Monthly Archives: March 2012

Week Eleven Reading

It is webinar week!  One of our articles this week focused on the idea of using webinars to embed academic librarians in university courses.  The model mostly focused on the use of embedded librarians in online courses, however I find this model to already be a bit antiquated.  The majority of classes that I have experienced in graduate school are blended environments which easily mediate in-person and online interactions.

Online classes, while useful in some circumstances, are more of a pure substitution for in-person education and learning, and the uses for webinars, as described in the article, seemed to reflect a similar framework.  What I have learned thus far at SI is that purely substituting technology for humans sells the humans and the technology short.  We need to utilize technology to help us do things that we can’t do on our own– to transform teaching and learning.  The article seemed to suggest that we just keep doing the same kinds of things that we do in-person but now online (because that’s where our patrons are).

This only gets it half-right, in my opinion.  Go where the patrons are, yes!  But make webinars better than in-person interactions would be.  I can see how they might be more accessible or include less “friction” than traditional interactions, but dear classmates, I ask you:  how can a webinar transform students’ interactions with librarians?

Week Ten Class

It’s One-Shot Workshop Week.  To be truthful, I liked the book clubs and Socratic seminars a lot better.  While some presentations were pretty interactive, our time together felt much more like a normal classroom.  The ratio of direct instruction to discussion was, overall, skewed towards direct instruction.

That’s why I’m really liking the concept of flipped classrooms.  I wish that, for our presentation at least, we could have assigned reading or had participants watch a video beforehand to get some of the boring content out of the way/establish prior knowledge so we could do what a classroom full of people is actually useful for– talking, collaborating, brainstorming, creating.

I felt as though our group kept trying to push the envelope for discussion within each presentation.  We could have talked forever and kept bouncing ideas off of each other, if it weren’t for the time limits imposed by the initial direct instruction.

But that is the nature of a One-Shot Workshop, I suppose– reel them in, spit them out, and hope that something transferred.

Week Nine Class

This week in class, we discussed ethical issues relating to libraries.  The first issue that we considered dealt with ebook vendors raising their prices to almost 300% the price of their analog versions.  I personally don’t find this to be an “ethical” issue, especially in regards to the ALA Code of Ethics.  I think that it requires an ethical evaluation on the part of the vendors (and I personally feel like they are failing miserably), but as far as librarians are concerned, our only choices are buy or don’t buy.  I think that boycotts are an option, but I also think that this goes against our standards for maintaining neutrality of personal opinions.  Libraries and librarians exist to support their communities, therefore their focus is always directed outward.  When our professional community reverts our focus inward, towards what would be best for the institution of libraries, we are missing the point of it all.  I think that libraries have an imperative to inform patrons as to why they are not able to meet their demands for a robust ebook collection but must allow patrons to make their own judgments towards the vendors.  I hate that ebooks threaten budget-strapped libraries, but our institutional values of outreach and neutrality must be maintained and that we must focus what resources we do have towards bettering our services.

The second issue that we discussed looked at the use of advertisements in libraries.  Toronto Public Library made a bit of a commotion when they tried to add advertisements to the back of circulation slips.  I also don’t see this as an ethical issue.  I don’t think that the mission of libraries/librarians has anything to do with providing circulation slips, therefore a couple advertisements on the back doesn’t phase me in the least bit.  I would be worried if commercialization threatened the essential services that libraries provide– if corporate funding maintained that librarians prefer certain sources of information over others or if they required access to library records in exchange for funding.  

I believe that corporate funding can be a big help for struggling libraries.  We need powerful advocates in our communities who feel as though they have a stake in our mission.  I see this relating to US food aid in developing countries.  One of the reasons why our government supports such a large amount of food aid is because we donate American goods and send them via American freight companies.  This means that the issue of food aid is supported by two enormous lobbies that might otherwise have no stake in the matter.  People and organizations tend to act in ways that benefit themselves, and I think that libraries could use a few more big supporters in the community who are also interested in keeping circulation numbers up in the community.

Week Nine Reading

This week, we read the ALA Code of Ethics– a short yet succinct document that contains a list of ethical principals that guide the entire field of librarianship.  As I was reading this document, I was sort of checking off things that I felt really resonated with my perception of what librarians care about most.  Equitable access, check.  Censorship, check.  Privacy, check…. Everything on this list has really become a rallying cry for professionals in the field.  This made me think about two things:  1) How will this code have to change to meet the needs of our generation of librarians?  2) I think that the changes that are occurring in our profession have really been propelled by these ethical concerns, but is this really the case?

We also looked at the issue of ethics at the reference desk, which coincidentally has been on my mind tonight.  I just attended a fundraising benefit for the Center for Bipolar Research which showcased a movie chronicling the life and suicide of a 15 year old with bipolar disorder.  A Q&A session with the filmmaker/mother of the victim and other knowledgeable panelists followed.  A couple of the questions focused on the role of schools and families in supporting victims of mental illness, but the whole night got me wondering about ways that libraries can support community members dealing with these issues.  What is our role?  If a young child wanted information about suicide, how could you handle it?

In the article, “Dangerous Questions at the Reference Desk,” Lenker discusses the value of a virtue-based approach to issues such as this.  I think that his approach adds a more holistic outlook to ethical quandaries in information services than ALA’s professional codes, however fails to really guide behavior or decision-making.

During the panel discussion tonight, the speakers kept reiterating the importance of education in prevention.  Victims of mental illness (along with their family and community members) need access to quality information about their illness, from treatment options to care facilities to support groups, and “dangerous questions” can be the connection that allows you to provide the resources and services that victims so desperately need.  I like to think of these situations as “teachable moments” that, if treated with the appropriate balance of virtues discussed in Lenker’s article, can result in positive experiences.

Week Eight Class

Today in class, we discussed a study from Singapore that concluded that video games are somehow connected to attentional capacity.  We were all pretty concerned about the research design and the repercussions of the study’s claims.  If anyone is interested in reading more about research going on like this, check out NITLE.  I was just introduced to this group who research best practices in using ebooks, social computing, gaming, open education resources, etc. for education.  I have only browsed their site, but there are a lot of interesting case studies that y’all might enjoy perusing.

As for our book clubs, I had a fantastic time discussing my group’s selected readings with everyone.  It was a very fruitful experience and I really feel like I gained a new perspective on a lot of these readings from our time together.  This experience really reminded me of how big the idea of social reading is becoming.  In this blog post from DML, the author writes, “…most of us first experience reading as a social activity. Whether having stories read to us as children or the collective reading that characterizes early reading instruction, reading begins as a social experience. It is only as we grow older that reading becomes a private, individual activity, one often divorced from contact with others.”  So are book clubs or sites like GoodReads just adult versions of storytimes?  What else can we do to create more social avenues for, not just sharing (because there are a million ways to do that) but, encountering ideas together?

Week Eight Reading

I was really impressed by my classmate’s selections and I am looking forward to discussing each of these pieces later today!  I was particularly fascinated by the video on homelessness that was selected.  Whenever we think of book clubs, we immediately assume books must be involved, but I think that there are just as many perspectives and ideas to draw out of the video that was provided as what one would find in a book.  And I really like the idea of privileging alternative informational mediums for critical dialogue within your community. It makes me wonder how far you could push the book club format to include things such as real-world experiences, blogs, video clips, forum posts/comments, email threads, etc.  Wouldn’t it have been interesting if someone had selected an si.all.open email thread for their Socratic seminar?  How would that conversation be different from one based on a book?

Week Seven Class

In this class, we attempted a large scale Socratic seminar regarding Mark Prensky’s article on going digital and discussed the specifics of our book club project for next class.  We also looked at how to create questions for our book clubs or Socratic seminars.

Whenever I think about creating questions, I think back to training I received on how to counsel others when I was in the Peace Corps.  One thing that we learned is that, aside from thinking in terms of open and closed questions, you also have to think about what responses of yours can facilitate sharing by the person you are talking to.  Giving advice is the least facilitative thing you can do in a conversation.  It reads like a lecture or directions.  There is no room for feedback or discussion.  One of the most facilitative things that you can do (aside from using open ended questions) is to restate or rephrase what the other person said: “Correct me if i’m wrong, but it seems like you are saying…” and then say exactly what they just said.  It leaves room for more acute delineation of ideas or further explanation.  When people explain things further, they have a better chance of being really understood by the person they are talking to and they get to explore their own feelings and ideas at an even deeper level.

From what I remember, the continuum looked something like this (worst–>best):
Advice– Judgement– Closed Questions– Open Questions– Restating

I think that restatement can be an easy tool to help book clubs and Socratic seminars move in a direction that was not previously accounted for in planning.  I also like the “Pose, Pause, Bounce, Bounce” method that Kristin shared with our 638 class.  When I find the link for that video, I will post it on here.

Also, if you haven’t read David Lankes’ latest blog post about libraries of the future and redefining library school, I would highly suggest it!  I often lament over the classes that I don’t get to take because they are overshadowed by semester-long reference, collection development, and cataloging requirements (if I were queen of the world, I would squish them in to a single semester course called “traditional librarianship”).  Apparently students over at Syracuse are revolting and holding their own lecture series to account for things they think they need to know but never get to learn in their library classes.  I like the sound of that; it makes me proud of my generation of incoming librarians.  My mind is just buzzing with opportunities to utilize badge systems for situations just like this.  So I pose this to you, my dear readers in SI 643: what else do you think you need to know to be the librarian that you want to be?