Category Archives: Information Literacy

Looking to the Future While Reflecting on the Past

Lisa Hernandez at the Libraries' Information Literacy Summit.

As the end of another semester and year approaches, I find myself looking to the future, defining new goals, and exploring exciting possibilities, especially since this is the new normal at the UT Libraries today! However, I recently received an email that made me reflect on a past partnership that has blossomed into something greater than I ever anticipated.

The email came from Lisa Hernandez, currently the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo College, Career & Technology Academy Librarian and the Texas Library Association’s Librarian of the Year. In 2013, Lisa had been one of ten Texas high school librarians selected to attend the UT Libraries Information Literacy Summit, a day long summit about information literacy. Information Literacy (IL) is broadly defined by the ability to find and think critically about information and is not only a crucial skill for life-long learning, it is also one of the six requirements of UT’s School of Undergraduate Studies Signature Course program, a required interdisciplinary foundation course for all incoming UT freshman.

During the Summit, high school librarians from across Texas and librarians from the UT Libraries Teaching and Learning Services department shared expertise, identified overlapping skills, and created mutually-beneficial instructional content in order to better understand the types of issues and needs we have at both ends of the high-school to college transition.  UT librarians shared real syllabi used in freshman courses and we worked collaboratively to design activities and assignments that would help augment information literacy development at both levels, a need identified in national research conducted by Project Information Literacy.

Continued at the “Instruction @ the UT Libraries” blog.

Commons Learning

Cindy Fisher teaches first-year students in a class at PCL.

Leading up to the opening of the Learning Commons, we’ve spoken in broad terms about the impact of having a suite of student resources and services co-located for ease of access and use, and how that convenience is expected to improve student outcomes. Much of the talk regarding that impact of the Learning Commons has centered on the process and completion of finished products of a more temporal nature such as reports, projects and other assignments, but beyond the resources — technical help, knowledge resources and technology — that will serve as the basis for user productivity, it’s worth considering the persisting influence that the learning opportunities supported by the new space will provide to the next generation of Longhorns.

Students attend one of the LIbraries' classes at PCL.Staff in the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services (TLS) unit has played a central role in planning the Learning Commons, and their activities will have a significant impact on the success of the initiative. The longstanding relationship between TLS and the University Writing Center was essential to the relocation of UWC to the Perry-Castañeda Library, and much of the vitality in the Learning Commons will be determined by how the partnership between the two groups evolves over time. UWC’s nascent presence has already reaped ideas for collaborating with the Libraries on programming in the new space, and coordinating with other student resources around campus — such as the Sanger Learning Center — will allow a crossover between the provisional service needs of users for the purpose of completing assignments and the generation of lasting skills like interviewing, public speaking, information literacy, and much more.

TLS emerged in 2002 — at the time designated Library Instruction Services — to take the place of the Digital Information Literacy Office (DILO) and expand on its mission to integrate information literacy into the campus-wide curriculum for general education, which it successfully accomplished in 2010. The unit’s name evolved to Teaching and Learning Services as its mission has expanded to represent a more comprehensive view of the academic landscape and the ways in which students and faculty interact to share knowledge and experience.

By its increased involvement in campus curriculum via information and digital literacy, TLS has routinely collaborated with faculty on assignment design and presents course-integrated classes in hands-on classrooms in the libraries. They’ve also created video tutorials on subjects such as avoiding plagiarism for integration into course web sites and embedding in online courses. Through a combination of these methods, TLS now reaches almost 3,000 lower division undergraduates every year.

Head of TLS Michele Ostrow at an information literacy conference organized with regional high school librarians.“The Learning Commons isn’t just about co-locating academic support services for ease of access but is about collaborating in new ways across those departmental lines to better support teaching and learning,” says Michele Ostrow, head of the Libraries’ Teaching and Learning Services unit. “We’re fortunate to work closely with a lot of fantastic faculty who teach in our freshmen programs and are committed to helping the excellent high school students who get into UT become excellent college students.” Continue reading

Breaking Through Austerity

“An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

-Benjamin Franklin

You’ve probably heard the news that UT-Austin has initiated a plan to cut $14.6 million in expenditures for 2010 – 2011. Everyone on campus has been looking for places to trim back, trying to decide what is core and essential and what is just “nice to have.”

The UT Libraries has a long-standing commitment to staff training and professional development and that commitment has not wavered during these tough economic times.   However, we have had to find creative ways to provide this training with fewer financial resources.

One approach we have taken is a program called Learning Breaks.  Every other week, someone from the Libraries staff will do two 30 minute presentations, one in-person and one online through our online meetings software, about a topic in which they have expertise.  This approach has allowed us to offer trainings on a wide variety of topics ranging from Web 2.0 applications such as Twitter, Flickr, wikis and blogs to time management practices such as managing your to-do list.

Since these topics are suggested by staff we know they fulfill a need.  What’s more, the benefits of Learning Breaks go beyond what is learned in the training; this peer-to-peer model also allows the Libraries to recognize and value the expertise and diverse talents of the staff.    And by incorporating ongoing training into the work day on a regular basis, Learning Breaks send a message that library staff are worth the investment.

Catherine Hamer is Interim Associate Director for User Services.

Teach-the-Teacher Approach Wins Award

longaker
Dr. Mark Longaker

Annually, the UT System Library Directors confer an award to a UT System faculty or collaborative faculty group to recognize the efforts of integrating library resources into course curriculum.

This year, thanks to his innovative integration of library resources in E398T and RHE306, his collaboration with librarians and the effective use of technology to promote information literacy in multiple courses,  the UT Library Directors’ Award for Excellence in Library Resources Integration was presented to UT faculty member Dr. Mark Longaker at the Innovations in Online Learning Conference (IOL) on May 27.

Research and writing go hand-in-hand and for years, librarians in Library Instruction Services (LIS) have been helping instructors in the basic undergraduate writing course (RHE 306) teach their students research skills.  This approach traditionally took the form of one class visit to the libraries where students would try to learn all they needed to know to find and evaluate information for their writing projects in 50 minutes, but that expectation never seemed realistic.

Over the past year, LIS librarians reinvigorated their approach by partnering with Dr. Longaker – Associate Professor in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing and head of the department’s Undergraduate Curriculum Committee – to create a teach-the-teacher model.  In partnership with Dr. Longaker and RHE 306 instructors, librarians developed resource guides, assignments and lesson plans for RHE 306 instructors to use to teach research skills over the course of the semester in their regular classrooms.  Students were better able to learn important information literacy skills because they were integrated into the class over the course of the semester, so that they could all be introduced and re-introduced at the time of need.  The materials, gathered together in a wiki, were editable by librarians and instructors to ensure that the learning outcomes of RHE 306 were supported. The success of this project was recognized by UT System Library Directors at the recent IOL Conference in Austin.

You can learn more about LIS and their efforts at promoting information literacy in the Spring 2009 issue of the Libraries Newsletter.

Catherine Hamer is Associate Director for User Services at the University of Texas Libraries.