Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Merry Christmas and a Happy Holidays Wish to All

(Crossposted at the Itinerant Librarian)

Well folks, my family and I will be taking some days for the holiday season. As a very small parting gift, I would like to leave readers with a few things:

The legalistic holiday greeting. This is what your lawyer friends might send. It comes from the Super's Blog:

From Your Lawyer Friends:

"Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, our best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low-stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the religious persuasion of your choice, or secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasion and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all. We also wish you a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2006, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make America great. Not to imply that America is necessarily greater than any other country nor the only America in the Western Hemisphere. And without regard to the race, creed, color, age, physical ability, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee. By accepting these greetings you are accepting these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for herself or himself or others, and is void where prohibited by law and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher."

Otherwise, however you choose to celebrate the season, be it religious or secular, may you have a wonderful time with loved ones, some great moments to relax, gather your thoughts and reload the batteries, and may you celebrate in peace and safety.

Tomorrow evening, my wife and daughter will be baking cookies, and we will finish decorating the tree. Yes, you read that right, we are not quite done decorating the tree. Actually, we did not quite realize what happens when you have two kittens that have never been around a Christmas tree before. Last year, sans cats, we put the tree up pretty early in the month. This time, we took a cautious route, and we put the tree up first without any decorations, just to let the cats, Autumn and Isis, get used to it. Oh, they are used to it alright. They run around it, chase each other, hide under it, knock it over, and now and then take nips at the branches. We just pick up the tree and try again. Tomorrow evening we are decorating it. We always bake a batch of cookies because you have to leave cookies out for Santa. We already bought the Coke because Santa prefers a cold non-alcoholic beverage (he is driving after all) other than milk. We just figure we give the nice man a break at our apartment. The tradition is we leave one of those small holiday bottles Coke puts out around this time with some homemade cookies. The reindeer also get some carrots.

On Christmas Eve, we will be tracking Santa thanks to NORAD. Yes, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, that NORAD. Every year they set up a Santa Tracker to track the fastest object in the sky. The site is accessible in 6 languages, including English, and the Santa Tracker has been on the Internet since 1998. If readers go to the English section under downloads, they can download their really cool promotional video. There is a 30 second, and a 60 second version. I like the 60 second one best. The site also explains how they exactly track Santa throughout the evening from using satellites to scrambling an escort of jet fighters once Santa hits North American airspace. You can also read about the Santa Cam. The site also features other games and features that children of all ages will enjoy. Our daughter is always thrilled and checking every hour to see where Santa has moved.

On Christmas Day, after presents, we'll head up to Fort Worth to see family. That is when we will be offline for a few days. This will be my brother's first Christmas at his family's new house, so I am sure we will have a very nice celebration. We are also hoping to go see an exhibit at the Latino Cultural Center in Dallas: "Santos de Palo from Puerto Rico." It is an exhibit of the wood carved saints from Puerto Rico now visiting the city. Find some small details here. Another page, this one from Valparaiso University's Brauer Museum of Art has a quick description of the art form here. Growing up in Puerto Rico, we actually knew some of the artisans known as santeros and attended their encuentros ("encounters," arts festivals). Maybe someday I will write a short essay on those experiences. In the meantime, the opportunity to see a collection of these works is one we can hardly pass up. If we make it, I will let readers know.

Finally, for readers who enjoy facts, the Census Bureau does have a press release with various facts about the holiday season here. For example, did you know that 20 billion is the number of letters, packages and cards delivered by the United States Postal Service between Thanksgiving and Christmas. We did manage to send out our Christmas cards nice and early this year.

So, for our Spanish speaking friends, "Feliz Navidad."
For others, "Merry Christmas, Happy Hannukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and Happy Holidays (in case I missed anyone)."

Hope to see everyone again next year.

On a final note, we are about to close the library. My campus will be closed starting tomorrow and all of next week. As we are about to close, a mom with her children who was using one of our computers comes to the desk and asks me if we are about to close. When I say yes, in about ten minutes, the toddler starts crying. I guess that's not the answer he wanted to hear.

My last on the membership thing, or librarians as martyrs?

Unless I get a comment, and I reply, this will likely be the last I will say on this rolling snowball about organizations, memberships, and their speakers. My guess is that sparks will fly, that the old guard will keep the party line, that the new vanguard will say a few more platitudes hoping for change, and that things will go back to business as usual once the snow melts. The one post that made me think about this was K.G. Schneider's one on "How Do We Serve?" To be honest, this seems to be shaping into one of those organizational politics fight that I tend to simply tune out. My basic question is why should librarians, or other social professions for that matter such as teachers and social workers, be martyrs just to practice their craft? How long do we let others inflict that guilt-trip on us, which is nothing more than excuse to continue exploiting those of a generous nature?

Since I have been looking at a good share of posts, let me put the links up front, then do my writing below since even now I am just writing as I look things over. Firefox's multiple tabs are such a wonderful idea. So, here is the reading list, so far:

K.G. Schneider's "How Do We Serve?" "Would a Dues Increase Help ALA. . .or Hurt It?"
Meredith Farkas' "ALA, Relevance, and the Almighty Dollar"
Jenny Levine, where it all started with "Why I am not joining ALA right now after all" and her follow up "Continuing Conference Conversations."

By the way, these authors provide various other links, and the comments that readers have placed on their posts add to the conversation as well.

Let me start by saying that the whole comping speakers issue does not really affect me personally. I am nowhere near that height, so what those in the heights do is up to them. I do believe that people should be compensated fairly for providing a service, and yes, they are providing a service for more than the goodness of their hearts. The fact that many employers require such service means they are often not doing it for some of the noble ideals that the old guard espouses. K.G. Schneider's link in her post about dues where Mr. Dan Walters of the PLA gives the official view provides a pretty good summary of the administrative attitude. Her response is probably better than anything I could ever say, so here it is:

"Walters' response is predictable, but it's not accurate. I call it predictable because the party line for the last several weeks has been that the glory of being allowed to participate is compensation enough for librarians, and his statement doesn't change anything I've heard so far. It's also predictable in defining "contribution" through the narrow lens of 20th-century participation models: Organize conference--travel to conference--present at conference. It's assumed that we aren't already participating and sharing year-round through other means, an assumption that was largely true fifteen years ago, and is not at all true today. Even at that, his statement seems to overlook the amount of time and effort it takes to present, and present well."

What concerns me is the assumption that people are not participating and sharing in the profession in a variety of ways. Apparently blogging does not count if Mr. Rosenzweig's reply to Mr. Walters is any indication. Heck, he does not even know who these "self-proclaimed aristocracy" are. I don't recall the Queen or the King naming me a duke or even a knight of anything, so I definitely have no idea what aristocracy he is referring to. Now, if we are a sub-culture, again his label, I would keep in mind that very often sub-cultures have a penchant of undermining mainstreams and often helping to bring down larger systems down the road. It's just history. But ok, let's leave blogging out. There are many other ways that people get involved in the profession such as online conferences, to listservs, and wikis. These are just examples of Web 2.0 tools people use to connect, share ideas, and learn from each other. Then there are other organizations. A cursory reading of the bloggers I listed above will reveal mentions of various other smaller conferences and organizations they belong to and are involved with. Examples include Computers in Libraries, Gaming Symposia, Code4Lib, Internet Librarian, and so on. Librarians basically have a broad range of choices to get their professional involvement requirements other than ALA and its subsidiaries. Then there are the state library associations. Add to this the various forms of community service, be it public or academic, that many librarians do, and they really do serve in a variety of ways. The reality is that librarians can be connected to each other in a wide variety of ways, and a lot of those ways are more affordable with better treatment. I don't see a reason to become a martyr for one large organization when I can meet my requirements for professional development in so many other ways.

My readers know that I will pull out the "so what?" I had an American Literature professor who would tell us that in writing an academic essay, we should be able to answer the "so what?" question. So, this passage in Melville exemplifies man's quest for blah blah blah. So what? Why is it significant? So every time I get to thinking about issues like this, I ask "so what?" I am just a librarian in the trenches, so to be perfectly honest, keeping my mouth shut and letting the politicos battle it out would be a lot easier. But here is the "so what" moment. I am a fairly new librarian. I just completed my first year of professional service. I am at a point in my career where I am starting to look out from my trench to find ways to get involved with others in the profession. Now, some politicos may say someone like me is not a big deal. What can you bring to us? Well, I don't know. I am not even sure I have something to contribute. I may not discover it until I wander across the no-man's land and see what's out there in that place where brilliant people have blazed the path and beckoned for others to follow. So while I am very small potatoes, I am going to go with numbers. I am not the only one. I am sure a lot of my classmates who got hired around the time I did are probably thinking some of the things I am now. Multiply that across the nation, and add to it some library school students about to graduate, and I think the "it's not a big deal" some politicos envision suddenly gains a little bit in size. And I am thinking here about the impression some of those attitudes may have on some of us who are wondering if it is worth it to wander out there or not. If we add the fact of costs and money, it can become a larger problem. Again, K.G. Schneider points this out very well:

"Walters is also ignoring the fiscal reality of conference attendance, particularly in a world offering many competing opportunities. This year, as with many years, attending ALA would be impossible if it were entirely funded through my personal budget, barely affordable with organizational support, and all around something I weigh and consider very carefully. Am I better off attending Midwinter, or should I take that MySQL class that will help my job? Should I go to New Orleans, or would I be a better librarian if I attended Hackfest? I'm scheduled to present at PLA--but can I, or my organization, really afford the cost of a conference in Boston? That's the kind of question it comes down to for us'n in the trenches. It gets down to nickel and dime decisions because nickels and dimes--a lot of them--are what it takes for us to attend conferences."

If it boils down to cost in terms of time and money, I don't think the large organization fares very well in terms of value. I am thinking here added value for the librarians. I am concerned the powers that be ignore, or seem perfectly oblivious, to the fiscal realities most librarians face when it comes to getting their professional development. I will give some simple answers, from my perspective. Do I pick the local class or Midwinter? Easy, the local class that will help my job. Should I go to New Orleans or some smaller more focused conference? I am going for the more focused conference. Part of it is what can I afford, and part of it is what is more practical for me.

Meredith writes, "yes, librarianship is a helping profession, but librarians do not need to be martyrs. We shouldn’t have to live on ramen noodles so that we can speak at conferences. I listened to this dogma enough as a social worker and it’s just as silly coming out ot the mouth of a librarian." It also sounds silly in the mouths of teachers. I know; I used to be one before I became a librarian, and the dogma exists in public education as well. Do we know that we won't be rich doing this? Sure, there are many things I could possibly be doing that may earn more, but academic librarianship is a calling for me. It's my best destiny. It does not mean I want to live on ramen noodles, and for the higher ups to have the gall to expect me to irks me to say the least. It's disrespectful. I recently read the book Teachers Have It Easy, and I made a note about it. The book contains the stories of many excellent teachers who left the profession not because they stopped loving it but because they could not afford to stay in it. A lot of the issues in that book are similar to the issues we face in librarianship, especially the parts about having to pay for your own professional development out of pocket even though it is a requirement.

In the end, Meredith says it very well: "we librarians stand up for our patrons so often, but sometimes we need to stand up for ourselves." In the end, I am not sure what I am aiming at other than trying to make some meaning out of this. I could care less what the powers that be decide, not because I am insensitive, but rather because what they decide up there will not likely trickle down here. I see it as an issue of fairness and respect for fellow colleagues. Many will likely disagree, but I am making my stand that I refuse to be someone's martyr. What I do know is that there are choices from working through my blogs to local opportunities. How Do I Serve? First and foremost, I serve my patrons and academic community. Then I will serve the profession. At the moment, I am just looking for a good place where I can be of service to the profession.

If we can't help our own colleagues, who will?

It is not often that I get concerned over something. I fly under the radar, and I happen to like it that way. Once in a blue moon, something comes along that makes me think or makes me vocalize things I have been thinking about for a while. This is one of them.

Chrystie R. Hill wrote a small article for the December 2005 issue of Library Journal. I read it in print, but readers can find it online at the link. This short piece spoke to me in a couple of ways. It moved me to write because when I hear the latest edict from the hyper-techno literacy crowd, I always ask what about those without the resources and funding to implement the latest pronouncement? My other question is what about those of us who do not dwell in Mount Ubertechno, by choice or otherwise? You see, while I am a somewhat techsavvy, I am not one with the latest killer apps. In fact, I could care less about the latest killer app. This is not because I am a Luddite or behind the times, but because I think that if it is really important and will help me accomplish something, I'll get to it. Of course, I have to be able to afford it as well. I ask: what will this toy/gadget/application/tool help me do that I don't do already? Do I really need such a tool now? What is the cost of having it (time and money)? And this is just me personally. I can only imagine the questions that librarians in those rural areas where 52% of residents are Internet users ask (Hill 42).

CNN recently had an article on their Web site about how "We're all tech junkies now." I got the tip from Michael Stephen's blog. He points out in his post that "what lurks in the background are the folks that don't have all this access to services and gadgets. That's where libraries can help: circulating ipods? free wifi, laptops that checkout?" This is the key question to ask. Of course, I will ask what about the libraries that can barely afford a few computers. Where would the laptops, ipods, and other circulating technology tools come from? I am not asking to be snarky. I think it is a very valid question because very often technology advocates will give such an answer when saying that libraries can help with the digital divide. I could not agree more, but it is not as easy as it sounds. What the CNN article leaves out is the question of those who cannot afford the $200 to $500 a month to stay connected with cable or satellite, DSL or cable modem, and cell phones. The assumption from the article is that we should all be able to afford this; the reality is that for many of us it is a good amount of money, and for a lot more, it is simply not an option. This just perpetuates another form of the "haves and have-nots." My wife, who has the ability to ask interesting questions, often asks about this: go to a store, and they often tell you that if they do not have a product in stock, you can order it online. Watch the news on TV, and you can get more information or features on the Web site. Heck, my personal favorite is one of the local radio stations where they advertise that you can get the complete line-up of their songs at the Web site. My wife's question? Simple: what about those people without Internet access? Those folks may or not be able to get to the public library. After all, many public libraries are underfunded, and some are even cutting hours or branches altogether. In the case of those libraries, somehow I get the impression that having a few ipods and a few laptops to check out is not a high priority.

Of course, those with access who can afford it amply may say "so what?" The "so what" comes in the form of all those people left behind. People who may need help learning how to read. People who may need to access the Internet for a variety of information needs or maybe for something as simple as staying in touch with a loved one via e-mail. People who may want to find good books or A/V for their children. People who may need help navigating the information superhighway. And so many others. It's a serious lack of charity and compassion when those who have already, often in excess, assume the rest can simply catch up. And no, this post is not a rant about poverty, though we should rant about that too. It is simply a matter of how we, as a society, are measured by how we help those in the "have-not" side of things, or even help those in the "do not quite have as much, but have some" side of things. More importantly, it's the simple notion of community and common good. A public library is exactly that: public. It is for the good of all in the community, and if some see it as just something frivolous or something that costs money without seeing the larger picture, then clearly those are measuring very low. I don't use my local branch of the county library as much as I would like, but I am sure glad it is there. When I moved to Houston, that branch was where I went to get my information on getting a new driver's license, getting other local things done, and I got to check my e-mail because I had not found an apartment yet. It is not a big branch, and they do have limited hours (some days they only open afternoons, or they close early), but when they are open, they serve all of the community.

But let me try to focus back on the article because it also spoke to me on another issue. Ms. Hill has taken a look at the LIS blogosphere, what is commonly known as the biblioblogosphere, and she found this: "a familiar theme reverberated through the LIS blogosphere: You're a librarian, and you don't know what a wiki is? How hard is it to look it up?" (42, emphasis in the original). Now, I am one of the first that will go and advocate for the importance of librarians to keep up with the profession. Let me reveal a little personal secret. I know what a wiki is, but I have not contributed to one, and I will probably won't do so any time soon. In addition, I also know that there are some free tools out there if you want to make your own wiki, but this would be more work for me, and it would not accomplish anything I can't do already. And yes, I am aware of tools like LISWiki. In the case of tools like that, it boils down to having the time, which I don't have. Does this mean I will never use a wiki? No. It does mean I have no use for it right now. And there's the rub, because for the dwellers of Mount Ubertechno, I am "so two years ago" based on what I just admitted. Hill asks, "are those expectations fair, especially for those in resource-deficient areas and as in love with technology as I am?" I got one word for you: no.

Now, those that know me know that I have no shame. If I do not know something, I look it up, or I ask someone who knows. If I don't have the resources to do X, I will tell you plainly to give me the resources to do it or shut up about it. "Put your money where your mouth is" is one of my mottos. But that's me, and I already know that no one will put me in charge of anything because I just say it as I see it. And in this case, what I see is a significant lack of charity and understanding. If a fellow librarian musters the courage, swallows his/her pride, and feels embarassed when they come ask a colleague what is a wiki, the answer from that colleague should be "here, let me show you." A librarian should not be telling a colleague to "just look it up." We don't tell that to our patrons, so why is it some librarians think it is a valid response to a colleague? I am sure many librarians in those undersupplied areas already feel bad that they cannot have the latest at their library. Members of our profession who have more should not be making others feel like second class librarians by condescension or patronizing. Again, we don't do that to our patrons, so why is it some feel it is ok to do it to our colleagues? Again, we are measured by how we treat others. At least, I try to be measured that way. Hill puts it very well, and she said it in less words, "we should be able to ask each other questions, without apology, without hesitation, and without embarassment. We should be able to depend on our colleagues for answers that are helpful, informative, and delivered with kindness" (43). If we can't help out our own colleagues, who will?

Booknote: The Art of Happiness at Work

Title: The Art of Happiness at Work
Authors: His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Howard C. Cutler, M.D.
Publication Information: New York: Riverhead Books, 2003
ISBN: 1-57322-261-5
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenres: Philosophy, religion, self-help (not as sure of this label, but I can see it placed on that category).

This is one of the easiest and best books I have read this year, and it is a book that I will likely reread over time. In this book, the Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler discuss how can workers be happy at work. As readers may know, we spend a large part of our lives at work in one form or another. So it makes sense then to discuss this topic. Dr. Cutler asks various questions to the Dalai Lama, and the sage provides the answers in a relaxed and nurturing way. The book is written in a mostly conversational style drawing on a series of meetings between the Dalai Lama and Dr. Cutler. In addition, Dr. Cutler brings in information about research in psychology and related fields about issues of happiness and work, which add to the conversation. More often than not, the research confirms what the Dalai Lama says.

The opening question for the Dalai Lama was what do you do for a living? When the Dalai Lama thinks a moment, then answers, "I do nothing," it helps to get the conversation going. As we read the book, we discover how that answer is very true. In the process, we learn how to look at our lives, how to reflect on what we do, and how to aim at being productive while serving others. As a reader, the book helped me put a few things in perspective, and it gave me a lot to think about. It also reassured me that things are not so bad. I don't know if for others that last remark makes sense, but I may have to simply tell readers to take a chance on the book. I am not sure if I could answer that I do nothing, at least not yet, but it would be nice to aim towards that, a day at a time. I highly recommend this book. It is very accessible, easy to read, relaxing even, and you might learn a thing or two about yourself. It may put you on the path to seeking happiness, or maybe seeing you are closer to it than you think.

As a note, this book is sort of a sequel to the book The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, which focuses more on the individual and his/her personal development and quest for happiness. Readers of this book will then be interested in The Art of Happiness at Work. Readers like me who have not read the first book will likely want to find a copy. I know I will. There's no need to have read the first book to enjoy this one.

Similar reads: In terms of the "feel," similar style of writing includes the works of Robert Fulghum, some of Paulo Coehlo's works. Fulghum is more into the feel-good stories in my view, but the style of writing is similar. Coehlo also addresses how the individual can grow and seek happiness, which is why I would recommend it to someone wanting similar works. In addition, readers may be interested in some basic works on Buddhism.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Article Note: Understanding the Millenials

Citation for the article:

Holliday, Wendy, and Qin Li. "Understanding the Millenials: Updating Our Knowledge about Students." Reference Services Review 32.4 (2004): 356-366.

I read the article via Emerald.

This article provides a good discussion about the Millenials, and it serves as a good overview of recent research on undergraduates through the literature review as well as the bibliography. Holliday and Li define the Millenials as those born after 1982 and with "extensive experience using the world wide web as their primary information resource" (356). According to them, this poses challenges for librarians in terms of student expectations; much of this is the idea that these students expect resources to be like Google. The article is based on a project researching Millenial students at Utah State University. The authors were testing if the information search process modeled by Kuhlthau is still valid with the Millenials.

Prior to their study, Holliday and Li conducted a literature review on undergraduate information behavior. According to Holliday and Li, "this review showed that while we know a great deal about students' attitudes, preferences, and search habits, we know much less about their deeper cognitive and affective behavior in the more holistic context of their research process" (356). The authors then summarize their literature review. Some of the findings in the literature review are ones many academic librarians probably know.
  • According to C. Brown et. al., cited by the authors, "students are overconfident because they equate their technology savvy with information literacy" (357).
  • The authors cite B. Valentine, who did research on students' attitudes about researching and papers. "From a series of interviews with undergraduates in 1998, she found that students are motivated largely by grades and that they attempt to figure out what their instructors want in a research paper, focusing on the number of pages and the types of sources" (358).
    • At the risk of sounding snarky, students will likely behave that way in 2008 and beyond. I could have told Valentine that and with less effort. Any good teacher in higher education knows this. One thing library school students may not hear about is how often librarians have to help decipher what a teacher wants from poorly written assignments to unclear goals. Sure, they may tell future librarians not to interpret for students, whether for ethical or practical reasons. In reality, some interpreting will happen; it's part of helping them get the information they need. I will add that students do come in knowing they need X amount of sources for Y amount of pages; this is often written out in the assignment sheet or syllabus. Professors don't always tell them what kind of sources though, and that is where I come in.
  • Another finding: "According to Valentine (2001), students tend to find information in a chaotic fashion, using the most familiar resources, such as the Web, and focusing on speed and convenience" (358).
    • We can connect this to the item above and my comment, and we get a better picture. I think for students this is second nature. Teachers may decry the fact that students turn to Google, but the students grew up on it. It's ingrained. Our job then is to show them alternatives.
  • G. Marchionini's model of the electronic research process: "First users recognize and accept a problem. Then they define the problem and select sources. Then they execute a query, examine the results, and extract information from the results. Finally, they reflect, iterate, and eventually stop" (qtd. in 358).
    • There are other models, but I wanted to note this one as an example. What Holliday and Li will suggest later in the article is that students often skip steps in the search models. G. Marchionini is the author of Information Seeking in Electronic Environments (1995).
  • I think that this finding by K. Macpherson, cited by Holliday and Li, is important. "According to Macpherson (2203), students need metacognition skills, or the ability to analyze their own thought processes, in order to develop better search strategies and problem-solving skills" (qt.d in 359).
    • I don't think this is a new idea, but I do think it is an idea worth repeating and emphasizing. We need to teach students how to think and to evaluate how they think. Some of this can be taught through modeling of thought processes. However, this also requires fostering and nurturing creativity through use of inquiry process and active teaching. This goes along with the article on creativity I read earlier this week.
One idea that emerges from these and other findings is that librarians cannot afford to downplay technology and the Web. I have had some time to ponder this due to a series of questions about using Google I've had in some of my BI sessions. I have discovered that it makes no sense to tell students not to use Google or any other search engine. They will do it anyways even if the professor actually tells them not to. What I do instead is tell them what they can do with Google and what they can't do. I talk to them about evaluating what they find and about comparing findings from different places. I also show them how, at times, using Google is actually more work than using a database. Overall, the teacher librarian needs to be flexible and open to various ideas and techniques. Holliday and Li confirm this when they write that "we might need to emphasize what the web is good for, such as exploring the major issues and opinions surrounding a topic, rather than focusing only on evaluation of web resources for credibility and accuracy" (359). I think this is an expansion of what many librarians do already. For some, it may represent a reversal, albeit a positive one.

Here are some of the authors' preliminary findings. I will include some remarks here and there.
  • "Finding a topic was the cause of much of their [the students'] confusion, uncertainty, and anxiety at the beginning of the research process" (361).
  • "Most students described thinking about one or two topics and then weighed them against criteria, such as their personal interest, their knowledge of the topic, or how easy it would be to find information on the topic" (362).
    • I think this is just basic student behavior. Even some graduate students do this. It really helps if you have some personal interest in a topic. As for ease of finding sources, that could border on cynical for some, but it's really a form of time management.
  • "Students had a hard time tolerating uncertainty and inconsistency. The first information they found often determined their direction, rather than further exploration and thought" (363).
    • This is one thing we need to teach our students. Maybe reassurance is a better word. Letting them know it's ok to be uncertain; it's ok to be curious, and it is ok to wander off to a side path now and then while researching.
  • "In some cases, students kept printouts to read later and were discouraged when the articles turned out to be less helpful than anticipated. In other cases, the printing of fulltext articles seemed to encourage students to 'commit' to that particular information or viewpoint too early" (363).
  • And more on the possible pitfalls of fulltext easily available: "They [the students] rarely went through a process of extracting main ideas or compelling themes from more general reading. They were not motivated to take notes because the fulltext was right there" (364).
    • Also, fulltext can enable plagiarism, an issue I find significant. I have written a bit on plagiarism, mostly some light things here and here. I will have a couple of other posts later as I have some specific articles on the topic I am reading, so stay tuned.
The Holliday and Li article has a few other ideas that would like to revisit later. It contains a lot of information, and I wonder if some of this knowledge could be used to write a note, piece, or guide on better research for students. I think some of the findings I can use to reinforce certain ideas when teaching or working at the reference desk. The authors also provide some suggestions for further research, which give me another reason to revisit this article later.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Article Note: On Creativity, Curiosity, and Information Literacy

Citation for article:

Hensley, Randy Burke. "Curiosity and Creativity as Attributes of Information Literacy." Reference and User Services Quarterly 44.1 (Fall 2004): 31-36.

I read the article via OmniFile.

Hensley's column looks at the attributes of curiosity and creativity, and it suggests how to incorporate them into information literacy. According to the author then,

"This article identifies the calls for incorporating creativity and curiosity into teaching and learning, provides definitions of the terms as well as how they fit within the context of the terms as well as how they fit within the context of work defining individuality and intellect, and argues that it is possible and necessary to incorporate curiosity and creativity into information literacy teaching from a theoretical and practical perspective" (31).

This is an ambitious agenda, but the article is pretty much a decent literature review on curiosity and creativity, and then it gives a call to action on the part of librarians. The article provides some good points, which I will highlight below, but overall, it remains at the theory level; this means there are no concrete examples or plans. I know this is not part of the plan, but I would have wanted more. This makes it a nice review on the ideas, and it gives a start to the dialogue on how to incorporate the concepts into information literacy teaching. It is mostly an overview.

After a brief look at some educational reports, particularly the Boyer Commission Report, Hensley provides a literature review on the ways that curiosity and creativity have been defined. He summarizes what the literature says about curiosity by concluding that, based on the literature, "curiosity is a response to an environment of exploration that is expressed through actions and attitudes that manifest themselves in wanting to know 'why'" (32). For educators, according to Hensley, then "we need to teach 'why' rather than 'how'" (32). The author then looks at the concept of creativity. A key idea to keep in mind is that curiosity and creativity cannot be taught, not in the traditional sense. This is because, according to the author, "they are not skills, but rather characteristics of the individual that can be fostered by providing a rich environment that asks why and embraces problems and weaknesses in the process" (33). The key in that statement is the idea of fostering the traits. I think we are all capable of being curious and creative. I will grant that some folks are more curious, creative, or both, but with a good teacher providing a nurturing environment, any student can rise to the ocassion. Some other ideas from the column include:
  • Hensley cites Parker J. Palmer, author of The Courage to Teach, who says that "good teaching cannot be reduced to technique; good teaching comes from the identity and integrity of the teacher" (qtd. in Hensley 33). I think a good teacher needs both: good technique and integrity. One should add to this dedication and the traits of curiosity and creativity. A teacher cannot foster creativity and curiosity if he is not curious and creative himself. A sense of wonder is also helpful.
  • "Successful teaching and learning encounters have one element in common: at the heart of these is a curious and creative individual, student, or library user, who can sustain an ongoing appreciation for what learning is and how information promotes and nurtures developing awareness, ability, self-confidence, and contribution. Correspondingly, teaching in any mode is successful only to the extent that it fosters a curiosity in what information can do for an individual's understanding of the worlds and triggers an individual's ability to creatively put information to use" (33).
  • What we need to is get the students to be curious, to feel that they can ask questions and that asking questions is valued and welcomed. They then need creativity to know how to create questions.
  • Librarians can provide opportunities for creativity and curiosity at the Reference Desk as well as in the classroom. Emphasis on an inquiry method can help in this area and active learning should be a primary method.
  • What an information literate individual should be able to ask: "'Why do I need to identify an information need effectively? What happens if I don't? What are the different ways I can identify the information need? What are my options for finding information? Why should I use one way instead of another? Why evaluate information? Do I always need to evaluate information? Why is credibility a criterion for evaluation? Are there times when it is a flawed criterion?" (35).

Friday, December 16, 2005

Brief Thoughts on Book Reviewer Confessions

I got this from the ReadySteadyBook site. It is a short essay by George Orwell entitled "Confessions of a Book Reviewer" written in 1946. I printed it out to read it at my leisure, but as readers may know, leisure is not something I get often. So, I finally got the moments to read through it. I do not review books professionally (at least not yet), but I do write short notes on the books I read now and then. For anyone who reads a lot and who writes now and then about books, this essay will be an appreciated text. Orwell argues that book reviewing is a thankless job. He writes that book reviewing "not only involves praising trash--though it involves that, as I will show in a moment--but constantly inventing reactions towards books about which one has no spontaneous feelings whatever" (emphasis in original). I think a lot of librarians who do collection development will appreciate these feelings anytime they read some of the reviews in the various publications (Choice, Library Journal, etc., take your pick).

Very often librarians order books on the basis of a review, and the book turns out to be trash. Heck, I have ordered things based on reviews, and in at least one case have ordered something that turned out to be tripe. This leads me to wonder about some of the reviews I read, especially the ones where the reviewer expresses reservations about the book, but he or she goes on to recommend it anyhow. Choice reviewers are notorious for this; they will go ahead and point the defects in a book, and then they still recommend it for all libraries, or make it a must-have book. If the book is bad, I want to know it so I don't buy it. But I know there is some rule that you cannot have too many negative reviews. I think I actually saw that in a set of guidelines for reviewers some time ago. I wish I could recall where to post it here. So, like Orwell points out, a lot of trash gets praised. One the one hand, I have given thought to inquiring about writing reviews for someone someplace. On the other hand, I want the freedom to say if something is crap or if something is great. I can do that here, even if there is no fame or pay. Orwell also writes that "until one has some kind of professional relationship with books one does not appreciate how bad the majority of them are." I don't know if it takes a professional relationship, but I do know a lot of bad stuff gets published. For librarians, especially those who do readers' advisory, it becomes a matter of trying to steer away the reader from the tripe. And no, I am not saying we impose our tastes on readers. I am a firm believer in the Reader's Bill of Rights, and I believe anyone should be able to read what they want without apologizing for their tastes. But if we can steer them clear of stuff that would be tripe for them, even if we love it or hate it, I think that falls under good public service. Well, at least, like Orwell, I am not a film critic, who is worse off than the book reviewer according to Orwell. After all, the film critic can't even work from home.

ALA and membership

My ALA membership is one of those things that I don't really think about, that is, until I get the renewal notice. This year I thought about it a bit more since I can no longer claim the student price, which means the rate went up. If I add to that the fact of their recent talk of further raising dues, then I really have to think about it. Add further that it seems the ALA dues, memberships, and possible speaker boycotts (because ALA apparently can't even have the decency not to charge someone they actually invite to speak) have been surfacing on the biblioblogosphere, and this poor fellow who flies under the radar really, really gets to thinking about what exactly the dues do for him.

Readers may know that I was a public school teacher in a previous incarnation. Part of that did involve paying the dues to whatever professional organization(s) were relevant. The school expected it for one, though they never helped pay for it. Back then, I was a member of NCTE and Indiana Teachers of Writing. Now, the national membership I mostly had for the publications. There was pretty much no way I could afford to go to one of their conferences (on site or online). As for the state organization, now that was definitely useful. The conferences were small, and more importantly, the content was practical stuff I could take to my classroom right away the next Monday. They did publish a journal, but that was a bit erratic on the delivery; something I wish they would improve on. I got to network with a wonderful group of teachers, and in time, I went to their site of the National Writing Project, one of the best professional development activities I have ever done. The fact I can now call myself an NWP Teacher Consultant is one of my badges of pride. Dues were fairly affordable too. Overall, well worth it.

When I went to college for my MA in English, I joined the Modern Language Association (MLA). Again, mostly because it was expected. Now there was a membership I really had no use for (at least NCTE had some practical things). The only thing good about MLA, besides the handbook, was those reports they did on the condition of employment in the humanities. And I say they were good in the sense they helped to convince me to go to library school and forget about a doctorate. As soon as I could, that was dropped. The only literary studies membership I keep these days is SFRA (Science Fiction Research Association), which can be a bit pricey, but they do have a nice journals package, and once in a while they have a conference in a place I can go to. I presented at their conference some years back. However, our library gets two of their journals, so I am rethinking that one even though I do have a strong interest. I may submit a paper at some point; however, they are one of the very few places where you can present without having to be a member.

Since I am no longer in Indiana, and I don't teach writing (well, not for pay anyways), NCTE and ITW got dropped. So, I added ALA when I got to library school. Since it was a student rate, I did pitch in a bit extra to get an extra division or two (or whatever the heck you call the subgroups). For instance, I added GODORT at the time (the GovDocs Roundtable), since I did flirt with becoming a GovDocs librarian, and I actually find the field interesting. However, other than the publications, and a nice small line on the vitae under affiliations, ALA really did not do much for me back then, and it sure as heck is not doing much now. I should make the distinction. The ALA student chapter was pretty good in terms of the various activities for library school students, but the national was pretty much, and still is, something distant. So, when I started seeing the posts from people dropping the membership, it got me wondering.

The prompt came from the Krafty Librarian, who hosted the 17th Carnival of the Infosciences. I read the carnival faithfully, even if it takes me a couple of days to get to it. The Krafty Librarian picked up a post from the DIY Librarian on professional associations. DIY had picked up on a posting by Jason the Zenformation Professional about not renewing the ALA membership. That was a lot of reading on what was a topic I did not even think about. That is one of the wonders of blogging, the jumping from one blog to the next trailing a train of thought. The DIY Librarian asks some interesting questions:

"Is it that with blogs and wikis and other social software we no longer need professional associations to build a professional network? Is it that ALA has gotten more out of touch with its members? Or is it just that with the blogging explosion, people have a forum to share their frustrations with ALA?"
I was intrigued by the first question. I have not been blogging long, and I am barely getting to explore other social software (after all, work and life trump blogging). Yet I get the impression that these tools do have the potential to help build great networks of professionals as well as provide a variety of opportunities for virtual learning and interactions. When it comes to my blogging helping me network, only time will tell if it actually works or not. As for the other tools, same thing. Yet the fact that many of these tools are free and very easy to access means that they are things I can explore at my pace and with minimal expense, other than the time I put into them. I have "met" some very intelligent and capable professionals through my writing, so definitely that is a plus that I hope expands over time. As more and more librarians get blogs or use other social tools, the networks should be able to grow further. Which leads me to the observation DIY LIbrarian makes about associations maybe not having as much meaning to Gen-X'ers. She is pondering that question, and I admit I ponder it as well. Will associations fade as DIY wonders? Well, a big one like ALA will not likely fade anytime soon. They have their defects, but their clout pretty much assures them presence for a long time. Whether an organization like ALA remains relevant to the profession, that is a different question. DIY mentions that membership may not be as significant for those of us who don't have to publish (i.e. staff rather than faculty folks). I don't have to publish, but I do write and know I will eventually work towards publishing something. That I do because I am a writer, not because anyone holds a tenure clock over my head. As for the service part, it would be nice. That I would like to work on not just to pad the resume and list for evaluation time, but because service is something that is part of my nature. To that end, I am giving thought to joining the state association here in Texas. The fact that next year's conference is in Houston means I can go with minimal expense. A couple of my colleagues have been to their conference, and they seem to get something from it. I am hoping they will provide some guidance next year. For me, odds are any involvement other than online would be in-state. Now that I have had a first year to settle in, some form of service is in my mind. At this moment, I am keeping an open mind. If the conference in Houston seems good, I will probably try to stay involved. The advantage of something in-state is I can always drive there (the Gypsy Librarian loves a good road trip), and chances are good MPOW might spring for the car. I will let readers know how this goes.

Back to the post and the readings, I mentioned that DIY picks up on the Zenformation Professional. One of the reasons Jason quickly decided not to renew was the politicizing of conferences. I will have to admit that some of that does turn me off. While I will say I lean to the progressive side of things (as if readers did not know that already), I do think ALA should focus on the core missions of libraries, librarians, literacy, information sciences, intellectual freedom, and education. In other words, they should stick to issues that affect the profession and those we serve. Other things that Jason points out include:
  • The technophobia espoused by some in ALA. In my case, hearing the ALA President on his latest antiblogger spiel or any other of his rants makes me feel ashamed to say the least that we share the same organization. I am by no means a technolibrarian, more like a techsavvy (or at least aware) one willing to learn. I don't take servers apart by 10:00am, and I don't code in my sleep. What I do have is a healthy respect for those who do because they make my job of educating others and serving my patrons possible. Those folks are the supply train to my vanguard. What I also have is the willingness to explore, take a chance, experiment. Are the powers that be at ALA so out of touch with such concepts?
  • Jason mentions the internal power struggles between the different types of librarians. I will let his words speak here: "Academic -vs.- public-vs.- special librarians? Who really gives a shit, really? Most of the time, the differences end up being minor and territorial, which misses the big picture. I'm not concerned with preserving some librarian caste-system. I'm interested in maintaining collections and making them available to users across the board." If we can't see ourselves, all of us, as in the same profession, then we really are up the creek.
  • His fourth point was an interesting one. It did not occur to me until I read Jason's post. He writes, "The ALA has no tangible power to control the quality of librarian and staff education, training, professional practices, etc. There are no enforceable standards for professional ethics to ensure that librarians are actually doing their jobs and abiding by the ALA Code of Ethics or the Library Bill of Rights." Interesting indeed. Medical doctors have the American Medical Association and their various specialization boards. Commit malpractice, and besides getting sued, you likely get censored or punished by the organization somehow. Lawyers have the American Bar Association. Again, they do something wrong, they can get disbarred.Heck, even school teachers can lose their teaching credential for malfeasance. What exactly ensures that we as professional librarians do our jobs and live by the Code of Ethics or the Library Bill of Rights other than our good conscience? No one is going to denounce me to ALA if don't. Not that anyone need worry. I happen to take such documents seriously. But it is an interesting question. I am not necessarily for licensing librarians, since I saw enough b.s. on licensing in getting my teaching credential. However, who knows, maybe we need to at least look into it.
This leads me back to where I started. What does ALA do for me and why should I pay for it? The answer, I am not sure, and I probably won't keep paying. I can read some of the journals here or get the articles through fulltext databases or ILL. The conferences are just a nice thought. Heck, as an Instruction Librarian I would love to do something like the Immersion Programs, but even that is pretty expensive, even the regional one, which is in Houston this year (registration alone is a bit over a grand, ouch). The online workshops like the ones from RUSA? Well, depends on what you may find available. Also to keep in mind, unlike DIY Librarian, my organization does not pay for my membership. I do. Point is that if I want to get my professional development, odds are it will be through my keeping up with the literature, through my writing, through some networking, and the ocassional chance to do something local. So unless ALA pulls a major rabbit out of their hat next year, odds are good I am dropping them. At this point, I am really just thinking about it. I do want to continue growing as a librarian and educator, but I don't necessarily see ALA as part of the equation. And so it goes, under the radar.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

A little time with Edward R. Murrow (on DVD)

The Collection Development and Acquisitions Librarian has a library technician whose job is to watch A/V media when it arrives to make sure the item works and there is nothing wrong with it. The young lady is out for a couple of days, so the librarian came over with some DVD's looking for volunteers to watch. I could use the break, so I took on one of the videos. It was The Best of 'See it Now', part of the Edward R. Murrow Collection, which we recently acquired. I have given thought to go watch the recent movie, Goodnight, and Good Luck, and I think watching this series has made me more curious. The interesting thing about watching something like this is to get a better appreciation of the things we take for granted. For instance, turn on CNN or your favorite news outfit, and you get stories from all parts of the United States and the world in no time. During Murrow's era, being able to have a cameramen on both coasts at the same time was a big deal.

One of the things I found fascinating about Murrow is the way that he seemed to be educating people. It was like the reporter was really interested in making sure that people understood not only the story, but how the story was coming to them. I don't think you get too see too much of that these days. Of course, he was always smoking, so there's something else you won't see Wolf Blitzer or any other anchor doing. It was clearly a different time.

This particular DVD includes segments in Korea during the conflict, a look at desegregation after the 1954 Supreme Court decision, and some time with various artists. For instance, Murrow followed Marian Anderson as she went on a tour of Asia. The 1950s were the time when the United States was sending musicians around the world as goodwill ambassadors. I found that interesting after recently reading about it someplace, can't quite remember where. He spent time with Carl Sandburg, who had this to say when asked how he would like to be remembered, whether as a poet, a historian, or other way. He said he wanted to be remembered as a man who had these four things in life:
  • To be out of jail
  • To eat regular
  • To get what he writes published
  • And to have a little love at home and outside
I think a lot of us would not mind being remembered that way (for me, at this moment, three out of four ain't bad). Overall, for students interested in history and the history of journalism, this is something worth looking at. But more than a glimpse at a reporter and his work, the video is a glimpse of the United States and how it saw the world in the 1950s. For me, it was a nice break to learn a thing or two. And I am telling my colleague I would be happy to watch other A/V now and then.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Article Note: On Information Literacy and Career Services

Citation for the article:

Hollister, Christopher. "Bringing Information Literacy to Career Services." Reference Services Review 33.1 (2005): 104-111.

I accessed the article via Emerald.

In the introduction to the article, Hollister points out that "to date, student services divisions are an unexplored area for librarian outreach and information literacy instruction" (105). In academia, we often think of outreach in terms of the academic departments and the faculty. I don't recall as much in the literature or from my experiences about outreach to other university areas. At my library school, we were a bit more fortunate. The Information Commons there had a librarian for multicultural diversity initiatives and outreach. I don't recall the exact title, but that was the gist of it; she worked quite a bit with the ethnic organizations on campus. Yet this role seems like an exception rather than a rule, or it seems like a luxury that only big universities with great funding can afford. In most places, much if not all of the outreach activities fall under instructional services, assuming the academic library in question has such a unit (yes, I have seen a place or two that seem to lack an instructional services component. This can mean that it falls to the larger umbrella of reference). At my current place of work, I do a significant amount of outreach work. Don't get me wrong. I would not have it any other way, and I am willing to bet that a lot of instruction librarians out there feel the same way.

When I was hired, one of my long term goals was, and still is, to work on developing and expanding our outreach efforts. I have done a little, but much more remains. If job security were based not only on accomplishments, but on having a large "to do" list, I would probably have enough on the list to enable me to work until retirement. Momentary humor aside, the article caught my eye because of the connection to career services. For one, I am a believer that we should offer some kind of career reference section. We need to put those resume books, college directories, job guides, etc., in a central place for good access and use. In this instance, I am probably very biased because the Information Commons where I used to work had such a section, and it was widely used. In fact, at times the Career Center there would send us students to use our collection. They also had a recreational reading section, but the fact we lack one where I am at is a separate peeve for some other post. It peeves me because I actually do a share of readers' advisory for students in reading classes. Such a section could make some of that work easier for me. At any rate, for two, I think some kind of outreach to the campus Career Services unit would be a good idea. We get a good amount of students looking for such information here, so making it accessible as well as collaborating with Career Services makes sense. Well, to me at least. At the moment, it is an item on the proverbial (and seemingly ever growing) "to do" list. I am hoping this article will spark some ideas for me as I read on.

The article looks at how the University of Buffalo's Libraries established a liaison to the campus's Career Services Office (CSO). The author points out that prior to 2003, the only library collaboration with the CSO was on some workshops and one-shot instructional sessions for a Career Planning course the CSO offers. Some ideas and observations from the article include:
  • One needs to remember that the CSO is not an academic department and that the counselors are not faculty. In addition, the counselors have specific client assignments based on academic departments. This makes counselors similar to subject specialists (105).
    • This is likely accurate for most campuses. What is necessary to note are the similarities between career counselors and faculty. I would argue that there are some similarities as well between the work of these counselors and to the work of reference librarians.
  • The first step for the author: "The author initiated contact with the counselors known to be teaching sections of UBE-202 [the Career Planning course], which resulted in library instruction classes for each of them. The author worked with each of the counselors to integrate the library instruction sessions into their courses through relevant class assignments. Additionally, course-related web pages were created, which were much appreciated by counselors and students alike. For each library instruction session, students were asked to complete anonymous end-of-class evaluations" (106).
    • What I find significant here is starting by contacting the people you teach for already as a start. Also note the element of assessment, which can be used to help determine how effective the instructional work is.
  • The author then described the meetings he had with the CSO. On initial contact, he learned that both organizations needed to learn about the other. In addition to meetings, they had exchange tours as a way for both sides to learn about the other. The author managed to become embedded, so to speak as he became a consultant for the CSO.
  • How information literacy is integrated into the course: "The author works with each counselor individually to incorporate instruction in a relevant and meaningful way. Students learn how to research and explore selected occupations and career paths, how to search through business directories, how to research industries or specific companies, how to conduct effective job searches, and how to evaluate employment resources on the Internet. Students are also reminded that today's college graduates will change careers an average of four to five times during their lifetimes, making a commitment to life-long learning essential" (107).
  • "Being more familiar with the resources that the UB Libraries have to offer, the author believed he could provide a unique and useful service by having reference hours in the career services library" (107).
    • This illustrates the need for librarians who do instruction and outreach to be committed to mobility. The author also notes how he reassured the counselors that he was not poaching on their professional territory. Actually, the counselors were more puzzled as to why a librarian would be willing to provide this service. Hollister's explanation is definitely a great answer: "The author explained that outreach and information literacy instruction are the preferred methods for today's academic libraries to integrate themselves further into educational institutions and the educational process" (107).
  • The author notes that he was provided with a laptop computer, with a wireless card, to access the library resources while working at the CSO, which meant he did not have to take over a computer terminal there. The only thing I can say about this is that it seems nice, and it would seem necessary to any outreach librarian, but could providing such a equipment be supported in other campuses?
  • Some benefits in terms of collection development: "The experience of assisting in the development [of] the career services library collection has provided many benefits. It helped the author learn the collection and its strengths and weaknesses, which bolstered his career services library reference skills. It helped the author to identify more appropriate withdrawn items from the UB Libraries to be donated to the career services library. Also, it helped the author to select more appropriate materials for the UB Libraries career planning collection" (108).
  • On Web development, the author discussed how his library suggested hosting a page for the CSO's library on the library's servers. On this, I can simply say it would not work at my workplace since my library does not have its own servers. However, creating small specific pages dealing with career resources and specific pathfinders placed online might do the job. In addition, lacking a library school, we could not just get a student to do design work on a Web site like the author suggests. Here, it would likely fall to the Web librarian with assistance from me in terms of content and some design.
  • An important idea from Hollister: ". . .having the right contacts and knowing the right people can often bear fruit for the library liaison" (109).
    • This cannot be emphasized enough. As the fairly new kid on the block, this is something I am still working on. I have been here for a year, and yet I still have so much to build in this area. I am working on developing and cultivating the contacts. What I am learning is that it takes time.
  • Hollister summarizes thus: "The literature demonstrates that integration into institutional curricula is the preferred and most effective approach to teaching information literacy skills. As the scope and importance of information literary instruction continues to grow, librarians must strive to improve the methods of integration, and to explore new avenues. This involves proactive librarian outreach" (110).
  • Hollister then wraps up by telling readers what was accomplished: "By reaching out to the university's student affairs division, the libraries have increased their visibility on campus among professional staff, administrators, and students. They have reached a population of students which might not normally view libraries as relevant to their needs outside of academic coursework. Additionally, the UB Libraries have assumed a greater role of educational leadership by reaching out beyond academic deparments, bolstering their status on campus" (110).
What I think I can work on is reaching out to our Career Services people and on developing our collections further. I need to learn more about what they offer, and in the process, show them what we can offer. In terms of collection development, it is a bit trickier. Career-related items are not within a specific subject area. As far as I know, the business librarians pick up some of it, and the education librarian picks up some more. Career resources is not a separate subject area, so it is one of those areas that we are all supposed to keep an eye on, which really usually means "add to it if we remember or see something good." By the way, this is what happens for LIS items, but I am not going there now. As for the career items, I think what happens is since the two mentioned librarians tend to pick up much of it, we just let it be. What I do now and then is pick up books on specific career paths within my subject areas. For instance, I get books on music careers. However, this seems minimal development for me. In the long run, we likely need to address collection development in this area better. In terms of the Web, we have a small but adequate Jobs and Careers page that lists Career Information/Statistics and Job Bank sites. If I recall correctly, the Web librarian maintains it; I say if I recall because on subject specific areas, the name of the subject specialist is on the page as contact. For this page, there is no name, which means it is usually him. It has a good basic selection. What I would consider adding might be some links to some of the electronic books on the topic we have in our collection. Overall, the article did spark some ideas for me. We'll see if I can run with some of those ideas.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Booknote: La Ciudad de las Bestias

Title: La Ciudad de las Bestias
Author: Isabel Allende
Publication Information: New York: Rayo, 2003
ISBN: 0060510323
Genre: Young Adult Fiction
Subgenres: Adventure/Fantasy
406 pages

Available in translation as The City of the Beasts.

I am a fan of Allende's work, but this definitely is not her best. After close to 200 hundred pages of reading, I just could not get interested enough to go on. I always read two or three books at the same time because I like reading different things for different moods. So, when I find myself putting off one book again and again while finishing others faster, it's a sign to let it go. This is what happened to Allende's book. I started, and my reaction was "hmm, this ok, but not great, but I will give it a chance." The reading pace is pretty light, so fast readers will likely get through it fast if they find it engaging. And that was the problem for me, the book did not engage me. The first chapter is the usual set-up scene where we meet the hero, and like many other young adult novels, the hero is usually a teen going through some crisis. In this case, his mother is sick, and his father does not pay him that much attention anymore. Add to it the pesky younger sibblings, and you get the idea of been there, done that. Alexander Cold, the protagonist, is shipped off to New York to his crazy grandmother. She is just an eccentric adventurer and writer who has travelled the world. Her character is a blend of practical wisdom and cynicism that at times is endearing and at times infuriating. The adventure is a trip to the Amazon sponsored by the International Geographic to find the mysterious beast (a sort of Yeti of the Amazon). The descriptions of the Amazon and the region are very good, but the pace is only so-so. He meets a young girl, and there is a conspiracy by one of the expedition's supporters. It's just that the book feels lukewarm, and the fact that I have read much better stuff with a similar topic. The premise sounded interesting, but the novel's pacing and characters, which seem pretty much like cut-outs just did not do it for me. The novel is part of a trilogy, and based on this book, I am not likely to pick up the other two. Having said that, Isabel Allende has a pretty good track record, so I am still likely to take a chance on something else.

For young adult readers, this may be a good book if they like adventure and a little magic. There is a shaman involved and the youths find their spiritual guides. The native spirituality may be interesting to some. I found it interesting, but not enough to keep me interested. For adults, I think only Allende hardcore fans may want to read it, but they may risk disappointment. And before anyone says I am against YA books, I have read a fair number of them that I have enjoyed including Bud, Not Buddy and Cuba 15. I mentioned I have read better works on this vein, so here is my recommendation: Greg Bear's Dinosaur Summer. The setting is a world where dinosaurs live and were parts of circuses, but by the time of the novel, these circuses are no longer a novelty and are closing down. The protagonist, a young boy, goes on an expedition to return the dinosaurs of the last dino circus back to the wild. The expedition is being documented by the National Geographic. It is much better writing, good pacing, and a good tale by a solid writer that can be enjoyed by young adults as well as adults.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The 3 Rules of Librarianotics, and other thoughts.

This falls under another of those things librarians should frame and put on their desks, offices, classrooms and other spaces so they can be reminded: Ayre's Three Rules of Librarianotics, which are inspired by Asimov's Rules of Robotics. Ayre's Rules then:

"Rule 1: Librarians must ensure that information continues to be available and readily accessible and usable to all people regardless of their intellect, technical abilities, economic standing, location, race, color, creed, etc.

Rule 2: Librarians must protect the privacy of the people who use their services.

Rule 3: Librarians must explore and take leadership positions in the development of new technologies in order to ensure that they are implemented in ways that do not conflict with the first two rules."

I would think one rule is enough, which is ensure access for all and do so in a way that respects privacy. Everything else should follow, but this a very nice phrasing. Found this through the Librarian in Black, who also points to some recent discussions about MySpace and privacy. While I personally I am not gung-ho about give everybody everything and the consequences be damned, which seems to be a passion for a lot of public librarians, I am also for personal responsibility and education, and I think a lot of this boils down to that. Teach people how to make good use of technology and let them at it, and they will be fine. To put it in context, readers may want to look over a recent post of mine on student bloggers, with some remarks, in this case, about Facebook, another social tool. Don't get me wrong, I think we should be using social tools when possible, but when I hear about how people can misrepresent themselves, and it turns out it was some predator going after a little girl, that is where I draw my line. And when it turns out the pervert did it at a library, it makes me feel worse. I will grant, these instances can be very rare, but one is too many. My bias? I have a child of my own, one that by the way her mother and me do our best to watch out for, supervise when she is on the net, and so on. In other words, we do all the things we should be doing a lot of other people don't do. So, when librarians simply say let them have everything without thinking, they just make my work harder. So I bring very mixed feelings to this. On the one hand, I could care less if people chat, use MySpace or do whatever they want on a public library computer as long as it is not illegal. I don't want librarians to be policing; it's not their job. But in the few instances when it can become a problem, such as a patron looking at porn where others can see it, I do expect the library to do something about it. You want porn? Go read it at home, not in front of children. Or, the library can have some stations to the side for adults. Do I have a solution? Not a perfect one; I don't think any of us do, but to simply wash our hands and say let them have the access without any responsibility seems to be a very easy way out, a very easy way to ease our consciences. On the other hand, to censor on the basis of what someone may do is to yield to fear, ignorance, and pandering to certain groups who would take away our freedoms on the guise of morals, and that is much worse a fate. I think what I would like is a balance, a common sense balance, but it is going to take librarians, teachers, parents and communities to make it work. Sometimes I have to wonder why simple balance has to be so complicated. I don't think it has to be; it's just a matter of some people deciding they want to do something good for a change. Maybe that is why I was able to boil the rules down to one: assure access and respect privacy. Because we often do forget that children have a right to privacy as well. In fact, they may have more of a right than adults do, a right to be children. And no, I am aware we are not in some idyllic setting. That children see more horrible things now than in our time. That is not the point. The point is it should take all of us, the village, to help raise the child, and that includes librarians. It also takes the parents. Parents who simply neglect to do their duty to be parents make it more difficult for the rest of us who actually do our best to raise a child.

Technology can be a wonderful thing, but it can be used for good or ill. The technology should not be condemned when ill happens. The ones who use it for ill purposes are the ones who should be punished, and harshly. In one of those posts at the discussion the Librarian in Black pointed out, someone said we should be infiltrating places like MySpace with our librarian skills. I think it was K. Schneider. A nice idea, imagine if we could use such spaces and the power of the good we can do in order to educate others about good uses of such tools right where they are at. We could even provide safe havens, so to speak.

In the meantime, I will do my best to follow the rules Ayre proposes. I will also try to listen to other conversations on this, see where they lead. I will also ask questions, raise concerns, and wonder. And I will keep learning from my daughter as well as from my students in academia. After all, some day, they will be the ones running things. Would it not be nice if we taught them well, and then we could sit back and enjoy life? Just a thought.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Article Note: On Various Ways to Promote Information Literacy

Citation for the article:

Galvin, Jeanne. "Alternative Strategies for Promoting Information Literacy." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 31.4 (July 2005): 352-357.

I read the article via OmniFile.

This is an article on ways to promote information literacy other than classroom teaching. Since I am always looking for new ideas, I picked up the article to see what it had to offer. The author wishes "to consider the opportunities offered by library pathfinders, individual instruction at the reference desk, instruction in the virtual reference environment, and library Web pages" (352). I have always embraced a philosophy that reference and instruction are closely linked, so what the author suggests helps me to reaffirm that. The author goes on to discuss the opportunities she outlined on her statement above. She provides extensive references to the literature, which at times make this article seem more like a literature review than an actual piece of original writing. That issue aside, the article does have some good ideas I will note and comment on. The strength of the article is that it brings together all of these seemingly disparate elements to promote information literacy.

On guides and pathfinders:
  • "Students benefit from course or assignment-specific pathfinders in that they are provided with a model for proper research techniques" (353).
    • This depends on how well structured the pathfinder is. Does it really qualify as a pahtfinder? In other words, does it clearly outline a research path with options along the way clearly explained that students can use at their own pace? Doing this right takes some work on the part of the librarian. I think it is an interesting exercise to do online searches for pathfinders and guides. How many are mere resource lists? Lists have their uses, but they are not pathfinders. How many actual pathfinders are listed? One can learn a lot from what others do and don't do.
  • "Although making pathfinders available on the Web has obvious advantages in that distribution and updating are easier, one study by Magi at the University of Vermont revealed that students in a business course found online guides somewhat confusing, but they expressed great satisfaction with using a print pathfinder" (353).
    • The confusion may be due to the way the guide was made. Again, structure is an issue. I did find this quote reassuring because librarians often worry over making print guides available due to issues of paper costs, space for displaying them, and updating them. I personally believe that print guides have a place in a library. It is a powerful thing to be able to give a student something in a class or when they come to the desk that can help them later in their assignment. I have often observed students come back to the library with their guide in hand. I know, this is strictly anecdotal, but I would like to think we are doing something right in having pathfinders and guide in print available. In the best setting, these resources should be available online as well as in print. With the advent of tools like wikis, updating and maintenance can be a collaborative effort, maybe even collaboration between the librarian and a faculty member for specific classes. For me, this is an area I need to explore, the use of wikis.
  • "A well-constructed pathfinder includes some information about the type of source (e.g., reference book, government documents, periodical database) that is recommended and why it should be helpful" (353).
    • Enough said, though it makes me think I can do some further work on some of my pathfinders. I mostly follow what the author suggests, but I tend to emphasize some items more. Maybe I need to work more on balance.
On Reference Interviews and the Desk:
  • "In an academic library, imparting skills for lifelong learning is part of the librarian's responsibility" (354).
    • This should be framed over every academic librarian's reference desk, instructional space, and office.
  • Galvin reminds her readers that it is important for librarians to appear approachable at the desk. This is just basic Reference 101, and it remains true.
  • "Roving provides valuable point-of-need instruction. Huwe even recommends roving in the stacks and study areas with wireless technology" (354).
    • The only thing I will say is wonderful idea, but it is wishful thinking for a lot of libraries. In my case at least, I don't see my powers that be giving me a tablet PC or a laptop to go roam the stacks seeking out reference opportunities (not with the funding issues, for one). Would I do it if given the chance and tools? Absolutely; I think we should be doing anything to make librarians visible and approachable to students. I often get up from the desk and roam a little around the computer area, and I often get one or two questions while roaming. It can work, and I am sure being mobile would add to that. At the moment, it seems a nice idea and a wish to hope for.
  • "It is the librarian's responsibility to be attentive to the reference encounter and the opportunities for teaching presented in it, to guide the student to appropriate and valid online resources, and to teach the student to evaluate information found online" (354).
    • Again, Reference 101. Yet, how often do we feel it is just so much easier to give them the answer? Believe me, I have fallen for that once or twice, and sometimes, it is the right thing to give them the answer. Having said that, giving them the answer does not mean forsaking our role as educators. Remember, part of your job is imparting skills for lifelong learning (see above).
On Virtual Reference:
  • From here, the main idea is that librarians involved in this need to be prepared with materials and handouts they can provide the users at the moment of need. The article cites studies showing that instruction does happen during virtual reference sessions.
On Library Web Sites:
  • This is mostly a section dealing with usability and access. It promotes the idea of a library having its own portal. Galvin cites Michael Adams, who "recommends that academic librarians create and maintain their own portals, using criteria having to do with scholarship, appropriate language, design, and timeliness. A well-constructed and carefully maintained portal would be a good vehicle for breaking down the border between the free Internet resources favored by students and authoritative, scholarly databases not available via Google" (355).
    • For those librarians like me who are not web design gurus, learning to collaborate with your Web designer or Webmaster is very important. In my case, I can design basic pages, but I am still learning tools. However, I prefer to create the content and let someone with more visual talents do the design with my input. At any rate, the idea that the library Web page should be a portal, and that it should be a guide to students is a significant concept.
On a final note, the article includes an excellent set of notes and references at the end that readers may wish to consult for further ideas.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

A little more on bridges and 2.0

I thought when I wrote my few musings on bridges and 2.0 thing that it would slip under the radar so to speak. After all, the experts are picking up on it, so it was all well. I had a couple of comments to that post, and I was starting to reply to them when I found myself typing a bit more than usual. As I said once before, that is usually a sign that I need to just make a post and let thing out, so here goes.

Mark Lindner, of . . .the thoughts are broken. . ., wrote from the point of view of a boomer in the middle. On labels, he commented that "when we label large groups of people and then treat them as a set of character traits we have shut down the conversation before it has already started."I try not to let the generational talk get to me, at least not too much. What I also wonder about is how this 2.0 is turning into a generational talk, if you will. While I am sure there are some of my "seniors" (and yes, as a boomer, you would be an example) who are very savvy, knowledgeable, and open to changes, there are some who are not. I am willing to bet in some cases it is not so much that they do not have those traits. It may be more that they need to be convinced or shown the relevance, a point which I thought Mark made very well. It's the why. It goes along with learning about the learning. It has to be more than "let's do it because it's cool, we are hip, and if not, our patrons will leave us for Borders (or Amazon or Google)." In his comment, Mark reminded me of one of the great challenges teachers of all types face: how to make it relevant to those we teach. It is something I work on to this day, and it will likely keep me busy for time to come. The relevance to a lot of the Millenials (if we go with that label, using the definition of them as born after 1982. This definition was used by Holliday and Li in an article for RSR 32.4. I am reading it at the moment, and I will post my notes on it later), is that they are already wired, so to speak. They grew up with the Web and the tech, so this goes along with what they do anyways. Yet, they can be both savvy and naive. Looking at the recent examples of Facebook and how some colleges have used it to spy on student misbehavior, and how some students would say they had no idea anyone other than their friends would see their drunken pictures makes a good illustration of the savvy and naive. This is where education comes in.

Walt Crawford, of Walt at Random, had been hoping he could wait and see for others to post on the issue (too late Walt, you may have to anyways). What concerned me about his comment was this:

"I've already encountered the fuzzy line between noting that a Wonderful New Idea may have drawbacks and being labeled an obstructionist for raising any doubts. (But then, if I read some of the blogging from the Gamer's thingie correctly, at least one of the speakers seems to be saying "People like that will die off anyway," which is certainly one answer, if a slightly mean-spirited one)."

He has a small post on the Gaming Symposium that puts the quote about someone dying in context. The context was about books and some people having a fetish over them. Folks are better off going over there and reading the actual quote and post. It is such remarks which make me wonder if things are getting confrontational, intentionally or otherwise. I happen to like books, a lot. I happen to like a lot of the 2.0 tools as well, some more than others. Does that person mean I am one of those that will eventually die off? I would have loved to be a fly on that wall when that statement was said, just to see how some librarians reacted, if they did. As for being labeled an obstructionist, not that it has happened yet, but I have been called worse. A librarian, an educator, anyone with an interest in information literacy and more broadly in how people learn and find the information they need then make use of it, should be someone who asks questions and raises doubts. I am trying to work on staying in the middle, not because I don't want to take a stand, but because that is my stand. As I wrote in my previous post, I was shaped by those seen as 1.0, and I work with many that would be targeted by the 2.0. It can be an interesting place to be, even if the labels fly, along with other objects. I want to know why. Why do we need such and such now? Why is such and such the best fit for my students, my faculty, my staff, and my colleagues? How do I get there if I lack buy in? Should I wait until they die out? I have questions, and I want more than "we are all doing this, it's cool, follow us." I know, that last one sounded mean, but go on, take a look at Walt's post, that was the apparent gist of that speaker. Walt suggested that it was a challenge to stay in the middle these days in his comment to my post. I think I am going to see if I can live up to that challenge, or at least try.

Some questions I have to discover by myself. Give me the tools, and I will figure them out and get back to you. Other questions I may need help, and I would like to hope that someone out there will be there if I have such a need, and be there because they honestly want me to learn, not because they are dragging me along to get to their level. I learned long ago that a good teacher opens the door, and you have to walk in. I just wonder if some think that others need to be kicked to go through the door. Well, I have probably given this more thought than necessary, so it's time to slip back under the radar. In the meantime, I am sure the conversations will go on. Thanks to Mark and Walt for stopping by, and thanks to the many others out there who give me food for thought.

P.S. I saw this from Michael Stephens's Tame the Web, Principles of Library 2.0. He pulls them together from various places. Some seem good; others need work, but that is just the dynamic nature of the topic. The comments on his post are worth a look as well.

Update note (12/08/2005) 5:30p: I have had this for a while, so I am going to put it here as addition to my notes on the 2.0 topic. This comes from the Resource Shelf. They put a post under their resource of the week with a variety of items on Web 2.0, which sort of brings together a lot of things in one place.

Update note (12/12/05) 9:48a: I just came across T. Scott's very thoughtful post. He uses the term Librarian 5.0, but what caught my attention is how he voiced many of the things I have been thinking about, especially about the library being a tool. He also writes, "By all means, use all of the available tools, just don't get hung up on thinking that the tools provide the magic. Librarians do." This is definitely well worth a read, and a great addition the conversation and the questions we should be asking.