Driving the implementation of Office 365

By Luke Gaiter, Manager – Technology Training, University of Queensland Library. Contact: l.gaiter@library.uq.edu.au

Why we introduced Office 365

At the University of Queensland (UQ) Library, we engage with other areas on a variety of projects that support research and teaching. It was often difficult to work on files together as different areas used their own intranet systems or shared network drives. These issues drove a demand for Office 365 and SharePoint as an intranet solution for the University. The Library offered to take part in the pilot to support the upskilling of University staff and students when Office 365 is rolled out across UQ. We set up a project team of 11 people to plan the transition and run staff training.

Upskilling our staff

UQ Library staff were familiar with intranet systems but there were some notable differences between the previously used system (Confluence) and SharePoint. To tackle these differences and support staff to use SharePoint, the project group organised individual training for each team. The sessions allowed us to build an understanding of the information management needs of the teams and identify skill gaps. Many of the sessions brought to light new questions or ways of working. 

People using a range of different equipment (laptop, mobile phone, tablet, paper, clipboard) around a desk.
Photo by Jack Moreh from Freerange Stock

We then offered weekly ‘drop-in’ sessions to allow staff to ask questions, work through problems and discuss options for using the platform. These sessions fostered a community of practice environment where staff could share and learn from others’ experiences. 

We identified gaps in understanding of the different content types and when to use the different features. Such as “when do I use a Document Library vs a List vs a OneNote file?” The training team organised “intensives”. These specific sessions tackled one feature at a time in more depth than the introductory training: 

  • Document libraries
  • Lists
  • OneNote
  • Web parts

Encouraging staff to see the benefits

The project team did a lot of work to communicate the benefits of the change, pointing out problems that could be solved. For example, multiple staff would be able to work on the same file together in SharePoint and OneDrive. Many staff had experienced the frustration of opening a file on the network drive and being blocked as someone else already had it open.  

We focused on how it could help us improve our workflows, allowing us to respond quickly to changes happening in the wider university landscape.

A person with a cat next to them waving at a person on the computer screen in front of them.

With more staff needing to work from home (COVID-19), it has been perfectly timed as it allows easy communication and collaboration between staff in different physical locations.

Photo by Jack Moreh from Freerange Stock

Lessons learned

Access controls – A Microsoft Team environment automatically creates a SharePoint site. The site permissions come from Teams, meaning everyone has editing and viewing access. Files that require access restrictions cannot be effectively stored. To handle this type of content, we created a stand-alone SharePoint site known as a ‘hub site’ that is linked to the Teams SharePoint site but also has access controls. 

Recording meetings fills up your space fast – If staff use Teams to record their online meetings it very quickly fills up the file storage. We have put in place policies on what to record and how long to store these recordings. 

Guidelines for using Office 365 – This table was created to help staff understand which element of Office 365 to use and who will have access to the documents and information. 

ToolWhen to useWho can view and edit
Library Intranet siteShare news, events, information, and relevant documents across the LibraryDesignated Library staff can edit and set view permissions
Teams SharePointCreate and share information and documents relevant to your organisational unit, project, work group including team processesAll Library staff (or all members of the team)
Teams channelTo chat, plan and share information with your library or project teamsAll Library staff
Teams chatPrivate conversations between members of the chat – not for any official decision makingOnly those included in the chat
OneDriveDrafts, your own filesOnly those you allow
Table: Office 365 use and access

Version control – It was necessary to reinforce the use and advantages of version control built into SharePoint. The version system allows users to quickly revert or make copies when needed. The ability for multiple people to access and edit files at once meant mistakes and overwrites occurred as staff adjusted to the new ways of working. 

Adjusting to a different file storage method – Staff have found it a hurdle to adjust from a site-tree with nested folders organised by areas and teams to SharePoint’s Document Libraries and flat file storage that requires custom metadata and sorting and filtering.

Ongoing change management

As the Library is part of the pilot program for the university, this is just the first step in a wider adoption process across UQ. We expect there to be ongoing changes and more lessons to be learned.

Students are told not to use Wikipedia for research. But it’s a trustworthy source

by Rachel Cunneen, Senior Lecturer in English and Literacy Education, Student Success and LANTITE coordinator, University of Canberra and Mathieu O’Neil, Associate Professor of Communication, News and Media Research Centre, University of Canberra

Disclaimer: This post was originally published in The Conversation under a Creative Commons licence and is used with the authors’ permission.

At the start of each university year, we ask first-year students a question: how many have been told by their secondary teachers not to use Wikipedia? Without fail, nearly every hand shoots up. Wikipedia offers free and reliable information instantly. So why do teachers almost universally distrust it?

Wikipedia has community-enforced policies on neutrality, reliability and notability. This means all information “must be presented accurately and without bias”; sources must come from a third party; and a Wikipedia article is notable and should be created if there has been “third-party coverage of the topic in reliable sources”.

Wikipedia is free, non-profit, and has been operating for over two decades, making it an internet success story. At a time when it’s increasingly difficult to separate truth from falsehood, Wikipedia is an accessible tool for fact-checking and fighting misinformation.

Why is Wikipedia so reliable?

Many teachers point out that anyone can edit a Wikipedia page, not just experts on the subject. But this doesn’t make Wikipedia’s information unreliable. It’s virtually impossible, for instance, for conspiracies to remain published on Wikipedia.

For popular articles, Wikipedia’s online community of volunteers, administrators and bots ensure edits are based on reliable citations. Popular articles are reviewed thousands of times. Some media experts, such as Amy Bruckman, a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology’s computing centre, argue that because of this painstaking process, a highly-edited article on Wikipedia might be the most reliable source of information ever created.

Traditional academic articles – the most common source of scientific evidence – are typically only peer-reviewed by up to three people and then never edited again.

Less frequently edited articles on Wikipedia might be less reliable than popular ones. But it’s easy to find out how an article has been created and modified on Wikipedia. All modifications to an article are archived in its “history” page. Disputes between editors about the article’s content are documented in its “talk” page.

To use Wikipedia effectively, school students need to be taught to find and analyse these pages of an article, so they can quickly assess the article’s reliability.

Is information on Wikipedia too shallow?

Many teachers also argue the information on Wikipedia is too basic, particularly for tertiary students. This argument supposes all fact-checking must involve deep engagement. But this is not best practice for conducting initial investigation into a subject online. Deep research needs to come later, once the validity of the source has been established.

Still, some teachers are horrified by the idea students need to be taught to assess information quickly and superficially. If you look up the general capabilities in the Australian Curriculum, you will find “critical and creative thinking” encourages deep, broad reflection. Educators who conflate “critical” and “media” literacy may be inclined to believe analysis of online material must be slow and thorough.

Study set up with open laptop, open book, pen and coffee mug
Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Yet the reality is we live in an “attention economy” where everyone and everything on the internet is vying for our attention. Our time is precious, so engaging deeply with spurious online content, and potentially falling down misinformation rabbit holes, wastes a most valuable commodity – our attention.

Wikipedia can be a tool for better media literacy

Research suggests Australian children are not getting sufficient instruction in spotting fake news. Only one in five young Australians in 2020 reported having a lesson during the past year that helped them decide whether news stories could be trusted.

Our students clearly need more media literacy education, and Wikipedia can be a good media literacy instrument. One way is to use it is with “lateral reading”. This means when faced with an unfamiliar online claim, students should leave the web page they’re on and open a new browser tab. They can then investigate what trusted sources say about the claim.

Wikipedia is the perfect classroom resource for this purpose, even for primary-aged students. When first encountering unfamiliar information, students can be encouraged to go to the relevant Wikipedia page to check reliability. If the unknown information isn’t verifiable, they can discard it and move on.

More experienced fact-checkers can also beeline to the authoritative references at the bottom of each Wikipedia article.

In the future, we hope first-year university students enter our classrooms already understanding the value of Wikipedia. This will mean a widespread cultural shift has taken place in Australian primary and secondary schools. In a time of climate change and pandemics, everyone needs to be able to separate fact from fiction. Wikipedia can be part of the remedy.


Would you like to contribute to our blog?

If you have ideas, or if you would like to contribute posts directly, drop us a line at DigitalDexterityBlog@caval.edu.au.

Our Future (and Present) with Folio at Massey University Library

by Kat Cuttriss, Associate University Librarian (Client Services), Massey University Library, Te Putanga ki te Ao Mātauranga. k.cuttriss@massey.ac.nz 

Background

Massey University Library had been with our previous Library Management System (LMS) for the past 27 years. It had served us well in what was formerly a print-dominated environment. But changing times called for a fresh outlook, and so in 2021 we went through a comprehensive tender process and selected Folio – the Future of Libraries is Open – as our new Library Services Platform (LSP).

The key drivers for moving to Folio were its newly-built, microservices architecture (which makes it more flexible and future-proof), and it providing all the benefits of open source (e.g. ability to build our own functionality and user-driven development), combined with the reassurance of being hosted and supported by EBSCO. We were also keen to realise patron benefits, arising from better integration of catalogue data into our EBSCO Discovery Service (EDS) and improvements in accuracy of eResource information and our full text holdings.

Implementation approach

We put an ambitious time frame in place for implementation, as we wanted our new LSP fully up and running in time for the start of semester 1, 2022. This meant we had 4 months between our kick-off meeting with EBSCO in September 2021 and go-live at the end of January 2022.
 
To meet this time frame (spoiler alert = we did!), we took a “whole of team” approach. Our first step was for library staff to get together and co-create our project’s guiding principles to keep us on track if (actually, when) the going got tough.

We decided we would:

  • Aim for simplicity over complexity 
  • Design for the majority rather than the minority of needs  
  • Be open to new ways of doing things at every point, and
  • Accept an MVP (minimum viable product) for go-live

Our second step was to set up Functional Groups, for Circulation, eResources, Discovery, Metadata, Acquisitions, and System Administration. The Functional Group leads were assigned, reported to the Project Steering Group, and met weekly with EBSCO as part of the Implementation Team. 

We then put out a call for EOIs to all library staff to join a functional group of interest to them. We weren’t looking for tech experts; we were looking for people with enthusiasm (ideally infectious), a natural curiosity about how a library system works, and a problem-solving mindset. Huge levels of interest resulted, resulting in large (but not too large) groups comprising representatives from the full library team. 

The next step was to set up robust communications channels, open to all library staff, and actively monitored and curated by the functional group members. As a result, we have a stunning back-catalogue of posts on our Teams site, all meetings recorded and accessible there, process maps that describe our workflows in our former LMS and now in Folio (used as the basis for training manuals) and issues registers, where we track progress with migrations and any surprises we find during testing. This ‘repository’ in and of itself is a taonga (treasure) but it’s the daily monitoring from various staff to keep the dialogue alive and issues responded to that is the real gift.  

Our journey to go-live

Without getting into all the nuts and bolts here (there is a mechanic’s workshop full of them!), suffice to say that Massey University Library is reasonably unique with our large distance-based student cohort (about 45% of our overall student population). We therefore need to provide the ability for all patrons (distance or on-campus) to select their fulfilment preference (pick-up or courier delivery to a specified address) at the point of requesting. We also have extended fixed due dates rather than rolling loan periods and rely on recalls to keep the print collection circulating well. 

Building the necessary logic in our circulation settings to get all these components working as they should was quite a challenge, and kept us on our toes! We struck quite a few “what’s going on here?!” moments that have since led to a few of us setting up daily “stand ups” (accompanied by strong coffee) to temperature check how things are going, do some quick-fire diagnostics on recent issues that have emerged, and provide each other with mutual support.

Where we’re at now

We have just gone through our first upgrade to the latest Folio release (Kiwi, so aptly named!) and while things still feel a bit ‘mid-stream’ vs. ‘crossed the river’, the functional groups have put us in a great, collective place. We now have an amazing amount of distributed capability across our wider library team, filled with folks who can ‘crowd source’ problems, understand and describe what’s going on, and resolve (or escalate) as required. This is a result of our functional group members developing their knowledge, their confidence, and honing their desire to support their colleagues in turn with their Folio skills. 

Folio’s open-source community approach is a step forward for us, as well. We are yet to ‘flex’ fully into that space, as up until now we have been so focussed on getting through to go-live. But this is where our future lies! 

Logo that reads, "folio future of libraries is open"

Growing Open Educational Practice with OER grants

Angie Williamson, Program Coordinator (Open Education), Deakin University Library, angie.w@deakin.edu.au.

During 2021, Deakin University commenced a grant program, coordinated by the library in conjunction with the Pro Vice-Chancellor, Teaching and Learning, encouraging academic staff to explore Open Educational Resources (OER) for teaching and learning. OER are free resources that are made available with a Creative Commons licence. OER include resources such as textbooks, quizzes, videos, even full courses that are reusable and adaptable to teaching and learning needs. These resources can be modified to include local content making these more contextual and representative of the students and the local environment.

The grant program forms a major part of the Inclusive digital environments project aimed at raising awareness of OER and developing capabilities in staff to use and create OER. OER have been around for 20 years but the use of OER in Australia has had a slow start. Overseas higher education institutions have been very active in this space often supported with grants from government bodies or foundations such as the Hewlett Foundation. In 2020, the Californian governor announced a $115 million commitment to OER. Universities and colleges highlight savings made by students in textbook purchases and this can add up substantially. In Canada, BCCampus has saved students over $20 million with open textbooks since 2012. Higher education institutions overseas develop Zero degrees where student have no costs for instructional resources for their entire course. OER textbooks not only benefit students with reduced costs but also by removing barriers in access to resources. The use of OER has been shown to increase student success and retention (Colvard, 2018) as students have access to the materials from day one of their study and can access the resources when they need them without limitations. The necessity to move higher education online in the pandemic has increased awareness of OER (McKenzie, 2021) and open pedagogy for teaching and learning. This program at Deakin will not only increase the usage of OER, but also contribute to the revision of existing resources to include Australian Content and facilitate the creation of additional Australian resources.

This inaugural OER grant program at Deakin enabled staff to explore the OER environment to locate, use or create resources for their teaching. As this was the first time these grants had been on offer, we were unsure of the level of interest. Not solely focused on textbook replacements, the program also encouraged creativity to fill a gap in available teaching resources that would result in the creation of an open resource. Applications were sought for the OER grants in June 2021 with 11 applications accepted. The successful applications displayed a diversity of concepts and covered a range of OER usage and creation projects including textbook replacements and the creation of resources.

Replacing a current textbook with an OER textbook was the focus of a number of the projects and will result in substantial saving for students. In one of these projects, the current textbook retails for about $180 and student numbers are over 1,000 per year. For projects aiming to replace a textbook, this necessitated locating resources and evaluating if they fulfilled the needs of the unit. Some OER textbooks have ancillary resources such as videos, question and exercises available to support their usage. Some required the creation of content to fill gaps or the remixing of numerous OER to create a resource tailored to the required learning. Another current project focuses on the updating of an existing OER textbook and developing of new activities to support it.

Other projects identified gaps in available resources and sought to create an open resource to fill the need. These include:

  • The creation of Australian case studies in Human Resource Management
  • An extensive resource developed to assist students in reading MRI scans for the study of anatomy
  • The development of an online book introducing the assessment potential in play-based approaches
  • A 3D interactive tour of a building to support construction management students in experiencing the behind-the-scenes functions in buildings inspired by COVID restrictions in access.

Some projects also embraced the wider concept of open. One project focused on student motivations and concerns and created a series of videos of students discussing these aspects of study. Another project combined open software and OER by moving to an open source software for statistical analysis. The associated open book will be adopted as the textbook and supporting activities developed, replacing an expensive textbook prescribed to around 2,000 students per year.

We all know that 2021 was challenging for higher education in Australia in many ways. With the OER program commencing in June, participants experienced almost a perfect storm of impediments. Extended lockdowns and additional student needs due to COVID, working from home challenges, fully online teaching and major organisational changes all impacted the delivery of the projects. Through this challenging time, participants appreciated having a positive project to focus on and even with these challenges, one project commenced using an early version of the resources in teaching a trimester earlier than planned! We learned that OER projects take time to develop, with the development and implementation of the resources to continue through 2022.

The program coordinated by the library included offering grant recipients OER training, hosting a Community of Practice and establishing a Teams site to facilitate knowledge sharing and as a forum for discussion. Discussing OER related topics such as accessibility, open pedagogy, copyright and licencing, the Community of Practice sessions provide a forum for the program participants to discuss their progress, ask questions and gain understanding of OER concepts. Detailed copyright advice was also provided by the copyright team. A website has been created to highlight the program with the purpose of providing access to the created resources when they are available.

window with a multi coloured flourescent sign hanging in it saying open.

Further details of the projects are available on the Open Educational Resources Grants 2021 website.

Image by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

References:

Colvard, N. B., Watson, C. E., & Hyojin, P. (2018). The Impact of Open Educational Resources on Various Student Success Metrics. International Journal of Teaching & Learning in Higher Education, 30(2), 262-276.

McKenzie, L. (2020, August 13). Window of opportunity for OER. Inside Higher ed. https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2020/08/13/pandemic-drives-increased-interest-open-educational-resources


Stretching my digital dexterity through ECU Library Digital and Information Literacy

By Liz Grzyb (MEd student, Charles Sturt University)

As part of my study for the MEd (Teacher Librarianship) course online at Charles Sturt University, I was required to complete a Professional Work Placement at a library. I am already working in a high school library, so I approached the Edith Cowan University (ECU) Library as I was interested in seeing the differences between secondary and tertiary/academic libraries.

I was lucky enough to be teamed up with the delightful Danielle Degiorgio in Digital & Information Literacy (DIL), as I had identified digital services and information literacy as some of the areas I would like to find out more about. My prac has been literally book-ended with Digital Dexterity – I began by sitting in on an online DigiDex meeting and it will end with this blog post!

During my time at the library, I have spent time talking with many experts on various different aspects of how the library is run. Many of these discussions were about information literacy (IL) and digital literacy (DL). IL in a university library has similarities to my experience in a school library, but it also has many more layers due to the variation in focus and intensive research needs of the users.

I had not realised until I arrived at ECU that the university is e-preferred, so I was surprised at the huge number of electronic resources the library facilitates, and how much digital literacy pre-loading was needed when introducing new students to the university. The Orientation Week workshops that are being planned cover introductions to many of the learning tools used by the university and the library will help to clear barriers to study. It is such an important service to ensure equity for students.

I have spent a lot of my working time this week looking into Open Educational Resources (OERs). Before this prac I did not know they were a ‘thing’, but I have found out that they are incredibly important for equity in education and life-long learning. I have unearthed a number of new-to-me databases and providers of open resources specifically for assisting learning or for information-gathering. I can see that this process will help me to support teaching staff at my school as well as expanding my own teaching strategies.

The image depicts a younger and an older humanised notebooks sitting on a bench. The older notebook has a cane. Both notebooks are looking at a laptop the younger notebook is holding. The laptop says OER on it. There is also an empty thought bubble above the notebooks.
Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

If, like me, you have not used OERs much before, here are a few places you might start investigating resources for your area:

Many of the OER databases are weighted to overseas resources, so it is wonderful to see that the DigiDex educators have a group bringing home-grown resources to the table. (https://www.oercommons.org/groups/digital-dexterity-educators/5554/)

The DIL team have been wonderful to spend my placement with, and I thank them profusely for their generosity in helping me to gain experience in their area of knowledge. Everyone I spoke with at DIL had amazing dedication to information and digital literacy for students – they were focused on providing workshops, services, and resources accessible to all. I have lots of new ideas to spring on my unsuspecting colleagues and students this year!

Why Three Perspectives? A human centred design approach to supporting digital dexterity: People, Design and Systems Thinking

By Kristy Newton (Digital Literacies Coordinator, UOW Library), Keith Brophy (Manager Digital Environment, UOW Library) and Donna Dee (Manager Workforce Planning & Development, UOW Library)


University of Wollongong (UOW) Library has a long-standing commitment to the professional development of our People through both informal and formal channels. The learning culture at UOW Library is fibrous and evolving, and our staff expect that ongoing professional development will be part of their journey. We have been building staff digital dexterity capacity for several years through an ongoing staff program, and in developing the most recent iteration of that program we have hit upon a valuable combination of staff skills and approaches that can be recognised as a composable team – a synergy of expertise that informs and describes the development of dexterity needs for our people.

Our composable team consists of three essential perspectives: Design Thinking + Digital Dexterity, People + Culture, and Systems Thinking + Integration. Forming working relationships that are based on the skills that each member brings to the group is far from a new concept. Nevertheless, over the past two years we have found the combination of these perspectives enables each of us to contribute our strengths and maximise the beneficial outcomes for the organisation. An attitude of open-mindedness and trust has been a key success factor, as much as the expertise that each of us contributes. It has been important for each of us to allow our ideas to be challenged, built on, and transformed by the input of the other group members. This can be understood via the lens of remix culture, in which the resulting outputs are born from existing elements and transformed via the remix process into something new. Researchers Yu and Nickerson (2011, in Flath et al. 2017) found that a human based genetic algorithm which functioned to combine existing human ideas, resulted in ideas which were “significantly higher in terms of originality and practicality” (Flath et. al, 2017, p. 309).

Putting People First: Design Thinking + the importance of Culture

Key to the practice of design thinking is the active practice of empathy with the needs of those you are designing for – in this case, the staff of UOW Library in addition to our strategic priority of the Future-Ready Library. Incorporating the design thinking perspective has meant that we have placed these two elements as twin anchors for our process. In empathising with the needs of the Library’s Future-Ready strategic direction, we understood that the reason for developing staff digital dexterity was greater than technical and immediately job-related skills and that the underlying need was to prepare staff for a rapidly evolving and digitally rich future work environment. This environment would change more rapidly than is practical for a structured skills development program, and so it was essential to empower staff to be quite autonomous in their own development and provide a supportive environment which removed potential pain points and encouraged them to contribute actively to this process. Practicing empathy with the needs of our people and understanding the areas of interest that drive them as well as their desire for a combination of group work and independent activity, has influenced the design of our current staff program which is underpinned by a series of communities of practice.

The Right Tool: Empathy + Collaboration + Functionality

Technology in and of itself is not going to change or improve how we work. As the adage says: If you apply digital to a thing that’s broken, you’ll have a broken digital thing. It’s been very important to recognise that an established culture of continuous learning, growth mindset and adaptive thinking is part of a holistic view of the potential system solutions. In evaluating potential tools and spaces, we have considered factors such as functionality, integration, and interoperability with existing and future systems within the environment, and combined the potential of the technical solutions with what we knew about our people and how they wanted to learn and grow together. Collaborative learning opportunities had been highlighted as valuable to our staff, as had the opportunity to drive a learning journey based on individual motivations. For these reasons, alongside the adoption of Microsoft Teams as a ‘virtual office’ during the rapidly evolving COVID19 pandemic, we chose to house our digital dexterity programs within the Microsoft Teams environment, creating channels for Professional Development and individual channels for each of the communities of practice.

Continuous Learning Journey: Growth Mindset + Ideation

We have also needed to be adaptable as the context in which we deliver our program evolves. This was particularly important as we moved into an extended period of remote or hybrid work in response to the pandemic. Our staff were variably in need of support, and then in need of space within the myriad of digital channels they now needed to monitor. Our mini composable team meets monthly to talk about how the program is progressing, and evaluate if we are making the best use of the tools and time that we have available to us. Part of this process has been to encourage and support each team in the evaluation of new functionality as the systems evolve – understanding that teams who actively identify the potential value in new system capabilities will enjoy a greater sense of ownership and autonomy in directing how they work. From promoting the use of online task trackers for project management to virtual whiteboards for brainstorming sessions to collaborative document editing, we further support and build an agile, growth mindset mentality – resulting in skills and outcomes that directly align with the Library strategic direction.

The agile asynchronous approach has also dictated the possibility for spontaneous groups to form elsewhere in the organisation. Staff were proactive in suggesting changes to the communities of practice that aligned more clearly with their learning goals, and we had enough adaptability built into the program to cater for that. By extension, we have also seen other composable teams form around shorter-term learning goals and components of strategic Library projects – groups of staff who have come together to tackle project priorities or explore a specific skill or interest area without formalising this as a community of practice.


If you are interested in adopting the principles of the approach we have outlined here, the following points are a good place to start in thinking about how this might work in your own context.

Ask yourself:

  • Who is it for?
  • What elements do we have in our institutional culture that enable learning and growth?
  • How can we link this to broader strategy?
  • How might we think of a holistic solution, placing our users and their journey at the centre?
  • How do we maintain engagement and a culture of continuous learning?
  • Rather than being tied to what has worked in the past, what inputs and the data do we currently have that help us imagine what could work for the future?
References

Brophy, K, Dee, D, & Newton, K 2020 ‘UOW Library: Embedding learning and development as part of our organisational DNA’, International Information & Library Review, 52(3), pp.250-252.

Flath, C, Friesike, S, Wirth, M, & Thiesse, F 2017, ‘Copy, transform, combine: exploring the remix as a form of innovation’, Journal of Information Technology, vol. 32, no. 4, pp. 306-325.

‘I didn’t know the library did that’. Making Library work in curriculum more visible.

By Kat Cain (Manager, Digital Literacy Programs) and Craig Patterson (Manager, Faculty of Arts and Education Library Services, Learning and Teaching) – Deakin University.

It’s a shared experience in public, specialist and academic libraries – regularly hearing our community members amazed reflection, “I didn’t know the library did that”, when we provide learning services beyond that of collections. The fuzzy notion of the library as mostly just books and borrowing can even be a common idea that many librarians have before they start their degree and get into the field, and the breadth and depth of Library work then becomes evident. But how to get this message of Libraries as a teaching and learning service out to our communities?

Public libraries have experimented with different comms and different ways to share their offerings with their communities. The “Unusual Library Things” infographic, that visualised resources or services available in libraries across the world, was a great way of articulating libraries’ role in community building and lifelong learning. To launch their Inspiration Lab with its fabulous digital equipment and opportunities to build technical skills, Vancouver Public Library (Canada) strategised their communications as stories and creation. Their experimentation with live-tweeting and live streaming, bus shelter advertisements, digital signage, and beautifully designed physical advertising material was effective and award winning. Closer to home, New Zealand’s Invercargill City Libraries joyously engages with their communities through creative social media approaches that shine a very big light on their lifelong learning model. Do you remember their Kardashians riff of “Keeping up with the Librarians”? While Yarra Plenty Regional Libraries, took a personalised and incredibly effective path to reaching out to their senior community and connecting them to services and resources they needed. They got on the phone and called them. The communication impact of this approach was pretty clear – being interviewed by Leigh Sales, a these “legends are Librarians at Yarra Plenty Library” shout out by the Victorian Premier, and a jump in public awareness about how diverse and responsive to community our public libraries are. These are just a few examples of fabulous ways libraries can build awareness of their learning services.  

Academic librarian roles increasingly include teaching responsibilities

Academic libraries are often considered the heart of the university, central to the learning, teaching and research endeavours. Although we have strong service delivery and facilities management, modern academic libraries also prioritise pedagogical offerings and outcomes. In fact, academic libraries have moved beyond tentative concepts of contributing to student learning or as supporting learning. As Corrall and Jolly (2020) make clear, libraries and librarians have a major role to play in learning and teaching. Pedagogical principles underpin academic library services and engagement. Our information and digital literacy focused learning materials are amazing; and our librarians are wonderful teachers. What we haven’t done as successfully is make clear that librarians have an active, informed role in teaching and learning. We have a tendency to focus on the services, our collections, the spaces and equipment we provide. We are less adventurous in marketing librarians as teachers and libraries as learning hubs. Perhaps this emerges as an unconscious reflection of the contested and questioned role of librarians as teachers (Wheeler & McKinney, 2015)? 

People can debate whether librarians are teachers or not, but what we do know is that that people want to learn when they come to the library. And if people want to learn, everyone wins if that learning is well-designed.

As a learning and teaching focused team for Deakin Library, we have grappled with how to articulate and contextualise what we do. We found that teaching staff were often surprised that we run sessions on digital identity or offer digital literacy curricula mapping. Some of our library’s best teaching approaches and outcomes were also our best-kept secrets and we wanted to get the word out.

But how to do this? We spent time as a team discussing what we do and how we frame it.

Deakin Librarians work to develop the digital fluency and knowledges of our community, both staff and students. We do this through good learning design, which is not in most people’s conception of what it means to be a librarian, or what libraries offer. But it does make sense: if libraries exist to build communities and facilitate lifelong learning, there are knowledges and skills people in communities can develop to meet their goals. That’s where we come in.

We then needed to consider how we could shape a teaching identity for Deakin Library. That’s why we developed a ‘Working with teaching staff’ webpage rounding up our most impactful ways to partner with academics at Deakin. We knew that academics were unlikely to serendipitously find and explore this pitch page. Instead, we aimed for Liaisons to use this resource in their conversations and communications with academics, with explicit language around learning design and teaching capacities. To further support this self-framing, our team concurrently redesigned a whole suite of web resources focused on teaching needs. Again, rather than relying on our community stumbling across the messaging and learning materials, we proactively promoted it through both our Deakin Library blog (Article) and the broader university blog (Network).

Screenshot of Deakin Library teaching resources page, with resources grouped under headings.

Like all communications, there is room for improvement and changes. Continued conversations and putting new ideas on the board is needed. However, the value of consciously promoting our Librarians as teachers and continuing to self-frame as active in learning experiences is immeasurable.

We leave you with two questions – how do you frame yourself as a teacher and how do you communicate that identity? And we challenge you to put your teacher statement into the discussion space below.

References:

Corrall, S., & Jolly, L. (2019). Innovations in learning and teaching in academic libraries: Alignment, collaboration, and the social turn.

Wheeler, E., & McKinney, P. (2015). Are librarians teachers? Investigating academic librarians’ perceptions of their own teaching skills. Journal of Information Literacy, 9(2), 111–128.


Empathy, the Library, and Open Education

By Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), University of Southern Queensland

During an interview, the anthropologist Dr Margaret Mead was asked what evidence she considered noteworthy as a society first progressed toward ‘civilisation’. If we consider the question, physical artefacts such as farming or hunting implements, or perhaps pottery seem likely answers.

Dr Mead used a broken (and healed) femur as her reply.  The healed bone inferred that another human being had demonstrated empathy.  Rather than abandoning this person, another had cared enough to nurse them back to health. Empathy, she asserted, was the start of civilisation (Byock, 2012), and a consideration for the welfare of others differentiated humans from the animal kingdom.

It can be reasonably argued that librarians – whether public or academic – require empathy as a professional skill.  Libraries continue to be places for democratic empowerment, places that value equity, and promote safety. Libraries also become food pantries on many campuses, a function well outside information and digital literacy. 

During a reference interview with a first-year student, most librarians concentrate on normalising confusion and creating a welcoming space as they do answering the questions.  As academic spaces, libraries invest in student-centred design for services and function; when supporting academic colleagues we attempt to understand context to which solutions can be linked.

Unsurprisingly, open education finds a home in many university libraries.  Their remit includes the organisation, access, and maintenance of knowledge resources, and is usually accompanied by supporting infrastructure and staffing (despite consistently conservative or diminishing budget allocations). 

Open education meets pragmatic library needs such as mitigating library expenditure by transitioning to open texts, reducing workload by using existing OER, or accessing low-cost, openly licenced professional learning.

Open licencing affords unique opportunities that connect academic staff with learning and teaching approaches (such as open assessment), and position the library as a key stakeholder in learning design. Furthermore, these partnerships often yield scholarship and research outcomes, raising the profile of librarians-as-researchers.

However, openness is – like libraries – foundationally aligned with social equity. Openness reduces barriers to access and increases participation in education, equalises readership and access to information, and addresses systemic issues of financial inequality and educational attainment. For librarians – exposed to the ‘macro-view’ of the university through interactions with students from all disciplines – it is difficult not to respond with empathy to trends that reinforce inequality.

Our failing in open advocacy is often untempered empathy. Many library-run OER workshops can be summarised as ‘a solution looking for a problem’, presenting openness as a self-evident good without necessarily considering the audience. The results are workshops populated by ‘the usual suspects’ and an inability to sustain open practices beyond small pockets of already-dedicated practitioners.

Starting with OA Week, I’d like to propose that ‘It matters how we open knowledge’ refers to our engagement as much as processes, policy, and infrastructure.

Professor Geoff Scott, when speaking at an ACODE Institute introduced the mantra ‘Listen, Link, Lead’. When advocating for sustainable change, he encouraged the audience to actively ‘listen’ to, and understand the context of others. Then ‘link’ the challenges to new approaches that directly influence a positive outcome for the individual.  Lastly, is the opportunity to ‘lead’ the change and build momentum based on success.

Transforming open education from ‘open as library business’ to ‘open as everyone’s business’ requires empathy and connection. 

Take time this week to review your strategies.  Do you ‘listen, link, lead’? Have you unintentionally excluded teams from your initiatives, and are there opportunities for collaboration (such as Learning Designers, Student Services, the Student Guild)? 

The unique affordances of openness lie in reuse, remix, and repurposing content to suit local contexts and learner needs. Perhaps, using the lens of empathy, we explicitly consider our skills as librarians with similar affordances.

Take the opportunity to share and learn this week by reflecting on your practices in the Comments.

Reference:

Byock, I. (2012). The best care possible: a physician’s quest to transform care through the end of life. New York. Avery. 


Delighting in diversity in the digital domain

By AJ Penrose, Multimedia Developer, Digital Learning, RMIT University Library. Contact: amanda.penrose@rmit.edu.au

The world might not actually be any more diverse than it’s always been, but goodness, doesn’t it seem that way?! Thanks to increased visibility, advocacy and celebration of our differences, diversity has become an important part of our digital lives.

retro housewife waves at husband and child from kitchen doorway

Fortunately, we’re becoming more aware that what we see around us shapes our expectations of society. We’re getting better at representing diversity (it’s been a while since I’ve seen a white, tie-wearing male kiss a housewife goodbye as he heads to the office… WandaVision excepted!) but we can do a lot more.

Image by ArtsyBee https://pixabay.com/illustrations/retro-housewife-family-greeting-1321068/

Here are some examples of inclusive practices that you can incorporate into your digital projects right now.

Inclusive language

Use non-gendered and non-Western names for the characters in your examples and activities. Online baby-name lists are a fabulous and readily available resource.

Include they/them pronouns along with she/her and he/his. You can do this when the gender of the person you’re referring to isn’t relevant, when you want the sentence to be inclusive of all genders, or if you want to represent a character as non-binary.

Representation

Describe or illustrate your characters using diverse:

  • physiological or mental functional capacities
  • genders, sexes and sexualities
  • cultures and traditions
  • ages  
  • socio-economic backgrounds
  • body shapes, skin colours, hair and clothing choices

The great news is, with a little effort and a bit of practice, we can create inclusive, safe and welcoming digital environments, which benefit everyone.

Here are just a couple of screenshots from animations I’ve created recently. See if you can identify the ways I’ve included representation from the list above.

Note that diversity itself isn’t the focus of any of these projects, it’s just there.

Why not review the project materials you’re working on right now and have a think about how you’re representing diversity? If you can do more, go ahead and make a change today!


Developing a digitally dexterous and future-ready workforce through Community of Practice

Renée Grant, Liaison Librarian for Faculty of The Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Wollongong. rengrant@uow.edu.au  

How do you develop a future-ready workforce?  

In 2016, the University of Wollongong Library committed to becoming a future-ready, digitally dexterous organisation and put in place the Digital Literacy Workplace Program to foster upskilling opportunities for Library staff. After an initial structured program, the direction shifted towards a new approach which focused on four key areas: self-directed learning, personalisation, flexibility, and learner agency. The flexible and unguided nature of this program gave staff the freedom to choose their own learning path. One of the outcomes of this program was the creation of a Digital Humanities Community of Practice (CoP) in 2018. 

Why a Community of Practice? 

Discussion with colleagues revealed that I wasn’t alone in my passion for Digital Humanities. The CoP grew organically from this shared passion and the opportunity for self-directed learning provided by the Digital Literacy Workplace Program. I formed the CoP so that we could share knowledge, explore, experiment and learn from each other. The collective nature of the learning process was key to the success of our group increasing our digital dexterity. Learning new technologies is challenging and one of the key benefits arising from the CoP was the ability to work through problems together. Without the support of the group, it would have been too easy to give up. Every challenge was viewed as a learning opportunity and through collective problem solving the group developed a growth mindset – when we couldn’t get the software to work properly, we weren’t failing, we were learning! 

Developing digital dexterity 

The CoP developed staff digital dexterity through the completion of mini projects which were showcased in a public facing blog. These mini-projects incorporated both hard and soft skills to develop agile, future-focused, T-shaped professionals (professionals with both discipline expertise and broader collaborative, creative and interpersonal skills). Hard skills included coding literacy, data visualisation, writing for the web, and digital curation. Soft skills included growth mindset, team work, networking, and creative thinking. The CoP membership consisted of staff with a range of digital capabilities from beginner to advanced. So that everyone would get something out of it, the CoP was designed so that all members had opportunities to extend and develop their skills by exploring and learning aspects of the software, which they then taught to the wider group. This also provided everyone with the opportunity to develop teaching and presentation skills. If members were beginners, they would pair up with an advanced member to explore and prepare a lesson for the group. In this way, they not only had an opportunity to extend their digital literacy skills, but to learn and problem solve with a more tech-savvy colleague. The CoP is a very supportive environment in which to learn and it’s great to see my colleagues get excited to learn new digital tools and explore innovative ways to incorporate them into their work practices. 

Where are we now? 

Future-readiness is not something you can tick a box marked complete, it’s an ongoing goal. Over the years, the Digital Humanities CoP has evolved to align to the shifting individual member and organisational needs. Through the CoP it was recognised that there was a need to support clients more broadly across the University of Wollongong with Digital Scholarship. This resulted in a Digital Scholarship Strategy project in 2020 to scope the feasibility of a Library-led initiative. In 2021 the CoP has shifted its focus to developing a future-ready workforce that can provide broader Digital Scholarship support in preparation for the potential rollout of a strategic program.  

The creation of the Digital Humanities CoP was transformative. Not just for the development of digital dexterity for the individual members, but as an organisation, as its success sparked the creation of a range of CoPs within the Library to develop other future-ready skills, such as UX. 

Why not start your own transformative Community of Practice! 

For more information: 

Grant, R., & Organ, M. 2020, ‘Digital Journeys @ UOW Australia: From Digital Dexterities to Digital Humanities and Beyond‘. International Information and Library Review, pp.1-6. 

Grant, RC & Shalavin, CA 2019, ‘Journey to the new frontier: staff experience in a professional development program for digital dexterity’, THETA 2019 – The Tipping Point: The Higher Education Technology Agenda Conference, Wollongong, 19-22 May. 

Follow our blog at Digital Humanities @ UOW Library and Twitter @DHWollongong