Saturday, February 26, 2011

Legal Opinions and Journals

As a reminder for many, Google Scholar allows researchers to find digital access to legal opinions and journal articles.  Just remember to select the radio dial on the Google Scholar search page.  The Official Google Blog contains a post titled "Finding the Laws that Govern Us."

This should be good to keep in mind for personal use and when helping others search for legal opinions.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Quotable Quotes: Information Literacy, Investigators, and Imagination

Mary W. George's book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know seems to be very readable.  It ought to be a great textbook for freshmen and college students in general.  She works to make the research process less intimidating and convince students that it is doable, which it is.
"Most people tend to panic and falter in a formal setting such as a class- or work-related project imposed by an authority figure.  This is a variant of the fight- or flight instinct, the urge to understand versus the urge to duck.  Since the point of education is to learn and apply, it follows that ducking is not an option, whereas understanding is. Any discomfort you might feel with library research is perfectly normal--but so is your innate ability to master the tools and process" (14-15). 
Students do encounter moments of trepidation, speaking from personal experience, else why would procrastination continue to thrive as such a time-honored traditions?  How can students and researchers overcome their fears about research?  A simple answer is that we just need to go to work, discover the questions, and seek viable solutions.  George encourages a positive perspective--looking at it as a game.
"Whatever their characteristics, all research projects require imagination and the ability to turn an assignment into an investigation, a topic into an inquiry" (15).
I tend to think that students would enjoy reading this book, but I am a librarian who enjoys reading and thinking about this kind of thing, so take that for what it is worth.  George's writes this book better than most of the authors of my library science textbooks at any rate.  She helps to demystify the process with a relaxed style--definitely not formal and stiff.

With my Spanish-speaking background, I traveled to Guatemala as a BYU student one summer to conduct some research.  One of the gentlemen I met there had cable television, so he was rather well-to-do, and he was even working on a university degree at the time.  Anyway, he would call me "Spencer, el investigador" after the TV show more commonly known as "Spenser: For Hire."  Yeah, I got that a lot in elementary school when the TV show aired originally.

Still, I like the idea of approaching research as a private investigator.  A problem comes up, a solution needs to be found, so questions need to be asked.  Sometimes it helps if you can develop strategies for solving certain types of problems, and sometimes the informants (databases, for example) are reluctant to divulge information they have.  Knowing how to ask questions (construct search statements) proves to be valuable, yielding desirable results.

Incidentally, no relevant results from the TV show came back when I searched for images labeled for reuse within the Google Advanced Image Search.  Check out some of the following if you are interested:
Tragically, I do not recall having ever seen these TV shows, so I did not even know the main character spelled his name with two s's. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Statistical Abstract: Great for Students Who Need Statistics

In helping a student at the reference desk a few days ago I could not find some statistical information.  He wanted information on cruises, like how many people go each year and how that has changed in the last four years.  I could not find the information he needed, but when I asked a colleague they were able to pinpoint some information rather quickly.  This government documents librarian googled "economic census" +cruise, which returned some good results. 

The Statistical Abstract of the United States added a table on the cruise industry a few years ago, so it shows data from 2003 to 2007.  Sometimes it's good to be reminded of this great resource.  Other sources that might be useful regarding cruises:

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Information Literacy Textbooks for Undergraduates

I am in the process of proposing an experimental information-literacy course. Part of this process entails choosing a textbook. Following are some candidates for an information-literacy textbook:

   1. Badke, William B. 2008. Research Strategies: Finding Your Way Through the Information Fog. 3d. ed.  New York: iUniverse. Table of Contents: Welcome to the information fog -- Taking charge -- Database searching with keywords and hierarchies -- Metadata and the power of controlled vocabularies -- Library catalogs and journal databases -- Internet research -- Other resources and case studies in research -- Learning how to read for research -- Organizing your resources to write your paper -- Tips on research writing. (213 p.)
   2. George, Mary. 2008. The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Table of Contents: Introduction to research as inquiry -- From research assignment to research plan -- Strategy and tools for discovery -- The fine art of finding sources -- Insight, evaluation, argument, and beyond. Description: xiv, 201 p. : ill. ; 22 cm.
   3. List, Carla. 2005. Information Literacy and Technology, 3d. ed. Dubuque, IA: Kendall/Hunt.
   4. Mann, Thomas. 2005. The Oxford Guide to Library Research, 3d. ed. New York: Oxford.
   5. Palmquist, Mike. 2003. The Bedford Researcher. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.
   6. Quaratiello, Arlene Rodda. 2010. The College Student's Research Companion: Finding, Evaluating, and Citing the Resources You Need to Succeed. 5th. ed. New York: Neal-Schuman. Table of Contents from 4th edition: Mastering research basics -- Decoding database searches -- Locating books -- Finding periodicals -- Exploring reference sources -- Selecting electronic resources -- Navigating the World Wide Web -- Preparing a flawless bibliography. Description: xvi, 168 p. : ill. ; 23 cm.
   7. Taylor, Terry. 2007. 100% Information Literacy Success. Clifton Park, NY: Thomson Delmar.
   8. Tensen, Bonnie L. 2007. Research Strategies for a Digital Age, 2d. ed. Boston: Thomson Wadsworth.

Other information-literacy books that might be worth looking at, particularly for librarians and for those needing to understand legal research:
  • Susan E. Beck and Kate Manuel.  2008.  Practical Research Methods for Librarians and Information Professionals.  New York: Neal-Schuman Publishers.
  • Cohen, Morris L.  and Kent C. Olson.  2007. Legal Research in a Nutshell, 9th ed. St. Paul, MN: Thomson/West.

If you know of any other information-literacy books worth using, please share them in the comments box.  Do you use any of these titles?  Which ones?  Why?  Let me know what you think.

Information Literacy: Valuable for Both Lower- and Upper-division Undergraduates

Here's a message I shared on the Information-literacy and instruction listserv.  Thought it might be good to share on my blog:

Information literacy should not be placed solely in the lower-division, undergraduate courses.  They should be integrated into the upper-division courses, where students should be learning about the resources, evaluation methods, and legal uses of information specific to their field of study.

One of my colleagues who recently served on the Curriculum Council succeeded in pitching the idea of information literacy.  In fact, with the recent campus move to update and improve our general education requirements, the committee added an information-literacy component to the list of desired student learning outcomes.  According to the GenEd Revision Committee, each Idaho State University student ought to "locate relevant sources and use them critically and responsibly."

Now we need to create a one-credit course to help students fulfill this objective.  We are working to collaborate with departments, so that appropriate courses already in the catalog may include information-literacy components.  Hopefully, we can teach the teachers and help them teach their students to become information literate in their fields.  In other words, we like the idea of courses in the major requiring information-literacy components.

We are also working to get a librarian on the correct committee that oversees the GenEd program to ensure that any courses designated as an IL course do indeed incorporate IL components.

If you have ideas on creating IL courses, becoming embedded in upper-division courses, and working with departments, please continue to share on this listserv.  I've been searching the archives.

For any who are interested, below are some links to our GenEd revisions and outcomes:
Thank you for letting me share what I consider a success, though it is just the beginning for us.

Teaching Instructors and TAs How to Incorporate Information Literacy in their Classrooms

Esther Grassian, a respected and well-known information-literacy librarian, at UCLA, has created a Libguide to help instructors and TAs teach their students to become information literate.  The Libguide offers exercises and information that can be used directly in the classroom--see the tabs on the Libguide.

She has also co-authored two editions of the following book with Joan Kaplowitz: Information literacy instruction : theory and practice.  The ISU Library has this book: Call Number ZA3075.G73 2009. 

Ms. Grassian, thank you for your dedication to information literacy and librarianship.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Wordle Images

Here's a fun site that can help you create an image that is both relevant to your project and visually appealing: Wordle.  It allows individuals to paste text from a document, a website, or wherever, and it will create a word graphic.  Also, a field appears where you can paste in a website, a blog URL, or a blog feed.  It even lets people enter their delicious user name, so it can create a graphic with words from their bookmarks.

This graphic shows words taken from this blog:

Take a look at a graphic of my Delicious bookmarks:
The above graphic links directly to the larger image on, but the one below does not.

Once the website address or the Delicious username gets entered into the proper field, the graphic appears.  Then the fun begins.  The color, the font, and the layout can all be changed.  If you do not feel particularly creative, just hit the "Randomize" button, and it will change all of these things.

Here's another Wordle showing my Delicious tags:
Wordle: Sjardine's Delicious Cloud Tag

Again, here's the larger image:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Finding Open Access Scholarship and Information about Open Access

I completed a display on open access publishing today.  I learned that researchers at ISU can find open access journals via our A-Z Journal List.  For example, a search for Communications in Information Literacy will return a page like this:
The green hyperlinks take users to the Communications in Information Literacy homepage, where a username and password is required to access their articles, but it is still free.

Anyone can find and use open-access (OA) journals.  To browse and search OA journals, take a look at the Directory of Open Access Journals, which is also known as the DOAJ.   Take a look at Mallikarjun Dora's post on the "Growth of DOAJ (Directory of Open Access Journals)."  The post includes a useful graph to visualize the increase in the number of journals available with open access research articles.

Even more open-access articles can be found on the following sites:
For more information about open access, look at the Galter Health Sciences Library's "Open Access Resources Guide."  This library serves the Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine.

Most of the information I gathered came from Peter Suber's "Overview of Open Access."  Find definitions and learn the differences between Gratis OA and Libre OA.  It is really quite a useful site if you want to understand more about OA, copyright, Creative Commons, etc.

Other useful sites on the topic include, though certainly are not limited to:
The head of our acquisition's department says that scholarly journal inflation rates typically rise 9%  each year.  Normal inflation tends to be just 3% each year.  Some scholarly journals cost as much as a brand new car.
See here. 

In a good year when academic library budgets do not get cut, it may still mean some academic journals get axed, due to the high inflation rate.  Perhaps this is why many librarians have begun to promote open access publishing, inviting professors to retain their copyrights and initiating institutional repositories to retain access to the research created by their own researchers.

Have you been involved in the open access movement?  How?  

Do you publish in open-access journals?  Why?

Have you negotiated your copyright with publishers?  How did that go?

Below is a Wordle image highlighting the words used in this post.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Need a Shorter URL?

 For so many, this is old information, but it still comes in handy on occasion.

Do you ever cringe at seeing interminable website addresses (URLs)?  If you ever need to shorten up a URL, just go to Tiny URL:  It will assign a shortened website for you that you can share more easily with others.  You do not even need to sign in or pay for this service.  By the way, URL stands for Uniform Resource Locator. 

How have you found the Tiny URL to be helpful?  When do you use it?  Have you ever found it problematic?

I have seen instruction librarians stick a tiny URL to the back of their business cards that they then hand out to their classes, especially if they have created a specific resources (pathfinder or Libguide) page for that particular class.  It diminishes the amount of confusion for students, and they can find the page again later--as long as they don't lose the business card, I suppose.  : )

Spanish Resources and Declassified Documents

Today I taught a Spanish 3381 class, which was a welcome opportunity to practice my Spanish-speaking skills.  The instructor asked that I show students how to find resources that will help them with their assignment.  Students need to write a paper and give an oral presentation on a Latin American country, focusing on a specific current event (last 50 years more or less).  Additionally, students are encouraged to search out declassified documents to see, as much as possible, the United States involvement in some of these events.  Of course, they are also asked to look for sources in Spanish that will help them understand their topic, such as the Dirty War in Argentina, Pinochet's government in Chile, the overthrow of Arbenz's government in Guatemala, or Madero's in Mexico.

Fortunately, one of my colleagues had taught this class five years ago and had a handout with a list of resources to get me started.  Database subscriptions change over time at academic institutions, and ours is not exception.  The part that worried me the most was finding declassified government documents.  In a casual encounter with the instructor last week, she indicated that Georgetown University had made resources available for researchers to find declassified documents.  When I looked at their site, I found that they do have databases for searching these documents; however, they required a login and password.  Again, a colleague of mine who is the government documents librarians really helped quite a bit in pointing me in the right direction.  Her efforts helped me improve upon the resources my first colleague shared with me, and the results can be found on this Declassified Documents page.

To see all my resources for this class, go to the Spanish 3381 site I created.  Here is the Tiny URL for the site:

Si quieres encontrar documentos desclasificados, utilice al siguiente sitio: Declassified Documents.  Claro, la mayoria de los documentos que se encuentran en los sitios del gobierno de los Estados Unidos de America son en ingles.  Si necesitas una traduccion de la pagina <<Declassified Documents>> dimelo.  Tratare' de ayudarte.