Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Blog Day 2008

Blog Day 2008

I barely made it this year. What between the holiday weekend and the fact that I have been busy as heck. But I could not disappoint, so here are my five choices this year for Blog Day 2008. This is now my third year participating. To readers and bloggers here and around the world, a happy Blog Day!

  • In the librarianship realm, Director Who is one I just recently discovered. Get some library insights from a library director.
  • Also in the librarianship front, the Academic Librarian is a thoughtful, well, academic librarian in one of those larger research universities. When he write, I know I can count on something substantial, thoughtful, and well written.
  • When it comes to books, Paulo Coehlo is one of my favorite writers. I recently added his blog to my reader. There is always a little something interesting. I also follow Neil Gaiman's Journal among the authors I like.
  • Finally one from the world of science. Dr. P.Z. Myers writes a popular blog, Pharyngula. When he is not explaining how biology and evolution works, he is busy railing against those who would pretty much replace science with religion (disguised as something called "creationism"). Worth a look.
(Crossposted to The Itinerant Librarian).

(the Technorati tag)

Friday, August 29, 2008

On looking for a feed reader again

Let's be direct: I am sick and tired of Bloglines' consistent poor performance. I would say now that for the last two months or so, the site has been slow, sluggish, and just plain dysfunctional. One of these things usually happens:

  • The site does not log the user in: When you go the log in page, the site simply freezes up and does not move forward. Refreshing the page or closing and opening the browser again does not fix it either.
  • The site will log you in, but then the feeds do not load up: Basically what it says: you get logged in, but the feeds drag in loading, if they ever do.
  • If you manage to get the feed lists loaded, feeds do not load into the reading pane. This is another annoyance. Click on the feed for any blog, then Bloglines simply sits there chugging along, failing to load any new feeds.
I have tried the beta version as well as the classic version. In fact, the beta, which initially seemed a good improvement, has simply gotten to the point where it is painful trying to load it. I don't know if it is just that the company put too many bells and whistles on the thing, but the fact is I had to simply give up on it. I went back to the classic version, and that is the one now that is not working either. Since a lot of my work does depend on keeping up with various feeds, this meant it is time for me, with regret, to move on and try to find something else. The only regret is because I had a few folders of clippings in Bloglines that I can't seem to export, but hey, you have to break an egg or two to make the omelet. I will just lose them and start again. Think of it as spring cleaning (only in the fall).

So, I am starting to use Google Reader. I had, whether in a smart move or not I leave to my two readers to decide, exported all my feeds over to Google Reader. I did it mostly as an experiment when people started talking about Google's feed reader. I wanted to take a look at the tool. I looked at it briefly, thought it was ok, but went back to Bloglines. However, now I am glad that I did do the exporting because I can move over with some ease; it's on the same account that this blog is on, so it could make some things more convenient. We'll see on that. I am going to be spending some time learning what the Google Reader can do. I hear some people talk about sharing feeds and so on. I am not that big on that aspect, to be honest, but I will look at it. As long as I can find a way to put some items aside (clips), and I can read my feeds in a timely fashion, that is all I care about. As you two readers of mine can see, I am a fairly simple guy. I don't need much, just enough to do what I need to do.

One thing I do wonder about this Friday morning as I am typing this between patrons while at the reference desk is what to recommend to people. I have been wanting to put together a little workshop or maybe a guide on feeds and using a reader to keep up. A lot of people out there I have seen often recommend Bloglines as a nice tool for a beginner. Hey, at the time I started out, it worked for me. But given the consistently poor performance I have been experiencing (and it does not matter what browser you use. I am Firefox guy, but even in IE does Bloglines fail), I would not recommend anyone use Bloglines. But I can't recommend Google's tool just yet. I feel like I have a bit of a learning curve on it, so I will let you two know when I learn a bit more.

On an aside, I do have a Newsgator account. It's the one I use for newspapers and magazines mostly (i.e. stuff I don't have to read right away). I don't use it often enough, but it has a feature or two I like. For example, right-clicking on a feed's name to mark it as all read without having to open the feed itself in the reading pane is very nice in my humble estimation.

So, in the end, I am going to do what we librarians do best: I am going to learn and do some research. I am going to give Google Reader a good shake and learn some of the other features it offers. That would not only be good for me, but it may help me help others down the road. And two, I am going to research and see about other feed readers out there. You got any recommendations (web based preferable, since I read feeds at work and at home), feel free to leave it in the comments.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Article Note: On blending IL and English Composition

Citation for the article:

Sult, Leslie and Vicki Mills. "A Blended Method for Integrating Information Literacy Instruction into Composition Classes." Reference Services Review 34.3 (2006): 368-388.

Read via Emerald.

This article discusses how information literacy instruction was incorporated into composition classes at the University of Arizona. This is a large scale operation, and thus it is unlike the smaller settings I have experienced in my work; my library school's campus would probably be closer to Arizona. The need for this program arises mostly from the fact that librarians cannot do everything on their own, and that they are often overstretched and understaffed (sounds like the story of our lives). The basic idea is that the composition instructors do the primary information literacy instruction, with support and facilitation from the librarians. While some librarians may wonder if they are relinquishing too much in such a situation, the article does address the concern.

For me, this is another article that highlights the similarities between writing and research. To reinforce that point the authors compare the Council of Writing Program Administrators outcomes for first year writing with the ACRL standards for information literacy. In reading the table provided in the article, one can see the similarities. I think this can certainly be useful as a bargaining chip when instruction librarians go out to promote their programs in composition units.

The article then goes on to describe the program and how it was implemented. It includes a table with learning outcomes and who (librarian or teacher or both) is responsible for an outcome or another. The librarians also work on training the teachers, and they provide other forms of support such as online guides. I think all this works when you have a large scale program, but it does take the librarian away from direct student contact. Well, at least to the high level of student contact I have been used to, which I actually like. On a smaller scale, some of the ideas in the article can be applicable. I was thinking that, in my case, I could use some of the elements from the online guide list of topics provided as ideas for enhancements to our LibGuides or for some library blog posts along with our usual instruction. Food for thought.

In essence, this article is an example of a "how we did it" LIS article. Another article looking at some of the ideas discussed is Holliday and Fagerheim from 2007. See my note on that one here. I found the 2007 one more useful for me as an individual practitioner.