It has been an AGE since I have blogged, so I apologise! As usual, the days seem to fly past – I can’t believe it’s February already.
I had my first MSc teaching session with Kirsty last week, which went well! I had been off sick for the two days beforehand, but managed to rally my body and mind for the big day. We began our mini-library-course with a session on ‘Finding Quality Journal Articles’, with Kirsty leading and me attempting to answer fairly complex questions about cellular beams and automotive engines… but I think I did okay! My name is on the Powerpoint too – I’m famous (ish)!
We started by asking them a few questions about where they would look for resources, and how confident they felt about using the library and undertaking their research project. This was via the medium of a little questionnaire on Blackboard (thanks to Sarah, my line manager, who is a whizz at such things!). Our thinking was that we can run a similar questionnaire at the end and compare the responses to see what we’ve achieved, and will have qualitative and quantitative data to take back to the department.
We had lots of helpful leaflets and guides for them too. Personally, I love a good hand-out, as you can review it at home (and I prefer having things on paper!). It’s also helpful when students don’t speak English as their first language, so might miss something that’s said during a talk or demonstration – with written materials, they can go through it at their own pace. Kirsty showed them the main databases that they need to use, which does differ slightly across disciplines – but things like ScienceDirect and Web of Science are things all the Engineering students can use to their advantage. However, they need to be aware of databases that are abstract-only affairs, and ones that have everything in full-text. This is mainly why I try and talk people out of Google Scholar until everything else has been exhausted: it shows you lots of things that look extremely helpful that you end up not being able to access! The bane of my MA career!
We tried to get them to start exploring the world of electronic journal resources in more depth for their MSc dissertations, so all the questions were quite specific. I’m still not sure what a cellular beam is, but I did manage to help someone find a relevant full-text article from EBSCO, and got a low-five for my trouble! That was a nice moment, I felt proud to have genuinely helped!
I also sat in on one of Alison’s sessions last week, wherein she spoke to History students about using Special Collections and archives for their dissertations. I always jump at anything remotely Special Collections-related, so this was great! To be honest, I was a little jealous that they were given this opportunity and wished I was doing a project again. I did consider doing History and English for my undergrad degree, but decided one book-heavy discipline was probably enough… Alison’s session did make me think, though, that we weren’t really told to use archives, how one might go about using them, or even that they might be helpful. Sadly, I wasn’t able to fly to Princeton during my undergraduate degree to look at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s ledger, either – woe is me! For my MA I relied heavily on Eighteenth Century Collections Online for my background research (which is totally fabulous, and I suggest everybody have a browse), as eighteenth-century American political tracts aren’t always easy to come by in their original form! That being said, there are so many things that are useful that are available to the students both in Bradford and other archives in the UK, and it’s great that Alison and Martin are so enthusiastic about helping people get the most out of them. I also had a good goggle at the materials they’d got out to show the students – always the best bit, it’s hard to pry me away from primary sources!
Speaking of Special Collections and things, I went to the John Rylands Library in Manchester on Saturday with some of the University of Sheffield Library Society. It was wonderful, and I didn’t want to leave! But as I have much more to say on that subject, I shall save it for another day. I stupidly left my phone in the lockers before our tour, so will probably have to appropriate some of their photos with all due credit. But I shall leave you with the one photo I managed to take outside as the rain began lashing down (it’s Manchester, I should have known) – I love some Victorian high drama!