Friday, April 27, 2007

Article Note: A Checklist for Information Competencies

Citation for the article:

Klingberg, Susan. "Information Competencies Checklist: A Resource for Inter-Segmental Collaboration." Reference Services Review 34.4 (2006): 484-490.

Read via Emerald.

When I pick up a short article like this, what interests me is the checklist/tool/rubric the author(s) have created. I don't usually care much for how they got together, put aside their differences, and overcame to create it. I want the practical stuff. However, I did take a look at the article in this case because this is the kind of checklist we need in our campus. The checklist is helpful, to me at least, because it distills elements from items like ACRL standards.

I also found useful the list provided by the author on ways to use the checklist. From the article:

"The Checklist also has a number of practical applications at the campus level. It can be used as a resource to:

  • develop effective library assignment for academic courses;
  • determine IC skills taught in targeted courses (100W- Writing in the Major);
  • develop four0year IC programs with graduated mastery of skills;
  • develop assessments of students' information skills;
  • focus discussion at librarian professional development workshops;
  • include IC in student learning outcomes for academic departments; and
  • educate newly hired librarians and faculty" (487).
For us, we could be using a tool like this to check for skills being taught in courses like our ENG 1302 (Freshman Composition II), a course that is considered a bottleneck course in our campus. The course has a high failure rate for our students. My speculation is that if we could put some of these ideas into practice in the courses, that we might be able to have some impact in terms of retention. Right now, I only have a hunch it might help. It is definitely one of the things I would like to explore.

Links related to the article (for future reference):

Items from the article's notes:

  • The California State University's Info Competency Initiative is here.
  • Information Competency in California Community Colleges is here.
  • Colorado State University Libraries infolit website is over here.
  • And the University of Connecticut Libraries' infolit page is here.
  • Over here in the infolit website for New Mexico State University Libraries. (I am intrigued by the way this chart is organized with materials by standard).
  • "Library and Information Literacy Core Library Skills Grade 9-14+" (This downloads as a Word document. Comes from the Rochester Regional Library Council).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Observing Blog Silence on Monday

Next Monday, April 30, 2007, I will be observing OneDayBlog Silence in memory of those who lost their lives at Virginia Tech (April 16, 2007). For me, at least, this will be my small expression about the events and very small way to convey my condolences to the families and friends. I hope others will join me and other bloggers.

However, there are also some who believe that instead of silence we should speak out. For any readers interested in that point of view, feel free to visit the following places:

If instead you feel moved to write on that day, go right ahead. I respect their points of view, but for me, I figure I can post and blog any day. For a brief moment, I can stop and offer some thoughts for the victims. On Monday then, the blogs will be silent, and comments will be closed. "No words and no comments. Just respect, reflect and empathy."

Find out who else is writing about this (Technorati Search)

Best, and keep on blogging.

(crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian. It will also be crossposted to Gypsy Librarian onVox, FB, and Alchemical Thoughts).

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Booknote: Reading and the Reference Librarian

Dilevko, Juris and Lisa Gottlieb. Reading and the Reference Librarian: The Importance to Library Service of Staff Reading Habits. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2004.
ISBN: 0-7864-1652-1.

I have written a few pieces here and there on the need for librarians to keep up and to read. I've had a couple of readers ask me if I had read this book. I thought I had read it, but I could not quite recall. So I went back to my journals (the written ones). Sure enough, I read it back in 2004. According to my journal then, I was two months into my job. Anyways, I did reread the book this time around, mostly reviewing some parts of interest to me and to see if anything new caught my eye. Yes, I did find a couple of things to think about now. Before that, here is what I wrote about the book back then.

From my personal journal (entry for October 22, 2004):

>>In terms of reading, I am rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude, and I am reading Caleb Carr's The Alienist, which is very interesting for its historical setting, but a bit slow at some times. In terms of professional reading, I am managing well since I have access at work to some of the professional journals. As for books, I just finished Reading and the Reference Librarian by Juris Dilevko and Lisa Gottlieb. The main argument of the book is that reference librarians need to return to their roots in extensive reading and intellectual knowledge. The authors argue that there is an overemphasis on technology and using computers. The section discussing faculty views of librarians and their desire for librarians to have more subject knowledge was very good and convincing. Overall, surveys show librarians do read a lot, but they could do better. I am thinking of making a personal reading list of professional and current awareness. Not sure how it will work, but I am resolved to give it a try. We'll see. The book should be required reading in library school, especially in IU-SLIS where they balance so heavily on IS.<<

I went on to make the reading lists, and I posted about them in the blog (here is one of my first reflections on the topic). One thing that has changed is that I have streamlined some of the process by reading anything I can online. Alerts have been wonderful tools as well. But I still read a lot in print, as any good librarian should. As I finished reading the book last night, one thing I wondered about was the issue of modeling. One of the common complaints from faculty, as well as a good share of librarians, is that students today are just not well informed. I am thinking, and it is a half-baked thought, that maybe in some small way I can model ways of reading and staying aware of the world around us for students. I am not totally sure how to go about this. I do post items of interest in the student resource blog, but that is somewhat tailored to what I see in their paper topics, and current awareness is more than that. But if in a small measure some students see that I read some news and magazines to stay informed, maybe, just maybe, it may move one or two of them to give it a try. These days you can get a lot of good newspapers online, so for some of them, that may be the way to go, and that should be ok. I am not sure yet what I am aiming at with this idea, but it was the one idea that was in my mind last night as I finished reading the book again.

Other small notes from the book:

  • On reading magazines and newspapers to make a better librarian: "From the stories that librarians provide about the positive effects that reading newspapers and magazines have on the quality of their reference service, five themes emerge: increasing one's background knowledge; directing patrons to specific newspaper or magazine articles; selecting search terms; assisting students in selecting topics for their assignments; and using newspapers and magazines to identify new or alternate resources" (43). Does this sound a lot like what we do as instruction librarians? I think so. I could tell a story of mine or two, but instead of listening to little ole me, go read the book.
  • "To be sure, librarians can 'evince an interest' in the reference question, and therefore establish a rapport with the patron, simply by recognizing the topic at hand. This rapport can be strengthened, however, through the common bond created by shared reading interests. In the mind of the patron, the focus of the query evolves from a topic of which the librarian is simply aware into a topic that the librarian takes the time to read about, as demonstrated by the fact that her or she just happens to have read a terrific article on that very subject" (51). No, you can't read everything, though you should strive to read everything. However, as much as possible, be in tune with what your students may be working on. Also, keep a broad general knowledge base. This is just being prepared.
  • And hey, skimming and scanning are perfectly fine in our line of work. In fact, we need to do this more as well as reading. "Indeed, a few respondents indicate that their familiarity with some books is not a result of reading them, but rather of skimming them as they come into the collection. These individuals regularly shelf-study both reference and non-reference materials, a practice which Brian [a librarian], for one, thinks has been seriously neglected in librarianship of late. Observing that '[f]amiliarization with reference books as they come into the collection has helped in the past,' he notes that, '[w]e've become so needful of keeping up on the electronic database interfaces that there's been a falling-off of this practice, which has had some unfortunate consequences. Students are not finding some of this information, [which is] not available online, because the reference librarians don't know about it" (92). Amen. I not only scan new books as they come in, I keep a list of items I want to read or get back to at some point, at times with a brief note on what the book is about. I have often recommended books I have seen to students if I see they can be relevant, and I have even gone so far as to hand them something off the new books cart. Our evening reference librarian shelf-studies quite a bit as well. Overall, you have to be familiar with your collection and its contents: pure and simple. And contrary to what certain technogurus say, not everything is online and at your fingertips.
  • At the end, you can't just prep by reading for reference. I mean anticipate any and all questions. You simply do your best. More importantly, and this goes with my thinking, you are building a little stockpile and a certain way of thinking. It's expanding your thinking abilities as well as your basic background knowledge. On this topic: "The importance of reading outside of work extends beyond the information contained in individual books to include the librarian's ability to apply these various pieces of information to develop a 'reader's mind' that can 'connect the dots' across various topics and disciplines, and to help patrons make similar connections" (113). They say it better than I could ever stumble to put it together. There is a big reason why I read a lot.

And by the way, I am a believer that librarians should be reading while at work as well. Not all the time, but they should have a significant amount of time to do so. I am not delving into the argument of whether librarians should be paid to read. The authors look at it nicely in the book. I am saying that reading should be part of what librarians do. In my case, it includes some degree of writing and blogging since it is what gives me a chance to reflect on what I read. It is a matter of balance.

Monday, April 23, 2007

If they like me, it's ok. If not, it's cool too.

This is mostly some more thinking and follow up on things I've written about before in terms of Facebook and social networking (see here and here). The post by Steven Bell was something I gave some thought to when it came out, and then I saved it to my clippings for later. It seemed like a good time to look it over and write my musings.

The posts and articles I will be referring to are:

Much of this I've known already, or I've learned along the way by trying things out. When you go into student territory, there is some risk. However, I say you should just plunge in like a normal person. Academics who seem to fret over presence in places like Facebook or MySpace seem to forget that we are human as well and as social as the next person. True, I think we (librarians in academia at least) should be mindful how we present ourselves online, but that is common sense advice to anyone using a social network online. Sure, we should be asking some of the questions in the articles for that is part of engaging in a reflective practice. At the end of the day though, there's no sense in getting the jitters over whether students like us or not. Be yourself; relax, and it will work out.

Mr. Bell in the March 19 post (the "Authority Figures" post) points out the need to have personal relationships. I certainly agree with that. I don't think students will find and add you out of the blue if you just make a profile and do nothing else. The few add requests I've had so far in Facebook have come from students I have met through BI sessions or consultation. I work on making personal contacts and building trust, something that takes time and effort. When we say we want to develop a working relationship, you have to remember the word "working" in that phrase.

This also boils down to trust. I recently read a small post on "trust requires a relationship" over at the Anecdote blog. This deals with people getting to know you, getting to know your character. If you come across as an authority figure, you won't get much trust. You come across as someone honest, open-minded, willing to listen as well as helpful, you will be building and gaining that trust. This is why students flee from advertisers or keep them at bay in their online social networks; students know the advertisers are out to sell something, so they act accordingly. This is also why they stay away from any college administrator and most professors. The last thing they want is another parental or authority figure invading the spaces they see as their own.

From the "Students Comment. . ." article:

"I know I have a friend on Facebook who works at the college and every once in a while she'll send pictures I put up to my mom or tell my mom what kind of comments I get, and personally, I just find that a bit strange and unprofessional."

Unprofessional indeed. A clear example of killing any possible trust building. Sure, a profile is public, but the visitors to the profile should still have some manners at the very least. From other student remarks in the article, it is clear students do have some awareness of possible repercussions for posting certain items online. However, some more education is needed. The comment that made me smile was this:

"Professors and faculty are seen as our 'elders' that we are to look up to, and they should not be trying to be like us or relate to us through the internet."

I have two words for that student: tempus fugit. Some day, you will be that 'elder,' and young students will say the same about you. Overall, I would say to readers looking at the article to take the student comments with a grain of salt. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Also, if you look at commenters to Mr. Bell's post, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence that some student reactions to academics in places like Facebook may be positive. It could be a matter of who you ask. But it also comes back to trust.

On a final thought, I need to explore a bit more the possibility of using Facebook to announce some library events and news. There is still some learning to do for me.

Update note: Or rather, an additional musing, but sort of optional reading for visitors here. I wrote a small comment on another Facebook posting (this one about faculty being cranky over excessive concern about using tools like Facebook) over on the scratch pad.

Another update note (4/27/07): Heather, from the blog Inspyration, has another take on librarians being in Facebook. She takes the "hey, I am a person too, you know?" approach. She writes, "I’m probably a bad academic librarian for saying this, but I don’t really care what the students are doing in Facebook. The fact is, I’m addicted to it myself as a social networking tool to keep me in touch with colleagues I’ve worked with, conferenced with, or met in virtual meetings all over the country." No, that does not make you a bad academic librarian. As much as I like my students, and I do, I don't really care much about what they do on Facebook. Did they have a big party and are now hung over on Monday morning? I don't really need to know that. Snark aside, I figure it's their space just as my profile is my space, which they are welcome to visit if they wish. And hey, Heather, so going for that futon in the office? I was hoping for a cot since I get that a lot when the evening librarian tells me, "oh, kids were here looking for you at 9:00pm." I may have to upgrade to a futon now. And by the way Heather, thanks for the link. Best, and keep on blogging.

Friday, April 20, 2007

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 3: Session on Bridges and Information Literacy

Session: Randy Hensley, "Building Bridges Through Information Literacy."

(This session was definitely worth getting up for on a Saturday morning. The session also resonated a lot with me because Dr. Hensley's institution, University of Hawaii at Manoa, is very similar to UHD--commuter campus with not so good retention and very diverse student population. We lack the nicer weather and beaches, for one. Allegedly, the slides of the presentation will be available in the TLA website sometime soon. If they ever get to it, I will add an update note.)

  • Teaching and learning is about relationships. So, we should be roaming and getting close to the students.
  • Bridges involve retention and graduation; the process does not stop because you got them to come to college from high school.
  • Instruction is the academic way of outreach. (Amen. This is a core in my philosophy of librarianship and teaching. If I could only get a few more people to believe it, my work would be a lot easier)
Bridge program examples:
  • College Succcess Programs. This is the most traditional.
  • High School Success Programs. Colleges reach outside of their terrain to help with high school success and strengthen the high school experience.
  • Job Success. Faculty working with vocational programs.
  • Choices Success. This would be exemplified by career and college fairs.
Reference: See "Ways of Thinking: Doing Research and Being Information Literate." In Student Engagement and Information Literacy, ed. Craig Gibson (ACRL 2006). (Hmm, it seems one of my "sister" campuses actually has the book. Time to put in a request for it)
  • Research is a college's best product because it mandates critical thinking and provides a framework for problem solving.
  • If you look back at the ACRL Standards, it how research functions. The Boyer Commission added the concept of inquiry in advocating the teaching of research as a critical thinking/problem solving model.
Some premises:
  • Information literacy standards are outcomes of learning (a note to myself to verify an article that discussed the language used to talk about IL).
  • Information literacy defines learning.
  • An information literate student is a learner.
Students lack a model for a larger context, but they have been solving problems all their lives (family crises, having to hold down jobs, etc.). So, tell this to the arrogant faculty members who think 18 year-olds are not ready to learn how to do research.

You can look at a journal article as a story in a particular form. Teach them in terms of the elements of a scholarly narrative. (This is definitely a nice tip and a positive way to look at this. One of the challenges I face at times is students with difficulties when it comes to reading an academic journal article. For a while, I have been giving thought to how to best address this. This little piece of advice definitely gives me something to think about)

Scan the environment for trouble, where help is needed. Look for risk. Use this to find and create your inquiry opportunities.

Some things that at-risk students miss (in terms of IL concepts):
  • Ability to differentiate sources.
  • Credibility and ability.
  • Definition of research (it is problem solving, not a literature review).
  • Reading diligence and comprehension (staying with a text and reading it).
A common faculty complaint is that kids can't write (I hear this one quite a bit). In fact, in some ways the kids can write. They can often tell a story very well. What they really are missing is the argumentative, inquiry way of writing, the analytical writing (which is what the faculty should be teaching in the first place).

Students at risk have some advantages:
  • Creativity.
  • They are opinion writers.
  • Have group process skills.
  • They are teachable, if you (the teacher) are aware the new students are in a state of "becoming," moving to the next step.
Students are aware of the Google mess, but Google is still easy to use. What they really need/want are other research options (in other words, don't go telling them not to use Google without offering a viable alternative).

To get collaboration, get people on the same page of a concept or value.

Rivers needing a bridge (in other words, where the students need help):
  • From questions to hypothesis to research artifact (notice the word "artifact" not just a 20 pg. paper).
  • Some additional information sources.
  • Mentors (some to help in community collaborations, etc.).
  • Evaluation of sources.
  • Comprehension.
  • Haphazardness.
On the Student Success Center at U of H-Manoa (things they have done and to consider):
  • Increasingly the library will be evaluated on the basis of its impact on student learning. (In other words, it's not about the stuff in the library; it's what you do with it for student learning. This is something that we need to take more into account here, and I am not talking about pretty new spaces and just adding more computers).
  • Minimal perceptual baggage (the library seen as a place to learn).
  • Geography (the location advantage. In the case of U of H-Manoa, their library has a pretty central location. In our case, we are barely in a good geographical position. Though located in the main building, we are not easy to access, which negates the concept of geography).
  • Tutoring.
  • Writing assistance.
  • Study groups.
  • Study skills.
  • Research paper process.
  • Career exploration.
  • Information literacy.
  • Also, workshops, consultations, scheduled arenas, chat reference, podcasts. Think more of different ways to reach individuals on their time.
  • Marketing. You have to get word out of the services offered and created.
  • Faculty integration.
  • Assessment.
  • Remedial AND enhancement.

Optional reading: My final thoughts on the conference are scribbled over on the scratch pad. This is strictly optional.

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 2: Second General Session with Lynn Sherr

Ms. Sherr began her talk by talking about passion. Her new book is Outside the Box, and it is about the television news. In the public mind, television trumps reality every time according to Ms. Sherr. (As soon as I get a copy of the book, I will put up a booknote assuming it is a good book. Hmm, looks like my local public library has it. )

Thoughts and remarks:

  • Events can be relived in print after they are experienced.
  • Women and minorities in news organizations assures us that they and their interests are represented. It was women who advocated for stories on topics like breast cancer and violence against women.
  • The point is that network news have changed. It used to be networks had the power. Blogs now bypass this. Today, news and opinion are delivered instantly on the Internet. As a result, news standards decline as there is a higher tolerance for errors and there is less editing.
  • The box can dislocate reality. It sometimes obscures and exaggerates. Today, the media follows; it does not lead.
  • Stepping out of the box means at times to speak the unspeakable.
  • Eggs get scrambled, so get used to it. (This was her answer to the question of women balancing work and the family life). Today, women's place is everywhere.
  • A feminist believes that women have the same rights and responsibilities as men, nothing more and nothing less. Men are not the enemy, and women are not the only solution. (This was said in answering why women hate to be labeled as feminists. It is her definition of a feminist. A nice definition in my view; I especially like it adds the word "responsibility" since I believe equality means the rights and the responsibilities. I also like it is inclusive.)
  • The stories that Ms. Sherr is interested in are not the ones that the administration in the news wants. She is proud that she did not cover the Anna Nicole Smith story. But you have to keep pushing the boundaries.
  • TV and newspapers won't go away, but things have changed. Journalism is telling the truth in whatever medium it takes to get the story out.
  • We still need storytellers.

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 2: Session on Librarian Retention

Session: Kathry Deiss and DeEtta Jones, "Creating Community Within Our Organizations: Retaining Librarians."

Note: Presentation to be available after April 18, 2007 at Ms. Deiss's wiki here.

Community and culture.
  • Think of the large, often immovable cultures in an organization. Think of an iceberg for an image. You only interact with the surface where only 10% is above the surface. The percentage above water refers to the objective things. For example, the promotional materials.
  • The rest below the water is the bulk of the organizational culture, and this is less explicit. For example, the patterns of thought.
  • Ask: what were your first impressions of your library? It may be things seen during the interview or the first day of work. Later, you get the "how things really work around here" level. It becomes known and ingrained over time. These things (biases, beliefs, notions, etc.) are taken for granted by the old timers. How is the gap closed?
  • Organizational culture. It is learned. Notice there are implicit exchanges, which if made explicit, could help retention. Culture also forms self-identity and community. Notice that we navigate different cultures as we come into an organization. One's personal culture may not be in sync with organizational culture, and this can lead to conflict.
  • Individual interpretations inform behavior and expectations. We all have unique structures of interpretation. Library units can have unique interpretive structures as well (see the often mentioned opposition of reference versus technical services).
Managing cultural meaning-making.
  • What messages does the organization send regarding individual and team growth?
  • How are the messages supported through actions and programmatic endeavors?
A disconnect between what an organization says and does can lead to people leaving. All organizations have some disconnect, but if not effort to align issues is made, then you have a crisis situation.

Retention begins with recruitment. What is said in the interview to a candidate already says a lot. The language of the job ad is also important. What will people applying for the job want and stick around for? The new recruit will be asking: what are the possibilities here for me?

Types of contracts:
  • Formal: written (what you usually think of a contract). This is overt, agreed upon with known conditions.
  • Social: Behavior and ethics. This is based on values and beliefs. Normative. (the idea of what is right and wrong social behavior fits here).
  • Psychological contracts (we all have them). This brings in individual beliefs of what the individual expects and what is expected of the individual. This is unspoken usually, and it is always unwritten. It is rooted in personal values and expectations. It is based on a variety of expectations.
(Here lies the problem) When some element of the psychological contract is perceived to be broken, retention problems happen. This falls under the "broken promises" category. The language of a job ad can help shape a psychological contract. Even if it is not voiced, a psychological contract can be broken. (In other words, for example, if your job ad promises a challenging and dynamic environment only for the candidate to find the library in question is anything but, that is an example of a broken psych contract).

The aspects of a contract boil down to this: what the employees and employers expect to give to each other and receive from each other.

The basis of promises:
  • Perception of mutuality.
  • Assumption driven.
  • Not questioned until the promise is perceived to be broken. (In a formal contract, you break it, it means litigation, etc.)
Promises can be parsed when:
  • The organization has the will but not the means to implement (this may be forgivable).
  • The organization has the means but not the will to implement (definitely not forgivable, at least in my estimation).
See the findings of the Saratoga Institute. (I think a great book that summarizes the findings is The Seven Hidden Reasons Employees Leave. I read it, but I did not post about it. Personally, I did not think the reasons were all that hidden. A manager with half a brain and some common sense should see some of the reasons coming). The question to ask is not "why do people stay?" The question managers need to be asking is "why do people leave?" Some reasons for leaving include:
  • Job/workplace not as expected.
  • Too little coaching/feedback (I would add that you can get coaching and feedback, but it does not mean it is useful or relevant).
  • Too few growth/advancement opportunities.
  • Feeling devalued/unrecognized.
  • Stress from overwork. Also, work/life imbalance.
  • Loss of trust and confidence in senior leaders.
  • Mismatch between a person and the job.
There are power dynamics in an organization. The manager has the job of helping the employees succeed. Feedback must be constructive, candid, timely, and tied to a context related to the work. Managers should also be soliciting feedback. In the end, the manager must model good behaviors (Lead by example, which is something I am personally a big believer of. Personally, a quick way for me to lose respect for a manager is to have them demand things that they themselves would not be willing to do. Also, this means a manager should provide a model of good management for others to learn from). The manager should be in the service of the workers and their success. Presenter mentioned looking over a book by Flaherty on coaching (again, another case of just give a quick book reference. The book in question is Coaching: Evoking Excellence in Others.)

". . . we recognize that employees have commitments outside work and that we must help them manage their responsibilities along with their work obligations." --IBM U.S. Policy on Diversity.

Managers are responsible for setting a supportive tone. Be mindful that new librarians will be types to leap boundaries and appropriate authority.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 1: Session on Government Documents

Session: Suzanne Sears, "Threats to Government Information Access: Can Democracy Survive in a Digital Enviroment."

(Interesting as I find govdocs and information access, this session was a bit heavy on the doom and gloom. However, the issue of loss of access to government information, which our taxes pay for and should be available to all citizens, is an important one).

"Information is the currency of democracy." --Thomas Jefferson.

  • Internet positives: increased access to government information and faster dissemination.
  • Internet negatives: Agencies now have control of the content instead of GPO; there is no longer a safeguard for material withdrawal. Fee based access has been increasing. There has also been an increase in fugitive documents. Fugitive documents are those that never made it to the GPO or the depository program at all.
  • Government information has been getting privatized. This is due to exceptions to the federal law requiring agencies deposit documents with the GPO. This results in less access. Some examples include STAT-USA and NOAA Climate Data. (Cooperative endeavors between the government and some publisher due to requirements from the federal government that certain endeavors be self-sustaining. So, the government partners with someone, and then information becomes privatized.). If the GPO is a partner, the information usually is accessible at a depository library.

Then there is disappearing information. Much of it is due to national security after 9/11 (some of it valid, some of it questionable).
  • There is also an increase in FOIA refusals.
  • Then there is information removed from websites. Agencies often revise a document, put up the new one, and take the old one down. Agencies often have no sense of what could/should be preserved.
  • A website may be reorganized in terms of content, then the older stuff vanishes.
  • When an agency dies. For example, a commission gets defunded and is closed. Their website vanishes as well. When a commission finishes its work, their content and website often vanish as well.
  • A media format becomes obsolete. For example, 5 1/4 inch diskettes.
  • Content format obsolescence. This refers to software. For example, an old Word Perfect document versus today's MS Word.
Then, we have the closing of federal libraries. The EPA libraries are the recent example.

Access is not just "it's on the Web." It's knowing how to access it, where to get it, etc. The expertise is what librarians have and offer.

Remember that depository librarians are your first point of contact.

Some examples of sites to look over:
What can you do?
  • Be watchful of news and legislation. The presenter provided a handout with various links for resources.
  • Keep contact with your legislators.

"Our government is based not on the need to know, but upon the fundamental right to know." --Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).

Links to keeping up resources, from the presenter's handout:

(I probably need to add at least OMB Watch and maybe GovDoc-L to my list of things I scan)

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 1: Session on Active Learning

Session: Adrian "AJ" Johnson, "Walk the Talk: Active Learning for Student Success."

(Note: Find the presentation PowerPoint and and the handouts from the presentation here.)

(This was a very interesting presentation with a very engaging speaker. However, at times I got the impression this was preaching to the choir; in other words, the people I think should be listening to this were not here.)

Some observations and thoughts:

  • The presenter asked the audience to define active learning before giving a definition.
  • He also gave us time to write a bit on the writing prompt about active learning.
  • Informal polls can be a nice and quick form of assessment.
  • Remember that learning is messy and natural (or, as I say, "embrace the chaos.")
  • Additional examples of challenges when it comes to implementing active learning, given by the audience during a brainstorm:
    • discipline
    • professor expectations (or lack thereof).
    • disaster, such as Internet goes down.
    • active learning takes extra planning time.
  • The presenter remarked that he is lucky to be in a library that actually puts requirements on professors to be prepared when it comes to library instruction. (That is something I have mentioned at least once or twice here, but under the "we have to keep the faculty happy" syndrome, it is something not likely to happen)
  • Remember to create your active learning activities based on outcomes. What will the students get out of it?
  • Remember to practice as well. Try things out yourself (do dry runs), then try with a class. Adjust as needed.

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 1: Session on Role of Academic Libraries

Session: Robert W. Fernekes, "The Academic Library's Role as a Partner for Student Learning: Key Practices."

  • Accountability means we need to define/redefine librarian roles.
  • Libraries need to evolve with student needs. This is what library as place is about.
  • Evidence-based library practice. (I need to read more in this regard. While I am aware of this, it is not currently an area I am reading up on much. There is a conference on this. This year it is taking place in Raleigh, NC. It seems the previous conference has many of its papers online here. May be worth a look. I just get the feeling I should be exploring this more.)
  • Book reference: Rockman's book on information literacy. See my booknote on it here. (This is the book I said that my administrators and faculty should be reading but probably would not. Still waiting to see if they do or not)
  • Also, there is a book by Larry Hardesty on information literacy and the first-year experience which may be of interest. (Sadly, the presenter simply raised the books up quickly while he talked and did not provide full citations. I think it's this one.)
  • The closer we align to academic disciplines, the better.
  • The process to do this is time consuming. Creating assessment tools. Involvement in other campus areas. It may require renegotiating how (some) librarians spend their days/work.
  • (I've acquired a tutor role, whether positive or not that is a separate matter. It could probably be something more collaborative with faculty.)
  • "Best way to predict the future is to create it." (nice thought, until reality hits).

Monday, April 16, 2007

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 1: Contributed Paper on Tips for Middle Managers

Contributed Paper: Jan Kemp and Trina Nolen, "Becoming a Successful Middle Manager."

(As it often happens, I decided to stay and listen to just one more paper. I was not planning on staying for this one, but the topic was of interest. Besides, my supervisor says I need to work more on my skill set to become a supervisor, so may as well see what I can learn.)

  • Middle managers are the ones between the staff and the library administration. (In my scheme of things, my supervisor would be a middle manager since she is between me, the frontline staff, and the library administrator, the director). Middle managers work with staff, other librarians, and library administration, which means their job is not easy as they try to balance all this.
  • People suffer with bad managers (ok, snark here: duh).
Some best practices:

  • Catch people doing something right.
  • Foster open communication. Be collegial. For an employee, having a suggestion implemented can be very motivating (I am guessing the reverse is then true as well. Having your suggestions constantly ignored is not motivating at all).
  • State expectations clearly.
  • Enable coworkers through roving leadership. Foster ownership and give chances for leadership to the staff. This demands that we enable each other and that there is good delegating.
  • Manage your relations with peer managers wisely.
  • Know your boss's expectations and preferred communication style.
  • The old adage of document everything still applies. And don't procrastinate on doing the performance evaluations.
(While this is good advice, I am thinking a lot of this is common sense. The stuff about documenting and making expectations clear are things I learned during teacher training. I have a theory that teaching in a public school pretty much prepares you for management. Think about it: you are in charge, so to speak, of a bunch of teens. You need to set clear expectations. You need to document everything and be timely in providing evaluations and feedback. You need to nurture them, and giving them leadership opportunities is one way. Also, you need to know what your principal, the boss, expects and how to communicate with him. You see, not that much different. Still, for librarians seeking some advice this was alright).

Update Note (4/18/07): I found the handout that was provided for this session. It was a nice piece as it was done in the form of a newsletter, and it is very informative. A pity there is not an online version as of this writing.

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 1: Contributed Paper on Information Literacy

Contributed Paper: Joel C. Battle, "Information Literacy: Are We Meeting Students' Needs?"

  • Are the skills [of information literacy] transferring when they go into the real world? The initial answer as the professor asked this question was no.
  • His study was based on an information literacy course for education majors. The course was required; it will be no longer required, though he will try to argue for his campus, TWU, to keep it as a requirement.
  • Information literacy provides skills that education majors need: information literacy skills, the skills to understand and teach information literacy to others, and the skills to work with librarians.
Book reference to check out: Information Literacy for Educators by Shinew and Walter. New York: Haworth, 2003.

(I am thinking as I listen to this paper, that for us in my setting, we can and should develop pre- and post-instruction surveys. However, we work in a situation that relies on one-shot sessions. This is different than having a course, but the idea still applies).

  • The time has arrived that these skills are needed in order to solve the serious problems facing our world.
(Overall, an interesting paper, but I did not find anything earth-shattering so to speak. However, it gives me food for thought and makes me wonder if maybe we should consider having a course on IL in my campus).

Update note (10/12/2007): Mr. Battle went on to publish a version of this presentation in the Texas Library Journal (Fall 2007) as "Information Literacy Instruction for Educators and the Role of School and Academic Libraries." My new director just passed the article to me to read, thus I am seeing the material again. Much of what I posted previously about the presentation still applies. However, now that I am going to be working as a liaison for the Education Department here at Tyler, it does give me a bit more food for thought. I need to think about and explore ways to help out with the pre-service teachers as they learn about information literacy and about best practices to teach their students about it. There were a couple of lines from the article that caught my eye:

  • The idea of instructional outreach, "i.e. , a model in which academic librarians and classroom faculty collaborate to infuse information literacy instruction throughout an academic program by facilitating communication between their units and fostering faculty development in the area of information literacy instruction and assessment" (Johnson, McCord & Walter 2003)" (121). The citation comes from an article in Reference Librarian vol. 82, pgs. 19-37 entitled "Instructional Outreach Across the Curriculum: Enhancing the Liaison Role at a Research University." I may have to go back and take a look at it.
  • "The academic library should make available to each student the basic skills to enable them to find, evaluate, and use information resources from information storage and retrieval systems (i.e., online catalog, online databases, and Internet-based sources)." In essence, this is our line of work. Write a bit differently, and we could put it into some of our academic library mission statements.

TLA 2007 Conference Notes, Day 1: Opening Session

Day 1 was Thursday April 12, 2007. I did not attend any preconferences.

Isabel Allende gave the opening lecture. Of course, beforehand we get all the welcomes from the city official and the obligatory obeisance to the big vendors (not all vendors, just the ones who pay the big bucks), and then some more blah blah. Anyways, with the snark out of the way, here are some notes of what Allende said (any comments I will put in parenthesis).

  • The library is the brain of the community. It contains its memories, what matters.
  • Had a couple of book thieves in the family, including a brother.
  • Can find anything in libraries, well almost anything--no dirty books (we definitely need to fix that. I am working on it at my library.).
  • Stories are good for making a living and seducing men.
  • The House of Spirits is the "lucky book," leading to the others.
  • Chilean women may look small & unthreatening; don't be fooled. (Actually, this applies to a lot of other Latin American women. My mother is as small and unthreatening as they come, and I sure pity the fool who would underestimate her. As a Latino man, I have known Allende's truth for a while now).
  • The importance of dreams. They clear her thoughts, teach about the self, and guide her writing. Then, there are those dreams of Antonio Banderas.
  • Writing has allowed her to transform loss into strength. Paula was her most meaningful book. Life becomes real when you write. It [writing] ultimately changes the world.
  • Allende is now working on a memoir of her family in California during the last ten years. It is hard work, since all those people are still alive and kicking.
  • She confesses to being 65 years old, and she says "I look good from a distance." (Actually, she looks good at any distance in my book).
  • On being asked about immigration, she says it is necessary for we need immigrants as they need us. We need to find more humane solutions.

On a side note, readers can read my little note about me getting to the conference over in the scratch pad.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gypsy Librarian Will Be At 2007 TLA

I will be heading tomorrow for San Antonio to attend the 2007 Texas Library Association Conference. I had a great time last year, and I learned a thing or two. I am hoping to have a great time this year, and maybe this may be the year I volunteer for something. Not sure, some things back in the old workplace are in a bit of flux right now. Anyways, digression aside, I got my directions and the confirmations all set. I will be taking the drive tomorrow along Interstate 10. Once I get out of the Houston area, which is pretty much a traffic mess, I should be ok. I think if I leave early enough, I can do some wandering. I will be posting my notes from the conference here, but I don't do live blogging (that's for the technogurus). This means I will be mostly offline for the next few days, which suits me fine.

I am hoping to catch some of the sights as well including The Alamo, and I know I have to stop at the Hard Rock Cafe at some point. I am especially looking forward to hearing Isabel Allende. My only wish that I won't get is that I would love my mother to be with me there as well. She is a big Allende fan for one, and two, she was the one who got me hooked on reading. One of my memories growing up was of mom always reading, especially a lot of Latin American literature: Isabel Allende, Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, etc. Hopefully I can get mom an extra copy of Allende's book signed. I was going to read Portrait in Sepia, the book they are discussing at the conference, but my semester here has been so insanely busy that I just did not have the time. As soon as I read it, I will post a booknote about it.

So, to those of you traveling to TLA, may you have a safe and peaceful journey.

And, Mami, gracias por ayudarme a descubrir la lectura. (Mom, thanks for helping me discover reading).

Monday, April 09, 2007

You need to keep up with the disciplines

I have written about keeping up before in this blog (here is a small example). As Arts and Humanities Librarian (A&H), one of the things I strive for is to keep up with the disciplines that fall under my subject areas. While I currently don't have memberships in organizations like MLA (the language one, not the medical librarians; if you need a reason, try keeping a few additional memberships besides ALA on a librarian's salary), I do read, or at least scan, a variety of journals in the A&H areas as well as English (my academic specialty) and education (my trade). To be a good subject specialist, you need to keep up with the subject. Presenting in an area within your subject specialty once in a while would be good. For me, time constraints prevent me from such. I do admit that I miss writing some literary criticism papers as I did back when I was in the English program. However, between the time factor and the lack of incentive at my current workplace, it means I won't be writing that paper on deformities and outcasts in a couple of science fiction novels I had in mind any time soon. I am not making the observation to gripe. It is a fact of life, so a librarian does what he can do. In my case, I read in other areas as well as my areas of interest, make notes, learn, and overall stay informed. And I do this not just for myself. I do it so I can have something in common with my faculty. The bottom line is that you need to know your disciplines well as an academic librarian.

I got to thinking about this after reading over Steven Bell's post on "The Value of Keeping Up with Disciplines" over at ACRLog. Mr. Bell presents a guest post by Neal Baker reflecting on MLA's recent report advocating changes in foreign language departments. Their idea, to put it very simply, is to look at foreign language study more as area studies in order to be more relevant.

Mr. Baker writes:

"Knowledge of the MLA report will help me to keep librarianship central to the Earlham College curriculum, and relevant liaison librarians everywhere can likewise benefit. I can first ask questions raised by the report with faculty, thereby demonstrating an awareness of disciplinary concerns. Second, the report gives me another opportunity to suggest resources that allow faculty to address the report’s concerns."

In my case, given that foreign languages fall under my liaison and subject areas, that report would be of interest to me. Like Mr. Baker, I can see myself using it as a way of opening some discussion with some faculty in terms of curriculum, collection development, and even instruction. When it comes to things like collection development, creating this kind of discussion is important. We should not be doing collection development in a reactive way based on vendor marketing and spam. I am sad to say that much of our collection development here is done on that basis, which I find inadequate, but I am quitting while I am ahead. I put a lot of time and effort into keeping up. Maybe it is a bit too much time if you ask one of my supervisors. However, this notion of keeping up with the disciplines is crucial to academic librarians. This is significant for those with subject liaison duties, and it is more important if you do instruction.

Here is what I would want to know, if I had the inclination to ask knowing I would get an answer. I want to know what other librarians in my unit do to keep up. I know one of the business librarians finds a few Wall Street Journal articles of interest because I get them forwarded in my inbox once in a while. However, those articles are either the ones related to libraries that the whole library sector of the blogosphere has covered ad nauseam by the time the business librarian hits the forward button, or they are the cute features like CEO salary lists, in other words, trivia. Now, light features may be of some interest, but I want to know what business-related journals you review if any and if you have read any recent articles of substance. Since we are an institution that serves mostly undergraduates (i.e. a teaching campus), I also want to know if you read anything in the field of business education and pedagogy. Another example would be the sciences librarian. I have no idea what this person reads, if anything, because we never hear from that person. Same goes for the English specialist. The only one I can cite that does some readings in her area is the Engineering Technology Librarian, who also posts to the library's blog on items of interest to her subject area.

We should be sharing more about our areas of interest. In order to do that, you should have something to share in the first place. I have a small theory as to why many faculty refuse to take librarians seriously, even when the librarians hold faculty status. Here it is: regular faculty think we can't handle anything related to their disciplines. Sadly, in many cases, that does seem to be the norm. In my case, I think I can stand up to any faculty in my area, and I can intelligently discuss issues and concerns of their academic fields. But the keeping up needed for that takes some effort. That is a part of why I keep this academic blog as well as a couple other personal blogs, so I can keep track of my keeping up efforts. When asked, "what have you read in our field? Did you know that we may be rethinking ways of teaching foreign language students?" I can simply point them to my blog, "yes, I read that last month, and here is what I think about it. Based on that, maybe we should consider getting more resources in this or that area. And let me tell you about some new books on Latin American area studies, in Spanish, we recently acquired."

When I started typing this, I just wanted to make a short reply to a post I saw in another blog. As often happens, one gets to thinking about other things, and so, I find my way over to thinking about my situation here. For two reasons. One, I think we could be doing a lot more. Two, I do get a bit frustrated when I get a guilt trip from certain people because I actually make the time and effort to keep up. I will be blunt and take a risk in saying it: when you can show me a documented trail of how you keep up with your disciplines, then and only then, can you come over and give me grief over me doing it. In my case, it goes along with my instructional as well as subject duties. It's more than teaching classes and looking over vendor notice cards. You need to keep up with the disciplines.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Article Note: On Infolit and Tech, Some Issues

Citation for the article:

Grafstein, Ann. "Information Literacy and Technology: An Examination of Some Issues." portal: Libraries and the Academy 7.1 (2007): 51-64.

Read via Project Muse.

The main argument of this article is that information literacy is not a new concept. Information Literacy was around long before the emphasis (some would say "overemphasis") on technology and online tools. While it seems that information literacy is tied to the advent of the Internet, the author argues that is not the case.

As part of the literature review, Grafstein looks at Paula Warnken's work (see JAL 30.1 March 2004). Grafstein provides the following summary:

"Warnken provides numerous examples of information literacy programs in academic libraries in which library instruction and technological training are incorporated to such an extent that no distinction is made between the ability, for example, to create a spreadsheet or navigate one's way around an e-mail client and the inherently intellectual processes that have been identified as being essential components of information literacy: (1) designing a research question or thesis statement that is appropriate to a particular field of inquiry, (2) formulating hypotheses, (3) locating and and critically evaluating all the information that bears on the research question, (4) selecting from those sources the best-suited for the research, and (5) putting all this together into logical, clearly-written, coherent arguments, forming conclusions, and identifying fruitful directions for further research" (qtd. in 53).

Grafstein's argument is that, very often, instruction in information literacy does not seem different than learning some technical skill. The assumption often made by students and faculty is that if one knows how to use a database then one is information literate. Very often, the analytical and critical skills need to effectively use and evaluate any results from a search are left aside. Yet these are crucial skills that students need to learn. The skills that Warnken lists above are things that I try to do in my classes, mostly in an informal manner.

Most professors simply want the "just show 'em how to use a database" lesson. I am sure a few cover and teach some of those skills to students, but the majority of professors do not. And before some professor out there gets in a huff or defensive, here is my evidence: I actually talk to your students. I heavily promote research consultations in my BI sessions, and students do come for assistance. A short talk with them is all I need to know the difference between Professor Adams, who models some of the skills Warnker mentions, and between Professor Moe, who pretty much unleashes the students with minimal instruction, does not really confer more than he has to, and has the class on cruise control. So Professor Huffy, before you send your nastygram my way to express your "righteous" indignation, take a good hard look at your teaching practices and see which side of the spectrum you fall in. The point is that if students are to succeed then they need to learn essential information literacy skills and elements that will allow them to find information, evaluate it, and make the most effective use of it. No one is pretending to usurp a professor's terrain. I am just saying librarians, as information experts, can help in that regard. Professors and librarians share a lot in common. Grafstein writes that "the goals of fostering active learning, critical thinking, and lifelong learning--core components of information literacy-- have long been advocated within the academy. . . " (54).

Grafstein looks at various works to illustrate her thesis, and a look at some of those works may be a good review for academic librarians. Overall, libraries may have changed, but the issues and need to teach good information literacy skills remain.

Some other ideas from the article I would like to think about:

  • "The more time spent on technology-based issues, the less time there is to develop those abilities--abilities that the new information environment may, ironically, be making even more important" (59).
Maybe something that certain technogurus in librarianship ought to consider.

In discussing implication, Grafstein looks at industry-sponsored research as an example:

  • "This industry-sponsored research is published by reputable scientists in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals. Therefore, simply instructing students in the distinction between popular and scholarly/scientific writing does not address the issue of hidden bias. Teaching students the importance of relying on scholarly literature for their academic work does not equip them to consider the potential impact that sponsoring bodies might have on the kinds of research questions that are asked and on the outcomes of that research" (60).

I have to admit that here we are not even close to addressing or considering this in a way other than sporadically. A lot of faculty, and many students, draw comfort from putting a check mark on EBSCO's interface to limit to peer-reviewed articles. As of late, I have been trying to introduce the notion of questioning sources when it comes to scholarly work. Time constrains me greatly in that endeavor, but I still try.

  • "The critical thinking skills involved in recognizing how sponsorship can affect research outcomes take considerable time to teach and assimilate and do not fit easily within an instructional program that views information literacy as merely a component of technological literacy" (60).
To summarize then:

  • "It has been argued here that when too great an emphasis is placed on technology there is a risk of de-emphasizing the teaching of critical thinking abilities that are central to information literacy and that are neither dependent on nor related to technology" (61).

Monday, April 02, 2007

Article Note: On Online Instruction for all students

Citation for the article:

Schwartzman, Roy. "Refining the Question: How Can Online Instruction Maximize Opportunities for All Students." Communication Education 56.1 (January 2007): 113-117.

Read it via InformaWorld.

This short essay discusses online instruction. It pays attention to the issue of online instruction reaching students who, for various reasons, could not take advantage of a traditional classroom setting.

The article begins by summarizing some anecdotal evidence regarding online learners. The examples illustrate how online courses are able to reach students with various special needs. The article also points out that "online courses do not offer a panacea for non-traditional students" (115). It also suggests that "to frame the issue as online versus on-campus presents a misleading dichotomy" (115).

For me, the article briefly raises some questions on impact and retention, questions I have been thinking about from other readings. The author states that "interestingly, much of the research on retention does not differentiate non-traditional students or other special needs students from traditional populations" (115). The author also suggests there is a need for further research on learning outcomes and online courses, including social effects.

Note: this article is a response to another article. Citation for the other article:

Allen, T.H. "Raising the Question #1: Is the Rush to Provide Online Instruction Setting Our Students Up for Failure?" Communication Education 55 (2006): 122-126.