Critical Reading for Learning & Social Change

ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Discussion Group Steering Committee held its annual virtual discussion forum on June 6, titled “Critical Reading for Learning and Social Change.” The panelists included Anne Graf (Trinity University), Rosemary Green (Shenandoah University), and Stephanie Otis (University of North Carolina at Charlotte).

While I watched the webinar live, I needed to re-watch the recording. You can find the webinar description, recording, chat transcript, and some accompanying materials, including a reading list and a handout with reading tips, at the IS website: acrl.ala.org/IS/annual-virtual-discussion-forum-recording

Towards the end of the presentation, Graf made a statement that really stood out to me: “Reading is done in private, which is why we don’t pay attention to it.” I think this is a fair assessment. As a librarian who teaches mostly in a one-shot landscape, time is limited. Most of what we offer when we mention how to read scholarly articles is a short game plan. I realize that a lot can be done just by showing what Otis calls the physicality of reading. I have never shown students that reading, for me, looks like a marked up print-out with underlines and notes. Graf also notes that she will ask professors how they read, which I think is great. Again and again, I am reminded that modeling helps show students skills that we take for granted. Graf also mentions that one assumption she had been making as a librarian is that teachers teach reading and librarians teach evaluation, but these are not separate acts, and perhaps we do need to do more to close this gap, especially as reading takes a lot more time than students think. (The handout that Otis offers shows that shows that students should read three times…)

This webinar provided some strategies that can help students become aware of their own reading practice. One exercise is to have students reflect on what it means to read academically in a journal prompt. Green, who works mostly with graduate students, says that responses typically range from “reading with purpose, connecting to what one already knows, and reading to reflect.” She also has students complete the Metacognitive Awareness of Reading Strategies Inventory (MARSI), which is about 30 questions. The inventory helps students realize what they are already doing while also cluing them into other strategies. Similarly, Graf has first-year students simply make a list of what they do as readers.

UC Merced’s Bright Success Center (BSC) typically offers a “How to Read Your Textbook” workshop every semester. I do wonder if there is metacognitive component to the workshop. Last year, I had thought to reach out to my contact in the BSC about offering workshops beyond reading for textbooks, which is important, but there are other kinds of materials students have to read while in college. I am feeling much more motivated to reach out since I have something more concrete. If they already do something similar, I would like to observe the workshop to learn what students already know, what they do, etc. It may be able to help inform some of my own teaching in the research classroom.

I seem to have paid the most attention to Graf’s strategies since she teaches in the environment that most closely resembles my own. She also shared an exercise that I think many of us have probably done in some variation. Rather than telling students what to look for, she has students make those connections on their own first. I have done an exercise where students make their own criteria and then apply it to an article, but this is a little different. First, she has all the students find the full-text of an article based on a citation (to get some searching out of the way) and then quickly decide on the source’s quality and appropriateness for their class assignment via a vote on a 1-5 scale. She doesn’t use any polling software for this, but I would be inclined to use it so that students would feel more comfortable sharing what they think. She then engages the class in a Q&A session about things they notice about the article and what else they may need to look at or consider. The conversation generally turns into a realization that students need to spend more time reading the article to determine its relevancy.  The total exercise takes about 10 minutes. She sometimes then has students vote again.

While I didn’t look through the chat transcript, resources that folks shared in the chat include:

 

ALA Midwinter

I attended ALA Midwinter in Denver, Colorado this February, which was a good experience, but when I got home from the trip, I felt worn out. I had a very busy fall. During the conference, I was wrapping up a book review, putting together a conference proposal, and working on my review documentation. As I sat in my room munching on a salad while writing, I realized this was not dissimilar to what I was doing at home most nights after work–still working, not spending time with others, not exercising, etc. I had been stretching myself too thinly and not taking care of myself. I took a step back from social media, turned down requests, canceled a few things, and used some sick days to start getting a little help. Making the right steps to get myself back on track have helped me feel a little better, and I plan to begin writing here a bit more now that I have some more energy. As a way to jump back in, I have a quick Midwinter overview.

This was my first time attending Midwinter, which I attended to co-lead ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group (LMOIG) discussion with my co-convener Jen Park. It was lovely to meet her in person, and we actually ran into each other in the restroom on the way to the ACRL Leadership Council meeting. I’ve really enjoyed working with her!

LMOIG Leadership Team

After the Council meeting, we attended the Opening Keynote, given by #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Patrisse Kahn-Cullors and #1000blackgirlbooks founder Marley Dias. It was a humbling experience, and I was amazed to meet them both and receive signed copies of their books, one of which I gifted to a co-worker.

I only attended a few other meetings, but I enjoyed the Undergraduate Librarians Discussion Group (UGLi DG) meeting. I also experienced falling snow for the first time.

I visited the Denver Public Library, which has seven floors and is home to the world renowned Western History Collection.

Reforma held a fundraiser at Museo de las Americas; the museum had just opened a new exhibit on pachuco culture. (I somehow missed Junot Díaz appearance at the fundraiser, though! And this is a small gallery! I’m hoping he showed after I left, but I did leave at about 10 pm.)

Lowrider piñata

I think I had the most fun at the Denver Art Museum. I actually liked that it wasn’t that large, and I managed to see everything except for a few things in a just a couple of hours. I’m not one to write reviews, and I actually wrote one for their Facebook page. In case you don’t have a Facebook account, here is the text:

I really enjoyed my visit!

I was actually able to see most of the museum in a couple of hours, which was perfect as I am in Denver for a librarian conference full of meetings. As a librarian, I was very moved by Xiaoze Xie’s book censorship exhibit. I also thought the Stampede: Animals in Art exhibit was a lot of fun.

I happened to come by during the #heartsforarts campaign and spotted a few make-and-take craft carts and the participatory poster about what visitors treasure about the museum. I also saw an area that has soft seating and Spanish- and books available for young children. I really like that there are interactive activities for people of all ages to enjoy.

I love the integration of Spanish throughout the museum, as well–from the descriptions of items to the books available for children. I would love for my mom to come visit as her predominant language is Spanish.

I also took note that the museum is free for all children 18 and under. What a wonderful way to make art available to our youth!

From fun exhibits, interactive elements, and integration of both Spanish and English, I highly recommend this family-friendly art museum.

I generally don’t go on many excursions between conference sessions, but I’m glad I took the time to do a little exploring in Denver. In June I’ll be attending ALA Annual in New Orleans, which will be full of programs, including a co-sponsored program by the LMOIG and University Libraries Section Academic Outreach Committee, and, hopefully, a little sightseeing, too.

Stat Lit & Other Small Writing

Although I finished graduate school six years ago this week, and I have been working as a full-time professional librarian for four years, I’m still a new librarian. However, now that my role is more specific, I feel more confident about spending most of my professional time and energy in instruction and outreach. I actually a couple of small pieces of writing in these areas this year, and I also have another couple of pieces coming out this spring.

I didn’t intend to set and meet any writing goals in 2017, partly because I struggle with selecting topics (the irony is that I help students with this) and partly because I thought that if I even expressed it in my goals statement, I’d jinx myself. But, somehow, I found things to write about on a small scale. Just recently, a colleague from Immersion tweeted a post about writing from The Librarian Parlor. In “‘I Wish I had Known That!’ Advice from the Field, A Librarian Parlor Series,” guest contributor Alison Hicks‘ first bit of advice for reluctant writers is to start small, from book reviews to reporting on professional development activities. Her post was very encouraging, and, if you’re newer to writing like I am, I hope you’ll be inspired by her advice. Starting small has been very liberating for me because it’s low-pressure.

In June, Lynda Kellam (who is awesome and was not at all bothered that a newbie librarian cold emailed to ask for help!) and I published “Keeping Up With…Statistical Literacy.” Keeping Up With… is an ACRL series focused on “trends in academic librarianship and higher education.” Last December, I was doing some reading on statistical literacy while researching lesson plans related to statistics and government information. I hope to one day be able to collaborate with a faculty member to create a lesson on statistical literacy for a class or do some more work in this area. (Um, and the world’s statistical literacy guru actually reached out to us about our little piece. It was super exciting!)

This year, I’m serving as co-convener of ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group. In December, my fellow co-conveners and I published a short bibliography of free and low-cost marketing resources, including our brand-new LibGuide, in College & Research Libraries News. Check out “Marketing for the Beginner: Resources from the ACRL Library marketing and Outreach Interest Group.” The guide is linked in the article. We hope folks will find it useful and continue to contribute to the guide.

College and Research Libraries News

When I was about to transition to my new position at UC Merced, I submitted a chapter proposal for the Library Outreach Cookbook, which is part of a series of bite-sized ideas for librarians. This spring, I learned that my proposal, “Pass Me Smore Books, Please! Promoting New Print Library Books at a Small Community College Library,” was accepted for publication. I submitted the final draft this summer, and the book should be out in February 2018.

I’m also working on reviewing Video Marketing for Libraries: A Practical Guide for Librarians for Public Services Quarterly. It’s due in February.

Video Marketing for Libraries: A Practical Guide for Librarians

I’d like to set some other writing goals for 2018, but I’m pretty pleased to have taken the plunge in 2017.

5 Immersive Things

Hello. It’s been a while. If you recall, in the spring, I found out that I was accepted into ACRL’s Immersion program, which was held at the end of July at Champlain College in beautiful Burlington, Vermont.

The bad: traveling.

I hadn’t ever been to New England before, so I wasn’t quite prepared for traveling here. I had an absolutely crazy experience traveling both to and from VT. It involved switching airports (Dulles to Reagan) and airlines on the way there after a flight cancellation. I ended up sharing a hotel room with a librarian from Oregon State University who happened to be on the same cancelled flight. If I remember correctly, the new flight was also delayed. On the way home, the flight was delayed, which meant I wasn’t going to make my connection. I ended up staying overnight but had some treats with a new librarian friend from American University to help cure my travel woes. I was down to wearing exercise pants and a t-shirt. (I also broke a pair of sandals during my week, too!) With all my extra time, I ended up reading three books. I was so happy when my husband picked me up at the airport in Sacramento.

The good: friends and learning.

I met some new librarian friends, learned new theories and teaching ideas, and then I learned that I know more than I thought, too. I have more to learn from the resources mentioned throughout the program. I haven’t cracked open that binder in a while.

Below are five things Immersion helped cement in my mind, though they aren’t necessarily earth-shattering.

  • We have assumptions about teaching and learning that are counter-productive.
    • Ex: Curricular integration of IL is the gold standard—> we tend to view one-shot workshops as sub-par learning experiences.
      • I never thought about this before. I personally view one-shots as sub-par, but learning can and does happen in single lessons. I’m not sure if this helps, though. I put a lot of pressure on myself because I think of the teaching I do as the one and only opportunity I have to show the value of librarians to students.
      • Pick one place to be “transformational” in.
        • This has to do with the GeST windows model. During Immersion, we were taught not to think of any window as better than another, but my colleagues didn’t necessarily read it that way. I need to do some re-reading.
    • Ex: Teaching is a calling—> we become overly critical.
      • Teaching is hard. Teaching is even harder when you’re a guest teacher. As a librarian, I don’t have the same rapport with students the way the classroom instructor does, and I don’t have the benefit of knowing what has really been done in or out of class to prepare for research instruction.
  • Discussion is not always discussion.
    • Is it really “serial questioning”?
      • Social constructivism: discovery-based, student-focused, authentic, collaborative, cooperation in small groups, etc.
      • This explains why I didn’t enjoy “class discussions” in college. They were never really discussions.
  • Assessment helps you design your class.
    • What do you want students to be able to do? How will they show you?
      • Plan activities accordingly.
  • Activity does not equal active learning.
    • Active learning requires that students apply/reflect.
  • Negotiate for 2-3 measurable learning outcomes.
    • Sometimes faculty can make decisions if you provide a list of suggestions/possibilities.
      • I like this strategy because it shows faculty how much variety exists and that not everything can be accomplished in one session.
      • It really makes me think that instruction menus are more useful as negotiation tools for librarians than as a guide for instructors. I like having a menu as a reference for myself.

I wasn’t quite willing to put this in my list above because I have a lot to mull over about it, but a question I wrote down in my notes is, “What are we asking students to give up?” This hit home to me even more when one of the Immersion instructors asked me why the pre-assignment I was working on for a potential class needed to be in Credo Reference. “If you really want them to do it, why not Wikipedia?” I mean, really, why not? It was pretty liberating. I also brought up this question to my colleagues post-Immersion, and it reminded them of the C&RL News article “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path,” in which the author shares that she started using Google Scholar in instruction sessions. The author uses the term “desire lines”; library folks will quickly see the UX practice here. I really think this is something to think about a little more, and I’d love to do something related to this question of what we’re asking students to give up when we teach research skills and concepts. (If you’re reading this, and you’d like to partner on something, shoot me a message!)

ACRL 2017 Conference

Back at the end of March, I attended ACRL 2017 in Baltimore. I hadn’t attended ACRL before, and I was able to go with two of my colleagues in Access Services. There were a few sessions and events I enjoyed at ACRL, including Roxane Gay’s keynote and hanging out with folks from the Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group, but I found that I was just really tired and couldn’t get myself going in the mornings. I was wiped out by the last day, so much so that I also missed the Librarian of Congress’ closing remarks. I didn’t even look at any posters, which is also very unlike me. (The three-hour time change may have had something to do with it.) A colleague and I were able to visit Ft. McHenry for about an hour or so before grabbing lunch and hitting the airport back home.

Looking back through the conference booklet, there are quite a few sessions, papers, and posters I want to dig into, but here is what I attended:

Find more conference papers here. Find the conference’s complete proceedings (available as a PDF) here.

ACRL Immersion 2017

Back in the fall semester, I applied to ACRL’s Immersion Program, specifically, the Teacher Track. The program is essentially a week-long boot camp for librarians who teach information literacy skills and concepts. In February, I found out that I was selected for the program! The program is taking place at the end of July at Champlain College in Burlington, Vermont. I’m really looking forward to this action-packed learning experience, and I’m thankful for the support and encouragement from my supervisor.

Title Change

I just got back from ACRL 2017 in Baltimore late on Saturday night, and I’m definitely feeling the jet lag! I’ll write more about the conference later this week, but I wanted to update on my job. We’re getting another instruction librarian position, so our access services librarian is going to make a lateral move at the beginning of the fall semester. This afforded an opportunity for the instruction librarians to update our job descriptions a bit. We all do more or less similar things, and while we don’t have subject specialties, we decided to have one or two things in our descriptions that are slightly different.

I’m now the Instruction & Outreach Librarian, which is really exciting! Though we all do this type of work in our liaison areas and in other work that we do, my title change reflects a new job duty: “Collaborates with Student Affairs to increase students’ awareness and use of library services and resources.” I think my personality and creative spirit are really well suited to this kind of work; I’m just still getting used to our library culture, and I don’t think the various folks in Student Affairs will be used to the idea of partnering more closely with the library, but I hope to build some bridges. Creativity is really important to me, and I’m happy that I have some more wiggle room for it in my work.

This is also a very timely change because Jen Park at Mount Saint Mary College and I are starting our roles as co-conveners for ACRL’s Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group right after ALA Annual in Chicago.