Annie Silva Melissa Kammerer LIS 688 Project Analysis December, 2011 Introduction The initial problem identified is that Masters of Library and Information Science (MLIS) students aren’t as professionally active as they could be, and aren’t capitalizing on certain opportunities while in school. We knew that this would largely be an awareness and connectivity campaign, promoting and making existing opportunities more easily accessible. This project is aimed at encouraging professional activity among MLIS students at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) and new professionals. Being professionally active while still in school can help enhance a student’s education, let them explore different areas and trends in librarianship, and can lead to lasting and valuable connections with professionals in the community. It can also enhance students’ resumes and help their job outlook. Professional activities available to students include conferences, presenting or attending presentations, joining organizations and associations, publications, and working, interning, or volunteering in a library while still in school. Our Audience We observed that there were two main communities, one consisting of those who are either employed or volunteering within libraries and those who are already professionally active, who may be “targets of opportunity” and the other consisting of those who aren’t either employed in libraries or who are otherwise professionally inactive, or “targets of risk”(Weinreich 69). While our larger audience is UNCG LIS students, our target audience are those who aren’t active in some way. Secondary audiences include professors and departmental staff, and new and seasoned local professionals. The Beginning After forming a partnership and making sure we were on the same page, we started the fundamental planning and formative research. We examined the environment with a large emphasis on social, economic and demographic factors. While evaluating our resources, it was important for us to remember to “realistically assess [our] available resources before proceeding any further” (Weinreich 38). Our monetary budget was nil, although we did have potential sources. The work would have to be done by the two of us, as we didn’t have funds to outsource. We set a working and flexible time table for when to accomplish certain aspects of the project, which, looking back on, was a little unrealistic. We tried to foresee any factors, environmental or otherwise, that could influence our project, and identified ways to market our campaign. At a certain point in
going through the worksheets, we decided it was time to start pre-testing, as speculation wasn’t helping any longer. The Pre-Test We conducted a pre-test in the formative research phase to gauge student attitudes, wants, and needs. Weinriech suggested that in order “to determine the best way in which to reach people in each segment, go directly to the experts—members of the segments themselves” (53). We also decided to do a self-administered questionnaire because they can be administered simultaneously to a large number of people with a low demand on time and because there’s a sense of anonymity (Weinreich 167). This proved a useful method to get a baseline in order to form more concrete next steps. These are the major questions we had that helped shape our pre-testing. Do students think Professional Organizations are valuable? Do they fully understand the value offered? What is preventing students from being professionally active? What are students already involved in and what would they like to become more involved in? What resources would be valuable and helpful to them in considering how, where, and when to be active?
Survey Results Question One: The responses to question one showed that most students understood that professional involvement was at least somewhat important. This showed us that this didnâ€™t really need to be the biggest focus of our project, and that there is not a lot of need to preach to the choir. It helped us reassess where our energy and effort is better focused, or, at least, where it isnâ€™t. There was only one comment on this question, and it was about working full time and being in school, making it hard to participate, which turned out to be a common thread that may shape parts of the project going forward.
Question Two: The majority of participants had already participated in at least one professional activity. Half of those who responded have/had worked or volunteered a library, and many had joined organizations, attended meetings, or gone to conferences. Presenting and publishing had the least number of positive responses, which may point to an information gap that should be addressed as the project continues. Many of the comments left revolved around an internship, which wasn’t a specific answer on the survey, but perhaps should have been, as well as a practicum selection. One respondent said “None. I work part time & raise 3 children. I plan on being more involved closer to graduation.” This shows that there are environmental reasons students aren’t active that may need to be addressed.
Question Three: More than half of the respondents stated that they would like to attend a conference, publish a paper, or gain employment within the field. This shows a disparity between wanting to publish and taking action, which may signify a need for more information or guidance. Attending a LISSA event or meeting scored the lowest, but that may be due to the fact that many are already members and already do. Volunteering also had relatively few responses, and follow up may be needed. It could be because many already do volunteer or because the immediate payout isnâ€™t as strong.
Question 4: The majority of respondents said that time, other commitments, and their work schedule, as well as money, prevented them from participating in professional activities. This indicates that there may be a need for better marketing of evening, weekend, and virtual opportunities, and the availability of various scholarships, Graduate Student Association funds and any departmental funds allocated to helping students attend events. One respondent said “support from the LIS program, professionalism isn't integrated into program”. This is interesting and will be touched on more in our discussion of where to go from this point. Another said “I feel like I am at a disadvantage to other LIS student who do not have to work 9-5 jobs and can participate in the conferences, practicums, etc that I cannot because of my full time job.” This is another instance of the same recurring theme.
Question 5: Email was by far the easiest way to receive information about events and opportunities for the respondents, followed by social media, and then an activities page on either the LISSA blog or the LIS webpage. Because our survey was only sent out by email, it is likely our information is skewed toward those students who prefer to communicate by email. While LISSA is a valuable resource, it is also a group with a registration fee, so more data would be useful to see of this would be a deterrent to those who arenâ€™t members looking for the information.
Question 6: The majority of respondents said that they would use an online calendar with events and conferences. A wiki-style calendar would be great, and doesnâ€™t seem too hard to implement through Google Calendars. This way the department, LISSA, and other students could post information they hear about. The majority also said that they would be most likely to use resume help. One respondent mentioned linking the event on the calendar to more information about the event, such as a flier or webpage. Another recommended a source to find information about funding, as this was their biggest hurdle.
Question 7: The majority of respondents reported that they at least might participate in a mentoring program. One responded that they don’t have the time with a full-time job, one responded that they don’t have time unless it’s with a professional working with very specific materials, and one stated that they would only if their mentor was active. Others commented that they were graduating soon and wouldn’t be able to participate.
Question 8: Question 8 sought feedback and general comments from the participants, as well as suggestions for programs and opportunities. One participant responded “I was surprised upon entering the program how little professional activity is planned in the department,” indicating that there may be a need for a more cohesive campaign. LISSA is a great resource, but maybe shouldn’t be the only resource. (Maybe a student committee supported by the department representative of all?) Two respondents touched on the issue of working 9-5. One stated “The thing that I think would be most beneficial to me would be opportunities after 5 for those students who work ft jobs.” Another said “I work full-time and find it incredibly frustrating that LISSA meetings and other official LIS events (town halls, etc) happen during the work day. I have not attended a single LISSA meeting in the two years I've been in the program because of this. I wish more consideration was given to working students when these things are planned.” Responses along the same lines included “Most difficult aspect concerning additional activities is time - graduate school and working full-time and the money - money is spent for bills and classes very little left after all of that.” And “Consider the scheduling needs of distance learning students. I am in Charlotte but I usually need 3 weeks lead time to arrange a trip to G'boro, and longer for conferences :)”. Other responses that provided insight were “I feel incredibly lucky to be working in a library while in school. Everyone should be required to work in a library while in library school for at least a semester. The experience and knowledge I've gained this
program would've never given me.” And “There is a pilot mentoring program in place, however it is organized and maintained solely by LIS students. Faculty and professional involvement is ideal. Also, with all of the online courses, our department needs to be better at connecting students with each other/promoting community (e.g. practicum and intern students socials).” Analysis of Results Two of the biggest trends were the need for information on financial aid and opportunities for those working full time. A more cohesive network of information may help these students, as there a lot of scholarships and funding available, as well as conferences that are virtual, meetings that are in the evenings, and events on weekends that need to be better marketed toward the working students. There also seems to be a desire for faculty to be more involved in the process and for professional activities to have more emphasis within the program and the department. Next Steps Most of the semester was spent determining which resources students would find most helpful and how those could be implemented or improved upon. Many of the programs that our survey participants thought would be useful are already in place to one degree or another; however there were several suggestions for how to improve the usability of these resources. Our primary suggestion is to collect the available information in one place to make it simpler and easier for everyone to use. Website users quickly scan sites far more often than they actually read them, and more often than not they only notice the information that is immediately obvious (Krueg, 2006). Users also tend to stop at the first option they notice on a site that looks reasonable, rather than looking around for the best option (Krueg, 2006), which makes it important to either collect all of the information they need in the same place, or at least to ensure that links are included for any relevant content in other sections of the site. Put another way, in web design as in library science, “save the time of the reader” (Ranganathan, 1931). The Professional Development tab on the LIS department page is part of the main navigation menu, which is an immediately obvious area. It makes sense for information about upcoming events, advice on publishing and presenting, and other helpful resources to be collected here rather than in multiple sections of the site, or to include internal links to content in other sections. The most ambitious of our more specific planned usability changes is the online events calendar, which is described in detail below. Next steps for this project include obtaining permission to make these usability changes where possible and increasing student awareness of existing resources. Events Calendar Based on the survey results, and our analysis of what we could realistically implement, we chose to focus on the online calendar of upcoming conferences, department socials and other events. The LIS department page already includes two
events calendars, and a larger percentage of our survey participants would prefer to find information on an existing site than have a separate site. For these reasons, we decided to see if we would be allowed to combine and adapt the existing calendars and promote those to students. One of the current calendars is listed under “News and Events.” There were events listed on it at the time we accessed it, however the three events during November that were mentioned in the “News and Events” section of the website were not listed. The other existing calendar is dedicated to LISSA (Library and Information Science Student Association) events, and is listed under “People- LISSA- Events Calendar” (Department of Library and Information Studies, 2011). This calendar lists meeting times, and there is an entry for the picnic in October, so it seems to be used fairly consistently. Neither calendar is mentioned in the professional activity section of the site. These calendars should be combined so that department members have one place they need to look for upcoming events. Our next recommendation is to make the combined calendar open to any member of the department to add events. This is technically feasible as users can be added to Google Calendars and the permissions settings allow the option of multiple users who may edit the calendar. There are several reasons for this recommendation. The more consistently the calendar is updated and the more events it contains, the more useful it will be. For example, allowing multiple users to add events would allow LISSA officers to add their meetings and socials to the calendar, and new officers would not have to be added if it was open to the entire department. Students or faculty members who discover online conferences, or who decide they want to host social events could list them on the calendar as well. This also means that no one individual is responsible for the work of finding and posting information about every upcoming event, though a moderator is still a good idea. To encourage participation, it should mention on the web page where the calendar is displayed that any department member can add an event, and should offer brief guidelines for posting an event (ie, remember to include dates, times, registration deadlines, a link to the event website, etc, as well as describing what types of events should be listed). Including links to information about events and registration pages was specifically mentioned by one of the survey respondents. To be effective, the calendar should be updated as far in advance as possible. Having basic event descriptions and information available for major conferences and department sponsored events at least a month ahead of time would be ideal. Many survey participants mentioned day time jobs and scheduling time off of work as challenges. One particular participant told us “Consider the scheduling needs of distance learning students. I am in Charlotte but I usually need 3 weeks lead time to arrange a trip to G'boro, and longer for conferences :)” If time in the semester had permitted, another round of pre-testing would have been ideal to solicit feedback on this more fully developed idea. This could have been done through a usability test allowing students and faculty members to test out the finished calendar. Weinreich identifies this as a particularly important step for websites and other tools that “include functionality that goes beyond standard navigation and text” (2011). This test would have focused on making sure things like adding events were
intuitive, and that the event posting guidelines were clearly written. After users had a chance to try out the new page, it would have been good to have a discussion on how likely participants were to add events or to use the calendar to find out about upcoming opportunities. Other Suggested Usability Changes Aside from the calendar, there were several other suggestions that came out of our survey results. One of the common needs identified was funding to attend events. There are several scholarships available for this purpose. For example, the Graduate Student Association at UNCG offers qualifying students grants for up to $300 to reimburse the cost of attending conferences and other events (Graduate Student Association of UNCG). An info page linking to grants or scholarships of this nature should be created and added to the Conference Resources section of the department website, which should be linked to under the Professional Development section. Publishing a paper or study were each identified as an activity that students would like to pursue but arenâ€™t. Approximately 57% indicated an interest in becoming more involved in publishing. A higher number of survey participants were interested in written information on the publishing process than in peer review for written materials. Follow up research in this area might be needed to identify the best ways to help students interested in publishing their work. Most of the survey participants indicated that they would be at least somewhat willing to participate in a mentor program. LISSA recently began a student led mentor program that matches new students with those further along in the program. Because the most common barrier to professional activity our research uncovered was a lack of time, attempting to implement a second mentor program would likely be counter-productive. LISSA has mentioned that they would welcome faculty involvement in the existing program, which could be useful in several ways, including connecting students to librarians working in specific areas that match their interests. Promotion If we are able to implement the changes to the calendar and professional development pages, they can be promoted as a central place to find local event information. To reach the majority of students, consistent cross-promotion across multiple channels of communication is needed. Ideally, professors would mention upcoming events to students in class. This is something we can only recommend, but we believe it is the most effective way to increase professional activity. It is the communication channel that reaches the largest number of students. In hindsight, this should have been included in survey question 5, which asked students how they preferred to get information about professional development opportunities. Alternately, they could mention the calendar to students and let them know they can find upcoming events there, add it to their personal Google Calendars if they use them, and add their own events if they're planning something.
When emails are sent out with invites or reminders about events, a link should be included to the event calendar for more information. Emails requesting poster submissions or papers should link to the section of the LIS website that discusses effective poster presentations and public speaking. If the changes to the professional activity section are implemented, we would like to send out an email letting department members know about the new features and information. This email would also be a good opportunity to start soliciting feedback and suggestions. Email was identified as the most effective way to communicate with our survey participants. Even though this data is likely skewed by the fact that the survey was only sent out via email, it should still be considered an effective channel. Another step in promotion will be to contact the individuals who administer the Department and LISSA Facebook pages to ask if they would be willing to mention the new resources on their pages in order to reach those students who prefer to get their information through social media. Evaluation If we are able to implement our suggestions, there are several ways we can track their success. Quantitative data on website usage is easy to obtain. Google Analytics is a free program that can track almost any web statistic (Google, 2011). Installing the Analytics tracking code on relevant pages on the site can tell us how many times each page is visited during a given time period, the number of unique visitors, and how frequently visitors tend to return to the page. It can also tell us how many different visitors create events. This program can help determine how successful some of our promotional efforts are, as it also tracks how people get to the website. Those who visit the website through links in their email are tracked separately from those who come to the site through Facebook or Twitter, for example (Google, 2011). Quantitative data, however, does not tell the whole story. Both qualitative and quantitative methods are necessary for a complete picture (Weinreich, 2011). Efforts should be made to solicit more qualitative feedback from members of the department. The usability test for the finished events calendar would be part of this effort. After the program has been in place for at least a semester but not more than a year, follow up suggestions would be solicited through either a survey or focus group. This research would attempt to answer several important questions. How professionally active are students, and in which particular activities? How aware are students of the information available to them? How easy to access and use is the events calendar? How often do they use the information provided to them? What suggestions do they have for improvements? Conclusions The nature of this project changed several times over the course of the semester. We both had several preconceived ideas at the beginning of the project about the challenges students faced and the programs they would find helpful. The results of our research supported some of those assumptions and contradicted others. The main
adjustment to our project was the realization that most of the programs our survey participants said would be helpful to them were already in place in some form. At that point, our project switched from developing new resources to improving upon those already available and trying to make students more aware of them. At this point, our promotional efforts seem almost more about convincing others who have influence and regular contact with students to encourage professional activity. References Department of Library and Information Studies at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (2011). Department of Library and Information Studies. Retrieved from http://lis.uncg.edu/ on December 2, 2011. Google (2011). Google Analytics IQ Lessons. Retrieved from http://www.google.com/support/conversionuniversity/bin/request.py? hl=en&contact_type=indexSplash&rd=1 on December 3, 2011. Graduate Student Association (n.d.). Professional Development Fund. Retrieved from https://sites.google.com/a/uncg.edu/gsa/funding/pdf on December 2, 2011. Krueg, S. (2006). Don't make me think!: A common sense approach to Web usability. Berkely, Calif.: New Riders Pub. Ranganathan, S.R. (1931). The five Laws of library science. Madras: Madras Libr. Association. Weinreich, N. K. (2011). Hands-on social marketing: A step-by-step guide to designing change for good. Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.