Academic Librarians 2012 Conference : The Future is Now! Creatively Reaching and Teaching in Academic Libraries

This past June, Professors Adler Schiff and Stempler attended the Academic Librarians 2012 Conference entitled The Future is Now! Creatively Reaching and Teaching in Academic Libraries. The conference, which was sponsored by the Academic and Special Libraries section of the New York Library Association (NYLA), was held on the campus of Syracuse University.

Professor Adler Schiff’s report:

With my long standing interest in 21st Century Literacies and the integration of Visual Literacy within the framework of Information Literacy in particular,  I attended the conference sessions conducted by Kaila Bussert, and Camille Andrews, both of Cornell University.  Ms. Bussert, co-author of the recent ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, in her talk emphasized the need for present day college students, living as they do in a dramatically changing media landscape, to think critically about visual media and to appreciate all the implications of images themselves assuming their proper place among the literacy elements.  The new ACRL standards promulgated by Ms. Bussert define a visually literate individual as someone who has the ability “to effectively find, interpret, evaluate, use, and create images and visual media.”  By those standards, visual literacy competence comprises not only accessing and evaluating visual content, but creating it as well.  As with Information Literacy, a library program promoting Visual Literacy must make sure that the framework of ethical, legal, social, and economic issues surrounding the creation and use of images and visual media is recognized by users and practitioners.  Given all the ramifications, applications, and implications of the various literacies in our 21st century digitized world, I came away with the feeling that librarians could do more on their respective campuses to integrate visual literacy into existing library instruction programs. For example, they could aim for a closer collaboration with faculty who use visual media in their classes, and with, for that matter, members of the academic community such as an educational technologist or media personnel who specifically support the creation of media content.

Professor Stempler’s Report:

As Coordinator of Library Instruction, I was interested in conference sessions related to information literacy, including ideas to increase measurable outcomes of library instruction, and ways to promote collaboration between teaching and library faculty in order to meet such goals.

Among many interesting presentations, she found “Finding Information: A Relationship Thing,” by Lead Anthropologist at the University of Rochester, Nancy Foster, to be the most thought-provoking.  Using anthropological methodology, Foster conducted an ethnographic study in the University’s River City Campus Library to examine the relationships between students and scholars.  Her research culminated in co-authoring the work, Studying Students: the Undergraduate Research Project at the University of Rochester, which details the innovative application of ethnographic tools in order to understand how undergraduate students seek and use information, and offered suggestions for how academic librarians may use these techniques.

In addition to discussing the foundation her approach, rooted in the field of participatory design which began in the 1960s and 1970s in Scandinavia, Foster reviewed the significant results of her study.  Foster noted that academically mature students collaborate to find research resources.  She emphasized that general maturity mirrors academic maturity.  Skills such as time management and the ability to analyze rather than summarize, advance with age.  For example, Foster believes that is acceptable if students simply use the first two articles they find, as they will delve deeper into scholarly sources as they mature and become more interested in research topics.

Some noteworthy statistics from her study on student searching behavior include:

  • 28% of students learned of resources from word of mouth and personal contact
  • 43% of students learned of resources from footnotes
  • Less than 50% of students learned of resources from Amazon recommendations

Foster also added that students view faculty as anyone invested in their learning, including cafeteria workers, and that students do not seek help from librarians because they have no relationship with them.  This finding led me to believe that approaches such as embedded librarianship may help repair such sentiments.

The most immediate take-away from the session was Foster’s suggestion to librarians to use language familiar to students.  She offered the example that librarians at the University of Illinois found success upon changing their “Term Paper Research Clinic” to “Librarian Office Hours,” noting the term ‘clinic’ was unfamiliar to students.  At the end of each semester, the CSI Library has been holding a “Citation Clinic” to provide students with one-on-one help with citations in their final papers.  In an effort to increase participation, we took Foster’s advice, and changed the name to “Help with Citations.” Stay tuned to the Library’s homepage for more information!”

For more information please contact:

Rebecca Adler Schiff
Associate Professor & Coordinator of Reference Services
(718) 982.4064

Amy F. Stempler
Assistant Professor & Coordinator of Library Instruction
(718) 982.3917