Thursday, December 21, 2006

Have a Safe and Happy Holiday

Readers can find my post for the holiday over at the unruly cousin's blog, The Itinerant Librarian.

Whatever choice you make to celebrate the holidays, may they be in peace, safety, and joy. See ya all next year.

Best, and keep on blogging.

Advice on Facebook for Educators

Fred Stutzman, of Unit Structures, has written a very detailed and thoughtful post on Facebook as a Tool for Learning Engagement. For professors and librarians who may debating on whether to make a profile on Facebook or not, this may provide some food for thought to help the decision along. It has given me some ideas to think about as I consider whether to make my own profile or not. If I do, I will certainly let people out there know how it works out.

(Crossposted to Alchemical Thoughts.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Article Note: On Students as Audience for Instruction

Citation for the article:

Willis, Carolyn N., and William Joseph Thomas. "Students as Audience: Identity and Information Literacy Instruction." portal: Libraries and the Academy 6.4 (2006): 431-444.

Read via Project Muse.

The article opens with a reminder that librarians usually focus on the material to teach rather than on the students. This is usually due to the usual time constraints, especially for one-shot sessions. Given diverse learning styles, teacher librarians have their work cut out for them. The authors also remind us to look over ACRL's "Characteristics of Programs of Information Literacy that Illustrate Best Practices: A Guideline" (see CR&L News 64 for September 2003). That document provides insights on planning and pedagogy. The document emphasizes the importance of student-centered learning and responding to different learning styles. The basic goal of instruction, learning how to use the library's resources and selecting the best resources to meet research needs, does not change. What should be changing are the methods of teaching.

  • "Instruction librarians may need to change their instruction methods, however, or change aspects of the space in which instruction takes place. This article will encourage librarians to ask who their students are and how the varied characteristics of the students will influence their receptiveness to information literacy instruction. The composition of the audience forces librarians to consider instructional space and equipment, to plan learning objectives, to deliver instruction through a variety of activities and assessments, to present instructional content in person, and to consider implications for outreach activities to new student groups" (432).

When you look at it, that is a tall order for any instruction librarian. The part about implications for outreach catches my eye as I was thinking on that a few days ago. I was having a semi-formal discussion on the topic with our evening librarian, who was considering possibilities of promoting the library and its services to campus organizations. This is definitely an area we need to explore further.

Willis and Thomas move on to describe the students. They provide a description of the Millenials or GenY. However, they point out that there are other students. This is something worth remembering.

  • "But not all students are Gen Y, and in reality, Generation Y is not monolithic. Some students are nontraditional, ranging from Baby Boomers returning to school to Generation X, the cohort immediately preceding Gen Y; some are transfer students from community colleges; and some are student athletes. There are also international students, students for whom English is a second or third language" (432-433).

The authors continue to expand the diverse picture of students in terms of learning abilities, ethnicity, handicaps, those with children, etc. The points is that librarians should be taking this into consideration rather than planning for a homogeneous group that does not exist. To address this, the authors provide some suggestions for learning more about students.

The core of the article is a discussion of a student survey at their library. The survey was designed to provide information on student characteristics, and it asked them "to select all teaching strategies that would improve library instruction for their class and to select the one strategy that would most help them personally" (433). To me, those questions are intriguing. They are questions I would like to ask my students as well.

  • The importance of learning detailed information about the students: "Learning more in-depth about such aspects of student identity through such questions as these will enable librarians to better prepare for planning and conducting information library instruction" (435).

The authors then proceed to discuss the implications of their findings.

In terms of space and equipment, it is necessary to have spaces that meet the physical needs of students. This includes making the space accessible (think ADA compliance), but it also includes awareness on the part of the librarian such as using larger fonts or changing settings on a projector. Classroom control software may be useful as well. "Creating and maintaining a place that makes learning possible owes much to well-designed physical space" (436).

In terms of planning:

  • Start by looking at ACRL's Instruction to Diverse Populations bibliography.
  • "To approach planning for different audiences, instruction librarians should incorporate discussions with departmental faculty members in order to select learning objectives, plan for multiple learning styles, select the instructional activities, and plan for evaluation" (436). This is not really new or revolutionary given that others have discussed the need for collaboration between faculty and librarians (for example, see here).

In terms of instruction delivery, or how teaching is actually done:

  • "The delivery of instruction through various activities does not mean changing the content--the students still need to learn a specific subject matter determined by the course--but it does mean using alternative activities to teach that content" (437).
  • "Modifying instruction to accommodate multiple learning styles requires planning for a variety of activities during the information literacy session. Within one session, librarians can design several activities to appeal to multiple learning styles. Varying lecture with hands-on practice and allowing for both individual, guided practice, and group work appeal to different learning styles, potentially maximizing the impact of the session" (437-438). When I read this statement, I jotted on the margin: not possible here given serious constraints. And I mean it too. While I may do my best to practice using various activities, my current physical space simply does not allow for much variety in class activities. It barely allows for a lecture model as it is. And while there is remodel plan in progress, I will say that it has not exactly been swift or consistent (to put it politely). Add to this that I often deal with faculty who only want "the usual library talk" (whatever the heck that means) and simply do not plan on any integration to their classes, and the problem is aggravated. The faculty issue can probably be fixed with some education and dialogue over time. The space issue requires certain institutional support that is simply not present, and it is out of my hands. At any rate, sometimes a librarian needs to make do with what he's given.
  • No matter the setting, this is worth remembering: "in order to reach all students, librarians cannot rely only on one mode of instruction" (438). I don't: I try to deploy different tricks and strategies at different times. This is not simply to address diverse student needs, but it also keeps things interesting to me.
  • "Far and away the most preferred teaching activity that students felt would benefit their class was hands-on" (439).
  • "A pleasant surprise was that about 10 percent of students across the board expressed their favor for individual follow-up with a librarian" (440). This seems to provide some validation to my efforts in terms of consultations and working individually with students.
  • "The variety in learning activities should be matched by a variety of assessment techniques, and assessment should be continuous" (440). The authors list some options for this and cite some relevant literature.

In terms of presenting in person, this part of the discussion is mostly a set of reminders on presentation basics. The authors conclude the article by discussing implications for outreach. They discuss targeting other student groups, such as accelerated programs, that could benefit from library instruction. Remember: "The intention of outreach efforts is, of course, to generate additional opportunities for information literacy instruction to the targeted groups" (443).

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

No, I am not too busy

I had a student approach the Information Desk yesterday afternoon while I was on duty. It was a very slow shift since the campus is on interim time before Christmas. The students, most of them, left already for their break when the semester ended last week. So the young lady approaches and meekly asks, "are you too busy?" After reassuring her that I was not and I got paid to be interrupted, she handed me a draft she was working on for me to read over. "Could you please read this over and tell me if it sounds ok?"

Usually I don't turn away such requests. Most librarians would probably send them to the local campus writing center, and I can understand the rational for that. In my case, since I used to teach composition, I don't mind doing it now and then. At any rate, I started reading it, and it was an appeal letter to her department. The young lady is requesting to get "incompletes" (I) for her semester coursework due to health reasons, which she explains in detail in her letter. It was probably a bit more information that I needed to know about the young lady, but that is not the point. The point is that I was there, and she needed someone to help her with the letter. I asked her a few questions about the text, "do you want to say this?" or "do you mean that?" I asked questions to help clarify what she wanted to say, and as she clarified I made small marks and notes on her draft. Once we were done, she sat back on her computer, typed the revisions, then headed out to turn it in after thanking me.

After she left, it struck me how often students trust us as librarians and educators. I often learn about their health, or their families or relationships, or any other number of things. In a way, it is not that much different than my composition teaching days where students would at times write very personal things, but that was written for a teacher who was the only audience. In this setting, I often just help someone clarify their ideas or polish something for their intended audience. If nothing else, maybe this is just a reminder of why I do the work I do.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Short notes on graphic novels 8

Another selection of recent graphic novels and comic compilations I have been reading. Most of these, I have borrowed from my local public library branch unless otherwise noted.

Fies, Brian. Mom's Cancer. New York: Abrams Image, 2006. ISBN: 0-8109-5840-6

This is a short but powerful novel. The author looks at how his family and him coped and supported his mother as she fought metastatic lung cancer. We are taken from diagnostic through treatment in a story with moments of humor and hope along the way. The work is an Eisner Award winner. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. This one I borrowed from my workplace.

Trudeau, G.B. The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel, 2005. ISBN: 0-7407-5385-1.

This is a compilation of a Doonesbury series that depicted one of the strip's characters, B.D., as he was wounded while serving in Iraq and embarks on the road to healing and recuperation. We go from the battlefield to the Army hospitals to therapy. The author presents B.D.'s struggle with a blend of humor and compassion that is simply admirable and moving. I have to admit that at times I felt a bit guilty laughing, but the humor is there, and it is there to make you laugh as well as think. The topic of our military's wounded is not something often covered in the media, and this book brings it to life. This is an excellent work. This edition features a foreword by Senator John McCain. There is a sequel, which I will be seeking out. Among the best things I have read this year. This one I also borrowed from my workplace.

Hirano, Kohta. Hellsing, vol. 1. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2003. ISBN: 159307056X

This is an English translation of the popular Japanese manga. Hellsing is a secret organization of vampire hunters sworn to protect the British Queen and the Protestant Church, and their top agent is a specially bred vampire, Alucard. This is the first volume in the series. It is a fun romp with a good measure of violence and gore, so this is not for children. I have already put in my requests at my local library for other volumes in the series.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Superman For All Seasons. New York: DC Comics, 1999. ISBN: 1563895293.

The more I read of Loeb and Sale's work, the more I become a fan of their stories and art. So far, every graphic novel produced by this team has been a pleasant reading experience. I highly recommend anything these two produce, and this one is no exception. This Superman story has, what I can only describe as a "Norman Rockwell" feeling to it. In a way, the art and story is what you would get if Superman was a Rockwell painting. The art has that quality of Americana borrowing from the comics of the 1940s. The novel is a series of four comics, one for each season, with the story told from a different character's point of view from Superman's early days to his present day.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Batman: Dark Victory. New York: DC Comics, 2001. ISBN: 1563898683.

This story follows after the events in the graphic novel Batman: The Long Halloween. These are still Batman's early days. By now, James Gordon has been named as Commissioner of Police. There is a new D.A. who dislikes Batman, and a new serial killer known as Hangman is killing police officers. Overall, this is another excellent story from the Loeb and Sale team. Personally, in the DC universe, Batman is one of my favorite heroes, in large part due to his darkness. Loeb and Sale have done great work exploring and expanding Batman's stories. For those interested in trivia and small details, look for the little references to The Godfather.

Waid Mark, JLA: Tower of Babel. New York: DC Comics, 2001. ISBN:1563898683.

Mark Waid is another good writer when it comes to comics and graphic novels. His work can also been seen in works like Ultimate X-Men. In this JLA series, Ra's Al Ghul, Batman's nemesis, manages to get a hold of Batman's countermeasures for the other JLA members and implements them in order to carry out his extreme enviromental plan. Batman is not the most trusting of souls, and the fact he had taken precautions against the other members of the Justice League makes the others feel betrayed. A good story overall that may make readers wonder about the value of friendship and trust. Was Batman right in keeping tabs on his allies in case he had to fight them later? Was it really betrayal? It's up to readers to decide.

Englehart, Steve. Batman: Dark Detective. New York: DC Comics, 2002. ISBN: 1401208983

Steve Englehart, with artist Marshall Rogers, worked on Batman during the 1970s. This team returns to Batman in a story where the Joker is running for governor of the state. The Joker's slogan: "Vote for Me, or I'll Kill You." Meanwhile, a girlfriend from Bruce Wayne's past returns, but where do her allegiances lie. The comic is drawn in the 1970s style, but the setting is modern; readers can look for a little reference to certain electoral debacle in Florida. The Scarecrow and Two-Face also make appearances.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Batman: Haunted Knight. New York: DC Comics, 1995. ISBN: 1563892731.

I was hoping to read this one close to Halloween, but the request for it from another branch took a while to get here. Still, it was a very good read. This volume collects three Halloween specials. The first story features The Scarecrow. The second story, inspired by Alice in Wonderland, features the Mad Hatter. The third story is inspired by A Christmas Carol, with the Joker making what I shall describe as an interesting appearance in the role of one of the spirits. Another good work.

Johns, Geoff. Teen Titans: Family Lost. DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1401202381.

This story comes after the volume Teen Titans: A Kid's Game. Raven makes her return after a long absence, but she is pursued by a cult that worships her demon father. The cult leader is hoping to unleash Raven's powers for his world conquest. Meanwhile, Deathstroke the mercenary assassin also returns, and this time, he brings his daughter along as the new Ravager. They want Raven dead. A a fast paced story, with an ending that may be disturbing to some, which I particularly liked. The story does give a few angles on what it means to be a family, and maybe even on the influence of fathers on their children.

Lane, Mills. Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (graphic novel). Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1593073097.

This is the graphic novel adaptation of the film by the same title. Considering that the movie is so expansive in visual terms, the graphic novel does pretty well in adapting the story to this format.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Article Note: On the value of scholarly book reviews

Citation for the article:

Dilevko, Juris,, "Investigating the Value of Scholarly Book Reviews for the Work of Scholarly Book Reviews for the Work of Academic Reference Librarians." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.5 (September 2006): 452-466.

I read this via ScienceDirect.

This blog's readers probably know that I read a good number of academic articles (along with a lot of other things). I also read and/or scan a lot of book reviews. Much of is for collection development, but I also like reading some of the review essays where they discuss four to six books on a topic. I often find such review essays helpful in getting a better sense of scholarship in a particular field. For me then, this article provided a little validation for that.

  • The authors cite Lynn Westbrook on what faculty members expect of librarians. I liked the statement, so here it goes: "'I need a librarians to ask questions to get me to see my research focus in a different light' or a librarian who can help find 'a way to conceptualize my problem. . .[by] talking through the idea and getting her response and knowledge.' In short, faculty members want librarians who can make significant intellectual contributions to their projects, not just undertake print or electronic searches--whether simple or complex-- for needed materials" (452).
The article considers whether reading and analyzing scholarly book reviews can help librarians acquire better subject knowledge. The study began with an assignment for LIS Humanities and Social Science students to find a number of substantive scholarly book reviews. They would then make notes of any trends and scholarly issues learned from the reviews to write overviews on their particular field of interest. Their overviews on popular music and southern literature, two of their various topics, were then sent to experts for evaluation.

So, what did the authors find?

  • "Despite the many and varied ways in which each student chose his or her 20 scholarly book reviews, all groups produced work that demonstrated that a careful reading of scholarly book reviews within a selected field can provide a thorough understanding of the parameters of and current issues in that particular academic field" (454).
  • Note that the proof-of-concept questionnaire they refer to is the tool given to the professors evaluating the overviews. "The results of the proof-of-concept questionnaire demonstrate that systematic and careful reading of scholarly book reviews can result in a detailed knowledge of the contours of a given academic subject area, allowing librarians to grasp important issues in a subject area, giving them insights into new ways of thinking about that subject area, and providing them with material with which they can generate new ideas and concepts that may ultimately be useful to researchers" (460).
  • There is a catch: "To be sure, the depth of knowledge that can result from reading scholarly book reviews depends on the degree of commitment and seriousness with which academic librarians approach the reading of these reviews" (460).
  • However, there is also the quality of the review. Keep in mind that for most professors, book reviewing is pretty much a low priority endeavor. It lacks the prestige of a well placed peer reviewed article or publishing a book in terms of reputation and tenure. Therefore, the authors are able to say the following: "The quality of the review also depends on the seriousness with which the scholar approaches the writing of the review, and the amount of time that the scholar devotes to crafting the review" (461). The authors also mention that often these reviews come out months and years long after the book is out and circulating. Again, it is a low priority for professors, so getting them to review, let alone do it in a timely fashion can be challenge.
So, which academic librarians would get the most benefit from reading scholarly reviews? Well, it turns out it is librarians like me.

  • "This activity would be especially helpful to librarians in small and mid-size colleges and universities where there are typically few professional librarians, each of whom has a wide array of diverse responsibilities, including collection development, liaison, and reference work, for many areas and fields" (461).
Finally, the article does include the list of the examined book reviews and the questionnaire tool.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Article Note: On advice for new liaison librarians

Citation for the article:

Stoddard, Richard A. et. al. "Going Boldly Beyond the Reference Desk: Practical Advice for New Reference Librarians Performing Liaison Work." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.4 (July 2006): 419-427.

Read via ScienceDirect.

Liaison work is one of those things they really don't teach in library school. Even if you take coursework for specialists, those courses often teach you the resources in a particular area. They don't really teach about the human element. By that I mean communicating with faculty and communicating faculty and cultivating collaborative endeavors. This article provides some advice in the human element department for new librarians who get a liaison assignment. The authors are (or were at the time) new librarians, so readers are getting the advice from authors sharing what they learned as they went along. I personally found that to be valuable. This article is definitely for new librarians, but I think some veterans looking for new ideas may find it useful as well. As usual, I will take down some notes and add some comments here and there.

  • "Increasingly, librarians must find creative ways to reach out to faculty through library instruction, customized class Web pages, and other types of specialized library services. In this age where Internet search engines compete heavily with libraries as prime information providers, liaison librarians must continually remind their clientèle about the advantages of the library and the services they offer" (420).

It is important to remember that liaison work is not just collection development. It also involves things like instruction and specialized research consultations.

  • "'Learn by doing' is a philosophy you should employ not only as a library liaison but also in librarianship in general" (421).

I know that is part of my teaching philosophy as well.

  • "In addition to these techniques, find a reason to e-mail your liaison faculty at least once every two weeks if not more. Tell them about a new service or remind them about an old service. Each time you contact them, you not only inform them about library services, but you also remind them that you are there and that you can help them" (421-422).

I like the e-mail idea in principle, but I wonder if the suggested frequency might be viewed as intrusive by some faculty. I wonder also if a well-marketed subject blog could serve some of this role. In a campus where a lot of faculty range from indifferent to downright hostile regarding the library, I wonder about this idea. However, it is something I would be interested in exploring.

  • "In some ways, a liaison librarian is an inventor: you must envision possibilities, rethink services, and seize upon opportunities. Do not be afraid to use technology if it will enhance your services to your department" (422).

The corollary to that is not to start using technology simply because it is cool, and you want to be hip. For instance, it makes no sense to create a blog if you are not able to maintain it well.

  • "The sooner you acquaint yourself with your academic discipline and its organization on your campus, the sooner you will know how the library can meet faculty needs. If you lack an academic background in your liaison area, do all you can to learn about that subject"(423).

If you are not familiar with your new assignment, remember that you are a librarian. You know how to find information and how to learn (or you should. It's part of what you were supposed to learn in library school). Use that knowledge and training to identify key sources (electronic and print). Learn about discussion lists, listservs, and anything you can put on your rss reader. If you don't know what an rss reader is, it's time to learn. Now, I am guessing that large prestigious universities can afford to hire a subject specialist, maybe one with a doctorate. We can leave aside the issue of whether a doctor needs the MLS too for a librarian position. In the interest of disclosure, I think they do. The point is more for librarians in smaller settings where wearing multiple hats is more likely. At Big Research U., you may have art librarians, music librarians, and librarians for various foreign languages. In my setting and line of work, all those areas fall under Arts & Humanities, which is my liaison assignment. Again, a good librarian uses his or her ability to learn and adapt as needed, especially when given a liaison area outside their comfort zone. As the saying goes, "you adapt, you improvise, you overcome."

  • "Having the ability to recognize the key figures, theories, and publishers will help you hone in on the best sources. In terms of reference interviewing, remember that each discipline has its own jargon and you will need to 'talk their talk' in order to understand the questions that people ask you. Also, faculty will have greater confidence in your guidance if you converse with them in their language" (423).

The article also features good advice on effective communication with faculty. The authors look at things such as collection development, library instruction, and research assistance. They also include various tables that serve as good checklists.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Article Note: A bibliography of influential books for instruction librarians

Citation for the article:

Brier, David J. and Vickery Kaye Lebbin, "Ike Loa: a List of Influential Books Shaping the Instruction Librarian's Teaching and Learning Philosophy." Reference Services Review 34.4 (2006): 607-643.

Read via Emerald. By the way, this particular issue, covering the LOEX-of-the West 2006 had a good number of articles I found interesting, so I will likely be posting notes on those articles over time.

This note will be a little different. The article is basically an annotated bibliography that contains 192 books that instruction librarians consider influential to their teaching and learning philosophies. The teaching philosophy, and I suppose my learning philosophy as well since I think both would be linked, is a topic that I have been giving some thought as of late. So, for me at least, this list comes at a good time. While the list does contain some basics of library instruction, in reality it is a collaborative list. The list was produced for the LOEX-of-the-West 2006 where the conference organizers solicited titles from the attendees, and the attendees also provided brief annotations. The list ranges from classical works of fiction and nonfiction to items related to librarianship. And even though it was supposed to be a list of books, they did include some articles as well. I will admit that a part of me felt that I have a lot to read. Based on the evidence of this blog, I read quite a bit in my professional area, and a few things in other areas, and yet, I found myself saying that I need to read such and such a title. While I am not aspiring to read the entire list, there are various books that I will try to pick up as soon as I can. There were a few items that I have read already, and I would like to simply take a moment to write down some of my thoughts, in a way, duplicate what the participants did.

The authors of the article describe their goal as:

"Our goal here is to help instruction librarians reflect on and articulate their educational, learning, and teaching philosophy. An important step in that process is understanding where their philosophy came from, including major books that prompted, shaped, and changed their ideas. We are hopeful that by comparing and contrasting the titles and descriptions of influential works listed here that each conference participant can solidify and broaden their own thoughts and values on who they are as an instructor" (609).

I can only hope that doing this will help spark some ideas for revisions and reflection down the road. So, here are a few things I have read from the list:

  • Ray Bradbury. Fahrenheit 451. This is a book I have mixed feelings about. I always wondered what living book I would become if it came down to such a totalitarian vision. I usually answer that I would memorize One Hundred Years of Solitude. These days, The Alchemist might be another option. The mixed feelings come because I had to teach the book during my high school days, and I got tired of it.
  • Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote. I read this in high school, in the original. I still remember the paper I had to write on it, which inspired me to read another novel about knights errant so I could understand what it was that Quixote read that drove him to madness. I read the Amadis de Gaula. If nothing else, Don Quixote brings out the dreamer and visionary in us.
  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales. I read this in college. I had a medievalist teaching it, and it was a rollicking romp as he had fun pointing out every single sexual pun and double entendre in the works. To this day, I enjoy anything that is basically a good romp. I learned from that professor that you could have fun with literature, even if once in a while you made a student or two uncomfortable.
  • Paulo Coehlo, The Alchemist. I posted about this book here on a post about books that have been important to me. From Coehlo, I was reminded of the importance of pursuing your dream and destiny. This remains one of my favorite books.
  • Confucius, The Analects. I have to admit that this is a book I need to revisit. I read it a while ago. He was the one who said, "I hear and I forget. I see and remember. I do and I understand." It does not get any more significant than that for teachers.
  • Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels. I found it curious that this was a choice. However, the book does have insights on leadership, and I did find its narrative quite moving.
  • T.E. Jacobson and L. Xu, Motivating Students in Information Literacy Classes. Find my booknote on it here.
  • E.L. Boyer, Scholarship Reconsidered. This is what administrators in higher education need to be reading when it comes to modeling and nurturing scholarship in all forms. It is not just about how many articles someone publishes. Personally, I think if all a professor does is publish articles on obscure theories in even more obscure journals and is a lousy teacher, he or she is not worth much. I would rather have the professor who is a good teacher, reflects on his or her practice, writes about it, and shares it with others. A lot of what I do is influenced by the teacher-scholar model, which I actually learned during my time at the National Writing Project.
  • Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. This is one of the best works on teaching I have read. My first exposure to Freire's work was for an adult literacy course I took during my undergraduate days, and it was around the time I was volunteering at a literacy center as well. A lot of my ideas about education being a tool of liberation, that there is some political element to education even if we don't want to admit it, and the belief in empowering the learner come from this book. I recently read a collection of his writings, and readers can find that booknote here.
  • I.F. Rockman, ed., Integrating Information Literacy Into The Higher Education Curriculum. Find my booknote on it here. As I recall, this was a book that I wished more administrators would read, but that odds were good they would not. I read it shortly after returning from Immersion, and it helped to further define some ideas for me.
There are a few others on the list I have read, but these I wanted to remember. I did notice there were titles that I wished had made it on the list. For instance, I wanted to see some of Jonathan Kozol's works. I may have added also Sun Tzu's The Art of War. At any rate, the list is definitely worth a look, and it would be interesting to see what other titles not listed people might have added.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Article Note: On Information Literacy for Lifelong Meaning

Citation for the article:

Ward, Dane. "Revisioning Information Literacy for Lifelong Meaning." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.4 (July 2006): 396-402.

I read it via ScienceDirect.

This is probably one of the best articles on information literacy I have read this year. I found myself making a lot of little notes and underlining various passages. The author states that "information literacy consists of a broader array of competencies than our instructional practices and competency standards would suggest" (396). The author argues for looking at information literacy in broader terms, and in the process discusses ways to revision learning. As I often do, I will make some notes from the article I found interesting or that invited reflection. I will add some thoughts here and there.

  • "Critical thinking is not always sufficient in itself as a strategy for navigating through the information universe" (396). Ward argues that information literacy is not just about critical thinking. We need to know how to manage and make meaning of the information we find. This also includes having opportunities to engage in reflection.
  • "This conceptualization would dictate that as librarians and faculty, we devote as much attention to helping students make a personal connection to a topic as we do to the analytical aspects of conducting research and generating a paper or presentation" (396-397).
  • "Teaching students to think critically about information is a fundamental goal of information literacy instruction, as it should be. Without a well-developed capacity to evaluate and use information from books, library databases, or the Internet, students make questionable decisions, and sometimes about very important matters. The lack of adequately developed information skills among a nation's citizens hinders the successful functioning of democracy and decision-making for the common good" (397).
For openers, that statement on teaching to think critically reminded me of the Carlson article on undergrad citation behavior that I recently read mostly because it looked at choices in citations made by students. However, why they made those choices was still an open question. Next, I wondered because there may be some librarians out there who would only look at information literacy as a mere tool to find the information. Teaching about critical thinking and making good decisions when it comes to information and its use should be a part of what we do, part of promoting good citizenship. It carries a political element in the sense of promoting that successful functioning of democracy that Ward mentions. I am thinking about this in light of things I learned during JCLC and Immersion, but that may be a future post. On a final thought on this, the idea of teaching students to think critically should be a collaborative effort. Faculty and academic librarians, and I would include in this staff of support units like writing centers, should work on this as a common goal.

  • "Personal, interior experiences of information are fundamental to a vital information literacy that can make a difference in our lives and in the world" (397). This sounded a bit idealistic to me, but it's something to strive for nonetheless.
  • A couple of challenging questions: "Can we be information literate if we possess the technical ability to find and evaluate information, but not the human capacity to experience and value it? Can we be committed to an issue if it fails to resonate with anything within us?" (397).

On those two questions, personally, I would answer probably not to the first question. Information literacy is more than just the technical prowess. Unfortunately, I have heard people on my campus assuming that if students can use Google, then they are information literate. It makes my blood boil when some administrator embraces that limited line of thinking. As for the second question, that's a question I would have asked some of my students back in my days of teaching composition. I still ask that question at times during some research consultations. Maybe it's more proof that faculty and librarians share common goals regarding students' education if we are asking the same questions.

  • "Relevant information skills are those that permit us to navigate the Web and to understand more fully how our lives are shaped by the information and information choices we are given" (398).
  • "It is not enough for students to learn how to think critically about information for a research paper. They must learn how to be engaged and why to care" (398).
  • Ward ventures a prediction: "I predict that the future of information literacy instruction will increasingly emphasize other ways of understanding information, and that this will include teaching students about personal engagement and self-knowledge" (398). It should make for an interesting time in information literacy if we could work towards it.
  • Ward considers the problem of student engagement during library sessions. He has a different take: "I would argue that it is a problem of information literacy, a failure on our part to address a fundamental information issue--the necessity of addressing both sides of our interaction with a complex information universe" (398).

Ward tells us that we get information from the outside and the inside. As I think about it, I recall that in teaching writing, you would ask students to first write from the inside, from what they know, and then to go outwards, do research, so on. But we used to talk about being engaged with the topic and making it meaningful to the writer. Maybe some things don't change. Maybe librarianship is starting to discover (or rediscover) some of these things. Or maybe I am seeing this as a teacher would. Not many librarians have pedagogical training, though programs like Immersion work to fill that gap. It's not something in an LIS curriculum, other than the occasional BI class. I think if instruction is your path in librarianship, either a degree in teaching or extensive training in teaching help a lot in my humble opinion. I was fortunate. I came to librarianship with a teaching degree and experience. But I can ponder on that some other time.

  • "To teach students about personally meaningful information and non-analytic information processes means first and foremost to create a space where the inner life can be nurtured, where creativity can emerge, where students can love the questions. Librarians and teachers must design information literacy instruction that permits this possibility" (398-399).
  • "Being information literate means having the capacity to apply different systems of evaluation for different information needs" (400).
  • "This broad view forces us to recognize once and for all that information literacy is not a synonym for library instruction" (401).
  • A question: "Do libraries have anything to offer to the process of teaching the other side of information?" (401).
That question refers to the internal side of learning. We should be able to give an affirmative answer followed by descriptions of how we do it. If we can't give that positive answer, it's time to take a serious look at our information literacy programs.

  • On talking to the faculty: "When we talk to faculty about the library's curricular participation, we must emphasize the possibilities inherent in this broad information domain, and the repertoire of learning that far exceeds critical thinking alone. We must talk to faculty about supporting student engagement by bringing additional information into the classroom that elicits a personally meaningful response, and that permits students to understand themselves better through the content of the course" (401).
When I was starting out as a teacher, I had to write one of those philosophy of teaching documents. I had to revisit the idea when I was in the job market to become a librarian because at least one place asked for it. If you are hiring for an instruction/information literacy librarian, you should be asking the candidates about their philosophy of teaching. If the candidates have no clue, hire someone else. Anyways, when I rewrite my philosophy of teaching, and by the way, that is a document that should change and grow as you grow in your teaching, I want the following statement in it somehow:

  • "In order to help students become lifelong learners, we must not only help them understand themselves better. We must understand them as well, understand that their lives are more complicated than we can often appreciate. They do not turn off their lives when they step into our library session or class. We need to open the doors of communication, to be co-learners with them, to grow with them. We must live the reality that life is a relationship, not about separation by goal or department" (401).

I am reminded constantly of how complex some student lives can be. A lot of the work I do is getting to know the students; it is a never-ending task, but if I did not believe in its importance nor enjoyed relating to them, I would be doing something else entirely. Maybe some of the L2 movement is grasping at this when librarians open MySpace accounts and implement IM for reference. But as long as the tone and attitude is formal and distant, L2 will remain clueless. You have to blend yourself with the masses. You learn with them and from them. It's another part of life. Good educators have known this long before L2 or any other movements came around. I have come to learn it along the way.

  • "Librarians with a broad understanding of the two sides of information literacy will become partnered with classroom faculty, technologists, student affairs personnel, and students in a seamlessly integrated curriculum" (402).
That is exactly what the role of an instruction librarian should be: actively engaged in the academic community. This is what I try to work for, even if there are days when the limitations seem overwhelming. Sometimes you have to do it a step at a time, an idea that I often have to remind myself when I wish things would move faster.

  • And finally: "I believe that such a revisioning of information literacy would give birth to the future academic library--a place thoroughly integrated into the flow of campus learning where librarians, possessing diverse knowledge and expertise, would assist patrons in a multiplicity of information-related processes. These would include finding quality information, exploring the personal significance of a topic, framing an aesthetic experience of music, and facilitating personal awareness. Our area of expertise would be the entire field of information process, now taught in piecemeal fashion on our campuses" (402).

As I wrapped up my reading of the article, I wondered about that last statement above. I wanted to ask how does this challenge our "basic" notions of what we can and can't do in reference? I am talking about what we often learn in library school regarding borders of answers, interpreting, so on. And then there are the challenges to instruction. Overall, this is more than just showing students how to find the stuff. But this is a challenging proposition. How many librarians out there would be willing or able to embrace this?

Update note (12/4/06, 6:11p): With apologies to readers as I forgot to put the citation information as I usually do at the top. It has been posted now.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Article Note: Brief one on libraries using MySpace

Citation for the article:

Evans, Beth. "Your Space or MySpace?" netConnect (Fall 2006): 8-12.

Read via EBSCO alert.

Reading this article seems a little bit of "too little too late" given the recent pronouncements by Facebook about shutting down institutional profiles and articles, as the one from the Washington Post that has been making some rounds in blogs, mentioning that teens see MySpace as "so last year." However, for librarians who may wondering what's the deal with librarians using MySpace and similar services, this makes for a nice overview. It did have some ideas to think about, so here go my notes.

  • "We went ahead in mid-March 2006 with the launch and employed two interns and one part-time student worker to click through a pool of nearly 4000 Brooklyn College students associated with the MySpace site. By mid-May, we had over 1700 new 'friends,' all ready to receive invitations, announcements, unsolicited library instruction, and answers to their questions" (8). I wondered when I read this if using interns and student workers to find the students was really good use of that resource. Must be nice, but I am not sure I could go to my supervisor and ask for a couple of interns so they can go around clicking on MySpace looking for our local students in there. I guess I would not mind knowing the justification. However, I do find intriguing the idea of developing a friends' list, though I wonder if the students may see it as intrusive. For me, the "unsolicited" in that statement sounded a little like spam, and we know how much we hate that already. It may boil down to an issue of balance. Are they looking at it as another form of the popular but dreaded distribution list?
  • "Given the popularity and reach of this powerful social network, libraries have a chance to be leaders on their college campuses and in their large community by realizing the possibilities of using social networking sites like MySpace to bring their services to the public" (8).
  • "Students in MySpace, on the other hand, are in quite the virtual playground. It takes a special kind of sophistication to assess their information needs in an environment that, while ideal for information exchange, is designed for casual interaction" (9). Therein may lie the challenge for some libraries and/or librarians. If they can't break out of the formal tone of most library communications, using MySpace will not make that much of a difference.
  • "When your library lives part of its life in MySpace, you must decide from the outset how you will handle student comments posted on your profile. Will you let each comment go by without a countercomment? Will you take this new and intriguing opportunity to comment back to students willing to engage you in playful conversations" (9). Sounds to me like fair questions to ask.
  • "To realize the potential of MySpace, however, we must be proactive in reaching out to students. For example, at BCL, we take the initiative in commenting to students who have asked nothing more of us than to add them as one of our friends. We also put out flyers advertising our profile at the physical reference desk. When we get requests from students to add them as friends, we are curious about them and take the time to read their profiles" (10). I like the proactive attitude, but my usual question for things like this is how much time does this take? I like the idea of taking the time to know patrons, but again, online in MySpace, how much time can be too little or too much?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Some reminders for readers' advisors

These little tidbits come from Joyce Saricks's column in Booklist for June 1 &15, 2006. I read the article in print via the snail routing. The column is basically some advice for new readers' advisors.

  • "My first admonition to this captive audience is: relax, you know more than you think."
  • "We'll never read everything we want to read--not everything patrons expect us to have read--but advisors gain confidence as they see how to share what they know." (This is certainly reassuring as I often find myself on a little guilt trip because I feel I have not read enough. The fact is you can never read enough, so go with what you enjoy, and then sample here and there. Well, at least, that works for me.)
  • "What we do need to learn to do is to validate readers' interests and help them find more to suit their moods."
  • "This dovetails nicely with my second piece of advice: learn to listen and then to make connections. Even if you do find a reader who likes books you've also enjoyed, she may not have enjoyed them for the same reasons. Listen to what the reader enjoyed, and go from that to further suggestions. Readers' advisory is about connections, and one need not have read every title one suggests to see what might work for a reader. By relying on reviews, what other readers have told us, and what we've discovered by browsing through books we haven't read, we are able to suggest titles that may fit a reader's mood." (I know I have done that a couple of times where I have recommended things I may not have read myself, but that I sense a person may like on the basis of what they tell me their need or mood is at the time).
  • Another reminder: ". . .that readers' advisory isn't done in a vacuum. It's collaborative."
  • Remember also that patrons themselves are a resource, as they can help us keep up as well on what's interesting and popular, according to Saricks.
  • And finally, remember that RA is fun.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Article Note: Introductory Look at Blogging

Citation for the article:

Young, Michelle L. "Blogging: An Introductory Look at an Old Pastime in a New Medium." Library Hi Tech News Number 8 (2006); 27-28.

Read via Emerald.

Young provides a very brief overview of what blogs are and how they can be used. Initially, she connects blogs to other traditions of personal writing such as journals and diaries, but she goes on to show that blogs can be more. When asked why blog, here are some of her answers:

". . .to share your ideas, to share your personal interests with other like-minded people, to share your personal journeys and yourself with others, and to acquire new friends and simply stated, why not?" (27).

Those are some of the reasons I keep blogs, and I am sure people can come up with other reasons as well.

Young provides balance by discussing reasons not to blog. This is important. I think that the 2.0 crowd in their zeal at times forget that things like blogging are not for everyone. A big reason not to do it may be keeping your job if you have a less than friendly or less than open minded employer. In my case, my employer is aware that I have a blog. Some of my coworkers know as well. Now, whether they read it or not, I am not as sure. I know one of my coworkers has the blog on the aggregator, but otherwise, who knows?

Additionally, Young mentions that blogs have professional users as well. Young writes,

"You may want to consider using one for professional interactions with colleagues from around the world, project management, committee work when the committee is geographically distanced, classroom use as tools and online accessible information for students" (28).

This is a short and easy to read overview. In fact, it would have been a good handout for a group of education students I recently was working with in the library.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 7

Loeb, Jeph and Jim Lee. Batman: Hush, vol. 2. New York: DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1401200923.

I finished the set of Hush, and I have to say it was pretty good overall. It did get better, and in the end, the suspect was someone that you would least expect. I expected someone much more stronger, but then again, maybe there is the charm. You got someone moving the strings that is least unlikely. Overall, the story works well. The only thing that disappointed me a little was the ending in terms of Batman and Catwoman. The art in these series is simply excellent, and that makes it a good reason to go find these volumes.

Morrison, Grant. Arkham Asylum. New York: DC Comics, 1997. ISBN: 0930289560.

This is the story of Arkham Asylum, the place where Batman's great foes, who are criminally insane, are held. The frame story has Batman having to go into Arkham to free hostages after the immates manage to take over. In the process, we get the story of the asylum. In addition, we get to explore the madness of some of the villains such as the Joker and Two-Face. The art is jarring and dark, and it goes very well with the story. It is as if you are immersing yourself into the madness. A fascinating piece of work that I highly recommend.

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, Vol. 5. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1844.

I continue reading this good series that collects the tenure of John Byrne as writer and artist for the Fantastic Four during the 1980s. The Fantastic Four face various adventures including a confrontation with Terminus, and Reed, aka Mr. Fantastic, reunites briefly with his father. The events in this series mostly happen after the Secret Wars story arc. Since Ben Grimm chose to stay behind in the battle world, the Fantastic Four get a new member in She-Hulk, who takes Grimm's place. However, we still get to see Mama Grimm's boy in some adventures of his own too. Byrne blends a good look at the Fantastic Four as family with adventure and a good sense of humor. As always, the Fantastic Four often succeed by their wits as much as by their powers. Fans will definitely enjoy this collection, and it may find new readers as well.

Kennedy, Mike. Superman: Infinite City. New York: DC Comics, 2006. ISBN: 1401200664

A nice short graphic novel. When Metropolis is attacked by a terrorist with a superpowered weapon, Lois and Clark trace it to a sleepy little town called Infinite City. Once there, they discover the entrance to another dimension where magic and technology coexist. It becomes an opportunity for Superman to learn more about his Kryptonian heritage, but it may mean he may never return to Earth if the Warden has a say in it. In the meantime, certain factions in Infinite City (the dimension) are plotting to break out. An interesting little story and a quick read.

Loeb, Jeph and Tim Sale. Batman: The Long Halloween. New York: DC Comics, 1999. ISBN: 1563894696.

This is definitely among the best Batman stories I have read recently. I personally found it better than Loeb's work Batman: Hush. There is a serial killer labeled Holiday, who is killing members of a prominent mob family during the holidays. The story begins on Halloween, and then it runs for a year, with a killing every holiday leading up to the next Halloween the following year. So, is Bruce Wayne connected to the mob boss? Who is Holiday? Could the D.A. be involved? These are all questions raised in the story. The art has a nice gritty and noir style that goes very well with the mystery and adventure. The story takes place within the context of Batman: Year One. Jim Gordon is only Captain Gordon of the GCPD (and still the only honest cop in town), and Harvey Dent is a young D.A., who will, tragically, become Two-Face as the tale also offers a retelling of Two-Face's origin. Various villains make their appearance throughout the year. Very good ending as well. The edition I read includes some additional notes at the end of scenes that did not make the final publication, which are interesting to look at as well. While the story can be read anytime of the year, I found it to be a piece of good timing to read it as Halloween is coming up soon. I highly recommend this engaging story. Something I would add to my shelf.

Jacobson, Sid and Ernie Colon. The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. Hill and Wang, 2006. ISBN: 0809057387

I simply cannot praise or recommend this volume highly enough. Jacobson and Colon have taken the 9/11 Commission Report and distilled it into a very readable and engaging graphic novel. This book reads like a story. It is compelling; it is well written; it explains the events and the background in clear detail without going over readers' heads. This is a volume that should be available in every library in America, and it is a book that everyone should read. I think it also exemplifies how the graphic novel format can take something like the 9/11 Commission Report, which can be dense reading about an important event, and make it accessible to readers. Some people may have been worried that the victims would not be treated with respect with this book. That is not the case. The art is well done, and there is nothing gruesome or disrespectful. If anything, this book helps to explain what happened and how. Like the report, it indicates who did what and who failed to do what and when. A lot of people failed at their jobs or did not see the signs. The book includes a small opening statement from members of the 9/11 Commission conveying their approval of the work. I think the most significant thing about this work is that it makes accessible the findings of the 9/11 Commission, but it also serves to explain the events of that tragic day in a clear and colorful way. If you have not read it, go find a copy.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Article Note: On how undergrads perceive information use

Citation for the article:

Maybee, Clarence. "Undergraduate Perceptions of Information Use: The Basis for Creating User-Centered Student Information Literacy Instruction." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.1 (January 2006): 79-85.

Read via ScienceDirect.

Maybee argues that current information literacy pedagogy, which is usually based on skills, fails to adequately address the learners' needs. The author urges the adoption of a user-centered approach to teaching; he draws on the work of Christine Bruce on relational learning. Bruce is the author of the book The Seven Faces of Information Literacy. There's another book to add to my perpetual reading list. Back to the article, Maybee suggests that knowing how undergraduates conceptualize information will help educators enhance learning.

In the literature review, Maybee refers to various lists of attributes for an information literate person, much of this drawing from ACRL. Maybee further refers to Bruce's work, but he also looks at others. The author's method for the study was phenomenographical. To illustrate what this means, Maybee uses the following example:
"For example, a phenomenographer would ask, 'How do people experience information literacy' not 'What is information literacy?'" (81).

Interviews were the primary data gathering method. The interview questions were:
  • "How do you use information to complete class assignments?"
  • "How do you use information outside of your coursework?"
  • "Tell a story of a time when you used information well."
  • "Describe your view of someone who uses information well."
  • "Describe your experience using information" (81).
Actually, these are questions that I would like to ask some of my students now. I'd be curious about some of the answers, which I think might enable me to work on improving our program. If I ever write something for "serious" publication, replicating some of this study here would be something to consider for me.

The study identified three conceptions of information experience. First, in terms of sources, where "information use is seen as finding information located in information sources." Second, in terms of processes, where "information use is seen as initiating a process." Third, in terms of a knowledge base, where "information use is seen as building a personal knowledge base for various purposes" (81).

The article's bottom line, as suggested by the author in the discussion,
"To enhance information literacy, educators should be attempting to conceptualize information use in a variety of ways, which learners could then use to address their various information needs" (84).

Monday, November 13, 2006

Booknote: Creating the Customer Driven Library

Title: Creating the Customer-Driven Library: Building on the Bookstore Model
Author: Jeanette Woodward
Publication Information: Chicago: ALA, 2005
ISBN: 0-8389-0888-8
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science, Library marketing and public relations

While this book had a few insights that I appreciated, it is still another one of those "we are not good enough unless we become like a bookstore" arguments. Throughout the book, and throughout certain sectors of the blogosphere where the librarians hang out, we are constantly reminded that bookstores have a bottom line and are there to make money, while we hear that libraries have a higher purpose. Unfortunately, the money often does not follow to pursue that higher purpose, and at times it seems like the author does not truly want to acknowledge this. Sure, libraries can and need to improve, but sometimes you still need the money to get the new furniture, the coat of paint, and other resources. While some of her suggestions are excellent, some of them do require money, and at the end of the day, it is a matter of the community deciding it's time to put their money where their mouths are. So, I got mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it has some great ideas for public relations and better promoting the library. On the other hand, if I want to be a clerk, I can go get a job at the local Barnes and Noble.

As I often do in reading, I marked a few passages for further thought.
  • "I think as a profession, we may actually take pride in a down-at-the-heel-look" (17). No, sometimes a lack of funds is exactly that: a lack of funds. I sure as hell would like new desk and an ergonomically adequate chair for each of our librarians and staff instead of the old salvage desks we have now. I sure as hell ain't proud of the grungy look we portray, but I know things won't improve without a serious money infusion from the powers that be. I think the case is closer to we may be ashamed of the grunge look, but we don't have the resources. Excusing those who should be funding their libraries under the martyr rubric or the "we take pride in being poor and still making it work" is not right.
  • "Would library users prefer to view a bibliographic record that looked more like an Amazon web page than a library OPAC screen? Of course they would" (76). To which I say, "duh." I could write a whole series of blog posts on everything that is wrong with our OPAC, but I have to work for a living. I could go on about how the LOC subject hot links can be misleading when you get an index list instead of actual results. And don't even get me started on how searches using "and" as the boolean operator get changed to "or" without indication when the "and" operation fails to yield results, which further misleads the patrons, not to mention making my work harder because there is no good way to rationalize that annoyance.
  • "Librarians rarely have a clear marketing plan. Instead, they do a little of this and a little of that. For example, they start a newsletter and then abandon it when staffing gets tight or some other project takes center stage. They produce a brochure with little attention to design principles and fail to notice when becomes outdated" (132). In our case, this is very true. We should have marketing plan, and it should be a concerted and systematic effort, not something that one or two people squeeze in along with their other duties. It sure as hell should not be something to drop in the name of balancing things to do.
  • More on marketing; this is in the context of pointing out that bookstores have budgets and departments devoted to this, but libraries still have options: "Yet desktop publishing has made it possible for any library to produce newsletters, brochures, and other publications that come quite close to rivaling the bookstores" (144). Here's the catch, from the same paragraph: "Good design costs no more than bad, but no matter how talented the staff, they cannot produce quality materials if they must borrow bits of time from their regular duties" (144). I think that speaks for itself, but Woodward reinforces it: "Time must be blocked out when staff can concentrate on a project and get it done. Marketing is not an extra; it is a necessity" (144).
  • A useful chapter is the one on "Generating Publicity for the Library." The author explains how to gradually go from print media to on-the-air media. There is information on things from crafting a press release to writing a column in your local newspaper to appearing on television.
Overall, I still recommend the book. I agree with the author that we can learn a lot from bookstores. I am always a believer in knowing your competition. It does not mean I want to become my competition. While mostly geared to public libraries, the book does have things to say to academic libraries as well.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Article Note: On Undergraduate Citation Behavior

Citation for the article:

Carlson, Jake. "An Examination of Undergraduate Citation Behavior." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.1 (January 2006): 14-22.

Read via ScienceDirect.

This study looks at undergraduate citations by type and number based on class year, discipline, and course level. It draws on a sample of 583 bibliographies from student research papers. I found myself making marginal notes through the article. Some of the observations the author makes are things I knew; others just made me think a little.

In the opening, Carlson refers to previous work by Dilevko and Gottlieb (in JAL vol. 29) and D'Esposito & Gardner (in JAL vol. 25). Carlson points out "both studies found that although use of online sources was common, print sources were valued by undergraduates and were still seen as the primary sources of information for their research" (14). What is missing from these studies, according to Carlson, is what influences students in their choices of what they cite.

In the literature review, Carlson begins to look at work in this area by reminding readers of a common assumption:

"It is a logical assumption to make that as students progress through college they will become more adept with the research process and change their citation behaviors as a result" (14).

I think most academic librarians know that, while logical, this assumption is not always accurate. It is more accurate to say that very often students do not become more adept at research. This is often due to simple lack of practice; students get a very basic library tour their freshman year, if at all, and they may never get further research instruction unless their professor brings them in for instruction or plans on teaching the skills in his/her class. The library literature features discussions of this. At least, I remember seeing this before (here is a reference to the issue, there may be others I am not recalling now).

Further in the literature review, Carlson cites an article from C&RL (vol. 62),

"Grimes and Boening found that first-year students are not effectively evaluating the Web sites they are citing. As a result, first-year students are using unauthenticated and inappropriate material from the Web in their research" (15).

Carlson does reassure readers that freshman behavior cannot be generalized to upper classmen. In terms of evaluating websites, the issue is one of the regular concerns for faculty, if the requests I get to teach about the topic are any indication. I made a note a while back on an article on how faculty see their students' use of the WWW here.

And talking about situations that do not always match reality, Carlson writes about instructors' expectations of their students capabilities,

"Instructors' expectations of what students should be able to accomplish increase as students go through the curriculum of their major. Research given to students as they progress through course levels are likely to be more demanding and increasingly complex. The types of sources students select should reflect their growing sophistication and ability to think critically in their chosen discipline" (15).

I say reality often does not match expectation because students often do not get research practice. This goes back to the earlier observation about students not becoming adept at research. Now, I am sure that assignment's complexity should grow as students progress in their majors. One would think student sophistication in research would grow as well, but that is not always the case as we can see.

Carlson points to Barbara Valentine, who wrote an article on student commitment. She made this discovery on her study published in the Journal of Academic Librarianship:

"Barbara Valentine discovered that students tended to focus pragmatically on the guidelines, requirements, and other signals given by the faculty member as part of the assignment rather than on the faculty member's idea of a 'learning experience.' Although students seemed to understand that the professors wanted 'good' sources, they were not always sure of what constituted a 'good' source or how to find it" (15).

Allow me a brief moment of snark, but I could have told Ms. Valentine that little nugget about student pragmatism for free based on my experiences as a teacher. As for the other part, helping students learn what makes a good source is part of what I do.

Overall, Carlson's article is very detailed in describing the methodology, which gives me ideas for possible replication or maybe a similar study in my setting. A lot of the results seem to confirm the conventional wisdom. For instance:

  • "Students in humanities courses focused heavily on books, which composed 70 percent of the total number of citations listed in their bibliographies" (17-18).
  • "Students in social science courses cited more journal articles than students in humanities courses or students in foundation seminars" (18).
However, the article presents other findings based on student academic year and course level. Just one example:

  • "As first-year students enrolled in foundation seminars cited a substantially higher mean number of Web sites than first-year students in other courses did, it is likely that the types of assignments given in foundation seminars encourage, or at least do not discourage, the use of Web sites as information sources" (19).
Carlson also discusses the limitations of the study. In brief, the main limitation is a lack of context. We know what sources the students chose, but we do not know why they chose them. Carlson closes the article by posing some questions for further research. The reference list has an item or two I may seek out as well.

Farkas on online research sources.

Meredith Farkas, of Information Wants to Be Free, has a great article on "Whatever you do, don't use Google!" While I am not quite ready to toss out Google, the article points out to some excellent and freely available resources on the web. This is definitely a nice set of notes for librarians and educators out there.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Switched to beta, so just testing

I finally buckled and decided to switch the blogs over to the beta version. Hopefully, this will not be terrible on the readers or on the blogger. As always, feel free to provide feedback via comments, or you can e-mail me if you prefer the e-mail route. Actually, need to doublecheck the e-mail, since beta links to Gmail. Anyways, best, and keep on blogging.

On a side note, I may be changing the template to The Itinerant Librarian, my unruly cousin. Since that is the personal blog, I figure experimenting there first may be better. Anyhow, stay tuned.

Crossposted to The Itinerant Librarian.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Booknote: Integrating Information Literacy into the Higher Education Curriculum

Title: Integrating Information Literacy into the Higher Education Curriculum: Practical Models for Transformation.
Author: Ilene F. Rockman and Associates
Publication Information: San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass, 2004.
ISBN: 0-7879-6527-8
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library Science, higher education, instruction, information literacy.

I started reading this shortly after I returned from Immersion. The book provides a collection of essays on information literacy and higher education. After the book's introduction, readers can read the essays in order or pick and choose based on interests. I found myself bending little corners of pages with the intention of revisiting passages, which for me is a sign of a book that invites further thinking and reflection. I only wish that more administrators in my campus would read it and maybe heed some of its ideas. Let's just say that when it comes to Information Literacy (IL) in my campus that I have many miles to walk. Overall, there is a need to take IL outside of the library; it has to become a campus-wide effort, not just something the library does. To do this, collaboration with faculty is needed as well as buy-in and support from the administrators. In her foreword to the book, Patricia Senn Breivik discusses this, adding that librarians are often reluctant to give up control, but I will say that classroom faculty can be just as territorial. For IL to take hold, it will take serious dialogue and cooperation between faculty and librarians. We already share a common interest in seeing our students succeed. We could build from that in order to assure that our students learn skills that will serve them in and out of the university. Why is this an issue? Here is one reason:
"Individuals who are knowledgeable about finding, evaluating, analyzing, integrating, managing, and conveying information effectively and efficiently are held in high esteem as being information competent" (xv).

In the book's preface, Ilene Rockman provides a suggested list of people who should read this book. I certainly qualify under the "academic librarians involved in campus teaching. technology, curriculum, or assessment activities" (xvii). However, I would like it if some faculty members and their department chairs read it. Heck, I would be really curious if the new Active Learning Specialist the campus is hiring with such fanfare as part of the Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP) has read it, plans to read it, or at least has some thoughts on the topic. And, if he has read it, I would like to know what he found useful, what could be implemented and how. Overall, I think this is a book that various members of the campus community should be reading, yet I get the feeling it will sit on the shelf for a long time after I return it.

Ilene Rockman provides the Introduction for the book, which serves to make a case for the importance of IL. She looks at the definitions and reviews the evolution of the concept. As I often do, I will jot down some ideas and quotes from the book I would like to remember and add my comments and thoughts. If you came here to see if I recommend the book, the answer is yes, and you can stop reading now. Otherwise, feel free to keep reading these notes.

Let me start with this from the Introduction:
  • "Students may have picked up the skills to send electronic mail, chat, download music, but many have not learned how to effectively locate information; evaluate, synthesize, and integrate ideas; use information in original work or give proper credit for information used" (10).
Unfortunately, this illusion is alive and well in my campus, and it is something my colleagues and I strive to dispel. We do have some administrators who think that just because a student can use Google that the student can automatically use it to find information and use it effectively to complete an assignment or task. Skills like these take time and effort to teach and nurture. The fact that many faculty fall for the illusion is problematic. It is even more problematic when they compound the problem by assuming the students learn "about the library" in some other class. Yet teaching IL should be a cooperative effort. Faculty should coordinate their efforts more with their colleagues as well as librarians and other campus learning support units. The evidence points out that simply hoping students will somehow learn it is not enough.
  • "It is clear from the studies that students are not picking up information literacy skills on their own. Without a concerted instructional effort that gives students multiple opportunities to practice their information literacy skills, such skills will not be effectively developed. Just as an athlete needs sustained conditioning and practice before a big game and a musician needs to rehearse before a performance, a student needs multiple experiences to practice and hone information literacy skills before graduating and pursuing advanced study or entering the workplace" (from Introduction).
The above may also be food for thought for those faculty who think that a quickie library tour with no focus or tailoring to the class is the cure-all for their students' research needs. Change is a constant companion, so why would a faculty member think that a quickie BI session will be relevant, let alone remembered, in later semester and for other subjects that may be more specialized? I sometimes tell faculty that they can always bring a class to the library a second time. I do it if I get the impression that the task at hand for the students may require complex searching or different strategies beyond what might be covered in a single session. More often than not they look at me funny, as if asking, "now, why would I do that?" If you have to ask, you still have work ahead of you. I do have a few supportive faculty, so in my case, there is some hope, infinitesimal as it may be. Yet, I wish I could reach so many more.

On a brief aside, I think some of this could be helpful with retention and graduation rate issues, but I don't see much interest from the powers that be in exploring this route.

Getting back to the book, the introduction provides various examples of ways that IL can be integrated into the campus curriculum. The message is simple, but implementing it will require work and commitment. According to Rockman, "it is the responsibility of the entire college or university to help our students to become information literate, an essential element for future success" (22).

Moving along, I was interested in reading Susan Carol Curzon's chapter on faculty-librarian relationships. For one, it is something I struggle with at work given that a large number of faculty can be resistant or indifferent to anything the library says or does. Yet I was also interested because back when I was in the job market, one of the places I interviewed at asked me to do a presentation on the topic. Since then, I keep a running bibliography of items on the topic, so I will be adding this in. Curzon emphasizes that this needs to be a partnership, and this means sharing in an endeavor. She writes that "the parties must have a mutual interest in the endeavor and see a mutual benefit emerging from it. Both parties must give similar weight to the goods and make a similar commitment" (29). Herein lies the challenge for us since a lot of my work is simply attracting faculty's attention and creating awareness. Curzon provides the following steps to help the process:
  • Identify partners. Determine who to target and address. Start small. For instance, find the library committee from the faculty senate and start there. Find other venues such as learning centers.
  • Create awareness. Curzon writes, "support can only come when faculty are aware of what information literacy is, why it is important, and what problem it is solving" (32). Remember that information literacy supports critical thinking, that it is a lifelong skill, and it helps with current academic endeavors. Having a lot of data for evidence helps too given faculty respect data.
  • Avoid partnership pitfalls. A lot of this boils down to diplomacy with the faculty. Faculty, according to Curzon, can be very territorial, so avoid igniting this tendency. Curzon thus suggests that librarians should send messages of inclusiveness (36). On the one hand, I can agree with some of this. On the other hand, this can place librarians in a supplicant mode, which I despise. As a trained professional, I expect respect just as faculty do. It has to be on an equal footing with common goals.
Curzon then describes various models for teaching information literacy along with faculty such as the General Education model (incorporating IL into GE goals) and the on-demand model that we commonly know. I found these descriptions to make a nice overview of what is out there. A note that Rockman looks at success strategies as well in chapter 2. Curzon concludes her chapter:
  • Here is the bottom line: if students are not information literate, they cannot use information effectively. If students cannot use information effectively, they cannot function effectively in their studies" (44).
In chapter four, Baker and Curry provide a plan and a set of competency checklists I found useful. I may have to go back and make some further notes, maybe to help me create some checklists to meet our needs locally.

In chapter 5, Trudi E. Jacobson discusses IL for research settings. Even though the chapter is geared to large research institutions, I found some interesting things that are applicable to any setting. I found particularly useful the section on "Lessons from Other Institutions." I think these lessons are important, so I am jotting them down. Italics are from the original text.
  • "Make information literacy a campus concern" (161). According to Jacobson, the idea is that it can't be just a librarian issue. The campus as a whole has to take responsibility.
  • "Involve all constituencies during implementation of the program" (161).
  • "Have a small committee to provide oversight" (162).
  • "Do not leave out librarians." Jacobson reminds us that librarians have done a great deal of work and research in this area. "They will also be able to bolster information literacy initiatives by providing assistance both directly in the classroom and through support materials" (162).
  • "Support instructors who are teaching information literacy" (162). This includes space, resources, and professional development.
  • "Support librarians who are supporting other faculty members" (162). Here, I am including Jacobson's explanation, then my comments. She writes:
"The amount of time needed to support full-fledged information literacy programs can be phenomenal. It is unrealistic to expect librarians to add these responsibilities to an already full job description. New librarians may need to be hired or existing responsibilities may need to be reassigned or dropped entirely in order for librarians to be able to focus on campuswide information literacy initiatives" (162).

The reason I wanted to jot down that passage is that, when I got back from Immersion, it was something I clearly told my supervisors about. The answers I got were not exactly satisfactory, and I have been thinking about this in and out since then. Here, the instruction program is a very small operation, part of a small library operation overall. One of our problems is personnel shortage. We barely have enough to operate. Losing one or two librarians now would be chaos. No, I don't mean to sound dramatic. But, say take out the ILL Librarian and the Web Librarian, and it could be dire. In terms of instruction and IL, we are pretty much in a business as usual model. We can either stay that way, or we can strive to grow the program. Unfortunately, there is only one of me, and I have not quite figured out the mechanics of genetics to clone myself. Back to the serious note, I am the primary library instructor. If we are going to grow, I need the time to do things like meet with faculty, create some materials to raise awareness, maybe try out some outreach ideas such as working with the Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders. Like the other librarians, I have a full plate in terms of reference and collection development. Instruction is my core job function, and I would not leave it for the world. I can't really give up reference for two reasons. One, it would burden the other librarians. Two, I need the reference experience to keep in touch with students. As for collection development, similar reasons I can't drop that. This all makes a tough balancing act to which the answer of "you may need to drop something" is not realistic nor constructive. When I ask for other librarians to pick up the occasional class, I don't think it should become like the hunt for Red October. At any rate, those are the cards I have been given. In my case, dropping something would mean someone else having to pick it up, or it just won't get done. I personally find that answer unacceptable. It's time we as a group decide IL is important, and if it is, then we should put our resources and commitment to it. As for the campus, IL is barely an afterthought, but I am working on that.
  • "Evaluate information literacy courses and instruction and assess student learning" (162). In other words, find out if the things that are supposed to be happening are happening. Running better assessment on what I do now is another activity I would like to do, but again, the support is lacking. I can only do so much.
While we are mentioning assessment, chapter 6 provides tables with various types of performance indicators, based on ACRL, for information literate students. These are definitely worth a look along with some of the example test questions and other items.

At the end of the day, perhaps this is why information literacy is significant. Here's an answer to the "so what" question, from the book's conclusion:

"Faculty want to see an improvement in the quality of student work, an increase in the effectiveness of student, students taking more responsibility for their own learning, and students eager to engage in content to continue learning. Students want to complete assignments with less difficulty and more satisfaction and apply this knowledge to any new situation. Employers want to hire graduates who can take responsibility, solve problems, absorb and synthesize key concepts, organize and present information, and produce ideas for the future. And colleges and universities want to graduate students who will reflect positively on their institutions and become learners for the rest of their lives" (239-240).

As I said at the beginning, I wish more faculty and administrators would read this book. I wish I could have more conversations about its content and about information literacy, especially conversations that will yield some action. But until that day comes, I will do my best to keep learning, practicing, and growing as an instruction librarian. In the meantime, I recommend the book highly to anyone with an interest in IL and higher education.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Two Words: GO VOTE!

I came in to work a bit later today because I was voting. Yes, today is Election Day in the United States. I know that there are some questions about voting technology and accountability, but the real way to make sure your vote does not count is by not casting it at all. So, if you are over 18 and registered to vote, go do it. Where I am at, the polls are open from 7:00a to 7:00p.

Here are some resources that may be of interest:


State and Local, if you are in Texas, and in Harris County:

  • Voter Information, from the Secretary of State.
  • Harris County Votes, for information on voting. However, do note that the voter registration information, such as your polling location, is under the county tax office (yea, go figure).
  • Harris County Tax Office. Click on the red link for "Find Polling Location," then enter your zip code. If you click on the link for "Voter Registration," you can see the voter database, which allows you to see your registration and the incumbents in your district.
Update Note (same day): Don't just take my word for it. Erica, the Librarian Avenger, reminds us to vote today as well. This line is the best one I have seen:

"Today is U.S. election day. Today. Tuesday the 7th. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today you need to find ten minutes before, after, or during work to drive/walk/bike/train/carpool/drunkenly stumble to your local firehouse/school/residence hall/public space and vote."

It is today, don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You miss out if you don't do it today. I voted at a church; it did take about ten minutes, and no, I did not drunkenly stumble there. I may have to consider that for the next election (hmm). She then briefly tells you what you need to do to know where to vote and who to vote. You can look over her links or the ones above.

Update note (same day, later on): I know, I keep fiddling with this post, but I keep finding good stuff, so here goes. Find more resources for voting, as well as for keeping up with election results, via The Resource Shelf.

So, with all this wealth of information, you really have no excuse. Make some time and go vote.

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian).

Monday, November 06, 2006

Article Note: On reference desk blogs

Citation for the article:

Barton, Emily and Arlene Wesmantel. "Reflogs Now." Library Journal (October 1, 2006): 28-30.

Read in print (via the snail MPOW routing). Link to the article here.

If you are wondering if there is a better way to keep track of reference answers and frequently asked questions at your reference desk, this small article is good reading. It is something I have been pondering for a while myself here, and I came to a similar conclusion: that we (probably) use a blog to keep track of various reference items at the desk. We all come up with a variety of hints and ideas to answer a broad array of reference questions. However, they either get shared via e-mail or end up in the ratty old reference notebook. OK, it is not really ratty old, but very often the assignments do not get updated or weeded. In fact, I recently tried to weed some of the items out, and I got requests to actually put the stuff back in the notebook. I guess I shook someone's comfort level, so I put them back and stopped worrying about it. However, I get this situation often enough:

When a student came to the desk, I would have to search through my email or the notebook trying to find these helpful hints. For assignments given well before the due date, it was difficult to find the information in my email, and sometimes I had already deleted the relevant messages (28).

I so want to solve for that. The Systems Librarian and I often talk about this, about how good it would be to have a wiki or some form of knowledge base. However, with the restrictions we face in terms of online construction resources (i.e., no server, no place to build anything), creating something robust is a slim possibility. A blog at least could, as Barton and Wesmantel point out, "serve as a searchable archive (you can search by date, category, word, or phrase) so we can refer back to our work when the same assignment pops up a year later" (28). Where I worked before I came here, we had a reference desk log, so it is a tool that I have come to sorely miss here, precisely for that reason. All that stuff we keep having to dig up again and again can be there. Unlike the authors, we would have to use some online hosted solution, if at all, so issues of customizing may come up. A reference desk blog would have to be closed, namely only for the reference people. My guess is we could probably use one of the services that allows for controlling who sees the content of the blog. I would have to check on this. My blogging experience is mostly here on Blogger, and I have not switched to the beta, which I hear has better privacy features. My library has a Typepad account for its blogs, but I am not sure if a private blog could be made. I don't post there often enough to know all the features, and I am just a contributor anyhow; I don't administer it, so a question to ask the administrator of the library blogs. And of course, I would want to know, if it can be done, then why have we not done it yet?

The authors have the good fortune that they have a good relationship with the campus IT. In here, we can barely get our IT people to notify us when some major change is coming that might affect the library. If I sound slightly frustrated, I have reason to be. Having them "overlook" the library is pretty regular around here. As for our librarians, e-mail is the dominant form of communication. For online reference, it is an e-mail leading to a listserv. The answers for our online reference are shared, if the librarian answering a particular question remembers to copy the answer to the rest of us. Then, the reply may or not get stored locally by a librarian if they remember or feel inclined to do so. Not very efficient, but it falls under "this is the way things have been done." Now, I am not saying my supervisors are averse to something like a desk blog. The concern in large part is finding the old answers and putting them someplace handy. I am at a point where I am more than willing to say, the hell with the old stuff. Start anew with incoming reference answers and items and build from that. Everyone cringes at the idea of indexing old text files of reference answers. If that is the big deal, forget that. Start anew, use tagging and categories, if the blogging system allows it and go from there. You have to start somewhere. My two cents. The authors do note that "the primary reason to implement the blog was that it could be a better searchable archive than our e-mail distribution list" (30). I don't see why something like that would not work here.

I do like better the authors' idea of a blog to keep track of questions received in public service desks. At the end of the day, I am thinking I just need to solve for this in my own practice. My instruction duties, complemented by my reference work, means I could certainly use some kind of reference items blog. Maybe that's what I should do: create my own reference/blog file that I can access anywhere online. This one would not be closed. On the contrary, I would want it open, and I would probably advertise it to my students. I have been experimenting with making notes of useful reference items in Alchemical Thoughts. Basically, I just make a note over there when I come across some item--an article, a website, maybe refer to a book I read that may be relevant-- that I think a student could use for a research assignment or may be interesting for classes. It has been sporadic, as I am experimenting with how it feels to do that. This process of exploration and gathering could be formalized. Since this would be my tool, I can just use any free online service. I have a couple of accounts that I have not explored enough. Maybe it's time to take a second look and see if anything catches my eye. Another possibility may be using a MySpace or Facebook page for the task, since those are virtual spaces where the students roam. I still have some thinking to do, but since I am aiming at providing some additional resources/hints/tips to students, the issue of whether it is under the official umbrella or not does not matter. Tagging and sorting by categories would like be helpful to ease searching.

For reference, I have been thinking about this in other posts, for instance here, referring to subject librarians having a blog for liaison work. Now, there is another thought, but that may have to wait a bit more. We'll see. Anyhow, go and look at the article. For some, it may be stuff they do already or know about, but it looks helpful for others who may be asking the same questions.

Update Note: (11/10/2006): My director read the post and commented via e-mail to others and me. The Web Librarian has worked on a test blog with categories, and it may lead to some degree of redesign. I will make notes when I see where it leads. It's a start.