Back to school

Two librarians share their insights for the academic year ahead

The fall academic semester is already underway for many postsecondary institutions or will begin before the end of the month. For librarians who provide instruction for new or returning students and faculty, this is a busy time of year. What do you do to prepare? We asked two librarians for their input.

Photo of librarian Frank EdgcombeFrank Edgcombe is an Associate Professor/Reference Librarian at the William R. and Norma B. Harvey Library, Hampton University in Virginia. Over his 37 years as a librarian, he has also been the Assistant Director, Christopher Newport University, the Acting Library Director at Hampton University, and the Media Librarian at Montclair State University. Frank received his MA in History from New York University and his MLS from Rutgers University, as well as a 6th year Certificate.


Photo of librarian Paul FehrmannPaul Fehrmann is an Associate Professor/Reference, Instruction, and Collection Librarian at the University Libraries, Kent State University. Paul has been at Kent State for 18 years.


PsycINFO (PI): What is your primary role and who is your main audience?

Frank Edgcombe (FE): My primary role is Reference Librarian. My main audiences are undergraduate students, but I also teach graduate students and faculty to use resources, including databases.

Paul Fehrmann (PF): In my role as a faculty librarian, I support students, staff and faculty at Kent State with services in reference, instruction and collection development; my emphasis is on these academic subject areas: psychology, philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and religious studies.

PI: As the fall semester approaches and gets underway, what do you have to do to prepare?

FE: As fall approaches I have to learn new interfaces with a number of databases and the change in delivery of APA databases from EBSCO to APA PsycNET®, new interfaces on EBSCO and Science Direct, Scopus and Scirius. We are planning an institute for all faculty on the research process, my part will be to introduce new interfaces and newer components such as citation analysis and alerting systems. Other librarians are preparing a tutorial using EmPower, which will be delivered by Blackboard for incoming students.

PF: We are updating and sending reminders of our services to the academic departments we serve. I am also involved in orientation programs for new grad students and faculty. During the summer we also have been updating or creating new online resources (web pages, etc.) that support study and research activities at Kent State.

PI: Do you provide hands-on instruction in a computer lab or other classroom setting for students? And do you offer both introductory and advanced sessions?

PF: We provide hands-on instruction for classes, primarily in the University Libraries classrooms, both introductory and advanced. Although one-on-one ad hoc instruction frequently occurs in the Reference area, we also provide more extended research consultation by appointment.

FE: We do provide hands-on instruction in a library classroom with 36 laptop computers and computer projection. The Institute however will be in a Meeting Room with computer projection capabilities and 80+ seats. It'll be show-and-tell.

We provide introductory sessions for freshmen and advanced sessions for upperclassmen, graduate students, PhD candidates and faculty.

PI: What instructional media are you using? What medium do you find the most useful for your purposes?

FE: We use hands-on capabilities, computer projection, PowerPoint, and clickers (hand- held response devices)

PF: I have used screen captures of search examples in PowerPoint, although I prefer hands on with actual resources being covered. For online instruction, my colleague, Vanessa Earp, used Adobe's Captivate to develop a set of 5 modules on APA Style, and faculty have expressed appreciation for the set. Other colleagues have used Captivate for other modules.

PI: What kind of support do you provide directly to faculty?

FE: We provide instruction to faculty through Institutes; departmental meetings; one-on-one; research consultations;research guides; dissertation assistance; etc. Faculty also can request Library Instruction.

PF: In addition to library research instruction for classes, I have helped faculty with RefWorks utilization for grants and articles. I also collaborate with faculty on the selection of library/information resources that support instruction and research.

PI: How do you make use of course management software (CMS), LibGuides, and other sharing tools to support your efforts to promote information literacy?

FE: We use Blackboard and will put our tutorials up on Blackboard for faculty to use.

PF: We have a University Libraries' created CMS that we have used for web pages. We have been working with teaching faculty using Blackboard Vista, and we are evaluating LibGuides for instruction.

PI: What is the most challenging psychology-related query you have had of late?

PF: An interesting query for me was the potential impact on folks' views of ethical behavior (or on their actual inclination to ethical behavior) when those folks come to adopt the view that they are not "free agents."

FE: All questions are treated as challenging, that is in the eyes of the questioner/client every request presents an important challenge. Consequently, each client deserves that the librarians respect the question and treat it with equal deference. Hopefully, by showing each client how to build a search strategy, to solve the client's needs, the question becomes a teachable moment.

PI: What do you think the biggest library-related change has been in the last five years?

FE: Obviously the biggest change is the switch from print indexes to online databases and the variety of search capabilities that those databases provide. The other major change is the plethora of information available, much of which is bad and the need for the client to be trained to evaluate the good from the bad. Years ago clients didn't need to do this. If it was printed and purchased by a library, it had generally gone through a multitude of quality checks, by publishers, editorial boards, reviewers, librarians, etc.

PF: One area for increased library instruction might involve the following. A core value in science is the transparent reporting of methodology; this is needed for peer review, replication, etc. Related to this, and considering the emerging resources noted just above, with respect to information literacy instruction it seems that librarians might be involved with new areas or resources for instruction having to do with students monitoring, documenting, and then reporting on the "discovery" process they use to select the resources they end up using in their literature reviews. Careful reporting of the literature search process is commonly required, for example, in health science and social science systematic literature reviews; it also was emphasized by the American Psychological Association's Working Group on Journal Article Reporting Standards, as reported, for example in the American Psychologist (December, 2008, v 63, no 9, 839-851). Knowledge and skills pertaining to the careful reporting of literature search processes do seem important for information literacy, and it seems that there could be an increase in instruction related to this kind of reporting.

We appreciate the input from our library partners and would be interested in hearing from others about the challenges faced and solutions used to address instructional needs. What do you think? You can email your comments to us for a follow-up article in a future issue of PsycINFO News.