Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Fall 1997

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Searching Science from the Office: Science and Engineering Workshops

Janet Martorana
Rosemary L. Meszaros
Davidson Library
University of California, Santa Barbara


Like most other academic libraries, UCSB has established a Fall tradition of presenting orientations to library resources and services to new graduate students and faculty. The sciences and engineering librarians decided this year to focus on the electronic products and services that we can offer centering on remote access services. The library has increased the number of online databases and services accessible via the world wide web. Thousands of our undergraduate students have participated in hands-on orientations to library resources such as the databases on MELVYL , the University of California's online system. We perceived a need to direct the attention of our graduate students, especially the new graduate students, and faculty to what the library offers them through electronic means. In addition to online databases, book or journal recommendations, interlibrary loan requests, and direct inter-campus borrowing requests may be accessed through the forms available on InfoSurf. However, since their introduction, the usage of these web-based forms has been relatively light compared to the in-person requests. In addition, we were eager to demonstrate enhancements such as the full text electronic journals, search capabilities of BIOSIS, and the images available on INSPEC through an IEEE/UC innovative project.

In several planning conferences, the sciences and engineering librarians outlined the approach to attract as many participants as possible. We formulated our strategy. Reduced to the essentials, they are: Planning, Preparation and Publicity, Presentation and Post-workshop Evaluation.



The sciences and engineering librarians met initially in the Spring quarter of 1997 to discuss a plan to develop, advertise and present a series of workshops in the Fall of 1997. We really planned ahead! We decided to present two workshops: one for the physical scientists and engineers and one for the environmental and life sciences, covering similar content: newly acquired databases, enhanced system features, discipline-specific web pages and online library services. There was so much material to be presented that we decided to divide each workshop into two parts. We also thought it might be a good idea to offer an evening session since an incoming graduate student's life seems to be so hectic the first few weeks. Scheduling our large computer classroom can be a challenge -- not to mention the formidable task of scheduling six librarians. For efficiency, we formed two task forces: one for publicity and the other for coordinating the preparation and/or updating of guides to library resources.



We expended more time and energy on publicity than in previous years. Because we did, marketing became the lynchpin of our success. We began advertising these workshops well in advance of the fall quarter. In the spring edition of our web-based newsletter {Focus on Sciences and Engineering} there was an article giving the dates for the fall workshop. The article, {Searching Science from the Office: A Sampler of Science Databases Workshops}, gave a brief outline of what would be covered and when. Our office assistant, Marilyn Cordray, contacted each science and engineering department and prepared a list of contacts, their format preference for announcements and deadlines for including our workshop announcements in their orientation packets or mail reflectors. We designed and created an eye-catching flyer [55K file] describing the workshops and posted it on every science and engineering department bulletin board. We included publicity in the Graduate School orientation packets that were sent to each new graduate student during the summer. We blanketed our intended audience with notices of the workshops.

Getting Ready

Sample searches were formulated in advance but we were willing to accept audience suggestions for their topics. It is also worthwhile to run the sample searches on the computers which will be used at the workshop. The development and reproduction of subject-specific database guides were the responsibility of the appropriate subject librarian. The Handouts Task Force assumed responsibility for supplying the generic guides to be distributed. Several weeks in advance check the computers to determine if the latest versions of all needed software have been installed and are working properly. If not, you may need to enlist the aid of the library technical support team for their assistance. On the morning of the workshop sessions, be sure to check the classroom to be sure that all of the computers are in operation.


The workshops were held in the larger of the library's two computerized classrooms. It contains 24 networked Pentium PCs with Windows NT and Adobe Acrobat for full-text image display. The instructor's workstation is configured to project the computer searches onto a large screen at the front of the room. A team of three science/engineering librarians presented each workshop session. This team teaching approach worked well. While one spoke, one keyboarded and the other was available for individual computer assistance. The presentation rotated among the librarians to provide variety of voice and teaching style.

A. Physical Sciences Workshop

Librarians: Andrea Duda, Chuck Huber, Rosemary Meszaros
Part 1
Part 2

B. Life Sciences Workshop

Librarians: Lorna Lueck, Jim Markham, Janet Martorana
Part 1
Part 2

Post Workshop Evaluation

After the Physical Sciences Workshops were presented, we realized that we had not included an evaluation form in our handout packets. This proves the aphorism about the mice and librarian planning going awry. We remedied that for the Life Sciences Workshops by preparing a brief evaluation form. From the responses to the questions on the form, the workshops were very successful, with respondents indicating they would definitely recommend the sessions to others. One question asked for an evaluation of the level of information presented. Several responses indicated that we had presumed a higher level of MELVYL expertise than some of the participants possessed. This was especially so with the graduate students who had never attended the University of California.

Taking a critical look at the workshops ourselves, the sciences librarians agreed that we accomplished many of our goals: we offered a graduate level workshop on library resources in the sciences and engineering and an introduction to the library's electronic services. The students confirmed to us that the academic departments are listening: faculty had recommended the workshops to them.

New Directions for Future Workshops

At our next planning meeting we will take into consideration:

The participating librarians unanimously agreed that this specialized multi-part workshop was a worthwhile use of our time. Next year, we will again offer evening sessions within the first three weeks of fall quarter. This may have accounted for the good turnout. Beginning graduate students often find themselves with a crowded calendar of activities during their first weeks. Removed from a frenzied schedule, an evening workshop can provide a more relaxed atmosphere despite its formal classroom setting.


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