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Meet the TATIL Advisory Board: Liz Kavanaugh

Photo of Liz Kavanaugh
Liz Kavanaugh, Information Literacy and Assessment Librarian at Misericordia University

Liz Kavanaugh is a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy. A long-time user of the Project SAILS information literacy assessment tool and an advocate for effective assessment, Liz was the perfect match for the fledgling project to create a new tool based on the ACRL Framework.

In this interview, you will see how Liz's commitment to assessment and to information literacy are woven throughout her professional life.

Question: What do you like about your job?

I am very fortunate to be in the position of Information Literacy and Assessment Librarian at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pennsylvania. When I took the position about five years ago, we were just heading into an accreditation year with Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE). It was an exciting time that launched me right into the thick of gathering data, writing reports, and meeting with stakeholders across campus. I really loved the active sense of how important assessment was at that time and I love how it has grown into a more full-fledged body of data today for the library. Much of it is based on the information brought forward through our long-term use of SAILS at this time and now we’re on the route to our 2024 review, which brings the excitement full circle.

Q: Please tell us about a project you are currently working on. What are you trying to accomplish?

In addition to wearing my assessment hat, I am one of the library liaisons to our College of Health Sciences and Education. I am currently working on a scoping review of mental health literacy initiatives we can offer undergraduates to support their early careers in the allied health fields. I’m looking for connections between information literacy, mental health awareness, and the impact on continuing education that I think fits well together within the ACRL Framework for lifelong learning.

Q: How has your approach to teaching changed since you started your career?

During our very positive MSCHE review in 2014, our library was lauded for its early participation in embedded librarianship as an avenue through which information literacy instruction and assessment could be most beneficial to our campus community. Through embedded librarianship, we were able to make closer connections to our students and identify more closely where areas of instruction could be quantified and improved upon. It’s been an eye-opening, evidenced-based process of information literacy assessment along the way!

Q: How is your library approaching the Framework?

This year in particular our library has more mindfully integrated the Framework into our shared instructional objectives.  We’ve crafted student learning outcomes (SLOs) that directly align with each of the Frames to both reach out from the guidance of the Framework yet personalize them in ways that are identifiable in our students by the time they graduate. I have been coding collected statistics from instruction and reference questions to match the Framework over the past year and a half, but this is the first organized approach of all librarians to be on the same page when using the Framework as a guiding document.

Q: What types of information literacy assessment have you done?  If you have used SAILS, can you tell us one or two actions that you or others at your institution have taken as a result?

Over the last eight years we have used homegrown assessments, Project SAILS, observational data, and reference questions to guide information literacy assessment across the board. It can be challenging to try and have each librarian teach in the same way with their students, given the varying student experiences, subject matter, and librarians’ teaching style. However, with a tool like SAILS we have been able to specifically note where the areas of strengths are for students in particular majors and where we can improve their information literacy experiences through instruction by the time they are seniors. We started using SAILS with seniors a couple of years ago and we’re now at the point of tracking trends from when the first cohort of freshmen were tested in 2011 to their correlating graduating cohort of seniors. This will be helpful for long-term trend analysis over the coming years.

One of the most exciting changes has been in our First Year Experience (FYE) program. Each librarian taught about five of the twenty-five sections last fall using a new standardized lesson plan that had students focus on their understanding of the information cycle through active participation. It was a new, fun, and exciting way to get them involved in their own understanding of the Information Creation as a Process and Authority is Constructed Frames, with additional conversation going in other Framework directions as well!

Q: Please tell us about a recent professional development activity that you participated in, that you found to be valuable. What was it and how was it valuable to you?

I am eagerly preparing for the Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU, June 2018) in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, which is an incredible international experience. I love learning from our neighbors to the north and bringing back their guidance on Framework implementation, instruction, and assessment of academic librarianship in very tangible ways. I’ve also recently completed a poster proposal for the Library Assessment Conference (December 2018 in Houston, Texas) regarding the evolution of information literacy instruction and assessment at our institution.  Fingers crossed!

Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about your professional life?

I’ve been very fortunate as a member of my campus community to feel like I have an opportunity to invoke change based on real-time assessment of instruction, programming, and library services.  My campus is extremely student-centered and we do anything we can to make students' time here as meaningful as possible – especially their time using library services!

Q: Why did you join the TATIL Advisory Board?

Just as our library’s own instructional approach and assessment tools have evolved in recent years, I was eager to see what was next on the horizon for Carrick Enterprises and their work managing Project SAILS. We have had a very positive experience using SAILS in the past, to the point where it’s become part of the annual routine for some cohorts! Being a member of the TATIL Advisory Board has been an extension of that positive experience. TATIL has grown into the next phase of information literacy assessment that is quantifiably mirroring changes in the guiding documents of the ACRL and the ever-changing information seeking behaviors of our students.

Thank you, Liz!