Thursday, August 31, 2006

Thoughts on MySpace and similar services after teaching a class

This is not quite a post about MySpace, but I was not sure what title to put on it, so here goes. I just finished teaching four classes today for an adjunct who teaches four classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I figured if she was brave enough to have four consecutive classes, then I could be crazy enough to do her BI sessions back to back. At any rate, I am thinking about my students and how they use MySpace and other similar services.

These classes are first semester freshman composition, and the instructor for these classes often ask for a "basic library orientation." In other words, these are students who are just starting at the university, and the professor wants an overview. I tend to teach these classes in a very informal manner. Sure, I have a plan, but since I am demonstrating things and giving a tour, I am fairly relaxed. My sample topic for searching a database was on MySpace as I pretended I was going to write some paper on social networks and college students. I ask my students questions, and I talk to them. Asking questions is not just to get participation, but I learn a lot about their world, their views, and just what they are up to from their answers. I ask them how many use MySpace or anything else, and I get a few hands. It seems MySpace is favored, but I get a few for Facebook, some for Hi5 (I have seen that one on quite a few library computer lab terminals) and some for Xanga. One of my students mentioned Mi Gente, which apparently is a social site for Latinos. How that slipped out of my radar is beyond me, which goes to show I am always learning new things from the students. In a way, given our population, I should have known there would be a Latino social site someplace, and that they would be on it. Note to myself to check it out.

So, I ask them about what they have heard on the news, and of course, the issue of pedophiles and predators on MySpace comes up, which I take is more a reflection of the way the news has overblown it. I make a note of that. I also ask them if they knew that potential employers could find their social network pages. This raised questions from them in the classes, especially the last one in the afternoon. "But you can lock your pages, can't you?" Well, depends on what service you use, and Google can still crawl a lot of it. "But Facebook, you have to log in, be in college." If you have a college e-mail, you are in. A lot of companies have alumni for instance who use their addresses. Campus police can do it as well. While we got a little sidetracked, it was a definite teaching moment as the students clearly did not know about this issue with social networking. I was straight with them; I told them that I was not telling them not to do have a MySpace or any other page, just to be a bit careful. I am sure I scared one or two of them, which may be a good thing. But as I left the classroom, I was thinking a bit more about this.

I had a moment to talk to our ILL Librarian, who mentioned being at some campus administrators' meeting where they all assumed that the students could use a computer, therefore they were information literate. Actually, the assumption is if they can check e-mail, they can use a database or find information online. I can point to a few articles refuting this, and any librarian can tell you that just because they can type on a keyboard, it does not follow that the students are information literate. I guess here is what worries me. I can educate the students. I am comfortable with them, and they tend to be willing to at least give the crazy librarian a chance. I don't think I can educate those administrators, and that worries me since they make the decisions with no idea of what the reality in the trenches is like. By the way, even though a lot of students use things like MySpace, I did get two or three who did not know what MySpace was. It is not surprising in this campus where the digital divide can be quite apparent. And that is part of the issue as well. We have administrators making all sorts of technology decisions, and somehow they don't know the students. Oh well, I shall continue my mission.

Blog Day 2006

Happy Blog Day 2006! This is now my second year participating. Some of my readers may have noticed the badge on the blog's sidebar (unless they read the blog on an aggregator). The idea behind Blog Day is for bloggers around the world to take a moment and post five recommendations for blogs to read and consider. From the Blog Day website, "Blog Day was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On this day, every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. In this way, all Blog web surfers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs."

So, here are my recommendations this year:
  • Ruminations. This is C.W.'s blog, a librarian in Perth, Western Australia. I always find something interesting here.
  • Vonjobi's the Filipino Librarian. Another librarian blog. I am a librarian, so I am bound to read things in my profession. According to its author, this is a blog for "those interested in knowing more about the Phillippines, Filipiana, Phillipine libraries, and Filipino librarians." Another place for finding something interesting.
  • Trisha Reloaded. A blog from Singapore. This is a new discovery for me. I was intrigued by Trisha's recent post about why she hates teaching. A lot of good teachers have moments like she describes. As a teacher myself, I was intrigued, so I kept reading. I think many readers will like to make a stop at her blog as well.
  • Ivan About Town. Ivan Henares writes about his travels to various heritage sites. In his blog, he seeks to promote backpacking in the Phillipines. A recent discovery for me, I foudn myself interested in the travel narratives.
  • A Bengali in TO. This is the blog of a Bengali in Toronto. I discovered his post about reading the Qu'ran for Ramadan and his decision to not (just) read it. I am lingering to see what else is offered, and I think it makes a good recommendation this year.
In addition, Global Voices has added a twist to the celebration. Their touch to the activity provides the following prompt:

In advance of that day, we at Global Voices would like to ask our community to help fellow bloggers in different countries get to know you better. We’re finding that people in different countries blog for different reasons, and that blogospheres in different places have developed different kinds of relationships with the rest of their culture, politics, and mainstream media. We’d like to help people understand you and your region’s blogosphere better. So if you have the time, please help us do this by writing a post (or several if you like) before August 31st, answering some or all of the following questions:
  • Why did you start blogging?
  • What do you blog about mainly?
  • Do you blog in your first language or in another language, and why?
  • What motivates you to keep blogging even if (like most bloggers) you’re not paid much for it?
  • Is your audience mainly inside your own country or around the world?
  • What do your family and friends think about the fact that you are a blogger?
  • Does your boss know you have a blog?
  • What is the relationship between blogs in your country or region and the mainstream media?
  • When you blog, how would you describe what you write? Is it part of a conversation? Is it ranting? Is it a daily diary? Is it journalism? Is it some or all of these things at different times? Does the definition matter?
  • Have blogs started to have an impact on politics in your country? Have they started to influence what stories get covered in your country’s media? We’d love to know some examples.
Even though they suggest I do this part before the big day, time is a little tight for me, so it has to be today. So, here go my replies:
  • I started blogging for professional reasons. The Gypsy Librarian is my LIS/librarianship blog. I use it as a tool for professional development. It allows me to reflect on my practice as a librarian and an educator. I also use it to reflect and respond to some of the issues in the profession of librarianship. However, it turns out that blogging can be fun as well. To that end, I have a personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian. I use that one for post that are a bit more personal as well as for some humor topics, and for what I like to label as "the things not talked about in polite company." That usually means politics and religion. This one I started just for fun.
  • At The Gypsy Librarian, I blog mostly about topics in librarianship, library instruction, academic articles, reading, books, and literacy. It is mostly about things that interest me as an academic librarian. At The Itinerant Librarian, I blog about everything else. In a way, it is my "goofing off" blog that I use to post about things I find amusing. Now and then, I may post something related to politics (very minimal), religion, humor, life in general, reading (often about more controversial things). I think my personal blog is where I show more of my own opinions without caring about what others think.
  • I blog in English. However, I have to clarify that English is not my first language. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico, so Spanish is my first language. I have English native fluency since I was raised bilingual. Since I work in the United States, and English is the language of the land, I blog in that language. I am pretty comfortable expressing myself in English, so to be honest, it is not something I have given much thought to. At times though, I have wondered what it would be like to blog in Spanish. However, I would have to find a good tool that allows for the various diacritical marks in Spanish, and I don't want to deal with that at this point in my blogging.
  • Indeed, like most bloggers, I am not paid to do this. For my professional blog, it is mostly a tool for me to think about what I do. I also use the blog to make notes on interesting tools, websites, and ideas I find around the blogosphere. It is kind of like a notebook for me to consult later. It is the value of building a record which keeps me going. I also enjoy writing, so that is additional motivation. While I hope there are some people out there who read my blogs, that is not a primary motivation. However, now that I know some people read it (thanks you two), I try to make good posts that they will find interesting (or at least amusing). For my personal blog, it is mostly for my own amusement.
  • As far as I know, my family is not aware that I keep blogs. It is not intentional, just something that has never come up. My parents are not really into the Internet, mostly because they don't see as much value in it other than using it to get directions and other short tasks. As for other family members, my better half (also known as the wife) is aware of it, and she thinks it's ok. As for others, some of my coworkers know I blog, and I know of at least two that read my blogs on aggregators. Their feedback has been positive.
  • I know my boss reads the professional blog at least since she has mentioned it to me, but otherwise I have no idea what she thinks. In a way, my blogs, for my coworkers, are something I do, but not really spoken about (other than those two coworkers). Neither my coworkers nor my boss have left any comments on the blogs before. My guess is if they want to tell me something, they just come to my desk.
  • A lot has been written about blogs and the media in the United States. I may not be the most qualified expert on that topic. My impression is that the mainstream media has a love/hate relationship with blogs, mostly slanted towards hating them and seeing them as a threat. I will say that I often find out about news a lot sooner through bloggers than through the mainstream media. More importantly, blogs provide a balance to the mass produced grind of mainstream media. If you want the corporate line, you read one of the online U.S. newspapers or the websites for places like CNN. If you want actual news, coverage of topics the mainstream fails or neglects to pick up, and some opinions from diverse points of view, you go to the blogosphere.
  • Hmm, how would I describe what I write? Maybe, we can go by what it is not. It certainly is not journalism. Even for librarianship topics, I am nowhere near being anyone to break news stories or new grounds. I leave that to some of the A-listers in the biblioblogosphere (that's the term some librarians use to describe the part of the blogosphere where they write and hang out). I don't really do news or politics in my other blog, unless the news fall under the "odd or curious" category, and even then, timeliness is not an issue. So, no journalism here if we look at journalism as being timely and covering important events. Is it ranting? Sure, I do my occasional rant, but it is not the primary voice. For me to rant, I really have to be mad about something. Not a daily diary since I do not post on a daily basis. For The Gypsy Librarian, I aim for three times a week. For The Itinerant Librarian, at least once a week. Yet, I will post at any other time I feel like it. At the end of the day, I cannot give readers a definition of what it is I write, and I don't think definitions matter. As an old saying goes, "my friends need no explanations, and my enemies will not want any explanations." I just write. Something interests me, I write about it. I read something, I review it and/or respond to it. I feel a need to bring attention to something, I do so in whatever small measure I can. It's blogging. You just do it, to quote the Nike ads. Definitions don't really matter. It's what we bring to the posts and what we offer readers that matters. In my case, it's mostly for me. That others read whatever it is I write is a nice side effect.
  • I think some of the larger political blogs have some impact on the American political landscape. I think this happens in the sense that more people are discovering these and other blogs. Some of these blogs also take activist roles in getting people mobilized to vote or just to think about various topics. I should say that I try to stay away from politics as much as possible. Not because I lack opinions, but because it seems such a polarizing thing in society. If people need a list of some political blogs, the Internet Public Library offers a nice little list here. Those are A-listers. I will say that I have discovered that the small bloggers in politics are usually the ones to read. Unlike the big guys who mostly cover Washington politics and the same stories over and over, not to mention for the most part they just point to things with minimal or no actual commentary, the small bloggers tend to actually think about the issues and provide some thoughtful insights. They may not get on any lists, but finding them (often by serendipity) makes it worth it.
So, if you came here as part of the Blog Day celebration, welcome. Hope you find something interesting and that you keep leaping around to discover new blogs and bloggers. Feel free to drop me a comment, or if you want to be less public, the e-mail link on the blog is active. Best, and keep on blogging.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 6

Yet again, another set of recently read graphic novels.

Miller, Frank and David Mazzucchelli. Daredevil: Born Again. New York: Marvel Comics, 1990. ISBN: 0871352974

I have said before that I cannot get enough of Frank Miller's work. In this story, he tells of how Daredevil falls from grace when the Kingpin discovers his secret identity. The Kingpin does not want to kill the hero, but he chooses to ruin his life. We watch as Matt Murdoch loses his job, his residence, his friends. However, Matt is a fighter, and he never gives up. This is what the Kingpin was not counting on.

Anderson, Kevin J. The X-Files, Vol. 2. Checker Book Publishing, 2005. ISBN: 1933160039

This is the second compilation of the comic series. Again, I think fans of the series will enjoy this one, and new readers will like it as well. The cases in this collection are more on the paranormal side, less conspiracy so to speak.

Bendis, Brian Michael. Ultimate X-Men Vol. 7: Blockbuster. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0785112197

On his own, Wolverine is hunted down by rogue agents of Weapon X. He finds himself relying on help from Daredevil and Spider-Man. A good story, though the other two guest characters do not figure in it as strongly as it is hinted.

Vaughan, Brian K. Ultimate X-Men Vol. 9: The Tempest. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0785114041

After the death of one of the X-Men, they must now confront a serial killer going after young mutants. This killer is Mr. Sinister, but he is very different from the character known in the "classic" comics.

Moench, Doug. Batman: Hong Kong. New York: DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1401201016

A young man witnesses a murder online. When he is the next victim, Batman discovers a connection to Hong Kong. He travels to Hong Kong to solve the crime, only to find himself out of his element in a different culture. However, he finds help in a new local hero: the Night Dragon, who has a connection to the case as well.

Loeb, Jeff. Batman: Hush, Vol. 1. New York: DC Comics, 2004. ISBN: 1401200605

This is part of a two volume compilation, and I will be reading the second part soon. In this volume, Batman battles Killer Croc and Poison Ivy. However, not all is as it seems. Catwoman becomes involved as well, and for a while, Poison Ivy manages to get Superman under her spell. Yet, through it all, Batman has the feeling that someone else, someone who is not yet revealed, is pulling the strings. A solid story that stands well in the first part, but readers will want to seek out the second volume.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Article Note: On Lifelong Learning.

Citation for the article:

Helterbran, Valeri R. "Lifelong Learning: A Stratagem for New Teachers." Academic Exchange Quarterly 9.4 (Winter 2005).

I read it online, with a hat tip to Michael Lorenzen's Information Literacy Land of Confusion.

If you replace the word "teachers" for "librarians," the points made in this article are just as valid for our profession. Helterbran begins by stating that "lifelong learning is at the heart of practice for novice teachers." It should be at the heart of practice for librarians, and I mean all librarians. Part of this includes keeping up, which is something I have considered here and there. However, lifelong learning is an attitude, an outlook in life. You can go through the motions of keeping up, but if you don't apply what you learn and continue to grow, you may as well turn off your alert services and aggregators and stop reading. Overall, a lot of the library sector where the librarian bloggers hang out argues or suggests some form of lifelong learning.

Like new teachers, new librarians, particularly in new settings, can easily fall into daily routines without paying attention to their own continuing learning. I get the feeling this may be less extreme for my brethren in the tenure-track wheel of fortune (or tree of woe). After all, they are practically forced to continuously "learn" if they are to attain tenure. That's why they scramble to find article ideas in every thing they do (just read the LIS literature, which is full of "how my library did ____" articles) and why they rush to get into professional organization committees. I am sure there are some out there who serve out of true interest, but I am willing to bet that for many it is just a CV line. At least, that is what some of my brethren on that side of the fence tell me combined with observation from my adjunct days.

Now for those of us not on the tenure-track maze, continuous learning is not easy either. We usually have high workloads. I am not saying my tenure-line brethren don't have highj workloads, but they probably get a bit more support for the research and publishing part. Notice I say "some" support. The point for those in settings like mine is that continuous learning can become an afterthought. It's the thing you do if you ever get the time, which you rarely get. So it becomes important for those like me to take matters into our own hands. In the end, every librarian is responsible for their lifelong learning. So readers in the profession, ask yourselves how you are dealing with this. If need be, make a plan. Write it down and revisit it over time. I like putting things in writing because it reinforces the commitment.

Let me go on and note some points from the article:
  • "Novice teachers need high quality, sustained professional development at the beginning--and throughout--their careers." Just because it's expensive, it does not follow it's high quality. My school district where I had my first teaching job was known for hiring some very expensive consultants to conduct in-service training. Did I get anything out of them? Not really. On the other hand, I got a lot out of activities outside the district. This applies to libraries as well. It does not mean you need expensive hired guns, though an occasional hired speaker may be good. For instance then, if you send someone to a conference or workshop, have them teach the rest of the librarians about it. It benefits the library, and it benefits them since teaching is a great way to reinforce learning. Take my word on this: you can learn a lot about a topic when you have to teach about it. But going back to the point, you need quality professional development. If your workplace does not provide it, go outside and around the system. Do whatever it takes.
  • "Lifelong learning is a way of instruction-- and a way of life."
  • On defining lifelong learning: "In its simplest form that lifelong learning may be defined as a blend of the formal educationof one's youth coupled with a pastiche of self-directed formal or informal educative endeavors thereafter. In similar regard, a lifelong learner is one who typically exhibits a love of learning for its own sake, voluntarily participates in learning activities, demonstrates the ability to be self-directive and reflective, and sustains engagement in learning enterprises-- qualities that are expressed regardless of personal or social circumstances" (R. Barth, qtd. in Helterbran). I don't think I can add much to this since, for me, this is part of my teaching and life philosophies. It's a big reason for me becoming a librarian.
  • Helterbran also reminds us that we need to see learning as a shared experience. She adds that "confusion and frustration on the students' part are often a natural part of learning." I will give a caveat: Making students work and be responsible for their learning is good, but it must be fair. Assigning a big research assignment without guidance and with the assumption they already know how to do research is not fair nor is it constructive.
  • Finally, Helterbran presents three areas to consider in order to sustain lifelong learning.
    • "Examine one's own lifelong learning quotient." The author does not give an exact definition of lifelong learning quotient. If I understood the reading, this means being able to examine your commitment and involvement in lifelong learning. Under this, the author added something that concerned me greatly. She wrote, "however, without a groundswell of likeminded educators and a school community that views the concept of lifelong learning as foundational and models the characteristics of lifelong learning, the crush of external demands may dishearten the most enthusiastic new teacher." All I will say is that it can get lonely if you happen to be that one very enthusiastic teacher or librarian.
    • "Initiate dialogs." The author points out that the topic of lifelong learning has been neglected by many educators for years. I'll say it's been neglected by many librarians and their administrators as well. She suggests that new teachers who are filled with new ideas and enthusiasm can help start these conversations. I say the same for librarians, but I also say if librarians are committed to lifelong learning, and they continue to be active and enthusiastic learners, then they can continue the conversations over time. You don't want to become the deadwood.
    • "Set a plan of action." Helterbran says that doing this may create more questions than answers, and that's just fine by me. The idea behind creating a plan is to strengthen your skills and practices as well as to make new discoveries. I like this example: "The content of an action plan may include making efforts to involve students actively in the learning process, designing instructional activities to be inquiry-based motivated by a goal of critical thinking, and allowing students a voice in the learning process when and where appropriate." The example goes along with some things I learned during Immersion. However, I would also take plan of action to mean your plan for overall professional development and growth.
And if you need more on thinking and learning, Stephen Abrams, of Stephen's Lighthouse, has some ideas on "Playing and Learning." After all, no one said it had to be a shore. This mostly deals with learning about the 2.0 toys, but it is still applicable.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Article Note: On Outreach and Multicultural Centers

Citation for the article:

Walter, Scott. "Moving Beyond Collections: Academic Library Outreach to Multicultural Student Centers." Reference Services Review 33.4 (2005): 438-458.

Read the article via Emerald.

Walter argues that reaching out and focusing on the campus multicultural center is one effective way to improve services for diverse users. Because academic libraries serve as a bridge between librarianship and higher education, they are in a good position to accomplish this. Walter points out that collection development and liaison activities are the best services to diverse users that academic libraries have to offer. However, Walter argues that it is time to move beyond these comfortable areas and implement outreach efforts to student service programs.

As part of the literature review, Walter cites K.E. Downing's list of barriers that minority students may face in relation to using an academic library. I figured these are important to consider, so I am listing them as well:
  • "students of color may come to campus from K-12 schools w[h]ere libraries were under-funded and library services limited. . ."
  • "lack of diversity within the library profession may be reflected on service desks that do not include information professionals of color, which may, in turn, make students of color less likely to approach service desks or to make use of research assistance, consulting services, etc.; and. . ."
  • "changing terminology and standards for collecting and describing information related to topics of interest to students representing diverse communities may make it particularly difficult for students to locate information relevant to chosen research topics" (qtd. in Walter 441).
In addition, the issue of the digital divide may be another barrier, not just for minority students, but for non-traditional students as well.

Washington State University was the subject of the study; it is a comprehensive land-grant research campus. The study used a survey "distributed to students affiliated with one of the four cultural centers, or with the Academic Enrichment Center. . . ." (446). The survery was disseminated in print and electronically. Based on the survey, the librarians the Multicultural Student Center (MSC) staff created a list of possible collaborative endeavors. Some of the items on that list included:
  • Orientations to the library for first-year and for transfer students.
  • A "workshop on finding information about diverse populations in the library and on the web. . ."
  • "alternative voices in the media: finding information in minority-owned publications" (445).
So, what did the author learn from the study? Well, the study found that students associated with the MSC do make regular use of the library and its resources. However, there are some caveats. Walter writes,

"While the most common reason for visiting the library was to locate books or articles for personal use, access to the internet was cited almost as regularly as an impetus for entering the library. The professional assistance offered to students by librarians in the areas of information and instructional services, by contrast, were among the least commonly cited reasons for library use" (448).

The author found this interesting given that the library's numbers for students receiving instruction have been on the rise. He also writes that "the fact that fewer than 10 percent of the students who responded to this survey cited instruction as a reason for visiting the library bears further study" (448).

Walter further points out that survey findings complement other studies when it comes to student research patterns. For instance, the study found that two thirds of students surveyed start their research with the Internet. Walter suggests determining the types of websites they use is a needed investigation. I know I would be curious about the results of such a study.

Walter draws three conclusions. First, development of web resources is crucial. Given that students are more likely to start their research on the Internet, the library needs to create, develop, and promote resources for the minority students. Second, Walter envisions providing instruction to the MSC peer mentors. Given that students are more likely to ask a peer for assistance when they start researching, it makes sense to reach those students through their peer mentors by training the mentors in how to use information effectively. Third, more effective marketing of resources and services is needed.

I liked the peer mentor idea because I think it may work for us if we reach to the various Supplemental Instruction (SI) leaders in place in some of our classes. The SI leaders are students, part of the SI Program, who have taken a particular course and passed it with at least a "B." They audit the class, and they provide various out-of-class sessions for review, discussions, and support. I am thinking it may be a good idea to make an overture to the SIP. I am not sure what I would like to offer yet, but I think there is a good opportunity here.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Article Note: On Instruction Using IM

Citation for the article:

Desai, Christina M. and Stephanie J. Graves. "Instruction via Instant Messaging Reference; What's Happening?" The Electronic Library 24.2 (2006): 174-189.

I read this thanks to Interlibrary Loan.

I scanned this article. In part, some of the findings illustrated or confirmed things I knew from my previous experience using virtual reference. The authors of this article conclude that instruction can be offered via IM reference and that students, for the most part, do want to learn as well as get an answer. The authors do note that "however, the way the patron formulates the question affects the likelihood that the librarian will provide instruction" (187). The authors also conclude that virtual reference can mirror the reference desk, especially with good training for the staff providing the service. Librarians can and do apply instruction techniques in IM such as suggesting resources, leading through steps, and modeling search techniques. They close the article by suggesting future research questions, which include:
  • "Does co-browsing increase the likelihood of instruction or its effectiveness?" (188). I know that one of my little frustrations back in the day was the co-browsing offered in the Docutek product, which had a penchant for not working. It was eventually easier to just give the patron the steps to follow and "talk" them through the process. So, maybe this means instruction was increased, but I am not sure that is what the question intends.
  • "How often are librarians asked the same questions thereby making knowledge bases worthwhile? Will patrons use the knowledge base for self-instruction?" (188). The library I worked at during library school had a small knowledge base of reference items for the reference staff to use. I can say that it is a worthwhile tool, and it could be something worth developing in other settings. On a larger scale, that campus had a large IT KB. It was well constructed and widely used. It was heavily promoted to the students, so they grew accustomed to using it to answer many basic IT related questions. I believe that a good KB can be a great tool, but it needs good promotion as well. This is an example of "if you build it (and promote it), they will use it."
Overall, the article is worth a look. I think it has encouraging findings for librarians interested in IM as well as instruction.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

For when you can't have "Word"

Stephen Abrams, of Stephen's Lighthouse, has a small post on "Tools for the Digital Divide." It is basically pointing to online office tools like Writely, which allow a user to type documents, create a calendar online, spreadsheets, etc. Mr. Abrams points out to the issue with libraries that may not allow or provide productivity software. Tools like these would be an alternative as well as an option for people who cannot afford the big price in some proprietary products. He does bring up a point that I think about at times:

"I know of some libraries that don't offer word processing, printing, spreadsheets, presentations, etc. (I even saw one that had no printing but did have MS Word. Users were told to e-mail the document to yourself to print it at home. Hmmmm. I have no PC and use the library's technology but I have to print at home...)."

Actually, my better half often asks this question, "what about the people who lack a computer or an Internet connection (or both) at home?" The idea behind Mr. Abrams's post is that the tools he links to, as well as many others online, can be an option for libraries with limited resources, not to mention for people on the go since you can work on something, and then open it anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. Of course, we still have some ways to go before fully briding the digital divide, but maybe tools like this can be a small start.

Start of Fall 06 Semester

The first day of classes was yesterday, but I was a bit on the busy side to post about it until today. There is always something nice about having the students back, even if it means that the question du jour at the Information Desk is "how do I log in to the computer?" As one of my colleagues, who also lives for the return of the students, pointed out, a lot of these faces we won't see again. They just come in, get their log-in, and they will likely vanish until the end of the semester when something comes due. I know; I get to deal with a number of them during that time.

As for classes, I have gotten a few requests already. I gave a small talk to new adjuncts in English two weekends ago about the library and services, and I have gotten some of them already requesting instruction for their classes. As of this morning, I have classes already scheduled into October. Don't get too excited; it's not that many. They are just spread out. I will be teaching my first class of the semester, assuming the classroom is operational (trust me readers, you don't want to ask), a week from Thursday. Looking forward to it as I am anxious about trying some of the new tricks I learned over the summer at Immersion.

I am also writing some new content for our website, specifically, I am working towards making an actual Instructional Services page to bring together information about information literacy, our procedures, resources for the instructors as well as for the librarians, and most of our library guides for the students. In other words, and sorry if it sounds snarky, the type of stuff that most libraries have and apparently no one here thought about. I suddenly felt very aware of this lack as a result of Immersion. I have not quite figured out where I will put those things on the website. That's another story, but if I can start by making the resource documents and templates, I will have accomplished something. Oh, and then it's time to put out the newsletter, and then there are a couple other projects. So, it will be a busy month for me. Then again, this is the type of thing an instruction librarian lives for, so onward.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Rules for reading, well, if I followed rules.

Joyce Saricks had a column on the April 1, 2006 issue of Booklist entitled "Rules for Readers--and That Means Librarians, Too!" I read it via the old library routing, which explains why it took me a while to get to it. Now, my two readers know that I pretty much prefer to throw rules out when I can, but I found the article to be a nice affirmation of things I do as a reader. When it comes to reading, I am a bit eclectic, a mixed bag. Sure, there are things I enjoy regularly, but I wander now and then. Since life is short, I don't believe in wasting time on a bad book. Saricks cites Nancy Pearl's 50 page rule. I will usually try to give a book the 50 page chance, but if it loses me on page 25, it's gone. I used to feel a need to read cover to cover. Not anymore. I am now a liberated reader.

Mood also plays a role in my reading habits. Mood is Saricks's second rule: "mood determines what books we enjoy at any given time." I usually have two to four books going at any given time because I know I have different moods. Sometimes I feel like nonfiction; other times I want a novel or something short. Though Saricks does not mention this, location plays a bit of a role. I read on my commute, but I read items I can drop and return to with ease. I save the items that require a bit more concentration for home.

As for the "uncomfortable" passages reference, I actually look for those. If you tell me, "oh, that book has some steamy passages," rest assured you know what pages I will be opening. Is it gruesome? I am there. Mayhem and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse? Hell, I will be glad to help them saddle up, can I ride along? In seriousness, there is very little that I think would make me uncomfortable when it comes to reading, and if it did, I can always drop it.

Saricks's fifth rule is to thumb through books. I do this, especially for nonfiction. If something looks interesting, I will read a page or two to see if it draws me in. It may be the most interesting topic in history, for instance, but if the author does not draw me in, I drop it. Some current events wirters are like this: they may be engaging in person or on TV, but they are lousy on paper, even with when they have ghostwriters. I do note the reverse may be true. Overall, I sample. My better half does it too, especially with science fiction, a genre we both enjoy. She reads a lot in that genre, preferring short fiction. We buy a lot of science fiction books; we borrow a good number as well. She is a fast reader in that area, so she usually reads her stuff, then she comes digging for mine long before I get to it. "I need something to read" is a common plea from her. As a result, when we go shopping or to the library, she will sample. Though she reads a lot, she does not always remember who wrote what. So her sampling is opening the book and reading passages. She then knows if she has read a particular story or not. Of course, this does not work with a brand new story collection. However, science fiction, as well as other genres like horror and fantasy, which we read as well, often republishes "classic" stories in various anthologies, and she has read a lot of them over the years. I have to admit that I do find it amusing to watch her sampling books.

Saricks finally writes that readers should feel like no one is judging them. I would take that with a grain of salt. I think people judge others on what they read all the time. This probably includes librarians, even me. I just keep my judgments to myself when doing any form of readers' advisory. "So, you like to read so-and-so. . .sure I have some other suggestions." Even if I think so-and-so is the least common denominator, to put it mildly, it is what they enjoy, and I am happy to help them find more. At the end of the day, I am very much a believer in "live and let live." I believe in making information as well as recreational materials available and accessible to all. To be honest, I don't care what you read if it meets your needs, and you enjoy it. And if you judge me because you see me on the commute reading X-Men comics, I simply don't care. Hey, just to see your little "tsk tsk" look as you peek at me over your Nora Roberts or Joel Osteen makes it worth it, hehe. By the way, the only reason I picked those two authors is that they are very popular selections for bus riders. Actually, reading and the bus is a post topic waiting to happen. At any rate, I am a librarian and making some people uncomfortable is part of what I do. Again, see the rule above. If it makes you uncomfortable, just don't read it. Having said that, it does not mean I go for making others uncomfortable at work when they come asking for readers' advisory. Overall, the rule is simple: read what you like, enjoy what you read, and liberate yourself. And by the way, if you have any reading suggestions, send them my way.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Brief note on Socratic teaching

Amy, at the Information Literacy Librarian, posted a small note on Socratic teaching here. I have always been one to believe in the method and the power of using good questions to guide student discovery. She lists a set of tips. One of them is having a good planned sequence of questions. I used that prompt to create the lesson plan I took with me to Immersion. I can be pretty good at planning, but I tend to get enthusiastic when I am in the classroom, which means I often leave the plan behind and teach "by ear." Experience allows for me to do that seamlessly. However, for some things, having a well-planned sequence works. For Immersion, I was using questions to guide to students to identify criteria for evaluating websites. For now, I am just adding this note as a reminder.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 5

Here is another set of graphic novels and comic compilations I have read recently. I got them via my local public library branch, and then people say no one wants books from the library any more. Actually, I have observed that people do use my branch quite a bit. I usually visit at the end of the day on the way home, or on Saturdays when I go with the family. There are always people at the computers, but there are also a lot of people reading books and magazines. By the way, a lot of the titles I get are requested; they get them for me from other branches. They don't have a great graphic novel collection at the branch, but they have been very good at getting stuff from other branches. Very often, I just browse the catalog for things I may want, and I just press the request button if the items are checked out or someplace else. Since I am in no rush, when they arrive, I have stuff to read. So, whoever out there is saying that libraries are going the way of the dodo bird maybe should visit my library. Anyhow, here are the items I have read in no particular order:

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 3. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0785116796

This time the Fantastic Four have adventures in the Negative Zone, and it seems that Reed Richards dies. There are also appearances by The Avengers. I am thoroughly enjoying this series. For those who keep track, this compilation collects Fantastic Four #251-257 and Annual #17, Avengers #233, and Thing #2. One of the features I also like in this series is that it includes the cover art of the original issues, and they include the date of publication for each under the illustration. I find it interesting the comics themselves have no date. These issues date from the 1980s as well. I am looking forward to volume 4. I can see why Byrne is well regarded by the fans: good stories and engaging adventure.

Bendis, Brian Michael, Mark Millar, Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 1: The Fantastic. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0785113932

If you liked the Ultimate X-Men series like I did, then you will definitely like this series. Bendis and others have taken the saga of the Fantastic Four and made a new story for a new audience. The Ultimate series is known for taking the classic superheroes and recasting them as teenagers. In this first volume, Reed Richards is a gifted boy scouted by the government for his high intelligence. While executing a teleportation experiment, Richards and friends are teleported accidentally to various parts of the world, gaining their powers in the process. The story provides a very good opening to what promises to be a great series. I have already requested the other volumes in the series from my library. For casual readers, these series are accessible because there is no continuity to worry about. Marvel is basically creating new plotlines, and they have very good writers and artists on board.

Loeb, Jeff. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1401202209

When a large asteroid, deemed to be a remnant of the planet Krypton, is on a collision course with Earth, U.S. President Lex Luthor blames Superman and sends a group of superheroes to hunt him down. Batman chooses to stand at Superman's side. This comic was much better written and more engaging than the previous Superman volume I read, Wrath of Gog (see my note on that here). The use of captions to convey the heroes' thoughts is a very good technique, as it gives a contrast between Superman, who is very decent and straight, and Batman, who is also heroic but has a dark side. Sometimes team-ups don't work well, but this one works nicely.

Ellis, Warren. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 2: Doom. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0-7851-1457-2.

Reed Richards and his friends are slowly settling in to be part of the Baxter think tank. However, Victor Van Damme is still missing. He is plotting his revenge on Richards. Reed is trying to find a way to reverse the effects of the teleportation accident that gave them their powers, and Victor may have a solution. However, Van Damme, who has also been transformed, is not giving up the information, and there will be a confrontation. Great art and action in this second installment to the series.

Ellis, Warren. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 3: N-Zone. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1495-5.

After dealing with Victor Van Damme, the young Fantastic Four decide to explore the N-Zone, the alternate universe involved in the accident that gave them their powers. The heroes seem to be settling a bit more into their powers now. Richards hopes he will just have a nice exploration trip, but when they meet an alien civilization, not all is as it seems. This one has a pretty fast pace once they cross into the N-Zone. Ellis continues to provide good writing combined with great art from the various artists.

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 4. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0-7851-1710-5.

Another great compilation of John Byrne's work from the 1980's. For those who keep track, this issue collects Fantastic Four #258-267, Alpha Flight #4 and The Thing #10. These issues date to 1983. The Fantastic Four attempt to have civilian lives outside of the Baxter Building, and Sue Richards is expecting her second child. However, the Fantastic Four are not to have a quiet life as adventure comes after them. Among the interesting elements in this compilation, these are issues that frame the Secret Wars series. In other words, you see what happened before and after the Secret Wars. I read the Secret Wars, and readers can find my small note on it here (that one is a personal copy I got second hand). In addition, Reed is on trial for the death of millions; Sue has to help Namor the Submariner, and the Mole Man joins up with the Human Torch and The Thing to save the world (yes, you read that right). Great reading fun of classic comics.

Carey, Mike and Mark Millar. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 4: Inhuman. New York: Marvel Comics, 2005. ISBN: 0785116672

The saga of the young Fantastic Four continues as they now confront the Thinker, who turns out to be a young girl rejected for the Baxter Think Tank out for revenge, and they meet the Inhumans. This volume I read at a fast clip. It was good, but compared to the previous ones, it was just average. It seemed kind of rushed when it came to the stories in comparison to other volumes in the series. I wonder if there is a pattern in series like this, since I recall in reading the Ultimate X-Men series that some of the volumes "in the middle" seemed to lose a bit of steam. This one you may want to just pick up from the library rather than buy, unless you feel the need to collect the set. In my case, I might buy it because I am one of those would like the set, but this was not my favorite. Good, not great.

Millar, Mark and Greg Land. Ultimate Fantastic Four Volume 5: Crossover. New York: Marvel Comics, 2006. ISBN: 0785118020

This was much better than volume four. By now, the young Fantastic Four are settling into their roles as superheroes. When young Reed Richards discovers an alternate Earth, he keeps the secret to himself. In that other world, he finds an older Reed Richards, who invites him to his Earth. However, not all is as it seems. The second story reveals what happened to the Storm children's mother, who now reappears after being presumed dead. She has found Atlantis, and she needs the Fantastic Four to help her decipher its secrets. However, they unleash Namor the Submariner. Unlike the Namor in the classic series, this one is definitely a villain with a more sinister agenda. While the ending seemed a bit contrived, the twist that comes after makes readers want to explore the next issue. I know I will.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Looks like the libloggers are a healthy bunch

I just finished reading the August 2006 issue of Walt Crawford's Cites and Insights, which features his report on libloggers. Please note I link to the main page; readers can find their way from there. He has put together a nice long list of middle bloggers, so I will likely have to go back and see if I can make any additions to my feed reader. He always does a lot of work, which I find amazing anyone takes the time to run the metrics he runs. I am also humbled this blog made it to the list. So, if there are any new readers out there as a result, welcome. Feel free to stop by, read a post or two, leave a comment. However, there are many other great blogs out there, so go read them as well. From Walt's conclusion, which I think says what needs to be said:

"The major conclusion: As liblogs proliferate, they offer many more voices worth listening to. If you can’t find twenty or thirty blogs on this list that intrigue you enough to subscribe to, you either have a lot of feeds already or have narrow interests within the library field."

Best, and keep on blogging.

Just a few book lists

I like collecting book lists. I keep a folder of lists at work for ideas to read later as well as in case I need to recommend something to someone; I have another one at home. I often try to find lists for topics that I may not know as much about or that will expose me to new things. At any rate, here are some lists I have found recently:
  • Kirkus had a 30 Graphic Novels to read list. When you go to the article, it will give a link to Kirkus's list of special editions. Look for the one for the graphic novels. Warning: it opens a PDF file. (found via Bookslut Blog).
  • Bookmark Magazine has compiled 101 Crackerjack Sea Books. If you long for adventure at sea, this is the list for you. The list is a mix of genres from fiction to history to memoirs. There should be something for any reader. (found via Bookslut Blog).
  • World Hum featured a list of 30 travel books. It's summer, so if you want some travel, but can't quite make it, these books may do the trick for the armchair traveller. (found via Bookslut Blog).
  • PZ Myers, of Pharyngula, has compiled a book list for evolutionists. He provides reading suggestions for readers from children to advanced adults. If you are looking for good books on evolutionary biology, this is a good list. It is also good if you need some ammunition to dispel the ignorance of the anti-science lobby.
  • The Phantom Professor provides the list given to her by "Dr. March" on the Holocaust and the Nazi Death Camps.
  • The Feminist Majority Foundation provides a list of the Feminist Canon. These are mostly nonfiction in the areas of history and feminist theory. (found via the Library Tavern blog).
  • The Amelia Bloomer Project of the Feminist Task Force of the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association (that's a lot of organizational packaging) has a list of books for young readers on strong women and feminism. The link leads to the current list, but they also link to previous years. From the website, "we applaud authors, illustrators, editors and publishers with the courage to publish feminist books accessible to young readers. We challenge publishers to move beyond merely ‘spunky' and ‘feisty' young women. We encourage publishers to understand that feminism is more than friendship and make-up. We need books that represent the world in which we live, as well as the world that we hope to achieve. We hunger for books that portray females who exemplify personal empowerment while still being aware of the global challenges and opportunities." (found via Rory Litwin's Library Juice blog).
  • If you are looking for something different, then you may be interested in the IPPY Awards (Independent Publisher Book Awards). From the website,"the "IPPY" Awards, launched in 1996, are designed to bring increased recognition to the deserving but often unsung titles published by independent authors and publishers." They recognize books in various genres, so odds are readers will find something they like. (found via Rory Litwin's Library Juice blog).
  • The Jane Addams Children's Book Awards can be found here. The work of the Jane Addams Peace Association, these awards recognize children's books that "effectively promote the cause of peace, social justice, world community, and the equality of the sexes and all races as well as meeting conventional standards for excellence." (found via Rory Litwin's Library Juice blog).

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Article Note: On Facilities and Campus Recruitment

Stephen Abram, of Stephen's Lighthouse, picked up an article about facilities and recruitment in his post "Academic Libraries and Student Recruitment." The article in question is a brief piece summarizing recent research on the impact of physical facilities in the decision making process of students preparing to attend college as well as asking questions about their retention once they are in college. The study found that the top five characteristics students name for evaluating the quality of an institution are academic. The library turns out to be one of the facilities they look at in their decision making. This may be the start of a resource that some administrators may want to consider when making a case for better library facilities. I was reminded of this article as well because in one of the classes I was teaching one my students had a question along the same lines. If I recall, she was looking at student satisfaction and facilities. The article's print citation is as follows:

Cain, David and Gary L. Reynolds. "The Impact of Facilities on Recruitment and Retention of Students." Facilities Manager (March/April 2006): 54-60.

In addition, Mr. Abrams pointed to an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education for May 30, 2006, entitled "Facilities Can Play Key Role in Students' Enrollment Decisions, Study Finds." The article was written by Audrey Williams June, in case anyone needs to search it on a database or print.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Dysfunctional information behaviors and dealing with the millenials

Right now, I am just making a note of this so I can reflect on it later. Dave Pollard at How to Save the World had a post on dysfunctional information behaviors. It includes a large list of dysfunctional behaviors, and it also features suggestions for managers to deal with the Millenial generation in light of being aware of these behaviors.

Maybe I should consider a subject blog

There may be various reasons for me to create a blog for my subject specialty. However, a good reason is that I have been coming across a good number of arts and humanities-related sites. Here is a sampling, courtesy of the Resource Shelf. If you are a librarian, and you do not read the Resource Shelf, go add it to your feed reader now. I will wait. . . . Now that you are back, here are some of the things I have been finding:
This is just a small sampling of stuff I have come across from just one of the sources I have on my aggregator. I come across a lot of neat stuff, but time to look them over is often a challenge. Well, if nothing else, I would have some items for content. But on looking at the list above, I also see some items that could serve as tools for collection development. In addition, I have been acquiring a pretty good selection of art books that deserve a little more promotion. A blog could serve that purpose as well.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

"Are you the guy who orders books?"

Even though there are twelve other librarians in my library, I tend to attract people because of my visible role as the Instruction Librarian. So when a student walked into the Reference Office asking "are you the one who buys books?" I did not flinch much when I answered, "we all buy books, was there anything in particular you wanted?" He was very vague, asking me if I looked at Jet magazine. I had to admit I had not, and he told me there was a book about this guy who was homeless and was now a millionaire, who had been featured on ABC (at least he thought it was ABC). He said he would try to get me the article. He took a while, so I got up, went to our browsing section and got a hold of the current Jet issue. Here is the article's citation then:

Ballard, Scotty. "From the Streets to Corporate Suites: How Homeless Man Made Millions." Jet 31 July 2006: 50-54.

The article is an interview with Chris Gardner, author of The Pursuit of Happyness. The book, which is the item the student wanted, is Mr. Gardner's memoir. He went from homelessness to becoming a Wall Street stockbroker with a lot of perseverance and as a single father. Will Smith, the actor and rapper, bought the rights to it to make it into a film. It did not click at the time, but I do remember hearing about Will Smith getting the rights to the book. At any rate, I did tell him I would be happy to order it, but it would probably not be here fast enough for him to read it. So, I showed him how to put an interlibrary loan request for it. Hopefully, it will get here with time for him to read it. It does interesting, so maybe I will check it out after he is done with it.

A reminder to myself: I need to at least glance at Jet once in a while. Given our population, it would be smart. Besides, I already scan Hispanic and similar publications. I guess I am adding one more to the reading list.

Article Note: On blogs and reference collaborative work

Citation for the article:

Pomerantz, Jeffrey and Frederic Stutzman. "Collaborative Reference Work in the Blogosphere." Reference Services Review 34.2 (2006): 200-212.

I have been coming across a few articles and items about blogs and applications for libraries and reference work. This article was picked up by Stephen Abrams, of Stephen's Lighthouse. Since he said it was a quick reading, I figured I would give it a try. He provides a link to the article, but it should be available on Emerald as well. The title did sound promising.

The article provides some basic definitions of what is a blog, and it identifies three types of blogs within the library community: the bulletin board type, the ones kept by individual librarians (like this one), and the ones from professional organizations like ACRLog. They make a small observation that "at this rate [referring to Technorati's "State of the Blogosphere"], it seems likely that blogs will come to reflect any and all topics in which people are interested" (201). I was thinking of how accurate or not that remark might be in light of Pew's recent study of bloggers. I found the collaboration idea quite intriguing, but in the end I am left with the question of how does the reference transaction start. Does a person post to a blog? The author's suggest that a reference transaction begins with the question from the patron (205), but does it mean it mean then a library would have a fully open blog for any patron to post? If so, how would one overcome issues like vandalism and spam? This is not made clear. They cite the example of Metafilter, but in order to post there, one has to register to become a member. I just don't see this detail working out well in libraries without a little more thought. Now, the use of the blog posts as a form of collective knowledge, an information resource, resembles what a knowledge base would do. I can attest that reference questions very often are repeated by various patrons over time. Our e-mail reference is an example of this, and some librarians who are savvy enough to save previous answers often will cut-and-paste a reply to a duplicate question (after editing out any previous identifying details). A reference blog might help solve this situation by making the answers to questions more accessible, but how does the user get to post the first time? Would we really expect our users to register for yet another thing in order to get an answer? This would not be unheard of, to an extent. Theoretically, many libraries restrict or limit their online reference services to people that they serve (an academic community, a particular county, etc.), but in practice, people can often send in a query if it is not really restricted (i.e., the library states a "preference" but does not verify if someone is affiliated to the academic community for instance). My question is would this be desirable and practical? It's the one question that the article did not seem to address clearly. Maybe the collective knowledge of readers out there might shed some light on the matter. The authors seem to be suggesting using the concept of a community blog, but unlike something like Metafilter, I am not so sure it would be as easy to get library users to register to another community. Then again, as I continue to spin it over, I wonder if the work some teen librarians have done for their libraries, where they do let patrons post reviews and things like that, may yield a possible answer. That would probably make a bit more sense in my estimation.

The authors also discuss possible issues in using a blog for reference services. One of these issues is the matter of credentials. Do we only let librarians answer questions? What about other paraprofessionals? Would patrons make an issue of this? Another issue is that of referrals. Librarians may at times refer a patron to another agency or location to get an answer. This could be addressed a bit better online because referrals may well be unnecessary. Since it is a community blog, the diversity of membership would be able to provide an answer. In contrast, in the traditional model of one librarian and one patron, if the question is outside the librarian's scope of knowledge, it would need a referral. Online, it would be like bringing various minds together. I can see the possibilities.

Some questions that the authors propose for further study include: maintaining quality of the responses (this is to avoid the Wikipedia syndrome), and what are best practices for using blogs in reference work (211). There are still questions, but this article does suggest some interesting ideas.

Quick Teaching Assessment Tool

Stephen Abram, of Stephen's Lighthouse, points to the getFAST quick assessment tool for teaching. It looks like something I should take a look at as a tool I may be able to use in my library for our instructional programs. At the moment, it is free software (at least until October 2006 according to the website).