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.