Saturday, August 3, 2013

Web-based Polling in Library Instruction

Jared Hoppenfeld's article "Keeping students engaged with web-based polling in the library instruction session" introduces web-polling as a means to promote student engagement.  His literature review covers several areas, such as the main constituents of library instruction in academic libraries--Millennials, active learning, Audience Response Systems and web-based polling, as well as mobile technologies.  Indeed, he has provided a thorough overview of the topic, bringing to light some web-based polling sites I was not aware of previously: Text the Mob and SMS Poll

Of more particular interest to me, he offers suggestions on types of questions that a library instructor might ask during a typical library instruction session.  Hoppenfeld starts with an icebreaker, such as "How happy are you that college football season is here?"  If the class takes place closer to Valentine's Day he might ask about profits related to chocolate sales (243).  This signals to students that the class will not be a regular library lecture class, and it also introduces them to the polling software.

Hoppenfeld's second set of questions deals more with student knowledge.  Where are they coming from?  What have they tried when conducting research?  He may ask where they might discover a journal article, in a catalog or in a database.  "An open-ended poll is also used to find out what resources the students have previously used for their research" (243).  This offers an opportunity to discuss what they have tried and explain why they would want to take advantage of the library resources.  What are the pros and cons of searching Google, Wikipedia, or


Monday, April 1, 2013

Information Literacy Courses at Idaho State University

            The Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL) defines information literacy as “a set of abilities requiring individuals to ‘recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information.’”[1]  Over the last decade the Oboler Library has advocated for and educated individuals across the ISU campus about information literacy.  ISU librarians used to teach a two-credit library research course that helped students earn a certificate as media specialists or school librarians.  The College of Education sponsored this certification program; however, with the retirement of one of the professors in that college, the program died.
            Since that time, librarians have promoted information literacy in workshops and presentations.  Library representatives on campus committees have also explained and advocated the importance of information literacy in today’s information-rich society.  The foundation they laid prepared faculty for the course proposals put forth in recent years.  Therefore, Curriculum Council accepted a proposal in Fall 2011 to create a one-credit course titled LLIB/ACAD 1115: Information Research.  This change first appeared in ISU’s Undergraduate Catalog: 2012-2013.  However, students first enrolled in the course during the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 semesters, taking it as an experimental course.  The Student Success Center assisted the Library to ensure the class appeared on the class schedule that first year, and the course was cross-listed as an ACAD and LLIB course with the experimental number designation 1199.
            Initially, the class met twice a week during the second block of eight-week classes.  This changed in Fall 2012, and the students attended class once a week for sixteen weeks.  It seems that student success increased with these changes due to the fact that the work spread out over a longer period, rather than loaded into eight weeks when students tend to be the busiest at the end of the semester.
            LLIB/ACAD 1115 seeks to help students accomplish the following objectives:
  • Identify sources of academic, popular, and professional research
  • Show evidence that you can select relevant and credible sources in support of a research question
  • Summarize, interpret, and analyze sources
  • Document sources in an accepted style format
  • Navigate search engines, article databases, and library catalogs to find relevant sources
  • Demonstrate an ability to distinguish between primary and secondary sources
            Assignments every two weeks require that students find a specific type of source, like a reference article, a book, a scholarly article, a newspaper article, etc.  They must explain how they found the source, summarize it, and evaluate its credibility.  Completion of these assignments prepares them to create an annotated bibliography, which is the final project of the course.  In-class activities also get students on track to complete the bi-weekly assignments.  Students who have completed the course often say that this course should be required for all students or that they wished they had taken the course as freshmen, because it would have been very helpful.
            Library faculty believed this course would be beneficial for all students.  Consequently, they put forth a proposal to change the course to a three-credit course and for the course to be considered as an option to fulfill a general education requirement for undergraduate students.  In recent years the General Education Requirements Committee (GERC) had drafted a revision of the requirements (, and information literacy appeared as one of the new objectives.  Beginning in Fall 2013, incoming students must meet either the critical thinking or information literacy objective.  LLIB 1115: Introduction to Information Research will be a course that fulfills the information literacy objective, since the Curriculum Council and GERC both approved the necessary proposals. 
            LLIB 1115: Introduction to Information Research will be taught in Fall 2013 as a three-credit course with the following objectives:
  • Determine the nature and 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 and value system
  • Use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose
  • Understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally
            These objectives were adapted by the University and Library from the ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.
            Currently, the Library plans to teach five sections of LLIB 1115 with one section being taught entirely online in an asynchronous format where students will complete assignments independently and view course materials and recorded presentations online.  The other four sections will meet on the Pocatello campus in computer laboratories to accommodate the hands-on nature of the course instruction and assignments.  Oboler Library faculty look forward to this new endeavor and are working to make this course a valuable one that will contribute to future student success.

[1] Association of College and Research Libraries.  Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education.”  Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education, ACRL, 2013. Web.  27 February 2013.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Photo from:

Recently Oboler Library was able to purchase the Archive of Americana database from Readex.  The majority of the content of this database is the U.S. Congressional Serial Set which contains documents and reports of the United States Congress beginning with the 15th Congress in 1817 to the 103rd Congress in 1994.  The documents of the first fourteen Congresses are collected in what is known as the American State Papers.  These are also collected in the Archive of Americana and can be searched separately or together with the Serial Set.

Each of the documents that is included in the Serial Set is consecutively numbered within each Congress and within each type of document.  The documents are House and Senate Documents, House and Senate Reports, and Senate Executive Reports and Documents and Senate Treaty Documents.

Photo from:

The basic material in the Serial Set are the reports for the House and Senate that are written for the various committees to accompany legislation as it passes through Congress.  Also included in the Serial Set are any documents that Congress orders to be printed as well as treaties and reports of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations  that deal with treaties and of various committees that deal with nominations.  

In the early years many Executive Branch departments’ publications were also included in the Set.  In the 19th and early 20th century you will find, for example, annual reports of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Geological Survey, and the Department of War as well as other departments.    The Official Record of the War of the Rebellion of both the Army and Navy were originally printed as part of the Serial Set.  Bulletins of the Bureau of Ethnology and the Geological Survey which encompass much early research, especially of the American West, were included in the Serial Set.  Reports of the original surveys of the West by Hayden, Fremont, and Powell were recorded in the Serial Set.
Photo from:

Though not usually part of the Serial Set, when ordered by Congress to be included, you will find hearings such as those conducted to investigate the sinking of the Titanic and reports of the House Committee on Un-American Activities.  Within the Serial Set can be found documents on such various topics as the building of the western railroads, impeachments, and rearing silk worms.  Almost any topic you can think of is covered in the Serial Set and it is a valuable resource for more than just the History or Political Science departments.  The Serial Set contains information for the social sciences as well as the health sciences and many others.

While Oboler Library has many of these volumes in the Government Documents collection, the acquisition of this valuable database provides access online in searchable full text to the complete collection.  Many of the physical volumes that the Library owns are extremely fragile and many were available only in microcard or microfiche formats.  

U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Wisconsin Historical Society (Emma Schroeder 2008)

Guest post authored by Beth Downing, Government Documents Librarian at Idaho State University.

Friday, January 4, 2013

About Article on Finding Legitimate Scholarships

Students wanting to attend college can look for scholarships to fund their education.  There are many legitimate scholarships available; however, many scholarship offers deceive individuals into sharing personal information or sending them money.  Allen Grove writes a good article on avoiding such scams on  Titled "Scholarship Scams: 10 Signs that a Scholarship Isn't Legitimate" it emphasizes the importance of not sharing credit card information, sending money, giving personal information, and believing claims that sound too good to be true.  In most cases they really are too good to be true.  Avoid clicking on those links.

I liked this article, because it calls on individuals to be critical thinkers and develop their information-literacy skills.  Remember to evaluate the information you find.  Increasing its own credibility, the article identifies an author with a link to his credentials.  The easy road may consist of accepting information uncritically in life.  Be careful of taking that road.  Who knows where it may lead you.

"Sunrise on the Great Alpine Road." or Français: "L'aube se lève sur la Great Alpine Road, dans le Victora (Australie)." by Flagstaffotos
 Are you still baffled about how to find real scholarships?  It will require some work and searching, but the article listed at least four websites worth looking at in order to find potentially applicable scholarships.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Mentoring Model and Louis H. Sullivan's Career

I recently completed a peer-reviewed article that has been published in The Idaho Librarian

"What Librarians Can Learn About the Mentoring Model Through the Professional Career of Louis H. Sullivan."  
by Spencer J. Jardine


American architect Louis H. Sullivan designed many buildings in turn-of-the-century America, including some of the first skyscrapers (Figures 2, 3, & 4).  These high-rising edifices represented a new age of possibilities and hope; however, before designing skyscrapers, Sullivan’s imagination soared with the lofty ideas shared by his contemporaries.  Walt Whitman, Herbert Spencer, and Hippolyte Taine expanded Sullivan’s intellectual horizons and fostered his ambitions.  These idea men served as his mentors and motivated him to aspire higher, which eventually influenced his architectural designs and professional writings, thus inspired a rising generation architects.

Likewise, librarians can gain inspiration from Louis Sullivan’s reading experience and professional career.  First, librarians can act as mediators and introduce patrons to authors who then act as mentors.  Second, experienced librarians can recommend reading material to young professionals in the field that enhances their professional development.  Third, experienced librarians can serve as mentors by writing books and articles that inspire imagination and creativity while also challenging younger librarians to take risks.

Additionally, Sullivan’s Autobiography of an Idea (1956) supports a thesis statement given by Barbara Sicherman (1989) that librarians should remember: “Reading is not simply a passive form of cultural consumption, that something happens to readers that becomes imperative for them to understand, and that reading stimulates desire rather than simply pacifying it” (p. 216).  Reading the writings of some of his great contemporaries fueled a lifelong passion for learning in Sullivan that found expression his architectural designs as well as his writing, thus leaving a lasting mark on American architecture and culture.  In this way Sullivan models the mentoring process: learning, acting, and sharing.

In-class Activities for Information-Literacy Classes

This week and last week we are talking about finding and evaluating web sources on the Internet.  Last week talked about some of the basics of the Internet, defining the worldwide web, the Internet, the invisible web, domains, and how search engines work.  We invited the students to practice finding sources online.  One group searched in the database (Academic Search Complete), another searched a search engine (Google), and another searched a meta search engine (Dogpile).

These worksheets can be found here:
In-class activities seem to have prepared the students better for the out-of-class assignments.  They practice searching and evaluating sources.


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Guest Posts on Blogs

Bloggers of the world beware!  Individuals want to perpetrate scams by posing as guest bloggers on your blog.  Other bloggers have written about this already.  The Alpha Parent has written a post titled "Bloggers Beware: Guest Post Scams!"  She speaks from experience, having posted an article written by a guest.  Now she knows not to do this.  To her credit she did not include one hyperlink within the guest's post, because it did not seem relevant to the rest of her post.  Later on the guest asked that she include the link and kept pestering her to do that.  This was the intent--to increase traffic to their site.

Longrider expounds a bit more in his post titled "The Guest Post Scam."  I have only had one guest post on my blog.  It's truly flattering when someone comes knocking on your door saying how they like your blog and want to write something for your blog.  Sofia Rasmussen wanted to write about Creative Writing PhDs five or six months ago, so I looked into her and decided to let her post.  Her links appeared to be mostly legitimate, though it did seem she wanted to promote the Online PhD website, which did not seem like a big deal, considering that the link related to the content in her post. 

This week I received an email from the Online PhD website owners:

-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Mcnealy [mailto:joseph.mcnealy[at]]
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 12:00 PM
Subject: Link Removal Request -

        You currently have a link on your site pointing to our
website.  We have recently received warning from Google that they are
suspicious of link trading schemes surrounding this, and we want to make
sure that you are taking the necessary precautionary measures so that your
site is not adversely affected.

We are requesting that you remove the link back to our site.

The link on your page can be found at the URL below:

Please let us know once the link has been removed.  Thank you in advance for
your cooperation and sincerest apologies for any inconvenience this may have

Best regards,

Joseph Mcnealy

It appears that Google has been trying to deal with "link trading schemes," which seems like a good thing.  If suddenly the results on their searches are unfairly schewed, then their search engine produce becomes less valuable.

In response to their request, I have made a screenshot image of their Online PhD website.  Hopefully, this answers their question.  Perhaps I ought to be a bit more careful who I allow to post to my blog.

It never hurts to apply the tried-and-true evaluation criteria.  Here's a page on the ISU website with some criteria worth applying: Evaluating Information--Applying the CRAAP Test.

Friday, August 24, 2012

LLIB/ACAD 1115: Information Research Flier

LLIB 1115/ACAD 1115: Information Research
Course is designed to fulfill the following objective:
“Locate relevant sources and use them critically and responsibly.”
"Ever wanted a class that would help you learn how to conduct better research and find credible sources for your research projects?  This course is designed to help you recognize when information is needed, then find, evaluate, and use it effectively and ethically.  Explore a variety of ways to find reliable sources worth using/documenting in support of academic projects.   Learn how to create an annotated bibliography.   Sign up today."

Class begins August 27, 2012 and runs all semester. 

One credit.  Must have computer account. 


This flier announces the details for a course that will be taught at Idaho State University in Fall 2012 semester.  There are 40 seats that can be filled.  LLIB/ACAD 1115: Information Research is a course designed to help students become more savvy information seekers, going beyond Google as they search for reliable sources of information in support of academic projects.

For the past year this course has been an experimental course.  Now it is in the catalog as an official course.  It functions as an information-literacy course and is designed to help students gain skills that will transfer over to other courses and into life in general.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Evaluation Form for a One-credit Information Literacy Course

Last year I taught a one-credit, information-literacy course for the first time.  As an experimental course it was sponsored by ISU's Student Success Center. It was titled ACAD 1199: Information Research and ran during the last eight weeks of the semester, meeting twice a week.  In the first semester I created a student evaluation form to gather information from the students to understand how much work they put into the course, how effective the professor was, and how useful the course was overall.  This was an important thing to do as it gave me firsthand feedback directly from the students.

It is a bit lengthy, but I wanted to get a lot of information from the students before they left.  Have you created your own evaluation form, or do you administer one created by your institution?

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Information Literacy

Information Literacy
Information Literacy ,
originally uploaded by Ewa Rozkosz.
Here's another photo with the words "information literacy." I like it. The reflection off the surface is a nice light effect.

Information Literacy

Information Literacy
Information Literacy ,
originally uploaded by Ewa Rozkosz.
Here's a beautiful and clean photo with the words "information literacy." I just like it.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Writing Research Questions

William Badke's book Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog includes some very useful information.  Early in the book he discusses the importance of developing an interesting and a good research question.  Definitely, some questions are better than others, and, frankly, some are just bad-- they have very little promise at being successful in an academic setting.  Following is his summary comment:
In my experience, the best research questions are simple ones that still require a good deal of analysis to answer.  If you start with a highly complex question your analysis is going to have be that much more complex.  The ideal is to have a question so simple and clear that you can actually see the goal before you, in your mind's eye. and the path you need to take to get there.  Yet the answer must require some struggle to come to.  And it must be capable of leading you to provide concrete evidence to support it.  You use the evidence you gather as a means to discover the solution rather than as the solution itself.  (36)
Badke's appendix offers a list of ten research questions that he has qualified as good and bad.  He notes that a bad research question is one that requires a yes/no answer, or requires a simple discovery of a fact.  This is not a college research question, but a report.  He writes: "A research question is more than discovery of a fact.  It has to deal with an issue that can be analyzed in depth" (233).  Therefore, a question asking how long is the longest bridge is not as good as a question asking what kinds of materials would be needed to build the longest bridge.  Remember, does it ask for analysis?  If it does, then this is better than a research questions that only requires the discovery of a fact, or a report on a set of facts.  College should challenge students to think and evaluate, rather than just regurgitate information.

Another bad question may ask a question that demands a connection between two things or phenomenon that cannot be determined with available statistics, reports, or publications in general.  Badke uses this question to illustrate this point: "What effect does homelessness have on the price of beds in Canada?" (233).  Finding statistics or reports that would connect these two aspects of the question would be mighty difficult.
"First Business Inn Deluxe Double Room."  See
Other bad questions may be unfocused.  What has happened to __________ politician since the scandal that ruined their career?  What is going on with _____________ since she earned her billions?  The broad nature of these questions make them undesirable as research questions.  There could be hundreds of thousands of sources on a popular cultural figure, so how does the student know what to filter and what to reference in the paper?  Badke's suggestion for a better question goes like this: "Is Bill Gates' plan to give away a large portion of his wealth sufficiently well organized to ensure that the money achieves the goals he has set for it?" (234).  The student can envision a clear path to investigate and will understand when he/she has come close to answering it adequately.  The previously broad question would require a book with multiple chapters.

If the connections between two different occurrences can be seen, then this kind of question may be great for research.  Badke brings up the question of a country's Child Welfare Program, asking if the scrutiny in the media over the last few years has spurred new legislation.  A student could go and look at popular literature (newspapers and magazines) to determine whether increased publicity on this topic did in fact precede movements in state or national legislative bodies to change the law.
"[19/365] celtic connections." By werewegian.
Overly simplistic questions that call for a report and not an analysis are bad research questions.  For example: "What happened in Afghanistan during the last ten years?"  "What is going on with South American governments?"  Choose a particular aspect of the larger topic and ask a more focused question.  Sometimes it is better to ask "How?" and "Why?"  This requires some digging and searching.

One good question: "How could the looting of museums in Iraq in 2003 have been avoided?" (235).  Research would uncover how the lootings took place, which would open up the field for the researcher to choose some viable plan for preventing a similar occurrence from happening again.  Badke writes: "In hindsight, it should be possible to look at what happened and show what protections could have been devised to prevent the looting.  Considerable writing has been done on the issue, so there should be lots of information" (235).  In the end, students will want to be able to find lots of sources to back up their main points.  Being able to focus on the points within the sources that relate directly to their research question will save them time and yield a clearer argument.

Avoid research questions that ask for multiple points to be addressed.  Remember to be simple and avoid too much complexity, particularly if your paper is limited to six or eight pages in length.  If you as the writer are confused about all the points you are trying to make, then the reader may well be just as confused.
"Leaning, New style sount, stacked 3 high" by Oran Viriyincy on

Monday, July 9, 2012

Electronic Feedback with Polleverywhere & Library Instruction

On June 29th I presented ideas on clicker or audience response systems, online survey software, and text messaging in the classroom to a group of librarians and library students at the Summer Retreat for Librarians at the University of Chapman in Orange, California.

Here's a better description of the presentation:
Mobile, Instant, & Electronic Feedback to Increase Participation and Learning in the Classroom              
Spencer Jardine, Idaho State University
Asking questions remains one of the fundamental tools in a teacher's tool belt and can increase effectiveness in the library instruction classroom. Using free survey and polling technology, like and Polleverywhere, can guide library instructors to adjust to the needs of each class. Come learn how to enhance student engagement, learning, and satisfaction in library workshops. Understand the strengths of the free software and how to make it work best for you.
The full schedule describes the other presentations and breakout sessions that occurred during the retreat.

See the presentation below via

Friday, June 22, 2012

Teaching Non-Traditional Students in the Library

Non-traditional students can be the most rewarding ones to teach in the library.  They often have more questions, are more lively, and seem to be more grateful for library instruction.

This week I taught a class full of non-traditional students.  I uploaded my outline presentation to Slideshare and titled it "Library Research" on the presentation, though the more accurate title may be: "TGE 0199: Library Instruction for Non-Traditional Students."  These students, most of them anyway, had to earn a GED in order to make it to college. This class was helping them transition into college.

See the presentation below:
We used the Cephalonia Method during our tour.  The questions given to students were color coded to correspond to the different floors of the Library.  I printed out call numbers to specific books and maps that helped to answer some of the questions; these I handed to students and coached them in finding the materials along the way.

How do you teach non-traditional students?  Do you ever teach classes that consist only of non-traditional students?  What are their strengths? 

On the whole I enjoye teaching the non-traditional students, because they seem more attentive, ask more questions, and are glad to learn in most cases.