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.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Booknote: Old Man's War

Title: Old Man's War
Author: John Scalzi
Publication Information: New York: Tom Doherty, 2005
ISBN: 0-765-31524-6
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Science fiction, military scifi.

This is one of the best military sf books I have read in a while. Most of the reviews I have read compare Scalzi to Heinlein, and I have to agree that reading this book at times does feel like reading a Heinlein book. The only difference is there is less sermonizing and more action. The main character, John Perry, enlists in the Colonial Defense Forces when he turns 75. He is a recent widower with nothing to lose. The CDF does not want young people for its army. It wants old people who bring a lifetime of experience and skills. Perry brings that as well as a good common sense. To me, he was a bit reminiscent of Lazarus Long, just not as picaresque. The price of his enlistment is that he will never be allowed to return to Earth. If he survives for two years, he has the option of getting a homestead and a new start on one of the colonies. The book has a good blend of humor and adventure. The enemies he faces are diverse and interesting. Needless to say, the enemies are the fiercest and hardest he will ever face. Then there's the whole thing about the Ghost Brigades, but I will let readers find out about that. By the way, Ghost Brigade is the title of the sequel. The novel leaves the reader wondering about certain things, so I am hoping to discover more as I read on. Based on this novel, I will definitely be looking for the new book. This novel was pretty fast paced and an easy read.

For readers who may be a bit sensitive, there are some brief sex references. However, for readers looking for a good adventure, this is a good selection.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Article Note: On the Information Seeking Habits of Ethnomusicologists

Citation for the article:

Liew, Chern Li and Siong Ngor Ng. "Beyond the Notes: A Qualitative Study of the Information-Seeking Behavior of Ethnomusicologists." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.1 (January 2006); 60-68.

I read it via ScienceDirect.

The article looks at the research habits of ethnomusicologists. Since music is one my collection development areas, it attracted my attention. The study reported in the article is based on a very small sample in New Zealand (14 ethnomusicologists). However, the study does provide some useful information. In essence, ethnomusicology is a field of study that studies music in its cultural context. One reason this studey is significant is that "libraries often fail to understand the complexity of the needs and the difficulties inherent in the retrieval and use of specialist materials" (60). For purposes of the study, information seeking was defined broadly to include "using libraries and other institutions, searching on the Internet, and networking with colleagues" (60). Some of the findings then:
  • "All ethnomusicologists interviewed used the academic library at their institutions as a major source of information" (62). The scholars cited convenience and the fact that their libraries held relevant collections for their research. However, they use other libraries and collections.
  • "The ethnomusicologists interviewed also established personal collections and deposited their own materials or recordings from their fieldwork into archival institutions with the hope that these materials will be preserved and shared with others--a senses of information sharing and 'giving back' to the society and culture" (62-63).
  • On listservs, they mostly prefer private e-mail for discussions (63).
  • Consultations with people (other scholars and research subjects) is essential (63). Also, participant observation where the researcher observes a community is very important.
The authors of the article offer some recommendations based on their findings:
  • "Librarians can play the role of subject specialists, assessing, selecting, and acquiring appropriate materials, including foreign-language materials, and making them available on in one place in a timely fashion" (66).
  • Consider collaborative arrangements to acquire rare and difficult-to-obtain resources. Also, look into partnerships for providing effective learning programs (66).