MyArts Research: Library Skills for Success

Hello everyone!

My name is Alexandra, and I am a graduate student at McGill’s School of Information Studies. I am currently in the process of completing a practicum with the Humanities and Social Sciences Library to build on the theoretical knowledge I have gained over the course of my studies.

We McGill students (graduate and undergraduate alike) have a wealth of information readily available to us. Whether through subscription-based library resources or free web resources like Google, the volume of information to which we have access continues to grow. To successfully wade through this bulk of information, we must be able to identify different types of information, determine its quality, understand its potential use, and integrate this information into our knowledge base. In this way, becoming “information literate” (or being able to understand an information need and locate, evaluate, and effectively use this information) will help strengthen our lifelong learning and critical thinking skills so that we may actively contribute to the academic community and extended this learning to our professional careers.[1]

Though strengthening information literacy skills is a challenge, the library as an institution is dedicated to helping students engage positively with the ever-growing body of information available.[2] McGill Library has various in-person and online resources (including workshops and online video tutorials) to help guide students through the process of becoming information literate.

In fact, as a part of my practicum, I have had the opportunity to assist two of McGill’s liaison librarians in providing information literacy instruction for undergraduate arts students and have been able to deliver two 90-minute library workshop sessions. These workshops, known as MyArts Research: Library Skills for Success, are offered in two modules and outline library research tips to help students optimize on their use of library resources. Additionally, beginning this year, we have introduced a certificate of completion to give those who take the time to complete the workshops a concrete, marketable skill to add to their resume.

Teaching the workshops was a fantastic experience. I was able to not only provide students with library research skills but was also able to engage with them in a conversation about the importance of information literacy, of being able to understand types of resources and their potential uses, and of the benefit of using library resources for their research.

Though the MyArts Research workshops are complete for this semester, I highly recommend that those students who have not registered for them before to do so in the upcoming fall 2015 semester. The future iterations of the workshops will continue to provide essential library research skills but will undergo a dramatic re-structuring in terms of how the content is delivered.

Visit the library website for more information on the MyArts Research workshops, and take advantage of the other dynamic, innovative services McGill Library has to offer!

[1]Association of College and Research Libraries, “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education,” American Library Association, 1999,

[2]C. Colleen Cook, PhD, Trenholme Dean of Libraries, “About the Library,” McGill Library, 2015,


Board games available for loan

Did you know that the library lends board games? The following titles are perfect for a snowy winter’s day:

All are available for two-week loans at the service desk in the McLennan Library. Just bring the call number to a staff member.

And please don’t lose any pieces…

Diagram Prize…continued, Epicurus, and Rome

how to pooDiagram Prize

The 2014 Diagram Prize has been awarded once again to purveyors of scatological titles.

How to Poo on a Date: The Lovers’ Guide to Toilet Etiquette” was the hands-down winner with “The Origin of Feces” close on its tail, squeezing out a second place. To get to the bottom of this story, check here.

Wolrdcat gives only 5 locations for the winner; but the runner-up gets over 300 locations and yes, we have a copy.


Having recently read Daniel Klein’s Travels with Epicurus : a journey to a Greek island in search of a fulfilled life, here are some of the things I learned:

epicurusEpicurus said:

Not what we have, but what we enjoy constitutes our abundance.

Nothing is enough for the man to whom enough is too little

Eating without a friend is the life of the lion or the wolf.

I also learned that “prefa” is a Greek card game and “Ossa” is the Greek goddess of rumour and gossip, a great name for a blog.

Happy Birthday, Rome

rome 2And finally, on 21st of April (Easter Monday) I celebrated Parilia (the name given to the annual festival celebrating the founding of Rome) by looking at some guidebooks and maps to the city daydreaming about when I would return. And because it wasn’t built in day, Rome is 2767 years old.


Therapy dogs in the library: take a “paws” from exam stress

Back by popular demand, we will once again welcome therapy dogs in the Redpath Library Building. The dogs will visit us on Tuesday, April 15th from noon-2pm.

Come to meet people (who are just as stressed out as you are, btw) and engage a bit of collective ooh-ing and ahh-ing over these gorgeous beasts, but also come for the anti-stress benefits that result from interaction with animals. The benefits run deep: check out this study that found that contact with a cat or dog led to a drop in blood pressure for male and female college students. The hypothesis was that there would be differences between the way the male and female students reacted to a dog versus a cat. However, not only was there a correlation between handling cat or dog and a drop in blood pressure, but whether the animal was a cat or a dog did not matter. Everybody wins: female students, male students, cats, and dogs! (Also: does this mean we can finally put the age old cats versus dogs debate to rest?)

Somervill, J. W., Kruglikova, Y. A., Robertson, R. L., Hanson, L. M., & MacLin, O. H. (2008). Physiological responses by college students to a dog and a cat: Implications for pet therapy. North American Journal of Psychology, 10, 3, 519-528.Dog Visit 2014

Guest Post: An Information Literacy Practicum at HSSL

Hi everyone – it’s Diana again. You may remember me from the post directly below this one, where I encouraged Arts students to attend HSSL’s MyArts Research library skills workshops.

I am a graduate student at McGill’s School of Information Studies, and I’m currently completing a practicum at the Humanities and Social Sciences Library. The practicum is an opportunity to gain professional experience using the theoretical knowledge I’ve gained in my courses, and this practicum has allowed me to develop my teaching skills through information literacy instruction.

MyArts Research

Information Literacy at HSSL

If you’re not a librarian, “information literacy” might not be a concept you’re familiar with. The Association of College and Research Libraries, part of the American Library Association, defines information literacy as the ability to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.”[1]

I’m sure anyone reading this would agree that there is an enormous amount of information out there – any basic Google search, returning millions of results in seconds, demonstrates that. Being information literate allows you to wade through it all. It’s how to know when you need a piece of information, how to find it, and how to critically evaluate and make use of what you’ve found. And a big part of every librarian’s job is helping you do that, either in one-on-one interactions or in workshops like MyArts Research.

For my practicum, I’m putting together a literature review, taking a look at how other universities teach library resources and research skills, writing these blog posts, and – best of all – teaching workshops.

In February, I attended the first set of MyArts Research workshops. At each session, I was able to observe how the librarians presented the workshop content and to offer help to students as they followed along. Then, in March, I had the opportunity to teach two 90-minute sessions of “Module 1: How to Search.”

I showed students how to navigate the library catalogue, how to narrow and shape a research topic, and how to use the Library’s core databases of academic literature. We also looked at ways to use Google effectively, explored some of the reference tools available on the McGill Library website, compared peer-reviewed and popular articles, and reviewed advanced search strategies. These are all skills an information literate student can use when doing research.

Teaching those two workshops was the highlight of my practicum experience. I had a fantastic rehearsal for the kind of work I’ll do as a librarian. I received helpful feedback, from both the students I taught and the librarians who observed my teaching. I even conquered my biggest teaching-related fear, the question I don’t know how to answer. (It happened, I got through it, turns out I did know the answer.)

The best part, though? The moment I saw the light bulb go on above a bunch of heads. That was the moment I realized students had learned something useful for their research process, from me. And that was fantastic.

[1] Association of College and Research Libraries, “Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education,”

Guest Post: Don’t Be That Guy

MyArts Research

Join us at our March workshops for Arts undergraduates!

It’s March, and paper season has officially arrived, so here’s a piece of advice for Arts students. Don’t be that guy.

You know the one I mean: the one awake at 3:00 AM the night before the paper’s due, stuck on page 4 and out of ideas, taking frequent breaks to scroll through a Facebook feed that never refreshes because everyone else has already gone to bed.

Poor guy. He probably could have avoided the late night if he’d just been more on top of his research. If he’d chosen a manageable topic and developed a smart search strategy. If he’d used the library website to identify relevant, current scholarly sources in his subject area. If he’d learned about the citation management software for creating a bibliography.

Luckily, McGill’s Humanities and Social Sciences Library can help you avoid becoming that guy. The two-module MyArts Research: Library Skills for Success workshops, being offered March 11 and 12, will help you develop your research skills and show you the many library resources and tools you can use to do your research more effectively.

In Module 1: How to Search, you’ll learn how to choose and shape a research topic, how to develop a search strategy and find the best sources in a variety of formats, and learn some of the features of the Library website and catalogue. In Module 2: How to Manage it All, you’ll explore subject-specific databases and get a crash course in using EndNote citation management software.

USB Bracelet

Yes, it’s a McGill Library bracelet. But it’s also a USB key! 

Plus, an added bonus: students who attend both workshop modules will receive the world’s greatest fashion accessory, a 2GB McGill Library USB key that also happens to be a bracelet.

Register now for one or both modules – and never be that guy again!


Get in the spirit

Are you a hockey fan? Have you been watching the Canadian men’s and women’s teams make their way through the quarter and semi-finals?

I came across a digital exhibition from McGill’s Rare Books & Special Collections today which celebrates the Winter Olympics from 1924-2006. Some of my favourite images were the oldest ones–showing the hockey competitions taking place outdoors and some early images of figure skating.

I have to admit though that I also liked the one showing Canada beating the US 2-1. :)

And the winner is… Living with Crazy Buttocks (2002)

I don’t read the winners of the National Book Award, the Booker or the Giller Prize or any other major literary prize.

But I do read the winning titles of the Diagram Prize, which is bestowed on the book with the silliest title. I’m almost certain that the titles are better than the books themselves. Furthermore, the pleasure or gratification is instantaneous. Why waste time reading the book?

The 2013 winner is Goblinproofing One’s Chicken Coop, by Reginald Bakeley.  To my disappointment and surprise, it beat God’s Doodle: the Life and Times of the Penis, by Tom Hickman.  It lost by this much.

In 1978, to fend off boredom at the Frankfurt Book Fair, some book distributors (Diagram Group) thought it might be a “passe-temps” to offer a prize for the most bizarre book title. That year the prize went to Proceedings of the Second International Workshop on Nude Mice. I was blissfully unaware that some mice actually sported vestments.

Some of my favorite winners are Greek Rural Postmen and Their Cancellation Numbers (1996), Cooking with Poo (2011), and what might be considered a companion volume, How to Shit in the Woods: An Environmentally Sound Approach to a Lost Art (1989). Worldcat shows, that somehow, 173 libraries acquired the 1989 edition, while 253 opted for the 1994 reprint.  Cracks in the approval plans?

Only 3 libraries dared purchase Cooking with Poo -all of them Australian. If scatological titles don’t sit well with you, perhaps The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification (2006) or Butterworths Corporate Manslaughter Service (2001) might pique your interest. The last named should be a futuristic detective novel, but it isn’t.

Fresh out of Iibrary school, I considered purchasing The Madam as Entrepreneur: Career Management in House Prostitution (1979) if only to prominently display the book cover as I rode the subway, but I was finishing Sophie’s Choice (Styron) and promised myself Shibumi (Trevanian) next.

I eagerly anticipate the list of contenders for the 2014 Prize; be still my beating heart.

Oooh that smell…

If you’ve walked by the McLennan Library Building on McTavish Street over the past few weeks, then you’ve likely been overcome by a distinctly foul odour. The first time you smelled it, maybe you figured some guy vomited in front of Service Point on the way back from Peel Pub the previous night. But as the days passed with no relief, you began wondering how such a truly fetid smell could linger in the open air for weeks on end.

So what’s the source? It’s actually Ginkgo biloba.

The row of trees lining the western side of the building are ginkgos. These fascinating trees have been called “living fossils,” as they are by far the longest surviving species of tree on earth. Native to China, they have thrived for over 200 million years. Ginkgos are particularly resilient. In fact, a group of them survived the atomic bomb that exploded on Hiroshima, and are still alive today.

The odour, however, comes from the grape-sized ginkgo seeds. As they fall to the ground each autumn, crack open and get stomped on, nasty stink juice is released. Ginkgo trees come in male and female varieties, the latter of which produce the noxious seeds.

smashed ginkgo seeds

You smelling what I’m stepping in?

Unfortunately, McLennan’s larger ginkgos are all females and produce an abundance of seeds each year. Because of the smell, many municipalities will only plant male ginkgos on public land, and even chop down female trees (sexist much?).

But don’t worry, our smelly ginkgos are here to stay. Then again, judging by the looks of these branches, we’re in for plenty more stink bombs in the coming days.

Ginkgo seeds on tree

Bombs away!