Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Article Note: On students and out-of-classroom support

Citation for the article:

Jones, Adam C. "The Effects of Out-of-Class Support on Student Satisfaction and Motivation to Learn." Communication Education 57.3 (July 2008): 373-388.

Read via EBSCO EJS Service.

This article deals with the topic of out-of-classroom support for college students and how it can affect their satisfaction and motivation. According to the article, a lot of the research in communication studies has focused on interactions inside the classroom, and this article adds to the literature by looking at interactions outside of the classroom. For me, I think this is a little bit of validation for some of my experiences in working with students, especially applicable to my previous workplace where I did fairly extensive work with individual students. It may also be good to look at the article in light of some of the literature on retention, which I have looked at previously.

Some general notes from the article:

  • "An increasing body of research points to social support as a means for improving immediate outcomes of stressed individuals (Burleson and MacGeorge, 2002)" (qtd. in 374). This is in the literature review part, and it is in the context of pointing out how stress can have a negative impact on students' psychological and physical health.
  • "The researchers concluded that perceived qualities such as kindness, compassion, and helpfulness, along with teacher humor orientation, promote teacher-student conversations that extend to issues beyond the specifics of course assignments and information" (374).
  • The study reported in this article seeks to learn how teachers that use out-of-classroom support (OCS) affect students' experiences.
  • The definition of OCS: "OCS is defined in this study as as teacher communication, occurring outside of the classroom setting, that demonstrates a responsiveness to students' needs; communicates caring; validates students' worth, feelings or actions; and helps students manage and cope with stressful situations through the provision of information, assistance, or tangible resources" (375).
  • 594 undergraduates enrolled in basic communication courses and one upper division course participated in the study by completing a voluntary questionnaire. They answered questions about six different scenarios that controlled for levels of OCS. Readers can look at the article for details on how the author controlled for the scenarios.
Some of the findings:
  • Similar to results in other studies about communication for young people, "students are also more satisfied after interacting with teachers who communicate OCS in response to students seeking help" (382).
  • "Teachers may take solace in knowing that neither their own sex nor their students' sex interferes with or contributes to their ability to benefit from social support opportunities" (383). In plain English, gender was not a significant predictor for OCS results.
  • However, there is the caveat that teachers are not expected to be counselors or psychologists. They need to know when to refer students to other appropriate campus resources as needed. Yet do keep in mind that teachers are often the first line of defense, so to speak. Note: "Teachers' use of OCS may allow students to feel more comfortable and more connected to their teachers and to their academic institutions, affecting their persistence in school" (383).
  • A limitation of the study was that it was not very ethnically or racially diverse. 89% of participants were identified as Caucasian.
  • Like much of the pedagogical endeavor, there can be some risks. For students, they may be reluctant to seek OCS if they perceive a teacher is not supportive, or if they feel asking for help can be seen by others as weakness or incompetence. For the teacher, providing OCS for one student could be perceived by others as preferential treatment, so a teacher might be reluctant to act. Some teachers may be sceptical about a students' need (for example, do they really need an extension on an assignment for a valid reason?). However, I think the research bears out that the outcomes outweight the risks.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Article Note: On efficacy of embedded librarians

Citation for the article:

Bowler, Meagan and Kori Street. "Investigating the efficacy of embedment: experiments in information literacy integration." Reference Services Review 36.4 (2008): 438-449.

Read via Emerald.

This caught my attention because we have been talking about embedding librarians in our Blackboard course management system (CMS). At the moment, our nursing liaison does some embedding with his nursing students, and it is something that our instruction/de librarian is interested in exploring further. So this article came to me in a timely fashion. If nothing else, it should provide some additional evidence that embedding librarians in courses works. The authors investigated different levels of embedment in seven different courses. Students from those classes were assessed for their IL skills through a rubric that was part of a research assignment. As usual, some short notes with comments:

  • The obstacle we often face: "Despite a growing body of research suggesting that 'one-off' sessions are not the most effective way to integrate IL into the classroom, many faculty members are reluctant to 'give up' time to anything more than a general introductory session because they are often unwilling to 'lose' discipline content or give up 'control' in the classroom (Julien and Given, 2002/2003; Julien and Boon, 2002)" (qtd. in 438). Ah, the eternal struggle to convince many faculty members that they can actually gain something when they allow us into their classes. Their students might learn better research skills and thus write better papers if they gave us more than the cursory session.
  • The basic finding (or the bottom line): "The results of our experiments confirm these findings: when information literacy is embedded consciously and conspicuously, and emphasized as a specialized and specific component of the course, students' performance improves in real terms" (439).
  • A definition of embedded librarian: ". . .when used in the IL context, the term is referring to purposeful collaborations between librarians and teaching faculty where the librarian is more fully integrated into a course, virtual or real, than is customarily the case with 'one'off' IL integration (Shumaker and Tyler, 2007)" (qtd. in 439). For instance, in my case, I used to do some of this when I worked with classes online in Houston. I provided research advice and assistance to students online, and I took part in some of their discussions. In one case, I was presented to the class as a class assistant (teaching assistant), which did give me some additional credibility, thus making the embed work. The idea, which is what the authors of this article aim for, is that the librarian is embedded in a conscious and clear manner.
  • Note that the article provides a useful table with an spectrum of embedment, which can be used for reference purposes.
  • Another obstacle: "Among the obstacles in all these experiment[s] is the issue of resourcing. We have been fortunate that the academic discipline has been willing to 'buy' the time of the librarian. Too often, however, this is not the case. Embedment without adequate resourcing will not be sustainable and it can confirm what professors already thing--that librarians are at the institution to provide a service, particularly in terms of research, and do not appropriately belong in 'their' classrooms. IL education absolutely belongs in the academic classroom of the undergraduate institutions and specialists, librarians, belong in the classroom teaching it" (447; emphasis added).

Friday, January 09, 2009

Article Note: On meeting academic needs for information

Citation for the article:

Saunders, E. Stewart. "Meeting Academic Needs for Information: A Customer Service Approach." portal: Libraries and the Academy 8.4 (2008): 357-371.

Read via Project Muse.

This article deals with the results of a LibQual+ survey done at Purdue University. We just completed LibQual+ for this year here, so I had a bit more interest in reading this article as a result. One of the things that really caught my eye was the article's main assertion: ". . .that libraries are in the business of providing information resources and that users are the judges of those resources" (367). In other words, the emphasis, what a library should be doing, is providing the information resources that students need in order for them to meet their academic needs. Whether the library is "pretty" or spacious or has a lot of fancy furniture is not as relevant, even though this is something currently assessed in the survey. It certainly was something our director observed upon when she looked at our results; a lot of the comments were about the building and the space, not all complimentary. And while I am all for a nice and neat space, at the end of the day, we cannot forget that the library has an educational mission. Our business is to provide information, do it better than Google, and support the education of students. Aesthetic enhancements are nice, but if they do not support the educational mission, then the library is not better than a food court.

Here are then some highlights from the article:

  • "This paper argues that libraries are in the business of providing the books, articles, and documents that contain the information needed by the user. All operations and resources in the library should support this key goal" (357).
  • The author considers the fact that information resources, especially online materials, are the major cost factor in libraries today. Many libraries are shifting more and more of their budgets in that direction. So, in a sense, the provision of information resources could not be better. Yet patrons want more now than the resources and librarians. They want the computers, and they want the study spaces.
  • There is a difference between what librarians often see about their library and what the students see. We see for the most part the units of the library (circulation, reference, cataloguing, etc.). The kids just see the books, the online resources, and the computers along with the building (the parts of the building they see). They see the collections as well as the space where the collection is kept. An out-of-date unattractive collection will probably ellicit responses from students that the building and library may not be as relevant to them in meeting their needs, for instance.
  • "A service industry can only be judged by the quality of the service provided" (358). We provide materials, but we also provide a service, and we are then judged by those two things: the resources we provide and the service we have to support those resources we provide.
  • Overall, quality service is still important. "If academic libraries are to differentiate themselves from Google, they must do so by providing a quality of information service that the competition cannot match" (359). Again, this is the human element, which is something I have pondered once or twice before.
  • I thought this was a provocative question, since it seems to go against a lot of the library literature and what a good number of the L2 bloggers say. The author writes: "However, should improving overall patron satisfaction be the goal of the library? If the primary mission of the library is to provide the information resources needed by the user and, thereby, meet the competition from the Internet, then should not the goal of the library be to improve satisfaction with this particular part of our operation? If that is the case, the other aspects of the library's operation should be viewed in terms of how they can improve the information sources" (360).
  • "The way respondents evaluate the access mechanisms of the library is a strong predictor of how they will evaluate the information resources of the library" (363).
  • What does the author mean by access mechanisms? "The access mechanisms are those reflected in the survey questions related to the variable access, that is, well-designed library Web pages, up-to-date computers with good functionality, ease of off-campus access, intuitive databases, and so on" (363, italics in the original).
  • "What does this mean for library policy? Patrons who have high opinion of the access mechanisms tend to have a high opinion of the library's information sources" (367). So the author asks if more investment in this regard would entice the low satisfaction people to have a higher satisfaction level. It would seem that if there is a causal effect, and the author says it is reasonable to that there is, then investing more in things like better Web pages should yield a higher return in satisfaction when it comes to information needs.
  • On the other hand, the author seems to go against a lot of the conventional wisdom which argues for more investment in things like staff training or better facilities. He writes that "investment in improved library facilities and better staff training, on the other hand, will probably have little effect on the evaluation of information sources" (367). Readers have to keep in mind the original argument the author is making: that libraries core business is information resources. Libraries seeking to improve overall satisfaction of the users (more along the lines of making them happy and giving them what they want) will emphasize other areas such as spaces. At the end of the day, the key question is: what is the mission of the library? What exactly is it supposed to do?

Friday, January 02, 2009

My Reading List for 2008

The new year is a good time to look over at what I read in 2008. I enjoy putting together the list of what I have read and taking a look at any patterns, so it will be something I will continue in 2009. As I type this, I can say I already finished the first book of 2009. It seems I am off to a decent start. As I noted last year, finding good graphic novels to read here in Tyler is a challenge. Mangas are particularly difficult; even Barnes and Noble's selection here is so-so, but the occasional trip out of town usually remedies that. I have bought a few more graphic novels and mangas than I usually would, but I suppose that is alright in order to read a format and genre I enjoy. I am pretty much not using the public library here, which also noted before, is pretty dismal when it comes to current popular selections (and no graphic novels, which I noted last year). I may find one, maybe two things in Tyler PL, but overall, I am relying a lot more on my university's ILL to get things we may not have that I want to read but not buy. I have to give a shout-out then to my ILL librarian who manages to come through for me.

The big event for me this year was my mother's passing in December. Mom was a big reader. I always remember her reading a book. She always encouraged her boys to read. Of the three brothers, I am the only one who really got into the reading habit. I could not thank her enough for that (and for a lot of other things). Isabel Allende was one of her favorites, along with other Latin American masters like Vargas Llosa and García Márquez, writers I enjoy as well. So was Agatha Christie, which she read in Spanish translation. Later on, she favored the works of Paulo Coehlo. My last gift for her was Coehlo's La Quinta Montaña (The Fifth Mountain). I do not know if she finished it, but she did mention starting to read it as she remarked to me about that book I got her being about the prophet Elijah. I am sure that a part of heaven will have a good library for her, much as Borges envisioned.

Here then is the list for 2008. Unless it is readily apparent, I will make little notes like specify if something is a graphic novel (if it is not readily apparent) or part of a series. Books with an asterisk are books I reread, something I am trying to track this time around. I will put the little stats with some comments at the end. There are not many reviews in the blog because I have been using GoodReads to keep track of my reading. It allows me to keep a list, and I make my review comments over there as I finish a book. There is a link to my GR profile on the side column of my blogs, and it is also visible in Facebook (if you happen to be on FB as well). Pretty much, unless a book is special, or I make a lot of notes about it, I just make the note on GR. It's easy for me at least, and right now, I find that I need things to be a bit easier.

Here goes:

  • Andrew Helfer, Ronald Reagan: A Graphic Biography.
  • Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones.*
  • Jay Leno, Headlines.*
  • Jay Leno, More Headlines.*
  • Kurt Luchs, Leave the Gun, Take the Canoli: A Wiseguy's Guide to the Workplace.*
  • Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a Young Teacher.
  • Patricia H. Fisher, Blueprint for Your Library Marketing Plan: A Guide to Help You Survive and Thrive.
  • Jay Leno, Headlines III: Not the Movie, Still the Book.*
  • Grant Morrison, Batman: Gothic.
  • Adam Horowitz, The Dumbest Moments in Business History.
  • David Weinberger, Everything is Miscellaneous.
  • Jay Leno, Headlines IV: The Next Generation.*
  • Bill Maher, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer.
  • Keith Olbermann, Truth and Consequences: Special Comments on the Bush Administration's War on American Values.
  • Brian Thomsen, Tales of Ravenloft (Ravenloft).
  • Drew Rausch, The Dark Goodbye, Vol. 1.
  • Thich Naht Hanh, Taming the Tiger Within.
  • John Wagner, A History of Violence.
  • Scott Adams, All Dressed Down and Nowhere to Go (Dilbert)
  • Michael Reaves and Steve Perry, Death Star (Star Wars).
  • J. Michael Straczynski, Doctor Strange: Beginnings and Endings.
  • Anthony Bourdain, No Reservations.
  • Steve Perry and Stephani Perry, Prey (Alien vs. Predator).
  • Larry L. Hardesty, ed., Role of the Library in the First College Year.
  • Peter David, Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four.
  • Mickey Spillane, I, The Jury.
  • Derek Bok, Our Underachieving Colleges.

  • Steven D. Price, 1001 Dumbest Things Ever Said.
  • Josh Blaylock, G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 1.
  • Alan Moore, V for Vendetta.
  • Lisa A. Ennis, Government Documents Librarianship: A Guide for the Neo-Depository Era.
  • Elaina Norlin, Usability Testing for Library Websites.
  • Susan Gibbons, The Academic Library and the Net Gen Student.
  • Mark Millar, Ultimate Annuals, Vol. 1 (Marvel)
  • Mark Youngblood Herring, Fool's Gold: Why the Internet Is No Substitute for a Library.
  • Lou Hudson, Speak Texan in 30 Minutes or Less.*
  • Mark Millar: The Ultimates, Vol. 1: Super-Human.
  • Clamp, Legal Drug, Vol. 1.
  • Robert Wilder, Tales from the Teachers' Lounge.
  • Carole Cable: Cable on Academe.*

April (This was an extremely bad month for reading. I was very busy with work. That I managed to finish anything was amazing.):

  • Paulo Coehlo, Life: Selected Quotations.
  • Wayne W. Dyer, Living the Wisdom of the Tao.
  • Lou Dobbs, Independents Day.


  • Beverly Kaye, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay.
  • Jimmy Gray and Justin Palmiotti, The Hills Have Eyes: The Beginning.
  • Guy Delisle, Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea.
  • Michael Eric Dyson, Is Bill Cosby Right?
  • Helen Thomas, Watchdogs of Democracy.
  • Barbara Pachter, The Jerk with the Cell Phone.
  • Melissa L. Rossi, What Every American Should Know About the Rest of the World.
  • Karl Shaw, 5 People Who Died During Sex and 100 Other Terribly Tasteless Lists.
  • Osama Bin Laden, Messages to the World.
  • Akira Yoshida, Elektra: The Hand.
  • Henry Beard, X-treme Latin: Unleash Your Inner Gladiator.*


  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragons of Autumn Twilight (Dragonlance Chronicles, Book 1).
  • Donald T. Phillips, Lincoln on Leadership.
  • Paulo Coehlo, Veronika Decide Morir.
  • Kurt Busiek et. al., Conan Volume 1: The Frost Giant's Daughter and Other Stories.
  • Grant Morrison, Batman and Son.
  • Clint Willis, The I Hate Republicans Reader.
  • Alton Brown, Feasting on Asphalt: The River Run.
  • Mark Millar, Wanted.


  • Alan Moore, Batman: The Killing Joke.
  • George Soros, The Bubble of American Supremacy.
  • Jules Verne, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.
  • Stuart Shea, Rock and Roll's Most Wanted.
  • Alan Moore, Watchmen.
  • Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting With Jesus.
  • Scott Walter, ed., The Teaching Library.


  • Mark James Estren, A History of Underground Comics.
  • Harold Rabinowitz and Rob Kaplan, eds., A Passion for Books.
  • David Michaels, Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell.
  • Geoff Johns, Infinite Crisis.
  • Xenophon, The Expedition of Cyrus.
  • Mark Verheiden, Predator: Cold War (graphic novel).
  • John Ney Reiber, Captain America, Volume 3: Ice.
  • Charlie Huston, Ultimate Annuals, Volume 2 (Marvel).
  • Grant Morrison, Batman: The Resurrection of Ra's Al Ghul.
  • Ben Jacobs, The Quotable Book Lover.*
  • Mario Puzo, The Sicilian.*
  • Matt Taibbi, The Great Derangement.
  • Min-Woo Hyung, Priest, Vol. 1.

  • John M. Budd, Self-Examination: The Present and Future of Librarianship.
  • Texas Edition I Didn't Know That Almanac 2007 (Cool Springs Press).
  • Elizabeth Royte, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It.
  • Min-Woo Hyung, Priest, Vol.2.
  • Jack Cafferty, It's Getting Ugly Out There.
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic.
  • Pete Blackshaw, Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000.
  • Stuart Kelly, The Book of Lost Books.
  • Greg Palast, Armed Madhouse.


  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween. *
  • Min-Woo Hyung, Priest, Vol. 3.
  • Suu Minazuki, Judas, Vol. 1.
  • Satoshi Shiki, Kami-Kaze, Vol. 1.
  • Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman, Dragons of Winter Night (Dragonlance Chronicles, Book 2).
  • Douglas Cook, Practical Pedagogy for Library Instructors.
  • Frank Miller, Frank Miller's Robocop.
  • Sean Williams, Star Wars: The Force Unleashed.
  • Alan Moore, Promethea, Book 1.
  • Alex Ross et. al., Clive Barker's Hellraiser: Collected Best, Vol. 1.
  • Peter Normanton, Mammoth Book of Best Horror Comics.
  • Paulo Coehlo, Manual del Guerrero de la Luz.
  • Jonathan Kozol, The Shame of the Nation.
  • David Hine, District X Vol. 1: Mr. M.
  • Alan Brine, Continuing Professional Development: A Guide for Information Professionals.
  • Dan Slott, She-Hulk, Vol. 1: Single Green Female.
  • M. Sandra Wood, Introduction to Health Sciences Librarianship.
  • Dan Slott, She-Hulk, Vol. 2: Superhuman Law.
  • Timothy W. Ryback, Hitler's Private Library.
December (Given the chaos of this month, it is a miracle I managed to finish any books. I did manage to finish just one more in time for the end of the year):
  • Sandy Mitchell, Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium.

The numbers then (for those who may be interested):

  • Total of books read in 2008: 111 (talk about a nice number). Out of these, 12 were books I reread.
  • Total books read in 2007: 85 (the 2007 list)
  • Total books read in 2006: 106 (the 2006 list)
  • Total books read in 2005: 73
I have to admit that I was a bit surprised that I managed to read more in 2008.
  • Number of books read in the worst month of 2008: 1 (This was December, and it was a miracle I managed given what was going on. However, this one book was one of the best I read this year).
  • Number of books read in the best month: 14 (January. I also did a lot of my rereading this month).
  • Fiction: 49. As before, graphic novels and mangas fall under fiction, unless they happen to be memoirs. Memoirs and similar I would include with nonfiction.
  • Nonfiction: 62. This time around nonfiction won out. This is the first year since I have been keeping track where nonfiction comes ahead. For one, it was an election year, and I did try to read a bit more in current affairs in order to feel better informed. As usual, I read a few library science books. I will say on those that I was not terribly impressed overall. The Ennis on GovDocs librarianship stood out for me, but overall, library science writing is pretty much lukewarm. This does not surprise me. The lukewarm nature of library literature, to put it mildly, is not a new phenomenon.
  • Graphic novels and comics: 32. By comics, I mean what most people define as such, things like works published by Marvel and DC Comics. These count as graphic novels usually, but I mention it to distinguish from other works like Bechdel's Fun Home or Helfer's on Ronald Reagan. The distinction is mostly for me. Graphic novels continue to be a favorite genre for me. I continue to discover many well written works with good quality in terms of storylines and art. In some cases, the works are much better, and in some cases much more literary, than anything out there (i.e. the regular text works). If you are not taking a look at graphic novels, you are missing out on a big part of the reading experience overall. This includes mangas as well.
  • Mangas: 7. This is the first year I am actually listing the total number of these. I have been acquiring more during the past year, and they are waiting to be read. My daughter is a big reader of these. The Naruto series is one of her favorites. Personally, I tend to prefer my mangas with more adult themes, and some of the ones I read do carry the parental advisories they add here in the States. Don't let that deter you (while some works can be graphic due to violence or sex, actually, some of those with advisories are very tame, which makes me wonder how accurate the labels can be). Some of those are among the best works I have read. Now and then I do read some mangas that fall under the young adult label, and I have been known to look into things my daughter suggests. Overall, the nice thing about mangas is that there is a genre for every reader: from romance to horror to adventure and humor, and even some more adult themes, you can find it all. I think this, the variety, has a lot to do with the format's popularity. All I know is they make some very good reading.
And now what everyone is waiting for, my favorites of 2008. I read a lot of good things this year, so picking favorites was a bit hard. Anyhow, these are ones that, if I could, I would really try to put in your hands:

  • Keith Olbermann, Truth and Consequences. This is a collection of his special commentaries on Bush and the War on Terror. Definitely a must read right before the election.
  • J. Michael Straczynski, Doctor Strange: Beginnings and Endings. I picked this up on the basis of the author, also known for the series Babylon 5 (one of my favorites). A retelling of Doctor Strange's origin, but in the hands of this author, it is very well done.
  • Peter David, Marvel 1602: Fantastick Four.
  • Akira Yoshida, Elektra: The Hand.
  • Mark Millar, Wanted. This was definitely one of the best I read this year. I have not seen the movie, but from the previews I know it can't be all that good. No way Ms. Jolie can play The Fox as the character is presented in the graphic novel (no matter how hard Jolie tries). I will probably rent the movie anyhow just for curiosity.
  • Alan Moore, Watchmen. If there is such a thing as having a reading event, this was it for me. This work is simply amazing, and it truly immerses the reader. It is indeed an example of what can be accomplished with a graphic novel: it is very literate; it has great art, great characters, and a lot of substance with the action. This is one that needs to be reread, and you will still discover new things.
  • Alan Moore, V for Vendetta. I read a lot more Moore this year. This is another excellent work. As often the case, the movie barely gives it fair due.
  • Joe Bageant, Deer Hunting with Jesus. I recommend this one to everyone I see. If you want to really understand the dynamics of certain red areas in the country, you need to be reading this. Another pre-election must read.
  • Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic. All I will say is that this was a very moving work. Another fine example of the best graphic novels can offer.
  • Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, Batman: The Long Halloween. I reread this during the last week of October, in time for Halloween. It is definitely one of my all time favorites, and while you don't have to read it for Halloween, it is a great read for that season.
  • Sandy Mitchell, Ciaphas Cain: Hero of the Imperium. I have a new hero, and his name is Ciaphas Cain, regimental commissar. This is one of the most pleasant reading discoveries I have made in a long time. It has a great blend of humor and military scifi. Don't let the fact it is part of a series, the Warhammer 40,000 in this case, deter you. This one is worth it. If you like rogues and sly characters who still manage to be heroes and do the right thing, you will like this. Also, it makes a good introduction to the WH 40K universe. I know I will be reading more of this series, and others in the WH 40K universe, soon.