Academic Exchange Quarterly Winter 2003: Volume 7, Issue 4
Enticing Faculty to Library Instruction Workshops
Allison V. Level,
Catherine L. Cranston,
is the agricultural reference librarian and provides instruction for the
agricultural and natural sciences. She has an MLS from
is an instruction librarian. She has an MA in Library Science from the
It is often difficult to engage academic faculty and staff to attend workshops about changing library technologies and resources. This article discusses a successful program, “Find it Fast: Research Tips for People in a Hurry.” This instruction program targeted academic faculty and staff who were not aware of new online journals, databases, and computer linking services such as SFX. “Find it Fast” outlined advanced Web searching skills, ways to maximize your research time, and new library services. Recruitment, evaluation results, and the fit with overall outreach efforts is discussed.
The information and research environments of academic faculty and staff are continually changing. Library technologies and resources also change, but it can be difficult to get faculty and staff to explore and expand their comfortable research environments through the new resources and services available. People know what it is like to search Google and get 400,000 hits for things they do not care about. What they want to know is how to focus and get 40 hits for the things they need. In this article the authors describe a professional development workshop that became a springboard for recruiting faculty and staff to attend research workshops in an academic library.
The popular and well-attended Professional Development Institute (PDI) has been in place for twenty-four years at Colorado State University (CSU). The PDI program is sponsored by the Office of Instructional Services. Faculty and staff are encouraged to present programs on topical areas including teaching and learning, technology in the classroom, personal and professional development, advising, outreach and service, or administrative issues. The programs are scheduled on-campus for early January, between semesters, each year. Attendees include administrators, faculty, staff, and graduate assistants. In Fall 2002, the CSU Libraries launched new services, online journals, and a redesigned website. Capitalizing on new resources, a campus-wide well established PDI model, and the desire to “do more with less,” two reference and instruction librarians decided to offer a PDI workshop that would play to a diverse audience.
The CSU Libraries has offered several different workshops geared towards faculty and staff over the past five years. One of the early programs, “Fast, Free, Easy” was popular and had good turnout. Since then, with a few exceptions, the turnout has decreased. Recent programs structured around new databases or resources such as Web of Science or SFX have been popular. Other libraries have reported similar experiences. In Mosley’s (1998) article about experiences at Texas A&M she reported, “Faculty participation at electronic database instructional sessions held in the library had a history of being erratic, and there were concerns with regard to attracting busy faculty members to attend the workshop” (34).
Workshops can be a balancing act between offering instruction sessions to educate faculty, while not portraying them as out of touch with the latest resources. As Cunningham (2002) points out, "…faculty may perceive information literacy training as remedial for them and their students, so care should be taken to approach collaboration as an opportunity for mutual benefit and "keeping the saw sharp" rather than remediation for anyone" (346).
Strategies for Workshop Content
The program’s title, “Find it Fast: Research Tips for People in a Hurry” was created to be eye-catching and entice faculty and staff to spend time learning how to hone their research skills. Although the workshop audience was diverse, the session pinpointed good starting points for research, including how to find reference books on a topic and which databases were best for researching subject-specific topics. Research from other universities has found that, “Faculty information needs varied by discipline but did focus on two primary areas: document access and skill development" (Westbrook,147). The CSU session included information geared for faculty and staff, but it also covered resources for students, which the faculty could link-to or mention in their syllabus. The Libraries have been working on several flash-based tutorials, and these guides to advanced searching and research techniques were mentioned as a resource for students.
With the Fall 2002 launch of two new services, SFX and Citation Linker, there were new flashy resources to showcase. Both services make it easier to locate articles and full-text sources. With help from the OpenURL standard, the technology enables researches to go from database citations to full-text articles within a couple of clicks. The customized SFX menu also provides links to the Libraries’ catalog and interlibrary loan, creating an easier way for researchers to find out if the book or journal is “accessible” from the library.
Books and journal articles are still the foundation along the research path but people also want to do a better job identifying quality information from the Web. As part of the workshop, advanced Web searching skills and search engine comparisons were discussed. The session was structured so participants would have time to sharpen their research skills with hands-on practice using a topic of their choice. The PDI session had thirty people enrolled with twenty on the waiting list.
When describing similar workshops at California State University Sacramento, Hall (1999) notes that faculty, “are quite familiar with the literature in their fields and they regularly look at their journals, but many have not kept up with the changes that technology has imposed on information dissemination in their disciplines” (30). At CSU, similar patterns were found and the librarians decided that the workshop would focus on the library's electronic resources, explaining how to access, use, and integrate them into the curriculum.
With a captive audience of many teaching faculty, the librarians showed how to get information about planning good library assignments and also how to contact the library to set up library instruction sessions for their classes. The librarians illustrated the importance of critical information-seeking skills and information literacy. Examples of poor, but all too common, search strategies were contrasted with creative and effective searches. Several faculty members commented on how much they learned during the session and that they would definitely bring their students in for a library research session. One evaluation stated, “Tons of information – great! Suggest expanding session to at least 90 minutes.” One of the program objectives was to plant the seed that library resources change, and it is worth their time to come to a workshop or talk with their subject librarian to stay current.
Workshop Assessment and Adaptation
Many of the comments received from the evaluation forms focused on the issue of timing. When initially planning this program, the librarians considered making the PDI workshop two hours long. However, this seemed a bit long considering that the title, "Find it Fast," touted the idea of getting useful information quickly. Instead, the mistake was made of trying to fit too much information into too short a time. An overly ambitious range of topics was covered, and the participants rightly told us, “Way too much to deliver in a measly hour!” and “Very good info – just too much to present in too little time.” Some participants were pleased with the fast-paced nature of the session, “Very concise & well delivered,” but the majority felt that a longer class period would have been beneficial. They cited the need for more time to practice, and more time for individual questions to be addressed. The saving grace for this flaw in our initial design was the fact that multiple handouts and an online Web site were provided, and comments indicated participants appreciated and planned to use these materials after the workshop. The Web pages created were comprehensive enough so that participants could refer back to them for additional information or as a refresher to what was covered during the workshop.
With the overall success of the PDI and a waiting list of interested participants, the librarians decided to offer additional research sessions during the Spring semester. Using evaluations from this base of attendees, plus a ready-made waiting list of those who could not attend, follow-up sessions were created to run throughout the beginning of the Spring semester.
The librarians decided on a combination of one hour and two hour workshops. The one hour sessions were scheduled during the lunch hour with “part one” and “part two” so people could come for either session and also come during lunch. Longer two hour sessions were scheduled in both the morning and afternoon, for people who wanted to come to only one session for all the information. Informal drop-in open research times were scheduled so people could attend with the research topics of their choice. Librarians were in the room to answer questions, make suggestions for databases to use and offer research tips to keep in mind.
The research sessions were publicized through the Libraries’ home page and the campus-wide e-mail listserv. E-mails were sent directly to everyone on the PDI waiting list. The topics to be covered in each of the sessions were explicitly stated so participants could make an informed decision about which session would be most beneficial for them. A few participants from the initial PDI returned for open research help to get the hands-on practice and additional individualized help they missed the first time around.
In order to be responsive to the feedback garnered from the initial PDI, some modifications were made to the content and outline of the session. More hands-on time was the first change to be incorporated. Time was scheduled after each segment of new information to allow participants to put the lesson into practice immediately, and determine on the spot if they understood the steps involved. In order to better illustrate the benefits of the Citation Linker tool, a research flow chart handout was devised to show how finding citations in a reference book could lead to full-text articles in hand within a matter of minutes. The flow chart format was easy to follow and enhanced the demonstration on the computer screen. After seeing how well the other handouts went over, it was determined that the research flow lesson could benefit from a tangible take home example as well.
Teaching these workshops as a team worked well on many levels. The class sizes ranged between twelve to thirty people, so the ability to help answer as many questions as possible one-on-one made this a much more personalized experience for participants. The focus of finding information quickly led to a fast-paced class with lots of information streaming out in a rapid-fire fashion. Being able to break-up the session between two librarians helped keep it fresh for both the librarians and the participants. While many instruction librarians are comfortable with the fast-paced nature of getting the information out, most would agree that they do a better job if they can catch a breather between involved topics. Being able to see how another instruction librarian approaches a topic helps to add variety to teaching styles and improves overall teaching skills.
One of the best things accomplished by this workshop was having people from across campus who might not normally avail themselves of our services, meet not one but two librarians who presented a helpful face for the library. Follow-up contact from the participants showed that new connections had been forged. These conversations emphasized the availability of subject librarians who could go into specifics with them about more extensive research questions or lead a class discussion about research skills in their subject area. It was a surprise to know that not everyone understood that this was a central role for academic librarians. Some faculty and staff are still under the impression that they are a bother if they ask for help when using the library. Many feel they should be able to figure out how to use these resources on their own. This is another lesson in why marketing services is so important.
Library Outreach Opportunities
There has been an active outreach effort for years at the CSU Libraries, including teaching targeted populations of First-Year, Black, Hispanic, and disabled students (Neely, 1999). The Libraries’ participation in offering PDI programs has been a method of providing outreach to another targeted group of people including faculty, staff and graduate teaching assistants on campus. One of the CSU Libraries’ goals from a recent planning retreat document outlines the intent to increase collaborative relationships and pursue additional outreach opportunities (Colorado State University Libraries, 2002). By taking the PDI session one step further and offering follow-up with the people on the waiting list, efforts were made to not leave any eager learner behind.
The benefit of using the PDI as a launching pad for workshops is the ability to reach not only teaching faculty, but professional staff and graduate teaching assistants at the same time. The general nature of the “Find it Fast” session was appealing to each of these groups of busy researchers. By using the lure of a quick approach to finding information, many of the participants are now hooked on some of the new tools and resources, as evidenced by follow-up phone calls and e-mails. Teaching faculty who might not have brought their classes in for a library instruction session have now rethought the idea. Several participants said, based on how much had changed since the last time they had used the library, they wanted to make sure their students were also aware of the time-saving tools.
Once again targeting a captive audience, the library instruction team is moving forward with a plan to use the already established Computer Training & Support Services (CTSS) mechanism for registering workshop participants. CTSS has an established online automated method of registration for their set of training workshops which deal with software programs, campus networking capabilities, etc. The library has recently strengthened a relationship with CTSS to provide library research classes as part of their menu of selections to the campus community. In the past, the library advertised its faculty/staff workshops by sending out e-mails, posting messages to campus electronic newsletters, printing notices in the campus paper, and posting announcements on our library website. The advantage of the CTSS registration scenario is the established reach it has to all faculty and staff on campus. They will be able to advertise our workshops to a receptive audience. CTSS registration provides a similar opportunity to gauge interest and follow-up with people on a waiting list. Since this registration system is highly visible, it will generate good business for the library instruction team. It is hoped that people will make new connections between technology and the library.
Much outreach is targeted to specific departments through library liaisons, or is course content based. However, there is still room for broader general approaches of finding information based on new resources and enhanced technologies such as SFX. Some participants were waiting for this type of general information session because they are not interested in participating in subject-based sessions. Using these types of opportunities to get a foot in the door with a wider audience will help build information literacy skills and information competencies across campus.
The PDI program and follow-up research sessions were a success. Factors that contributed include tapping into a well-established professional development program, showcasing new library services, and addressing the desire of faculty and staff to sharpen their research knowledge. The original one hour PDI instruction session met the initial goal of getting the word out about new resources and library tools while generating interest in additional learning opportunities. By creating a flexible set of session times with a general set of information literacy skills, the goal of creating a wider outreach to campus professionals was addressed.
In the past two years there have been many newly hired subject librarians working hard to develop new liaison relationships with faculty and increase instruction sessions. Recruiting faculty and staff into the library can be difficult, but the eye-catching program title baited the hook and the quality content reeled them in. Realizing there are other “fish in the sea,” content from the “Find it Fast” workshop will be included in the upcoming CTSS research classes and in next year’s PDI program.
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Mosley, P.A. (1998). Creating a library assignment workshop for university faculty. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 24(1), 33-41.
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