Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Blog Day 2005: Some blogs you may want to look over

Happy ! Through Tame the Web, I found out about this event, and I decided to give five suggestions to readers. That blog led to the socialsoftwareblog which has a nice summary of the event. The idea behind this event is for bloggers around the world to recommend five new blogs. According to the BlogDay site, bloggers should preferably recommend blogs "different from their own culture, point of view and attitude." It seems like a good way to get out of the comfortable shell of the blogroll to find new places to visit. I could certainly recommend many blogs related to librarianship, and in fact, I will recommend some of those, but I will also go for some outside of librarianship. So, here go my five suggestions:

  • Tame the Web. Yes, I know, it's the place where I got the prompt. However, this blog always has a nice balance between informing about technology in libraries and writing in a thoughtful way about it.
  • Tales from the Liberry and Libraries for Dummies. Simple. Even librarians need to have some humor, and very often, the humor comes in the form of the patrons. Then again, some of the librarians and staff provide the humor as well. Both are great places to get a laugh and nod in agreement as you see things you often see at your own library. We can all use a good laugh now and then. These are two places I get mine.
  • The Phantom Professor writes about the life of the university adjunct. She can be humorous sometimes and moving other times, but overall it is always a well written and interesting blog. If you visit now, she is giving lessons on writing to anyone willing to learn.
  • The Education Wonks. I don't remember how I found this blog. I probably got to it from another link, liked it and added it to my Bloglines. All I know that this is the best place I have found for issues in public education. It always has a good variety of news and stories. Anyone interested in public education, not just teachers, should appreciate this blog. Teachers out there, it should be on your blogroll.

Monday, August 29, 2005

On reading academic articles

As part of my blogging experiences, I often write notes and summaries on academic articles that I read in librarianship or in my other areas of interest. Students at all levels, undergraduate as well as graduate, often have to read academic or peer reviewed articles for various reasons: research for a paper, class assignment, presentations, etc. For people who may be wondering how do you actually read one of these articles, there is a nice post at the Wanderings of a Student Librarian with some useful advice on how to read a journal article. In addition, I would add a few things:

Many academic articles have a certain structure. This lends itself to the scanning and looking over that the Student Librarian suggests. For example, many articles will include a literature review. What they are doing there is giving you a summary of key articles and materials in the field leading to the article you may be reading. A literature review will often give you a good picture of how a field has been researched, what is considered to be important so far, and places the research of the article in context.

Always look for the main idea of the article. What is the author arguing or trying to prove? For all the reputation academic articles have about being dry, they will often write something like "this article will establish that X. . . ." A reader then can simply look for how the author proves X.

If it is an article that presents empirical research, or other type of scientific research, it often has a section on the method they used. This is where the author explains how the research was done. If the author did a survey, this would explain who was surveyed, the size of the sample, and the formulas they used to get the results. Depending on the reason you are reading the article, you might be able to glance over the method section and pay closer attention to the discussion. This is, as the name implies, where the results are discussed. This is where readers learn why the numbers or figures are important and what they reveal. However, if you are in a research methods class studying how to do research like the research in the article, you may need to look at the methodology more closely.

As the Student Librarian argues, readers need to read the article actively. If it is for a class, you do need to read it before you go to class. However, as she states, it does not mean you have to know it all by heart. If it is for a class, make notes, jot down questions, and bring them to class. If you are reading for professional development, or to keep up, you also need to be reading actively. Making notes to yourself can also be a useful way to get better understanding. A good summary is often a good tool to understanding an article. It works for me. For some professionals, a reading group may be a good idea as a way to discuss and engage with some academic material. Often librarians, as well as other professionals, will get together and agree on reading certain articles to discuss as a group. For students, this is another reason for having study groups. Another trick for students may be re-reading. After class, once you get those questions answered about the reading, go back and look at the article again. You may discover things you did not see before or have a better understanding. Just some ideas. Hope they help.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

You know it's going to be an interesting Saturday when. . .

. . .you get students on a scavenger hunt assignment.

The first week of classes is almost over; we have Saturday classes. The librarians here take turns working the weekends, so this Saturday morning it's my watch. As I am settling down on the desk, a young girl came asking for books on team management. I ask her if she wants something on maybe corporate teams, teamwork, or managing a sports team. She says it is for a management class, but she leaves it fairly open. I search the catalog, find her a couple of good titles on building teams in the workplace and management, and off she goes. I don't think much more on it. A short while later, a small group of students come in asking for letterhead from the dean. Yes, you heard right. I do tell them that since this Saturday, most of the deans' offices are likely closed. They did not specify if they wanted a particular dean; they just needed a dean. One of the ladies in the group then asks, 'well, don't you have something the dean wrote to you." I smiled and told her that no, deans usually did not write letters to me, on letterhead or otherwise. One of her classmates then says, "oh, we just have to know where a dean is located, get something off the website." So, I look around, I find the page to one of the university colleges with the name of the dean and the location, print it out. They are happy, and off they go.

By now, I am getting suspicious. So, before they leave, I ask them if they are working on an assignment. Sure enough, they have a scavenger hunt. What they are really doing is one of those "team building" exercises that professors often like to have on a first day of class. I am sure readers know what I mean. It is some kind of activity to get members of a class to know each other better. In this case, since it is a management class, it is a team exercise. The item about a dean is "stationery from the Dean's office." In our case, it could have been any of the academic deans, but I get the impression the professor teaching this class did not quite realize most academic offices on campus are closed today. Then again, professors are often notorious for assigning things without checking availability. I did ask them to let me make a copy of the assignment, which they gladly allowed. Some of the items on this scavenger hunt include:

  • a book with the word "team" in the title. (If that other girl had actually read the directions on the sheet, it would have been easier for both of us).
  • a blade of grass from the university football field (we are an urban campus, and we do not have a football team, let alone a field. I wonder what they might substitute for this).
  • a cup of sand
  • a pine cone (of course, this and the sand, you could have a picture I suppose, be creative)
  • newspaper article about a team
  • a definition of group "cohesion" that you share with the class (you see, there is some work involved too).
By the way, the assignment was adapted from something published in the Journal of Management Education. The idea is to build a team experience and reflect on it. As a teacher, I can certainly appreciate the intentions, but there are better ways than watching your students running around like mice in a maze for items we do not even have. One the one hand, it could foster some creativity, but on the other hand, I can see some frustration and something that could have been better planned. At least, some of the items could have been made more relevant to the campus. I mean, asking for the ear of a prickly pear cactus (even in Texas) gets difficult in the middle of a city. Ironically, the note on the assignment sheet says "Note: Items may be substituted as appropriate for your locale." I would add, "Note: teachers should actually read this and maybe try to find some items on their own or adjust accordingly before passing this out to students." Then again, it makes for an interesting Saturday.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What does Generation Y Want?-- Article from portal: Libraries and the Academy

The article's citation is:

Gardner, Susan and Susanna Eng. "What Students Want: Generation Y and the Changing Function of the Academic Library." portal: Libraries and the Academy. 5.3 (2005): 405-420.

The article is available online through Project Muse for those readers who may have access that way.

This is a good article on what academic libraries need to be doing when it comes to serving students of Generation Y, a.k.a. as Millenials. The article defines Generation Y as the generation born in or after 1982. It is necessary to note that his definition is a contested label; a look at the entry for Generation Y at Wikipedia illustrates this. The entry is labeled as having its neutrality under dispute. For now, I am willing to go with the definition from the article. By the way, for readers who may wonder, I am Generation X, which is another entry under dispute at Wikipedia.

The article from portal is one of those basic articles that many library school students will be reading. It is a case study based on a survey of college students in 2002. The article does cite the book Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation quite a bit, and it often refers to the book's findings. Readers more interested in the topic might want to read the book, or at least look it over. The authors of the article do note that their survey was non-scientific, and that it was based on a small sample. I found that it still makes for good reading in our field, but I also found that it did not tell me much that is terribly new, well, in my experience at least. Much of what they describe of Generation Y I either knew or have read about it elsewhere. Seasoned professionals may want to just scan it. However, for an overview, it is still a good piece of writing.

The authors name four attributes of Generation Y in relation to library use:

1. They have great expectations.
2. They expect customization.
3. They are technology veterans.
4. They utilize new communication modes.

The authors then go on to provide a discussion of each attribute and how librarians may use this knowledge to better serve this population. There are some quotes from the article I found interesting, so I will take the rest of this post to address them.

"Due to the Internet's organization and ease of use, students doing research through this medium often encounter only customized pieces of the original whole. They often see only the 'piece' of the information that they need in isolation from its original context. In both Google and in electronic research databases, they retrieve sections of Web pages, reprints of articles, or chapters of books; seldom do they have to deal with the whole Web site, entire journal, or unabridged book" (410).

This may go along with the arguments that critics of Google make. I think to an extent this is true. Even though these students are very savvy technologically, their critical thinking skills still need a little nurturing. So, when it comes to websites, I often emphasize in instruction and reference for them to make sure that they look at a main site to know who exactly put up certain information, etc. Having said that, I also think their ability to multitask and see different things at once allows them to visualize the separate pieces as a puzzle they can put together. This likely goes along with the fact Generation Y is a generation of doers (being active is important). I am thinking learning styles here. On the one hand, they can likely handle the pieces well. On the other hand, they still need some gentle guidance in knowing what to do with the pieces, or rather, evaluating which are the best pieces for their specific needs. For me, that is just one way to look at it. I think for readers this can be food for thought.

"When it comes to technology, these students are so comfortable using it that they often feel superior to their teachers in this respect and are unimpressed by its use in a classroom setting" (411).

This is kind of a given. I will even go a step further and say some of them may know about certain things better than I do. I am very comfortable with that idea. After all, education should be a two way process. So, I can learn from them as they can learn from me. I think I bring an added value in experience and knowledge (what is that saying about old age and guile again? Not that I am old. I use e-mail, but I also use instant messengers, hehe). My added value can come in the form of something like this: "OK, so you found that cool website. Now, is that really the best one to use for that assignment?" What biases might that website have? Etc." Asking questions, providing answers, fostering dialogue, and helping them discover the answers; those are the things educators and librarians are good at, and these are elements students will appreciate. The other strength we have, or should have, no matter the generation, is willingness to learn new things. The way I see it, if a Generation Y person can teach me about something like Podcasting, more power to both of us: him/her for sharing and me for having the opportunity to learn. This is where the "older" librarians (whatever the heck that means, well aged like good wine?) have to "just do it." Take a risk, a leap, a chance. There are too many exciting things out there not to take chances. It does not mean we need to succumb to technolust or change just for the sake of it. It does mean being willing to learn, to give and take. Not all technology has to be adopted. Librarians can decide what is best for their patrons. I think the Generation Y folks with their taste for customization show us this already. We may not impress them by technological prowess, but just might with good service, knowledge, and positive ways.

On virtual reference, the authors of the article note that the Millenials "may prefer the simpler instant messenger (IM) services they have been using as long as they can remember" (415). This is in the context that IM may be preferable than services such as Questionpoint or other services academic librarians favor. At the moment, using IM to do some reference is something I am considering myself. I have been reading a little on how other libraries make use of such services. I have also read about librarians who make themselves available to students by making their usernames available. I am not sure I am ready for the step to give my students my IM ID's yet. In preparation, I have set up accounts just for this. Maybe it is a matter of a leap of faith, maybe I need to plan a bit more, like just be available at certain hours of the day. We'll see. I think it has good possibilities.

And on being mobile, the authors say, "by using wireless technology and bringing a laptop and research guides along, librarians can reach remote users and have a greater impact on research being done by students at their institution" (415). The only thing for me to say is that I would love to try that some time, maybe in our Food Court. Then again, writing it here, my director might read this and think that I don't have enough things to do (let me reassure you, I have plenty of stuff to do). Nonetheless, the idea of taking reference out of the library to students is both appealing and exciting. Maybe have a sort of "Librarian Hours at the Food Court" gig? For now, it is an idea to aim for in the future.

The article includes two tables of survey results and the survey instrument. For further reading, readers can look over the endnotes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Booknote: The Paulo Freire Reader

Title: The Paulo Freire Reader
Editors: Ana Maria Araújo Freire and Donaldo Macedo
Publishing information: New York: Continuum Books, 2001
ISBN: 0-8564-1275-0
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Educational Philosophy, Critical Pedagogy
291 pages

I have been rereading some of Paulo Freire's writings; this is something I have not done since my undergraduate days when I read some of his work for an adult education class. Paulo Freire's work deals with empowerment. More important to me, his work argues for the need of educators to be on an even ground with their students. By this I mean that teachers should be learning from their students as well as the students learning from the teacher. His Pedagogy of the Oppressed clearly explains how the educational establishment is used as an oppressive instrument by the oppressors to maintain their power at the expense of the oppressed. His method, if one can use such a simplistic term as "method," includes raising consciousness of the oppressed so they may move out of their oppression and reach their true potential. He used techniques of familiarity, concepts and terms from the everyday life of the poor in Brazil to educate them. In the process, he went on to educate and inspire the rest of the world.

Reading Freire makes a good educator take a look at his/her practice in order to reflect. Many good educators likely nod in agreement when they read the words of Freire; they know much of this already. I know I found myself nodding, inspired, and in agreement, and I am certainly not a great teacher if you define "great teacher" by the usual measures: prominence, awards, popularity, books written, etc. I am just a librarian and educator with the simple idea that education should be available to all, and that my job, my gift, is to facilitate that process of education through dialogue, some guidance, and mutual respect. It has to be noted that Freire's method is a political method; it was meant to politicize the peasants so they could read not only the words but the world around them. Education, true education, is political in this regard. And when I say true education, I don't mean the political stuff in schools today that tries to pass for education and sounds more like indoctrination. Overall, Freire's work is dangerous stuff; it is subversive, then again, a teacher is to be a subversive if he/she is doing the work well in order to truly educate.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed was written back in 1968. Reading parts of it today reveals that the book is very relevant today. I dare readers to read the second chapter on the banking concept of education. I will say many readers will recognize public schools in the United States today in the banking model. I know I saw a lot of what I avoid in the classroom. For readers, this is where the book I am making a note for comes in.

The Paulo Freire Reader provides an excellent selection of Freire's writings from his books and other works. The book is a great way to learn about Freire's work across time. Most people probably know about Pedagogy of the Oppressed, even if it is only they know of the book but never read it. The Reader includes the first two chapters of Pedagogy of the Oppressed. The Reader will expose readers to his other works as well, giving them a sense of how Freire's thinking evolved and developed. The editors also provide an excellent introduction that presents the educator's life, his work, and the impact of his work on education around the world. For any reader wanting to know more who may feel reading a whole book may be too much, this reader is recommended. For educators, this is a good item to discover, or rediscover Freire. For librarians, this book may be another reminder of why we do what we do.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Start of Fall 05 Semester

Well folks, today is the first day of classes for Fall here on campus. I have already had a busy morning scheduling various classes for bibliographic instruction, and it looks like I will have a busyu week teaching next week. While I may be running a bit ragged at times from one session to the other, this is the type of stuff an Instruction Librarian lives for. Most of my day today will likely be spent on some preparation for classes. I have a small shift at the Reference Desk in the afternoon (lunch hour, so I guess I am having a late lunch today). With the start of the semester, I am not sure how up-to-date I can keep my blogs, but I will be shooting for at least two or three posts a week here, maybe one or two on the other personal blog. (Takes a pause).

Well, back to this little note. I just had an adjunct schedule her two classes. We take requests on e-mail, over the phone, through an online request form on our webpage, and in person (I joke around at times we pretty much take everything, including smoke signals, but I have not had any of those yet haha). So, teachers showing up at my desk is a pretty normal event for me. At any rate, I will have to see how the semester falls in place, and then how I manage to keep up with my writing. I do have a lot of ideas and some drafts, so it is a matter of, well, writing and polishing. So far, it is a nice morning, things are moving along, and I am glad to have the students back.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Small lesson in humility and charity? Anyways, just another reason why we do what we do

The Feel Good Librarian, that wonderful source for inspiration, teaches me yet again about the need for a little patience, a little calm, and knowing how to simply serve. Just go take a look at her take on how a librarian is born.

Ideas on getting organized

"Have you found that quite a few people who work in libraries, especially librarians, are extremely disorganized?" With this question, Sian Brannon opens the article "Being Organized--Oh, the Irony" in the recent issue of Library Worklife (Vol. 2 No.8 August 2005), the publication of the ALA-APA. Since it requires a subscription, I am not linking, but chances are your library may already get it if you are a library worker. The article goes on to give some simple tips on getting organized that even those people who are so messy they think that organization means mission impossible can actually feel they can do it. It is not easy. The author does point out that you have to use your trashcan or shredder at some point. Other simple tips include having a "brain," meaning a notepad where you write down everything you need like to-do lists. As I understand it, it is kind of a tool to keep you centered, kind of like the clipboard I keep handy to scribble quick notes, to outline pieces of writing, to put reminders, and other things in progress. Another simple tip is getting your own office supplies like folders. The idea here is that if you get something you actually like instead of the drab stuff the office usually gives you, that you will actually use it. It is a short little piece with some nice ideas. Readers can at least take a look, and if anyone out there needs to dig himself/herself out of a desk and mountain of papers, this would be a good time.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Destruction of libraries and archives as a war crime: article from Libraries and Culture

The citation for the article is as follows:

Zgonjanin, Sanja. "The Prosecution of War Crimes for the Destruction of Libraries and Archives during Times of Armed Conflict." Libraries and Culture 40.2 (2005): 128-144.

The article is available electronically through Project Muse for those of the readers who may have access that way.

This article caught my eye because it deals with libraries. However, as I began to read, it got more interesting. It begins by definining the purpose of destrying cultural property as "to erase ethnic, religious, and cultural memories and therefore undermine or eliminate groups' identities and existence" (128). The article then goes on to describe what few laws exist internationally to protect libraries and archives, which it turns out are few and usually included under broader conventions like the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Because of this, war crime indictments for the destruction of a library are not usually a separate count, and thus harder to prosecute.

The second part of the article provides three examples of library and archive destruction and how they were prosecuted. The first event discussed is the loss of The Oriental Library in Shanghai. This crime was prosecuted by the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, a tribunal established by the Potsdam Declaration of 1945 to prosecute Japanese war crimes. However, the destruction of the library was not defined as a specific indictment along with other charges of cultural property destruction. As a result, reparation costs were never specified, and the library was never restored. Among the library's loses, "the library subscribed to more than 700 periodicals and had more than 600,000 volumes in various languages and a significant number of rare book collections. Many invaluable first editions from the Sung Dynasty as well as one of the most important collections in China--the Yen Feng Lau classics collection--were lost" (131). The second event discussed is the destruction of the Naples State Archives by German soldiers on September 30, 1943. In this case, a complete list of lost material was saved, and the library was able to reconstruct its holdings, but this was a long and painstaking process. As for the prosecution of the crime, "as in the IMTFE [International Military Tribunal for the Far East] charter, the destruction of cultural property fell under war crimes as a violation of the laws or customs of war" (134). It fell to the International Military Tribunal to prosecute the crimes of the Axis after World War II. The third event discussed in the article is the destruction of the National and University Library of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Sarajevo during a bombing on August 25-26, 1992. Of note, "it is ironic that the National and University Library of Sarajevo, identified as an enemy target allegedly by Bosnian Serb forces, contained the history and cultural heritage of all the peoples who lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina: Muslims, Serbs, Croats, Jews, and others. Destroying one's one cultural heritage because it is part of the cultural pluralism that existed on that territory for centuries seemed to be cultural suicide and at the same time exposed the intricate nature of culture" (136-137). This one fell to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, which was established by the UN on May 25, 1993. Unfortunately, the tribunal lacked the ability to compensate victims for destroyed cultural property in spite of provisions to deal with stolen and taken property. However, the prosecution established a prima facie case to add provisions to the charter so crimes against cultural properties could be prosecuted. "The specific inclusion of the cultural property destruction in the counts of an indictment was a step in the right direction for international criminal law," according to the article (138). However, plea bargaining meant the charge regarding the library was practically disregarded, and in spite of donations of books and materials to rebuild, a dispute over who owns the building means the library remains in ruins.

The third part of the article discusses the situation with the National Library and Archives in Baghdad in April 2004. While the damage seems to be done by looters, the article criticizes the neglect of the United States forces in protecting such valuable cultural sites while they did protect areas like the Ministry of Oil, the Palestine Hotel, the airport and other strategic places.

Overall, the article illustrates how the justice systems have failed to prosecute and punish those responsible for the destruction of cultural properties like libraries and archives, often through lack of insight or neglect. Sadly, this pattern is likely to continue unless better methods of effective and speedy prosecution and put into place.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Summer ends, time to assess the summer reading lists

Back in May, as the summer season was coming to a start I did some writing on summer reading lists. As the summer season comes to an end, and a new school year is about to start, it seems a good time to revisit that and look at some stories to see how things are progressing. Unfortunately, it seems progress has not been that good. Initially I was going to post this to my other blog, but given that I did the writing here in May, it seemed a good idea to use this as a small follow-up, plus reading issues are always relevant to librarians.

First, there is Florida, which seems to be doing its best to limit reading, or simply make it something less than desirable. Allow me to illustrate.

On July 29, 2005, the St. Petersburg Times (FL) reported that there is a statewide effort to intensify reading at the expense of elective classes. As if neglecting their poor students was not bad enough (see below), now they take the fun out of reading. Basically, the tactic used is to add more time for reading classwork at the expense of elective classes like music, vocational education, and Junior ROTC. Here is one example:

"At Pinellas County's Boca Ciega High School, two foreign language teachers and one physical education position were eliminated to make room for a new reading program that targets 800 students. That's almost nine times as many students as last year.

'We're going to overwhelm our students with reading strategies,' Principal John Leanes said of his school's take-no-prisoners approach to literacy."

I don't think we need to argue much about the need to teach foreign languages in our schools, so taking that out, even with the good intention to foster more reading, is simply not the answer. As for physical education, I think the fact that the United States faces a crisis in health in terms of obesity in children speaks for itself as to why eliminating such positions is not a good idea. So, going to war for literacy, while it sounds very noble, and we do want to encourage literacy, is not a good idea if it becomes an unbalanced approach that neglects the making of students as well rounded individuals.

Then, going back to Florida, The Sun-Sentinel for August 1, 2005, reports that many schools only give reading lists to their brightest students. According to the report, "fearing their low-performing students will not buy books or get parental support needed to enforce nightly reading time, most Palm Beach County schools have been mandating summer reading lists only for their best students: those in honors, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes." This sounds like excuses for tracking, something that should have gone the way of the dinosaur. They claim that parents will be unsupportive and that funds may be lacking. Let's grant that some parents can be unsupportive (not all parents are, shall we say ideal?). And yes, funding can be tight in schools. However, using this as a way to have lower expectations from part of the student population is a cause for concern. These students need reading as much if not more than the bright ones. There is a simple principle in education: expect the best from all your students. You should teach to reach all of them, and if you expect the best, they will often rise to meet the expectations. In this case, by failing to have high expectations for all students, and disguising it as "well, their folks probably don't read anyways or won't buy them books," they are neglecting a segment of their student population, and doing so in a condescending way.

Meanwhile, in Maryland and Virginia, reading scores seem to be stagnant for adolescents, according to The Washington Post for August 1, 2005. Their solution is to shift more efforts in reading to their middle school students.

"New data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, billed as the nation's report card, show that the typical 13-year-old could read no better in the 2003-04 school year than the student's counterpart five years earlier. Nine-year-olds, however, showed significant gains."

This is an effort to fill a gap since reading education has been mostly focused in early childhood or in high school (due to graduation standards and testing). The article goes on to describe some efforts to address this issue of middle schoolers' reading needs. For example,

"Such efforts are intensifying across the state. In February, Virginia sponsored a reading leadership institute for principals, teachers and other educators at middle schools in nine school systems.

In the District, Superintendent Clifford B. Janey is pushing for year-round testing to pinpoint struggling students. His efforts seem to focus on the entire school system, not just middle grades."

I think it is important to point out that it is necessary to focus on the entire school system when it comes to reading, not just on some grades or some students. Principal Mark King in Prince George County states, "When the children see that you expect more, they'll try to reach those levels." Maybe someone needs to send his words to those educators in Florida neglecting some of their students.

On a final note, many students are coming back from the summer. Many of them had some form of reading homework or list. I am sure many teachers may want to assign book reports to assess the reading. However, how about some alternatives to the book report instead. For high school level, here is an article which may be of interest. I am not linking since it is behind an archive, but here is the citation:

Mitchell, Diana. "Fifty Alternatives to the Book Report (Teaching Ideas)." English Journal 87.1 (January 1998): 92-95.

The article features a series of alternative writing ideas to respond to reading from creating a childhood for a character to an invitation to a talk show. There are even suggestions for poetry and even music selections, so the article seems to provide something to address the needs of different learners. A good set of teaching ideas.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Article from Collection Building on Collection Evaluation

This article is meant to be a guide for librarians, but I would also recommend it for library school classes on collection development and evaluation. I bet that some of those classes have it on their reading lists already or may be adding it soon. I will provide a summary of some ideas and add some observations here and there. Please see the end of the post for the specific citation.

The article addresses the following question:

"How do librarians ensure, however, that they are building useful collections that will provide a good return on their financial investments? By evaluating their current collections, librarians may better manage future collection development" (92).
First, the article, written by Jim Agee, argues for the importance of collection evaluation. It states that a subject librarian who is ignorant of his/her collections is undermining future collection development. Thus, the author argues, "finding time to review the collection is difficult but often necessary" (93). In my short experience as a professional librarian, I can testify that finding the time to evaluate your collection can be challenging given other duties librarians have. I rush to note that I have not been resting on the proverbial laurels; when it comes to collection management, I have been active adding to the collection and deselecting. Also, I have engaged with some of the faculty to learn about their needs and the needs of their students. I have done this along with my other public services duties. Now, if it feels like I am justifying myself a bit, well, maybe I am. I want to show that evaluation can be done, even if it is done in a gradual way, in stages. Overall, I think it requires a good balancing act and some commitment. To new librarians out there I say to figure out early how to manage your time and do a little at a time. I quickly learned that for some things, you can always live to fight another day. Librarianship in some way is like guerrilla warfare. (hmm, I wonder if the nickname "Guerrilla Librarian" is taken? Maybe my next blog? It does sound cool in Spanish too: "Bibliotecario Guerrillero." I may have to make a claim.)

Back to the article, the author observes that evaluation is necessary given the increase in access and use of electronic resources. Being aware of current holdings means being that you are better informed when making decisions about new electronic resources. Librarians need to keep in mind that because electronic information is expensive that this translates into less funding for print resources.

The article then discusses approaches to conducting a collection evaluation. The first approach is a user-centered evaluation. When doing this, the librarian is looking at library user data. Methods vary from using bibliographies from student research papers to surveys and questionnaires. In my little realm, I have been interested and curious in doing some kind of citation analysis from student research papers to see how our collections are doing. My personal interest comes more from an instruction point of view: I want to see what resources students that come in for library instruction are using. I think this would help me in assessing the instructional program. However, this information can also help me evaluate the collection. This is a good example of doing more than one thing at a time (the business people likely use the buzzword "multi-tasking"). At the moment, a formal version of this idea "sits" on my cue of long term things to do. It is something I want to work on down the road.

The second approach presented in the article is a physical assessment of the collection. This is a collection-centered approach, and it is a contrast to the first approach. This approach is labor intensive because the librarian has to go into the collection, look at the materials, and determine if an item should remain in the collection or not. A secondary result of this approach is the option to do deselection as needed a.k.a. as weeding.

The third approach is assessment of specific subject support. This is what most academic librarians, myself included do. However, other librarians do it as well. A wide variety of methods can be used here from citation analysis for journal holdings to looking at ILL requests. While the article tries to make this a separate category, as I understand it, the previous two approaches can come into this third option as well. Mr. Agee writes, "by recognizing the variety of evaluative approaches and adapting them to local needs and standards, librarians have powerful and effective techniques to produce specific and very meaningful assessment results" (94). Again, here is the idea that librarians have to be people ready to adapt. One small example from my experience: as Arts and Humanities Librarian at my library, Music is one of my areas. My university offers classes in Music Appreciation and History; it is a small program within Humanities. However, within that, the offerings in Jazz are very strong. As a result, Jazz is one of the areas I pay close attention to in making my selections and managing the collections in Music.

The article is written in simple and plain language. It is not a technical article, and I get the feeling that many library veterans know this stuff by heart. However, for younger librarians and for library students, this is a short informative piece with practical information. The article includes a good list of references as well for further reading.


Agee, Jim. "Collection Evaluation: a Foundation for Collection Development." Collection Building 24.3 (2005): 92-95.

It is avaible electronically through Emerald for libraries that may have access to that service.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Booknote: The Complete Peanuts: 1955-1956

Title: The Complete Peanuts: 1955-1956
Author: Charles Schultz
Publication Information: Seattle, WA: Fantagraphic Books, 2004
ISBN: 1-56097-647-0
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Humor, comic strips
Pages: 321, including the introduction and index.

I just finished reading the third volume of this great series being put together by Fantagraphic Books. This is probably one of the best comic strip collections coming out these days, and I cannot recommend it enough. I have read the first two volumes with great joy, and this one just continues the fun. Actually I thought I had written a note on the other two, but I guess I sort of lost track; however, I recommend the other two as well. This third volume includes an introduction by Matt Groening. This particular volume includes Linus's first words and Charlie Brown's first baseball humiliation among other little events in the lives of the Peanuts gang. The great thing about these books is reading the many strips that have not been republished since they came out for the first time in newspapers. The pace is excellent; readers can easily get lost in the book and finish it fast, or they can read it bit by bit. By the way, the volumes include a handy topic index so readers can find strips dealing with ghost costumes or with Lucy being a "fuss-budget." Public libraries should definitely add this to their collections; I think some academic libraries should as well, especially those with interests in popular culture. I know we are adding them to our collection. I am looking forward to volume four and the rest of the series.

Another post about annoying things: business buzzwords

Fans of the comic strip Dilbert are likely familiar with all the times the strip deals with business language. I was reminded of the comic strip when I came across this post in Adfreak linking to an article in Fortune about "Business Buzzwords That Make You Gag." I have actually heard a few of these at one time or another. The scary part for me is that some of them are often used in education; I knew administrators very fond of "dialoguing" with you to seek out "new paradigms" for that "vision" of the school. It is kind of creepy. Anyways, go over, read and cringe. Some of the comments people have left on both places add words. Maybe you can add your own words. And maybe I can write a book with the one I have heard.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Some hints on how to think outside the search box

SearchEngine Watch, one of the various resources I use to keep up in my line of work, recently featured an article on "Thinking Outside the Search Box" with good ideas on how to do searching outside the usual use of a search engine. The author uses a search she did for a client to illustrate the process, and she does so step by step. She integrates tools like Technorati, a fee based database, and Wikipedia. I found it fascinating as it looked like putting together a puzzle, but it was her thinking process as she did it that I found most interesting. This is definitely worth reading. I think people can learn a trick or two. I know I did.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Some rules, tips, and advice for the first college year

The Phantom Professor has posted an excellent list of hints, advice, do's and don't's for students coming to college for the first time. Much of it is the type of thing many older students may wish they had known when they went to college. Readers have been adding to the comments, and some of their hints and tips are very good as well. It makes for good reading. A lot of it is common sense and common courtesy, which are important things to exercise in college as well as in life. Among the basics:

  • Show up on time: This really cannot be emphasized enough. If you cannot show up to class on time, do you expect your workplace of the future to put up with it? If you are going to be late, at least try to let the professor know. A short quick e-mail is nice. I know when I was an adjunct, I kept office hours before class. A short call letting me know they would be late was appreciated rather than guessing.
  • "Do NOT tell profs on the first day of classes that you have to leave early for fall break or that you have to miss the midterm because you're in a wedding, you have non-refundable tickets to Hawaii or your parents expect you to spend the full week with them in Nantucket. Profs don't care. And those are not excused absences. They're just annoying reminders that students get better vacations than the people who teach them." This is a quote from her blog, and again, as one who was there, I cannot agree more. There is no quicker way to alienate your professor or have him/her think less of you than to try to pull this stunt. In my classes, if they did it, they had my "blessing" to go (I could have cared less), but they knew that it was unexcused, and work due usually had to be turned in early. Quizzes were zeroes. The diligent ones usually were ok; the others, well, let's just say the end of the semester was not nice to them.
  • Get some sleep. This is another little detail that will get you everytime. If you are going to keep up, get some sleep. You may think you can pull those all-nighters regularly, but sooner or later they catch up. Not to mention, looking like you crawled out of the bed, or worse, just walked from the bar that closes late to your early morning class really leaves a bad impression.
  • And, I am throwing one of mine in: have fun, but please, be moderate and safe about it. College is a great experience. Take full advantage of it, but again, moderation and safety. There are enough young people dying of alcohol poisoning from binges for example. Don't be one of them.

Monday, August 08, 2005

On blogging apathy, or what to do when you just don't feel like blogging

Through the Blog Herald, a link to an article by Darren Rowse at Problogger. This article takes Mr. Rowse's earlier series and puts it all in one distilled page. It has some excellent suggestions for ideas and tips to get the creative juices flowing and keep bloggers motivated. Some are things I already do, but there are plenty others I can learn and try to implement. Some useful suggestions include:

  • Starting a series where you can pick a larger topic and break it down to explore it over a week. For an example of this, take a look at the series on MLS success over at the Wanderings of a Student Librarian. This definitely looks like something I could experiment with sometime. I just have to avoid the excuse of "when will I have the time to put X or Y together."
  • Revisit old posts. The author writes that a blogger can often update posts, revisit them, repost them with additional commentary, and come back to old stream thoughts, maybe with a new idea? I know this was always one of my reasons to keep a personal journal and now a blog, so I could back and look at things. At times, I may feel like "eww, I can't believe I wrote that," but other times I can say, "wow, that is great stuff, but now we need to look at such and such."
  • Write posts ahead of time and keep an idea journal. Both of these are great ideas. One thing that works for me using Blogger is to save ideas as drafts. Having them on the cue reminds me that I need to finish them to post, plus, it allows me to make little notes to expand later. It's kind of like stocking up. As for the idea journal, that's what the personal journal is for.
  • Develop a posting schedule. Now, here I have to admit that I have not put much thought. I just post as things catch my interest. I think my humble goal is one a day during the week. Weekends I see as a bonus. Now, I have days I put more than one item, and days I don't post, but I usually manage to do some posts (3 to 5) a week. I know, not big in the scheme of things, but a start. I may have to think over this suggestion some more.
  • Read other's blogs. I think this goes without saying. One can learn a lot from seeing how other people do it. I would add to this read, read, read. Read books, magazines, online sources, etc. Anything to get the ideas rolling and to learn something new.
Mr. Rowse has more ideas, but I think these are some good examples. So, go over, read and make some notes, then get back to that blog. And yes, taking a break is ok as well. All writers should be able to step back and just enjoy the scenery.

Starting to read Don Quijote

The two copies we ordered of Cervantes's novel Don Quijote have arrived. I have checked out one for myself, and thus, I am ready to rediscover this great classic of Spanish fiction. We got the nice editions put out by the IV Centenario of Castilla-La Mancha and the Real Academia and published by Alfaguara (ISBN 84-204-6728-6). Since the edition has some introductory materials by various writers including Mario Vargas Llosa, I will take a look at those sections too. Actually, it appears to be a very nice edition, which I suspected from the reviews, so I will likely acquire a copy for my personal library down the road. It looks good, text itself is not too small, and it is a small book (even if thick), so easy to carry with me. I have made two previous posts about the novel and the fact that this year celebrates the Fourth Centennial of the novel. I will try to post now and then about my progress in this journey.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Things that annoy web surfers, or "hey, if you make a website, please don't do this!"

Through the Librarian in Black, a link to a list of the 16 things that really annoy most web users. In my case, most of them are about right. Pop-ups not as much a deal thanks to Firefox. The requirement to register to view anything is probably my biggest peeve, and unfortunately, it is something more and more online newspapers are doing. I often see if I can pick up a particular newspaper on a database like Lexis-Nexis or skip it since I don't like having to be giving out my information all over the place. I have not seen a lot of people with sites requiring an extra software install, but enough of them to find it annoying. Usually though, with Firefox, it handles that a bit better. As for those people who have to put some music to their site to be cute, in the words of Bob Newhart, in his doctor character, to a patient who had certain neuroses, "Stop it! Just stop it!"

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Blogging and copyright

Steven Cohen of Library Stuff points to an article about copyright and blogging from the E-Commerce News. It makes for interesting reading, but it also provides some questions that bloggers should be using and considering as they put bits and pieces of outside items on their posts. I know I try to remain within the fair use rules and give credit where credit is due. For me, it's kind of like practicing what I preach when it comes to teaching students about such issues. Useful information to keep in mind.

About blogging, writing, and seeing blog people

Through Steven Cohen's Library Stuff, I came across an article written by T. Scott Plutchak entitled "I see blog people." Mr. Plutchak is editor for the Journal of the Medical Library Association. The issue is 93.3 (July 2005): 305-307.

Mr. Plutchak opens the article telling about an author he read some time ago. He does not recall the name, but what is important is what the author argued. That writer argued that a writer needed to love language in order to be successful. The challenge for a writer was to narrow the gap between the image or idea of the mind and what is revealed in the text. It is, and as a humble writer I can attest to this, a complicated process.

Mr. Plutchak goes on to tell about his experience in making his own blog. He says, "what I liked best about doing my own blog was that it forced me to put down a complete thought or scene in a relatively short space. I found that I could manage about 700 to 800 words in a single sitting of a couple of hours, with lots of revision. Sometimes I wrote a few sentences that I thought were pretty good" (Emphasis in the original). He then writes about his observations from blogging and seeing others blogging. I have to say this: I often feel like I do a few good sentences rather than the large posts of 700 to 800 words, at least when I blog (you should see my personal journal is another story, that one I am free to go wild and write away). However, I do try to be thoughtful when writing for my blogs. In my experience, limited as it is, it is not always an easy balance between short quick items I just want to record and the longer reflective items that I often draft separately then post to the blog. This is where I make a little confession: I do a lot of my writing and drafting by hand. Yes, I actually use a pencil or pen (pencil preferred) and paper (*waits for readers to shudder or say "ooh ahh" HaHa!). Going back to the article, Mr. Plutchak's observations are made in a neutral tone and are insightful. Given the good share of prescriptivism about blogging out there, this type of article is nice.

Mr. Plutchak also provides a discussion about library and librarian blogs with the eye of an observer interested in learning and sharing that learning with readers. I think this is very cool, and something I aspire to: to learn and share it with others. Mr. Plutchak in addition reflects on Mr. Gorman's less than stellar remarks in a simple and plain way. Yet Mr. Plutchak is objective enough to point out to that the blogosphere is not perfect either. He writes:

"The people who may add a comment to a particular posting have, no doubt, a tendency to shoot from the hip, and the quickness to get something online results all too often in bloated prose and flabby thinking. Too few bloggers take the time to think about that tenuous connection between thought and writing--they are too much in love with their ideas and not enough with the language. But, with a little patience, one can find much that is rewarding reading."

I will admit that I can be guilty of shooting from the hip when I leave my little responses in other blogs. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing; it is the nature of the blogosphere to be conversational, and "real" conversations, very often speakers will shoot from the hip. For me at least, I hope for civility in the dialogue. Sadly, some places in the blogosphere lack that civility. As for the posts to the blogs I keep, I try to put some effort into those. If people are patient enough to make it here, I think I should give them something good. So, if it means reworking a draft, I do it. In part, I am in love with the act of writing. I have been in that love affair since I discovered the power of writing in college and then as a teacher of writing. I connect writing with thinking because one is a tool for the other. Well, that is my philosophy. In practical terms, I am sometimes not as "timely" as the 'big leaguers," but I am going for good, not fast, or at least, not too fast. I am aware that part of blogging is being consistent, but I also strive for something with quality. I would be ashamed to put out something less than good. And yes, I know some people out there have no shame. In the end, all of this is part of the freedom the medium allows. Patience and thoughtfulness can be rewarding not only in seeking out what blogs to read as Mr. Plutchak writes. To that I add that patience and thoughtfulness can be rewarding in writing for your own blogs.

Overall, the article has a positive and optimistic attitude. It makes some excellent points to think about. This makes it a very worthy read for librarians and other bloggers.

The power of books, just another example

The Feel Good Librarian has posted a note of a reference query that illustrates very well what books do. It is a moving little piece that gives credit not only to the power of books, but the kindness and generosity of librarians throughout our libraries. Go on over and read it.

And while I am at it, if I ever get to the point where I am unable to read, I can only hope my loved ones will do it for me. I am not a huge fan of poetry either, but the poetry of José De Diego, Luis Llorens Torres (both Puerto Rican poets, but others would do nice as well), Jose Martí (Cuban poet, Versos Sencillos), and Pablo Neruda would be nice. In English, Whitman would do nicely. Anything by García Márquez would also be nice, especially Cien años de soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude). Anyways, just some ideas I picked on the fly since there are so many things I love to read. Books are powerful indeed.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Booknote: Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes

Title: Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes
Authors: Trudi E. Jacobson and Lijuan Xu
Publication Information: New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers, 2004
ISBN: 1-55570-497-2
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science/Teaching/Instruction
Pages: 143

Jacobson and Wu provide a good overview of motivation theory and its application to information literacy classes. The title sounds limited, but the book covers more than just motivation; it provides a good overview of various teaching techniques with plenty of examples to guide librarians. The book provides a solid grounding in theory, and it is a very practical guide as well. For educators with experience, this book will be a welcome review and refresher with some new ideas. For librarians coming to teaching for the first time, the book is a valuable and very accessible resource.

The motivation theory in the book is based on John Keller's ARCS model (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, Satisfaction). The terms, as briefly defined in Chapter 1, page 7, are:

  • Attention: capturing the interest of learners; stimulating the curiosity to learn.
  • Relevance: meeting the personal goals and needs of the learner to effect a positive attitude.
  • Confidence: helping learners to believe/feel that they will succeed and control their success.
  • Satisfaction: reinforcing accomplishment with rewards (internal and external)

While there are other motivation theories out there (a good literature search would prove this), this model works because it is simple and pretty straightforward. The authors do a good job of connecting this model to the techniques that they are presenting. So, what are some of the things the authors cover?

Chapter 4 covers "Better Teaching Behaviors." It provides ideas on such topics as how to move around in the classroom, speaking clearly, use of visuals, and getting to know your students. Chapter 5 provides an overview of active learning techniques with various examples. I personally liked the fact that they included writing to learn as one of the options. I am a firm believer in the power of writing to make meaning and to learn, so this is very appropriate. Many of these writing to learn activities are what some would call free writing. The advantage of such a technique is that it can give students a brief opportunity to show their learning or to explore what they still need to know in a fairly safe setting. Other activities highlighted in the chapter include concept maps and information logs. The book also includes a chapter on assessment, with emphasis on authentic assessment. This means using techniques designed to have students demonstrate their learning and knowledge in meaningful ways through application and use of the knowledge. Holistic learning and mastery are favored in such a situation. The chapter looks at the difference between formative assessment (use to assess progress over time and help a student shape their learning. Use of feedback is very important here) and summative assessement (used at the end of the teaching to assess the final products). Some of the techniques suggested include use of rubrics, concept mapping, case studies, and portfolios.

If some of this sounds like stuff used in composition classrooms, I can tell you as a former composition teacher, that they are techniques many composition classrooms use. Maybe at some point further exploration of how librarians have integrated techniques from other subject areas may be a topic to pursue. I do know there are some articles connecting information literacy to composition classes, but these are mostly in the context of bringing information literacy to those classes. Anyhow, just an idea for me to maybe follow up later. Back to the review.

Overall, this is a highly recommended book. I borrowed a library copy from the main campus, but this is a book I would definitely want on my own bookshelf, and I consider myself a pretty experienced teacher. For librarians who suddenly find themselves having to do a credit information literacy course, this book is an excellent resource to start. It does not cover every single detail, but it provides a lot of good information. It also has elements for librarians who do a lot of single session (one shot) sessions. The book chapters each have an excellent bibliography for further reading.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Booknote: Lula: Tengo un sueño

Title: Lula: Tengo un sueño
Author: Luiz Inácio da Silva (Lula)
Publication information: Barcelona (España): Ediciones Península, 2003
ISBN: 97-0651-848-7
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Public speaking/Oratory/Speeches
Pages: 91

This little book collects five of Lula's speeches: his victory speech after winning the election to the Presidency of Brazil, a speech at the 3rd World Social Forum, a speech to the World Economic Forum, another one to the G8 Summit, and one to the 14th Andean Presidential Council. All these speeches took place in 2003.

Lula's main theme is a simple yet strong one: that hope must overcome fear. This is the message he brings to his people and to the world. He calls for hard work from the people of his nation, and he calls for the developed nations of the world to help those in development fairly and equitably. Lula's task is not an easy one for he is the leader of a nation of 175 million people where at least 45 million live below the poverty line. Brazil is one of the largest industrial economies of the world, and yet it is also one of the poor nations of the world living with terrible social injustices including the specter of hunger and disease. His speeches are not mere calls to action, though he does that quite eloquently. He also outlines specific constructive proposals to gradually move his nation in a new direction where hunger is a priority of his administration and where his nation can gradually make progress. He proposes plans for reforms and social justice as he tells us that hope must indeed conquer fear. It is a large responsibilty he has embraced for his people.

Reading the speeches, the reader cannot help but hear the voice of a man with a dream. If he sounds like other great speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King, it is not a coincidence for Lula has his dreams as well, and in this book, he shares them with us. The speeches are moving at moments, and at times, the readers may feel strongly about the issues he raises, but that is the intention: to move others to action in order to make things better. This is a book I highly recommend. Unfortunately, for English readers, the book is not translated yet as far as I know.

Various lists of library related principles

Stephen Abrams has made a very handy summary of various library and reading principles that we often live by or think about. You can find them here. And if you want to learn a little about the book where the Reader's Bill of Rights are featured, you can go to my post here.