31 December 2008

The Year Past and the Year to Come

This is always a reflective time for me. Perhaps because I am the only person at the library this week, perhaps because I slow down enough to pause and think. But I've been thinking about 2008 and feeling very fortunate to have had such a tremendous year, both professionally and personally. A few things are particularly noteworthy:

1. Andy Burkhardt. Andy joined the Champlain College Library staff in July and all I can say is AMEN! He is tremendous. I love working with him. I love sharing ideas with him. I love what he has brought to the library and what he brings out in me. It is pretty special to find a colleague that you respect, learn from, and enjoy. Good good stuff.
2. Immersion: after a semester of implementation, I am amazed at how much I gained from Immersion and what a difference it has made in my approach to teaching, program design, collaboration, and thinking about information literacy. I will be joining a panel of Immersion alums to talk more about it at ALA Annual this summer. But in my planning and design time over the break, I find myself constantly referring back to notes, blog posts, thoughts, and questions I developed at Immersion.
3. Google Reader: How did I do it before RSS? My reader is not only incredibly useful to me professionally, especially as I read posts from other librarians, but also personally. I keep up with interests (the environment, gardening, books, friends in the world) and share an awful lot of material with friends and family. It has changed my way of managing information and while it can sometime overwhelm me, I love it.
4. TED: I never knew about Ted Talks until this year but I sure know about them now. I have had so many aha moments watching TED videos and I realize how much I have to learn, not just about things but about THINKING about things. The way in which many of the TED speakers think is inspirational and new to me.
5. Friends and colleagues: So many of you have helped me in the past year in more ways than could ever be noted here. Some of you have done it in your blog posts or your comments, some of you do it in emails, some of you do it by the work you are doing in your own libraries or classrooms, some of you I get to share in it face to face. Thank you.

And in the year to come....what will 2009 bring?
For me, an awful lot of travel. I have a lot of gigs coming up, which is pretty exciting. ACRL in Seattle on the power of gaming to teach information literacy, LILAC in Wales about the importance of the inquiry method in information literacy instruction, ALA in July for thoughts and growth from Immersion, and IFLA in Bologna about the power of 2.0 to bring together multigenerational workforces. I get jittery just thinking about it. If you will be attending any of these conferences, let me know. I'd love to catch up.

But for the time I am here, I hope the coming year brings as many interesting ideas and questions to the forefront as 2008 did. I hope that I continue to have productive and fun relationships with my colleagues at Champlain and our students. I hope that I make time to be away from my computer and enjoy the things that make me happy like my garden, running at the Homestead, yoga, writing letters (yes, by hand, on stationary, for the post), and spending time with Rigi, Jon, and my friends and family.

I hope the same for all of you. Happy New Year.

16 December 2008

Ariana Huffington on Blogging

04 December 2008

CLS Award Announcement

The College Libraries Section of ACRL is very pleased to announce its inaugural award for innovation in college librarianship.

An award in the amount of $3,000 will be given to the applicant(s) who have demonstrated a capacity for innovation in working with or serving undergraduates or instructors in the areas of programs, services, and operations; or creating innovations for library colleagues that facilitate their ability to better serve the library’s community. Any member of ALA is eligible for this award.

Nomination submission deadline is December 5. Deadline extended to January 9th. Full details about the award and how to apply can be found here.

03 December 2008

Change (in Technology) We Can Believe In

A few things have been popping out at me lately in regard to Barack. It's a busy day for me but I can't help but point out the following:

1. Have you checked out Change.gov's blog lately? Do. Obviously they are using YouTube to above grade capacity. But, their use of Wordle in this post is pretty impressive. I loved Wordle right off the bat and our library has used it to add some panache. But this is not a library. This is the president-elect's website. That is change I like to see.
2. It's pretty exciting to see Change.gov's adoption of a Creative Commons license. It's even more exciting for them to give the kind of explanation they do in terms of transparency, accessibility, and collaboration. Michael Sauers post about the distinction between copyright and Creative Commons is excellent and I appreciate his pointing out both that distinction and the distinction between a site like change.gov and whitehouse.gov. We will continue to see which way the wind will blow.
3. As you might remember, I don't own a TV set. During Thanksgiving, while I was in Philly with the fam, I was excited to see the Barbara Walters special with the Obamas. What I was really excited about was the question Barbara (yes, we are on a first name basis) asked about Barack having to get rid of his Blackberry. Perhaps you saw this article a few weeks ago about Obama's connection to his "crack"berry. But that's not the good part. The good part is they WHY: "I'm negotiating to figure out how can I get information from outside of the 10 or 12 people who surround my office in the White House. " Talk about change. This is about Information Independence! This article in Slate talks about it in terms of government (aka Barack) being illustrating its ability to be "accessible, capable, and efficient".

Keep it coming. These are all excellent indications of what is to come. And I like it. A lot.

Nearest Book meme

"West,' said one young engineer, 'is a prince of darkness."
The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder

* Get the book nearest to you. Right now.
* Go to page 56.
* Find the 5th sentence.
* Write this sentence - either here or on your blog.
* Copy these instructions as commentary of your sentence.
* Don't look for your favorite book or your coolest but really the nearest.

21 November 2008

THINKING about information

A great friend and colleague shared this TED with me a bit ago and I only just got a chance to watch it and really think about it.

Watching this happened to coincide with my writing with a proposal my director and Champlain's Instructional Designer to LILAC 2009 (in Wales, cross your fingers for me!). The focus of our proposal, and the work I've been doing at Champlain, is asking students to think differently, creatively--if you will, about the information that they already use and will eventually need. As I read through the comment cards from this semester's teaching load (taught my last session at 8 am this morning), I am struck by how many students appreciate that opportunity. They really do seem to LIKE thinking about information in a way that is less defined and less prescribed. I don't think my job is to tell them what information or resources to use. Rather, I think our job is to help them ask them to think about or question which sources they want to use and why.

This is the thought that pounds on my mind when I read posts on ili-l about which texts to use for Info Lit course. Invariably, titles that are about Information Literacy are listed. Why would a college student want to learn about information seeking like this? Our students know a great deal about looking stuff up: it’s figuring out what to do with that “stuff” that they struggle with. Why not encourage discussion around truth, fact, reliability, trust, authority? Couldn’t we consider books like True Enough, the Big Switch, True to Life, Glut, of The Black Swan that ask students to THINK about information and articulate their experience, expectations, and frustrations with it instead of telling them what those experiences and expectations should be? By not asking them to think critically and engage in discussion about that thinking, I don’t know if we are really offering students the chance to become literate.

Which brings me back to Robinson’s lecture for a moment. In it, he asks what public education is really for? (Watch the video: the answer here is brilliantly funny and profound.) I think that’s a key question for information literacy programming as well: what is IL instruction for? If it really is to determine the extent of information needed;
access the needed information effectively and efficiently; evaluate information and its sources critically; incorporate selected information into one’s knowledge base;
use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; and understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
, I think we have to ask ourselves if the way in which we teach is conducive to that goal. What are YOU doing to teach students to think about information in that way? Are there other things we should be asking students to think about and if so, how do you encourage that? How do you encourage your students to THINK about information?

12 November 2008

This Information Literacy Moment is brought to you by....?

Here is great example of the importance of EVALUATING information, even from the most trusted of sources. This coincides so well with the thinking I've been doing about the disintegration of truth and fact in the Wikipedia world. Perhaps I've just been reading to much Michael Lynch, or it's the questions I've been getting from students about the election, or the Mark Crispin Miller posts I've been reading about voting...no matter. While it might be easy to say that this is a "a gigantic compliment to The Times”, I think it touches on something far larger and deeper. I think it touches on the notion that people will believe whatever they want to believe, assuming they find someone to support it. This is the same premise that "True Enough" proposes: it's not about whether the information we find is factual, it's about whether it's true enough to serve our purposes.

In some respects, I think there is a lot to be said for Wikipedia's role in this shift. NOTE: I am not suggesting that wikipedia is BAD, EVIL, or USELESSS. But I am saying that there are repercussions to using a wiki-based, community constructed encyclopedia and I think we are just starting to see that play out. I cannot speak to what the talk of the town was in New York today as people got this free paper. Did they believe it? Did they question it immediately? Did they seek confirmation immediately? Perhaps Google Trends caught that and can say where the war in Iraq ended? (THAT'S SARCASM, by the way).

I can say what I see happening with students. And it's only somewhat encouraging. There are some students that talk of NOT using wikipedia because they question its validity, bias, or authority. I remind them that there is a lot of useful information in wikipedia and that it can often be a wonderful place to gather information with which to start a project as well as to witness the dialogue that makes up scholarship. Other students, as there always are, just take whatever they find and go with it. It's obviously this last batch that concerns me. And not only for their ability to do well in their classes. It's more for when we do encounter conflicting information in matters that are important everyday. Matters of national importance, as the Times example demonstrates. But also on smaller, more personal scales. Why is information literacy limited to just what you do in the library or school? Isn't SPAM about information literacy? Isn't the mortgage crisis? Am I alone in thinking that much of what troubles us today related to our lack of PURSUING information. It's clearly not a lack of availability but rather our willingness to dig deeper and validate, evaluate, or THINK about it.

And I'm not sure how to teach that. I'm not sure how to develop that in students other than to encourage it and model it. Do you?

05 November 2008

Where does that election info come from?

Needless to say, I am

Our little city in Vermont busted at the seams last night. As my husband put it in an email, "Burlington erupted - literally thousands of people in the streets running and shouting." He also added, "SFC spent most of the night with tears in her eyes."

It is an exciting time.

We watched the election results at True Majority's offices, which happen to be in the same office as my husband. We had three TVs and six online streams going, all of different channels. The one thing we couldn't get was Jon Stewart (but if you did, I'd love to hear about it!)

One of the things we were discussing was how the different stations report different numbers and different times. There was also a lot of discussion about how they can report with so few precincts reporting. At one point, they were reporting on states with as few as 3%! That just sounds like an awesome example of evaluating information if I ever heard one. With so many "trusted" sources giving out instantaneous information, is it a majority rules scenario? Or is there a way to know, really know, if what we are getting off of the news "true"? And does it even matter?

One of my students in my HIS415 Seminar on Contemporary World Issues is talking about how she felt like the reporting was more interested in "drama" than in reporting. For example, as soon as the polls closed on the West Coast, not only did they immediately report California, Oregon, and Washington, but they also reported Florida and Colorado within minutes. Again, a great point that emphasizes the struggles we face in finding information we can trust, especially in a world overwhelming us with information.

Here is a blog post from the NYT discussing "covering the coverage". I am on the hunt for some additional anaylsis. If you find it, share it.

28 October 2008

Teaching Students

I had a paper accepted at ACRL Seattle a few weeks ago. = Very cool. I will be bringing two students from Champlain's Emergent Media Center with me to talk about the process we have gone through in developing our new information literacy game. I have learned so much from these students about our approach to info lit and pedagogy. And I don't mean it in terms of just what's fun. They are tremendously creative and evaluative so they really push me to give session design my full attention. Talking with them often leads to long writing sessions afterwards where I try to put together my thoughts with the ideas we generate.

It's interesting to me how often we use the words "teach our students". For me, I have been fortunate to watch and learn from educators who view working with students as a two way street: we teach and they teach. Perhaps we are more intentional in our teaching but students teach me things all the time. And not just while I answer their reference questions. Just listening to them sort through a problem or respond to questions teaching me a great deal about the ways they use, understand, and relate to information and the library. But more so, they teach me about the world in which we live and how they participate in it. How do they interpret what is taught them at school? Are they learning? How does what they are learning relate to what we are seeing, doing, thinking, wanting? Especially when it comes to info lit, my goal continues to be to create skills that are applicable and injected into students' everyday lives. It's hard to know how to do that without really learning from students what they value, what they do, what they are interested in, what they are learning and wanting to learn.

Sometimes it is hard to create space for that kind of dual learning. Working on this project with Tim and Lauren has created a project dedicated to that kind of learning. We are collaborating, teaching one another, bringing our own strengths and vision to the table.

But what about when I'm not working on the proposal? When do I create spaces for that kind of teaching and learning? Where do I do it? Where do you?

20 October 2008

The Part We Have to Play

Perhaps you are wondering where the Sheck has been as of late? And I don't mean the Sheck Spot, because I have been posting tidbits, but where is THE SHECK? The thoughtful posts, that get me to flesh out a question or an experience?

I've been wondering that myself. And two things come to mind:
1. Teaching. I've just finished the IL sessions for the 2nd Year Core courses, Champlain's nascent Gen Ed curriculum, and I am meeting with the other librarians tomorrow to rehearse for the 1st year courses, which start next week. I've been putting a lot into the design of these sessions and to collaborating with the ever energetic and amazing Andy Burkhardt to make these suckers work. And not just work but interest the students. Invigorate them. Engage them. Did it work...I think so. I hope so. I think so.
2. The Election. No one should be that surprised to know I am an Obama supporter. But I also am passionately interested in the way in which the digital, media entrenched world shapes the election. Even more interesting is how the digital world shapes our understanding and participation in elections, in democracy. And without question, it has. Sarah Silverman, Don't Vote, Yes We Can, We Are the Ones...full of famous folks, yes. But also aimed at informing and empowering voters, young voters, to participate and think about the world we live in and the opportunities that are before us.

So when I read this post by Ryan Deschamps, the wheels really started turning. Perhaps it was the wikipedia analogy that got me thinking:
To me, voting is the Wikipedia of our government. If alot of people participate, putting in quality thought and decision, then a wiki will provide excellent content. If people let the system be taken over by folks who just happen to show up, our system crumbles and can even be used for serious wrong-doing.

Ryan, that's an idea worth running with. I mean, Forrest Gump style running.

But here's the part that I am stuck on. Ryan's analogy puts a hefty burden on everyday people: to educate themselves enough to make a quality decision. I am in no way suggesting that Joe the Plumber couldn't do that. My question is about WHERE they do that? HOW do they do that? Are we assuming that every one knows the difference between "good" information and "bad" information? Truth and lies? Facts and fiction?

If so, I'll be out of job.

If not...then we have a lot of work to do. And we is not just librarians. We is those of us that do know the difference. Those of us that have the skills and experience to discern between the shades of gray, at least as best as we are able. So videos that bring good looking people out to those of us in our pjs perusing YouTube is great. But we need more than just a Get Out the Vote campaign. We need everyone to have the tools and skills to make quality decisions. We need to find creative ways to educate more people about the issues in ways that they can understand and engage in, much like Andy and I have been trying to do with our students. We need to push our media, our politicians, our schools, but most importantly ourselves. Learning More Is Doing Something!

Which is why I am voting for Obama. Because in the end, the real message, the first message, and the one that still puts butterflies in my stomach is Yes WE Can. Not just him...Us. We. The People. We have a part to play, and it's time that we played it. Game on.

08 October 2008

Met the Author: T.C. Boyle

Every year, Champlain selects a Community Book for the campus to read and come together to discuss. The highlight to the experience is the author's visit to campus. This year we had T.C. Boyle.

I'll be blogging more about the program and his visit at Champlain on our library blog but I wanted to take a moment here to talk about how AWESOME a person "Tom" was. We've met a number of authors at Champlain but this was the first one who was genuinely interested in getting to know us, the people that brought him here, and share a bit of himself with us. What's amazing is that this is an author who is often known as a renegade. But I, and I feel comfortable speaking with my fellow committee members here, found him to be warm, funny, engaging, and just plain cool. And what's best is that our students felt the same way. They laughed at his stories. They asked him questions. They introduced themselves and talked to him about their interpretations of the book, his experience as a writer, his perspectives on the issues he delves into in his books. It takes a lot to bring authors to campus but those few hours, those few precious hours when you see a student really learning something, really experiencing something by meeting the author...it makes it so worth it. We never know what will put students onto their paths, something that Tom talked about in his lecture and reading. I hope that some student looks back on this visit as a moment that helped them realize there are a lot choices, some of them different than what they find in the box.

If you have a Community Book, whatever you call it, that brought the author to campus, I'd love to hear which authors you've had and how your students reacted to them. We are always thinking about next year's book.

However, I think T.C. will be a hard act to follow.

03 October 2008

Doing a lot with a little

I love when other librarians blog conferences. It lets me feel like I am included without having to be present. With such a heavy teaching load these last few weeks and having just returned from a conference, I decided to skip Dartmouth Biomedical Library's October Conference. I know. This is a great conference. Believe me, I hear you. And great conference less than two hours away is a real rarity in Vermont.

Even though I wasn't able to make it, I was excited to see the Multitasking Librarian blogging away about it. Amanda seems to have interest in a lot of the same topics as I do because she hit all the presentations I would have checked out. Her posts really gave me a sense of the presentation: the issues, the questions, the opportunities, the obstacles. Great job!

Even though The Sheck couldn't make it to Dartmouth, I was excited that my director, Janet Cottrell, was slotted to speak, and even more excited to see Amanda's description of the presentation. Champlain has done an awful lot from within in a short period of time to make the library the epicenter of campus events and an essential part of the intellectual fabric of the college. Between our Events and Displays, our cool use of technology, especially photo sharing, we might be small but we are mighty!

In a way, it's much like blogging. As I said about Amanda's posts, they are informative albeit informal. It might take only a little to post but it offers others quite a lot.

And it brings me back to Champlain. I happen to be at one of those libraries where every one on staff is putting in 110% and doing it creatively, passionately, and collaboratively. So while we often can't do everything on our wish list, the real point is that our wish list is long with awesome ideas. So as I sat here on a Friday, getting ready for a much needed weekend, and I saw a post about Janet's presentation, it reminded me that even though I am busy and sometimes struggling to keep up...I have a great team around me. Small but mighty. Doing a lot with a little. But making an impact in big ways. Happy Friday.

29 September 2008

Nicholas Carr on Stephen Colbert

Fantastic. It's awesome to see Nicholas Carr hold his own with Stephen Colbert, who is WONDERFUL here. The idea that we become like the tools we use, and Colbert's question of whether our creation takes us over, is always one my students find challenging when we talk about technology. I can't wait to share this with them!

26 September 2008

At a Faculty Conference, thinking a little differently about Info Lit

I have been in North Carolina this week for the Association of General and Liberal Studies Conference. Cyndi Brandenburg, Kelly Thomas, and I gave our presentation "Too Much Information: Helping Students Deal Effectively with Information Overload." You can see our slides here or check out our wiki here. The presentation went really well. It was a tiny room but we filled it up. While the presentation was fun, it was the conversation that followed that was truly the highlight of the conversation. These faculty were very excited by what we are doing with information literacy in both library sessions and in classrooms. Many of them expressed interest in embedding IL into their own courses or curriculum! YAHOO!!!

It was really interesting to talk about information literacy at a faculty conference rather than a library one. The issues and concerns that these faculty members expressed are not far from those I've heard on library blogs or in the literature. The difference I think is that faculty are surprised to hear that the library would think about information literacy in any way other than as a ploy for using the library. The group of faculty that I sat down with seemed to be wondering how to cope themselves with not information overload among their students but knowledge deficiency. Students, these faculty decried, don't come into college with the general knowledge that they should have. They fear that we are purporting what some of them see as a crutch: the ability to look things up but not to LEARN. Not to KNOW.

That's worth thinking about. It aligns well with a book I have checked out from the library called True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society. It's by Farhad Manjoo, the technology/media/politics writer for Salon.com. Essentially, Manjoo argues that it doesn't matter what is real, true, or fact. What matters is whether it does what we want it to do: answer our question, support our point of view, "prove" someone else wrong. The book is fascinating, challenging, aggravating and important, especially for those of us that are designing and teaching programs that we say will help our students find, select, evaluate and manage information. If we focus our programs and instruction on what the Library has to offer, how are we preparing our students for the world they will live in when they graduate and don't have an academic library to draw on? In essence, what are we doing to prepare them for the digital world, the knowledge society, the information age?

These are the questions we grappled with for our 75 minutes of glory. We had to push people out of the room at the end. Needless to say, I loved it. And it gave me a lot of ideas for posts that I hope to hash out over the next few days.

On the more personal side, a few things about the trip itself:
1. Asheville was a really pretty town with the friendliest people I have met in quite some time. It was refreshing.
2. I ate some darn good fried chicken at the Moose Cafe and felt my arteries clogging up as I did it. Fantastic and worth every calorie.
3. I experienced the gas shortage first hand. Every gas station in the area was out of gas and it was a little nerve wracking driving the two hours back to Charlotte. I am thinking of the people dealing with that.
4. I went to an AMAZING book store, Malaprops, and found my motto.  Living it and smiling.

17 September 2008

My first published article!

My first article came in today's mail. If you've been reading my blog, you know that I am a staunch believer in faculty outreach, especially when it comes to technology. I hope that a few more librarians have the kind of success with it that I have been fortunate enough to have at Champlain. And if you are, PLEASE TELL ME ABOUT IT! I'd love to hear what works at other institutions. It really can be an uphill battle so knowing that you have allies or new strategies to put into play is affirming and invigorating.

On a more personal note, I have to admit that it is exciting to see my name in print. I have been putting a lot of time into presentations for the last few years and this article came out of my presentation at Computers in Libraries last year. Still, it was nice to sit and write. And even nicer to have positive feedback and suggestions from David Free at C&RL News.

And that feeling of "first time published" is kind of nice. Is it silly to want to send a copy to my dad?

08 September 2008

Exploring New Technology: I love Chat Ref

School started last week. I forget how different campus becomes at the start of the school year. Perhaps it's also because it really was different this year. The library didn't just feel busy but actually WAS busy. Perhaps part of that was our new website and the influx of chat ref questions. Putting chat ref front and center was a bit of a contentious issue given our severe staffing constraints but frankly, I love it. I love the ability to address needs right away, with a few well chosen words. I love the little sound Pidgin makes when we get a message. It makes me feel loved. I love how the librarians are using chat ref to ask one another questions while one of us is at the desk. It just feels like it will work. Like it is working. Admittedly, we have some concerns about how it will compete for F2F questions once classes pick up but I also feel confident that we can manage it. That it's not nearly as difficult to manage as we might have thought.

And that gets me to an overarching theme that seems to be recurring in my course, my workplace, and my personal life. Technology is not as hard as we sometimes make it out to be. I think that those of us that are immersed in technology or teach it to others are often so deeply immersed in it that we don't hear ourselves talk. Or we want to show the uninitiated how incredible a tool technology can be that we cast our technologist shadows over the new user, hoping to bring them under our wing, when in reality we make them feel...well, cloudy. Shaded. In the dark.

It's hard for someone like me, who is genuinely excited by technology and genuinely loves sharing it with others, to step back and see it in the light that many of the people who approach me see it. But I can't stress enough how important I think that is while also striking a balance with people's nervousness about technology. So many faculty members I work with think that blogging or Facebook is not for them. In truth, once we've worked with it a bit, many of them come to admit that they just didn't know how to use it and therefore inferred its lack of utility. Isn't that quite the same as students and the databases? Students don't really know how to use these more complicated interfaces so they just assume it isn't useful? Creative approaches to solving that problem has many lessons that are applicable to a less academic setting as well.

All this from just loving Chat Ref....I better get out to the Ref Desk.

02 September 2008

The Sheck Reads What?

I picked up this Reading Meme from Kate at the Delicious Burden and I can't not get in on reading lists. If nothing else, I do love to read. So here goes.

This is a list of the top 106 books most often marked “unread” by LibraryThing users.
The rules: bold the ones you’ve read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish.
Write a note in the comments if you’ve done this one and link to your meme!

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights

The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey (this is a regular for me...every few years or so)
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
The Tale of Two Cities

The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World

The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons

The Inferno (and Purgatory and Paradise)
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles (LOVE THIS ONE!!)
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon

Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road

The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values

The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
(stayed home from work to finish this one….could NOT put it down)
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

45 read (bold)
12 read in school (underlined)
12 started, but not finished, YET (italics)

This meme couldn't come at a better time...I just finished Ken Follett's World Without End and am in need of a good book.

Are we tagging others? If so, let's get the brainiacs in on it: Rudy Leon, Andy Burkhardt, Steve Lawson, Aaron Schwartz, and Greg Schwartz.

25 August 2008

The Sheck READS

Reading...It Never Gets Old.

Soon to be the Sheck's Staff picture on the Library Contact Page.

20 August 2008

The Future of the Net

The greatest thanks to Michael Sauer at the Travellin' Librarian for posting this video by Lawrence Lessig.

I will be including this video in my course on Technology, Politics, and Democracy this semester. Not only does it offer students an important definition of Net Neutrality but it also asks students to think about how their rights and freedoms, how the foundations of governance and society, democracy itself, are impacted by the Internet. It is something I'm not sure many people think about...though luckily I am in a field where many do.

13 August 2008

"I" is for Inspiration, "L" is for "Loving It"

It's been a whirlwind since I returned from San Diego. We are in full countdown-to-school-starting mode at the Library and that means PROJECTS and PLANNING.

From an IL point of view, all those exercises and handouts from Immersion have really paid off. The incredible team of librarians at Champlain have been 100% on board with our planning for a big year of teaching and I am so grateful. We are working together to develop programmatic goals, create activities for students that are creative and meaningful (it sounds so easy, doens't it), and prepare ourselves for a heavy teaching schedule this fall. It's a lot for me, as I am sure it is for them. But we are talking it out, especially in thinking about what we need to succeed. Here are a few of the things that have made it to our list:

1. A shared vision. CRUCIAL. One of the things I wish for most is for all of the librarians embrace the program but also the reason behind the program. One of the first things we have done is to develop a list of goals that is meaningful for all of us and that we all can stand behind. It has been a wonderful way of learning about how we each understand and imagine an IL program.

2. Awareness of our differences and styles. Again, so important. One of the things that really stuck with me from an Immersion reading was Parker Palmer's belief in maintaining your identity and integrity in the classroom. While we have goals and outcomes to meet in each session, each librarian is their own person and their own teacher. We will approach classes in our own ways. I appreciate that difference and am glad that this was brought.

3. Openness to Failure. This is a new initiative at Champlain and a new way of teaching for many of us. For myself, the Immersion mantra "Fail Often to Succeed Sooner" is a hard but important one for me to chant. I am an overacheiver and have high expectations for myself and others. I know this about myself. Failing is always hard for me. But, learning is not. And that is how we are going to view our failures, as an opportunity to learn and celebrate our efforts. We are trying new things, and that is such an incredible acheivement for a group to do together.

4. Communicate. Whether it be to ourselves, to our director, to the faculty, to the students, to the division...in order for us to succeed in the coming year we need opportunities to share experiences and ideas with one another.

Again, I am reminded again and again how lucky I am to work with these librarians. They are facing the challenge of a new program with such grace, enthusiasm, and determination. For example, while talking about what some of the opportunities for the coming year may be, one colleague said that the new IL program was an opportunity for personal growth. She was looking forward to trying new things. So inspiring.

Finally, speaking of growth and inspiration, Champlain has welcomed a new librarian to the fold. Andy Burkhardt is our new Emerging Technologies Librarian. He blogs over at Information Tyrannosaur and you can read his brief intro to our college community at our library blog. I am thrilled to have Andy with us. In just a few short weeks, he is generating a ton of great ideas. Awesome.

02 August 2008

Immersion: Day 5 and Beyond

So here I am, at 10 pm (PCT), waiting to get onto the red-eye back to the lushness and simplicity of Vermont. It's amazing to travel to other parts of the country and realize how lucky I am to live in a place that nurtures so many sides of myself. Besides missing my husband, my dog, and my garden, I miss the pace of life in VT. While I hate flying overnight, I look forward to waking up tomorrow at home.

Immersion was a truly remarkable experience. I feel like I have developed a vision for our IL program as well as a series of steps to try with which to realize it. I feel like I learned a lot about how to capitalize on my strengths and develop my weaknesses. I feel like I am prepared to respond constructively to criticism and generate interest and enthusiasm for my program. I feel like I have a network with which to brainstorm, question, and collaborate. Good things.

I also feel like I could use some time reviewing my notes and reflecting for a while. The one thing I wish I had had more time for is reflection. As I think back to the past week, I feel like I haven't had as much time to process as I would like. I hope I can find some time for that in the next few days, if not weeks. Sadly, that is not what my schedule has in mind once I return to Champlain. Still, I look forward to returning to work on Monday and talking to my director.

Anyone who is thinking about participating in an Immersion, I highly recommend it. I also recommend spending some time in a different mode immediately thereafter. I was terribly fortunate to have a wonderful friend in the area whisk me away to relax, rejuvinate, and come back into myself after being on the go and at the top of my mental game for a week. It has really allowed me to settle into my thoughts and I am grateful for it.

More blog posts to come about Immersion and our program. though we will be on whirlwind mode upon my return to VT. Especially because I imagine some time in the garden will be necessary and warranted. But I tend to feel like putting my hands in the dirt can help me achieve the kind of meaningful and reasonable decisions and design that I've spent the last week thinking about.

01 August 2008

Immersion: At the Library (End of Day 4)

The last part of day 4 was all about working on our action plans to bring back to our libraries.
(Did I say this already? Please excuse me, my brain is like swiss cheese at this point.)

Anyway, I decided to take this opportunity to check out what I am lovingly calling the Dr. Seuss Library. UC San Diego has the Geisel Library. The motto in front of the doors reads: Read. Write. Think. Dream. All the glass and levels of the buildings seems to encapsulate those very principles in its design. It's a good model for the program I am trying to design, no?

I have to say, it has been a number of years since I have been in a large research library. Granted, I went to library school at Illinois in Urbana Champaign which is the biggest of them all but still...I was taken aback when I walked in. I thought about all the students that come to Champlain and wonder how to get about in the Library. Imagine what students at UCSD must think. It's no wonder that Library orientations are so vital at these large institutions!

As I wandered around, I saw a sign for the Seuss Room. I love Dr. Seuss. Any opportunity to read Dr. Seuss to my nephew (only one of my three charges is into Dr. Seuss anymore), I take it. So imagine my joy at seeing original sketches and drawings on display. Even though I was in Special Collections before coming to Champlain, I forgot what it is like to have such pieces of history and beauty available for learning, exploration, and inspiration.

Finally, with my deadline quickly approaching, I sought somewhere to sit. I was hoping for something a little more exciting and encouraging of reflection that the traditional table and chairs. I came across this little oasis on one of the bottom floors. It was wonderful to have so much light and life around me as I tried to pull together my dreams for our program, the strategies to apply to make them happen, the constituents I hope to involve, and the places where I am going to start.

Can you tell that I was ready to be somewhere other than in a conference room?

31 July 2008

Immersion: Day 3 and 4

Clearly, Immersion is intense and intensive so the chance to blog has been slim the last 36 hours. In part, and this is almost hard to believe myself, this is because the little time I have to myself is spent putting things together. Yes, after only 4 days, I feel like I have a new concept of what an excellent Information Literacy Program is. While I think that Champlain has some truly essential pieces of such a program in place, there are certainly things that we will have to spend time thinking about, planning for, developing, and implementing. Perhaps the most important thing I am taking away from this experience (how many times have I said that?) is that creating a program, especially an excellent program, takes time.

Pacing myself is a true personal challenge for me. As the Leadership skills assessment showed, I am a big picture person. Ideas flow out of me and I have a tendency to capture a good percentage of them on this blog, in notebooks I carry around, on sticky notes, etc. I have so many ideas, some of them really good, that I want to act on them, NOW. Right now. I am aware that this is one of my shortcomings. And I think listening to someone like Deb Gilchrist emphasize how long she has been at this and how many iterations she has gone through settles me down a bit. Mary Macdonald, a truly wonderful storyteller, shared many experiences of trial and error that she has drawn on to improve and revamp her program. Karen Williams has spoken a lot about the time it has taken to get buy in from her administrations and librarians, let alone faculty. All of these librarians have success stories that I have learned a lot from but it is also their failures that really help me see where to go and not go. What to try and not try. On the first day of Immersion, they showed us a video about IDEO. The CEO of the company says "Fail often so you can succeed sooner." That has been a motto here at Immersion. I think it's a good one for me.

So, where I am at this point? Swimming in thoughts. The rest of today is spent creating action plans for us to bring back to our institutions that identify Action items, Rationale, Evidence of completion/ expected outcome, Strategy, Support needed, Constituents/ stakeholders, and Starting points/ components. I've started writing a narrative that is mostly for myself. I hope to put it into something less lengthy and more usable for me and my library. I appreciate the timeline they emphasize: 6 mos - 1 year. As I said, there are so many ideas running through my mind at this point, if I didn't think about the immediates, I think I would find the starting point difficult to find.

Later today, we will be vetting drafts of our action plans with our cohort. Here we are, brainstorming a bit:
These are some wonderful, creative, smart, collaborative librarians who I hope I can work with and turn to in the future (in no order): Nicole Brown, Barett Havens, Evangela Oates, Jennifer Sigalet, April Cunningham. I am so happy to have met and worked with them. They made this not only an educational experience but a fun one.

30 July 2008

Immersion: Day 2

Bam. Bam. Bam.

The sound of synapses firing.

After only two days, I have 18 pages of notes, 3 full page lists of TO DO for when I return, new tools for assessment, activities for both my librarians and my classes, and about 25 different authors to look up and start reading. It's a lot to take in. I'm so glad I brought my running shoes so that I can get outside a little bit, and I mean little, to clear my head and process.

Day 2 has focused mainly on assessment, the element to IL programs in which I am most interested and in which I am in need of the most help. Deb Gilchrist is running the assessment show and she is wonderfully insightful. Assessment brings up a lot of questions and I have a tendency to be bogged down with the philosophical questions it often encapsulates but Deb has really helped me to focus my attention on the most important thing: the student. This is best demonstrated in the "5 Questions" we are using to develop outcomes:
1. What do you want students to be able to do?
2. What do they need to know to do this well?
3. What activity will facilitate learning?
4. How will the student demonstrate their learning?
5. How will we know that the student has done this well.

These are the leading questions in developing student learning outcomes and I think that we are well on our way at Champlain. However, there is more to it than that. The overall IL program needs outcomes too. That is what I am focusing on for the rest of the time here. I am trying, and I emphasize trying, to develop outcomes that are meaningful, reasonable, and transferable. Sounds easy, right. Yeah...not so much. Trying to capture all the things that we want our program to be and to do in a concise, impactful, measurable statement is really quite difficult. But it is wonderful to be working at tables with librarians that are struggling to do the same thing. The "5 Questions" I am thinking about at the program level are:
1. What do we want to achieve?
2. How will we know our outcomes are met?
3. What data do we need to gather?
4. What can we learn from the data?
5. What changes are necessary as a result of that learning?

I'm working on it.
One last thing that I have really been thinking about: measuring what is valued. We can measure all sorts of things through assessment but the true challenge is to identify and measure what's important.

I'm telling you...this is tough stuff to think about. I am loving it.

One last note: there was an earthquake in LA yesterday and we did indeed feel it here. It was my first earthquake, and pretty shocking. Immersion makes the earth move.

29 July 2008

Immersion: Day 1

Whew…what a day. What kind of day was it? The kind of day that makes my brain feel like it is on fire. My synapses are firing even after 13 hours of Info Lit. I guess we could say that is a good, good sign.

The day started off with the Opening Plenary. Both the Teacher and Program tracks met together for the morning to talk about the different lenses of information literacy. A lot of this session focused on readings we had done ahead of time, particularly Christine Bruce’s article, “The Seven Faces of Information Literacy.” Personally, I love sessions that draw on readings but also combine a healthy dose of personal experience and philosophizing. I sat with a terrific group of librarians, all from different institutions: from a community college, one of the country’s largest research universities, an elite boarding school, a large state college. Coming from a small, private college library, I wasn’t sure if we would make a lot of connections. I need never worry about that again. Together, we talked about what resonated with us personally from the readings but also how the readings should influence our teaching and learning. Between my group and the contributions from the larger session, I gained an awful lot of insight into how people view the opportunities and challenges of info lit. One thing that really stuck with me though was some key tips from the Immersion faculty:
1. Be Human.
2. Be Playful.
3. Have Fun.
It seems so basic but I think that when we are faced with those challenges and opportunities, it is easy to lose sight of those important qualities and focus only the work or the program or the outcomes or the meeting. Good advice.

The afternoon included an interesting and pretty enlightening session on leadership for the Program Track. I found out that I am a Symbolic Leader. Some characteristics include providing inspiration and exciting people through enthusiasm and stories. That certainly sounds Sheck-like. But I also learned a great deal about the importance of other modes of leadership and the essentiality of balance and integrity in decision making and collaboration.

Finally, we met with our cohort groups to talk over case studies about our info lit programs. The feeling of working in our cohort was safe, encouraging, supportive, and constructive. For me, I walked out of there feeling two things:
1. Learning from one another and our efforts, experiments, successes and failures = Priceless.
2. I have wonderful colleagues in the library, in the faculty, in the administration. I have such a supportive and open minded director. I work at an incredibly innovative, creative, progressive institution.
I often feel this way when I read blogs from librarians but today, I felt it acutely in part because I listen to others’ experiences and they are not always as positive. And in part because I know that the lessons I learn at Immersion and from the people here will be lessons my colleagues will be eager to hear and grow from as well. And that is pretty special.

One final word: every time I go to library conferences or events, I am astonished by the creativity, intelligence, devotion, and vision of librarians. Immersion is intensifying that perception. The people I am meeting here are wonderful. They are fiercely committed to the betterment of our students, our faculties, our institutions but also higher ed and society as a whole by creating more aware, critical, and prepared users. It is exciting and inspirational.

Needless to say, I am exhausted, as you must be if you read all the way down here. My pillow calls.

28 July 2008

On the way to Immersion

The Sheck is en route to ACRL’s Information Literacy Immersion program in San Diego. For the next five days, I will be reading, studying, developing, and practicing ways to improve Champlain’s Information Literacy Program. Immersion comes in a few different flavors: Teacher Track, Program Track, Intentional Teaching, and Assessment. I am hitting the Program track this year as that is perhaps the most daunting part of my job at this point: designing a program for all students for all four years.

Part of getting ready for this program was reading an awful lot of articles about pedagogical theory, learning outcomes, and assessment. Some of it was a bit hard for me to digest. But a few were truly extraordinary. Particularly this piece by Dane Ward at Illinois State. The idea that we are truly trying to do more than just introduce students to library resources is vital, I think, as librarians try to engage students and faculty and prove themselves relevant and necessary in the age of Google, Wikipedia, and changing landscapes at institutions of higher ed.

Part of our preparatory assignment for Immersion was to create case studies of our institutions that include SWOT analyses. I have been astonished by how few programs have the opportunities to engage students in information lit rather than traditional library instruction. It’s no wonder that Stanley Wilder was so poorly received. Librarians at many institutions seem stuck trying to get a few key IL concepts, which they are really excited about, in to the few sessions faculty ask them to give. It makes me realize how incredibly fortunate I am at Champlain to have a Core curriculum that embraces IL as key component to the inquiry method and to creating well rounded students. And while I attribute most of it to progressive thinking on the part of my director and colleagues at Champlain, I have to shout out props to Jeff Rutenbeck. When Jeff first came to Champlain, he asked how we can inject information literacy into our students daily lives. THAT has been my modus operandi when I took on this new role at Champlain. THAT is what drives me to think creatively about what the library should offer students. THAT is what I am doing as I design a program for students for all four years. I am thinking beyond those four years. I am thinking about how to reach students for a lifetime.

As I sit on the plane, I am more excited than I thought about Immersion. I hope I can find some solutions to the problems we are facing as we head into year two of the program. I hope I can find more resources to draw on, both in terms of academic writing but also the ever-essential human capital component. This trip has great potential.

Post Script: For anyone who knows me personally, I am a freak about flying and being on time for flights. So, I just have to share what happened to me on the way here. Leaving Burlington’s airport is one of the true joys of living in Vermont. The entire airport could fit in the Food Court at Philadelphia’s Airport, where I was raised. So, it’s no big thing to get there a little late. I walked in with my bag and boarding pass and saw on the board that we were leaving from gate 6. I go upstairs, go through security, and sit down to enjoy the NYT Book Review. Time goes by and I start to think, “Hm…I should have boarded by now.” I decide to stand up to look and walk by the short short corridor that leads to gates 7 & 8 when I hear, faintly…oh so faintly, MY NAME! I dash over there, only to be the absolute last person on the flight. Why? Because the light was burned out on the departure board…it said 6 but was supposed to be 8. So much for trusting even the most basic information. How fitting that I was on my way to an Info Lit Immersion. You can bet I will share that one with students when I get back.

21 July 2008

Activating Our Base

The ever inspiring and amazing David Silver is one of the founders of the September Project. With the academic year quickly approaching, he wrote to remind me that any programming/display/screening/just about anything is worth sharing with their project to demonstrate the role of libraries in the promotion of freedom and democracy. Here is some more info:
Welcome to the 5th annual September Project! The September Project is a
grassroots effort to encourage events about freedom and democracy in all
libraries in all countries during the month of September. September
Project events are free and organized locally.

In 2004, we began the September Project to break the silence following
September 11, and to invite all people into libraries to consider topics
of patriotism, democracy, and citizenship. Initially, events focused on
September 11 and largely took place on September 11. As the project
evolved, events spread throughout the month of September and focused on
issues of freedom and democracy.

To date, public, academic, school, and government libraries around the
world have organized September Project book displays, community book
readings, childrens’ art projects, film screenings, theatrical
performances, civic deliberations, voter registrations, murals, panel
discussions, and so much more. What will this year bring?

How can you participate? Organize an event at your library, and tell us
about it! We’ll post all events on this site as they develop around the

The September Project: Connecting the world one library at a time

So first and foremost, this is a call out to anyone who has something on the agenda for fall. Share it with the September Project.

Secondly, I started to think back on the displays I've done that could have qualified for September Project events. I am pretty hardcore about putting up displays to remind students that they are, or should be, active members of society. My mantra is always that "Learning More Is Doing Something" but I try to remind students that actions are key to change. And along that line, I love the idea of having a voter registration drive in the Library. It is activating our base, saying learn more then act. Be educated and involved. I've already got ideas in the hopper. If you do too, share them! And if you blog about them, be sure to use the tag: TSP08

Finally, once again I am reminded an amazed by the way the 2.0 world builds community around activism. Henry Jenkins, in his book Convergence Culture, talks about the “power of the send key”. While I still have a lot of concerns and questions about whether technology is being used as it could be or should be to further democracy, it is projects like this that are built on creativity, community, genuine concern and care for who we are and what we believe it that motivates me to teach, to learn, to act.

I will be posting more about the September Project, particularly about what Champlain will be doing. I hope you will too! And pass it on to other libraries and librarians!

17 July 2008

Information Overload, or, Summer in Vermont

Perhaps it is the daily swims in Lake Champlain.

Or the fact that I want to be or am trying to get back to hiking/running/biking/swimming/gardening or just plain smiling in the sun.

Whatever it is, I am feeling a bit overloaded by all the information that has been coming my way lately.

The diagnostician in me is strongly considering whether it is my Google Reader.

Admittedly, my Google Reader is my web homepage so I see it first thing and all the time. Part of me really likes that. If I have a moment, I can scan the news. I can keep up with a lot of things at once. I can manage information. I can be effective while hopefully being efficient.

But then there is the other part of me that feels overwhelmed by how much comes across my Reader. Not so much because I don't want to know it all or because depressing things happen (which they do), but more so because I just don't have the time to do something with all the information that I view, review, and collect. How many articles or blog posts get starred or delicious-ed (is that verb?) for blog posts but don't end up on my blog? A lot. How many thoughts run through my head as I read and make connections between my course, information literacy, libraries, technology, innovation, or just things I think about? Too many.

It reminds me of the look many faculty give me when I show them RSS. Or the look students give me when we do our first database searches. It's a lot to take in. And you have to be prepared for all of that information, all of those options, all of those thoughts that are going to start shooting up out of nowhere. It is too much when you are looking for something easy. I mean, who knew that trying to keep up on what is going on in the world would be so exhausting? Or overwhelming? It just goes to show that the world is truly a big place, no matter how small it appears on the screen.

Another admission: when I go home, I turn off. Like I said, I garden, bike, run, play with Rigi (my dog), cook, and most importantly, swim in the Lake everyday. And of course, that is when my best thoughts come to me. I think back to my dad, who always carried a notecard in his pocket so he could write ideas down when they came to him. He was ready for those epiphanies, those connection, those bursts of clarity.

Where am I going here? Perhaps that I am more than aware of the tradeoffs I make in order to be the kind of summer-lovin Vermonter I am. And sometimes those tradeoffs are difficult to manage. Sometimes, I wish I could put my head down and write, read, and think about the incredible things others think about or say. Sometimes, by the time I seem to get to it, it seems passe. Sometimes, I just take it in and it comes to me as I run or swim and then runs or swims away. That's hard for me as both a teacher and a librarian. I want to capture, examine, analyze, and discuss ideas.

But that is when the person in me, the person who lives in a state that has six-month long winters, just has to watch some thoughts go on. For capturing later. The good ones, the important ones, the good ones will stay, I hope. In the meantime, my tomatoes need tending.

11 July 2008

Information Literacy...on the radio.

I drove to work today, which is unusual. There are two things I cherish on these rare occassions: 1. Bringing coffee from home, 2. Listening to NPR for the ten minutes I am in the car. This morning, though, it was particularly special because a lesson in information literacy was central to this piece on Iran's manipulation of photographs showing their missile tests.

Here's what I love about David Folkenflik's analysis. He emphasizes the need for critical analysis of source. As he says, "consider the source." The photographs were provided by the Iranian military and they have an agenda that needs to be taken into consideration when looking at their evidence. He then goes on to talk about the number of people that provide material to news organizations today might not have the same "journalistic practices."

What did I get from this: we need to evaluate information rather than just accept it.

Gosh…that sounds pretty an awful lot like information literacy. Funny how that happens.

23 June 2008

Twisting a Tag Cloud, or, Exploring New Technology: Wordle

So, as I was leafing through my Reader this morning, my tired eyes were drawn to the plethora of tag clouds wafting through the inter-air. I saw Meredith's. Then Jenica's. Then decided I wanted one too.

So I hopped on over to Wordle, put my del.icio.us tags in and WOW...there I was, a pretty little cloud of libraries, technology, web 2.0, vermont, sustainability, activism, innovation, and media. I was beautiful. Except that I couldn't seem to get it off of the webpage and onto my blog post.

So, I went exploring how to do that. The first thing I did, was look in Wordle's FAQ, assuming that it was something easy that just didn't come to me right off the bat. However, I was disheartened to read that no, it was not so easy. You could save your wordle as a screenshot but since it is a Java Applet, you cannot save it as a jpeg. Hmm. You could save it as a pdf, but how am I supposed to get a pdf into my blog post?

Breathe. Think. Try something else. Let's see what someone else did.

So, I hopped back over to Meredith's blog, since she is a bit of a guru. And I started copying things like "firefoxscreensnapz" and googling it to see what it is, and how did she do this, and GRRRR.

And then...sigh, I realized I could just copy my screen shot into the Paint accessory, crop it, and save it as a JPEG. Thank goodness.

Is this the most tech-savvy way to do this? Probably not. But that's what I came up with and I have to get back to work pretty soon here. It's not exactly the size I want, but as both Jenica and Meredith point out, you can see an awful lot from very little.

And that got me thinking: what could this be good for? Tomorrow, I am speaking at a course for educators about using 2.0 technology in the classroom. So, what might I do with this in my classes?

Hmm. For a number of semesters before I was blessed to design a course of my own on technology and society, I taught five semesters of freshman writing. The number one problem first years have with writing is that they don't know what their papers are really about. They meander across multiple topics, losing track of their thoughts, let alone the thoughts of others. What if students pasted a few paragraphs or even their whole paper into Wordle so they could see what their paper was really about? It might be a great way of helping students see the direction their papers are headed, whether they know it or not. Bringing 2.0 to students to help them become better writers? Whoa.

Or, what if we used it in online education? What if the week's discussion threads were pasted into Wordle as a way to capture the key points of the week? Or within a lecture? I know that my students would be grateful for a more aesthetically pleasing and accessible method of keeping tabs on key points in a week's discussion. Using 2.0 to expedite masses of information for deeper reflection? Whoa, again.

And what about in the library? Perhaps as a way to market ourselves: let's put a print out of a Wordle tag cloud out this year's "Come to the Library" flyer. What words pop up the most? Might it attract students attention as they are scanning the kiosks and bulletin boards more than just a picture and some text? Perhaps.

These are just a few thoughts right off the bat. I'm sure you've got others. I hope you will share them.

10 June 2008

Wikipedia in IL: a perspective anyone and everyone should edit?

Like many librarians, I belong to a number of listservs. And often times, I don't read threads thoroughly or at all. But ones that relate to Wikipedia...those spark my interest.

A new librarian recently posted to the listserv a request for good starting points for research. Specifically, she wanted to know if members of the listserv would recommend Wikipedia as a start for research to undergrads.

Another librarian took a hard line:
While your goal of building or strengthening critical thinking and evaluative skills is an admirable one, we usually have so little time with the students that it's best to stick with useful, trustworthy resources rather than bad resources such as Wikipedia.

The Sheck couldn't sit quiet (she has that problem). Here is my response to the initial query and my thoughts about the "badness" of Wikipedia.
We encourage our students to use Wikipedia as a starting point for their research papers. As you said, it provides students a general overview of a topic, an opportunity to identify keywords, and in general, offers them a place to jump off from. A link to Wikipedia is included in our Subject Guides with a disclaimer that Wikipedia is not considered a citeable source for a college level research paper.

Three things I include in my Information Literacy sessions:
1. I ask students why they are told they can't use Wikipedia. Invariably, they respond that it "anyone can edit it" or it is "unreliable". My response, I tell them, is that it is not about information anyone can edit but rather using an encyclopedia of any sort as a citation in a college level research paper. At the college level, you should be delving deeper than an encyclopedia. I qualify my statement by using examples of subject specific encyclopedias (Eliade's Encyclopedia of Religion, for example). But in large part, the grumbling stops. They see my point.

2. We then discuss the difference between a Works Cited page and a Bibliography. This is a great way to introduce students to the value of these resources. Once they see the usefulness of them, they tend to be amazed at how many resources they have available to them in one place! Then it is easy to get them into databases...they have something they actually want to find.

3. Show your students the “Researching With Wikipedia” page
If you look at the Overview and Article quality sections, it looks an awful lot like the writing process students are going through, especially those first year students that are rely so heavily on Wikipedia. It’s a process!

As for Wikipedia being generally "bad", I couldn't disagree more. Wikipedia is changing: it is different today than it was two years ago and it will be different in two years than it is today. Between Wikipedia’s recent Sloane Grant, linking to other online projects (like the Open Library), and its own efforts to be clear about what it is and what it isn’t, Wikipedia is dynamic, fluid, and frankly, engaging people in learning and knowledge, something libraries should embrace and applaud.

But more importantly, a key component to creating information literate students is asking students to know which sources are appropriate for their situations. When they graduate, many students access to databases and the “good” resources we offer them are dismantled. What kind of lifelong learners are we creating if we don’t talk to them about what they can use that’s free, available, and ubiquitous? We should be including sources in our information literacy sessions that students regularly use in order to help them recognize what “good” is. The information you need depends on what you want to know. Sometimes, you can find good information in Wikipedia and Google. And sometimes you can’t. I want my students to identify their expectations for information so they know what to look for in the vast amounts of information and choice that they find every time they look at a screen. Only then will they get past wanting the first thing in favor of the best thing.

My faculty supports that effort because they see it as a direct application of the skills and knowledge they are teaching their students in the classroom.

There it is. Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions? Links that take the argument further or that shatter it?

03 June 2008

I am Seeing the Green!

Post posting on Friday, Jon and I crossed the Lake to spend the weekend at St. Lawrence University for his college reunion. It was a meeting of the minds. SLU highlighted their sustainability efforts as the focal point to the reunion. When we checked in for registration, we received cloth bags that said “The Greening of the Scarlet and Brown”, their school colors. They held tours of their LEED certified buildings, held workshops highlighting their sustainability programs both in and out of the classroom, and made abundantly clear how sustainability is a key factor in all decisions at that school. Their Green Pages are well worth checking out as both a way to inform and market initiatives.
They clearly have support for sustainability running through their administration, student body, board of trustess, and facilities. It is exciting to see. I also found out that SLU's Science Librarian, Eric Williams-Bergen, who I did not have the good fortune of meeting, is the chair of SLU's Conservation Council. Green Librarians Unite!

And that led me to seeking out some other green initiatives among librarians. I found this very cool post at the San Francisco Public Library's Magazine Center where they were highlighting mags that might give good tips about how to green up. And then, a whole blog devoted to greening up your library. I am on the hunt for more, so stay tuned.

30 May 2008

What Does It Mean to be Green?

I've been thinking about sustainability an awful lot lately. And in a lot of ways.

I am the co-chair of Sustain Champlain, Champlain College's campus wide sustainability initiative. In about an hour, I am meeting with our college president to advocate for the overwhelming need on our campus for a sustainability coordinator. While Champlain does an incredible job of improving our facilities to be more energy efficient, a key component to sustainability, we have, in my opinion, a ways to go in terms of developing a culture of sustainability on campus.

Ryan Deschamps wrote a terrific post on sustainability based on a conversation we had back in April. As he pointed out, doing the bare minimum is no longer enough in the library community. We need to be leaders in sustainability on our campuses. ACRL seems to agree as sustainability is one of the tracks at the bi-annual conference next year. Frankly, I am really looking forward to hearing what libraries are doing to lead sustainability efforts on their campuses. But I am more interested in hearing what sustainability is to libraries, and to institutions of higher education as a whole.

Admittedly, I might seem "hard core" to some people, especially people that don't live in Vermont. I ride my bike or ride the bus to work. We have one car. We recycle. We are avid gardeners. We compost. We use phosphate-free soaps and detergents. We keep our heat at 68, maybe 70 in the dead of winter.

Funny that those actions are even remotely considered hard core. As I type them up, they seem minimal to me.

And that gets at what I think is the biggest problem on our campus, and on most campuses: a culture shift. Michael Stephens highlighted a great post by Nicole Engard, a new blogger to me about not giving out handouts during classes or conference presentations. At the end of her post, Nicole said "I feel for everyone who had to make this decision because they’re going to be bombarded with librarians complaining about not having handouts!" This gets at what I see as the overarching problem: the prevailing view that my individual preferences override the societal need for change in order to preserve our society. Better that I have a handout that I invariably will toss than have to keep the conference books with presenters information, take notes, or pay attention or care enough about what I hear to seek out information when I get back to my desk. This, from a profession that is trying to teach students that there is more to searching and information seeking than the easiest thing available. Steven Bell, who commented on this post, mentions that the paper is recyclable, so it's not so bad. Perhaps, but I have yet to be in any conference, classroom, store, or street where recycle bins are as prominent and available as garbage cans.

There are a lot things to think about as libraries, educators, and just plain people decide to go green. It is about infrastructure, leadership, accountability, engagement, regulation, fiduciary responsibility, resource allocation, longevity…the list goes on. But I think that as bedrocks of education and knowledge in practice, we need to set examples for our students as they head out into a world that is going to change because of energy, water, carbon, and waste. We need to show them and offer them tools to conceptualize, apply, and develop new ways of learning, doing business, and living in a way that not only mitigates but improves our spaces. If not institutions of higher ed, then who?

22 May 2008

Where is the Busy Bee? Busy.

One might think that when students leave campus, work slows down. Not so. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind at Champlain as we held the Faculty Collaborative. As part of this three week event, I hosted a workshop on the power of Annotated Bibliographies in generating better researched, more well written and more organized research papers. The 12 faculty that attended all were very supportive and interested in both using annotated bibs but also incorporating an exercise I developed into their class time to bring the bibliographies to life for students.

I then participated in a discussion on The Role of Technology in our Classrooms. It was a fascinating discussion and certainly made me think about the write up I am doing of CiL presentation on taking 2.0 to Faculty. One of my key points is about faculty perceptions of technology and this talk made me focus in on that topic once again.

But for the last week, I have been pushing info lit on our General Education faculty (the Core Division, as we call them at Champlain). Champlain redesigned our gen eds a year ago and first year of the new curriculum was reviewed, discussed, and revised. There was a lot of positive feedback on the information literacy efforts. By far the biggest challenge is trying to remind faculty that information literacy is not just about finding information for a research paper. It is a life skill, rather than something you just do for school. But the faculty at Champlain is so extraordinary in their willingness to collaborate that I have no doubt that we will make great strides in our efforts.

So what am I getting at? Like the rest of you, I've been busy. But I have been also feeling guilty about not taking the few minutes I've had at my computer to blog. But between ACRL Immersion, which I will be prepping for and attending in late July, and designing the 2nd year curriculum, I will be back to blogging as a venue for bouncing ideas around and seeing where they land.

05 May 2008

My Signature Statement

"What defines you as a librarian? What’s your signature statement?" asks Steve Bell over on the ACRLog. "What’s at the center of it all?"

It's a great question and a great challenge. Steve elaborates that the signature statement is in some way supposed to say "this is who I am." I imagine that this is particularly tough for librarians because we are so many things. We are innovators, technologists, ontologists, generalists, adapters, thinkers, qualifiers, extrapolators, learners, and educators. As a profession, we are constantly changing and growing. It is wonderful as well as challenging, difficult, and overwhelming. Personally, that's what draws me to it.

So what is my signature statement? "Learning More IS doing something."

Part of my statement is based on my core desire to be a part of change, to act. Many of my students feel powerless in the face of complex challenges, especially in today's world. My signature statement is my signature reply: if we don't learn more about the problem, the causes, the obstacles, or the attempts to rectify or solve those problems, then how can we determine how a difference can be made? Learning more IS doing something.

Libraries are at the very core of the educational process: we are houses of learning. And for us to progress, to change, and to improve, we need to learn where we've been and where we might go. Learning more is a must in any situation on the road of life (love that metaphor, VW) and libraries are our proverbial gas stations. We've got what you need.