MIX Conference in 2012

Michigan Instruction Exchange image

On August 10, 2012, Instructor College hosted Michigan Instruction Exchange (MIX) conference. This conference was open to all academic library instructors in the state of Michigan. Its main topic was how library instructors could successfully help college students to get better at academic research in an increasingly diverse and overwhelming information environment. 139 librarians from all over the state of Michigan participated in this one-day conference.

This event consisted of four parts: keynote talk, panel discussion with faculty and library instructors, library instruction lightning talks, and networking with colleagues.



First, the keynote talk was given by Susan Gilroy, Librarian for Undergraduate Program for Writing, Widener LIbrary of Harvard College. Susan introduced how librarians of Harvard College Library tried to help new undergraduate students to achieve a significant level of information literacy and critical thinking.


Image of presenter in front of podium.

Harvard College Library was participating in Project of Information Literacy (http://projectinfolit.org/), which was a national study on early adults and their information-seeking behaviors, competencies, and the challenges they faced when conducting research in the digital age. In this project, librarians of Harvard College Library learned that their undergraduates often had little clue how to conduct research. For example, when they received an assignment, they tended to think about simply what their instructor wanted from it rather than what was its rationale. To promote critical thinking, Harvard College Library developed a website called “A Library Starter Kit for Harvard Freshmen” (http://hcl.harvard.edu/research/toolkit/). Librarians used it to help new college students explore and learn about library materials and to guide them to properly conduct research.

As you undertake these first projects, remember that good researchers are made, not born. Through trial and error, given sufficient opportunities to practice, and with a bit of coaching, you acquire these skill sets, work habits, and intellectual behaviors.  But you’ll do so only over time.  One research experience, one library session, one year at Harvard won’t teach you everything you need to know to move effortlessly in the library’s research environment, and even after four years here, you may end up using just a fraction of the collections that have taken us nearly four centuries to build.  (From A Library Starter Kit for Harvard Freshmen website)

 Susan’s Keynote talk is available here.

Speed Networking

Group of conference attendees talking.


 After the keynote presentation, all participants were divided into three groups to participate in a high speed networking session. ICSC task force distributed several questions (e.g. What do you see as the biggest instruction need of your targeted audience? What is your favorite instruction “trick” strategy? etc.) to participants in order to facilitate discussion and help them share their own instruction experiences with each other.

Lightning Talks

We had eight presenters for lightning talks. Presenters offered creative and interesting ideas regarding library instruction, engagement with students and faculty, and the promotion of critical thinking.  Here are some tips from their presentations:


Conference presenter in front of podium.

  • Librarians can contribute to improve student engagement by becoming leaders and active participants in faculty development programs or teaching and learning center. (Randal Baier, Media and Arts Librarian, Eastern Michigan University)

  • Applying new technology or instruction methods is no easy task. Rather than giving up when something does not work at the first time, try to use IOR (Implement, Observe and Reflect), i.e., to implement new techniques, observe how they go, and reflect on your observations. (Suzanne Bernstein, Web service Librarian,  Lansing Community College Library)

  • To promote students’ critical thinking and to teach them how to properly conduct research, collaboration between librarians and faculty is vital. (Stephanie Delano Davis, Information Literacy Librarian, Northwestern Michigan College)

  • Metadata of catalog record, Google Translate, Wikipedia, and WorldCat can be some good tools to understand content of non-english resources. (Karen Liston, Librarian III and Liaison 'for less commonly taught languages, ESL & Int'l Students', Wayne State University)

  • Peer tutor library service can provide authority-free environment when college students conduct a research. (Mary O’Kelly, Head of Instructional Services, Grand Valley State University)

  • Group project-oriented assignments is a useful method to improve student information literacy because it allows students to see the information in context, makes them understand the limitation of their own abilities, and have them open to new research approaches. (Marcus Richter & Steve Vest, Technical Services Librarian & Reference Librarian, Alma College)

  • Assigning group projects and using free software are some of good strategies to improve interactivity in online instruction session. (Bath walker, Director of Libraries, College for Creative Studies)

Video of Lightning Talk is available here

Faculty/Librarian Panel Talk

Leena Lalwani (Coordinator for Arts & Engineering Collection at the Art, Architecture and Engineering Library (AAEL), UM), Johannes Schwank (Professor of Chemical Engineering, UM), Amana Peters (Learning Communities Librarian, UM), and Joe Horton (Lecturer in the English Department Writing Program, UM) discussed active learning, and Scott Dennis (Humanities Librarian and Coordinator of Core Electronic Resources, UM) moderated this discussion. Professor Schwank and Ms. Lalwani talked about how they collaborated to help students of engineering to complete practical group project, which was one of assignments in Professor Schwank’s class. Joe Horton and Amanda Peters explained how a undergraduate instruction librarian team of University of Michigan worked together with faculty in promoting active learning among new undergraduate students. They also talked about the usefulness of CTools as a communication tool  among faculty, librarians and students, a librarian’s role in a literature review stage, and the assessment of library instruction.

Video of panel discussion is available here.

Questions for thought: How do you promote critical thinking within your instructional efforts?

Group of panel presenters at table.