Thursday, January 29, 2009

Reading assessment comments

Reading comments on a survey is an emotional roller coaster. Of course you're thrilled when a professor writes how wonderful the current group of librarians is, you dread having to address common complaints about librarians or student workers being grumpy, you feel useless when they ask for more computers or to get the art gallery moved somewhere else (we can't control these), frustrated when they give incomplete answers or ask for longer hours when the extreme hours get little use, and outright angry at some comments.

They want more computers, food, more resources, more quiet, less quiet, group study rooms, and longer hours.

I'm going to have to remind myself that there's no room for emotions in assessment. But that's hard. And it's hard not to just shrug and say "sorry, we can't do anything about this," when perhaps we could do something with some creative thinking.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What a cool idea

Check this out from the Swiss Army Librarian. What a fun way to use Flickr Notes!

Plagiarised policies

My mentor forwarded this article from the Chronicles of Higher Education about Southern IL's new plagiarism policy being yet another case of likely plagiarism... and the professors and administrators responsible for the policy give the same excuse of "coincidence" as our students do!!!

I do not see the problem of adopting another school's policy if it is well-written. I printed out many policies in order to aid the examination of our own. I do not understand how supposed "plagiarism experts" can't simply add the statement "adopted from Indiana University" in small text at the bottom.

How embarrassing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The road not traveled

I get depressed when I get Miami's alumni magazine because I want news of people I knew in college and lost track of, and in a school of 17,000, it's rare that I ever recognize anyone's name. Working at a campus of 1,300 and reading their alumni magazine, I feel like I've missed out. You are so much more likely to see people you know listed there. But Miami's German Dept. periodically publishes an alumni newsletter and it sometimes makes it to one of my mailboxes. I got one today, and I at least recognize one name. She was my roommie on a mission trip to Macedonia, and someone I would love to get back in touch with... and she's on Facebook!

And on another note... Please encourage every student with the faintest spark of interest to take advantage of study abroad programs, and to make friends from all over the world! It's an experience they will always look back on, and an important event that will shape the type of person they become. They will probably never again have an opportunity to be placed in such a social atmosphere as they do in high school or college. It will make them reflect on themselves and on our country in ways they could never do otherwise, and see the world in a whole new light. We really need more people to see the world from a more-informed perspective. Please, get the word out!!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

LibQUAL Begins

LibQUAL started today. IT added it to the student, faculty, and staff portals with the nice LibQual logo, so actually 15 people took it over the weekend before it technically went live. When I checked it about 30 minutes ago, we already had 116 responses! I can hold my head up high and be proud if we get at least 400. Three professors are going to pass out paper surveys to their class, for approximately 165 additional surveys.

My husband told his classes today that if this survey wasn't successful, I wouldn't be happy, which would mean he wouldn't be happy. So they'd better do it.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Miscellaneous Friday Morning

I caught up on my blog-reading on Wednesday night, though I'm just getting around to commenting on it. I felt so justified when someone like Meredith Farkas feels the same way I do about the usefulness of LibQual. Since she's also talking about customer service and doesn't mention ARL, I wonder if she has had better experiences with them than I have.

I have been excited this week that Reference Universe has indeed improved their widget feature. I created a Reference Portal that is one of our Web site's most popular pages, with the Reference Universe widget right in the middle. I put in the new code and after fixing some random spaces in their code that made half of my page disappear. Once I had corrected that, I checked it. It seemed to be working from on campus, so I deleted the old code that worked on campus but would send users into randomly selected collections if they tried to use it off-campus. My mentor checked it from her home (I still don't have Internet at home, but should be getting it soon), and found the EZ Proxy working, but it wasn't limiting to only the books in our collection. She checked it again on campus last night only to find it does the same thing on campus. I hadn't realize that when I checked it. That is a big deal.

My director is presenting at ALA on Sunday and I would like for this to be working by then so she doesn't have to add any disclaimers into her speech. They are supposedly looking into it. In the meantime, I'm not sure what I should do as a temporary fix.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I was feeling incredibly stressed out this afternoon, so I treated myself to some pad see yu and egg-drop soup. I am feeling ever so much better, and hoping this feeling can last a few more hours. My fortune was:

Any job, big or small do it right, or not at all

That's a good response to my post earlier today.

Committee Nomination

We're going up for accreditation by Middle States next year. They have been talking about it since I got here, and are setting up committees to address each aspect of the evaluation.

I got assigned to the committee I wanted, which is Student Support Services. I sit on the Student Affairs committee on campus and work with other support services offices around campus. So it's something I'm very interested in.

Furthermore, I was asked to co-chair the committee. I am flattered as I'm used to not being eligible for such stuff, or having the faculty forget that librarians are also faculty. I may be wishing I wasn't co-chair in the future, but I'm thrilled at the moment!

I wanted more involvement, and I'm certainly getting it.


I went home last night, fidgety and pre-occupied. I had tons to do there, but couldn't handle anything more than crocheting... though even that can be a little stressful. I realized the word of how I feel right now is "harried." But it's stress I'm putting on myself. I don't want to put off developing my games and learning about gaming. I do want to do whatever I can to fight plagiarism, which at the moment is quite a lot. I want to get more involved with the community, both on- and off-campus, and the activities I have volunteered for are things I very much enjoy. I'm also reading some very good books and am obsessed with crocheting, and trying to give my husband enough of my time. The easy answer is to just say "cut back," and it is tempting to do that and re-find my balance (I'm a Libra, balance is important). But I can't. I want or need to do it all, and I must figure out a way to be more organized and to relax when I'm not at work.

Speaking of plagiarism, we had our first freshman comp class today. We're breaking the class up into four groups, each group gets a plagiarism scenario. They talk about what should be done and the issues involved. It went very well, and so did the voting for best group. We discussed Wikipedia in the context of whether or not you could take material from an un-copyrighted, free online source like Wikipedia, when a student wanted to argue its reliability. Then I stumbled on this YouTube video (one of a series of spoofs off the same German movie clip):

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Dinner with students

I have invited two students for dinner one evening next week, and I'm really looking forward to it. The senior is someone I have spent time with before through German-club activities. She also came over one evening to watch Labyrinth with me (one of my favorite movies), but it's been a while since we hung out. The other is a freshman who recently became my advisee, and is coming out of the foster care system. She works in the library and is one of the sweetest students I've met. She let me tag along with her to see the Twilight premier last November.

I love the position of librarians, at least here, to do stuff like this. If I were a professor, I'd have to invite a whole class, or a club. I guess there are lines to openly having favorite students, but I'm still more free as a librarian. I know the students really enjoy a home-cooked meal, and I enjoy their company.

Monday, January 19, 2009

300th post

This is my 300th post, I feel like I should have a birthday cake or something. I did start this blog about a year ago, that deserves a cupcake at the least!

I have written about this before, but it has come up again. Working in academia is like living on a military base. It is so transient, both among the student population, your co-workers, and contacts you have at nearby schools.

So my New Year's resolution should be: I need to reach out to people I like before they leave.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Statistically complimented

We do a short survey each year that gets about 400 responses. This past year was the fourth year we've done it, so it was the first year we had enough data to really dig our teeth into it. Last summer, I gave my report to the stats prof. We both got busy and forgot about it, until this week. He just stopped by and said the report was very impressive, and only made the comment that some of my line charts should really be bar charts so it doesn't look like something changed over time. He said that was very common, and it's easy enough to fix. He said I must have had a stats class in college, but I didn't! I tried to take business stats, failed the first test, and dropped the class. I was trying to take 20+ credits that semester, but it seemed clear to me I wasn't as gifted in stats as I am with traditional math.

I feel this is a real compliment to my intelligence, so I have to brag about it a little. I'm supposed to be collecting faculty comments for my annual review, but I don't know how you'd capture that.

Big thoughts

I'm having lots of big thoughts about librarianship and where I'm trying to go next, but just realized I haven't been writing here as often. Oops. I'm here now.

I've been obsessed with developing my plagiarism game. Here is the first room of the game:

If you click on the blue flying fairy (it can take a few clicks to catch him), it asks you a question. If you get that question right, the fairy disappears. The score box doesn't update yet, though.

I drew the next room (the library), but you can't get to it yet. I'm working on drawing the fourth room, which will be the dorm foyer. They look very good and students and co-workers seem to be getting excited about it. Though I really should be working on prepping for LibQual and adding Turabian to my citation tutorial. Sigh.

Does it annoy anyone else that there's an assumption that as a librarian, you will be at both ALA's every year? The posts on liserservs and the mail you get doesn't suggest "If you're there..." it is "when you arrive..." My experience is that I got as much from driving down to Philly just to see the vendors last year than I got at attending the actual ALA conference the previous summer. I know I didn't make the best use of my time (as a conference novice), but when I compare it to my experience at CiL...

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Gaming in Museums

NPR just did a story on games in museums that's very interesting:

The adventure has begun

Adventure game, that is. I have the first scene for my plagiarism game done:

So far, the only thing you can do is make the fridge pop open. I intend to put something in the fridge, but I don't know what yet.

The premise of the game is that little plagiarism gremlins/goblins have invaded the campus and are stealing or polluting people's brains. Only you can stop it.

It will have a series of rooms to go through with activities in each one. Some of these activities will just be for fun, others will be about plagiarism. I can't think of how to get away from the quiz-like activities, but if I wrap them up in killing goblins, then maybe it will be more fun than a straight-out quiz.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Conferences as class reunions

I came into work today on this beautiful, but frigid (12F) morning after being snowed in most of the weekend (pictures to follow as soon as I dig up some batteries for my camera) to find two wonderful Facebook messages from two dear grad-school friends saying one will be at ACRL, the other lives an hour north of Seattle. My best friend who is moving to GA this weekend is also going, and she went to grad school with us.

I love that these conferences allow us to see people we share so much in common with, whom we love dearly, but who live all over the country. In some cases we run into grad-school aquaintences and get to know them better. I am sooo excited for the content of the conference, and to present my poster, but I think what I'm looking forward to most is seeing friends. And hey, we talk about what we do at our respective libraries, so even that is educational!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Book Review: Changing the Game: How video games are transforming the future of business

Authors: David Edery & Ethan Mollick

Title: Changing the game: How video games are transforming the future of business

Year: 2008

Overall, the majority of this book was not very helpful to me. However, that does not reflect on the quality of the book, rather its focus being more for businesses than education. It is very similar to Digital Game-Based Learning by Marc Prensky (2001), which seems to be one of the most important books in the field.

Here are some useful tidbits I got out of the book. Microsoft wanted to get its employees to voluntarily do bug checking on Vista, and turned it into a game (details not provided and obviously one must question its effectiveness!). The Army's online recruiting game has been unbelievably successful, you wouldn't believe the figures presented on this. Google has turned image labeling into a game.

Games are growing at double-digit rates while the movie industry is slowing down and the music business is actually shrinking. World of Warcraft made $1.1 in 2007 alone.

Everything in life can be seen as a game, the key is just to harness the properties of games that make them appealing. Business has rules, referees, "high scores," levels of progression, cheating, and teamwork.

"Games are compelling because, at their best, they represent the very essence of what drives people to think, to cooperate, and to create. Learning is not "work" in the context of a game - it is puzzle-solving, exploration, and experimentation." (p. 4-5).

They have posted the games on their Web site:

Grand Theft Auto is considered a "sandbox game," meaning the player can chose to ignore the given mission and just explore the virtual world.

"The best games keep players constantly teetering on the brink of mastery, even as they employ new twists and challenges to force players to rethink the lessons they have already learned." (p. 105).

According to Bill Ferguson, traditional educational games (which have been wholly unsuccessful) contained only 80% of the learning as traditional education, and only 20% of the fun of a regular game. He thinks this should be swapped, so that the games are 80% as fun as regular games even if you have to sacrifice a good deal of the learning. People should WANT to play the game.

Sun Microsystems hired Enspire Learning to create "Rise of the Shadow Specters" to share company information with new employees who telecommute. Sol City has been invaded by aliens and you have to clear each of the five parts of the city by finding certain artifacts relating to the five aspects of the company that they wanted to portray.

Games don't appeal to everyone. If you're going to make one for employee training, always offer a traditional alternative.

Army general Paul Gorman used an off-the-shelf game called "Neverwinter Nights" to promote teamwork among his soldiers. Harvard developed "Everest" to do the same thing among MBA students. In these types of games, each player on the team plays a role and receives the appropriate information for that role, which is not the same as the info given to the other players.

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) - good for teaching how to handle unusual events.

Google posted two puzzles on billboards as a help-wanted advertisement for engineers. They figured only the best would figure it out and apply, and it would give applicants an idea of what it would be like to work there. L'Oreal has something similar for its business offices.

The authors warn against tying important real-world rewards like bonuses or promotions to these games. They can promote cheating and pollute the environment. Don't label anyone as "losers."

I have made the book seem like a random compilation of fact tidbits, and there is more useful stuff in this book. I have just either seen it before, or it doesn't fit what I'm trying to do with video games. The best book for this is still James Paul Gee's What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy, which has a stronger educational focus. But I got some great quotes to use from this book and I think if a reader needed some advocacy, theirs is very effective.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More on plagiarism

I met with the head of the Writing Center to talk about our plagiarism crusade. Our first step is going to be going to freshman composition classes this semester and having them do an activity. We will break them into four groups (very small classes will get broken up into 2), and give them each a scenario to discuss. We have four scenarios:
  1. Blatent plagiarism (buying paper, etc.)
  2. Recycling a paper written for a previous class without permission
  3. Using Web information without citing
  4. Disorganized notes/poor citation/making up source information

They can discuss it for a few minutes to think of what they would do, then each student can vote for the best solution, details on this will need to be worked out. Wining groups will get either a small amount of extra credit points, or small gift certificates to the campus cafe (they go NUTS for $1 certificates!).

We've had two English professors say they're interested.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Article on gaming

Spiegelman, M. & Glass, R. (2008). Gaming and learning: Winning information literacy collaboration. C&RL News, 522-525.

I had to read this for our weekly meeting coming up, though the meeting isn't until next week. I'm a little disappointed, but I'm finding that's usual for articles written on gaming and instruction. I'm finding much better information from books.

This article is all over the place, mixing the value of professor-librarian collaboration, with the value of integrating Web 2.0 tools to enhance classroom learning, with the value of educational game-like activities to learn research skills. The Web 2.0 part includes mostly having students contribute to wikis and blogs. They mention having attended the SUNY Conference on Instructional Technologies, which I'm interseted in looking into.

The games had nothing to do with technology and were active learning techniques with the game aspect being having teams vote for the best results. The games were as follows:
  • The Dead Mathematicians Hall of Fame: Students got in groups and researched a famous person in the field of logic. They had to write an acceptance speach from that person's point of view, which required some research. The class voted on the best.
  • Grateful Dead Scientists Game: The students had to research a famous scientist and create a course that person might have taught. The votes come in the form of registrations for courses the students would like to take.
  • History of the Times Game: Students use the New York Times Historical Backfile to find an interesting story or ad, then vote on best results.

Other things I want to look into are Jenny Levine's "gamer ethos" in her article from Library Technology, and Friedman and Booth's "cultures of play."

Oh, and BTW, Lone Ranger should be capitalized.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Back from vacation

I'm back from a nice, two week vacation. My vacation ended up starting early due to the seven inches of snow we got in three hours on the 19th. I hate snow driving with a passion, but it was not nearly so bad with the all wheel drive car I got last spring. Yeah!

We did our whirlwind tour of the south to visit our two sets of parents who raised us, and also visited my husband's birth mother and father, and their respective families.

When we got back, there was a nice pile of mail waiting for us. Before Thanksgiving, I had written to my sophomore English teacher to thank her for having drilled good research and citation skills into us. I got the following reply tucked into a Christmas card... it almost makes me as happy to know my thanks was appreciated as to get thanks as a teacher, if that makes any sense:

Dear Mary,

Thank you so much for the note you sent to me. It came at the right time. Beginning research with my sophmores and wordering if I can "do this again". How kind of you to remember me and that I what I taught you "a few years ago" stayed with you and that you found it to be valuable.

In your note you said that the students don't get it - well, they still don't get it here in high school. I'm not sure who or if it will be taught once I retire [...].

Currently I am teaching all tenth rade academic English classes and two lower level junior classes. I am thrilled that you are teaching research at the college level. Got a chuckle out of your reference to the MLA Handbook as Satan's bible. I am sure that some of my sophomores share your belief.

Again, thanks so much for the correspondence; it means a great deal to me. Wishing you and your husband a Merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous 2009.