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.