Monday, December 17, 2007

Article Note: On blogs for community building and networking

Citation for the article (as provided by author):

Wiebrands, Constance (2006) Creating community: The blog as a networking device, in ALIA 2006 Biennial Conference, Perth, 19-22 September 2006.

I read it online.

This is one of the best explanations of why librarians should be blogging that I have seen in a while. In simple and plain language, Constance Wiebrands, who blogs over in Ruminations as CW, gives us a good summary of reasons why blogging is more than just an online journal. It is a tool for conversations and reflection. It is a way for us to engage each other in the librarian community. It is also a way for libraries to engage with their communities. That certainly was a reason why we started a blog here at my workplace. We are striving to build a conversation with our academic community.

As I always do, I will make some notes for myself. However, I do recommend for others to go and read this paper. In fact, printing it out and handing it to administrators may be a good idea too.

  • "The central argument of this paper is that librarians should seriously consider blogging as a useful and viable way of interacting and conversing with each other, and with the communities we serve." This is pretty straightforward, and I think over time it has been proven. All we need to do is take a look at the librarian sector of the blogosphere.
  • CW draws on the work of J. Bechtel for the idea of conversations. She uses it to make her call to librarians: "Continuing with Bechtel's conversation paradigm, librarians need to participate fully in the conversations within each individual library, between the library and the library's users, and within the wider community." This goes along with CW's idea on building trust, where she looks at how the business world has been using blogging to humanize itself. Blogging can also serve as a way to lead by example. That one I have to think about a bit more myself. I certainly don't see myself leading anyone anywhere in these meandering notes. However, CW cites Jonathan Schwartz CEO of Sun Microsystems who "suggests that by blogging he creates a culture of openness and transparency that can 'build loyalty and be a recruitment tool to boot' (J. Schwartz, 2005, p.30)." Now this I can definitely see. For me, blogging has been a way to be a bit more transparent and open, and it is open I often keep somewhere in my mind as I blog: how much open and how transparent should I be. For libraries, this is definitely important as it can be a way to dispel mysteries and make our libraries more familiar.
  • I find it interesting to note that ALIA sanctions blogging as a form of professional development. Would it not be nice if our professional organizations and workplaces did the same? And I don't mean just under the radar as some workplaces do. I mean actually taking a stand and saying that yes, this is proper and valid for professional development, and we believe in promoting it.
  • "Another vital use of blogging is the sharing of information and ideas and the facilitation of discussion." Blogs can be great tools for information and knowledge management.
  • "Similar to the book review (also well represented on blogs), the review of research and professional literature is a growing area with more and more librarian bloggers posting reviews of journal articles and books on topics in librarianship. This can be very useful way for librarians to discuss research and its application in our libraries." Indeed, a good number of librarians out there post their book reviews. A lot of them happen to be YA librarians, at least from what I have seen. As for reviewing the professional literature, many do provide good guidance on what to read and what to avoid, so there is a sort of digest function.
  • "For the individual librarian, maintaining a blog and writing posts for it can function as writing practice." This is one reason why I blog.
  • CW gives a reassuring note as well: "One does not need to actually maintain a blog to participate in the conversation. Active reading and commenting on others' blogs can be as stimulating and interesting as actually maintaining one's own blog." I think this is important to say because some out there may feel pressed to create a blog. Blogging is not for everyone, and that is perfectly cool. If you think it may work for you, give it a try. Nowadays it is very easy to try it out given the many free tools out there (assuming Internet access is available). But if it is not for you, that is fine too. However, you should still be reading the blogs. A lot of the best thinking in our profession is happening on blogs right now. You should be reading it and responding. Commenting is certainly a valid and welcome way to engage in the various conversations.
  • CW also mentions that a blog can serve as a content management system. This is something I have been giving some thought here in terms of an internal blog for reference and knowledge management. One idea that occurs to me, in the web edition of Wordpress, using those extra pages you can develop for certain topics or guides. Something I should explore further. CW is citing a British librarian on the role of the academic librarians:
    • "'One role which academic librarians can provide is to manage that content and take an active role in discovering and disclosing information relevant to academics, students, and the university community in general. ...[the blog can be] used not just for transmission of information, but for critical commentary and for the creation and authoring on new ideas.'"
    • I think the above pretty much says it all. Clearly, it will take some work, but I have faith we can get there.
So, this paper gives a good amount of food for thought for potential bloggers as well as for library managers and administrators.

P.S. In the interest of disclosure, I am one of the bloggers who was surveyed for the paper. However, it was Connie Crosby's observation, quoted on the paper, on blogging as good publicity that I think provides a little more to think about. Like me, she does not identify her firm (she works for a law library), yet her blogging has given her employer good publicity. I try to keep the references to my workplace to a minimum, but when I do refer to it, I try to reflect on it positively. Anyways, for me, I have come to realize that blogging helps to build my professional reputation. OK, I know; it's not that great of a reputation, but I know that when I was in the market this time around that people did look at my blog. So there must be something to that.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Article Note: On Blog Credibility and Politically Interested Users

Citation for the article (as provided in the article):

Johnson, T. J., Kaye, B. K., Bichard, S. L., & Wong, w. J. (2007). Every blog has its day: Politically-interested Internet users' perceptions of blog credibility. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 6.

I read it online.

This article is a bit on the long side, but the basic point is that it looks at how Internet users who have political interests view blogs. Specifically, it looks at how those users see the blogs' credibility. I am just going to highlight a few things I found interesting. Keep in mind, as I often do, I am just pulling some notes of interest. It may be good to go over and see the article.

  • The authors point out, in their literature review, that politically-interested users "relied more on blogs than on any other news source for news and information and that blogs were judged as more credible than online newspaper site, online cable television sites, and online broadcast news sites." And yet, one has to note that political bloggers, for the most part, which is the type of blog the demographic in the study would likely be following, for the most part are pulling stories and linking from the same mainstream media. Many of those blogs are pretty much link collections. Only a few would qualify as offering any analysis or depth, which interestingly enough, is what helps determine the perception of credibility for the blogs in the users' minds.
  • "Users may deem blogs to be credible because they are viewed as being independent from corporate-controlled media (Andrews, 2003; Regan, 2003; Singer, 2006)." I wonder if this can vary. I mean, many of the A-listers are either corporate or big enough to be corporate. On that last I am thinking of blog networks for instance. I guess I question if some of those voices are really as independent as they claim. And maybe this is where some of the significance comes in for me. It is in terms of information literacy and knowing where the information is coming from, the credibility, etc. As more students use more and more online sources, they are bound to find and use blogs for their research. How do those students see those blogs? Could this be another step, or a different step, to study?
  • "Political observers and researchers have identified four main reasons why individuals frequent blogs: community, convenience, to check information found in other media, and information seeking."
  • Then there was the notion of self-efficacy and how it was assessed. I just wondered how much of it was self-selected. Basically, who is going to admit that they are not well qualified to participate in politics or that they are less informed? I can certainly think of a few who probably should not participate in politics (or at least political blogging), but I am digressing. Then again, the authors do acknowledge the self-selected nature of their sample: "The respondents in this study were a self-selected group of politically-interested Internet users."
  • And guess who are the blog users: "The demographic profile of this study closely matches the characteristics of respondents in studies that have examined blog users; people who seek out information from blogs tend to be well-educated, white middle-class males (Consumer Reports Web Watch, 2005)." What does this say for diversity? Not to mention what it could say about issues of digital divide?
  • But there is some hope: "While Internet users are increasingly flocking to blogs as a source of political news and information, the moderate scores for credibility indicate that users also realize that blogs are not the final word."
  • "Inexperienced users, who are unfamiliar with the often opinionated and non-traditional format of blogs, may find them a less credible source of information. It takes more experience to truly engage with blogs, from navigating the Web to finding political sites with topics of shared interest." Now when I read this, I wondered: can some of this be taught as part of teaching web evaluation skills and information literacy?
  • "Perhaps blog content is perceived as more credible because it is considered more independent than news reported in corporate-controlled media."
  • Something that is pretty obvious: "It stands to reason that users would find their preferred media selection the most credible." Here is where that element of seeking validation comes into play too.
This is an example of the kind of article we should be looking at. We should be thinking, at least in my field, of the applications and possibilities for information literacy. Blogs are becoming a more prominent part of news reporting and discussions. And yet, their eclectic nature as well as their biases have to be considered. Students are going to find these resources eventually. I don't think we can really tell them to simply not use them. We should instead be educating them so they can evaluate merits and act accordingly.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Article Note: On e-books and the reference desk

Citation for the article:

Bronshteyn, Karen. "Using NetLibrary eBooks at the Reference Desk." Reference Services Review 35.4 (2007): 560-570.

Read via Emerald.

In brief, this was an article pointing out the benefits of using eBooks at the reference desk both for reference transactions and as a collection development tool. It does give some reminders of the features that NetLibrary, the subject of the article, offers in this regard. I have to admit that I have not used eBooks as much as I could. Part of it is because they just lend themselves to quick consulting, which does make them perfect for the reference desk. But reading out of NetLibrary is not exactly my idea of reading, so to speak. In other words, it is not easy to read a complete work in NetLibrary when compared to just having the print version in hand. However, and this is the point of the article, for quick reference work and research, this resource is good. When I was doing more instruction, I always wanted to add e-books to my repertoire for the classes beyond showing them the e-books were available. Usually what happened was that an e-book would come up in a sample catalog search, and I would have to take a few moments to show them the item, which then allowed me to promote them.

I suppose I am one of the librarians with mixed feelings about electronic books. They can be good things, but they are not easy to use. And like any resource, they do have a learning curve (I know because I have used NetLibrary as well as eBRARY), something that I don't think was quite caught in the article.

Anyhow, a couple of points from the article:

  • "Finding them and utilizing them effectively remains problematic for some. Potential users will benefit from front line staff that has developed some type of affinity for the eBook platform" (564). And this was part of the problem, finding the time to really learn the platform inside and out in order to be able to help patrons out. I learned in bits and pieces, and I am still learning. Basically, this is something that probably needs to be taught more formally via training. Possible idea: have one librarian really learn it, then teach it to the others.
  • The idea of using the tool for collection development is based on analyzing use statistics fro the online book in order to make overall decisions about collection development. In part, if the e-book is used more, it's statistics increase. Use this knowledge to supplement the print collection or keep up the electronic one.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Article Note: On word-of-mouth marketing

Citation for the article:

Alire, Camila A. "Word-of-mouth Marketing: Abandoning the Academic Library Ivory Tower." New Library World 108.11/12 (2007): 545-551.

This is a short article discussing the idea of using word-of-mouth for marketing. I have always been a firm believer of using word-of-mouth to get your message out. It just seems like common sense. If you get some people to give spontaneous good word about your service to others, then you are bound to get repeat business. I know. During my time at UHD, that was one of the things that worked for me in growing the instruction program: getting the instructors who came in to tell their colleague about their services. Often, I had a new instructor call to schedule a class saying, "so and so told me about what you do for students. I was wondering if you could do the same for me." So, I can attest the idea works, and that you should definitely be using it. And it is not just for instruction, but to market your library overall. On this, Professor Alire writes that "the fundamental objective of word-of-mouth marketing in academic libraries is getting people to talk to others about library services so that those services are more heavily utilized" (546).

The article argues that marketing is an important concept for academic libraries, pointing out that this is often an idea that academic libraries neglect. Alire tells us that we cannot take our audience, the academic community for granted. Also, we in academia need to realize that there are other places for students to get their information. Her article then describes how the technique was used at the University of New Mexico Libraries. The reason for them doing it was to tell the libraries' story and to help "in obtaining the necessary funding to continue to serve their students, faculty, and staff" (546). In the end, a lot of this is about justifying our existence. Whether we like it or not, administrators think more in business terms and the bottom line. What value does the library offer? That is the common question. Marketing then tells the story of that value. I think using a library blog is one way of nurturing this idea, but we also need to remember the personal contact element.

Alire draws on the work of George Silverman, referring to that author's book The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing. In discussing academic libraries, Alire takes some of his tips and applies them to academia. I am reproducing her list here for my notes. The italics are in the original, indicating Silverman's concepts:

  • "Using experts. This could include putting together an advisory group of appropriate participants. In academic libraries, this could be a special advisory group of various library users or a faculty governance library committee. This could also include librarians used as experts to share information of academic library resources and services."
  • "Using seminars, workshops and speeches. This could include presentations or a speakers program. For academic libraries, either librarians and/or trusted advisors could be participating in these formats for sharing information about the library."
  • "Canned word-of-mouth. This could include CDs, web presentations, audiotapes, videotapes. More specifically, academic libraries could develop PowerPoint presentations with the most relevant information for others to use in their presentations." (I have to say I found this suggestion intriguing; I have to give it a bit more thought).
  • "Referral selling. This refers to the use of testimonials. One of the strongest ways to use this is to get university students and faculty to offer testimonials on how their libraries have helped them be successful."
  • "Networking. This means to be visible at events and meetings as well as helping people get information on the library's resources and services. Most library employees have networks that could be utilized for word-of-mouth marketing. However, the most effective is having faculty and students using their networks to to word-of-mouth marketing." (This is another thing I believe in, which is why I try to make it various campus events as I can. It's about visibility).
  • "Using the different media. This includes customer service as a 'word-of-mouth engine,' using PR through advertising, brochures, etc. Academic libraries can simultaneously be doing systematic PR while others are conducting their word-of-mouth marketing efforts" (547).
Other ideas from the article I found interesting:

  • On why this makes sense: "It only makes sense that this collegial type of environment where ideas are exchanged on a daily basis would make word-of-mouth marketing second nature" (547).
  • I liked the idea that the concept should be part of a library's strategic plan. This is definitely something we should be considering as we move on with our own assessments and new plans. Alire writes, "One of the strategic directions was 'Telling the Libraries' Story.' This was the fundamental basis for our marketing efforts; and the strategic plan was our guide for our word-of-mouth marketing endeavors" (548).
  • We need to remember that a large part of our efforts should go to building better relations with the campus faculty.
  • They had a brand: "Our brand became: University Libraries connecting you to worlds of knowledge" (549). On our website, currently, we feature the following brand line: "Your digital doorway to scholarly research." It's not bad, but I am thinking we may need to either increase its use (in publications, so on), or maybe come up with a new one when we unveil the new website design next summer.

They also had a message regarding the increasing cost of scholarly journals and periodicals. This is not a new issue in academic libraries, but it is one that is ever present. It is also an issue that we should get faculty involved in our side. We face it here as well, but we also face significant lack of funding for monographs (as in it does not exist. We buy books when there is money left after everything else). This should be part of the story we tell as well. Not necessarily in the negative sense. I am thinking we could use some of that word-of-mouth marketing from students. There have been more than a few times that students come in looking for a specific book, or they need books on a topic, only for me to find we do not have them. And while ILL is a wonderful tool, it should not be one that I should constantly be referring students to. A while back, in my scratch pad, I was wondering how to translate this experience into evidence I could use as part of the narrative, the story of the library. You see, those with the funds don't always think of books as something glamorous to fund; they would rather fund a monument or something more tangible. I could certainly make the case that a good book collection could make a good legacy as it would impact the education of many future generations, but that would probably be a separate post someday down the road.

Finally, Alire gives a small list of references. I already mentioned Silverman's book. There are three other books on Alire's list of references, so I am going to list them here for my own future reference (citation format as provided in the article):

  1. Balter, D. and Butman J. (2005), Grapevine: The New Art of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, Penguin Group, London.
  2. Harris, G. (1995), How to Generate Word-of-Mouth Advertising: 101 Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Promote Your Business, The Americas Groups, Los Angeles, CA.
  3. Kirby J. and Marsden P. (Eds.) (2006), Connected Marketing: The Viral Buzz and Word-of-Mouth Revolution, Elsevier, London.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Presentation Notes: Management Colloquium

I attended the following event on Friday, November 30, 2007.

* * * * *

From the campus flyer:

Topic: "Managers as Facilitators of Learning, Informal Workplace Learning, and the Learning Organization: A Research Agenda."

Presenter: Dr. Andrea Ellinger, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Summary of the session: "This session will present selected research studies Dr. Ellinger has conducted on managers as facilitators of learning, informal workplace learning, and the learning organization concepts that collectively represent the focus of my research agenda. Dr. Ellinger will also overview some of her current research and writing projects and discuss how these efforts will guide future developments in her research agenda."

* * * * *

The simple translation for that summary is: the professor will pretty much list her vita publications and tell the story of how she did some of the studies leading from her research. However, no actual substantial discussion of the work itself will take place. Basically, the presentation was an outline of her work with titles and minimal citations. While she gave very broad strokes of her work, I did not really get a whole lot out of the session in terms of what I was interested in, which was learning about informal learning and learning organizations. The ideas sound great, but a bit more on what the actual findings are, what we can learn from them, and how they can apply specifically to different situations would have been nice to hear. I guess I will have to hunt down a citation or two if I want to get an actual sense of the research and its implications. Having said all this, for students, especially graduate students, I can see where such a session is beneficial to give students a sense of how scholarship is developed. It specially illustrates an old concept I learned in graduate school: the concept of salami slicing. In other words, do a study or some research, and then take the results and turn them into a series of articles for publication. The professor, like most academic scholars, is pretty good at salami slicing.

Anyhow, here are notes I took while I listened:

  • Guiding question: how managers develop people.
  • The professor conducted a "managers as instructors" study. She was looking at how managers train others, then how those go on to train others, and so on. This was called a cascade training strategy (I need to look this up in the literature. A cursory search revealed it was something for training large groups of people swiftly).
    • Found one worker who expected the manager not be a formal trainer but did expect the manager to support her own personal training. (Now, I wonder how this might work in librarianship given the need for librarians to continue learning. How do their managers/directors handle it?)
    • This concept is what led to the professor's dissertation on "Managers as Facilitators of Learning in Learning Organizations."
  • From the dissertation.
    • 13 behavior sets define manager roles as facilitators of learning. It also looked at those managers' self-efficacy when it comes to them facilitating learning.
    • Citations to articles derived from the dissertation: HRDQ (1999), Journal of Management Development (1999; this one is on Volume 18, Issue 9. I had to dig it out of Emerald. Would have been nice if the professor gave better citations), Management Learning (1999; this one is in volume 30, issue 4. I found via it Sage).
  • Creating a learning culture matters and can have a positive impact on an organization.
    • See HRDQ (2003).
  • Watkins theory of workers being challenged and about learning triggers (I may need to look this up too. I got the gist that the triggers idea goes along with motivation to learn).
  • What is it about workplace context that encourages someone to develop others, and that encourages self-learning? Think of things that help and obstruct.
  • Some positive factors found in studies (I think this can have significance/can be something to think about in our profession too):
    • Learning-committed leadership and management.
    • Internal culture committed to learning.
    • Work tools and resources (books, the Internet, people, etc.)
    • People forming webs of relationships for learning.
  • Some of the negative factors found in studies:
    • Leaders lacking learning commitment.
    • Lack of work tools and resources.
    • People who disrupt the webs of relationships.
    • Lack of time.
    • Too much change too fast (this should sound familiar around some of the 2.0 discussions in libraries).
    • Structural inhibitors (architecture, people and how they are placed).
    • Not learning from the learning experience.
    • See HRDQ (2005) and Journal of Workplace Learning (2007; this one is in volume 19, issue 7. Found via Emerald).
  • Found that significant overlap exists between effective management coaching behaviors and managerial effectiveness behavior. This was reinforced by other studies. Concluded that effective managers tend to be effective people developers.
  • Idea: good customer service on basis of well-trained and empowered front-line workers (this could make a few blog posts I am sure for some people). Would formalized training and/or informal coaching increase value? Yes, it does, to an extent. Highly empowered workers actually revealed that too much training got in the way of performance. Therefore, not every employee needs the same level of training and coaching.
  • But what about social capital in the workplace? This deals with collaboration and relationships built in the workplace. Can coaching help social capital translate into performance outcomes? This is the direction her research is taking now.
Anyways, there it is. I think there are some intriguing ideas here that could be considered in light of librarianship. I will need to seek out one or two of her articles to get a better sense of her work. If I do read any, I will make a note in the blog.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Another reason why I will always have a job

The Effing Librarian has given what has to be the "line of the day." It says it all when it comes to why a good information literacy librarian will have job security:

"As long as the Internet remains an effed-up opium den, I'll always have a job."

Nothing else need be said.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Visiting with prospective students

The first part of this post is crossposted from The Patriot Spot, which is our library's blog. After that note, I will add some additional thoughts.

* * * * *
Saturday with our prospective students

One of the best parts of my job as Outreach Librarian is when I actually go out and do outreach. In other words, it’s great when I get the chance to go out and spread the good word about the library. This past Saturday (Dec. 1), the University of Texas at Tyler held its Patriot Preview Day for prospective students and their parents to “visit our campus; meet our faculty, staff and students; and ask the college-related questions you need answered!” (from the website). The library, along with other campus groups and organizations, hosted a table during the University Showcase at the Herrington Patriot Center. This gave me a great opportunity to meet with prospective students and their parents. I greeted people: I had a chance to just chat and talk to kids and their parents about the university as well as the library. I told them about some of the services we offer, and I did emphasize that our students can access our catalog as well as our databases from home (of course, for databases, this does require a log-in, which I mentioned as well). I also answered a few questions. For instance, someone was asking about tutoring on campus, and I was able to refer them to services such as those offered by the Office of Student Success. In another example, a young lady was asking about library school, so that gave me a chance to talk a bit about what it is I do and how to get the education to become a librarian.

For me, this is my first year at UT Tyler, so the event was a learning experience for me as well. I took a bit of time to walk around as well and get some information from the other groups. I also introduced myself to other campus people. Part of the reason I did that was to get a sense of just how many and what kind of services are available on the campus. Also, it is a way for me to make some contacts for library outreach as well. In addition, I also collect some of the literature the organizations and campus offices offer. I keep a small folder in my files labeled “campus information.” This is something that helps me learn more about my campus, which in turn allows me to better serve my students and patrons. The library gets a lot of questions about other campus services, so the librarians are expected to know the answers. Attending events like this is one way for me to learn those answers. Plus I get to spend time with kids and parents.

I would like to thank the Office of Admissions for inviting the library to take part in Patriot Preview Day. I am looking forward to participating again in the Spring (March 29, mark your calendars, folks). To our visitors, thank you for stopping by and spending part of your Saturday with us here at UT Tyler.

* * * * *

Some of the things I learned:

  • I probably should have grabbed the tablecloth. Our library has one, but the director had pointed out it had a small stain on it. I did not actually look at it, and it probably was not noticeable. Why do I say this? Because the tables lacked tablecloths, not even the simple cheap plastic stuff. I will remember to bring our own next time.
  • Candy is good. Yes, we had a candy dish, and it was popular.
  • "Gimmes" and swag are also good. We had pens and bookmarks. One of the pens we gave out were small pocket pens that can also work as a stylus/pointer for your portable touchscreen device. I have to tell our Instruction Librarian to keep ordering them. As for me, yes, I did get some swag too when I walked around to gather the info for reference.
  • Parents very often speak for their kids. OK, I sort of knew this, but I really got to see it in action. Parents will come to the table, mine or someone else's, and do this:
    • Parent: "Hello. My kid here is thinking about majoring in engineering, yadda yadda."
    • Kid (just stands there, pretty much invisible).
    • In other words, they talk on behalf of the kid, often as if the kid was not even there. I just found that curious, I guess.
  • We do need a brochure. I became aware of this when someone walked into our library a couple of days ago asking for a short brochure about the library. I was able to satisfy that person's need with a couple of library handouts we often use for students. However, a nice, simple brochure would be nice to have. It would have been nice for the event as well. Sure, the bookmarks we used did have our library's web address and some basic information, but something a bit more colorful would be good. Guess who gets to design it now?
  • That I love doing this kind of work. In a way, this is not really work. It's just doing something I like doing. If nothing else, it is reassuring that I am in a good line of work.
  • And I almost forgot, the admissions folks placed nice small baggies of candy with a thank-you note for those attending the showcase event. Now that was a nice touch. I always like the idea of thanking others who help you out. Definitely something I try to do as well. As I always say, small details often make a difference.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Article Note: On Latin Americanist Grad Students' Research Habits

Citation for the article:

Mazurkiewicz, Orchid and Claude H. Potts. "Researching Latin America: A Survey of How the New Generation is Doing its Research." Latin American Research Review 42.3 (October 2007): 161-182.

Read via Project Muse.

This article reports on a survey of Latin Americanist grad students conducted by the authors. The survey participants were members of LASA (Latin American Studies Association). In their introduction, the authors note that students in this area often lack awareness of core resources in the field. There is a concern that the Internet's ease of use may mean these students would use core resources even less. Given that this field still relies heavily on print resources as well as some very specific online tools, too much reliance on things like Google is a significant concern. According to the authors then, "graduate students were chosen for study as they are likely to be heavily engaged in research and are the next generation of instructors" (163).

From the literature review, we learn that students in this area often rely on informal scholarly networks for their research. It really is a matter of who you know. There is less reliance on librarians. Overall, browsing and other informal ways of discovery are still important for this group. Other obstacles for the graduate students:

  • "Spanner (2001) expands upon the earlier studies, and concludes that interdisciplinary scholars face distinct difficulties with disciplinary acculturation, and inadequate library collections and that more research must be done to better address the needs of this user-group" (164).
  • "Another obstacle that Latin Americanists encounter, as identified by Westbrook (2003) in the context of women's studies, is that they work in a high-scatter field as opposed to traditional low-scatter disciplines where resources are consolidated, controlled, and standardized. The Internet, with its promises of greater connectivity and access to resources, has dramatically increased resource scatter" (164).
The authors then go on to describe their method followed by their results. Some highlights of their findings:

  • "The growing availability of easily accessible electronic resources has not yet eliminated the use of print sources" (168).
  • Only a few respondents reported asking a librarian as part of the research. However, visiting the library for research is popular.
  • Use of J-Stor was very popular. The authors do see this as troubling due to J-Stor's limitations. They wonder if "perhaps the ease of online full-text access is tempting as a quick source for information, regardless of whether it is the most pertinent or current" (171).
  • Then there is the concern that a generation of researchers fixated on full-text will skip or ignore valuable resources just because they are not available in full-text online. In this regard I'll say that some things never change. I've seen the same concern in relation to undergrads.
  • "While it is encouraging that students have a relatively high level of comfort and confidence in their ability to carry out their research, when paired with a lack of awareness of some of the core tools in the field, it suggests that some students might know what they are missing" (175).
  • An action call: "The new generation of Latin Americanists must develop the skills necessary to navigate the many possible sources of information, and the knowledge to evaluate the potential efficacy of various research strategies in various media and the value of the information found through such strategies" (176). Maybe this is something that professors and librarians can collaborate on.
FYI: The four core tools mentioned in the article. The only I did not know before the article was LAPTOC, and that is pretty new. The others I have used at one time or another:

  1. HLAS (Handbook of Latin American Studies).
  2. HAPI (Hispanic American Periodicals Index. Subscription-based resource, available online or in print).
  3. LAPTOC (Latin American Periodicals Table of Contents).
  4. LANIC (Latin American Network Information Center, a portal at UT Austin).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not quite convinced about Facebook "Pages"

(This post is crossposted from my scratch pad, Maverick Librarian's Alchemical Thoughts. After some thinking, I decided on posting it here as well so I could connect it better to previous posts on FB, like here and here, I have written, thus adding to my reflections).

* * * *

A few librarians are excited that Facebook is now offering a "pages" option. Personally, I am not convinced yet. While I can see some potential to marketing the library and doing outreach on Facebook, I am just not convinced about this new feature. It seems like a bit too much work on our part (the libraries) for any pay off. What makes me question right away is the fact that a "page" is linked to an administrator's profile. In other words, you can't set up a library page by itself. You have to have it tied to someone's actual profile. Now, I do have my own Facebook profile, but it does not follow that I want my library's page tied to it. Why? Because my Facebook profile is my personal profile. It's my own space.

Now, there is a "Librarians Using Facebook Pages" on Facebook (I am not linking since you need to log-in into Facebook to see it anyways. If you have an FB account, just search for it). Librarian groups in FB have proliferated it seems. Anyhow, digression aside, from what I see in this particular group, there are still some limitations to work out when it comes to "pages." But it also seems that a few librarians have made "pages" for their libraries, including ones that had lost their page when FB shut down profiles that were not individuals a while back.

On an additional note, I am not terribly thrilled with FB as of late. If I get one more e-mail telling me so-and-so added the "I am drunk again" application or the "I like ponies" (names made up, but you get the idea), I will not be happy. Yes, I know I can probably go in and change the settings to stop getting the messages. Problem is I really do not care much if so-and-so added the "what's my hoe name" application (and no, I do not mean the farming implement). The point is that Facebook is pretty much becoming something pretty banal and light. I have managed to find some old friends through it, but apparently, they have a liking to some of the more silly apps on FB, and when they add one, I get the memo. Or worse, when they want to show me something on their application, I have to install the app on my profile to see whatever it is they want me to see. So, in the last few days, I have been actually purging some of the apps out of my profile, trying to keep the profile somewhat clean and uncluttered. In fact, excessive clutter is what has kept me out of MySpace, and I am starting to wonder if maybe it is time to shut down the Facebook profile. I have a pretty good presence on the web already. As for reaching students, which is part of why I got the FB profile in the first place, there may be other ways. Anyhow, right now I am just thinking about it and asking myself some questions. I think at this point, I am not ready to shut it down, but I need to go on a major cleaning spree, so to speak.

Presentation Notes: Teleconference on Finding Trends

Event took place October 26, 2007, but I have not found the time to put the notes in here until now. This was the "Finding the Trends That Matter" teleconference offered by the College of DuPage under their "Soaring to Excellence" series. Here at UT Tyler, we get the satellite hosting, as sponsored by the state library. We actually get a couple of librarians from other nearby libraries come and see these, which makes for a nice chance to meet new folks.

Anyhow, here are my notes then.

  • Recommended reading: Academic Librarianship by Design by Steven Bell (he was one of the speakers).
  • Keeping up is one way to spot trends.
  • It is about not missing the next opportunity to serve patrons.
  • The trendspotter is the antenna of society. However, you also have to think and put the knowledge in context.
  • Joking aside about the arcade image (there was a reference to libraries as arcades), Bell emphasizes that you do what works in your environment. [Catherine] Wilt [of PALINET, the second speaker] mentions the idea of library as a community center (I happen to like this notion, but within reason).
  • An environmental scan needs to be purposeful.
    • Have a process champion, an advocate.
    • Use formal and informal activities. For surveys, get someone experienced in creating and analyzing surveys. Gather the data, use it, and be transparent (this is one of the things I am thinking about as we do our student focus groups for the library's website redesign, at the least post to the library's blog highlights of the findings).
    • Change is the result, whether external or internal. But this could be based on timing, or it could be situational.
  • Make sure to review OCLC's various reports.
  • Important so we can focus more on users. Turn outward is what an environmental scan allows for. This can easily be done by anyone, and it needs to be social; share the information.
  • SWOT Analysis. The strengths and weaknesses we control locally. The opportunities and threats are external; we do not control those. This should be done as part of overall planning.
  • Design thinking. Approach library problems as a designer would a design problem. Thoughtful process to create new services.
    • Start with reflection. Look at the users' point of view.
    • Filter the information and visualize ideas.
    • Create a model and plan. Take your time, try various approaches.
    • Implement when ready.
    • See also the Designing Better Libraries blog (it's already on my aggregator). Also read the WSJ and NYT Biz sections.
  • Trendspotting is immediate (about a year). The environmental scan is finding the change before it catches on, more long term. Futurism looks further for future impact.
  • Any librarian can be a futurist.
    • Be a generalist.
    • Be curious and organized.
    • Keep a log or journal of change (you can use a blog for this).
  • Don't try to predict the future. Look at ways to shape it. Devise strategies and plans then to proactively create and shape change.
  • Recommendations for a futurist:
    • Pay attention to change.
    • Keep a journal.
    • Ask yourself, "what if?"
  • Some resources:
    • (I have it already on the aggregator)
    • Tim O'Reilly's blog. (this may be a bit much for me, and it looks like any highlights will get echoed in the librarian blogosphere anyhow or in other places I already track. I'll think about it).
    • Y Pulse, for YA. (already on my aggregator too).

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Article Note: On information sharing and workplace learning

Citation for the article:

Beitler, Michael A. and Lars W. Mitlacher. "Information Sharing, Self-directed Learning and its Implications for Workplace Learning." Journal of Workplace Learning 19.8 (2007): 526-536.

Read via Emerald.

This is a brief article that basically looks at how the concept of self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) relates to behaviors of information sharing. This may be something to look at in the library workplace as well. This is a pretty brief article, and after the method and results are explained, the findings are pretty brief. So I am just going to make some brief notes.

  • The article cites a definition of self-directed learning by Knowles. "Knowles defines SDL as a process in which 'individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes' (Knowles, 1990)" (525-527).*
  • "Empirical studies show that individuals who have developed high self-directed learning skills tend to perform better in jobs requiring high degrees of problem solving ability, creativity, and change (Mitlacher 2005)" (527).
  • "On the other hand, research findings about the effect of information technology on group information sharing behaviour are mixed" (528). In other words, the jury is still out. Some say that technology makes information sharing better. Others say it may actually keep people from sharing. This may be something to think about in terms of using tools like wikis and blogs for internal knowledge management. I am not saying not to use the tools, but I am saying the tools are not necessarily the silver bullet.
  • "In addition, information sharing also depends on a person's willingness to pass information on to others. Despite the growing importance of information sharing, it remains a challenge in the workplace" (528).
  • The author also mentions that various studies point out that "companies are faced with the problem of employees unwilling to share information in the workplace hindering an effective knowledge management system" (528). I do wonder how often it is the management that fails to share information thus hindering the process. This works both ways.
  • "Companies that are more effective at sharing information have a greater likelihood of organizational survival and higher levels of productivity" (529).
  • "In both classroom asl well as company settings it will be important to encourage people to increase the sharing of information, in particular for people with lower SDLR scores as they tend to share less information than people with high SDLR scores" (533).
  • "Additionally, while the knowledge acquired in seminar programs is still important to the individual, from an organizational point of view it will be crucial that this information is shared among employees to foster workplace-related learning. Thus the most successful companies will not be those whose individuals learn best but those whose employees are able and ready to share their acquired knowledge and information with their colleagues and subordinates" (534).
I think we have a good statement there for the need to have good workers who not only can learn but who can share what they learn with others. I am not totally sure why this is making me think. I know that we often speak in our profession of the need for librarians to be lifelong learners. There are good examples out there of librarians who are knowledgeable and generous with that knowledge, and yet there are many bad examples of those who stagnate and become deadwood. Anyways, just a thought.

*Note: Knowles reference refers to the following:

Knowles, M.S. (1990), The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species, Gulf Publishing, Houston, TX.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Article Note: On collaborative tech rooms in academic libraries

Citation for the article:

Barton, Emily and Arlene Weismantel. "Creating Collaborative Technology-rich Workspaces in an academic library." Reference Services Review 35.3 (2007): 395-404.

Read via Emerald.

The essence of this article is how Michigan State went about creating small technology classrooms that provide spaces for collaborative learning. The article goes through the process from planning to implementation to assessment. Overall, it is pretty straightforward. Note that the funding for the rooms came from a provost initiative on the campus. This means other places may have to look to other resources of funding (grant writing, local campus tech initiatives, etc.).

I found useful the list of questions they provided for the information gathering phase of their plan. I think the questions may also be useful for reflection in places that already have collaborative technology rooms in place. Here are some of the questions then (see pg. 397):

  • "Who uses your space? Is it used by people you originally intended to serve?
  • How do you address technical support for the space?
  • How do you schedule the space? Are there hours when the space is not available when the library is open?
  • What are some of the security issues you have discovered? How do you handle them?
  • Are you measuring the usage of your space? Do you have any data about what is more/less useful?
  • What do users like best about your space?
  • Please give us specific examples of projects or other work that students have done in your high tech facility. Could these projects have been completed if the facility didn't exist? How are they improved by the facility?"
I find that last question to be important because in the article the authors mention that often the rooms were checked out merely as study rooms; the technology was not used. In their defense, the authors claim that serendipity helped to promote the rooms. In other words, those who used the room with no intention of using the technology would either promote it to others or find themselves using it later (400). I was a bit skeptical about this claim. I would be somewhat concerned if the expensive technology learning room was merely used as a study room; you can build a study room on a smaller budget. The reason I would be concerned would be what impression it could make on the administrators who fund it. After all, if they helped pay for the thing, they expect it to be used for more than just sitting around the table. On the other hand, maybe the optimistic view from the article may become pervasive. Word of mouth can be a wonderful public relations tool.

The authors provide a useful summary at the end of the article under the heading of "lessons learned." I will quote them below (see pg. 403, italics in the original), with a thought or two:

  • "Rely on other institutions." In other words, don't reinvent the wheel. Other places have done this. Find out what they did and learn from it.
  • "Location, location, location."
  • "Hold someone responsible." Basically, have someone in charge responsible for the design, the policies, etc., a coordinator.
  • "Make sure library staff and librarians are aware of the features found in the laboratories and feel they are part of the libraries' mission as a whole." You need buy-in from the library staff. You may need to train some staff and educate them. I would add some training and time for them to try out some of the technologies.
  • "Be wary of working with furniture and technology vendors." I think this is self-explanatory. Caveat emptor.

Friday, November 16, 2007

OCLC Webinar on Promoting VR Services

The event took place yesterday (11/15/07). I saw this along with our Business Librarian, who scheduled it at his workstation. They had two speakers.

First speaker: Ms. Beth Cackowski, of New Jersey's This is New Jersey's statewide collaborative 24/7 virtual reference service. It uses QuestionPoint as its platform, and it handles about 4,500 questions a month.

  • They used some of the usual promotions: bookmarks, posters, stickers.
  • They ran an ad in campus newspapers.
  • They placed their bookmarks in bookstores.
  • The highlight of this presentation was their MTV ad. The ad is now featured on the service's website as well as other state sites and public access channels.
    • The commercial used images about patrons and targeted teens.
    • They meet with their local cable provider. With their help, they determined a coverage area, dates for the campaign, and audience. The airing of the ad cost $4800.
    • They also hired a video producer to make the 30-second spot. This cost $2200.
    • The ad first aired during the MTV Video Music Awards. It aired twice during the broadcast, including a spot right before Britney Spears (i.e. a coveted spot for ads), in the New Jersey market.
    • They found usage go up 50% the night of the broadcast; over the following month, usage was up 20%.
    • For this type of campaign, cost depends on the market, channel(s), day and time, etc. After the VMA's, they did a 9 week run on various MTV shows.
  • The ad is also on their MySpace, which was launched last spring.
  • They did a movie theater campaign.
    • This cost them $10 a week per screen; they got the deal on a nonprofit rate, which for them for those theaters was a great deal. You need to inquire with your local theaters to do this.
  • Any web advertising, such as on local library sites, was pretty much free.
  • The idea was to target school students, since they make up about half of their users.
  • They used to create polls to measure effectiveness of the service.
  • Overall, when advertising, consider your goals, target audience, and budget.

Second speaker: Ms. Diana Sachs Silveira, of Florida's AskALibrarian. This state service does both e-mail and chat reference. They work with 97 libraries in Florida. Last year, they got 43,844 questions. They use Docutek's platform.

  • They also did the traditional marketing: posters, bookmarks, etc.
  • They did a back-to-school campaign.
  • They did ads in 17 community college and university newspapers. Duration and size of the ads varied in each case.
  • Their highlight is a YouTube contest for their next AskALibrarian commercial. It is for students in grades 9-12, and the public picks the winner. Prizes include: a digital video camera (1), a Wii, (2), and a digital audio player jukebox (3). They found these prizes were actually cheaper than hiring a producer, etc. The contest is ongoing until January 2008.
  • Other forms of PR they have tried:
    • Teen blogs.
    • Library websites.
    • Schools.
    • School media association publication.
    • Social network sites.
  • On their use of MySpace:
    • They use the blog feature of MySpace for a "question of the week."
    • They use widgets when they can.
    • As people "friend" them, they do a small comment of thanks in that person's MySpace.
    • They also keep comments open on their own MySpace.
  • On Facebook:
    • They found it more difficult to use. They got their page shut down during the time Facebook was refusing any institutional profiles. FB has sort of backed off that now.
    • Instead, the service has created FB widgets.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Article Note: On Seven Principles to Educate the Ne(x)t Gens

Citation for the article (as provided on the site):

Sword, H., and M. Leggott. 2007. Backwards into the future: Seven principles for educating the ne(x)t generation. Innovate 3 (5). (accessed November 8, 2007).

This is going to be a brief note. The article can be read online at the Innovate online site, but I will warn that it requires free registration to access older issues. Personally, I tend to find registration requirements for things like this annoying, in part because it means yet another place I have to remember in terms of log-in details. Anyhow, there's my two cents.

As for the article, it provides a brief list of principles to keep in mind when teaching the so-called "Next Gens," but I think the principles are applicable to any classroom setting. The authors are describing how they apply the principles in their English 347: Poetry Off the Page class. The only thing I questioned was their optimism that "outside the classroom, through social software such as wikis, chatrooms, and blogs, our students are creating collective knowledge right and left, breaking down traditional boundaries between 'me' and 'us.'" I am just a bit skeptical about the quality of that knowledge. Is it really knowledge of any substance, or is it just the same usual socializing in a new setting? The statement seems to border on the common assumption, which is inaccurate, that just because the millenials are savvy online it would follow that they would be information literate. We know from experience that is not the case. Sure, they are breaking traditional boundaries when it comes to online environments. It does not automatically follow there is an educational goal or application along that way.

Anyhow, here are the seven principles. I do recommend people go and read the article. Some of this is common knowledge for those who have been teaching for a while, but it makes a nice reminder.

  • "1. Relinquish Authority.
  • 2. Recast Students as Teachers, Researchers, and Producers of Knowledge.
  • 3. Promote Collaborative Relationships.
  • 4. Cultivate Multiple Intelligences.
  • 5. Foster Critical Creativity
  • 6. Encourage Resilience in the Face of Change.
  • 7. Craft Assignments That Look Both Forward and Backwards."
From the second statement above, the authors explain: "teaching to the future demands that we imbue students with a sense of intellectual purpose, instill in them a desire to make a difference, provide them with opportunities to reach a wider audience, and furnish them with the tools to break new ground." This is definitely food for thought. It's what every teacher should be doing in every classroom as far as I am concerned. It is what I try to do when I teach.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Participation blues, or how many more have to be lost?

I just started looking at the posts in my aggregator, and I found Meredith's Farkas's post on "Alternative ways to participate" about why she won't be at Midwinter. I have not read the rest of the librarian bloggers on my aggregator yet, but I am predicting this will get picked up by a few of the A-listers, and it will possibly become a meme. After all, it is that time of the year when posts about the ALA big conference, be it Annual or Midwinter, start surfacing as the prohibitive costs of participation hit reality for a lot of people. Ms. Farkas writes about her potential expenses:

" So basically, my options are, spend $475 on the plane, $400 on a hotel, $160 for registration and more on cabs and meals to go to a few meetings; save $300 but spend two days on a train; or not go (yes, I’m sure there are other options that involve hostel stays and hitchhiking, but honestly, I’m just not willing to be that miserable to get to Midwinter)."

I know I would feel like a jerk if I told my better half something like that. Heck, I would not even tell her because I would not even consider it. My previous workplace really did not fund such travel; they had a fixed amount, and when you burned it, you burned it. It would not even cover enough for expenses to TLA (Texas Library Association, my state), so anything national was pretty much out of the question. It still would be out of the question. My new workplace is not that much better financially. I will likely go to TLA next April, but much of it will probably be on my dime, as it has been before. I may not get much funding from work this time around either, though my director here seems willing to do magic so to speak to send us (she herself is active), but still, I would feel kind of shy asking knowing things are tight. That's just me though. Those of my professional brethren who work in places where funding a conference is pocket change have no such worries (and those out there in such places know who you are, don't even try to weasel out).

I am not saying this to be mean. I stopped caring about the national library organization quite a while ago. Even though I may renew this year, I did let it lapse last year. Only reason for me to consider it is mostly for the publications, since we don't get them here at work. I don't care about American Libraries. It's more the journals from ACRL and things like that. We'll see, since that is a chunk of moolah too. I am saying it because I am seeing this phenomenon every six months or so. And it usually boils down to this: Participating in ALA is cost prohibitive; it is pretty much limited to the few who can afford it; it would be nice if they did more things virtually. You'd think after a while someone in the organization would notice and pay attention. And by paying attention, I mean to actually acknowledge that there is a problem and actually do something about it other than get defensive or make excuses for the organization. Like Ms. Farkas, "most of us don’t buy into the 'ask not what ALA can do for you, ask what you can do for ALA' line." Given what many already pay, yes, I think we can be and should be asking what can you do for us. Personally, it just pains me to see people who are extremely talented, gifted even, have to make hard choices about participating and giving back to the profession because their professional organization, which can certainly use their talents, makes it next to impossible for them to give their service.

In the end, this is what spoke to me about Ms. Farkas's writing this time:

"So my generation is alternatively skeptical of what the ALA can offer us and passionate about working to improve the profession. If participation continues to mean making the kind of sacrifices it does now, the ALA is going to lose my generation, save those whose libraries fund their participation in ALA or who have to participate in ALA to get tenure. Not that they won’t still do great things for the profession; they’ll just do it outside of ALA."

They already lost me. Not that I am a big loss (or a loss of any kind, haha). But can they really afford to lose the talented ones? How many do they have to lose? Is there a magical number? Is there a point where ALA will say, "shit, we really have to get our act together, or we are facing extinction?" I am passionate about my profession. I always tell people who ask that if I had known about this gig sooner, I would have gotten my MLS sooner. I believe at some point it will be my time to give back to the profession as others have before me. But it will probably be down a different road.

P.S. The comments on Ms. Farkas's blog entry are worth a look as well.

(Update Note): Turns out she caught a lucky break and went after all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Article Note: On Integrating Information Literacy into Blackboard

Citation for the article:

Jackson, Pamela Alexondra. "Integrating Information Literacy into Blackboard: Building Campus Partnerships for Successful Student Learning." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 33.4 (July 2007): 545-461.

Read via EBSCO E-Journal Service.

This article might be of interest to our instruction librarian. As part of an overall assessment of our information literacy initiatives that we are working on now, she is looking at ways of establishing and maintaining a presence on Blackboard. A lot of what the article says are things that any good information literacy librarian probably knows by now. However, the article does summarize the issues nicely, and it provides some basic recommendations at the end. It is also a short read.

Some points of interest:

  • "While courseware was one primarily used for distance education, hybrid courses are gaining more popularity. Hybrid courses are those in which students and instructors meet regularly in-person in a traditional classroom setting, but also include online components in the LMS" (454). This is the basic working definition of a hybrid course.
    • Back at UHD, we had a good number of these given the institution moved to set up a shell for every course. It was then a matter of getting faculty trained in its use. Gradually, more faculty were adopting it. Back then, we had a limited embedding of librarians in some courses. Before I left for my current position at UT Tyler, I was embedded in two courses. This is one of the activities that interests my colleague.
  • "Thus, to a large extent, the seamless integration of library resources, information literacy, and librarian-faculty collaboration in the online classroom is lacking" (455).
    • This pretty much falls under a statement of the obvious. Way I see it, if this is lacking, it means we have to work harder, promote more, and at times, find ways to work around certain obstructive elements.
Keep in mind that this article reports on a study that worked to "assess librarians' understanding of the LMS as a teaching and learning tool for information literacy" (455). In other words, it was looking at how librarians themselves look at the LMS and how they can use it to promote information literacy. The author conducted a survey of librarians in the California State University System seeking to find out about their levels of proficiency, involvement, collaboration, and perceptions of obstacles. So what did they find? Well, to be honest, things do look a little grim for our side. According to the article, "survey results indicate that little is being done to help support information literacy endeavors on the LMS" (456). Very often it was a matter of the library offering a variety of services that the faculty simply failed to call upon. Other findings:

  • "The majority of respondents reported that their libraries do not have guides to help faculty include library resources in their courses on the LMS. Twenty-three (26.7 percent) of the eighty-six respondents did not know if such guides existed, begging the question, how can librarians help faculty include the library in their courses on the LMS if they are not aware of the resource available themselves?" (457).
    • I am thinking this may be a bit harsh. I think more librarians are aware of the resources. Creating the guides is a time consuming effort, and if there is little incentive to create the guides, then making them is likely not a high priority. I am not saying the lack of incentive should stop us from creating guides and tools to facilitate faculty efforts to include the library on the LMS.
  • The article points out that there is a lack of a marketing strategy on the part of librarians. The author writes, "it is not surprising that sixty-one (70.9 percent) of the eighty-six respondents reported having no marketing strategy. Most marketing strategies described consisted of individual librarians offering to help faculty link to resources. Again, however, very few faculty have taken librarians up on these offers" (457).
    • A couple of things here. For a marketing strategy to work it has to be a concerted effort on part of the library. For a long time, I worked doing what is described above: offering my services to any faculty member who would listen. I got a few takers, and I consider that a good accomplishment. But if we had a more concerted effort, the results may have been more fruitful. As for the faculty, given that information literacy skills are becoming a higher priority in accreditation, it may be time for them to take another look at the library and how librarians can help them integrate information literacy into the curriculum in order to promote lifelong learning. After all, we all share the common goal of student success.
The author then makes some recommendations (see pages 458-459):

  1. "Designate a Library LMS Liaison."
  2. "Create Campus Partnerships."
  3. "Encourage Librarian Training."
  4. "Package Information Literacy Content."
  5. "Participate in Discussion Boards."
  6. "Add the Library to the LMS Course Shells."
  7. "Participate in Blackboard Communities."
  8. "Explore Blackboard Building Blocks."
These recommendations are applicable to campuses that may be using systems other than Blackboard. The author concludes by reminding us that these web systems are not a replacement for face-to-face interactions, but they are another way to nurture student learning. The article does include the survey instrument in an appendix.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Library literature is not the only one going unread

Apparently, library literature is not the only one going unread these days. An article from The Economist for August 28, 2007 asks if business school research is "practically irrelevant." The article says that the AACSB, the major accrediting body put out a draft report proposing that business schools "be required to demonstrate the value of their faculties' research not simply by listing its citations in journals, but by demonstrating the impact it has in the workday world." Now there is an idea for librarianship: to evaluate its literature on the basis of its impact in the real world. How useful is it to those of us on the field? I am sure this kind of research can be done for various aspects of librarianship from public service to instruction to the 2.0 phenomenon.

According to the article, when it comes to business school research published in journals, "most of the research is highly quantitative, hypothesis-driven and esoteric. As a result, it is almost universally unread by real-world managers." Replace "business school research" with "library school research," and this will seem awfully familiar. The library literature is almost universally unread by real world librarians.

Walter Baets, of the blog Complexity, Innovation, Knowledge and Learning, has a take on the Economist article that is worth a look. He points out something that seems pretty obvious to library schools and to those librarians on tenure lines as well as business schools: "Academic tradition (as in any discipline) became publish or perish, not contribute or perish. Careers depend on it." In other words, it is a matter of getting published (frequently and in the right journals) in order to have a nicely padded CV to present when tenure review time comes around. Whether the stuff published is good or not is not really relevant. And those of us who now and then brave the journals to look for articles can attest to this. There is a good number of journal articles I simply scan briefly and do not read because the quality is poor or because they are not telling me anything new. Librarianship is not the only field guilty of this, but it happens to be my field, so I have an interest. But we can certainly afford to learn from other fields as well. Just a thought.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blogs that I read

I will start by saying that I read a lot of blogs, and I will add that once in a while I hit the "all read" button on my aggregators. Yes, that is plural. I have the Bloglines account, which I use mostly for blogs and a few other things. Then I have a Newsgator, which I use mostly for news sources and magazines. I try to put stuff that has feeds but is not a blog on the Newsgator; I don't scan it as often as I would like. I opened the Newsgator account just to try out a different aggregator, but I did not want to just duplicate what I had in Bloglines, so I have used it for magazine feeds, news sources like AlterNet, and a couple of things I don't need to look at as frequently. And finally, I did back up my Bloglines feeds in the Google Reader. At one point, I considered switching fully to Google Reader, but I have a lot of clippings saved in Bloglines that are not easy to move. So, right now I am just thinking about it. But this is not a post about aggregators. That topic could be a separate post. The reason I started this post by talking about aggregators is that I read a lot of blogs, and I scan a lot more. You do learn in our line of work to scan a lot. If I read every single thing in my aggregators on a regular basis, I would not have enough time to get my actual work done. That's ok. Scanning and selective reading works well for me in terms of keeping up when it comes to the blogosphere.

So, what do I read besides librarian and library-related blogs? Well, I can give you some of the categories in my folders to give you a sense with some examples.

  • Politics and commentary. This is exactly what it sounds like. I scan and/or read some of the political blogs. The thing I don't like about the larger blogs in this area is that they post a huge volume of material. For instance, I scan AMERICAblog and Huffington Post. Huffington Post is specially notorious for very long feeds. I am seriously considering rechecking to see if they have other feeds. At any rate, these are blogs I mostly scan since the posts, while numerous, tend to be very short. Exception to this are some of the ones that do more commentary, but the volume on those is smaller.
  • Higher Education. This folder has two blogs from The Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Ed, and then some professor bloggers I like. I work in higher education, so I have to keep up with this area. This does not include academic librarians. Those bloggers go in with the other librarians.
  • Blogging, Infotech, and 2.0. Here are things like Mashable and Lifehacker. These two also post a lot, so I often just scan them. I often save some of their posts to my account for later reference. In addition, I keep a few blogs here that deal with innovation, blogging, and productivity. I try not to put things that are way too technical. I am somewhat savvy, but I am not a developer or programmer. Just a well informed user of some tools.
  • Books and reading. I would not be able to call myself a librarian if I did not follow a few of these. These vary in size and scope.
  • Humor and Odd Things. I do follow a good number of these. You have to have humor because laughter is important. It's not comic strips like Dilbert (i.e., the usual mainstream); those would go over in the Newsgator. I do put in here webcomics though. I also have blogs about the odd and unusual.
This is just a very small sampling. I have a few other categories in my reader. As I write this, what I realize is that it may be time to prune some of the feeds down a little. I also keep a folder labeled "miscellaneous, for now" in my Bloglines. This is for blogs that I have added on a trial basis. If I like them, I add them to the right category in my reader. If not, they are gone. I have also been deleting a couple that I find myself not reading. If I simply scan without paying much attention, then it means the blog is not holding my interest, and it's gone. On the other hand, I do add feeds based on things I see in other blogs. So, in the end, it's a balancing act. But, as kids would say, no big deal. I can always declare "feed bankruptcy" for a day and just hit that "all read" button. The feeds will fill themselves again the next day.

Note: This post was inspired by Andy Carvin, of the Learning Now blog, who wrote about the blogs he reads. He asked what blogs his readers read that may be useful to educators but may not be meant for educators per se. In my case, some of the things I read may be useful to teachers; others are just useful to me in terms of keeping up or just staying informed. As for Learning Now, Mr. Carvin often writes very thoughtful posts about the Internet and its intersection with education. In my humble view, it is worth a look.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Article Note: On Libraries, Retention and ROI

Citation for the article:

Mezick, Elizabeth M. "Return on Investment: Libraries and Student Retention." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 33.5 (September 2007): 561-566.

Read via E-journals from EBSCO.

The essence of this article is that the author looked at library expenses and staff hiring to measure the impact of those factors on student retention. I have been thinking about retention here and there and in some other places. The article reinforces the common argument that libraries cannot afford to be complacent, and that they need to be more accountable to their constituents.

Things that made me think:

  • "Retaining a student is fundamental to the ability of an academic institution to carry out its mission. A high rate of attrition is indicative of a failure on the part of an institution to achieve its purpose" (561). Basically, if you are losing a lot of students, especially half or more, there is definitely something going on that needs to be addressed.
  • "Libraries need to be able to demonstrate how expenditures for resources and services result in significant contributions to academic and social environments that positively impact institutional outcomes such as student persistence" (561). You not only need to build the facilities and staff, but you also need to document how exactly these things contribute to the mission of the campus and to student success.
  • On the importance of information literacy: "Attainment of information competency and related skills, such as the ability to research effectively using print, online, and electronic retrieval systems, is essential to the learning process" (562). Our instruction librarian and I are pretty much in agreement on this. She is very passionate about the idea that if students do not learn the necessary research and information literacy skills early on then they will not be able to succeed later when they will need to apply those skills in new ways.
  • More on the role of the librarian: "Librarians, acting as teachers and counselors, address student needs on a daily basis. Through their observation of and interaction with students, they are aware of deficiencies in student skills that may be indicative of high-risk students" (562). This is something that a lot of people on campus, including administrators, do not give us credit for. We do a lot of work with students, and as a result, we learn a lot about their needs and how to help them be successful. I am thinking that this is a conversation that we need to be having between librarians and the teaching faculty as well as some administrators. Librarians learn so much about student needs just in their daily work, and I can attest to that from my days as an instruction librarian. I am willing to bet that I knew more about a good number of those students than their professors.
The article provides a literature review on the topic of retention. It then moves on to the methodology, which I will admit was a bit heavy for me once it went into variables and coefficients. I do understand the concept of correlations though. So, what did the author find when it was all said and done?

  • "These findings appear to be consistent with earlier studies that found providing quality library resources to students insures better academic performance and, in turn, leads to student persistence" (564).
  • "Through use of measures of association and other performance indicators, library administrators can demonstrate the academic library's positive impact upon institutional outcomes. Such evaluative techniques may also be used to identify areas where use of limited economic resources may have the greatest impact" (565).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Article Note: On learning commons evolution

Citation for the article:

Roberts, Regina Lee. "The Evolving Landscape of the Learning Commons." Library Review 56.9 (2007): 803-810.

Read via Emerald.

This article looks at the evolution of the learning commons concept and its relation to libraries. The library's learning commons is a response to the users' changing needs. As pedagogy becomes more student-centered, spaces that nurture collaborative learning become important. This is what a learning commons does. The author writes that "academic institutions are supporting a learning commons model because the faculty and administration recognize that students learn in dynamic ways" (803).

The author goes on to suggest that the library is a natural place for this type of environment. This is because the library is more than just a collection of books and electronic resources. The library is a center of knowledge, a place where members of the academic community can come together. The learning commons can also add to the value that users find in their libraries. Roberts adds that "in this context, by providing the space and tools of a learning commons the library provides yet another excellent service to its users" (804).

The author does emphasize there is a difference between an information commons and a learning commons. In brief, an information commons is the laboratory structure that helps with seeking information. Think of the big computer lab with a variety of other features. The learning commons is the space where knowledge is created with the information tools available. Learners share a common learning interest, and they collaborate in their own learning process. The learning that occurs in the learning commons does not have to be class-related, i.e. formal. Basically, as I understand it, the learning commons can have the features of the information commons, the technology, but it also has the strong social and learning components. One is made for seeking information. The other is used to create it as well.

Other ideas:

  • This can get complicated: "Offering more services can become a complicated mandate because libraries will also want to maintain a commitment to the traditional library role of collecting, organizing, storing, and disseminating information" (806). It is a balancing act. Many administrators often think that once you set up an information commons, you can get rid of the books and other more "traditional" resources. They fail to realize that often knowledge is found and created by using the more "traditional" resources as well as the electronic ones. Plus, as the Roberts suggests, the learning commons has the potential then to increase the value of collection development (806). This will come into place as students find the need to seek out a variety of sources to meet their learning needs.
  • You need assessment, and you need to document benefits and value:
    • "Lakos and Phipps (2004) are strong proponents of assessments as a means of encouraging stakeholder support. Sustainable programs require measurable outcomes" (806). The Lakos and Phipps piece is from Portal 4.3, pgs. 345-361.
    • "Therefore, a library that includes a learning commons should also include a systematic plan to measure the outcomes and methods of the activities of the learning commons" (807).
  • The role of a librarian will change with a learning commons. There will be a need to be flexible and to engage in continual learning. These librarians need to keep up, and they have to be willing to experiment. "It also requires that the librarian participate in the learning process not just for information literacy but as a collaborative partner and possibly a project facilitator" (807).
After the part about librarians' roles, the author does go on into what seems a digression on digital projects and their preservation. While this could be an important activity of an information commons, the item in the article seems to take away from the rest of article, giving more the impression that the learning commons is to become some sort of digital repository. What happened to the rest of the mission? At any rate, the article does provide some food for thought.

Friday, October 26, 2007

On hitting the books, inspired by General Patton

One of my favorite books is Alex Axelrod's Patton on Leadership. I discovered it a while back (see my note here). There is a passage discussing how the general was an avid reader. Those who have seen the film with George C. Scott playing the general may recall the big tank battle where the general yells out about having read Rommel's book. Personally, I find that scene very inspiring as it highlights the importance of reading to know your rivals as well as to know your field and line of work.

The passage from the book is entitled "Hit the Books." Find it on page 78. You would think that for librarians this would be a piece of cake, but it does not cease to amaze me how some librarians can be poor readers. I don't mean their reading skill. I mean their breadth and scope of reading. But that would be another ranting post topic. Anyhow, here is the quote that Axelrod uses:

"The only right way of learning the science of war is to read and reread the campaigns of the great captains." --Napoleon, quoted by Patton in his reading notes.

I find so cool the idea of keeping reading notes. It is a big reason why I keep my blogs. Axelrod then expands on the quote:

"Patton added to this quotation, a comment of his own, 'And think about what you read.'"

That is a lot of what I try to do, to think about what I read as well as about my craft as a librarian. Here is more of what Axelrod wrote:

"It behooves any leader to know the history of his or her discipline and to read all the experts in the field, particularly experts whose knowledge is based on actual experience. The object is not to follow any example or method slavishly, but to develop a strategic and tactical vocabulary that will create solutions faster and more efficiently than having to reinvent the wheel with each problem that is encountered."

I will add that, in our case, we should be reading experts in our field as well as experts out of our field who are relevant to what we do. We should be reading in areas like information technology, education, communication, psychology, and a few others. We should also be looking to those with experience who write about those experiences well. Unfortunately, this may not be as easy given the nature of the literature of librarianship; you may need to work a little more at it to find something good. Notice also that Axelrod reminds us that we have to think. We are not just to follow any fad or trend. Are you listening out there, 2.0 cultists? You know who you are. Sure, there are some very good 2.0 tools that can provide a myriad of solutions. If they are examined and found to do the job, and they can be implemented, then go for it. Don't just do it to be cool or hip. Think as well as act. This keeps coming back to me because in one of my job interviews before I got my current job that point was one of the issues they were interested in. The question came up about my views on various 2.0 tools, and I said something along the lines that it was important to think about what a tool would be solving, if anything. We were in agreement at the end of the conversation about the need to examine and think, not simply act slavishly. An FYI for the curious readers out there, yes, I was offered that job. No, it was not this job. The point is that, in my humble estimation, one can easily get the impression from reading the many blogs kept by librarians out there that a substantial number of libraries and librarians are rushing to put in every 2.0 toy out there. Talking to front line people I know that is not the case. Thus, you read, you think, but in learning, you also seek out those with experience in order to learn from them as well.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A thought on the library literature

It seems that reading the library literature may be either a rarity or a joke. I read a post by Sarah Houghton-Jan a while back on this topic, and I left it in the aggregator to ponder about it at some point. She wonders if library literature is generally useless. It is the dirty little secret that a lot of the library literature is pretty much written by people who just need to write something to get their tenure. OK, maybe it is a dirty secret, but it certainly is not a little secret. It is pretty widely accepted by those who write the articles as well as by those who read them. Part of the reason that this got me thinking is because I read a good amount of the professional literature in our field. I also read in other areas, but I am digressing now. Getting back to the professional literature of librarianship, the few people who visit this blog know that I keep reading notes on articles that I read. When I read those articles, it is usually because some topic caught my eye, and I am hoping to learn something new. I read a lot. That is a given. Unfortunately, when it comes to some of the library literature, I have read some stuff that could only be politely described as "low quality." A good number of articles I read or scan will not be noted on the blog. I will admit, to an extent I make my notes available here on the blog in the hope, infinitesimal as it may be, that on some distant planet, someone somewhere may find the notes useful as well. So, on that basis, I try not to blog about some article that says nothing new, that rehashes stuff I have read in a few other places (and much better written), or just is a vanity piece, again, to be polite.

It is not that librarianship is not a profession and discipline that does not need research. The area of instruction alone is a field that can draw from the works in education as well as create its own research in order to apply ideas and create new knowledge. The model of the teacher-researcher would work well in library instruction. I wish more instruction librarians would follow such an approach. Instead, what we often get in the library journals are the articles detailing how X library did Y project and how cool it was. Or we get the article that starts, "we did a survey of 200 students, 50 filled it out, 35 filled it out correctly, and the results, which may not be generalized by the way (but we will generalize anyhow) are. . . ." We don't need any more of that. We need serious, reflective research and inquiry. Maybe that's why, in my case, I don't like the idea of librarians on a tenure line. I don't see myself having to churn out little pieces of "my library is so cool because. . ." in order to earn my living. I am librarian. My work is to provide service for my academic community. I am an educator, which means my work involves teaching and working with students. Yes, I seek to learn how to be a better teacher, but I prefer to do so at my own pace and in a reflective way that actually has meaning. So, I keep a blog. I write in a personal journal that is not online (hey, there is something to be said for writing the old fashioned way, and there are things that really should remain private). I read a lot, and I think about it, and in my own humble way, I try to apply what I learn.

I am not saying that all the library literature is bad. I would not be reading it and seeking it out if that were the case, but it is clear that some room for improvement is in order. These days, a lot of what I find relevant is available in blogs and other less formal venues. Very often, by the time I see something in a journal, I already saw it in a blog months ago. So, this is probably something that the profession should be discussing at some point. Just a thought.