Crowdsourcing the Librarian Perspective


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  • We’re busy. Even when we have a seat at the table, sometimes we don’t have time to sit down. There are all sorts of conversations we’d like to be a part of, but just don’t have time for. Of course, your ideas can get into places you can’t if you take a strategic approach. The metaphor that got us in here is “crowdsourcing,” the idea of allowing a large group of people to do small amounts of work toward a larger, aggregate goal. But the more apt metaphor here might be the wonkier and far less sexy “force multiplier.”
  • I came across the concept of a force multiplier back when the federal stimulus was being debated (you know, back when our government used to spend money on the public good). Certain officials, VP Biden in particular, were advocating for certain kinds of stimulus over others. The idea was that certain kinds of projects not only gave “more bang for the buck” but actually functioned to generate further stimulus by starting a chain reaction of positive spending in the economy. With certain kinds of construction projects for example, for every federal dollar spent it was calculated we would all benefit from another three. (more examples). I like this metaphor because it gives a name to a notion I’ve always had about librarianship, particularly as a liaison: not of our efforts return proportionate rewards, and maximizing outcomes is more a question of strategy than effort. some of the work we do travels farther in the campus economy than other sorts. Some of this is about seizing opportunities, but I think the larger part is about defining and creating them, or more, being ready for opportunity in a way that minimizes specific preparations and interruption.
  • The crucial piece of this is getting your voice into the conversations you’re not present for. This could mean conversations amongst faculty and administrators, but also between students too. There are a lot of ways to do that, and a wide range of skills involved in doing it right. What we’d like to do today is tell you a bit about two projects Hazel and I did when we worked together at Grand Valley State University that were successful—and continue to be successful, even after completion—because we were motivated/mindful of creating “force multipliers” to aid in wider adoption.
  • Why did we create the RGR? To articulate and schematize our perspective on research assignment practice. Affirmed by PIL and our anecdotal experience. A way of proclaiming expertise, lubricating conversations, and inspiring conversations we’re not even present for.
  • What is the RGR?
  • How does the RGR work as a force multiplier?
  • Context about GVSU Libraries: 1) Masters’ large, 25000 students, 3 locations, # of librarians, 2) Reference desk transition in 2009, 3)new library, creation of knowledge market
  • Parallel services with overlapping needsWe can’t (and don’t) teach information literacy alonePotential to enhance WC servicesWC has rigorous training program, but research hadn’t been part of itHelped students deal w/ questions that arose b/c proximity of writing process to research processPotential to further library aims B/c of shifted ref model & also because of limitations of time, space, and staffing, librarians can’t be at every point of needWC consultants are at a unique convergence of point of needPreparation for Knowledge Market, and our own impending need to train our Peer Research Coaches
  • We talked to Ellen & Patrick and found their openness to the idea of training students to “think like librarians” when they encounter students with research needs. E. & P. understood need for conceptual understanding, and the skills that come along with that are more valuable that “click here” training sessions. Designed workshops around realistic scenarios in which students have research needs. Split class into groups. Each dealt with a different scenario. Within groups, each person chose a resource from our library website or library guides, then individually did some searches to assess the resources. After a few minutes of this, we had the groups discuss which was the most useful source, and why. If a source wasn’t useful, we wanted them to think about how it could be useful. Each step of the way we had them document their process in a Google form to record their process and to allow time for them to reflect. After giving students time to reflect in groups and writing in forms, we came together as a class. At this point, students presented their scenarios and their experiences with the searches. This discussion gave us librarians a chance to see into their processes, and allowed us to offer input/guidance.
  • *See questions we asked on back of handout*Question: What challenges does this pose to the peer consultant? This situation is based on Pete’s and my experiences helping Freshman Writing. First, the peer consultant is hearing the question through the students’ eyes. We have the information that she gathered from the librarian and her professor, without some of the explanation that might make the librarian’s statement make sense. Luckily, in this scenario, the peer consultant has access to information straight from the assignment sheet, but it’s information that the student takes issue with. The peer consultant has to think about why an academic article might not be available for this topic, and how that can be addressed. Then, he or she can use the library resources to find potential resources.  The most important thing here isn’t the actual finding of the article, but the negotiation of the situation, helping untangle the student’s assumptions about what is possible and what is available from her needs. Also, we wanted students to think about their limits.
  • At first, we encountered some disheartening news; there were no academic articles about med marijunain MI!
  • Then discussion ensued; during this discussion, the students rose to the occasion. Students approached the question using a variety of sources, including a medical database, a social work database, Summon, the discovery tool that searches much of the library’s holdings; in their reflections on their searches and in the class-wide discussion that ensued, students talked about the challenges of this assignment; they pointed out that because the law is relatively recently passed, there may not have been time for many academic articles to be written, and students could use sources discussing medical marijuana in other states and apply those to Michigan, which is exactly what a reference librarian would recommend in this situation. Gathering Info was helpful – we could see into the process; could see possible areas for future training.
  • We wanted our session to be hands-on and we wanted to require an extra degree of critical awareness of the resources we’d be working with that day, and we think the students rose to the occasion. In the post-session assessment forms, we were gratified to see that the majority of students felt more proficient using the subject guides (81%) and Summon (72%),
  • but more importantly, 100% of students agreed or strongly agreed with the following statement “I feel more proficient helping students with the research elements of their writing after this workshop.”This was encouraging to see in such a short time, and was further evidence that the model we’d like to develop in the library, in which highly trained students coaching their peers to do better research is viable.  
  • There’s a lot of potential for continuing our training with the Writing Center, and this collaboration is burgeoning to involve more faculty and staff in the library as our Knowledge Market plans form & our own training for those students comes together. I’m using the knowledge I gained working with the WC to advise our new Head of Instruction, whose collaboratively planning the Knowledge Market training with (Brian – title?)Pete’s adapted this for work at Wheaton
  • Crowdsourcing the Librarian Perspective

    2. 2. • Picture of construction
    6. 6. The GVSU libraries
    7. 7. Why Work with the Writing Center?
    8. 8. The Workshop: Our Plan
    10. 10. What did the workshop look like?
    11. 11. I feel more proficient using thelibrarys subject guides/search onhome page after attending thisworkshop.
    12. 12. I feel more proficient helpingstudents with the researchelements of their writing after thisworkshop.