Friday, December 23, 2011

College Students and Information-Literacy Realities

Some of the YouTube videos on information literacy topics are quite fascinating.  Every once in a while I re-discover them again.  Project Information Literacy at the University of Washington still has some great videos up.  These are create by the Information School Here are a few that I enjoy watching
  1. "PIL InfoLit Dialog, No. 1: Wikipedia"
  2. "PIL InfoLit Dialog, No. 2: Procrastination"
  3. "PIL InfoLit Dialog, No. 3: Frustration"
  4. "PIL InfoLit Dialog, No. 4: Strategies"
  5. "PIL InfoLit Dialog, No. 5: Context"
These videos may be good ways to start a class discussion about information literacy or the topic of the day.  They might also be good for starting discussions with library instructors, campus faculty, administrators, etc. 

Have you seen these videos?  How have they been useful?  What do you think of them?

"Information Literacy Toolkit."  by heyjudegallery

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Phrasing Reference Questions

Do you ever wonder how to ask a question or phrase it so that you will be understood?  Growing up it terrified me to talk to people on the phone.  I did not know how to say what I needed to say.  Actually, if I pause a moment, it seems that my terror or "deer in the headlights" experiences were mostly involving talking with an adult or asking an adult for something. 

Moments like these were tough, and my mom came to my rescue, prompting me with just the words I would need to supply while holding that rotary phone to my ear.  (I'm not sure when we switched to a cordless phone, but I look back on the rotary phone with fondness and nostalgia.  My dad still has one out in his shop.)

Anyway, Mary W. George serves or functions as the mom/mentor for college students who need to approach the reference desk.  It can be intimidating to approach strangers behind an imposing desk.  Knowing how to phrase some questions or which words to supply in order to obtain the desired result can be quite useful.  In her book The Elements of Library Research: What Every Student Needs to Know, she dedicates two or three pages to this endeavor.

One column contains the title "What You'd Like to Know (and can't figure out on your own)," and the second column reads "Example of How to Ask a Reference Librarian about It (Be ready to explain what you have already tried.)"  Let me provide just a few questions:

-Background information on your general topic
  • Can you recommend a subject encyclopedia that deals with [your topic]?
-Where to identify articles on your topic
  • What database would you suggest for popular and scholarly articles about [your topic]?  Does it include newspaper articles, or is there a different database for those?
-What other sources the library may have related to your topic
  • I have already explored the online catalog and [name of article databases(s)].  What other approaches would you suggest for sources on [my topic]?  Are there relevant materials in special collections or in nonprint formats that the library owns? (118-20)
ISU Library Reference Desk
Granted, a good reference librarian ought to be able to ask follow-up questions if a patron does not phrase a question just right (in library speak should we say?), but trying out some of the suggestions George offers might really yield some great results. 

Idaho Health Sciences Library: Reference Desk

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Not Always Just One Way to Cite a Source

Across the country, college students are studying like mad in preparation for their final exams and projects.  Libraries become deathly quiet as students concentrate more intensely than ever.  Well, occasional study groups raise the noise level a bit.  Fortunately, many libraries and student unions have study rooms that can be reserved for one or more hours.  Students are also writing their last papers of the semester, and more time may be spent on that works cited or references list than at any other time of the semester.

"Final Exams."  See Mr. Longoria's Earth Science.

As I was creating my last rubric for the ACAD 1199: Information Research course, I needed to find out how an annotated bibliography is formatted in MLA format.  The index in the book directed me to 5.3.1 or page 129 in the 7th edition, so I started reading this section titled "The List of Works Cited: Introduction."  A lengthy paragraph ensues.  A litle more than half way through the paragraph this observation is made:
While it is tempting to think that every source has only one complete and correct format for its entry in a list of works cited, in truth there are often several options for recording key features of a work. For this reason, software programs that generate entries are not likely to be useful. You may need to improvise when the type of scholarly project or the publication medium of a source is not anticipated by this handbook. Be consistent in your formatting throughout your work. Choose that format that is appropriate to your research paper and that will satisfy your reader's needs. 129 (Emphasis added.)
§MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. 7th ed.  New York: Modern Language Association, 2009. Print.  See pages 129-30.
Does this shatter your confidence in citation styles?  It seems like a valid disclaimer and a recognition that there are many things out there that can be cited--too many to keep track of in a handy manual.

Purdue's OWL includes a similar note regarding the APA style:
Please note: While the APA manual provides many examples of how to cite common types of sources, it does not provide rules on how to cite all types of sources. Therefore, if you have a source that APA does not include, APA suggests that you find the example that is most similar to your source and use that format. For more information, see page 193 of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, sixth edition.
Oh, in case you were wondering, an annotated bibliography in the MLA style should have one of the two titles listed below:
Angeli, E., Wagner, J., Lawrick, E., Moore, K., Anderson, M., Soderlund, L., & Brizee, A. (2010, May 5). General format. Retrieved from
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Annotated Bibliography of Works Cited
See page 130 in the 7th edition, or 5.3.1.  They provide a concise definition as well: "An annotated bibliography, also called Annotated Bibliography of Works Cited, contains descriptive or evaluative comments on the sources.  (For more information on such listings, see James L. Harner, On Compiling an Annotated Bibliography [2nd Ed.; New York: MLA, 2000; print])" (130).

"Final Exam."  See Writings of a Boy Discerning God's Call.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Library Outreach and Library Tours

Two months ago a student reporter named Layna Nelson requested a tour of the Eli M. Oboler Library.  She writes for the campus newspaper the BengalI enjoy giving tours, but it seems that I could do better.  It seems that finding interesting statistics about the number of books, number of individuals accessing our databases, number of patrons entering the building, etc. might generate more interest.  Also, people like stories and attention-grabbing quotes, so digging up some useful things like that ought to liven things up on a tour.  Admittedly, the tours I give are maybe a bit dry, but they are laden with information.  What can I say?  I love the library.

Eli M. Oboler LibraryIdaho State University.
850 S. 9th Avenue
Pocatello, Idaho, USA 83209-8089
Today I finally learned that her article was published with the title "What's Inside: Oboler Library."  She wrote a great article.  She must have done a bit more digging to find the information at the beginning of the article, though it might not all be up-to-date.  As the Coordinator of Instruction, I feel responsible for outreach in the Library, so I am willing to offer tours of the Library, work with area schools, and try to get the word out regarding events we hold in the Library. 

Idaho State University Library.  Pocatello, ID
What kind of outreach are you involved with in your library?

To view more photos of Pocatello, including a few more of the Oboler Library, take a look at Vitit Kantabutra's site.