The Power of the Information Audit

If you’re new to your school, to librarianship in general, or simply looking for an entrée to collaborate with your faculty, the information audit is for you. It’s basically a set of interview questions that you design to assess the information needs of your community. It’s been key for me this year at Emma.

At the beginning of the year, I had a meeting with my head of school where we basically went over my role here. How was I going to fit the library program into the mission of the school? How did I plan to encourage student and faculty use and interaction? How would I support the girls and support learning on campus? I told her that I had ideas,  but that first I needed to find out what learning looked like here.  Enter the information audit.

Not knowing the faculty, my department chair sat down with me and helped me identify the 15 most “progressive” teachers, those who would be eager to help, to partner with me, those who she knew would be open to conversation about how the library could enhance learning in their classroom. I developed my interview questions, which included:

What class(es) do you teach?
How do you feel that you teach best?
How do your students learn best?
How do you utilize technology in your class?
Design your “dream classroom” with an unlimited budget. What does it look like? What tools does it include? How are tables/seating arranged? How many screens would you use?
Do you require that your students do research in your course?
If so, what projects are you planning this year?
Could you use a Libguide and/or research instruction or citation guidance as part of the project?
Are you interested in working together to re-imagine any of your projects?
How have you used the library in the past? Physical space, accessed resources virtually, etc.
What would you like to see the library provide your students that it hasn’t in the past?
Do you know about ___ (databases/magazines/eBooks, web sites, videos, etc.) that might support your curriculum? Would you be open to working together in the future?
Do your students create 3D projects/digital projects that I might display in the library to inspire others?
What articles, subjects, etc. might I be on the lookout for to push your way if/when I come across them? (Potentially set up an RSS feed for, departmental Libguide, etc. Demo things already created.)

These conversations typically take around 30 minutes so I have worked them in over coffee in the faculty lounge, over lunch in the dining hall, and during teacher planning periods. Some interesting things have emerged from these conversations: patterns of learning that faculty didn’t know existed. I have been asked to present these findings at a later faculty meeting, a good time for me to invite the rest of the faculty to meet with me.

Highlights so far include collaborating with teachers who have never worked with the library before. Being invited in to teach keyword mining techniques, scholarly research vs. the web, evaluating web sites and teaching intellectual property in the digital age to a class that utilizes a blog regularly. I was invited to teach scholarly research skills to all of the junior English classes–something that the library hadn’t done in years. One physics teacher changed her usual trifold project to a group power point presentation with the class’ findings on the environmental impact of data centers–also allowing me to instruct the girls on how to effectively utilize power point–for our new 60 in. flat screen going up in the library this week. The community will be invited in to see and learn from their findings.

The downside of the process:  drumming up more business than I can handle on my own as a solo flying librarian. Really, a good problem to have, but overwhelming all the same.

If you’re looking to grow your library program and better serve your community, the information audit is key.