Yearning for the vast and endless sea – SWITCH2013

Filed Under (Events, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 29-11-2013

On Tuesday November 26th, I presented to the SWITCH 2013 “Creating Libraries for Communities” conference at the Australian Technology Park. My invitation was based on my successful book From Lending to Learning – the development and extension of public libraries – see here.
The theme of my presentation was the strategy needed by public libraries to shift from lending books to supporting learning. I looked first at the current state of public libraries in the UK and gave a forthright explanation of the savage cuts program taking place and the increased reliance on volunteer workers; then I looked at the opportunities for public libraries to support learning; in the final part I talked about the opportunities and challenges offered by digital citizenship, information literacy and social media.

The reaction by the Australian audience to the closure of libraries in the UK was a mixture of disbelief and anger. Why they asked is the UK doing this? How can they be allowed to get away with this? Six hundred libraries closed is a significant amount – it undermines the infrastructure and sends out a negative message. The UK and Australia have issues with their national levels of literacy – Australia’s policy is enlightened whereas the UK’s is going backwards. The result – the UK will lose out in the Global Auction and fail to come out of recession. But that’s just the economic fallout – more importantly the social impact of denying a society its right to a library service will quite possibly lead to social unrest.

On a personal note, my presentation to an audience of around 350 librarians was indeed challenging. The use of a live twitter feed displayed alongside my slides gave the audience a voice as I presented. However for me it was rather distracting – being one of those people who cannot stop reading once started. Reaction was positive and much of the discussions I had following this were really interesting and useful.

SWITCH is the New South Wales Public Libraries Association annual conference –

I should like to thank my hosts the SWITCH conference organisers for inviting me to speak and for their support during my visit.

Research in the early years – a step-by-step guide.

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Professional practice, Research) by ronan on 19-01-2013

“Research in the early years – a step-by-step guide / Pam Jarvis…[et al.] (2012) contains a chapter I co-authored with Pam Jarvis entitled “Reading for research: efficient use of your access to an academic library”. It was a fairly tricky challenge for me as I am less well experienced at writing for a narrow audience particularly at undergraduate level. It seems to be fine. The other obvious challenge was ensuring sources were up-to-date generally I steered clear of specifics but came down fairly stongly on suggesting a diverse range of finding aids. I also did a little rant about the importance of understanding precision and recall – and of course tackled social media. This is how the publishers describe the book:
This new text is the only resource out there to address the needs of today’s early years students/trainees and support them through every stage of the early years research process.  Research in the Early Years contains case study material in the form of four fictional students’ experiences, which run through the book. Readers follow these example students through their dissertation module as they address common problems, issues and pitfalls. Clear explanations and a step-by-step approach are balanced with sufficient depth and rigour to challenge those on undergraduate courses or following graduate programmes such as EYPS.

Learning for All – Day One

Filed Under (Events, General, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 21-09-2012

On Thursday the first day of the “Learning For All” conference in Melbourne, I met a large number of interesting people and surprisingly was given a most concise and effective tour of the State Library Of Victoria by Andrew Hiskens – Manager Learning Services Division.
The papers presented during this first day of the conference were of a high standard and the debate generated for the plenary sessions was lively. Sue Roberts State Librarian of Victoria and formerly of Edge Hill University  gave a well focused and entertaining opening keynote presentation. The evening reception in the State Library culminated with a performance by the choir Off the Shelf an all female choir of librarians from Victoria formed to celebrate Australia’s first National Year of Reading 2012.

Extensive review of “From Lending to Learning”

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 17-07-2012

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Tim Davies has written an extensive and pleasingly complimentary review of my book From Lending to Learning in the latest issue of ARIADNE (Issue 38 ) where it is described as “a spirited defence of public libraries, which tries to define their core purpose and which argues for a re-positioning of their place in society”.



ALDinHE Conference 2012

Filed Under (Events, Information Literacy, Professional practice) by ronan on 13-04-2012

I attended recently the 9th ALDinHE Conference: University of Leeds “Learning Development in a digital age: emerging literacies and learning spaces”. This is the Assocoation for Leaning Development in Higher Education, its aims are described on its website:  “informed by values of empowerment and partnership, a Learning Development perspective encourages and supports all students to be actively engaged in their own learning and to analyse and assess their own development within experiential and social contexts.”

The conference for which I could only attend one day was at the University of Leeds and was well organised – unfortunately I missed the social events. I did catch the Keynote speaker Helen Beetham who was excellent – I had come across her work in digital literacies in particular a JISC funded project which I rate highly and have returned to on a number of occasions. Helen’s keynote was engaging and well put together deploying a number of devices to put forward a well thought through argument – I was particularly interested in her thoughts about referencing and citation and her assertion that today’s learners are more likely to use Delicious or Mendeley rather than come to terms with the less intuitive Harvard 18th or Chicago 15th. I agree – it is probably the case – I use Mendeley and WorldCat all the time. I was even more surprised that a group like ALDinHE were aware of or interested in what I would have thought were “librarianship” issues. Indeed throughout my short visit to the conference I kept wondering where this group of people fitted into the modern university. They weren’t professional libraians nor could they be labelled “academic staff” whatever that means. I suppose they had some support role – widening participation seemed important judging from the poster session, and encouragingly many of them were keen researchers. It is hoped however that they do not have any role in supporting students with their academic writing because they described their keynote speaker as having been a Principle Researcher!

It was during the keynote that disaster struck! When the keynote was warming up, in fact at the precise moment when we were listening to the “sound of  data” the fire alarm sounded and we evacuated the lecture theatre. What a pity. I got bored and cold standing outside and there was nobody able to give any information so I took the opportunity to visit the Brotherton Library which is always a treat.

I now know that Learning Development is a “thing” but not sure what nor how it fits in with library services.

The ALDinHE website can be found here:

From Lending to Learning – published

Filed Under (Built Learning Environments, General, Information Literacy, Professional practice, Research, Technology Reviews, VLE (Virtual Learning Environment)) by ronan on 29-11-2010

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Ahh – finally… my book which is now available – an extract from the opening pages:

“As I write this introduction a debate on BBC Radio 4 suggests that in order to effect public sector efficiency savings, volunteers should run public libraries along the lines of charity shops. There are regular announcements of this type in the media with yet more initiatives to change public libraries. To breathe new life into them, to put new energy into the service and to take new approaches that range from raising noise levels to the provision of coffee and chat facilities. At the heart of all such announcements lies a very important, yet simple, question: what are public libraries for?

Wander into any one of the hundreds of public libraries in the UK and you will see a range of services there that have evolved in a fairly haphazard way. This is not to say that there is poor quality of service, simply a lack of consistent strategy. One is tempted to ask some very obvious questions. Who looks after the public libraries of this country? Is the power to shape the future of public libraries in the hands of the central government, the regional assemblies, local authorities or made-up agencies, quangos, held together by the short-term thinking of hands-off politicians and civil servants? What are the reasons for keeping an institution such as the public library active over centuries – is it simply tradition? And, looking ahead, what might be the public library needs of our grandchildren?

In the chapters that follow I try to unravel the complexity and distil a logic that might offer a way to view the public library not simply as a national institution steeped in tradition, or as a purposeless place providing little more than popular glossy magazine titles, but as a learning space. Or, more correctly, a space owned by and dedicated to learners.”

Order this title now through your local public library – or buy it yourself, read it and send me your comments.

Rónán O’Beirne From Lending to Learning – The development and extension of public libraries. 2010 Chandos Information Professional Series Chandos Publishing an imprint of Woodhead Publishing Ltd., Cambridge. ISBN 9781843343882.  – 216 pages  234 x 156mm  paperback £45.00 / US$75.00 / €55.00

The digital information seeker, the library and the future.

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy) by elearning4bradford on 05-05-2010

Lynn Silipigni Connaway and Timothy J. Dickey, from OCLC Research have authored a paper for JISC on information seeking behaviours in academic libraries titled: The Digital Information Seeker: Report of the Findings from Selected OCLC, RIN, and JISC User Behaviour Projects available here

The now sadly typical, yet nonetheless critical, issue of information literacy is of course evident in this report but of equal interest is what seems  like a list of issues emerging for academic libraries, which are repeated below.

  • Library systems must do better at providing seamless access to resources such as full-text e-journals, online foreign-language materials, e-books, a variety of electronic publishers’ platforms and virtual reference desk services
  • Library catalogues need to include more direct links to resources and more online content
  • Libraries should provide more digital resources of all kinds, from e-journals to curated data sets, as well as emerging services such as virtual research environments (VREs), open source materials, non-text-based and multimedia objects, and blogs
  • Library systems must be prepared for changing user behaviours, which include advanced search options, demands for immediate access and quick perusal of resources
  • Library systems need to look and function more like search engines (eg Google) and popular web services (eg, as these are familiar to users who are comfortable and confident in using them
  • High-quality metadata is becoming more important for discovery of appropriate resources
  • Librarians must now consider the implications of power browsing behaviours
  • Students need more guidance and clarity on how to find content and how to assess its worth as well as its relevance
  • The library must advertise its brand and its resources better to academics, researchers and students, demonstrating its value clearly and unambiguously

Student use of Wikipedia

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Research) by elearning4bradford on 05-04-2010

This is a nice piece of research (from USA) telling us how students are actually using Wikipedia.

Head, A. J., & Eisenberg, M. B. (2010). How today’s students use Wikipedia for course related research
First Monday, 15(3).

National Information Literacy Award

Filed Under (Information Literacy) by elearning4bradford on 13-06-2009

Ronan O’Beirne, Assistant Director for Learning Development, has won the 2009 National Information Literacy Award. This is awarded to practitioners who raise the profile of information literacy and can demonstrate innovation, initiative and originality, as well as the impact of the programmes they develop. This UK-wide competition recognizes outstanding achievements in innovation within the area of Information Literacy, defined as ‘the ability to recognize when information is needed and to locate, evaluate and use the information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose’. The award carries a prize of a trophy, plus £500 to the winner’s favourite charity and £500 for personal use. More

Interesting Podcasts

Filed Under (General, Information Literacy, Research) by elearning4bradford on 21-04-2009

Here are some podcasts that I have recently listened to which some may find interesting – accessed from the JISC website.

Here Sarah Thomas of University of Oxford and Robert Darnton Harvard University discuss the future of libraries

Here John Crawford and Christine Irving talk about Information Literacy as a ‘democratic right’

This final one, here, is a longer cast where OCLC Vice-President Karen Calhoun talks about the provision of digital content for learning and research.