Why do we need to teach our Readers IL skills? BL does not operate like a &apos;regular&apos; academic library, more reason than most libraries to teach Readers how to use the collections to the best possible outcome - Not just IL skills, but also the peculiarities of the collections! Library material is a large collection formed from several; the British Museum, Patent Office Library, National Lending Library (founder collections), as well as the various different collections from the &apos;old&apos; British Library (formed 1973). It was only in 1997 when the collections all moved to St Pancras that all these collections were integrated (single integrated catalogue - 2004). Probably the largest STM collection in the world. Strength of the collection is diversity in terms of breadth of subjects, resource types: e.g. trade literature, patents, market research reports, official publications (i.e. things that may not be held in a &apos;normal&apos; academic library), as well as standard books, journals and e-journal collections. Vast range of years covered, (pre 1000AD to date), large range of foreign language material. Location - items located on 3 sites; St Pancras (open and closed access), Boston Spa & Colindale. Varying delivery times 70 minutes - 2 days. Highly specialist items are often stored at Boston Spa, Newspapers can only be seen at Colindale, history of medicine/psychology (eg) classed as humanities so have to be ordered. Scope of open access - Academic research level, only one copy of each book. Students texts often not on open shelf, study guides and past exam papers etc not held. Second copy would be stored at Boston Spa. Diverse range of users, anyone over the age of 18 can register. Undergraduates, Postgraduates, Academics, Industry professionals. Old and young, foreign students in the summer holiday periods.
Entrance policy was redefined (approx 3 years ago), and now the number of readers using the science Reading Rooms is increasing rapidly (especially undergraduates, who previously had to provide a good case for gaining access to the collections). Reader admissions issues on average 300 new reader passes a day, and 400 per day in peak periods. A lot of desk time is now spent teaching basic research skills to newer users, rather than dealing with the more complex enquiries. (e.g components of a reference, the differences between searching on the catalogue or on a database.) Undergraduates used to using their university libraries (or academics used to other libraries) have more difficulty learning how to use the systems, and struggle with the fact that our systems are not all integrated - journal articles are not indexed on the catalogue (not possible due to the volume of material), there&apos;s no direct linking out to our e-journals collections (although we hope that in the near future this will change), we do not stock e-books at all, etc. A lot of new users - not just undergraduates - come in expecting everything they need to be available online immediately, that they can simply download a copy and take it away, and can be quite disappointed that it&apos;s not quite so straightforward (and that in actual fact they may have to wait for 2 days to get it). Do they know what they are actually looking for? Often it can take staff time to realise what the researcher needs, and what level the information needs to be aimed at (e.g. a short essay/read up about….., find and article on ….and discuss it, versus collating information for a systematic review or a phd thesis). Due to the vast range of needs of different users this can be difficult. Users are often very technologically literate, but are unable to structure searches, isolate relevant keywords from a project title or question, and often end up having to trawl through far more information than they actually need to. There is no formal library induction as there is in most university libraries these days. The Welcome team at Reader Registration do as much as they can in the time they have available, and in quieter periods will go through things in greater detail, and will spend longer with readers who are not as familiar with computers. Generally they cover; Which reading room is best for their subject Brief details of the layout of the reading room we have suggested they use i.e. open access materials for the sciences and business subjects How to order items and the delivery times of any items on their reading lists Conditions of use And often despite this the Users will have forgotten all of this information by the time they actually get to the enquiry desk in the Reading Rooms (especially if they are not used to using research libraries)!
Only two subject areas. Very linear, lecture style for approx 1 hour followed by hands-on session & tour of Reading Rooms. Geared towards helping readers make the most of the available resources relevant in each of the subject areas. Note – not much marketing, small A4 stands, and leaflets to complete and hand in to the desk. Uptake relatively low, on average 5-10 Readers booking, around half actually attending (per session), numbers tailed off towards the end of 2007. Readers put off by infrequency and inflexibility of sessions? If they need to start researching now, they may not want to wait until the next session for guidance. Training team decided that the sessions needed to become more flexible and more focused on what a) the user wants to know and b) what we think they NEEDED to know – especially with regards to research skills/information literacy.
After a number of meetings over a period of 2-3 months we decided to implement a completely new method of delivering training. Twice daily sessions; whilst we were aiming to be as flexible as possible, specific time slots had to be chosen to ensure there would always be enough staff members available to cover the enquiry desks as well as the training sessions. One morning (11am) and one afternoon (2.30pm) slot were chosen at the most convenient times for staffing. Sessions were to be deliberately kept short – in order to avoid ‘information overload’, sessions kept to 30 minutes (up to an hour), each covering an aspect of the collections/research skills. Also keen to add an information literacy session to the list – something which had been a work in progress for some time. Training sessions to be more flexible and tailored specifically to queries the Readers have whilst also making sure they cover some key points (crib sheets put together including key points to be covered). Dependent on the number of attendees, but as much hands-on training as possible is encouraged in order to reinforce concepts (e.g. catalogue ordering, searching on databases) and to familiarise Readers with how to search. Instead of holding sessions in a seminar room, we requisitioned an abandoned office at the back of one of our Reading Rooms, smaller room, more natural light. Set up two PCs at a desk and also a projector (in case of larger groups). A loose schedule would be put together on a week by week basis, on display in Reading Rooms, on the workshops webpage, and sent out via email to any Readers wanting to join a mailing list; but if Readers had a specific date/time/topic in mind we would make every effort to accommodate their request.
Advertised in RRs, Reader Bulletin, & webpage. Enquiry desk staff encouraged Readers to attend sessions that they thought might be useful. Initial interest and uptake was good for all sessions apart from ‘Information Literacy’, which didn’t get nearly as many takers. Postcard sized flyers also put out in the Reading rooms for Readers to fill in their details & join mailing list, or suggest subject specific training sessions they’d be interested in.
The webpage (updated weekly with the schedule), and links to ‘key points’ handouts produced for training sessions.
After the 1st 3 months it was decided that we would try ‘rebranding’ the Information Literacy, as a number of members of staff had experienced Readers’ confusion over what the session would cover. Renamed as ‘Introduction to Library Research’. Uptake was considerably lower than for the other advertised sessions, but after the renaming, uptake increased dramatically. Looking at the subject areas that seemed to come up most frequently, a number of subject specific sessions were developed by individual staff members, and were added to the advertised sessions. Introduction of ‘referencing and citation’ session – NOT teaching them how to reference in a particular style (we had to avoid this due to the number of different academic institutions represented, which advocate the use of various different referencing styles). The session gives an overview of why and when you should cite work, and the guides available to use within the reading rooms. Staff will also make every effort to put together one-off subject-specific sessions on other topics if and when asked by Readers, on dates convenient for them.
Satisfaction – 88-100% (usually 100%! satisfied/very satisfied) Numbers range – 10 to 25 per month (depending on busy periods etc.) compared to? Negative feedback tends to relate to the difficulties of using the systems in place as they are more complicated than most other libraries (‘lots to take on board’, would be easier if the systems were more integrated, takes a long time to learn to use the many varied systems). ‘coffee and Biscuits’!!
Staff are able to spend more time teaching Readers how to use the collections/locate relevant information, without feeling pressured to get through the material quickly in order to get onto the next enquiry as they do sometimes at the desk. They are able to give a fuller picture of the resources available and how to utilise them, and staff at the enquiry desk can encourage Readers to attend training sessions (often available on the same day) that they might find helpful. Shorter & more informal sessions means less work is needed (preparation/organisation, no need to produce handouts as they’re online/in the room already), all staff share the teaching role, instead of a couple of people taking on the bulk of the work. The fact that the sessions are so frequent means the groups attending are small (often only 1 reader), staff decided to limit the number of attendees to a maximum of 4 – partly due to the fact that the training room is not really designed for large groups, and also due to the hands-on nature of much of the training. On one occasion a larger group was scheduled (accidentally!) (11 readers), so the training had to be moved to a seminar room. Despite the fact that hands-on training was still possible and an extra member of staff was on hand to help, many of the Readers commented in feedback that they felt they didn’t get enough individual attention. Feedback scores were still good but lower than normal. staff who might not be comfortable teaching a large group in a seminar room can now participate in training due to the informal one-to-one basis. Readers also seem more comfortable in these sessions, with more freedom to interject and ask questions as the session progresses. As the sessions are flexible we can adapt them to the Readers attending in terms of level – for example; regular users may cover more in a single session as they are already familiar with certain things. Brand new readers will most likely cover less as there is more for them to learn. It is easy for staff to pitch the tuition at the right level with such small groups. We try to focus the hands-on training on what the user is looking for themselves (eg. Catalogue session, find some references they are looking for; database sessions, show them how to do a search within a database relevant to their subject). If they are looking for something relevant to their work they tend to be more likely to pay attention and remember what they did. This also means they will leave the session with something that can be off use to their research. As there are several different sessions each covering different aspects of information literacy and the collections, we get a wide range of Readers attending, ranging from brand new readers who treat the sessions as a kind of library induction, regular Readers who come along out of interest as a refresher to see if they can learn any new tricks/update their current methods and skills, and to Readers who are unfamiliar with a specific aspect of the collection (eg. e-journals) and want to know how to use them. Initial worries that by only tackling one aspect of the collection per session would be restrictive to the user proved to be unfounded, those users who wish to cover more than one area – eg both databases and using the catalogue – have often preferred to come back to another training session rather than cover everything at once. If on the other hand we have a single reader in the session we are able to cover more than just one topic in the time available, and they want to then we do so. Idea being to keep it a Reader focused as possible.
Fully flexible – i.e. no schedule, readers just turn up and we will cover any of the advertised topics (note, not currently possible due to staffing levels, and staff knowledge and expertise in certain subject areas – may not ever be something we can realistically achieve) Online tutorials – most useful aspect of which would be to use screen casting software in order to demonstrate how to find and order items using the online catalogue (especially if available to offsite users). BIP Centre already offering tutorials on various aspects on intellectual property, would be nice if we could do something similar.
The evolution of reader education in the British Library's Science Reading Rooms. Packham
The Evolution of Reader Education in the
British Library’s Science Reading Rooms
1st April 2009
Why do we need to offer information literacy skills training?
Evolution of Reader training in the Science Reading Rooms
Were the changes successful?
The Need for Research Skills Training
Diverse Collections -
• Formed from many other collections
• Broad range of subject coverage
• Range of years covered, foreign language material, etc.
Location of print materials
Scope of open access material
Wide range of different types of users
Increased Library usage
Increased staff workloads
Identifying the information needs of the researcher
Lack of formal Library Induction
Out with the Old…
2 different topics (Biomedical Sciences & Technology)
2 hours long, including tour of Reading Rooms
Subject alternates, 1 session per month
…and In with the New
Our Reader Education Team decided greater flexibility was
Sessions to be held more often (twice daily)
Shorter sessions (30-45 minutes)
Less rigid training structure
Less formal surroundings
Weekly schedule advertised via email and online
5 sessions advertised:-
Introduction to the
Science Reading Rooms
Using the Catalogue
The Next 6 Months
Re-branding of ‘Information Literacy’ as ‘Introduction to
Development of subject specific sessions –
Complementary & Alternative Medicine
Science Resources on the Web
Chemistry Resources at the British Library
Introduction of ‘Referencing and Citation’ session.
High Reader satisfaction rates
Increased numbers attending
Positive feedback from attendees –
‘session was tailored really well for my needs – thank you very much!’
‘the staff were very helpful and the facilities are excellent – I plan to attend
‘make a dvd or podcast, but it will never replace a one-to-one experience’
‘great one on one session, I learned quite a bit directly relevant to my
Less pressure on staff
More relaxed approach
Greater relevance to Readers
Appeals to a wider range of users
Ideas for the Future?
Fully flexible, schedule-free sessions