Saturday, November 24, 2007

interdisciplinarity (a fun word to say)

Jane Blumenthal brought up an interesting point at Wednesday's Librarians' Forum. Since so much of the research being done today is interdisciplinary, we ought to rethink the way we support our faculty research teams.

Here's an example. This semester, I taught a library research session for COMM 488, Health Communication and Health Behavior Change. This class focused in on media effects on human health. Students researched not only the communications and mass media literature, but also needed to analyze health statistics and public policy on health communication. When I taught the class, I stumbled through much of the statistics and public policy portion - these resources are relatively foreign to me.

Jane's suggestion was to have teams of librarians in support of those faculty whose research crosses disciplinary boundaries. COMM 488, clearly something that spans disciplinary boundaries, is a prime example of a situation in which a team approach would have been not only appropriate, but extremely beneficial.

This kind of thing probably already happens informally. I could have easily asked colleagues in the Public Health and Informatics library for suggestions; I could have asked our Government Documents librarians for tips on finding statistics. Why am I so excited about Jane's idea? It gives us a new way to market our services to faculty.

This is in no way a service we offer formally, but I imagine if we did, the publicity to go something like this:

(front of postcard)

(back of postcard)

Not only will the faculty benefit from having the expertise of librarians with a variety of subject specialties, but librarians will benefit by becoming more aware of what's going on at the University. Collections, services, and communication can be made very relevant to faculty needs with that kind of information. As a team of subject specialists ourselves, we will pull more weight as colleagues.

Has this been done anywhere that anyone knows about? Please comment and let me know!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Missing Person

Interesting use of a flyer...

UPDATE: Oh, internet, you continue to shock me today. After Radiohead released their new album, In Rainbows, at a name-your-own price, one of my favorite magazines is doing the same. Subscribe to Paste at your own price (minimum $1, regularly $20) and get a really great, well written, well produced magazine for a price you think is fair.

What a good marketing campaign. I did let my old subscription lapse, because I'm moving soon and didn't want to mess with changing addresses, but with this new promotion, I signed right up at $11. I'll take it! I wouldn't have subscribed otherwise.

(Thanks, Metafilter, for another great link!)

Friday, November 2, 2007

Readings: Race, School Achievement, and Educational Inequality

Wiggan, G. (2007). Race, School Achievement, and Educational Inequality: Toward a Student-Based Inquiry Perspective. Review of Educational Research 77(3), pp. 310-333.

I love the Review of Educational Research. I love review articles in general. As someone who is stepping into a new role as liaison to the College of Education and the department of Political Science, review articles provide needed summaries of the major research topics in the disciplines I am going to support.

What I love about both Education and Political Science especially is the readability of these articles. Greg Wiggan's piece was tight, succinct, and very well written, making it an easy read on the bus to work this morning.

Plot summary:
  • Researchers have tried to explain the gap between white and black K-12 students in academic achievement primarily through four explanations: genetic differences across the races, the family and community environments students grow up in, the expectations teachers have for students of different races, and finally, students' opposition to the culture they encounter at school versus the culture they are embedded in at home.
  • Of these four, the first three are deterministic - the students themselves are at the mercy of some external factor (genetics, society, or teachers, respectively). Only the last assumes the students themselves are agents in their own development.
  • Wiggan makes a case for analyzing students' own perspectives on what achievement is, the competency of their teachers and the quality of their own education - up until this point, researchers have only been using students to confirm or refute theories - students have not had participatory power in the research process. Their voices have largely been marginalized. By placing importance in the responses students provide to questions about teacher competency, the meaning of 'achievement', and other research questions, we will be gaining a better understanding of how students interact at school, at home, in their communty, with standardized tests, and more.
  • As mentioned in the article, it seems like achievement is something that is hard to define. I imagine many of the articles and studies Wiggan referred to define what achievement is for their own purposes, but it makes it difficult to compare studies with varying methodologies - heck, even with the SAME methodologies!
  • There's a move to focus on the students themselves in research. I wonder how some of these studies analyze the interviews they conduct with the students, and what they're learning about students' own view of their achievement. Do low performing students simply believe that academic achievement isn't valuable? Does it seem unattainable?
  • At the core of this article is the problem of racism and poverty; these social issues don't just affect education - they affect people's entire lives. For minority students, is academic achievement a way out of poverty? For those same students, does academic achievement SEEM like a way out, or just seem like accepting the academic culture as more valid than their own culture?
I'm going to start reading more of these articles in hopes of finding some things that spark my interest. After moving to Texas, finding a house, having a kid, I'm going to seriously think about doing a little more research (a.k.a. getting a PhD). But I want what I do to be directly applicable to practitioners - mainly, librarians, educators, parents.

Articles like these are highly accessible. It's been a while since I've read anything outside the library and information science field - this was refreshing.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Librarian with a Latte Update

So I logged into my Meebo account this morning to see if any of my friends were online, and I had three messages waiting for me upon log in! See the example below...

How do students find my IM account? They come to my course subject guides through their CTools site! On the chat page there, I have my own personal Meebo widget, but also a widget that connects them with librarians through our library's Ask Us service.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Sample Librarian with a Latte Communication

Just sent this to a COMM 101 class:

Your COMM 101 proposal is due on Tuesday, October 30th (the week after next). By then, you'll need to have written a 1-page synopsis of what you're planning to write about **and** submit a list of six *scholarly* articles about your topic.

So, to help you get your six (and maybe more!), I'll be at Espresso Royale on SOUTH UNIVERSITY (the one by the arch, not the one on State) during these times to help:

Tuesday next week, October 23rd, 1 - 3pm
Thursday next week, October 25th, 6:30 - 8:30pm
Sunday next week, October 28th, 5 - 7pm

I'll have a laptop, and we can sit down, talk about what your topic is, and find articles for it. If we don't find much, we can work on revising your topic.

Too freaking good to be true, right? Well, for one, I don't buy your coffee. So forget about it. :)

Second, it does get kinda crowded. Because of that, e-mail me at and let me know which date you're coming, and what time you think you might show. I might ask that you come a little later if it sounds like a lot of people are going to be there.

Appointments are *not* required, you can just show up - but if I'm busy with someone, I can't guarantee I'll be able to help everyone.

Eric (the COMM Studies Librarian)
I'll post and let you know how it turns out. Last semester, for this same group, I have over 30 show up all at the same time to the session. There are some differences this semester:
  • The communication comes directly from me, not the instructor.
  • There are 3 scheduled sessions, not 1.
  • I ask for them to let me know when they're coming, so I can prevent overcrowding and do more individualized reference.
I hope it rocks their socks off!


Monday, October 15, 2007

I Heart CMS's

You know what would make me a more pro-active, effective librarian? If I had access to the syllabi, assignments and reading lists of the classes in the Communication Studies department. You know what would be even cooler? If I had the ability to e-mail all the students in a class to let them know I was available to help. If I could put a link to a course-specific subject guide specially made for them into their Blackboard/WebCT/CTools site.

Wouldn't it be great if I had all that access? If I had that kind of access, I wouldn't need to rely on faculty to pass along messages from me or add links to library resources...

Oh wait. I do have the access!

This semester, CTools (an implementation of Sakai) unveiled the 'Librarian' role. If a faculty member adds me to their CTools site in this role, I have the permissions to edit the class site I need to connect students with the help and resources they need for their classes.

Every COMM class has a CTools site - each of those sites has at minimum the syllabus, and most have all of the assignments and readings students are required to do right there. Here's what I can do:
  • I can read the syllabus to get an idea of what each class covers.
  • I can see all the assignments my students are going to be graded on.
How does this help?
  • I can create course-specific subject guides (example, example, example) that identify the best resources for a class's focus, scope and subject matter.
  • I can plan librarian with a latte sessions that fall in the days before assignment deadlines.
I also have access to edit the CTools site. How does this help?
  • I can put a link to the aforementioned subject guides in the CTools site (see screenshot).
  • I can put in a link to our library's chat reference service.
  • I can e-mail students when a librarian with a latte session happens.
If your institution lets you do this kind of thing, do it! I'm wondering what my new institution's course management system is, and if I'll be able to do the same things...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lesson Study in Libraries

Did I post about Lesson Study yet? Even if I did, I have to post about it again, because it's *freakin awesome*. Marija Freeland, the Education librarian here at UM, brought it up at a meeting about a year ago, and since then, we've used Lesson Study to write, revise, and perfect a couple of modules teaching librarians can use when they go out to do library instruction (or b.i., or whatever).

Here's how it works:
  • We form a group of people (any title, any affiliation) with an interest in instruction in libraries.
  • We pick a topic (so far at UM, we've done "Incorporating RefWorks instruction into typical library instruction", "Making sense of Search Tools, a 30-minute module", and this semester we're doing "Critical evaluation of sources.")
  • We meet once to brainstorm ideas about the topic... How long it should be, what knowledge/skills we want students to walk away with, and a very, very rough outline for the lesson plan.
  • One person volunteers to write up the first lesson plan using the discussion at the lesson study meeting as a guideline. The same person then teaches the lesson to a class of students.
    • The class is told that the lesson is still being worked on, and after the session, they're asked to provide feedback: what worked, what didn't?
    • The other members of the Lesson Study group observe the class and the students. Their goal is not to critique the instructor, but the structure of the lesson plan.
  • The group meets again, reviews student feedback and observations, and work together to revise and improve the lesson plan.
  • Someone NEW teaches the lesson the next time to another group of students while other members observe and students provide feedback.
  • Repeat until satisfied with the lesson plan.
  • An AWESOME lesson plan that's been tried and tested and worked on by many minds with many perspectives.
  • Creating the lesson plan is a shared responsibility - when you volunteer to write and teach a version of the plan, you're not under the microscope: the lesson plan we all create together is. This takes the pressure of doing all the work yourself and being judged away.
  • We get to share perspectives and experiences - since we all come from different backgrounds, we may have a different view of the topics we're trying to teach... The strength in the diversity of our own group is that we'll create a lesson plan that addresses a wide array of experiences and backgrounds. This, in the end, benefits our diverse student population.
Marija, Shevon Desai, and I wrote a piece for C&RL News last May about it. We've also developed a website to post our results.

Upcoming is a Lesson Study on the critical evaluation of sources. I'm excited about this one - we're not teaching any specific tool like we have in the past; instead, we're teaching an idea. Should make for an interesting lesson plan.

Oh, and FYI, I'm leaving UM in December. Stacey, my spouse, is graduating from the School of Social Work here, and two days later, we're in a Penske truck heading back to Texas. I'll be the new Education & Political Science librarian at the University of Texas Arlington library.

(p.s. i didn't want to start off this post with 'sorry i haven't written in a while', but sorry i haven't written in a while. you know how septembers go.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

a working definition (snicker)

i was responding to brian's comment when i realized i hadn't posted in a while. then my response got longer than a 'comment' should be, so i've posted it in full here. You know, to fill my blogging quota for the week. I'm such a slacker.

read brian's comment on third spaces: libraries.

the way i read "work" here was the place you go to earn money or do a job, not college homework. i consider my public library my third space -- when i get tired of being at home, and i'm not at work, i prefer to leave those two spaces and go somewhere else to surf the web, have a coffee, work on a website.. there's that word again: work. Not $$$ work, but doing stuff work.

In that scenario, I think you might be thinking of the library in the same way I am. "libraries are where the work gets done" -- unless you're suggesting that all students are employed by the library, then I think we're in agreement here.

being social doesn't mean no work can happen either. in fact, in my opinion, social interactions ARE how people learn. in addition, by providing spaces that don't require heavy thinking all the time, we define ourselves as a multipurpose place. Students don't have to be explicitly thinking about doing an assignment or research to come to the library. They could be interested in finding a travel guide for their spring break destination. They could go just to use the computers for Facebooking, hoping to run into real-life friends. They could be fiending for caffeine and choose the library over a coffee shop because there are computer terminals, and they've got to start on their assignment anyway.

I guess another big argument comes from this: how much space do we need anymore? I look at Texas - they've gutted all books from their Undergraduate Library. More stacks are being cleared for study spaces. Would it be inconceivable to put some of that space to use doing these kinds of things?

It all depends on your campus, I guess, and the types of students you have. If they never socialize while they do classwork, or prefer to work in quiet, scholarly spaces when they work, then sure, I agree, keep the cafe away. But that's not how I work. I like buzz around me. I like to sit in coffee shops to do my blogging (what I consider non-$$$ work, I guess. as close as I get to a class assignment). At the same time, I would love to be interrupted by friends just to chat. Maybe chatter will turn into a conversation about what I'm blogging about, then my work is better because of this chance encounter. The coffee shop as third space is the reason this interaction happened.

i don't think libraries should just be big video game arcades. nor do i think that we should ditch the quiet study spaces or all of our collections. but there's value in casual interaction, in thinking of the library as a destination to "just do it" - to just hang out - but I don't think that this kind of space precludes doing assignments. i think it encourages it by bringing people together who are all doing assignments.

Meet for coffee? Ok! Oh, did you finish that paper? Where'd you find your resources?

Do the library's video game tournament? Right on, I'm there. --- then later, "How do I find a scholarly article? I'll ask that librarian who did DDR the other night." (link: so embarrassing. i obviously have never done DDR before. can you tell? thanks josh morse for recording.)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

third space: libraries

At today's MLibrary 2.0 event on Gaming and Social Networking, Eli Neiburger described the library as the "third space" -- a place that is neither work nor home, and a place where people gather informally. Ann Arbor District Library has become a third space for teens in the city because of the gaming tournaments they hold, creative teen-focused events, and as evidenced by the massive crowd turnout this afternoon, hosting Harry and the Potters and Draco and the Malfoys for a parking lot rock concert.

He drew a lot of comparisons between the teens he works and plays with and the undergraduates that we serve at the academic library. While the public library has always had a mission of being that third space, the "people's university," it's only recently that academic libraries have had such a strong desire to become that third space as well. Coffee shops have sprung up on campuses everywhere; stacks have been cleared to make way for new study spaces; wireless computing is not a luxury or a bonus - it's taken for granted.

Lisa Hinchliffe of UIUC's Undergraduate Library also talks about academic libraries in this way. Having big collections and being a top-ten research library simply isn't enough anymore. If our target audience is the 18 - 22 crowd, we've got to do more than just have "stuff" -- we've got to be that third space.

UIUC's done a lot to do that. Lisa talks about the reasoning for installing a coffee shop in the undergraduate library. Students are going to need to take a break while studying. If they leave the library building to go somewhere for refreshment, then the chances of them coming back and finishing their work at the library is lessened. Having refreshments there in the building gives students a space to work hard, take a break, and then work hard once more.

I love this notion of third space, and it's easy to see how the concept has played out in my own life. When Stacey (my spouse) and I get bored, we usually spend a few hours at either the public library, Espresso Royale, or a bookstore. Unfortunately, the way we use these spaces is less social than the ideal third space -- we don't end up meeting new people or engaging with others in conversations. Rather, these spaces give us a chance to browse new books or read ones we already own (and getting our caffeine fix).

I also think of my father's Saturday breakfasts. Each Saturday, without having to call or plan, he can show up to John's Cafe in Garland, TX and expect to see a couple of his friends there. Discussions about vinyl, music, and peoples' record collections happen. While John's Cafe is by no means a general public's "third space," I imagine it fulfills that role for my dad and his friends.

What's needed is a combination of these two ideas. A place where people go and can get refreshed, and a place where people socialize. That's the ideal third space. Does UM have that in its libraries? I'm not sure it does... yet. Speaking only about the grad, people DO use it. There's never a shortage of patrons in our building. But we don't see the unexpected socializing and recreation that could be happening. Sure, on the eve of exams when everyone and their dogs are at the library, friends run in to each other, but it's not an everyday occurrence.

How do we turn an academic library buried beneath a history of being a quiet, reverent study space into a truly social third space? UIUC's using games. Aside from the cultural significance video games have had over the last few decades, they collect games to make connections to students. The coffee shop is another way.

When I asked Eli about the role librarians play in the shaping of a third space, he said we should not just be the keeper of the keys, but also participants. Even if it's just once, he said, when a librarian plays a round of Dance Dance Revolution, the librarian is part of the social and recreational life of the library and the people there.

That's appealing. And I think that the notion of a social space is appealing to our younger patrons as well. Not only can you study and use the resources of the library, but you can play, chat, eat, drink and enjoy just being at the library.

Providing games and beverages may seem like selling out or trying to compete with commercial establishments like coffee shops and bookstores, but if it's something our patrons need to do between spurts of studying (or they need these attractions to introduce them to the library in the first place), wouldn't providing these things really be supporting the way they learn and grow, not just play?

Bravo to our panelists for providing excellent, compelling arguments for thinking about these types of library services. In addition, I must give kudos to Lisa Hinchliffe who gave perhaps the only plausible explanation for academic libraries and librarians like me to play in Second Life: "Avatar-driven 3-D online worlds are not going away. Second Life and Linden Labs may not go on for ever, and there may not be a lot of people there now, but going there and figuring out what libraries can do in these environments will prepare us for when a world like this does become ubiquitous." Thanks. Once of the biggest criticisms I've had of spending time in Second Life has been the inability to identify a critical mass of UM students to work with; I think I've been too wrapped up in the present to consider the value of being in Second Life to future library work.

I also want to applaud Lisa for her slides detailing good qualities for librarians in leadership roles: be passionate and be compassionate. Bravo!!

Thanks also to all the MLibrary 2.0 planning committee that put this stuff together. I really enjoyed it!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

social capital / social networking

When I began library school a few years ago, I remember reading "Bowling Alone" by Robert Putnam and then then chapter about libraries in his follow-up book, "Better Together." The whole notion of social capital was intriguing -- relationships have real economic worth. Have an emergency and need someone to watch the kids? If you have trusted neighbors and family friends nearby, they will be willing to take them while you take care of business. It's a real value. Going on a two-week vacation? Across-the-hall neighbors can watch the cats instead of a $12-a-visit stranger or an even more expensive stay at a kitty kennel.

When Putnam wrote his books, massive social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook weren't part of the equation. How would these new tools sit with Putnam? I keep thinking of the relationships I've developed as a result of Facebook and MySpace. Twice at ALA last month I spotted people I had as Facebook friends and had conversations with them (Hi, Stephanie, Ken!). While I doubt I could ask either of them to watch my cats, I'm considering the new social capital that I have.

Ken's given me some frank and honest feedback about the numerous experiments he's tried with electronic and digital outreach to his students. This makes me a more informed librarian.
Stephanie posts incredibly interesting insights over at her blog CogSci Librarian, which I would have never discovered had we not conversed on Facebook.

I've taken some pretty crummy workshops and paid for it, both with wasted cash and wasted time. But the things I've learned from colleagues online are invaluable, and free! These relationships are new social capital.

As I've mentioned before on this blog, social networks, in the many attempts I've given, have not proven a worthwhile first-contact outreach tool. As a way to maintain communication with students you've already met, they're great. But when you shift the focus away from student-librarian interaction, professional networking is facilitated by these tools. ACRL provides a lot of opportunities at conferences to get to know people, but those opportunities are few and far between. Facebook is a great way to make new connections with colleagues around the country.

Building social capital isn't limited to professional network building, though -- students need social capital too. Whether it's online or in person, knowing a librarian by name brings all of the skills and experience of librarians into students' lives. Why plagiarize when someone you know, a librarian, can help you find, use and cite sources for you paper? A librarian's help is free, and you know just who to ask.

Social capital is just another way to think about the benefits librarians can provide students. However, thinking about social capital helps us think about those benefits in terms of real economic and academic value. How can we leverage this notion into marketing campaigns and outreach? Can we have fliers that extol our money-saving and time-saving services? "Why spend hours searching the web? Get help in minutes from a librarian!" "Don't buy that book! Check it out at the library!" "Found an article online, but it costs $24.95? Check to see if the library's bought it for you!" (This last question comes to mind because of Google's News Archive search -- many of the articles in the archive are accessible through library collections, but they require purchase through Google's service)

I unno. It's Saturday. Tomorrow I'm going to Cedar Point ("The Roller Coaster Capital of the World!"), so my stomache may be churning for a few days. No more posts for a bit. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts in comments and e-mail.


Friday, July 27, 2007

flesh and blood librarian

On the bus today, someone had a t-shirt that read: "I don't know what I think until I see what I say." Absolutely! I gave a presentation for a job a couple of days ago, and in making it and talking about it, I realized a few things about some of the marketing materials we have here at Michigan.

I'm one of the few librarians.. hmm.. thinking about it, maybe the only.. who's not too shy to put his face up on the LCD screens we have in our main reference area. I've got a slide (see image here -- click for enlargement) that I made with Comic Life (it came with my Mac). In it, I depict myself as a superhero of sorts, rushing to the aid of frazzled researches lost in the stacks.

What I thought about as I made my presentation was its effectiveness. These slides play on screen adjacent to the reference desk. Whenever I work, I almost always notice someone look at the slide, then look at me, then the slide again. They're always a little amused that there I am, a real person, a real librarian, at the desk. A superhero in the flesh!

I also recalled something written by one of my library school professors. In research, she discovered that patrons who know any librarian by name are "far more likely to think highly of the library as an important information source..." (Durrance, 1995).

I'm thinking now, as I sit at the desk looking at me, the slide, then me again, that it's a form of introduction. They know who I am, what I do, and I'm not just some picture on an advertisement. I'm a flesh and blood librarian.

I wonder how much something like this can develop a relationship with our patrons. Do all these people walking through our reference area feel like this building is theirs? Even those that do, do they feel that the librarians here are 'their' librarians? Approaching the desk where some stranger sits is intimidating.

But what about approaching a superhero?

I've never been terribly shy when it comes to the camera. Putting that slide up was a little out of my comfort zone because no one else had their picture up there. I definitely got some playful ribbing from my colleagues when it was new. But, I think it's been worth it -- it connects the services we offer to human beings behind it. For those patrons that prefer to deal with people, not phone numbers, or e-mail addresses, or web forms, but actual flesh and blood people, this could be a nice way of making that connection.


Durrance, J.C. (1995). "Factors that influence reference success: What makes questioners willing to return?" Reference Librarian (49/50), pp. 243-65.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Magical Maladies?

Ok. Short post. Perhaps someone else already knew about this, but I'm discovering it for the first time... go to PubMed, search for Hogwarts. Result #3 is particularly convincing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

cognitive development: the missing link

I've always been amazed by the work of cognitive psychologists. Through experimentation, carefully crafted and executed methods, their work gives us insight into the human mind. For those of us in the business of education, including librarians, knowing and understanding how the mind works gives us some guidance for the ways we shape our interactions with students and the academic and social environments we create for them.

What got me thinking about cognitive psychologists is an column in the latest issue of RUSQ titled, "Cognitive Development: The Missing Link in Teaching Information Literacy Skills". Here, the authors (and I'm a little confused at who actually wrote this piece -- it says Rebecca Jackson as he guest columnist, and Lori Arp and Beth S. Woodward are editors) map the ACRL Information Literacy Standards to levels of cognitive development written about by William Perry and others.

The article presents an excellent review of literature about cognitive development and its relationship to information literacy and student-library interactions. In many cases, freshmen enter college in a stage of development described as dualistic: there are rights and wrongs, and that is it. There are Authorities who are always right, and those that hold other positions are wrong. By the end of a four-year program, students have generally progressed into a mode described as multiplicity -- there are still right and wrong answers, but not everything is necessarily known yet. Still, though, there is an ultimate truth.

What students often cannot grasp, even upon graduation, is the relativistic level of development. In this stage, students realize that answers to questions largely depend on context, and there may not be a be-all end-all right and wrong answer. Solutions can be on a scale of grays as opposed to strictly black and white.

This sheds some light on some of the struggles I had with students who came to see me in one-on-one appointments. Last semester, I helped many students find articles for their annotated bibliographies for a COMM 101 class - a freshman-level class on mass media. Many were discouraged when, even with a librarians help, they were unable to find that one, perfect article that supported their ideas. The notion that they would have to piece together multiple articles and synthesize them into new knowledge (or at least demonstrate an understanding of the varied perspectives in the articles) is a task that can only be accomplished by those who understand that knowledge is contextual and relative.

If my freshmen are still in the dualistic stage, then they believe that there is one singular way to argue a topic. For example, one of the topics a student came to me was about reality television and its popularity. She wanted to write a paper explaining that this popularity was due to audience members seeing reflections of themselves on television. When we explored the literature, she quickly became discouraged when our search results didn't 'hit the nail on the head'.

After reading this article from RUSQ, I imagine she was looking for confirmation of her own thoughts.
In Perry’s dualism, students see the world as either good or bad, right or wrong, black or white. Authorities (with a capital A) have all the answers; if they do not, either they are not legitimate Authorities, or the answers are only temporarily unknown. Students believe that there are right answers for every question. They will only look for information that agrees with their beliefs. At early stages of dualism, students simply ignore uncertainty or place it in the “others” category: us/others.
Despite turning up many articles on reality television and its representation of various cultures and groups of people, she may have been feeling at a loss because we couldn't find an article echoing her hypothesis. She wasn't ready, cognitively, to process the varied articles we got and use them to support an argument. She also wasn't ready to change her opinion and let it develop as she read and searched.

Thinking about it, she may have also been frustrated with me. I couldn't come up with the 'perfect search' to find what she knew had to be out there. In fact, she even said, "Someone has got to have written about this!" suggesting that she thought the answer, confirmation of her hypothesis, was in existence.

How can we work with students that are not yet ready to think about searching in flexible, 'relativistic' ways?

One successful interaction I had may be an option. As I worked with a student on her topic about depictions of women in advertising in the 1950s, we shifted our topic to match the articles that we were finding. While we didn't find much about her initial topic (how women's lives were shaped by advertisements), we did start seeing many articles about body image. We then expanded our search to include other decades, and she decided upon writing about how depictions of women's bodies have changed over the years, culminating in a description of Dove's "real women" campaign.

I think she left happy because we did find articles that supported a thesis. They were there, available, and obviously a 'right' way to go because there were articles about it, satisfying the need for a 'right' answer.

However, over the course of the semester, she no doubt started to develop a little more as she read -- comparing and contrasting the viewpoints in the articles themselves. I don't think I sabotaged a change to learn how incomplete human knowledge is -- she'll learn that as she goes through college -- but I did get her to a stage where she felt comfortable.

The ACRL Information Literacy Standards are noble goals, but this scenario illustrates how some of them require students to be more developed cognitively than they are:
For instance, Standard One, outcome 1.f. specifies that the information literate student “recognizes that existing information can be combined with original thought, experimentation, and/or analysis to produce new information.” The discovery that the student makes his own knowledge is one that comes at the Relativistic position.
We can't expect students to be okay with getting results tangential to their search topics. We must understand why they are always looking for that 'perfect' article that sums up their ideas perfectly. We must try to think about this when were serve our students. If we do want to help them develop, we should be explicit about how they can combine thoughts and ideas in article to support their own thoughts and ideas. We must do so in a concrete way, and always realize that when they check the "scholarly" limiter in a database, to them it may mean, "These articles represent 'right' ideas," not "These articles probably come with a lot of supporting evidence and reasoning."

Yay, RUSQ! Great article!

That said, it take a great deal of time and patience and the ability to listen to, observe, and diagnose student actions and responses to determine if they fit the characteristics of any given stage. It is reminiscent of the kinds of experiences my wife, a social work student, encounters while at her field placement during therapy sessions.

Hmm.. The librarian as information therapist... I like!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Facebook’s Librarian App & Office 2007

Facebook's "Librarian" Application

I kinda like the new "Librarian" app over at Facebook. By recognizing which university a student is associated with, this tool can bring resources, tools, and help available. I think I like it mainly because there's the "Send a Message to Your Librarian" feature, which starts a new Facebook message to the institution's librarian (this does pose some problem – which one of us is "the" librarian? At the moment, it's our web guru / genius Ken Varnum – others have already suggested finding ways to allow this tool to have multiple librarians behind the "message a librarian" tool… not sure how you would go about doing that).

Why do I kinda like it?

I wasn't sure Facebook was a great place to do outreach. Getting an unsolicited message from a librarian might seem like an invasion of privacy, or at least an invasion of a social sphere, for students. For the same reason many wouldn't want their parents on Facebook, students probably don't want to "friend" a librarian either. When Donna Hayward and I polled students on librarians in Facebook, half said, "I use it all the time! It would be incredibly convenient" and the other half said, "That's creepy." A proactive, outreach mission in Facebook risks alienating students that are of a "that's creepy" opinion. However, by facilitating student-initiated communication, we may be able to reach more students using this tool. At worst, we'll get in touch with those that want us there and be ignored by those that don't.

The Librarian tool facilitates this communication. "Ask a Librarian" starts a Facebook message to the user designated as "the" librarian for the student's institution. It makes us appear available to receiving messages (because we opted-in to participating in the "Librarian" tool) and it requires students to initiate the conversation.

Why only kinda?

This still doesn't address anything I said in my last post: why would students add a "Librarian" application in the first place? Do they know what kinds of questions would be appropriate for the "Ask a Librarian" link? I don't think so. But I think that it provide a space to do so – the main "Librarian" page is horribly ugly right now, with link images surrounded by a big blue border. The icons are a little silly. I'd like to see us come up with some good information for that page besides links to our catalog, databases, and "Ask a Librarian." What could we put there that would let students know what we do?

Then, how do we get students to add the "Librarian" application? A flyer that asks, "Research paper due? Add the Librarian app for help!" That would probably be a good idea. But with any effort, no one approach is going to reach everyone we need to reach.

There doesn't appear to be a way to make custom "Librarian" pages. One of the tools my students like is the course-specific research and resource guides. If I could make something like this fit into Facebook, link to it from both the main "Librarian" app page and from my profile, I'd be ecstatic. As it stands now, I don't think you can do that.

Office 2007

I am a little geeked out about Office 2007. I like the new Office 2007 for a number of reasons, all having to do with Word 2007's new look, new organization and new features:

  • Bibliographic management built-in

    Haven't played around with it in full yet, and I doubt there's an 'import' feature, but the fact that citing sources and bibliography creation are built into this word processor makes me very excited. Many times, students don't know that they're plagiarizing. There's a lack of understanding about what needs to be cited, how to cite it, and how to synthesize information rather than regurgitating it. By including bibliography tools that ask the questions, "Who wrote that? Where'd you get it from?" (these are the blanks you fill out when adding a new reference), Word is encouraging proper citation. Way to go!

  • Styles more visible

    When I teach Word for dissertation, a large portion of the class is devoted to understanding and using Styles. Now, Styles is a prominent part of the new 'ribbon' navigation system. Instead of being buried behind menus and formatting palettes, there they are! So hard to avoid seeing! There's also several sets of predefined styles, giving people who don't know about modifying styles an opportunity to use them with a variety of looks and feels.

  • Integration with Blogger??

    So, I'm actually writing this post with Word 2007. In addition to starting a "New Blank Document…", I can also do a "New Blog Post…". This is the result of that feature. I like that I don't have to log in to Blogger, plus, I can see so much more of what I'm writing with this. Word also corrects my typos. Thanks!


Sunday, July 1, 2007

inpirational librarianship?

I imagine someone, somewhere, and soon, is going to write about how library services could be pushed to the iPhone crowd. After all, it didn't take long for UIUC to respond to Brian Mathew's call for a Facebook Library Search feature (and then in the subsequent weeks, UM added one as well). It took a little longer, but there are some really awesome Firefox plug-ins for library work -- my favorite being LibX.

But, as always, will people use these tools? These tools still require users to have some sort of knowledge of what information is in a library, what a library is for, and what librarians do. Consider this: does the typical college freshman actually know what a librarian does? Does a typical college senior? Or are our range of skills, in their minds, limited to shelving and meticulously organizing books?

We can make tools that exploit the resources of libraries and we can put ourselves out where users are, but unless they know what we do and why they should need to consult libraries in the first place, is anyone, besides us librarians, going to get truly excited about these new tools we make?

EDIT: Innovation in using new technology and new communication methods is awesome. Many (maybe most) students know how to use these tools already: IM, social networking sites, cell phone messaging... what I'm trying to ask here really is this -- do students know why to use these services, or when? If they get crappy results searching Google and Wikipedia for information, do they think "I'll go ask a librarian"? If they don't do that, I'm not sure they'll think "I'll go ask a librarian on Facebook", or "I'll text my librarian." When they see signs or flyers for our IM service and we say, "You can add us as a buddy", to me, it's not a question if they can or not -- it's if they understand what good can come of doing that.

Face to face, earnest interaction is one way of communicating our purpose -- I'm sure there are ways to do it through technology as well, but how? Maybe the answer is as simple as a flyer that shouts, "THIS IS WHAT A LIBRARIAN CAN DO FOR YOU" -- online, does this take the form of a Facebook advertisement flyer?

I don't question the effectiveness of digital reference and the new tools' usability. I question the ways (or ways we don't) communicate the purpose of our tools and of ourselves. I'm not challenging any current efforts at all -- I want these new tools to be used, and this post is more about finding ways to motivate a library-student connection.

Hmm. So, I'm still sold that this kind of outreach effort is best done face-to-face. It's gotten me thinking about the ways we try to do this now: we take part in student orientations, we do bibliographic instruction sessions, we post fliers around the library and around campus advertising reference services. But what do we actually do when we get a chance to communicate with our students in this way?

I think the answer that would best serve our users is a simple one that many of us may not think about: be sincere. I think back to may days teaching high school sophomores labeled "at-risk". I had a lot of success working with these kids. I never had the same behavior problems these students' other teachers had with them. I don't think it was because I had excellent classroom management skills... I didn't. I was new, and played it by ear, mostly.

I think it was that I was sincere. And I made this 100% clear to students on day 1 of my classes. Instead of laying out classroom rules or coving the scope of what I was going to teach them, I spent the first minutes of my class trying to convey my sincerity to the students:

"I am here to help you learn. It's my firm belief that you can succeed -- I'm not here to give you grades, tell you that you're stupid -- I'm here to figure out where you're at right now, and take you to a new place. I am trying my hardest, and I expect the same from you. I don't want you to give up. I want you to tell me when your brain gets tired, and I want you to tell me when I'm not making any sense. If you're not learning, I am not teaching you well enough. If you're not getting it, stop me, and tell me I'm not teaching it right. Every single one of you can learn -- everyone can learn -- even the hardest stuff. It's my responsibility to teach you well, and I want to know when I'm not doing that."

I did take a risk with these kids. I made myself vulnerable, letting them know that if they weren't getting it, and they were trying, then there's something wrong with the way I'm teaching it, not with they way their brain learned.

During my time with these students, they did tell me when they weren't getting it. They did tell me I wasn't teaching them right, and I did change teaching strategies, I did find other ways to teach certain topics when they gave me that feedback. And I did find a way to teach them, and they did learn.

How can we do the same kind of thing in librarianship? When we have a captive audience in a course-integrated instruction session, or when we have a group of freshman at an orientation session, how will we spend our time communicating our sincerity? How do we communicate what we do, and our genuine offer to help throughout their academic careers?

I don't think it's hard. It has a lot to do with having a public service mentality and a sincere desire to help. I don't think you can fake it. Luz Mangurian, at ACRL a few months ago, talked about the neurobiology behind a smile: you use a different part of your brain to genuinely smile than you do to fake smile (e.g. for a picture, or for your boss, ha!). The causes you to use different muscles to smile, and people can tell when you're not smiling genuinely.

I don't think you can fake sincerity either, unless you're a trained actor. You won't be able to communicate a librarian's purpose if you don't buy into it yourself.

So, when you do get that audience with students, spend some time talking about your job, what you want to do, and what students should expect from you. Be sincere. Be genuine. Be passionate to the point of tearing up. I get this way a lot, because I start to tear up when I am having a hard time saying what I want to say exactly how I want it said. I start to tear up when the words themselves can't possibly communicate the emotion behind them.

That's what happens to me in the classroom. That's what happens to be when I talk about librarianship with students.

Spend a few minutes at the beginning of a session talking about librarianship, and why you love librarianship. Be honest -- my introduction would go something like this:

"I'm Eric, your librarian. I'm here to talk about finding articles for your upcoming assignment, but I'd like to talk briefly about what I can do for you besides that. Sure, I can help you find articles -- you could probably find enough articles plugging in some keywords into Google Scholar. But the reason I became a librarian was because I wanted to help people like you do more, and just as easily. I want to help you do more than just find 6 articles -- I want to be able to help you make sense of the things you find. I want to help you deal with those times that you can't find enough, or the things you're finding aren't 'just right'. After this class, because I can't talk with each of you individually about your topics in this introductory session, I invite you to get in touch with me via e-mail, Facebook, phone, in person -- whatever -- about your topic. We can talk about your topic, take a look at what kind of articles are out there, and if we don't find the exact things you're looking for, we can talk about where to go from there. I can help you narrow or expand your topic based on what's available. I can help you find those gems that Google Scholar won't dig up -- those articles that make writing your papers much easier. I can also help you take a look at the results you get and like, and discuss with you how to piece those articles together. That's what a librarian does -- that's what I do -- and I really want your papers to rock -- if we sit down together and you leave still confused about what you're going to write and which articles you're going to use, that I haven't done my job properly. Part of this involves your brain too -- I can't tell what you're thinking and where you want to go with this paper if you don't talk with me about your ideas, your thoughts. So if we do get together -- let's work together at knocking out an awesome paper."

It takes a few minutes. You will have disinterested, disengaged students, but deep down, even those students that are just trying to get by will be intrigued at the thought of producing something they can be proud of.

Librarianship -- and any other educational position -- requires us to be a little inspirational. I'm not afraid of that. Are you?

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

See It, Hear It, Touch It: Learning Styles in Virtual Reference


Marie Radford
Blog: Library Garden

Lynn Westbrook
UM Alumna, UT Prof

Eileen Abels




Joe Thopson, Moderator
What do we know about users' communication and learning styles that is important for guiding decisions about library services?

Marie: Talking about results from a research study on users of virtual ref services, non-users of same, and librarian viewpoints.

Virtual Library Users:
* Most likely audience - younger people. The millenials. Heaviest virtual reference user by far. 75 million people, and oldest are 27. By 2010, outnumbering the Baby Boomers. Affity for screens.

* Like choice and selectivity. Don't pay attention to spelling and grammar. Use shortcuts. Everything is personalized and customized. Think TiVo, YouTube, ringtones. Convenience.

* EXPERIENCIAL in terms of learning. Don't want to have time wasted. Want to see results. Prefer group work.


* What do we do? Offer as many services as we can. If they want to chat, if they want to come in, we have to offer all of these options. Wait for their teacher moment. Appeal to their desire to save time. Answer their question and then "Do you want me to show you how I did this?"

* Most effective IMers are those that use it all the time. Building personal relationships with them. If they like our service they will return and tell their friends.

Eileen: Match your services to the types of users you're serving.

Lynn: Social comfort, affective comfort is something to think about when communicating on the Internet. Where to librarians fit in? Has to do with understanding how communication is done on the Internet: what's safe? This may not be part of their mental model. MEDIA PORTRAYAL of Internet communiation.

Joe: How do the communication styles of librarians influence the provision of reference services.

Eileen: Who offers chat reference service? Does every librarian have to? THink about the comfort level of a librarian when deciding who does chat reference -- maybe some are gung-ho about it, and others are in-person people. Think flexibly about who offers reference. Through training efforts in digital reference (hands-on expereince), librarians DID change their preferences. Training can help change communication style preferences. BEFORE COURSE: preferred face-to-face. AFTER COURSE: e-mail gained a lot of preference, SMALL increase in chat live reference. THe IMMEDIACY made it unnerving.

IPL as a training tool. LIS Students answer real e-mails from around the world. Set them loose on training questions first, before sending them to real questions. OVERALL: using GOOGLE immediately. Thinking about the QUESTION not the source. Revealed a lack of analysis of a question, and a lack of thinking about appropriate sources.

Marie: Users have these characteristics too. In a survey of 200 virtual ref. librarians, they said 96% CHAT is the best way to develop relatonships is through chat when face-to-face is not perfect. REALLY? Yes -- stretch yourself, find out about it. People surprised and pleased when a librarian comes back with Internet acronyms. LOL!

Lynn: Think about what makes us uncomfortable with doing chat reference. When we're not library as place any more, -- when we communicate in chat, we're trying to find ways to communicate the fact they we are here to help, it's our job. There's a feeling that LOL causes us to lose that role even more -- but it's not. More than anything, MEETING THEIR NEED communicates that. Communicate: "What you're saying matters. I hear you."

Marie: Getting THEIR NEEDS MET is important. Instruction can get in the way -- that's our need. So, answer their question, then ask, "Do you want to know how?" Only 25% of users use more more than 1 search term. (Librarians use 6 - 8).

Joe: What threatens or supports the users' self-efficacy in the exchange?

Lynn: What's self-efficacy? We want them to leave feeling stronger about thier skills (in ADDITION to meeting their current needs). This requires 3 things: hwo they see themselves, how they see information tools, and how they see information processes. Understanding what's there is important, they view of what info is available.

Use open questions: it engages and involves them. It makes them active in the information exchange. What would make this useful to you? Lets them talk about it and gives them control over it. Maybe differentiated choices if they're not doing well with open-ended questions. You may find they haven't thought through the different FORMS of information.

Keep your purpose, role and relationship clear. Acknowledge their own knowledge, preference, requirements. Don't rush to close.

Eileen: commonly used terms. REFERENCE? What's that? THink like your user group? BIBLIOGRAPHY, ABSTRACTING, INDEX.

Marie: Hesitant to do a referral. Don't be. Suggest e-mail. Suggest another library. Doing a disservice by answering inappropriately. The average chat: 12.5 minutes. Same mean of face-to-face. This might take some time -- let them know that, and that you're not a robot.

Joe: What might be problematic or supportive in what librarians are doing?

Marie: What do screenagers do? How do librarians behave to screenagers? Less likely to confirm "that's an interesting question", less likely to refer, less likely to say they made a mistake. Invite them to return. Limit time. Send people to Google. REPRIMANDING.

Your positive approach will result in better behavior. Teach users how to use VR. Ultimately, 1 on 1 interactions we forge are the future.

Eileen: Make sure your website makes it clear what needs to be offered.

If we continue to use Google and free resources, what happens to our collection budget? We ought to be using them.

Lynn: We might be three steps ahead finding a tool that would be really useful -- make sure we bring them along.

Joe: What are your thoughts on librarian screen names?

Eileen: Using 1st names is very positive. Makes it personal. At NYPL, there's Nick and Nora. Use user's 1st name.

Lynn: When you close, provide a way to get in touch with you later. Who is that person?

Joe: be honset about who and where you are, especially if you're in a consortium.

What's the best way to ask clarifying questions on chat?

Lynn: give people viable options. I can help you with, we can go here, or there -- which would be the best for you? There's good information in books and journals -- which would you prefer? Come up with viable choices that allows them to give a quick answer.

Marie: Accuracy is boosted considerable by clarifying. "Have I completely answered your question" at the end? Send sample answers and see if it's what they want. Low instance of impatience. It may be us projecting that impatience.

Joe: Do you have ideas for training staff to recognized and adjust to VR users' communications?

Eileen: practice. Few LIS schools provide that hands on experience. Come together, discuss 'favorite questions', get feedback.

Marie: lots of mirroring behavior skills in face-to-face, so try to do the same online. Look at their behaviours, and do the same. PLEASE written out looks like a command.

Lynn: Get librarians to be the customer, have staff go online to commercial sites with chat services to understand what it's like to be the user. How does the relationship we're trying to develop differ from those commercial experiences? What was comfortable? What wasn't?

Eileen: You don't know what they're doing. 10 seconds staring at a screen is a LONG time. They are probably be doing a lot of other things as well.

Lynn: Short-term memory plummets while multitasking. If they're out there doing other things, they don't have that deep understanding and engagement.

Joe: How do users & librarian's expectations influence virtual reference transactions (esp. in light of speed of Google, etc)

Lynn: Expectation that everything out there is seemless and lfuid. Everything comes together. That expectation leads to an expectation that search engines will be consistent over and over again with the same terms. If it does, users think it's their own problem, when it's just that the search engines do things differently. It's not McDonalds -- you go in and it may be different.

They expect to have flexibility and options and control over which product and what the results look like. Natural tension: there should be consistency, but flexibility.

Communciation patterns: task and social communication. New ways to interact wiht us. They're setting the norms with those things. Very narritive approach to what we do: opening, clarification discourse, closing, etc. We have a narrative. THEY don't have that. They come, they go, they dip in and dip out in bits and pieces. They expect privacy and control.

Marie: User has a narritive too, but a different ending: give me what I want so I can go. People DO want independent information seeking -- they're frustrated when they come o us. Looking at it from their perspective, it's not just, it's mobile communications, immediacy, instant gratification. They may not know when it's a quick question or a long question -- we have to share that with them.

Eileen: SEE PEW INTERNET SURVEY for information about expectations. Self service is a big trend: develop guides / tutorials, discipline oriented to meet those expectations.

Joe: time expectations. If you think it's going to take time, tell users how long it's going to take. If you're still going, come back, and tell them.

What are some learning opportunities for picking up dig ref skills, and how do they reflect the importance of communication styles?

Eileen: On ALA website, professional association opportunities. Successful in talking about general VR topics. ALA not good at differentiating between software norms, public/academic/school norms. The IPL as training tool - there are opportunities there. Librarians can get training just as LIS students can.

In classes, we provide opportunities for telephone/web, cheat sheets, and online tutorials to teach these topics.

Marie: With VR, there's a lone ranger approach. Maybe try to double-team it. If there's a team, ask someone else to be in the same office. Learn best when watching someone else doing something. Others have tricks. Experienced and new librarian partnerships are valuable.

Lynn: This is a staged effort. Pulling pieces together gradually -- get more sophisticated and involved as you learn.

Joe: Useful if you can find someone from local organization to provide training instead of vendors; can talk about things that work or don't, how it works in the context of the specific environment. The VR Adventure -- see VR committee's homepage.

Recommendations for proposing chat VR to administrators? How can we best leverage traditional and virtual reference services to attract young patrons?

Marie: Reference is alive and well. Go to where they are, where they need you. Build relationships one-on-one.

Eileen: Have data to convince administration. Show what peer institutions are doing. Have a plan in mind. Recommend something simple with a free instant messenger.

Joe: What about reluctant staff?

Eileen: You ca't force librarians to do it -- if they don't feel comfortable with chat, they won't do it justice. They should be exposed to it -- training, watching -- they may change their mind.

Marie: Shadowing. Less experienced vs. More experienced is a really powerful combinations. Resources & Comfort with Chat.

Joe: What questions are OKAY for librariarians to ask?

Lynn: If we both start from the same place, we're okay. Try to protect each other's face. Positive face to make people feel welcomed, compitant, but negative so they don't take advantage of you. We can't expect too much form them: they may not understand how to verbalize their need. We need to tell them why we're asking. When you can't help, explain why. No "here's the policy". It's a partnership.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

ALA Friday

It's quite different coming to ALA and being involved in committees and in presenting a poster -- up until now, I've pretty much been a passive observer of all things ALA, but now, with Sunday's poster presentation looming and today's committee meeting bonanza, my opinion of ALA and its conferences is changing.

I'll know more at the end of the day, after sitting in on a few committee meetings. I'm getting excited to see what goes on -- what do committees do? What are some products of these committees? What kind of work is involved for committee members?

Committee membership seems like it's a part of advancing a career in librarianship. I had dinner with a few very cool, very awesome librarians last night after meeting them as the Instruction Section Soiree. Jobs were a topic of conversation, and it seems that management experience and committee participation were some things that could help move librarians into positions with more responsibility. One of them commented that there are many positions for 'head of reference' opening up, but there are so few librarians out there with management experience, it's hard to find people to fill those spots.

Even if it's managing student staff, or as the chair of an ALA committee, that ability to manage effectively is desired in librarians. Where do new librarians get that kind of experience? I'm lucky -- I fell into a job running the Knowledge Navigation Center and the Faculty Exploratory, which are technology consulting facilities at the grad. We have a staff of up to 17 students, and I am the manager. However, so many of my colleagues don't have a chance to manage -- so how do they get that experience?

Committees! Where it's ALA or local, campus-specific committees, they provide that opportunity to become the chair of a committee and lead.

Anyway -- I'm doing two committee meetings at ALA today: IS Professional Education and EBSS Instruction for Educators. Starting after this conference, I will be an intern and member for those committees, respectively. I've also accepted an offer to be a member of ALA's Research committee. I'm hoping that I'll be able to learn a lot from my fellow committee members not only about the topics our committee is charged with covering, but also about being a productive committee member.

Here's my schedule for today (Saturday), if you want to meet up:

10:30 - 12:30: EBSS Instruction for Educators Committee meeting
1:30 - 3:30: IS Professional Education Committee meeting
4:00 - 5:30: Finding Environmental Information / SRRT. I forget the room number -- sorry!

This last one interest me -- I've been told it's a good idea to take something out of your own expertise, and something that just looks interesting. This one, and Monday's "The Information Behind the 'Truth'" (a look at the information in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth") are interesting, because I'm getting more and more interested in things like peak oil -- but, I don't knwo anything about navigating environmental information! Thanks, SRRT, for providing these sessions!

See you at ALA.


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Social Tagging: and

Start at: -- here are definitions of the terms used in this workshop, including "tag", "tag cloud", etc.

Purpose: introduction to tagging in a library context through and

28% of internet users have at some point tagged a document. Also called crowd-sourcing -- an outsourcing of the cataloging of items on the web to the users of the system. We can't catalog everything.

Activity: go to -- we're all going to "tag" this photo. Use words to describe it.

Question: can you tag with a phrase? Convention: this_is_a_tag. ThisIsATag (called camelcase - ha!).

Results of activity: the tag cloud showed that many people DID use some of the cataloger's descriptions: black_and_white, portrait... (link coming) What does this mean? Especially for things like images, catalog records may not be descriptive enough -- what will people remember about an image? How will they use that memory to find it? They'll remember it's a woman smoking in black and white -- with the traditional cataloging record, it would be impossible to find. With tags, you could find it.

Fun: -- tagging with other people as a game. ALso apparently in google...

When tagging, think about how other people might try to find it. Tags like "favorite" don't really work for helping people find things.
Thinking about how you organize your links in an Internet browser -- maybe one long list, or you spend time dividing them up into folders. WIth, you TAG your bookmarks. Finding it becomes easier, can be tagged multiple times. Can find things you tag THIS and THAT - for example, if I wanted to find everything in Suzanne's tags, I could go to her page, I could click on her tag "mlibrary2" and then click on "" -- it's like doing mlibrary2 AND

For librarians: you can have an "interesting websites" page that pulls your bookmarks tagged with a specific tag. For example, if you have a account, and your tag things "comm_studies" -- every time you tag something new with the "comm_studies" tag, it will automatically update your webpage. SWEET. Seriously. This is called using a FEED from Making a feed: Settings --> Link Rolls --> Follow onscreen instructions.

Make it easy: install browser buttons! Then, when you're on a web page, click on the button, and it's added to your account.

Adding notes: very useful, especially if you're sharing your tags with others thorugh, or feeding your tags into your blog or another website.

Are the buttons security risk? No. Just as much a security risk if you log in, then walk away without logging out of e-mail.

You can do group accounts! Very good for collaborative link library building.
photograph collection. how does it compare with other photo sites? It's more interactive, more communal than others. Lots of sharing with others.

can use as a hosting site.

The group: MLibrary 2.0 Flickr Group

Winnepeg Tour of the Library - sequential.

Really cool: the New Bookshelf.

In under explore, try "world map".

Friday, June 8, 2007

MLibrary 2.0 : Jessamyn West

Jessamyn West Moderator, Library Consultant,

handouts, notes, slides

Digital Natives – “Born with the Chip” – but most of us are digital immigrants. Trying to think about what we do for people who’ve grown up in a network world.
It’s not that don’t know how computers work – it’s other things.
But, we’re stuck with really big solutions for really big libraries – this is a problem for smaller libraries.
Today’s talk: generally directions. Philosophical stuff!
2.0 helps me stay professionally connected and professionally involved.
Library 2.what?? Again, people don’t know what they heck it is.
Important buzzwords: usability, AJAX, … 2.0 is a buzzword, and it’s important to know what it is so you don’t pay for stuff that isn’t really something original.
Web 2.0. Termed by O’Reilly to name a conference. Represents interactivity. Library 2.0 is like obscenity – “I don’t know what it is, but I know it when I see it.”
IT IS: service model with user-centered change.
DATA is rich on websites: hit counts, etc. Not so much with 2.0 tools. You have to explain its utility because you can’t back it up with numbers.
You need to make your services findable and usable – the ILL example – patron complains the we don’t have X book, but thy don’t know about ILL or purchase requests.
Problem: trying and failing publicly, and that feels weird. DON’T BE AFRAID TO TRY SOMETHING. The more experimenting, the more okay it is to experiment.
Katrina: go to where users are. ALA went in and repaired homes. Librarians working. Make links with people.
Data silo: we buy content from people, and now we can’t connect it to our other content. It’s important to have permanent links to our stuff. Get data to be OPEN so you can use it.
PACE University: links to public library.
Recognize usability.
Have a PERSON working there. Give library services a personality.
Interfaces should be something users are used to.
AADL is a compromise between PennTags and traditional OPACs.
Make it seem like something everything can do.
Awesome Resources group in Facebook.
SAVE THE TIME OF THE USER: we can’t do it all so they can do nothing! There are certain things we just can’t do – where are the lines? “Maybe we need to think about…” should be the approach.
Library 2.0 is not a religion: yo’re not either on or off. You move towards it. Not “more 2.0 than you”.


Q: What are 1 or 2 cool things online.
A: Cool and effective? KSU librarian has a blog, and is 2nd life – one of the roles of the librarian is to just jump in and say, “Who’s With me?” Using it as an intranet – working with colleagues. Internet Archive is thinking about this too – they’re now classified as a library, so they get library grants. Working on a BIG Union Catalog of Wiki’s.

Q: How do you see this relating to Information Literacy? It seems like it’s .. not opposed .. but
A: Being literacy is different now. “It’s all on Google” falls apart. There’s a different understanding of the web now. So, critical thinking becomes the biggest next step – how to evaluate, filter, sort. Intermediate tools can be picked up: searching, etc. But you need help with the other stuff: the evaluation. Digital natives know how to interact, but not how to evaluate that interaction.

MLibrary 2.0 : Kristin Antelman

Kristin Antelman
“Next Generation Catalogs.” NCSU Librarian. See NCSU Library Catalog. Associate Director of Digital Libraries.

Never quite got the OPAC right. We were very wrong for quite some time. Worse than card catalog, esp. with browsing by subject.
Now: experimenting and questioning traditional frameworks.
Experiments: SUNY index an XML extract; Seattle Public Library; Scriblio
Calhoun: UC Report: questions frameworks, including (but not limited to) LCSH
In NCSU: TWO search boxes?? We’re not ready to let go of authority. Bottom search box uses authority indexes; top one does keyword search. In past: results in keywords: last in first out (roughtly, new books first). HAD to use title as default.
Sample: search art history. 13,000 hits. BUT, LCSH classifications show up at top to help narrow books. Oooh, it answers the questions “where do I go in the stacks for …” With Art History, through, spread all over the place. BUT you can use the browse features to narrow your search, and thus narrowing the call number options at the top.
“Faceted Navigation” works well against MARC metadata – even with wildly broad searches. Allows for relevancy ranking.
EXAMPLE: search java programming. Many books not available – limit to what’s available. ALSO – sort my MOST POPULAR using circulation statistics. Social networking aspects.
“Did you mean” – about 2% - 5% of searches use “Did You Mean” feature.
Can drill down through LCSH, and then use it as RSS feed.
This is what they consider LIBRARY 1.1. Browser search box. Phone search.
Presented data of searching: significant use of these tools.
Limitations example: revolutionary war. 870 results. Missing subdividisions: 3000 items. If you could send that correct sting, you could do that, then drill down. So, there’s still no connection between their natural language and the lcsh.
Faceted navigation “disguises” this problem.
Other experiments:
Phoenix Public Library ( )
State University Libraries of Florida ( )
UVa, project blacklight ( )
GA Tech: Communicat ( )
Library Thing ( )
Google Book Search ( )
To a system / web person, title and author are not much in the way of an identifier. A number is!
Need 3 pieces of an item: title / isbn / author for a book.
Leads to FRBR.
How do we get our catalogs on the web? Shouldn’t just expose our contents to the web – as soon as many libraries do that, it’s overload.
Answer? Netwroking: be a part of the cload. Practicalities? Faceted navigation: FAST from LCSH.
A Catalog should: recognize clusters of knowledge, popularity, lineage of publications and authors, authoritativeness of sources…
Ben Birschbaeu (sp?) – “People’s Card Catalogs”
Legacies – a powerful cultural barrier (MARC. Current cataloging practices)
Community values – we don’t want to just jettison those (authority, etc)
HOW TO BREAK AWAY: could do much more if our vocabularies were open and extensible. Individual libraries can do a lot.


Q: Semantic web – what is it?
A: Can search on meaning rather than just terms. Our OPACS have tried this using this search and narrow, other features in the NCSU catalog.

Q: Licensed content. How do we apply these things to those?
A: Talked about it – no good solution so far from clustering results in metadata in a federated search because of the different fields you get form different vendors. As long as we don’t have control over that data, our hands are tied. It’s sad we got rid of that control a long time ago.

Q: Find something in their search results – is there a “find similar”?
A: Yes – recommender system. UCal explored this. We haven’t done it yet (staffing), but it’s a good diea. How much of a recommender system can you build from these datas? What about other user behavior? We’re not tracking that information. Privacy concerns. Also: aggregating. What’s the popularity in the whole world?

COMMENT: 1/3 of keyword searches match LC subject headings. How can we convince OCLC to let us work with the LCSH? … … … Where’ve we been? The user is the focus.

MLibrary 2.0 : Peter Morville

Peter Morville
Ann Arbor resident – SI faculty. “Information Architecture.” Latest book: “Ambient Findability.”

my thoughts in bold

“Information that’s hard to find will remain information that’s hardly found.”
Information Architecture: the structural design of shared information environments. They way a library website is set up. The way the library is set up.
Thinking about a software problem and as an structural system – these two work together to form information sites.
Tough questions: is this useful? Is it usable? Need to conduct usability – but also, need to “emotion and design” (who authored this?) – need to conduct desirability testing. “Can users find our website? Can they find their way around? Can they find our products and services despite our website?” – accessibility.
DESIGN ELEMENTS that influence trust: making it pretty matters to get people to see it as professional. It’s like dressing professionally. New generation where physical appearabnce is not so important, but virtual is.
Conducting a credibility audit
Does being in facebook increase credibility? Does it just mean being in more places? Is there a credibility boost by being ubiquitous?
Mission: not make a great website. Mission: make this awesome set of information findable and credible.
Learning from the past, designing for the future. Designing legacy systems of tomorrow.
Ambient Findability: object and system levels. “What are all the different ways people can find this object? How can we increase that?” Does being ubiquitous make us more finable? Being in Facebook, in MySpace, high in Google, in the DOCS app, -- these make us more findable.
“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” – Herbert Simon, economist
Alternative interfaces to digital information – think Ambient Orb, Ambient pinwheel, microsoft’s table, etc.
Are people becoming “okay” with sharing details about location? People are becoming more connected all the time.
How do others use this information? How do we use this information?
Davin Brin – “The Transparent Society”
Metadata is sexy! Folksonomies. Ways to make folksonomies and controlled vocabularies work together. Make the old and the new work together.
PACE Layering. How fast systems change: nature, culture slowly. Commerce, Fashion, quickly.
“Tagging works when people tag “their” stuff, not other people’s things.”
We learn through search (Bates’ berrypicking). Guided navigation. NCSU Library catalog provides example of search/browse model.
It’s tough to do this in the public sphere because the contolled vocabulary / taxonomies don’t exist. They do exist in library sites, in commercial sites, etc.
PODZINGER: searchable podcasts -- !!!
Delicious library.
Neighborhood library! Here’s all the books the library owns.
Julian Bleaker – A Manifesto for Networked Objects


Q: Future of location: Tremendous push for local information in the coming years.
A: Virtual tours of a park. Finding nearby restaurants or people. Walking is a new form of search!

Q: Are classification systems (LCSH) over? Or is there some use for them?
A: No – new stuff depends upon and coexists with current infrastructure.

Q: Private sources for data – also, a ton of government data (free). How do these two sources converge economically? Leaving out chunks of the world.
A: Concerned about commercial aspects of this – conversion is not only form physical to digital, but also from public to private (think: Google’s power and amounts of data, and they have lock in to those data. They can shape those results). Libraries are somewhere in the middle. We ares responsible for mediating this.

Q: DON’T MAKE ME THINK. This is scary, right? How do we get people to think before doing things like tagging? Is it our duty as librarians?
A: Example: In the 90’s, when designing search interfaces, no one wanted complex search – just wanted keywords. GUIDED SEARCHING is promising. They can do their three keyword search, but gives them a next step – it answers the “what do I do now” when searchers get to the results screen. Branch out from that starter query.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Federated Searching and Scaffolding

CogSci Librarian's latest post on the future of reference is unlike some of the doomsday and defensive prophesies I've seen floating around the library world. I highly recommend giving it a read and contributing to the discussion though your own posts or in the comments.

In response to her point about searching, I'll be glad to see the day when federated searches across databases from a variety of vendors can work smoothly. We have Metalib (our edition is called "Search Tools") at the University of Michigan, and while I teach it to intro-level classes, I generally avoid it when getting into upper division and graduate level courses because of the metadata that's available and similar across databases.

Metalib does a fine job with what it's working with, but until there's some standardization in terms of what fields are available to search and searching capabilities from vendor to vendor, we're being reduced to lowest common denominator when performing a federated search. I can't perform complex boolean searches because some of the databases searched during a federate search don't support them. Thesauri are database-specific in many cases, so controlled vocabulary is out of the question. I'm sure we'll hit the same problem when we try to make a federated search engine that does our catalog, our finding aids, our subscription databases.

This, in my mind, is cutting off any ability for us to help patrons construct great searches. If keyword searching is going to be as good as it gets with federated searching, I do think that I'm fairly useless when showing students metalib -- why even ask a librarian when they're not going to be able to get better results than your keyword searching?

I guess that's why I try to focus on evaluation of results and the importance of citing things properly when I teach lower-division college courses. Generally, the assignments they receive in COMM 101 call for only 6 resources. They can find 6 resources using keyword searching in Metalib. So, why focus on controlled vocabularies and complex combinations of Boolean operators when I can take a holistic approach to writing research papers? Why not spend time with them talking about evaluating the things they find? Why not help them use RefWorks to cite their stuff, and give them idea about how to paraphrase and incorporate their findings into a coherent paper? If they can find 6 items through Metalib, they don't need more than that in terms of 'power searching' ... yet!

It's those upper-division courses when their topics are a bit more focused and they need to find articles that may not fit into a single keyword search. It's the grad students who are going to be producing lengthy tomes of research -- much longer than my 101 students' 5-page papers. I'll save my schpiel on using databases' native interfaces and getting the most out of strategic searching for then. What my 101 students need is something else.

So! In response to CogSci Librarian: no, I don't think that federated searching dumbs down the search process. I think it places limitations on the control you have when searching. Many educational practitioners (myself included) use scaffolding -- slowly letting students become more and more independent. I don't want to dump strategic searching on them until they've become comfortable incorporating sources into their papers. I'll let Metalib handle the searching. But as they grow, and as they progress in their studies, we do need to remove the scaffolding.

I saw a poster at ACRL, and if any reader out there knows who made it, or remembers the title, I'd love to hear about it. Or maybe it wasn't a poster. Shoot, now I can't remember where I heard this, but it impressed me: instead of just doing a 'library session' for an instructor, they will provide a list of topics they could cover with the amount of time it would take to cover each one. For example, I sent my faculty this message yesterday:

Why schedule a library session this Fall? While your students may have had a session in using the library before, there's so much more I can help them with. Take a look at the topics here, and pick one or two for me to cover in a library session. This way, if you're pretty sure you student have been introduced to Mirlyn, I don't have to teach it!

- Popular vs. Scholarly vs. Peer-Reviewed
- Introduction to Library Resources (Mirlyn, Search Tools)
- Managing, Citing, and Incorporating References (RefWorks, Style, and Avoiding Plagiarism through effective use of quotes and paraphrasing)
- Finding Primary Source Material (newspapers, news broadcasts, transcripts throughout time and from around the world)
- Fitting Wikipedia (and Google Scholar, and the WWW) into Research Papers

...or, I could custom design a session for your class's special info needs. Build a library session into your course's Fall schedule and let me know when and where to be.
I didn't incorporate the time limits into mine -- I figured opening the channel of communication between my faculty and me would be a good starting point for a discussion of how to incorporate information literacy standards into the class. We'll see how this goes. I shouldn't have sent it on a Saturday. Now it'll be buried in a bunch of weekend spam and junk mail when they check for it.

Anyway, I thought this approach was an elegant solution for a problem I've noticed: faculty members know they students have had a library session before, so they don't think I should come teach again, because they've already heard it. This way, they can get an idea of what I can teach, and they can customize their session for their students' needs, and skip the intro stuff if they feel their students don't need it.

Yes! I wish I could remember who gave me this idea! I owe them oodles of coffee.

Anyway. Long post. Thanks for reading. It's been very interesting becoming part of the blogosphere over the last few weeks. Thanks for the comments and making me feel welcomed.