Monday, May 23, 2016

IPAL Information Literacy Interest Group Spring Conference 2016 Recap

Twenty-three attended the Information Literacy Interest Group session held March 19, 2016 at Grand View University in Des Moines. We began with brief introductions followed by a guided reflection on teaching characteristics and non-traditional learning objects or experiences based on Char Booth’s Reflective teaching, effective learning: Instructional literacy for library educators. Individuals articulated influential instructors from their past or peer group and the attributes they most admire or wish to emulate in their own teaching. Participants also identified three memorable non-classroom-based learning experiences that connected them with a meaningful way to learn. That prompted a lively small-group discussion.

Kristy Raine provided an instruction example that modeled connecting instruction and outcomes to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. The small groups then reconvened to discuss and brainstorm how they may apply the Framework and modify their current instruction. Each small group recorded their Framework brainstorming, which is shared below.

If you are interested in being part of the planning process for future events like this, fall ILA conference meet-ups, online hangouts, or would like to contribute guest posts to the blog, please indicate your interest here:

Below are the materials used or created during the event.

Reflective Teaching Activity prompts/chart:

Kristy Raine's lesson example connecting instruction and outcomes to the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education:

ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education Pocket Guide:

Framework "Solution or Sympathy" group brainstorming:
Group 1

Group 2

Group 3

Group 4

Group 5

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

IPAL 2016 IL Interest Group - May 19 Preview

In the world of bibliographic instruction, librarians know that “anything goes.”   Your role varies with each class, instructors’ expectations, planned activities, goals in teaching, and the inevitable chaos (and joy) that can result.

You are invited to join the morning session of the Information Literacy Interest Group (IPAL) to discuss challenges, successes, and other unique situations that are part of a teaching librarian’s life. The IPAL Conference will be held on May 19, 2016 at Grand View University in Des Moines.

Attendees are encouraged to bring a description of a recent teaching activity.  The session will feature time to explore your selection in light of the new ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education. Those with an interest in library instruction, whether you’re from a small, private college, or a large, Regent university, are welcome to attend! This session runs from 10:15 a.m.-noon.

 Questions about the upcoming IL group session can be directed to Cara Stone, Grand View University (cstone [@], Becky Canovan, University of Dubuque (BCanovan [@] dbq.ued), and Kristy Raine, Mount Mercy University (kraine [@]

Friday, April 15, 2016

Idea Generators from Social Media 

I lurk on social media. 

I watch and listen and wait for inspiration to strike (or ideas to steal). Occasionally I’ll post a note or share something in a group, but mostly I listen and appreciate the community that is librarianship. But there’s a certain level of pressure associated with social media. Who should I follow? How much should I participate? What if I want to stop following this big, important, well-known library person because it winds up I’m not interested in their kitty pictures (because sometimes, I’m just really not in the mood). Just as it takes some of us a bit longer to realize that it is okay to give up on a book that’s just not doing it for us, we can do the same with social media. I quit Snapchat so hard, and I’m more than okay with that. We all have the right to say “Nah, that’s not my deal” and walk away.

But sometimes I need a reminder, so here are some things I remind myself about social media:
  • It is what you make of it, and what you want it to be. Do all of it or none of it or something in between. It’s okay.
  • You can’t read everything on Twitter, or even Facebook, now. There’s just too much content. It’s ok to sit back and see what rises to the top. If it’s important it will likely be shared more than once and you’ll catch it then.
  • What rises up will likely be under this bubble or filter of bias, meaning like people share similar views and, thus, similar things. Remember to step outside of that bubble to get multiple perspectives, especially if it is something that is important to you.
  • Different networks are for different things, even though the same content is sometimes shared across multiple platforms. Try out a few, figure out which is the best fit, and go from there.
  • Feel free to lurk. I lurk in Facebook groups, on Twitter, on Foursquare, and learn a lot about what I like and don’t like about certain formats.
  • If you have something to say, if you feel like it’s worth sharing then put it out there! We’re all just learning from each other!

In terms of library idea-sharing, which groups do I appreciate the most? Here are just a few (certainly not a complete or exhaustive list), along with a brief description:
  • LMaO - Library Marketing and Outreach:
    • This group is so awesome! I love the pictures and questions shared! The group description says, “An ACRL group created for Academic Librarians interested in Marketing and Outreach. Please share ideas and events from your libraries! This group is for: - Sharing ideas, resources, websites, software, etc. to help us market our libraries and their services. Emphasis on FREE or low cost resources! - Show off the work you do: your success stories and your failures, ask for help from others, and plan for local meet ups in your state to exchange ideas!”
    • According to the description, “This is a group for anyone who is interested in developing e-learning for library purposes. We will share ideas and engage in discussion about e-learning.  Public, academic, school, and special library staff are all encouraged to join. E-learning can include screencasts, tutorials, videos, and any other training delivered in an online format, and may be for library staff or patrons.”
    • I love taking ideas and seeing how many different formats I can deliver it with--Can I take an online video idea and turn it into a classroom activity? Let’s try! Plus, learning about new tech tools is always a good idea!
    • I love staying connected with local folks and hearing about issues, successes, and everything in between, so this group is great! “Iowa Library Association, Association of College and Research Libraries division discussion group. Membership in this Facebook group is open to everyone, everywhere. Maintained by ILA ACRL Electronic Communications Committee.”
    • I know there are tons of folks who absolutely love this group. I was in for a bit and decided it was 1) too much stuff, and 2) not always relevant to me in my small-library life.

If you’re looking to lurk on other libraries’ pages, check out this compilation of links from 2013:
Pages I don’t follow but probably should:

Things I forget about on Twitter until they pop up:

Where do you lurk to find the best ideas? Where do you find the best sense of community online? Share in the comments below!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Guest Post: Taking a Step Back: When Instruction Basics Need to be Revisited in a New Environment

iLOVE welcomes a guest post from Holly Schettler, Reference & Instruction Librarian at Morningside College in Sioux City, IA.


Humans in general are always looking forward. Time pushes us onward even when we wish to reminisce or scrutinize the past. It only makes sense, then, that we do the same in our careers. Librarians focus on building the literacy skills of our students, creating a scaffolding that will (hopefully) carry them through their future research; but what happens when that scaffolding fails? Without a strong enough foundation, that is exactly what we face--students that fall short of their research goals.

Academic research is often associated with peer-reviewed academic journals or other resources deemed to be purely scholarly, yet such a narrow viewpoint has its downfalls. More and more freshmen are entering college with a limited knowledge of library databases and keyword searching; these “digital natives” are immediately drawn to Google to find resources for academic research. Often their default search-engine-instinct results in research based upon unreliable sources. I listen to faculty lament their students’ failed attempts at quality research, despite the abundance of subscription resources supplied by the library.

So what is a librarian to do in this situation? I suggest we look to a new environment to build these research skills--Google. Yes, students are already using Google to do their research. Yes, they are not finding great resources by doing so. But if we can teach students to use Google (and other search engines) effectively and truly evaluate online resources before using them (instead of as a mindless default), then those skills can carry them forward into unknown territory--that of library databases.

Thankfully many of our first year course instructors have embraced online research due to the nature of their topics or themes. Some common themes we see include: popular culture, environmental awareness, science and technology, current issues facing the world, etc. These themes lend themselves to utilizing both resources we find in our databases as well as resources that can be found freely available online.  In these cases, we can start where the students are familiar (Google) and build up to using more advanced platforms (library databases). We can evaluate resources on the web, and then transfer those skills to different types of resources provided by the library. Instead of saying “NO! Don’t use Google!” and causing students to lose confidence in the way they have been researching, we can say “Google is an appropriate starting place for your research in these types of cases...”

The concept extends beyond first year courses as well. Consider the business department--a number of sources utilized by business students can be found free (or at least partially free) online: Forbes, Business Insider, Advertising Age, and Bloomberg Business, just to name a few. When doing company research, where should students start? The company website, of course! But often, without teaching students how to find, use, and evaluate websites, they land on the company’s consumer website, not the site that will give them the information they need for their research. Surprisingly, most students I have worked with do not even know how to locate the “About” page on a website in order to evaluate the source! If the information is not in plain sight, most students will give up or use the resource without evaluating it. Thus, we need to invest time into training students the proper way to “Google,” particularly for first year students and those in specific departments like business.

Once students have mastered their skills in Google, the next logical step would be a discovery service, where students can search in a manner similar to Google but locate resources provided by their library. Again, we are building skills and scaffolding information literacy, but simply starting the process in a new environment--one that most students believe they are familiar with already. Essentially, this allows students to build confidence in their research skills without having to get over the initial shock of being told they can’t or shouldn’t use Google for their research. It is a tale some of them have heard before in high school--a knee-jerk reaction to the overconfidence of digital natives--but one that should not be continued in college.

It should be noted that some students will have received more preparation for scholarly research in high school than others, meaning some students may be more comfortable jumping into library database research immediately. I am not proposing a complete abandonment of library resource training in the first year courses. At Morningside, we also cover basic database usage in our first year classes, including research within Academic Search Premier and Opposing Viewpoints in Context. But even for students who are somewhat familiar with certain library databases, effective Google searching is important. Many digital natives do not realize how poor their search skills are and can become increasingly frustrated by not being able to locate that for which they are searching.

Of course, this discussion of beginning research skills in Google lends to a discussion of information literacy skills being taught in high schools, which unfortunately are lacking due to the inadequate number of librarians employed in those institutions. A revisiting of the topic may be warranted upon a change in the landscape, but currently most college librarians are left starting from scratch when it comes to educating students on information literacy. So what can we do in the current landscape? Build a foundation of skills that is strong, and that will carry the students forward, even if that foundation is in Google.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Guest Post: Resist the Urge to Google: IL Challenges with Business Students

iLOVE welcomes a guest post from Kristy Raine, Reference Librarian and Archivist at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids, IA.


In the early-2000s, my campus’ library began its consultant program, pairing staff with academic programs and departments.  Most of us, at the time, were “humanities kids,” literature and history types. As we divided up responsibilities, someone had to take the business department. Knowing the gaping hole in my knowledge about the field, I volunteered to assume the role, a “baptism by fire approach,” as my mother would say.  A decade later, I am still working with business students and have seen several changes in the department, including two thriving graduate tracks (MBA and MSL), now accounting for almost 250 students.

Our campus is commonly known as a “nursing school,” but we have twice as many students in business. They come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including a high volume of adult students working on a Bachelors or Masters’ degree at night.  We also have a significant number of adjuncts teaching night courses, many with long-term associations to the campus, implying they know my role with the department and that library services are available for them and their students. My usual, shameless approach to ingratiating myself with an adjunct is to help with some task and then ask if his or her students will also need to know the same process.  If so, how about letting me come to class to show them how to find a company report? Search a subject in one of our databases?  Find a book in the collection or compare company financials?  It’s a slightly wicked way to step into a class, but nonetheless, has started many nice relationships with faculty.  Most are quick to acknowledge that they needed help, and in turn, students should ask for help too.

As the web continues to promote content that passes as “business research,” we keep pulling our students back to subscription databases that offer them reliable options.  We know the Internet is not a level-playing field. Explaining that reality with a CRAP test or your favorite, similar mechanism can be a healthy wake-up call for students at any point in their journey.  At times, I feel like a lawyer, cross-examining a witness, asking him/her to explain one’s reasoning and why a website appears in their source list. However, if this grilling makes them reconsider using commercial content (aka “garbage”) for a class assignment, I am delighted.  This phenomenon of poor resource choices exists across the spectrum of students and courses.  Giving students hands-on activities that evaluate web content continues to be a part of my work, with the idea that we move from simple to complex situations, all the while applying the same criteria to the evaluation.  I’ve seen graduate students laugh at my declaration of a “CRAP test,” but those same students then struggle to explain why a website should or should not be used in a formal writing situation.

Our library also has a second sword to bear -- APA style.  The business department mandated (some years ago) that it would be the standard for citing.  Some instructors are highly familiar (and talented) with the conventions, given their own research.  Some have a general sense of the structure, and others have no clue as to the mechanics.  Despite this variety of scenarios, students are told to use it, even though many receive no guidance in class as to why we use it, what it looks like, what the components mean, etc.  How do we face that mountain? Some years ago, our library designed our own APA guide, a blue handout that remains the library’s most popular offering for academic support.  We take it with us to class visits, share it online, and promote it with faculty.  We offer class visits specifically to give practice with citing, explaining how it works, and answer questions whenever they come in person, by phone, email, or chat.  We’ve recently expanded our APA offerings to include instructional videos, sample papers, and advanced help with more complex scenarios.

I am no master of APA, no matter how often I hear that comment.  I’ve practiced it for years, sometimes believing I can see it in my sleep during spring paper rushes when a hundred or more students ask for a second pair of eyes with a references list. This fall, I decided to make sure that our upperclassmen could prove they “knew” APA.  Confident, this group of seniors was excited when I declared that we’d be doing an activity called the “APA Olympics.”  I noted that there would be no partial credit, no second guesses, and prizes for the top three teams (medals, you know).  Following three blistering rounds of heading hurdles, a citation marathon, and an in-text citation relay, I had scared some of them, which truly, was my intent.  They spoke to their faculty, mentioned how the activity had shown them they still needed help, and we saw more of them at the desk than we’d seen in some time. The activity can be modified for any sort of subject or course -- it’s just the paces you put them through that counts.

In spite of this litany of challenges, I thoroughly enjoy my relationship with the business department and know that the faculty want the best opportunities for their students.  They advocate for the library’s services, and we continue to break down the wall that seems to keep management and marketing students from regularly gracing our doors.  If that means being a roving librarian with handouts and candy, I’ll do it.  If it means a five-minute presentation to a class, I’ll try it.  Night and weekend class visits are also a reality, as is the new APA information series offered to our graduate students.  Making connections to the students is crucial for all of us, and we’ve felt some success with these efforts.  We’ll keep looking for new ideas and activities to share the importance of quality research and successful citing. And somewhere in the midst of this journey, I hope business majors are running away from Google, running very far away.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Ask the Masses: Guide on the Side

Becky asks:

Does anyone have any experience using Guide on the Side?

I am new to the world of online/interactive tutorials. I have been looking at Articulate Storyline, and while I think this product is helpful for some topics, I like the idea of a "live" experience with a database if I am creating tutorials.

Any other ideas, suggestions? What software do you use and why?

Share your answers/observations/experiences in the comments section below!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Guest Post: Solidifying a Foundation of Learning Through Scaffolding

iLOVE welcomes a guest post from Dan Chibnall, User Services and Instruction Design Librarian at Grand View University in Des Moines, IA.


Instruction librarians have the difficult task of not only needing to understand lots of different ideas and topics but also the information literacy skills surroundings those topics. But how do we know if we truly understand something well enough? The key is how we communicate it and how much the students understand it when we’re finished. One approach that I take with quite a few of my embedded librarian courses is scaffolding assignments and activities to help promote understanding of a new skill.

Scaffolding is an instruction technique that gradually moves students towards an understanding of a concept or skill set. Also, scaffolding aids students in becoming more independent learners by having them work on a skill over a longer period of time, make mistakes, learn from those mistakes, get frequent feedback, and eventually seeing how to use it in multiple courses or situations.

Information literacy skills and scaffolding go hand-in-hand. The skills we’re all familiar with are the types of skills that require frequent trial-and-error sessions in order to learn them (having a purpose, retrieving sources, analyzing a source, etc.) One of those skills is evaluating sources, which college students need to do often. Scaffolding allows a step-by-step approach.

For example, while working with a literature course the faculty member and I decide to try a scaffolded approach to web evaluation. Students frequently attempt to use websites right away in their research, so we wanted to make sure they knew how to evaluate them properly. The first step was to teach the students some basic criteria they could use to evaluate websites pertaining to a specific topic of Realist authors. Students were then asked to create a rubric using the basic criteria and use that rubric with the websites they found. The faculty member and I then assessed their choices and their rubrics. 

During the next session we talked to the students about what worked and what didn’t, gave them tips for improving their rubrics, and gave them more advanced criteria to evaluate websites. They then worked with partners and in groups to go back to the drawing board and try again. The results the next time around were much more promising. From that point on the faculty member and I could look at their websites in their annotated bibliographies and give more feedback to the students. Each time they were asked to find a web source, they got better at it.

I take another approach with large, end-of-semester projects. In a seminar class that I teach, students are asked to investigate a local nonprofit organization. The assignment asks them to pull together research, interviews with employees, observation information from their visit to the location, etc. In years past I have noticed that students will often wait until the final weeks of the semester to work on big projects, so I scaffold the nonprofit assignment to allow them to work on it throughout the semester.

The nonprofit assignment is broken down into components called Status Updates that ask the students to work on different skills from week 3-week 12. For example, in the first Status Update the students are asked to explain what their nonprofit is, find some basic outside information about them, and find some opinion pieces written about them. This is the first step in retrieving info and evaluating it. Every Status Update builds on this, asking them to find and evaluate more difficult sources, higher amounts of information, and integrating it incrementally into their writing. By the end of week 12 or week 13 they have almost nine-tenths of their final assignment complete.

There are a variety of ways to scaffold an assignment or activity, but the key to it is patience and starting with the end in mind. Determine what it is you want the students to learn or know by the end of it all, then work backwards. Make the project big enough so you can break it into pieces. The most important part, though, is giving lots of feedback to the students about how they’re doing. They won’t learn much from it without feedback at each step of the way.

So good luck if you want to try it! Contact me if you have questions or you can read the article that my colleague and I wrote about our collaboration.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ask the Masses: Screencasts and Online Instruction

We've had a couple of submissions for Ask the Masses, and we'll be rolling those out over the next several weeks, in addition to our wonderful guest posts.

Katelyn asks:

What software do you use to do screencasts of instruction?  How much instruction do you put online?

Share your answers/observations/experiences in the comments section below!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Guest Post: Archives and the First-year Student in IL

iLOVE welcomes a guest post from Stella Herzig, Reference and Instruction Librarian at St Ambrose University in Davenport, IA.


Talking about saving stuff for future historians has always been a subject of interest to me. I urge my relatives to use archival quality folders and print out best photos from their iPhones. When it came to my Information Literacy 101 class, a one-credit required course at St. Ambrose University, I would usually jump onto my soapbox for a few minutes concerning that subject and, more often than not, all I achieved were rolling eyes. One year it occurred to me and to the University archivist, Onnica Marquez, that instead of the “Special Collections and Archives” being a 5 minute stop on the big library tour I gave on the first day of class, we could spend a class period actually in the room being interactive and maybe frame some IL concepts.

I generally err on the side of fun and wanted it to be hands on. So the archivist and I collaborate to teach a 75 minute class. (She does a great first 30 minute CSI: Archives activity before the activity below that I hope she will share in this very blog one day.) She gathers and sets out a collection of old yearbooks, college catalogs and student handbooks from the very start of the college in 1880’s through to the 1980s.

The students break into groups for each decade and find fun and interesting facts, rules, tuition rates, photos to share with the big group. There is often laughter from the restrictions, clothes styles and various ads, even font styles du jour, etc.…

We then come back together and each group shared what they found starting with the first decade chronologically. It shows a progression of change we comment on – we all see history and social mores changing. We talk about primary sources and how useful it is to view the originals without filters. We discuss the manner in which their cohort of the 21st century would be included in the archives. Digitally? It is a chance to expose the fragility and gaps of historical documentation of campus life today.

I take a group photo of them (with one kid wearing the woolen school beanie from the 1950s) with my own iPhone and print it out on archival paper and store it in those very archives for the students in 60-100 years to look at and laugh at! The students love it! I encourage them to submit digital photos that they take on campus or at campus events to the archivist who can print them out and save in the archives for their story to carry on.

Outcome? A lesson on the use of primary sources, an understanding of what an archive is and how they could use it, not only here, but elsewhere and a commitment to preserve their own present for future generations -- not to mention, as first-year students, a sense of collegiate loyalty and buy-in (retention, anyone?).


Phillips, C. N., & Shaw, D. W. (2011). Fact, fiction, and first-years: Helping students imaginatively engage the archives (early!). Journal for the Society of North Carolina Archivists, 9(1), 50-60. Retrieved from Library, Information Science & Technology Abstracts database.

LeFrance, A. (2015, October 28). Raiders of the lost web. Retrieved from the Atlantic web site: 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Guest Post: IL Instruction Reflections from a New Librarian

iLOVE welcomes a guest post from Greg Ludwig, Student Employee and Circulation Services Librarian at Loras College in Dubuque, IA.


At the interview for my current position at Loras College, one of the members of the search committee asked, “Which responsibilities for this position do you feel least prepared for?” I didn’t have to think a minute, because I had exactly zero experience teaching information literacy concepts to classrooms of undergraduates. Fortunately, teaching is not the primary responsibility associated with my position, or it’s likely that I wouldn’t have gotten the job. Even more fortunately, my fellow librarians at Loras have patiently helped me to ease into the process of teaching by involving me in curriculum design, modelling effective teaching in the classroom, and providing feedback about the classes that I have taught. Now that the semester is within a few short weeks of its conclusion, and I have a number of classes under my belt, I’d like to share a few of my observations as someone entirely new to teaching in a formal setting.

Let me start by discussing curriculum design. During the summer, I worked with my colleagues on revising our approach to the foundational information literacy courses that we teach. To orient ourselves to the problem of developing a curriculum that would be engaging and responsive to the needs of our students, we read and discussed Reflective Teaching, Effective Learning: Instructional Literacy for Library Educators by Char Booth. If you are looking for a good text about learner-focused library instruction, this book would be well worth a read. As an outsider to IL instruction, I found the following highlights particularly useful:

  • The instructional design process is recursive, driven by ongoing evaluation of classroom outcomes.
  • Not everyone can teach effectively in exactly the same way. Developing an identity as a teacher is a huge part of reaching your audience.
  • Whether designing instruction or teaching, it’s essential to keep the needs of your audience in mind. Ms. Booth refers to this as the “What’s in it for me?” principle.

Based on our discussions of the book and an analysis of our information literacy assessment from the previous year, we developed a program that we hoped would build upon the strengths identified in our IL assessment and shore up some of the areas that were not as strong. This was the hope, but of course, I didn’t want to be the one to dash our hopes right off the bat with a lackluster performance.

I was saved by the grace of my colleagues, who allowed me to audit several of the classes that they taught using our new curriculum before I had to teach my own. By closely observing how they interacted in the classroom, taking notes, and asking questions at the end of each class, I felt much better prepared to begin teaching. I know that many librarians have been introduced to classroom instruction via a “sink or swim” approach, learning on the fly how to manage a classroom and convey information literacy concepts, but I’m really glad that I was given a “life jacket” first.

When the time came for me to teach my first classes, my colleagues switched places with me, auditing my classes and giving me notes, feedback, and encouragement. During these initial classes, I learned to keep a close watch on the time and use a checklist to make sure that I was staying on schedule. I learned to modulate the volume and tone of my voice to hold the attention of the room. Most importantly, I learned when to stick to the script of the curriculum that we had designed and when to improvise and make changes.

At this point, it would be too much for me to say that I think that I’ve become a great teacher, but I do feel confident to lead a classroom, and I do genuinely enjoy the experience of teaching. Could I have developed this ease as an instructor without the same immersive and gradual approach to learning about instruction? Perhaps. However, I’m pretty sure that I arrived at my current place with greater efficiency because I didn’t have to invent myself as a teacher whole cloth. I hope this can be food for thought for those hiring new librarians who will be teaching. I’m curious about the experience of other information professionals out there. What education/training did you receive related to information literacy instruction? How did you feel the first time that you were in front of a classroom? Please feel free to post comments!