Monday, February 26, 2007

On Vox and Experiments

One of the purposes, if I can use such a lofty word, of the Gypsy Librarian on Vox is to point out for my students information sources they might not usually see. I have been using it to aggregate a lot lately, but it is for things that fall under the rubric of "this might be helpful for a student writing a paper on [insert topic here]." Obviously, I can't do everything, so I usually go based on popular and common topics as I see them through my classes, reference interactions, and research consultations.

For some topics, students will often use the same search terms and will replicate the same results. So maybe part of doing this is that it will give at least one student something different to consider as they do their research. As a teacher, I wonder at times about what happens when students working on the same topics use a common set of articles or books. For example, if they all do a search on Academic Search Premier for the same topic. Teaching students how to narrow a topic and how to take ownership of their topic is part of what I do. It is also something their teachers should work on as well. There is probably some room for collaboration with faculty in that regard.

As I manage to squeeze in some time to look at the little experiment, I see some concerns and things I have learned.

  • I am concerned, as I look over some of the materials I have linked, over the reading level for some students. A significant number of our students have difficulties with reading. I am talking everything from their textbooks to academic articles. In fact, one of the items on the perpetual to-do list is to write some basic guidelines or tips on how to read a scholarly article. At the moment, it is something lacking from our Writing and Reading Center, and we don't have it, yet I often spend time simply going over with students about how to read an academic article. It is not an everyday occurrence, but it happens often enough that I probably should put it in writing.
  • On evaluating the sources I link to on the blog. I do some of this when I select them. However, there is the question that the students have to decide for themselves: do I use this on my paper or not? I fear some may decide to add or use something because "the librarian suggested it." Not that I see myself wielding that much power, if any power, but I think at times the notion that we may endorse something, well, it makes me think.
  • There are other posts I would like to write and develop for the blog. For instance, a post to define what is a think thank, what is an NGO, and the concept of a working paper. I would want something along the lines of: what is it? what it does? It may be useful because. . . . Now, I would need to watch out for or at least mention along the way the concept of bias. By this I mean, for instance, think tanks may work for a liberal or conservative interest.
And while I am talking about biases, I am learning a bit more about my own. I ask myself how much of my opinion should I put in or leave out? While the blog, as this one, is my space, I do shoot for being as neutral as possible. I want students and other visitors to feel welcome without having to worry about my views. Yet, I am also human, and some of that will likely show. I am sure it shows in my teaching. So, at this point, I am feeling a bit self-conscious over that.

So, the early experiment is moving along. It gets promotion in my BI sessions, but it is not linked to the library pages anywhere. That may be a disadvantage, but I felt at the time that in order to do what I felt needed to be done, I had to go outside the usual channels. I won't go into the reasons here. At this point, it's working in a gradual way.

Back to the reading question for a moment. What I notice is that for a significant number of students, a blog is not a common concept. Sure, they may use MySpace or Facebook, but otherwise, blogs and the tools used to create them are not well known, if at all in some cases. I am making the distinction because for many I am sure it is just a matter of terminology. I mean they use the notes feature on Facebook or the blog for their MySpace; they just don't know that you can call that a "blog." Which is fine. However, the concept of feed readers, that is pretty much an unknown even amongst the more savvy ones. When I look at other librarians in other campuses, I see they often take these pieces of knowledge for granted in their students, and they can probably afford to do so. I don't get that luxury, so to speak. When I promote the blog and give the url, I know most of them will simply type the url to visit and have a look; they won't be subscribing to it. A fact of life. It may represent an opportunity for further education and outreach, but that is for another day. At the end of the day, if they get to the blog, click on the tags, and maybe find something they can use, then I am happy to have accomplished most of the purpose I started out with. Anything else is extra.

On a side note, I like the idea that I can tag items on Vox. The Blogger upgrade has a tag option now, but I am leery of starting to label posts after living without it so long. Do I have to go back and label the old stuff? Just the thought of that makes me cringe. And just labeling new stuff seems incomplete. We'll see.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Article Note: On impact measures for libraries

Citation for the article:

Poll, Roswitha and Philip Payne. "Impact Measures for Libraries and Information Services." Library Hi Tech 24.4 (2006): 547-562.

Read via Emerald.

I mentioned this article a couple of weeks ago when I was musing about retention and what role academic libraries may play in it. I have not been able to post here for almost two weeks given the intense instruction schedule I am keeping. So, I use my little scratch pad to quickly toss ideas I want to remember but that I lack the time to reflect on. I managed to read the article, and the draft has been sitting on my desk for a while. Since I was not teaching today, I figured I would take some time and write up my notes while I have a chance. On a side note, a reminder to myself: I remember seeing another article on ROI for libraries, but I don't quite remember where. One of those things you glance at. I may need to look it up again and toss the reference on the scratch pad.

This article is an argument in favor of impact and outcome research for libraries. This is one of those things I have thought about on and off but like many things I start thinking about, it ends up in the low priority list given other pressing matters. We are in a time when it seems libraries have to prove their worth at every turn, and I will leave that debate to others. The authors argue that "in the competition for scarce resources, it becomes vital for libraries to show evidence of the impact and value of their services, preferably in quantified results" (548). My interest, or part of it, comes in terms of retention. That my campus's retention numbers leave a lot to be desired is common knowledge. I may make an administrator or two for mentioning it, but I am not saying anything that is not true nor unknown. So I wonder if the library could have an impact when it comes to retention of students. Is there anything more we could do or should be doing? The next question down that path is: how do we know it is working?

I have a theory. Well, a half-baked idea really that much of it has to do with the human factor. Sure, the L2 evangelists proclaim that libraries and librarians should have a presence in every online toy/gadget/space possible. They make it sound as if our salvation lay somewhere in cyberspace. At the end of the day, it boils down to the human element. Students will still come into the library, and they will be seeking someone who can help them. They may come looking for a friendly face. Sometimes they need to talk to someone. And I wonder what happens in other places. But I am digressing, or maybe not?

Some ideas from the article:

  • Library School 101, in my estimation at least: the library is tied to its institution. In my case, we work for the university, which has certain aims and goals. "In summary, universities aim at achieving independence of thinking and judgment, competent use of information, thorough professional knowledge for their students, and research results of high relevance. Most of these goals can be supported by library services, and libraries should try to prove the connection between use of their services and the institution's success" (550).
  • A problem with assessing impact: "But the most challenging problem is that it is nearly impossible to separate library impact from other influences and to prove that changes in competencies or behaviour are indeed an effect of using library services" (550).
Due to that problem mentioned above, the best we can do is come up with what the authors describe as surrogate measures. These are meant to provide researchers with some hint or indication about impact. The authors distinguish between quantitative methods (for example, tests) and qualitative methods (for example, a survey).

  • A warning on the idea of user satisfaction: "High satisfaction could mean that the library has been effective in conveying the view: it is well worth to use a library. But this does not mean that there is already a change in skills, competencies, and behaviour" (552).
That, in retrospect, is one thing I wonder about the little library survey we do every couple of years or so. It mostly measures satisfaction. But no way to get an idea of impact. Plus I get the impression that it is easy for library staff to become complacent if the satisfaction scores are high.

The article has a summary of impact assessment activities. This looks at things that have been done or can be done. I would be particularly interested in measuring library impact on information literacy. The social impact measurement intrigues me as well.

  • An issue of urgency: "But the most urgent issue is to promote the library's role, to show what one library, what all libraries can do for their users and society. Libraries are too often forgotten in legislation, in community or institutional planning, or when setting priorities in funding. They should actively promote the benefits derived from their services and substantiate such statements with the evidence of data and live stories" (555).
That is an issue that strikes close to home for me. I could say a few things I feel strongly about that apply to my setting. However, I will just leave it be and jot down anything extra offline.

Overall, this was a summary article. For me the sample statements related to information literacy might lead to further exploration.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Booknote: For America

Zimmerman, Sacha. For America: Simple Things Each of Us Can Do to Make Our Country Better. New York: Reader's Digest, 2006.

ISBN: 0762108290

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Current events/United States social conditions

This is one of those books I found by serendipity. I had gone to my local public library branch to pick up something I had requested. I often go in to get something specific, and I end up browsing the new books shelf and taking an extra book or two. This was on the new book shelf, and it seemed like a nice short read.

The book provides a list of tips and activity suggestions to strengthen America and make it a better place through active citizenship. From reinforcing family values to volunteering in the community, there is something here for everyone. Some are small simple things.

Some examples:

  • Eating together as a family (#1). "Dinnertime means learning how to eat in peace with brothers and sisters, how to help prepare and clean up, how to ask for seconds and not grab, how to ask politely to leave the table, and even how to eat properly with utensils" (25). I know it worked for me, and in spite of our disparate schedules, the couple of nights a week we are at home, we eat together. It's a simple thing, and it is well worth it. As I sit typing this, I wonder if part of the reason that some colleges have to teach their future graduates how to behave and eat at a meal (as part of career advice) is because a lot of those kids did not get to eat at home as a family.
  • Learn a lifesaving technique (#23).
  • Get a library card (#27).
  • Volunteer on Election Day (#44). "Volunteers are needed every Election Day to do everything from giving rides to voters to monitoring polling stations. What better way to ensure the sanctity of the most basic right of every citizen than to take that day off work and volunteer your time for this amazing American rite?" (130).

The book has 73 ideas. The author explains/comments on the idea and then gives some basic information (a website, some contact information, practical suggestions) on how to carry it out. I don't think everyone can do every single item in the book, but if we picked one or two to do, we might make our country a little better for it.

The book's tone is optimistic, positive, and encouraging. It was a pleasant reading experience, and it is a book to revisit. Additionally, the book includes forewords by Presidents George H.W. Bush and William J. Clinton. Their words reinforce the book's message. So, go pick up this book, read about the many ways to be a good citizen, and find something to do.

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Reading List for 2006

I did a bit of this last year when I commented on the 50 book challenge. This time, I am just doing the list here so I have it in one place. I liked the way CW did it, so I am going to give that style a try here. The list includes items I noted in both my blogs, and a couple I did not. For those that I did not note, it was either a case of a book from the public library I had to return in a rush or one I just did not feel like making a note about. I read more this year, but I think that was because I read a lot of shorter things plus graphic novels. While some graphic novels were substantial, for me, they are works I read fast. At any rate, for me, last year's number would probably be a bit more accurate as to my reading pace. Will I make a bit over 100 books again this year? Probably not, but one never knows.

I had a month where I did not read books. How did that happen? I have no idea. I will add that I read various articles and other miscellaneous. Actually, I am surprised I managed to read a lot in the summer since I was doing Immersion. Oddly, I did not read anything in Spanish this year. I only recall starting Isabel Allende's YA trilogy set in the Amazon, but I dropped it after the first volume. Not her best work; I found it disappointing, especially since I have always enjoyed the rest of her work. I do see Allende will be speaking at TLA this year, and that the conference is reading Portrait in Sepia for the One Book initiative. I may just pick up Allende again. As my mother used to say, even great writers have their stumbles. She said it after reading Garcia Marquez's The General in his Labyrinth. I had to agree with her, that was not as good as his other stuff. I hope I can get some reading in Spanish in 2007. In addition to Allende's Portrait in Sepia, I am hoping to read Zorro as well. And there are a few other authors in Spanish I hope to pick up. Maybe I will try to make that a resolution this year, add Spanish reading back. It is something I missed in 2006.

Except where noted, the books have reviews in the blogs. For graphic novels, I started putting short notes in larger posts. In other words, I would read three or four, make notes, then publish a post about a few of them at a time. Some books, such as politics, I put over at The Itinerant Librarian. One could make an observation based on what I posted about here (my professional blog) and what I put over there (the unruly cousin, my personal blog), but I shall spare readers who can probably guess the method to the madness anyhow.

So, the books I read in 2006:

By the numbers:

Number of books read in 2006: 106
New books in 2006: All (I did not reread anything this year)

Number of books read in 2005: 73

Number read in worst month: 0 (September)
Number read in best month: 16 (August)

Fiction: 70
I read a lot of graphic novels, most of which would fall under SF/F genre. However, a few of the graphic novels fall under nonfiction since they cover things like memoirs or current events. It goes to show the diversity of genres and stories one can find in graphic novels. I can say I will definitely continue reading in this area. I also read some manga last year, and that will likely continue this year. The other fiction I read was science fiction.

This includes books on library science and librarianship, humor and comedy, politics and current events, education, meditation and spirituality, and history. The librarianship and library science stuff I mostly read to keep up. The other items are more pleasure reading.


Frank Miller's graphic novels
Jeph Loeb's and Tim Sale's graphic novels
Mark Millar's run on Ultimate X-Men
Joss Whedon's run on Astonishing X-Men
Miguel Ruiz's The Four Agreements
John Scalzi's Old Man's War
Tom Standage's A History of the World in Six Glasses

The list:

  • Scott McCullar, Dewey Decimal Defeats Truman
  • Robert Burgin, ed., Nonfiction Readers' Advisory
  • Kim "Howard" Johnson and John Cleese, Superman: True Brit
  • Alan Grant, JLA: Riddle of the Beast
  • James Luceno, Star Wars: Dark Lord--The Rise of Darth Vader (novel)
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Ultimate Spiderman, vol. 4: Legacy
  • Scott Adams, Dilbert:Thriving on Vague Objectives

  • Francisca Goldsmith, Graphic Novels Now
  • Max Allan Collins, Road to Perdition
  • Joe Kubert, Yossel April 19, 1943: A Story of the Warsaw Ghetto
  • Frank Miller, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  • Jim Henson, It's Not Easy Being Green
  • Mark Millar,, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 5: Ultimate War
  • Robert Spencer, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades)
  • Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, What Does Al-Qaeda Want? Unedited Communiques
  • Larry the Cable Guy, Git-R-Done

  • Michael Gorman, Our Singular Strengths:Meditations for Librarians
  • Michael Gorman, Our Own Selves: More Meditations for Librarians
  • Gerry Conway, Essential Punisher, vol. 1
  • Rebekah Nathan, My Freshman Year
  • George Carlin, When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?
  • Stephen Petrucha, The X-Files, vol. 1
  • Jack G. Montgomery and Eleanor I. Cook, Conflict Management for Libraries
  • Tom Veitch, Star Wars: Dark Empire I
  • Laurel A. Clyde, Weblogs and Libraries
  • Mark Waid, JLA: Divided We Fall
  • Mark Waid, JLA: Terra Incognita
  • Mark Millar, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 1: The Tomorrow People
  • Mia Bloom, Dying to Kill: The Allure of Suicide Terror
  • Thomas Paine, Common Sense
  • Al Franken, The Truth (With Jokes)

  • Norman Horrocks, ed., Perspectives, Insights & Priorities: 17 Leaders Speak Freely of Librarianship
  • Tom Standage, A History of the World in 6 Glasses
  • Mark Millar and Chuck Austen, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 3: World Tour
  • Mark Millar, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 4: Hellfire and Brimstone
  • Mark Millar,, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 6: Return of the King
  • Mark Millar, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 2: Return to Weapon X
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 8: New Mutants
  • Geoff Johns, Teen Titans: A Kid's Game
  • Christopher Moeller, JLA: A League of One
  • Frank Miller, Daredevil: The Man Without Fear
  • John Wagner, Boba Fett: Death, Lies and Treachery
  • Katia Roberto and Jessamyn West, Revolting Librarians Redux
  • James Carville and Paul Begala, Take It Back: Our Party, Our Country, Our Future
  • Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace is Every Step

  • Gwen Meyer Gregory, ed., The Successful Academic Librarian
  • Jim Shooter, Marvel Superheroes Secret Wars
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus, Part I
  • Art Spiegelman, Maus, Part II
  • Joe Kelly, JLA: The Obsidian Age
  • Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Essential Fantastic Four, vol. 1
  • Frank Miller and Lynn Varley, Batman: The Dark Knight Strikes Again
  • Kelley Puckett and Chris Dixon, Batgirl: Fists of Fury
  • Kelley Puckett and Chris Dixon, Batgirl: Death Wish
  • William Blum, Rogue State

  • Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
  • Various authors, Fantastic Four Visionaries: George Perez, vol. 1
  • Jim Burke, I Hear America Reading
  • Kinky Friedman, Cowboy Logic
  • Scott Beatty,, Batman Begins: The Movie and Other Tales of the Dark Knight
  • Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men, vol. 1: Gifted
  • Joss Whedon and John Cassaday, Astonishing X-Men, vol. 2: Dangerous
  • Dave Wilkins,, El Zombo Fantasma
  • Mark Waid and Barry Kitson, Legion of Superheroes: Teenage Revolution
  • John Byrne, Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, vol. 2
  • Frank Miller, Batman: Year One
  • Chuck Austen, Superman: The Wrath of Gog

  • John Byrne, Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, vol. 3
  • Brian Michael Bendis,, Ultimate Fantastic Four, vol. 1: The Fantastic
  • Jeph Loeb, Superman/Batman: Public Enemies
  • Warren Ellis, Ultimate Fantastic Four, vol. 2: Doom
  • Warren Ellis, Ultimate Fantastic Four, vol. 3: N-Zone
  • John Byrne, Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, vol. 4
  • Mike Carey and Mark Millar, Ultimate Fantastic Four, vol. 4: Inhuman
  • Mark Millar and Greg Land, Ultimate Fantastic Four, vol. 5: Crossover
  • Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli, Daredevil: Born Again
  • Kevin J. Anderson, The X-Files, vol. 2
  • Brian Michael Bendis, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 7: Blockbuster
  • Brian K. Vaughan, Ultimate X-Men, vol. 9: The Tempest
  • Doug Moench, Batman: Hong Kong
  • Jeph Loeb, Batman: Hush, vol. 1
  • Willie Nelson, The Tao of Willie
  • Kia Asamiya, translated by Max Allan Collins, Batman: Child of Dreams (not noted on blog)
  • Dennis O'Neill, Batman: Knightfall (novel. Not noted in blogs)

  • John Scalzi, Old Man's War
  • Ilene F. Rockman and Associates, Integrating Information Literacy into the Higher Education Curriculum
  • Jeanette Woodward, Creating the Customer-Driven Library
  • Jim Burnett, Hey Ranger!
  • Jeph Loeb and Jim Lee, Batman: Hush, vol. 2
  • Grant Morrison, Arkham Asylum
  • John Byrne, Fantastic Four Visionaries: John Byrne, vol. 5
  • Mike Kennedy, Superman: Infinite City
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween
  • Sid Jacobson and Ernie Colon, The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation

  • Michael Eric Dyson, Come Hell or High Water
  • George Carlin, Napalm and Silly Putty (not noted in blogs)
  • Brian Fies, Mom's Cancer
  • G.B. Trudeau, The Long Road Home: One Step at a Time (Doonesbury)
  • Hirano Kohta, Hellsing, vol. 1
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Superman For All Seasons
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: Dark Victory
  • Mark Waid,, JLA: Tower of Babel
  • Steve Englehart, Batman: Dark Detective
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: Haunted Knight
  • Geoff Johns, Teen Titans: Family Lost
  • Mills Lane, Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (graphic novel adaptation)