Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I started a new blog specifically for my interest in games. It is called Instructional Games in Libraries, and I have transferred a lot of relevant posts from this blog to that one. I've been thinking for a while of changing the focus of this blog to something more specific, but have decided to just start fresh and focused on a new site.

I'm not sure how much I will be posting here from now on. Instead, I will be focusing my energies on developing that one. I think we've only scratched the surface on the potential of games as instructional tools in libraries. I can't wait to attend some of the sessions on this at ACRL on this, nor can I wait to see what other schools do with these.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Great days of teaching

I have had a few great teaching moments in the past week. Last year, a few of the students in that class got to the library very early. While I was setting up, one girl complained, "Why do we have to do this again? I've been here so many times already!" I ran through the useful resources for the assignment, asking them to explain some of the stuff. There were many questions they couldn't answer. I talked about relevant reference books, but when they broke off to do their lab assignment on creating a profile for a neurological disease, they went straight to Web sites.... and they got very frustrated. Finally I convinced one of them to try the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, and there was a moment of light shining down as they got it. They were recommending it to the other groups, and I watched those heavenly spotlights shine down.

This year I told the students how much previous students liked that resource, so many of them went straight to it. They loved it even more. One group had to be told to go use some electronic resources because they were so involved in the print encyclopedia. It was wonderful. It was like having a celebrity endorsement.

Today I taught two English composition courses. We did the spy game and it went very well. For the first time, I coupled the game with a clicker review at the end. Almost the entire class got every single question right, and a majority of them reported that this was a fun way to learn about the library.

Furthermore, one student that I had worked with one-on-one the previous week, came up to tell me how much she had learned about the library from our meeting. She was raving about the resources and the elevator. She seemed very excited about her topic and research, which absolutely thrilled me.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tak'n it to the Alums

I just got an alumni newsletter from Miami of Ohio with two neat things in it. One is school-related ringtones for cell phones. Not that I want one from Miami, but I think that's really neat. I wonder how difficult it would be to offer our alumns Lyco ringtones.

The other was a variation of the historical photo "big game" that I've been mulling over all year. But instead of playing it physically on campus with undergrads running around taking pictures of what things look like now (it'd be a great program, I just don't know if they're that interested), you send it out in the alumni newsletter. Just ask them what it is or where it is, and offer a prize to the first five people who respond with the correct answer. Something school-related like a school t-shirt would be a good, inexpensive prize.

I might ask my director about this, she's been working on engaging alumni with news and materials from our college archives.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the cost of e-books

Shelf Awareness is an online newsletter for the publishing industry. They have archived issues on their Web site, but only starting from last week. So since I can't link directly to the original, I hope they won't mind if I copy a piece that sums up my feelings on e-books and their pricing(speaking as a book-lover, not so much as a collection development librarian):

Michael Herrmann of Gibson's Bookstore, Concord, N.H., writes:

As not only a bookseller but a booklover, I can see why e-books would be priced lower than real books. Not only do you not have printing, storing and distribution costs at the producer's end, but you also do not have a permanent artifact at the consumer's end. That is to say, e-books are not collectible. They are ephemeral. There is no guarantee that they will be readable or retrievable in two, 10, 50 years. They have less value than a real book. So perhaps they should cost less...

If Amazon succeeds in diverting publishers' creative energy into the e-book category, there will be incredible disruption in publishing and in retail. While there is a place for e-books in ephemeral categories and in textbooks, they will never amount to more than 10% of the market. As a technology and as a cultural artifact they are inferior to the printed book. The public will realize that, and e-book sales will eventually find their natural level, beyond all the hype...

I can't imagine I will ever spend $400 on an e-book reader if I will not be recovering my money by cheaper e-books. Many, many book-lovers will never have that kind of money for anything but necessities. And when a person spends all of that money on the reader, it is likely to break or will become unusable after five or six years. Whereas if you collect your favorite books in a physical format, you can pass them on to your children and your children's children... provided they were well-constructed.

Of course just because books don't have to physically be made, the intellectual work behind them and the technology to distribute them does cost money. I still have a hard time believing that ends up costing the company the same, though.

I am all for electronic journals, newsletters, newspapers, and e-books have their place in reference and technology fields, but I cannot envision a world without physical books that were meant to be read from cover-to-cover.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Paperless Campuses

As some of you may have seen on the library listservs, Washington State is going paperless for internal communications. This includes "posters" and I wonder what this means. Will their campus now be poster-free? I understand tight budgets and I'm all for saving the environment, but I'm having a hard time imagining marketing library services and events without posters. I'm reading a book called Advertising 2.0: Social Media Marketing in a Web 2.0 World, and I'm changing my views on library Facebook pages, but students have to make an effort to go to these places to see the messages we send out. Good marketing strategies today are a mix of physical and electronic. I wonder what the details of their policy are.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Internet, Sweet Internet

I am writing my first post ever from home. We finally caved in and got Internet access. I am very excited to be able to post here from home, work on my Web programming skills, check e-mail and weather, and check database links from off-campus.

My double-life as librarian-actress will be over after tonight. I have had so much fun working on this production, which I am very proud to have my small part in. I love all of the people I have worked with, and have enjoyed another venue for getting to know a few students a little better. Working closely with students is one of my favorite things in the world.

On the other hand, I think I have learned once and for all that I am not a person who is capable of working two jobs without my work suffering for it. I have been considering a second, very part-time job, and thought maybe I could handle it this summer. However, I am not one of those people with endless amounts of energy to draw from. I have concentrated very hard this week on taking care of myself so that I could be at my best in two places. As much fun as this play has been, I will be happy to go to work on Monday being able to focus all of my energies onto the things that need to be done before I can leave for Seattle, and putting my all into the two classes I will be teaching this week.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Online Reference Tools

I have been given the task of exploring possibilities were our library to decide to move to more online reference works. Oxford offers a number of reference books online, but when we looked at the titles, none of the librarians was particularly interested. I asked for a quote from Cambridge Histories and it was outrageously expensive, even after the PALINET discount. Today we got a CHOICE card that covers Credo Reference, which seems worth looking into.

I'm a more than a little boggled by all of the issues involved. The first is can we afford it at our little school? Most vendors consider a "small school" to be 5,000 FTE, and even a school that size has a much bigger budget than us at about 1,300. Some reference resources are a one-time fee with annual maintenance fees, and some are flat-out annual fees like a regular database. Some allow you to select individual titles, some are whole collections. How any of them work with Reference Universe will be important to us deciding whether or not to get them at all.

I really love reference books and am always so happy when I take the time to look at them. I think all libraries are watching students skip the reference step and go straight for Web sites, books, and articles. Some libraries report more use of electronic reference resources, and if students are more likely to use those, then they are definitely worth pursuing.