Hackfests: Helping Keep Libraries Relevant

“Can embedding a library hackfest into a first-year computer science course be an effective method to provide information literacy instruction and advocate open access?”

With that question, Sarah Shujah began a journey that would ultimately lead her to Vancouver, Canada, the site of SLA’s 2014 Annual Conference. A librarian at the Steacie Science and Engineering Library at York University in Toronto, Sarah had never participated in a hackfest before organizing one in the library in 2013 and another in February of this year. The Steacie Library, together with York’s Computer Science Department, decided to embed the second hackfest into a first-year computer science course in which students received a grade for participating.

Having written a paper for a Canadian journal about organizing the first hackfest, Sarah decided to write another paper about the second hackfest and specifically about using hackfests as a way to integrate information literacy and the library into the university curriculum. The result was “Organizing and Embedding a Library Hackfest into a 1st Year Course,” which was judged the best contributed paper presented at SLA 2014.

“I think having hackfests will help keep libraries relevant in academic settings,” she told Information Outlook in her interview in the September-October issue. “More and more universities are going through a prioritization of their departments, so hackfests help keep the library relevant, especially as we connect them back to research and also to experiential education, which at York is a mandate. And because the hackfest is integrated into a first-year course, it’s part of the first-year experience, which can help with student retention and give students a sense of connection to the university.”

As her reward for writing the best paper, Sarah will receive free registration to the SLA 2015 Annual Conference in Boston. SLA is now accepting proposals for contributed papers to be presented at SLA 2015. Proposals must be received by December 1. For more information, see the call for papers or contact Leslie Reynolds.

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