Recently published : Incorporating Online Instruction in Academic Libraries

Here’s my opportunity to influence all of your summer reading lists. The article that I co–authored with my colleague, Pauline Dewan, Incorporating Online Instruction in Academic Libraries: Getting Ahead of the Curve, has just been published in the Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning.

These children are using a computer to help them solve their homework problems

This (with other reports, presentations, and articles), is the culmination of a large project Pauline and I undertook to assess our Library’s online teaching and learning programme in 2012. During the course of that project, we conducted a thorough literature review and analysis of the state of online instruction in our library, and generally in North America. The recommendations we made regarding goal formation, acquiring stakeholder buy-in, technological formats and delivery, and organizational change, can speak well to many libraries’ online teaching and learning programmes.

We also have an extensive bibliography that touches on policy, analysis, information literacy, and organizational behaviour – check this out because we’ve done a lot of heavy lifting, which may you help you in your own work.

Happy reading,


Information Literacy, Census Geography, and Maps

One of the things I’m constantly doing as a government documents librarian is giving lessons on Statistics Canada geographic areas. Census geographies can be downright confusing to the new user (and to sometimes to the seasoned expert!). The names are riddled with acronyms and jargon, and their relationships to other areas and spaces can be complicated. One legally incorporated township may be considered a census subdivision while another may be classified as only a census agglomeration. Another city may be classified as a census subdivision, and also be part of a census metropolitan area of a similar name, e.g., Toronto CSD and Toronto CMA.   Or, a city may be classified as a census subdivision and exist not only in a CMA with a similar name, but also a census division (I’m looking at you, City of Waterloo CSD, Waterloo Region CD, and Kitchener-Cambridge-Waterloo CMA). And if you dare introduce census tracts the first time through, your short introduction to the “Russian dolls” nature of census geographies runs the risk of turning your lesson into an information dump about privacy and data validity when all that your first-year economics student wanted to know was why it’s so hard to get comparable income and migration numbers for Kitchener, Ontario, and The Pas in northern Manitoba.

Don’t ask me how many census tracts this CMA holds.

Confusion abounds. One of the problems we encounter are the tools we use to explain these geographies, which should be easily understood but are often abstract – we may live in towns and cities, but we refer to them as census agglomerations or CMAs. What can you use to show how spaces relate to one another, or how certain concepts can be measured and expressed spatially? The answer is a map, of course.  God lov’em, those maps. Maps help us express numbers – quantities, amounts, rations, proportions – with colours and shapes, and in the regions we live in and travel through each day. Face it, “big data” wouldn’t be as big as it is today if we didn’t have “big maps” to help use make sense of the numbers. However, StatCan’s digitized maps are large, layered PDFs that aren’t always user-friendly. The Standard Geographical Classification (SGC) PDFs are great reference items, but they aren’t very accessible.  And this creates a learning gap for so many of our users.

To overcome this gap, I’m constantly pulling out the old SGC print maps, and I’m also cutting and pasting and hacking together magnified screenshots of the PDFs into my slide deck.  Typically, if you need census help and you’ve found me in person, then there stands a good chance that I’m going to crack open the SGC and unfold a map somewhere in the office (I even keep the southern Ontario CD-CSD map posted to a wall).  I started doing this last Spring after I moved to Waterloo and had to learn the region’s geography and confirm its census divisions, subdivisions, and CMAs for myself, and I realized this was a simple and effective tool that should be used more often, especially with new StatCan users.

StatCan’s 2006 geographies for southern Ontario, from a summer 2012 research consultation


Typically, I bring students to a nearby conference room and unfold the map on a large table.  I find that being able to “walk around” the entire map and point to the places where the lines that signify the different geographies merge, separate, and then merge again, helps students understand some of the logic behind the regions (at least in terms of distance and population). They may not always be able to recall all the differences between a census division, subdivision and metropolitan area after a session, but they at least remember that there are differences, and these differences are important enough to affect their research.

The original SGC PDF gives us a wide view of Ontario

The classroom is a different story, though. When working with only one person or a small group, there is a persuasive element at work that captures everyone’s attention. Carefully unfolding and presenting a map to a small group of people is like opening a box that holds a surprise. (Let’s call this surprise “knowledge” and we’ll call ourselves awesome for charming our audience so handily into learning something). But if we take that same map into the classroom or lecture hall, it risks becoming an awkward, cumbersome prop. It can become a distraction or even a failed means to demonstrate your expertise in such a short time to such a large group of people.

Zooming in reveals the different geographies

Maps that unfold to become wider and taller than you put the room’s attention onto your map-wrangling skills (however good or poor they might be) instead of on the knowledge you have share, so I avoid them. You’ve never caught me walking to a classroom with a print map, and I doubt many other librarians do that today.

The final zoom focuses directly on the region the classroom is interested in (and it’s often Waterloo Region)

Instead, I give the class what they want and what they expect, and that means I work that map into my PowerPoint deck. Any time I’m introducing StatCan resources and geographies to a class, I insert three images of the same PDF map, each one magnified more than the last. This helps people “zoom in” with their eyes and see the many relationships and regions that are defined in one place alone. The length of time I spend on these slides depends on the classroom’s needs: sometimes, I spend only a few moments on these slides, and other times, I’ll spend five or ten minutes. What matters is that after I’ve finished up and am headed back to the office, I know that the instructor can pass around a slide deck that always refers to all these different areas.

I know I’m not presenting anything new in this post: maps have long been a tremendous tool within government documents librarianship. Perhaps the takeaway lies more in information literacy than it does anywhere else. Is your digital resource, as presented to you, the best way to help the user understand the resource? You may want to turn to the print resource or manipulate the digital resource, as I do with StatCan maps, to improve learning and synthesis. It’s just one more tool (or two, in this case) in our IL toolbox.

Further Reading: Tim Fedak on literacies in higher ed

Happy Monday.   This week, I’m pointing you all to an insightful post by Tim Fedak, director of Distributed Medical Education at Dalhousie University.   Tim has written a great post on the nature of technology, literacies, and instruction in higher education.  I especially like his closing remarks:

There is a serious challenge facing the delivery of education in today’s technologically dominated media social landscape – our university leadership and faculty members have not been generally trained to speak, let alone be fluent in the languages of images and digital media.  The “teachers” and university leaders are fluent in text-based languages, not the image and digital literacies that are the dominant channels of information and communication today . . .

In the years to come images and digital media will continue to expand – how do we prepare our current students become fluent in the ways that will allow them to contribute to advance social well being?  How do we teach our learners to be visually and digitally literate?  Where are we giving them these skills?  As “teachers” how do we attain these new literacies?

Tim asks a lot of questions here, as most good blog posts do.  He raises a couple questions that librarians have been grappling with for some time now:

  • How do we communicate effectively with students who have are familiar with different modes of communication?
  • How do we teach critical thinking and research skills to students whose alphabets, vocabularies, and languages are visual more than they are textual?  What fundamental changes have occurred to research (and to teaching research) with the shift to the digital and the visual?
  • How do we keep up with these new technologies and literacies, ourselves?

So head to Tim’s blog:  read, and discuss.   You may also want to check out my previous post on transliteracies, which may have some useful links on the matter, too.


With Apologies to Albert Einstein and Steve Wheeler

Ranting about patting ourselves on the back

I’m not sure how to write up this post since I’m bothered by two separate, but related things, so bear with me.

The Chronicle published a piece this week about what academic librarians value most about their work, and it’s no surprise (for me) to learn that it is instruction and information literacy.  Titled “Librarians Put Increasing Value on Their Role in Support of Student Learning, the article reports on the Ithaka S+R Library Survey 2010: Insights from U.S. Library Directors, and it tells us that we’re a happy bunch, that we value our role in education and academic support services, and that we’re always ready to give it the old college try.   (Yes, I’m being slightly facetious.)

However, The article also reports on the difference in opinion between librarians and teaching faculty on how we perceive our work in teaching and learning.  Ithaka compared the ways that library directors valued teaching and learning in the 2010 survey to the opinions of teaching faculty on the same subject in its 2009 Faculty Survey, and the difference in opinion is not pretty:

Ninety-seven percent of library directors said it was important that their library help facilitate teaching [in the 2010 survey] . . .  Just under 60 percent of faculty members felt strongly about libraries’ pedagogical involvement [in the 2009 survey].

Librarians understand this already.  We spend a lot of time strategizing how to convince teaching faculty to let us enter the classroom and show our stuff to the student body.  We know things, yes we do, but not everyone knows that.

What bothers me, though, is the way that this news article has spread on Twitter.   Maybe I’ve overlooked something – and please correct me if I am – but I’ve seen a lot of people retweet this news piece today by retweeting the Chronicle’s own headline on the news story, which misses the point entirely:

I want to forgive everyone who retweeted the article without reading it since it’s something I’ve done in the past, too.  After all, it’s the nature of Twitter and information exchange to value messages given to us by people we know: we take it on faith that the article must be good if some one we know retweeted it. But then I surfed to to look closer at who tweeted the page and how.  You can do the same:

(Yes, it’s so important to this post that I had to center the text and change its font size.)

Not only have a lot of people who re-tweeted the post, but we are also collectively re-tweeting it as if it is focused on the the good things in our field – that we value information literacy. Of course we value information literacy.  But The Chronicle’s article is actually troubling because it explains plainly that many of our peers in academia don’t understand the value our work in teaching and learning.  And it’s even more troubling that we are re-tweeting the article as if it shines a glowing light on our work in the academy when many people don’t know what we do, how we do it, and why.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, I’m not sure how to write up my thoughts right now.  On the one hand, I want to comment on the fact that we value our work but that not everyone else does.   But on the other hand, I’m compelled to talk about way we’re re-tweeting this article as if it says good things about our work.  I admit it – I could be quibbling since The Chronicle did report on some good things, after all.  But I still think we should spend more of our energy thinking about ways to shrink that 37% difference of opinion on the librarian’s role in teaching and learning as opposed to giving ourselves a pat on the back and calling it a day.  This isn’t about talking about ways to just get in to the classroom.  It’s about convincing the other 40% of teaching faculty (and that 3% of library directors) that we actually do make a difference.

These librarians are smiling because they're certain that everyone knows what a great role they play in teaching and learning on campus. (Photo Source: Christchurch City Libraries)

On Information Literacy, Students, and Syllabuses

I sometimes get terribly annoyed with LIS literature. Often, I encounter articles that use small samples to confirm that librarians are indeed essential to post-secondary education. Given this cynicism, reading Alison Head’s 2008 article, Information literacy from the Trenches: how do humanities and social science majors conduct academic research? was a breath of fresh air. Although Head used a small sample for her research, she crafts a solid argument which shows that student expectations, anxiety, and even information literacy levels are affected by poor guidance in the classroom and from syllabuses.

Let me say before writing further that Head isn’t suggesting that teaching faculty are ghouls living in the ivory tower whose purpose it is to make things difficult for students. Rather, she argues that most students encounter a fundamental information gap between what professors expect of them and how they are supposed to achieve it. Syllabuses do a great job at listing schedules, reading lists, and essay requirements, but they fall short when it comes to explaining how the student is to meet the professor’s research expectations.

Head analyzed 30 different faculty handouts to achieve two goals:

  1. to find out what professors assign
  2. to find out the amount of guidance professors offer students about how to carry out their research, how to evaluate resources, and how to assemble and prepare the paper (p. 431).

The answer to the first question shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone working in the humanities and social sciences: 30% of assignments are argumentative research papers, while another 17% are lit reviews, and 16% are about theory (p. 432). Assignments in the arts, we know, are based on critical inquiry and interpretation – two related competencies that students often struggle with.

Head’s data show that undergraduates feel pressured to be original and creative in their work (p. 433), which is a difficult task when you’re writing on a tight deadline about a subject you know very little about. Her research on what professors assign to students confirms a lot of the things we already know – that bibliographic instruction isn’t always appreciated, that procrastination and time management are large stressors, and that student success is largely dependent on their understanding and grasp of basic IL competencies (p. 434-435).

The article really begins to shine, though, when Head shows that students often feel disadvantaged by the syllabuses that guide their coursework. 12 of 13 members of her student focus group felt that “one of their most serious obstacles is understanding professor’s expectations for assignments” (p. 435), and 48% of survey respondents felt that “a lack of information from the assigning professor stymied them the most, sometimes keeping them from beginning an assignment at all” (p. 435). Head continues:

The [content analysis] data show a lack of detail and guidance in many research assignment handouts. As a whole, the handouts offered little direction about: (1) plotting the course for research, (2) crafting a quality paper, and (3) preparing a paper that adheres to a grading rubric of some kind. (p. 435)

Head’s work identifies a major information gap that stalls the student’s attempts to produce academic research: a lack of guidance about basic research skills. Junior undergraduate students, who often have very low information literacy rates, have got to learn how to research effectively and also understand the professor’s expectations before tackling their topic, but they have been given very little information to help them along in this regard.

I don’t think that Head is trying to start a fire in the academy with this article. She’s identified a significant problem in post-secondary education but follows up by listing three remedies: more information from the professors, more IL instruction, and more proactive intervention on the part of faculty and librarians (p. 438). The article resonates because it clarifies the muddled situation we face at the reference desk when confused students find a helpful librarian, often by chance. Librarians know that a student’s information-seeking skills may not be as great as they could be, but we aren’t always thinking about what kind and amount of guidance the student has been offered before seeing us. Sometimes the student can’t find answers to the research question because they don’t even know what the research question is or how to produce an academic response to it.

Head’s article reminds me that students often have neither the skills needed to research effectively nor an understanding on how to improve those research skills in the first place. The IL help we provide at the Reference Desk is a bit of a bandaid solution for this problem. Yes, we must continue dressing those wounds, but it is imperative for us to raise the importance of basic research skills and IL competencies when we speak to our peers beyond the library. Whether you’re speaking with a faculty member or some one in student services, remind them of what students ought to be learning in basic writing and research courses. Faculty are accustomed to a research culture that has been nurtured by years of scholarship, but their students are only at the start of their own academic journies. This means that more time must be spent on basic research skills in the classroom, in one-on-one situations, and in handouts given to students. Although librarians have taken up the information literacy mantle long ago, we can’t solve this problem on our own. Raising IL competencies requires collaboration with our colleagues in the professoriate and in student support services.

note: If ever you’ve read anything by Gloria Leckie, then you’ll understand where Head is coming from in this article and why I support her argument. I’ve studied under one of Leckie’s own students, which has clearly informed my own opinions about the information seeking behavior and predicament of PSE students.

Head, A. (2008). Information literacy from the trenches: how do humanities and social science majors conduct academic research?. College & Research Libraries, 69(5), 427-45.

On information literacy, information-seeking, and microfilm

This is a narrative on microfilm followed by a thought-bubble on information literacy and information-seeking behavior.

This weekend, a student stopped by the reference desk for help locating film reviews in old newspapers. She was a little frantic and a little confused by her Theatre assignment’s requirement to use primary documents from the 1940s.  The 1940s!  She didn’t know how to search an electronic index on a computer let alone rifle through print indexes and then move to the microfilm.   Although she was a fairly smart student, this one was going to need some time.

The other librarian at the reference desk started things off by showing the student the New York Times Film Reviews, a print item that indexes film reviews by film name, actors, and perhaps directors; this text almost put the student in the right direction.  I say “almost” because like everyone’s first experiences with microform, the student was thrown off by the idea of handling film, using a giant metal reader possibly older than her parents, and working her biceps to wind through a reel from the 1940s.  There would be no mouse-clicks and no print-to-PDF options on this research assignment.

A New York Times print index: cryptic to the first-time researcher and to the seasoned librarian (Click for photo credit)

Eventually, the student located her references and could head to the film readers, but the shift in media from print to film frightened her, as it does for so many others, so she came back for help.  My colleague had left for the evening, so I took over by sitting down and explaining what the tiny codes she wrote down actually meant.  Our student was looking for film reviews about Mae West and transcribed  1950 Mr 16 : 18, 2.   I put her at ease once I explained that this was shorthand for “1950, March 16: Page 18, 2nd column”, but that lasted only until we began walking to the microfilm collection, which is located away from our learning commons.  I think we’re so used to clicking through to electronic resources that the idea of physically walking somewhere to find our reference can be unsettling.  Even though we had to walk no more than a minute and even though our reel was located on the first stack at the front of the room, she vacillated between confusion over the perceived difficulty of the task to annoyance that information discovery requires so much work.  The Internet really has altered everything we know about information discovery and information retrieval, it seems.

But this is where things change.

I can’t speak for all librarians, but it seems that every time I load a reel of film on a microfilm reader, the student immediately becomes curious about what’s going on.  This is more than a need to watch what I’m doing so they can hopefully reload the machine the next time they have a problem.  Instead, they become interested by how a small reel of film, only a couple inches in diameter, can contain the information they are looking for.  (Tonight, not only was this student interested by my handiwork; some other students studying in the room walked over to ask what I was doing and what the film stored.)  This is a newspaper reel: an archive of two weeks’ worth of news in 1940, waiting to be read by whoever needs to access it.  And unlike a digital archive, they have to manipulate the reel with their own hands.  Information has become a physical object which they can own for a moment or two.

Handling the reel turns the concept of “information” into a real, tangible thing.  To locate the information on the film we must handle the reel like a Rubik’s cube to ensure it is upright and then spin it through a reader, and then we must physically wind the reel to find 1950 Mr 16: 18, 2.  Information-seeking at this point becomes a physical exercise: our discovery leads us to the article we are looking for.  This is unlike query-based searching with databases, which might discover our article or instead return several similar articles for us to choose from (hopefully one or the other will meet our needs).

Microfilm looks daunting, but it shows us with our own eyes the amount of information available to us and how it is organized (Click for original photo)

Using microfilm, on the other hand, makes it easy for the user to see and understand the information architecture.  They can quickly learn how the information is stored (on reels), how it is located (with an index), and how to access it (with a reader).  Researching with microfilm is unlike using a search engine, which combines the steps in information retrieval into one act, thereby muddling our understanding of how the information is organized and how it can be retrieved.   Instead, researching with microfilm requires an understanding of the field’s controlled vocabulary, of the kind and amount of primary documents in the field, and the tools required to access them.  There is a little bit of work involved, but it makes the treasure to be located all the more valuable.

I’m not sure where to end with this narrative.  I don’t want to suggest that we should return to microfilm, and I don’t want to suggest that all students should take part in an IL class that requires the use of microfilm.  But it would be nice if we could help our users understand just How Much Information Is Out There in a way that using microfilm does so well.  Helping people to understand how the Internet has improved information access and retrieval, as well as helping them to see how this information is stored might improve information literacy rates.  When researching with electronic databases, we tend to think that “there’s an article for that” the same way that Apple has made us believe that “there’s an app for that.”  But information and knowledge doesn’t work this way.  If they did, then our information needs would be easily met by slotting some one else’s article or chapter (i.e. knowledge) into our information gap, and our problem would be solved.  However, information discovery, retrieval,and evaluation takes time, and patience.  If more users understood just how much knowledge is out there for them to use, it may help them understand the task they have ahead of themselves.

Photo Credit No. 1: New York Times Print Index  /  Andrew Whitis (CC)

Photo Credit No. 2: Microfilm  / anarchivist (CC)

iPads in libraries: preparing for the critical mass

iPad Display Item

The iPad makes reading, carrying, and storing ebooks easy.

Is your library ready for the iPad?  Do you have patrons requesting ebooks for their tablet or asking for reference help on a question they’ve already started mapping out on their iPad instead of a workbook?

If you haven’t seen an iPad in your library yet, then get ready for them, because in No Time Flat we’re going to see these devices on a regular basis, and it won’t be very long before they become a dominant learning technology.  It may not be when classes return in September, but I’d venture that we’ll see iPads and other tablets on a regular basis in January (i.e., after the Christmas season), and by the 2011/2012 academic year they will become a viable study aid and learning tool for a plurality of students.

We know why the iPad will work so well in academics – because of all the reasons it works well in the real world, i.e., it is a small, portable device that is large enough to reproduce A4 and 8.5×11 sheets of paper on a comparable space.  It costs the same as as a netbook but has twice the viewing space and loads of different capabilities a netbook can’t even think of doing.  Add to the fact that the iPad is packed to the gills with communicative technologies seen in our smartphones and notebook computers, and it becomes a match made in heaven.

It’s not going to be long before tablets become ubiquitous on campus, so we need to get ready for them now in libraries.  This means that we must reconfigure our programming and our resources in a manner that makes the most out of the tools our students are using.  A couple things come to mind right off the bat.  We need to push our ebook vendors for decent mobile-configured platforms.  We need to ask ourselves how our websites and streaming tutorials appear on tablets, and how much bandwidth they consume (important to anyone on a 3G/4G wireless network).  We should be asking ourselves how we can communicate to our communities of users on the devices they will carry with them when conducting research with resources we maintain on their behalf.

So many of the opportunities that tablets offer librarians lie in their deign as a communications and information storage hub.   When the day comes that most students carry tablets, we’ll be able to offer tutorials and lectures that create instant, permanent links with our users.  The iPad can change the One-Shot Library Tutorial into a lesson that pushes library content directly onto the student’s own devices.  Imagine walking to a classroom and immediately transferring to students an application that opens your browser window on their tablets so they can follow along with their iPads as opposed to staring at images projected on a wall?  Or how about having several students reading and collaborating on the same digital document with tablets, which can faithfully mimic the form factor of print?    When I send students to EEBO, they must look at renderings of 300-year-old documents on screens that do nothing to mimic the shape of pamphlets, playbills, and books.  The iPad, however, turns the viewing screen on its end to become longer than it is wide; tie it in with the power of cloud computing and we can help students learn from the same digital object on different devices.  Electronic material has become the rule instead of the exception, so we shouldn’t be surprised when students to expect us to have means to advice them on digital objects with electronic tools.

Forgive me for this blue-sky brainstorming.  For several months now I’ve watched friends say, “I want an iPad and I want it now” (I say this myself all too often, too).   We need to go further, though, and prepare ourselves for the time when students use tablets as their main learning tool.  The iPad is an e-Reader, a communicative device, and a collaboration engine all rolled up in one little package.  And since student purchasing power is strongest in September and December/January, we should get ready now for what is to follow, because in a year or two the iPad and its competitors will be as necessary to learning as a pen and pencil.  Those of use who are in the business of helping people learn how to learn must have expertise with the tools these people use to actually learn things.  This means getting ready for the iPad, its apps, and the way it will complement electronic materials.


Zeds Library News, August 8, 2010

Last week I decided to start compiling interesting news stories in Tech and Library Science together in one weekly post as a way to share links with other librarians and to build stronger communities.  This is this week’s version: The Zeds Library News, August 8, 2010:

  • Right off the top, Tiffini Travis takes her iPad for a test-run at Immersion 2010 and finds that it’s a viable laptop replacement.  Tiffini had to download one or two affordable apps and did work with a wireless keyboard, but I don’t think this is too different from purchasing MS Office and using a mouse with your laptop.  Is the iPad  a laptop killer?  Maybe not yet, but Tiffini makes clear that this kind of tech is what the future classroom experience is made of.
  • Bobbi Newman offers a lecture and Q&A on libraries and Transliteracy.  This hour-long presentation, offered by the Nebraska Library Commissions’ NCompass Live, is worth watching if you’re involved at all with information literacy.  Transliteracy is “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.” Bobbie shows how this ought to be squared off in several forms of librarianship. (I know this is something I’m going to write more about in the future.)
  • On the (information) literacy front, The Chronicle puts the spotlight on academic blended librarianship by interviewing Mark McBride, at SUNY’s Buffalo State.  Blended Librarianship “combines traditional reference skills with hardware and software know-how and [has] an interest in applying them to curriculum development and teaching”; the threads between transliteracy and IL are all over the place. (Check out the Blended Librarian website here.)
  • Rupert Colley wonders how e-books traffic is properly measured today.  What can gate counts actually account for when we encourage more and more people to access library materials online?   This is food for thought since I’m considering how to measure library tutorials beyond website click-through’s right now.
  • Peter Godwin links us to the Research Information Network (RIN) report on academic researchers and Web 2.0, which studies in part how information professionals should mediate research and researchers in a Web 2.0 landscape.  (Godwin’s blog should be required reading for anyone working in information literacy, by the way.)

New Degrees and New Jobs

This week I begin a new position working in Information Literacy and Reference Services at the Dalhousie University Libraries.   I’m excited about this posting and expect to do some great things and have a little fun along the way.  I’ve been a student and a community member at Dal for a number of years so it’s heart-warming to get the call and be asked to join the team.  Of course, there will be days that may feel more frustrating than fun (what job doesn’t have them?), but I think that on the whole everyone is going to come out ahead when it’s all said and done.

This opportunity to work at Dal and my graduation this spring from their MLIS programme at their School of Information Management has kept me busy thinking about what I’ll do with myself in my new profession. At Dal, I’ve been hired to work in information literacy and in research and reference services, and sure enough I’m experienced in both areas.  I like the service aspect of both fields, i.e., the opportunities to help students learn how to learn, to identify how to use information resources effectively, or to help someone find the tiny kernel of truth that can set a paper straight.  I’m also going to try to find some time at or outside of the workplace to do some publishable research in IL.  A large part of my time will be creating learning tutorials (something I’m already acquainted with) and maybe making use of social media, so I’d like to possibly examine their value and worth to academic librarianship.  Creating streaming instructional material can be a cumbersome process that requires a lot of time and collaboration, and the end result is often a finished project that can’t be easily tweaked, so I’m thinking about researching means to improve production rates, or researching alternative ways to produce materials which will remain adaptable to changing environments.

But I know that my professional and academic interests aren’t limited to these fields alone.  For several years now I’ve been interested in the intersections between technology and culture.  In my MLIS programme, we called this the “information society,” which is an apt term, but I’m also concerned about how tech and information affects the things we make and consume in this society – hence, the “culture” aspect. Aside from my work in IL and Reference, I’m determined to spend my evenings working on a half-finished MA thesis on the effects of modern technology on Shakespearean adaptations, but at this point I may instead convert what I’ve done in this area into an MA focused on the Technological Affects rather than on the literature itself. This would require course transfers to a different programme, but it would better reflect my research interests.

I’m leaving the most important thing to the end of this post (a definite no-no when it comes to blogging), which is my interest in applied ethics in information science.  Understanding information ethics is an imperative for me – my morals, the ethical guidelines of my workplace, and of my profession guide my thoughts and actions.  I’m also a firm believer in social justice, so I’d like to one day not only do more research in this area, but also put it into practice.  We’ll see how it happens.

So there’s a list of action items and aspirations for you.  On Tuesday, I’ll enter the trenches in my new position, so you may see a few more posts related directly to information literacy.  But with a little luck, you’ll find a few posts about technoculture and information ethics arrive in your feedreaders as well.


[header image credit]

Zeds Library News – 1 Aug 2010

I’m trying something new this weekend – each week I’m going to post a recap of pertinent news in librarianship.  It will only be a short list of links with one or two lines of editorial attached, but it should be enough to accomplish my two goals:

  1. To make better use of my feed reader. I’ve grown tired of the wayward reading and bookmarking that happens with RSS feeds.  Hopefully, I can increase my ‘uptake’ from site feeds, on a more-regular basis, once I start typing up a few thoughts on the posts I come across.
  2. To share what I’m reading with others. Like most of us out there, I like blogging and I like reading blogs.  But sometimes I don’t think we’re as connected to one another as we let on.  Even with all the social media we use to create communities, I often feel like we’re all stranded on our own desert islands; every now and again something washes up on our shore that had washed up on someone else’s shore previously.  Maybe by posting a weekly “best of library science blogs” post, I’ll be able to bring more people together.  We’ll see if it sticks.

So here we are: a Zeds Library News recap for Aug 1, 2010!

  • Wired magazine reports on Penguin Books’s 75th Birthday. Of note: Penguin’s success was built on the idea of making books of all sorts – fiction, literature, histories – affordable to all people. Penguin Books “democratized literacy by making good books as accessible as the daily newspaper.”
  • LISNews aggregates the press release that kept us buzzing late this week: III/SkyRiver’s antitrust suit against OCLC.  Monopoly? Non-for-profit consortium?  A Systems Godzilla?  You Decide.  (K.G. Schneider offers a good POV, noting that OCLC may be a behemoth, but at least “OCLC is our behemoth – yours and mine . . . [rather than a] for-profit behemoth in it for itself.”)
  • The Library of Congress tells us it’s okay to jailbreak our iPhones.  The Chronicle reports that the The Copyright Office has completed its triennial review (what a word..) of what should have DMCA exemptions and has determined that wireless phones may be jailbreaked, and DVDs may finally be lawfully be copied for educational, noncommercial, or documentary use.  Read the entire LOC press release here.
  • The summer political season in Canada has been more than just barbeques and rodeos.  The Conservative government’s decision to throw away the mandatory long-form census has put the entire nation up in arms, and our Chief Statistician resigned when gov’t leaders suggested he approved such a measure. In the mean time, the National Statistical Council of Canada, a government oversight body of sorts, has been trying to reach a compromise before it’s too late.  Tracey Lauriault at has done some digging for everyone else so we can look behind the curtain at the NSCC.
  • Does anyone still use  CNN Money reports that the search engine is rolling out an “Ask the Community” feature where your questions are answered by real live human beings.  Kind of like a library reference desk, eh?   (Thanks to Points of Reference for connecting the dots on this one.)

{n.b.  It would be incredibly wrong of me not link to my friend, Jhameia, whose regular rounds of links in a different field inspired me to give it a shot for LIS.]