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Reflecting on Reference Encounters Joan Gibbons Wintec.

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1 Reflecting on Reference Encounters Joan Gibbons Wintec

2 In a tertiary library, reference services revolve around student learning The dimensions of student learning have been characterised as: changing and learning meaning making critical curiosity creativity learning relationships strategic awareness resilience (Crick, 2009)

3 If you like to be always right, don’t become a reference librarian When we were looking for ways to document what we do, Carr’s “learning stories” struck me as a possible way to reflect on reference work. “Unscripted pathways and uncertain outcomes” (Carr, 2001, p. viii) are characteristic of reference work.

4 Reflective journal Reflective journals can be used as a way of improving your work. “Reflective practice is linked to continuous improvement and the ability to adjust to different age groups and contexts” (O’Connor & Diggins, 2002, p. 7). “Observations in everyday settings, designed to provide a cumulative series of qualitative snapshots or written vignettes” (Carr, 2001, p. 96) are what I was aiming at. “Documenting the learning at the time” to provide “insights into the goals… of our programme, and of how they might be recognised and developed in other activities” (Carr, p. 2).

5 Matching the information to the student Thinking on your feet Being prepared for changes in direction Simplifying vocabulary where necessary Matching difficulty level to student capability Showing them finding aids like table of contents, back-of-book index, subject headings, as well as online databases, keyword searching, subject headings

6 Listen Listen to find out what student wants Encourage them to talk about their information need Encourage them to talk to help them work out what it is they are looking for Listen to stimulate their flow of ideas (especially thesis students)

7 Case Study 1: Be As Quick As Possible This student wanted to know what to do about the author of a web article, where there wasn’t one. Brought up website, asked him to identify owner, suggested they might be the corporate author. We discussed what this meant. He agreed. Interview over.

8 Case study 2: Misunderstanding A student asked for books on acculturation I looked at her assignment She already had the only article she was required to read I pointed out the key points of her assignment I showed her where it told her to reflect on her own experience in relation to the article’s views I did this 3 times before she believed me She left with no books but with a better idea of what was required I checked with her tutor that I was right in my interpretation of the assignment

9 Case study 3: Using databases Business tutor asks for help for 2 international students struggling with a task Find out what task is Ascertain they are using a useful database Check search terms. Limit to useful ones. Click “full text” Use Advanced Search Add more specific terms Discuss ways to locate the specific information required Confirm that they would need to read part of the article to check the usefulness of the information

10 Case study 4: Uncertainty Student didn’t know what she was looking for Encourage her to talk, to think out loud about her task – obesity in children Ask questions, e.g. different reasons for obesity might be physical or psychological Result – she sees there is no point in searching databases until she had sorted out what she wanted to find Returned next day with focussed questions

11 Case study 5: Do it for me This was a negative experience for both me and the student Student in the final semester of her degree wanted me to choose the resources she would use to write her essay. Why? I think because then it would be my fault, not hers, if she got a poor grade. She has been doing this all through her degree. I thought she should be thinking about her task and making her own decisions. Her Subject Librarian, who had spent several sessions with her, agreed.

12 5: Ask, and it shall be given S - I need a definition of “social justice” Me - Have you tried Googling “social justice: definition”? S - I don’t want to use Google Me – You will find one in a dictionary of sociology S - Line 1 repeated 10+ times during interview... Me - Have you thought about what social justice means? S – I need a definition… Me – Until you think about what it means, you won’t recognise relevant information when you see it. Me - The book you already have is the most relevant book on the topic. You will find a definition there.

13 5 : Why was I not more helpful? This student seriously needs to think about what she is doing, and take responsibility for her own learning. Until she thinks about what “social justice” means, she will not know what to search for on the databases. She may not recognise, e.g., that an article on child poverty is related to social justice. I found the interview very frustrating. She came back that afternoon to ask the next person on the desk the same thing.

14 Case Study 6: A Strengths Approach Student sits at desk and shows me her assignment sheet - an approach often taken by students who don’t know where to start. I ask whether it is a real or a theoretical case. She tells me about it. I note keywords as she talks. As I show interest, she tells me more. I show her how her keywords work on EBSCO, suggest she selects Fulltext, and point out relevant Subject Headings that have appeared.

15 6: Strengths I use her keywords on the catalogue. She needs recent sources so I show her how to use date restrictions. Throughout, she tells me more about her case. She wants to take a strengths-based approach, not dwell on difficulties. I tell her she has been doing really good thinking about this already, and that will help her with her assignment. She grows. I point out a dominant call number and we go to the shelves. She sees other things there not on her list. She asks me why I have picked one book, and I say she talked about that topic and it might support what she has to say.

16 6: Resilience I suggest she already has the outline of her case study in what she has told me, and needs to write that up with support from the literature, rather than basing her assignment on the resources and inserting bits about her case. She is excited at this approach and sees it will work for her. Her enthusiasm comes from her practice, so this seems a good way for her to work. I show her a book on resilience, one of the things she mentioned. This prods her to think that maybe the mental health issue is a red herring. Maybe it is resilience relating to recovery she needs to concentrate on, and worry about the mental health issues only if they come up. It is a relevant direction which changes the way she has been thinking about her case.

17 6: Library Support Asking if it was real sparked her story recount. We used her own language as keywords. Genuine praise for her thoughtfulness about the case gave her confidence. Suggestions for use of resources helped with direction. Study help: suggestion that her thoughts about the case were the main thread, the literature was support for this. Listening furthered her thinking. Both of us enjoyed this reference encounter.

18 What I learned Reflecting takes time but is worthwhile With practice I became briefer & more succinct in my reflections A few minutes spent reflecting can help me identify what I have done that is useful, and what was less useful It helps adjust strategies Tracks progress Helps me as a librarian help students with their study; “co-construct learning journeys and learning pathways” (Carr, 2012, p. 129).

19 References Carr, M. (2001). Assessment in early childhood settings: Learning stories. London, England, Sage. Carr, M., & Lee, W. (2012). Learning stories: Constructing learner identities in early education. Los Angeles, CA: Sage. Crick, R. D. (2009). Introducing ELLI. Retrieved from O’Connor, A., & Diggins, C. (2002). On reflection: Reflective practice for early childhood educators. Lower Hutt, New Zealand: Open Mind Publishing.

20 Thank you Joan Gibbons, ALIANZA, RLIANZA LIANZA Waikato/Bay of Plenty Weekend School, Gisborne, May 2014.


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