Monday, October 30, 2006

Hey faculty, how about showing us librarians some love?

I am sure by now that Todd Gilman's column about librarians and academic faculty in The Chronicle of Higher Education (October 3rd, 2006) has made most of the rounds. Gilman's article makes for a good item to send to every faculty member on campus. He does make a bit of an understatement when he writes that librarians "sense they are viewed as second-class cititzens by members of the teaching faculty." Change "sense" to "know," and you will get a more accurate picture. If you don't believe me, I actually have written proof of this from faculty members who view their librarians as nothing more than "those lame ass" people (actual words used by the faculty member. I will be happy to send anyone a copy of the e-mail in question). However, as Gilman points out, this is not news to academic librarians. We pretty much take it as a given and just deal in the best way possible. Gilman's strength in the article is that he manages to maintain a very constructive and positive tone, offering suggestions for ways in which academic librarians and faculty can better collaborate to help their students succeed. A lot of what he says is not new. I have seen it in one form or another in a few articles (here and here for example), but he says it in a way that is accessible and easy to read.

Gilman makes four points about faculty in relation to librarians:

  • Some faculty (I would say a lot of faculty) have no idea of the expertise librarians have. At the academic level, we often have one other masters' degree, some even a PhD as well as the MLS. In addition, some of us actually have teaching background, something that many faculty members may or not have depending on the field of study and whether anyone provided at least a teaching methods class at some point.
  • Professors are territorial. The idea of sharing control of the class is not always welcome.
  • Professors often assume students know the stuff about research already. Again, this is not news. The problem is getting the faculty to admit this. That some faculty may lack some knowledge in regards to research, since things change over time, adds to the problem.
  • Professors don't want to give up "precious" class time to teach research. However, they end up giving i it up anyways when they have to teach basics of research after seeing less than stellar results on student work.

The article is definitely worth a look for both librarians and academic faculty. So, what are some of the suggestions? Gilman writes,

"So, if you are a teaching faculty member, why not respond to that librarian who e-mails you every fall with an offer to meet you and your students for research-education (or 'information literacy') sessions at the library and take him or her up on it?

Better yet, why not work with that librarian to develop one or more assignments for a grade that will enable your students to apply what they have learned while the library is still fresh in their minds? "

And as Gilman concludes, if you are a faculty member, you may learn a thing or two in the process as well. So go ahead, fill out that request for library instruction form, give your subject librarian a call, visit with your instruction librarian. Don't wait. We really can help your students succeed in your class and give them skills they can take with them to other classes as well.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Online Webcast Notes: Best New Technologies

Webcast: Best New Technologies: Keeping Up With the Storm.
Speakers: Stephen Bell and Aaron Schmidt
Part of the College of DuPage's Library Excellence Series. I was able to view free it via the Texas State Library programs.

This was possibly one of the most painful webcasts I have had to watch. Not in the sense that the content was bad. On the contrary, the speakers were interesting overall, but the transmission was terrible in quality. Extremely choppy, jarring, stopping at times, or the visual frozen while the speakers kept speaking. Out of the various webcasts I do throughout the year, this has to qualify as one of the worst. I will certainly be leery next time I do one of these from College of DuPage. My rant on the technology aside, it was pretty useful overall, albeit it a bit basic for me. My only other complaint: the "vignettes." I am sorry, but real people don't speak like they are doing an infomercial for their colleagues. It comes across as condescending, even if it is a program designed for library professionals who may be just starting to learn about the topic.

My notes then:

  • Mr. Bell began with a brief historical overview. Going back to Web 2.0 and even 1.0.
  • Participation on social software services will be on the rise. Schmidt cited the recent article about there being more older people on MySpace. (This story was discussed by Fred Stutzman here, mostly showing the numbers are not as simple as they seem).
  • The value of librarians and libraries creating profiles on MySpace and Facebook. Schmidt sees value in this. (See recent post by Brian Matthews on Facebook here.)
  • Brian Matthews, author of The Ubiquitous Librarian, joined via phone. He mentions that creating profiles on those services serves as a virtual storefront, a good publicity opportunity. Bell questions, wondering if use of CMS for academic libraries would be better. Matthews replies that there is opportunity in social networks, to show personality, to participate in dialogues with students.
  • Bell wonders if things like MySpace are getting too big. Are they a fad? Matthews sees that services like these will continue. The technology and the websites may change, but the user behavior will still be there. For a profile example, he recommends the University of Texas's Libraries MySpace. Do educate yourself first before you jump in.
  • Tips for approaching technology then:
    1. These are free services, but there are other costs such as time. Is the time spent learning and working with these tools give a return on the investment?
    2. Balance experimentation with time investment.
    3. Pick your edge: lead or trail.
    4. Identify the compassionate pioneers. Let someone figure it out, then come back and teach others.
    5. Make a plan for the library when it comes to use and implementation of these tools, but be flexible with the plan.
  • Discussion on the use of blogs. There are different types of blogs, and they have different uses and purposes. Library blogging does differ from personal blogging. Time can be an issue: how often to post, preparing posts, etc. Starting the blog is easy. Keeping it up is where the work is at. Look at other libraries for examples. Can see the Blogging Libraries Wiki.
  • On tagging, social bookmarkers. There is an advantage in their social aspect where you can see what others mark.
  • Laurie Allen, University of Pennsylvania, joined in to further talk about tagging. Much of the idea is to make resources findable for other people. Her library's catalog allows for U of Penn users to tag records and make notes.
  • On Wikis: Tool for peer production. Wikis can be public or private. Very accessible in terms of adding and creating content.
  • Discussion of IM: Highlight the element of real-time interaction. For many people, IM is as crucial as a phone. Consider using a tool like Meebo. Overall, use of IM is cheap and easy.
  • On monitoring tags, speakers agree it should not be so. It should be an open process.
  • On ownership of content, do the creators simply give away their creations to companies like Yahoo! and Google. Keep in mind the companies often reserve the right to reuse what a creator makes.
  • Don't feel pressure to use it all. Pick and focus on one or two things and give it your all there. For directors, be more open and give time to your more dynamic and young librarians to experiment and learn so they can teach others. In the end, the technology is just a tool.

JCLC Wrap up post

I did attend the evening closing reception and gala. This proved to be another fun event. There was entertainment provided by a troupe of Chinese dragons as well as some harem dancers who performed various dances with grace and elegance. After that, it was dancing the night away, and I will simply leave it to say that I had a very good time dancing for a while.

The next day was the closing plenary, which I chose to skip in favor of taking some time to visit my parents, who live "next door" in Fort Worth. My brother came over with his wife and their new baby. My mother made a delicious pastelon for lunch, a Puerto Rican dish made with beef and ripe plantains, think of it as a sort of very tasty "lasagna" or pie, except replace the noodles or dough with the plantains, add a few other tasty things, and yum. Sorry, I tried to find a link to a recipe, and I could not find one that does justice to my mother's recipe. Maybe I can talk her into writing it down for me, or I can make a note sometime, since I know how to make it. It's just, well, a mother puts a certain love into her cooking, what can I say?

I did not feel that I missed the closing speaker, Tim Tingle, since I was fortunate enough to see him perform the day before during a visit to the exhibits. I am told he mostly gave a speech rather than a performance, so I think I got the best of it the day before. As for the exhibits, I still need to teach myself not to grab every single free book/galley they offer, though I did do better in that regard when compared to TLA earlier this year. That time I got more schwag and less books; this time it was less schwag and more books. Maybe I will eventually get the hang of it. I did get a couple of interesting books I will make notes about as I read them. Overall, this conference gave me a lot to think about, and a thing or two to bring back to my work and library. It also gave me some time to meet with colleagues as well as some time to work some ideas on my Assistant Director. She did take some notes of our conversations, so there goes any notion of deniability on my part (haha). Maybe she'll lose the napkin she wrote it on. Actually, she had a small notepad. While I did make some notes on our conversations as well, those I am keeping on my journal. In the meantime, I will look forward to the next gathering, and I will continue,

En la lucha, (in the struggle),

Best, and keep on blogging.

JCLC Conference Notes, Day Three: Session on the Urban Academic Library

Title of the session: "A Welcoming Space? The Urban Academic Library and Diverse Students."

Adriene Lim, of Portland State University, was the presenter. (This was the last presentation I attended in terms of concurrent sessions).

  • The presentation discussed results of a survey asking research questions to determine how welcoming the library was.
  • Context: Library as place.
    1. Libraries adding value to educational experiences and to academic institution, but how are libraries affecting students' success rates, retention, etc.? (actually, this is a question I would like to ask and explore for my library as well).
    2. Libraries serve significant social roles--perhaps affecting students of color more so than their White counterparts.
  • Urban academic libraries in general:
    1. Situated in large urban centers.
    2. Culturally, socially and academically diverse.
    3. Committed to promoting diversity among student body, faculty and staff.
    4. Expanding access and affordability of postsecondary education.
  • The survey itself was self-selected. The instrument contained 24 questions. It focused on the campus, so it was localized and specific. It supplemented LibQUAL. However, since it was self-selected, it was not randomized, so the results are descriptive and qualitative to the respondents. It got a total of 140 responses with 123 completed surveys.
  • From the discussion, the concept of library as place matters, e.g., the overall physical building characteristics and amenities were important to all respondents regardless of race/ethnicity. When improvements were desired, people of color wanted more access to technological assistance and writing help than their White counterparts. When compared to White counterparts, people of color use the library at disproportionate numbers. In addition, they use the library more than their White counterparts, yet still felt the library was slightly less welcoming to them.
  • The presenter also included a list of references. (Again, nice Powerpoint, but no way to link to it as of this writing).

JCLC Conference Notes, Day Three: Session on Latino InfoLit

Title of session: "Latino Information Literacy: Models for Success."

(While I got a lot out of the sessions I attended, I think for me this was the best session in terms of content and food for thought. The presenters had good PowerPoints, but unfortunately, none of them provided a way to access them online as of this writing).

Isabel Espinal discussed "From InfoLit to LatCrit: Latino Studies/Students & Information Literacy."
  • Librarians need to attain information literacy about Latinos. Do librarians know the sources for finding information for research on Latinos? (or other minority and underrepresented groups for that matter). This includes knowledge of effective search techniques. (See also the presentation on deconstructing information literacy for similar questions).
  • A keyword spelling example: Puerto Rico versus Great Britain. In a reference situation, a librarian did not know how to spell Puerto Rico. Now, if that same librarian did not know how to spell Great Britain, she would be seen as incompetent.
  • How can librarians build their competencies in this area? They can take classes in Latino Studies, read articles and books, attend Latino Studies lectures, and they can join REFORMA (which reminds me, I need to renew my membership soon).
  • Key to understanding this approach to Latino Information Literacy is the theoretical work in critical race theory (CRT) as well as Latino critical theory (LatCrit). The speaker provided citations for further reading (as I read some of them, I will make notes on the blog).
  • Defining elements of CRT and LatCrit:
    1. CRT and LatCrit focus on race and racism.
    2. CRT and LatCrit contest dominant ideology.
    3. CRT and LatCrit focus on social justice and social justice practice.
    4. CRT and LatCrit recognize experiential knowledge.
    5. CRT and LatCrit focus on historical context.
  • The presenter then went on to describe some of her experiences at University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Valeria E. Molteni presented on "Latino Information Literacy: Models for Success." Her presentation focused on Argentinian students and their information literacy needs at CSUDH (California State University-Dominguez Hills), where BI classes are provided in Spanish for students in Spanish courses and other areas. She gave an overview of information literacy in Latin America for purposes of context.
  • The Universidad de Buenos Aires is the largest university. Keep in mind that public education in Argentina is free. Research libraries are only for graduate students and researchers. At the undergraduate level then, there is a lack of information literacy. The level of information literacy varies for those in the graduate level. This is the context they bring when they come to the United States.
  • At CSUHD then, the reference desk will provide Spanish language responses and BI classes in Spanish.
Laura Maldonado Hastert is Reference and Instruction Librarian at George Washington University. She presented on "Getting them in the door: Gelman library reaches out to minority students." She looked at her student population and discussed her library's instructional and outreach efforts.
  • One of the forms of outreach: the library has a student liaison that works with other campus leaders. This student represents the library for other student groups on campus.
  • There is a writing requirement for all students. Librarians have contact with students in this writing program. However, some transfer students are an exception to the requirement, which raises questions about how the library is to reach them. (It is interesting to note that their classes are all hands-on. There are no simple demos or lectures. They have two electronic classrooms with a third one on the way. For me, that is just wishful thinking as I wait for the one that has been promised to be equipped).
  • Assessment is crucial in order to continually prove the usefulness of the instruction programs. This goes along with a university-wide assessment element.
  • In terms of outreach, the library has done diversity displays, staff training on library tours for non-native English speakers, and collaborations with their International Services Office. And there are still things to do.
Susan Luevano, Librarian for Anthropology, Ethnic and Women Studies at CSULB (California State University, Long Beach) provided an overview of the Semillas de Cambio/Seeds of Change project on Information Competence in Chicano and Latino Studies. Through a grant, they were able to create a class component as well as web tutorials on information literacy. Information can be found here.

JCLC Conference Notes, Day Three: Plenary Session with Juan Williams

(Day Three would be October 14, 2006)

Plenary Speaker: Juan Williams, NPR Correspondent and Fox News Commentator.

  • His new book, Enough, subtitled The Phony Leaders, Dead-End Movements, and Culture of Failure that are Undermining Black America--and What We Can Do About It, asks where the Civil Rights Movement is to go in the 21st century. Much of this will be moved along by our libraries' successes. The great struggle now is the class line. The struggle is to make sure people can step through the doors opened by previous members of the Civil Rights Movement, to make sure that people now have the resources to do so.
  • Now is the time to say enough. It is the time to tap into the traditions of self-reliance, of fighting to rise.
  • We need to acknowledge the crisis of the poverty rates in the United States. While Wall Street has its record days, no one sees the poverty crisis.
  • The Black community needs to call on the creativity and perseverance, the spirit of those like Sojourner Truth, Frederic Douglass, Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, among others.
  • This is a call to arms. We need to undertake the challenges of our day.
  • We know the great leaders of history but often forget those who spark a movement. We need new models of social change.
  • Librarians of color come together at a historical moment. It is not time to be self-involved but to see the big picture. Don't be afraid to face the facts on the ground. Today's challenges require us to rise above ourselves, recognize we are truly about helping others. Enough of wasting time on excuses, phony leaders and movements. Rather than waiting on a new leader, it is time to tap into ourselves, time to stand up and say people are a priority, children and libraries are a priority. What will we say when a new librarian 20 years from now asks, "did you understand what happened at the start of the century?" Be the one who can reply, "yes, I did, and we came together to solve and work."
Various notes based on replies and questions from the audience. Mr. Williams is a passionate speaker, and he ellicited much reaction from the audience.
  • It is time to hold people and politicians responsible. This idea should not be controversial. Find what can be done in the communities. Don't let the idea of politics as a large machine distract you. Learn about your opportunities and be ready to walk ahead.
  • On a comment about what was the role of libraries: The library has to be a part of the community, a place to learn, to tap into traditions. Allow the children to discover the library. It is not just a place of Internet access (this remark got applause from the audience).
  • Replying to a comment asking about how he felt working as a Fox News contributor and the role of news: News has become a niche format with stories that confirm people's prejudices. A journalist should seek truth, comfort some, and bring discomfort to others. We live in a media driven society. Fox taps on those threatened by immigration, taps on an older and white audience. The challenge is not to worry about those who worry about the status quo. Worry instead about creating the coalitions and moving forward. Speak of opportunities, not just grievances.
    • Along with this, he made some remark about having a lot of scars. It was in context to him remarking that on some days he felt like a piñata. This was figurative, referring to scars from debates. He opened his jacket as he talked for emphasis, only to have some rowdy female librarian yell out, "Juan, take your shirt off." This was a light moment in the presentation. Ah, those frisky librarians.
  • On Hurricane Katrina: Katrina represents a squandered moment of conscience. The lesson of Katrina now is an opportunity to learn. New Orleans already had a great storm in the poverty concentrations. We saw that family was important. We saw that many who "coped" better with Katrina had good families. Katrina should teach us how to deal with poverty. Ask what you can do to help yourself? (This ellicited a lot of reaction and murmur, a sign this is still a very open question. I think his point was for people not to let others tell them "you are a victim," not to simply wait on the government to save them, a government that should be held accountable as well).
  • On how to keep it together: Power and opportunity in greater numbers and voices. Use each other as resources, become vital parts of the larger organizations. Note the example of the vendors at the conference: they show up for the larger stronger groups. Use the power of the coalition that has been built by this conference.
I missed the morning concurrent session following the presentation since I went to get a copy of his book and get it signed. It was a long line, but well worth it. Mr. Williams was always gracious with all the people he met, and unlike many writers who seem anxious to just move along, took the time to talk to people and write something unique as he signed, which accounted for the long line, but I would say it was worth it. Besides, while I waited I had a chance to talk to other librarians from other places. As soon as I read his book, I will post a note about it.

JCLC Conference Notes, Day Two: Session on Librarian and Social Movements

Session Title: "Librarians and Social Movements."

Elaine Harger, SRRT Coordinator, spoke with Isabel Espinal and Kathleen De La Peña McCook.

Ms. Harger opened the session with a historical introduction.
  • Librarians and social movements have their roots in the 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement. SRRT moved on then to give a place for feminists, gays and lesbians, and other underrepresented groups as well as for social activists.
  • Librarians today are not that much different from those in the 1960s. The question is if the librarians now are upholding their responsibility of providing the information needed for an informed democratic citizenship?
  • Harger proposes that the professional is political. The big question is what side should we take in the politics. Asking these questions does not mean we don't provide information for all or make sure all points are represented.
Professor de la Peña McCook told the audience about the loss of affirmative action in Florida and the FCAT implementation. Librarians should be examples of people who can put data and facts together to see a broader picture. Librarians need to be aware, if not us, then who? A sample question to ask, why the sudden change of the 21st century IMLS grants to the Laura Bush 21st Century grants?
  • We must develop services for patrons as well as for employee empowerment. To the professor, the second part means unions. She is calling for librarians to commit to working on social issues.
  • Suggested display topics: the secret detentions, torture, the denial of habeas corpus, including the definition of what it is and why it is important as well as its significance over time.

Isabel Espinal, who spoke of her experiences as a recent SRRT member, compared that renaming of the grants to Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, when he renamed cities and things with his name (Readers interested in a good fictional account of the dictator could look up Mario Vargas Llosa's La Fiesta del Chivo, available in translation as The Feast of the Goat. Readers with further interest can find a small note of mine on an interview with Vargas Llosa here).

JCLC Conference Notes, Day Two: Session on Keeping Authors of Color on the Shelf

Title of the session: "Keeping Authors of Color on the Shelf: How to Successfully Defend a Book Challenge."

Another panel presentation.

Judith Krug, Director of the Office for Intellectual Freedom, ALA.
  • If it comes to that extreme, she would choose the adults over the children when it comes to intellectual freedom issues. This is because we are a self-governing nation where the adults need information to make informed decisions. This goes to the common objection of "it's not good for the children."
  • Freedom of speech means you can say what you want when you want to say it. However, you have to live with the consequences of what you say and your actions.
  • Never fight an intellectual freedom battle alone. Contact OIF (find their telephone numbers here. In fact, make yourself a little card with the numbers and keep them handy.)
Erin Byrne, Assistant Director, OIF, ALA.
  • While patrons do have the right to challenge a book, one has to wonder about their motivations.
  • Collection development is probably the most important skill a librarian has.
  • Libraries should have a solid selection policy and a solid reconsideration policy. Make your selection policy fit your library. Reasons for having a selection policy:
    1. Encourages stability.
    2. Makes ambiguity less likely.
    3. Helps to avoid haphazard selection.
  • The selection policy should be positive, up-to-date, and flexible.
  • A diverse collection is important as people want to see themselves and their needs on the library shelves.
  • Have also a donated materials policy. One consideration for this: donated materials should be subject to the same criteria as the criteria for any purchased materials.
  • To address challenges, have a firm reconsideration policy. Have the staff prepared and have a written complaint procedure available. Provide patrons with a formal written form. Once the complaint is filed, review it promptly. Use then the selection policy to make a logical and solid response to the challenge. With responses, also include reviews and any author information available. Whatever you do, keep courtesy towards the complainant.
A third speaker, not listed on the program (unfortunately) spoke of a specific book challenge in Alaska of the book Indian Myths and Legends. We were also reminded to consider the Freedom to Read Foundation and the ACLU as well if help is needed.

JCLC Conference Notes, Day Two: Session on LGBTI People of Color

(Day Two would be October 13, 2006)

Session Title: "LGBT People of Color Resources and Services in Libraries and Archives."

This was a panel presentation.

Note: A print bibliography was provided, but unfortunately, as of this writing, there is no online version for linking. I will likely be using it to check against our catalog holdings at some point.

tatiana de la tierra was the first speaker from the panel. She observed that ethnic groups, in terms of resources and services, lack a queer element.
  • Libraries as gateways. They preserve the heritage of the populations they serve. People often go there to find themselves. LGBTI (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex) people doing this is well documented, but they often fail to find what they need or seek.
  • LGBTI people of color face double marginalization (by color and by orientation). Collection development for them often means going to alternate sources and "out of the way."
  • Libraries as spaces that can inspire and even make visual statements. Exhibits can be significant. Ms. de la tierra's exhibits are very visual, even using the wall space outside of a display case.
  • According to Ms. de la tierra, "intellectual freedom is not free when librarians are scared shitless of it."
Miguel Juarez spoke "On collaborating with allies of LGBT Staff for book exhibits and programming." He moved from a very supportive environment at the University of Arizona to one less supportive (to put it mildly) in Texas A&M. His new setting had no LGBT library organization. The diversity committee was limited to Hispanic and disability issues.
  • To keep up then, he had to go outside the library.
  • A&M has done exhibits on underrepresented groups, mostly women and Hispanics. Some talk of LGBT exhibit is afoot with some support and funding, but it will not be easy.
  • Reminder that to create a quality LGBT programming, there must be top down support. One must be flexible and patient.
Yolanda Retter described herself as a "fill in the gaps" activist. She is annoyed at how LGBTI people are made invisible in staffing, collection, development, etc. The goal is one of creating visibility.
  • Even when not asked, she provides expertise, helps review syllabi, programming, so on. We, as librarians, are all responsible to assure that all are represented. We are responsible for asking questions. Easy choices are seldom part of social justice. Our job as librarians is to educate, educate, educate. This process has to be consistent and constant; people need to be reminded every semester.
  • People want information, and they want informed, good service. Any library that serves underrepresented groups automatically serve the cause of social justice. In reference, be prepared, for you never know who will ask what.
  • Idea: compile subject notebooks. (I am thinking this can be done online, maybe using a tool like or Squidoo).
  • Idea: Keep track of people with subject expertise, on and off campus.
  • Idea: Try to get the "LGBT Allies" training.
  • Film suggested: All God's Children, produced by Sylvia Rhue.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

JCLC Conference Notes, Day One: Presidents' Plenary

This session was moderated by Keith Michael Fiels, Executive Director of ALA. It featured Leslie Burger, current ALA President, Loriene Roy, the upcoming ALA President, and past presidents Carol Brey-Casiano and Carla Hayden. The topic of discussion was "Successes and Challenges in Addressing Diversity Issues."

  • Brey-Casiano saw the ALA presidency as a humbling experience. Her initiative: the Many Voices, One Nation reading program. The reading list is still available and growing.
  • Roy is the first Native person elected. She finds that some are angry at her for not talking enough about her culture, and others are angry at her for talking too much about it.
  • Burger hopes to accomplish many things in the remaining months of her pregnancy (she meant to say presidency, but slipped). She sees her term as a chance to create opportunities for future leaders, an opportunity for all members (I have my questions about that statement, but I will refrain for now). Her first presidential task was the committee appointments. Her initiative is the Emerging Leaders program, which got 342 applications for 100 spots, all under 35 years of age. She has discovered that simple things can turn out to be controversial, like her "volunteers" out of retirees initiative. (I have my questions about those two things too, but, I will refrain for one. Two, a few other librarian bloggers have raised some of the questions out there better than I could.)
  • Hayden: Her challenge was attracting librarians to urban zones given the low salaries for one. Maybe an idea to solve this is "growing your own."
(As I sit there, I am still wondering over the emphasis on recruitment. Why the heck do we need so many librarians as they make it sound given the dismal job market? There are plenty of students looking for jobs. Is the issue really recruitment?).

  • Brey-Casiano: Her challenge was asking if we will be able to provide services in libraries to everyone? Or rather, she wanted to answer that question. What about immigrants, especially given the post-9/11 climate? Her other challenge, similar to Hayden's, as she is in El Paso, which is a nice city, low cost of living, decent salaries (i.e. you'd think people would want to go work there). It is a community growing in terms of diversity. They are using a "growing your own" approach.
  • Roy, on a humorous moment, claims to be the only ALA President to have given anyone a barium enema (she has a previous life in hospitals).

JCLC Conference Notes, Day One: Presentation on Lines of Color

Title of the presentation: "The Lines of Color Aren't Always Clear." Powerpoint available online here.

  • The speaker noted that the Census Bureau essentially skirted defining what constitutes a mulitracial/biracial person, leaving it up to the person being surveyed to self-identify.Could be because some civil rights groups were concerned about diluting their numbers if people chose to identify as mixed race versus one race. The Census basically does not have a "multiracial" or "biracial" definition. Also, the Census has never used the same race categories for more than three consecutive censuses.
  • It seems that younger people are more comfortable with identifying as multiracial.
  • Sample historical categories: Historical race categories:
    1. 1890: “White, Black, Mulatto, Quadroon, Octoroon, Chinese, Japanese, Indian (Quadroon=1/4 black ancestry; Octoroon=1/8 black ancestry)
      Could the concern over blood percentages be from eugenics which was in vogue at that time?
    2. 1960: “White, Negro, American Indian, Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Hawaiian, Part Hawaiian, Aleut, Eskimo, Other.”
  • Compared to the general population, multiracials tend to be less educated and younger. In the 25+ age group, 22% have some college, when compared to 21% of the total U.S. population. 12.6% have a Bachelor's degree, compared to 15.5% of the total, and 26.7% have less than a high school degree, compared to 19.6% of the total.
  • Much of the research issues boil down to issues of racial identity. Most of the research topics, according to the presenter, center around the ambiguity of being biracial/multiracial and efforts to categorize/classify race from politics to fiction.
  • Unlike Black Studies or Asian Studies, at this point the research tools do not treat interracial studies as a distinct subject or area of research. Often find information subsumed under another topic (adoption under Social work or sociology; interracial relationships: counseling, psychology, etc.).
  • Key book on the topic: Karen Downing's Multiracial America: A Resource Guide on the History and Literature of Interracial Issues. The book includes bibliographies, a glossary, and curriculum guides.
  • It can be difficult to locate materials in this area with traditional tools. The terminology can be inconsistent. Results can often be muddied by off-topic retrievals. Then there is the issue of some materials that can be biased, inaccurate, and/or offensive.
  • At this moment, Dissertation Abstracts is probably the strongest source for research in this area. Though not as academic, EthnicNewswatch is also a resource to use. Consider also PsychInfo.
  • On the other hand, the Web has various sites dedicated to the topic. However, it tends to be less academic, and it requires a good measure of evaluation of the resources found. Some notable sites:
    1. Stanford University: Research Quick Start Guide: Ethnic Identity:
    2. Resources By and About Interracial & Multi-Cultural People:
    3. Interracial Voice:
    4. Multiracial Activist:
  • The presenter also has a list of resources here.

JCLC Conference Notes, Day One: Session on "Deconstructing Information Literacy"

Title of session: "Deconstructing Information Literacy: A Tool for Domination and Resistance."

This was a panel presentation. On a side note, the actual conference program proved to be somewhat unreliable in terms of who is actually listed as speaker. There were various changes that did not match. If I make any comments, it will be in parenthesis; otherwise, these are notes.
  • Information Literacy is constructed by the society one is in.
Presentation on Information Literacy, a Socio-Historical Perspective.
  • The framework is provided from Thomas Kunh's work, Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). Based on this, "objective" practice is heavily influenced by societal factors.
  • The spheres of influence include:
    1. BI/Library Instruction (as we traditionally know it).
    2. Lifelong learning and the notion of empowering the individual.
    3. Literacy(-ies), the Information Age and notions of information overload with technology heavily in how we get information.
    4. Educational reform, for instance, the Nation at Risk report.
  • Results from this process then,
    1. Teaching is immediate with narrow skill sets. This helps maintain narrow workplaces.
    2. Information literacy then is primarily academic.
    3. There is a preoccupation with technology.
Presentation on information literacy as problematized/oppressive.
  • Refer to basic ACRL definition of Information Literacy.
  • There is an implication that knowing that definition will overcome economic and social class obstacles. Literacy is seen as educational, not political. However, it is political. It needs to be connected to the political and the social.
  • Oppression. Example of the Church keeping its own literacy and Luther as a literacy reformer. See also various public education campaigns aimed at civilizing certain groups, which are often the result of racist and anti-immigrant feelings.
    1. See Gramsci on literacy, the double-edged sword of empowerment or a tool for oppression. (This I actually have to look up at some point, as I am a bit rusty on this; it has been a while since I took Postcolonial Studies where they studied this. Just when I thought I left this behind in my previous life, "they pull me back in.")
  • So, there is a need to challenge the notion of literacy as value neutral.
    1. Refer to the works of Paulo Freire. (I have a note on a reader of his works here, which may be useful for readers wanting an overview of his works.)
Presentation on classification as privilege in the (bibliographic) universe.
  • "One does not have to exercise a choice to perpetuate a racist act. The organization's rules and procedures have already prestructured the choices against people of color" --Elizabeth Martinez, quoted in American Libraries 18.4 (1987).
  • Dominance and proliferation of standards. No recognition that information and/or literacy are not value neutral.
  • We should ask: who's interests do we serve by the work we do? Who is not served?
  • In terms of access, note the biases in our cataloguing and access practices. Use of certain terms and the effort to remove certain offensive terms. The White heterosexual Christian male sees all different ones as the Other, which gets reflected in the catalogs. For example, see the Dewey Decimal System for religion and note the refinement of terms for items under Christianity when compared to other religions.
  • Is the question of access one for information literacy instructors? How can this inform our practice and what we do with students?
Presentation on Information Literacy, a Multicultural Approach.
  • The presentation was opened with a look at this fake website: Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus. (I may have to use that one in future BI sessions).
  • Information Literacy as an act of knowing which needs to be examined and critiqued as a socially-constructed act.
  • Critical concepts.
    1. Literacy begins with orality.
    2. Ideology of power. White privilege and other forms of power.
    3. Positionality. Social and color consciousness.
    4. Social action for freedom.
  • See website: Other Worlds Education Project.
  • In open spaces, everything is open to question.
  • See website for Multicultural Literacy as a reference.
  • Tagging as a form to make some progress.

JCLC Conference Notes, Day One: Opening Session

(Sessions' date: October 12, 2006. This would be Day One)

The opening session featured Loung Ung. From the program notes,

"Loung Ung is a survivor of the killing fields of Cambodia, one of the bloodiest episodes of the twentieth century and has devoted herself to justice and reconciliation in her homeland. The World Economic Forum selected Loung as one of the '100 Global Leaders of Tomorrow." Her bestselling memoir, First They Killed My Father: a Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, (Harper Collins 2000) was the recipient of the 2001 Asian/Pacific American Librarians' Association award for 'Excellence in Adult Non-fiction Literature' (APALA)"

As usual with this type of event, there is a lot of kudos giving and patting on the back to all who made the event possible. As I sat there waiting and listening to the representatives, I could not help but get the sense that there was something historic going on. I am not quite sure what I came to get, but I am sure whatever I do get out and learn from this experience will be good.

Notes and impressions from Ms. Loung's speech:
  • English is not her first language; it is her fourth.
  • Books are a map to the human heart, complicated maps that can heal and save lives.
  • Her city was "evacuated" by the Khmer Rouge in 72 hours. What would you take with you if it was your city? They got sent to work camps as the KR moved to genocide. Today, 20,000 mass graves have been found in Cambodia. At age 7, her mother sent her children to "the four winds." By the time the Vietnamese defeated the KR, about 2 million were dead, too late for a conflict that lasted three and a half years.
  • There is a contrast between movies that detail lives in refugee camps, mostly in L.A. and N.Y. She ended up in Vermont, then in Maine. Her story in the 1980s became one of survival and fitting in.
  • War is hell. It is difficult, especially for a child. If war was not hard, we would not practice it (I think this was the line).
  • Her writing began as a journal at age 16 as way to pour out the toxicity of the war.
  • She is involved in campaigns against land mines. Land mines continue to hurt people long after the war is over. For children, amputation can be worse in terms of the pain given that an extremity will continue to grow, requiring further amputation in order to keep the extremity "even." Land mines are a weapon of mass destruction in slow motion.
  • Peace is a choice. She has seen the worst and the best of humanity to man. We only have to choose peace.
Overall, this was a passionate and moving speaker. Some of the audience members were brought to tears. One member of the audience asked why do people not pay attention to issues like the land mines.
  • She was told that, while she was an "expert" on the issue, she was not maimed, so would not make a good "poster child." However, she refused to be a victim of the society that thinks a victim should remain a victim. We need to connect at a human level. Partners and allies are necessary, not the "pity checks" and charity. The media is failing to cover the good efforts as they are more interested in the sensational.
Loung speaks without anger, which leads another audience member to ask how she can do that. Her initial answer is that we, the audience, are all nice people, so she feels no need to push back. But the anger is still there. The anger now is directed at the perpetrators. It is directed at situations that deserve it: the wars, Iraq, the Congo, so on. She makes us think and ask what makes us angry, in part, to make us think how to redirect that in constructive ways. If asked, what makes me angry? Probably poorly educated people due to lack of resources and support, the poor situation with education. If readers want to know what makes me angry, among other things, go read some of Jonathan Kozol's books.

Loung ended with this thought: a successful book will make your heart beat and your heart remember.

The publisher was generous enough to give away copies of her memoir, so I got a signed copy. As soon as I read it, I will post a note here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Quick side note: Tips for shadowing the librarian

Not that I expect anyone would ever want to shadow me, but just in case, here are some useful tips for potential shadows courtesy of that most debonair of librarians, The Well Dressed Librarian who writes of "Shadows, Me and my." Some of the tips provided include:
  • Bring a notebook & pencil: and use them. They are not decorations.
  • Ask questions! This is your chance!
  • Share a little about what you'd like to do. Perhaps we can tailor the evening towards that - or show you things you might like to know. (I particularly like this idea.)
Go over and take a look at the rest of the list.

JCLC Conference Notes: Before I got there and reception.

(Date of event: October 11, 2006)

I made it to Dallas to attend the First Joint Conference of Librarians of Color, which ran from October 11 to October 15, 2006. Due to some small personal details I needed to take care of at home, I had a bit of a late start, and I drove myself there. Not that I mind the driving since it means that I can pull over if anything on the road catches my eye. Sure enough, driving along Interstate 45, in Huntsville, there is the Texas Prison Museum. Yes, you read that right, there is a prison museum in Texas. Then again, given the tough reputation Texans have when it comes to corrections, I am not really surprised there is a place dedicated to the history of their penal institutions. So, in true gypsy librarian spirit, I pulled off the road and made a stop to have a look at this. Actually, the place is worth the price of admission. It is very interesting, and within an hour, you have learned a few things about prisons in Texas. You also get to see "Old Sparky" (the electric chair), and you can even get your picture taken in a replica cell wearing one of the old striped prison uniforms. No, I did not spring for the photo, but I did buy a small postcard, which goes into my journal with a brief note. The exhibits include themes such as inmate art, infamous criminals, prison hardware, and the prison rodeos. Your four bucks for admission also include a video documentary to put it all in context, which the volunteer lady was more than happy to turn on for me when I came in. And by the way, as the website notes, "Huntsville's prison museum is frequented by a cross-section of the public, ranging from grade-school students on field trips, to tourists from around the world." I can attest to that as there were some tourists visiting at the time, probably Australian (I think they made some reference to being from down under), all amazed by the various weapons the prisoners have made over time and at how tough Texans seemed to be.

Eventually, I got back on the road, and I made it to Dallas in the early evening. I got to the reception a bit late, but it was all ok. It took place in the main branch of the Dallas Public Library, a very nice building. The way the reception was set is that the caucuses had smaller receptions with performances and food, so you could get soul food on the first floor, some Asian on the fourth floor, and some Latino on the 7th (or was it the 6th? I remembered them back then, but hey, it's been a week by now). Personally, the Latino reception was the most fun for me, but then again, you get a bunch of rowdy Latinos in a room, play some music, and it gets loud. My kind of people. Especially when you see librarians who would never take a dance step otherwise at least take a stab at showing some rhythm. Overall, a good time was had by all. If all the library conferences I hear about started like this, I would attend every one of them. I am definitely coming back, and I have not even been to the first session yet. It was not just the fun; there was a certain warmth and sense of welcoming in the air that I have not seen in other academic conferences I have attended. I managed to catch up with my Assistant Director at the reception. Note to self: teach her a few more dance steps. By the way, the food was excellent, and yes, I pretty much ate my way up the building. I also saw the library's Shakespeare first folio and their copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Gypsy Librarian gets back from JCLC, almost needs boat to get to work

I got back safely from the Joint Conference of Librarians of Color in Dallas on Sunday. It rained during the entire trip. Then it turns out Houston flooded all over the place, and the university closed down due to the flooding. For a change, they actually made the decision to close in a timely fashion. So, I am back to work today, rescheduling some classes I had to teach yesterday, prepping, and otherwise catching up again. As soon as I can, I will be posting my notes from the sessions. Best, and keep on blogging.

Crossposted to The Itinerant Librarian and to Alchemical Thoughts.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Gypsy Librarian Heads to the JCLC in Dallas

I will be attending the Joint Conference of the Librarians of Color in Dallas. I will be leaving sometime Wednesday (not sure when, have some small personal items to take care of first). With a little luck, I should be there in time for the opening reception on Wednesday, but if not, I will be there bright and early on Thursday. For me, this is a lucky break as my director was interested in attending, so she is going along with one of our assistant directors. I have to look at the schedule again to see what sessions I will be doing. I hope to meet some interesting people in the process, and maybe learn a few new things relevant to my professional experience as well as to my setting.

I won't be blogging live; in fact, I will probably be pretty unplugged, but I will post about my experience when I get back.

So, see ya (laters, you two) next week. Best, and keep on blogging.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Article Note: On Electronic Book Usage

Citation for the article:

Levine-Clark, Michael. "Electronic Book Usage: A Survey at the University of Denver." portal: Libraries and the Academy 6.3 (2006): 285-299.

Read via Project Muse.

Electronic books have not achieved the success that elections databases and journals have. The article reports on a survey conducted at the University of Denver's Penrose Library in the Spring of 2005. The survey looked at NetLibrary titles.

The Penrose librarians often get complaints about how hard it is to use electronic books, specially NetLibrary. We face those same complaints as well here, though another complaint at times is with ebrary and their reader, which requires a separate installation. In classes, I do get occasional questions about e-books, so some students have a degree of awareness about e-books. Levine-Clark points out a limitation of the study:
"the data do not show, however, how the books are used. For instance, the available statistics show that a book has been accessed but do not differentiate between a one-second click on a title and a five-hour immersion in a book. The data also do not tell us why an electronic version of a book was used instead of (or in addition to) the paper version" (286).

In the literature review, Levine-Clark points out that the literature on electronic books is still young. For example, Levine-Clark mentions a study done at Texas A&M that shows access to electronic books via the library's catalog improved usage. In my classes, I promote this type of use, but I do so casually. In other words, if I do a catalog demonstration, and an e-book appears, I will promote it. We probably should be marketing and promoting our e-book collections more, but that is another project. For myself, I would like more time to practice on the interfaces, but time is not available for that at the moment.

I found this interesting. Levine-Clark points to a study of e-books at North Carolina State done by Nancy J. Gibbs. Gibbs identified some usage patterns based on certain points of an academic semester.
"For instance, in the middle of the semester, there was high use of books on abortion, the death penalty, and similar topics for a current events paper in a required survey. At the end of the semester, presumably as students started to think about getting jobs, use of resume and cover letter books increased" (287).

According to Levine-Clark, the studies in general lack information about user satisfaction with e-books; the studies also lack data on reasons why patrons choose e-books.

The survey method is described in the article; there were 2,067 respondents to a survey with open-ended questions. One of the findings was that a small but significant portion of respondents confused e-books with e-journals or e-reserves. Other findings include:
  • "Awareness of electronic book availability does not necessarily translate into use" (291).
  • "From these answers, it is clear that the respondents value convenience (the convenience of not having to go to the library and the convenience of not having to wait for a print volume) and the ability to search within text" (292).
  • However, many users expressed a preference for print over electronic, unless for a very cursory use, due to issues like eye strain, difficulty navigating the online text, and just preference for a print format (292).
  • "Most of these respondents indicated that the amount of material to be read determines whether they will print it out or read it online. A significant number indicated, as well, the need to come back to material at a later time, and the desire to annotate or highlight the text can also factor into the decision to print" (294).
Finally, some notes from the article's conclusion:
  • Many respondents indicated they would use e-books if they knew about them. Some expressed a wish for training from the library on e-books. Thus, there is a need for better marketing and user education.
  • In terms of collection development, Levine-Clark writes, "either we can purchase duplicate print and electronic copies of books whenever possible, or we can try to determine which sorts of books are more likely to be used in one format or the other and target our selection accordingly" (298). Further study of this is suggested.