Friday, June 29, 2012

Article Note: On becoming an andragogical librarian

Citation for the article:

Cooke, Nicole A., "Becoming an Andragogical Librarian: Using Library Instruction as a Tool to Combat Library Anxiety and Empower Adult Learners."  New Review Academic Librarianship 16 (2010): 208-227.

Read via Interlibrary Loan.

The article looks at library instruction through the lens of andragogy. Andragogy is the theory of teaching adults. The author argues that andragogical theory is compatible and relevant to instruction and reference librarians. Given that my experiences as an instruction librarian have included working with adult learners, I definitely concur with the author's view. Why are both fields compatible? Cooke cites Terrence Brennan's dissertation where it states the following:

"Both fields have a historically educational function, both promote personal and societal lifelong learning, and both fields represent a continuum of learning, from self-directed/informal learning to other-directed/formal learning" (208-209). 

Both adult educators and librarians share the goal of empowering learners. These are good reasons to learn from each other and work together.

The article has a good literature review that provides a good overview of andragogy, its critics, and where it stands today as a model for adult education. The review sets up the discussion of how adult learners in college can gain benefit from library instruction. The article also includes a good discussion of library anxiety and how to address it. And while I am pondering, I think this would make a good article to add to the list of readings for the ACRL Immersion programs, probably for the teacher track.

Some notes from the article:

  • Why is this significant? One, adult learners are a growing demographic on our campuses. Two, many librarians lack the knowledge and expertise for working with adult learners. 
  • "Adult learners 'return to campus with special needs and often under stressful circumstances; they have strengths and deficits as learners that set them apart from traditional-aged students (Darkenwald 1992, 31)" (qtd. in 211). 
  • Graduate students are different than adult learners: "Graduate students comprise a slightly different demographic to adult learner as they are already versed in their academic content and the culture of higher education. However, that is not to claim that they know how to use the library and conduct higher level research" (217).
  • "Adult learners are multi-taskers, with responsibilities of work, family, and school, and, consequently, they want pertinent information and assistance from the library and have little time to experiment" (220). I would take that with a bit of a grain of salt. I think a danger in this article can be some over-generalization of adult learners, much like there is generalization of the millenials. 
The list of references in this article may be worth a look as well. 

Friday, June 22, 2012

Article Note: On Writing Groups for Academic Librarians

Citation for the article:

Campbell, Kathy,, "Developing a Writing Group for Librarians: the Benefits of Successful Collaboration." Library Management 33.1/2 (2012): 14-21

The article is mostly for academic librarians on the tenure line; they are the ones who have to do the scholarship and writing to work within the publish or perish environment. I will be up front and say that I do not believe in tenure for academic librarians. Some of what the authors write illustrate my reasoning:

"At the same time, this period of shrinking resources has made it more difficult for librarians who have faculty status to perform their academic duties while fulfilling requirements of tenure and promotion. Because research productivity is often counted as a major factor in evaluations and promotion, librarians have to find a way to pursue their research while performing job duties and professional service" (15). 

I believe that the pursuit of tenure and writing articles for the sake of getting that tenure interferes with the actual job of being a librarian. No, I am not saying that librarians should not write nor reflect on their practice. That is a different thing. Cranking out articles for the sake of getting something in a journal so you can add a line to your CV should not be the measure of how good we are as librarians. Personally, I want to be able to do my work as a librarian and do it well. Writing another "how we've done it well" is not really something I find meaningful. I read plenty of those already (including the ones I do not blog about here). Now, before anyone gets all riled up and wants to launch their defense of tenure because they feel it has been wonderful to them, keep in mind that the point I am making is that tenure line is not for me. If it worked for you, and it makes you happy, more power to you. Some of my colleagues and I simply prefer to do our work without added burdens or time clocks. So, that is the disclosure note. Let's get on with it.

The article itself is a call for librarians in the tenure situation to set up writing groups in their libraries so they can collaborate in writing as well as offer support and encouragement. I think it is a very good idea, and I think it should be applicable to other librarians as well who are not on tenure lines. I know that when I was a composition teacher in high school, many moons ago, I gained much benefit from the Faculty Writing Group a few writing colleagues and I formed. We would write and share what we wrote in a constructive and nurturing environment. Also, in our case, we embraced the philosophy that in order to teach writing we had to write ourselves. We believed that it would help us understand what our students experienced when they were writing. It was in those days when I started to really keep a journal in a somewhat consistent fashion. If blogging had been available back then, I probably would have been blogging back then. I certainly can agree with the idea that a good writing group can foster collaboration and support.

I think it can work academic libraries without tenure in a few ways. Maybe blogging or writing in some way can serve as a reflective tool. If the library has a blog and/or there are bloggers among your librarians and staff, a writing group could provide them with support and encourage collaboration. It may also help with developing and maintaining a library's blog. Those are just a some small ways I would see it working when not just applied to the tenure line folks. Forming these groups can be a formal or informal process. Do what works for you and don't force things.

The article is very good in providing specific advice and steps in forming writing groups. If this is something that interests you, it is worth a look.

Some notes from the article:

  • The authors cite Palmer and Matz (2006) on seven conditions necessary for successful writing: 
    • "Quick introduction to publication expectations.
    • Supportive department heads.
    • Flexible scheduling.
    • Supportive administrators.
    • Supportive working environment.
    • Supportive finances" (15-16). 
  • "For example, collaborations are less likely to succeed in a corporate environment that values and encourages competition among its units. Collaboration for collaboration's sake will not work either; there has to be an end result that will prove beneficial to the library and its clientele" (17). This may be why I tend to be skeptical when administrators announce they want things like team work or collaboration; they just want it because they are neat buzzwords, or they think it sounds good. But there is nothing more past putting a bunch of people together that may or not be compatible. The authors cite some works on collaboration that may be of interest to anyone wanting to learn more on this. 
 The article includes a very specific list of recommendations, and that is worth reading over. Some suggestions include: identifying compatible people, regular meetings, and even having a little fun in the process. I do notice that supportive management is crucial to this kind of endeavor, at least in the tenure situation where something like this probably needs to be more formal. Your mileage may vary when it comes to levels of management support.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Article Note: Readers' Advisory and Escapist Reading

Citation for the article:

Begum, Soheli, "Readers' Advisory and Underestimated Roles of Escapist Reading." Library Review 60.9 (2011): 738-747.

Read via Emerald.

This article is primarily for public librarians; however, I've always had an interest in readers' advisory and recreational reading for college students. Then again, I may be also hedging my bets in case I have to work in a public library. I will admit that I do find some of that work appealing, even if it sounds heretical to some of my peers in academia. At any rate, I do read articles on this topic often. I also read a lot, even at a time when some of my professional brethren either denigrate leisure reading or see it as a joke. So when I found this article on escapism in recreational reading and how it applies to readers' advisory, I knew I had to read it.

In citing J.G. Saricks, the author points out that escapism is an important appeal factor in leisure reading (738). The author then reviews the literature and summarizes the struggle of librarians to bring leisure reading materials to their patrons. Fiction is often seen as a lesser quality of reader material, seen as pulp or trashy. Much of the criticisms and objections were, and still continue to be, regarding fiction. I would argue that some nonfiction can be just as escapist as fiction. In addition, "one of the main charges against light reading in particular was, certainly, the charge of escapism, i.e. the quality of books to take readers away from real life and into the world of the chimerical and imaginary" (739). My personal reaction to that is ask: this is a problem? I guess to some people it is. The author goes on to argue for the positive aspects of escapism in recreational reading and calls for librarians who may be skeptical to reconsider their positions on recreational reading. The author further notes that escapism is not a trait exclusive to light or popular works; serious works can also provide escapism. In other words, there is room for the "serious" and "real" literature as well as the light, genre, more "pop" materials.

Other notes:

  • "Most librarians, particularly in the public field, would agree that imagination is a key aspect of reading, and growing knowledge in regard to reader response and reader development theories support this" (739). 
  • "It would be difficult to find a librarian, particularly a readers' advisor that did not believe the reader to be an essential and active partner in the reader-text relationship" (740).
  • We seek to understand things like escapism in literature so we can better understand our patrons' reading needs. It is nice to see that what I studied about reader response theory (RRT) in graduate school does have some practical application. Some of what the article does is acquaint librarians out there who may not be versed in RRT with some of the basics and how RRT can be useful to their RA work. 
  • "Leisure reading can be used as a means of escaping boredom, but can also be a critical tool for self-preservation in far more turbulent environments. Additionally, leisure reading transports readers away from current situations and also shapes and affects how they view and respond to future events. The transformative nature of leisure reading is such that it can be considered by many a means of maintaining humanity and a sense of self in sometimes uncertain and dangerous settings" (740). 
  • "It is not always a mindless pleasure that readers seek through escapist reading; it is often a meaningful change, a meaningful transformation that they are after, even if this transformation comes about through painful realizations and soul searching" (744). 
  • "Librarians offering choices in reading material must not only be able to appreciate and understand the necessity of escapist reading, but also be able to emotionally connect with their readers in order to confidently recommend a wide array of suitable material, without judgment and reservation" (744). 
  • A call to rethink how things are done. "Training for readers' advisors to better aid escapist readers means rethinking traditional formats of advisory. One example may be to forego strict focus on genre lists or straightforward author/title knowledge (Van Riel, 2008, p. 196), and rather promote a holistic understanding of how genres evolve, and how readers search for elements of escape. Advisors must be able to imagine themselves in various reader scenarios and often think like a reader instead of just as a librarian" (745).  Some of this may also explain why I read as much as I do. I read, in part, so I can think like a reader, and thus help my patrons better.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Article Note: On providing articles as "pay per view."

Citation for the article:

Hanson, Michael and Terese Heidenwolf, "Making the Right Choices: Pay-per-view Data and Selection Decisions." C&RL News December 2010: 586-588.

Read via Library Literature and Information Science Full-Text.

I found the idea presented in the article intriguing. Why would anyone do pay-per-view for academic articles? If anything, a fairly constant complaint I get here is when students fail to go through our resources, find a particular article online, then call us to ask how to avoid paying for it. Now, in the article, if I am understanding the process, the library does absorb the cost of the articles that their academic community uses. So, I am curious. One thing the authors found is that they got a better picture of what their patrons want and actually would use. The authors also state that the process requires a good amount of vigilance in deciding what periodical titles to provide access to and which to cut out. It helps that they have a pretty responsive faculty to help with the task.

A few other notes:

  • The article discusses focusing on Elsevier journals. 
  • The faculty could download articles without librarian mediation. Student requests required a librarian to review and approve the request where the librarian then "would either e-mail the requested article to the student (within two hours during regular reference hours) or, if the article was available in the library's print collection, direct the students to the paper copy" (586). This is done for cost control. Keep in mind, the setting is in a very small college. We probably would not be able to do this at current MPOW given our size. 
  • The tool for providing the access was via Article Choice.
  • It was not easy for them to identify which important periodical titles were essential for new selection or retention. So, the authors note that there are still open questions about their periodical selection and review process. This is still a work in progress.