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We were very excited to attend the ACRL Conference held two weeks ago in Indianapolis, Indiana and the conference did not disappoint!

We had the pleasure of talking with many great academic librarians from across the world about the current information literacy instruction at their universities and sharing how Project SAILS could help guide these instruction programs. In fact, the first evening of the conference, we talked with librarians from Australia, Hong Kong, and South Africa.

During the conference we spent most of our time at our booth, (Rick and Carolyn pictured above) but we were able to attend a few sessions and interview a few of the other attendees.

The week of the conference, Credo Reference released the results of a survey they conducted on the information literacy skills of students from more than 400 institutions. We talked with Laura Miller, a representative of Credo, to learn more about the findings from their survey.

We also interviewed Brooke Gilmore, an information literacy librarian at Southern New Hampshire University. Brooke led a session on the “Impact of AAC&U’s LEAP Initiative on Information Literacy Programs.” We sat down to ask her more about what she covered in her session.

Our last interview was with Melanie Sellar, the Education Services Librarian at Marymount College in Los Angeles, on her session about research narratives. Read our Q and A blog post, complete with the Prezi and video used in her presentation at ACRL 2013.

We also shared a special giveaway for ACRL attendees – a drawing for a free test administration. Register before May 1st and you’re entered into the contest.

A special thanks to Laura Miller from Credo, Brooke Gilmore, and Melanie Sellar for allowing us to interview them. And a big thanks to all of the conference attendees who stopped by our booth - it was the highlight of our time at ACRL 2013!

Melanie Sellar

On the second day of the ACRL 2013 Conference, we had the great pleasure of having lunch with Melanie Sellar. Melanie is currently the Education Services Librarian at Marymount College in Los Angeles.

During the ACRL Conference, Melanie was leading a session titled, “Visible Thinking: Using Course-Integrated Research Narratives to Engage Students and Assess Learning.” We invited her to lunch so we could hear more about her session and understand the value of research narratives in information literacy instruction.

Below is the Q and A portion of our lunch with Melanie:

Project SAILS: Please introduce yourself!

Melanie: I am the Education Services Librarian at Marymount College in Los Angeles. I grew up and attended college in Canada (a BA in linguistics from McMaster University, an MA in linguistics from the University of Ottawa, and an MLIS from the University of Western Ontario.) Before being hired at Marymount College, I was the Community Outreach Librarian and later the e-Learning and Instructional Design Librarian at the University of California, Irvine. I am also very proud to say that I founded Librarians Without Borders and now serve as the Co-Executive Director.

Project SAILS: What did you cover in your session?

Melanie: The main focus of my session was to introduce the theory behind research narratives, which stems from composition scholarship, and to show the research narratives in application at two institutions (University of Louisville and Marymount College).

Project SAILS: What are research narratives?

Melanie: Research narratives, which are also often called information literacy narratives, are an assessment and pedagogical tool that allow insight into student thinking by asking students to tell the story of their research experience. These narratives are heavily focused on a student’s thinking pattern or thought process compared to knowing the right answers – which is different than most tests and citation analysis tools. Another important focus of narratives is reflection. Students are asked to provide a step-by-step account of their research process, including a reflection on the difficulties/challenges they experienced. Students then create a first-person story detailing their research which positions them as expert on that experience.

Project SAILS: What do research narratives accomplish?

Melanie: An important outcome of using research narratives is that they provide a window into student thinking, giving faculty and librarians insight into the critical thinking skills of students. Research narratives also provide the “Why” behind research papers and answer questions like:

  • Why did the student select and cite this source?
  • Did the professor tell them to use a certain source or is this something the student chose to do on their own?
  • Did the student struggle finding sources? Why?

Research narratives also allow students to select what they thought was important to include in the description of their research process, while also showing the things students didn’t think were important enough to include.

Overall, research narratives provide a powerful tool for impacting teacher and librarian practice because we can have a better understanding of a student’s research paper when paired with the research narrative. As a result of seeing into a student’s research process we are able to better understand where the students are on the information literacy skill development continuum, and where further support and instruction is needed. We should use tools like research narratives to impact the way we are teaching, instead of simply deflecting the blame on students.

Project SAILS: What are the downsides to using research narratives?

Melanie: I think it’s important to acknowledge that research narratives do require more time to assess than, for example, grading a quiz.

It’s best to read many narratives at one time in order to better understand the data in light of other students’ responses. It does take time to read through each narrative and make meaning of the data, but the time is well worth it to really understand the information literacy skills of our students.

Research narratives also require collaboration with faculty, in terms of designing a prompt and potentially creating a rubric. Faculty that include the research narrative as part of the assignment need to provide copies of the research narratives to librarians for our own assessment. This “hurdle” is getting much easier with learning management systems, like Blackboard, where faculty can simply grant access for librarians to the student research papers submitted within these programs.

Lastly, students do not expose everything about their research process, but we are learning about what is most important to them, as selected by them.

Project SAILS: How have faculty responded to using research narratives?

Melanie: Research narratives have had a significant impact on our faculty’s classroom practices because they have been able to illuminate the research skills, behaviours, and attitudes of our freshmen.  Some results include:

  • Faculty are putting themselves in the mind of a novice researcher and adjusting their teaching practices and curriculum to their level of knowledge.
  • Faculty across the disciplines are becoming more aware of the shared responsibility to teach research skills.
  • Sparked conversations about teaching information literacy skills over the course of a student’s college career, not just in a Freshman English composition course.
  • More impactful integration of librarians in courses.

For more on how faculty are seeing the value of information literacy narratives, I interviewed a faculty member of one of our Freshman Composition courses.

Project SAILS: Are there other applications of research narratives?

Melanie: Yes, another important application for research narratives is use as a longitudinal assessment across a student’s time in college. Looking longitudinally at a student’s research narratives, year after year, may allow us to see if their thinking has changed over the time and how their information literacy skills are developing.

We really enjoyed meeting Melanie and hearing how she is using research narratives at her institution. We are planning to add resources specific to research narratives to our blog in the coming months, as we see the benefit of using a multiple-choice IL assessment (like Project SAILS) along with a research narrative. Using the two in tandem will allow faculty and librarians to understand information literacy proficiencies of their students, while also understanding the thinking process students are using during research.

Melanie’s Prezi from her session at ACRL can be viewed below:

You can also connect with Melanie on LinkedIn, learn more about her work with Librarians Without Borders, follow her on Twitter, or contact her for more information about using research narratives at your institution.

ACRL 2013 had a large number of sessions specific to information literacy.

We sat down with the presenter from one of these sessions, Brooke Gilmore, to hear more about the things she covered in her session titled, “Impact of AAC&U’s Liberal Education & America’s Promise (LEAP) Initiative on Information Literacy Programs.” Brooke presented this session along with co-investigator Elizabeth Dolinger from Keene State College.

Brooke is an Information Literacy Librarian at Southern New Hampshire University. She has been investigating the impact of the LEAP initiative on information literacy instruction programs at universities across the country, since the AAC&U included information literacy as one of its essential learning outcomes.

You can also follow Brooke on Twitter, contact her to talk more about what your “LEAP school” is doing in regard to information literacy instruction, or email her at!

On April 8, 2013 Credo Reference released the results of a survey they conducted on the information literacy skills of students from more than 400 institutions. Credo also shared these results at a breakfast discussion during the ACRL 2013 conference.

We spoke with Laura Miller, a marketing manager/analyst at Credo, to learn more about the findings from their survey.

Want more information about the survey results?

You can sign-up here to receive the results or visit Credo’s website to view the infographic shown in the video above, along with a video they created on the survey and its key findings. You can also follow Credo on Twitter to hear of other great resources they are sharing related to information literacy.