Laura Robinson Hanlan, ILL and Reference librarian at WPI, conducted a lively session reporting on her efforts to improve service to students, faculty, and other library users. She based her efforts on information literacy standards. Training for staff and student workers, particularly student supervisors, is achieving a daily transformation. Students and library staff demonstrate the reference interview, exploit teachable moments, and empower the person seeking information, all through an emphasis on instruction over delivery.
In her PowerPoint, Hanlan highlighted some of the tools she designed for “training the trainers,” including mnemonics and scenarios. “Reference is about HELP,” she offered. By HELP, she means “Helpfulness, Educating yourself, Listening and asking questions, [and] Positive closings.” This deceptively simple scheme is also a vivid reminder of ways to greet patrons, prepare oneself with knowledge of what is available, examine requests, and confirm that the seeker is satisfied with the outcome. Scenarios, rather than offering a memory support, help in visualizing experiences staff are likely to encounter. These offer concrete examples of interactions and practical guidance in ways to make them amiable and productive.
One highly desirable outcome of this approach is the peer support student workers are able to offer to students looking for help with their research. But student staff are cautioned not to guess. Instead, they bring patrons with complex questions to reference librarians, who can in turn offer feedback to student workers about their handling of these referrals.
Other WPI library staff reported that members from all levels and various departments are involved in frequent half-hour training sessions. These allow staff to share different services and skills.
Librarians from the other ARC libraries described their methods of inserting information literacy either formally or informally as part of the training of student and support staff and enlisting faculty. At Clark, student worker training is offered in multiple sessions at the beginning of the academic year, while at Holy Cross training occurs as needed. At Worcester State, with only one full-time reference librarian, cross-training of staff and modeling the research process with students (by guiding them through the steps and narrating the thinking process, rather than just providing the desired articles, books, etc.) are two means of transmitting expertise in doing research. At Quinsigamond, viewing the faculty as a target audience during the instruction sessions has increased formal information literacy instruction. The instruction librarian at Fitchburg State, Sara Marks urges faculty to match timing of instruction sessions with the syllabus time-line for research projects.
Librarians at Worcester State, WPI and Holy Cross commented on the use they are making of web-based software to mount handouts through Sharepoint or on Blackboard/WebCT, and to use Chat sessions as opportunities to teach the research process.
Christine Drew asked the group to respond to the ARC Steering Committee’s question: what do we think is the charge of the information literacy and reference IG? In the ensuing discussion, veteran members said the twice-a-year meetings have been more instructive and better attended than the quarterly meetings of the WACL (Worcester Area College Libraries) standing committee. We concluded that our purpose is to network on current trends and issues in information literacy and reference, and to continue meeting twice a year to learn and share.
Future meeting topic was suggested on the topic of Virtual Reference services and Patty Pocaro from Holy Cross may be able to host the fall 2007 meeting.
Attendees: Alice Baron (Anna Maria), Callie Curran Morrell (Assumption), Christine Drew (WPI), Dale LaBonte (QCC), Fyiane Nsilo-Swai (QCC), Laura Robinson Hanlan (WPI), Larry Spongberg (Assumption), Rachel Shea (Clark), Patty Pocaro (Holy Cross), Elizabeth Maisey (Assumption), Mary Brunelle (Assumption), Lynne Riley (WPI), Debbie Verhoff (Fitchburg), Sara Marks (Fitchburg), Jan Wilbur (Assumption), Linda LeBlanc
(Fitchburg), Pam R. McKay (Worcester State)