Thursday, December 15, 2011

We Have Come to the End...

We have come to the end of the practicum.  During the course of the semester I spent 152 hours learning the in's and out's of being a Reference Librarian at Mississippi College's Leland Speed Library (  I observed Information Literacy sessions, learned about plagiarism, maintained hours at the Reference Desk, researched Document Delivery Suppliers and analyzed the university's serials subscriptions for unnecessary duplication.  I also created a grants LibGuide, researched RRSA (Research Readiness Self-Assessment) and SAILS (Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills), took the RRSA and SAILS tests, proctored others while they took the RRSA test, and created a Student Worker Training LibGuide.  I learned a lot as a result of this practicum and was able to put into practice some things I've learned as a student in the LIS program at the University of Southern Mississippi.  Not only did I have opportunities to practice the "Reference Interview" but I was able to hone my research skills as well.

With only four courses left before I graduate from the MLIS program, the future is looking bright.  One result of this practicum is that it prepared me to be a Reference Librarian.  Another result, or rather an indirect result, is that I will begin my new position as a Reference Librarian starting January 1st.  Although the practicum prepared me to do many things, there are still lessons I need to learn and skills I need to develop that will come with time and practice.

The benefit of the practicum is that it gave me access to good resources, helped me develop stronger relationships with my co-workers and those who will help me develop my career, and provided some finished products that will be used by many individuals in the future.  The two LibGuides I developed will be helpful to faculty, staff, and students.  The knowledge gained from developing these resources will be put to use as I create LibGuides for other disciplines, subjects, or classes.  In fact, the Student Worker Training LibGuide will be used from now on to train our student workers in how to better serve our patrons.  This guide will help our workers learn various library procedures and policies. The Serials Audit that I worked on will be used to make future decisions of what titles to cancel or buy in a different format.  The research conducted on Document Delivery Suppliers yielded almost immediate results as the library made arrangements with one of the suppliers to use their services.

In conclusion, since I had a good practicum experience, I strongly recommend this for others if the circumstances permit.  Practicums are a great way to apply the knowledge gained through LIS courses.  They provide "teeth" for the information digested during various courses.  With all of this said, I feel the practicum experience was invaluable and would do it all over again if I had the opportunity.

Thanks for staying tuned and following my adventure this semester!


Images of the Leland Speed Library:

Sunday, December 11, 2011

SAILS and Beyond...

Classes at MC ended on Wednesday and Finals began on Friday.  The library filled up with students early in the week and became busier and busier everyday.  Although there were basically no reference questions, and only a few random questions related to printing or using programs such as WORD, there were still projects to accomplish.

One activity that I worked on was to take the SAILS test.  This stands for Standardized Assessment of Information Literacy Skills and is provided by Kent State University.  According to the Project SAILS website, it is "a knowledge test with multiple-choice questions targeting a variety of information literacy skills.  These test items are based on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education" (Project SAILS, 2011).  Many consider this test to be the "gold standard" for information literacy assessment.

The SAILS test has many strengths and a few weaknesses.  The test costs $3.00 per student and is administered online.  The test provides an "overall information literacy score for each student" that "identifies proficiency and mastery levels" (Project SAILS, 2011).  It measures the following eight skill sets as mentioned on the Project SAILS (2011) website:
  • Developing a research strategy
  • Selecting a finding tool
  • Searching
  • Using finding tool features
  • Retrieving sources
  • Evaluating sources
  • Documenting sources
  • Understanding economic, legal, and social issues
This customizable 45-question (cohort based) test takes approximately 45 minutes to complete.  The questions are very detailed and are almost too difficult for those who have a general knowledge of research. Some of the test questions related to Government Documents, which might not be too applicable for certain disciplines or majors.  For example, one question dealt with locating a Government Document by showing an item record and asking what item would help a student find this resource.  The average student attending a liberal arts college might not know about the SuDoc numbering system and would have to make a very uneducated guess to answer the question.

Besides a few difficult, almost irrelevant questions the SAILS test focuses on research knowledge and does not show a student's self-perception of research skills versus actual research skills like the RRSA (see blog post from 12/3/11 entitled, "Proctoring the RRSA").  Since I took the SAILS cohort based test, feedback will not be received for a few weeks.  The RRSA provides immediate feedback to both the administrator and the individual, which has strengths because discussion within a classroom setting can take place.  Individuals can ask questions about their findings and receive answers to questions about the test results.  Otherwise, when test results are not immediate and/or provided to the individual directly, the effect of the test might be diminished, especially if follow-up to the test is delayed or not carried out.

For Reference Librarians who teach information literacy, assessment tests can help show areas that need to be covered, or at least areas where students lack knowledge or skills.  In library school, we have learned about plagiarism, scholarly research/resources, proper citation, and other bits of knowledge/skills that will prove useful for addressing areas measured by tests such as SAILS.

In addition to working on the SAILS test and learning more about it, I spent a small amount of time working on the Information Commons Student Worker Training Libguide.  More information on this libguide will be provided in the week to come.  Finishing this libguide will be the final project of my practicum.  I have almost made it to the end.  Stay connected to read about the end of my practicum....


Kent State University. (2011). Project SAILS. Retrieved from

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Proctoring the RRSA

Returning to work after the Thanksgiving Break seemed to be the lull before the upcoming storm.  Some students returned to campus with projects, papers and tests, but the majority came back with finals and final projects on the brain.  Classes at Mississippi College end on Wednesday of this upcoming week and finals begin on Friday.  I anticipate this upcoming week to be a very busy one, but this past week was not too busy.

One highlight of this past week was that I helped proctor the RRSA test for three sections of English 101.  It was a unique experience, in part because it reminded me a little of what it was like to be a freshman, but also because this proctoring was one of my first experiences in leading a group of college students in this capacity.  My practicum site adviser led the first section of test takers.  I was able to listen to her introduction, follow her lead, and help with some troubleshooting.  For the second class session, my site adviser encouraged me to introduce the test and get them started.  She stepped in only when necessary to troubleshoot or to help me address a thing or two that I forgot to mention.  For the third class session, she gave me the full responsibility, which went very well.  I felt this gave me a small taste of what it will be like to teach an Information Literacy session in the future.

Although the RRSA test seems to be well developed and has good logic behind it (see blog entry from November 19th entitled, "RRSA and More"), we experienced a few trouble spots.  One student had a problem getting registered.  Her enrollment key came up as not valid, but it should have worked.  We  moved her to another computer and after a little while, we were able to get her set up, but we could not figure out why she had this problem.  Another issue was that some students could not get into the test about the same time that the majority of students tried to enter.  There are no "seat" limits, or at least we did not reach our enrollment limit, so this could not be the problem.  We wondered if maybe there were too many people trying to enter the test at the exact same time, but we are not certain about this theory.

There was one problem that perplexed both the main test proctor and myself.  One student began answering questions, but only made it to question 3 before the test booted her out.  After a few times of this same problem reoccurring, I encouraged her to skip the first few problems and move on.  When she came back to theses questions later on, she had the same problem again.  At first the test booted her, but she could get back in to see questions she answered up to that point.  After a few tries, however, the test booted her out for good and her results were gone when she came back in.

It seems that RRSA has some strengths and weaknesses.  The main strength is that it measures students' perceptions about their research abilities and their actual abilities.  On the other hand there have been a few trouble areas and some minor issues when administering the test.  Although it has a professional feel to it, there are still some areas of improvement that could be made.

In library school, I have spent much time learning research skills and the reasons to not rely solely on the internet for answers.  I've learned about plagiarism, methods of effective search strategies, how to construct proper citations, and other things that are covered on RRSA.  When I took the test on my own, I scored fairly high in the appropriate areas, which helped me realize just how much I've learned from library school.

Stay tuned for the last two weeks of my practicum.  The end (of the practicum) is almost here...

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Crunch Time is Quickly Approaching

With Thanksgiving Break making this a short week, there was only enough time for a shift at the Reference Desk.  After we come back from this break, "Crunch Time" is just around the corner.  For some universities, there is only a week-and-a-half of classes remaining before the study day and then finals.  For others there are about three weeks of the semester remaining.  This means later nights for some, final projects or papers for others, and of course the dreaded last tests called finals.  Although I did not have a busy shift at the desk, I am wondering if that will pick up over the next week or two.

A research project completed by the Project Information Literacy group (PIL for short) focuses on how students use technology during "crunch time."  This research report is entitled, "How College Students Manage Technology While in the Library During Crunch Time" and can be found at: I read this report which looked at how college students in a few community colleges, private universities, and public universities handled their use of technology while studying for finals or completing their remaining projects for the semester.  The results were quite interesting.

Although some students make use of the library as a place to hang out or kill time while waiting for their next class or final, many come to the library to study, complete assignments, or use technological devices for communicating with teachers or classmates.  The students in this report used various library resources such as computers or printers, library portals, databases, and even the snack shop. Some took the opportunity to receive fact-to-face time with librarians.  In fact, many students combined their use of resources by using library computers to access library portals or databases.

In addition to taking advantage of library resources, students used their own personal resources such as cell/smart phones, laptops, or media/audio players.  These items were applied to browse the internet, check email, type papers, listen to music, listen to sound files they had recorded for studying purposes, or even use "presentation software" (such as PowerPoint).  Many students used websites such as Facebook, Google (email),, or YouTube to communicate with classmates about assignments, take a break from studying, search the web for information, or watch a video related to the subject matter they were studying.

The conclusion of this research report was favorable as it commended students for doing a good job of managing technology instead of using it haphazardly.  During crunch time, at least according to this report, students are using technology to really help themselves study or to better prepare for finishing their semester well.  Although the students in this report multitasked and used various technologies, none of them were considered to be "heavy technology users" by this research.  Most students limited the number of technologies in use at one time and limited their application of social media for non-school related functions.

The final section of this study provided several recommendations.  One of which is that students still seek libraries as a place of refuge even though students can use technology anywhere to accomplish their tasks.  Libraries still have a vital place on campus, which includes providing a quiet place of refuge for students despite their technology uses and habits.  As a future librarian, it is good to think about the content of such a study as the one mentioned above and how its results can be employed for the betterment of the library.  With all that I am learning in my library classes and all that I have already learned, this report will bolster my work in serving students, especially in providing them a quiet and resourceful place to study.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

RRSA and More

We are down to the homestretch with a condensed week ahead due to Thanksgiving Break and then only a few weeks until the semester finishes up!  With the end quickly drawing near, I realized it was time to focus on some final projects.  I spent this past week reading about Research Readiness Self-Assessment (RRSA) and then decided to use this tool to see how it worked and what it covered.

RRSA, developed by Lana Ivanitskaya and other librarians or "learning researchers" at Central Michigan University, is a tool used to compare student's perceptions of their research abilities with actual research skills.  It seems that this tool became necessary in part because academic librarians desire to effectively help students learn research skills (Ivanitskaya et al. 2008, p. 510).  With the explosion of knowledge and the ability to access it from almost anywhere at almost anytime, lifelong learners need a different skill set to be efficient researchers who obtain quality information.

Many students turn to the Internet for research thinking they can find the information they need quickly.  The problem is in knowing if the information is scholarly, trustworthy, or accurate.  The simplicity of using Google or Yahoo is almost pacifying, but the quality of information obtained is not always adequate.  When librarians train students to use "licensed electronic databases" the searches are more complex but produce better, more scholarly results (Ivanitskaya, Laus, & Casey, 2004, p. 168).  The challenge in getting students to see the benefits of this second type of search above and beyond this first type of search is in showing that perception does not always match actual skills.  This is where RRSA enters the picture.  If students can see that their research skills are not as developed as their perception of having such skills, the student is more willing to seek help, or even pay attention during information literacy sessions.

I decided to see what the RRSA was like and what questions were asked on it, so I received access to this tool and tried it out.  At first, I was somewhat anxious because I did not want to receive a poor assessment, but as I read over the first several questions I gained confidence.  In the end, I discovered that my research skills were actually higher than my perception of having those skills!  I have worked in a library for several years now, so I have a moderate-to-high level of research/library experience.  My experience working in periodicals coupled with my time spent in library school thus far have greatly helped with my ability to evaluate information.  Much of what I learned in LIS 501 (Reference and Information Sources) aided in using this online assessment tool.

After reading more about RRSA (see the articles listed below) and using the online assessment tool, I have a better understanding of the need for information literacy sessions, and a somewhat clearer idea of what areas to focus on.  For me, this week is ending with an epiphany of sorts in the area of research readiness - ie. students' perceptions of their research skills as compared to their actual research skills.  In a couple of weeks, I might have the opportunity to proctor a class of students using the RRSA online tool.  We'll have to wait and see how that works out!

Ivanitskaya, L., DuFord, S., Craig, M., Casey, A. M. (2008). How does a pre-assessment off-campus students' information literacy affect the effectiveness of library instruction? Journal of Library Administration, 48 (3/4), 509-525.  Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

Ivanitskaya, L., Laus, R., Casey, A. M. (2004). Research Readiness Self-Assessment: Assessing students' research skills and attitudes. Journal of Library Administration, 41 (1/2), 167-183. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

How to Get the Word Out...

The main focus of a Reference Librarian is to "get the word out" whether through information literacy instruction, the reference transaction, or other means.  Librarians teach students how to research, use the library catalog, determine the differences between a [scholarly] journal and a magazine, and answer various patron questions.  When it comes to communication with patrons, there are several tools that can maximize the effectiveness of the reference transaction, even at a distance.  One of these tools is a product distributed by Springshare called "LibAnswers" (  This is the same company that provides the LibGuide software for librarians to develop their helpful resource guides.

LibAnswers provides an "ask-a-librarian" platform permitting reference exchanges that allow students to send questions and receive answers via texting/SMS, widgets or Twitter.  Also, this platform provides libraries with an easy to develop knowledge base that patrons can access at any time and that is automatically developed as librarians answer patron questions. With the right package, this software can track reference transactions thereby providing potentially helpful statistics.  These statistics potentially show the types of questions most frequently asked, the type of students (undergraduate or graduate) who are asking the questions, and when they are asking the questions.  One of the benefits is that students can receive answers to their questions 24/7 with a well-developed knowledge base.  This service complements a Reference Librarian's job by helping to "get the word out" any time of day, even when there is no librarian on duty.

Another way to "get the word out" is by using LibGuides.  In an early blog post I mentioned my work with the Grants LibGuide (  During this past week, I began discussing the reality of developing another LibGuide, but this time it will be for student workers.  There are several well-developed student worker guides available (see or, but the one I plan to develop will focus on helping our students learn more about Information Literacy so they will know how to better serve our students as MC's QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan) develops further.

Using the resources mentioned above will not only help "get the word out" but they will save the time of the patron (see Ranganathan's Fourth Law which states "Save the time of the reader." -

In the remaining weeks to come, my plan is to look at RRSA a little more in-depth, as well as ACRL's Information Literacy standards.  I will also keep you updated on the progress of the Student Worker LibGuide.  Let's see how these last few weeks will actually unfold...

Chattanooga State Community College. (2011, October 27). Student worker: Help desk. Retrieved from

Framingham State University. (2011, August 3). Student worker expectations. Retrieved from 

Shiyali ramamrita ranganathan:contributions. (2004, March 24). Retrieved from

Springshare. (2011). Libanswers. Retrieved from

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Good Challenge

I spent several hours at the Reference Desk this week, observed an interesting session on Copyright, and read a little more of MC's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).  It was a decent week, but filled with some good challenges.

During one of my shifts at the Reference Desk, a student came to seek help in finding books about a certain subject containing pictures about the subject.  This student was planning to spend a little time teaching children about specific instruments, but wanted to show pictures of these instruments.  I spent a few minutes with this student looking in our library catalog.  We used a keyword search and found a few results, but nothing for children.  I showed the student how to find other books in the catalog and then explained where to find the books within the building.  The student seemed to have a puzzled look on her face when I provided a brief explanation about the call number of the book and a description of where the call numbers were in proximately to the other books in our collection.  I sent the student to retrieve some books that we found and encouraged her to return to the desk if these were not sufficient.

Shortly after the student left the desk, I tried to find juvenile books relating to the instruments specified and found a few strong candidates.  I found the student near the section where I sent her to find the first set of books and was able to help her find the juvenile section for these other books.  Unfortunately, she did not feel that the juvenile books were sufficient for her intended purpose and said she would find some pictures on the internet.  This was slightly discouraging because it seemed that "the internet had won."  I had this sinking feeling like our library did not have what our patron wanted, but the internet could provide it for her.  I tried to find books to possibly recommend for future situations similar to this, but realized how hard it would be to buy all of the books our students will ever need.  After this challenge was over, I decided to think about how to address an issue like this in the future.

Toward the end of the week, I was invited to attend a class session for the Professional Writing course.  The students in the class had researched the copyright issue and presented their findings.  I learned a lot about concepts such as publishing, copyright, registered copyright, fair use, public domain and various aspects of hyperlinking.  The students discussed the differences between a registered copyright (c) - a copyright officially registered with the government - and a general copyright - something that is "published" or put down in writing.  We also learned about how one can modify a logo or trademark to create a new product without infringing on copyright laws as long as certain factors are met.  If the new product confuses consumers because it looks too similar to the original, copyright infringement may occur.  If the new product is very similar to the original and it competes in the same market or for the same dollars, it my cause copyright infringement.  Also, if the original product is very popular and extremely recognizable, the new product may cause some infringement if it is very similar to the original.

Some of the students discussed other areas of copyright that I knew very little or nothing about.  A couple of students talked about photography.  They said that there is an automatic copyright for all photos which belongs to the owner of the camera taking the picture.  Even if a photographer is a free lance photographer and gets paid for taking photos, the copyright belongs to the person taking the photos.  The main exception is when a photographer works for a business or corporation that owns the camera and pays the salary of the photographer.  In this situation, the business or corporation owns the copyright to the photos.

An extremely new area to me is one that deals with hyperlinking.  One of the students taught us that we are never to link to a website if it says something about not linking to it.  We also learned about in-lining, framing, and confusion of authorship.  In-lining is when someone creates an html that uses information from another page, but makes it look as if the information belongs to the new site instead of the original site.  Framing is where information is placed on a website near or within the same frame of a related item, especially a competitor's item.  For example, if one t-shirt company was able to place a link for their product on another company's website that also sold t-shirts.  Another unethical use of links is when someone makes it easy to confuse the author.  To be more specific...if an individual makes it look as if he or she is the author of a webpage when that is not the case.  In the end, we were encouraged to ask permission, to be conscientious of other people's works, and to be smart about how we use certain things.

After a good, but challenging week I am ready to keep pushing on.  I am getting closer to the home stretch and have about four weeks left in the semester.  Let's see how the semester ends!