Monday, September 01, 2014

KLA LIRT Library Instruction Retreat 2014 Notes for Afternoon Sessions

For the morning sessions note, please check out the previous post. As I mentioned previously, the Kentucky Library Association LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table) Library Instruction Retreat took place on July 11, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. As usual, I will try to put the notes of what I saw and heard; any comments of mine that I add I will put in parenthesis.

# # # 

Session 3: "Library on the Go: Taking the Library to the Students."

  • This presentation was on a program to reach students outside the library, especially those who rarely come to the library. The idea is to reach students outside of class visits. 
    • For events, have "giveaway" items like pens, pencils, bookmarks, sticky notes,  etc as well as some library handouts. (I have done this kind of thing, especially at my previous workplace where I coordinated library outreach. Success on this can vary depending on the event. Also, what you give away as freebies can determine success. Let us be honest, there are some things students may go for more than others. So it helps to know your audience a bit. Also, freebies do have costs for the library, so doing this can depend on how your library budget looks. In my current workplace, we are taking some steps to do more outreach and events. I may even blog about it down the road.)
  •  Goals: 
    • Promote library awareness. 
    • Deliver information about library resources to students where they are. 
    • Offer one-to-one instruction where they are. 
    • Presenters focused on use of mobile apps and mobile webpages. (I think for us, our focus online would be on LibGuides.)
    • Educate students about subject specific databases. 
    • Deliver information about library instruction and electronic resources to professors in their areas. 
  •  Identify events to attend. 
    • One target was freshmen. 
    • Try to hit campus-wide events. 
    • Identify subgroups such as athletes, a dorm, a cohort, so on. (One thing we experimented on back in my old workplace, and a colleague of mine had down to a science, was having hours in her liaison departments. This was a service for both faculty and students. In her case, it worked out very well.) 
  • Why attend events at all? You reach out to new students and you give the library a face. (Concur. For me, much of doing this boils down having a presence and emphasizing for students that we are there to serve them.) 
  • (For me, this presentation validates the need to step out of the library more.)
  • They went to the Advising Fair on their campus. 
  • On hitting academic departments. They did their Physician Assistant Program. (I am thinking we can do something similar here with our nursing program.)
    • Checked on database mobile app availability (In other words, are apps a PA, or a nurse in my case, use that we get available in a mobile version for use in the field?)
    • (I am thinking also having occasional library hours in the department.)
    • To make a survey at an event more interactive, you could have students try to accomplish something, a task, on an iPad or laptop. 
  •  An event idea (this one was so-so, but I still think there may be potential here). For their Spring Fever week, offer help for final projects. This may work best maybe 2-3 weeks before final projects, so work needs to be done on timing. 
  • Challenges of attending events: 
    • Limited interaction with professors. 
    • Getting buy-in from other groups, such as the athletic teams. 
    • Technological limits. 
    • Reaching a diversity of students. 
    • To consider: social media component. 
      • At EKU, "library pop-up," use social media to tell students where a librarian would be. 

Session 4: "Using Exploratory Image Searching to Invite Inquiry into the Student Research Experience."

  • We know that refining a research question is difficult. How do we help students deal with this?
  • The expectation is usually words and text. Idea: do the unexpected. One way to do it is with image search for topic exploration. 
    • Images provide connections. 
    • Images provide curiosity. The presenter notes this goes with the new ACRL information literacy standards (still under development as of this post. I could not find it on the ALA website, however, this blogger has been discussing the proposed standard statements. From the list, I think the presenter referred to the item on research as inquiry).
    • Images can provide context. 
  • This can work with any topic, visual or not. 
    • Start by asking what students would expect to see for an image search from their topic. Reflect a bit prior to running the search. 
    • Run the search. (You can use your favorite search tool.) Then jot down keywords that describe images you see. 
    • After the search, ask students which images stand out the most in their minds. Why? How do they feel about them? Use this to begin crafting a research question. Evoking emotions can help. 
    • From the research question created, you can then identify your search keywords for a database, so on. 
  • Suggested by the presenter. For student collaboration, could use Padlet. ( I have to look into this some more at this point.)
  • If a topic can bring shocking or suggestive images, you can give a warning to the class; however, you can also make it a teachable moment. Also, do state that you are treating the students as adults. For some students, you may have to offer some other options, say for a topic like female genital mutilation. 
  • This activity allows you to focus on one learning outcome per class. 
  • Once they do the activity-- image search, words, question, keywords--, then take to the database for a search demo, bringing things back to the research. 
  • This exercise is perfect for when students lack a topic. Have them all practice a common topic, like a class theme. (This is an activity I do want to try out in my classes.)

Note: Some of the presentation materials can be found here:  (mostly slides and such).

Friday, August 29, 2014

KLA LIRT Library Instruction Retreat 2014 Notes for Morning Sessions

The Kentucky Library Association LIRT (Library Instruction Round Table) Library Instruction Retreat took place on July 11, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. I must say up front that I found this to be a useful learning opportunity, and it did spark some ideas for me to bring back to my library. I am also giving serious consideration to joining the state association as I see some good opportunities to do some good things, but let's not digress further and get to my notes. As usual, I will try to put the notes of what I saw and heard; any comments of mine that I add I will put in parenthesis.

# # # 

After the welcome and opening remarks by the KLA LIRT officers, I went to the following sessions:

Session 1: "Gauging our Impact: Assessing Outreach and Student Learning Using Readily-Available Technologies." 
  • (Going to this was pretty much a given to me. Assessment has become the new big word in my workplace, and I am pretty much expected to take part in anything that has that word in it. That aside, library outreach is an interest of mine, so attending this made sense.)
  • The presenters discussed a self-reflection pilot exercise for students attending library instruction sessions, getting statistics on use of library tutorials out of BlackBoard CMS for distance education students, and student feedback on course-embedded SoftChalk modules. 
  • Reflective opening question: What are the implications of the session for your own instruction at your library? How will today's session influence your approach to library instruction? (Question actually applicable throughout the day.)
  • Context from the presenters: 
    • 2012-2014: They conducted a survey of professors who brought their students in for library instruction. 
    • 2014: Surveyed students who scheduled research consults (this I may be interested in replicating for our library). 
    • 2014: Embedded their LibGuides into BlackBoard. 
  • Suggestion to look over University of Louisville's Critical Thinking QEP. This can give ideas for partnerships and other initiatives or projects.  
  • On online information literacy and online modules. 
    • Their module objectives: 
      • Distinguish how information comes to be in popular sources. 
      • Explain the need for information evaluation. 
    • Informed feedback.
      • Describe the biggest takeaway from the module. 
      • Provide comments on the modules themselves. 
      • You can use pen and paper or the questions feature on BlackBoard. 
    • They mentioned using NVivo research analysis software.  (This may be more than I would want at this time, but jotting down for reference.)
    • Implications: 
      • Develop specific outcomes for modules. 
      • Have formalized assessment to demonstrate grasp of learning outcomes. Allows students to reflect on module content. 
      • Incorporate real-life examples and multimedia.
  • On BlackBoard statistics tracking of SoftChalk tutorials (this is for distance learners, but I suppose can be applicable locally too). 
    • Instead of sending a marketing e-mail with a lot of text containing the library and information literacy information for students, you can use tutorials to be a visual and concise message tool. You still need good instructions, including screenshots. 
    • The idea is to encourage our users to be empowered and more independent as distance learners. 
    • SoftChalk does provide tools to generate statistics reports for tutorial content. The statistics can help librarians know things like if there is a need for an online chat service and when to have it. 
    • Make tutorials for basic and foundational needs. Then track them to help with marketing and knowing what student needs have been met. 
  • On a self-reflection pilot for library instruction students. (Of the three parts in this session, this was the one that I was really interested in since we are exploring use of self-reflection exercises for assessment. If nothing else, it helped give me some validation for that work.)

Session 2: "How's it Different from an Annotated Bib? Helping Students Survive the Literature Review."
  • A common faculty gripe: students fail to synthesize sources for a literature review. 
  • Common faculty expectations (as if): 
    • Assume students already know how to do research (oh, I could say so much about this, but we are just taking notes here). 
    • Assume that students understand the purpose of a literature review (especially without bothering to actually explain it to them). 
    • That students understand how to use research to construct a literature review (see previous assumption). 
  • (Reminder to self that the presenters provided some sample handouts, which I have on my folder. If I manage to scan or such, I may include later.)
  • It is important to discuss critical reading (yes, even in library instruction, but discipline faculty need to do it too). This can be done with their literature matrix (again, this was a handout).
  • A question for us librarians: on using source management software, like Zotero for example, do we need to cover this a bit more in our instruction sessions? (I'd say probably, but then we get into the question of just how much time we have to cover how much content again?)
  • Something to teach the students: To pull together the literature review, you do need to do prewriting, reading, annotation. Identify themes rather than just authors.
  • Key questions to ask students. Get them to think about this:
    • What do we know? How do we know it? 
    • What don't we know? Why don't we know it?
  • How librarians can help faculty and students: 
    • Offer multiple library instruction sessions. 
    • Recommend building scaffolded assignments.
    • Recommend other resources as needed. 
    • Offer workshops. 
    • Partner with the campus writing center and other relevant campus units. 
  • Citations to check out: 
    • Rempel and Davidson, "Providing Information Literacy Instruction to Graduate Students through Literature Review Workshops." Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship Winter 2008.
(Coming next: Notes for the Afternoon Sessions)

Friday, June 27, 2014

Booknote: Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian)

Andrew Walsh and Padma Inala, Active Learning Techniques for Librarians: Practical Examples. Oxford, UK: Chandos, 2010. ISBN: 978-1-84334-592-3.

I finished reading this, and I was not impressed. The core of the book is the list of activities for active learning. Let's start by looking at what the book claims to do:

"It is a practical resource to be dipped in and out when needed and aims to appeal to a wide readership within the profession, particularly where teaching is a key part of the role. This includes graduate trainees and also students of librarianship and/or information students" (3).

The book is organized into three chapters:

  • One: Outline of theory and practice of active learning. This is a basic overview for people who do not know what active learning is or folks who need a refresher. 
  • Two: The practical activities are here. The activities vary from low to high tech and from practical to not so practical. The activities under the section "mobile phones and other gadgets" may fall under not so practical. Just because more students carry cellphones, it does not follow they can do whatever active learning activity you think you can do with the latest "cool" mobile gizmo. Now one nice element of this chapter is that each activity lists potential pitfalls; it is a rarity in LIS literature to admit something may not end as planned. 
  • Three: Sample lesson plans, including a couple of templates for lesson plans. New folks may find this useful. 
There are some good practical things, including one or two items I jotted down to try out. There is also a good number of activities I have seen before, so experienced practitioners may not find much new here. Additionally, the book has a few activities reliant on clickers or other technology that may or not be available in all libraries. However, for beginner librarians and librarians with minimal to no teaching experience who are suddenly told they have to teach, this may be a useful book. I don't see this book as one every librarian needs to have. If you instruction unit has a small reference/consult shelf of books about teaching, I can see adding it for the new folks. It is mostly a book for beginners.

In addition, instructions for some of the activities were pretty minimal; at times, I had questions about how exactly to implement something. I also wished the author had added more examples of how to use something or in what type of lesson something would be applicable. That would have made this book much more practical.

Again, as with other LIS books, we see authors running the risk of appearing less than relevant when citing Web 2.0 in learning contexts. That is because of how fast it can change, how often companies go out of style or out of business, and how things can quickly go out of date. Examples from the book:
  • Bebo and MySpace as social networking examples are pretty much a joke at this point. Bebo now is some kind of app company, and MySpace is pretty much, to be honest, dead in the water. 
  • iGoogle is gone by now. It was taken down in 2013. 
  • Jaiku was bought out by Google and then promptly shut down by Google. 
I am not saying don't use Web 2.0 online tools and resources. My philosophy on that is to experiment, find what works for you, and dump what does not. But when it comes to this topic, you are often better off asking around, talking to practitioners in the field who are likely more up to date than checking an LIS book. 

In the end, it is a book that I would recommend for beginners with some reservations. Seasoned instruction librarians have probably seen much of this, so they are better off seeking for new ideas elsewhere.

It was an OK book, so I am giving it 2 out of 5 stars.

# # #

A quote from the book I wanted to remember:

"A lot of library instruction can be very tasked, but when we are teaching we should not only be interested in gaining an end result, we need to focus on the experience the learner will have. If this journey is one where interactivity and stimulation takes place, in an environment that encourages thinking, doing, discussing and reflecting then there is more likelihood that the information will be retained and there will be some sense of understanding of the process, and therefore the learner will be enabled to independently replicate what has been learnt" (11).

Our job is to empower our students to use that knowledge, help nurture it, so they can be self-reliant, active lifelong learners.

Friday, June 20, 2014

SAALCK Assessment Workshop 2014 Notes

This workshop took place on Friday, May 30, 2014 at Crabbe Library, Eastern Kentucky University Campus. The featured speaker was Megan Oakleaf. The workshop also featured a panel of speakers from Murray State University. The workshop was provided by SAALCK. What follows are some of my notes from the event. As usual, stuff in parenthesis is usually my comments and additions.

Topic: Opening Speech by Megan Oakleaf on topic of "Academic Libraries and Institutional Impact Overview." (This presentation did have a PowerPoint. We did get a copy of it as a PDF--link to it on my Google Drive, let's see how it works out. A handout packet was included, much of it comes from a workbook by Megan Oakleaf, which can be purchased here. We'll probably order a copy for the library here.).

  • We began with some opening questions. 
    •  How to link library outputs to student learning outcomes? 
    • How do we develop an assessment plan?
    • How do we translate what we do into numbers? 
  • We got a small index card at the beginning of the presentation. The card had an owl sticker on one side, and a monster sticker on the other. The instructions were to, as we went along, jot down on the owl side any good ideas you heard or learned. On the monster side, you jotted down why the ideas could not be done, the challenges. 
    • (Ideas #1 I jotted down: Got validation of the value of reflective writing and other reflective exercises in assessment. This is something I have been starting to talk about in our library as something we need to be doing. Idea #2:  The library proactively assigning "research advisors" to support certain student groups. I think this could work for us here.)
    • (Challenges #1 is the ever present challenge of time. Challenge #2 is gaining advanced knowledge. One way I am acquiring it is piloting things, learning from them, and moving forward.)
  • What do we think when we hear "library value"? "Assessment"? 
    • The "elevator speech." Assessment is the tool, the measures. 
    • Value is the ROI (return on investment). Others would say how the library contributes to student success.One way to define success is helping with student retention and helping faculty be better teachers. 
  • See also The Value of Academic Libraries report (link to website. The report itself is available, but keep in mind it is a pretty big PDF file). 
  • "Satisfaction" measures are not really a big deal in assessment. We want to really measure outcomes in learning, so on. 
    • Yet we measure a lot of satisfaction and use. "Use" does not really measure value past a starting point. 
    • Difficult to measure what students do in academic terms. 
    • ROI studies do have limitations. It's one strategy, but it is not perfect. Also it is dependent on things like institution size. 
  • Ask how well the library contributes to overall goals of the parent constituencies. 
  • There is a trend in the library literature showing libraries moving from being passive to being active (this is not news to me really). 
    • Product>>Service. 
    • Collections>>Experience. 
    • Mediation>>Enabling.
    • Resources>>Educational Impact. 
    • Facility>>People. 
    • Access>>Sense-making. 
  • We build spaces, but we often fail to think how spaces will be used and what impact they will have on students.
  • Some recommendations/highlights from the Values in Academic Libraries report (report linked above):
    • Think institutionally. Be able to translate plans, etc. for other constituencies. What are campus leaders talking about in their speeches, so on? 
    • Ask: what do we enable people to do? And to answer that question, we need to know what people have done. 
    • As much as possible, use existing data. Your campus probably has a lot of data already; find out who keeps what data. Your library probably keeps a good amount of data as well. 
  •  Question to ask: what does your institution value? (what follows are some ideas from a brainstorm in the room. This list is mostly what the institutions would say, or at least what the people in the room say or think their institutions would say): 
    • grades
    • program completion
    • graduation
    • admission to graduate school
    • regional engagement
    • public service
    • economic development
    • athletes
    • serving international students
    • brand
    • (what I would say) good citizens and lifelong learning (no one said either one or something close to it, which honestly makes me wonder)
  • Students appear to acquire "information literacy" skills as a consequence of instruction, but assessments are scattered and episodic, not coherent and longitudinal. 
    • Much of the library instruction literature is about minutiae (I know; I read a lot of it). 
    • (I am thinking that for us here, use of the HEDS survey and keeping track of cohorts, we may be able to get some good data for assessment and improvement of our programs to better help student learning.)
    • Oakleaf is not much into pre- and post- tests. (To be honest, neither am I, but convincing some people in higher positions of this can be a bit of a challenge) Where the students come from does not matter as much as what they leave with. (This is what really interests me. However, I would add we do need to know at least some of where they came from in order to know where they are going. How much of where they came from do we really need to know has been a point of contention here for some of us)
  • Another question: how do you know scholarship is a conversation? This is where reflective writing and performance assessments, such as concept maps, come in. (This is something I have started to discuss here. We still have a ways to go)
    • Time and scaling are challenges. It's rigorous, and we may need more skills to carry it out. 
  • We need to be familiar with learner and learning analytics. Know where and when student behaviors/inactions/activities are tracked. 
    • Help to find problems in curriculum in order to fix them. 
  • (A reminder to myself to review this:
 # # #
Topic: "Conceptualizing and capturing library value."

  • Idea: students using company profiles, say from a database like Business Source. Ask if the students are using them to prep for job interviews? And if they do, ask if they did better on interviews. (To be honest, there was only one place that even mentioned this idea, and it was a few years back. The question was mentioned, but never explored, so I definitely see a research idea here.)
  • We need more information on library impact and faculty teaching. We do know, anecdotally, faculty citing library support for them having more time to do research, to develop lesson plans, etc. (Again, another investigation opportunity perhaps?)
    • How else do support faculty? Do you help in grant seeking and writing? In tenure and promotion? Keep track if you do. 
  • Idea: We need to learn about ILL (interlibrary loan) impact on students. 
  • Question: do students use library resources for prepping for and being involved in internships? 
  • Think of assessment as record keeping. Keep track of numbers as well as quotes and testimonials to enrich assessment narratives. 
  • I am thinking the library impact map can be a good exercise  to do in our library. Break it down for different units.
    • To begin investigating and prioritizing what to investigate, find out what the institution cares for. 
    • I would divide the chart by department/units of the library and go from there. 
    • Another idea: use a similar grid, but with library policies to look at policies' impact on patrons. 
    • Be careful not to be overwhelmed (which is why I would prefer the grid to be divided into sections). 
    • Again, on campus tours that stop at the library, make them more effective. Provide talking points (and try to measure impact with at least one survey question). 
    • Consider where are the "invisible" areas of the library that have an impact.
  •  In assessment, we often want "causal" questions, but "causal" can't really be done. You can't control every single factor. It is not a closed system.
    • Goal is to identify behaviors that lead to an outcome, positive or negative. Work then to improve the positive. 
    • What you want to show is a correlation. What contributes to the positive outcome, as part of other activities as well. 
    • Ask yourself: is it enough to describe the profile of successful students and seek to increase students that emulate the desired attributes?
    • To stave off criticism (say, from the usual "picky" faculty who feel the need to wave their "big stick" around), state your research up front. Say what something means and what something does not. 
  •   Consider your library communications. 
    • Which institutional values are reflected/emphasized in library communications? One part of communication goals should deal with library and institution goals (retention, learning, etc.). 
    • What part of our communications communicate impact on institutional focus areas? 
    • Keep in mind: different audiences may need different versions of (the same) information. 
  • Reminder note to review some of Lisa Hinchcliffe's work.  
# # #

Topic: Panel Presentation from Murray State University on "Assessment in Action."

  • Reporting on a campus and library project focusing on retention. 
  • If you decide to present (at a conference, workshop, a publication, so on), you may have to go through your IRB (institutional review board). 
  • They identified library users using campus data (students enrolled, faculty lists, so on), then used library data for identifying patron checkouts. (If you use something like Voyager for your library information system,  you are looking at things like historical library checkouts.)
    • They added ILLiad (interlibrary loan system) users. They do note they ran into some issues doing this, in part because ILLiad does not always "play nice" with other library systems. 
    • They used EZ Proxy data for electronic resource use. Their patrons use the "usual" credentials (campus e-mail user name and password). They make every user log-in whether on campus or off-campus. (Some attendees were skeptical of this, but the speakers claim that the campus complaints on this were low when implemented. I have to say I found that pretty impressive. In other campuses I have worked that, making such a suggestions would mean more than just "a few complaints.")
    • Most of the data is "yes" or "no." The idea is to see if there is a sense of a user community building up. 
    • Their data can now capture use by distance students as well. (For us, being a residential campus, this would not be a big concern. Maybe to track some off-campus students, say those traveling abroad.)
    •  Idea: providing documents with steps, how to talk to stakeholders, so on. 
    • Make sure that you can articulate the benefits in collecting data for assessment. 
    • Make sure you start early conversations with institutional researchers on the campus.
# # #

Topic: "Taking Library Value Home" (back with Megan Oakleaf). 

  • Reflection on ideas to take back. 
    • (Review parts of the library impact grid with our instruction team.)
    • Write something on our assessment efforts in a newsletter (for us, this could be done on our library blog.). An article on student outcomes and learning. (This can also add transparency.)
    • A presentation to faculty or a select group (for us here, for example, it could be to the Committee on General Education) on the Value of Libraries document.
    • Work more on collecting anecdotal information and testimonials. Things like filling out a small card at the reference desk. Sending out a small 2-5 question survey to students after instruction, so on. 
    • Quote: "you need to find the right key to unlock people's minds." This is especially true for resistant folks. So think ahead of time how you will address any resistance and answer any objections.
    • Assessment of LibGuides. Connecting to instruction and pedagogy. 
    • Work to build a culture of assessment into your strategic plans. 
    • Think big in an organized way. However, you can start small, but do start. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Booknote: Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian)

Bemis, Michael F., Library and Information Science: A Guide to Key Literature and Sources. Chicago: ALA, 2014. ISBN: 978-0-8389-1185-3. 

This is basically a very big annotated bibliography of sources in library science. Though there are some web sources and databases listed, the focus appears to be on books, followed by periodicals. If you have kept up in your area(s) of librarianship, then you have seen much of what is listed here. The value of the book then is in seeing lists in other areas. The book is valuable, for instance, to see what are the basics of cataloging if cataloging is not your area. Also, the book can serve as a double-checking collection development tool for LIS school libraries. I would anticipate that LIS schools and their libraries would be the primary places wanting this book. It's the kind of book they would want their students accessing.

From the author's introduction:

"I wrote this book for a simple reason: I needed a current annotated bibliography of library science but couldn't find one. My goals were twofold: to collect as much of the available information sources regarding various aspects of the profession as reasonably possible and to then organize them in a logical fashion" (xi). 

The book is organized by chapters; it has 39 topics from administration and management to writing and publishing. Some of the topics have more sources than others, but most of the chapters provide a basic core list to give you a sense of what you have to read, or at least be aware of, on a given topic. If you need to read more deeply on a topic, some of the selections should help with that. 

An issue I found comes in the listing of information technology materials. For books in this area, a common issue surfaces: information tech books tend to get dated pretty quickly. Some items in that chapter are already out-of-date. If you still mention MySpace as something part of "all the rage," you are woefully behind at this point.

I did take a closer look at Chapter 15: Information Literacy and Bibliographic Instruction, which represents my main specialty. It did have items I expected to see. A new librarian wanting to go into this area will find enough to get started.

As a research starter on a topic in librarianship, I'd say this will be useful for many, especially beginners and librarian in the field who may not have extensive access to LIS sources. For me, I'd keep it on my shelf to check on things now and then as part of keeping up or for my areas of interest. This is one I am suggesting for librarians to at least look over.

I really liked this one, in spite of some small issues, some I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

I did jot down some titles from the book's listings for later reading (the number included is the entry number in the book. Links, as usual unless otherwise noted, go to WorldCat.):

(Update note 10/5/15): For some reason, this post attracts spammers like flies to shit (especially stupid accountants for some reason). So, I am closing comments on it. 

Friday, June 06, 2014

Article Note: On Assessment of First-Year Undergraduate Students' Library Use, Academic Achievement and Retention

Citation for the article:

Soria, Krista M.,, "Stacks, Serials, Search Engines, and Students' Success: First-Year Undergraduate Students' Library Use, Academic Achievement, and Retention." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 40 (2014): 84-91.

Read via ScienceDirect. 

Assessment seems to be a big trend in librarianship now. There is at least one big conference out there on the topic, and it seems more librarians are showing interest. In fact, last week of May 2014, I was attending a workshop on assessment and academic library value (featuring Megan Oakleaf, one of the big voices in this), and the topic seems to be out there in Librarian Blogistan now and then. Even my college has a strong interest in the topic; heck, it is part of my job description. So when I find an article on the topic, I do try to read it. This one was a short piece, and for readers, unless you want to get technical, you can skip ahead to the discussion part of the article for the findings. The literature review also was good in giving a sense of where the assessment topic stands. The authors of this article do argue that there is still a lack of assessment, which "further translates into lack of research investigating the benefits of academic research libraries at their institutions. . . " (84). What I am going to say now is not scientific nor to be taken as gospel, but I get the impression a few people are doing assessment, and they are either writing it up, figuring out how to write it up, or presenting it at conferences to then revise it and write it up. From what I have done so far, assessment is work that does take a lot of time. I know; I am in the process here for our instruction program, and we are just getting started. So whatever publication I may get out of it is not going to be for a good long while yet. Anyhow, that's my brief musing. Let's move on.

The authors sought to investigate "whether students' use of academic libraries in several different areas is associated with their success. In particular, the purpose of this study is to examine the relationships between first-year undergraduate students use of the academic library, academic achievement, and retention to the second year of study" (84-85). To do that, they did regression analysis that predicted student GPA considering 10 data points of library usage. Variables and tables showing the work they did are included in the article for those wishing to look.

What's the bottom line? "The results of this study suggest that first-year students who used the academic library at least once during the academic year had higher GPAs and retention, on average, than their peers who did not use libraries" (89). It is a finding of the presence of positive relationships, not one thing causes another. Sure, some of the other findings may sound like a lot of "maybe," but they do have some evidence to back it up, or at least make some very good suggestions. For instance:

"Accessing databases, checking out books, reading electronic journals, meeting with peer research consultants, and receiving advice from reference librarians via online chats may represent activities that increase students' access to academic resources, enhance their information literacy, and enrich students' academic work, all potentially leading to higher academic achievement by virtue of higher grades on academic coursework" (90). 

A bit of what the authors recommend based on their findings (see pg. 90):

  • Libraries need to collect data related to student library usage in various areas. An area they did not look at is library as place. So try to get data on student use of physical spaces in the library. 
  • You can use other measures besides GPA. For example, measure student outcomes associated with information literacy competency. (This is actually a big part of what we are doing here now.)
And finally, the authors suggest also:

"Academic libraries do not exist in complete isolation-- students interact with libraries through classes, with their peers in study contexts, or while engaging in academic research activities with faculty and these interactions should be explored more fully to gauge the impact upon college students. Examinations into the time of the academic year in which students are interacting with library resources are also warranted, given the potential dramatic differences in academic achievement between students who first begin using the libraries early in the semester versus those who first use the library during finals week" (91).

Actually, that last part of time of the year and use is one that intrigues me, so I will keep my eye out for anyone who examines that, or maybe if I ever get to it, I may see what I can learn.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Kentucky Pedagogicon 2014 Conference Notes: Afternoon Sessions

 This is the second part of my two-post series with my notes on the KY Pedagogicon Conference held on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University on May 16, 2014. My notes are for the sessions I attended out of the many choices (and they did have some good choices). As usual, comments in addition to notes are in parenthesis.

* * * 

Session 4: "Team-Based Learning: Applying Collaboration and Problem-Solving Skills"

This was mainly an overview of the TBL concept, but it did some good insights for professors in terms of how to set up your classes for TBL and problem-solving. For faculty wanting to try out this technique, this would have been a good presentation to attend.

  • On the need for active learning, the days of the "sage on the stage" are over (reinforcing theme from the opening remarks I see). 
  • Also, the instructor does need to keep the teaching interesting for himself. 
  • TBL= small groups of students interact as teams to apply content to simple and complex problems with instructor feedback. This is problem-based learning. Students receive frequent and immediate feedback from the teacher. 
  • The basis of the concept goes back to management literature from the 1970s. Over time, adopted in education settings. See the work of Larry Michaelsen and his book Team-Based Learning (Michaelsen has made a cottage industry of TBL, see his other books on TBL by topics such as TBL for health professions and for the social sciences and humanities. When I was in graduate school, we called that "salami slicing.")
  • One way to make it work, divide your class into sections/teams. Design your curriculum around major instructional units (MIU), and run an MIU every two weeks or so. 
    • A reflection element at the end of an MIU is very important. He requires a 4-pages reflection on the unit and 2 more pages reflecting on how the team itself worked. 
  • Do not try this teaching technique if you are threatened by frequent student challenges. Definitely do not do it if challenges from students in groups threaten you. 
  • Keep in mind that TBL does take time to plan and implement. 
  • A good class size for TBL is 5 to 6 teams at most with 5 to 7 members per team. Mix them up. The speaker has his students fill out profiles to aid in group selection (yes, the students are assigned teams. They do not self-select). 
  • Begin classes at a slow pace. Give the teams a "basic" team assignment initially; this is to get them to learn to work as a team. After that, you can then move on to content. 
  • Advantages of TBL for students: 
    • Develop interpersonal skills. 
    • Active participation. 
    • Motivation to attend class. 
    • Accountability for content. 
    • Application of knowledge. 
  • Advantages for faculty: 
    • Better attendance rates.
    • Better student evaluations. 
  •   Way to alternate leadership in group presentations: all members must be ready to present. You then select a random member of the group to be the presenter. No one presents twice (ideally). 

* * * 

Session 5: "A scaffolded, collaborative approach to teaching research proposal writing."

(Actually, the title on this one was a bit misleading. While it dealt with the topic of scaffolding in teaching, there really was not much of anything about "research proposals," but we did get some material on literature reviews and annotated bibliographies. I did find the literature matrix handout the provided to be valuable, and may integrate an adaptation to our classes here.)

  • On scaffolding, may want to review your Vygostky (if it has been a while). His ideas were then expanded on by Arthur Applebee and Judith Langer. (For examples of convenience, see this guide on scaffolding and this article from NCTE's Language Arts journal. The journal links to J-STOR, so your access may vary. Consult your local librarian if you need access).
  • The speakers, who work at EKU, highlighted the collaborations taking place in their Noel Studio. (Note for myself to continue working on expanding possible campus collaborations here between the library and Peer Educators as well as our TLC).
  • On teaching about writing the literature review, lead with examples. 
  • Librarians can take some "burden" from professors in terms of teaching how research works, plus professors can also use the services of writing center tutors and other services to help address writing basics like a literature review. This thus can allow the professor to concentrate on content. (This does raise an interesting question: how much do we do as librarians versus assuming the professor will do it, whatever "it" is in terms of basic research and writing skills. We understand how research works, and many of us at least have done research, or in my case, are outright qualified to teach writing if need be. No, I don't mean literally going back to teaching full composition for a librarian, but we can certainly prepare materials and resources in collaboration with other campus units for things like how to write a literature review). Collaborations with faculty identify points of need to make lessons relevant. 
  • The literature matrix can help students see how their research works and will shape their writing.  Libraries can put forms like the literature matrix online so they can be easily accessed by students. (We already do some of this in our LibGuides where we have forms to help with narrowing a topic and evaluating websites.)

* * * 

Session 6: "Reflective blogging."

(Being a blogger, and one who has used, or rather attempted to use, a blog to help with library instruction, I was naturally interested in this session. As for my little experiment, never really got around to writing it up. Anyhow, I've learned more about blogging and pedagogy since then, and this session did give me some additional ideas.)

  •  Yes, you can do this in classes like accounting (our speaker is an accounting professor). 
  • The speaker uses BlackBoard for her classroom management system (CMS) and the Blogger platform for the blogging. (For us, this could work with Moodle, if we chose to try it out.)
  • For tutorials on things like making a blog, YouTube can be your friend. Why reinvent the wheel? Others have already done a lot of work and shared it on YouTube. 
  • Give students precise instructions on content and additions (say you want them to do a video embed, photos, length of a post, so on). 
  • You can do this with classes of up to 15 students at most. More than that can get unwieldy. 
  • DO create a rubric to grade the blogs (which she did). Put the rubric on your CMS for students to know what the rubric is and how they will be graded. 
  • Depending on the class, the instructor does need to teach a bit to students about what blogging is and how to do it (this may vary depending on the levels of your class when it comes to tech ability. Be prepared to offer as much help and teaching as possible).
  • She had them write stories that illustrated accounting concepts, 200-300 words, to help them explain and define a concept. 
* * * 

From the closing session (which was really a plenary wrap-up)

Some open questions and comments:

  • Make students aware of their information architecture. Metacognition. 
  • You can find our combined document of "what we learned" at this link:
As a final note, I did do some live tweeting. You can find my tweets as well as the tweets from other fine folks on Twitter under the hashtag #kyp14.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Kentucky Pedagogicon 2014 Conference Notes: Morning Sessions

This event took place on Friday May 16, 2014 on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University. This was my first time, and given that I did find it valuable and productive, I do hope to attend next year. One of the best parts is that it was a one-day event. In addition, it is pretty much local librarians and faculty presenting for other local librarians and faculty, which made it accessible, productive, and a positive learning experience unlike many regional or national conferences dependent on some hot shot scholar or rock star librarian preaching to the masses. Anyhow, let me just get on with it. I am posting my notes mostly for future reference, but hey, if anyone finds them useful, good for them.As usual, these are notes; any additional comments I add will go in parenthesis.

* * * 

Conference Keynote Speaker. The keynote was delivered by Dr. Robert L. King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. The speech was mostly a bit of getting the troops rallied and a bit of a look at the topic of student success and teaching.
  • Topic: "Making Kentucky Stronger by Degrees." 
  • We are urged to be "soldiers" that take ideas and new practices back to our campuses. Be soldiers to help improve education results across our campuses and the state collectively. 
  • What is student success? What does it mean to be student-centered? 
    • We are getting less underprepared students due to teaching improvements, but we are still getting a good amount of underprepared students.
    • There is the old notion of the professor who says, "I teach. Learning is your problem." Should this change and go away? (question was asked. I certainly say yes, we should make fossils out of such professors). 
    • When surveyed, very few students revealed that they had a professor who cared about them. (Dr. King was referring to this piece in The Chronicle of Higher Education that highlights results of the Gallup-Purdue Index Report. You will get better context if you actually read the Chronicle piece at least).
  • Meeting teaching challenges: 
    • New pedagogy styles. 
    • Team course development. 
    • Flipped classrooms.
    • "Guide on the side."
    • Experiential learning. 
    • Differential instruction. 
  •  High Impact Practices improve outcomes. 
    • Academic achievement.
    • Persistence. 
    • Graduation. 
    • Engagement in educationally purposeful activities that connect to employer expectations. 
  •   Reference to the book Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses (on a side note, my library does have the book. For contrast/counter, here is a small piece on the topic out of The Chronicle of Higher Education). The speaker presented a pie chart from the book that highlighted results of students being asked how they spend their time in college. This is self-reported, for a 168-hour week: 
    • 51% socializing and other. This led the speaker to observe that the notion that colleges overload their students with work is not true. 
    • 9% attending classes. 
    • 7% studying. 
    • 9% working, volunteering, clubs. 
    • 24% sleeping. This is estimated.
    • Conclusion: the simple act of staying enrolled does not ensure learning. 
  • Ask yourselves: what is your role in yourself and your classroom to have more student-centered learning. 

* * * 

(There were various concurrent sessions, but since I have not figured out how to clone myself yet, I could only be in one place at a time. Therefore, notes are for the sessions I did attend).

Session 1: "From Yoda to Ironman: Selecting Technologies That Best Fit You, Your Students, and Your Course."

(This was a basic presentation of a list of good practices and advice when selecting technology for your classes. A handout was included, but sadly it was not made available online, However, I am jotting the list of items from the handout here). The speakers mention that often lists of liked and hated classroom technologies overlap; for instance, people often love and hate Prezi. This tells us that often the issue is in how we use the technology, not the technology itself. The principles the speakers presented:
  • Focus on pedagogy, not technology. Start with good ideas, THEN select the tool. 
  • Set expectations early. Make instructions for your students clear and specific. 
  • Choose high-quality content and ideas over high-tech. Think about what is best for your class or discipline. (Heck, for some teachers, a piece of chalk or a dry erase board can be the best educational tool. Don't believe it? Ask some math teachers in college). Ask what technology works best for what you are trying to accomplish. 
  • More technology requires more organization. You need to plan beforehand. This includes having how-to guides, tutorials, and other items needed for students who need to learn about whatever technology you have chosen to use (don't assume every student has been exposed to your new shiny toy). 
  • Accommodate before you innovate. For instance, geographic challenges, say rural areas with poor Internet. Or financial challenges in affording the technology. (For me, the geographic and financial are always big issues, and it is a pet peeve when, to borrow the old term, Two-pointopians just assume everyone will adopt or rush to buy whatever new tech du jour they advocate or want to use), Disabilities, not everyone can access your pre-recorded lecture if they are, for example, visually or hearing impaired. 
  • Appeal to multiple styles of learning. See also the ECAR surveys, that show preferences of print over mobile. Main ECAR site: (they just mentioned this).
  • Don't let technology make you mechanical. Goes back to "Just make sure they know that you care." Quote by Dr. Loys Mather. 
  • Use technology to teach, not entertain. The technology must serve a purpose. 
  • To legitimize, you must personalize. Make it your own. Personalize the assessment. 
  • Prepare for technology to fail. Be prepared to work and get around the technology. 

* * * 

Session 2: "If It Weren't for Those Meddling Librarians...: Shifting from 'Sage on Stage' to 'Meddler-in-the-Middle' with Team-based and Cooperative Learning Techniques."

Overall, this session was mostly an illustration of the technique. I did like the idea using the differently colored handouts for the students in groups to work on developing their research topics. An idea I hope we can integrate into our library instruction here.
  • Point here is to get students to guide the learning and the instruction.
  • Use a topic no student group is working on when you do your instruction. 
  • If breaking in groups in groups for the students to come up with keywords, one group can then give feedback to another. 
  • Group brainstorming. Can identify a leader to guide the brainstorm, make sure all speak. 
  • Use colored sheets, for example, as a way to define groups. 
  • Once the brainstorm is done, the teacher draws on their examples to guide the creation of search strings, truncating, so on. 
    • For advanced searchers, cover topics like truncation, citation mining, subject headings, cited references, and limiters. 
  •   To put students in groups, manipulate settings. Gather together by topics, by major/curricular program, randomly (using those colored sheets for instance). Assign group roles: scribe, moderator, so on. 
  • If a topic is too narrow, the librarian guides them to broaden out. (For me, this was a question. Here at Berea one of the General Studies classes does require having a "Berea" or other localized topic that may not lend itself as well to broadening. However, the issue often is not broadening as it is either students thinking too literally or worse professors who are inflexible. The popular bad sample topic, to provide an idea: the student wants to write about the story of food service at Berea College. This material simply does not exist, so you either have to disappoint the student or get them to broaden their idea. Often the challenge is getting the professor to accept that yes, a bad topic like that simply does not have research material available. Our Archives and Special Collections, as good as they are, are not limitless). 
  • To get some additional engagement, another idea can be use of "clicker" technology. (For example, Turning Point, which by the way, we had a demo of this on our campus recently. No, not shilling for them, simply came to mind due to timing).

 * * * 

Session 3: "Feeding the Teaching Soul: Faculty Reading Circles to Stimulate Conversation About Teaching."

(On a different track, I went for something dealing with the faculty. Given that we are interested in doing more outreach here, including under the mantra of "bringing the faculty back" --yes, we are going with that slogan), I figured this would be a good session for me. The presentation did feature a PowerPoint, but again, no online link available. Organizers should definitely consider collecting handouts, so on for online access, not so much to be green, although nice but assumes all have access, but maybe so folks like me have something to refer to later.)

  • What are challenges faculty face in the classroom? 
  • Organizational development: how to help the organization. 
  • Faculty are not often pedagogical experts (I was impressed they actually said that with a straight face. This is something I have known to be true forever, then again, I DO have a teaching degree, something most faculty tend to lack. Now, if I made that statement, I am sure some butt hurt faculty member would be griping at me. Go figure). 
    • So, how can the developer help them? Help empower the way they teach and empower the students to learn. 
  •  For a faculty reading circle, at the beginning, set ground rules for things like safety, openness, respect, collaboration, so on. 
  • You are not just reading a book. Take reading through the reader's experience and draw on outside resources and ideas. There is what you bring to the circle and what you take from it. 
  • Reading circles can be built around events, such as a relevant author coming to campus. 
  • 7 to 10 members is an ideal number for a reading circle. It is OK for people to come and go. Participation varying is OK but you want to aim for that 7 to 10. 
  • Also try for short period of time, say reading a book over a month so your group meets maybe once a week, or biweekly and go two months. Do not draw out over a semester. 
  • Reference. See book The New Science of Learning by Terry Doyle (mentioned by the presenters). 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Article Note: On Intentional Informationists

Citation for the article:

Hoffman, Debra and Amy Wallace, "Intentional Informationists: Re-envisioning Information Literacy and Re-designing Instructional Programs Around Faculty Librarians' Strengths as Campus Connectors, Information Professionals, and Course Designers." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39 (2013): 546-551.

Read via Science Direct. 

This article draws on social justice research, and the authors present a new term: intentional informationists. This article has applicability for us here given our very strong social justice history and commitment. This new definition can help further enhance our information literacy program, and I also think it can go well with some programs here like our General Education program. When I came to my current workplace, a big reason to stay was that we share a vision for our students to be lifelong learners. How they apply information literacy skills and critical thinking after college is of interest to me, and the concept of an intentional informationist has potential to enhance that vision here. In addition, some of the article reminded me of previous Paulo Freire readings I have done before (I have blogged about Freire and his influence at various times, such as here and here); no surprise since there is at least one citation to Freire in the works cited section.

The authors advocate creating partnerships outside of the library, especially outside the "usual suspects" of composition and rhetoric. Go with folks in places like education (this actually makes a lot of sense to me, and as a former school teacher and adjunct professor, puzzles me with instruction librarianship does not as a profession and in academia work more with schools of education), business, and communications and media. Librarians can create and design courses for credit; in fact, the authors describe work they have done in this area creating courses that do sound intriguing (and that I would not mind replicating here). In addition, or if that is not a viable option (for instance, I know with my current duties, there is no way I could design a course let alone have the time to teach it), librarians can also serve as guest lecturers in classrooms for topics other than information literacy and library sessions. We do have expertise, in varying degrees, in topics such as writing, community engagement, activism, censorship, copyright and intellectual property, open access, and others. We should leverage this. It would also add to our professional standing if we get faculty to see us in different lights (it might also help the constant feelings of insecurity a lot of librarians tend to display over things like professionalism, expertise, and being an academic, but I am briefly digressing).

In the end, much of the point is for librarians to play to strengths that they already have. 

Notes and quotes to remember:

  • The authors state: "We believe that it is our responsibility as librarians and faculty to provide them with an educational experience and opportunities that challenge them to reflect, engage, and act" (546).
  • The answer to this is yes. For us, this really should be a no-brainer: "If information is a bit part of everyday life and librarians are intimately familiar with the interests and inequalities in the information realm, shouldn't we as a profession work to integrate social critique with pedagogical techniques that help students reflect, advocate, answer, and develop information related questions and issues that impact our students' everyday lives?" (547). Then again, this may include giving up to a big extent on the illusion of neutrality the profession so often wants to cling to no matter what. Sooner or later, as a profession, we have to choose to do the right thing. Sure, presenting a diversity of information and opinions is a noble thing, but it should not be at the expense of allowing misinformation and ignorance to stand. 
  • On this question, the latter should be the answer (in my humble opinion, which if you add it to a couple of pennies you might get some gum from the gumball machine): "Should we be teaching undergraduates concepts and skills in order to simply function in the information age, or should we be equipping students with the theoretical framework and critical thinking skills to define, consider, solve, embrace, and champion the ethical, political, social, and cultural opportunities and dilemmas that are presented to them?" (547). 
  • This is sad, and it needs to be addressed if we are to create better citizens: "The typical undergraduate has not, and probably will not, receive an introduction to information theories on the ethical, political, social, and cultural opportunities and dilemmas surrounding its creation and use" (547). By the way, I did read The Information Diet, which the authors cite in their article. 
  • The authors observe that many libraries employ standardized assessment measures for information literacy competencies. Here we use the HEDS assessment; the college piloted this past year, and we will decide whether to do it again or not. I think we'll likely continue a year or two, in part to see how it works. However, between reading this article and other reflecting and thinking, I know we will outgrow that eventually, but for now given we are building up a culture of assessment, it does give us something to start and get at least a base. I do want to know more, and I want my students to know more, so there goes my thinking for the future as I want to be able to assess critical thinking and reflection when it comes to information and its various implications. 
  • The authors' term: "Our definition of an intentional informationist is simple: she is a person that has the contextual, reflective and informational skills to identify information opportunities, tackle complex information problems and pitfalls, and provide solutions or considerations that do not just meet her individual needs" (547). 
  • "We believe that undergraduate students can and should be introduced to theories of commodification and ownership of information, ethical  uses of bio-recognition and genetic information, and convergence, as well as age-old dilemmas such as information haves and have-nots, information noise and overload, misinformation and privacy which impact them on a daily basis" (548). I certainly believe this as well. These are issues that are out there, even if more often than not the mainstream media ignores or hides them, and that affect them. Even the so-called "old-age" issues are barely touched, and libraries have a great opportunity in their advocacy roles to help with this.
  • This caught my eye: "Those who use libraries will need to reframe the discussion away from cost cutting to bigger issues of information access, information literacy, circulation monitoring, and safe information spaces" (549). Then again, this would mean common people would need to pay attention, something they are notoriously negligent about given topics like net neutrality that rarely get news coverage anyhow. Again, something librarians could be doing something about in the larger scheme of things instead of fussing about the not so large molehills they often do. 
  • And again, on librarians needing to do more than "the usual" things: "We believe the first big leap for librarians is to consider themselves as full partners in curriculum development, and not just there to inform collection development and promote library collections and services" (550). For some, it may mean more education and/or more training, but the way I see it this is a profession where you are supposed to continue learning throughout your life and career. For me, having a teaching degree in addition to being a librarian has been very handy. 
  • The authors mention finding success via outreach programs and activities. Certainly helps validate for me why instruction and outreach are linked. 

Side note for me on a couple of things cited I need to read or review soon:

  • Accardi and Kumbler, eds., Critical library instruction: theories and methods.  On the positive, my library has it. On the negative, they have it as an e-book (and reading books that way on the EBSCO platform is, to be perfectly blunt, a pain in the ass. I know this both as reader and from students who constantly ask for "the real book" when offered an e-book. I may either order a print copy or get one via Interlibrary Loan).
  • Jacobs, H. (2008). "Information Literacy and Reflective Pedagogical Praxis." The Journal of Academic Librarianship 34.3. I honestly thought I had read this, but I have no record of it on the blog, so either I read it and did not jot it down, or did not. So, may as well grab it again.
  • I. Shor's books Critical Teaching and Everyday Life and Critical Literacy in Action. The first one we have here. The other I would be requesting via Interlibrary Loan. 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Article Note: On E-book Literacy and Undergraduate Experience with E-Books

Citation for the article:

Muir, Laura and Graeme Hawes, "The Case for e-Book Literacy: Undergraduate Students' Experience with e-Books for Course Work."  The Journal of Academic Librarianship 39 (2013): 260-274.

Read via ScienceDirect.

I was interested in this article because we are in the midst of discussing our philosophies or approaches when it comes to e-books. We are asking questions now such as:

  • what is the role of e-books?
  • are they just for brief, scholarly uses? 
  • do we want or wish to encourage people to actually read them? 
  • academic books versus popular books? which to collect? how much of each? do we even bother with or consider popular reading materials as e-books? 
I was also interested in this article due to a recent reading experience. I read a book on readers' advisory, and I wanted to see if I could get other titles in that series. My library has a couple of the titles in question as electronic books (part of the EBSCOhost e-book collection). I noticed that to "borrow" it and download it to a reading device (if I recall, it would work with my iPad with Bluefire in this case), after setting up an account with the EBSCO system, I could only have the book for five days give or take. I can read fast, but I cannot read that fast, so naturally I ask our electronic resources manager about it. She informed me that the loan could be renewed if need be or that in the long term we (the library) could decide to change the loan limit. That got me thinking what about other people who may want to read a full book for any number of reasons and they get the issue I got. This is a bit of a long way to express some of the things I am thinking about as I read this article.

The article reports on an observation-based case study where students were given an assignment that required the use of e-books. The idea was to see how the students used the e-books and to learn about their experience with them. The study took place at St. Andrews University, and it was students in a Quantum Mechanics class. To collect data, they did a pre-assignment questionnaire, a direct observation of a sample of students that had taken the questionnaire, and an interview after the tasks. The article includes appendices so readers can see the survey instruments. I know that some of the questions in the initial survey are ones we might want to integrate in our data gathering down the road.

Notes from the article, with some comments:

  • "Some of the reasons for slow acceptance of e-books have included limited academic e-book provision by publishers, lack of awareness of e-books among potential users, user discomfort from reading online and poorly designed interfaces on e-book platforms" (260). (Not to mention different platforms, and they all have different technical requirements and obstacles to overcome, and more.)
  • From the literature review, reasons given for the appeal of e-books: 24/7 availability, "instant online access," and "no need to visit the library" (261). This from a 2009 study by Chelin (link to Chelin article here).
  • "If e-books are to be widely adopted as an alternative to the printed book for academic work, then they must provide better user experience and tangible enhancements for scholarly work" (261). (We are are way behind on this issue. It is a big reason why when we offer students an e-book, they almost inevitably answer, "do you have the real book?")
  • From the findings of the first questionnaire: "Most of the students (98.3%) had used e-books prior to the study. Of these, 95.2% had used them for academic study." Now, what we really need to pay attention to is this: "However, this does not imply that they had successfully mastered the features of e-books and it was evident (in the observed task) that some of these students struggled, even with basic navigation, despite having used e-books previously" (262). This also prompted me to ask if we should be adding some instruction on how to use e-books to our library instruction program, be it in the instruction sessions or maybe as workshops (the article will make a case for e-book literacy, so it would certainly provide me with evidence to support making such a case here). 
  • Notice the latter part of this statement: "This suggests that the students had perhaps used e-books because they were instructed to do so, or out of interest or desire to explore the format, but that further engagement with e-books would be driven by need to access a text in whatever form was available (with print as the preferred option)" (262). And do note the part in parenthesis. In other words, e-books may tolerated as the only option available, but they are not the preferred option, and in my experience at the reference desk e-books are the option to avoid unless there is nothing else available. Now I think some of that has improved a bit over time, but there is still a long way to go. In classes, we may show students that we do have e-books, and we may highlight a feature or two, but there is certainly no formal instruction on how to use them. This is something I realize we need to work on, but then the usual question of time constraints in an instruction session arises. 
  • Students often reported problems with the search functions of e-book platforms. This caught my eye because often when talking up e-books, the fact that "you can search it" is a talking point. However, depending on the platform, the search function may or not do what one intuitively expects it to do.
  • "Most of the participants in the observed task struggled with page to page navigation: from discovering the features which allowed them to navigate the pages; to using them properly; to general frustration at the slowness of page loading and the inability to scroll down through pages" (266). This right here is one of various reasons that e-books are not going to beat print books any time soon no matter what some tech guru says.
  • Furthermore, a student respondent: "I'm thinking about using a [print] textbook as opposed to this, in terms of finding something unknown it would be a bit quicker because, you know, you can flick back and forth through the pages at a faster speed." [Student E]" (267). For me, as a user of e-books (a lot of them being books I review), this is a big reason I prefer print books. Nothing that frustrates a reader faster than trying to move back and forth in a book and the pages "freeze up." 
  • Yet not all hope is lost. Here is something contrary to the common wisdom: "This suggests that students will read e-books online at length where they perceive the value of doing so" (267). Making those e-books work better certainly would help more. 
  • In addition, the inconsistent nature of platforms, access, and other issues with e-books could raise other concerns, such as "accessibility issues could arise for students with additional learning needs (such as Dyslexia or Dyspraxia)" (268). Overall, many of the e-book platforms I have observed are not necessarily the most friendly to students who may have learning or other disabilities.
  • Here is a totally cynical observation on my part as to why e-book issues do not get fixed (or at least do not get fixed in any reasonable time frame): it is not commercially viable for the providers to fix them. After all, as the article quotes, "a solution which addresses user requirements but is not commercially viable is of no value. . . " (272). It's of no value to the e-book provider that is. 
  • On what librarians can do: "Availability is only part of the issue, however. Librarians have a role to play to effectively market and promote collections and make e-books easily discoverable via Library OPACs-- perhaps even at chapter level. . . " (272). 
  • This goes to my previous question on e-books and instruction: "For librarians and academics, the onus is on developing skills for effective use of e-books. This study has revealed that current approaches to training students to use e-books effectively for scholarly activity is generally lacking. Instruction tends to be focussed on locating the e-books for study rather than on their use to achieve students' goals" (272). How can we address this becomes my question. Additional workshops? For the students? In our campus here, could we do it with the peer tutors? For faculty? The authors propose a useful typology of skills and use experiences. For me, I do wonder then how it can be integrated into our information literacy program's objectives and assessments. That is thinking a bit further down the road for me. 
The article certainly gave me a lot to think about. I did briefly discuss it with my library director, and I know this will be a topic we will continue to explore. 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Booknote: The Readers' Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd Edition)

(Crossposted from my personal blog, The Itinerant Librarian)

Becky Siegel Spratford, The Reader's Advisory Guide to Horror (2nd edition). Chicago: ALA, 2012. ISBN: 9780838911129. 

Genre: Nonfiction
Subgenre: Library science, readers' advisory, horror

This book was a serendipity find for me at the public library. I picked it up to get a refresher on the genre and help keep up my RA (readers' advisory for my non-librarian friends) skill set. I did take the coursework for RA in library school, but I am also an avid reader and strive to keep up with various genres. After all, if this academic librarian gig does not pan out, I think I can still get employed at a public library. Plus, for me, reading is fun. As for the horror genre, I would not consider myself a "horror reader," but I do read in the genre, which I enjoy now and then. This book is part of ALA's RA series, and it was pretty good in providing an overview of the genre. It is a good aide for librarians who may not know much about horror.

The book focuses on horror; it does address what could be labeled as "related" genres such as dark fantasy or paranormal, but the bottom line here is true horror. However, in this day and age where paranormal fiction (often romance with paranormal elements) is such a big hit with readers, it needs to be acknowledged in any discussion of horror, and the book does that, providing some small guidance on those given the crossover appeal. This is to address, for instance, the nice lady who reads, for example, Laurell K. Hamilton's Anita Blake series and wants to read more "horror." What that reader probably wants is more paranormal fiction, possibly with romance elements, but it has vampires and werewolves, so it has to be horror, right? The librarian does not have to "correct" the lady. Just know the distinctions so you can provide the best advice possible and help your reader get to their next great read. Yet at the end of the day, the core of the book is horror.

For the purposes of the book, the author defines horror as:

 "a story in which the author manipulates the reader's emotions by introducing situations in which unexplainable phenomena and unearthly creatures threaten the protagonist and provoke terror in the reader" (13). 

That definition is the starting point.

The book's first three chapters provide a history and genre overview. The next set of chapters provide annotated lists with some readalike suggestions in these horror topics:

  • classics, 
  • ghosts and haunted houses
  • vampires
  • zombies
  • shape-shifters
  • monsters and ancient evil
  • witches and occult
  • Satan and demonic possession
  • comic horror.
The last two chapters deal with using your collection and marketing. The chapter on whole collection RA was good as it reassures librarians they may already have many horror titles in the collection they can start promoting right away. This chapter also looks at other genres such as supernatural, paranormal, nonfiction, and graphic novels that horror readers may like as well.

The book is mainly designed for librarians, especially public librarians. However, I think the chapters with book lists could help some advanced horror readers as well as readers new to the genre. As I mentioned, I do read some horror; I have read some of the basics, including some mentioned in the book, but I also found some new reading suggestions that I jotted down.

Overall, this is an accessible, concise book that provides a lot of reading ideas and suggestions. As a reader and librarian, I really liked this one. It does make me willing to go look for other books in the RA series too.

I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

* * * 

This is the list of titles I jotted down from the book to add to my TBR list. In parenthesis, I am putting the label the book used and any comments I may have. I am also including WorldCat links to help my four readers and me find them later.

Books I jotted down from the opening chapters (i.e. caught my eye right away):

  • Joe Hill, Heart-Shaped Box (I have been told this is pretty much classic. Only Joe Hill I have read, which I enjoyed, is his Locke & Key graphic novel series.) 
  • Brian Keene, Castaways (the author mentioned this book a few times, deals with one of those "Survivor" type of reality shows.)
  • Ray Bradbury, Something Wicked This Way Comes (I have read Bradbury, and I can't believe I have not read this. We need to fix that gap.)
  • Arthur Conan Doyle, Tales of Terror and Mystery. (1906)
  • H.P. Lovecraft (I have actually read some of his works, but would love to read more)
Other books I jotted down as I read the book:

Friday, March 07, 2014

Booknote: The Library at Night

(Crossposted from The Itinerant Librarian. Given it deals with libraries, reading, and literacy, I figure it can be shared here as well.)

Manguel, Alberto, The Library at Night.  New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-300-13914-3.

This is a beautiful and pleasant book book that sings the praises of libraries, books, and those who work in them and use them in an erudite and elegant way. If you are feeling down from bad news of library closings or not getting enough funding, or are you just sick and tired of the next "trend" in libraries making it sound like libraries are dead fossils, then toss all that away and curl up comfortably with a serving of your favorite beverage and this book.

Manguel employs rich language and imagery to create a book that is not just to be read. It is one to be savored. In a time when librarians think everything will go online and some even scoff at the idea of physical libraries (you know, the ones who see themselves more as "information professionals" or other fancy non-librarian title), Manguel shows us the significance and importance of libraries through the ages and in all forms, even the electronic ones, with reverence and respect. If you are a librarian,  you will likely embrace this book. If you've used a library and/or you have one of your own, this book will bring warm feelings and evoke great memories.

Overall, this is one I definitely recommend. I am giving it the full 5 out of 5 stars.

Books I've read with similar appeal that I have read (links go to my reviews):

* * *

Additional reading notes: I found myself making notes as I read and jotting down passages and quotes to remember. If interested, you can feel free to read on.

I loved this image:

"I like to imagine that, on the day after my last, my library and I will crumble together, so that even when I am no more I'll still be with my books" (37). 

It is a very romantic ideal, to take your books with you in eternity. I think I would that for some books, but let the rest in my personal library be sold or given to friends and family so that, as another writer I read once said, others may experience the joys of reading and discovery in those books as I did. 

Even Manguel knows:

"And yet, both libraries-- the one of paper and the electronic one-- can and should coexist. Unfortunately, one is too often favoured to the detriment of the other" (77). 

Unfortunately, even a good number of librarians favor one to the detriment of the other. Let's not even go into the many problems of electronic record preservation, which Manguel does discuss well in the book by the way. Further on, Manguel writes,

"In comparing the virtual library to the traditional one of paper and ink, we need to remember several things: that reading often requires slowness, depth, and context; that our electronic technology is still fragile and that, since it keeps changing, it prevents us many times from retrieving what was once stored in now superseded containers; that leafing through a book or roaming through shelves is an intimate part of the craft of reading and cannot be entirely replaced by scrolling down a screen, any more than real travel can be replaced by travelogues and 3-D gadgets" (79). 

On the power of readers:

"The power of readers lies not in their ability to gather information, in their ordering and cataloguing capability, but their gift to interpret, associate and transform their reading" (91).

Libraries as subversive and even immortal:

"Libraries, in their very being, not only assert but also question the authority of power. As repositories of history or sources for the future, as guides or manuals for difficult times, as symbols of authority past or present, the books in a library stand for more than their collective contents, and have, since the beginning of writing, been considered a threat. It hardly matters why a library is destroyed: every banning, curtailment, shredding, plunder or loot gives rise (at least a ghostly presence) to a louder, clearer, more durable library of the banned, looted, plundered, shredder or curtailed. Those books may no longer be available for consultation, they exist only in the vague memory of a reader or in the vaguer-still memory of tradition and legend, but they have acquired a kind of immortality" (128). 

On why it's good to have a study. Also why I cherish mine:

"A study lend its owner, its privileged reader, what Seneca call euthymia, a Greek word which Seneca explained means 'well-being of the soul,' and which he translated as 'tranquillitas.' Every study ultimately aspires to euthymia. Euthymia, memory without distraction, the intimacy of a reading time-- a secret period in the communal day-- that is what we seek in a private reading space" (188).

Manguel does not that sometimes we can also discover euthymia in the communal space of the public library.

On a library reflecting its owner:

"What makes a library a reflection of its owner is not merely the choice of the titles themselves, but the mesh of associations implied in the choice. Our experience builds on experience, our memory on other memories. Our books build on other books that change or enrich them. . . " (194).

I love that idea. I wonder what associations I would see in the books I've chosen for my personal library.

On readers choosing books to read:

"We pick our way down endless library shelves, choosing this or that volume for no discernible reason: because of a cover, a title, a name, because of something someone said or didn't say, because of a hunch, a whim, a mistake, because we think we may find in this book a particular tale or character or detail, because we believe it was written for us, because we believe it was written for everyone except us and we want to find out why we have been excluded, because we want to learn, or laugh, or lose ourselves in oblivion" (222).

A lot of this sounds just like I do when I choose my next book to read. How do you choose your next book to read. Feel free to comment and let me know.

 On "have you read all these books?"

"The fact is that a library, whatever its size, need not be read in its entirety to be useful; every reader profits from a fair balance between knowledge and ignorance, recall and oblivion" (254). 

And further on Manguel adds,

"I have no feeling of guilt regarding the books I have not read and perhaps will never read; I know that my books have unlimited patience. They will wait for me till the end of my days" (255). 

I think I should use that answer when anybody asks that about my personal library and books.

And finally, a quote, a verse,

"Those who read, those who
          tell us what they read,
Those who noisily turn
         the pages of their books,
Those who have power
         red and black ink,
         and over pictures,
Those are the ones who lead us,
        guide us, show us the way."

--Aztec Codex from 1524, Vatican Archives.