Friday, May 30, 2008

Article Note: On practical knowledge and hostile environments

Citation for the article:

Guzman, Gustavo. "Sharing Practical Knowledge in Hostile Environments: A Case Study." Journal of Workplace Learning 20.3 (2008): 195-212.

Read via Emerald.

This was one of those articles I read outside of LIS once in a while. However, it seemed relevant because I am sure there are more than a few librarians working in what can be defined as hostile environments. In brief, the article deals with how knowledge is shared and how the dynamics work or fail in a hostile work situation. The article has a pretty extensive literature review and set of notes.
  • A definition, just so we know what kind of place we are dealing with: "Pluralistic goals, hierarchic control, worker's resistance, and contest for material or symbolic resources resulting in low trust and conflict, that permeate decision-making and negotiation processes during task performance, are some of the features of hostile industrial environments. . . " (196). This can sound familiar. If you do not believe me, have a look at the librarian sector of the blogosphere, especially a good number of the pseudonymous or anonymous blogs. While some of the A-listers may complain that those bloggers are not brave enough or too mean, they are still a reflection of the fact that there are some hostile library workplaces out there.
  • Social significance: "From the social perspective, hostile enviroments means low inter-personal trust and unwillingness of experts to mentor novices" (196). Now this might even be an interesting angle to consider: for the new folks out there, how many of you have found yourselves needing to learn some new skill or how something operates in your workplace only to be confronted by some older vet who simply does not want to share the knowledge? The "unwillingness of experts" seems to be a common complaint when the "leadership meme" comes rolling around the librarian sector of the blogosphere every so often.
  • A bit more, this time looking at inexperienced workers: "This situation converges with Lave and Wenger's (1991) community of practice idea in terms that inexperienced workers only gained access to insider tacit knowledge after they were accepted by the experienced workers" (206).

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Article Note: On librarians and personality traits

Citation for the article:

Williamson, J.M., A.E. Pemberton, and J.W. Lounsbury. "Personality Traits of Individuals in Different Library Specialties in Librarianship." Journal of Documentation 64.2 (2008): 273-286.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

At the end of the day, this article helps to confirm what most of us already know: that librarians pretty much gravitate to their area of librarianship based on their personalities. In other words, to an extent, the old adage/rule that catalogers are less socially inclined than public services folks hols true. It's just based on their personalities. Mind you, this is not perfect, but fairly close. The article draws on Holland's theories on vocational choice. Keep in mind also that Holland's work has been questioned at times.


  • The sample: "The participants for this study consisted of a non-random sample of 2,075 librarians and information science professionals who responded to print or e-mail solicitations during 2002 to fill out the personality inventory, which was available in print, as an e-mail attachment, or as a web form" (276). Do note that any participants not actually working in a library or info science job were dropped from the sample (276).
  • "Taken as a whole, the results of our study clearly demonstrate that different librarianship subspecialties can be differentiated by broad and narrow personality traits which carry important implications for theorizing and future research in this area" (282).
  • And this is where the adage part comes in: "Similarly, we found that high extraversion, low tough-mindedness, and high teamwork (among other variables for the various clusters) characterized person-oriented academic reference librarians, special librarians, public librarians, school librarians, distance education librarians and records managers. For the technique-oriented specialties, operational work style and low customer service orientation characterized catalogers, and high assertiveness and high tough-mindedness characterized the archivists and systems librarians" (282-283). If nothing else, it may explain a few things about some people I have worked with over time. No, I am not revealing any names.
  • The authors propose the following implications: For recruitment purposes, you could use the personality tool for advising and guidance. Also useful for librarians wishing to change their track or line of work as they could see how their traits match a line of work.
  • The catch of the implications: "Of course, it must be acknowledged that trait change is not a simple process, and there are ethical issues surrounding selecting individuals for jobs based on their personality traits" (283).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Article Note: On Libraries and Writing Centers Collaborating

Citation for the article:

Mahaffy, Mardi. "Exploring Common Ground: US Writing Center/Library Collaboration." New Library World 109.3/4 (2008): 173-181.

Read via Emerald.

This article may go along with that book I read last year. I think this article is a bit more accessible than the book in terms of making the case for libraries and writing centers collaborating. For me, this article was relevant since this was something we were doing at FMPOW where we provided space for the writing center to have a tutor available for students at the library. I was wondering as I read the article if that was something we could replicate here. I may have to check on that.

There are some quotes that I would like to note, with a comment here and there:

  • "The collaborations illustrate that, when writing centers and libraries share space and expertise during times convenient to students, the students take greater advantage of the services available to them" (173). It is not always as idea as that, but that is definitely an encouraging reason to explore these collaborations.
  • "Placing writing and research services together helps to illustrate the commonality between research, writing, and the academic thought processes often compartmentalized by students" (174). This helps answer the old "so what?" question. Relevance.
  • A note on mobile librarians, that is, locating librarians in an academic department: "By maintaining an office with a computer and small reference collection, the librarians were able to provide many of the services they typically performed within a central office, while more effectively inserting themselves into the culture of the academic department they primarily served (Schillie, 2000)" (qtd. in 174; see Reference Librarian #71). I saw this in action in one of the places I interviewed during my first foray into getting a library job (before getting hired at FMPOW). It looked like an interesting idea to try, but it is resource-intensive, and that librarian would likely be spending a significant number of hours at the department where he or she was embedded, thus removing from things like a reference desk rotation at the main library location. I still think there is some value to this if carefully considered and assessed. Do note that initiatives like this often have mixed success, so this may depend on the threshold for risk taking that a library may have.
  • Some of the drawbacks of the collaborative arrangements described in the article:
    • "In addition, the collaboration is 'only space sharing and it is often based on the goodwill or special interests of a small number of individuals' (Currie and Eodice, 2005)" (qtd. in 175). Actually, the C&E citation is to an essay in the book I linked to above.
    • "Staff changes or shifts in institutional needs could put the collaboration in jeopardy" (175). This should be fairly evident, and it should point to the need for cross-training as well as taking measures for collecting institutional memory as well as succession planning. A lot of that falls under knowledge management. Seems important, and yet so many libraries seem to miss on this count. Lose a key staff member, and a lot of initiatives fall apart.
    • "The university administration may not understand the unique role played by the various collaborators, and feel that space sharing illustrates that these roles are interchangeable. In a time of limited budgets felt on many campuses, no one wishes to suggest that they are redundant" (175). Here are my two cents: if administrators actually lack that understanding, it is time they take some responsibility and educate themselves. Sure, we have a task to show our value, but in the end, they have to take an active part in knowing how their campus works. Showing short sightedness by cutting a key educational service for the sake of the budget is not exactly a brilliant move. Not to mention that initiatives like this may have an impact on retention, which is always a concern of the powers that be.
  • "The library instruction coordinator has traditionally worked with the writing center director to provide training to writing center consultants regarding available research tools and citation of sources, and when to make referrals" (176). This was something I was considering back at FMPOW. Back then, I thought I could do some of this through their supplemental instruction system, using the SI tutors for some of this work given their extensive contact with students. Unfortunate for me, it was one of the things that remained on the list of things to do that never got done in the rush of other things. As of this moment, I do not know if there is some similar arrangement I could pursue here. Clearly, this is a line of inquiry to follow. We'll see.
  • A case for having writing center hours in the library during the evening: "In the Spring of 2006, the writing center director expressed an interest in providing traditional writing consultation services within the library during evening and weekend hours, when the writing center was not open, in the hope of reaching students who did not come to campus during the day" (177).
  • A reminder that librarians can provide in-depth assistance, which by the way, is something we should be advertising here more as well. Also note how libraries and writing centers can be similar: "Reference librarians should make it clear to patrons seeking in-depth assistance that they have the option to schedule time away from the desk for extended reference consultations. Writing centers accustomed to scheduling sessions may want to consider setting aside one consultant on duty to welcome drop-in students who have needs which can be handled quickly"(179).
For any library considering reaching out to their local writing center, this may well be a worthy article to read. It gives a good overview with advantages and drawbacks, which may help in planning as well as implementing.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Article Note: On blogs in academic libraries

Citation for the article:

Schrecker, Diane L. "Using Blogs in Academic Libraries: Versatile Information Platforms." New Library World 109.3/4 (2008): 117-129.

Read via Emerald.

This is probably one of the better articles on the topic of blogging as it applies to academic libraries. Given that I maintain our library's blog, it was of interest to me. It was brief, and it was practical. The author looked at four blog examples from her university and discussed how the blogs were being used as well as how they were assessed. After presenting the four blogs, the author provided a brief overview of some of the tools and widgets that were integrated into the blogs in order to enhance them. I have to admit that widgets is not something I have explored extensively. I have a few things on my own blogs, but it is not something I have pondered much for our library's blog yet. There is some food for thought here for me. By the way, this article draws on a poster presentation, and as I read it, I was thinking this was the kind of presentation I would have found interesting at TLA. It is not totally basic, but rather goes beyond the basics to show what is actually being done. Now, on to some highlights or points I want to remember:

  • A good reason to have a blog: "Traditional means of faculty communication, e-mail notifications, web page bibliographies, and book lists, were utilized with varied broad-spectrum success while consistent announcements led to a certain blasé attitude towards the actual content of the notices; e-mail was deleted, web page statistics indicated bibliographies largely unread, and booklists were withering in the literature rack. Furthermore, it was painfully obvious a large contingency of the intended audience, namely students, were not being reached with these methods. The time had come to examine alternative techniques for presenting collection development information to targeted audiences, enter the idea of an Instructional Resource Center blog" (118).
  • This is certainly a concern when you are trying to do liaison work or outreach: that your message after a while will be tuned out or deleted. A well-built blog can certainly address some of that issue.
The article is full of little practical idea that I may see if I can implement at some point for our library blog:
  • Adding various types of announcement such as book awards, to give readers additional items of interest.
  • One of the things I have considered is writing little pieces about our profession. For example, we attend various conferences, where (ideally) we learn various things. I think a piece on why we go to conferences and what we learn and how we bring some of that knowledge back to our campus might be of interest. Anyhow, an idea I have been bouncing around.
  • Sidebars: Wordpress, which we use for the library blog, has the option of having pages to go along with the blog. These could be used for various static information elements, which could then be presented in a consistent way.
  • I have thought of book reviews. Ideally, this would work if other librarians and staff who read items, especially from the bestseller collection, would contribute a small review note once in a while to add different voices. As often happens, I have found that gathering that collaboration is a bit challenging. But I am not giving up on the idea yet.
Overall the key idea, for me at least, is of using a blog as flexible and versatile information platform. There is a lot of potential that I still need to explore. The learning continues.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Don't count those encyclopedias out yet.

When I was a kid, probably around 12 or so, one of my favorite books to read at night were the volumes from a yellow cover edition of an encyclopedia. I believe the title was Illustrated World Encyclopedia or other. The articles were pretty easy reading, and I usually learned something new or interesting. One of the entries I remember was the one about "Police" because it had a photo of a police department in the U.S. where the officers did not wear uniforms, but they all wore business clothes (jacket and tie). I found that particular detail fascinating at that age. The encyclopedia's last volume had a section of summaries of great works in literature, which I also found interesting as well. A lot of the allure of that book was that I could just pull out a volume, find an entry that interested me, and read through it, then keep going to the next or browse some more. Those were the days, so to speak, when I was looking for something light to read before bed, that I could just pick up and drop.

Fast forward to today, and I find that I often look for readings that I can pick up and drop. Of course, the reason today is that I have responsibilities, and time is a bit more limited. I still like the idea of reference books. However, it seems that some are ready to declare them dead. Noam Cohen, writing for The New York Times, says to "Start Writing the Eulogies for Print Encyclopedias." He writes that "the classic multivolume encyclopedia is well on its way to becoming the first casualty in the end of print." I have to admit that I have not picked up a volume from something like Britannica to browse in quite a while. I don't think it is the death knell of encyclopedias just yet. They may just have less volumes, or they may streamline some more. The author observes that the biggest clients for these encyclopedias are schools and libraries, and I think that will still be the case. At least for libraries, I think they will still opt to have at least one multivolume encyclopedia. Now, why would they do that in the age of Wikipedia?

  • Well, for one, computers are known to go down every once in a while. Having a general reference work at hand may be desirable then.
  • Often, you can get a quick overview on a topic from one of these volumes. Need some ideas for keywords? Try using the encyclopedia, find the entry for your topic, and see how it is described. Now, you may say, "but I can do it just fine on Wikipedia." And I would say, "maybe, maybe not." It may depend on what is more efficient at the time.
  • The authority question I think is debatable. While there have been reports that Wikipedia may do better against works like Britannica, the final lesson is that you have to evaluate what you read. This is something we should be teaching our patrons no matter what reference tool we use.
  • Serendipity. There is something about looking through the pages of a book that Wikipedia just cannot duplicate. And at this point, not even Kindle can do that (yet).
Are these the most compelling reasons? I am willing to bet that for a good number of my brethren who are ready to bury the print probably not. I will throw one more in: the just in case. This is philosophical on my part, but I think a good ready reference collection should have a good multivolume general encyclopedia in it. Just like we argue that we should have the Statistical Abstract or citation handbooks, or dictionaries, we should have that general reference work as well.

You see, the assumption often is that everything will be online. You can just get it off the Internet. But, will it still be there on the Internet, whatever "it" is? And what happens when formats change, or methods of access? Will it still be there online? And let's not even bring in issues of digital divide and access or lack of access to the Internet? The books will still be there, and as long as people know how to read, they will be accessible. Just a thought.

Cohen describes these encyclopedias as household icons, referring to the ones people would buy for the home. They certainly were icons in my house, where my parents made sure we had a good set or two of reference works handy. Now, some of you out there may get a chuckle at this, assuming you are old enough to remember this, but we did have a couple of reference works we bought volume by volume at the store (it may have been one of the large grocery stores or a department store. This was pre-Walmart people). Now, laugh it up if you wish, but one of the best sets on art history in our house we bought that way. It was published by Salvat, a Spanish company (wow. I googled them and found the link. Seems they publish a few more things these days. I tried finding the Worldcat record for Historia del Arte, and I got a few results; I think this is the right one). Anyhow, those art history volumes were one of my first introductions to classical art from the ancient Greeks to modern art. They had illustrations in color that were pretty good (so good mom worried we ogled at the nudes a bit much. Hey, three teen boys in the house, you figure it out). But it was a big deal when we managed to get the whole set. We also had a encyclopedic Spanish dictionary (same publisher. Salvat pretty much had a monopoly on that market back then). We kept those books for years. My parents only got rid of them when they moved to Texas from Puerto Rico, and mom described that as one of the most painful things she ever did. She is an avid reader and book lover.

Never underestimate what a good encyclopedia can do is all I am saying. Today, I use more online sources. It is the way things are done, but I make it a point to have the ability to use a good print reference work as well. It's a matter of balance. I like to look at it as being able to navigate both worlds, the print and the electronic, knowing when to use each one. And in the end, it may not all be in the encyclopedia, but it is not all online either. So the humble multivolume encyclopedia, once such a regal object in our homes, will remain, just on a smaller scale perhaps. But I don't see it dying anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Poetry Awards and Meeting the Texas Poet Laureate

The library at MPOW held its Annual Student Poetry Awards on April 29, 2008. This was part of the programs for National Poetry Month that we implemented. April was a very busy month for me, and this event is one of the biggest things we put together. I could not have done it without the help of our outreach coordinator, Joanne Buendtner and the generosity of folks like Anne McCrady (link to her blog here). My thanks also go to the 2008 Texas Poet Laureate, Mr. Larry D. Thomas, who delivered the keynote as well as presented the awards. What follows then are my notes and impressions from the event. This is a bit of a long post. If you just want the short version of what happened, you can read the "official" version over at my library's blog here. Otherwise, read on. Any comments I make are in parenthesis.

The event began with a reception and book signing. The library provided a catered table of hors d'oeuvres (provided by Joseph's and underwritten by the local Friends of the Arts). The reception was an opportunity for the audience to meet with Larry Thomas before the event as well as purchase as signed copy of his new book, New and Selected Poems, published by TCU Press as part of their Texas Poet Laureate series. Yes, I got my own copy of the book signed by the author (no, you can't borrow it). During the reception, Thomas describes his work while he talks with guests. He tells us that his poetry is different from cowboy poetry; his is more like folk art. Because he is a native West Texan, some people may think he is a cowboy poet.

I am told that this is the third year where the library brings the current Texas Poet Laureate as part of the Student Poetry Awards (the awards have been going on for longer than three years). Local poet and friend of the library Anne McCrady provided a nice introduction for Mr. Thomas. She described him as an inspiration to her and other poets, a man who wrote poetry during his free time while holding a full time job. Soon after he retired in 1998, Thomas began to publish. McCrady also tells us that his poetry comes from the heart of a visual artist. This is seen in the covers of his books as well as in his poems. Thomas is a poet who is reverent of Texas people, places, and events. He is also a very generous and loving member of the Texas literary community who sees the job of poet laureate as a gift to the people of Texas.

After such a generous introduction, Thomas went right on with the poetry. First, he tells a bit about himself, saying he started with an English bachelor's degree with the intention of eventually becoming a college professor, but life meant a different path for him. (Hmm, English major who eventually ended up doing something else. I love the guy already. Yes, I am an English major and ended up doing something else down the road too). Thomas fell in love with poetry early on. He loved the music of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven." He wanted to keep the beauty of rhythm in poetry.

As a poet, Thomas tells us he is ritualistic; different poets have different rituals. To him, writing poetry is like a worship process. Some of his rituals include:
  • Writing in his own studio.
  • Sitting on a rocker without a cushion to keep a bit of an edge. The slight discomfort keeps him in focus.
  • Always using a fountain pen. The flow of ink is organic and tactile. Lately though, he has composed a couple of poems on the computer.
Thomas goes on to speak about "getting in the zone" for writing (this is applicable to other disciplines). Once you are in the zone, don't waste time. So he goes to his place where poems are born; he does add that some poems should not have been born. Each poem has its own beauty. Thomas likes to say he loves all his books as his children.

He says that inspiration is hogwash. As part of our gift, the creative energy flows continually. Thus poets are light sleepers; they can't quite turn off the images (hmm, this could explain why at times the moments I feel I can't turn writing ideas or images off, especially at night. Either that, or I have a serious anxiety problem. I like his idea better). Thomas adds that writing a poem is like going to the river with an empty cup, and you distill what you get. Yes, it's that easy.

After reflecting on his craft, Thomas goes on to read from his work. He is using the edition of his works published by TCU Press (see link above), which we had available during the book signing.
  • He starts by looking at West Texas with poems like "Wind," "Red Raging Waters," and "The Skull Seller." (A quick peek at the audience reveals they are caught in the performance. I learned a while back that, when looking at a performance, you need to be aware of your space as well, so I took a look around. I was thinking I could have added a note here on the hall itself, which provided a small and intimate space for the event. Maybe later). Thomas's voice cadence goes up and down when evoking the river in "Red Raging Waters." (As I sit there at the moment, caught in the words and music, and even now as I write, I can't quite put it in words. He is just so evocative. His voice seems so reflective of the expansive landscape, or in summoning the image of the woman selling skulls.)
  • Next, he moves on to the Southeast and East Texas with poems like "Neches River" and "Twin Spinsters in Blue." On that second poem, Thomas comments that he likes to write about centenarians; they make him feel in awe, and they inspire him.
  • Moving along to Midland, Texas, and then other poems (these are now quick impressions).
    • "Out of the blue." Look at the image of the cicadas, or are they called katydids here, he asks.
    • "Gabriel."
    • "Of Fathers and Sons." This poem captures a moment in time. Note the voice of the son who overhears the father's praise as father is talking to the mother. Also notice the ending.
    • "Harvest Moon." This an example of a magical moment.
    • "Primary Colors." As he is about to read this one, he checks to see if the audience is thumbing through the book or not to follow along. (Personally, I prefer to listen and look at the poet than read along).
    • "The Night We Were Gods."
    • "Cotton." The poem evokes the picking of cotton. He talked about share farmers and about how they would use cotton in so many different ways.
    • "Apricots." This is a poem that he enjoyed writing. Initially, Thomas did not want to let this poem go, but the poem led to a chapbook. He has eaten many apricots since then. He recalled apricot fried pies made with hog lard and how you had to let them cool (and as I sit there, I have this sudden craving for one of those pies).
After reading and performing his poems, Thomas took questions and comments from the audience. This are some of the remarks I managed to capture:
  • A lot of librarians, according to Thomas, are "closet poets." They love words, and if they love words in higher levels, how can they not be poets?
  • Poetry should be spoken and performed. It is not completed until it is read.
  • Asked about poetry readings, Thomas indicates that there are more opportunities in Houston, which has a vibrant literary scene (note: he currently resides in Houston). Thomas hopes for a renaissance of the spoken word. He asks Anne [McCrady] to comment on this as well. She remarks that it is important for poets to partner with universities and bookstores. (I notice she is taking notes on her notebook as well.)
  • Try breathing sometime. It makes you feel better. Our breaths stay behind, so we breath from others (as they breathe from us--think about it and how it can relate to creating poetry, or creative writing in general).
  • At his best, Thomas attempts to write one poem per page, one complete working draft. A poem is never finished, so you do the best you can. When a draft is finished, leave it aside for a bit. "Sleep on it," he says, only to see it is ugly, and then you get back to work. McCrady confirms that the first draft is like spilling your soul on the page (maybe that is why I find writing so difficult at times. You are spilling your soul, which to me seems like such a vulnerable act). You build the poem after the first draft.
We get to the awards ceremony, where the winners read their pieces as well. For the record, these were our winners this year:

  • First Place: Jesse Florendo for “Japan Sketch #1.”
  • Second Place: Conor Herterich for “”Epitaph.”
  • Third Place: Paige Hayter for “Ode to the Gardenia.”
  • Fourth Place: Carly Thompson for “The Need for a Story.”
  • And honorable mention to Jesse Florendo for “Frankenstein’s Creature Finds Solace.”
The winners received a small trophy or plaque and a signed copy of Thomas's book as well as a photo with the poet laureate. Mr. Thomas was very enthusiastic as he encouraged the young poets to continue writing, hoping to be reading their books in the future. After the event, he stayed for a short while to chat with students and guests a bit more. Afterwards, Anne McCrady, Larry Thomas, and I went for a late dinner (but that may be another story).

Monday, May 12, 2008

Article Note: On Syllabi of Library Skills Classes for Credit

Citation for the article:

Hrycaj, Paul L. "An Analysis of Online Syllabi for Credit-Bearing Library Skills Courses." College and Research Libraries 67.6 (November 2006): 525-535.

Read via WilsonWeb

This is a short article reporting on a study of 100 syllabi. The author found the syllabi using Google. The author does acknowledge that his sample may be smaller because Google would not be able to find everything; for example, Google would not find syllabi locked in course management sites. He looked at the syllabi to see how well they met the ACRL Standards for Information Literacy. The author looked primarily at the content of the syllabi.

He found that issues of information access are the dominant subject of these courses. These are areas where librarians do well as opposed to areas such as critical thinking and logic, which some would argue are outside the scope of what librarians should do. That is something I would disagree with to an extent. While I don't expect to be teaching things like logic, the fact that we are called upon to teach how sources are evaluated and to make good choices when it comes to sources means that we are teaching critical thinking skills. The author writes that instructors of these classes "are concerned about more than just information access and types of information sources" (530). Then again, I am a librarian who favors collaborations with other academic faculty, including embedded librarians in classes. That would provide the opportunity for librarians to be more active in the educational mission of the university. Not that they are not active now, but I am thinking in terms of nurturing good information literacy skills.

The author ends with a call for other areas of research: "But surveys dealing with instruction content and teaching methods administered to instructors of stand-alone library skills courses, as well as instructors involved in collaborations with discipline faculty, would be very welcome for throwing even more light on this subject" (533). So as you see, there is still work to be done.

The article features an appendix listing required textbooks from the syllabi.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Article Note: On "Facebook 2.0"

Citation for the article:

Mitrano, Tracy. "Facebook 2.0." Educause Review March/April 2008: 72-73.

Read online here. See also Mitrano's piece from Cornell here.

I have been using Facebook for a bit of time now (here are some of my previous musings on the topic). I have to admit I have some mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, it is not a bad way to stay in touch with some people, especially people on my campus. On the other hand, the walled garden approach is pretty limiting. The restrictiveness of Facebook as a walled garden is one of the things I have realized as I went ahead and opened a MySpace profile as part of my continuous learning experiments. Readers can find a link to my MySpace on the right hand column of the blog. If you are like me, you may be worried that the page is overloaded with who knows what graphics. Not to worry. I have kept the basic design; I just filled in some information. One thing that I did do was to add some widgets to enhance the profile but doing so in what I hope is a minimal way. Just three items were added: the GoodReads widget, so people know what I am reading; the Jango widget, for music (and no, it does not start blaring when you open the page. That is part of why I used it), and a widget that presents my blogs' feeds. At any rate, the point of this momentary digression is to point out the contrast. Let's get back to the article.

Tracy Mitrano gives us her thoughts on challenges regarding Facebook. The article is a short one, and I think librarians as well as higher ed. administrators may want to look it over. All the points she makes are important, but for me, what made me think was the idea of user education. According to Ms. Mitrano, we need user education when it comes to Facebook for both teens and their parents. And I think libraries should be at the forefront of providing that education. This is so given our unique position in our communities as places of access and information. Many people come to learn about computers and the online world at their libraries. And even those who are pretty savvy can still use a lesson or two now and then. We are experts in this domain, and we should sharing that expertise. Maybe in some way that is why I have gone ahead and made profiles in social networking sites. If I am going to teach others about how to be safe and have a good time, I probably should have at least a passing acquaintance with the tools. We need to get in. It does not mean we have to be intrusive, but having a presence can be beneficial to our learning as well as interacting with users. I have not quite shaped this thought through just yet.

Anyhow, here are some highlights from the article, or things that caught my attention:

  • "For teen-agers, the emergence of 'helicopter' parents has no doubt driven adolescents deeper into technological zones that are generally out of their parents' hovering view" (72). As a parent, I have wondered about this. So far, we do supervise closely when our daughter is online, but she does go now and then to friends' houses, and I am not sure their parents may or not be as vigilant. The point is she will be out of our eye at one point or another. That's where the parenting, talking to your kids, and having a good relationship with the kids pays off. There is an element of trust.
  • "Unless an individual is particularly at risk, invading a teen-ager's space is not the solution" (72). This is hard, but it should be obvious. Invade their space without cause, and you drive them deeper underground, so to speak. Notice I said without cause. If there is a significant concern or risk, as a parent you have to do whatever it takes to protect your kid, even if it means invading their space. They may hate you for it initially, but they will be safe. That is what a parent should be doing. But only if absolutely necessary. If you did you job, you should not need to go raid your kid's space (see my point in the previous paragraph on trust).
  • The solution? "But learning more about those spaces--how they operate, who is on them, and most important, how to talk about their social dynamics-- is recommended. Parents can only do that effectively if they educate themselves about both the technology and the sociology of the Internet" (72). There is no substitute for learning, and I mean learning. Yet another hysterical report on CNN about some cyberbully is not the way to learn about these spaces. There is no excuse for a parent to say that a kid knows more about computers than they do, and therefore they can't do anything about it. Nope. Not acceptable. You are a parent. Educate yourself. You should know where your kid is hanging out and with who; this is more important in the online world where anyone can portray themselves in any way or form. If need be, get yourself a MySpace or other social profile. Not so much to go looking for your kid. Use it so you can learn how it works and the dynamics of the space.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Article Note: On Guerrilla Marketing and Information Services

Citation for the article:

Baltes, Guido and Isabell Leibing, "Guerrilla Marketing for Information Services?" New Library World 109.1/2 (2008): 46-55.

Read it via Emerald.

This is another article that explores the idea of guerrilla marketing in our field. I wrote about another article on this topic here. I picked this up because, given my role in outreach, I figured it might be useful. We need all the marketing and promotional help we can get, and I am always looking for ideas. This article is a basic overview of the guerrilla marketing concept. It does have some practical idea, but it is a bit more theoretical when compared to the one I read previously. However, I think those who work in outreach for libraries should probably take a look at it.

Some of the highlights or things I noted:

  • The definition used in the article: "The term 'guerrilla marketing' describes unconventional marketing campaigns and/or strategies which should have a significant promotional effect--this at a fraction of the budget that 'traditional' marketing campaigns would spend for the same goal (Patalas, 2006)" (46). That is the crucial idea: that you are doing something unconventional that catches the eye and costs less. This is probably the type of technique that smaller places with limited budgets should be exploring more. The authors here ask if these strategies would be effective alternatives for information services.
  • "Guerrilla marketing is--amongst other things--based on marketing the implicit attributes of products or services rather than their explicit, functional aspects. Rather than introducing the product itself, by introducing the idea that comes with it, it addresses the emotional ideology bound up with the product" (49).
  • In discussing how to consider features to emphasize, they use the example of Business Source Complete; however, this would likely work with any database (at least any within EBSCO's list). The point that caught my eye on this is their discussion of the link resolver, the link we usually put on our databases when an article is not full-text in order to see if a different database has it. The authors describe this as a feature that reduces cost of use because it provides convenience. However, for it to work, it has to be presented clearly. How many times do librarians get a frustrated patron who click on such a link (call it LinkSource, or what have you), only to get to some intermediate screen they have no idea what to do with? More than I can count in my case, which makes my point that I don't think there is that much cost reduction if you are increasing the annoyance factor of your user. This would mean a reduction in quality of experience, which is something that marketers would be interested in emphasizing. The authors write, "however, it actually seems reasonable to question whether services that offer positive costs of use but negative quality of experience will compete or survive well in the business environment" (52).
  • "There is also an additional and very basic further argument for applying marketing strategies to information services--what you do not know you cannot use. That means that before any information services can be effective, user knowledge of its existence has to be established within the relevant target group. Assuming that for any information service alternative services may be available a further argument arises--the benefits of using the service have to be communicated to the relevant target group in order to enable decisions in favour of using the service (instead of existing alternatives)" (52).
    • I have been saying the line about you can't use what you do not know about for years now in one form or another. It's a big reason that drives my passion for instruction because instruction is one of the ways in which we let the students know what is available, and we can show them that there are better options that just googling it.
    • A lot of that paragraph in the article has been seen in a few of the articles, and a good number of blog posts in library bloglandia where people either extol the wonders of Google or decry that it makes students lazy (or insert other adjective here to convey student lack of research skills). It is always going to be a matter of education. Marketing is a tool of education in this case.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Article Note: On Underground Rock Sources

Citation for the article:

Wagner, Cassie and Elizabeth Stephan. "Left of the Dial: An Introduction to Underground Rock: 1980-2000." Music Reference Services Quarterly 9.4 (2005): 43-75.

Read via Interlibrary Loan (from the cover sheet, looks like Texas Christian U. sent it).

This article is a short history of the underground rock movement from 1980 to 2000. It basically gives a short overview, then it looks at specific acts of the era. In addition, the authors then recommend the best recordings for librarians to acquire for their libraries. In essence, this is a primer article. It is meant to help librarians who may not be as knowledgeable on this topic to get a sense of the topic and get a list of works. The authors state that they "examine what we consider 21 of the most influential and important American bands to record between 1980 and 2000" (45). Now this is significant, among other reasons, because in the groups, "we see the seeds of many of today's common genres--alternative rock, indie rock, twee pop, punk, emo, slowcore, alt country, and post punk" (45). The groups discussed are:

  • Bad Brains
  • Beat Happening
  • Big Black
  • Bikini Kill
  • Black Flag
  • Camper Van Beethoven
  • Dead Kennedys
  • Fugazi
  • Galaxie 500
  • Hüsker Dü
  • Melvins
  • Minor Threat
  • Minutemen
  • Mission to Burma
  • Pixies
  • R.E.M.
  • The Replacements
  • Sleater-Kinney
  • Sonic Youth
  • Throwing Muses
  • Uncle Tupelo
Depending on the artist, the authors recommend one to three recordings on average. Keep in mind that these were acts that did a lot of their own work, including the recordings. Also,

"Younger music fans listening to these bands may think they sound ordinary, that they sound like much of what is being played on the radio today, but what they do not realize is just how revolutionary they were. When they were playing for small audiences in tiny basement clubs, they were changing the musical landscape. The times have simply caught with them, sometimes more than 20 years after the bands' demises. Listening to these albums now resembles a trip back up an evolutionary path. From these records, a listener can discover where today's bands learned their trade" (73).

If you are looking to add some music from an era that influenced a lot of the music you hear now, then you want to keep this list handy.