Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Webinar notes: On new tech training materials

Webinar provided by WebJunction.
Topic title: New Technology Training Materials (link to archived presentation and materials here).
Event date: December 14, 2010. 

My notes:

What makes an accidental tech trainer? Some features:
  • You teach in a computer lab. 
  • You provide webinars. 
  • You help patrons with things like e-mail or finding articles online. 
  • If you work in a library, odds are good you are already doing technology training. 
Factoid presented: 5,400 public libraries in the U.S. offer free technology classes. 4,000 businesses offer computer training (for a fee). With close to 15,000 people taking free library classes, that is about $629 million dollars in retail value of the courses. 

It is important to have a good attitude as a trainer. This is also helpful to the participants, projecting confidence and being positive.

In teaching, keep in mind that people take in the world in different ways. Three basic styles of learning (this is something that is simple and easy to remember): visual, auditory, kinesthetic. As a trainer, try to incorporate styles as much as possible.
  • To motivate, provide examples of what users could use the new technology/material for. You can have sample products made with the new technology. Do give the audience some "time to play" (hands-on).
  • The times when the technology fails, show what happened (if possible, such as if you opened a wrong window. Obviously, you lose power or the Internet, that is a different issue. Personally, I recommend using some humor at that point). 
Think in terms of creating a learning community with the workshop. Start with simple things, let class members share names and what they wish to learn from the workshop. Again, provide hands-on time. Also, providing some time for reflection is important.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Article note: On graphic novels for instruction and curriculum collections

Citation for the article:

 Downey, Elizabeth M. "Graphic Novels in Curriculum and Instruction Collections." Reference & User Services Quarterly 49.2 (Winter 2009): 181-188.

Read online.

Downey starts by stating that most of the LIS literature related to graphic novels looks at the form as either one for recreational reading, often for college students, or as historical and pop culture artifacts, in other words, stuff for academic courses. Personally, I wonder if the focus on college recreational reading reflects the fact that most of the LIS literature is written by librarians on college tenure lines and/or LIS professors. This is what comes natural in terms of writing topics. While there may be some who are not as familiar with the format, and as a result we often get objections and complaints about the form in terms of violence, sex, etc. (with many of the complaints unfounded and/or just reflective of certain less than enlightened interests), more educators are choosing to use graphic novels in the classroom as part of the curriculum.

Downey argues that "part of the academic library's mission is to provide materials and resources for future educators" (182). Academic libraries should carry graphic novels not only for pleasure reading or for art or for pop culture but also to meet the needs of educators who are likely to use graphic novels in their curriculum. In other words, future teachers and school librarians, if they are going to use them in their classrooms, should have access to them during their teacher training period so they can read them and become familiar with them. Yet some academic institutions, according to a study the author cites from Library Resources and Technical Services, are still found to be lacking. The study revealed "that a considerable number of institutions supporting library science or education programs aren't actually collecting graphic novels for teens" (qtd. in 182).

So what are some of the reasons to use graphic novels as part of an academic curriculum? First, Downey suggests you can use them as standalone text or as part of a unit using the graphic novels to make thematic connections better. Graphic novels can add an element of media literacy to classroom lessons. In addition, graphic novels not only are good for visual learners, but they also work in terms of multiple intelligences. According to Lyga and Lyga, "of the seven multiple intelligences identified by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner, three of them (linguistic, spatial, and interpersonal) can benefit from the use of graphic novels" ("qtd. in 183). Finally, graphic novels can help present, illustrate, and discuss broad social issues and lessons.

The article goes on to discuss some examples of graphic novels used in school classrooms. It also provides some suggestions for English teachers as well as ideas for college classrooms. Downey also includes and discusses collection development guidelines for librarians. What is helpful in this instance is the focus on collection development for curriculum and instruction support. The references list does include some book titles that may be helpful to some librarians as well.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Webinar Notes: On Training for Online Advocacy

This was an ALA free webinar, and to be honest, I was not particularly impressed since it mostly seemed like an infomercial for the information on the website. If there is anything I dislike about webinars, it is a sequence of PowerPoint slides with information that I could have found on a website on my own. Nevertheless, I took some notes, so I am jotting them down for possible future reference.

The event took place on October 29, 2010. Yes, I am running a little behind on transcribing notes, but then again, given I only have two readers, not much of an incentive, plus there is that other thing called work.

* * * * 

For me, the bottom line of this webinar was to discuss how to make advocates of your frontline staff, which I do think is a good idea, and we should be doing more in our libraries. After all, most if not all of our clients do deal with our frontline staff at some point. According to the presenters, doing this enhances your "traditional" advocacy. 

Two basic concepts: 
  • The value of your respective library. You need to be able to articulate this. 
  • Your value as a library employee. 
The idea is to get the frontliners to advocate at their comfort level. The frontliners are the ones who know the community; they have connections with patrons and users who then become our grassroots advocates. Managers do not have this, so it is important for the frontliners to work with management. So library advocacy is seen as everybody's job.

I found it interesting that in the example given from the Yolo County Library they have staff performance goals that reflect an "ambassador" role in service delivery and outreach. There is something to be said for the concept that the "ambassador" role should not just fall to the outreach librarian, but that it could be shared since we all make an impression of the library at one point or another.

Some questions to create discussion in your library:
  • How do you define advocacy? 
  • Why is it important? 
  • How does it relate to marketing and fundraising? 
  • What is our role versus the role of deans and administrators? 
It is important to realize that we need to demonstrate and communicate our value to the university (in terms of an academic setting, and we need to be doing this consistently). In addition, odds are good a lot of the frontline staff already do some form of advocacy; you should be able to articulate and recognize this. For the staff to be able to do it, they do have to be well-informed. 

Link to ALA's Frontline Advocacy Toolkit.

Link to ALA's Advocacy University.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Booknote: Nuestra historia aun se esta escribiendo (12 Books, 12 Months Challenge, Book 4)

This is my review as I posted it on GoodReads. Overall, I thought this was a neat little book. I also think it is a book that more people should read to expand their horizons a bit more.

Nuestra historia aun se esta escribiendo, La historia de tres generales cubano-chinos en la Revolucion CubanaNuestra historia aun se esta escribiendo, La historia de tres generales cubano-chinos en la Revolucion Cubana by Armando Choy

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A brief but very interesting book. This book consists of a series of interviews with three Cuban generals of Chinese descent. The generals discuss their lives, their upbringing and social struggles, their revolutionary experiences their military experiences, and how they are still active in the revolution. For readers who may not be too familiar with the socialist notion of revolution, the revolution is an ongoing process. A professor once explained it to one of my classes as "there is the big R revolution" (that is the one you usually think of, with guns and armies, so on. Like the American Revolution or in Cuba the revolution to topple Batista) and then there is "the small r revolution" (this is the ongoing process of building and maintaining the society after the big R revolution). When the generals speak of the revolution, they mean that "small r" revolution.

Unlike other history books about Cuba, I liked this one because it takes a unique angle. It looks not only at people who were active participants in history but also at people with a pretty unique ethnicity for the region. Chinese immigrants were brought to Cuba (and a few other Caribbean islands) to do work in the sugar cane fields and other manual labor though sugar was the main work. They came as indentured servants and most usually stayed on the island. They often stayed because they could not afford their passage back to China, but a good number also stayed out of choice. These Chinese immigrants created communities, set up their own small businesses, thrived, and they eventually were mainstreamed into Cuban society. Ok, mainstreamed may not be the best term; some may choose "assimilated," but the point is that they were fairly integrated into Cuban society. If you ask the generals in the book, they see themselves as Cubans first who just so happen to have Chinese descent. This would be very different than a lot of Ethnic-Americans in the U.S. who often still see themselves as being from whatever place they came from first. Anyhow, this does not necessarily mean that the process of assimilation was smooth or easy. Prior to the Revolution, they faced racism and discrimination, and this is part of their story. Personally, their stories of youth were one of the most interesting parts of the book for me. Keep in mind that once Fidel took power, one of the first acts was to institute anti-racism legislation and measures, which benefited not only those of Chinese descent but other minority groups.

The generals played an active role in the Cuban campaign in Angola, so that gets some good coverage in the book. Most American readers may think this was just some Cuban adventurism, but when you read the accounts here you can learn it is not as simple as that. They discuss why they felt it was an obligation to go (requested by the local government of the time; because of an internationalist spirit; as a legacy or to meet the debt of those from other nations who fought for Cuban independence, so on). From there, we move to what is known in Cuba as the Special Period, and the book ends at about 2005 or so. You also get some discussion of Cuba sending medical teams to Venezuela and around the world as well.

A strength of this book is that it brings the generals to life; they are not just some mythical figures or just some generals. These were young boys that grew up, joined the revolutionary movement for various reasons (they each had different backgrounds), and then remained active in their society both in the military and after. The conversations are short, and they are fairly easy to read. They do come across as fairly warm individuals.

For American (read U.S.) readers, they may or not like the book. I am thinking an objection right away is that, well, it is a book looking at communists. Yes, they are communists who embrace the socialist movement and ideals. Much of their discussion does integrate socialist ideas and concepts. Much of their argument, when asked, is that the things they accomplished or that Cuba has accomplished (and even those who hate Fidel and Cuba have to give them credit for various accomplishments) would not have been possible had it not been for the revolution. I would say to those readers to read the book anyways. There are a few lessons to learn plus you get a pretty good picture of Cuban society in the 20th and early 21st centuries. Furthermore, you will get a bit of a history lesson (there are some discussions of colonial history for instance, the relationship of the nation to the Soviet Union, which was not always in lockstep, so on).

I read the book in Spanish, but it is available in English. Finally, the book features an appendix with two speech excerpts by Fidel Castro and one by Nelson Mandela highlighting the Angolan mission. Mandela is particularly praising the Cuban forces, who have a special place in the heart of a good number of African nations, in part because their mission did lead to the eventual independence of Namibia.

View all my reviews

Update Note (12/13/10): Here is the round-up of 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge readings for month 3 over at Later Day Bohemian.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Booknote: The Forever War (12 Books, 12 Months Challenge, Book 3)

This is the third book I have read for my 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge. The review is as posted on my GoodReads profile.

The Forever WarThe Forever War by Joe Haldeman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I had read this years ago, and after rereading it this year, I remember how good this novel was. Yes, I am aware that Haldeman was writing this in part as a response to the Vietnam War and all that other academic interest. But this is just a very good science fiction novel as well. It is fast paced once it gets going, and it is a very quick and easy read. Haldeman does well in character development, especially looking at Mandela's character who goes from private to major in the space of a few years, or a lot of centuries, depending on who's counting on what calendar. This is thanks to the wonders of time dilation and space travel. There is some science and physics involved, but it is just the right amount to make the novel work and give us the image of a soldier who stays eternal and fights on.

If you have not read it, I will not reveal the ending, which is not only interesting, but it makes a nice twist. The novel also makes some interesting social commentaries including issues such as evolution of the human race and even heterosexuality and homosexuality. If you don't read it for the adventure, you may be interested in those angles of the book. I think the novel, given the current war on terror, gains a new relevancy, and that may be another reason to read (or reread) the novel. It is a classic of science fiction, an award winner, and if you read it, you'll see why.

View all my reviews

Friday, December 03, 2010

Webinar Notes: On Writing a Library Behavior Code

I sat in my office for the Infopeople November 18, 2010 webinar on the topic of "Writing a Library Behavior Code." You can get to the archived webinar as well as handouts at the link. What follows are some of the notes I took as I listened, which I am jotting here mostly for reference purposes. The handout on resources has a good summary of cases with explanations (link to PDF, but the webinar link also has option for a Word Doc).

I make the same disclaimer the presenter made: this is NOT legal advice. We are discussing legal information.

* * * * 

Can a library enforce rules? For behavior, a library may set reasonable rules related to mission (for example, rules on no bathing in the restroom or sleeping). You need to be more cautious about speech restrictions. Analyze your space, how it is set up. Is a limited public forum created? It is best to restrict on the basis of time, place, manner, not content. Reminder that you may need to check with an attorney.

For example, tobacco in the library is a behavior issue, so you can set rules.

A dress code is a more complicated issue; we are looking at patrons now. Rely on legal standards (issues like public indecency laws). Again, you may need to check with an attorney.
  • On the one hand, there is Armstrong v. D.C. Public Library, 154 F. Supp. 2d 67 (D.C. 2001)(library policy: “objectionable -barefooted, bare-chested, body odor, filthy clothing, etc.” overturned by court).
  • On the other hand, there is Kreimer v. Bureau of Police, 958 F.2d 1242 (3d Cir. N.J. 1992)(library policy “shirt or other covering of their upper bodies” upheld by court).
  • Bare feet is seen (usually) as a health/safety issue, so courts often uphold this restriction. 
On breastfeeding. In California at least, it is protected by law. Check for laws in your state

On "smoochy patrons." This is a behavior issue, so the library can make reasonable rules, which need to be enforced evenly.  (overall, a common theme is whether you have a behavior versus an expression issue. Behavior, it seems, can be better regulated. Anything dealing with freedom of expression is trickier, and it should be avoided).

On tees with bad language. This is an expression issue, so you have to let it in. The government cannot make distinctions regarding individual taste and style. However, there can be limits. For instance, this would be different in a school library given that schools can and do set dress codes.

Soliciting. This depends and can vary. Analysis says it is ok to restrict it in the library reading room/main area. Basically that is because the purpose for the space is not for a soapbox.
  • What about the grounds (outside)? It is ok to ban all types of solicitation, but not on the basis of viewpoint (pro-life versus pro-choice for instance) if the grounds are just a path (as opposed to a gathering place. To be honest, I think this may be applicable to the new garden space my library has, where it is clearly a gathering place. While this has not been an issue yet, it may be something to keep in mind if say, for example, some itinerant preacher shows up). 
  • But if you have an area (again, I am thinking our gardens for example). Consider the time, place, manner principles. You may have a strong legal justification to restrict monetary solicitations versus just someone distributing literature. Again, do not restrict based on content.
Sex offenders in the library:
  • Easy: if you have something like looking up skirts (exhibiting the behavior), you call the cops. 
  • If not exhibiting an offensive behavior (for instance, someone just points it out to you), you need to be a bit more careful. In addition, due to First Amendment issues, you can't just ban someone from the library on the basis of offender status; however, you could limit their access to certain hours (for example, not during children story time hours). 
On civility:
  • Try to focus on behavior and loudness. Don't base on what someone may be saying but rather on the fact they are disturbing others and creating a disruption. See the Kreimer case ("intent to annoy" would be the applicable principle). The protection of speech is crucial, but there are exceptions, such as threats. 
Reminder: FEND= Free speech (tread carefully), Equal protection, Notice, Due Process (appeals). 

Another note, new ADA rules go in effect on March 15, 2011. You may want to visit the ADA website now. In terms of disabilities, you can't discriminate based on a disability unless you can show there would be a fundamental program alteration (this is in the context of questions of a special needs adult in a children's story hour or in a children's table areas).

A final question for now: Is a permanent prohibition ever possible? You need to be cautious, consult an attorney due to many First Amendment issues.