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...