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Meet the TATIL Advisory Board: Silvia Vong

Photo of Silvia Vong
Silvia Vong, University of Toronto

Silvia Vong joined the Advisory Board for the Threshold Achievement Test for Information Literacy in 2015. She was a key contributor to the creation of TATIL. She wrote test items, conducted cognitive interviews with students, and advised on other aspects of the project. In this interview she describes her work at the John M. Kelly Library in the University of St. Michael’s College, how her teaching approach has evolved, her project to introduce scholarly communication to undergraduates, and more!

Question: Please tell us about your job. 

I am currently Head of Public Services at John M. Kelly Library in the University of St. Michael’s College in the University of Toronto. This was a recent change as a couple years ago, I was the Collaborative Learning Librarian. In my previous role, I was the liaison for the Book and Media Studies program and taught an undergraduate course that introduced students to library and archival concepts and topics as well as research skills. Eventually I was given the opportunity to become Head of Public Services and I saw an opportunity to learn more about access services including overcoming the daily challenges that come with working the frontline. In the role, I oversaw the various services we provided for faculty, students, and staff and act as a liaison between our department and other library departments as well as the various departments across campus. 

I like that I am developing my leadership skills and delving into management, which was something, I did not expect to pursue until a few years ago. I had this moment where I realized that leaders have a huge impact on organizational culture, communication, and the ethos. I have a five-year term so I look forward to all the challenges that come with becoming a manager. 

Q. Please tell us about a project you are currently working on.

I am currently conducting a research project where we created a series of videos on scholarly communication aimed at undergraduates. We invited a faculty member to talk about his experience in publishing his research and discuss how he sees the future of academic publishing and research. He provides just enough information to pique interest (which was our goal). We collected student reflection responses related to how they see the future of scholarly communication and we’re preparing to analyze the data. We have been running this in an in-person format for a few years and this was the first time we decided to move to an online format. I was inspired by the 2013 ACRL document, Intersections of Scholarly Communication and Information Literacy and since then, have sought out ways to marry both while teaching undergraduate students. Since then, the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education was created and adopted by many librarians. The framework includes knowledge practices related to scholarly communication and publishing which further confirms the importance of touching on scholarly communication in teaching sessions.   

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

I did teach an undergraduate course for many years. However, I may be released from the Libraries, Special Collections, and Archives course to focus on the access and information services department. When I started my career, I was in the midst of finishing a Master of Education at York University in Toronto, Canada. My research was on mobile learning and I was also an e-learning librarian for a few years during that time. My approach was focused on the content when I was green but as I gained more experience and took more education courses, I began to shift my perspective and focus my teaching on the students. With that, the students drove how I created content, delivered my lectures, designed my activities, and communication. In terms of what theories I subscribe to, I am not a purist, there isn’t just one. I draw from constructivism to threshold concepts. I see learning as a dynamic experience and it’s the teacher’s job to read the class or touch base and adjust. 

Q: How is your library approaching or handling the Framework?

My chief librarian was seminal in introducing and supporting the Framework at St. Mike’s. She organized a PD day and purchased any supportive material (books and booklets). She also helped guide me through it as I was reading the research and diving into Threshold Concepts research (Ray Land and Jan Meyer).

Q: What types of information literacy assessment have you done?

In terms of summative assessment, I prefer reflections, which can come in different forms such as written work or images. The reason why I prefer reflections at the end of the course is that it allows students to step back and look at the overall experience and examine how they would do things again. For formative assessment, I like to use online tools such as tests and surveys (usually with no grade value) so that students can test their own progress while letting me know if my teaching methods are effective.  

Q: Have you used TATIL at your institution?

My Chief Librarian is leading an effort to get buy-in from faculty in order to implement TATIL. 

Q: Why did you join the TATIL Advisory Board?

When I arrived at John M. Kelly Library, my work as an e-learning librarian shifted to a traditional liaison librarian role along with teaching a course. My M.Ed. was focused on mobile learning so joining the TATIL Advisory Board was an opportunity to flex my e-learning knowledge muscle. I think it’s important to flex our different skill muscles and as you know, the e-learning field is ever changing, new models and research have emerged since then so it was motivation to revisit past ideas and reflect on new ones. 

Q: What role do you think that non-library, classroom faculty at your institution have in promoting information literacy of students?

 I think faculty have a role as a partner in promoting information literacy. Unfortunately, in some academic institutions, we work in silos and rarely cross paths outside of meetings and events. However, our library has developed a strong relationship with our faculty and hope to work with them more on various projects that support their scholarship and teaching. Through these partnerships or collaborations, we are able to advocate and educate faculty and students on IL developments and topics.

Thank you, Silvia!