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.