘researchers’, although HDR students may be included under ‘students’, the separate tab for them just highlight the importance given to them. HDR students enjoy the privileges of tailor made programs, products and services in Australian universities. According to Keller, academic libraries welcome the HDR students with emails and offer of appointments with their liaison librarians. She further argues that this sort of special treatment may be influenced the government policies.

The support HDR students receive are in the form of orientation session, research training workshops and seminars, self-help guides and one-to-one consultations etc. Libraries have the mandate to ensure that researchers and academics get adequate support. Moreover, academic librarians like to think of themselves not merely as the support system rather as partners in research.

Last but not the least, when we talk about the research support for HDR students, we need to consider the following questions?

  1. Are HDR students utilizing the research support offered by the library?
  2. Are the liaison librarians competent enough to provide adequate assistance?
  3. What are the success rates of such programs products and services?

 

Issues based reflection – Unattended children in the library

Most of the Twitter champions from the last class felt that children should not be left unattended at the library for their own safety and for the benefits of others in the library. These children who use the library to wait for their parents/carer are termed as “Latchkey children” by Penny Peck. Latchkey children have been a major concern for the libraries everywhere. Libraries do not mind these children using the library after school as long as they behave and do not disrupt others at the library. However, when they are made to wait long hours for their parents/carers to pick them up, they get bored get in other’s way or unnecessarily occupy space and materials they could have been otherwise used by the patrons in need of these things. There are also safety issues to be considered; while library staff are busy at work these children could get injured by climbing the book shelves, getting hit by heavy objects or get electrocuted by fiddling with the electric sockets.

Some children are left without adult supervision at the libraries because “access to a safe place after school for children who have no caregiver at home is a challenge.” Also some children are raised by single parent who cannot afford after-school childcare or both the parents are working or some parents just don’t care enough. While some parents may leave the children at the local or public library everyday some just leave them there in case of exceptional circumstances. Hopefully these children are not huge in numbers.

Latchkey children are violating the whole purpose of the libraries, the librarians cannot be expected to supervise the kids because that is not what they do neither do they have time for it. Therefore the age factor is very important aspect of unsupervised children in the libraries. Parents should be made aware that children under certain age cannot be left unattended; this can be achieved by having in place a firm rule/policy, still if children under age are left unattended get in touch with the parents or carers. The last resort is to contact the law enforcement agencies as they can determine if the children are left for abandonment.

Yet libraries cannot get rid of the latchkey children completely as they are governed by the teen policy which gives children the equal rights to access the materials as their adult counterparts. The best solution is to work out a middle path that works well for the children and the libraries. Our Twitter champ @Angelchick83 suggested imposing age limit on the unsupervised children may work, however in the end it all boils down to policies, rules and regulations and making the stakeholders aware of such rules about what is allowed and what is not.