Monday, July 31, 2006

When institutional cultures and innovation clash

I was scanning one of the Corante Innovation Hub's feeds, and I came across this line. I have been doing a bit more reading in the area of innovation and organizations. At this point, I mostly scan what I have added, but I am finding some interesting things. At any rate, the post's title is "Culture Shock: Do Most Innovation Problems Come Down to Culture?" According to Jeffrey Phillips, a Corante contributor, "Probably a third of the people I spoke to [at the Front End of Innovation conference] felt stymied by their culture - to the point where they've given up trying to implement anything and are simply observers of innovation." The line stuck with me for a couple of reasons. For one, while I was at Immersion, I had a chance to talk to some people in the program track during breaks and common sessions. A very common concern for the program folks was the issue of institutional culture. It seems they had a lot of questions in that regard, and some of those questions did make their way into the teacher track as well. How do you bring innovation when faced with an institutional culture that is stagnant, indifferent, and/or resistant? I will admit that I also wondered about that question. I am still looking for an answer.

Second, I wondered about libraries in general. The blog sector where librarians hang out is often full of the people who "get it." We hear of a few librarians who do great things, which is wonderful. We need more of those. However, it bothers me often that those who "get it" feel the need to chide (or worse) those who "don't get it." Here is my question: what if you do "get it," but you are in a culture that stymies you so much that you know implementing anything is out of the question? Sure, I am all for becoming the change you want to see and so on. One should be able to put their money where their mouth is. But there are places and moments that will drown the most shining example of a luminary. You see, for many of those libraries that do the wonderful things the rest of us read about, they needed to have institutional support in one form or another. They could have had the greatest minds of the L2 movement, but without an institutional culture to nurture, embrace them, and commit to innovation, they could have given up, or more likely used the power of their feet. I think it's easy to chide those seen as "not getting it" when you are in an easy supportive position. What is tragic is when someone talented and brilliant gives up to become the observer, and it probably happens in a quiet fashion that many do not consider. That came to mind when I read that line.

While I thinking, the post also quotes a definition of "learning moments" that I found interesting. I don't necessarily think that libraries will start giving out trips as prizes to those who share their learning moments. However, if my director is so inclined, I may have a list of places in mind I would not mind visiting (I know she reads this, thus the remark). What I want to point out is that the idea of removing fear so that learning can occur and be shared is a good one. It's good to take risks. Anyhow, the quote is from the CEO of WD-40 according to the post:

"A learning moment is a positive or negative outcome of any situation. But what it really is, is a culture where people are applauded and rewarded for sharing what works and what doesn't work. It's a freedom culture. It is one that takes away fear. I ran a 12-month program where every month I had people email me and share their learning moments. They would all get prizes and in the end we sent one of our employees on a fully paid trip around the world. The first month there were a few emails. Then as they saw they weren't being punished for this, more came."
In the time I have been a teacher, I have come to learn from what works and what does not work. You have to take risks. Sure, you will fall flat a few times, some lesson plans will simply implode or explode, and that should be ok. I like that freedom culture.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Presentation Notes: SirsiDynix's Library Conflict Management Webinar

I just completed listening to the online web seminar on Library Conflict Management offered by SirsiDynix. I have to say that after sitting an hour for it, I was a bit disappointed in this one. It seemed a bit too theoretical and not practical enough. In addition, the presenter seemed to be moving a bit too fast, which may be a reflection of trying to cover too much information in a short amount of time. It did have a lot of information. In the initial poll they ran, it turns out that a little over half of the attendants were public librarians (or from public libraries), which I admit makes me wonder about their settings. The seminar gave some signs of unhealthy conflict, key questions to ask, and four magic words to keep in mind. These are useful things, but in essence, for me at least, it seemed a bit too centered on "you have to change" and less on "what about when you do change but nothing still happens." In other words, as my father used to say, "if you bend over too much. . ." you get the idea. Personally, I don't bend over very well. I am flexible, but I only go so far. So in a way, the seminar's advice seemed a bit too idealistic. The reason it concerns me is because that line of thinking often leads to the conclusion of "if it's not working, it may be time to move on." But, there are still some useful ideas.
  • The three key questions to ask when trying to resolve a conflict: what do you want? what about the other person? what will you change? The presenter noted that it is often very easy to forget about the other/opposing person in a conflict.
  • The four magic words: what do you want next? what do you want instead? what do you want despite? what would satisfy you? Asking about what is next is looking towards the future. One should not be obssessed with the past; it is not healthy. Asking about instead and despite serve to acknowledge that the world is not perfect, and it looks towards making a change.
  • You need to have empathy. However, empathy does not mean you agree with the other party. It means that you understand how something affects them. Also, remember to give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • The presenter emphasized the importance of taking civility seriously, even if it means putting in as part of job descriptions and making sure people are evaluated on this as well as being evaluated on their more technical/job skills. This would definitely be nice. It is not something we need to worry about in terms of our workplace, but some of the patrons do have the ability to push the limits of civility. However, the seminar only concentrated on the workplace.
The seminar also looked at a list of bad symptoms. There were ten items on the list, which I am sure readers can look over in the archive once it is available. I just have some thoughts.
  • The presenter started with bitterness as the first item. In the personal front, if you are bitter, you become toxic to others. So, it may be time for you to move on. Just remember not to take that bitterness with you. If you go to a new job, forget the old one, never talk about it, leave it behind. After all, you are looking to the future.
  • Another bad symptom is stopped learning. This I would consider catastrophic, maybe because I could not envision myself as not learning. If I get to that point, I know I have to quit. To cure this, the presenter suggests including continuous learning in job descriptions and holding people accountable for it. Another bad symptom was stopped contribution where people just stick to a rote and refuse to be cross-trained or seek new tasks. The solution is the same as dealing with stopped learning.
  • Loss of respect was listed as number eight on the list, but it probably should be higher on the list. Under this, sarcasm can be a very bad sign. Personally, respect is a big issue for me, and I see it as something you earn. You are owed courtesy, but respect you have to earn. So, if you don't respect a leader/administrator, options are either leaving, isolation, or minimizing the disrespect.
  • Another issue was lack of consequences. This would be situations where: no one is ever disciplined or fired (due to conflict aversion), where there is no praise or reward, and/or where there are no evaluations or accountability. The question I would ask is what if there are evaluations, but they hold no consequences. In other words, an evaluation becomes an annual (or semiregular) ritual exercise that does not bring any merit reward (monetarily or otherwise), and it probably ends up in a dossier someplace that will not be revisited. If there is no incentive other than the ritual, what is the point? I would not mind an answer to that.
So, I would give this one a mixed review. There may be some good things for people who may not know anything on the topic. However, if you have already seen other workshops on the topic or read on it, there is nothing here terribly new.

Presentation Notes: Two on online tools for librarians

Yes, I am still playing some catch up, but I am also thinking some things over. This time I have Evanescence's "Haunted" on Pandora, which actually goes nicely with my mood, but let's get to it. In his presentation for the HigherEdBlogCon, "Blogs, Wikis and IM: Communication Tools for Subject Specialists," Chad Boeninger suggests that "instant messaging, blogs, and wikis can help to make the subject librarian's job easier and more effective as these technologies allow for increased communication with the academic community." Mr. Boeninger is a business subject specialist. He describes his setting and the business curriculum, which tends towards group work. Actually, this is similar to some of our business classes. He started his Business Blog as a way to answer recurring questions from his classes. He describes some of the blog's contents as follows:

The content of the Business Blog posts has ranged from general business research tips, such as how to find a SWOT analysis, to more specific topics such as finding information about the popcorn industry. I’ve even used the Business Blog to tell faculty and students about new databases and resources, as well as alert them to upcoming library events. Regardless of the content, the intent of each post is to teach and recommend the best resources for a project, not to simply provide an answer to a question.
The blog has proven successful overall given usage and the fact that other librarians have gone to create their own subject blogs.

Mr. Boeninger goes on to describe his use of instant messaging (IM). He, in essence, has made himself available to students by offering his personal IM screen names for students to contact him. I have done the same for my classes starting last spring. While I have not logged any transactions on IM yet, I do like the idea of offering another option. I can leave the IM running in the background while I work, so it's not intrusive. Unlike Mr. Boeninger, my screen names are not on my contact information on library web pages. I just advertise them in my classes along with other information like my e-mail. If I make that trading card I was thinking about for students, I would probably put my IM screen names in it. I do get a good number of e-mail reference transactions, and that works out well for me.

Next, Mr. Boeninger describes how he began experimenting with wikis for library guides' maintenance, and this led to the creation of the BizWiki, which is described as "a collection of business information resources available through Ohio University Libraries. It is designed to assist business researchers in finding the best resources for their projects or topics." Advantages of the wiki include the ability to search by keyword and the ability to assign categories to articles in the wiki. Cross-referencing can be greatly enhanced as well. There are other advantages to using a wiki discussed in the presentation.

Overall, this presentation shows how a combination of online tools can enhance communications with the academic community.

I also went over Rebecca Hedreen's presentation "An Online Research Toolkit--Exploring Web 2.0 for Library Research." This presentation has things for librarians, but it is also useful for students. The presentation's opening lines were interesting to me as I have often wondered about finding stuff I found once online at a later time. I started a account to supposedly
solve that, but I find that I don't really use it consistently. Sure, I have a bunch of bookmarks in one place, but one problem for is that I like having different sets of bookmarks. For instance, there are items that are related to work. Then there are other more recreational things I want to keep separate. Maybe I need a different account for those, or a different tool. I am aware of some tools to synchronize bookmarks from one computer to another, but I don't necessarily want the stuff I have at home mixed with the stuff I have at work. Something for me to think over.

The presentation begins with a small video introduction using YouTube, which is an interesting way to "walk the talk." She highlights her Online Research Toolkit, which provides reviews on various 2.0 tools. The presentation then moves on to various slides highlighting specific tools and application, using a blog to hold it all together. The presentation is well-organized, and it is the type of content that students may find useful for their research. I think some things may work on our setting. The set up with ODEO and Blogger looks like something I may be able to put to use, maybe for instructional purposes? Just a thought at this point.

The presentation also points out some of the disadvantages in the use of 2.0 tools, something I think some of the evangelists in their zeal tend to forget, such as loss of access or change in a company's ownership. Overall, remember that anything you put in these tools is public, even if you use the privacy options, so don't put anything sensitive on them.

Presentation Notes: On blogs at a small academic library

Again, I am doing some catching up. I got Pandora running last Saturday and took some time to look over a couple of presentations from the HigherEdBlogCon. The better half was working, so I had some time to be productive. I read over the "Blogging at a Small Academic Library" presentation by Natalie Forshaw, Karen Jensen, and Ilana Kingsley. I also read over Chad Boeninger's "Blogs, Wikis, and IM: Communication Tools for Subject Specialists," but I will post on that one later. The Forshaw presentation was interesting to me for what I could learn to use in my own academic setting, where we have a set of library blogs.

The presentation is done on a blog, which makes it very easy to read through, plus it illustrates use of a blog. The presentation authors consider three types of blogs: a training tool for circulation workers, a blog for liaison work in the English area, and one for the reference librarians. Personally, I am more interested in the latter two given they are things I could use, but I learned a bit from their discussion of the training blog. I was already thinking a little about this after looking over Johnson's presentation on "Subject Librarian 2.0." I may need to go back and review that.

In regards to the circulation blog, the authors point out the blog's use as a record of communication. This would be something I would appreciate in a reference blog. For us, this could be a place to note frequent reference questions, assignments, policies, and some incidents in one central location that could be searched as well. An issue for us would be privacy, as this would be for the librarians. Maybe password protection and secure posts? Just speculating at this point. Another issue would be getting the librarians to use it without making them feel that one is adding "yet another thing to look at." I do think this could have an advantage over the various e-mails one has to remember to keep in a folder, which is done haphazardly. All I have to do is ask around to find varying degrees of keeping such types of information. A blog might be a way to centralize this. Yes, I said it, centralize. When it comes to policies, everyone should be on the same page. We should not be saying, "oh yea, it was in that e-mail from last semester." You know, it's the one e-mail no one can find now. That's just one example.

When discussing the reference/service blog, the authors remark that only six of the reference staff had posted (as of the posting's writing). This is an issue for us: getting more librarians to post. Our Engineering Technology Librarian has an Engineering Technology subject blog, and she does a pretty good job of posting to it. However, we have other blogs that sit without regular updates other than the latest technology downtime news. I should note that as of this writing, there have been some postings (maybe some psychic confluence?), which is good. This includes the bright note that the Director, who is one of the our two business liaisons, rediscovered the Business blog and began posting again. She e-mailed some of her faculty announcing the new content, and she got some good feedback. Now, it is necessary to keep it up. I do have to claim some fault with this for I don't post as much as I could when it comes to our institutional blogs. I have access to the News blog, the one we use mostly for library announcements, and to the Books blog, the one we use for highlighting new books and some book-related news like awards. For me, a feeling of formality is a problem. Intentional or otherwise, I feel that I have to ask permission. So many things I might post on a whim I just post to my professional or personal blogs.

Overall, I can attest that blogging does require some sense of commitment, but I have some leeway in a personal blog. In something more official, if you build the expectation, you have to keep at it. Overall, while my initial impulst would be to get all the librarians blogging, I know this won't happen for various reasons. So, realistically, we should nurture and encourage those with the inclination, talent, and eye for blogging. I think for the Business Cornerstone classes, a core class that is one of our big instruction clients, the business blog can be a good resource if cultivated and marketed well, but it needs content to market. On the feedback the Director received, one of her readers told her that he would be adding the blog to his syllabus. Now that is a good start we can build upon. In the future, I would envision using wikis for guides in those classes, maybe using the current print guide as a starting point. This may or not require additional staff training. Personally, I have a sense of who is savvy enough or not, but since a lot of things are compartmentalized, it is just that, a sense. Maybe we also need to look at issues of focus when it comes to our blogs. By the way, I am not averse to letting something stagnant die a quiet death, preferably swift as well, but for this I just think we have a case of underutilization combined with a feeling of "yet another thing to do." Just my guess from the trenches.

The author's subject blog is dedicated to English studies. This caught my eye since freshman composition classes make up the bulk of our instructional services. Like the example, we could use such a blog to provide research hints and links to resources for those classes. I jumped over to our website as I was looking over this presentation, and I think we could use a general research guide for freshman composition. Maybe it's time for me to talk to someone at the Writing Center for some collaborative possibilities. Therein lies the rub for me. I keep coming up with all these seemingly neat ideas. Heck, if I do a search of my blog, I probably have a trail of ideas with a notation to revisit or look over later. Coming up with the ideas is easy. Adding them to my perpetual list of things to do is not so easy. I suppose I need to remind myself that I am a guerrilla kind of librarian: small objectives, one at a time, hit and run, live for the next day. But I am disgressing.

In the example, the authors mention that the English blog is used more as a webpage, but it also serves as a communication tool between the liaison and the department. Maybe there's applicability to my Arts and Humanities subject area. I love their long term ideas for the English blog, particularly the one for a creative writing section where students could post their own work. I would be curious as the the authors are if such a section would attract users to the blog. It does sound like a good community building idea.

Monday, July 24, 2006

An Immersion Report. . .

. . .or what I would write if I had to turn in an "official" report to my superiors.

I have to admit that I am very overwhelmed. I took in a lot of information in a short amount of time. So, I am having a bit of a hard time deciding how I will write some things up. When my A.D. asked if I had a "life changing experience," my answer was "yes, I have seen the light." Think of the scene in the film The Blues Brothers where Jake and Elwood visit the Reverend Cleophus's Triple Rock Church, and Jake sees the heavenly light and starts jumping. That's pretty close to the feeling of rapture I had as I came out of Immersion. So, here's the "official" stuff.
  • I attended and participated in general sessions. By this, I mean sessions for both tracks. Topics included information literacy, creativity, and assessment.
  • The teacher track sessions were more focused on teacher needs. Teaching techniques, learning styles, additional work on assessment, and leadership were among the topics covered.
  • I worked on a project based on one of my lesson plans. The plan was written before attending Immersion, and it was revised during Immersion to reflect new concepts learned. I also gave a presentation from part of the plan. The presentation was mostly designed to practice teaching techniques with peers and our faculty. The presentations were done in smaller cohort groups.
  • I did some networking, and I had the opportunity to meet with peers from various library settings. Talking to my peers and learning from them was a significant part of the experience.
  • (This stays out of the "official" report) And I had fun at the social events. A good balance is one where there are both work and play. The host's hospitality in this regard was very good.
In future posts, I hope to write up some specific session summaries. I would like to also write about some future plans regarding my teaching and classroom practice. What I learned during Immersion is not something that can just be posted briefly (ok, so by trying here I am sort of throwing that off); I will likely be reflecting, practicing, revising long after the events. This note is just a mere overview, like an executive summary without the bureaucratese. Since "official" reports usually give recommendations, here are mine, if I were writing an actual report:
  • A complete review and revision of teaching practices. We need to move away from lecture models as the primary method and integrate more active learning techniques in our lessons.
  • Train the other librarians. The idea is to make the work of integrating active learning and assessment into a collaborative effort. We need to work on enhancing our information literacy initiatives from within.
  • Review and revise efforts to reach faculty. Faculty and librarians have a common interest in student success. More work in communicating expectations and teaching with faculty is necessary. This may include looking at library procedures regarding faculty who "conveniently" do not attend classes in the library with their students. Exploring various collaborative opportunities would also be recommended. We need to work outwards to enhance our information literacy initiatives, but more importantly, we need to see how they align with other campus initiatives.
  • The library needs to send other librarians to Immersion on the teacher track. Any librarian involved in teaching can gain benefit from this. Off the top, I can identify two colleagues who should go. Maybe I can "talk" them into applying.
  • We need to send someone to the program track. Going through the teacher track and talking to people on the program track has made me very aware of institutional issues, mostly in terms of programs needing development. If we are going to grow in terms of campus involvement and make sure information literacy is an important part of student success, we can gain from participation in the program track. For me, this would be the next logical step to allow my outreach duties as well as my instruction librarian position to expand. Additionally, one of the administrators, preferably the one most directly involved in public services, should attend as well. If funding were an issue, then the administrator should be sent in lieu of the librarian. Ideally, both the instruction librarian and the administrator should go through the program together. This would allow them to work together on creating a campus action plan, which is a core of the program, as well as engage in the learning experience.
So, there you have it, some brief thoughts that would go in the "official" report, if I had to write one.

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 4

Here are a few more brief notes on graphic novels I have been borrowing from my local public library. Like most libraries, they don't have everything I would want in this genre, but they do manage to have a nice selection for starters. At any rate, these make for fun readings most of the time; there are one or two that are not as engaging to me, but hey, one has to take chances.

Wilkins, Dave, Kevin Munroe, and Tony Washington. El Zombo Fantasma. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2004. ISBN: 1-59307-284-8

When a Mexican wrestler is murdered after a match, he is given another chance at redemption. El Zombo Fantasma is the greatest and baddest luchador around, used to getting his way. Now, he has to return to L.A. in order to be a ten-year-old girl's guardian angel. However, not all is at it seems, and Belisa Montoya is no ordinary little girl. Some very bad people are after her, and Zombo is on a quest to keep her safe while trying to find the man who killed him. He finds that he has to embrace the luchador traditions of pride and honor to win. This compilation collects the first three issues of the series. I enjoyed the art greatly, and the story was entertaining as well; it ended too soon, so I will certainly be looking for other issues. I do note that the compilation can stand by itself.

Waid, Mark and Barry Kitson. Legion of Superheroes: Teenage Revolution. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1-4012-0482-1

In the year 3000, the world has achieved a utopia where disease, hunger, and other problems have been eliminated. You would think things would then be happy for everyone. But every utopia carries a price, and utter boredom with a lack of problem solving ability have become the order of the day. While the Earth is now part of a planetary alliance, things are peaceful on the surface. Teens seeking adventure and just looking to find themselves rebel. Teen superheroes come together under the Legion of Superheroes facing a future where children are under genetic surveillance, and heroes are all but forgotten. These new heroes are the ones who come to realize that danger is in the horizon, from an enemy no one expects. The premise of a far future is very good, making an interesting commentary on the present. The series features good art as well. Overall, the series makes a solid plot and story that draws the reader in. This series will also have a strong appeal to teens given the way it presents issues of interest to them. This is a good example of the superhero genre as well as utopian science fiction.

Byrne, John. Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne Vol. 2. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0-7851-1464-5

The second volume in the Visionaries series, this one collects work by writer and artist John Byrne. For readers who keep track, it collects issues 241-250. Compared to the previous volume I read in the Visionaries collection, this one has a better sense of continuity since the writer and the artist are one and the same. The issues collected were published in 1982, which basically brings back some memories for me. In this issue, the Fantastic Four confront Doctor Doom, Galactus, and the Skrull. This set features appearances by Spider-Man and Captain America. As always, the heroes don''t just rely on their powers, but they use their minds as well. Reed Richards should become a spokesperson for studying science since it is his genius that often helps to save the day. It's an element that I personally enjoy in reading the Fantastic Four's adventures. Fans will definitely enjoy this set.

Miller, Frank. Batman: Year One. New York: DC Comics, 2005 ed. ISBN: 1-4012-0690-5.

Though originally published in 1986, this graphic novel remains as powerful as ever. Frank Miller, with David Mazzucchelli providing the art, gives readers a gritty and engaging retelling of the Batman legend. The story is Batman's first year in Gotham after Bruce Wayne returns from a long exile abroad. The city is corrupted and in need of a hero. James Gordon is a young lieutenant in the Gotham PD trying to walk a straight line in department full of corruption. As his partner tells him when he starts the job, "a cop has it made in Gotham." Bruce Wayne is trained, but he still has much to figure out. By the end of the year, he seems to be settling in, but it will be an ardous journey. This is a great work, giving a good set up for the many Batman stories to come. Personally, I can not get enough of Frank Miller's work. This new issue has new introductions by the author and the artist as well as some art galleries.

Austen, Chuck. Superman: The Wrath of Gog. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1-4012-0450-3

Superman faces Gog, an enemy who has travelled through time with the goal of destroying him. Gog manages to wound Superman, though Superman manages to vanquish him. However, that is not the only problem Superman faces as minions of Darkseid invade the Earth as well as local villains come around looking for a chance to beat a weakened Superman. Superman along the way is helped by some of the Teen Titans and Wonder Woman. A lot of action, but the story is not terribly coherent. At one point, he is convalescing and talking to Lana, and the scenes move to him fighting another adversary. The narrative transitions were not very good compared to other works. For a moment, I thought it was some dream sequence, but it is actually a flashback sequence. Not handled well, thus makes the narrative a bit jarring. A good piece of comics action, but not the best of the Superman comics.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Gypsy Librarian's Trading Card

Well, folks, it finally happened. I made a trading card. I decided to go playful with it. I started playing with this South Park generator, and one thing led to another, so I made the card (make yours here). Playing with this has given me an idea. I may make a card, put it on some nice card stock, and make it something I can give to my students. I mean, business cards are nice, but I would rather give the students something a bit more cool. I am still a bit dazed by Immersion. On the one hand, I feel like I have to start writing and reflecting, but I am still a bit dazed, which led me to play with this stuff, which led to the card. By the way, I also loaded them to the Flickr group of librarian cards, which meant I had to open a Flickr account. Actually, I used my Yahoo! ID, which made it a bit easier. I am not a big photo taker, but I can see some potential in this. So much to learn. That's one of the things Immersion has made me aware of: that I still have a lot to learn, and a lot of work to carry on, and boy, it will be fun.

A hat tip to Stephen's Lighthouse, where Stephen Abrams posted his South Park look, which made me say, "hey, why not?"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Quick Immersion Post: Working on the final project

I am still immersed. I have learned a lot of things, and it has been an intensive experience that has changed my life and how I see myself as an educator. I will probably be writing up my notes of the experience over the next couple of weeks, and odds are readers will see other reflective posts going back to Immersion given all the new possibilities. However, just a brief note now to let readers know I am working on my final assignment at the moment. If you are a reader who wants something more timely, Jane at A Wandering Eyre has been blogging her experiences with photos. Go ahead and have a look since it may be a while before I can begin my reflections. It may be a while before I get to blog again at all. As always, best and keep on blogging (or just exploring).

By the way, currently listening to very loud techno and trance. As Ben Grimm would say, "it's clobberin' time."

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Immersion Day One: Some quick impressions

Actually, that was yesterday, but this is the only time I have so far to do any kind of reflection. My brain is full, as the old line goes. I think that when the time comes for the evaluations to be filled out, I will be putting that down as a point to improve. At any rate, the event started in full yesterday (Saturday). Many interesting things and a very fast pace make for an intense immersive experience. So, I got up at 5:00am today. The apartment is quiet; Isis (one of my cats) is climbing on my bookshelves in my workstation, and I have some time before I have to get ready to get back into town. Great, now she decided to lie down across my binder. That's a cat for you. I think I took some good notes so far, and I will be posting those later. I think I will probably be unpacking what I learn in these days months after I am done. As they said in the first plenary, "epiphanies will continue long after." Reminded me of that essay I wrote years ago about epiphanies for our teachers' writing group back when I taught high school. The theme was epiphanies. I heard one that an epiphany is a sudden revelation into the essential nature of life.

I did the readings, but I am finding that I would like to reread a few things. Again, looks like some of that will have to wait. We'll get there.

I heard two interesting questions yesterday. Well, I heard more than two, but these two have stuck with me. One, what do we do when we have other librarians at our institutions who won't or can't teach? The actual question was do we leave them be, or do we try to change their minds and gradually move them? It's a good question to which I wish I had an answer. My personal impulse is to leave them be, but that comes from the fact that I believe in the old adage that says if you want something done right, you do it yourself. I heard this one early in the day during the first plenary. I think someone in the program track asked it, but I am not certain. The question stuck also because later during dinner I was sitting with a couple of the faculty, and they observed that it seemed some of the program people where asking institutional culture, especially internal culture, questions. In other words, they were concerned about questions like that. In the long run, by the way, I am coming to realize I may have to do the program track in the future. I am looking way ahead when I say that, but it leads me to the second question.

During dinner, my faculty member asked me during casual conversation where I wanted to be in a few years from now. The exact question was, "what's your next job going to be?" The question was not what struck me, though she was very casual about it. Folks, over time, I have discovered that experienced teachers have ways of knowing things about you that you may not even know. She knows something. Going back to the question, what stuck with me was my answer, "I'll be coordinator someplace." In other words, I will be managing my own program, and with that comes the realization that I will be leaving my current position to advance. I suppose that I have known this, but to actually be able to confidently say it without even having to think, well, it makes for a small epiphany. Of all the things I learned in the first day in sessions and from the people around me, this is the thing that is floating in my mind. It feels silly in a way. I have been listening to all this material on assessment and information literacy, had an afternoon where we got to talk about teaching, and all I am thinking about while it's still dark outside on a Sunday morning is a question of what will I be doing next. Epiphanies can be large revelations, but they have that way of being just that little thing you come to realize that stays with you.

During the teaching session, the one about the "authentic teacher," we had a chance to draw ourselves as teachers. I have to warn readers. I used to be able to draw decently back in high school, but as I have not practiced since then, stick figures is about as far as I can go. The scary thing is I saw someone with a digital camera taking photos of the drawings we posted, so someone could put that up on a blog someplace, thus the warning. Anyhow, for me, I drew two things. One, I drew a stick figure on a high wire, walking it while he was juggling a lot of balls. That would be the part of my job when I have to teach and keep the students entertained with amazing feats of bibliographic instruction. I was going to draw a second square with simply the word "splat" on it in bold letters, which would be what happens when the search I am showing does not work for instance. I have had a splat moment or two. It's not the end of the world folks. You laugh a little; you explain, and you move on. More like the splat in a cartoon. Instead, the second square was a desk, a man behind it with one of those little disk things old fashioned doctors wear on their heads. By the way, I had to look it up, and it turns out that little disk is called a "head mirror." So, I drew my doctor figure behind a desk with a computer, and I put a chair next to the desk with a sign over the desk that says "the doctor is in." It's supposed to be reminiscent of Lucy in Peanuts where she would open her booth for psychiatric help. I do a lot of that as well in the form of research consultations. In fact, day before Immersion started (Thursday), I had a student come in asking for research help. His face was familiar, but I could not place him. He had enough mercy on me to remind me that I taught for his English class last spring. He must have noticed my brief puzzlement. He was now taking a criminal justice class, and he needed to know how to find some articles on victimology; I think he had to write a critical review. I showed him how to access Sage Criminology and ran some sample searches; I asked him a little about the assignment, and once he felt comfortable, off he went to try it out. I do a good share of repeat business in my work. By the way, I joked at my table that I could have drawn a confession booth instead. After all, I have these little theories about librarians as confessors. I know I am going to have to write out that idea in more detail some day, not sure anyone would publish it, but let's put it here then.

One final epiphany for this morning. Some day, I would like to be doing what the Immersion faculty are doing. I am probably invoking hubris for pretending I could do what they do, but part of the reason I take that risk is idealistic. Remember I mentioned that my faculty member knew something about me. The librarian who simply told me in graduate school that I would be a good librarian probably saw something as well. Folks, I have been fortunate in the sense that people often had faith in me and saw things I may or not have seen. I think a way to pay back that librarian will be if someday I can help train other librarians. Stacey, if you ever find your way to this blog, I wish I could tell you how those simple words have made a difference for me. Thank you for writing that letter of recommendation and helping me get on the path that got me here today.

Well, I could sit here and ponder some more, but the birds are singing outside, and the sun is rising, which is my cue for getting ready to leave the apartment. So, I better go for now.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Article Note: On a Library Instruction and Information Literacy Bibliography

Article citation:

Johnson, Anna Marie and Sarah Jent. "Library Instruction and Information Literacy--2004" Reference Services Review 33.4 (2005): 487-530.

Read via Emerald.

Rather than a formal note, this is more like a meandering reflection. If you want the quick, the answer is: yes, if you work in Instruction and Information Literacy, you probably should look this over. By the way, for library students and some new people, this article is an example of something a librarian can publish. Find a good topic and create a good bibliography of it. These types of articles are plentiful in the library literature, and depending on the topic, they can be great lifesavers. There, now you can go about your business.

What? You are still here? OK, read on then.

It is mid-afternoon on a Friday, and I am sitting at the Information Desk, where things are fairly quiet. I can't quite do any complex tasks, but I can do enough to read over this. Now, readers may be thinking only a librarian would be caught reading a bibliography. Well, for me, this is a list of works in my field of work, so I am sort of double-checking how my "keeping up" is doing. If I strictly go by this bibliography, maybe not so good. I was feeling all proud that I had read the book they mentioned at the opening, and I have read some pieces. However, reading this has shown me all the other stuff that I would have wanted to read, and now I feel a bit bad I have not. I am not sure why, maybe I am beating on myself. A quick glance at my blog's cue and a small search shows I have been doing some reading and reflection on what I read. Yet a part of me wonders how the heck did I miss some of these. At any rate, I am now marking on the list some items that I want to read and some that I may want to read but not sure they are urgent. Maybe this illustrates the old adage about so many books (or articles) and so little time.

What I also found out as I was looking over the list was items that I would think our library has, but it turns out we do not have them. Some I can request from our larger sister campus, which has some of them. Then I realize that when it comes to Instruction, I am the Instruction Librarian. If I want them, I have to get them. They may be for me, or for another instruction librarian (there has been talk of hiring a second one), or for a successor if I ever decide to move up the ladder. We have never been terribly systematic about buying LIS materials. The subject specialists may get things related to their areas, but the basics get done when someone actually remembers to do it. It's haphazard, and while I am not a believer in talking much about my place of work, this is one of those little things that make me go "hmm." Maybe the fact that I am still fairly fresh out of library school makes me aware of this, since back then I was surrounded by the stuff I needed and wanted. What worries me now that I am out here, do some librarians lose their desire or ability to keep up as time goes on? I do a good share of work to make sure I keep up in and out of my areas, and it is work. Interesting at times, but it does take some effort. Is this what some of the younger, or should I say, newly minted librarians worry about when it comes to their older, or should I say, more seasoned colleagues? I hope not. I think I have been trained well enough to value keeping up and finding ways to do it. I have faith I am not the only one who was well trained in that regard. By the way, isn't rss wonderful, for instance?

That question leads me to realize, well, I have been reading quite a bit via blogs and other online items that have rss. Those don't get listed in annual bibliographies, unless it is places like the work Walt Crawford does with Cites and Insights. Somebody should declare that man a "National Treasure" when it comes to library science. I guess the point is one will never read everything, but one can be selective in what one reads. And this takes me back to where I started. I am marking items that I want to look at later. Hopefully not too much later. In this line of work, waiting for free time may mean you will never get the reading done.

And while we are talking reading, my trip back to basics starts tonight with a social function. I will be immersed for a few days. I hope to make notes of what I learn in the blog, but don't expect live blogging. That's for "them folk who need their umbilical cord to the computer." OK, I admit, that was snarky (it did give me a smile there for a moment), but I am not the type of guy who freaks out if he does not have a laptop and access to WiFi or other wireless options. Part of being a gypsy in spirit is being free. Point is I will write my reports in time. After all, I will need something to keep the director happy and reassured I am doing something, haha. More importantly, I will blog because I learn when I write, because it is another way in which I make meaning, and I will remember what I learned by making a record of it.

Pondering Current Awareness and RSS

About a month ago, Professor Michael Stephens, of the blog Tame the Web, posted an e-mail correspondence he had with David Rothman on "Selling RSS to Medical Librarians." Mr. Rothman discusses in a clear way how he has been selling RSS to his medical faculty. The subject may be specialized, but the ideas are applicable to any academic library. To me, this offers a very intriguing idea. The librarian is taking a very active role. He asked the physician exactly what he wanted for his current awareness needs. The librarian then created an account on a feed aggregator for the professor with feed subscriptions to the sources the professor wants. The beauty of this is that it requires minimal work on the part of the physician (replace physician with any faculty member in any other setting). We know faculty love things that take minimal work, and I am not saying they are lazy, just that they like things easy so they can devote more time to their research. The process as outlined by Mr. Rothman let's the librarian create a "package" for the professor and just pass it on to him when it is ready. It makes a nice example of personalized service. The idea behind this is to provide a more effective alternative to the TOC services that many libraries have. Mr. Rothman chose Google's Reader for his needs, but I am sure this may work with other aggregators like Bloglines.

In my setting, we do not provide TOC services to our faculty. For a moment, I am curious how they keep up their awareness. Ok, not that. What I am really curious about is if they expect such a service, but they have not mentioned it. The level of knowledge when it comes to rss is variable between faculty who know what it is and likely use them already and those who have no idea. Part of what got me thinking when I saw the post is that, a while back, I was having a conversation with a faculty member, and I casually mentioned that I kept a blog, and that I used a reader to keep up with a lot of things in my field. He was intrigued, but it was the end of the semester, things got hectic, and we did not get to talk again. But I have thought about that conversation, and I wondered how many professors might be able to make use of their own customized rss for their fields of endeavor. I know there is an opportunity there, but given how things are a bit tight for me now in terms of time, I have to let it wait. Probably a project for the fall term? We'll see.

Additionally, I would like to play with rss a bit further. Right now, I have a good share of journals that I have on e-mail TOC alerts. I use a feed reader, but I usually use them for blogs (Bloglines) or for some news sources, mostly alternative and some Spanish (Newsgator). I have not really used a reader to set up a very customized feed, and I would love to play with the idea a bit more too. But, if we could tell professors, "we will help you set this up to get the information you want with ease," I think it could go some ways into building some good will as well as just serving our faculty.

Update note (7/24/2006): Another resource in this regard is Professor Bhatt's presentation given to the HigherEdBlogCon on April 12, 2006. The presentation on rss to increase user awareness has some ideas that may be useful for our setting. The poster presentation he displays has a nice set of content. The information on it is the type of stuff we could be presenting to our faculty. There are other ideas on the presentation as well. This presentation adds a bit more to my understanding, and it gives me an idea or two for making a presentation for our faculty at some point on this topic.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Booknote: Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Pérez Vol. 1

Title: Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Pérez Vol. 1
Various authors. Featuring the art of George Pérez.
Publication Information: New York: Marvel Comics, 2005
ISBN: 0-7851-1725-3
Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Graphic novels and comics, action/adventure/science fiction

The first volume of the Marvel Visionaries series featuring the art of George Pérez, it collects various issues of the Fantastic Four magazines from the seventies. Marvel is compiling various issues of its properties under the Visionaries label featuring popular authors and artists. Unlike other collections, such as the Essential series, it is centered on an author or artist. Due to this focus, some of the storylines are not fully continued; issues get skipped, but usually there is a recap on the issues to give readers a sense where the story stands. Roy Thomas is the editor and writer for most of the issues in this collection, and he brings in a certain humor we don't see in more recent works. Fans of the Fantastic Four will enjoy these series. The trade paperbacks are published in full color, which may be more enjoyable for some readers. In terms of plots, Mr. Fantastic loses his powers, and his son is kidnapped among other adventures. This is definitely an item for public libraries with graphic novel and comics collections. I will be seeking out the others in the series.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Short Booknotes on Graphic Novels 3

Beatty, Scott, et. al. Batman Begins: The Movie and Other Tales of the Dark Knight. New York: DC Comics, 2005. ISBN: 1-4012-0440-6.

This volume collects the official comic adaptation of the movie by the same title. In addition, it contains four more tales from various Batman comics that range from dark to darkly humourous. One of the tales is the origin story as it appeared in the comics. Overall, it is a nice small collection of Batman stories that fans will likely enjoy. Since the tales come from different comics, I found it interesting to look at different artist styles as well.

Whedon, Joss and John Cassaday. Astonishing X-Men, vol. 1: Gifted. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0-7851-1531-5.

The first volume in a new X-Men series. Cyclops and Emma Frost reform the X-Men. Things spin when there is word that a cure for the mutant condition has been found. However, not all is what it seems as the X-Men have to confront the mysterious Ord, an alien, and at the same time deal with S.H.I.E.L.D., who may or not be part of the conspiracy. To make things worse, one of the X-Men wonders if he should take the cure or not. An excellent start to this new series written by Joss Whedon, who is known from hits such as Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Firefly. Great art by John Cassaday. This is definitely one I would highly recommend.

Whedon, Joss and John Cassaday. Astonishing X-Men, vol. 2: Dangerous. New York: Marvel Comics, 2004. ISBN: 0-7851-1677-X.

The second volume collecting the X-Men series written by Joss Whedon. Ord is still out there, there is a terrible death, and as if things could not get worse, now the heroes face an enemy from within, one that they did not expect and knows their strengths and weaknesses. Like the previous volume, I definitely recommend this one.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Article Note: On Graphic Novels and Academic Libraries

Citation for the article:

O'English, Lorena, "Graphic Novels in Academic Libraries: From Maus to Manga and Beyond." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 32.2 (March 2006): 173-182.

Read via ScienceDirect.

This article provides an overview of the graphic novels genre, and it provides advice on collecting these materials in academic libraries. Significantly, it promotes graphic novels in academic libraries for recreational reading. This is significant because usually it is suggested that these materials be collected, if at all, for academic interest, say popular culture studies. While the academic angle is good, I also think recreation is important. This article helps to validate that idea.

The article opens with a brief introduction to the genre, mostly for those not too familiar with graphic novels. The article then looks at the genre in terms of literature and scholarly study, whether in classes or in journals. The article then moves to a discussion of the graphic novel's place in an academic library, provides advice on cataloging them, and suggests ways to promote them in academia. Overall, this is a very practical article. There may be some ideas here to consider in my setting, where I think we could certainly increase our holdings in that area. Some notes then from the article:
  • "Beyond the value of graphic novels as scholarly and cultural resources, an academic library that collects graphic novels is also continuing in a tradition of providing resources for students and others in the academic community who are looking for reading material not only to enhance their scholarship or teaching, but also to enjoy for personal pleasure and recreation" (175).
Now, if a few more people would read that passage, and maybe at least consider it, we could actually make some progress. For openers, certain faculty who claim to be interested in popular culture but would be snobs when it comes to graphic novels come to mind, as do some "traditionalists" who probably need to expand their horizons. Just a thought.
  • "Graphic novels have a place in academic library collections, but a library intending to start such a collection would do well to consider how to promote their use and availability, both within and outside the library" (178).
See the article for various ways to expand such collections and make the community more aware. One of the suggestions on better displays makes sense in my setting. We recently managed to get some display casing for our small DVD collection, and circulation has increased substantially. I am sure if we did something similar with graphic novels, it might work as well. Again, just a thought. As for those resistant faculty,
  • "Librarians may want to consider an educational campaign to increase faculty awareness of graphic novels as literary, artistic, and discipline-based resources for scholarship and teaching" (178).
The only rub to that statement is that, apparently, the value of pleasure reading is lost on faculty. You have to appeal to their academic side, the "how might this help my research and get published?" angle. It's a start, and it is still a good idea to look at it in terms of ways to bring graphic novels into classrooms. Additionally, the article provides good suggestions for student outreach. From the conclusion, closing thoughts,
  • "Graphic novels can support the literature curriculum and will certainly support the mission of the academic library to provide recreational reading. Myriad opportunities for promotion and marketing exist. Graphic novels can perhaps be a mechanism for the return to the humanistic ideal that reading should both educate and delight" (180).

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Immersion: Thoughts on the Pre-Immersion Assignment

Midmorning today, I posted my document for the pre-Immersion assignment we have to complete. Since I am in the teacher track, in essence, I had to create what amounts to a detailed lesson plan. I pretty much had an idea of what I wanted to work on during the program, but I found myself recalling something I learned from my supervising teacher way back when I did my student-teaching. Back then, my teacher would have my write out all my lesson plans, and she would check them before she would let me into her classroom. Over time, this requirement relaxed a little bit, but to this day, I never enter a teaching situation without a lesson plan. In part, it is because I like having a back-up. I teach in a very extemporaneous style; I can plan ahead, but if a class were to show up asking for library instruction now, I would be able to leave me desk and teach it. No, we don't actually take those kind of walk-ins. Another reason is that one never knows when a bus will run me over, and someone else will have to teach the lesson. Somehow in our conversations, I had asked about writing things in a lot of detail, and she told me that once I had some experience, a lot of the details would become second nature. She may have said something along the lines of you will go into a class, and you know the objectives, you know what you want your students to achieve. You don't write it down, but you know, and you can tell someone if they ask. Sure enough, time has passed, and a lot of the things I had to write for the assignment I posted are things that are second nature by now. I guess what I am saying is that the exercise was a bit more reflective for me at least than just writing up a lesson plan. I did have one of my supervisors check on me a couple of times to make sure I was doing my homework. So to her, I can say now, "yes, it's done and posted." Doing it made me realize that there are a lot of little details I take for granted. And that is the reason why I engage in reflective practice, and maybe why I think more teachers should do it as well. If nothing else, it makes us aware of what we do and why we do it.

Article Note: On Google Scholar and Libraries

Citation for the article:

Kesselman, Martin and Sarah Barbara Watstein. "Google Scholar and Libraries: Point/Counterpoint." Reference Services Review 33.4 (2005): 380-387.

Read via Emerald.

This is probably one of the better summaries of why Google Scholar is important and how it works. It gives a pretty balanced approach in a point/counterpoint format. I find that I am gradually talking more about Google in my classes. The students will use it one way or another. Also, they have occasional questions about using Google, so this gives me a good reason to keep up with it and this new tool. The article poses various questions for readers to consider as they decide how to embrace Google or not. I found useful the article's topic arrangement as well in terms of reference, instruction, and the library's website. For me, the instruction segment provided much food for thought.

Some points to consider:
  • "Those that support ignoring Google Scholar believe that students will not find and use Google Scholar on their own" (383).
The optimists believe the students will find it anyhow. As a library instructor and someone who works extensively with students, I can tell readers that the students for the most part are not finding Google Scholar. They find the Google search engine, but they do not go past that. A student finding Scholar is the rare exception. The only students who I know find it are usually graduate students or advanced upper classmen. Freshmen pretty much settle for the basic search engine. I can say this based on conversations I have with students where I often ask them what resources are they using in their research. I know this is strictly anecdotal, but I have a hunch that it might be validated if we asked other librarians and educators as well as more students. Maybe there is a research idea here?
  • "Should we not be focusing on what makes an article scholarly (e.g. builds on previous research and cites it appropriately, includes sound methodology appropriate for that discipline, and compares results with other studies)?" (385)
I have one word to the above: yes. That is definitely something we should be working on.

There are some other good points, but I think people really should give this one a look.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Happy Canada Day!

To our Canadian friends, a Happy and Safe Canada Day. Also known as Dominion Day, the holiday is Canada's national holiday, and it celebrates the "formation of the union of the British North America provinces in a federation under the name of Canada" (quote from the Department of Canadian Heritage, see here). Readers can find further information on the holiday here.

Booknote: The Four Agreements

Title: The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
Author: Miguel Ruiz
Publication Information: San Rafael, CA: Amber-Allen Publishing, 1997
ISBN: 1878424319
160 pages
Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Self-help, spirituality, personal growth

This little self-help/spiritual book is based on four simple agreements:
  • Be impeccable with your word.
  • Don't take anything personally.
  • Don't make assumptions.
  • Always do your best.
Now, I am sure some cynical reader now thinks that I saved them from reading the book. Well maybe, or maybe there is a bit more to those four agreements. The premise is that our lives are bound by various agreements, many of them destructive, that we make throughout our lives. The idea then is to let those bad agreements go and to embrace the four above. On the surface, that seems easy enough, In practice, it may not be as easy as that. Personally, these are things that I have heard before, but Miguel Ruiz has a very nice and nurturing way to put these things forward. I do strive to be impeccable with my word. It's the taking things personally that I have some serious trouble with if you ask. This is a little book that is very accessible, very easy to read, and that you may find yourself revisiting. No one says you have to accomplish every thing in overnight. Like many habits, these agreements are things that may take time to integrate into daily life. There may be other books out there in this genre, but the simplicity and directness of this work means this book will likely be around a lot longer than many other works that seem to come and go with fads. This has definitely become one of my favorites.

Similar reads may include the works of Paulo Coehlo, though Coehlo does mostly fiction. However, the styles are somewhat similar. I think the book is worth reading and recommending. I may look for his other works. On a final note, the book is available in Spanish for our Spanish reading friends.