- book review
- cal academy
- card catalogs
- Google Reader
- Info Amateurs
- information literacy
- library ethics
- library instruction
- library science
- New Orleans
- printing press
- San Francisco
- scholarly journals
- Science Fiction
- toothpaste for dinner
Indianapolis, home of the legendary Indianapolis 500, recently hosted the 300 presentations,workshops, and poster sessions that made up ACRL 2013, the biennial conference of academic librarians. Here are just a few of those sessions worth highlighting.
Libraries in the Age of Wikipedia
Before the start of the official conference, I participated in a free pre-conference workshop entitled Libraries in the Age of Wikipedia hosted by the IUPUI Library. IUPUI is the joint Indianapolis campus for Indiana University and Purdue. Presenters included IUPUI archivist Brenda Burke, librarians Chanitra Bishop and Phoebe Ayers, and Lori Philips of the Indianapolis Children’s Museum. The morning covered many of the basic principles of Wikipedia: its mission statement, and history, and the various programs it has initiated, such as the fall event “Wikipedia loves libraries” and the ongoing Galleries-Libraries-Archives-Museums (GLAM) project, which seeks to elevate the visibility institutional collections as information sources on Wikipedia. They also discussed the “Wikipedian-in-residence” programs at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum and elsewhere. The presentation also featured mentions of Wikimedia Commons, an open license, royalty-free image archive, and Wikidata, a new project to bring together sources of open-access research data.
Wikipedia is one of the top ten websites in the world, it is an important resource for librarians to understand and help students make the best use of. No matter what library-specific resources we promote, or services we offer, chances are most students will start their information search by browsing Wikipedia. It has strengths, and it has weaknesses, and we must have a clear understanding of it to be of use to our patrons.
ACRL Battledecks! Imagine, improvise, inflict: Get inspired or die trying.
The opening night social event was ACRL Battledecks, an improvisational competition featuring six librarians presenting six random slidedecks to an audience of nearly five hundred. I rolled up my cardigan sleeves and jumped into battle, and emerged victorious. You can check out the whole ACRL Battledecks competition on YouTube. My thanks to John Jackson for inviting me to participate and organizing the well attended event — nearly five hundred screaming, hooting, hollering, and laughing librarians. It made for a great, entertaining evening and conference kick-off. My victory prize? The Ice King’s crown, complete with beard.
Photo courtesy Kate K.
The One-shot Mixtape: Lessons for Planning, Delivering, and Integrating Instruction.
This presentation featured a large panel and was based on an article published in the LIS journal Communications in Information Literacy 6(1). Panelists included ACRL Immersion presenters Beth Woodard, Randey Hensley, Deb Gilchrist, and Michelle Millet, as well as Steven Hoover, Jennifer Corbin, Diana Wakimoto, Christopher Hollister, and Patty Iannuzzi. As the paper’s main author, Megan Oakleaf, was not available, Hollister acted as MC.
Panelists limited their comments to one point or two points each:
- limit your lesson-plan instead of trying to cover “everything;”
- vary your instructional approach in order to accommodate different learning styles (concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization; active experimentation);
- assessment doesn’t go last, assessment isn’t an afterthought, assessment = good teaching;
- don’t wing it in the classroom; work from a lesson plan;
- enthusiasm in a teach is authentic and humanizing, and shows that we care;
- at the beginning of a class, take evidence of what they already know (how many have used the library and in what ways, how many already use a major database, etc.) and adjust your lesson plan to fit the level of your students;
- incorporate case studies into your lesson plans; using a narrative to drive group work and debriefing encourages engagement;
- faculty are your friends; find ways to plan instruction around their syllabus;
- think product, not process; an active exercise could include annotated bibliographies where they not only explain why they used a source, but how they found it;
- it’s about the institution, not your classroom; think big-picture issues when crafting your lessons. Retention, completion, graduation rate – what is your library’s role in the students complete educational experience? Are we playing the role of a partner and a leader? Are we contributing to the collection of data and evidence so that we can show the value we play on campus?
Original article: Notes from the Field: 10 Short Lessons on One-Shot Instruction.
Making Information Literacy Relevant: Inspiring Student Engagement through Faculty-Librarian Collaboration
Two librarians, one faculty member, and one student from Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania reported on a partnership they developed for a public health course taught for upperclassmen.
The librarians and faculty consulted before the start of the semester and planned three workshops timed to specific course assignments. Each workshop was built around the tools the students would need to accomplish the next assignment — evaluating quality sources, using internet-derived public health data, etc. This presentation contained a number of useful details: exact exercises, assessment strategies, what worked and didn’t work and how they’ll change it in future iterations. Some of the specific workshop activities could be easily adapted to any number of different courses. Each lesson plan was hosted and shared with students via libguide, with on-screen polling for immediate student feedback.
Riding the RAILS of Rubric Assessment to Keep Information Literacy Learning on Track
ACRL workshops are three hours and require advanced sign-up due to their limited capacity, and are one of the best aspects of the conference. They get hands-on and practical the way a shorter presentation with a larger audience cannot. I attended this one focused on rubric assessment, and specifically the RAILS methodology developed by Megan Oakleaf. The workshop was excellent – it was very practical, and gave me a perspective on rubrics and how we could use them to analyze many different facets of our information literacy instruction. While I have seen these concepts discussed before, this was the first time someone placed actual student work in my hands, gave me a rubric to judge it by, and then forced me to discuss and defend my scoring (in order to normalize the various personal biases each individual brought to what is supposed to be objective scoring). It made me realize how much work must go into standardizing evaluations, and the ways in which the ideas could be successfully implemented at my place of work — and which ways they might not.
Keynote Presentation: Henry Rollins, political activist and punk icon
What can I say about keynote presenter Henry Rollins? If you seen him speak, you have an idea of what happened: he came on stage, gripped the mic in his hand, and didn’t slow down or seemingly take a breath for over 80 minutes. His first line? “I have no librarian jokes.” Highlights included his personal experience touring the National Archives with the equally iconic Ian MacKaye (Minor Threat, Fugazi), his articulation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and anecdotes about collecting and preserving band fliers, zines, and other punk-related ephemera.
His core message was simple but powerfully relayed: information organization, dissemination and access is the cornerstone of freedom, and as core principles, they must be retained and defended in order for this country to survive in the 21st century. There’s a snippet on YouTube; get a taste.
CARL-ACRL Ilene F. Rockman Scholarship Award Dinner
I had the privilege of organizing a dinner to honor the 2013 Rockman Scholarship recipient Brittany Austin. Ms. Austin is a current SJSU SLIS student and member of the FIDM-San Francisco library staff. We were joined by six California academic librarians at The Libertine, a restaurant and cocktail bar that, by the end of the night, was turning people away at the door because they were packed wall-to-wall by librarians. It was a good thing we had a table reservation. Librarians know where to find the best cocktails, it seems.
The Art of Problem Discovery
ACRL president Trevor Dawes introduced Virginia Tech’s Associate University Librarian Brian Mathews, author of the Chronicle of Higher Ed blog the Ubiquitous Librarian, to present his invited paper on the concept of problem-seeking in library management.
Mathews opened with a dictionary-derived definition of “problems:”
- unwelcome or harmful, to be dealt with and overcome.
- questions raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution.
He made the point that sometimes we jump too quickly into problem solving mode before fully exploring the wide range of possibilities. When dealing with library issues, we have to consider what the problem actually is; for example, patrons don’t want to use your catalog; they just want the book that will help them write their paper. Mathews referenced the quote from Harvard Business School’s Clayton Christensen: “Don’t sell products and services to customers, but rather try to help people address their jobs-to-be-done.” Libraries should invest in other people’s problems.
Things for libraries to consider:
- What three things do students struggle with the most? (and how can we help them overcome them?)
- What challenges do researchers face when applying for grants?
- What information would help academic deans make decisions?
As can be expected from a Brian Mathews presentations, there were quite a few quotable bon mots:
- a job ad should include “proficient listening skills;”
- librarians should be problem developers, not just problem solvers. You can only solve the problems you discover or identify;
- instead of “thinking outside the box,” let’s reach into other people’s boxes.
Through the art of problem discovery we can design and develop the capacities, service models, etc. of the future. We need to decide what business are we in. Is it the book business, the reference desk business, the catalog business, or none of the above? Rather, we should be in the problem solving business for our campus. How do we help you with your data needs? That’s our business.
Love Your Library: Building Goodwill from the Inside Out
Four librarians from different institutions (Char Booth, Adrienne Lai, Lia Friedman, and Alice Whiteside) shared their ideas for interesting, weird, and creative outreach programs to develop library love on campus in what was a fun, morale-boosting presentation. They threw out dozens of ideas in less than an hour. Here are just a few examples:
- “re:book: take a book. remake it. win,” remixing weeded books into book art as a student contest exhibited in the library;
- “exCITING FOOD,” a citation event in the library with food to eat and the recipes for that food displayed as citation examples. Students snack and mingle with librarians and discuss their citation challenges.
- “Library on Wheels” and “Pop Up Libraries” in different places on campus, with fun materials and costumed librarians, to generate conversation with students.
- “Wikipedia Edit-a-thon” organized by campus archivist at a women’s college in response to a report that 9 out of 10 Wikipedia editors are men.
- Student photo contests around the library.
The presenters made all the materials related to their outreach programs available, and the slideshow is online.
Altogether, ACRL 2013 was a worthwhile conference with many compelling presenters and actionable ideas. Over the length of the conference, I had conversations with dozens of librarians I admire, many of whom I connect with electronically during the year but only get the chance to meet at a conference like ACRL. In those social moments — whether it’s the downtime between presentations, at an event like Battledecks, or at an evening gathering, we’re talking about our jobs, our careers, our ideas for instruction, and what we think we can bring back to our libraries. There is tremendous value and inspiration derived from those conversations, and the ongoing conversation that will happen moving forward.
The final evening of the conference saw a couple dozen librarians out for a night at a neighborhood dive, killing it at karaoke (I must admit, I was an observer, not a singer). We had duets, we had disco, we had the Big Bopper. And, naturally, a librarian sang that one hit by the Cardigans. It was a good way to wrap it up.
Last week a tumblr user asked the following question:
Question from a soon-to-be-graduating MLIS student, if you don’t mind: did you have any publications under your belt before being hired as an academic reference librarian? Also, how active were you in professional associations/organizations? With graduation so soon and the market still so saturated, I am worried that I don’t have the on-paper qualifications to land an academic library job (can you tell?).
I replied on tumblr, but thought I would expand on my response here.
I’m in my third year as an academic librarian, and I still have never published. I’d certainly like to; I have a couple ideas bouncing around my head. The degree to which it matters depends on the institution you are applying to. An academic institution with tenure-track or faculty-status librarians will generally have higher expectations regarding professional publishing, but many academic libraries don’t expect their librarians to publish. Read the job ad closely and look at the librarians on staff. If they have extensive CVs, it’s a good bet that institution has publishing expectations. If you haven’t published and you are applying to an institution that expects librarian-led research, address your interest in participating in research and publishing in your cover letter.
But you can definitely get a job without having published. I’d recommend having another outlet for your writing — a professionally-focused blog, for example. The pressure of updating a blog can feel like a burden (see the frequency of posts here). However, it can be a venue to practice and improve your writing (an essential skill for both unemployed and employed librarians, from cover letters to grant applications), engage with the professional community, and think more deeply about pressing industry issues. It doesn’t necessarily matter how many people do or don’t read your blog. It’s the fact that it is there when you apply for a job; it is essentially the special extended edition of your résumé & cover letter — it shows the hiring manager just how connected you are to issues within the profession.
In terms of other professional activities, coming out of library school I was already active in my local professional organization (in my case, CARL). Through a mentor librarian, I was offered a position on a CARL committee around the time I was graduating from SJSU SLIS. I also attended the CARL Conference in that year, and the conference of another local organization, CCLI. Attending those conferences at the tail end of my education was transformative; I went from speaking the theoretical language of my graduate program to speaking the practical language of working professionals based on the quality content of their presentations.
Being able to show professional involvement by attending conferences and joining a committee did my otherwise limited résumé a world of good. It made it clear that I was committed to academic librarianship, and what I learned in the conference presentations and workshops gave me the language I used writing my cover letter and during interviews. Major national conferences like ALA and ACRL are incredibly expensive once you factor in conference registration, travel, and lodging. But those local conferences are often much more affordable, and you’ll be meeting local people — the same people who might be advertising a position in their library shortly thereafter (or at the conference itself).
The other thing I did before landing a permanent gig was co-found a meet-up group for local librarians. Right around the time we were graduating, a library school friend and I were lamenting the end of library-school organized activities, so we just decided to start organizing our own. We’ve since held a couple dozen gatherings and have nearly 200 members. People meet people at these kinds of events; it can lead to jobs, or just good conversations that keep you talking about libraries even when you’re not working in one. Above all, it’s fun, and there is always something to be said for that.
To sum up my recommendations:
- apply your writing skills to a professionally-focused blog;
- volunteer for local professional organizations;
- attend whatever local conferences you can afford to, and;
- seek out (or create!) a social group of librarians in your area.
That sounds like a lot, especially if you have other professional or family commitments. But you don’t have to update the blog every day, there are volunteer positions that don’t take too much time, conferences are infrequent, and a social group can start with just a few local friends. It’s doable, and it will make you a stronger candidate.
- Becoming a more thoughtful library job seeker: Look beyond the bullet points | Veronica Arellano Douglas, College & Research Libraries News (coincidentally posted the same day as my post above, with very thoughtful advice for job seekers; h/t to laura-in-libraryland).
Comments are off for QUESTION FROM A MLIS STUDENT
There’s a breaking story in the world of scholarly journals and library science that’s worth tuning into. It kicked off with a post by Brian Mathews on his Chronicle of Higher Education blog The Ubiquitous Librarian, in which he revealed that the entire editorial board of the prestigious Journal of Library Administration (or JLA) had resigned due to the publisher’s onerous author requirements regarding copyright and access.
Mathews is the Associate Dean for the Virginia Tech Libraries, and had been asked to serve as guest editor for a special, speculative issue of the journal on the academic library in fifteen years. This is how he described it:
- “This special issue explores the possibilities of what libraries might become or cease to be. Experts from different sectors of academia, publishing, technology, and design will share their thoughts, dreams, fears, and hopes about the future. The intention is to produce insights that ignite the imagination — to leapfrog the adjacencies of the coming years and land on a strategic plateau of the near future. This is an opportunity to speculate on the arriving advances as well as to warn of potential loss due to these changes.”
Invited authors included not only academic librarians such as Kelly Miller (UCLA), Michael Levine-Clark (University of Denver), and Steven Bell (Temple), but also Google engineer and search educator Dan Russell, Lennie Scott-Webber, an educational environment expert at Steelcase Furniture, and two authors affiliated with electronic resource vendors. It’s a compelling mix, but with the resignation of the JLA’s board, it’s not going to happen — at least in that venue.
Mathews had also invited Jason Griffey to contribute, but in a move that anticipated the decision made by the editorial board, he declined participation due to the publisher’s restrictions. After Mathews broke the news, Griffey posted on the subject himself:
- “On Feb 14, I got an intriguing email from Brian Matthews [sic] about a special edition of the Journal of Library Administration he was editing. It was a request for a chapter for an edition of the journal called Imagining the Future of Libraries, and the Brian’s pitch to me was enough to make me very interested: [Brian]: ‘I’d love for you to contribute an essay around the topic of technology. Beyond most digital collections. Beyond everyone and everything mobile— what unfolds then?’ I mean, if I have a specialty, this is it. I love nothing more than I love a good dose of futurism, and told him so. My one concern was the Journal’s publisher, Taylor & Francis, and the fact that I refuse to sign over my copyright on work I create. I’m happy to license it in any number of ways that gives the publisher the rights they need to distribute the work, but I won’t write something for someone else to own.”
The final post covering the story (so far; there will be more, I’m sure) is from Chris Bourg, who had recently joined the editorial board of the Journal of Academic Librarianship and resigned along with her colleagues. She describes the lengths editor Damon Jaggars had gone to convince the publisher to change its practices:
- “In the meantime, Damon continued to try to convince Taylor & Francis (on behalf of the entire Editorial Board, and with our full support), that their licensing terms were too confusing and too restrictive. A big part of the argument is that the Taylor & Francis author agreement is a real turn-off for authors and was handicapping the Editorial Board’s ability to attract quality content to the journal. The best Taylor & Francis could come up with was a less restrictive license that would cost authors nearly $3000 per article. The Board agreed that this alternative was simply not tenable, so we collectively resigned.”
Look for more to emerge on this subject, as librarians start to assert their demand for change in the world of scholarly publishing. And hopefully, somewhere, Brian Mathews’ special issue will find a home — since it sounded fantastic.
- So I’m editing this journal issue and… | Brian Mathews, The Ubiquitous Librarian
- The Journal of Library Administration | Jason Griffey, Pattern Recognition
- My short stint on the JLA editorial board | Chris Bourg, Feral Librarian
This post has also been mirrored on my tumblr.
Comments are off for THE RESIGNATION OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD OF THE JLA
Earlier this month I orchestrated an information literacy workshop for our senior capstone Biology colloquium. The students in this course are conducting field research on a local urban freshwater stream, and their professor hopes that the students will submit the data they are collecting to a scholarly journal. She mentioned that ambition when we discussed having a library workshop for her students, and it planted an idea that sprouted into a unique (to me) lesson plan that I felt was very successful.
Since these students were seniors, they had already experienced at least some level of database interface instruction. I decided to skip that entirely. Instead, I wanted them to focus on journals, and the process a researcher might embark on individually if they were looking to publish in one.
After I launched the presentation with a short introduction, I broke the eleven students into three groups, and had each group research one (pre-selected) journal in freshwater biology (which, sadly, did not lead to a wave of hashtag enthusiasm. I was looking forward to #teamamericanmidlandnaturalist, #teamjournaloffreshwaterecology, and #teamfreshwaterbiology tweets). My institution subscribes to two of the three journals, and each of the journals is hosted on a different platform, published by a different organization, and they collectively span different levels of prestige — a perfect mix to show off the spectrum of published content.
The teams had worksheets that directed them to look up certain things on their assigned journal’s author submission page (they looked for citation format, directions regarding headings, whether the author should supply keywords, whether there was a standardized dictionary, etc.) Directing the students to the journal’s webpage led to some interesting questions that have never come up in other workshops I’ve led. One student asked what an “impact factor” was, which sparked an interesting discussion of citations, notability, and other related metrics (and quickly got one group bragging about how their assigned journal had the highest of the three); the need for authors to submit keywords led to a discussion about database-driven article retrieval. Both of these are hard points to make as an instructor talking about database interfaces, but once these students saw the author submission pages, it really seemed to click for them — they could see the raw materials from which article databases are built.
After a short discussion period, where the groups announced their findings to the other students, we went into the next segment. The teams had to determine if our institution subscribes to their assigned journal, and download one article of their choice (I knew the one journal we didn’t subscribe to made a sample issue available on their website). This exercise got our students to use the journal finder feature on our website, another tool that students don’t always understand (undergrads frequently confuse article titles for journal titles, and using the former doesn’t work in a journal finder).
Once each team had an article in hand, I had them outline their article’s section headings (to see to what degree they matched the posted author instructions, and hopefully give them some guidance for their proposed journal submission) and count the list of references (to give them a sense of the depth of research on published articles, and again, a better sense of the expectations for them). They also looked up their articles in Google Scholar to investigate the “cited by” feature — which circled back to our earlier conversation about impact factor and the notability of articles. The team whose journal had the lowest Impact Factor turned out to have the most cited article, which gave them a chance to brag in return (the camaraderie between the students was a lot of fun).
We finished off the workshop by using Google Scholar to import their articles into a RefWorks account (our library is an institutional subscriber) and a brief overview of RefWorks use.
Crossing the Threshold
What struck me about the workshop — and part of why I felt it was so successful — was the curiosity it generated in the students. Students asked unprompted questions about not only Impact Factors, but open access journals, pay-to-publish journals, journal subscription fees, author reimbursement (or lack thereof), and tenure in academia. These are subjects that have almost never come up in my experience as an instructional librarian (with undergrads); the fact that these were student questions driven by their own investigative experience felt like a breakthrough, as if we crossed a threshold point in their understanding of scholarly resources. I feel like the minutiae of database search will now come more naturally to them despite the lack of any direct discussion of the subject — a win-win if there ever was one.
Now, if this colloquium does indeed get published, I hope I get included in their acknowledgements — another subject that came up through student questions!
Comments are off for INVESTIGATING JOURNALS: AN INFORMATION LITERACY WORKSHOP FOR SCIENCE STUDENTS
Originally posted to tumblr, Sept. 2012.
I was giving a friend cover letter advice for a librarian position and she suggested I go public with it.
My admittedly limited credentials: I have written cover letters that were ignored, I’ve written cover letters that got me interviews, and I wrote the cover letter that got me my job. I’ve been on hiring committees where I have read dozens of cover letters for both full time and part time librarian positions, and I remember what made some stand out while others headed straight to the circular file. I’m not an expert; the following are just my own opinions. Feel free to agree, disagree, or add your own perspective in the comments.
My headline suggests an unobtainable goal. It is absolutely impossible to write the perfect cover letter. The fact is, every hiring manager, library director, potential boss, or hiring committee will have different criteria and a different perspective. Some institutions have an expectation of formality, while others have a preference for informality, and unless you know personally the person who will read your cover letter, you’ll never know which is the perfect approach.
However, you can do a bit of research to improve your odds. Read the job ad. Read any ancillary posts about the position (such as the library director’s blog, if s/he has one). Try and get a sense of the library’s personality from their website and current outreach methods: are they formal and fussy? Are they casual and fun? Try and match your style to what you can tell about their institutional personality.
Once you’ve done your research, focus on the objectives of your letter. First up, and I feel this is the most important point:
- Your cover letter is not a recitation of your experiences.
That’s what your résumé is for.
- The goal of your cover letter is to paint a picture: you want to the reader to envision you, in their available position, solving their problems.
The cover letter is a narrative. You are telling a story in which you are the protagonist — a problem-solving, enthusiasm-generating, can-do person who has the skills they are looking for and directly addresses all the areas in which they need help. They should get a sense of who you are and your personality, because that is what sets you apart.
The side benefit of conveying your personality in your cover letter is that if they don’t hire you because of your personality, then they were unlikely to be a good fit for you!
Now for a hail of bulleted advice:
- Instead of listing your experiences, you are relating your experiences to their job.
- If their job ad mentions three main areas of responsibilities for their new position, you better mention all three in your cover letter, and how your skills, attitude or experiences specifically prepare you to fulfill those responsibilities.
- If you’ve been working in a different type of library than the one for which you’re applying, address that in your cover letter. Make it clear that the type of position they are offering is genuinely your career goal, and your experience at other types of institutions just brings you perspective from (x) field that will help you in (y) field.
- If you live far away, make it clear you are willing (and in fact excited!) to move.
- If you’ve had a gap in employment or other red flag, address it.
- This might sound obvious, but…no typos, no grammatical errors, and no spelling mistakes.
- Formatting matters. Put together a clean, attractive page, not just a standard Word template (also true for your résumé).
- Have a responsible friend read it and give you unfettered criticism.
- Always throw away your first draft.
Another question that comes up a lot when discussing library applications: yes, both your cover letter and your résumé can be over a page. This is a professional-level position you are applying for. There are different standards!
Questions? Thoughts? Replies? Rebuttals?
Since last summer I’ve been using tumblr exclusively for my blogging. Generally speaking, it is easier to post to, and I have a wider readership on that platform than I did here. However, because tumblr is a mix of long and short posts, original content and “reblogs,” my longer posts can disappear quickly off of my front page.
Therefore, I am going to re-post some of my longer content onto this site over the next few days, and going forward, I will mirror my more substantive blog posts on both platforms.
Comments are off for PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT
In April of 2012 I attended the biennial conference of California Academic and Research Libraries, the state affiliate of ACRL. The conference theme was “Creativity & Sustainability: Fostering User-Centered Innovation in Difficult Times.” The focus of the keynote presentations was the promotion of innovative leadership (or, in the cases of some institutions, how to overcome a lack of innovative leadership). The conference proceedings have now been published online: http://www.carl-acrl.org/conference2012/2012ConferenceProceedings.html
The opening keynote presentation was from Jenica Rogers, a library director at a university in upstate New York and a blogger at Attempting Elegance. In her presentation, she quoted some disturbing figures about how few library directors felt they had an innovative plan for the future. If institutional directors don’t feel they have a plan for the future, how must their staff feel? What does that say about the future of their libraries on campus? Rogers emphasized the easiest thing a director can do to foster innovation is to say “yes.” If you’ve hired a staff of motivated, creative librarians, saying “yes” will be the ticket to innovation and change.
Another keynote was from co-presenters Char Booth, coordinator of instruction at Claremont Colleges, and Brian Mathews, an Assistant Dean of Library Services at Virgina Tech. There presentation focused on threshold concepts in education and using curriculum mapping to refine and improve campus-wide information literacy programs. Their invited paper is available online and I highly recommend reading it.
I highlighted the following extract on tumblr:
“How does threshold concept theory apply to academic librarians? It can be argued that incorporating knowledge of threshold concepts into our instructional strategy enables us to be more effective and empathic – anticipating the challenges our learners face and intervening with insight into their disciplinary experience. This can impact not only what and how we teach, but also when is the right time to cover particular topics and skills. In short, it enables us to survey the entire learning landscape within a discipline and optimize the libraryʼs interaction. By understanding the common stumbling blocks, knowledge gaps, and frustration points within a given subject domain, as well as with particular courses and assignments, we can better position the library to become a strong instructional partner.”
As a liaison to my university’s nursing program, I feel it is incumbent upon me — even if the depth of my nursing expertise is limited — to investigate the relevant threshold concepts are in nursing practice so that I can deepen my work with the nursing students. I feel inadvertently stumbled into a threshold when I made a recent presentation on evidence-based nursing, a highly specific, clinical practice that involves using research to provide answers to clinical questions. Presenting on that specific a subject pushed me beyond the usual approach of ‘access the database here, use these search terms and limiters’ type of workshop. I had to get knowledgeable on realms beyond my experience — things like PICO questions, meta-analysis and systematic reviews — and relay the importance of these concepts to students who are still sometimes new to scholarly research. I came away from that presentation feeling like the formal process of creating a PICO question — and using that question to derive strong keyword search terms — transformed the students’ approach to scholarly search in ways that will benefit them beyond evidence-based practice. If they can master a high-level concept like PICO, the rest of their information seeking-skills will come to them more easily.
A few other highlights from the conference:
Michael Germano, CSU Los Angeles.
CSU’s Michael Germano became a librarian after a career in tech entrepreneurship, and compared and contrasted elements of successful leadership with some of the bureaucratic elements he believes hinder libraries. One of his major points was that your internal culture affects your users. It has a significant impact, especially on existing, ongoing users and customer retention and loyalty.
He described innovative climates as possessing the following traits:
- Assessment/Evidence Based
- Change tolerant
- Reward Oriented
- Vision Driven
He asked how many of these traits are embodied by libraries?
He described the following as values that drive innovative environments:
- Risk tolerance
- Customer Focus
- Shared purpose
- Value/Empower people
- Results oriented
- Sense of urgency
- Low tolerance of repetition
In contrast, he used the following attributes to describe existing library culture:
- Organized and predictable
- Shared values
He emphasized how leadership qualities can create an innovative environment. He characterized leadership as the process of influencing others to engage in a shared task or purpose — leading is not managing.
Library instruction: information visualization and keyword searching
Matt Conner & Melissa Browne, University of California, Davis
This presentation was the culmination of a CARL-funded research study on the keyword searching techniques of college students and the effect of visual literacy tools on search success.
The basic idea is that vision and cognition are fundamentally related. Representations of data with visual designs assist comprehension and insight. A popular example is the red state/blue state map that makes political affiliation so much easier to grasp than a series of charts that conveys the same information. Their survey used information-seeking tools that emphasize visual elements to see how it affected user behavior and success. Some of the tools they used were the now-defunct Google Wonder Wheel and EBSCOhost’s Visual Search.
Known patterns in student search strategies are either single-word searches or long strings of natural language. Students tend to only skim search results. Students will give up quickly and assume there is nothing on their topic. These strategies don’t largely work using library resources. The researchers suggested that instructional librarians are not always giving students the best guidance for their topic searches. It’s really important to turn topic ideas into search keywords in a way that affects and strengthens search outcomes.
The question the researchers tried to answer was whether visualization would help students formulate more systematic searches. Could it improve efficiency and increase satisfaction? Results were inconclusive, though users did have some success improving their keywords after using EBSCOhost’s Visual Search.
The research provided one surprise outcome: student behavior isn’t exclusively about searching and terms. There was a strong tendency towards link-following. They may start with one search in Google, but ultimately follow a series of links until satisfied, which partially explains the popularity of the hyperlink-rich Wikipedia.
Transforming Research into Practice: Using Project Information Literacy Findings to Revitalize Instruction and Outreach
Michele Van Hoeck, CSU Maritime; Ann Roselle, Phoenix College; Catherine Palmer, UC Irvine
Each presenter gave a specific example of using Project Information Literacy (PIL) findings at their institutions. Each of the research reports referenced below can be found on the PIL Publications Page.
First, some of the basics of PIL; it is an ongoing research project guided by Dr. Alison Head and Dr. Michael Eisenberg at University of Washington’s iSchool. It has surveyed 11,000 college students from 52 campuses across five studies.
Michele Van Hoeck focused on incorporating ideas from 2010 PIL survey, “Truth be told: How college students evaluate and use information in the digital age.” The survey involved 8,353 students on asked about their course-related and everyday life research. It was an online survey with 22 questions.
The first major finding of the survey was that students reported the most difficulty with getting started (84%), finding a topic (66%), and narrowing a topic (61%) – described as “failure to launch.” PIL conducted follow-up interviews with certain students. Students said it wasn’t a lack of ideas that made it hard to start, it was a fear of their idea failing them, and an inability to vet their topic. They were desperate for context and background, hence using Wikipedia very heavily.
Based on these PIL findings, Van Hoeck developed new learning outcomes for her LIB100 course at CSU Maritime:
- Develop methods for exploring and vetting new topics.
- Gain awareness of sources for context & background.
She suggested a couple methods of addressing these learning outcomes in a one-shot instructional session.
- Infolit icebreaker: using Poll Everywhere to ask “What’s the worst thing about a research paper?”
- Creating a Getting Started tab on a LibGuide (or other model of institutional research guide or pathfinder.)
- Focus first session on getting started, devoted to sources for starting research.
- Only demonstrating electronic sources and explicitly comparing them to Wikipedia.
- Van Hoeck used libguide stats for assessment, looking at Fall 2010 vs. Fall 2011 usage. Paired with a new lesson plan, the LibGuide saw a tripling of link usage.
Ann Roselle of Phoenix College looked at the 3rd PIL report, “Assigning inquiry: How handouts for research assignments guide today’s college students.” The survey looked at 191 research assignment handouts from 28 different institutions across disciplines. 83% of the surveyed handouts could be described as a “standard research handout” — that is to say, unexceptional and including several common weaknesses.
The study compared the majority of research assignment handouts to city roadmaps with no street names included (because they did not specific which databases students should use.) Only 13% of handouts mentioned consulting librarians (or faculty). Only 18% mentioned plagiarism.
The PIL report described these assignments as paying “more attention on the mechanics of preparing a research assignment” rather than getting started, defining the topic, or evaluating the information.
As a response to these PIL findings, Ann Roselle hosted a workshop for faculty to give them a better idea of how to create a research assignment handout. She had faculty work in small groups. They worked through sources slowly and were given handouts to analyze. The selected handouts were a balanced mix good and bad to see how faculty would analyze them.
Time was given at the end of the workshop to provide faculty a chance to consider how their own handouts work. When asked to describe one common pitfall of research handouts, faculty identified that “librarian not included” comes up a lot. Faculty were also advised also include actual links to specific databases.
Feedback from faculty who have worked on improving their handouts includes, “I have noticed that students have less questions about how to do the assignment, and I am generally getting more college-approved sources.”
Catherine Palmer adapted a St. Olaf College Research Practice survey into a PIL-inspired pre- and post-test assessment model for UC Irvine. One advantage of the open-source St. Olaf assessment was the ability to include open-ended questions on research practices. UC Irvine replaced Project SAILS with this approach.
Sharon Radcliff & Elise Wong, Saint Mary’s College Library
This was an interesting presentation on a research project librarians at St. Mary’s conducted on the bibliographies of their freshmen composition papers. The pilot study included 25 papers in 2008. In 2010 they expanded the study to approximately 80 papers. 20 papers were not included in the 2010 study findings because they didn’t have bibliographies at all.
Some of their findings from the second survey were on the types of sources used:
- 44% websites
- 30% magazines and journals
- 22% books
Regarding the citations, 58% were direct quotes, 42% were paraphrased. The faculty would prefer to see a higher percentage of paraphrasing in order to synthesize ideas, which is considered a stronger form of writing than a heavy reliance on direct quotations. About half of the quotes were introduced and analyzed. 20% had an introduction but no analysis. 14% analyzed afterwards with no introduction. 13% of quotes had no introduction and no analysis.
As a outcome of this survey, faculty & librarians revisited their instructional design to account for shortcomings with the hope that composition faculty could consult with librarians in course design and embed library tutorials in class materials.
There were some limitations of study. It was not a random sampling — the papers volunteered by English faculty. There was no discussion on the quality of the sources, and no association between un-cited information in the papers and plagiarism.
For the future, the librarians would like to implement multiple instructional strategies, design a study to test these strategies, in order to compare their modified practices to a control group. They would like to add specialized instruction on citations to sections of first semester in English comp. They would also like to compare results with sections not receiving instruction at all, and determine means to track the progress of students over four years of education.
One element the St. Mary’s librarians are adding to their freshmen year instruction is having the students actually find an article and identify the parts of a citation. They make sure the students at least write out one citation in class — have them have the experience of doing it themselves.
Comments are off for TRIP REPORT: CARL CONFERENCE 2012
I flew to Los Angeles a couple weeks ago to attend the second half of the Statewide California Electronic Libraries Consortium’s (SCELC) annual Colloquium & Vendor Day hosted at Loyola Marymount University (I was unable to attend the first day because I was leading a four-hour intensive information literacy workshop for Biology students; I should post about that someday, too).
The first night, my colleague N.G. and I got to meet up with some Southern California information all-stars: Young Lee, law librarian and bon vivant* from the University of La Verne; John Jackson, the dapper, bow-tie wearing ALA Emerging Leader and Grand Cataloger at USC; and Loyola Marymount’s librarian-in-residence Cynthia Orozco. Our conversation was exactly what you’d expect with a table full of librarians (bar the unexpected interloping business-traveling New Zealander who butted into our conversation to regale us with his personal philosophy — think: people are either sheep or wolves — he was the wolf, we were the sheep?): it was a mix of excellent professional observations and ideas, a wealth of outstanding verbal sorties and quips, and a healthy debate on the proper composition of a Manhattan.
Another perk of going to SCELC was I finally got to meet my long-time internet friend Sherry Youssef and her colleague Shawna, who are librarians at a specialized psychology graduate school. Since I recently became our liaison librarian to our Psychology Department, this was a useful chance to pick their brains about products, collections, and other things relating to a field I still need to learn about. Sometimes professional networking isn’t just about getting jobs; it’s about getting good ideas from smart people (and good dinner conversation is just the bonus).
Hanging out with Sherry
SCELC’s Vendor Day followed the next day. Here’s a brief rundown of some of the product demonstrations I saw and my first impressions**:
The first presentation I saw was from the publishing & electronic content arm of the American Psychology Association (APA; shhhh…I didn’t tell them that I’ll soon be staging a protest). They are debuting a few new products:
- PsycBOOKS, which can be purchased by title-by-title or leased as a 44,000-chapter full-text collection. This collection will grow with newly published materials (after a 1-yr embargo) and also contains various “classics” in the psychology field.
- PsycTHERAPY, apparently a competitor to Alexander Street Press’s existing Counseling & Therapy Video Collection. This contains 300 therapy demo videos featuring actual clients and practicing professionals.
- PsycTESTS, a database of testing instruments (including non-commercial permissions) as described and culled from various journal articles and other sources. Their long-term goal is to have 20,000 tests in the database. Currently 75% of content is full-text (remainder have either been published as commercial tests or authors have not provided permission – in those cases, only a citation and contact information is available).
Credo provides DRM-free reference eBooks; generally speaking, they are one of my favorite vendors both for the quality of their content and the ease of using their UX on both the user and administrator side. The depth of the Credo reference collection is what allowed my library to move almost entirely away from print reference collections (this is a ubiquitous trend in libraries and elsewhere; note the recently announced death of the print edition Encyclopædia Britannica). Our Credo collection contains over 500 different sets of encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other reference items running the gamut of arts, humanities, social science, health, education and science disciplines.
Credo was at Vendor Day to demonstrate their new product, Literati. Literati is a spiffed-up interface for content from Credo’s Reference Database that includes customized videos, a stylish navigation screen and built-in hyperlinks designed to make information-seeking more intuitive for millennial students. However, since the content beneath the splashy screens largely remains the same, I’m unsure how much of an upgrade over the simpler Credo experience this is. Is it just adding more clicks into the information retrieval process? That’s counter to what we want. Until I get a chance to try it myself and see what the benefits might be, the jury (ie, the jury of me) is out on Literati.
Copyright Clearance Center
The non-profit organization Copyright Clearance Center was at Vendor Day to demonstrate the usefulness of their Get It Now automated electronic article inter-library loan (ILL) sharing system, first designed and implemented by the CSU system but now spread to many institutions. The patron-driven, automatic delivery of electronic scholarly articles is absolutely the way ILL should work in the 21st century and it’s pretty cool to see it taking off — a la carte article publishing could save libraries a lot as opposed to big bundles of unused electronic journal subscriptions. The service bills libraries monthly for the number of articles acquired.
There is a fairly large group of contributing publishers including many of the major names. Currently, 120 colleges have adopted the service. Along with receiving a copy of the articles requested, libraries are also provided the copyright clearances they need for most academic uses (not surprisingly, since the Copyright Clearance Center is behind all this).
Gale Cengage was demonstrating two products – Business Insights: Global and the newest iteration of the Gale Virtual Reference Library. I was pretty pleased with what I saw from Business Insights: Global — clean, simple interface; you can use it to create quick, easy-to-design charts based on financial and statistical data; and it prominently features hyperlinks to promote the proximal curiosity effect that drives so much of Wikipedia usage. As for GVRL, it looked like a sharper interface; I believe many libraries are already using it. I’ll check it out more thoroughly before I implement it, however (interface changes mid-semester aren’t usually a good idea).
All in all, it was a good trip to SCELC — whatever you think of the world of library vendors and journal publishers (and there are issues with them all, to varying degrees), it’s useful to know what they are offering. It’s just too bad I had to miss the librarians vs. vendors bowling night.
My trip to SCELC marked the start of my travel season; I’ll be heading to the California Academic & Research Libraries (CARL) Conference in San Diego in April and I’ve been accepted into ACRL Immersion in Vermont in July (I know, I just buried the lede in the 12th paragraph). I’ll post more about both of those soon. I will not, however, make it to ALA this year; there will be no reprising my surprise Battledecks performance, at least not in 2012.
*My spellchecker wanted to correct this to ‘Bob Vivaldi.’ Perhaps I should have let it; that’s kind of awesome.
**I’d like to emphasize these are my initial judgments based on what I saw in demonstration; I have not gotten hands on with these products yet and my opinions — poorly developed as they are — are purely my own and do not reflect those of my employer (or anyone else for that matter).
I’ll be a participant in a panel during the Library 2.011 Worldwide Virtual Conference. Our program, Riding the “Long Tail”: Leveraging a Niche to Build a Network, focuses on the niche professional networks and interests enabled and encouraged by the use of social media tools. It will be moderated by USC’s John Jackson & the University of La Verne’s Young Lee and feature panelists Nicole Pagowsky of the entertaining Librarian Wardrobe and Micah Vandegrift of the HackLibSchool Blog. I am quite honored to be included in their company to discuss the Information Amateurs Social Club, the informal networking organization my friend Greg Borman and I created after graduating from library school in 2009.
Participation in the virtual conference is free — and highly encouraged! Our panel will speak at 10am Pacific Time on Thursday, November 3.
Jumping on board a presentation like this required me — for the first time — to write a professional bio, a decidedly odd thing to compose (particularly since custom dictates writing it in the third person). Here it is:
Daniel Ransom is the Librarian for Research and Electronic Resources at Holy Names University in Oakland, California. Daniel provides reference and research services and co-coordinates the university’s information literacy program. Daniel also serves on the committee for the California Academic and Research Libraries’ Ilene F. Rockman Scholarship, an annual award for library school students. He co-founded the Information Amateurs Social Club with Greg Borman after graduating from San José State University’s School of Library and Information Science in December of 2009. The goal was to create an informal online and in-person venue for early-career information professionals to stay in contact with their peers and share job-seeking skills and ideas.
I also had to submit a profile photo; I took this shot the morning of my very first day as a professional librarian 15 months ago and have used it as my professional profile ever since (that’s right, I like to rock the argyle sweater vest).
At some point soon I’m going to have to admit that I’m a grown-up.
Saturday night, the Information Amateurs Social Club gathered at the special pour-your-own-beer keg table at San Francisco’s Mad Dog in the Fog, a Lower Haight pub. I never got an exact count of attendees as it ebbed and flowed all night (much like the tap!) but it was well over a dozen and possibly as many as twenty. As usual, the crowd contained a mix of backgrounds — academic librarians, archivists, a children’s librarian, public librarians, MLIS students, and the usual but unfortunate smattering of unemployed librarians hoping for a change in the wind.
Engrossed in conversation. Photo courtesy @TheLiB.
The beer table was an entertaining gimmick — it was by the window, near the door, and allowed us to pour beers for new arrivals without them having to walk to the bar and wait for service. Conversation was by turns serious and silly (like all good conversations), and any lull could be filled by filling our own glasses. And, by the end, we knew exactly how much beer we had drunk!
I’m very proud of our little association. While we have a core group of regulars (some of whom will sadly be leaving the Bay Area shortly), each and every outing has featured at least several new faces. Our group’s name — the Information Amateurs — was born out of our circumstances in April, 2010. Greg Borman and I had both recently graduated with our MLIS degrees (December, ‘09) and were both struggling to find jobs. We couldn’t quite call ourselves professionals without a professional paycheck! So I had the inspiration to call us the Information Amateurs, and stuck with it even though both Greg and I were gainfully employed by that summer. I’ve always kept the tone of messages to the group cheerful and little irreverent in the hopes that it will draw out newcomers, and that seems to work.
The next event is one worth getting excited about: on October 20, USC’s Norris Medical Library’s Megan Curran will be presenting her lecture “Ill-gotten Brains: The Grisly History of Sourcing Bodies for Anatomical Learning” (an appropriately macabre subject for late October) at the Bone Room in Berkeley as part of their ongoing salon series of talks on subjects in natural history. Ms. Curran has already presented this talk in Los Angeles and Brooklyn but this will be her first Bay Area appearance. The recently engaged Ms. Curran has also agreed to join the Information Amateurs for a post-lecture drink at a to-be-determined gathering spot. You can follow her on twitter at @LibraryatNight.
Comments are off for TAPPING INTO INFORMATION