Monday, 19 March 2007

Plagiarism - am I bovvered?

Next week (Tuesday) we are due to be running a half-day event on plagiarism. I say "due to" because so far the bookings have been very disappointing and we may have to cancel it.
We don't often have to do this with SINTO events as they are usually well attended so we always hold a post-mortem if any event does not attract bookings.

The main problem tends to be finance. Training budgets are limited in all organisations and there is never enough money to go around. Holding an event at this time of year might be a problem for some libraries if it is the end of their financial year although we are always happy to delay invoicing until the start of the new year if required.

Perhaps the subject has been covered by other training events and we just miscalculated.

Perhaps there was just not sufficient interest in this topic. Like most of our events, this topic was identified as being of interest by the SINTO Training Group but this does not always mean that it will be taken up by individuals. In most cases, training is driven by the needs of individual members of staff who express an interest in or a need for training/development often as part of a Staff Development Review within their organisation. I do wonder sometimes how good libraries are at identifying their own institutional training/development needs i.e. what skills and knowledge does the library as a whole need? This may be different from what individuals identify as their personal requirements.

Is it possible that librarians and libraries do not regard plagiarism as being "our" problem. Our role is to provide our users with access to the information they need. What they do with it when they have found it is their concern. If they include it in essays without proper citations then isn't that is a matter between them and their tutors? As I suggested (tongue-in-cheek) in one of my flyers - if essay bank sites (websites where you can buy complete essays on-line) are what students want then isn't it our job to help them find them?

I'm sure that most academic librarians would not go this far. We are part of the organisation and share the responsibility to teach students information literacy (including how to cite references) & information ethics (is this on the curriculum of library induction programmes?). We should also be helping the organisation combat what is, after all, cheating, by a small number of students to help the majority of our users.

However, the fact is that this course has not met with a strong response and unless I get a sudden late rush of bookings it will have to be canceled.

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