You can check books out from there?

21 10 2009

Since Glee is on tonight, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss my favorite moment from Glee so far (especially since I didn’t have a blog when it aired).  The library moment came when Finn, the football player-singer, is talking to his teacher, Mr. Shuester, about how he needs a football scholarship and that dance could loosen up the team.  Finn shows the teacher a book and says:

Check this out. I got this at the school library. Did you know you can just borrow books from there? All of ’em, except for the encyclopedias.

After seeing this episode, I immediately tweeted this quote.  It’s fantastic because: it’s a shout out to libraries on a popular television show and it’s accurate about what students can get from their libraries.

Of course, it’s not comprehensively everything that libraries offer.  There is a tension between letting students know everything their library has to offer and point of need instruction.  How can libraries be student centered, but still let students know what the materials and services offered, without overwhelming them?  Some students want to know as much as they can up front while others only want what they need when they need it.  Libraries need to provide both – have the information for those who want it and let the others know what they can contact us for and how.

What do you think though – as students, as librarians, as general upstanding citizens – has your library struck that balance?  Do you want more or less information from your library?  Do you know the materials and services they offer?  Do they provide the right services and materials?

I highly recommend the show so I’ve embedded it here:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Glee: Preggers

New Dictionaries

18 10 2009

The Sunday New York Times is one of my favorite indulgences.  Give me my coffee and the (online) Sunday Magazine and I’m on my way to a good week.  While I never agreed with William Safire’s politics, his articles were always interesting and thought provoking.  Since he was older, I never expected him to “grok” technology entirely – but he never wrote anything totally off base about technology.  Since his passing, the article has been guest written, mostly by Ammon Shea and Ben Zimmer.

In today’s On Language column, Ammon Shea writes about old dictionaries.  Some that people use that are so old that don’t include the word airplane, let alone words like internet and w00t, or the ones that Scalia uses from the 17th century.  He ends his column by discussing print dictionaries that are passed down from generation to generation and what the future of that will look like :

As people increasingly rely on Internet dictionaries and other online reference works, it seems that passing down an ancestral book will become more and more of a rarity and that keeping older versions of these books will become exclusively the province of the professional and the persnickety. Although who knows? Perhaps one day a child shown a dictionary will be told, ‘This is the very same HTML that your grandfather read when he was your age.”

There are a few things about this that confuse me:

  1. Internet dictionaries can still include older reference works – the OED includes more words because it’s online and therefore makes it a better keeper of language.  Older versions of the books can still be kept online.  It no longer needs to fit on a shelf so there’s less need to weed the words.  Since he’s the guy who read the OED (and wrote a book about it), I’m surprised at his take on this.
  2. Why would a child be shown a dictionary and told it’s the same HTML their grandfather read?  Would they look at the page source to look at the code?  Because otherwise you’re seeing the rendered HTML.
  3. Wouldn’t coding have changed by the time the grandchild views it?  Can’t we hope for more from our web tools rather than expect them to remain static?
  4. Is the HTML code the appropriate analogy for the book?  Isn’t HTML more appropriately compared to the printing press?  Maybe someday the grandchild will look at our ebook readers, laptops or iphones and have nostalgia for this outmoded technology.

Maybe I’m one of the persnickety (okay, I’m definitely persnickety) but I love technology as much as I love books and hate the confusion of form and function.  Until we get to the point of the contacts from Minority Report, there’s still a physical representation of books – even if it’s a multipurpose device that has more than one book on it.  I also wonder if book will be the most appropriate term for an online dictionary.  Online dictionaries are databases, not books, and are already being arranged in more useful ways than just alphabetically.  These changes are making dictionaries, and language, accessible to more people and that’s more important to education than the handing down of old books.

You can’t always search how you want

16 10 2009

Catherine at spurioustuples has a great post about style guides and the new APA manual.  While I could get “ranty” about this topic too, she makes several good points about how unnecessarily complicated citations are.

Her comments about DOIs (digital object identifiers) and how scholars might not be thrilled in trying to use them in their citation when it might not be included in the index or the article reminded me of an exchange I had with a friend recently.  I hadn’t seen this friend since before I started library school and he was getting a PhD abroad.  Now he’s getting a postdoc at the University of Chicago.  Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I’ve decided to go to library school and I’m almost a librarian now

Him: Can I just ask one thing? Why can’t article linkers reliably find an article?  It always works with the DOI.

Our article linkers work so much better when you use them from within a database than they do when you type the citation information in.  It’s unfortunate because it would be easier to teach students to search the article linker when they have a citation rather than the catalog by journal title.  So many students forget that they need to do a journal level search first and then search once they are in the database for the article.  Students think they can find the article they want by just searching for the article title in the catalog.  The level of information that is “findable” in the catalog becomes even more confusing when you think about how you can find a book by searching for the chapter in a keyword search in a catalog.  The tools that we have need to be more intuitive, or at least consistent.  The confusion that students have hampers their ability to focus on using the materials rather than accessing them.

Sometimes I wonder if we really are teaching students information literacy skills when we focus on how to find things in library systems.  How can we teach the more practical skills of information literacy in a way that makes them transferable lifelong learning skills?  Libraries are working on making our offerings more available to students (like the very exciting extensible catalog) and making searching more intuitive.  The way students learn to search will need to change as library catalogs and databases change to keep up with Google.  The other part of this standard that bothers me is that, while I love a good search strategy, it disregards the serendipitous part of research.  It’s also one of the most difficult standards to assess – but that’s another post for another time.

romace, sarcasm, math, and language

14 10 2009

With a software engineer for a spouse  and as an almost programmer myself, I’ve been fairly tied into “geek” culture.  One of my favorite things is xkcd* and I would encourage all librarians to read it.   The main themes of this webcomic are math and computer science jokes (the tagline for the comic is the title of this post).  Librarians who can understand the lingo will really enjoy it because the themes of math and computer science are often applicable to library science.  Librarians who don’t speak xkcd should try to “grok it”** because it is an easy way to learn to speak geek and sound in the know without taking a CS class.  And it’s just a really funny comic.

* See here for the xkcd book,  If you read the webcomic online, be sure to roll your mouse over the comic for easter eggs.

** First used in “Stranger in a Strange Land” – to understand thoroughly and intuitively

Planning Strategically

13 10 2009

Today we had a strategic planning day at the library.  Ever since I’ve started in the library profession, the message that I’ve heard over and over is that change is the only constant.  Considering that it’s all new to me, I’m open to change and adaptable.  We were looking at the college strategic plan and the ACRL Assumptions for the Future of Academic and Research Libraries.  These assumptions are:

1. There will be an increased emphasis on digitizing collections, preserving digital archives, and improving methods of data storage and retrieval.
2. The skill set for librarians will continue to evolve in response to the needs and expectations of the changing populations (student and faculty) that they serve.
3. Students and faculty will increasingly demand faster and greater access to services.
4. Debates about intellectual property will become increasingly common in higher education.
5. The demand for technology related services will grow and require additional funding.
6. Higher education will increasingly view the institution as a business.
7. Students will increasingly view themselves as customers and consumers, expecting high quality facilities and services.
8. Distance learning will be an increasingly common option in higher education and will co-exist but not threaten the traditional bricks-and-mortar model.9. Free, public access to information stemming from publicly funded research will continue to grow.
10. Privacy will continue to be an important issue in librarianship.

One of the challenges of working with these assumptions is to look at them as what might be, not necessarily at should it be this way.  This process was thought provoking and provided direction for the future.  However, these assumptions are only that.  There definitely needs to be a recognition that change might need to happen during any part of this plan.  As they say in one of my favorite musicals, “except for death and paying taxes, everything in life is only for now.”

Video Tutorials

12 10 2009

I’m going to teach a workshop in November for GSLIS Continuing Education about video tutorials.  It’s a workshop for librarians currently in the field to learn about how they can incorporate screencasting into their libraries.  I started using Captivate to create video tutorials for the library as part of a project to create a competency test for blended learning students.  Since then, I’ve been creating tutorials for different purposes – how to book a group study room, advertising the library, an overview of the library website, and an in class tutorial that we used in the first year program.  Let me know if you want to see any of the tutorials I’ve created and I can pass them along.

Captivate has been super easy to use, once I got over the initial hump of the learning curve on the first tutorial.  I’ve helped people on staff learn to use Captivate and presented on screencasting to a committee.  I’ve never taught a one day workshop before (and especially one that people have paid for) so we will see how it goes.  My supervisor will be co-teaching this with me and he’s taught these workshops before so it should be okay (I hope).   But right now I’m designing the session (and using Moodle for the course – which is new to me) and hoping it all goes alright.


12 10 2009

I’m setting up this blog for musings on the way people find (or don’t find) the information that they need.  I’ve never successfully blogged before but if I’m blogging with a purpose, this might be that start of a beautiful friendship.