Guest post by Professor Ian Ruthven, co-editor of Information at Work: Information management in the workplace
We live in a society characterized by quick technological developments and rapid processes of change. Technological developments have automated processes that used to be done by manual labour whilst new professions and work tasks have emerged. Earlier generations were accustomed to life-long positions in the same company. Nowadays people search for work opportunities in a global market, experience more frequent career changes, must learn new skills throughout their careers and manage the increasingly fluid boundaries between work life and home life. Even our work environments have changed: as Alvin Toffler’s metaphor of the ‘paperless offices’ from 50 years ago is now being realized, we are starting to move into the state of ‘peopleless offices’ in which work is conducted in digital rather than physical spaces. Many workplaces are already now hybrid digital/physical spaces where the work activities addressed, tools utilized and information consumed are the same no matter if engaged in the office or at home.
Rapid changes to information infrastructures are also changing the nature of work forcing a reinvention of old practices and the creation of new ones. For example, bloggers and online newspapers are now as influential as traditional journalism; social media is now a key means of interacting with customers instead of direct marketing; many services such as banking, home-buying, booking travel and commerce are now primarily online activities created by experts in digital environments rather than experts in built environments; government services are increasingly online services, etc. The vast amount of Internet information means that even traditional information experts such as doctors are taking on larger roles in explaining information rather than providing information. There is hardly a discipline or area of work that is not touched by new technology.
More data, more information, more work
The relatively inexpensive information storage available now means organizations can capture massive amounts of data which can be mined to provide more robust decision-making about managing cities, predicting demographic changes, tailoring marketing campaigns or managing simple performance. How this information is stored, organized, classified, shared and secured are classic information management concerns which need new proven solutions. Many organizations are moving towards cloud services forcing hard discussions about which information to store, where it is stored, and who has access rights to this information.
This change in how we store, manage and make available information is set against a fluid background of changing legislation surrounding what organizations can and cannot do with information. Rights to access information, rights to information privacy, rights to data protection, and other assorted information laws vary locally, nationally, and internationally resulting in a complex and shifting network of laws, policies and guidelines that institutions must create systems and practices to manage. The role of information is essential in all these processes, as a resource for learning, managing change, developing and running processes and creating professional networks.
The information revolution within our workplaces calls for a new examination of information, information technology and information practices within the modern workplace. There is no single framework nor epistemological perspective that single-handedly explains the entire phenomena of workplace information, but rather the different work situations are made of aggregations where information plays in from several perspectives.
How to study the work place from an information perspective?
This richness of views on workplace information leads to different understandings of information-related activities, such as information need, information management, information sources, information sharing, information production, information storing, information retrieval, information searching/seeking, information valuing, and information use. Some of these concepts have been discussed since the beginning of workplace information studies, while others are new concepts coming from the latest trends and developments in workplace information environments. The richness of approaches and varying meanings for concepts can create deep understandings but also conceptual confusion.
One of the motivations for our new book Information at Work is that such themes and concepts are often considered separately, by distinct groupings of scholars, and appearing in venues that offer little interaction between these topics. This, in part, comes from the perspective taken by individual authors – our disciplinary backgrounds bring their own theories, models and ways of looking at the world and, hence, different ways of approaching the study of information in the workplace. These different approaches can focus on different objects of study (environments, systems, tasks, objects, practices etc.), some of which are more amenable to certain theories and ways of doing research than others. Each perspective is valuable in highlighting different aspects of what it means to study workplace information. Bringing these perspectives together in one text we hope will show the diversity in this rich area of study and promote new discussions on how we can appreciate these perspectives to create new ways of investigating and understanding different phenomena within the field of workplace information.
Our aim in this book is to present the full spectrum of workplace information research, flowing from contributions on the nature of work when viewed from an Information Science perspective, through considerations of the social and cultural environments in which we work, to issues of managing our work and the information we need to do work, to discussions of the information artefacts and properties of those artefacts that enable us to ‘work’ with information to complete our ‘work’.
As information professionals, how often do we consider whether our workplace information environments are working for us?
Ian Ruthven is a Professor of Information Seeking and Retrieval at the University of Strathclyde. He published over 100 articles in the areas of interactive information retrieval and information seeking and edited two collections: Interactive Information Seeking, Behaviour and Retrieval (with Diane Kelly) and Cultural Heritage Information Access and Management (with Gobinda Chowdhury).
Digital Literacy Unpacked brings together thought-leaders and experts in the field of digital literacy, providing a blend of research and practice across sectors.
The book not only offers a snapshot of innovative approaches to digital literacy,
but also intends to provoke discussion, encourage collaboration and inspire – whatever the role or context. The editors open up the whole area of digital literacy in all its kaleidoscopic richness, and provide diverse perspectives, content and ideas to inform thinking and practice. The cross-sectoral and global significance of digital literacy is a key theme of the book but crucially at its heart it is a citizenship and inclusion issue, necessary for the full participation and achievement of all in society. Coverage includes a discussion of terminology, institutional approaches, existing frameworks, digital literacy in learning and teaching, copyright literacy, teaching the use of digital tools, critical approaches to literacy and combatting social exclusion using digital skills.
Rosie Jones, Director of Library Services at The Open University said of the book,
‘Its timing is key, given the rate of technological change and advances in our thinking around skills, and it contributes practice, theory and research to a topic that is important on a global scale. Across all sectors, we can’t avoid the digital agenda and this text provides a fabulous insight into digital literacy and learning’.
The book will be useful reading for library and information professionals across the sector, institutional leaders and managers, and LIS students. It will also be useful reading for educational technologists, learning and teaching professionals.
Digital Literacy Unpacked | August 2018 | 240pp | paperback: 9781783301973 | £64.95 | hardback: 9781783301980 | £129.95 | eBook: 9781783301997
About the authors
Katharine Reedy is a digital literacy and learning design specialist at the Open University. She is a senior fellow of the Higher Education Academy and chartered member of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals (CILIP).
Jo Parker is a senior library manager at the Open University Library, with responsibility for developing digital and information literacy strategy. She is a fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and a fellow of the Leadership Foundation. She has co-edited two previous books for Facet Publishing.
- Liz Bennett, University of Huddersfield
- Bonnie Cheuk, Senior Business and Digital Transformation Leader
- Mark Childs, Open University
- Vedrana Vojković Estatiev, University of Zagreb
- Sue Folley, University of Huddersfield
- Josie Fraser, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
- Dean Groom, Macquarie University
- Janet Hetherington, independent consultant
- Charles Inskip, University College London
- Norman Jackson, University of Surrey (Professor Emeritus)
- Gordana Jugo, Croatian Academic and Research Network (CARNet)
- Clare Killen, independent consultant
- Adam Micklethwaite, Good Things Foundation
- Chris Morrison, University of Kent
- Chrissi Nerantzi, Manchester Metropolitan University
- Joe Nicholls, Cardiff University Library
- Judy O’Connell, Charles Sturt University
- Philip Seargeant, Open University
- Jane Secker, City University London
- Caroline Tagg, Open University
- Geoff Walton, Manchester Metropolitan University.
The book is published by Facet Publishing and is available to pre-order from Bookpoint Ltd | Tel: +44 (0)1235 827702 | Fax: +44 (0)1235 827703 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org | Web: www.facetpublishing.co.uk. | Mailing Address: Mail Order Dept, 39 Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon OX14 4TD. It will be available in North America from the American Library Association.
Facet Publishing have announced the release of the fourth edition of Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath’s Reference and Information Services, An introduction.
Designed to complement every introductory library reference course, Reference and Information Services, is the perfect text for students and librarians looking to expand their personal reference knowledge, teaching failsafe methods for identifying important materials by matching specific types of questions to the best available sources, regardless of format.
Guided by an advisory board of educators and practitioners, this thoroughly updated text expertly keeps up with new technologies and practices while remaining grounded in the basics of reference work. Chapters on fundamental concepts, major reference sources, and special topics provide a solid foundation; the text also offers fresh insight on core issues, including:
- ethics, readers’ advisory, information literacy, and other key aspects of reference librarianship
- selecting and evaluating reference materials, with strategies for keeping up to date
- assessing and improving reference services
- guidance on conducting reference interviews with a range of different library users, including children and young adults
- a new discussion of reference as programming
- important special reference topics such as Google search, 24/7 reference, and virtual reference
- delivering reference services across multiple platforms.
The previous edition was described by Collection Building as, “an irreplaceable source that can be recommended as an essential item for any library’s professional collection”, and by the Journal of Electronic Resources in Medical Libraries as, “A tool for library school students, new librarians, the public library reference desk, or anyone needing a general resource about providing information services and recommended tools of the trade.”
Kay Ann Cassell received her BA from Carnegie Mellon University, her MLS from Rutgers University, and her PhD from the International University for Graduate Studies. She has worked in academic libraries and public libraries as a reference librarian and as a library director. Ms. Cassell is a past president of Reference and User Services Association of ALA and is active on ALA and RUSA committees. She is the editor of the journal Collection Building and is the author of numerous articles and books on collection development and reference service. She was formerly the Associate Director of Collections and Services for the Branch Libraries of the New York Public Library where she was in charge of collection development and age-level services for the Branch Libraries. She is now a Lecturer and Director of the MLIS Program in the School of Communication, Information and Library Studies at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.
Uma Hiremath is Executive Director at the Ames Free Library, Massachusetts. She was Assistant Director at the Thayer Public Library, Massachusetts; Head of Reference at the West Orange Public Library, New Jersey; and Supervising Librarian at the New York Public Library where she worked for five years. She received her MLS from Pratt Institute, New York, and her PhD in political science at the University of Pittsburgh.
An integral resource for students and working professionals alike, Reference and Information Services: An introduction has served a whole generation of reference librarians. But authors Kay Ann Cassell and Uma Hiremath aren’t resting on their laurels. We spoke to them about the brand new fourth edition, discussing their collaboration and why reference librarianship is more important than ever.
How would you describe your collaborative process?
Harmonic! When we are beginning a new edition, we talk about the whole book and the changes that we want to make and then we each work on specific chapters. With Kay as an academic and Uma as a practitioner, we have mutually exclusive areas of expertise that makes it easy to segment the research.
Were there any surprises working together this time around?
How has virtual reference made things easier and how has it made things harder?
Entire books have been written on this. Suffice to say, the very factors about virtual reference that make things easier tend to make them harder as well. It is easier since the user and librarian can be anywhere and still able to communicate about both the question and the answer. Anytime/anywhere access to information, at the point of need, is certainly the defining advantage of virtual reference.
Virtual access, however, has an abracadabra quality. The user learns less about the incremental steps to finding an answer provided in face-to-face interactions so that, in effect, for every research question the user starts from scratch. Anytime access also requires the reference librarian’s constant attention to connectivity issues so critical to its success.
What are some suggestions for keeping up to date on reference sources, both as an individual and an institution?
There are many ways to stay up to date, both formal and interpersonal. Let us count the ways.
- Habitual reading of professional literature
- Attending conferences with exhibits by vendors
- Participating in webinars
- Routinely discussing information on new resources with colleagues
- Being alert to feedback from users
- Joining listervs that discuss reference materials
- Following pertinent blogs, twitter accounts, newsletters, websites
- Being an alert member of professional association.
Trustworthy, fact-based reference materials are more important than ever. How would you ethically handle a situation if you discovered that a library user was relying on sources that were questionable?
The use of questionable sources by users is something reference librarians face every day. It is, in fact, what makes reference librarianship so integral to good research! Reference librarians have always combated it by providing considered alternatives. Talking to users about the value of vetted resources and helping them understand the difference in authority and accuracy between a vetted resource and unfiltered Google results or social media discussions, is par for the course.
A more intractable challenge is the viral spread of misinformation in a hyper-networked world. Proactive measures to encourage digital literacy and critical thinking in users, such as those parsed so effectively in the Information Literacy poster available at ALA, is essential.
If you could give today’s LIS students one piece of advice, what would it be?
Kay Ann Cassell: Always be sure the information you use online is accurate and up-to-date. That means that if it is the first time you are using a site, you must evaluate it.
Uma Hiremath: Reference librarianship is a way of life. You never stop learning and you never stop finding the next best referral for your users.
The fourth edition of Reference and Information Services: An introduction will be published in June by Facet Publishing.
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This guest post from Sara Mannheimer and Ryer Banta is about introducing undergraduates to the foundations of research data management through something everyone can relate to—organizing personal digital files. You can read more about their experience in The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving which features their co-authored chapter, “Personal Digital Archiving as a Bridge to Research Data Management”
In 2016, we were both working at Montana State University Library, but working in totally different divisions. Sara was the Data Management Librarian with a focus on research data management and data management planning for faculty and graduate students. Ryer was the Undergraduate Experience Librarian, focusing on information literacy instruction and support for undergraduate students. In many ways it would seem that we were living in very different parts of the library.
Although our jobs were quite different, we connected over our shared conviction that undergraduates would benefit from learning fundamental research data management skills. Undergraduates are entering a data-driven job market, where skills related to data management are in high demand. In industry, data scientists are working in a wide variety of sectors, and in academia, researchers are increasingly required to publish research data. Tailoring research data management lessons to undergraduates also served a key student population at MSU. Montana State University is a mid-sized university with about 16,500 total students, about 14,000 of whom are undergraduates. So we knew that there could be a big potential impact if we could figure out a meaningful way to help undergraduates build research data management skills.
As we began to think about creating a useful and meaningful research data management related lesson for undergraduates, our immediate challenge was figuring out how to get over the hurdle of making research data management relevant. Most undergraduates do not encounter research data on a regular basis, and we wanted to connect research data management to their daily life, their current schoolwork, or ideally both. The instructional principle of making lessons relevant may seem to be fairly common sense, but it is also supported by constructivist learning theory. We dipped our toes into this rich area of scholarship while developing our lesson, focusing on a couple of aspects of constructivist learning theory. For anyone developing learning experiences, we highly recommend dipping your toes, and even diving headlong, into constructivist learning theory and related theories.
Constructivist learning theory encompasses several principles, but we focused on the principles related to active, student-focused discovery. Two core tenets of constructivist learning theory specify that:
- New learning builds on prior knowledge. By tapping into students’ past experiences, educators can create a learning sequence that extends from prior knowledge to the current lesson to a lifelong pattern of curiosity and learning.
- Meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks. Activities conducted in class should simulate activities that students will use in their class assignments and in their real lives. This strategy ensures that the skills students learn in the classroom have direct relevance to their lives outside of the classroom.
Applying these tenets provided us with new insights about how to make research data management relevant for undergraduates. Given that new learning builds on prior knowledge, we aimed to understand students’ prior knowledge regarding data, tap into students’ past learning experiences, and then build upon that knowledge in the classroom. Given that meaningful learning develops through “authentic” tasks, we aimed to teach concrete, relatable skills that could be practiced both during instruction and afterwards. We wanted to position research data management skills in the context of students’ current lives, rather than promising a theoretical applicability to an abstract future career.
Taking a cue from constructivist learning theories, we realized that we could start with data that students already use and manage on a daily basis, specifically their digital files on their computers. At the same time, we also realized that many of the basic principles of research data management are also found in personal digital archiving practice. These dual realizations helped us focus our lesson on principles and practices that could be immediately applied to students’ digital files. In fact, in our lesson, we designed activities that got students started on reorganizing their files following personal digital archiving best practices. We organized our lesson into four key sections:
- Set the stage. Students describe the use, importance, and challenges of data within their discipline or other personally relevant contexts. This step helps prepare students to apply the lesson to their own lives.
- Basics of personal digital archiving. Students discover basic personal digital archiving strategies and principles that are also used to manage research data. This step provides a foundation of knowledge that informs in-class activities.
- Apply learning with activities. Students apply personal digital archiving strategies and principles to organize and document their own files and data. This step provides students with hands-on experience with personal digital archiving strategies.
- Debrief to connect personal digital archiving to research data management. Students reflect upon the value of the personal digital archiving principles and practices for their own personal data and discover the connection and similarities between personal digital archiving and research data management. This step allows students to process the lesson and consider future applications of the skills they learned.
We have had success with this lesson, and we have found that teaching personal digital archiving practices can act as a bridge that connects key practices of research data management to students’ everyday lives. Personal digital archiving builds on students’ prior knowledge of their digital belongings, and allows students to learn through authentic tasks that have immediate relevance to their daily lives. We hope that other librarians and educators can adapt and reuse the basic instructional strategies that we developed in their own learning contexts. Critical thinking about managing digital materials—whether personal files or research data—is a foundational skill that will benefit students during their undergraduate education and in their future careers.
Ryer Banta is the information literacy and technology librarian at Centralia College (WA), where he manages digital resources and services, and helps learners develop information literacy and lifelong learning skills. His research interests include open education, instructional design, educational technology, information literacy, and user experience.
You can follow Ryer on Twitter @RyerBanta
Sara Mannheimer is the data librarian at Montana State University in Bozeman, where she facilitates research data management and sharing, and promotes digital scholarship using library collections and “big data” sources. Her research focuses on data management practices, data discovery, digital preservation, and the social, ethical, and technical issues surrounding data-driven research.
You can follow Sara on Twitter @saramannheimer
The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving helps information professionals break down archival concepts and best practices into teachable solutions. Whether it’s an academic needing help preserving their scholarly records, a student developing their data literacy skills or someone backing up family photos and videos to protect against hard-drive failure, this book will show information professionals how to offer assistance.
Find out more about the book and read a sample chapter here.
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Facet Publishing have announced the release of The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving, edited by Brianna H Marshall
Academics and the general public alike need help managing the digital information they create and save every day. But how can librarians and archivists translate their professional knowledge into practical skills that novices can apply to their own projects? The Complete Guide to Personal Digital Archiving helps information professionals break down archival concepts and best practices into teachable solutions. Whether it’s an academic needing help preserving their scholarly records, a student developing their data literacy skills or someone backing up family photos and videos to protect against hard-drive failure, this book will show information professionals how to offer assistance.
Featuring contributions from experts working in a variety of contexts this practical resource will help librarians, digital curators and archivists empower people from all walks of life to take charge of their personal digital materials. Key coverage includes explanations of common terms in plain language, quick, non-technical solutions to the most frequent user requests and guidance on how to archive social media posts, digital photographs and web content.
Marshall said, “From the outset, my intention has been for this book to be used as a primer for information professionals who haven’t been quite sure how to approach personal digital archiving (PDA) yet. My hope is that they become not just informed but also excited to pass along critical skills that will help equip members of their communities to have a less painful and more fruitful PDA journey. I am convinced that sharing even simple principles for how to store, share, and preserve digital objects will benefit our users in both their personal and professional lives. The chapters are intentionally practitioner-focused so that after finishing this book, readers will feel ready to start conversations and make amazing things happen within their communities.”
Brianna H Marshall is director of research services at the University of California, Riverside. Previously, she was digital curation coordinator at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She holds master of library science and master of information science degrees from the Indiana University School of Informatics and Computing.
With a growing requirement to produce reports and briefing documents based on the information you retrieve, library and information professionals in all sectors can learn from techniques used by journalists.
Spotlight is a movie that tells the true story of how journalists at the Boston Globe lifted the lid on a major cover-up in the Catholic Church. During their investigations, the team did everything you would expect investigative journalists to do: they door-stepped people; they confronted leading figures; they waited for hours in outer offices trying to grab interviews.
But the backbone of their research was a simple spreadsheet onto which they made entries from back issues of the Massachusetts Catholic Directory. It was this that enabled them to spot the suspicious patterns of behaviour that underpinned their revelations.
This kind of activity is increasing dramatically in importance. At the rocket science end of the spectrum it’s manifesting itself as big data, where analysts develop and employ applications to trawl vast quantities of data, looking for patterns that can be turned into e-commerce or other opportunities.
But the principle of applying critical analysis to retrieved data operates across the board – including to the human brain power that we bring to bear in carrying out literature searches. Of course, we mere mortals do face limitations, mainly in the tiny amount of content we are capable of evaluating within a sensible timescale compared with what computers can achieve – but that doesn’t mean we’re incapable of doing it.
Ploughing has had its day
Turning your raw search results into a narrative report – one that enables your enquirer to reach a decision, make a recommendation or take action – is becoming the stock in trade of information professionals in a growing number of fields, including government, health services and law.
Information professionals who carry out desk research on their users’ behalf are the obvious and immediate beneficiaries of techniques such as these. But the skills are no less valuable for academic librarians, charged with fostering information literacy and encouraging good research practice in students doing assignments.
Simply ploughing through a linear list of unstructured search results, hoping that the most useful ones will pop out at you, isn’t an efficient way of going about the task. Taking our cue from those Boston Globe journalists, we can get far more out of our results by turning them into a flexible dataset.
To do this, you might be able to make use of your chosen reference management package. This should at least save you time by automating the presentation of each document’s bibliographic characteristics, and you may then be able to add extra customised fields for the further ways in which you want to arrange your search results.
You may also find that you have to add ‘grey’ literature – short reports, articles from non-mainstream sources, website content, ephemera – manually. Obviously making these manual additions could be time-consuming, but it will probably be time well invested because, once entered, the reference management software will treat these non-standard documents just the same as the others, ensuring a uniform format for every document and allowing you to create bibliographies automatically.
So if you can use a reference management package to automate at least part of the process, that should save you a great deal of time at the next stage. But if you can’t, you could use any application that will support this kind of matrix structure – a spreadsheet or database package, the table function in a word processed document, or any proprietary software that can be used for project management purposes.
You may also be able to automate some of the process by making use of the text-to-table conversion function that comes with your word processing package – although the resulting table may need so much repair that you may be no better off than if you had done the whole thing manually in the first place.
Letting you change your mind
Obviously the more you can automate the better – but whatever means you decide to use to restructure your search results, you will need to satisfy yourself that your chosen approach will enable you to:
• work with documents taken from any source you choose, not just mainstream ones
• describe those documents using whatever headings you want
• sort and re-sort the documents using multiple criteria determined by you.
What sort of criteria? Well, subject topics clearly – but you (or your student) will also need to be able to sort the documents according to how useful they’re likely to be in answering the enquiry. There’s a really good principle for ranking documents in this way: Must Know; Should Know; Could Know.
Must know documents are the handful of retrieved results that are so comprehensive and so authoritative that you’re going to use them as the basis for your report (or your student as the basis of their assignment).
Should know documents might provide evidence supporting the main findings, or include case studies demonstrating how the techniques outlined in the Must Know documents would work in practice.
Could know documents include the rest of your viable results. They’re potentially useful in terms of detail, but they’re not going to add a great deal more to your enquirer’s overall understanding of the subject.
Crucially, organising your documents in this way enables you to change your mind whenever you need to. If you find you’re now not so keen on the documents that have come to the top as Must Knows, it’s the work of minutes to rethink, re-categorise and sort again.
Get this far, and it’s only a slight exaggeration to say that your report can practically draft itself. But to complete the job, you do need to be able to deploy another key skill: strategic reading. We’ll look at that in a follow-up blog.
You can also check out Tim Buckley Owen’s blog article on what library and information professionals learn from the ‘Dodgy Dossier’.
Find out more about Tim Buckley Owen’s Successful Enquiry Answering Every Time 7th edition from Facet Publishing
Tim Buckley Owen BA DipLib MCLIP is an independent writer and trainer with over 40 years’ experience of information work – at Westminster Central Reference Library, the City Business Library, and as Principal Information Officer at the London Research Centre. He has also held strategic media and communications posts at CILIP, the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council and the Library & Information Commission.
This blog post originally appeared on the CILIP blog in April 2017. You can view the original post here: https://www.cilip.org.uk/blog/6-suggestions-teaching-information-literacy