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? www.bls.gov/k12

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: www.bls.gov/OCO

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: www.isu.edu/advising
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.

1. Monster.com
2. Usajobs.opm.gov
3. Careerbuilder.com
4. Collegerecruiter.com: claims to help students find internships and entry-level jobs for recent graduates.
5. Hotjobs.yahoo.com
6. Labor.idaho.gov: Idaho Department of Labor website. Search for jobs and find recommendations for effective job searches.
7. Career.com
8. Job.com
9. Indeed.com
10. Jobcentral.com

Websites with Tips and Suggestions

1. PriceWaterhouseCoopers: "10 Tips to Recession-Proof Your Job Search" by Lindsey Pollack.
2. Rileyguide.com
a. How to Job Search
b. Before You Search
c. Sites with Job Listings
d. Resumes & Cover Letters
e. Salary Guides
3. Truecareers.com
a. Resume Help
b. Resume Writing
4. Usajobs.opm.gov
a. Student Jobs: www.studentjobs.gov.
b. Government Jobs
c. Career Exploration
d. Career Interest Guide
e. Career Interest Guide Questionnaire
f. Career Interest Areas
5. Careeronestop.org
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. Delicious.com/sjardine/jobs. 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.