Blended, yes, but what do we add to the mix?

I'm sometimes teaching information literacy, or "library knowledge" to students on different levels at the university. I help the students orientate themselves among all the tools for retrieving information that my workplace, the university library, is providing for them. It strikes me that some of my everyday practices are examples of how we live in two worlds at the same time, working with both the digital and the printed material we provide for the users. However, our structures and practices do not always support the strategic goal of becoming a more digital provider of information. We are also not fully embracing the idea of blended learning, yet. I think I am (as a part of my own context), in fact, contradicting my own beliefs, especially my epistemological beliefs, about access to information and digitalisation. I'll explain why...

By Lantuszka. CC-BY-SA 3.0  via Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved from:

Libraries are becoming more digital and by that new skills are needed for those working in the sector, especially when it comes to educational skills (Vassiliakaki & Moniarou-Papaconstantinou, 2015). However, In believe that we are also children of our own time, in that we learned how to read with books and crayons,  not keyboards and touch screens. This means that the organisation sometimes struggle when trying to relate to the tools at hand for handling the digital resources we purchase for our users. Not all librarians are for example comfortable using e-books, and even less comfortable explaining to others how they should navigate in the djungle of reading platforms and copyright restrictions from publishers. Not because we necessarily want to remain oriented to print media, but simply because the physical format is a familiar world that we know how to use and describe to others. This, in turn, makes it easier for us to teach information literacy with methods that can sometimes miss the learning goal.

If we by blended learning mean the concept of blending digital learning tools and environments with the classical classroom approach (Cleveland-Innes, Garrison & Vaughan, 2013), then we have a bit of a challenge with the mixing of the two in our learning space in the Library. We are good at giving lectures about the library tools, and at the end of the lectures we allow the students to do exercises based on our digital tools, but my focus is seldom to make the two worlds mix. My teaching methods do not actually blend the strategies for learning to allow for better understanding of what the digital world entails. The library also provides tools for learning online. There are development projects going on where we are adding more instructions via video to our websites, where users can learn more about how to find sources in our databases, but it is not really integrated yet with the other teaching efforts. There are plans to do this, but we are not yet ready to take the leap into the blended learning pot.

One example, where I have worked together with a colleague to provide advice for researchers about to publish, is the advice on strategic publishing we have posted on the library website. This has an embedded movie clip about how you can think and check the journal before submitting your paper. However, the rest of the text is just a list of advice, and we have not worked with the wording enough to guide the user in their learning process. The information is not structured as a learning object, but rather like a presentation of different concepts. The format does not allow for the reader to understand the full meaning of the ideas and how they are connected to each other. Publishing is a complicated matter, where the meaning is deeply embedded in each context, and where advice would not always work well across academic disciplines. It is not a one size fits all kind of reasoning. If could do this again, I would follow the advice of for example Gilly Salmon (2014 & 2017), where I wold rather leads the user through a process of understanding publishing, where you could start at different levels depending on how much you had published before. I would also ensure that the user could get a better overview of the various components and be able to zoom in on details. Perhaps like a Prezi-presentation? However, the website design we are currently using is not built for this purpose. It is made for displaying text and a few images, which you are supposed to have the energy to read from top to bottom, just like a book.

If we want our users to better understand and navigate our information landscape, I think we need to make our own four-stage model. Such a resource would help the user take one step at a time in chewable pieces; First finding the website and wanting to read it (access & motivation), then locate the information they need perhaps through a short video linking to other sources (information exchange). Then give them a bit of an exercise where they would have to answer some questions about their intentions with the publication (knowledge construction). Lastly, it would be possible to add a step where we link to resources for further reading and offer some personal support if needed (development). I would, however, not skip the step suggested by Salmon about online socialisation, and recommend a live FAQ page for learning more about other users asking the same question, but not necessarily socialisation using live chats or lectures.

I think we need to start taking the basis of learning seriously, especially when it comes to explaining something complicated that we are experts on to someone that is just about to start grasping an entire world of learning.


Cleveland-Innes, M., Garrison, D. R., & Vaughan, N. D. (2013). Teaching in Blended Learning Environments: Creating and Sustaining Communities of Inquiry (Issues in Distance Education Series). Alberta, AB: AU Press. Retrieved from:

Salmon, G. (2014). Learning innovation: A framework for transformation. European Journal of Open, Distance and E-Learning, 17(2), 220–236.

Salmon, G. (22 May 2017). The Five Stage Model. Retrieved from:

Vassilakaki, E., & Moniarou-Papaconstantinou, V. (2015). A systematic literature review informing library and information professionals’ emerging roles. New Library World, 116(1/2), 37–66.  


  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, It is a challenge to developed a service even we have the latest technology due to the diversity of users. Some students prefer audio visuals while others prefer textual instructions. But, fortunately the technology can easily reuse resources. For, example voice can generate using screen readers if you have textual instruction. But this is a challenge when the staff not familiar with the technology. You are lucky if they avoid the participation not resisting the change.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Ranil. I agree that digital communication is by no means a 'one size fits all' kind of solution. However, do you think we could be smarter when designing resources to make sure we are more inclusive?

  2. Thank you for an interesting post! Since my area of expertise is virtuality, I think the future for libraries will be virtual libraries, where students from around the world can chat or talk to librarians. At my university, Tritonia, favours e-books simply because of the amount of the number of students taking most courses. These new digital tools we have make all kinds of interactions possible, but I think there needs to be more than videoclips and written tutorials at hand. Many times it would be much quicker to ask a librarian something while you are looking for information, tutorials can only cover so much. :)

    1. Thank you for the comment, Lotta. I like your idea of the virtual librarian, it seems like we are already half-way there by offering service via phone, chat and discussion forums (see However, it seems like we also need to educate ourselves to ensure that we have the skills to help the students from a distance or via tutorials. We are currently having many interesting discussions on how we can make this happen. Watch this space! :)

  3. Thank you for an enlightening blog. Our university library is also becoming more and more virtual, and is beginning to look less like a library with all the other services and possibilities it is providing: bean bags and mattresses to sit or lie on, video studio, small meeting rooms with TV screens to name a few. This surely has changed the need to and the way to inform and teach the users how to avail of all the services as is evident from your blog. Some of the archives that contained old journals and books have been moved away from the university to the national archive. Soon, students won't have to submit a paper copy of their theses, just a PDF-A file will suffice. These are huge ongoing changes here that must be going on in Sweden too.


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