27 December 2007

Learning More IS Doing Something: HESA and Focus the Nation

This past year, I signed on to be an ACRL Legislative Advocate. It has been a fascinating appointment in the huge machine of ALA: I send information about important legislative issues out into my community to rally support from my college and immediate community while informing them of the issues that impact their ability to access information as well as remind them of their power as voters.

One particular issue that I am excited to support is the HIGHER EDUCATION SUSTAINABILITY ACT. Here is an update by Kara Malenfant, our contact as Legislative Advocates:

On November 9, House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller unveiled the College Opportunity and Affordability Act of 2007 (HR 4137) that reauthorizes the Higher Education Act. At the request of many of the 17 co-sponsors of HESA, Chairman Miller included HESA in HR 4137.

Subsequently the Higher Education Sustainability Act of 2007 (S. 2444) was introduced into the Senate on December 11 by Senator Patty Murray. HESA is co-sponsored by Senators Bingaman, Dodd, Kennedy, and Kerry. Such a powerful list of Democratic co-sponsors puts HESA in an excellent position.

The House is expected to vote in mid-January on the College Opportunity and Affordability Act (HR 4137) that reauthorizes the Higher Education Act and also includes HESA. If it passes, then the conference between the House and Senate (which has already passed their new Higher Education act) should occur shortly thereafter. This conference will decide which of the 30+ new programs including HESA make it into the final bill.

Forget crossing my fingers: I am putting this out there for anyone and everyone that reads this blog to contact your congressional representatives to support HESA. Environmental literacy is vital to our ability to fight global warming in a longterm, sustainable, and proactive way. Turn your community on to it.

And, if you haven't heard of Focus that Nation, check it out! Champlain is joining more than 1000 other institutions nation-wide on January 31st to bring our attention to finding solutions for Global Warming. Champlain is excited to welcome Bill McKibben as our keynote speaker and we have a bunch of events lined up. It is not to late to bring Focus the Nation to your school! If nothing else, to put up a display on climate change. Make your library a partner in change! I always remind students that learning more is doing something.

16 December 2007

Leading the Library

It is a snowy, blustery day in Vermont and while I should be grading my students' papers, instead I was catching up on some reading: blogs that it. I caught this one by fellow Vermonter Meredith Farkas. This is a great post.

Having to write a couple of essays lately on my "leadership abilities", I have had to reflect on what makes me a leader in the library. One of the first qualities I noted was my not being afraid to fail. I agree with Meredith that we oftentimes don't want to admit to our failures. To my mind, this characteristics aligns with not wanting to admit we don't know the answer as well. Perhaps it is because we are the ones that find answers, perhaps it is because we are so concerned with our status that we don't want to appear fallible. Whatever it is, this mindset is outdated and frankly, unproductive.

It is far more productive for librarians to break new ground, to take risks, to challenge tradition. Why? Because we are constantly trying to demonstrate our relevance by expounding on the ever-changing nature of information. How can the same people that demand to be considered as guides through these rapids also demonstrate a fear of failure? Think about the most basic reference interview: you try something, it doesn't work, and you reshape your search and try again. I am not advocating for impulsive, spontaneous action at your library without structure or planning. Quite the opposite. But as we construct plans to implement change, there needs to be a willingness to revisit previous efforts that were unsuccessful. There needs to be a willingness to try something no one else has tried but is needed in your community. There needs to be a willingness to dive in knowing that you can swim to the side when need be.

Sometimes I feel like the library is so worried about staying relevant that we miss the opportunity to step away from relevance onto the road of experimentation. I hope that old and new librarians alike consider the opportunities that are in our communities or are still to be found. There is nothing wrong with failure. There is something wrong with not trying in the first place.

04 December 2007

Exploring New Technology: Facebook

I've been wanting to write about my new infatuation with Facebook for a while now. But it wasn't until I read this article in the Chronicle, that I started to wrap my head around a post.

For quite some time, I have been debating with myself and colleagues about the role Facebook can play in Library service. The most esteemed DR. Elaine Young always makes convincing arguments as to how Facebook has not only augmented her class's participation but also the quality of that participation. And now that I am on Facebook, I can see how it is a far more adaptable and engaging venue for class interaction than the god forsaken WebCT.

Oh, and yes...I now have a profile on Facebook.

But it is a personal profile.

And that returns me to my ceaseless debate on where Facebook belongs. As the Chronicle piece pointed out, there are some hefty consequences to "friending" a student on Facebook. For both of you. For students, it brings you closer to faculty than you might ever have been. It makes them into a real person, with real interests, real friends, real humor, real friends. But there are reprecussions to that. Faculty, who are people too let's remember, can only show their faculty face to students.

I can't help but think about the role of the librarian in this in two ways. First: librarians are not viewed the same as faculty, even if we have faculty status. Librarians are guides, friendly faces that students choose to interact with rather than are forced to face in a class environment. We are less threatening. We are there to help, not to grade. So perhaps the role librarians face in Facebook is slightly different than faculty. That said, librarians today are charged with helping their entire college community, not just the students. We are there to help faculty too. My talk at Computers in Libraries this spring (really excited about that, by the by) focuses on the role of the librarian in teaching faculty about technology that students and librarians are quick to embrace. Facebook is one of the highlights to the show.

As librarians try to help faculty face 2.0 technologies, it is just as important to educate them about the implications of their participation in that technology as it is to incite their interest and enthusiasm for it. If we do not present a balanced view of the technology, if we do not look at what we can gain but also lose in using it, than we are only feeding faculty into the same flames from which we are trying to rescue our students. THIS IS ALL ABOUT INFORMATION LITERACY. Making edcuated decisions about how to use technology is having a clear understanding of all that technology brings with it.

This is where I get on my high horse and encourage librarians to get out there and work with their faculty to help them navigate these murky waters. Let's help faculty embrace new things but also help them avoid pitfalls that cause embarrassment, uncertainty, and a rejection of the power of collaborative computing.

There are a lot of amazing applications of Facebook in the classroom and in the library without having to put yourself in an uncomfortable position for you, your faculty, or your students. With the vast number of applications and groups out in Facebook, chances are that there is a group that you could encourage your students to join that deals with issues you are studying in your course. Liven it up a bit!

But I feel like faculty need to hear that it is okay to keep their personal lives to themselves. It is okay to not friend your students. It is okay to play in Facebook for your own good. I found friends that I went to camp with when I was 12. We are just as entitled to having a space to ourselves as students are.

26 November 2007

Something missing in Wiki-dom

Lately, I have come to think slightly differently about wikis. Initially, as a devotee of the Common Craft show's explanation of wikis, I touted wikis as the ultimate collaborative tool. I can even think back to reading an article by James Fallows in the Atlantic months ago about the lack of collaborative software and thinking, "Come on, James Fallows! It's called a wiki!"

But actually, I think that there is something missing in wiki-dom: collaboration. Over the last few months, I have set up wikis for a slew of projects with other people and no matter how much I encourage them to use it, show them the Common Craft video, or remind them that it's available...it sits. It gets forgotten.

Why is this?

I have a theory. It's called Academic Touchy Feely. Frankly, I think that there is something in the academic culture that stops us from writing over someone elses work or discarding text without making sure it is ok first. I think that if I were in a more corporate, business culture, people wouldn't hesitate to edit the wiki to create a cohesive, comprehensive, collaborative document. But in academia, or at least in my case, people don't want to type over someone else's work. So they post their ideas/corrections/additions/edits beneath it. And the wiki takes on a very untidy, unfinished, informal appearance.

So while I think the wiki has its uses, I am starting to wonder whether those uses are purely dependent on audience.

When I say it like that, it seems obvious. Perhaps you are saying, "Come on Sheck. Isn't it just like everything else?" Well, yes, I suppose so. But I thnk it is a new phase for me in my technological life. The excitement for technology is evening out (not to be mistaken for waning). I am reviewing, rethinking, rediscovering the utility of some technologies and really trying to get a sense of what works when and for who. And to consider those questions independently of exploring the technology. I am pretty excited by it, actually. It's the same, but new.

14 November 2007

YouTube as a vehicle to social change

This week is National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week and 50+ students at Champlain are recognizing it by participating in Tent City. This week-long on-campus student-led service project designed to simulate homelessness and raise money for Burlington's COTS (Committee on Temporary Shelter) program.

If you were on campus, you wouldn't be able to ignore the issue of homelessness. But what about those that aren't on campus? For that, there's YouTube.

Thanks to the ever inspiring Rob Williams for getting out there and talking to our students about this project. But more so, thanks for putting this out into the world for others to catch.

I've posted before about the value of YouTube, but it this notion of YouTube as a vehicle for social change that I think is particularly interesting and exciting. Perhaps it's the Henry Jenkins I've been reading, but the opportunity for students, or in this case faculty, to use social media as a way to increase awareness and participation without having to wait for the powers that be to come down to see the work in progress seems pretty radical, pretty exciting, and pretty 2.0 to me.

"Come on, Sheck," one might say, "look at how much ridiculous stuff is out on YouTube." Perhaps. But look at how much ridiculous stuff is on our traditional news sources as well. This reminds me of this interview I read in MIT's Technology Review with Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg. He points out that there is a wide variety of stories that come across Digg, and that it is up to users to determine what is going to be on the front page. The same is true for YouTube. During the protests in Myanmar, YouTube was a vital site for seeing what was really happening.

The same is true for its effectiveness in connecting students with homelessness at Champlain. By posting it in YouTube, we are able to archive the experience and the importance of TentCity for our students or anyone that searches Champlain College in a popular site like YouTube. If nothing else, hasn't the infatuation with reality tv and YouTube shown that we all like to be movie stars? Doesn't our highlighting it in such a way also encourage participation and demonstrate value beyond the traditional community to our students but also to the homeless community in Burlington? Isnt' that taking us further down the road to awareness and action and social change?

12 November 2007

Librarians as Heroes of Culture

Since coming back from Italy last week (and yes, it was a wonderful trip), I have been struggling to come up with a blog post. I went to the board meeting at the Fletcher Free and was thankful, yet again, that I was in an academic library (largely because I don't have the patience to deal with such funding fiascos). Yes, I am eagerly reading Elaine's posts about iDMAa and am sad, though not sorry, that I could not attend their conference last week. No matter how great it was, Puglia was better.

But nothing felt worth posting about.

And then....tonight, over dinner, I was reading the Sunday NYT Book Review and came across this review for "How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read." But the review could be called "Why Librarians are Amazing." Jay McInerney, whose book on wine I checked out of the library recently for Jon, highlights the "hero" of Baynard's book: the librarian. He discusses how librarians understand and maintain the "big picture": "the relation of books to one another - the system we call cultural literacy, which form our collective library." He goes on to say that "cultivated" people know that it is not the number of books you read but how you put them together with the ideas within the book, other books, and the world around you that counts.

Ah...it is like drinking a clean, cool, long drink of water on a hot day.

I particularly am interested in the systemization of the collective library that he talks about. It recollects an article in the NYT a few months ago about a library that abandoned classification to be more like a book store and more accessible. Wow...in searching for that piece in the Times Archive, I just found this one from yesterday discussing the issue as well. If Baynard is correct in saying that "culture is above all a matter of orientation", then I wonder whose orientation we are talking about? Is it the patron? Is it the arbitor of information, the librarian? The example in the most recent article points out that by breaking down the traditional walls, or desks, librarians have the opportunity to roam and mingle among their patrons, creating not just a more friendly atmosphere but also one where librarians can shine. Perhaps the greatest moments for me are when I help someone find what they are looking for but then we find more than that item because we are downstairs, talking about books, ideas, assignments, likes, dislikes. We are communicating and I can connect their ideas with materials. But more importantly with other ideas.

And here I am...proving his point. I haven't even read the book but I already have quite a bit to say about it.

29 October 2007

On Vacation

The Sheck is heading abroad for a week or so for a much needed vacation.

A post-vacation wrap up will be available on Jon's blog, with pictures and descriptions of wineries, etc.


24 October 2007

Second Life is so funny...funny "odd" or funny "ha ha"?

A programming professor on our campus is writing his dissertation on Second Life so the Professional Development Committee offered a luncheon for him to introduce it to any faculty or staff member who might want to have a peek.

It's interesting to sit with a group of 25 people who are new to or haven't really heard of Second Life before: what they ask, what they find funny. Perhaps what I find most interesting is just how funny they find it. How they find the fact that there is prostitution in 2nd life funny. That "newbies" being ostracized or exploited is funny.

I wish I could say that they found it funny "odd". But it seemed to me, and I emphasize "seemed", that they found it funny "ha ha".

What exactly is it that's funny?

Is it just new? Is it the avatars that you can make into almost anything you want what causes them to laugh? That notion that their sense of physcial self can be altered or self created?

I am still new to Second Life and I am still trying to figure out what I think of it. I am still awed by it. I read a lot about it, I play in it, I try to think creatively about it. But I also spend a lot of time trying to think critically about it. And that's what I felt was missing from this presentation. It was just a show and tell and people just looked on and laughed.

Need I say that I wanted a whole lot more?

And that got me thinking about how technology is presented. What are the implications of throwing technology like this at people? Often times, people are so concerned with "keeping up" or "adapting" that I wonder if they defer their critiques and considerations of it. This is a dangerous place to be in, especially with so many technologies being introduced, one might never have the time to critically examine the place of the technology in their lives or the impact of the technology on society. There is no decision making, just complacency.

I am advocate for play. I am an advocate for experimentation. But I think there is a lot of effort to include people in something without giving them the tools to evaluate it. Second Life offers a great many opportunities to a wide variety of people with a wide variety of purposes. But there are also a number of issues it presents that warrant examination.

As the technologically literate or experienced bring people into this world, we have a responsibility to those that believe us or trust us to show them more than one side of the coin. In the academic world, as Second Life, and other technologies, take root, should libraries be working with faculty and the institution to shape the presentation of these new and exciting worlds. How do we create a culture of adaptability that emphasizes critical examination? And how do we do that without putting a damper on the thread of exploration and play?

18 October 2007

The Sweet Smell of Information

The Library has open dictionaries located all over the place. So the other day, Janet, my boss, noticed the world "information scent" as she was walking by a dictionary. Information what?

Yes, you read it correctly...information scent. Definition: visual or textual cues provided on a web site to suggest what information it or its links many contain; the perceived usefulness of a page based on such information.

Okay. So what does that look like? Sorry...or smell like?

I can't help but think of my dog's nose to the ground.

But seriously, what kinds of cues might put us on the right scent towards the information we need? Let's consider perhaps the most popular of websites: Google. The blank search box certainly provides me with a cue that says "I can find anything. No restrictions. No instructions. Seek and I will find." The blank page is also a cue. To me, it says, "it's that simple".

Pretty fragrant, no?

But would I really get that from the website if I didn't already know what it does? How many times have you gone to a website and looked at it blankly. What am I supposed to do here?

I think the visual of the nose to the ground is pretty profound actually, especially for those that are not well versed in websites or are building information literacy skills. What catches your attention on a site to indicate to your purpose, next step, or the information that you are after. I think it would be a good metaphor to try in the classroom. Students would have that visual or that sense to latch on to. It's also quirky, weird, different. I think for them, unlibrarianly (if only they knew).

But staying with the scent, let's try Wikipedia. What is most interesting in this example is that Wikipedia is not encouraging searching, per se. They search box is off to the far right, buried under a bunch of stuff (you know information about the site). It seems like Wikipedia's site puts you on the scent of deepening your search. With all the links visible within a single paragraph, you have to click on something. You just "have" to. There is nothing to do there but read and click. Read and click.

Just then, right at that moment, I saw Wikipedia in a new light.

Did information ever smell so sweet?

10 October 2007

Champlain Gamers...up, up, and away

Rock on Jenny Levine, (aka the Shifted Librarian) for highlighting Champlain College's gaming students in this post. Our gamers really are amazing and I wish them the very best of luck in this hard core contest. I know they will rock it in Orlando!

These are the same students that are working with the Library to develop an information literacy game to complement are developing IL program. We met for a brainstorming session last night and they are a rowdy, smart, creative bunch. They latched onto key IL concepts and ran with it, offering a slew ideas as to how to make information literacy exciting to college kids everywhere.

More to come on the project. Exciting stuff coming out of Champlain...

Talking 2.0

The theme of the Fall semester seems to be introducing faculty to web 2.0. Yes, that is why I haven't been blogging these last two weeks. I have been showing others how to blog! With so many initiatives underway on campus, the College is trying to figure out a way to keep people updated without increasing our already overwhelming email.

Hi...it's called blogging.

In the last two weeks, I've helped four faculty members get blogging as well as two departments. Some are interested in sharing information with others, some are interested in finding a new venue for their thoughts. Some just want to get acquainted with a new technology. Whatever their reason, it is exciting! Trying new technologies can be frigthening sometimes. I think it helps them to talk to someone who is using it for a variety of reasons.

I also encourage them to not feel like every post needs to be perfect. It's about communication, creativity, ingenuinity. I often share with them David Silver's "Gone" gallery as an example of how meaningful blogging pictures can be. I show them Common Craft's awesome videos imbedded on my site to show them that YouTube can be a great addition to a blog. I introduce them to the power of commenting.

One of the most commonly asked questions about blogging from potential bloggers is "who will read my blog?" And I often respond with "who cares?" While putting yourself out on the web is clearly a method of self-promotion, that can't be the sole stimulation. That is how you end up with blogs that are out of date (says the girl who didn't blog for two weeks). Blogging is a way to communicate with others but also with yourself. That is what makes is so informative and also so different than other methods of communication: its informality illustrates the development of ideas or experiences. It is interactive and inclusive.

It's so 2.0.

26 September 2007

Injecting Information

The ever-wise and excellent question-asker, Jeff Rutenbeck, brought up, what I think, is the essence of the the information literacy question: how can we inject information literacy into the daily lives of our students? How can we illustrate to them that information literacy is not just about school.

As always, Jeff makes my mind go a million miles a minute.

This is where most discussions about information literacy seem to go awry. What is information literacy? What are the skills that we are teaching students supposed to do for them in the long run? Let me set the stage with a question I was asked by a student the other day. They asked me why I advocate for them to use the databases when those databases won't be available to them once they leave college?

This is a good question.

My answer: I ask you to use databases in college because I want you to use the information that is most appopriate for your needs and situation. And in college, that means information from scholarly resources.

The first part of the answer is the important part here, though. Information literacy should not be another name for library instruction. It also should not be strictly understood as a research process. Information literacy is understanding what information you require given your situation and the purpose of that information's use. That is the true role of a librarian: to help a patron figure out those questions and then guide them to the best and most appropriate resource.

To return to the initial question, I am going to respond with how NOT to approach it. We are not going to successfully instill information literacy skills into our students lives by making it about databases or citations. The way to inject (good choice of words) that into students' daily lives is to make them see that the skills you apply to getting dressed to go to a party are much the same as you would use to select a website. What are they doing at this party? Who is going to be there? Is it dressy? Is it a pool party? Do I need to bring anything?

I'm purposely trying to sound a little hokey but my point is not hokey at all. We all use information literacy skills in our lives already. Shouldn't we be trying to make that clear to students? Shouldn't we be bringing it down to the daily level and then show them how at college, their daily level requires a certain kind of resource with a specific purpose?

I think Jeff's question and the questions surrounding information literacy echo another important issue that is often asked: what do librarians do? At times, I am not sure that librarians always know what we do. Information literacy is a perfect example of how librarians are trying to be many things to many people. We are trying to be teachers, to be educators, to be gatekeepers, to be technologists, to be generalists. What is it that we, as a profession, want to be first and foremost?

18 September 2007

2.0 in the classroom: future teachers give me some ideas

Last Friday, I joined an education professor at Champlain for his "Integrating Technology in the Classroom" course to discuss what 2.0 technologies we are using at the library, the challenges and benefits of 2.0, etc.

One word for how the classes went: AWESOME.

I went to both sections of the course and started the discussion off my showing the class the library website. I gave them a little context by asking them what they thought of when they thought about librarians. Buns, glasses, shsh-ing. That school of thought tends to represent the library as a temple. But 2.0 brings the library out into the world wide open. It allows the library to integrate patrons' information needs with service and resources. The best example of this is Chat. We know students are IM-ing all the time and so we are available through IM to chat with them about their questions.

This was a perfect segway into Facebook. I wanted to find out from students what their thoughts were about having a librarian in Facebook. Would they friend me? Their responses were fascinating! At first glance, they said, "Yeah, we'd friend you." But then their professor asked them to think about it as future teachers: would they want to have their students able to see their Facebook page? Now is this really a fair comparison...probably not. As a librarian, I wouldn't use my Facebook page as they use theirs. And I said that. No matter. Their song changed. They unilaterally agreed that they wanted a space of their own where they didn't have to work about a teacher or a librarian seeing their life. Privacy settings of not.

This also brought up an interesting question about when to turn off. When do you, as an educator, get to be you and not an educator? And how does that fit into 2.0 technology. Some people stay connected all the time but others, such as the Sheck, like to sign off and have some Sheck time.

The idea of time management was an important one in the class. Especially when we talked about maintaining these cool technologies. We looked at the MIC's flickr show. Yes, the tag cloud has a lot of possibilities for increased usability and gives the library props in the coolness category. But it is a lot of work on top of cataloging, on top of reference, on top of collection development, on top of faculty senate, on top of blogging, on top of IM-ing...everything takes time. And you have to decide before you implement any new idea, 2.0 or old school, whether you have the time to maintain it. That is a tough one for the Sheck to always come clean about because I do like to wear my super-hero costume and pretend I can do everything. But that is not always so and we all have to realize that.

But back to the students. A few things I loved about what they said:
1. Use blogs to communicate with parents about what kids did in school today. Wow. What a great way to keep parents in the loop. I hope my future child's teacher does something cool like that.
2. They were genuinely concerned about the role of technology in their classroom. "Is it," they asked, "the role of the teacher to teach students technology? Or is that something that should be left in the home?" They also talked about the digital divide: what about kids who don't have access to technology outside of the classrrom. Both of these are intensely important and complex issues. And their professor and I made clear to them that there is not an answer for that.

I can understand it from their point of view. As future teachers, they wonder if they will be mandated to include this "stuff" in their classrooms. Some of them seemed to think that they should be focusing on curriculum rather than technology. But, I said, if you do have students who lack access, your inclusion of technology in the classroom might be the only way they can bridge the gap. And, is it realistic in today's world to assume that technology is something that can just be picked up somewhere?

That's where I am, three days later. I can't let go of that idea: that we see technology as this "other thing" rather than as something important and that needs to be taught and viewed critically. If we don't put that kind of critical thought into it, if we don't educate our children in how to use technology responsibly, how can we be surprised when they don't use it responsibly? This is more than information literacy, or at least how IL is talked about in libraries.

More on this in future posts...it is a lot to think about and I want to reflect on it some more. But what a good class, huh? I love students. I love how they make me think!

12 September 2007


I was saddened yesterday to see the commemoration of September 11th buried, so to speak, beneath articles on Iraq in the New York Times. But when my eye wandered beneath the fold, virtually mind you, I saw this piece about an exhibition at the New York Historical Society.

If you've never been to the New York Historical Society, right next to the Museum of Natural History in New York, it is an impressive place. Having seen a few exhibitions there, this one seems quite different. The rows of the photos, hung by binder clips, with no frames, with no pomp and circumstance, is a very different approach for them. But, as the article correctly points out, it is most appropriate for this exhibition. Wandering through the photos on line is slightly discombobulating, as I imagine it was to wander through New York on and around September 11th. But I can only imagine...

And I am embarrassed that I didn't do anything to commemorate Sept. 11th at our library. Being in the second week of classes and feeling overwhelmed by all the projects, meetings, changes in the schedules...still, it's not an excuse. And I guess I want to say the same thing to the New York Times: where is the remembrance? Where are our priorities? I don't often write about politics here and I don't think I am writing about politics now. It is not about politics. It is about people. It is about community.

I am teaching a senior seminar this semester on Technology and Society and my students are spending a lot of time mulling over how different their lives would be without the digital technology we have come to depend on. I sit here wondering if we spent less time attached to our computers, our ipods, our cell phones, would we have more connection to remembering something like 9/11? Has an event like this been lost to our memory because it is not being flashed in front of our screens?

I'm not sure. I know that there are projects out there trying to remind us of the changes in our world. This exhibit is one example, the September Project is another. But since I don't own a television, I was curious as to what happened last night in the mainstream. So I just went over to NBC Nightly News' website. And again, I had to go beneath the proverbial fold. But I did find this one piece, by a producer on NBC. And it reminded me of why I am here, in the blogosphere. It is because we are individuals, making our way in the world. And whether or not the mainstream media does what I think it should, it doesn't matter. This, this post, is my remembering September 11th. This post is my promise to myself to never forget.

06 September 2007

Commoncraft Strikes Again!

Two new videos appeared on YouTube from my favorite folks over at the CommonCraft Show. As you may know from previous postings, I really appreciate Lee Lefevre's ability to break down technologies for the inexperienced or uncomfortable user. I am hoping to use his videos in a Technology Forum for Faculty to explain 2.0 technologies that are often thrown around but not often explained. His emphasis on applicability, HOW to use the technology in real life, is especially appropriate to coping with Faculty resistance to technology.
Or, as he points out in his description through YouTube, "We made this video for people who wonder why social networking sites are so popular. We think one reason is because they help to solve a real world problem."

Once again, the value of YouTube, 2.0, and making clear explanations about what technology is and why it can help us in our everyday lives!

04 September 2007

Insanely Busy and Insanely Great

School started today and getting the Library ready for the influx of 475 new first years as well as returning students, new faculty, new deans, and new adjuncts has been a whirlwind. But the results are outstanding. Largely this is due to our library crew embracing and taking technology to a whole new level. We are starting out the year with a series of new initiatives that are pretty cool. Here are some of the highlights:
1. We have started using wikis to create subject guides. What a relief! You can actually update and modify the pages to accomodate instructor's needs, students' feedback and new additions to the collection. Awesome and very well received. Hopefully they will be very used.
2. We are trying chat reference. We've held back from chat in the past because we are such a small staff but with more of our students going abroad and a new librarian in the mix, we thought it was time to give it a go. More on that as the school year progresses...it's hard to know how that's working on day 1.
3. We are blogging. I wish my co-workers were a little more active in posting but we are maintaining a library blog to highlight events at the library but also things the librarians think are cool. (Oh, there are so many). And hey, if you are checking that out, you will deja vu this post.
4. We are tracking reference questions using a free, online tool from zoho. We just stareted it today but it was so much easier to keep track of questions. We kept the screen open and the form is easy to fill out and WHAM, we've got improved data on reference.
5. We have been spending most of the summer adding our newest additions to the collection into Flickr. This is my personal pet project and it has been a lot more work than I thought it would be but if I can devote the time to tagging in it as much as I would like, I think it will be a cool way for faculty to share books with one another, comment, suggest other books, and get to know our collection better, which is changing rapidly.

I have to give credit to my co-workers (and I don't think they are even reading this). Some of them are more resistant to technology than others but they have shrugged off their reticence in favor of experimentation. Not all of these initiatives will be successful in the long term but by trying them out, the Library is leading the way on our campus for innovation in technology. And that is where the library needs to be, at our school and I bet at many others. We are giving it a go and I am so proud to work somewhere that is willing to take that chance. It's a great way to kick off the school year: invigorated, excited, and trying new things. It might make me insanely busy, but it feels insanely great.

29 August 2007

Many approaches to Technology

Today at lunch, a small group of faculty and I got together to think about how to encourage a greater embrace of technology on campus. A lot of ideas were thrown out in terms of who to direct our efforts towards, what are their needs, how will we best reach them, where, when, how.

One of the themes of our talk was that there are different levels of need when it comes to talking about technology, especially in relationship to faculty. Is it that we want to teach people who are uninformed or intimidated to play, to try, to experiment? Or are we trying to befriend the resisters, those that disengage with technology for a variety of reasons? Or is it that we want to engage faculty in a discussion of what technologies are capable of in their classrooms? Or do we want to give people a forum where they can relay and discuss their experiences, qualms, or concerns about technology?

Or all of the above?

Of course I want to do all of those things. But perhaps the need for discussion is the catalyst to acheiving the other goals. A few nights ago, a faculty member shared with me that he doesn't use technology in his classroom because he thinks it will detract from his message and emphasize his "coolness" rather than his content. He has a point. And I think a discussion of what you are trying to honestly acheive with a technology is essential in trying to discern its usefulness in your classroom and in your life. There are many of us who play with technology because we are interested in it, curious about it, amazed by it, excited by it. And we can often dominate the conversation. One amazing technologist I know responds to that kind of comment that just as she is taking responsibility for her learning, so must the less enthused.

In some ways I agree. I think personal responsibility is often lacking when it comes to technology. As I've said before in this blog, if you just take the time to play with it, to try it...

But then again...what is our point in starting some sort of forum? Is it to learn ourselves? Or is it to welcome and teach? I often have a very hard time not monopolizing teaching moments so I can learn as much as I can from them. But might I be doing a disservice to those I am trying to teach by doing that? I want my enthusiasm to propel someone towards technology but I wonder if sometimes I drive them from it by going too fast or taking their learning experience for myself rather than focusing it on their experience.

I'm not sure what I want from a technology forum except that I do indeed want one. But in thinking about it, I wonder if we could succeed in creating a welcoming environment by trying to be everything to everyone. There are so many ways to approach discussions of technology and I wonder what best fits our needs, now?

27 August 2007

He blogs his way around the world

This one goes out to Gary Scudder, professor of history at Champlain with wit and humor available no matter the circumstance. But it's not Gary's bizarre and dry sense of humor I really want to mention, or at least not directly. It is his amazing travel blog that has made me stop-look-and-read.

A little background....
Gary did not even know what a blog was until I mentioned it to him one day. And that very afternoon he came to my office and I helped him set one up. Today, he is a blogging machine! He blogs for school. He blogs for fun. He just blogs.

What I love most about the travel blog is his incredible sense of place and culture. His descriptions are candid but detailed, showing a seasoned traveler who is not afraid to go off the beaten path. Actually, I think that is his path. The pictures he has been showing of places he's been are always interesting but I also appreciate the pictures of the food he eats, the people he meets, the little things he notices when he is abroad. He contextualizes his travels in relationship to other spots and adventures that creates this sense of time and space that is engaging.

Gary's embrace of blogging is inspiring and I look forward to his posts. He mentioned to me that he also keeps a traditional journal and he wonders how he might write about things twice. Whether he finds it a bit tedious, I am glad he is making the extra effort. And I hope that upon his return, we can look over his journal to add some further thoughts and recollections about his travels.

It's a shame he is on his way home (though from the sound of his last post, he might need to rest up a bit...feel better Scudder!)

21 August 2007


Thanks to Jessica, The Cool Librarian for bringing this post by the Annoying Librarian to my attention. And thanks to her as well for encouraging a discussion about it at Library Talk. NOTE: if you cruise over there, you'll recognize this post.


The Annoying Librarian's post made the hair on my neck rise in protest for two reasons: a) that someone could hate the direction of their profession and carry such disdain for their patrons and their colleagues but still go to work; b) that 2.0 is being so misunderstood.

I agree that librarians need to think about the technologies we use, purport and incorporate into our users' experience. At the same time, if we aren't going to be innovative or experiment, then why are you a librarian in the first place? There are some things I question about 2.0 and technology in general. I discuss and attempt to dissect my experiences with them regularly here. And there are some things that I simply don't use and don't encourage my library to use, Facebook and Second Life are perfect examples. There are other technologies that have to work on me and it is not until I've played with them a bunch or I've thought about them away from my computer that I realize that they are really useful and fun: blogging, Feevy, and wikis are good examples.

While AL might have a point that the language of the manifesto is a bit sugary sweet, I applaud ALA for encouraging librarians to stop ranting about how difficult technology is, how it is not their job, etc and embrace it. To my mind, the manifesto is not for the likes of us, per se, but for the ALA crowd that does not hang out on their blogs or Library Talk thinking, talking, and sharing technology and abilities to use that technology in the library with their patrons.

It's a lot like Harry Potter: many people might not like it or think it is literature but it sure does get a bunch of TV watching kids into a book.

20 August 2007

College Website of the Month!

Champlain College Library's website has been selected as the "College Library Website of the Month" by the College Library Section of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL).


What is this award? According to their announcement, "The College Library Section recognizes that a library's Website, in addition to enhancing access to a library’s resources and services, serves in general as a major means of communicating with current and future users."

That is definately us!

What a great way to introduce the web to the college community, to rev our engines for the start of the school year and affirm the hard work everyone at my library does to make our focus our students and faculty.

And that's just the beginning. We are starting chat ref this semester, getting our own blog up and going, and using flickr to share new books and displays with our community.

We are so library 2.0.

14 August 2007

Exploring New Technology: Technorati

At conferences, in library and technology literature, in blogs...you hear it, you see it, but what is it? What is Technorati?

As usual, the first place I try is their About Us. For such a popularly quoted resource, I guess I expected some concrete information as to their mission, purpose, resources, etc. They do present a resounding statistic:
Currently tracking 97.7 million blogs and over 250 million pieces of tagged social media. Technorati is the recognized authority on what's happening on the World Live Web, right now.

But why is it the recognized authority? What exactly do they do? Once I reread their About Us, this popped out at me:
On the World Live Web, bloggers frequently link to and comment on other blogs, creating the type of immediate connection one would have in a conversation. Technorati tracks these links, and thus the relative relevance of blogs, photos, videos etc. We rapidly index tens of thousands of updates every hour, and so we monitor these live communities and the conversations they foster.
So what exactly are they tracking? At first I thought they meant that when I reference Meredith Farkas or David Silver, Technorati keeps track of it. Not exactly. Looking again at their homepage, I started to see that they are just creating an indexed blogosphere. From the looks of their tag cloud, there seems to be more references to what is written about (You Tube, famous folks, politics, etc) than to whom is referenced. But then again, you can search for people or blogs and find out when they have been mentioned, referenced, linked to. I searched for Meredith and saw people's posts referencing her blog. I searched for my own blog and found myself referenced even.

Wow...sit back and take that in. Better yet, try it. It's astounding.

I have no doubt that there a multitude of way to use Technorati, as a blogger, as an interested web user, as a person. But as a librarian, I immediately think about all the times students want to use public opinion to start out a paper. For example, when their research papers start out with, "People say that..." What if we gave them Technorati? Instead of "people say," they could try "According to Technorati, there are 18,658 blogs posts related to Second Life and Higher Education," to qualify people saying? Good idea? Bad idea? I'm not sure yet...but I will think about it and share those thoughts with you.

One last thing I noticed, Technorati picked up an amazing number of MySpace blog posts. Hmmm.

08 August 2007

On Vacation

The Sheck is taking a few days off to get some rest and relax at the beach in Maine. I have Harry Potter in hand as my beach reading and my pup, Rigi, and I head out tomorrow morning to enjoy the company of good friends and to satisfy the need to see and play in the ocean. It will be nice to recharge my batteries before the school year gets underway.

06 August 2007

Teaching and Learning from Wikipedia

Why is the very best part of this brief article in the Chronicle stuck at the bottom? The headline should read "Program helps explain how Wikipedia works" or something that highlights the valuable lesson that can be learned from this kind of program. But I think the important thing here is to understand both how the program works and how wikipedia works.

That this software only looks at a contributor's past history but not at the facts themselves presents an interesting discussion into what constitutes reliability. One thing I would ask students to consider if we used this program was what kind of articles are being contributed to. If a contributor has been working on controversial entries, such as the VA Tech shootings or the recent bridge collapse in Minnesota, their contributions might have been deleted or overturned due to the nature of changing information. Again, it's an opportunity to discuss those instances and the pace of information rather than prescribe. And that gets to the very crux of what makes wikipedia so wonderfully exciting: it draws on everyone's knowledge and everyone's input. But that is also what makes it so wonderfully exciting as a critical thinking exercise too! (Students roll their eyes when I say that part)

One of my favorite learning activities in information literacy sessions is to have students edit wikipedia so they can see what it really means to have an encyclopedia anyone can edit. Again, by seeing their edits immediately saved, they get a sense of how quickly information changes which I think is essential for students to contextualize as they try to make sense of what is appropriate for school v. their general curiosity.

Finally, I have started reading a great book, Wikinomics, and while I am only a bit into it, the argument that so much can be acheived socially but economically through collaboration is affirming and exhilirating. But most importantly is the case the authors' make for the necessity of collaboration. They suggest that if you don't adapt and come together, you are only showing yourself the door. They give numerous examples of this in the corporate world but I think the notion extends easily to the world of higher ed. Discussion, sharing, and working together to develop arguments, solutions and, occasionally, answers seems essential in the inner workings of institutions just as it does in the classroom, faculty lounge, or laboratory. We shouldn't just teach it, we should practice it.

31 July 2007

Getting a Second Life

How can we know what we think about games, virtual worlds, and technologies unless we play, right? That was the overarching theme at TechSource and since every other session discussed the importance of Second Life, I thought I would give it a go.

I spent two hours getting my avatar dressed.


And frankly, that was enough for me. I decided to be a buff, black woman with purple hair. And I loved making that decision.

And while I still haven't made it off the Orientation Island yet, and honestly am not sure if I will have the time to do so over the next week, I think my experience dressing my avatar touches on the very essence and purpose of this virtual world. It was empowering to decide how I would appear in this world. It was a chance to try something new, to experiment, to imagine, to be something other than me. I can understand the attraction, especially to teens who are struggling to identify who "me" is in this world.

But that is the part that continues to bother me. The idea that more time is spent being someone you wish you were rather than developing or working on who you actually are, or are becoming, is disconcerting, especially among young people, but also for adults. I fully support exploration, reinvention, dreams, wishes...anyone who knows me, knows that I am a dreamer. But the creation of an alternate reality seems self indulgent, at least at first glance. Perhaps one might argue that you will be more extroverted in SecondLife than you are in real life. But if you aren't taking that forthrightness and bringing it out into the real world, then so what?

Perhaps my perspective on Second Life will change once I figure out how to get off the Orientation Island. But I must admit, I am skeptical and feeling like it is a great procrastination tool. Frankly, I barely have time to enjoy or maintain my first life, why do I need a second one?

26 July 2007

Expanding the definition and my view of Gaming

TechSource's Symposium on Gaming and Libraries might be the best conference I've ever been too. Seriously.

The amount of energy and enthusiasm for not just gaming but for learning, for expanding the role of the library in our patron's lives and for the role of the library in society is inspiring. People at this conference wanted to learn and to share and I loved it.

And there was good food.

I have pages and pages of notes and comments to go through over the next few days (I will never attend a conference like this without my laptop again) but a few things stuck out:
1. Come Out and Play. This concept of Big Games was shared byGreg Trefry, manifested in this festival he started that turns New York City into a giant game board! Greg came out and riled up librarians to re-envision our spaces and remember that there is such a thing as physical space to play in too. What a relief! What I got from his preachings was to involve people, use your local space in ways that are silly and surprising to educate. Get up, get out, move. I love it. It reminds me of the glorious days of summer sleep away camp. And that is quite a wonderful memory to start developing library games from.

2. Jim Gee spoke about using principals of gaming in our educational methods. What I most appreciated about this lecture was his call for us to understanding the complexities of both gaming and learning and to recognize the inherent connectedness between them. It was a fascinating talk and one that reads some time in the head to really articulate. More on it in a later post.

3. Second Life. I have a lot of thoughts on this one, and a lot of them are quite mixed. But if there is anything I learned from this conference it is that games are going to played, whether we like them or not. I think the issue I have with building spaces in Second Life is that I'm not sure there is any true purpose in it other than to be cool. And I am all for that. But at least at smaller institutions like myself, I cannot validate spending valuable time and money in Second Life when we have a first time coping with our first life. I am intrigued by it and curious how other libraries will develop it over the next few months/years, but I am certain that for both practical and philosophical reasons, Second Life is not on my plate.

4. Liz Lawley gave a phenomenal speech to close up the conference that really put it together for me. She essentially said that whether we like games or not, whether we play them or not, our patrons do. And if we don't start providing a space for them to play, resources to support play, and even more importantly, resources to evaluating games (as we do for evaluating books, journals, dvds, and all of our other resources) than we, essentially, are not doing our jobs. Her example was if you google "recommended books for kids", we get a slew of reputable, credible organizations (NYPL, ALA, PBS, etc) helping us figure out what to suggest and why. Now, substitute books for games. No such similar guidance. Great example, no. While, as an academic librarian, I have a slightly different role in my patrons' lives, I think her point is compelling.

And that's just it, this conference made a very compelling argument for the role of games in libraries and in education in general in a variety of shapes and sizes. It also points out how much gaming is already a part of our daily lives, it's just that we often don't realize that we are playing. But this conference expanded my definition of "gaming" and I feel all the more enriched because of it. I am looking forward to sifting through more of my notes and parsing more of the experience with my thoughts on our ever-changing profession.

24 July 2007

I did not win the Wii

No well wishers, I did not win the Wii.

Woe is I.

Coming home tomorrow and ready to blog like crazy.

Stay tuned.

23 July 2007


I saw it.
I touched it.
I played with it for half an hour...
yup, an iphone.

I'm at TechSource, which is crazy good and has me thinking way to many thoughts to process and therefore blog about so instead of theorizing and responding to the likes of Jim Gee and Henry Jenkins, I am decompressing my day of theorizing about and constructing implementation strategies for gaming in libraries with this tactile moment.

Perhaps this is nothing new to you city folk but the iphone is not available in Vermont because we don't have AT&T. So this was my first experience with this phenomenon.

And it was cool.
Very cool.

I loved that YouTube is an automatic part of the main menu. I love that you can scroll across the weather in your and other cities of your choice. I just love the finger scroll instead of pressing buttons. It's so simple. So elegant. So Apple.

The screen was so bright, as I know everyone has talked about. And so clear. Like David Pogue, pointed out, the keyboard is difficult at first to manuever...but even after a few minutes, my fingers naturally adjusted to amount of pressure and space of the screen.

And that's the thing....I adjusted so fast and immediately felt at home with it. Looking down at my regular, boring phone was depressing. And I tend not to be a gadget freak. But now, I want one.

It's a good thing they aren't available in Vermont or else Jon would be accusing me of reckless spending.

Yes, yes...TechSource stuff coming soon.

20 July 2007

Chi-Town, here I come

Leaving on Sunday for Chicago and the TechSource symposium on Gaming and Libraries. It is looking good! Secretly I am hoping I win the Wii...I played it at a friend's place in Boston a few weeks ago and was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. Especially the boxing.

I am looking forward to hearing Henry Jenkins, in particular. We just got his most recent book in at the library, and after reading the intro and first few chapters, I think I will really get a lot out of his lecture.

So, the Sheck is out of town for the next few days. I will try to return with interesting stories, good ideas, and some pics on Thursday.

And yes, Harry Potter will be accompanying me on my plane ride.

18 July 2007

Harry Potter as Literature?

I love Dickens.
I love Milton.
I love Thomas Hardy.
I love Sherlock Holmes.
I love Harry Potter.

Perhaps you say, "Harry Potter? Harry Potter doesn't belong in such a distinguished list, does he? Come on", you might say, "is Harry Potter really literature?"

That is indeed what this article from Inside Higher Ed asks. Emphasis on the word higher, for the author really does seem to take a high art road in his analysis. As example:
It seems as [Matthew] Arnold and [Theodor] Adorno would prefer that kids learn to appreciate forms of cultural creation that will not in any way ever come to the attention of a cable television network.

Come on into the 21st century.
Sure, the book is always better than the movie. Yes, your imagination and the connections drawn from visualization and independent thought is unparalleled. But come on. Are all of my beloved authors to be discredited because a movie or TV executive found the story compelling enough to be shared on a mass scale?

What I think it so obviously missed in this article is that despite the creation of the films, the books have not lost their appeal. Thousands of children and adults are eagerly anticipating the arrival of the BOOK. Thousands of children have been introduced to to the likes of CS Lewis, Philip Pullman, and JRR Tolkien because of Harry Potter (all of these authors are heavily indebted to Milton, by the by). Children, and adults who might otherwise say they are "too busy to read," are reading and finding it enjoyable. Could that not lead to reading more and all that it entails?

Perhaps I am missing the point. As I asked initially, is Harry Potter literature? How do we define it? The Oxford Literary Dictionary takes a crack at it:
literature, a body of written works related by subject‐matter (e.g. the literature of computing), by language or place of origin (e.g. Russian literature), or by prevailing cultural standards of merit. In this last sense, ‘literature’ is taken to include oral, dramatic, and broadcast compositions that may not have been published in written form but which have been (or deserve to be) preserved. Since the 19th century, the broader sense of literature as a totality of written or printed works has given way to more exclusive definitions based on criteria of imaginative, creative, or artistic value, usually related to a work's absence of factual or practical reference (see autotelic). Even more restrictive has been the academic concentration upon poetry, drama, and fiction. Until the mid‐20th century, many kinds of non‐fictional writing—in philosophy, history, biography, criticism, topography, science, and politics—were counted as literature; implicit in this broader usage is a definition of literature as that body of works which—for whatever reason—deserves to be preserved as part of the current reproduction of meanings within a given culture (unlike yesterday's newspaper, which belongs in the disposable category of ephemera). This sense seems more tenable than the later attempts to divide literature—as creative, imaginative, fictional, or non‐practical—from factual writings or practically effective works of propaganda, rhetoric, or didactic writing. The Russian Formalists' attempt to define literariness in terms of linguistic deviations is important in the theory of poetry, but has not addressed the more difficult problem of the non‐fictional prose forms. See also belles‐lettres, canon, paraliterature. For a fuller account, consult Peter Widdowson, Literature (1998).
---Oxford's Literary Dictionary

Perhaps difficult to swallow for some but I think clearly indicative that Harry Potter, who deals with terrorism and political corruption as well as the never tiring woes and wows of intellectual and emotional development, is perhaps the greatest representative "meanings within a given culture."

Finally, let's remember that both Dicken and Conan Doyle were serialists and their characters, especially Holmes, were popular figures that might have been discredited if we were to apply these criteria. Where would we be without Holmes? Surely lacking popular phrases and iconic imagery. Where would we be without the muckraking literature of Oliver Twist and Bleak House?

Dickens, Doyle, Rowling: Popular, accessible, influential, essential literature.

17 July 2007

The One, the only...the amazing librarian

Finally, a discussion of librarianship that actually looks beyond the physical strucutre and considers the value of librarians as a disseminators, arbiters, and creators of information. It is affirming and reassuring to read a non-librarian who steps outside past experience and look ahead at the world in which we live and the significance of our profession in it!

Thanks Elaine for sharing this post with me...and how exciting to see the Incredible Greg Schwartz being cited.

Rohit's list of why he believes in Library 2.0 is awesome:
1. Everyone is a content creator and creating content is easier than ever.
2. A new wealth of content online means finding things is more difficult.
3. Algorithms and automated methods of search are no longer adequate.
4. People are relying on each other to catalogue information and make search better.
5. The professionals dedicating to indexing content, trying new search tools and generally helping connect people to information are the librarians.

Rohit studies and writes about social searching and human filtered search. Funny how librarians have been performing similar searches under the guise of reader's advisory for quite some time, although now with so much information and so little indexing, it is harder than ever to find what we're looking for. And that is where librarians can come in handy. That is not to say that we hold the keys to the kingdom, as I think we are sometimes perceived as doing (per the Research Divide post). But we do spend a lot of our time playing with, discussing, and trying to improve access to information. That's what we get paid for.

Between becoming hip, using new and exciting tools through Technology, and improving our image, librarians are finally getting their due: we're amazing!

13 July 2007

Medium is the Message

Graphic, explicit with an excessive use of profanity...yes. But focus in: the message is still strong and considers the audience. Once again, from YouTube, we get a call to the audience Boondocks to "Read a *#$&%*@^%*# Book."

Or perhaps it really is for those that don't watch Boondocks but should.

WARNING: This video could be rated R for profanity. Hence, it is linked rather than embedded.

Thanks to Jessamyn for pointing it out.

I couldn't ask for a better example than this to illustrate the power of YouTube as a vehicle for social change. This is clearly quite different than the 802 boys but the use of repetition and animation creates a propaganda quality video but one that questions and criticizes, I think, the use of rap as propaganda. The content of the video is shocking but in large part because of the medium of the message.

Try the comparison: here is the same lyrics but without animation. The slideshow's barage of books that the rapper clearly thinks are necessary for his audience to be reading is still powerful but is it honestly as thought provoking as the one with animation? Or, would it be to young, black, urban youths?

Admittedly, I am reading McLuhan right now in preparation for teaching in the Fall. But as I try to think about how to make something like McLuhan as powerful for students, YouTube seems to have shown me again that its uses are endless.

11 July 2007

A face with a name

Tonight is my first night as a Library Commissioner for the City of Burlington. I am really looking forward to getting to know another side of our local library, the Fletcher Free, and to dip my feet into the murky waters of public librarianshhip.

So Steve Bell's post in my Feevy about being lucky to be an academic librarian seemed perfectly timed to the day ahead. I agree with Steve that academic libraries are fortunate in that we have an immediate audience: students and faculty. However, I think Steve has been fortunate to work at institutions where the library is imbedded in the intellectual and academic culture of the college. I think that community college librarians might know what I mean. At small, growing institutions like mine, the library is trying with all of its might to not stay relevant but become relevant to our professionally focused students and faculty in the first place. So our outreach is extensive, creative, and constant.

One of the methods of outreach I rely on most is getting out on campus. I go to stuff. I introduce myself to new folks. I always chipper that "come up to the library to find that," or "I just saw a book about that at the library," or someother such quip. Getting out around campus is a way for people to put a face with the library, to feel like there is someone there that they know and can approach, either virtually or physically. It seems that librarians are so often chained to our facility, only getting out when we are invited to class sessions or for necessary meetings. But if we showed our smiling faces, or our thoughtfulness and intellectual curiousity (which seems a prerequisite for our jobs in many ways), our standing among faculty will rise, thereby bringing them to our lecture series, our brown bag lunches, our introductions to new databases, our meet and greets...and then our website, our stacks, our instruction sessions. Wouldn't that be something?!?

I chose to be an academic librarian because I wanted to work with a specific audience and because I wanted to know I always had a budget line, even if less than I wish it were. I applaud public librarians for their open-mindedness, their courage, their creativity, and their problem solving. But let's not give away the store. We all have issues with audience. As I pointed out last post, even in an article about how cool librarians are, we still are rivaling Google.

I will keep you posted, loyal readers (?), about how the Library Commission goes and my first foray into public service. And I hope that those of you that are sitting at a desk, working hard but browsing the blog, will head out to the cafeteria, the student union, wherever to say hi and put a face with your library.

09 July 2007

Sassy, smart, maybe even sexy. What do you mean you're a librarian?

Yes, I too am going to throw in my two cents about the New York Times article on librarians. To start off, it is currently holding the most e-mailed article from the Times. Perhaps that explains why I had a total of 12 emails and 4 phone calls alerting me to its presence. Or perhaps that just shows us that while it is no surprise to the library community that we are "hip", techie, sexy, cool (is that the name of an album?), it clearly is a surprise to everyone else. And hey, if you don't have the Sheck or someone like her in your local library, it's no wonder that this might come as a surprise to you. If I had a dollar for every time I hear "you don't look/act/seem like a librarian"...I'd have a library of my own!

All in all, I think it's a great article for us. Yeah, I hated reading "The myth prevails that librarians are becoming obsolete." It seems clearly oxymoronic in an article that touts rising LIS program enrollment and tries to elucidate on how librarians do a lot more than read books and put them on shelves (oh, wouldn't that be nice).

Many other bloggers had far more difficulty swallowing the public's perception of our work. To me, it just shows, yet again, how library friendly the New York Times really is. At least in the Sunday edition. Over the last few months that we have taken advantage of a sweet deal for getting the Times on Sundays, I've been amazed by how many articles show librarians and libraries in a positive light.

But I also am reminded of picking out my new specs this weekend. Jon and I went to the hip glasses shop in town and I walked around trying to find something that could accomodate my near blindness so on occasion I could not wear contacts. And as I moved from pair to pair, the shopkeeper remarked that one of them seemed funky librarian. Indeed they were, and they are also mine strarting tomorrow. But funny isn't it that there needs to be the adjective "funky" in front? Aren't all librarians (distributors of free information, protectors of privacy and our rights to information, knowers of the next good thing to read) funky? Bun or not?

06 July 2007

YouTube as a vehicle for Social Change

I know I just wrote about YouTube but I recently started thinking about it as more than a method for reaching out to our patrons but as a vehicle for social change. Perhaps you laugh. Yes, there are a lot of ridiculous videos on YouTube. At first glance, this video by two kids in Vermont seemed ridiculous:

My personal favorite...."you mess with our cows/we'll break your knees."

But seriously, this video is clever, illustrates pride in these kids' homestate, and gives us a giggle. Social change, you ask?

Those same kids have created a new video addressing global warming and Vermont's environmental pact:

Wow. Stand up and applaud these guys! Locally, this video gets into the serious implications of climate change on Vermont's economy (the maple syrup and ski industries) but also on a national and global level. But their call for Vermont to act: efficiency within the state, to use "methane from manure" or biomass to create energy and lessen our dependence on foreign oil...the list goes on. But most importantly, these guys recognize that it has to happen in our homes (drive a Hybrid) but in our government. Their call to our governor (Jim Douglas) to regulate and to pass H250, a bill that sets a goal for reducing emissions in our state. I could go on because they do: use solar, get wind, BIKE.

This video incites us to educate ourselves, vote, and think. With the number of people in 802 that loved their first video, these kids have taken their popularity and turned towards something important and necessary. Using their creativity and YouTube as a vehicle for social change...I'd say so.

27 June 2007

The Research Divide

Wow, this article in the Chronicle is interesting but the real fun comes from the comments at the end. I was shocked that a professor would claim that librians are " incapable of anything beyond using the keywords in their database" and the slew of rude remarks librarians returned. Comments like SteveB (is that Steve Bell, perhaps?) and SusanB try to remind the audience that this is a chance to help someone understand the library and librarians. It is not an appropriate time to bring out the gloves.

I think the real issue here is about the Professor's(here I am referring to the commentator) conflicting expectations of the library. On one hand, he seems to want to develop a close relationship with his collection and someone who can guide him through it. Otherwise, why else does he come to the library and approach a librarian? On the other hand, he has been "Google-ized"--he wants answers and he wants them RIGHT NOW. The nuance of his question and of research itself has been lost, even on this, let's assume, experience researcher.

And perhaps that is where the actual content of the article comes into play. While Mann might have a point in saying that books continue to hold ground in research, that is a day gone by. Technology is here to stay and the key, it seems to me, is to figure out how to use it and share it with novices and advanced researchers so that nuances or straightforward questions can be addressed with the wealth of information available to us, in print and online. And our goal as librians is to not only guide people through that practice but teach them how to go about it on their own, knowing we are always here to help.

It is technical and instructional and customer service and detailed and general all at once. That is why it is only for the fierce at heart. Roar.

26 June 2007

Exploring New Technology 7: You Tube

You Tube, where you are encouraged to "broadcast yourself," is not all that new to me. I have been enjoying snippets of skateboarding, ballet, whatever, for a while. But it was this article in C&RL that helped me connect some dots.

As Paula Webb's article rightly points out, YouTube could radically change how we deliver information and instruction to our students. I have heard from many librarians that they would rather provide all library instruction to students via the library web page or college websites. Why? Imagine a 19 year old student putting Champlain College in as a search term in YouTube and a video on how to use the databases comes up. Perhaps that student might discard it at that moment. But perhaps they realize that the library is there the next time they have a question at 4 in the morning and they can't find an article. The chances of them going to YouTube sounds greater than their chances of going to the library homepage, if for no other reason than out of habit, no?

Or, let's look at the really creative folks out there, especially the folks at Common Craft. I've highlighted their amazing video on RSS, which I have shared with our IT folks who loved it. They also offer a great one on wikis.

Rock on Common Craft! Not only are these great explanations of technologies whose names are thrown about frequently, but they are explained in an understandable and enjoyable way. YES!

But to return to YouTube...Common Craft shows us that YouTube doesn't have to be institution specific. General information that is valuable to everyone, whether it be technology, plagiarism, citations, search techniques, readers advisery, copyright clues...it all could be valuable and useful on YouTube and reach any audience.

And let's not forget the web 2.0 applicability here: YouTube is interactive. Perhaps student interns can create something that appeals to their peers, something like this video from the Undergrad at UIUC:

Granted, it's kind of hokey but come on! Digital pics, downloading music to your Ipod, group study, open til 3 am, career services, writing center...this video is hokey but awesome and all inclusive! And when students look up UIUC on YouTube, there it is! And we can rest assured that with so many students in the video, they shared it with their friends, spreading the word to their "social network."

YouTube offers libraries an amazing opportunity to expand our message and our image beyond traditional boundaries. Even if we didn't have the time or technology to make videos of our own, including YouTube videos in our instruction and website seems like a great way to share resources and information in a way that mirrors students' use of the web. So we continue to not only do our jobs, acheive our mission, but we look cool too.

25 June 2007

DC Redux

After sifting through emails and trying to get my head back in the game at work, I have finally downloaded our pictures from our trip to DC.

A couple of things we learned on our trip:
1. Traffic is not our style and there is WAY too much of it on the eastern seaboard.
2. There is so much to see in Washington, we easily could have spent ten days there. The hardest part of the trip was picking out what to see.
3. We love Vermont. The moment was drove back into the Green Mountain State, we experienced an easing of our minds. Perhaps it is the lushness that surrounds us, or the barns, cows, and rolling hills that frame the roads. Perhaps I am romanticizing it all. But whatever it is, we realized how fortunate we are to live here.

But onto the show.

Like any good librarian, we checked out the Library of Congress.

I even made Jon join me on a tour of the Library, which was sadly disappointing. I think I imagined being led through the library by a librarian who could share not only the architecture but also the vastness and importance of the library itself. They only covered the architecture. But the architecture was pretty amazing.

Speaking of amazing architecture though, the highlight to our trip was a personal tour of the National Museum of the American Indian with Jon's godfather, Michael Dobbs, who was one of the lead architects on the project.

Michael shared with us the efforts they had made to create an authentic place of honor for the American Indian both from the cupola that resembles the inside of a teepee to the fluidity of the building itself to honor the power of the elements.

Pretty incredible stuff.

After that, my favorite part was the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial. They have given TR an island, away from the hullabaloo that is the city. You cross this small walking bridge to enter a forest and then come upon Teddy in the woods:

I loved the marble slabs that surround the Memorial with quotes about Manhood, State, Youth, and Nature.

My favorite is the quote on Youth:
I want to see you game, boys, I want to see you brave and manly, and I also want to see you gentle and tender. Be practical as well are generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground. Courage, hard work, self-mastery, and intelligent effort are all essential to successful life. Alike for the nation and the individual, the one indispensable requisite is character.

I like that: eyes on the stars, feet on the ground. Courage, hard work, self-mastery, intelligent effort. Character. Words to live by, I think.

19 June 2007

Back and Pumped about TechSource

The Sheck is back from vay-cay! I am still sorting through pictures, unpacking, adjusting to life back at the library, etc. Check back for pics of the trip in a day or two.

I noticed on my Feevy this morning a post about July's Tech Source Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium and I am pumped! The Shifted Librarian's update has brought my excitement to 11! I am really looking forward to this program on gaming and information literacy, a direction that we are heading towards. Educational gaming, and especially gaming as a tool in information literacy, as I have discussed in previous posts, is such an exciting opportunity and I am looking forward to what other institutions are doing with it.

The symposium is still a month away but I am starting to read up and getting ready to push myself in a new direction and explore what games can do for the library.

10 June 2007

On Vacation

The Sheck is taking a much needed week off to drive down to DC and check out some sights, see some friends, and relax. Jon and I are looking forward to some quality time together, especially the car ride. We tend to fly places most of the time since Vermont is such a haul to most places. But this time we are going out onto the open road, at least until traffic catches us in its inevitable web. But for those moments, I checked out James Herriot's "Dog Stories" to read aloud while we sit bumper to bumper somewhere between New York-Philly-DC. Since our pup will be staying with Jon's parents, I thought some dog stories by such a witty, clever writer might make us smile and think of being outside with Rigi rather than focus on road rage.

Pictures and tales to come.

08 June 2007

Be my friend?

If you haven't seen this article about a mother's experience trying Facebook, I'd really recommend it. I appreciate the good humor and the mom's willingness to try something new to reach out to her daughter. Or, to exert her own "identity" to her daughter.

So perhaps this begs the question: why don't I get a Facebook page as a librian?

I know, I know...it is definately a hot thing for librarians to be doing. And the argument that we should be where our students are is a compelling one. But I think the reasoning that the researchers in the article point to is even more compelling: I believe students deserve a space to be students. Whether they are "exploring their identities" or finding a space where they can do "whatever," they deserve that space. Don't we ask for a faculty or staff lounge, where we can escape from students and be "ourselves" or at least eat our lunches in peace? Or among our peers?

I know that there are many faculty that have found Facebook to be a wonderful way to communicate with students and I applaud their efforts to get to know their students on a more personal level and to incorporate technology into their class environments. If their students are welcoming them, terrific. But I think Librarians are in a slightly different situation in that we do not often build the same kind of intense, deep relationships with our patrons. While some of us do have the chance to work closely with a class or teach IL as a stand alone course, most of us are available upon request (aka, reference).


It's a tough spot. I want to be available to students but at the same time, I respect their space and their privacy and their right to have relationships with whomever they please. Perhaps one could arge that they can make me their friend but with restrictions. Perhaps it is the idea that we'd become friends with our students only for them to find out nothing about my identity....I'm just a lurker, waiting for questions. Perhaps one could argue that at least they know I am hip and out there and available.

It's funny that for as much as I am, or trying to, embrace technology this is one aspect of it that I am just not comfortable bringing into my fold. Perhaps I am showing my age, both in the sense that I am feeling a little old but also in that I am little young and I can remember wishing I had a space to call my own.

I'm not sure how to pinpoint what turns me off from this particular connection point. But it does turn me off. And if there is one thing I want, it is for any patron I help to know that I am interested and available and genuinely interested in helping them. So for now, I won't be doing that through Facebook.

For now.

06 June 2007

Gaming in the Library: forcing us to a new frontier

Gaming seems to surround me: I just registered for the ALA TechSource Gaming, Learning, and Libraries Symposium,
Champlain's E-gaming program is a constant source of ideas for collaboration and creation, and then today's posting on the ACRL Blog about serious gaming. This after having listened to a number of gaming professors talking this week about how to change the public and the academy's perception of gaming such that it is considered a true discipline.

But to stick with Marc Meola's question about libraries and gaming: he's right that gaming offers libraries incredible opportunities to teach skills and to learn about our own resources. But what I think is missing from his post is the empowerment gaming gives to students as they learn. I think what is missing from non-gamers understanding of the game world is that we just think of it as a "game." What could possibly keep someone playing for hours? Why are they "wasting" their time? But what I am learning is that gaming empowers players to explore whatever information is conveyed through the game in a way that interests and works for them. Different people want different things from the game. This seems to echo Henry Jenkins belief that what young people are taking from games is far more than just entertainment. They are bringing a whole different skill set to the game and extracting a new skill set from it. In many ways, its nonlinearity might be more challenging for libraries to incorporate into games where we have a IL outcomes in mind. But that same nonlinearity might be the very key to making information literacy a truly essential component to students' critical thinking mechanisms.

I agree with Meola that gaming is opening up in new ways that libraries can explore in a multitude of ways. But a large part of that is for libraries to think differently. Is it outcomes that are the preliminary focus? Or might it be more about collaborative tools in learning, and how the collaborative, interactive nature of gaming can be less "used" and more impactful in instructing our students.

30 May 2007

Exploring New Technology 6: the Help Desk

This hysterical video demonstrates that the Help Desk is often still a new technology, or at least a new resource,to many.

And here, again, is that dichotomy between the technologists and the "rest of us." But if you notice the technologist in this video is fully connected to the user? Is it me, or is the "guy from the help desk" just helpful, not condescending?

This incredulous notion of the truly helpful helpdesk surfaces as well in Sunday's New York Times with a piece about what makes Apple's Stores so successful. Quite simply, it is the emotional connection users make with the help they are offered from the resident "geniuses" (Apple's helpdesk). According to the article, the help provided or rather, the feeling that help is just around the corner, results in an unprecedented retail phenomenon: “People can just walk in, absorb the fumes and feel like the smartest technophile in the world.”

Isn't it interesting that the library does not incite the same phenomenon? That a place where information is at your finger tips without requiring a purchase and help is ever present and always free is still often considered obsolete? Often I would suggest that we need an image change or need to represent ourselves better but in this instance, but not this time. Wouldn't it seem that the Help Desk model is based on the Reference Desk concept? Wouldn't it seem that even the Apple bar of Geniuses is based on help in human form, much like what you find at any library?