Friday, November 30, 2007

Article Note: On Latin Americanist Grad Students' Research Habits

Citation for the article:

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

Read via Project Muse.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Not quite convinced about Facebook "Pages"

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

* * * *

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

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

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

Presentation Notes: Teleconference on Finding Trends

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

Anyhow, here are my notes then.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Article Note: On information sharing and workplace learning

Citation for the article:

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

Read via Emerald.

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

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

*Note: Knowles reference refers to the following:

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

Monday, November 19, 2007

Article Note: On collaborative tech rooms in academic libraries

Citation for the article:

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

Read via Emerald.

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2007

OCLC Webinar on Promoting VR Services

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 12, 2007

Article Note: On Integrating Information Literacy into Blackboard

Citation for the article:

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

Read via EBSCO E-Journal Service.

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

Some points of interest:

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

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

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

Friday, November 09, 2007

Library literature is not the only one going unread

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blogs that I read

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

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

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

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