Wednesday, March 3, 2010


I can't believe that it is already March...where has the time gone?!?! Historically my spring semesters have been a little lighter than my fall semesters, but that has not been the case this year. Today I am headed to the Boston eBook Summit for Academic Librarians hosted by Springer. I am looking forward to hearing the speakers and panelists!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Informing Innovation

Booth, C. (2009). Informing innovation: Tracking student interest in emerging library technologies at Ohio University. Chicago: Association of College & Research Libraries.

This title is the comprehensive report related to the paper "If you build it, will they care? Tracking student receptivity to emerging library technologies," which was presented by Char Booth and Chris Guder at the 2009 ACRL conference.

I did not take away any new insights regarding the outcome of the surveys conducted at Ohio University, but I did find this report to be quite valuable. For me the value was in Booth's discussion of the project as a whole. She devotes a lot of time to explaining the process behind the creation of the surveys, including the types of questions to be asked and the wording of the questions. Conducting social scientific research in the field was a topic that my library science education lacked, but it something that would have ultimately benefited me professionally. Booth's explanation of the process is professional yet easy for a novice to understand. If I conduct social research in the future (which I hope that I will!), I will certainly return to this book for guidance.

In addition to the insight Booth provides into the process of her study, Booth also provides a nice bibliography (which I made sure to photocopy before returning the book!).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Desperately Seeking Citations

Leckie, G.J. (1996). Desperately seeking citations: Uncovering faculty assumptions about the undergraduate research process. Journal of Academic Librarianship, 22, 201-208. Retrieved from

This is my Director's favorite article and understandably so. Our Library is fortunate to be integrated into the College's First-Year Seminar program. We have three graded library assignments based on an online tutorial that all first-year students are required to complete, and each seminar is required to hold at least one in-library workshop during the semester (several opt to have two). We also distribute pre- and post-tests to determine how much the students are learning from the assignments, tutorial, and in-library workshops. In addition to our involvement with the First-Year Seminar program, we have an active IL/BI program with other intermediate and advanced level undergraduate courses. We often notice that there is a disconnect between a student's actual level of understanding/competency in a particular discipline and the assumed level of understanding/competency on the part of the faculty. Reflecting upon my own undergraduate experiences, this certainly held true in both of my majors. (I remember conducting research for an intermediate-level foreign language course on Lexis-Nexis...this makes me cringe now that I realize I should have been using scholarly articles, not newspaper articles.) In this article Gloria J. Leckie discusses the reasons for this disconnect (using the research paper assignment as a foundation for her argument) and how librarians might be able to help remedy the situation. Although this article is over 10 years old, I think it is certainly applicable to undergraduate education today.

Leckie identifies "four distinct components" that contribute to this problem:
"Faculty and the 'expert researcher' model;
The research paper assignment and students' limitation;
Identifying faculty assumptions; and
The in-class experience." (202)

"The ['expert researcher'] model requires a long process of acculturation, an in-depth knowledge of the discipline, awareness of important scholars working in particular areas, participation in a system of informal scholarly communication, and a view of research as non-sequential, non-linear process with a large degree of ambiguity and serendipity." (202) Quite the opposite is true of novice, undergraduate researchers, which makes them develop a "coping strategy" rather than an "information-seeking strategy." (202)
Not only do undergraduates lack the in-depth knowledge of a given field in order to begin their research, they often do not understand the difference between various materials types (encyclopedias, magazines, books, scholarly journals, etc.) to know what is appropriate and what isn't. (204) (Note: Click here to read a "Keywords From a Librarian" blog entry on this topic.) In addition, faculty often limit acceptable resources for an assignment to scholarly articles often causing students to avoid encyclopedias and other sources of general background reading that might ultimately prove useful in their research endeavors. This has certainly happened to all of us at the reference desk. I recommend that a student starts with an encyclopedia article or two to gain some general background knowledge on his/her topic and receive the response "My professor said I'm not allowed to use an encyclopedia as a source." For most of us it is an exercise in futility to explain that you can use an encyclopedia article as a launching pad into more in-depth research that will ultimately provide that student with acceptable source types. Sometimes faculty forget what it is like to be starting research in a new field and discount resources created for this purpose as being inappropriate for the level of research they expect of their students.

It's possible that faculty are assuming that undergraduates are beginning their college careers with more research experience or skills than they actually have. Most high school students are required to write at least one research paper (or "term paper"), but perhaps this is not adequate preparation for what is expected of them in college. As a high school student, I was required to write at least 4 research papers. I can say with confidence that those papers did not prepare me to perform college-level research. In high school, one has a finite set of resources to use (small reference collection, small book collection, some articles, perhaps the public library), but the resource possibilities become almost endless in college. I had no idea where to begin. I could have easily asked a librarian for help, but I didn't know that was a possibility. I also probably would have not taken the time to ask a librarian when I was a freshman because I probably would have thought that it wouldn't have been worth the while. (This is my dirty librarian secret...I am sharing it with the world!)

This leads me to my next point (which Leckie also addresses in this article), which is time constraints (or perhaps time management) of undergraduates. Most undergraduate students take 4-5 courses per semester, and depending on the disciplines of these courses they could have 4-5 research papers to write at about the same time. Even for upperclassmen, this can be quite an overwhelming workload. (I am not suggesting it should be reduced, just pointing out that it is overwhelming.) For a first-year student even 2 research papers can be a overwhelming workload as they are acclimating to college life - both academically and socially. As students become overwhelmed, they can become both frustrated and impatient. Trying to juggle multiple assignments does not always allow them to dedicate patient reading of sources in order to select the best ones for their papers. This is when students resort to a "coping strategy" rather than an effective and efficient "information-seeking strategy."

How can librarians help remedy this situation? Leckie argues that faculty need to create a "stratified" research assignment, in which students complete the steps throughout the semester. (For example: selecting a topic, narrowing a topic, literature review/annotated bibliography, thesis statement with general outline, rough draft, final draft) But many faculty don't realize that their students struggle with research assignments, and they usually don't seek librarians' opinions. (Leckie writes, "...despite calls in the literature for librarians to be partners in research with the faculty, there is very little evidence that this is happening, or ever will happen." (205)) However, some librarians have started to transform the way in which faculty view their students' research abilities. I recently attended a meeting of the New England Library Instruction Group (NELIG) where Nicole Brown, Laura McCune-Poplin and Karen St. Clair gave a presentation about their experience in creating an "Information Literacy Faculty Learning Community" at Emerson College. This group met for 4 one-hour sessions to discuss how faculty and librarians can address the information literacy needs of students. The librarians "assigned" readings which were discussed at the sessions. One of the activities was for faculty members to choose one of their assignments and analyze it through the lens of information literacy. The presenters said the faculty enjoyed this activity and took away some new insights regarding students and the research process.

This article certainly gave me a lot to think about regarding my involvement in the First-Year Seminar program and general BI/IL programs as well as how I assist students at the reference desk. Discovering this disconnect and relating it to my own undergraduate experience helped me to better understand those who I am helping. I am hoping that this understanding will help me to become a better teacher and librarian.

Thank you for reading!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy New Year!

After 2 glorious weeks of vacation and visiting my family, I am happily back to work. Hopefully I will have another post up this week.

In the meantime, I leave you with a cartoon that my Dad cut out for me:

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

If You Build It, Will They Care? Tracking Student Receptivity to Emerging Library Technologies

Booth, C., & Guder, C.S. (2009). If you build it, will they care? Tracking student receptivity to emerging library technologies. In Mueller, D.M. (Ed.), Pushing the edge: explore, engage, extend. Proceedings of the Fourteenth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, March 12-15, 2009, Seattle, WA (pp. 247-257). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

The title of this paper is a question that has been lingering in my mind for the past year or so. "If you build it, will they care?" As I've mentioned several times in this blog, my Library has implemented a number of Web 2.0 tools. As a staff we have been quite excited about their implementation, but they have not provided the interactivity with the community that we had hoped for. Just as I did in my last post, I am going to highlight a couple of points from this paper.

Background: This paper is based on the results of two surveys conducted at Ohio University. These surveys were fueled by "discouraging results from several of our more experimental pilot programs." (248) The findings presented in this paper are selected. The authors write that "a more comprehensive treatment of survey findings will be published under separate cover." (250) (I believe this separate publication is Informing Innovation: Tracking Student Interest in Emerging Library Technologies at Ohio University.)

"...led us to consider whether our approach to public service innovation privileged technology itself before user needs." (248)
I think a lot of well-intentioned librarians (myself included) take this approach. We become so focused on integrating new and exciting technology intending to enhance or improve our patrons' experience, that we sometimes neglect to address what our patrons actually want or need regarding technology. We simply assume that if we build it, they will come, they will use it, and they will love it. The authors of the paper point to Michael Stephens' use of the term "technolust," namely the "belief that inherent library/information potential lies within every new social networking application and mobile communication technology." (248) Librarians need to keep their "technolust" in check when integrating 2.0 tools. However, this does not mean that we shouldn't take 2.0 risks...perhaps our patrons don't know that they want or need something until we offer it to them. In addition, we might be able to reach a very specific group or groups of users that we would otherwise not be able to reach (e.g. Second Life-ers, gamers, etc.) We need to be very clear about our 2.0 goals and audiences when planning for implementation.

"These assumptions underestimate a critical element of successful technology development, namely, that the local climate of library , information, and technology use at a given institution is paramount in determining the need for and potential success of a given service." (248)
This is, obviously, one of the remedies to the "technolust" phenomenon. However, as I mentioned in yesterday's post, many of us (myself included) have a tendency to make assumptions about our patrons that aren't necessarily true. In order to remedy this, Ohio University conducted 2 surveys to learn more about their patrons. I think that interviewing patrons or holding several focus groups would be other great ways to gain a better understanding of patrons. However, getting patrons to participate in these is a problem unto itself. Ohio University held prize drawings (prizes were $100) in order to draw more patrons to their survey, but not all libraries have the resources to do this. Of course, there are less expensive options - donated gift cards from the bookstore, candy or other edibles.

I found some of the surveys' results to be quite surprising:
"Only 6% reported owning a 'smartphone' such as a Blackberry or iPhone..." (251)
I expected more of the participants (81% of whom were undergraduates) to own smartphones. This is a great example of a false assumption.

"Contrary to assumptions that digital natives spend more time online, higher age and academic status are both closely correlated with increased time spent engaged with the internet...graduate students and digital immigrants were twice as likely to spend over 40 hours per week online as undergraduates or digital natives, who are more likely to spend 21-30 hours online per week." (252)
This is exactly the opposite of what I expected to read.

"Students were most likely to indicate interest in us[ing] downloadable toolbars in Firefox and/or Facebook library applications." (253).
Because toolbars require the patron to be proactive (they must download the toolbars to their computers), I assumed that they would not be popular. (In my mind, the least amount of work or clicks is better...perhaps another false assumption.) Also, I was surprised to read that students were interested in Facebook apps. Many articles that I have read regarding Facebook and academic libraries indicated that students didn't really want the library to infringe on their turf. Perhaps this is a sentiment that varies from institution to institution.

This article left me wanting to know more about how the authors and Ohio University used the surveys' results in the implementation of new technologies. If I get my hands on Informing Innovation, I will let everyone know if it is worth the read!

Thank you for reading!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Face It! Reference Work and Politeness Theory Go Hand in Hand"

Now that the hectic pace of the fall semester has started to wind down a bit, I have been able to catch up on some professional reading! As I mentioned in my last post, one of my professional resolutions for the upcoming year is to use this blog to document some of my favorite (or perhaps least favorite) articles/papers/essays. I am hoping that this will serve as a public annotated bibliography that will serve me and other librarians! So here is my first posting...

Aldrich, A.W., & Leibiger, C.L. (2009). Face it! Reference work and politeness theory go hand in hand. In Mueller, D.M. (Ed.), Pushing the edge: explore, engage, extend. Proceedings of the Fourteenth National Conference of the Association of College and Research Libraries, March 12-15, 2009, Seattle, WA (pp. 235-246). Chicago: Association of College and Research Libraries.

I was browsing the contents of the 2009 ACRL Annual Conference Proceedings, and this title jumped out at me. When I was a new librarian, I (naively) thought that if a library offered its patrons the resources that they need or want, they would obviously flock to the library to use those resources. Additionally, they would naturally ask librarians for help if they didn't understand how to use a resource. I have come to realize that collections are resources are really only half of the equation...the reputation of the library and its staff are the other half. Now, I know that I was not or am not the first person to have this realization, but I had never come across it in professional literature.

There are a number of excellent points made in this paper that I would like to highlight:

"The relational dimension of reference service has a direct influence on the perception of the library by its users." (237)
Well, yes, obviously. However, I think librarians sometimes forget about the word-of-mouth marketing that our patrons do or do not do for us. This statement reinforces the notion that every reference encounter we have (at the reference desk, at the circulation desk, in the stacks, in our office, etc.) has an impact on how our community perceives us. If a patron has a positive experience with a librarian, not only will they be more likely to come back, but they will also (hopefully) tell their friends/colleagues about that experience. Likewise, if a patron has a negative experience, they will be unlikely to return and could possibly advise their friends/colleagues to avoid the library and librarians. I believe this is something that librarians need to keep in mind any time they are working with or around patrons.

"Users, however, evaluate reference transactions primarily in relational terms: first and foremost are librarian attitude and relationship quality, and then approachability. Information and knowledge base follow these interpersonal dimensions in importance." (237)
This is really interesting, because, as the authors point out, this is the opposite of how librarians perceive the reference transactions. Librarians tend to place the emphasis on the information retrieval/knowledge aspect of the reference transaction. The authors attribute the value the patrons place on the approachability and attitude of the librarian to Brown and Levinson's politeness theory. This theory has two aspects: negative-politeness (in which people do not want to inhibited by others) and positive-politeness (in which people hope that their "wants be desirable to at least some others" (238)). Perhaps, as a profession, we need to shift how we perceive our transactions, as well as how we train our future professionals to handle transactions.

"The reference desk setting reflects this orientation through the high power differences that exist between the librarian as the information expert and the patron as the information novice." (239)
The authors go on to state that this creates a "high social distance" between the librarian and the patron. The authors also point out that many patrons are afraid to look "stupid" or be chastised for not knowing how to do something. This statement will certainly make think about my non-verbal actions when I am sitting at the reference desk. Not only should librarians seem approachable with respect to not looking completely engrossed in other work, but we need to be approachable with our body language and facial expressions. This also made me think about the IL sessions I hold for faculty members. If I can, I prefer to have the students gather around me while I sit on a slightly elevated chair. I don't like to stand in front of them lecturing at them, and I think the reason is that I don't want to create this "high social distance" between them and me. I think it removes some of the intimidation they might feel and perhaps makes them more comfortable, not only with me, but the librarians in general.

"The preference in the academic library for patrons to engage in self-help first contributes to the potential for criticism. Massey-Burzio points out that users assume that they ought to be capable of doing research in a library, and they could be subject to censure if they fail to do so." (241)
Being active in the First-Year Seminar program here, I found this passage to be quite interesting. I don't believe that my colleagues expect undergraduates to be capable of doing all of their library research on their own, but the patrons seem to have a different perception of our expectations. Perhaps we as professionals need to be more clear with our patrons as to what levels of proficiency we expect from those individuals with certain levels of attainment (e.g. first-year vs. sophomore vs. junior vs. senior). It's possible that we think they understand what their proficiency level should be, but I think we are making a false assumption. If we present our expectations to our community more clearly, they will be more comfortable approaching librarians for help. Having said that, what if a patron has difficulty with a certain aspect of research in which we feel they should be proficient - will they then feel alienated/ashamed/embarrassed?

There is one other passage I would like to highlight, but I will not elaborate on at this time:
"Gers and Seward note three librarian behaviors that significantly affect accuracy: using the questions to probe for users' information needs, showing interest in users' questions, and being comfortable with users' questions, which increase the likelihood of a correct answer by over 100% (in the case of showing interest, accuracy is increased by almost 150%)." (237)

Although this article served to reinforce my beliefs about relationships/experiences being quite influential on our user population(s), it did give me a number of things to think about when I am at the desk or in an IL session.

I would love to hear your thoughts/comments/opinions, etc. on this topic!

Thank you for reading!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

One year later...

Wow! It's been a year since our Finish Line event at the how the time has flown! Over the past calendar year we've implemented a number of 2.0 tools in my Library, and I now have some time for some 2.0 reflection. I hope some of my fellow 2.0 marathon runners will find them helpful.

1. We've implemented our blog! We were in the planning stages during the 26.2 course, and we went live in January 2009. It hasn't been the vehicle of interactivity that we had hoped for, but we do feel it has been successful in disseminating information to our patrons. We conducted a online survey last spring regarding the blog, and we received positive responses overall. The committee continues to meet once or twice a month to discuss the blog, but we've since transformed the committee into a general outreach group that focuses on improving our outreach to the College community.

2. We did decide to implement a Twitter feed. The feed has been added to our Library web site using a widget provided by Twitter. We have been using for general announcements and updates (perhaps some snow closing announcements as winter continues...) and to direct patrons to our blog. It has been easy to implement and does not require much staff time. Overall, we have been happy with this implementation.

3. I continue to maintain the Library's Flickr site. In addition to highlighting print discretionary purchases, I have also added "mosaics" of titles that we now get through Credo Reference and photos from the ongoing Alumni Archives digitization project. I continue to use notes for the book "mosaics" with links that direct our patrons to the online catalog or directly to Credo Ref.

4. This semester we had our Library student workers make two videos to place on the blog - a Welcome Back video and a Reserving a Study Room video. The student workers have had a lot of fun with these videos, and we hope that it makes them feel like this is their Library too. We hope to do more of these videos in the spring.

So, what now? I don't have any immediate 2.0 aspirations, but I am constantly looking for new 2.0 ideas that we might implement here. I am attending the ACRL Institute "Text Messaging, Twitter, and Libraries" presented by Joe Murphy at ALA Midwinter. I am really excited to learn more about texting/SMS implementations in libraries. I am also planning to attend the SPARC-ACRL forum at Midwinter to find out what is going on in the OA/SC world right now. Maybe I will see some of you at these events!

Non 2.0 aspirations for 2010...
My professional New Year's Resolution is to start using this blog as a vehicle for my thoughts regarding libraries, librarians, professional literature, etc. (My personal New Year's Resolution, for those of you that are interested, is to increase my 'cinematic literacy' by subscribing to Netflix and allowing my friends to control my queue...they sometimes ask if I even know what a movie is.). By doing this I hope to have a place where my professional thoughts are gathered and perhaps engage with other librarians on a range of topics. I also plan to continue working towards some of my long-term professional goals: becoming more active in professional associations (I hope to apply for the Emerging Leaders program...this is my last year of eligibility), contributing to the field, and, when I'm eligible, applying for the Fulbright Specialists Program.

I hope that 2009 has treated you all well and thank you for reading (my very looong post)!