September 15, 2014
I tend to enjoy Twitter much more than Facebook–I continue to be amazed that I can get a current Tweet from Matt Frei (@mattfrei) in Ukraine, next to one from InStyle (@InStyle), or Cooking Channel (@CookingChannel) abutting a tweet by Christiane Amanpour (@camanour). It is surreal, yet delightful. To me, it’s a good overview of current culture and news.
I follow lots of professional librarians and others on Twitter, but for this post, I just want to mention the ones that make me smile when I view them each day. They are silly, sometimes irreverent, sometimes right on. They are for fun, for thought, for relaxing–just to give the mind something to consider beyond the serious stuff of life.
Here are my top picks that I follow right now (I’m sure there are lots of great ones–use the comment and let me know!)
George Takei @GeorgeTakei
Kind, thoughtful, and often has something insightful to say. As he says, just call him Uncle George.
This is fan site for those who enjoy Banksy’s art–lots of great visuals here that will make you think.
Shit Academics Say @AcademicsSay
Subtitled “A Social Experiment”, this site has one-liners and cartoons that are pretty spot on to the academic world.
Research Wahlberg @ResearchMark
Funny memes similar to the Ryan Gosling “Hey girl” memes, but with Research.
R.L. Ripples @TweetsofOld
One liners from old newspapers. Example: “A strong man gave a street exhibition here Friday evening last. He bent iron bards and broke spike nails with his teeth.” IL 1904. Fun for history people like me.
Dr. Academic Batgirl @AcademicBatgirl
Academic focused with fun cartoon pics.
If you need more levity in your life, try some of these–they are sure to brighten your day.
August 29, 2014
I always love the Beloit Mindset List--each year it gives me a good perspective on how the students of today see the world, which is quite different than how I grew up.
Here are a few of the items that stuck out to me:
- Hello Dolly…cloning has always been a fact, not science fiction.
- Ads for prescription drugs, noting their disturbing side effects, have always flooded the airwaves.
- Parents have always been able to rely on a ratings system to judge violence on TV.
- Yet another blessing of digital technology: They have never had to hide their dirty magazines under the bed.
- Attending schools outside their neighborhoods, they gather with friends on Skype, not in their local park.
- One route to pregnancy has always been through frozen eggs.
- They have probably never used Netscape as their web browser.
This article was also shared with me, geared more toward the 90s crowd, but still resonated:
- Dial-up Internet–Remember when you would finally get the Internet to connect and someone would PICK UP THE PHONE?! The nerve.
- Passing notes in class–SMS text messaging took over this fun little gem of a communication method.
- Rewinding the film on your videotapes
- That dreaded cord –the tangled landline phone cord of doom
- Running out of room on your floppy disk–I remember the bigger floppy disk too!
- Deciding what movie to rent at Blockbuster
- Putting film in a camera, and then having to get it developed
Two themes stick out:
- Young adults live in a world where their interactions are much less TACTILE and much more virtual. When students seem reluctant to use a physical book, check out a DVD, or browse a magazine, it is not perhaps laziness, but ingrained within their experience that information should be available at the touch of a button.
- Their world seems much more controlled than the world felt in the past
To this end, we as librarians need to diminish the walls between the student and their information need as much as possible. Keep in mind that if your suggestions are greeted with blank stares or skepticism, it is your job to make the connection for them and help them see the value. I also think that educating students to be in control of their own information is crucial to forming curious and responsible citizens. By showing students how NOT to be influenced by the bombardment of marketing and misinformation, they will gain back more control in the world around them.
Being aware of this “mindset” of new generations and our role in educating and connecting these generations to both what came before and what the future may hold is our current challenge.
Best of luck in the new school year!
August 24, 2014
One can only hope…..
Things I vow to do this year to be a better teacher/librarian:
- No expectations for my fellow workers–just be the best that I can be
- Keep my optimism and enthusiasm (see above), even in the face of those who want to get you down
- Give my focus to the student(s) and the moment without distraction–be there FOR THEM with their question as the priority
- Get the students more involved in the instruction sessions–active rather than passive participants
- Be supportive of all my colleagues
- Wear something cute each day (this one is just for me, but it may give me additional confidence!)
Next post will be on the Beloit Mindset List–see last year’s post here.
And we all know we are thinking of this…..
August 10, 2014
I am a big fan of Seth Godin and his way of putting things both simply yet very effectively. This post called This is ours really struck at my heart. This last sentence says it all:
Over and over, we see that tribes and communities and organizations are able to teach people that this is ours, that it’s worth taking care of and most of all, that people like us care for things like this.
This world often seems to reward or to accept that we should each be out for ourselves over the common good, whether in our personal life or professional lives. I am glad someone has crystallized this thought that having care for others is important. We may not know someone, or know their circumstances, or we may be intimately involved in trying to put others before ourselves, but however we are reacting, it effects people, our workplaces, and our lives.
Caring is worth it–and I think we should make it NOT OK to not be considerate of others.
I also loved Ann Curry’s 26 Acts of Kindness. Taking time to think of others in a positive way on a regular basis makes the world a more positive place.
Here are some examples we can be aware of or undertake to facilitate more caring at home or work:
- Watch how you comment. Rude or aggressive comments that only serve to belittle the original poster shouldn’t be tolerated. Constructive criticism or even well-thought out criticism is important, but personal attacks should not be.
- Consider the needs of those other than yourself. It is easy to fall into the trap of asking for a good listener when you need it, but then not being a good listener when it isn’t convenient for you. Put yourself in another person’s place and be willing to give as much or more than what you take.
- Appreciate your loved ones, even if you aren’t in a good place yourself. Consider the hurt and harm you cause when living only for yourself and ask yourself if effecting so many people negatively is the best way. Often you effect not just one or two people, but sometimes dozens.
- Be kind at work. We don’t pick these people but interact with them for hours a day. Don’t bring your issues to work, but realize others may and give them their space and your understanding.
- It sounds cheesy, but a kind word, a smile, an encouragement to someone at work or in your social circle can make all the difference between a bad day and a day that you can put it the “I made it through without crying today” day.
Caring and kindness need to be cultivated and we need to lead by example. As Mr. Godin says, “this is ours”, we have a right to it, and we need to embrace it and be brave about demanding a better society.
July 15, 2014
I just read this article from College & Research Libraries (July 2014) titled Undergraduates’ Use of Social Media as Information Sources. The article authors have researched how students use social media for information, and also which social media tools are most used. The table below shows the percent of users for each tool.
Different Social Media Platforms Used as Information Sources (N = 833)
Rank Platform of Social Media Percent of Users
1 Wikipedia 98.6%
2 Social Networking Sites (for example, Facebook) 95.7%
3 User Reviews (such as reviews in Amazon.com) 72.1%
4 Video Sharing Sites (like YouTube) 69.5%
5 Social Q&A Sites (for instance, Yahoo!Answers) 49.8%
6 Blogs 32%
7 Microblogs (example: Twitter) 25%
—–From the above article, p.447
Although these tools were used for similar purposes, some were used largely for one purpose, such as finding background information (Wikipedia) or news information (Microblogs/Twitter). Table 2 (modified) has the top reasons each social media tool was used.
Main Reasons for Using Social Media as Information Sources (scale of 1-4 with 4 being “often”)
Top choices, taken from the original table
To get background/introductory information (3.8)
Social Networking Sites
To keep in touch with others (4)
To obtain others’ opinions/comments (3.86)
Video Sharing sites
To obtain recreational information (3.3)
To find solutions to a problem or how-to instructions (3.5)
To obtain others’ opinions/comments (3.43)
To get updates/news (3.67)
—–Ibid, p. 448
There is a call to action to begin teaching evaluation techniques in classes where website evaluation is taught, and now is the perfect time to consider doing so.
To that end, the article identifies ways in which students tend to evaluate the value of the social media item, such as the author’s credentials, other’s opinions (reviews), length, quality, references, and style.
To get an idea of how this can look for your library, Johns Hopkins has a great LibGuide that contains a section on Evaluating Social Media. Here’s information from their Accuracy Checklist:
- Location of the source – are they in the place they are tweeting or posting about?
- Network – who is in their network and who follows them? Do I know this account?
- Content – Can the information be corroborated from other sources?
- Contextual updates – Do they usually post or tweet on this topic? If so, what did past or updated posts say? Do they fill in more details?
- Age – What is the age of the account in question? Be wary of recently created accounts.
- Reliability – Is the source of information reliable?
—–From Evaluating Information Found on the Internet, Evaluating Social Media tab, Johns Hopkins
I plan to begin introducing this information into my class discussions on evaluating resources. Although we inherently do some of this already, specifying techniques in class, providing a handy link within our evaluation LibGuides, and infusing social media evaluation into other applicable sources will drive the point home that all materials need to be evaluated and considered in context. Providing our students with an important reminder at the start of the Fall semester will get them started on the right path.
During Fall 2013/Spring 2014, a planning committee at our library undertook a pilot project called Mobile Librarian Outreach.
The stated goal was as follows:
Enhance student success by expanding the library’s point of need information services to classroom and departmental common areas outside the library’s physical space, thereby providing face-to-face research support and increasing librarian/student contact.
We partnered with English/Speech teachers and set up shop in a busy hallway where these classes mostly occurred. The pilot ran for six weeks, twice a week, between 9:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. We did minimal advertising, but did have a large, stand-up sign (see image) to identify us.
Although well planned, sometimes scheduling between the library space and our outreach was a challenge. We also had issues overcoming negative feelings about the project from a small group of staff. Additionally, we need to work to make our assessment questions a bit better. Overall, though, we believe the project met its goal.
We were asked to do both a Formative and Summative Assessment of the project. Here are some results from our Summative Assessment. We gathered data in the following ways:
- Student and faculty surveys
- LibAnalytics data gathered via Springshare
- Observational data
- Self-assessment rubric results
- Comparison to the library’s 2nd floor Reference Desk
We surveyed both in classrooms and also in the hallways during the last week of the program.We also surveyed faculty via print and SurveyMonkey.
Questions answered: 124
Average length of transactions: Over 55% of transactions fell into the over 5 minute category (many around 15 minutes)
Student satisfaction with the service was high. Eighty-two percent of students who used the service would use it again, jumping to 92% for those students who originally noted that they received the help they requested.
Faculty also overwhelmingly support the continuation of the mobile librarian program (84% in Fall, 100% in Spring.)
Not only did we assist a good number of students, but a question for any future continuation would be to research how many of these students would have been non-library users. Would these students have come to the library to have their questions answered, or did we fill a gap and assist in success merely by being at the immediate point of need?
We are working to see if there is potential to make this a sustainable service in the future and doing some research in how we can branch out beyond the original group to offer service to other disciplines.
I believe our success owes much to our meticulous planning, the smart group of librarians on the planning committee, and our hard work that focused on faculty/student needs. Keeping our constituents at the forefront of our thoughts kept the heart of the project in service.
June 26, 2014
On the Free Dictionary, the idiom to “give up the ghost” means:
to stop trying to do something because you know that you will not succeed; or: to die.
At what point in a project do you stop trying? Do you stop at the first sign of failure? When the project no longer seems needed? When you run out of budget? When you have too much opposition?
What if your project is basically successful? You have served and fulfilled a need and have gotten positive reactions. It seems worthwhile to continue in some form. Budget isn’t an issue.
You don’t feel that the administration really supports the effort as originally conceived and assessed. Changes to the initial mission and a “watering down” of the wording and objectives make it hard to align the project with the library and/or college missions.
When do you fight the fight for a project that currently supports student success, and when do you decide that the work is not worth the painful emotional effort? When you see the mission is NOT necessarily being fulfilled in other ways, how do you turn your back? How do you push back?
This decision is probably a turning point in many projects, and it has to be made as objectively as possible. Often, you have a limited time to make this decision. Resources and time will need to be quickly channeled into the project or into other responsibilities.
Before you give up the ghost, ask yourself:
- How important is the project to my constituency?
- In what ways does it serve the library (marketing, perception, increased use, etc.)?
- How does the project reflect the organization’s mission?
- How successful was the project when assessed?
- How invested am I personally in this project? Is it worth pursuing (given that the other more objective questions are positive)?
This should help you decide if the project is more important to you (or your group) personally, or whether it truly serves a vital function and should be continued in spite of the obstacles.
Sometimes all signs will point to continuation, but the support is just not there. When you have a workplace that is dysfunctional and not collegial in its support of projects and/or each other, good ideas often end up discontinued. Overall morale may suffer.
Sometimes giving up the ghost on a project is the best way to move forward and find other opportunities that do not depend on the current work environment. All these questions and options need to be weighed carefully, balancing the project, workplace, and personal contexts in a reflective and honest way. Then follow your heart.
Image by Rayman 72011 via Creative Commons
June 13, 2014
I saw a Tweet this week that said that librarians are trained to be reactive rather than proactive. I think, at least in the past, this has been very true.
How can we become more proactive in our profession, and break the cycle of merely reacting to our environment?
Defining the concepts
Reactive: reacting in response to a situation or stimuli
Proactive: controlling a situation by making something happen, rather than responding after something has happened
Reacting: Good, bad, or indifferent?
In various library functions, we tend to function in reactive ways:
- Reference: sitting at a desk, waiting for a question
- Instruction: faculty contact us, tell us the assignment or what they would like for the session, and we create the instruction around that interaction
- Reporting: compiling reports based upon the specific parameters we have used in the past and what our administration has expected
- Programming: responding to a patron requests, or expectations of our administration (for example, displays for Women’s History Month, participation in an Earth Day function, the types of programs that tend to be a “given” each year)
To be clear, I don’t think the above are wrong ways of doing business. Of course we should be reactive and sensitive to our students, faculty, and community. We should have involvement in activities that are expected of us. But perhaps always doing business as usual no longer serves the world we live in.
Being proactive: can it be the new norm?
What if we were given permission to try some truly proactive techniques, without fear of being labeled failures or wasting our patrons’ money? Here are a few examples:
- Reference: going outside of the library’s physical building to popular areas on campus as a reference desk; roaming librarians with tablets within the library; personal classroom visits at times of high research needs; 24/7 research help in partnership with other libraries in different time zones
- Instruction: incorporation of information literacy into every class with a librarian seen as partner in the process; a la carte instruction with well-defined objectives for each part, anticipating general needs but allowing for freedom to react to the individual need of the classroom; flipped classroom opportunities that allow students to begin instruction online before an in-person class, letting them learn on their own time; simple online assessments that help librarians, instructors, and students understand where the greatest instruction needs are.
- Reporting: specialized reports for specific offices (student life, president, veterans affairs, public) that showcase the library’s strengths and talents, rather than just the standard reports that are expected
- Programming: undertaking topics that may be outside of the typical offerings, and providing staff the ability, permission, and budget to try something completely new to your community
Other ways libraries (including ours) have worked to become more proactive:
- Pop up chat on webpages
- DIY help on each webpage that allows for patron-driven problem solving
- Easy sign-up research appointments
- Active social media
- Individual meetings with faculty to partner about their needs and the needs of their students
- Attendance at department meetings to gain an understanding of needs and help the librarians to focus on possible instruction and programming opportunities
Relationships are key
The most common thread running through all these ideas is the need to build relationships, understand the challenges, and then gain understanding of where we can be most useful in the learning process. The relationships you build with your faculty, patrons, students, and even your fellow librarians will all help in creating an atmosphere of proactivity.
June 7, 2014
I loved this, which was originally posted on Twitter:
This is true in both work life and personal life. It actually speaks to kindness and the realization of the fact that we are all in this thing called “life” together.
Recognize your co-workers strengths and tell them about it. When they are going through a hard time or feel dehumanized at work, encourage them in the steps they are taking to make changes. Not only should you make others feel like you care, but TRULY care and recognize their journey.
How much happier our workplaces would be if everyone tried to follow this mantra!
May 30, 2014
So, it has been six months since I wrote in this blog. It has been a tumultuous period of time with many life changes. I am making adjustments in my personal life and am finally feeling like I should and can begin writing again. Not surprisingly, my post will be about change, which was the theme of my first post back in 2011.
Change to me is:
Whether personally or at work, it takes determination on my part to embrace change and make the best of it.
In my personal life, I am redefining who I am and who I want to be. I am focusing on finding a new normal and considering what will make a fulfilling life, all within the context of being the single mom of a 13 year old boy! Yes, both exciting AND terrifying!
Professionally, I always strive to be learning better ways of connecting with the students. To this end, some of the librarians (including me) ran a pilot program during Fall and Spring semesters called “Mobile Librarians”, where we went OUTSIDE the library and into a more populated area of campus. We used laptops and set up 2 days per week during busy research times, answering questions and touting library services. We are now assessing our final effort and I will post some highlights in the future. I can say it seemed to be successful and was certainly a different way of doing library business.
For both these situations, going through the changes and subsequent challenges was certainly good, exciting, terrifying, and necessary. Did I want to quit sometimes? Stay in bed and wallow in sadness or frustration? Yes, many times! However, life doesn’t always go as planned. The great thing is that you do have some control over how you write your next chapters, both at home and at work. You will need to adjust and change expectations, but there is always room for happiness and contentment.
This quote from the poem Invictus often sustains me:
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.
****Special shout out to my awesome family and friends, without whom I could never be so strong. I continue to be amazed at the generosity shown by everyone and will use that as an example of how to be a great friend and support to others in the future.