Saturday, March 31, 2007

Short booknotes on graphic novels 11

Dave Gibbons. Captain America, Vol.4: Cap Lives. New York: Marvel, 2003. 07851-1318-5.

This was a good tale. Imagine what would happen if Captain America, instead of returning from his deep freeze slumber in our America, awoke in a world where the Nazis won World War II, and their capital of New Berlin was in what was known previously as New York City. That is exactly what happens in this alternate history tale. The Red Skull has become the new Fuhrer. Marvel heroes have joined a resistance movement in various ways. We see familiar faces in different roles. Tony Stark has been forced to create iron men for the Reich. Is he a collaborator or a covert spy? Ben Grimm is a resistance fighter, and so on. The action was fast on this story, and it features good art as well. Will Captain America be able to defeat the Red Skull and put time back on the right track? You have to read it to find out, but it will be a good ride. This compilation is part of the Marvel Knight series.

Various authors. Captain America: To Serve and Protect. New York: Marvel Comics, 2002. ISBN: 0-7851-0838-6.

Captain America finds himself in an alternate universe where "Capmania" has seized the nation. As if excessive fandom was not bad enough, he has to fight the forces of HYDRA who threaten the nation. And just when Cap thinks things could not be worse, he loses his true shield, and Skrulls arrive with a plot to take over the nation and ruin Cap's good name and reputation. The challenges are numerous, but Captain America faces them. He is given a new shield, and though it is not as familiar as the original one, he manages to face the Skrull and inspire the people. This volume offers a good amount of fast paced action, and even a little reflection on leadership and idols. A good and entertaining read.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Booknote: The Ghost Brigades

Scalzi, John. The Ghost Brigades. New York: TOR Books, 2006. ISBN: 0-765-31502-5

Genre: Fiction
Subgenre: Science fiction, military science fiction

This is the sequel to the novel Old Man's War (see my note on that book here). It takes a deeper look at the Colonial Defense Forces' Special Forces units known as the Ghost Brigades, which were introduced in the first book. This time, the Colonial Union and the CDF face the threat of various races forming an alliance against them. To complicate matters, a prominent scientist, a specialist in consciousness transfers, betrays the CU and joins the enemy. The CDF manages to clone the scientist in hopes of tapping into his memories. However, when the memories fail to surface right away, the clone is given over to the Ghost Brigades to be another special forces soldier. Over time, Jared Dirac, that soldier, begins to intuit why the scientist betrayed his own people.

The premise of the book is great, and one would think this would be another good military scifi reading. However, unlike the previous book, this one has a couple of problems. Its pacing is extremely slow. It is plagued by extensive explanations that, while interesting at some points, significantly slow down the story. I wanted to get into this book given that I enjoyed the previous one, but it became a matter of reading a few pages, leaving it a while, then coming back to it. The only reason I kept at it is because I wanted to find out the characters' fate. Therein lies the other problem. Scalzi's ending for the novel went for what I can only describe as some maudlin moment interspersed with some conspiracy element. The conspiracy part was alright, but the maudlin stuff I could have done without. The "happy" ending somehow seemed contrived. It is a pity really because the book gives a great look at the Special Forces characters mentioned in the first book. However, even though the book seemed to be about one character, it really ends up being about another. I didn't quite appreciate the apparent switch. If you ask me, I would have handled the ending differently. I probably would have treated Jane Sagan in a way similar to the way Festina Ramos was treated at the end of the novel Expendable. But that is just me, and no one is asking. If you have not read James Alan Gardner's Expendable, it may be a good novel to consider.

Overall, if you enjoyed the first book, you might pick up the second one out of curiosity. However, I am not recommending it unless you are really curious and willing to plod through a pretty slow plot. There is action, but you have to dig to get to it. Otherwise, you may be better off skipping this sequel. A pity in my view since the first one was really good.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Couple of campus events

Instruction has started to slow down for the spring semester it seems. This allows me then to gradually catch my breath. Here are a couple of campus events I attended recently, but that, due to a tight teaching schedule, I have not been able to post until now.

On Monday, February 5th, 2007, I participated in our campus's read-in event as part of the 18th National African American Read-In. It was one of the events for Black History Month that UHD participated in. Our campus event was sponsored by UHD's Black Student Alliance, the Department of English, and the Cultural Enrichment Center. It was led by Dr. Vida Robertson. The event lasted from 1:00p to 5:00p. I attended between teaching classes. I arrived a little after 1:00p, and there were about 23 people there already. A good number were students that the professor sent them there for extra credit, but over time, the crowd would change as people would leave and others would come in. Some like me left and then came back. The idea of a read-in is to make literacy a part of the community. In our case, it was a way for people to come together and share their favorite pieces of literature. Readers performed poetry, prose, nonfiction, song lyrics, etc. Authors featured included Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sonia Sanchez, Maya Angelou, Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, Desmond Tutu and Tupac Shakur. We went all over the place. As for me, when I finally got a little bravery to share something, I shared Dr. King's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech. Like Dr. King, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." I went to the read-in to get my food for the mind and soul, and I came out satisfied for the moment. That, and I wanted to hear what others would read and perform. And as I sat there, I thought of old days in graduate school, when in a previous life, Dr. Maude Jennings taught me in an African-American Literature class to appreciate the beauty, passion, and power of what I was listening to. Wherever you are, Dr. Jennings, thank you for showing me the path to new books and ideas. It was professors like you who inspired me to continue my studies in ethnic literatures.

For readers interested, I used the following text for my reading:

Carson, Clayborne, and Kris Shepard, eds., A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Time Warner, 2001.

The speech I used starts on page 105.

On Wednesday, February 21, 2007, I attended a lecture by Professor Larry Sabato. Professor Sabato is a political analyst and director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. For most of our students, he may better known as the coauthor of their textbook American Government: Continuity and Change. Professor Sabato spoke about political analysis and predictions. He also gave an overview of American politics that was interesting, engaging, and with some humor along the way. He discussed the concept of the 6 year itch, and how President Bush is having his now. Sabato then summarized other instances of this political cycle. He suggested that midterm elections are not national. What you get instead is a picture of which states are competitive in their own elections. He argues that in spite of low standards (i.e., the interest in Anna Nicole Smith's death), Americans still want change in their government. This is why we get "tidal" elections; however, people often fail to look at state legislatures. He also says there is a positive light on the gridlock resulting from the 2006 midterm election: the people won't get hurt (much) because nothing will get done. So, this means there will be very little government (and this may be a good thing indeed). Other things to worry about, according to Professor Sabato: science teaching, language teaching, competition from places like China and India. These are all issues to consider other than the war.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Thinking a bit more about self-disclosure

This is kind of a follow-up to my note on the article about self-disclosure online. I wanted to think about some of the student suggestions related to Facebook mentioned in the article.

First, the students suggested that teachers should display professionalism in Facebook. I think one has to strike a combination between professional and what I will label as being seen as a normal person. Any school teacher may have a tale or two of encountering kids at the grocery store amazed that the teacher actually shops too. For some reason, some students think teachers are kept locked up in the school after hours. I am sure there are one or two people out there who think something similar about librarians. I have striven to make my FB profile into a blend of professional with a bit playful, or at least, add a bit of good humor to it. While I mostly use the notes feature as a supplement to my resource blog, I have filled out the profile with information about TV shows I like, movies and so on. However, I still strive to keep it professional. So, as I tell my students when I advertise the site, "sorry, but you won't see any pictures of a drunken librarian on my profile." It gets a smile out of them.

Next, they mention the appropriateness of the content. For instance, they suggest not putting anything about politics. On the Facebook, that is pretty easy for me, as I usually tend to leave politics out. I consider politics one of those things not discussed in polite company. It is not that I lack political ideas or opinions; it is just I don't believe in inflicting them on others, and I don't want others inflicting them on me. The fact that a lot of political discussion, if one can call it that, seems so incendiary, simply turns me off, so I would rather avoid it. In the cases I get an urge to express that, I let the unruly cousin do it. That's the easy part. On the other hand, since I import my posts from the resource blog over to the FB notes, and I choose links to items from various sources, I wonder at times if some choices may be interpreted one way or another. For instance, if I see a study from a particular think tank that seems relevant to some students' work, I may link to it, write a short note about it, and let them find it. Think tanks are known to usually have a political agenda, so I try to go around the spectrum as I can. I don't do it systematically, i.e. "I picked a conservative resource, so the next one has to be liberal or libertarian or (insert affiliation here)." But I do try to give more than one side when I can. Maybe I do it because I try to model what I was taught when I was learning about research: that one should look at various points of view, that one should raise questions, and do so in an informed way. Anyways, it's what I try to do.

As for being cautious on what people put on my wall, I have not had any wall writings yet. But on my blogs, like this one, I have comments. Usually, as long as something is not spam, offensive (as in deliberately rude), flaming, or hateful, I usually leave comments. I have never felt the need to moderate, and I hope I don't have to anytime soon. I suppose it is a risk, but one has to take risks in learning.

On the students showing concern about what a teacher may see on their profile. Here is my philosophy, pure and simple. I am not actively looking for student profiles. If a student does an add request, I would take a look to see who is adding, but otherwise, what someone has on their profile, it's their affair. I am in no position to grade anyone, and if I were, using it to spy would not be fair. What happens out of the classroom is exactly that. If I find something nice or interesting in a profile, I may leave a comment, but otherwise, I just pass on through. I guess what I am saying is that I am pretty easy going.

On other thoughts, I have seen some literature on self-disclosure for teachers and perceptions of teachers by students. But I am wondering how much of this has been done, or considered, for academic librarians. I get the impression there is quite a bit on public librarians and MySpace, but for academic librarians, not as much. Given that academic librarians come in different stripes (tenure/professional, teaching for-credit courses/BI instruction, etc.), it may be interesting to look at some ways in which academic librarians put themselves online for students. Brian Matthews, the Ubiquitous Librarian, has been exploring some of this, but there are many more academic librarians out there in various settings. I am just curious.

An update note: Some items which may be of interest and help me towards an answer, from the "Five Weeks to a Social Library Program: Week 4 Highlights," as provided by Meredith Farkas. I was interested on Jahn's note about MySpace boundaries. The Five Weeks course page can be found here. I have been meaning to look over the materials, but this semester has just been packed with work for me. Oh well, we'll get to it eventually.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Why we should appreciate ILL more

The Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article written by Susanna Ashton, entitled "What Goes Around," on the use of Interlibrary Loan. ILL is a service that most faculty pretty much take for granted; they don't even think about the costs, which the libraries usually absorb on their behalf. Personally, I know I am glad when the nice ladies that work ILL here find me a particular article I may want to read now and then. Anyhow, this should probably be mandatory reading for certain professors.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Article Note: On Facebook, Teachers, and Self-disclosure

Citation for the article:

Mazer, Joseph P., Richard E. Murphy, and Cheri J. Simonds. "I'll See You on 'Facebook:' The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate." Communication Education 56.1 (2007): 1-17.

Read via InformaWorld.

One of the first things I learned during teacher education is that I had to find a balance in how much to tell students about myself. Some degree of self-disclosure made you a bit more human. Too much could be a problem. Besides, there is another lesson: you are there as their teacher, not their buddy. I became a school teacher long before MySpace and Facebook, yet some of those lessons are still applicable today. These days, I maintain some blogs, and I have a Facebook profile. I am no longer a classroom teacher (i.e. I don't teach for credit courses), yet teaching is a great part of what I do. This article then caught my eye because it made me think a bit more about my online practices and the decisions I make in terms of self-disclosure. I view my blogging and my use of Facebook not only as communication tools but also as learning tools. So, let's look at the article.

What the article is about.

"The present study examines the effects of teacher self-disclosure on various student and teacher characteristics via a computer-mediated network used primarily by students" (2).

In other words, what happens to relations between students and their teachers when the teacher has a profile on a service like Facebook, which is mostly a space for students.

A little on teachers' use of e-mail.

"Factors such as font use, language, and punctuation all affect student perceptions of teacher immediacy via computer-mediated channels. In fact, Waldeck, Kearney, and Plax (2001) found that students are more likely to communicate with teachers online who utilize immediacy behaviors (e.g., use students' first names, 'emoticons' to convey emotion) in email messages" (2).

I do use student first names as much as possible. Once in a while I get an e-mail without a name where the only thing I know is that they are a student of Professor Doe and that their e-mail address is (e-mail address changed to protect the innocent). On a side note, if I ever wanted to do a snarky post, making a list of some of the e-mail addresses I see in messages I get would provide plenty of material.

There is a risk element in this. Then again, the act of teaching as a whole has a risk element.

"Students may perceive a teacher's use of Facebook as an attempt to foster positive relationships with his or her students, which may have positive effects on important student outcomes. Teachers may violate student expectations of proper behaviors and run the risk of harming their credibility if they utilize Facebook. Despite this potential consequence, teachers may enhance their credibility among students by signifying an understanding of contemporary student culture" (3-4).

Something more to think about.

"Once teachers enter the network, they must make decisions about how much information to disclose" (4).

This was on my mind as I took the leap and created my Facebook profile. The blogs I keep allow me to have a minimal profile; I had the option to fill in a few more details on the personal profile I keep on Facebook. These are decisions that every educator using these technologies has to make.
Regarding the classroom context.

"In the classroom context, teachers will establish public relationships with their students and manage their disclosure of private information. Petronio (2002) argues that the decision whether and when to disclose private information is rule-based and determined by a variety of criteria including culture, motivation, individual differences, situations, and gender" (4).

I'll say that the rules have a lot to do with keeping you safe in the classroom. I mean safe from any possible appearance of impropriety or anything that a student could misconstrue and use to level an accusation. This is a serious concern of any school teacher, and even though they may be less likely to use Facebook, school teachers can certainly use MySpace. Higher education is not immune, but we are usually in an environment where all the parties are adults.

Some more on the classroom context.

"Teachers decide what information they want to reveal to their students in an effort to create a comfortable classroom environment that fosters student learning. At the same time, teachers must also determine what information to conceal from their students in order to avoid the negative ramifications of such communication and to protect their credibility in the classroom" (4).

A note or two on the literature and teacher self-disclosure.

  • "Cayanus (2004) argued for the use of teacher self-disclosure as an effective instructional tool to foster student learning. Research has suggested that teachers who personalize teaching through the use of humor, stories, enthusiasm, and self-disclosure are perceived by their students to be effective in explaining course content. . . " (5).
  • "Scholars have noted that teachers who self-disclosed using narratives and humor while presenting course content improved the clarity of the information . . ." (5).
The study was based on participation by 133 undergraduates enrolled in a basic communications class. They looked at a teacher's Facebook profile (the teacher was a confederate) manipulated for various disclosure levels by the researchers. The article goes on to explain the methodology and the measurements used.

So what did the teachers learn? Well, the students had some suggestions to offer.

  • "First, participants reported that teachers should consider professionalism when using Facebook" (12).
  • "Participants also referenced the appropriateness of the content teachers provide. Typical responses included: 'Don't put anything about politics,' 'I wouldn't give out too much personal information or stuff you think your students might make fun of you about,' and 'Be cautious what people put on your wall. Know that your students can see it and be careful what perceptions you are giving'" (12).
  • The students also had things to say about their desire to learn about their teacher. "'Be yourself,' 'We want to know you as a person and how good and fun of a teacher [sic] you'll be,' and 'Give information about your interests so students can get a better feel for your personality'" (12).
  • The students additionally showed concern over what teachers may think about the student profiles. "'They should respect their students' privacy,' 'Don't use it to get gossip or as a way to spy on students,' and 'Don't lecture the students about things you may come across on their profile'" (12).
Two more notes, this time from the article's discussion.

  • "The present study suggests that when a teacher self-discloses certain information, such as personal pictures, messages from friends and family, and opinions on certain topics, students may perceive similarities between themselves and the instructor" (13).
  • "While our findings reveal a positive association between teacher self-disclosure and important student outcomes, teachers should be consistent with their self-disclosure on Facebook and their teaching style in the classroom" (13).

The authors of the study also provide a good look at the limitations of their study in the discussion. For instance, findings may not extend to more open services like MySpace (14). Yet I wonder if that could change now that Facebook has opened it networks. Overall, this was a good article that gave me some things to think about. The article also features an extensive list of references.

Update note (3/21/07): This are just some extra things on Facebook and social networks that I came across. I just jotted them over in the scratch pad at Alchemical Thoughts.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Short booknotes on graphic novels 10

Hirano, Kohta. Hellsing, vol. 2 Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Manga, 2004. ISBN: 1-59307-057-8

In this volume, the action begins right from the opening page. Hellsing headquarters are under siege as high ranked officers are meeting. After a harrowing victory, it turns out a group of modern day Nazis are involved. However, that is only part of it. It seems the Vatican and its infamous Section 13 have a hand in the matter as well. I was hooked from the first volume, and I will definitely continue reading this series. Fans of gothic horror and action will enjoy this series.

Hirano, Kohta. Hellsing, vol. 3 Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Manga, 2004. ISBN: 1-59307-202-3

The action continues as Alucard and the Hellsing team head to South America to find the Nazi forces. When they get there, they are attacked in their hotel by forces led by a man known as Dandy. The team manages to prevail, but it is only the beginning of their trek.

Various authors. Universal Monsters: Calvacade of Horror. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books, 2006. ISBN: 1-59307-431-X.

This is a collection of graphic adaptations of classic monster movies. It features The Mummy, Frankenstein, Dracula, and Creature from the Black Lagoon. If you have seen the movies, you will appreciate reading these. If not, it may be a good introduction, and it may make you want to seek out the movies. Overall, it was a pleasant and entertaining read that I would definitely recommend. Different artists worked on each story, so just for the art this would be a good selection.

Rieber, John Ney and Chuck Austen. Captain America, Vol. 2: The Extremists. New York: Marvel, 2002. ISBN: 0-7851-11-2-6.

This is part of the Marvel Knights series. Captain American clashes with an old friend who has acquired the powers of a Native American thunder deity. Redpath, who shares with Captain America the dream of a unified America that does the right thing, has come up with a plan to cleanse the United States of those who took the lands away from the Native Americans. Cap struggles as well with the issue of trusting S.H.I.E.L.D. and its director Nick Fury, but much of Cap's issues reflect the fact that he is a man out of time in a post 9/11 world. The best line in the novel, which sets the theme, is said by Captain America: "The better American is the man who does what his heart tells him is right for the betterment of all mankind not just for other Americans." (emphasis in the original). Personally, in a way, given that the United States has, to put it mildly, a spotty record around the world, Captain America reminds people that indeed there is a lot of good in the country that he defends.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Article Note: Short one on reference in the age of IM

Citation for the article:

Oberhelman, David D. "Reference Service and Resources in the Age of Instant Messaging." Reference Reviews 21.2 (2007): 7-8.

I read this via Emerald.

This is a short viewpoint essay discussing the use of instant messaging (IM) for reference communications. I am just going to make some quick notes and remarks.

  • "Instant messaging (IM) services such as ICQ, Yahoo! Instant Messenger, and Microsoft's MSN Messenger are among the most popular internet applications for communication, and many libraries, including my own [the author's] academic library, have started implementing instant messenger (IM) reference service to replace earlier reference packages" (7).

As noted in other places, proprietary/VR packages provided by vendors are often notorious for their failures when it comes to thinks like connectivity and compatibility with distant patrons. Use of IM is probably something we should look at or consider at some point. With IM aggregators like Trillian and Meebo, multiple accounts would be easy to create and use. The challenge for us here may be mostly desire and staffing. Unique to us would also be our demographic, which does not seem to favor IM very much. Based on experience and talking to some students, I get the impression IM use by our students is on the rare side. Personally, I use IM, and I give out my own usernames to my students in case they wish to contact me that way.

  • ". . .we have noted that contrary to our expectations, IM reference has in some respects increased the usage of subscription databases and even print resources we use and even print reference sources over free web sources located using Google" (8).

This reminds me of a question my supervisor recently asked while were musing about reference print usage. She wanted to know how often the librarians would get up from the desk to show students a resource from the reference stacks. I told her that personally I probably did it maybe once a week. I probably could be doing it more if I was more aware. In my context, answering that question could mean that if the librarians don't use the reference collection as a general practice, then the library would have more evidence to get rid of it. Given our extreme space constraints, getting rid of anything that takes up a lot of space, like a print reference collection, is a very attractive option given various reference books do have e-book counterparts. But that is another debate.

  • "In general, my institution's experience with IM reference has made more patrons aware of what we offer both in print and electronically" (8).

And I like this line. Then again, I always like the image of the bridge in relation to library services:

  • "Yet my library has managed to use IM to promote our local holdings. The IM technology creates a bridge between the reference librarian and our patrons that enable many who might otherwise never approach the reference desk to ask for help" (8).

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Article Note: On Integrating IL and an English Curriculum

Citation for the article:

Holliday, Wendy and Britt Fagerheim. "Integrating Information Literacy with a Sequenced English Composition Curriculum." portal: Libraries and the Academy 6.2 (2006): 169-184.

I read this via Project Muse.

Warning: this is a long post.

Given that English composition classes are our biggest client in terms of library instruction, anything I can learn about further integrating information literacy in those classes and overall collaboration catches my attention. As I read this article, I found myself making a lot of notes on the margin. One of the things I have been thinking about is writing up a good information literacy plan for our library and campus, which has been sorely lacking, and to be honest, the fact we don't have one has bothered me since I got here. Unfortunately, there are always more pressing things I have to worry about. Nevertheless, I still make notes, read up on items, and do bits and pieces in preparation when I get the time to sit down and write out what I really want. This article gave me a lot to think about, not to mention a possible way to implement some things here. Reading this was timely for me as well since my supervisor recently was asking me about my ideas about information literacy. Her context is her concern that I am teaching too much. While the teaching load does not bother me, I did express the concern that if the library wants to accomplish a few other things, and they want me to do them, the load has to lighten up a bit. I still have not figured out the pesky details of bioengineering to clone myself. If you want an information literacy proposal for the campus, more outreach to departments, and more work with 2.0 technologies as well as continuous work with individual students, I can't be teaching 10 sessions or more a week for weeks on end. And no, I don't want you to hire a second instruction librarian so they can do those other things so you can leave me with the same teaching load while or she does what is perceived as more glamorous. In essence, those in the administration have to pick their priorities. I have told them what needs to be done; it's in their court. However, upon reading this article, I think I may have at least a partial solution if I take advantage of some of the current good relations I enjoy with members of our English Department and the local Writing Center. There may be an answer after all.

Anyhow, I am digressing a little, or at least thinking about the context. In the academic library world debate of having a credit course or instruction integrated with classes, the authors of the article take the latter approach. The article reports on the efforts at Utah State University. As I often do with these notes, I will jot down ideas from the article and throw my thoughts in.

  • "We also see the pedagogical advantages of linking information literacy to disciplinary content and authentic, problem-based learning. We want to develop a more comprehensive solution, however, than spotty one-shot instruction sessions that lack a logical sequence" (170).
This is one of the points I have been trying to make here. Currently, we concentrate on one-shot instruction mostly due to resource constraints and some degree of inertia (it works so far, just go along). One of the things I often observe from one-shot sessions is the restraints of time, which I am sure most librarians who teach, is that we could be teaching more concepts over time if we only had the time. There are tons of opportunities to enhance student research skills. I liked how the authors discuss specific objectives at different levels, which is something we can likely apply to our first and second semester composition classes.

The authors began their process with a needs assessment.

  • "The process at USU began with a needs assessment that used multiple methods to determine instructional goals, content, and strategies. Two main issues were evident at the beginning of the needs assessment process. First and foremost, library instruction did not seem to be meeting the needs of our current students. There was a gap between what librarians were teaching and being asked to teach by English instructors and what students actually needed. Instruction was focused on using tools such as article databases, but students had trouble focusing on a topic, selecting appropriate resources, evaluating information, and other high-order thinking skills. Students also noted that they received the same basic information in English 1010 and 2010. Furthermore, librarians and instructors tried to cover too much in one or two library sessions, contributing to confusion and overload" (170).

That paragraph summarizes our experiences and observations here. The contrast between student needs and content provided is something I often see. How do I know? When the students come and see me for individual consultation a few days later after a a BI session. Now, let me clarify that I want my students to come see me as needed. However, when I often have to do a significant amount of what can be described as "repair work," it becomes clear we need to do some things about the curriculum. In classes, I often switch topics "on the fly" as needed. For instance, lately I have been adding more on the use of Boolean operators to create good search strings in the databases. While I can often pull that stunt, some of my colleagues are not that nimble. I am not saying it to pat my back; it comes from experience in my case.

A needs assessment should be our first step then. Part of the reason we seem to lack a substantial information literacy presence is the fact that not many see a need for it. A needs assessment could help provide the evidence. I think if we ask faculty the right questions, we could get some interesting answers. Faculty are often notorious for complaining about the poor quality of student research. The library can help improve that quality, but it has to be more than professors just bringing them in without any thought of how a library session relates to their overall course goals and objectives. All this would take would be a bit more effort in communication from faculty with the librarian. However, a more systematic assessment would likely give a prompt to make some progress.

The authors mention that resources was another issue. For them, there was an increase in the number of classes. Increased numbers are not as much of an issue here given that enrollment has remained somewhat flat or has fallen. The situation is interesting here. Some aggressive promotion on my part has meant that more instructors have chosen to bring in their classes earlier in the semester. Without running the numbers, my instinct tells me that we did less classes than this time last spring. I should note as well that currently no instructors schedule any second or follow-up sessions for their classes with a librarian. Continuing the promotion efforts (personal contacts, newsletter, the library blog) can be a possibility. Probably some small piece in the newsletter or an extended blog post to raise some awareness.

On page 171, the authors list the questions to ask about a curriculum. These are questions we should be asking and answering here as well in my humble opinion. In fact, I am going to try to write out some answers at some point in the near future. What else did the USU librarians do?

  • "We then conducted surveys with USU librarians and English instructors. We also held a debriefing session with librarians, following an initial survey. Through discussion, we reached a consensus on learning goals and refined the results of the librarian survey" (171).
For us, we can certainly start with the literature review. Though given we conduct a campus survey once in a while, there is precedent for surveying the students. I would envision probably doing a survey via the freshman composition classes, which would be similar to an approach I saw at Ball State, where I used to be a graduate assistant, back in the old days.

The authors' discussion of student behavior provides a good summary of what the literature says about student behavior. I need to check if I have read some of them because much of the work sounds familiar to me. For instance, I have read some of this before (ah yes, at least here and here):

  • "While students prefer the Web for its convenience, Barbara Valentine noted that students do try to figure out what the instructor wants in a research paper. They are focused on assignment requirements for the type and number of sources. They are often more focused on these requirements than thinking critically about the 'best' sources to address their research questions" (qtd. in 171).

I do try to teach some of the critical thinking about sources part during my presentations, but there is only so much you can do in fifty minutes. I know some professors may do some of it with their classes, but others do not, which means that exposure to the concept is erratic. As cautionary note, I would also note this article on low-level skills and research competency as it relates to students being confident in their search abilities.

Maybe another thing we should do, all the librarians, or at least the ones involved in teaching would be a review of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. I am pretty familiar with them, as it is part of what I do, but a review along with others would not hurt.

The authors discuss the findings from their surveys of librarians and English instructors. From the librarian survey discussion:

  • "In general, librarians thought that English 101o students should be introduced to concepts and skills such as how to identify different types of information and how to evaluate and use information. They should master skills such as defining their information need, searching effectively, and citing sources" (172).

  • "Librarians thought that English 2010 students should review concepts and skills such as determining an information need, effective searching, and citing sources. They should also receive more instruction in information evaluation and use. Complete mastery of many of these skills, however, should be taught in discipline-specific courses in the major, which would build on the basic skills taught in English 1010 and 2010" (172).

In other words, notice the sequential nature, how the process builds up. It then moves from the English classes to specific subject areas. This could work here given the nature of the freshman composition sequence as a basic set of classes (most of them take them) and their bottleneck nature (they are basically an obstacle when they fail to pass them. A great number of our students do repeat these classes two or even three times). In our case, we also need to consider that a lot of our students are transfer students who may not take the freshman composition sequence, or they may only take the second course. On a side question, for me at least, could adding and formalizing this type of sequential planning help in some measure with issues of retention and student success? I think it could, but it is a hunch. I already know that measuring impact is not an easy thing to do.

From the discussion on curriculum development:

  • "The close relationship that existed between the library and the English Department enabled the collaboration that was required to successfully introduce information literacy into the English curriculum. Building a relationship with academic departments is critical to the success of an integrated, sequenced information literacy program. In addition, all English 1010 instructors follow a common curriculum fairly closely. This allowed the librarians to develop set lesson plans, which they could modify as necessary to fit each class" (178-179).
We have a good relationship with the English Department here, so I think there is an opportunity to discuss ideas on further integrating IL into the English curriculum. Philosophically speaking, for me at least, building the relationships with academic departments should be done primarily by the subject librarians, with support from the instruction librarian. The article's authors go on then to summarize the lessons they carried out in the classroom as well as discuss assessing the process. I also liked their idea of a modular curriculum for the advanced class.

I just thought this next line was really cool:

  • "The library instruction curriculum seeks to present libraries as a repository for many voices and as places to extend the conversation further" (179).

I don't think you can say much more to top that. Given that our campus is a place rich in diversity, we should be promoting that concept more.

What was learned:

  • "English instructors realized just how long it takes to teach information literacy skills, and improved student work proved to them that it was worth the time. The process also highlighted the need to build the library into the new English curriculum from the beginning rather than reacting to a completed curriculum" (182).
Do note that at the time, the USU English Department was also working on their curriculum.

  • "While relatively time-intensive, we managed to deliver instruction with our existing staff. We strengthened an existing librarian/faculty relationship rather than facing the political and resource battles of lobbying for a credit course. Students were engaged in authentic assignments that required research and consultation with librarians. The success of the first year enabled us to further integrate library instruction into the writing program, including the sharing of student work for assessment purposes" (182-183).

Maybe this should be our route as well. Work within the departments rather than trying to create a course and fighting the local campus administrative politics.

  • "The primary success of our project, however, was simply making information literacy instruction less invisible in terms of its scope and depth and time required to teach it effectively" (183).

Success at one level can help nurture conversations in other areas. Now, I have a few more things to work out for myself, and then I am going back again to the drawing board.