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65th IFLA Council and General
|Full time||Part time||Total||% of Total||Full time||Part time||Total||% of Total||Full time||Part time||Total||% of Total|
|Masters (Research & Course)||677||2368||3045||33%||761||2608||3369||37%||784||2801||3585||39%|
|Other PGs (diplomas,etc)||838||3264||4102||45%||803||2815||3618||40%||780||2455||3235||36%|
|% of international
|% of international
|Asia - total||344||61%||419||68%|
The position and key responsibilities
The role of the Research Consultant encompasses the following key elements:
It is now fifteen months since I started in the position. During this time I have delivered seminars, lab-based classes and individual consultations, and conducted workshops in country-based campuses to over 2,000 postgraduates. In the first six months of establishing my role, I spent time visiting faculties, getting to know the key players in the School and UMPA, meeting with library colleagues, and delivering basic skills classes for the postgraduate community.
Visiting academic departments provided valuable insights into the kind of support that was available to postgraduate students, which varied greatly even within faculties, and uneven awareness of the Library's resources and services. Often the visits generated requests for classes, and in some cases supervisors referred their students for individual consultations.
Developing links with the Postgraduate Association and staff of the Association resulted in increased involvement in their postgraduate programs, including residential workshops in country campuses. Close physical proximity to the Association is an important factor in maintaining a strong relationship.
GradFlash, a weekly electronic email bulletin provided by the School, has become an essential communication vehicle for me to advertise and promote new resources, trials of databases, updates on bibliographic software issues and library programs. At least 3,000 postgraduates subscribe to this service. Many postgraduates rely on the email service for information about scholarships, forthcoming programs, conferences and events. The service provides a sense of community which is particularly important for students living outside metropolitan Melbourne, who may at times feel isolated from university life.
The first library skills classes that I conducted, in my role as Research Consultant generated interest. But it was not until I had met students on an individual basis that I began to see common threads of concern and ways in which I might address those issues. Initially students who made appointments to see me and attended several of my classes were predominantly, mature aged students who were returning to study after many years. The new electronic environment overwhelmed these students. Many were frustrated with their inability to access their email, let alone search databases. Such concerns were not limited to a particular faculty intake but across most faculties - Economics & Commerce, Medicine, Arts and Education.
At a more fundamental level though, postgraduate students were seeking a staff member who was accessible, responsive to their queries, able to help them sort out basic technical issues and who empathised with their problems of being remote users. As I am an "on-campus remote user" (Cooper et al. 1998, p.43) I am dependent on the university network for access to the internally hosted databases and externally sourced databases. Demonstrating the ease-of-access to information to a postgraduate student who already lacks confidence in using databases becomes a "PR problem" when the system goes down. As I do not have access to the Library's vast printed reference and general collections, reliable access to the university network is crucial for me to carry out effective class instruction and individual consultations with postgraduate students.
My experience, then, of working in the School, has made me aware of technological barriers that impede a postgraduate student's seamless access to networked information, and the need for library staff to examine issues from a postgraduate perspective. Success of library programs is dependent on collaboration among library, IT staff and academics. Such a revelation, though, is not new. The literature over the past several years confirms my experience (Cooper et al. 1998; Herrington 1998; Sloan 1998; Walton, Day, and Edwards 1996).
Although there are difference in the interpretation of information literacy (Bruce 1997; Snavely and Cooper 1997; Walton, Day, and Edwards 1996), library practitioners are seizing the opportunity to work with colleagues, IT professionals and academic staff in developing programs that are more meaningful to the students. The sophistication and flexibility of the technology make it possible to design and deliver online instruction programs to students available at their time and point of need.
At the University of Melbourne early developments of online tutorials were primarily bibliographic instruction programs. One example of a web based bibliographic instruction tutorial is ARIADNE. This was the first of the interactive web based programs which provided self-paced bibliographic and book and journal citation instruction to first year undergraduate Arts students. The project was the result of collaboration with the Multimedia Education Unit and the Faculty of Arts. This program is now being updated and its new format will cater to a wider student audience.
In response to the Vice Chancellor's vision for faculties to develop multimedia learning programs more academic staff are now involved in developing web-based courses. There is ongoing discussion as to how the courses will not only cater to the different learning styles but also encourage students to develop information literacy skills. These developments are an encouraging sign that the University is aware of the importance of equipping students with skills for life long learning. The involvement of librarians in curriculum design is important for long term survival of the Library. Two current examples of are library staff working in partnership with academics in developing web-based courses are the Researching History project and The Virtual Postgraduate Library: an Internet-based Interactive Research Site.
The History Department, in collaboration with the Library is developing a web based interactive module for undergraduate students. The program, Researching History, will be trialled in three history subjects: Historical Theory and Research, Hitler's Germany and Europe in the Age of Total War. The program is designed to improve students' search strategies in the use of historical sources and correct use of citations. An important aspect of the project for the History Liaison Librarian is the opportunity to work with academics and IT specialists in developing a subject-based online learning package in which students gain information literacy skills. As a result of such collaboration the invaluable learning opportunities for the Library staff member concerned cannot be underestimated.
The Virtual Postgraduate Library: an Internet-based Interactive Research Site a collaborative venture with the Library, the Department of Criminology, Economics and Commerce Faculty and the School of Graduate Studies, is not part of an assessable subject like the Researching History project. The Project brief was based on experiences of a senior academic working with postgraduates undertaking research in the Department of Criminology and my experience of delivering library programs to postgraduates. It is our belief that information literacy is essential for postgraduate students, both in carrying out research at the university and developing life long evaluative skills.
In the Project submission the senior lecturer wrote:
..."Working with postgraduates, academics and library staff have found that some postgraduates have limited skills in identifying and obtaining relevant research materials, whether electronic or on paper, while other postgraduates waste time using inefficient search strategies. The problem is becoming more critical as postgraduates are working under pressure to complete their candidature. The increasing complexity and array of electronic resources available via the Internet, further compounds the problem of postgraduates knowing which databases to use. This project will complement the Library's program of information literacy classes and the individual consultations for postgraduate students" (Tait 1999, p.3)
This project will develop an Internet based 'pathway' for students undertaking postgraduate studies in the disciplines of Criminology and Economics & Commerce. Features of The Virtual Postgraduate Library will include:
In June two of members of the Project team carried out a survey via the Library's web site to determine postgraduates' information priorities. The questionnaire collected information about course enrollment, level of research, where students access the Internet, recent library activity, qualitative evaluations of recently used library web sites and usefulness of the proposed Project. The responses, while not significant numerically, revealed overwhelming support for improved online access to abstracting services and full text articles, library skill tutorials and web-based access to librarians. The feedback will be used to develop modules in priority of need as indicated by the survey results.
Advances in technology, the access to information from the desktop at time and point of need are changes that require librarians rethink their information literacy strategies. Universities are promulgating the notion of life long learning and the necessity for graduating students to be equipped with information and literacy skills. At the University of Melbourne librarians are coming to terms with the differences between information literacy and bibliographic instruction and library skills programs. The changes are reflected in the collaborative web based courses that are being developed.
Adapting to the changing demands and information needs of postgraduate students has made me aware of the importance for librarians to be seen as positive change agents in the academic community. The challenge is to keep pace with change and to provide needed support, whether in person or online.
Breivik, Patricia Senn, and E.Gordon Gee. 1989. Information Literacy: Revolution in the Library. New York: American Council on Education.
Bruce, Christine. 1997. The Seven Faces of Information Literacy. Adelaide: Auslib Press.
Cooper, Rosemarie, Paula R. Dempsey, Vanaja Menon, and Christopher Millson-Martula. 1998. Remote Library Users - Needs and Expectations. Library Trends 47 (1): 42-64.
Herrington, Verlene J. 1998. Way beyond BI: A Look to the Future. The Journal of Academic Librarianship (September):381-386.
Rader, H. B. 1995. Information Literacy and the Undergraduate Curriculum. Library Trends 44 (2): 270-278.
Sloan, Bernie. 1998. Service Perspectives for the Digital Library:Remote Reference Services. Library Trends 47 (1):117-143.
Snavely, L., and N. Cooper. 1997. The Information Literacy Debate. Journal of Academic Librarianship 23 (1): 9-14.
Tait, David. 1999. Strategic/Project Grants 1999 Full Application: The Virtual Postgraduate Library: An Internet-based and Interactive Research Site. Melbourne: University of Melbourne
University of Melbourne. 1998. The University of Melbourne Strategic Plan Perspective 1998. Melbourne: University of Melbourne.
Walton, Graham, Joan Day, and Catherine Edwards. 1996. Role Changes for the Academic Librarian to Support Effectively the Networked Learner: Implications of the IMPEL Project. Education for Information 14:343-350.