The Electronic Researcher
Project Number 12 – 1994
City Library Services Manager
University of Technology, Sydney
PO Box 123
Broadway, NSW 2007
+61 (2) 330 3339
+61 (2) 330 3331P.Mercer@uts.edu.au
Other Individuals And Organizations Associated With The Project
University of Technology, Sydney Library liaison staff (20)
University of Technology, Sydney Library systems staff (2)
University of Technology, Sydney Information Technology Division (5)
University of Technology, Sydney Instructional Technology Services (3)
University of Technology, Sydney Faculty technical staff (5)
Enid Roberts – external consultant
The Electronic Researcher is an information literacy program to train library staff and users in electronic research, and to position the library and its users for the impact of the greatly increasing use of electronic material in information seeking, retrieval and delivery. During 1992 and 1993 the main focus of the program training seminars has been on using electronic networks, such as the Australian Academic and Research Network (AARNet) and the Internet.
Network training sessions are designed to enable academic staff to become independent network users and navigators. Training is based on the subject approach to the use of networks, and the key strategy is to customise courses for academic staff subject interests. As well we allow for our audience being adult learners, with different levels of expertise, working on different computer platforms. Library subject specialists, liaison librarians, collaborate to produce core sets of training modules. These modules cover e-mail, telnet, access such as Gopher, WWW etc, file transfer and newsgoups. Each liaison librarian then provides specific subject information to enhance the core to match the target group, the hardware and software environment, and the level of knowledge, such as new user or experienced.
As the university is a multi-campus organisation located in several parts of Sydney, we deliver the training in the participants’ environment. The format consists of demonstration then hands-on by the participants for each of the modules taught. At least two liaison librarians lead the session in a team approach. The length of a seminar can be adjusted for the group, but usually lasts two hours. The training is backed up by distributing copies of training material. Participants are made aware that they can request more advanced or specialised seminars in future, and that they can request one on one assistance from the liaison librarian at any time.
Currently the program, which started out as a special project, is integrated into liaison librarian work as part of the information literacy goal of the Library. From September 1992 (when it started) until the end of 1993, the Library delivered 28 seminars to 320 members of academic staff (there are about 800 full-time academic staff), and 9 seminars to 38 library staff. There has been very little publicity required as the demand for training has come from the benefits being spread by word of mouth. The Library is continuing to meet this demand in 1994.
- Use of technologies that interoperate with the National Science Foundation Network (NSFNET), the global Internet and the emerging National Research and Education Network (NREN). The Electronic Researcher currently is focussed on training staff in the use of electronic networks. Through the university’s network we connect to AARNet and the Internet to use networked information resources available locally, nationally and internationally.
- Explore how library and other information resources and services can be made available in the networked teaching and learning process. The Electronic Researcher is linked to client needs. It recognises that academics are expert in their subject areas, but not necessarily in information technology or retrieval techniques. It addresses directly the issue of extending the scholar’s access to information in a friendly and cost effective way. The emphasis on teaching academic staff to become independent information navigators empowers them to expand their research horizons, and bring the resources they use into their offices. Library staff are available to provide specialist advice and support to complement the academics’ subject expertise.
- Collaboration involving different types of institutions, organizations and agencies. The Library collaborates extensively with other university divisions to provide the Electronic Researcher. The university’s computing division (Information Technology Division), the classroom support division (Instructional Technology Services), and the respective faculties’ local area network administrators are involved directly with the program in terms of general network services and support for training sessions. The program enhances their services by bringing them into direct contact with their major client groups. At the beginning of the program, the library engaged an external training consultant, Enid Roberts.
- “Doing more with less” The library does not have its own training rooms, and in taking the training sessions into the academic staff environment is able to compensate effectively for this. Equipment for screen projection is borrowed from classroom support services or the local network manager, who also assists in technical support matters for the local environment. The university is one of Australia’s recently constituted universities. While it is already one of the larger universities in Australia with 22,000 students, it does not have the depth of traditional library resources. We expand these by providing academic staff with the expertise to navigate networks successfully. This provides them with additional resources to support their teaching and research, that they would not have had otherwise.
- Replicability and long-term viability. Due to the common core of the program, its operation is streamlined. Each liaison librarian, when designing a seminar, builds on the work of others. Handouts and other documentation are stored in electronic form, so they can be easily adapted and updated. Library staff have been keen to share the experience and approach of the Electronic Researcher with other information professionals. The program, and individual seminars within it, have been the subject of a number of published articles and conference papers. A selection of the subject resources compiled are available on the Australian network training information gopher. Electronic information and network information resources are being used primarily for communication, not as a computing technology. Networks are being exploited by academic staff for copying and distributing knowledge in a timely way. These characteristics are strongly linked to the traditional library skills of knowing how to find distributed information and knowledge. The library has now established a primary role for itself in providing network training courses at the university.
- Macintosh computer with selected client software applications
- (Telnet, Eudora, Fetch etc) for Internet access,
- video projector for live demonstration.