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?