Monday, December 14, 2009

Librarians as Bridges between Students and Teachers

Last week I read an article titled "Be the Bridge: Librarians can span the gap between students and their instructors" in the December issue of American Libraries. I recommend that everyone who helps students with assignments at the reference desk take a look at it and especially all those who give instruction. The author, Monty McAdoo, asserts that "Librarians have a professional responsibility to be involved with any assignment involving the library. [...] as bridge builders, the simple reality is that when a library is involved in completing an assignment, librarians do share responsibility for an assignment's administration and its ultimate success or collapse" (40).

His discussions on the repercussions of failed library assignments seem to be particularly relevant, considering some of the library assignments that have taken place in our own Library in recent months/years. I like that he discusses the negative consequences for all the constituents involved, namely students, faculty, and librarians.

Overall, the article is worth reading, especially if you give instruction as a librarian in the classroom or at the reference desk.

Full citation:
McAdoo, Monty L. "Be the Bridge: Librarians can span the gap between students and their instructors." American Libraries (December 2009): 38-40.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sources of Information

Where do you get your information? Which sources do you trust the most? In a library teleconference offered by the College of DuPage Press called "Millennials in the Library," which is part of the series "Library Futures: Staying Ahead of the Curve 2010" they talked about where millennials get most of their information. Not surprisingly, the number one source was from their friends, then their family, and then their employers.

Millennials share a lot of information with each other via text messaging. In my notes it said that they send 8,000 texts per month per person, which seems extremely high to me and causes me to wonder if I heard this statistic incorrectly. I do not doubt that teenagers and college students do send large volumes of text messages; I see it regularly almost everywhere I go. The teleconference indicated that millennials do like to collaborate, be challenged, and stay connected to technology.

Individuals in the marketing industry know that word-of-mouth-marketing is essential for business success. A couple of librarians have also begun to realize this. In fact, they wrote a book on it called Building Buzz: Libraries and Word-of-Mouth Marketing. Today just happens to be its release date, according to Additionally, Peggy Barber and Linda Wallace wrote an article in American Libraries about some librarians who involved word-of-mouth marketing techniques to promote their services. They involved circulation staff to demo databases, show how to do online reserves, and manage account records.

Judy Wright, the Head of Circulation at Winnetka-Northfield Public Library, describes what she learned from this effort:
We learned that this is one of the most successful ways to market. We've had better results from word-of-mouth than anything we've done--tangible results. We could see the statistics jumping. (39)

Where do you go for your information? Chances are good that you probably get plenty of information from friends, family, employers, and the internet.

Barber, Peggy, and Linda Wallace. "The Power of Word-of-Mouth Marketing." American Libraries 40.11 (November 2009): 36-39.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Changing Trends with Wikipedia

A short article in American Libraries cites statistics that Wikipedia's growth is slowing down. In 2007 the site averaged 60,000 new articles per month, and now it averages only 40,000. March of 2007 saw 820,000 editors creating and editing pages, but it vacillates from 650,000 to 810,000 per month currently.

Interestingly, "the most active 1% of editors make more than 55% of changes" (27). Some, such as Susan Beck the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) president, wonder whether or not it is time for more librarians to step up and compose/edit articles.

Why are there fewer editors and fewer articles written? Do other online applications compete for Wikipedia editors? Who gets motivated to write Wikipedia articles? Just those with a special interest in the topic at hand? Has Wikipedia lost its newness?

G.L. "Wikipedia Growth Slows." American Libraries (November 2009): 27.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Should I use Wikipedia in my search for information?

"Don't use Wikipedia. Do not use any websites, except for .gov sites. Cite at least one print source." While teaching or helping some introductory English classes in Library workshops, I often hear these kinds of requirements imposed on the students. Instructors often have good reasons for setting these limitations. They want students to get out of their comfort zones. Students do fall back on what they know, using search engines to find their information. This may have worked well while they went to high school, but at the college level it usually does not suffice.

Typically, I like to talk about reference resources and how they can be useful for students when they begin their research. An encyclopedia article can provide background information, the kind that instructors may expect them to know already. College instructors expect more than a book report summary from college students. They want students to engage in the subject matter, evaluate sources, and analyze ideas critically. I suspect that some students rise to the occasion and begin to develop critical thinking skills when asked to look for quality sources.

Does this mean that students should not use Wikipedia? This ban of Wikipedia would not support appeals for critical thinking. Wikipedia, in many cases, provides background information that can be useful when starting a research project. Like other reference resources, it can inform individuals about the various aspects of the issue at hand, which can then prompt them to narrow their topic down a bit more. Additionally, its articles can bring to light keywords that would improve searching results when one goes to the article databases, or one's university catalog.

Most students are unaware of the fact that most academic libraries purchase subscriptions to online reference materials. Encyclopedia Britannica, Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, and Oxford Reference Online are a few encyclopedias for which institutions purchase access.

I just finished a great article titled "Wikipedia: friend or foe?" written by Kathy West and Janet Williamson at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. In 2007 they began a study to assess the quality of Wikipedia articles. As librarians, they had not used Wikipedia very much, preferring more authoritative sources. How did they assess the articles? "In the absence of credentialed authors, what criteria can be used to measure article quality? We suggest that articles which are objective, accurate, complete and clearly presented are quality articles" (268).

Their thorough search of the literature, conscientious methods, and careful analysis of the results deserves some praise. I appreciate that they approached this study professionally, they they did not seem to let bias cloud their perspectives. For example, they acknowledge some flaws in their methods that influenced the results. In order to do a good analysis, they captured 106 Wikipedia articles as pdfs. They did not check the hyperlinks that would have explained certain concepts, and as a result they admit that "this significantly affected our ratings of individual articles' accuracy and completeness in that it limited the ability to achieve a full understanding of the articles. [...] Had we been able to view the outward links, the completeness scores would have been substantially higher" (267).

Go read this article. They give a listing of reasons why Wikipedia may be considered a friend, according to the results of their article assessments:

  • "its breadth of information including a substantial amount of unique information;
  • its ability to cover truly current events;
  • its ability to meet the diverse needs of both general and specialist readers;
  • its objectivity;
  • its reasonable accuracy; and
  • its accessibility -- it is available 24/7 from our desktops at no charge" (269).

How might it be a foe?
  • "its inconsistency--there are articles which are poorly written, contain unsubstantiated information, and/or provide shallow coverage of a topic" (269).

It appears that the authors' perceptions of Wikipedia improved as a result of doing this study. They consider Wikipedia to be improving as well. Fewer cases of abuse are occurring i.e. vandalism. "In addition, more references are being added" (269). This last point hold true in my experience. On occasion, I will go to an Oxford Reference Online (ORO) article in class, encourage students to look for background information, find keywords, and look for a list of references. Too often it seems that there are not any cited sources in the ORO or the Encyclopedia Britannica, but there is frequently a list of references in the Wikipedia articles.

Students should be allowed to consult Wikipedia as a launching point for their research project, but they need to remember not to use it as a source for their paper. Rather, they should consult the references and cite them. It is not necessary to cite background information or common knowledge. That's what researchers are expected to know already. Cite the books and articles instead. Use criteria for analyzing your sources and develop critical thinking skills.

Full citation: West, Kathy and Janet Williamson. "Wikipedia: friend or foe?" Reference Services Review 37.3 (2009): 260-71.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Advancing Your Interests and Achieving Your Goals

Today I can sigh with relief. Yesterday I completed final touches on a promotion portfolio and delivered it to the correct office. Over the course of the last two years I endeavored to keep files and save materials for this portfolio, but I still had to spend a large amount of time organizing and composing documents to fulfill the requirements of our promotion and tenure document.

Now I have time to catch up on some professional reading. Like anything in life, if a person wants to become better at something, he/she can seek help from various sources, such as a friend, a family member, a colleague, a book, a programmed presentation, etc. For example, if I wanted to go backpacking, I could search out and even subscribe to a hiking/backpacking magazine to learn some tips and find out about equipment that may increase your chances for an enjoyable adventure.

Likewise, anyone wanting to progress in their chosen career might do well in reading the professional literature. Frequently, membership dues to a national association include a subscription to one of their magazines or journals. The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) publishes College & Research Libraries News on a monthly basis.

They often print great articles for their intended audience--academic and research librarians. Not surprisingly, one such article by Mara L. Houdyshell caught my eye: "Ten tips toward tenure: Advice for the professional journey." She gives ten tips that are worthy of posting on the office wall, well, for those who seek tenure of course, though after I look at them again I believe they merit a spot on every faculty member's office wall. We could all benefit from occasional reminders now and then.

Though I would like to mention all ten, let me just mention two or three.
Tip #1: "Be reliable, flexible, and professional. People appreciate it" (470).
Tip #3: "Pay attention to your department and institution's guidelines for tenure. [...] If it is suggested that you do 'x, y, and z,' in a particular review, don't fritter away the time leading up to your next evaluation mulling over what you should do, do 'x, y, and z'" (470 emphasis retained).

So while I can take a momentary sigh of relief, I still need to move forward, publish, and keep working. For now, I ought to find a tack and put these ten tips on my wall.

Work Cited: Houdyshell, Mara L. "Ten tips toward tenure: Advice for the professional journey." College & Research Libraries News 70.8 (Sept. 2009): 469-70.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Information Literacy's Connection to Reading/Literacy

Many librarians love to read. Many also like to promote reading and ignite an interest in reading among others. Perhaps that's one reason Jennifer Burek Pierce's article "Inspiring Young Readers: There's more than one way to capture hearts and minds" finds such a welcome spot in American Libraries. She quotes Elizabeth Hardwick:
The greatest gift is a passion for reading. It is cheap, it consoles, it distracts, it excites, it gives you knowledge of the world and experience of a wide kind. It is a moral illumination.

Reading introduces people to new ideas, which can help people in all the information literacy ways: understanding your information need, accessing information efficiently, evaluating information critically, and applying information ethically. Cracking open a book and thinking about its content will help people develop skills just listed.

If you are interested in the issue of reading, you might begin searching for other articles that Jennifer Burek Pierce has written. You might consult some of the articles she references.
  1. McDowell, Kate. "Surveying the Field: The Research Model of Women in Librarianship, 1882-1898." Library Quarterly 79.3 (July 2009): 279-300.
  2. Motoko Rich. Students Get New Reading Assignment: Pick Books You Like:[Series]. New York Times. (Late Edition (east Coast)). New York, N.Y.:Aug 30, 2009. p. A.1.

I appreciate reading Jennifer Burek Pierce's articles in the American Libraries magazine. She taught my reference class while I attended the University of Iowa's School of Library and Information Science.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Big6 & Info Lit

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Today I shared this presentation with high school teachers in Idaho who participate in the Early College Program here at Idaho State University. We talked about information literacy, including pathways for accessing the many ISU resources, and how to promote more significant learning among our students.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Helping Students Evaluate Sources

Students balk when it comes to evaluating sources. Perhaps it is because they do not have a lot of experience doing it. Maybe they think it is just another irrelevant academic exercise, but it can really help them begin to develop their critical-thinking skills if they take it seriously.

In library instruction sessions I have given, I like to use "Evaluating Information--Applying the CRAAP Test." It has worked rather well. Introducing the concept with a reference to the first Spider-Man movie grabs students' attention at least for a few minutes. When Peter Parker takes his photographs into the big hot-shot editor at the newspaper, the editor calls each photo "crap" as he flips through them. Then he makes his offer to the young Peter Parker, but Peter knows that his work is worth more than this offer. I explain that Peter understands the criteria of a good photograph, because he has done his homework and legwork to make high-quality photos. He stands to leave. Then the editor makes a better offer, because Peter did not fall to his bluff.

Students can also become experts in understanding sources by applying the criteria for good sources.

  1. Currency
  2. Relevancy
  3. Authority
  4. Accuracy
  5. Purpose

Mary George's book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know writes about evaluating sources in her last chapter, "Insight, Evaluation, Argument, and Beyond." She sympathizes with the novice student researcher:
But how is a novice supposed to figure out anything other than how current a source is and whether it points to other sources? I think it is absurd--not to mention frustrating--for you to apply these criteria on your own. Instead, the wise way to evaluate sources when you are new to a field or topic is to relate each item you are considering to your research question, keeping in mind the types of relevant sources you imagined when you brainstormed. (134 emphasis included)

It seems like most students would do this automatically, but experience sometimes shows that they take the first source(s) available, since they are crunched for time.

George goes on to explain some of the basic evaluation criteria researchers can apply to their sources. These "factors" are:
1. Date of the source
2. Author's credentials
3. Sponsor's reputation and intent
4. Leads (134-36)

Using her paragraphs in a classroom setting might be useful for educators as well as students. Dividing a class into groups to discuss what she has written regarding the criteria could produce some good discussions. Groups could summarize, ask questions, think of examples, and report on their discussions to the class.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Power of Information That is Freely Available

A colleague from my library-school program shared this on Facebook, and I thought it would be useful to post here: Effects of introducing Internet at a village public library in Ukraine. President Barack Obama officially announced October to be National Information Literacy Awareness Month now. Take a look also at the National Forum for Information Literacy.

The power of information is immense, and the ability to access, evaluate, apply, and share information ethically is even more powerful.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

How can I Find Book Reviews

While at the reference desk today, someone called and asked for help in finding book reviews. As a librarian I was a bit embarrassed to suggest first. It came to mind first, because I use it frequently in my collection-development duties. There was a book review for the title she needed; however, it was not lengthy enough or fit her criteria.

Next, I thought to search for the New York Times Book Review in our A-Z Journal List, so we searched within EBSCOhost's Academic Search Complete, but not book review could be found for her book.

As a last result, and somewhat reluctantly, I suggested we conduct a Google search. By placing quotation marks around the words in the title, plus the words "book review" we succeeded in finding at least one book review that satisfied this particular student's needs. Interestingly enough, the first result was link to the Amazon entry we had looked at first, but the second looked more legitimate as it had a .edu domain.

Anyway, it should not surprise me that book reviews are freely available on the internet, since book sellers want people to find out about their titles to increase sales.

Out of curiosity, I searched our Library's website to find out if we had a guide for finding book reviews. We do. With the straight-forward title "How to Find Book Reviews," you can find out which resources in the Eli M. Oboler Library system contain book reviews. Print titles are mentioned, such as Book Review Index [Reference Collection: Z1035.A1 B6] and Book Review Digest (which we only have in paper copy [Ref. Coll.: Z1219 .C96], but a lot of the full-text reviews are in materials that we can get to with our A-Z Journal List). A colleague of mine tells me that when she was in MFA school, they were the standard references/indexes for finding quality book reviews and citations, and she still uses them on occasion. Additionally, they also relied on Contemporary Literary Criticism (Ref. Coll.: PN771 .C59).

Still, the internet seems to be the easiest way to find book reviews. Where they come from and how useful they may be is a different question, though.

Searching Tips: Limiting or Reducing Your Results

Searching Tips
The next time you Google information, try using the “+ Show options…” feature. After you have conducted a search it returns thousands or millions of results, look for a link that says “+ Show options…” A menu bar will appear on the left-hand side with options to limit your search to various mediums (videos, news, blogs, books, forums, & reviews), time periods, different views (wonder wheel, timeline, or related searches), as well as options for fewer or more shopping sites.

The wonder wheel lives up to its name; it's pretty cool. Choosing it will take you to a spider-web graph with links that allows you to choose among various subcategories of the topic. At any time you can select a hyperlink to web pages listed along the right side. For someone interested in history, the timeline option looked interesting as well.

Various databases, including library catalogs, have incorporated built-in functions to limit searches into their interfaces for many years. It has been one thing that I have faulted Google for in the past. Most searchers find it useful to utilize prompts that show how they might sift out the wheat from the chaff. Library catalogs sometimes allow users to limit their results to specific time periods, locations within the library, publishers, languages, formats, mediums, places of publication, etc.

More Tips
Many databases also offer limiting options, such as full-text articles, newspaper articles, scholarly articles, time frames, subject categories, author, title, etc. Did you know you can search more than one database at once? Within any of the EBSCOhost databases, select “Choose databases…” to find other databases that might be useful for your search (it's a link above the basic search box). Not sure which databases will be best? Look at the little quotation balloon or look at the “Resources by Subject” pages. Each database indexes a different set of journals, newspapers, and other sources.

Of course, the old standbys for limiting a search should not be forgotten. Adding more keywords to a search and using the Boolean AND will also reduce results. A search on the ubiquitous "gun control" topic could be limited to a specific geographic or demographic population, such as Idaho or Caucasians respectively. Searches can be limited by time period with a keyword such as "nineteenth century" or "Reagan era," for example.

It seems that many college students have not seen many of these search options, so at present it seems like a good thing to point them out, so they can benefit from using them.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Creating Significant Learning Experiences in Libraries

Last week I attended and presented at the Idaho Library Association's 2009 Annual Conference, which was held in Burley, Idaho. The theme of the conference was a cowboy/western theme: "Round 'em Up in Burley."

In recent years I have been interested in the scholarship of learning. In fact I have been reading L. Dee Fink's book titled Creating Significant Learning Experiences: An Integrated Approach. It has been interesting to think about how people learn and that certain kinds of learning augment and increase other kinds of learning. Learning how to apply knowledge shores up a person's foundational knowledge in that sphere of knowledge.

Take a look at his Taxonomy of Significant Learning. It shows how interconnected learning methods can be. Students that work in groups to solve problems often increase their knowledge, their application skills, and their understanding of others in the process. The synergy can really be quite powerful.

One value of asking students to reflect on what they have learned and how they might learn more about the topic could be that they become more capable and motivated life-long learners.

Do any librarians ask their students to reflect on their learning?

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

For those interested in finding criteria for evaluating information take a look at "Evaluating Information--Applying the CRAAP Test."

PDF version of L. Dee Fink's Taxonomy of Significant Learning.

The last two questions on the slideshow come from Thomas Angelo and Patricia Cross's Classroom Assessment Techniques: A Handbook for College Teachers 2nd Edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.

I also like Mel Silberman's Active Learning: 101 Strategies to Teach Any Subject. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1996.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recommended Information Literacy Videos

This afternoon I came across a blog with some new videos that might be of interest to you: Information Literacy meets Library 2.0/. One video describes the differences between scholarly journals and magazines. Another talks about the difference between Google and databases. The last one discusses the differences between respectable newspapers and tabloids.

I like how the two librarians square off against each other in these debates, and I like their British accents, though at times they vary their volumes/inflections so that I have a hard time hearing and the one on the right (Pete?) is so soft spoken that it is often hard to hear him.

As far as humor goes, they are lacking in that department, but the videos are still well done and thought out. Librarians who give instruction might consider using these videos to teach their students some of the information-literacy basics. Be forewarned, though, that the databases your library uses may differ from the ones used by Al and Pete at their library.

Instruction Meeting

Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

This outlines a meeting librarians had at Idaho State. We talked about a library instructor's responsibilities. The presentation does not capture the good in-person discussion we had, so I wanted to expand on a few things. One group identified a library instructor's responsibilities in the following terms:

Instill in the student a spirit of collaborative independence:
- Independent learner/researcher
- Know tools to ask more intelligent questions
- Comfortable in the Library
- Collaborate with other researchers, including other libraries

Students ought to become somewhat independent, and when they cannot answer or find what they need, then they should be able to articulate what they need in an intelligent way. Ideally, we want students to become young scholars and work closely as colleagues with professors, librarians, and other researchers. Library instructors can play a role in accomplishing this lofty goal.

Here's an expanded version on the bit that talks about working with the full-time faculty: "Add value by collaborating with the instructor. Work with them. You are a guest speaker in their class. What does the instructor want you to get out of your library instruction session?" Communication needs to take place in order for librarian to succeed in the classroom where they are the guest speaker for just one or two days out of the whole semester.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Google Documents: Creating Quizzes

Teachers need to seek feedback in order to understand whether or not students are understanding the material. Isn't this one of the reasons why we give tests and quizzes? If we are interested in student learning, we need to know what students know and fill in the gaps where possible. Google Documents allows individuals to create online quizzes that they can then share with people. Others can collaborate on the quiz and view the results.

The results can be viewed in spreadsheet format or in graphs. Take a look at this
YouTube video on how to create quizzes and view results in graph format. Apparently, you can embed the quiz inside of your blog, so I'm giving that a try. Hopefully it works and you fill out the quiz. I do appreciate feedback. Information-literacy professionals should be seeking feedback from students. This is just one possible option.

If you are interested in creating a Google Docs quiz that you can share, just login to Google Docs and select the "New" button in the upper, left-hand corner of the task bar. Select "Form." You can create open-ended questions, multiple-choice questions, questions with check boxes, choosing from a list, and a scale. Give it a try.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Problem-Based Learning Article by Barbara Ferrer Kenney

Have you ever wondered how to get out of a teaching rut? Many librarians continue to offer demonstrations on databases and library catalogs, which include a lot of talking. In many cases students do not get engaged and do not retain the information, nor do they develop information-literacy skills. Barbara Ferrer Kenney wrote an article which was published a year ago titled: "Revitalizing the One-Shot Instruction Session Using Problem-Based Learning (PBL)."

Kenney cites the Department of Chemical Engineering at McMaster University when she defines problem-based learning in the following terms: "any learning environment where the problem drives the learning" (386). Essentially, students must become owners of their own learning and actively participate in answering questions, solving problems, and working together in groups. Kenney affirms that "PBL is 'worth the effort' because of the similarities between the goals of PBL and information literacy instrction" (386). The hands-on component requires that they pick up on skills and knowledge along the way as they work to solve the problem presented them.

For instructors, Kenney acknowledges that it can be difficult and scary to relinquish some authority and control in the classroom, but the results of this kind of instruction apparently surpass that of basic instruction. Students develop critical thinking skills, abilities to find, evaluate, and use information while collaborating in groups. The group work fosters their communication skills. to the degree that they engage in the problem-based activity they increase their skills and interest levels in ways that will likely lead to life-long learning.

Instructors need to remember that their work in the classroom may not be as intensive; however, their preparations before the class begins may require more time and collaboration with the faculty member. Kenney emphasizes the importance of creating an outline "that relies on defined goals and objectives based on a problem that captures student interest" (387). Matching a session's objectives with the ACRL Information Literacy Standards takes time.

The article discusses how to develop the problem, how to create the outline, how to deal with some of the challenges, and how to follow up and assess the experience. Overall, this article provided solid reasons for adapting this teaching methodology, while also offering enough useful ideas on how to implement this change effectively. Certainly, a radical change like this requires a bit of courage as Kenney states here: "While the process may require librarians to step out of their comfort zone in the delivery of the session, it does provide the opportunity for students and faculty to experience library instruction in a new and dynamic way" (391).

Consider problem-based learning as a viable option for your library instruction. Students may come away having learned more and gained a greater interest in their research. This active approach thrusts students into a learning mode that forces them to think and act more than they would in a demonstration where they would passively receive information, which would not be retained as readily.

Kenney, Barbara Ferrer. "Revitalizing the One-Shot Instruction Session Using Problem-Based Learning." Reference & User Services Quarterly 47.4 (2008): 386-91.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Open Access Study

In this month's issue of College & Research Libraries Kristi L. Palmer, Emily Dill, and Charlene Christie discuss their research study on librarian attitudes regarding open access: "Where There's a Will There's a Way?: Survey about Open Access."

"This study indicates that librarians support the concepts of open access and, more important, believe that these concepts are related to their work as librarians" (328). This observation did not surprise me as I had suspected as much, but they did point out that while librarians are in favor of open access initiatives, they do not do very much to make any changes or educate others about the issues surrounding it.
Librarians are in favor of seeing their profession take some actions toward open access. The most highly supported behaviors were those that extend traditional library activities such as educating faculty about open access and providing a means by which to locate open access items. Indeed, involvement in education campaigns was not only highly supported, but those librarians managing education campaigns also had significantly more supportive attitudes than other respondents.

It seems to me that librarians should be talking more about open-access issues with each other and with other academics in their communities. The survey said that librarians talk more about this issue among themselves than with faculty and staff. Not surprisingly, educating campus constituents about open access was perceived as a more favorable activity than advocating changes in publishing and tenure policies, such as encouraging faculty to publish in open-access venues, keep their copyrights, place "pre-published versions" of papers in institutional repositories, etc.

On an information-literacy level, the authors of this study sent the survey out in the summer of 2006. It seems that the data might be a little aged. How have open-access issues changed in the past three or four years? How have academic librarians changed their attitudes regarding open access? Have they?

Still, it seems that librarians could do more to educate others about open access and provide more helps on how to find the publications that are freely accessible.

Palmer, Kristi L., Emily Dill, and Charlene Christie. "Where There's a Will There's a Way?: Survey of Academic Librarian Attitudes about Open Access." College & Research Libraries 70.4 (July 2009): 315-35.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Humor in the Classroom

Humor can lighten the mood in any setting, but in a library-instruction session it might be particularly unexpected and well received. Unfortunately, if other librarians are like me, humor does not come naturally. I read an article a few months ago on some librarians who endeavored to study humor in the hopes that they could be funnier in the classroom. They attended workshops and read books. [Yes, I know, I need to look up the citation to that article.] If I remember correctly, they concluded that they could not succeed as stand-up comediennes, but maybe they could make library instruction more palatable for students. Anyone can show a cartoon or a funny clip and get some chuckles. Students seem to appreciate that attempt at humor. They also said that just keeping your eyes open to humor can keep you aware of golden opportunities for a laugh.

Don't get me wrong. We do not want to entertain students just to be entertaining, rather humor facilitates learning. It can pull them back to the here and now if they are losing focus. It can direct them engage more willingly with the activities you have set in place during your instruction. Of course, it can go too far, but a few well-timed jokes or humorous observations during a demonstration can work wonders in garnering student attention.

Here's my one lame joke during the introduction to our catalog: "When it refers to 'Status' it is not asking if the book is married or not, but it's asking if it is available inside the Library." Yeah, pretty lame, huh. : )

At any rate, I picked up a book by Patrick McManus not long ago titled: The Deer on a Bicycle: Excursions into the Writing of Humor. I used to think that I didn't pick up on humor very well in books, and I was probably right. I took things very seriously. Things have to be spelled out to me, like "This is a humorous book, don't forget to laugh." No matter how much I tried to keep a straight face, Patrick McManus succeeded in making me grin from ear to ear and laugh. He provides some great tips for writing humorous pieces, and he includes some great sample stories from his years of writing for magazines.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Job Searching Audio Tutorial

Yesterday I completed an audio tutorial on job-searching resources. It talks about websites, databases, tips, recommendations, and centers that can facilitate a job seeker in their search for a job. The physical centers are specific to Idaho State University, but anyone going to college has access to these kinds of career and advising centers, not to mention reference librarians.

One thing I did not mention in the tutorial is that individuals in specific fields of study might do better finding jobs in the professional associations related to their field. For librarians, the American Library Association has it's own job-search website that includes available library positions throughout the country.

If you take a look at the tutorial, please let me know what you think. Is it too long? Is my voice too annoying? Is it too obvious?

Job Searching: Finding a Job

Friday, June 26, 2009

Feedback from Library Instruction Interviews

Today I conducted an instruction meeting with the librarian at Idaho State University's Eli M. Oboler Library and reported back to them on the feedback I had received after conducting interviews with each of them. Librarians at ISU are required to teach a certain number of hours in our instruction program. As the Coordinator of Instruction, I want to help them provide quality instruction.

Take a look at some of the ideas they suggested for improvement. Check out this SlideShare Presentation:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Maps: How People are Finding Them These Days

For the most recent bathroom newsletter, I wrote the following blurb:

If you are traveling or hiking this summer, you might consider using some of the maps or atlases available in the Oboler Library. The map collection on the third floor contains many topographic maps of the intermountain region. They can be checked out for one week at a time. Road atlases, solar system, galaxy, and star atlases, as well as lunar maps can be found and taken on night watches of the sky. Look for other kinds of maps and atlases in our catalog, some of the best reside in the Atlas Stand (1st Floor), Oversized, and Reference Collection.

In the brief time I have been a librarian, I have noticed that the maps in our map collection do not get used much. Other librarians say that they used to be checked out and looked at a lot more. I suspect that with the online availability of maps, this has changed things quite a bit. People no longer need to consult physical atlases when they can go to or Google Maps to print out directions for a trip.

Still, it seems that people doing any kind of field research that requires knowledge of the terrain could benefit from topographic maps. (For a good definition, take a look at What is a topographic map?.) Maybe they go directly to the U.S. Geological Survey to view these kinds of maps. By the way, they also have aerial photos available on their website. Many of these topographic and aerial maps can be bought, printed, or downloaded from their Maps, Imagery, and Publications page.

As a member of the Federal Depository Library Program, the Eli M. Oboler Library houses many government documents, including maps that are freely available to the public. The biggest drawback is making it to the physical library, but every citizen of Idaho can check out whatever they want as long as they show some government-issued form of identification. All who enter the Library can look at anything they want in the government-documents section on the third floor.

This seems to be the key change, many people can look at maps online, without having to make a trip to the library. However, if individuals want to save money, they can still come and check out our maps for free, versus the purchase options on the U.S. Geological Survey site. Then again, the U.S. Geological Survey does have some pretty cool maps, like this earthquake map that shows where the largest earthquakes have struck over a hundred-year period. At a glance, it looks to me like Africa, Europe, and the eastern coasts of the Americas are safe from most earthquakes.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Changes to MLA Handbook

One of the biggest changes to the MLA citation style is that they are asking that each reference identify its medium. In the past, the default medium was print, so as long as it was print, you did not have to say that. With technological advancements, that has all changed. Take a look at the MLA page that discusses this change among others.

For citation examples incorporating some of these changes, take a look at some of the following pages:
1. Scottsdale Community College Citation Guide.
2. The OWL at Purdue: MLA Update 2009
3. Duke University Libraries: Assembling a List of Works Cited in Your Paper
4. Dixie State College of Utah: How to Cite BOOKS, eBOOKS, and CHAPTERS
5. Gabriele Library, Immaculata University: MLA Style: This pdf document includes a good list of sample citations beginning on page three (there are 11 pages total).
6. How to Cite Media, Video, and Online Media

Look at this tutorial for explanations and practice:
1. MLA Tutorial

For similar lists of websites, take a look at my MLA bookmarks within my Delicious account. When you see a number in blue to the right of a website, you can click on it to see all the other people who have "tagged" that website, then you can see all the websites they have tagged with that tag, so you can see other sites with 'mla' as the tag.

Unfortunately, one of my favorite sites with MLA examples still has not updated their page. Long Island University's Schwartz Memorial Library has an MLA Citation Style page which color codes the different elements of the citation. They have updated their examples in accordance with changes outlined in the 7th edition.

Another reader found the following website to be useful when looking to learn more about citing sources: The Ultimate Guide to Citation Style by the

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Keeping Up on the Professional Literature

Professionals in any field tend to do better if they keep up on the professional literature. This kind of blanket generalization is certainly fodder for debate, but when supervisors and administrators higher up the chain talk about how the professionals ought to be keeping up on their field's research it means it ought to be done.

Unfortunately, with so many projects it can be difficult to keep up, so it's important to develop strategies. If you work in a library where they route your favorite periodicals to your desk, it may not be a bad idea to develop some strategies like looking at the table of contents and deciding which, if any, of the articles you have time to read, which are worth reading in other words.

Academic librarians would do well to keep an eye on The Chronicle of Higher Education to keep abreast of the salient issues in academe. Library journals can be quite useful as well. One periodical that I have come to appreciate is Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning. It focuses on issues of teaching, learning, assessment, and academic life in higher education.

For example, in the most recent May/June 2009 issue Michael Fischer writes an article titled "Defending Collegiality." He argues that a code of conduct should be written that advocates civility and collegiality. Starting his article, he references Robert I. Sutton's book The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. Some might argue that a code of conduct might inhibit free expression or intellectual freedom, but the reality is that those who attack others keep the rest in the group from speaking up:
The individuals Sutton is criticizing--the bullies, jerks, and so on--themselves chill debate through personal attacks, intimidation, and invective. One sign of this is the relief felt when they are away. Instead of disappearing, dissent blossoms, as individuals can now express ideas without fear of vicious recrimination and unfounded attack. (22)

Fischer addresses the negative atmospheres that exist in many academic departments and calls for more collegiality and less political in-fighting. One gets the sense that collegiality would go a long way toward improving the institution as a whole while also fomenting innovation and academic rigor. Fischer concludes:
In my experience, most people treat others in the academic workplace with respect, consideration, and care, conduct code or no conduct code. My intent here has not been to legislate collegiality but to make sure that in those rare instances when enough is enough, when egregious behavior persists and reaches a carefully defined tipping point, faculty members and administrators are in a position to do something about it. (25)

Another article in the same issue is authored by Barbara Ischinger and Jaana Puuka, "Universities for Cities and Regions: Lessons from the OECD Reviews." It talks about the importance of universities to work with their local and regional economies to improve both research and the economy. If a university wants to become a world-class institution it needs to develop this supportive, collaborative environment.

Buried at the back of the issue is an article titled "Books Worth Reading" by Mary Taylor Huber. With a title like this, how could a librarian like myself not be interested? She reviews two books that discuss the ideas of the best books programs. Her discussion of these books prompted me to recommend these titles for purchase by our general collections bibliographer.

Title #1: A Great Idea at the Time: The Rise, Fall, and Curious Afterlife of the Great Books. Alex Beam. New York: Public Affairs Publishing, 2008, 256 pgs, $24.95 hardcover.

Title #2: Racing Odysseus: A College President Becomes a Freshman Again. Roger H. Martin. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008, 280 pgs, $24.95 hardcover.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Recommendation for Article on Library Scavenger Hunts

Since I am working with our First Year Seminar program to develop a library scavenger hunt, I decided to do a little research to see what has been written on the subject. ACRL's information literacy and instruction listserv has archived many of the responses from librarians around the country, but the archive is very unwieldy. When I accessed it I could only search from month to month. The search box would not allow me to search the whole archive. Who knows, perhaps they don't have a server that could accommodate many extensive searchers?

Academic Search Complete yielded a few results, but the most promising article was not available in full text. So I interlibrary loaned it--one of the first times I've used this service since working at ISU. Cheryl McCain wrote a well-balanced article for College & Undergraduate Libraries titled "Scavenger Hunt Assignments in Academic Libraries: Viewpoints versus Reality" (14.1: 2007, 19-32). Many librarians complain about library scavenger hunts, but they do not back up their complaints with any research.

Nearly every librarian knows that a scavenger hunt can be poorly developed; however, McCain's article cites one study that showed how a scavenger hunt actually taught more to students than a library tour. Groups and basic instruction helps in the assignment also increased the scavenger hunt's success. Not much as been written about scavenger hunts in the way of an actual research study, so this could be a great opportunity for an enterprising librarian to conduct such a study. Students and faculty often learn from the scavenger hunt and in the process become more comfortable and familiar with the building and its physical and virtual resources, which or worthy objectives in my book.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What the Best College Teachers Do (A Book Review)

Many librarians in the last ten or fifteen years have found themselves in situations they never dreamed of previously--instruction settings. Generally speaking, individuals who have entered the library profession may have done so in part because they did not want to teach or stand in front of people to give presentations. While this may have been possible 40 to 50 years ago, it no longer holds true. Academic librarians need to learn about teaching issues just as much as their full-time faculty colleagues across campus. Ken Bain's book What the Best College Teachers Do is a great place to start learning about teaching and learning issues, because it explores his findings from a longitudinal study on a large sample of the best college teachers.

First, a good college teacher must be knowledgeable in his/her discipline; however, expert knowledge of one's field does not automatically qualify a person to become a great teacher. He writes: "The people in our study, unlike so many others have used their knowledge to develop techniques for grasping fundamental principles and organizing concepts that others can use to begin building their own understanding and abilities" (16). Certainly, in-depth understandings of a topic can give anyone a great deal of confidence, but the best teachers actively seek for ways in which they can lead others to similar understandings.

Great teachers do not want to create a pandemonium of parrots. No, they honestly want to influence students to become lifelong learners who passionately explore the big questions of life. Bain says: "While others, for example, talk about transmitting knowledge and building a storehouse of information in the students' brains, our subjects talk about helping learners grapple with ideas and information to construct their understanding" (16). Teaching is not an easy thing to do, but Bain asserts that people can learn how to become better teachers. In fact, that is the main purpose of his book: "Most of all, I hope readers will take away from this book the conviction that good teaching can be learned" (21).

This book challenges the idea that someone is either born a good teacher or they are not. For inexperienced and experienced teachers alike, it can be temptingly easy to fault the students when a class does not go well. Student attitudes and preparations can make a huge difference, but Bain claims that the best college teacher "didn't blame their students for any of the difficulties they faced" (19). Instead they tended to examine what had happened and then modify their approach to achieve better results.

The seven chapters and epilogue focus on key teaching issues:
1. Definitions of the best teachers
2. What they know about learners and students
3. How they prepare to teach
4. Their expectations of students
5. How they conduct class
6. How they treat students
7. How they evaluate students and themselves
Epilogue: What we can learn from them

I highly recommend that librarians with teaching responsibilities pick up this book and consider how they can use its principles to improve library instruction. Bain writes in a very accessible manner and constantly pulls quotes and anecdotes from interviews while making observations and conclusions throughout the book.

Teachers in all fields of study can begin to do what the best teachers do. Bain concludes: "Excellent teachers develop their abilities through constant self-evaluation, reflection, and the willingness to change" (172).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Information Discoveries and Behavior

Today I heard about a musician I had not heard about before, so I looked first in the Oxford Reference Online resource and found nothing on this particular artist. However, I did find a good little article in the Encyclopedia Britannica on Dan Fogelberg. This led me to discover that I could share the article about Mr. Fogelberg with readers if my blog. I think this is pretty cool that Encyclopedia Britannica allows its readers share useful articles with those who do not have paid subscriptions to their encyclopedia. It makes some sense; if people see the quality articles they are writing, they might be more inclined to pay for a personal subscription themselves.

Also, I googled "Dan Fogelberg" and found a bunch of websites and videos focusing on him. The first result took me to another Google results page that listed all of his albums with links to the record labels where you could no doubt purchase individual tracks or the entire album. Perhaps this should not surprise me, because the internet really does cater to business interests. In other words it's a great place to buy and sell things and find where you can do this, which you probably already knew.

From the second results page I saw something else I had never seen. At the top and bottom of the webpage, the Google search button said "Search Music," and it was placed next to another search button titled "Search Web." These are little things, but it tells me that Google continues to make improvements to its product. They must realize the searchers like to limit their options. If they are searching for music, they don't want medical sites to pop up. Apparently, though, you have to enter your search and select what you want before this limiting function appears. In this case "Dan Fogelberg" was a big enough or unique enough name (though I don't recall having ever heard of him in all my born days before today), so that Google could tell he was a musician. The logic follows that if you want to know more about this musician, maybe you would like to learn more about other musicians.

I wonder how much information behavior has changed because of the Google algorithm. My limited understanding is that it returns results according to their popularity as determined by the number of links pointing to particular webpages. The more sites pointing their hyperlinks to a particular page, the more likely you are to find it by just surfing the internet. Anyway, something to think about.

Yeah, Dan Fogelberg definitely appealed more to the generation that preceded mine. Chances are that I've heard some of his music without learning about him--that he was the artist.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Google Information Behavior

Google Analytics allows people to see how many people are coming to their website, which sites referred them to the site, and which terms they entered in a search engine to find the site. It's interesting and flattering to find out that people from India, Australia, Russia, England, etc. have visited my site before. Of course, the vast majority if individuals viewing my blog come from the United States and Canada.

Don't worry, I have no reason to be cocky as soon as I see how long people stay on any given page. My bounce rate is too high. It does feel good to see which entries get looked at the most and for the longest amount of time. At any rate, looking at this usage data does motivate me to write more posts to my blog. The more blog posts I write, the more that people will likely see my blog

Currently, my blog is up 9.27% over the last month in number of visitors, with 271 visits who averaged one minute twelve seconds (1:12) on my site. In the last month only 9.96% were repeat visitors, indicating that a clear majority found my site via a search engine. Actually, the "Traffic Sources Overview" shows that 8.49% came to my site directly, 15.50% came from referring sites (sites with lists of information-literacy/library blogs), and 76.01% from search engines. Increasing my post frequency and quality would likely increase my number of repeat visitors.

It's particularly interesting to me to see which Google search terms brought individuals to my blog. "College reading strategies" always seems to draw several people to my blog each month. It's often at the top of my most-viewed posts, but not far behind that is my post on the difference between a catalog and an index, though the searchers often use different sorts of terms and combinations of terms to find it. Many have found my site looking for a la carte menus for library instruction. It seems that my most faithful audience out there consists of other librarians, which totally makes sense, considering the subject matter of my posts.

Quite a number of individuals have found my site by conducting various searches on the differences between the Greek gods, Dionysus and Apollo, and their philosophies.

Of the 186 searches that found my site, there were 106 searches that contained more than three words. People understand they can enter lots of words, including prepositions, into a search, and this will often yield the right kinds of results they are seeking.

The person who conducted this search "inblogtitle:"information literacy" university" stayed on my site the longest (26 mins.) and actually viewed 4 different pages. (Thank you, and I hope you come back.) It's probably a librarian or a library-science student. In second place, someone who searched on the following terms: "scholarships and grants reference book," stayed on the site for 20 minutes and visited two pages. Third place goes to the information seeker who used these keywords: "craap test worksheet activity quiz" with a time of 7:28.

Particularly for librarians, it is interesting to think about the information behavior and practice of different individuals, which reminds me that I need to go back and look at that post to remember what the difference is between information behavior and information practice.

Thank you for visiting my blog. : ) Please comment and let me know what you think.

Knowing How to Find Information

Information-literacy skills will help individuals recognize when they need information, where they might go for information, how to find it, and how to use it. Today a patron came asking for the salary of department chairs in a California State University. Initially, I thought he was asking for salaries of ISU faculty. (We have two spiral-bound books that list the salaries of all persons working at ISU. By government mandate, all government employees must have their salaries freely available to the public.)

Once I found out he needed salary ranges for engineering chairs in California I went to Google. We found a few results that looked somewhat useful. He asked that I email him a URL, so he could look at it on his own.

After he left I wondered whether or not one of the librarians at this university in California could find the salary ranges that we needed, so I googled the university and found its library. They had a nifty chat-reference service embedded on one of their webpages, which I found to be easy to use. The librarian on the other end thought that this listing of salaries at their institution would be online, but after she/he couldn't find it, they told me they would retrieve the print copy. (When you are waiting for an answer on a chat service, two minutes seems like an eternity. We are spoiled with our quick technology.)

Not too long afterwards, the librarian returned and provided the salary range (they have more than one engineering department, thus they have more than one engineering chair) and a few other bits of information that she/he thought would be useful. Since I had previously emailed the patron, I was able to send along this additional information.

When someone asks for information about a specific institution or locale, it may not hurt to consult a librarian at that institution, or a librarian at the nearest public library.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How can I find a report on reading statistics in the U.S.?

Today a newsletter called Smart Libraries was left in my mailbox. ALA TechSource publishes this newsletter. On the third page, they include an article on the most recent reading report created by the National Endowment for the Arts, which is titled "Reading on the Rise. Basically, they claim that reading has increased in the last few years--not dramatically, but they have been able to measure it to some degree.

Naturally, this is good news. Reading in general, even literary titles like novels, poetry, and plays, tends to result in social benefits. In a previous report NEA completed in 2004, reading had gone down: Reading at Risk Report.

I appreciate that the author of this newsletter article, Tom Peters, inserted statistics on persons who listen to audiobooks, why they do it, and how they are more likely to read a physical book than someone who doesn't listen to an audiobook. Most people find audiobooks at a local library and do so for long trips, exercise, or to reduce monotony on their daily commutes. It appears, though, that downloaded electronic books are becoming more popular. He found many of these statistics via the APA Press Release.

Libraries, of course, promote reading, and librarians should be aware of the different formats in which people "read" and make them as easily accessible as possible.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Information Literacy Article by William Badke

William Badke continues to champion the cause of information literacy. As a prolific author, he addresses many facets of finding, evaluating, interpreting, and using information. Though I have not done so yet, it would be a good idea to read his book Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog, 3rd. ed., which was published just last year.

I have enjoyed reading his regular "Infolit Land" column in Online: Exploring Technology & Resources for Information Professionals. His Jan/Feb article is titled: "Professors and Personal Information Literacy." In it he describes three different professors he has known (of course he conceals their identity). Professor A comes to him and essentially wants him to do the research for him--a literature review (47). Professor B, on the other hand, copies down search terms and techniques, while not exactly grasping the larger information-literacy strategy. Finally, Badke explains how Professor C brings his students to the Library every semester for instruction, introduces the class, and emphasizes the value of what they've have been taught (48).

Before writing, I had not paid attention to the sections of the article, which shed more light on the character of each professor type here: (a) intermediary dependent, (b) strategy determination, and (c) teachable professor. This article is worth reading.

Badke makes some excellent points, so I'd like to quote him directly:
I've started to wonder if faculty members who are passively resistant to information literacy instruction are guided less by pride than by a lack of belief that information literacy can be taught at all. Most faculty members fell into their own research skills just because they are gifted academically. No one taught them, and they can't even remember learning how to do research. To them, teaching a student how to do research is like teaching critical thinking. Academics are always talking about it, but few have any sort of notion of a pedagogy that could actually bring it about. You learn it by doing it, so how can it be taught. (48)

He says it better than I can. Badke acknowledges that his generalizations do not ring true for every academic in higher education. There are professors who dedicate time to understanding pedagogy and how to really foster critical-thinking skills, but they seem to be in minority. Many academics worry a great deal about covering the content in their courses. Content/knowledge is very important, but understanding how people came to that knowledge is just as important, as is knowing why that knowledge is important and how it impacts other knowledge.

I suppose that if I were to disagree with one thing that Badke says in the last quote, I would take issue with the assertion that "Most faculty members fell into their own research skills just because they are gifted academically. No one taught them, and they can't even remember learning how to do research." In many cases I would think that professors picked up research tips and insights a little bit at a time from a classmate here, a thesis adviser there, an observation they make while combing through footnotes, and sometimes even from a librarian. If it takes a village to raise a child, maybe it takes an invisible college to raise an academic.

On the bright side, it seems that Badke's comments in this article would align well with Ken Bain's ideas in What the Best College Teachers Do; the best college teachers are teachable themselves, make an honest effort to understand their students, and sympathetically invite them to learn--not always relying on just one or two methods.

One other thing that Badke says caught my interest.
But easier search tools do not mean better searches. Abandoning sophistication often means abandoning effective and comprehensive academic research. (49)
Librarians like to hear this sort of thing; it's very vindicating, and it encourages us to go forward in our efforts to convince students of the value of the databases they pay for themselves with their tuition dollars. Taking the time to learn how to search the databases can be very useful, not only for students, but also for faculty.

By the way, I do agree that "easier search tools do not mean better searches."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tagging Library Catalogs

Would you like to make a comment on a book, video, or other item in your library's catalog? Do you wish to see user-generated keywords/tags next to a bibliographic record in a catalog? If given the choice, would you write a book review for a book in your library? Some libraries have already begun to explore options that allow users do some of these things that can already be done on Amazon. These kinds of catalogs would be called SOPACS, or social online public access catalogs.

Library Hi Tech published an artitle titled "Subjecting the catalog to tagging" by Luiz H. Mendes, Jennie Quinonez-Skinner, and Danielle Skaggs. They talk about a study they conducted on their library's implementation of LibraryThing tags into their catalog. LibraryThing allows its users to catalog their own personal book collections and assign their own personal subject headings, which they call tags. When a user adds a book to their account, they can describe that book with descriptors. Whenever they login to their account, they can click on any of these descriptors to find all the books listed under that heading.

The authors of this article hail from California State University, Northridge, and their library, the Oviatt Library, has pulled these user-generated tags from LibraryThing, using the ISBN numbers. In their discussion section, they claim: "For every new book a user discovers using LCSH headings they will discover four books using LTFL [LibraryThing for Libraries = user-generated tags]. This type of data captures sheer numbers, with the potential for increased resource discovery" (39). They recognize that this does not equate directly to relevancy, but it certainly seems like a step in a positive direction for social OPACs.

I like the idea of having people select user-generated tags, because these tags often reflect more closely the modern-day language people use. One of the standard examples of out-of-date subject headings in the Library of Congress classification system is "cookery," which is the subject heading for cookbooks and cooking. Library patrons would prefer to find just what they want with "cookbooks," and some tags would help them find more specific results more directly, such as "vegan cookbooks," that a user-generated tag might offer.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Choosing a Career

What do you like? Knowing which subjects you like and do well with can help you know which careers would be suitable for you.
The following site helps answer this question by suggesting school subjects and the careers that align best with those subjects. The site also outlines the basic educational requirements, salary ranges, future outlook of the career, number of such positions in the country, etc.

What do you like?

For a larger listing of careers, take a look at the Occupational Outlook
Handbook. It provides some of the same kinds of information, except it offers more details. A listing of jobs can be viewed in alphabetical order or browsed by category.

• Occupational Outlook Handbook:

To gauge your interest in various careers, take a questionnaire or look at the
resources on the Career Interest Guide.

Career Interest Guide
Career Interest Guide Questionnaire
Career Interest Area

Look at a few books:

• College Majors Handbook with Real Career Paths and Payoffs : the actual jobs, earnings, and trends for graduates of 60 college majors. Reference Collection (1st Floor). Call Number: HF5382.5.U5 F644 2004.
• The Compleat Academic : A Career Guide. Main Book Collection (2nd Floor). Call Number: H62.C584824 2004.
• Internships : theory and practice / by Charles H. Sides and Ann Mrvica. Main Book Collection (2nd Floor). Call Number: LC1072.I58 S53 2007.
• Vault Guide to Top Internships. Reference Collection (1st Floor). Call Number: LC1072.I58 V38 2004.

3 Things to Consider

1. Will it support you and your [future] household?
2. Is it something that interests you? Would you enjoy the work in that field?
3. Will there be demand for this career, or job path? Is there a demand right now?

Need to talk with someone?

Visit ISU’s Academic Advising Center:
Administration Building - 3rd Floor, Room 316

Job Search Websites

Job Search Websites

Many of these popular job-search websites will allow you to create a free profile, where you can upload your resume and search for job openings. You can search by location or by job title.

4. claims to help students find internships and entry-level jobs for recent graduates.
6. Idaho Department of Labor website. Search for jobs and find recommendations for effective job searches.

Websites with Tips and Suggestions

1. PriceWaterhouseCoopers: "10 Tips to Recession-Proof Your Job Search" by Lindsey Pollack.
a. How to Job Search
b. Before You Search
c. Sites with Job Listings
d. Resumes & Cover Letters
e. Salary Guides
a. Resume Help
b. Resume Writing
a. Student Jobs:
b. Government Jobs
c. Career Exploration
d. Career Interest Guide
e. Career Interest Guide Questionnaire
f. Career Interest Areas
a. Explore Careers
b. Salary and Benefits
c. Education and Training
d. Job Search
e. Resumes and Interviews
f. People and Places to Help

Other Websites

1. ISU Career Center: Find out their hours, so you can go talk to the experts. Learn how to find and prepare for internships and job opportunities. Develop interviewing skills. Search for jobs here at ISU.
2. Company websites: if you know where you want to work, try looking at well-known companies in that area to see if they have any interesting and relevant job openings. A typical search engine will help you find most company websites.
3. Industry, Trade, or Professional Associations: membership allows you access to their job-searching engines. Exs: American Engineering Association, American Bankers Association, and Chronicle of Higher Education (see their Careers section).
4. Find bookmarked websites, including the ones listed here and blogs that list even more.

Information in this post was presented during a workshop on job searching in the Eli M. Oboler Library on April 15, 2009.

Friday, April 10, 2009

LexisNexis Academic = Great for Finding Court Cases

One of our most versatile resources, this database provides access to scholarly research, newspaper articles, business data, and legal materials. It allows its users to search the archives of specific newspapers or journals, including the local paper like the Post Register and national ones like The New York Times. The legal tab provides options for searching tax law, federal and state cases, Shepard’s Citations, as well as federal and state laws (the database uses the word “code” here). In the business tab you can search for company-specific information: its history, current value of their stocks, names of its executives, contact information, and more. For help with this resource, talk to the librarians at the reference desk.

I just helped a student today find some Idaho case called State v. Guzman, which he knew had taken place in 1992. Under the Legal tab, LexisNexis allows you to input case names by providing two empty search boxes with a "v." between them. When we searched for "State v. Guzman" there were about 200 results that turned up, and we even had specified "Idaho" as a source or option. When he keyed "Idaho State v. Guzman," we found it right away.

LexisNexis Academic seems to be a lot more user friendly than it used to be a few years ago, but many still consider it to be user unfriendly. The way they display the results it not useful--the typeface does not make it easy to separate the different elements of the result. It can still be a very powerful database, though.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Apollo vs. Dionysus

Since I started using Google Analytics, I have noticed trends over time. One trend seems to perfectly match a phenomenon my humanities teacher at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) brought to my class's attention. He commented that Apollo ruled the college campus on Tuesday night (perhaps even Monday and Wednesday nights), while Dionysus reigned over the weekend.

Apollo, the god of reason, guides humans to intellectual endeavors and contributing to society. Dionysus, on the other hand, was the god of wine and revelry. This blog, with its focus on finding information (particularly in an academic/education) setting, seems to be accessed most during the middle of the week, notably on Tuesdays, while it is not uncommon for it to go unnoticed on the weekends.

Information behavior of the population at large is probably rather predictable. No doubt, there are probably articles written about this and that marketers and advertisers understand this phenomenon.

Useful Websites for Beginners, Computer Problems, and & Everyone

As I librarian, I frequently receive library-focused magazines and journals. Like other librarians across the country/world, I am expected to keep up on library trends, research, events, etc. There are several periodicals that get routed in my direction. Ideally, I should look at them promptly to allow my colleagues an opportunity to peruse them as well, though I am not as successful in this department as I ought to be. Anyway, I recently read a little article by Jessamyn West titled "Tips: tech tips for every librarian," published in the March 2009 issue of Computers in Libraries (30-31).

I recommend that librarians look at this article, because it provides some ideas for computer-lab policies, tells about some basic websites to help novice computer users, identifies other sites that can answer questions about websites and computer problems, and introduces personally useful and amusing websites. If you want to browse some of these websites, take a look at some of my recent Delicious bookmarks, particularly the computer and humor bookmarks.

The newer "humor," "funny," and "fun" bookmarks tag websites known as single-serving sites, meaning that these sites typically include just one solitary webpage. Ryan Greenberg explains in better detail than I can what a single-serving site is: Be forewarned that if you start taking a look at his list of single-serving sites you might fall into a time sink-hole.

For info-lit gurus, West makes known a website that reveals the author of any given website: Knowing who the author of a website is can be rather illuminating, since it helps you begin to understand their level of expertise and bias. Check it out.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Working with Faculty on Library Assignments

Today I was made aware of an excellent post on the "In the Library with the Lead Pipe" blog. It talks about librarians working with faculty in a positive way. I'm glad that Ellie Collier wrote this very helpful post on communicating with campus faculty about library assignments. I particularly appreciate the possible responses that one could send to a faculty member; they are very diplomatic and respectful.

Our First Year Seminar program directors believe that a library scavenger hunt would be a great tool for introducing the freshmen to the campus library. I think that a well-crafted scavenger hunt might be a good experience for freshmen who have never entered a larger library in their lives, such as our campus library.

Of course, capitalizing on what the Library has would be optimal. For example, some students may not be aware of the student lounge, location/availability of study rooms, computer usage, how to find a book on the shelf, etc. They may not consider the Library as a relaxing place where they may read popular magazines or check their email.

My experience has been that all students do not appreciate the library tour very much, so they might learn more from a scavenger hunt that they work on with a small group of their peers, especially peers they did not know previously. A First Year Seminar program ought to facilitate networking among students. Perhaps I am digressing, but a (library) scavenger hunt done as a group could help new freshmen get to know someone they might not have. Their instructors know who they pal up with in the class, so they can assign students to groups with individuals other than their pals.

I appreciate how Ellie mentioned why some library assignments are bad. Sometimes I hear people disparage scavenger hunts in blanket statements, and it makes me hesitate to ask why, as if it should be intrinsically known already. If we can talk about the reasons why they are taboo/bad, then maybe we can find solutions for improving them.

While library tours are not the most enthralling events for freshmen, many of them do appreciate learning about the existence of computers, study rooms, and reference librarians. If nothing else, they seem to enjoy the rare books in our Special Collections: pop-up books, art books [they think the shoe book is cool], the 16th-century book of sermons by John Calvin, and ISU maps.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Finding Dissertations & Theses

In the last two months I have been working on a tutorial that incorporates an audio component. The Instructional Technology Resource Center or ITRC helped me download Adobe Presenter software, which allows me to add audio to a PowerPoint Presentation. They allow faculty and staff on campus to publish these audio presentations to their servers.

It really was not as difficult as I feared that it would be. I created a tutorial on finding dissertations and theses at Idaho State University: It begins with a brief overview of the the ProQuest database, Dissertations and Theses--A&I, which can really be a useful source for finding graduate studies on all kinds of subjects. Abstracts and full citations appear with other information, such as the names of committee members. They also provide options for purchasing a copy in various formats, beginning at $34.00. It is a good place to start when doing graduate research and discovering research that has already been done, so you do not duplicate your efforts.

Then I go through the steps of securing a dissertation via Interlibrary Loan. Colleagues in the Interlibrary Loan (ILL) department like to emphasize that a thesis or dissertation is considered a book, and requestors need to remember this.

Not all institutions allow their theses and dissertations to be borrowed; however, researchers do have the opportunity to purchase a copy through the Dissertation Service. They just need to fill out a Purchase a Thesis/Dissertation Form. A photocopy of the book will be made and sent to the proper persons; their university account will be billed $29.00.

Finally, I conclude the tutorial with tips on how to found in-house theses and dissertations at ISU's Oboler Library. The Library's catalog still serves as a great tool (and probably the only tool) for browsing ISU's theses and dissertations online. Using keywords such as "thesis 'idaho state'" will allow anyone to browse all the theses and dissertations. It so happens that even for the dissertations the keyword "thesis" works, since the bibliographic record contains a note, saying it is a "Thesis" for a doctoral degree, or a doctoral thesis.

If grad students or faculty want to limit the results to a specific department, then they can just add the name of that department to the Keyword Boolean or Quick search: "thesis 'idaho state' anthropology." This will retrieve more results than a search on the subject heading. For example, "Dissertations, Academic--Idaho State University. Dept. of Political Science" will only retrieve 21 results, yet a Keyword Boolean search for "thesis and 'idaho state' and 'political science'" will yield 60 results. The subject headings are still relatively new, so if you also want the older titles written by former students I recommend this second search.

The tutorial, "How Can I Find Dissertations: Using ISU's Resources to Conduct More Exhaustive Research" lasts for twelve minutes and thirty-two seconds (12:32). Take a look at it and let me know what you think.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Evaluating E-mails, Urban Myths, and Legends

Not too long ago I received a forwarded email that warned me about solicitors being able to contact me via my cell phone. It said that I should contact the Do Not Call Registry to place my cell phone number on the list before a specific date, so telemarketers would not call on my cell phone. From experience I decided to double-check this information on, and I learned that the claim made in the email was "false."

The website even provided examples of the false email, how it originated, and information about cell phone directories. It mentions that cell-phone providers must gain permission from their customers before they can list their cell-phone numbers in a directory. Cell phone users may still choose to put their phone numbers on the Do Not Call Registry; however, this may not be necessary, because Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations already block nearly all telemarketers' phone calls.

New legislation was passed in 2007 that made it so your phone number on the Do Not Call Registry will not expire after 5 years; this according to the Federal Trade Commission.

How can we trust This site includes hyperlinks to other sites that verify their information, and they also include a list of references with each entry. If you receive emails that detail dire situations and call you to act immediately, then you might consider verifying that information to find out if it is true or false. It might be a rumor.

Of course, it is also important to check out the sources, or the authors of a site to look at its authoritative nature. Barbara and David P. Mikkelson created the website, and you can learn more about them through this Wikipedia article.