Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Launching a Crusade

This semester, there seems to be an increase in the cases of plagiarism. The provost's secretary is working on coming up with quantifiable numbers. It could just be that more profs are using Turnitin, but then that probably means the problem was bigger than anyone realized. Or it could be students are becoming more ignorant as secondary schools continue their gradual decay.

We have also had a sharp increase in the number of students on academic probation. I don't know if these two issues are related, but I'd like to get the library involved where we can.

So I'm proposing an all-out crusade on plagiarism. Here are some of my ideas after discussing the issue with my director.
  • Teaching Effectiveness/Writing Across the Curriculum lunch this spring - We have three or four of these each semester, but this would be a little bit different. First of all, try to get the Provost to admit to coming to show the importance of this issue. Also, send a special invitation to the coaches as they have more influence over a segment of the students that no professor has. Finally, try to offer food (the college has cut back on this to save money).
  • Turn the current plagiarism tutorial into a game - Hopefully I can get this done by the TE lunch.
  • Contact the Dean of Freshmen to get some time with the students during "First Weekend" - This is problematic as there is more to do than they have time for already, but this is a grave problem! This should be something fun. Perhaps a mock trial or a game.
  • Contact the Panhellenic Council and see if we can do a mock-trial or game with the Greek organizations this spring.
  • Perhaps in some of these presentations or "games," take advantage of video/animation with the new clickers in the library classroom.
  • Form a focus group of students to ask them why students do it and their opinion on how to get it to stop.

To play our part in addressing the growing number of students on bad academic standing, perhaps offer a study skills session in game format in the library. Contact the Dean of Freshmen to get her to require any freshmen on probation to attend this program.

With all of the problems of enrollment in such a scary economy, we need to do everything we can to make our students succeed without lowering our standards. And if it's war that's required, I'm willing to stand in the front lines... okay, that's overly dramatic, but I really want to help improve this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Spark of emotion

While reading an interesting post on The Pegasus Librarian that sparked a desire in me to post a comment, I found the even more exciting response from greebie who is the author of The Other Librarian. He doesn't seem to publish often, but wrote a fascinating post on how bloggers can't be good leaders, at least not in their blogging mode. I usually can't get into managerial stuff, yet another reason I'm not a good leader, but this comment and its arguments intrigued me. I look forward to reading what he has to say in the future.

Back to the comment on The Pegasus Librarian, he argues that the techies are left trying to compel their co-workers that their knowledge is important, while their non-techie co-workers are going off in very different directions. And even outside of librarianship, techies can't take their organization to the "new space" alone. This isn't ideal, but he doesn't have an easy solution.

I still have a dream of being a part of blending technology and in-person services seemlessly. I think students have done this with their social lives already to the point where they don't think about the difference. I want to help do that with not just library education, but education and general. It will be a much more thorough and engaging experience.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Changing the way we learn

I am a real academic in the sense that I crave knowledge. There are so many things I want to learn about before I die. Because my MLS has left my monetarily broke and I seem to become disillusioned about formal education halfway through any program, I think I'm done being a degree-seeking student. I'm usually mostly satisfied by reading... usually tons of fiction and figure I'm learning about other people's environments, even if they don't really exist (and neither do vampires).

Anyway, even though I need another hobby as much as I need a hole in my head, I've decided to learn basic crochet. I gave up trying to learn it from a book when I was a kid. On Saturday, I went to the public library and picked out a beginning crochet book with lots and lots of pictures. After setting it asside a few times and coming back to it, I thought I had gotten close to comfortable with a single crochet stitch and did about 10 rows... only to come watch some videos on YouTube to find I'm doing it completely wrong.

I think knitting and crochet are just something you can't learn from a book. Thank goodness for YouTube.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The day got better

I've had some good meetings today, won a t-shirt for being the last official customer at the campus cafe for the semester plus a free biscotti & orange... and the big news is I just got an e-mail saying my poster for ACRL was next on the waiting list and someone just dropped out. I think after accepting the utter disappointment yesterday, it makes it oh so much sweeter.

I'm very happy I'm getting to the conference many days in advance... that will help as I try and figure out how to get a poster across the country... I like the recent post about this on Please Be Quiet.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Great Christmas Carol

My mom sent this to me... I'm the kind of person who is sick of Christmas by sometime in mid-September. But this just made my morning and I wanted to share it. I believe they're from my library school alma mater (Indiana), that's the connection to library science!:

Best Books of 2008

A publishing newsletter I subscribe to (for fun) asked the question, what are the top 10 best books you read in 2008? Since those people probably read more than I do, I'll narrow it down to my top 5:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Steig Larsson
What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee
Watership Down by Richard Adams
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (a must-read for everyone!)
Inkheart by Cornelia Funke
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Amazon Canada

I just ordered my first book from Amazon Canada. I have enjoyed re-reading the first four Harry Potter books in French, and I've been wanting to buy Twilight in French. I'm just a little annoyed that I couldn't buy a used copy. I think they weren't willing to ship the used book outside of Canada. If I'm willing to pay the extra shipping, I don't understand why this is problematic. But I got a new paperback copy for $17 with shipping, which isn't bad.

I love the titles of the books in French: Fascination, Tentation (temptation), Hesitation, and Revelation. Sorry to those who speak French and realize some accent marks are missing here.

I stopped in a French bookstore in NYC on Saturday and was going to buy the last Harry Potter book (the only one I don't have in French), and they wanted $75 for a paperback!!! We were speaking in English but I still had to repeat it twice to make sure I understood. They said they were going out of business. With Amazon Canada available, I don't understand how they stayed in business in the first place.


Sometimes I wonder about the timing of life's events. It's my last late-day of the semester, so I didn't get here until 1 this afternoon. It usually takes me a while to wade through my mailbox on this day, and I had two e-mails. One was from ACRL saying my poster did not get accepted, the other was someone asking if I would be willing to present at a focus group at ALA Midwinter because she was so interested in the Reference Universe case study we did. I am not going to Midwinter, I am going to ACRL a few weeks later.

I think I could handle the rejection better if the phoniness of rejection letters didn't get under my skin so badly. I know my poster proposal was good, and I know they get a lot of submissions. But my supervisor thought it had a very good chance of getting accepted, and I allowed myself to become overly optimistic. How do you wait for two months while your proposal is being reviewed, without allowing "might" to become "quite possibly" in the back of your head?

As for Mid-Winter, I would so love to present. If it was anywhere this side of the Mississippi, I might make an effort to go. I really want to be professionally active, and I do love Reference Universe. But it's in Denver. When I went to tell my director about it, she thought I was asking to go, when I was really asking if she would present in my place. I have no interest in Mid-Winter other than presenting and seeing the vendors.

On the bright side of the conference news, though, my best friend who is in the process of changing jobs was asked by her soon-to-be employer if she wanted to go to ACRL and is now officially registered. I am very excited to attend a conference with my best friend, and with someone who is such a good librarian. I know I will get so much more out of it with her there.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Isn't it grand

I love those moments when I open my e-mail and find something like this waiting for me:

I want you to know that, thanks in large part to your efforts in designing the ***class name*** citations online tutorial, this year, for the first time since I've been teaching ***, I had no major incidents of plagiarism. In addition to my usual instructions, I assigned your online tutorial as a required homework before the final papers were due, and I checked all the final papers using Although there were a couple of students who didn't put quotes around extensive direct quotations, everyone gave at least some form of attribution where it was needed. YOU have made my exam week much, much simpler by doing this!

Library Game

I came across an e-mail on one of my listservs that pointed to Ohio State's online library game called Head Hunt, that is meant to be an introduction to incoming freshmen and their families. The game part is Brutus (the OSU mascot) is missing his head. For each part of the tutorial you complete (mostly trivia, some matching, one puzzle), you get a letter that helps you figure out where Brutus's head is.

I really like using the school's mascot as the central part of the game. That symbolically brings in the bigger picture of the campus and draws in a wider audience (what athlete or sports fan doesn't care about fixing the mascot?). While at first I was annoyed by the different uses of multimedia (it first struck me as disjointed), I later came to appreciate the variety in the activities.

My biggest complaint is that I can't figure out where the head is because I'm awful at word scrambles. That has nothing to do with library skills, and it's disappointing to someone who completed all but the last step. I really want to know where the head is.

But the more serious criticism I have for this particular game is that it doesn't encourage discovery. There are no links to outside resources to help the user figure out the answer. The crossword puzzle offers "hints" that outright give the answer. This is something I'm really working on in my own tutorial.

Overall, I thought this was a good game, I just wish I could have finished it.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Educational Game

I found a Web site that listed games with a social impact. Only one of the games is still available, and it's pretty cute. It was done by the government of Seattle to help educate people on ways to save water. It's hokey and very, very easy (it's obviously meant for a younger audience), but I'm thinking I could use something like this for the tutorial part of my games and followed up by questions, matching, etc. This could be fun.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Students' stories

I've been hearing and reading about the importance of "telling stories" a lot lately, esp. in relation to Web 2.0. I was much more involved with student activities my first year, though I'm trying to change that this year. Some students have fascinating life stories... though sometimes these are very said stories.

  • My favorite student worker (who let me tag along with her to see the midnight Twilight premier) told me last week she was staying on campus because she's a foster child. I bought her a very small Christmas present at the mall on Sunday.
  • I overheard some students discussing a friend of theirs only pays $600 a semester because her mother died and her father abandoned her. I wouldn't trade all the student loans in the world to swap places with that student.
  • And to end on a happier story, my husband has a student whose uncle owns Mrs. T's frozen pierogies (a personal favorite).

Many of the stories are happier ones. Even at young ages, some of our students have accomplished incredible things, like playing on the all-Canadian high school lacrosse team, or serving in the military before going to school. And you just never know which students will go on to do incredible things after they graduate.

I like being a part of their stories, even if it's just as a supernumerary.

Monday, December 1, 2008


Since professionally entering the field of academic librarianship, I have heard a lot about the Millennial Generation. The dates of who is included in this group vary, I've settled on people who were born in 1982 or later because I don't want to be included in this group. I don't recognize myself in the students I work with, nor do I recognize myself in what I have read about the Millennials. I don't recognize myself in descriptions of Generation X either. But I'm working my way through Prensky's Digital Game-Based Learning and he uses the phrase the "Games Generation." It includes Gen Xers to present-day college students. I do recognize myself in this group even if I did not grow up playing video games (my mother wouldn't let us have one and I eventually lost interest).

He says that members of the Games Generation see everything as a game. We can process more than one item at a time (hyperlinks vs. linear thinking); focus on graphics first and text second; see everything as connected; like to be active and hate being passive; look for payoffs with little patience; tend to have an affection for fantasy; and see technology as a friend. The more I think about seeing everything as a game, the more I agree with him. I want my job to be "fun," to enjoy coming to work. If I work hard, I want to see the results. I'm trying to lose a few pounds without spending any money on Weight Watcher's online tools, but I'm craving the game-like environment it would provide me. I even view my personal finances as a game-like challenge... now that I have a shared bank account with my new husband, that game even includes another player.

It's hard for me to imagine how my parents think if the Games Generation is really so different from previous generations. I know my parents had more patience than I did between rewards. I can now blame my disorganized thinking on having grown up with hyperlinks.

Librarianship in other countries

I often wonder how different my job would be if it were in a country other than the U.S. or Canada (I assume Canada is very similar). One day I would like to participate in a job swap or temporary job abroad. My French is decent, though I think academic librarianship requires an excellent understanding of the language and I don't have that. You would also have to understand the education system, or at least what type of research your patrons are doing. I never figured out French high schools when I lived there, and they didn't have to do any research at that level... the high school library consisted of two shelves of literary books. I am intimidated by my imaginary limitations, which make me stop looking for any opportunities before I even start.

I sometimes look at Andrew Eynon's Library Blog, which often specifically focuses on UK libraries. I can only imagine how frustrating it is to have the literature stuffed with stuff from the U.S. And as I often think the stuff in these UK library links don't pertain to me, I suppose most of the rest of the English-speaking library world must feel that so much of it doesn't pertain to them.

So I wonder how much of it is very different. Is public librarianship very different between here and, say, western Europe? Are the skills I learned in library school relevant anywhere else?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Poster ideas

I spent a few hours browsing the Web for advertising ideas for the big LibQUAL promotion. A few weeks ago, I looked at the response rate of other participating libraries, and they're pathetic (probably because the darn thing is so darn long to fill out). I do not want our library to spend that much money and then only get 50 or 60 responses.

I'm thinking that students won't care all that much about helping the library out. So my focus will be on them, with phrases like "Express yourself," "You can make a difference," "Be heard (we're listening)," and "Your voice does count." I'm striving for trendy graphics. Thank goodness for Flickr Commons. There are many talented photographers who generously offer their work for nothing but recognition. Here are some of the ideas I have come up with (or stolen) so far:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Irony, thy name is Azete

I just visited a new professor's office, who is trying to figure out Turnitin. She was able to upload the papers on her own, but wanted me to come over and look at the results with her. In one case where the student's paper was a 60% match, 19% of that was from a Web site called It is a papermill site... but wait, they have redeemed themselves by including a lengthy page on what plagiarism is and links to Web sites on how to avoid it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Map games

Word got around to a student who wasn't at my focus group on Monday night that I had talked about doing some kind of games with maps. One of the games mentioned in Trefry's presentation on Big Games is to print a map of New York on one side of a piece of paper, and a map of Baghdad on the other side with landmarks marked on it. People hold the map up to the light and find how those points line up in NYC, then go to that part of the city to learn something about the landmark in Baghdad.

The focus group had suggested using fictional maps like Gotham City, Narnia, or Middle Earth with campus or even all of Williamsport. People could then go to these cites and do something. The students seem to be really excited about this, and it would be a great outreach event, and the student I just mentioned caught me in the caf yesterday to talk about it. But I'm not sure what to put at those sites that would be exciting... Plus the only one of these places I know anything about is Narnia. I'm not sure which of the three has the broadest interest, I know our campus has a popular annual Lord of the Rings Trivial Pursuit each year that pits faculty against students.

This will take some pondering.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What is an "expert"

I had seen Meredith Farkas's blog post on experts, and now the Liminal Librarian has added to the conversation. I've already left a comment on Meredith's post, but I want to address it here since it's a topic that gets me wound up.

After almost a year of professional experience, I went to ALA. That was my first conference. As I made my way through the vendors, I came across a vendor's booth that had some type of encyclopedia. It touted its list of librarian "experts" that was involved in the production and approval of the encyclopedia. At least two of these "experts" were my LIS classmates.

I have serious issues with someone who has only a year or two of professional experience being labeled an "expert" to promote publications and deciding the fate of more experienced librarians when it comes to their posters and presentations being accepted to conferences and journals. I admire people who dive into the profession head-first. Furthermore I agree with Meredith that it's all how you position yourself. But these believes are not in conflict with my feelings towards experts. You start by publishing, presenting, and getting a reputation on a certain topic. Once you have a body of accoplishments, you then become an "expert."

My mentor has assured me that librarians are not faster to label "experts" than other branches of academia. This is both assuring and disturbing.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Focus Group Heaven

Last night I organized a focus group of students to help me brainstorm ideas for developing my instructional games. In exchange for their help, I made them chicken Marbella (my favorite!), mashed potatoes, and chocolate fondue with fruit.

I had 8 or 9 students from the Creative Arts Society (CAS) show up, and it was sooo much fun. I wish every focus group could go so well. They actually enjoyed the games as they were, which amazed me. They loved the "Secret Agent" story. So here are some of the ideas and suggestions they came up with... and I did encourage them to say whatever came to mind.

  • Have laser tag in the library and when you find certain library resources, you get several seconds of immunity

  • If you want the students to be more active, you could have a central, physical place to get maps and other resources.

  • Add "Your mission, if you choose to accept it..." message to the secret agent theme. Along that line, I think I'll add "this message will self destruct in 5 seconds" and then an explosion animation.

  • Add video clips and sound clips from James Bond, Carmen Sandiego, Q (the Bond weapons guy?), or Frankenstein for the monster game

  • Allow teams to choose a name

  • For freshman orientation, do a themed (pirates?) scavenger hunt. Could involve points, keep score with tokens, passbook, or big board to award prizes at end.

  • Again for orientation, split each cluster of students into groups, each group with a different color of handouts. Each color will be a different track, where one clue will lead to the next.

  • Reminisced about the "Temple of the Hidden Monkey" where contestants had to build monkey statues while avoiding guards. In this case, library staff could be guards that deduct points if they catch students running.

  • Involve having them get video clues in one of the screening rooms

  • Have some kind of lock box they're working to open, which will contain small prizes like lollipops at the end (going along with the secret agent theme)

  • They liked the Web evaluation part of the game, they called them "real and fake sites"

  • Have the "correct site" unlock something (I don't remember the context here)

  • More on databases, they wish they had known about them earlier

  • They were excited about "Choose Your Own Adventure" type games. I've done simple HTML games along these lines, there is potential for more here. They particularly focused on scholarly vs. popular journals here... we went off about turning in a paper based on articles found in Vogue :)

  • They really liked the idea of animating the Boolean operators sequence. Right now it's tutorial-like, but eventually I'd like to give students AND & OR buttons where pressing on those buttons will rearrange objects that fit the search (like only the spies wearing yellow coats AND red pants).

  • Could make author-themed games, like Poe (ravens, grave yards, tombs by the sea, beating hearts, pendulums, etc.)

  • They think we can assume students have cameras with them, esp. on cell phones. Could use those for photo scavenger hunts.

  • They thought the ideas of Big Games were really cool. I told them about juxtaposing maps of campus or Williamsport with some other map and asked what map? They suggested Gotham (if it exists), Narnia, Middle Earth, or Eragon

Games I need to look at:

  • "Escape from the Basement" (series of places to escape from)

  • "Myst" - puzzle game where you have to click on objects in your area

  • "Escape Artist"

  • "Trapped" - this involves talking to characters you meet, which determines the outcome of the game

  • "Oblivion" - there has already been discussion on how people could reorganize this game for their own needs. They suggested talking to a student named Ian Shepard (a.k.a. "Shade").

So you can see it was a productive night. I'm going to include the nice picture I took of them now because I liked both pictures so much and couldn't choose between the two.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Director support

It's so nice to have a director who supports you. In my new-found interest in game-based learning, my director has agreed to buy cheap speakers for me to use in the instruction classroom. Sound makes such a huge difference in the gaming experience. She also gave me $40 for groceries to make a home-cooked meal for the students who are coming in tonight for my focus group. I hope we can come up with some creative ideas for making my "games" more game-like.

BTW, our football team won their conference on Saturday and we're going to the playoffs! I'm hoping to find someone to go with if my husband goes with the team. No one could have convinced me two years ago that I'd get this happy about football.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Word of Mouth Marketing and High School Reunion

I'm not sure that word-of-mouth marketing is the most effective tool for gathering together alumni for a high school reunion. I officially graduated high school the summer of 1998, though I had spent my senior year as an exchange student in France. I had been wondering if they were holding a reunion, but figured someone would notify me; they've found me in the past and I updated my information in their online directory.

A high school aquaintance of mine found me on Facebook and asked if I heard about the reunion coming up in two weeks. Coincidently, we'll be driving through the area the day after on our way back from a family Thanksgiving, so I'm very tempted to go. I just wish I knew who was coming so I knew if it was worth missing an evening with my family. Most of the people I hung out with either live out of the country or their family doesn't live in that area anymore.

What does this have to do with libraries? I guess Web 2.0, and word-of-mouth marketing. I'm a big fan of word-of-mouth marketing, but sometimes it's just not the best tool!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Citation, citation, citation

I've been working with the head of the Writing Center for a while now preparing for a presentation we were going to give our faculty on the citation tutorial we created. Both of us have been really nervous, not so much about the public speaking as about the actual content. We don't have the be-all-and-end-all answer, no one does.

I think might have done things in a slightly different order than Shanna expected (oops), but everything went very smoothly. The reception we got was better than either of us could have expected and we nailed the timing (something we have both had issues with in the past. We had ten minutes of questions and discussion after our official presentation. We got lots of cheering for the actual tutorial, but also great compliments on the actual presentation. One professor said it was the most useful teaching effectiveness lunch so far this year, and when I got back to my desk I had an e-mail from another professor saying:

Thanks for the great presentation on citing and the demonstration of the online tutorial. I gained several ideas that I can immediately implement in my W courses. Excellent work!

I think we can both write off the day as a huge success. Though it makes me feel like my work today is done and that I should be able to go home now!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Bonding with students over vampires

I've been amazed in the last two weeks how much I can bond with (female) students over the Twilight books. One of our student workers was lamenting about not having a car to drive to the mall for the midnight movie premier. I told her I was happy to drive if I could have some people to go with. So she's found at least one other person who wants to come, and now I don't have to go alone. My husband actually wants to see this movie, but he's not geeky enough to want to go at midnight. I'm in it as much for the cultural experience as anything else, I had such a great time at the last Harry Potter premier. But I did buy my "All Star Vampire Baseball League" shirt which arrived yesterday.

Colleges paying for public libraries?

Here's an interesting library story... Worchester (Mass.?) wants to ask local colleges to help pay for the public libraries. This seems ridiculous to me, though I was very disappointed to see how short the article was. There was a study that showed the city spent $1.5 million responding to local colleges and fraternities... how much of that was library services? I rarely used the public libraries when I was in undergrad or grad school, and I think very, very few of our students use the local public library even for its excellent (and free) movie collection, and it's only a block and a half from campus!

I do think that colleges and universities should consider voluntarily paying local taxes even if they are non-profit institutions. We do draw on the city's police and fire services, snow clearing services, trash removal if that's a government service locally, etc. I know our college pays a certain amount voluntarily. But higher education is in a financial crisis in the same sense that health care is. Tuition jumps 6-10% every year and most administrators are really doing everything they can to prevent this exorbitant inflation. I love libraries, but unless someone can prove our students are using the local public libraries, I think it's silly to ask the colleges to pay for them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Wish I had a camera

Some days you just wish you had a camera with you at just the right moment. I went out to help a student with Interlibrary Loan. I don't know if he was particularly excited or what, but when he was done, he jumped up and ran out of the library and ran straight into the sliding glass doors... they're a little slow to open if you're walking too fast. All of the students on the first floor looked at him and burst out laughing when he left. He knocked one of them off its hinge, but I think I was able to pull it back on.

Diving into the literature

Adcock, A. (2008). Making digital game-based learning work: An instructional designer's perspective. Library Media Connection.

This was a very short but useful article. Digital game-based learning (DGBL) uses a combination of:

  • Play theory or learning through engagin play
  • Problem-based learning
  • Situated Learning
  • Challenge

It's important to keep the game from being too confusing or too hard. I've been seeing this in several other cases of library instruction games (i.e. ASU's Quarantined). You also need to give the students continuous feedback and scaffolding. DGBL should also be avoided on its own, instead it should be used with other methods such as a verbal introduction and a debriefing/review session. Students should be given the chance to practice what they have learned in the game as much as possible.

This also points me to other resources I've seen mentioned before but now sound really great, like Prensky's Digital Game-Based Learning, and Lave & Wenger's Situated Learning.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Who knew?

Who would have thought that being a shy person would make it difficult to perform certain functions of librarianship. I have always known I have a problem finishing projects and my cluttered desk is a sign of how cluttered my brain is. I work hard to overcome these faults. But part of the reason I became a librarian is because I thought it was a good career for me as a shy person.

I think the thing I struggle with the most in my current job is faculty office visits and anything that requires me to systematically walk up to students and ask them for something. I really hate the lead-in to things like this, and know it makes me very awkward. But I love the "during" and "afterwards" part!

My director gave me some good, simple ideas of what to promote during faculty office visits, so I went around quickly before lunch and talked to three professors. Since I think these are good, helpful things for them, it definitely takes the edge off of the approaching part.

Funny citing question

This one is all me, not something I can blame the reference desk for. I'm presenting my citation tutorial on Thursday to the faculty, and I'm summarizing the notes I took on articles talking about teaching citation. I came across a blog entry called Why I Bother to Teach MLA Style Even Though It Makes Me Want to Slit My Wrists by Dr. Crazy. There's some interesting stuff in this post and I want to include it in the handout I give to professors.

So my question is, when someone "publishes" something under the pseudonym Dr. Crazy, how do you include that in the citation? Would it be "Crazy, D." or just "Crazy" with no first initial?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Beyond the Computer

The three instructional service librarians here have weekly meetings to talk about various instruction topics. This week it will be my turn to lead. I'm really looking forward to this because we haven't done anything very enlightening lately. However, I'm also nervous because I want to make it really good. I want to do something with game-based learning, but everything I'm finding in the literature revolves around video games.

I have been working with online games and will continue to do this. They have an advantage of giving the points fairly and keeping students focused on one task at a time. However, my colleagues can't create new games or even tweak the ones I already have. It seems like the term game-based learning shouldn't only apply to video-game-like instruction. Librarians somewhere have to be doing things along the Big Games line that doesn't require a librarian to have any special technology skills, just a lot of creativity.

I'll have to give this more thought.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Self-direction in libraries

There is an editorial in the latest edition of AL that strikes me as curious. I agree there is a "push" in libraries to move towards "the self-service model." She is talking about public libraries, which I am less familiar with. Certainly we have improved our signs and try to take advantage of technologies that allow students to do things without asking for help. However, we do this not because we don't want to help, but rather because they do not want to ask for help. Indeed, I'm at the reference desk this afternoon and just a little bored. I want to be either making rounds in faculty offices, or figuring out how to edit a sloppy Camtasia tutorial I created. I can't do the later because it's the sound that needs cleaned up and I don't want to make noise or be seen wearing headphones...

...but if only people would ask me for help, how I would be happy to stay late to get that other stuff done. I could make their lives so much easier, and their papers so much better, and often what's tripping them up is something fairly simple. I hate knowing people walk out of the library never to return because they didn't know how to read a call number.

I don't expect much to change at the reference desk soon, despite our marketing efforts. So until then, I will be looking for ways to help students find things on their own as I sit at the desk next to my big green sign that says "Please interrupt me. Your request is more interesting than what I'm doing."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Serialized Stories

I seem to get strange cravings when I work on Wednesday nights...

Many books and short stories used to come out in serialized form in journals. Sweeney Todd was originally published that way, and I have an aunt who published her first horor novel that way back in the 70's (and got a lot of money for it, too). The anticipation of each part must have been like a print soap opera or hit TV drama. There are probably some magazines that still do this, though their popularity is obviously questionable.

It seems to me that there must be some good creative writers out there using blogs to serialize stories. I really want to find one, but can't think of any good keywords. It seems like a blog would be a good place to share stories with the world, though difficult to find. I'm sure plenty of fan fic writers do this, but I'm not too interested in that...

Though I think this all stems from having just finished the last Twilight book and being disappointed in the silly ending. Actually, the whole last book was incredibly silly, even in comparison with the first three. I wanted a happy ending, but expected something to happen first. Maybe online fan fiction is just what I need, someone must have written a better ending somewhere.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Congratulations are in order

One of my best friends, also named Mary, just officially accepted a new job offer. She'll be leaving cold PA for sunny Atlanta Georgia. The new job is at Oxford College, which is part of Emory. How impressive is that... like anyone who knows her would expect anything less. I will miss her, but thank goodness for e-mail and Facebook! Congratulations Mary, I'm so happy for you!

2.0 Cliques

I talked to my director yesterday afternoon about our Web 2.0 workshop last week. She mentioned being interested in the administrative issues of Web 2.0. One thing she mentioned was the divide between people who have & have not bought into it, and the cliques that must form at larger universities.

This hits a soft spot because I often get frustrated with this being the only "twopointopian" in my library, though several other librarians are heavily involved in keeping up with other technologies (that I don't want anything to do with). I think all of my grad school friends are twopointopians to some degree or other, and I often feel I communicate with them better than I do with the people I'm with face-to-face daily.

I don't think that you have to start your own blog, breathe Facebook, have a Meebo widget on every Web page, and carry around your Blackberry so you can update your Twitter status every 20 minutes. However, this is just a taste of what the future is for libraries. I'm not sure where I draw the line, but I don't understand librarians who stick their head in the sand and don't do anything at all with technology. I guess I don't feel sorry for the people who get left out of the 2.0 cliques unless they're off doing something equivalent, and in that case, they've probably formed their own cliques.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

I'm Back!

I'm back! I feel like I haven't written in forever. We hosted a regional workshop on Friday on Web 2.0. Here's the program's Web site. Jody Fagan was incredible. I was lucky enough to get to go to dinner and breakfast with her. I was so impressed by her online CV, and it's not even entirely up to date. It's 16 pages long, and she's only a few years older than I am (a.k.a. not close to old). Yet she's very personable and down-to-earth. Most importantly, she's easy-going, which was important because we kept having stuff pop up... our entire campus scheduled an emergency preparedness day for the same day as the workshop and it included sirens, fake shooters and hostages, police in full S.W.A.T. get-up... then two days before she was to arrive, Palin and Biden announced they would both be in little 'ol Williamsport on the same afternoon, and Biden was on campus!

I think my poster and panel session went well. I accidentally set off an audio file during my panel presentation... that was a little embarrassing, at first I though it had something to do with the emergency drills outside! I would have liked to walk around to see other peoples' posters more, but kept keeping an eye on my own poster (for any visitors), so didn't focus well on what they had to say. But I was so impressed with what I saw other people put together and hope to catch up with the handouts I collected and any electronic files they send me to post on the Web site.

One of my best friends from grad school drove 2 hours to present and help out. She is a great public speaker and her lovely personality comes out when she does public speaking. However, she got intimidated by a previous panel session and said in her introduction it made her "scared shitless"... I'm sure more than a few faces turned bright red. Jody thought it was bold, I thought it worked with the rest of her talk (though I'm biased as my husband swears like a sailor at home). She says she didn't notice it until she sat down at the end, then was quite embarrassed!

I'm so glad October is done. I still have a presentation in two weeks that I'm nervous about. Our campus has these "teaching effectiveness" workshops once a month where different faculty share things they're doing that have been successful. I have been involved in one in the past, where I presented a Flash tutorial on plagiarism. It was very well-received. I'm ganging up with the head of the Writing Center to present an interactive tutorial we've created on citation. Professors are so frustrated with students not knowing how to cite, so this is meant to help the utter citation newbie. The thing is, we haven't yet done much testing on students to see how effective it really is, though she will in her freshman comp classes in the next week or so, and I'm really hoping it's enough to be a real teaching effectiveness workshop. I did base it on lots of articles I found on teaching citation, so if I bring that stuff in...

But no matter what, now that this Web 2.0 workshop and Harry Potter Night are done, my life is becoming soo much easier. I have finished the third Twilight book (TEAM EDWARD!), and will soon go home and spend the rest of this Sunday afternoon working on the fourth. My wonderful husband cleaned the house for my friend's visit so I could read the books I've been obsessed with. Now if that isn't prince charming, I don't know what is.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Numbering a series

I really wish all publishers of series would follow the example of Harry Potter and clearly NUMBER THE DARN BOOKS. I hate having to go do research to find out which book to read next if I liked the first one. Artemis Foul does this, too, though I wasn't thrilled with the first enough to run out for the sequels.

I decided as a librarian, I wanted to find out what all the hype was about the Twilight series. So I picked up the first book at the local indie bookstore a few weeks ago, and when I finished the book I'd been working on for a while, I dug in. And wasted one of the last precious, beautiful days of the fall yesterday... wasted in that I didn't go out to enjoy the beautiful weather. I'm ashamed to admit I enjoyed the book, despite it's high cheese factor... I hate "cheesy" things, a phrase I taught my French host family who couldn't figure out why being full of cheese was such a bad thing. So I find the main character a little unbelievable. I'm going to ask some of our student workers if they use the words "blouse" and "slacks" because I attribute these words to people older than myself. But the author is certainly good at capturing sexy, seductive moments, and that is why I couldn't put the thing down.

So I'm going to run over to the public library tonight and see if they have the next one. If not, I'll go buy it. I'm hooked. I just wish I hadn't had to spend five minutes on the Internet trying to figure out which book was next. It's New Moon... I think. Oh, how I should not be publicly admitting to all of this.

HP Night Reflections

How else do you measure success in outreach programming other than attendance? If this is the only measure, or at least the one that matters the most, than our Harry Potter Night utterly failed. If it is how much fun those who did attend had, than it was very successful. Unfortunately, I'm too disappointed with the first to revel in the second.

My estimate is that we had about 25 students. Last year we had about 100 show up, about 70 stayed. I normally attribute low attendance to either a bad program, or bad marketing. I don't think this was either. Two of us librarians even dressed up in costume for the whole day and passed out programs around campus (yeah, I set up for this thing wearing a floor-length, high-collar black dress!), had a musical animation on the library home page, and posted fliers everywhere. No one could say they didn't know about it. I think it was just a bad night. So many students were going home for the weekend, even though this coming weekend is Long Weekend, when people are supposed to go home. We were also competing against the Creative Arts Society's haunted house.

I did get some great pictures. I got many complements on my costumes and the Horcrux Hunt was a lot of fun for the students. If I ever find the responses to the last Horcrux event, I'll have to post them. I'm always amazed by the creativity some people can come up with on the spot. They were asked to pick a bad guy and write what their punishment should be. One involved tickling Belatrix Lastrange for the rest of eternity so she would be forced to laugh, another was forcing Voldemort to listen to "A Cauldron of Hot, Burning Love" while making pink heart cookies for all of eternity, and the final winner (yes, there were three) was to force Malfoy to wear hand-me-down robes and attend bi-weekly muggle-appreciation seminars for the rest of his life.

We had a house activity that involved finding "bowtruckles" (see picture). Whichever house gathered the most was going to win the house cup. Unforunately, one of the four children in attendance decided to practice some unsportsmanlike behavior... ironically stealing from the Slytherins. I'm pretty sure Slytherin would have won, but not sure if I should declare them the winner, or just say it was null & void. I was also going to put up a display on the program, but since there were so few people, I'm not sure if I really want to.

We will do it again next year, but probably confined to the classroom, and maybe not on a Friday night.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hell for librarians

A former student who is now working on a master's degree at another school offered her user name and password so I could use their Web of Knowledge subscription. I was so tempted, but the little white librarian on my right shoulder reminded me of how unethical that would be. Sigh, I'm such a goodie-two-shoes.

I responded that I would be sent to librarian's hell if I did that. Then that made me wonder what librarian's hell would be like...

I've had nightmares of being smothered by catalogs or programming code, forced to drive snowmobiles down icy slopes to help a patron, library school professors towing tractors with a bicycle, being forced to go back to high school (usually naked) despite having my MLS, &#%@'ing-off my director in various ways, and lots of strange things about the professors I work with here.

Throw in some stuff like:
  • Standing in front of a class and getting halfway through it only to realize you thought it was intro to psych and it's really a 400-level class.
  • Realizing the professor didn't explain the assignment or the subject to them before sending them to you.
  • Having a practice search completely fail during the class your director is observing and not being able to save it.
  • Realizing as students are leaving your class that you needed another 15 minutes to finish (again while being observed).
  • Spending tons of time and some of the library's money on a program and then having no one show up.
  • Your first night handling things on your own and a student bursting out crying that she's neglecting her children because she's been studying so hard and she doesn't know how to do this research assignment that's due tomorrow.
  • Finding out a student is suing your school because of the reference service you provided.
These have all happened to me in reality. I'll just add the lawsuit quickly fell apart due to the fact it was ridiculous.

You could throw in some reference questions that disprove the theory that the only stupid question is the one unasked. These would include:
  • Can I highlight in an interlibrary loan book?
  • I don't know how to get to the third floor (from a man standing in front of the elevator).
  • Who do I talk to if I want to argue about being written up for licking a smoothie machine at my job here on campus?
  • Can you come down from your lunch break to unjam this copy machine?

So mix all this stuff up together with some visuals Hieronymus Bosch, and between reality and my nightmares, I think that about covers it!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Checking out people

There's a neat article from Santa Monica's public libraries that they offered live people that could be checked out for a 30-minute conversation. These people talked about topics like Buddhism, veganism, nudism, and homelessness from their own experiences. It was an effort to promote tollerance and understanding. I wonder if this could be done on an academic campus? We could find staff and faculty who have unique life experiences that are willing to be "checked out." Or perhaps find people in the wider local community. Would students be interested in this? I don't think the article mentions how successful the program was.

I downloaded Camtasia's free 30-day trial to see how suitable it is for creating the games I've been working on. It's definitely much better for how-to tutorials than Flash. It does have a quiz feature that offers multiple choice and text entry. If it offered "hot spot" questions (having to click on the right part of the picture) and drag & drop, we'd really be in business. It also greatly limits your design as far as I can tell from the five minutes I played with it. I don't think this is necessarily bad, as long as you word your questions to keep with the story of the game. I'll play with it further and report back.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Please, please, please

I just submitted my poster proposal for the 2009 ACRL conference. My director looked over my poster in its current state and read over my proposal that I had worked on over the weekend and thinks I have got a fair shot at being accepted. I really want to get into presenting and publishing. Not hard-core, I'm not that ambitious, but I want to be a contributing part of the community. I'm very excited about this project and where it can go next.

Four days and six hours to Harry Potter Night. Snape had to back out a few days ago, which left us one person short for our scavenger hunt, and it doesn't help that the faculty Halloween party got scheduled for the same night (we picked ours months earlier!). Fortunately, one of the library workers was planning to be there anyway and is happy to wear a green robe and librarian glasses to be the Hogwart's librarian, Madam Pince. She is our savior of the week!

I finished the costumes last night, now I need to finish painting the bricks on muslin. I can't tell if my husband is really mad at me for accidentally painting the basement floor red or not... I didn't realize it would go right through the canvas drop cloth (which is also red, but that was to be expected).

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A success

My experiments with video games in the classroom payed off yesterday. I lengthened the activity considerably and it took them about 30 minutes to complete. That left us with time to go over a few things, this time it was mostly review.

I have to write up a poster on this and get it to the printer by Monday, which is why I'm at work today. I think my poster is coming along nicely, my husband has promised to go over it with me tomorrow since he has experience presenting his biology research.

The current poster is for our regional workshop on the 31st. I really want to submit a proposal for ACRL, which is due on Monday. I don't know if this project is good enough, but I just have to get over my inferiority complex and accept that I will never get anywhere if I don't try. I really think I'm on to something great here, even if I've only seen the tip of the iceberg. Interestingly enough, I don't think students mind the simplicity of the program. They genuinely seemed to have fun, and teased me about being a spy, or did James Bond impressions while finding their books and during the review.

What needs more development is the story. This seems to be more important than sophisticated technology. If it can seem less library-like and more roll-playing, I think the students will have even more fun, which means they will learn more.

I have been reading books and articles on related topics, though for a poster session I don't understand how you back up the project with past research. My brain is craving to sit down and do this so I can understand where to go next. I am excited that I have one more freshman composition class in a few weeks, so there's still time this semester to work on this, though not before the regional workshop. That's okay, I am very excited at how well the class went yesterday and think what I have is more than just "good enough."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Book Review

Title: What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy

Author: James Paul Gee

Published in 2003

Cited by 1,088 in Google Scholar

I just finished this book last night and I highly recommend it to any librarian, whether or not you have any interest in video games. It is more about how people learn and why video games engage people more than traditional education systems do. It discusses active learning, critical learning, and is closely related to or even part of inquiry-based learning.

Gee has a background in theoretical and social linguistics. The book is heavy on theory after a lot of reading and playing games. However, even for people like me who don't always get theory, it's easy to read and there is much to learn from him. Indeed, I took eight pages of notes, but I will condense them for this post.

A "semiotic domain" is a set of practices that communicate distinctive types of meaning. You can learn facts without learning a new semiotic domain. This involves a) learning to experience the world in new ways b) potential to join this group/affiliation c) gaining resources to prepare for future learning in that and related domains. These three things make up active learning, but you can go beyond active learning to critical learning. This involves thinking about the domain at a "meta" level as a complex system of interrelated parts, and how to innovate meanings within the domain.

Identities are very important to learning. Students bring in their identities including what type of learner they are (i.e. "I'm not good at science), you strive to make them see themselves as a type of mini-scientist or historian (etc.), and there's the relationship/transition between the two. This is like a gamer's real-world identity, the virtual identity, and the relationship between the two. This last one is called the "projective identity," and is how you project your real-world identity onto the virtual identity, or how you project your past identity onto your identity as a scientist. If the learner can get to the projective identity, they learn they have the capacity to make the virtual identity part of their real-world identity. He points out this is more magical than any video game. All learning involves taking on a new identity.

Video games are good at creating "psychosocial moratoriums," which are important to learning. They are spaces where the real-world consequences of mistakes are reduced while they learn how to move or interact with the new material. Learners must be enticed to try, put lots of effort into learning, and achieve some meaningful success. Video games offer lots of opportunities to practice, while schools don't. This practice is often repetitive, but it forces players to apply knowledge to new situations (called "transfer"), and punishes players who have a "routinized mastery." Learners should always be required to operate at the outer edge of their resources, that way the tasks will be doable, but very challenging.

Good games offer and accept multiple solutions to each problem. Players get clues, make hypotheses, test them out, then reform their hypotheses and apply them to new situations. This is how they form patterns, which is what all learning is.

Practice needs to be carefully mixed with overt telling. You can't just let the students go off on their own and expect them to learn. You can do this by periodically assessing their progress, give feedback/lecture, then let them continue.

Learning is a very social activity, just like gaming. While seeking patterns, a person asks other people, reads books, interacts with tools/technologies. They usually share what they have learned, eventually with a group. Otherwise that person has no way to know if the patterns they have formed are real. who will normalize or police their views if they deviate too far from the norm of the group. When there is a disagreement, there is a dialog (more social sharing of information). This interaction and ability to use tools is important in the real-world, yet our schools test what's in the learner's brain rather than what they can do when the use the tools.

Good video games not only allow for consuming, but producing as well. Players can modify worlds, create maps, post on online bulletin boards, and communicate tips and opinions.

Instead of saying video games are a waste of time, we should be looking into why people will spend so many hours learning how to play a game without feeling the same enthusiasm for school. In video games, "hard" is often good, while "easy" is often bad. The argument in this book isn't that good things are necessarily being learned, rather that good learning often occurs during video game playing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Online/In-Person Instruction Activity

I had two very interesting classes today. At first I wasn't sure how to feel about these two classes, but the more I think about it, the more excited I am. I just talked about this yesterday, but now I actually have two classes under my belt.

I developed an online activity using Macromedia Flash for students who are in our instruction room. It mixes virtual and real-world activities. They have to go upstairs to find a particular book which contains a code required to continue with the activity. The computer gives them a "home base" and has the advantage of giving points more easily/fairly than if the professor and I were scrambling to grade.

The part that I wasn't so happy about at first was they finished this very quickly. I had them for an hour and some groups finished in less than 20 minutes! I have one more section of the same class on Friday, so I have time to work on that. But I stuck to the bare basics and they really seemed to get it! Nine out of ten groups had very good scores and were proud of those scores. I was blown away by how fast they found books upstairs. And on top of it, they really seemed to have fun. I observed this, and then asked if they had more fun than they would have if I had lectured. Their resounding "yes" was very convincing.

I will report again on Friday afternoon about how the last class goes with the upgrades.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Games in Libraries

I'm finally back from a wonderful four-day weekend with a friend from grad school who visited from Bloomington, IN, and my parents, who were up here from Georgia to visit and work on the house. It feels a bit strange to be back, and I just spent 2.5 hours catching up on the e-mail that accumulated during that time. Now there are no more breaks for the rest of the month :(

A former student sent me this link which discusses library video games being developed by Carnegie Mellon. That first link seems to be the blog of a serious gamer, who thinks libraries are stupid, and they shouldn't attempt video games. The comments are very interesting.

I have been very interested in educational video games in the academic library setting. I'm working my way through John Paul Gee's book called What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy. It's facinating and every librarian should read it as it directly relates to going beyond "active learning" and striving for "critical learning."

I developed my own library game over the summer. I don't intend for people to think it's something students will want to play on Friday night, but I am hoping it's more fun than a regular BI lecture, and offer it to professors who end up not having time to bring in their students for BI (this happened with several classes last semester because of snow). I'm scrambling to adapt it a little for classes that are in the library, so they have to go find a book in the stacks, which will contain a code to continue with the "game." I really want to be reading more and finding other library games to work with.

I am not a gamer by any stretch of the imagination. I really admire many creative and asthetic aspects of video games and comic books, but they don't hold my attention. I'm too old-fashioned, I guess. I think I need to find some gamer students who would be willing to work with me, though I don't have much to offer in compensation. I'm really regretting my gaming friends Jen & Lynnette have moved away...

Libraries as "Essential Services"

A friend of mine was visiting this weekend. She had a brief stint as a public librarian in the northern Miami area. During that time, she got hit by hurricaines Wilma, Katrina, and Rita. During the evacuation, they said all county employees had to stay. By the time they were allowed to leave, it was too late

At our library, the college administration thinks the library is an "essential service." Even if classes are cancelled (which they almost never are at a campus-level), the library is still expected to be open with full services offered unless the governor of PA declares a state of emergency. Our director is of a slightly more practical opinion, thank goodness, and I have so far not had to take advantage of this.

It is flattering to be considered an "essential service," but I don't understand the job requirement of risking one's life to provide library services. Libraries are essential to our society, but a temporary lapse in services for occasional, very good reasons isn't going to hurt anything!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

It's too close!

I just realized how fast October 24 is coming up. That's our Harry Potter program, I know I've talked about it enough before. My co-worker whose potter-mania exceeds mine exponentially turned an old book cart into the Knight Bus. She just brought it in yesterday afternoon. Isn't it great? Notice the working chandeliers, you can see the one on the top floor in this picture.

We've decided to give up on dry ice. We found a local place and it's surprisingly inexpensive, but it only creates fog for 10-15 minutes before the water becomes too cool. It bubbles for a while longer, but someone would have to be changing out not only the dry ice but the water as well. I don't think anyone has time for that.
I'm scrambling to get my advertisements out on time. This year we have two professors giving scholarly talks the week of. The German professor is going to talk about the modern use of fairy tales, particularly in Book 7. One of the religion professors is going to have us watch the video of J.K. Rowling's talk at the Harvard graduation (she's a Harvard alum), then discuss it in terms of religion.
We're also doing a huge Horcrux Hunt which requires a lot of planning. It will be a cross between an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt. Students will have to do silly little activities to get credit for having found and destroyed each Horcrux... which in the stories is required before they can kill the bad guy.
On top of that, I just got a request for three freshman comp classes next week. I really want to make it game-like, and I really want to do a great job... but my creativity runs a bit short when I'm rushing... and my parents and a friend are coming this weekend. They live 10-14 hours away, so I will be giving them my full attention for 4 days... other than sewing on a few buttons so I can tell myself at least the costumes are complete.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

It was a success

I received a total of 136 votes for favorite banned author/book. The winners were J.K. Rowling for favorite author... that's no surprise. Favorite banned book was Catcher in the Rye (To Kill a Mockingbird and Harry Potter were out of consideration because they won the past two years). Of Mice and Men, The Giver, and Go Ask Alice were also very close.

Tomorrow I will worry about choosing winners for the drawing. I'm so excited to have received so much participation!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Opinions, please

I just got an e-mail this morning from someone I have met in person just once or twice. We had e-mailed back and forth a few weeks ago about her starting a blog. It's now up and running, and it's very good. I don't want to mention who because I don't have her permission and I'm hoping she doesn't take this as criticism.

The thing I want opinions on is this. She has a number of years of experience as an academic librarian. But she has taken a few years off to take care of her two very young children. I respect that. I think parenting is the most important job in the world, even if I am not a parent myself. If the profile says she is an academic librarian, should she state she is taking a few years off and not currently working? This is not an obligation, this is an issue of transparency, something that is highly valued in the Web 2.0 world.

I had advised her before she started the blog to write first for herself and to be a part of the library blog community. It's amazing the stuff you learn when you're looking about things to write about, and how writing about them shapes your beliefs about them. Every library blog I read includes stories that come up while the person is at work, and I'm wondering if potential readers will ever get suspicious about why she never talks about work.

This person definitely has interesting things to write about and to contribute to the library community. Should she be honest about not currently being employed because she has more important things to do at the moment? That seems like it would help readers understand her perspective, which is more often from the other side of the reference desk, and something we don't get to hear about much. Am I making this into a much bigger deal than it is?


I had the second half of the class I was frustrated with... meaning I'm frustrated with the whole class, and half of the class on Wednesday and the other half today. I was dreading the class even after preparing for it better than I had been on Wednesday. I found a chapter of a reference book that discussed the subject, made copies of it for everyone, and passed it out first thing in class. I talked about what it was a little bit before starting into the resources. I also was informed of a better database for the subject. It was a major database, but I didn't realize this subject was covered so well in it.

Anyway, this made a WORLD of difference. It was like night and day. They were not so resigned to failure, they had no problems finding examples in newspapers, nor finding scholarly articles. They asked good questions and left with a pile of sources to use over the weekend. They still may not know how to write the paper, but at least they have good resources.

I sent an e-mail to the students who had been in the Wednesday class and invited them to pick up copies of the reference article at the reference desk. I don't know if any have, the pile looks as big as it did yesterday. But at least I have done what I could to make up for not knowing everything I needed to know. Not that it was my fault. I have to remind myself of that. I was raised Catholic, I'm always feeling guilty about something.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Banned Book Talk...

... was a huge success. We had just under 20 students... most from the education class that was required to come. And they TALKED! It was a discussion rather than a lecture. Every single person was engaged and had something to say.

They enjoyed the food. Each item I brought in was from a banned book:

  • Strawberries from Snow Falling on Cedars
  • Red appples from The Giver
  • Pumpkin pasties from Harry Potter
  • Bubble gum from The Great Gilly Hopkins
  • Peanut butter sandwiches from Where the Sidewalk Ends
  • Chocolate-covered ants (Raisinettes) from The Pigman

It was a good end to a long day.

Banned Books Week 2008

The votes keep coming in, I must be over 120 by now, even after taking the sound off of my animation on the library's Web site... the other librarians and my husband complained about how annoying it was after the sixth or seventh time. I have the filling done for my pumpkin pasties, and I'm anxiously awaiting our discussion tonight, it should be a lot of fun. People have stopped me and other librarians asking, "why was this book banned?" in front of the display. They can't believe their favorites appear on the list. I have never received so much attention!

Monday, September 29, 2008


Here's a picture of the lovely flowers that arrived today from an English professor. She was at a teaching conference over the weekend, and we took her two classes and discussed Web evaluation. I had a great time with the classes, but it's so nice to know we were appreciated. We're leaving them at the library reference desk to share their beauty with all who pass by.

Banned Books Week 2008

This is so incredible, I can't get over it and I can't account for my own success this morning. I came into work for a few hours yesterday and assembled my Banned Books Week display and Web site. I sent out an e-mail to all faculty, staff, and students inviting them to vote for their favorite banned book on our Web site. This morning I had 95 e-mails waiting for me, 90 of them were votes. I thought maybe one person voted many times, or that we had gotten spammed, but almost all of them are unique votes by our own community. I have never had nearly so many votes in an entire week, let alone a single day. The highest number was two years ago when I got 72.

The only think that I can attribute to myself is the animated advertisement I put on our Web site in addition to the e-mail I sent out with the subject "Sex, profanity, and immorality at the Snowden Library!" But can that make all the difference?

Friday, September 26, 2008

Coming together

I have held back on this blog the past few days because I feel I have so much to complain about (...grrr LibQUAL is all I can say about that...), or sad news to tell about deaths and health crises among our faculty and their families. It's the first time in a long time I haven't looked forward to Friday since we're going to a funeral tonight... I'm nervous about crying as hard as the family even though I don't know them well just because she was way too young to die.

But today there are a few things that are a positive. First is how much I love my office-mate who took over reference for the entire day as I covered for one late-scheduled class and helped cover for another librarian who is at the hospital taking care of her daughter. I had asked her to take over just while I was in class, and without asking she took over the whole day.

Second is I had some good classes today that were enjoyable with lots of participation.

Third is that I just got one more person to sit on my panel and two people asking if they could bring posters to our SLC workshop next month. Oh can you ever! I am so excited, their topics sound great.

Fourth is I got a call saying my pre-ordered copy of Inkdeath arrived at our local indie bookstore. I didn't think it was coming out for another two weeks.

And the fifth thing to be happy about comes from a conversation I had with my mentor yesterday about what women students lives were like even when she went to college. I can't imagine my father not being able to help me move into my dorm room, or having to be back in my dorm by 9, or not being served dinner because I was wearing pants rather than a skirt, or not being able to go to Harvard just because of my gender. I know it's not really equal yet, but I was reminded how much progress has been made even in my parents' lifetime. I'm grateful for my parents and teachers who said I could do whatever I wanted and wasn't limited by my gender.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Censorship in healthcare

My cousin sent out an e-mail about a scary health care bill that would allow medical professionals to object to proceedures that go against their conscience. According to the comments going around the Web, this goes beyond the abortion proceedure to not informing a patient of what their options are, or possibly witholding any treatment if the medical provider doesn't agree with their lifestyle choices. While there is information in newspapers in LexisNexis about the bill, it sounds vague as to what proceedures beyond abortion count.

While no one should be forced to perform an abortion, you should be forced to treat a lesbian fairly, or give referal to services that will give comprehensive information on AIDS or prescribe birth control. In short, every patient should get full, accurate information regardless of what health issue is involved, which is a separate issue from whether that particular doctor or nurse is willing to perform it.

Mixed feelings

How should a good reference librarian feel when the student worker calls him/her for help in the break room at lunch or on an evening/weekend when she/he is not scheduled to work but is in his/her office? I suppose an excellent one is delighted. When people actually ask for help, reference is my favorite part of being a librarian. I am very happy to help when called during the day, even if I'm not the person on call. But lately I have been working later in the evenings and coming in on weekends to try to catch up on all of my projects without the usual disruptions, and I am being called to come out for not only reference help, but to un-jam printers and figure out computer questions as well. I'm only mildly and temporarily annoyed with the requests for reference help, I am less gracious for technical problems.

Should I feel guilty that this annoys me? Does it make me less than a good reference librarian?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Reimbursement woes

The hoops that one has to go through to get reimbursed are incredible... and heaven forbid you forgot the right procedure... I used my own credit card to buy my plane tickets and registration for ACRL, then submitted the forms to the business office. They're throwing a fit and saying since I didn't use a company credit card, they might not reimburse me until 30 days before the conference... that's a lot of money to go without for six months...

I'm tired now, I hope to have something more intelligent to say tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

IM Frustration

I have gotten so frustrated with how often Meebo isn't working (like last night and today). I think it's time to switch to something else, but it needs to be something that doesn't require users to login. I got so confused with because their instructions are so vague. I found AIM's WIMSI widget, which seemed great until it started displaying that I was offline even though I was online and carrying on a conversation with myself.

I can't easily see if Pidgin has a widget, or if it's just an aggregator and you need a Meebo account to use it, like what seems to be. I don't like's widget anyway, it's almost invisible.

Help, if you have any advice!


Book Review: Library 2.0 and Beyond

I just finished a new library book and want to share my notes about it. This book is an anthology of articles on different aspects of library 2.0. Each article has a different author with a different focus and different style, some practical, some theoretical. There were three chapters of this book I got a lot out of, two that had good information that didn't seem relevant to me, and many that were not very memorable. Here are my notes:

Library 2.0 & Beyond: Innovative Technologies & Tomorrow’s User
Edited by Nancy Courtney
Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited (2007)

The term “Library 2.0” first appeared in 2005 and, to put it simply, is a concept where the trends and tools of Web 2.0 are applied to libraries. Web 2.0 is broader than just the tools we associate with it. A comprehensive definition is hard to achieve, but it includes:
  • wisdom of crowds
  • age of the amateur
  • many people contributing just a little to get impressive results
  • participation; constant change; collaboration
  • self-service
  • two-way flow of information between the people and the organizations
  • **democratizing of communication

These virtual communities support physical ones. For libraries, this means we should make the library available at all points of need, and integrate the library with services outside of the library’s walls.

Here are the highlights of the book:

Chapter 4 on podcasting by Chris Kretz
It explains the difference between a mere audio file and a “podcast,” which must include RSS. Things you can do with podcasts include

  • book reviews
  • highlighting collections
  • reading books (one library read the entire Frankenstein in 27 podcasts over a month, featuring different faculty members’ voices)
  • leading a treasure-hunt exercise
  • “Library Audio to Go” (focuses on specific information resources and topics related to research in a conversational manner)
  • “Computer Tips” at Providence PL (hands-on tutorials for stuff like Google Earth, Flickr, Craigslist, and go with screen shots)
  • live programs hosted at library
  • local history, story time, teen show

Of course there are legal issues involved. You must get signed permission from speakers, permission from authors/artists, podsafe music, copyright of books, etc. To promote podcasts, you should submit the RSS feed to a podcast directory (Ed. Podcast Network, iTunes, Podcast Alley), include information in the ID3 tags, add graphic or logo to the ID3 tag. Also be sure to make it clear at the start of each podcast who/what will be presented.

Chapter 8 on user-based tagging by Ellyssa Kroski
This was also a good chapter, discussing the advantages and disadvantages of letting the masses “tag” items on the Web in order to organize it. She argues there’s just too much information on the Web to be cataloged by professionals, so why fight the amateur organization?

Advantages- inclusiveness (no bias), currency, discovery potential, nonbinary nature (no one preferred term for all synonyms), self-moderation/democratic, shows what users want and insight into their behavior, community, low cost, usability, and resistance is futile.

Disadvantages- non synonym control, lack of precision, lack of hierarchy, lack of recall, susceptibility to “gaming” (like spamming).

Advanced features are making tagging more useful.

Chapter 9 on learning from video games by David Ward
This had some great stuff in the section on “Games as an Education Tool.” I think most library educators agree that straight-out lectures don’t work anymore, you have to get them active. Video games involve learning; the players have to learn to solve problems and will spend hours doing so. We should use off-the-shelf games or make our own that get students simulating the research process to give them practical albeit virtual experience.
The definition of a “video game” is:

  • visual digital information to 1+ players
  • takes input from players
  • processes the input according to programmed game rules
  • alters digital information based on input

He writes that you don’t need to use actual video games, just characteristics of the games, where players learn by doing and discovering… a.k.a. “active learning.” You must keep telling to a minimum, to allow for discoveries. Allow them to get feedback from environment to inform them for their next action.

Furthermore, 2.0 involves collaborative relationships. Try to provide opportunities for “peer-to-peer creation and transfer of knowledge.” This provides newbies a stronger support system. Let students build their own research guides.

Less memorable chapters for me included: Virtual Worlds (Second Life), Social Networking, Mashups, Handheld Computers in Library (including cell phones), Wikis. The chapter on future catalogs was good, but not of personal interest as we can’t build our own catalog. But much of what it suggests will be available in Indigo, which I hope we will switch to over winter break. The chapter on digital storytelling was very good, and written by academic librarians, but I found it difficult to see how it would be applied to our library. I would like to see examples of this.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Phone Books

The latest edition of the Williamsport phone book arrived, as did the big bins for recycling the old phone books. I stopped using phone books for a few years, instead looking everything up on Yahoo Yellow Pages. But I've come back to them. I like that we don't have to pay for it, nor any other service to allow us to use it. I like that it's limited to our geographic area, and that it allows you to browse if you didn't spell something right (a common problem with me). It also always seems to have more options for any given Yellow Pages category than the online version seems to.

Of course there are advantages to the online one, like links to Web sites and maps and full mailing addresses. Plus it doesn't kill as many trees. But I still love quaint, old-fashioned phone books.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Taking 2.0 to the Faculty

We read a good, brief article called "Taking 2.0 to the Faculty" for our instructional librarian meeting this morning. I thought it was a great article, and particularly relevant to me since I'm the 2.0 person of the group.

I think every public services librarian should make time for blogs. I don't understand how you can run programs and improve on instruction without reading what other people are doing. I find blogs to be so much more helpful than formally published articles. You miss so much of the practical stuff that doesn't get put into the scholarly literature. It makes me sad for people who don't create the time to browse other librarians' blogs from time to time.

Helping faculty

One of the biggest faculty users of just called because she forgot the class password and can't find it on the new interface. I can't find it on the new interface either, but as the administrator, I could look it up. I read it off to her. Her response was, "Who the f&#% came up with that?!"

I cracked up. It wasn't the response I had been expecting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So Let Just Not Talk About It?

This is an old example of censorship, but illustrates previous points I have made on the issue of censorship of books like Huck Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird. It seems to me that the teacher led an excellent discussion of the book and the use of racial language. Yet a student wants to take this discussion out of the classroom and never be able to talk about it. How is anyone (particularly Caucasians) ever supposed to learn when you censor the hard truths of the not-so-glorious past? And if 1/3 of their school is African American, they must hear racial slurs over and over again in the hallway and in their community. Shouldn't they know the history of those words?

I'm sure I have many ideas that are offensive to other people on the issue of race and ethnicity... maybe even just the fact that I'm white. But why can't we push forward with open, un-censored talks so that we can all learn what's offensive, why, and take the fear out of the issue? How can we move on from where we are now to something better without these talks? How is this desire controversial? It's a sincere question that begs for comments from any readers who have more experience than I do.