Thursday, December 13, 2007

Justification for Previous Post

After "publishing" the previous post, I realized it might seem strange to include an entry on Photo Sharing in an information-literacy blog. The Association of College and Research Libraries (a subdivision of the American Library Association) approved a set of Information-Literacy Standards on January 18, 2000. These standards, as well as an explanation for their need in today's world, can be found at the following website: ACRL Information-Literacy Standards.

This site says: "Information literacy is 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 Information literacy also is increasingly important in the contemporary environment of rapid technological change and proliferating information resources." Therefore, when individuals realize they need information that will help them share their digital photos with others they need to be able "to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information." My pathfinder seeks to facilitate that process. Hopefully, my explanations of websites and photo-sharing services will connect individuals with useful resources that can aid them to learn quickly how to take full advantage of prevalent photo-sharing services.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Photo-Sharing Pathfinder

The following links may be useful in helping you to quickly learn how to share your photos with friends, co-workers, students, etc. A majority of these links were used in a Web 2.0 workshop on photo sharing, which was given in the Eli M. Oboler Library on December 11, 2007. A brief description and or title accompany each hyperlink.

What is photo sharing?

· Quick Online Tips says: “Flickr is a revolution in photo storage, sharing and organization, making image management an easy, natural and collaborative process. Get comments, notes, and tags on your photos, post to any blog, share and chat live and more! Flickr claims to be the best online image management and photo sharing application.

“If you are a Flickr newbie, read How to get the most out of Flickr, Tips for Flickr Beginners and the Official FAQ. You can also combine Picassa and Gmail to upload photos to Flickr, turn your blog into a moblog and listen to the Flickr Song. Did you know the most popular camera on Flickr was the Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT.”

The rest of the page offers links to official Flickr tools and third-party tools for Flickr.

· Notice the link above titled, "How to Get the Most Out of Flickr." It tells you some of the potential uses for Flickr. It can tell you how to use Flickr with your blog, cameraphone, RSS feeds, etc. Also, the page gives instructions on how to organize your photos, create a group for a wedding, reunion, or event, and share private photos with family and friends.

Which photo-sharing services are the best?

· Many like their accounts: Webware Article. This link points to an article written November 13, 2007 and announces the fact that 2 billion photos had been uploaded to They mention that Photobucket and Facebook sites had already reached that milestone months ago.

· Some prefer Picasa Web Albums: Picasa vs Flickr. Rob Neville shares his opinion that Picasaweb surpasses Flickr in its ease of use, user-friendly features, and its off-line editing program.

· Still, others choose different services: Web Photo Sharing Site Faceoff. While this article is rather dated as far as technology and Web2.0 are concerned (Sept. 5, 2005), it does name 14 photo-sharing services one can choose from. A couple of graphs lay out the data, showing the capabilities of each service for easy comparison.

· There are lots to choose from: Online photo sharing for snapshot photographers. Here you can look at a graph that rates 21 photo-sharing services, while also detailing storage space, fees, viewer experience, uploading management, file types, resolution, and special features. After checking the links for each service I discovered that three no longer work: AGFAPHOTO, Image Station, and Yahoo! Photo. The AGFA link would not load. Image Station will no longer accept new members; its site officially closes February 1, 2008. Yahoo! Photo died, because Yahoo! decided to devote all its photo-sharing energies to Flickr—it’s more popular and successful service.

· In this YouTube video (requires high-speed internet to view) a young, computer-savvy person discusses the question of which photo-sharing service is the best. He ventures to say that it depends on what you want to do with your photos and where your friends are. Additionally, he recommends that you save your digital photos on several photo-sharing websites, since one site may vanish at any given time: Best Photo Sharing Site. [Chances are that Picasa and Flickr will be around for a long time, as well as photo-sharing sites backed by large corporations.] Length of time: 1:31.

Getting started with photo-sharing services, or how is it done?

· Note: high-speed internet may be necessary to access and view the following video clips.

· See YouTube clip title “ Using Picasa – Part 1”: Picasa 2 (newest verion) can be downloaded at the following website: The video lasts seven minutes fifteen seconds (7:15), and it shows you how to get started with the Picasa desktop program for working with digital photos.

· Using Picasa – Part 2”: In this second video, you can learn how to create web albums, email photos, print photos, order photos, select photos, and transfer photos from your camera. It is well-done and focused on the task at hand. Length of time: 8:33.

· This YouTube video clip stars a young man who explains how to use Picasa in very straightforward terms: Jasonthenerd. Length of time: 9:13.

Future impact of Social Networking:

· This blog includes the comments of a panel of experts on the future of social networking. It does focus more on the relationship between this phenomenon and libraries than on society as a whole.

RSS Feeds, Websites, and Blogs:

· It is possible to upload photos to your account and create an RSS feed that updates photos on your website or blog in real time. This could potentially save on staff time by circumnavigating the webmaster; whether your administration trusts you enough to do that may be another matter.

On resizing photos:

Learning how to resize photos has been a real challenge for me, and I confess that I still am not sure exactly how to do this. It may be necessary to purchase or download an editing program in addition to Picasa to resize photos. The first link below includes some programs with reviews that can edit photos and potentially resize them.

1. Edit photos and resize them with these programs.

2. Discussion on Picasa-Help page regarding resizing photos and how many pixels to keep for optimal resolution.

3. More on resizing within Picasa Web Albums.

4. Picasa-Help links about how to resize photos using Picasa Web Albums.

Please offer me any feedback you have regarding the content in this post, my workshop, information-literacy topic, or social networking issue.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How do you know if it's a scholarly journal?

Have you ever had this question? At Idaho State University a particular Biology 101 class is required to do several assignments to familiarize themselves with library resources. One of the questions asks that they find a peer-reviewed journal and make a photocopy of an article from our collection of printed journals or print out a full-text version of an article in a database. We use EBSCOHost interfaces and databases, so it can be easy to tell students just to check the box that says "Scholarly (Peer-Reviewed) Journals" when they begin a search or click on the link that says "Academic Journals" once the computer returns its results.

I am never quite satisfied with that answer, because it seems that students may find a book review within an academic journal, but this would not satisfy the criteria for their assignment. Typically, scholarly journals do not have flashy covers, but when students are working at a computer workstation they cannot see the journal/magazine covers. Scholarly articles generally contain a colon in the title, separating the general topic from its particular focus. Ex: "Eating disorder not otherwise specified in an inpatient unit: the impact of altering the DSM-IV criteria for anorexia and bulimia nervosa."

What should students know when they are looking for scholarly, peer-reviewed journals? The Idaho State University reference and instruction librarians have developed a web page that walks students through the decision-making process and compares the scholarly right next to the popular. It can be a great start for students who are puzzled about the matter.

On the other hand, if they want to know right now [post haste] it might be best to point them to where they can find a quick answer. I conducted a quick search a few minutes ago on "anorexia nervosa." It returned thousands of results; I had not specified any limitations on the search, but I found a journal title to check, Philosophy, Psychiatry & Psychology. I quickly copied and pasted it into the search box, pressed enter, and it returned lots of options. Of course, this scared me at first. "Oh no, I don't know how to do this. I didn't do it right." However, on looking more closely at the results I found the desired title down low on the list. I don't know why it returned those other results, but once I selected the proper title it took me to a detailed record of the serial in question. One of the fields is titled "Refereed" and for this particular serial it say "Yes." I tried today for the first time; for some reason I thought that I would have to consult the paper version. Talk about scary--using a printed index!!! No worries, though, because the Head of Reference says Ulrichs will no longer be selling the print version; it will all be online. Sounds like good news for students, professors, and librarians.

Hopefully I can remember to point students to the site in the future. We do subscribe to it. We have it on our list of databases at least. That's what I have to say about knowing whether or not a source is scholarly or not--at least today. Perhaps someone, someday will comment on this blog. What do I need to do to get people to read my stuff? I believe my entries contain useful information and questions; one reason I think they will be useful down the road is that I should be able to include them in my portfolio for evaluation. This may or may not be true, but I consider it to be a teaching log to include in my personal teaching portfolio at least.

This blog really does prepare me to answer students' questions. It affords me the opportunity to articulate my ideas in words that can then be expressed later. Sometimes I do rather well communicating ideas on the spur of the moment, but other times I fail miserably. My level of effectiveness increases when I first write down/type my ideas, because it forces me to organize my ideas into words that make sense in an understandable pattern/order.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Objective: Help Freshmen Feel Comfortable w/Library Things

Today I will be teaching the First-Year Seminar [FYS] students again. In fact, I will teach the same section that I taught on Monday. We talked about plagiarism and academic honesty. This was the class where a student challenged me for plagiarizing the PowerPoint Presentation. Yesterday I taught a different group of students and led them in a discussion on academic integrity. One of my colleagues attended the session, and today she came and talked with me about how surprised she was at how rude the students acted in the class. At one point I had to say, "We will wait until the students in the back finish talking before going on with the discussion." I feel that doing this causes those students who are disruptive to understand that their peers do not appreciate having to wait for them or having them be disruptive so much.

One student in the front of the class took me off guard. He vocalized his ideas so loudly at times that it took me aback and I did not know how to respond to this behavior. I would almost say he was a bit aggressive and did not believe in the value of academic honesty. What do you do when students undermine your ideas by their attitude and comments? I think of my recent involvement in creating the Banned and Challenged Books Display. One of the quotations I read said something like, "The way to fight a bad idea is to present a better one," meaning that to repress or censor an idea really does not solve the problem.

Today I will be showing the catalog, inviting students to find a book on the shelves, and demonstrating how to use the EBSCOHost Academic Search Complete database. There's always so much to teach students. About a month ago I updated the worksheet, outline, and objectives for FYS. In our library instruction meeting we determined our objectives for the FYS sessions. The overarching objective is to help all students become comfortable using the library, especially the at-risk freshmen. We believe that pairing the students into groups of two or three would be useful in making it a more positive and stress-free experience.

More specifically, we want students to be inclined to ask for help at the Reference Desk or through our Ask-A-Librarian form. We want them to be able to search the library catalog effectively and be able to locate a book on the shelves. Sending the students out to find a book in the stacks will take time; however, if students look with another student we are hoping that it will take less time. Once they return from retrieving a book we will show them the database searching. Hopefully, there will be time to do this. Students will be completing exercises on a worksheet, so first they will conduct a few basic searches in the library catalog. I need to remember and give them some book jackets to search for a book. I've forgotten to do this in the past. Time management will be a factor. I want to include some Affluenza searches.

I better go and practice a few of the searches before heading up to the classroom.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

First-Year Seminar: Plagiarism Discussion

Yesterday I taught the First-Year Seminar [FYS] students for the first time. One of my colleagues actually co-teaches this class with another faculty member on campus. Well, I felt pretty nervous, and it did not help that my throat kept going super dry. Basically, we have an outline that library instructors can choose to follow for each of the two sessions we have with a FYS class. In the first part we discuss academic honesty and academic dishonesty, focusing on avoiding plagiarism. Someone had already created a PowerPoint presentation to help lead a discussion on the topic. Most of the slides pop up with a question, and then the librarian lets the students answer that question. I had heard that many of the students do not participate, which should not be too surprising. With that in mind I wanted to find a method or technique that would elicit more responses. I remembered something from working in the Center for Teaching at the University of Iowa--the pair and share technique. This means students work in twos or threes to discuss the question, then they share with the rest of the class. I decided to have students write down their answers first, then pair, then share. I thought it worked rather well.

The class began at noon, yet students were mostly full of energy. This class talked a lot among themselves [not always about the topic at hand], but they did well in participating along the way. One student seemed rather confrontational in the sense that he challenged me on a couple of occasions. He accused me of plagiarizing the PowerPoint presentation, which did catch me off-guard. Fortunately, my colleague spoke up and said it was not plagiarizing and invited me to tell him why. I said that the presentation had been created by another library employee, and that I represented the library in using it. Another student also spoke up by saying that I never claimed I had created it. She mentioned that one of the slides had said someone else had created it, although when I looked at the PPt presentation again I did not see that anywhere. The confrontational student was not mean-spirited, just full of energy and wanting to impress (I assume) his classmates. It seems that some students feel they know it already and feel put-out to attend something so basic as a discussion on plagiarism. Truly, many students probably do know about plagiarism and academic honesty, but I believe they can still learn something if they listen and desire to learn something.

After bringing back the class from a group discussion, I let one of the students answer. She spoke softly, and the "confrontational" student kept on talking. I let the student finish her thought and waited for the "confrontational" student to stop talking. When I had his attention I politely [and shakily as I was nervous. I hope I was not rude or demeaning.] said "I believe your classmates would appreciate it if you would listen to them while they are talking." He piped down, and the rest of the class period he listened attentively to the comments of others. He was one of the brightest in the classroom if you ask me. He also offered an answer to the question: "What is academic dishonesty?" He chimed in that skipping class could be a form of academic dishonesty to which I added, "yes, if you want to gain an education and you skip class then you are being dishonest with yourself." My colleague later asked who had given this answer and told him that he would give him credit for that answer.

I don't think that the student held a grudge against me. If anything, I think he gained some respect from me. Perhaps that is wishful thinking, but his countenance/appearance did not suggest he had any negative feelings for me. It can me scary to play the part of the teacher in stepping up and asking for some order in a classroom, especially if you are a new instructor. True, I have had many teaching experiences in the past, but I do not know if I asserted myself in similar ways in the past. I hope this experience remains a positive one in my mind and that I assert myself in positive ways in the future classes I teach.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Lecturing & Participation

Today I observed an instruction session taught by one of my colleagues. She had fifty minutes to talk about how to do research and search the library catalog. While she said otherwise, I thought she looked and acted in a composed manner. She did not hurry through the material or raise her voice unnecessarily. She frequently asked the students if they had any questions and sincerely wanted to help them.

I liked her approach. She began by talking about her experience in doing research, particularly how she begins a project by gathering background information in dictionaries or encyclopedias. She brought reference materials for all to see, emphasizing the importance of gathering basic information. These resources can really be useful, because they generally include a list of bibliographic references that they can then go look up for more information. By looking in the reference materials, students can also find buzzwords they had not considered previously, and then they can use these keywords in their searches.

As she explained the importance of gathering background information in the early stages of research she drew an inverted triangle on the board. The broad part of the triangle represents the background-finding stage, and then students can start consulting books for more specific information. She did not write in the point of the triangle, but I speculate that students could consult articles for even more specific information. In the next class on Friday she will teach this same group about searching in the databases for articles. Of course, she might consider the student's thesis to be the point in the triangle, but I like the idea of articles as it most nearly matches the other options, that is reference materials and books.

Anyway, the instructional session went rather well if you ask me. In the future perhaps I could remember to go a little slower or talk a little quieter. My colleague mentioned how she was walking by the instruction room a few years ago, and she could hear the library instructor talking so high, fast, and so loud that she determined students could possibly be learning as well as they could otherwise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Invisible Web

In the instruction sessions I like to talk to students about the "invisible web" or what some people call the "deep web." Instructors ask me to tell their students the difference between a simple Google search and a search in the databases. Basically, search engines can send out "crawlers" or "spiders" to gather links to their servers. They input this information into their own database, so a search on Google is actually a search on their database. They rank their results by relevance using an algorithm that determines to some extent how easily accessible or easy it would be to find a certain page. Theoretically, the most authoritative sources on a specific topic would have the most links to their web page. This does not happen in reality as many individuals or businesses create tons of links to their pages, so that their pages will climb the list of Google results. Some political or television persons tell people to embed links into their web sites to push their agendas. Several years ago, such a prank was pulled as tons of links included "miserable failure" in its html code with a link to the White House home page. Sometimes these are called Google Bombs:
Additionally, web search engines must follow internet protocols. This means that if one of their crawlers comes upon a web site with a robot extension, that robot is required to ignore that web site. Search engines do not have the authority to read and retrieve everything on the internet. Some information belongs to publishers and authors and must be accessed with a user name and password, which incidentally requires a fee. Databases house information that costs lots of money; perhaps it should be stated that the information cost a lot of money in producing and the publishers/authors must be compensated accordingly. Academic libraries, therefore, purchase multiple subscriptions to online databases to enhance the research efforts of the students and scholars they serve. Tuition money from students helps to pay for these databases, so students should take advantage of the vast amounts of knowledge that can be found in these databases.
Databases include newspaper articles, book reviews, popular magazine articles, and scholarly articles. College students should endeavor to find the most accurate and relevant information for their assignments. Often the most authoritative information can be found in the scholarly or peer-reviewed articles. Scholars critique other scholars' work before it can get published. Scholars that submit their work often must edit their work before it can be published. This rigorous activity helps to promote the advancement of truth and knowledge.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

New Librarian Mistakes

At the Reference Desk today I feel like I made a few mistakes that affected my confidence. One of the mistakes was that I did not smile as much as I should have, but the mistakes made it more difficult to smile. One of the patrons asked for help in sending an article they found in Google Scholar to their email account. They kept saying that it would not let them do this. I suggested that they copy and paste the URL and send that to themselves in their email account. She did not seem pleased. Later on I figured that she could probably save the page to the computer's desktop and send it as an attachment to herself, although I tried this out myself at one of the Reference computers, and it did not work. Frustrating! I still wanted to suggest this to the patron, but I perceived/imagined she was not pleased with my help, so I hesitated too long and she left. She was talking with her colleagues [they seemed to be a part of the same class], so I didn't want to interrupt at that point. What can I do better in the future? Hopefully, I can learn from my mistakes and better help others in the future.

Another student needed an MLA handbook for writing theses and dissertations. I looked in the catalog, but I could only find the one that is for undergraduates. I did walk with her to find the MLA Handbooks in the stacks, partly in hopes that we could find the graduate MLA handbook. She came back after a few minutes, and by then I had looked on the shelves behind the Reference Desk to find the most recent edition of the MLA Handbook, so I handed her that one. She said she would take it up to the second floor.

My colleague at the desk had been helping someone else at the same time, otherwise I would have asked for her input. Once she had a free moment I asked her about this, because I knew that another MLA book existed specifically for graduate students and that it was a hard-bound version. Of course, my experienced colleague knew that this hard-bound book existed also, and she knew it was not shelved next to the MLA Handbook. Now I know it is the MLA Style Manual shelved with the PNs, whereas the MLA Handbook can be found with the LBs.

The most embarrassing thing is that I have used the MLA Style Manual before [at least I should have used it frequently when writing my MA thesis].

On the bright side I answered a few questions correctly, but these seemed to be more on the directional questions side of things. Any suggestions, comments, and encouragements would be welcome.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Remaining Positive

How do you stay positive during information literacy session? While I have not taught many one-shot sessions yet, I get the impression that students get distracted or bored during the instruction period. It seems logical that that their postures and lack of responses may invite the instructor to become more cynical or pessimistic. As professionals, librarians ought to remain positive as they teach and seek for methods that will capture the attention of students while also enhancing their learning. What will students learn during the session? How will they demonstrate that they have learned what has been taught? What will they do?

A few days ago I talked with an experienced librarian about creating an information-literacy tutorial for students in a regular freshman speech course. The topic of teaching the difference between scholarly and popular articles came up, and I mentioned that students can often discern between them by the grammar in the titles and sometimes by the length of the article. If an article contains a colon, it likely represents a scholarly article, since academics and professionals try to identify their subject somewhat broadly at first and then narrow the subject down to the specific aspect on which they focus their writing. The following seems to be a pertinent example: "UNPICKING FEMALE EXEMPLARITY; OR, THE USEFULNESS OF BODY STORIES: REASSESSING FEMALE COMMUNAL IDENTITY IN TWO EARLY MODERN FRENCH TEXTS." My colleague seemed interested in the idea of colons in titles as evidence of a scholarly article, but she took issue with my statement of length of an article as an indicator of scholarly work. After hearing her comments I agree that length of article does not determine very well if an article is scholarly/peer-reviewed or not. However, upon further reflection, I believe that scholarly titles do tend to have longer titles than articles for popular publications.

In talking about how to describe scholarly articles I also commented that the scholarly ones look more boring. My colleague mentioned that when she talks to classes she likes to use more positive terminology, probably because she feels it is our responsibility to encourage students in conducting quality research. She prefers adjectives such as "depth," "profound," "thorough," "based in fact and sources," etc. when discussing scholarly articles. On a similar note, she has found that students think professors do not express opinions, but she argues that they are often more opinionated than most other people. Therefore, scholarly does not equal boring. I agree.

Yet students often look at erudite texts as boring, often because they can fathom what the person is trying to say. They are unfamiliar with the jargon of that discipline, their reading skills may not yet be on the level of a college student, and their attention spans severely inhibit their abilities to grapple with a scholarly text. Nonetheless, these reasons should further motivate librarians to be positive; I like to think that if we imbue students with a positive attitude they will be more inclined to begin tackling difficult readings and engage in thorough scholarly research. Positive attitudes alone will not resolve all student difficulties with scholarly engagements, but they can certainly help more than a pessimistic viewpoint.

Perhaps librarians should positively ask the "Why?" question. Why do we engage in scholarly research? Why is it important to find good sources of information? Why is it important to evaluate information sources? Why do scholars ask the questions they do? Why does our society value education? In Ken Bain's book What the Best College Teachers Do he says the best teachers ask the BIG questions, not unlike the ones just articulated. Questions with the interrogative Why should not be avoided.

One more thing about being positive with students. In my colleague's explanation for why students should cite their sources, she says students will do good research on their speeches or paper, which will in turn interest the instructor and other students. They will be impressed with the student's ideas and want to learn more about the topic, so having cited the sources will allow them to find them more readily and explore the topic in question.

Why do librarians teach information literacy? We believe it will positively impact the lives of the general public as information literacy seeks out the best, most accurate information

Providing a positive and informative instruction session can motivate students to begin their research more intelligently. From personal experience, once I begin reading and thinking about ideas I become more interested and want to produce a good product in the form of a paper or speech. Hopefully, librarians can help students excel intellectually and scholastically. To the degree we do this students will walk away with a positive feeling about the library and be better citizens of our society--a win-win situation for everyone .

Monday, July 30, 2007

First Tour and Catalog Introduction

Five international students came to the library for instruction on the catalog and a tour of the library. Naturally, I was a bit nervous, but I had spent the morning preparing a handout the students could work on after I had given them a brief overview of the catalog. With time I am sure my presentation will be more smooth, but today's session certainly helped me see what international students may need help with.

A lot of them just needed help finding the "Search" button. In other words, after they key in a title or search phrase they could not find the search button. They also could have just pressed the "Enter" key. I thought I had shown them the line in the expanded record indicating the subject heading, but more than one student needed help finding that. I feel I could have done better explaining the different between the expanded record and the brief listing of results. Overall, I believe they understood how to use the catalog, but I am glad I had the worksheet and allowed them to search and ask questions along the way.

I used the Vision software to demonstrate how to use the catalog. There's more I would like to learn about this program.

In the last week, our OPAC committee changed the options for the catalog search. The default on the catalog page used to be "Search by Title," but now the catalog defaults to "Quick Search." I am still learning what this means. My supervisor tells me that it is the automatic "And," so a search for "James and the Giant Peach" would search for the words "James" first then "and" then "the." Apparently, it will only search among the first 10,000 records with the word "James." I thought the students today understood and were able to find things rather well.

With time I imagine my skills at giving a tour will improve. As it was, I felt like I wandered a bit. I'm glad they asked me questions, and I'm glad I asked the student working in the Copy Center if I had forgotten something. I forgot to tell them about how to request a book or article through Inter-Library Loan, which happens to be through the Copy Center. They really seemed to enjoy the Special Collections with all of its old books, photographs, and art books [the one in the shape of a shoe in particular]. It helped to have an outline of the tour written out that I could reference along the way to remind me what to mention. Next time I need to mention how much fines are.

As I look back on the worksheet I created it seems that I should have verified that the students answered the questions correctly. How are they to know if they are doing it right? Am I assuming too much if they do not ask any questions?

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Reference on the Telephone vs Face-to-Face

Today was only my second time at the Reference Desk by myself. I'm glad that I get to start in the summer when fewer students and faculty are around. I get time to study the library's catalog, database access points, university web pages, etc. One patron today asked about using the computers, and I felt good about knowing the answers. She can use certain computers designated for community users after she gets a login code from the Circulation Desk. This same patron came back asking for help in sending off an email, so I walked with her to the computer and found that she had not opened any email application. Initially, this baffled me a bit, but I was able to open another browser tab so she could type in and access her hotmail account. I need to remember that everyone comes with varying computer skills and knowledge. It does make me curious. Did she think that she could email a document straight from the desktop? That's what it appeared to me. Perhaps she thought she could not access her email on our computers or something. She had a jump drive, and the document she wanted to send came from there. I did think to ask if she knew how to send an attachment, and she said she did. Later she passed by the desk and I verified that all worked out well for her.

Two individuals called on the phone to ask questions. Both serve as assistant professors on campus. The first asked about citing a journal article using the APA citation style. I looked to verify that we didn't have it in our databases, and we did not. I told her I would consult with my colleague and call her back. My colleague had me look again in the A-Z list. If we could see how the database cited the information then that might give us clues as to how to suggest she cite it. No such luck. We looked in the APA Manual in section 4.11, which said that if no volume exists then they can cite month, season, and something else. The professor's dilemma was that she did not know how to cite an article wherein the cover indicated it to be the Winter 2004-2004 issue. She needed to know the exact year. My colleague and I believe that the citation should appear just as it is printed on the cover. We found an example to support us, but this was after I had called back the professor. Our web site links out to several citation guides elsewhere that provide many examples.

It's challenging to understand and communicate with individuals over the phone; it's hard to really know what they need. When I called the instructor back, she wanted me to tell her what should be done. When I gave her my opinion she said that was not acceptable. This made me a bit defensive, but I remembered what my colleague had said, that she could call the Writing Center who had more experience helping people with citation questions. Now that I think of it, I think I will email the professor and make her aware of the citation examples on the web that we have. Here's a link to that page of citation links:

The second phone call came just before I was about to close up for the day. He had received a request from someone for a pdf copy of an article he had published 12 years ago. Our library did not have a digital copy of that journal article, so I suggested he try Inter-Library Loan. Hopefully, this will help him gain access to a pdf version.

What are the best ways to help people on the telephone? I still prefer face-to-face interactions. With the first reference transaction described above I felt like I had helped the person. She needed to print the document out, and I was able to use a guest login so she could do that. Her non-verbal cues/smiles indicated that her needs had been met. Telephone interviews can be more tricky, and I have definite room to grow in order to better serve those who call in for help on the phone.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Search Tips

Recently, I began this blog with the intent of developing my ideas on teaching in a library instruction setting. I centered my first few blogs on a job presentation. I practiced the presentation several times and received some valuable feedback from several persons. Practicing my presentation helped me feel more confident when it came time to give the real presentation on the day of the job interviews. The good news is that I got the job.

I would like to focus this blog on information literacy issues. Today an experienced reference librarian showed me her strategy for helping an undergraduate. The student wanted to know how to find resources on the origins of skiing. She worked with the subject headings and found that "skis and skiing" was the official subject heading. On the Idaho State University library page a link to "Resources by Subject" will direct the user to databases designed specifically for certain areas of research. I learned that a search for skiing-related issues would be among the Sports databases; however, the Sports databases are categorized under the Education heading as "Sports Science and Education."

There are articles in EbscoHost Complete and Premier that discuss the origins of skiing. In the reference section there are many encyclopedias related to sports. The following call numbers to sports encyclopedias might be useful: GV567 .M46 1978, GV11.M4 1963, and GV567 .B48 2005. A search in the catalog for "sports AND encyclopedia" gave me these results. The student who was helped today really felt he had learned something new.

Friday, April 6, 2007

More Ideas on the Presentation

I wrote those notes a two night ago, and since then I have talked with a few instructional librarians who teach college freshmen. They were preparing to teach, and somehow an appropriate moment popped up in which I asked if it were a good idea to show students how to truncate their search terms in a one-shot session for freshmen. One of the two immediately said this was not such a great idea, but that's her take on things. The sense I get is that these librarians, among others, have worked quite a bit with college students enough to know that college students do not know nearly as much as we think they do. On the one hand this seems pessimistic, but on the other hand they are more experienced.
I like to think that freshmen could benefit from being told or shown how to truncate terms in a database search. Recently, I did a search on college humor in the MLA International Bibliography, and I was wondering how a search with truncation might work. Perhaps if I were to use college life, college li*, college student*, college liv*, etc. they would return different results. Well, typing in college li* returns over 1300 results and none seem particularly relevant to college life. An advanced search yielded 71 hits that appeared much more relevant: college AND li* AND humor. The first result is "Knock, Knock. Who's Not There." College Humor. Anyway, I got carried away talking about searching.

This morning it seemed like it would be good to use a simple, yet effective active learning strategy. One of the things librarians try to help students with is thinking about search terms. Often students think of only one or two terms related to their topics that can help them find the articles or the books they need for a given assignment. Students may enjoy a short group assignment using posters and Post-it notes. Each group would receive one or two terms such as "college humor" and then they would need to write synonyms on the Post-it notes. Therefore, they could come up with other options such as: academic, comedy, comic, jokes, funny, school, university, classroom, dorm, practical jokes, etc. Then they could test out some of these terms in the database and report back to the class. This sounds like fun and might differentiate my presentation from others' presentations in a positive way if it were carried out properly.

What other active learning strategies might be good in a library instructional session?

Preparing for a teaching presentation

P: to instruct and persuade
Topic: library catalog, two databases, and utilizing the library and the librarian
Issue: How can I find articles and books to help me write my paper for this English class?
Claim: The library catalog and librarians can help you find resources more quickly than if you were to just wander the stacks. Learn a few nifty tools today, and you will find things more quickly that will help you become smarter faster.
Show how to use the catalog = 13-15 minutes.
Show how to use Academic Search Elite = 11-12 minutes.
à ISU uses Academic Search Premier
Demonstrate how to use the MLA bibliography = 11-13 minutes.
à ISU has MLA International Bibliography
Total: 35-40
What should I show about the catalog?
What do students need to know about most?
How will students learn to use the catalog and databases the best?
How will students remember what I have told them?
How much repetition needs to take place in an activity like this?
What should I include in the handout?
Should I include active learning techniques?
Should I ask for feedback after the instructional session?
  • Read the “Search Tips” page on the ISU web site.
  • Read the Eisenberg articles.
  • Practice the instructional session.
  • Spend about half an hour on this presentation each day.
  • Work on this presentation for an hour or two this Saturday.
  • Practice doing various searches you would like to show students.
  • Think about what a freshman needs to know.
Thoughts on MLA Bibliography:
n Talk about truncation.
n Talk about narrowing a search: a search for “iraq” yielded more than 2000 results even when it limited it to articles since 2002. “iraq and bush” narrowed it down to 76 records. There are three tabs in this database. What are the other two tabs for?
n Show them the subject headings off to the right. This can be wonderful in pointing you to find articles you need but didn’t match the terms you entered. Some of the descriptors actually broaden the search, so combine terms and see if that helps to narrow the field down. Using the terms “rhetoric and composition” and “bush, george w” brought up 13 articles. The results bring back like four tabs or more. Students may be grateful to know that there are peer-reviewed journals. You probably need to explain what a peer-reviewed article is.
n Think about synonyms.
Should I talk about peer-reviewed journal articles? I think that I should, because they need to know about this if they do not already. Make sure that you repeat this, otherwise it may not sink in. Make it clear and simple = Peer-reviewed articles means that they are more authoritative and can be trusted more for their scholarly contributions. Peer-reviewed means that professors read and critique other professors’ writings before they get published.
I like the idea of searching for something that is not terribly serious, since students might fall asleep with a subject they do not find appealing. I think the same goes for librarians. I just searched MLA for “humor and teaching” and the descriptors helped me refine the search with the following terms “humor and teaching approaches” = 16 results.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


Hi, my name is Spencer Jardine, and I am a graduate student at the University of Iowa in the School of Library and Information Science. Currently, I am gaining experience in a practicum where I observe reference transactions and instructional sessions.