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Department of Information Studies


“How Today’s College Students Use Wikipedia”: Journal Club Report by Helena Hollis

By Anne Welsh, on 13 November 2014


Head, A., & Eisenberg, M. (2010). How today’s college students use Wikipedia for course-related research First Monday, 15 (3) DOI: 10.5210/fm.v15i3.2830

Article summary:

This article presents the focus group and survey data from on-going research by Head and Eisenberg in the US. It looks at the usage of Wikipedia by university level students, specifically addressing how much Wikipedia is used, when it is used, what it is used for, and what other information sources students also report consulting. Findings show that Wikipedia is not used alone, but with other sources also, and is predominantly used for early stages of searching as a familiarisation reference.



Discussion commenced with a comparison of how we ourselves use Wikipedia, with the main consensus being that it is used to look up definitions. In this respect, our own behaviours with Wikipedia use were similar to the findings of the paper. It was also noted that Wikipedia is used for fun, with the serendipity of following Wikipedia links to new information being desirable and enjoyable. It was also noted that Wikipedia is useful for looking at subject matter with which validity is not a high priority. The familiarity of the Wikipedia layout was identified as a key attraction.


Looking at the paper itself, the data gathering methodology was criticised. The sample size of the focus groups was very small, and these focus groups were used to formulate the wider questionnaire. No comment was made as to how focus groups were selected. The wider questionnaire itself had a more substantial sample size. However, this was a largely female and humanities-studying sample, and therefore is not generalizable to the wider university population. It is worth noting that the authors are aware of this constraint, and present their conclusions with this clearly stated.


Some specific findings of the survey were discussed and critiqued. For instance, the authors found that Google users were more likely to use Wikipedia. This could be due to Wikipedia typically ranking highly in Google search results. However, since Google users made up almost all of the respondents, and non-Google users were limited in number, this conclusion is not as clear as it may first appear. It was noted that 2 year institutions had better research methods training than 4 year institutions, which was a surprising finding.


Discussion moved on to comparing the findings of the study with experience of school librarians, thinking about how college students compare to children in their use of Wikipedia. The school librarians felt that children use Wikipedia, and they are aware that is not credible. It was pointed out that in the past, children would simply use a paper encyclopaedia – this may not be better than Wikipedia, and is still a single source, therefore is arguably as ‘lazy’ a research strategy as relying on Wikipedia today.  It was noted that this is perhaps the main source of hostility from teachers and librarians towards Wikipedia; it is not necessarily the fact that it contains misinformation that can be the problem, but that it is treated as the only research source.


We then discussed the importance of Information Literacy (IL) training. It was agreed that IL could be taught early, leading to better searching behaviours, which would help curb the extent to which Wikipedia is used as the sole source of information. The observation was shared that students from different schools coming into a library can show different levels of preparedness, leading to very different searching methods. In the UK, the EPQ qualification was talked about as an example of a very good IL teaching programme. Some broader issues in IL were talked about, and it was noted that a good source can still be used badly, and therefore Wikipedia should not be treated as the epitome of bad research.


Overall, it was felt that this paper was interesting, and the findings were inline with our experiences. The authors’ honesty about their limitations was commendable. Their conclusions seemed justified.​


Helena Hollis is studying part-time for her MA LIS, while working in an academic library.

Journal Club takes place once a month, and is facilitated by Charlie Inskip and Anne Welsh, with organisational support from Laura Keshav. This year we are discussing three articles on the theme of Information Literacy and three on more general topics. Discussion is led by students, and covers the research methods of the article and its contents, which are then used as a springboard to students’ experiences with regard to the topics raised by the article. The Club is open solely to students in the Department of Information Studies.

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was posted by Anne Welsh. Helena Hollis is the sole author of this piece, drawing on the contributions of the students at Journal Club on Tuesday evening.


University College School Visit by Joanne McPhie, Emily Delahaye and Catherine Ascough

By Anne Welsh, on 10 October 2014

Screen shot 2014-10-10 at 09.08.27

Editorial Note: We are grateful to Rebecca Hemming and her colleagues for hosting this Induction Week visit to University College School. – Anne Welsh, Programme Director MA Library and Information Studies.


In the leafy streets of Hampstead nestles the University College Senior School, first conceived as a feeder school for the newly established University College in London in 1830. The school continues to be influenced by those early days, with an emphasis on a good liberal education and a tolerant approach. We chose to go on the University College School visit on Thursday of Induction Week as we knew very little about this kind of library. We weren’t disappointed – the staff at the library answered all our questions and told us about their work, leaving us with no doubt that school libraries are a very interesting and dynamic sector to work in. Our visit was to see the well-appointed two floor library and we were welcomed by a team of dedicated librarians, led by Rebecca Hemming, the Head of the Library.

The collections of the library are a mix of fiction and non-fiction and their primary purpose is to support the curriculum. The main part of the library houses the non-fiction collection, compiled to compliment the school syllabus and provide extra resources. The main reading room area houses the fiction collection, split into sections for the younger and older pupils so that students can easily find books of an appropriate level. The library also has a wide selection of print journals as well as subscriptions to online access. While most of the journals where tailored to general study it was also good to see Private Eye and Le Monde on the stands.

We were particularly impressed by the different means the librarian and her team used to foster a love of reading in the pupils. Teenage boys can be reluctant readers, so at the UCS Library they have imaginative methods to overcome this. An example of this was a display shelf full of books covered in coloured paper, with intriguing sentences written on them about the stories they contained. This is to try and encourage the students to not be judgemental about a book’s cover, as this is covered up, and instead take a gamble on a book that piques their interest from its description. The library is currently in the process of adding greater detail to the catalogue records for their literature collection, by adding the blurbs of the books, so that when students look up books online, before coming to the library, they can find something that appeals to them.

One of the many notable aspects of the role of the librarians at UCS is the extent to which teaching information literacy and providing subject support is a central part of the job. Two of the three full time staff are dual qualified with teaching and library qualifications and lead information skills sessions in the library teaching space dedicated to introducing the students to resources like JSTOR or coaching them on how to evaluate websites. The school has its own virtual learning environment includes a section for the library which has been modified by the library staff to create Subject Guides and modules on topics such as citation and referencing. There is also a certain amount of liaison with individual departments, working with the teachers to obtain resources that support the curriculum. It was interesting to see the services and support that UCS librarians provide is akin to Subject Liaison roles in a university context.

We really enjoyed the visit to UCS library – some of us were already planning on taking the Services to Children and Young People module next term, and this has definitely helped confirm that choice.


Emily Delahaye (@EmilyDelahaye),  Joanne McPhie (@JoanneMcPhie) and Catherine Ascough are all studying for their MA LIS.

Image: University College School website.

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was posted by Anne Welsh. Apart from the editorial note, Catherine Ascough, Emily Delahaye and Joanne McPhie are the sole authors of this piece.

“The Professional Divide”: Journal Club Report by George Bray

By Anne Welsh, on 8 October 2014


Hill, C. (2014). The professional divide: examining workplace relationships between librarians and library technicians The Australian Library Journal, 63 (1), 23-34 DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2014.890020


Article summary:

Hill presents and analyses the results of a survey undertaken to assess workplace tensions between library technicians – who have a TAFE diploma – and librarians – who have a professional degree. From her findings, she suggests tensions can be resolved through more accurate understanding of skill sets and roles, which could be accomplished at a variety of stages, from the recruitment process, through continued professional development, to on-the-job building of good relations.


There was universal unease regarding the methodology used in both survey and analysis. Certain questions appeared biased – for example offering a different set of ‘roles’ when asking what the duties were of librarians and library technicians. There was also confusion about the sampling process, which the article described in rather vague terms, and method and terminology seemed to lack definition. This made certain aspects of the analysis feel potentially unreliable – for example, no consideration was given to the reasons why people responded to the survey in certain ways, or what other factors might be contributing to tensions.

We also explored the idea behind the article – i.e. tensions within workplace hierarchies – and whether this related to our own experiences. While it was generally agreed that professional or qualification-related inequalities were not a problem as long as good relationships were maintained, there was anecdotal evidence for certain divides. Examples included: academics or other professionals not appreciating library professionals’ abilities and knowledge; cataloguers and systems staff lacking a connection to the front-end of the services (and vice versa); and the idea of qualified librarians doing the same tasks as unqualified paraprofessionals but with lower pay.

Various ideas were suggested for improving or maintaining workplace relations. The most popular was sharing duties in enquiry and reference roles, which was felt to improve communications and understanding across the hierarchy. All-staff meetings and open-plan offices were also seen as fostering a sense of unity. It was felt valuable for a librarian to have had experience of junior tasks at some point in their career, advocating the value of graduate traineeships prior to professional qualification. The importance of respect for colleagues and their skills was seen as paramount.

Related to this was discussion on whether it was right to assume that obtaining a different qualification (e.g. technician to librarian) was ‘progress’ or an ‘upgrade’, as assumed in the article. Shouldn’t it be left to the choice of the individual as to what kind of work they were happier doing? It was felt that this reflected the broader societal issue of pressure to be ambitious and obtain ‘top jobs’, regardless of a person’s other life concerns and interests.

Finally, the function and nature of professional bodies was addressed. How far should the continuing professional development (CPD) of the individual be a concern for the professional body? While it was agreed that CPD was certainly vital to being an effective librarian, questions were raised about whether organisational membership was a necessary part of this; particularly the case given the other bodies that exist beyond CILIP, such as the School Library Association and the British and Irish Association of Law Librarians. Was being a member of a ‘specialised’ body more beneficial than membership of the broader organisation?

The article provided a lot of interesting debate and we look forward to the next journal club.


George Bray (@NexGenGB) is studying for his MA LIS

Journal Club takes place once a month, and is facilitated by Charlie Inskip and Anne Welsh, with organisational support from Laura Keshav. This year we are discussing three articles on the theme of Information Literacy and three on more general topics. Discussion is led by students, and covers the research methods of the article and its contents, which are then used as a springboard to students’ experiences with regard to the topics raised by the article. The Club is open solely to students in the Department of Information Studies.

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was posted by Anne Welsh. George Bray is the sole author of this piece, drawing on the contributions of the students at Journal Club last night.

Lambeth Palace Library Visit by Verity Parkinson

By Anne Welsh, on 3 October 2014

Lambeth Palace by Tavian Hunter

Lambeth Palace by Tavian Hunter

Editorial Note: We are grateful to Lambeth Palace Library for hosting this visit and also for allowing its Collections Librarian, Dr Naomi Percival, to attend our Open Day next Wednesday and share a placement host’s view of the work placement process that forms such an important part of the MA LIS  – Anne Welsh, Programme Director MA Library and Information Studies.


After talks and activities ranging from “what to expect from the dissertation process” to “design a poster about the Information Multiverse”, the LIS Induction Week was rounded off with a choice of visits to libraries. I went to Lambeth Palace Library, home to the records of the Church of England and one of the oldest public libraries in the country. It certainly looks much more impressive than your average public library; we entered via Morton’s Tower, a Tudor gatehouse. The Houses of Parliament are visible across the road, and we could hear Big Ben striking. Our visit, however, happened during a period of building work, so we may not have seen it in its full glory. The main part of the library is usually housed in the palace’s great hall (a former feasting hall dating from the seventeenth century), but when we arrived the books had all been moved out, leaving only the bookcases that lined the walls. The cork tiles on the floor are going to be taken up, under-floor heating installed, and a new stone floor laid. This is mainly for the benefit of the books – the draughty hall and the proximity to the Thames mean mould and damp can be a problem – but will hopefully make it more bearable for the people as well.

Our hosts, Naomi Percival and Hugh Cahill, told us about the history of the library and its current function. Originally conceived as a “theological arsenal” – a collection of writings to help refute the religious arguments of opponents – its collections now focus on the history of the Church of England. This covers a very wide range of material: one item we were shown was a geometry textbook written by a polymath Archbishop. This diversity of material means the library’s users aren’t solely the researchers of Church History one might expect, but also people researching local and family history. A lot of users are studying the book as object, so the library also has a large collection of books on bibliographic subjects. When new acquisitions are catalogued, information on provenance is included in the record due to this interest among readers.

Hugh Cahill shows a small group of MA LIS students around the grounds. Photo by Tavian Hunter

Photo by Tavian Hunter

Around five to ten readers use the reading room each day, a figure that has not decreased despite the recent growth of online resources made available by the library. Most of the outreach work done by the library is online, due to the security issues of holding events at the Palace. These include the library’s blog, twitter (@lampallib)and facebook, and online exhibitions. The hall has been used as an exhibition space and hosted several popular exhibitions in recent years, such as the 2011 King James Bible Exhibition.

The archives are the fastest-growing part of the library. One current issue is how to handle the growing volume of material that is in digital form from the outset, such as emails, and how these should be integrated with the archive’s systems. There is also the question of how much should be kept – should a copy of every email be retained? What about the Church of England’s twitter feed? For this reason, the library is selective about donations, and reserves the right to weed collections or refuse parts. Archival donations are often archives of people or organisations connected to the church. It helps the library if money can be donated along with the material to cover the cost of processing it, which can be a very large task.

At the end of our visit, we were shown rare and interesting items from the library’s collections: a book that had been in the great hall when two bombs came through the roof in 1941 (the cover and edges of the pages charred and flaking, but the text inside still legible), Bibles and Books of Common Prayer in languages from all around the world, and a beautiful, Nuremberg Chronicle, one of the books stolen from the library in the 1970s and returned in 2011. We were shown where the identifying marks had been scraped off to hide the book’s provenance.

It was a great visit to a fascinating library, and Hugh and Naomi were very welcoming: we even got goody bags! An excellent way to kick off the year, and I look forward to whatever comes next.


Verity Parkinson is currently studying for her MA Library and Information Studies.

Images: Tavian Hunter (@rubytavian), also studying for her MA LIS this year.

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was posted by Anne Welsh. Apart from the editorial note, Verity Parkinson is the sole author of this piece, with the images provided by Tavian Hunter.

My First Week at UCL by Becky Scott

By Anne Welsh, on 26 September 2014

UCL 2014 by Susan Greenberg


New beginnings are always a little daunting. Arriving at one of the world’s best universities to study at Masters level can make you feel more than a little awed by the task. When you add to that the fact that I haven’t studied in this way for ten years, you can imagine my nervousness as I waited in line to enrol in our department on the first day. But as I look back the end of Induction Week, I feel that anything is possible over the coming year.

My course tutors have both challenged me and supported me. Those first day nerves are gone now. I am already submerged in the language of Library and Information Studies. Reflecting on the Professional Knowledge and Skills Base, I know my strengths as well as the areas which I need to develop. Charlie has asked us simply “to read and to think” and as Librarians these are two things that are second nature to us. We love learning. We love helping others to learn. Reading and thinking are achievable tasks.

Of course I had fears that I wouldn’t fit in. We come from a diverse range of disciplines and, as Anne said, a range of different ‘cultural backgrounds’. But as each day passed, we got to know one and other and I have realised that we are all kind, welcoming and willing to help each other. Certainly, using the exercise to “find someone who…” stopped me being intimidated and helped me start conversations on Librarianship but many other topics too.

My classmates have guided me across campus to lecture theatres, helped me register with Senate House Library and even find the cash machine. They have made this week enjoyable and entertaining. Every day, I discover that I love studying at a London university. There are so many treasures to discover: museums, farmers’ markets and of course, libraries. Visiting the Royal Astronomical Society Library was a wonderful opportunity to explore a special collection but also to learn from the day to day challenges of an experienced practitioner.

In just five days, I have gone from fearing the dissertation to being open to all ideas which may be sparked in my seminars. I felt inspired by Henry and Fiona – two recent Department of Information Studies graduates – who shared their experiences of writing the dissertation and how they shaped their  ideas.

I write this as just one voice in the LIS class of 2014/2015 but we are all on our UCL learning journey. New beginnings may be a little daunting but they are also simulating, thought-provoking and full of potential.


Becky Scott (@the_bookette) is working as a school librarian while studying for her MA LIS.

Image: Dr Susan Greenberg. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Note: the appearance of the byline on this post is auto-generated, indicating that it was posted by Anne Welsh. Becky Scott is the sole author of this piece, with the image provided by Susan Greenberg.