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Day 14 – Worked 6 hours
Total hours thus far: 86.75

Today I had the honor of observing a library instruction session led by Dan O’Mahony. The course was an upper level sociology course SOC 2430: Fields and Methods of Social Research. The course description states it’s a graduate level course. This is the course description from the catalog: “Introduction to strategies sociologists use to formulate theories and conduct methodologically sound research. Hypothesis formulation and research design; special emphasis on identifying causal mechanisms, techniques of operationalization, and choice of relevant comparisons.”

The library session was about 45-50 minutes in length and there were four students and the course instructor. Three of the students were first year graduate students and the other student was a senior who wants to do field research next year.

Dan started off the session by showing a short video about statistics and population. He actually just saw the video earlier this morning and found it timely and relevant. Today apparently is an important marker for the world population as we hit 7 billion. Here is the link to video from NPR that Dan showed the class:


For the rest of the session, Dan used the online resource guide as structure for the session. He showed students how to get to the guide from the “Get Help” box on the main Brown Library homepage and then selecting the last link in the menu titled “Library Course Guides.” The students would then need to look up their course by instructor, department, course number, etc. This is the direct link to the guide: http://library.brown.edu/gateway/lrg.php?id=705

I find it really useful to either a) use an online tutorial guide as the structure for the session and go through each of the sections with students, noting the features or highlights of the resources, referring back to the guide during the whole session or b) taking a library instruction session and creating an online tutorial based on the information in the session. I show the guide to the students at the end of the session and explain that this is a resource there for them. In general, during a library session you cover a lot of information which may or may not be overwhelming for even the most dedicated student. Having the guide gives students something to refer to if they forgot something, didn’t catch exactly what was said in the session, were absent from the library session, etc. My general thought on using the A or B option is: in the upper level courses I tend to gravitate towards the A option, whereas in the lower level courses I tend to go with B. The reason behind this is students in the lower level courses might wonder why they have to sit though a face-to-face session if all they need is available online. I would argue that perhaps the face-to-face session might be useful to them as an introduction to the resources and maybe their first “formal” library instruction session.

Dan went through each of the main categories of the guide and highlighted resources of each. He also explained how the new discovery tool worked (the search box from the library homepage) and how to find books or other resources using this tool. Dan demonstrated how the resources worked, but the session was not interactive (the student computers were not on).

A few highlights and observations from the session:
– I thought Dan did a particularly great job when explaining the serial solutions article linker and how it worked. He showed students how to find the full text of the articles using the linker and then how to request the article through interlibrary loan if the article is not available in the library’s holdings. He chose to explain the linker by saying that Brown purchases different “packages” of databases and journals so you have to check the linker to see if Brown has the article. I personally struggle with attempting to explain what the linker is and generally how it works because it’s confusing for students. And if students understand a bit about not only how it works, but why this service is available I think it provides a stronger framework of understanding as to why they should use it. The way Dan explained the linker in terms of “packages” helped put the idea into an economic/consumer context which students can relate to.
– The instructor had a question about internet browser compatibility with the library resources and Dan was very thorough in explaining that the librarians conduct compatibility testing for all library resources on all major browsers (firefox, google chrome, safari, internet explorer).
– After Dan went over the resources he took a personalized approach and asked the students to share their research project interests and explain what type of data they were looking for. With each of the four students Dan provided a tailored recommendation of what resources and approach to use when starting to research. Each of the students had very different topics – one student was interested in conducting research about the Roma  people in Spain (more commonly known as Gypsies). She was interested to find out how successful the attempt of cultural and economic integration had been. Another student was interested in conducting research on a local level about food.
– One point that stuck out to me was how much Dan emphasized the importance of the ICPSR database. ICPSR stands for “Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research” and Dan explained that it contains larger patterns and data sets. He explained that the ICPSR is the first place for a sociological researcher to go (except when looking for data on the local level).
– Overall I was impressed with the level of depth of the instruction session and all of the students were engaged and were provided with a personalized recommendation on where and how to start their research. This was possible due to the class size, but I suspect even if there were a few more students Dan still would have been able to do that.

Another point which I found interesting was the fact that Dan discussed a it about how the libraries at Brown collect statistics. In order to get into the libraries you have to swipe your ID card (for consortium members you are issued a special swipe card). The swipe card method allows Brown to collect statistics on usage and visits. I was amazed to find out that in the Spring 2011 semester 99.3% of undergraduates (who were not studying abroad) went to the library and 75% of graduate students did as well. That’s truly amazing that almost every single undergraduate went to the library at least once during the semester. One student asked about why the percentage of graduate students attendance was much lower and Dan explained that much of the academic journal literature is available electronically so graduate students did not find they had to come to the library.

The rest of my day I spent working on the outline and keywords for the:
Draft of Module 2 – Descriptive Captions and Keywords. This will help me when I go to create the content for each of the modules and the keywords will be useful when this tutorial is supported by a database. I am finding it challenging to think about what keywords a user would search. I think I’m stuck in librarian mode today. Perhaps there is hope for another day. I think I will ask Sarah for guidance on this.