20 November 2009

Great Reading

I am leaving campus for the holiday (HAPPY THANKSGIVING) but there are so many good articles in my RSS today that I just have to throw them out here:

If you haven't checked out this piece about academic libraries in Inside Higher Ed, DO IT! And be sure to read the comments. I especially was partial to Steve Bell's one liner on not having time to respond because he's busy making sure the books are all in order. HA! But seriously, this piece is a terrific conversation starter among us about strategic planning, missions, and vision for academic libraries.

Another Inside Higher Ed piece: this essay in defense of the lecture. I am a huge proponent of the Inquiry Method, particularly when it comes to information literacy, but I think there are some excellent points to be made and discussed here about expectations of students, building skills, scaffolding, and gaps in learning. And while the article is aimed at traditional classes, there is a lot of food for thought here in terms of library instruction as well.

The Chronicle Blog has a great piece (again, check out the comments) on "tweckling"--heckling during conferences over Twitter. I look back at my own concerns with Twitter at conferences. It's one thing to stand up in front of the room and deal with people looking bored or sleeping, it's another to wonder what all the typing is about. And I do think there is still a lot to be discussed about community and respect in the online world.

But one thing these articles all get at is the changing face of education. The way in which the landscape is shifting and the challenges that presents as we try to gain our footing, even if only for a moment. And frankly, that is something I am interested in talking about, especially with students. How do you account for change? How does change impact your expectations for ways of being, ways of reading, ways of thinking? How does change impact your expectations for information?

Some of what I'll mull over during my week away. That is, when I'm not reading for pleasure. Oh pleasure reading...how I have missed you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

13 November 2009

You Never Know

Like many librarians that design IL curricula and especially librarians that teach, you really wonder if what you are doing is having impact. Am I getting through to the students? Did that student walk away from the class with an idea of how to move forward in their head?

Or even at reference: is the patron leaving our time together thinking I was helpful?

Is this work I'm doing working?

This week, I was surprised by how many ways the answer came to me. And that the answer was yes.

Yes, our IL curriculum is making students think differently about information. It might not always be obvious from how they participate in class or how they look while we are up in the front of the room, but this students' post reminded me that the work we are doing does work.

That alone would have been enough for me. But the love just kept on coming! Yesterday, a faculty member sent this email out to all faculty:
Dear Colleagues,

Our librarians are wonderful. A little while ago I asked them to find a photograph of Friederike Maria Beer-Monti. “Friederike who?” you ask. Exactly - her only claim to fame these days is that she was the one person to be the subject of portraits by both Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele.

In less than an hour, (librarian x) found me a usable photo in which Friederike Maria Beer-Monti’s pose resembled that in the Klimt portrait.

Impressive, wouldn’t you agree?

Best regards, (professor A+)

I was beaming when I read that. I'm not the librarian mentioned in this email. But I don't care. It was a fellow librarian, someone I work with and love, and yup...they rock. Getting an email like this was incredible.

More incredible was the wealth of response this sparked:

-Our Librarians are the best!!!

-I couldn’t agree more. Our librarians totally ROCK!

-I'd like to chime in with high praise as well. I insist that my art students find their way to that nice building on the hill every semester. As much as they may enjoy their cozy computers, when students conduct research in the library or consult the staff there, they invariably discover that Champlain is blessed with a stellar library staff that simply couldn't be more supportive.

-Oh yeah, and the students actually look INTERESTED when the librarians at the reference desk are talking to them. They work magic for sure!

-I am going to jump on the bandwagon and say that I too, think that we have a truly crackerjack library staff. One of the things that I find to be most impressive is that in a time when Universities are closing libraries, we have a thriving one due to our staff of professional’s abilities to seamlessly integrate “old school” and new school ways of getting at information. Kudos to the whole crew at MIC!

-I assign a lot of research papers and projects, and always recommend that students use the Librarians for what they are, a critical resource in their learning. Of the students who do tap into this valuable resource, all of them report back to me how helpful the librarians have been. You all DO rock!

-I'm not usually one to hop in on the emails in praise of X, but for the librarians, I happily will. "Helpful" is a nice little adjective, but it doesn't really capture the MIC folks, for whom "above and beyond the call" is the norm. I loudly second Professor A+'s laudatory comments.

Be still my pounding heart!

What's the point here? The point is that you never know when your work is truly making a difference. You never know the value of your helpfulness. You never know how much you are appreciated. That is until someone kindly shares it with you. But even if they don't, you never know. You might be making the world of difference.

Believe it. Surprises abound.

10 November 2009

Recognizing Recognition

So, I am ACRL Member of the Week.

There. I said it.

Being recognized has been a strange thing for me. I am not a shy person. And I am comfortable talking about what I do, why I do it, and what I enjoy or dislike about it. But I am not the kind of person that feels comfortable sharing my successes. Or highlighting my acheivements. I'm not sure I really knew that about myself until this Member of the Week thing. I mean, I share exciting things with my family. But even with my friends....I hesitated. Is it obnoxious to put this on my Facebook page? Is it inappropriate to tweet yourself?

Andy convinced me I was being ridiculous about not putting something like this on my Facebook. Wouldn't I want to know if one of my friends was highlighted by their national organization? OF COURSE! So, I posted it. And let me just say....I have amazing friends. The support and love overwhelmed me. And made me grateful for the connections I am able to maintain via social networks. But still....those are my friends. As I said in the email to my parents, brother, husband, and non-facebook friends, "If not you, who?"

I couldn't bring myself to Tweet it. I couldn't bring myself to sing out into the Twittersphere about my self. I struggle with that when I post to the blog. But why? Where is this discomfort? I don't feel embarrassed or uncomfortable highlighting workshops I am giving. I have no problem saying that I am speaking at ACRL or LILAC or VT NEA. I am fine sharing articles being accepted. But recognition is different, for some reason. Perhaps it's the part of me that is afraid of being tagged as a fraud. Perhaps it's the part of me that thinks that while I do good work, it's not more worthy of recognition than so many other librarians. Perhaps it's the part of me that blushes. But frankly, I would rather congratulate someone else than myself.

Where does self promotion and self congratulation swap seats? And at what point does it get to be too much?

I feel like this is one of those things that we each have to figure out as we go. They certainly don't tell you in library school how to manage success. Or recognition. And I am trying to figure it out. I don't really have an answer here. It's just something I've been thinking a ton about in the last two days. And I wonder how other people handle it? How do you share your successes? How do you push your achievements out there for people to see? Do you do it at all? Are there some things you do and some things you don't? Is there a "best practices" I am not aware of? I am sure I am not the first person to feel a bit ill at ease in moments like this. Who's got a trick up their sleeve for this one?

03 November 2009

Awesome Ahead.

Champlain is in the midst of working on our next Strategic Plan: Champlain 2020. As such, the Library is engaging in some forward thinking about what we think the library might look like in ten years.

Ten years.

It doesn't sound like that far away, especially because ten years ago felt like yesterday. But in truth, ten years, especially when we think about the rate of change in technology, is a different world in libraries.

Do I mean that?

Yes and no. Academic libraries have changed a lot in the last ten years, twenty years, fifty years. But at their core, libraries have remained something very stable. They are weavers of intellectual fabrics. They are a place for all members of all communities. They are a place of expansion, learning, exploration, growth. That is true. That is solid. But how we are manifesting that has changed immensely. Social media, Library 2.0, information commons, user-centered design...there are more examples than I could possibly think of. Yet, at their core, libraries remain committed to supporting and engaging our users in learning, community, and pleasure.

So what does that mean in an academic library?

Andy and I got to thinking about it in front of a white board. Here's what we came up with:

Some of these are pretty space oriented. I want to be out from behind the desk. Librarians on every floor, walking with hand held devices to provide instant access to information.

The thing about that, is that libraries could be doing that already. Whether anyone is, is a different question. But they could.

And that’s the thing about this question of what the library should look like in ten years. We can’t really answer it when it comes to space or technology. Or users. What we can do is answer it in terms of attributes. Qualities.

That’s exactly what happened in our meeting the other day. The question shifted to “What do we want to be known for in 5 years?” I couldn’t help but blurt out “awesome”. And my awesome boss actually wrote that down. I mean, it’s not going into our actual document but she took it ran with it. Because seriously, how much better can it get than trying to figure out what awesome means.


What does it mean to you?
To your library?
To your patrons?