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 azete.com. 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.