Friday, May 19, 2006

Looking over old lesson plans and the end of the semester

This is probably the type of thing I would just put in my personal journal, but I figured that typing it in here might allow me to connect it to other pieces I have written in the hopes I can learn something. At any rate, the end of an academic semester is a good time of reckoning for an instruction librarian. Classes are done. The students are taking their finals and going through the last panics of having procrastinated on a paper. As this passes, the library's pace slows down, and now that we are on intersession, I have some time to reflect. So, I find myself during this period planning and sorting out some things. For one, I managed to make a preliminary outline for the Summer 2006 edition of Library News and Notes, our library's newsletter. I also managed to make the library's contribution to the student packet for orientation later in the summer. It just needs to be photocopied, and I will take care of that later. Another thing I am doing is tidying up. I am going through my lesson plans from last Spring, looking them over, seeing what I need to keep and what I can toss. I will be doing the same for previous semesters. Since I create my lesson plans in Word, I have electronic copies, which can serve as templates over time. However, I often make notes and adjustments on my printed copies, and it can be interesting to see some of those notes now, notes that I often made "on the fly." Notes that range from "showed them X database instead of Y" to "make sure to use X search term, that other one did not work."

For instance, last Spring was the first semester that I used IM. I've used IM before personally, but this was the first time I advertised that IM was an option for students to communicate with me. I only turned it on during my hours at work, a small start. I did not have any takers this time around, but I still like the idea of offering another option. I will likely continue it. Besides, keeping a messenger turned on in the background is not really a bother. I do have to say I have not been terribly happy with Yahoo!'s messenger, which lately seems slow at times, often displaying difficulty to log someone in. It seems every time they "upgrade it," it seems to get worse. I wish they would just stop adding "eye candy" and actually got it to work. Yet, when it works, it is alright. I had a Yahoo! account already, so using this was a logical first step. For AIM, I downloaded it. Believe it or not, I had an old Netscape name that actually worked for it, so there it went. Overall, I do like the concept. My marketing to students was strictly word of mouth in BI sessions. My IM information is not public knowledge anywhere on the library's official documents. If I ever get a webpage hosted on campus (assuming I can ever cut through the red tape), maybe that information would be there. Anyhow, that along with virtual reference at my place is a rant better left unwritten for now. For me, it was easy to add the IM usernames to the little note I place on the whiteboard with my contact information when I teach. Reactions from students were mixed. Some thought it was cool. Others had no clue what IM was, and a couple asked me if I also had MSN. I need to consider that. The ones that had no clue, I am thinking that a few in that subset are not totally "illiterate" about IM. Odds are very good they already use tools like MySpace and Facebook. This may lead me to experiment with some of those tools at some point. Brian Matthews, of AltRef blog, has done some work in this area that I find helpful as a reference point. Here is Mr. Matthews's post that I had in mind, and some of my notes on it are over here. I may try to market myself a bit more, so to speak. At any rate, I do have a big part of the summer to think it over.

Having said this, IM business may have been slow, but business overall for me was good. I have not checked my numbers, but I believe my consultations with students increased this past semester; e-mail reference questions directly to me, as opposed to the library's e-mail reference service, seem to be up as well. These are all good signs. I think it also means I can still work a bit more at promoting our services. There's always room for improvement.
  • By the way, this reminds me I have to begin creating the document for the instructional unit's statistics.
And how did I get to thinking about IM? On checking the lesson places, I have a small note on a January lesson plan with the IM handles handwritten to remind me that I needed to tell students about it.

Furthermore, as I look over some of the lesson plans and notes, I do see a broad range of topics I have I have dealt with. If this is not a good case for librarians being generalists, I am not sure what is. Here are some sample student topics from lesson plans, student consultations, and professors' requests:
  • Animal art: is it possible?
  • mimimum wage.
  • video games: addiction to them, violence.
  • why we go to war? Both in terms of the current war in Iraq as well as a more philosophical question.
  • campus parking (we get this one every year. It's almost as bad as the kid who wants to write on "abortion" and has no clue of how broad and polarizing the topic can be).
  • gasoline prices.
  • terrorism/homeland security.
  • career information.
  • various business reference questions.
Given the trends, I am expecting the papers on MySpace and the hysteria over it to be rolling out any time soon. In one second semester composition class, the students had the following writing prompt at the opening of class:
  • "Based on what you have read about globalization, do you believe it is good or bad? Why?"
This was one of the classes that I actually went out of the library to teach. I was there as they wrote it, and I was able to use some of their answers as prompts to guide my research demonstrations, showing them how to find things they were interested in. It also got them to tell me more about their reading.

Another note is that I have been using Librarians' Internet Index more in my classes as a supplemental resource.

To an extent, what I am doing in looking over the lesson plans and the related materials is cannibalizing stuff. Keep the artifacts, such as handouts, sample syllabi, etc. Other reminders:
  • For that Spanish class, the one on oral communication, I provided instruction, I need to create a basic handout in Spanish listing library resources.
  • I need to check the links and possibly update/revise the handout we provide for that Organic Chemistry class.
  • On the upside, I did create a new pathfinder on Women's Studies (warning: PDF file). The topic was a class topic, but I expanded to make it a general subject guide. I still have others to make. One of the topics that pops up now is on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. There is a class that discusses this. One thing I would love is if some of these guides could be put on wikis. I often create materials that cross disciplines, so placing them on a wiki would allow the other librarians, including the ones who have a subject interest, to add to the guides and overall make updating easier. However, since we have the limitation that we do not have our own servers, pretty much implementing something like that is next to impossible. Yet, I am wondering if I should explore tools like Squidoo. Right now I am more in a frame of using anything that gets around the bureaucracies and obstacles. If it is unofficial, but it gets the job done, I can live with that.
This is probably a "part one" kind of post, so I may likely make other notes as the intersession moves along.

No comments: