Saturday, October 29, 2011

Getting the Hang of It

I finally feel like I am "getting the hang of it."  I spent several hours at the Reference Desk this week and am starting to feel more comfort with this aspect of the Reference Librarian position.  There were only a few questions this week, but I felt more confident in knowing how to answer them.  In fact, I was able to practice what I learned during an Information Literacy session that I observed a few weeks ago.  A student needed to find some books on a very specific painting.  After an unsuccessful search attempt for the name of the painting, I used a keyword search to find books about the creator of the painting.  This proved quite successful as I was able to help make this individual a happy patron.

After a few more hours spent working on the Grants LibGuide, I finally have a finished product.  To see the helpful resource click on the following link:  As part of my work with these resourceful guides I found a useful article entitled, "Reaching Out with LibGuides: Establishing a Working Set of Best Practices" by Alisa C. Gonzalez and Theresa Westbrock (Journal of Library Administration, Jul-Sep 2010, Vol. 50 Issue 5/6, p638-656).  This article was written about New Mexico State University's work with LibGuides and addresses certain issues they faced.  The article provides a concise literature review, gives relevant background information, states the need for these guides and provides helpful information on choosing good software to create LibGuides.  The authors also discuss "administrative buy-in", building templates, and providing training for stakeholders.  In addition, there are several colored figures provided along with a bunch of references.  This resource is beneficial to those who are contemplating the use of LibGuides.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Library Conference Week

This past week was a slightly lighter week for the library practicum since the annual Mississippi Library Association conference came to town (  The conference started on Tuesday, October 18th and proceeded through lunch on Friday, October 21st.  There were several good break-out sessions that covered a wide variety of topics for a wide variety of members.  I attended sessions ranging from "Promoting Information Literacy with Credo Reference" to "Academic Library Assessment."

My absolute favorite session was the "Connecting Kids to Books Through Storytelling" because it was not only fun, but we learned a lot about the value of storytelling along with some fun and useful activities.  We learned that there are several different types of stories.  These include echo, chant, call & response, drawing, and dramatized stories.

Brenda Pritchett (, the storytelling presenter, dressed the part by wearing a storytelling apron.  She not only looked the part, but spoke and taught like an expert storyteller.  She gave several good reasons why storytelling is important and how it can help children develop intellectually, emotionally, and socially.  It was very obvious that she has a strong passion for the subject matter, but it was also quite obvious that she has a strong passion for children.  She ended her break-out session by saying that children need encouraging words and we could use storytelling, in addition to personal interactions, to give encouraging words to the children around us.  Many of the things she said about storytelling made me think back to some of the things I am learning this semester in my LIS517 (Introduction to Children's Literature) class.

Beyond attending these beneficial sessions, it was good to meet some of my classmates and professors in person.  One of the unusual things about online courses is that we might not actually "meet" our classmates.  I found that these "people behind the names" have personalities that do not necessarily shine forth during our online chat sessions.  We are able to get to know our classmates a little through discussion board postings and introductions, but it is just not the same as meeting someone in person.  I also found that my professors are not only talented instructors, but they are incredibly encouraging and wonderful people inside and outside of the classroom.

Although I spent a lot of time at the MLA conference helping make sure that break-out session presenters had the requested equipment and that it worked properly, I was able to get in some hours at the reference desk, observe an Information Literacy session, and work a little more on my Grants LibGuide.

This week was a slower week with the reference questions as I only answered simple things such as "where's the copier."  I was able to work with one of the Reference Librarians to help someone find information in the APA manual.  Otherwise, it was a little quiet at the desk.

The Information Literacy session was taught by a different librarian than the one I've observed the last few times, so it was nice to see how this other librarian taught the sessions.  Since the class was a basic introduction for a basic undergraduate class, I did not see much that was new.  The librarian was able to really interact with the class, which made things more interesting.  At one point, she had every student pick up the two journals/magazines next to them and tell the whole class which publication was a journal and which was a magazine.  I thought this was a good exercise for the students.

As far as the LibGuide is concerned, I've been able to determine the information that is relevant for the guide and start laying out the tabs/panels.  My goal is to finish the guide in time for the next blog posting.  I think this will be quite possible, so check next week's blog for more information about this helpful guide...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Nearing the Midpoint

It is so hard to believe that we are just about to the midpoint of the semester.  I have completed a little over half of my hours for the practicum and have about 7-8 weeks left in the semester.  The following is a brief summary of all that I have completed thus far, beginning with the previous week's work.

This past week, I spent more time at the Reference Desk and was able to help a couple of students with research.  I practiced some of the things I learned in LIS501 Reference and Information Sources.  I began by looking approachable and welcoming the student's inquiry.  I asked a few questions to gain an understanding of the assignment and even looked at the one student's assignment sheet that she had in her hand.  I formulated a strategy, one learned from observing the Information Literacy instruction a few weeks ago, and showed the student how to execute the strategy.  I was able to help the student narrow the topic slightly, develop some keywords for an online library catalog search, database search, and internet search, and demonstrate how to narrow the results.  After we carried out the strategy the first time, we went back through it again because the student seemed to struggle a little at first.  She seemed confident the second time through, however.  We ended the exchange and I encouraged the student to come back for assistance anytime.  A little while later, I saw the student again and helped her remember the search strategy.

Over the last several weeks, since the practicum began, I've experienced many different aspects of the Reference Librarian position.  I have spent several hours at the Reference Desk learning how to assist students with research.  I've learned about being a liaison librarian and how to be more efficient with recommending books to various academic departments.  Over the past several weeks, I've observed Information Literacy sessions and have gained many good insights on more effective research strategies.  After a brief introduction on how to create LibGuides, I've begun creating my own guide.

At the beginning of the practicum, I spent a lot of time researching Document Delivery Systems (DDS) and was able to help the MC library make some minor decisions about which DDS to pursue.  Another result of this project was the creation of a document that will be updated over the next year or two and that will help eliminate some unnecessary overlap with serial subscriptions.

During the past week or so, I've spent some time researching Mississippi College's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), entitled "U Research: Engage, Empower, Enhance" (see last week's post for more details).  This plan will focus on the Association of Colleges & Research Libraries (ACRL) Information Literacy Standards, which include such standards as "the information literate student determines the nature and extent of the information needed" and "the information literate student accesses needed information effectively and efficiently" (American Library Association, 2011).

 As I look ahead to the second half of the practicum, I realize that some challenges are forthcoming.  My plan is to finish creating the Grants Libguide that I am working on, learn more about MC's QEP and the ACRL Information Literacy Standards, and begin working on a training module for student workers.  If the second half is anywhere near as productive and valuable as the first half, I'm in for a treat.

Keep reading to see how the next several weeks unfold...

American Library Association. (2011). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Retrieved from

Saturday, October 8, 2011

U Research...

In order to understand more about Information Literacy at Mississippi College (MC), especially in preparation for helping develop a training module for our student workers, I need to learn more about MC's Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP).  For accreditation purposes, MC is required to develop a QEP to become the major focus of the university's resources.  This major plan will center around Information Literacy and will be called U Research: Engaged, Enhanced, Empowered (

QEP Logo (

The goal of U Research, according to MC's QEP website,  is "for Mississippi College students to become discriminating users of information as a result of a deliberate and sequenced information literacy program."  The intended purpose of this initiative is to help students become lifelong learners by helping them know when they need information, where to locate it, how to evaluate it and how to use it effectively (

The entire QEP development process has been an arduous one requiring the participation of the whole campus including students as well as faculty and staff.  The university solicited initial ideas and then narrowed down or combined the proposed topics.  Teams or individuals developed white papers, which were made available to everyone on the campus to read before voting on their first and second choices.  In the end, the top two choices were removed as options because they needed to be addressed more imminently than what the QEP time-line would allow, so the next best choice was U Research.  After this stage of the process came to an end, committees were developed to work on literature reviews, proposal development, and other important components.  Although the library will play a crucial role in the creation and implementation of the QEP, other departments will join the initiative to help carry it out.

There is so much more to learn about Information Literacy, especially in how it applies to U Research, so I feel that I've only gotten my feet wet.  This means that I will need to learn more about the QEP and how it will affect the library.  I will be able to use any knowledge gained from my studies on this topic to aid in developing a training module for library student workers who will work closely with peer tutors and students who have questions about Information Literacy.

To be continued...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

A Few Helpful Tips and Tricks

Over the past couple of weeks, I have observed a few more Information Literacy sessions taught by the Reference Librarians.  These skilled instructors taught many useful "tricks" and tips on how to be good information seekers.  They showed their students how to begin navigating the deep and stormy seas of research.  Although some of the classes were for undergraduate students who were just learning about research, the librarians laid a solid foundation on which these students will build in the future.

From these sessions, I learned that there are several ways to commence searching for information, so knowing where to begin can be a challenge.  A good starting point is the library's automated catalog.  In our case, it is named MICAL (MIssissippi College Automated Library -  One good search strategy when using the online library catalog is to use the keyword search.  Type a word or more than one word with "and" in between each word to receive several results.  This will display items such as books, music scores, video recordings, and so much more.  To narrow down the results, pick one option that might provide the desired information and look over the item’s information in the Contents section.  After finding the first helpful resource, look at the LC subject headings toward the bottom of the screen.  These will provide more key terms or more effective wording to narrow the search.  The advantage of using a keyword search is that the results are pulled from the title, contents section, and subject headings.

A helpful tip when searching for information is to know the difference between a magazine and a journal.  Professors will quite often give an assignment requiring students to use a scholarly or peer reviewed journal instead of a magazine.  There are several general differences although some overlap may occur in a few instances and there are exceptions as well.  According to the Mississippi College Speed Library What's the Difference Between A Magazine and a Scholarly Journal* magazines typically have articles:
  • written by journalists or laypersons
  • written for the general public
  • containing few footnotes or references
  • containing lots of advertisements
  • covering current events and general interest topics
  • printed on glossy paper with lots of photos

Scholarly Journals have articles:
  • written by an expert in the field
  • written for scholars or professionals in the field
  • containing footnotes, references, bibliographies
  • containing few to no advertisements
  • covering specialized topics relative to the field
  • printed on non-glossy paper with few photographs

Another major difference is that scholarly/peer reviewed journals have an editorial board (peers), who are usually outside of the journal and review articles before publication.  Newsweek and Sports Illustrated are good examples of magazines, whereas Foreign Affairs and Journal of Educational Research are good examples of scholarly journals.

There will be a few more tips and tricks coming in the future…

*Information from Mississippi College Speed Library's What's the Difference Between a Magazine and a Scholarly Journal? is used with permission.