Lifelong Learning, but not a Library Post

Image of black and brown metal fabric scissors resting on top of assorted swatches of fabric

Photo by Karly Santiago on Unsplash

One of my intentions is to write a little more often here, and although I tend to keep this blog as a work journal more for my own benefit, I was smart not to do any specific branding, so I feel safe straying from time to time.

My husband and I just celebrated 10 years of marriage on January 3rd. We chose to get married the first Saturday in January to mark our new start in a new year. My husband’s birthday is also the 6th, the official last day of Christmas, so we’re all about stretching the holiday season to the last drop, it seems. During the first week of January, one of our traditions is making a list of shared goals and individual goals and intentions. We just finished our kitchen remodel in December, so, this year, we have some smaller home improvement goals. We need to install a new fence, add rock to our front yard and backyard, paint some rooms, and finish personalizing our house. We’ve been homeowners for nearly six years, and I’ve really enjoyed making it ours.

In the spirit of (home)making, one of my personal goals is to learn how to use a sewing machine. I want to the freedom to make curtains, table runners, and pillow covers using fabric I actually like versus hunting forever or just settling. This is a big deal for me because I am terrible at sticking to hobbies. (I actually got motivated to do this from a HuffPost article. Number 7, which is “Learn something new,” stopped me in my tracks: “What have you always been interested in learning but felt either too busy or fearful to prioritize? That’s what you should focus on.”) I registered for a sewing class through our local community college’s community education classes. I’m really looking forward to it, though I will most likely have to miss the third class due to a conference.

What’s something you’ve always wanted to learn how to do? I’d love to hear.

National Diversity in Libraries Conference (NDLC) 2016

This was a really great conference, and not just because I went to Universal Studies Hollywood to look at the Harry Potter section of the park when the conference was over. 😉

I’m a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to things like this, so it might not be that exciting for more seasoned folks, but I co-presented a poster for the first time! I am on ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Instruction for Diverse Populations Committee, and during the last year, we have been updating a selected bibliography of resources for inclusive library instruction. A few of us from the committee decided to present a poster on our work to help advertise the bibliography. I met one of my committee colleagues in June at another conference, but it was nice to get to talk with the other group members in person. Working online with this group has been a great experience. This coming year, we’ll be working on the Multilingual Glossary. Click here for the description of our poster.

NDLC Poster

For quick access (the tl;dr version), here are the sessions I attended in a list. The links take you to the descriptions from the program. Below this list, I have included my notes/thoughts for each session. I really need to start doing summaries when they are more fresh in my mind.

Keynote Address

We had the very great honor of hearing a message from Lakota Harden. She spoke a little about her background, including her time at a residential boarding school; her people’s relationship to water; the protests happening against the Dakota pipeline; and unlearning racism and gender discrimination.

Harden took a few questions, as well. Someone asked about preservation and access to items in museums and archives. Harden asked how many of us had visited the National Museum of the American Indian. “How did those things get there?” Talk about living in a post-colonial world view. I didn’t grow up going to museums, so I have always thought of these these places as “fancy”rather than as places that serve to make a spectacle of native culture for the enjoyment of non-native people. But it is true. (Here is Ulali’s song “Museum Cases.”) She explained that when people visit or drive by reservations, they don’t want to see reality and yearn for a romanticized view of Native Americans. This makes me think about the part in Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad where Cora and a few other young black women posed for a museum installation. Harden explained that things were being returned to native populations.

She also spoke about white people’s tendency to “help” as a way to feel better and get an “innocent certificate.” Someone asked how the library community could help native voices. Harden expressed that the act of listening and hearing lifts the weight of the loss of language, devastation, poverty, suicide, alcoholism, and lack of education affecting Native American peoples. Someone else asked about the lack of native representation in children’s literature, and Harden expressed that native communities are dealing with very scary, difficult situations, so it’s not surprising that there is a lack of materials. She asked that we become allies, that we continue to include native voices in our collections and programs, that we go out to meet the native community where they are and listen. “Coming together is a sacred act.”

Identity at Play: Exploring Racial and Identity Theory in Everyday Experiences in Academic Libraries

This panel was slightly different from that described on the program. The focus of the program was on these three questions.

  1. What is identity theory? How do race/ethnicity shape our sense of self?
  2. What does intersectionality mean? How do we unpack it?
  3. How can we apply this framework to our work?

In introducing racial and identity theory, the panelists asked us to think about how identity may play out in the library. Asking for help is simply uncomfortable; it’s a sign of vulnerability. One of the participants shared a story where a student who was not white had waited a really long time to ask a librarian a question related to blackness because she waited for a non-white librarian. I can understand how the student would have been uncomfortable, not just asking for help, but asking for help from someone who may or may not be an ally. The panelists brought up Hall’s chapter in The 21st Century Black Librarian in America (2012), “The Black Body at the Reference Desk: Critical Race Theory and Black Librarianship.” It sounded really familiar, and then I realized I had come across the citation in Hathcock’s article “White Librarianship in Blackface: Diversity Initiatives in LIS” (2015) from In the Library With the Lead Pipe.

In the intersectionality section, the panelists introduced the work of KimberlĂ© Crenshaw, who coined the term in 1989. The panelists also pointed to Crenshaw’s Washington Post article from September 2015, “Why Intersectionality Can’t Wait.”

In my notes, I also listed the citations below, but I have no context for why I wrote them down.

Bonnet, J.L., & McAlexander, B. (2013). First impressions and the reference encounter: The influence of affect and clothing on librarian approachability. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 4 (39), 335-346. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.acalib.2012.11.025

Ortega, A.C., & Ramos, M. (2012). Recruiting and mentoring: Proactive mentoring: Attracting Hispanic American students in information studies. In J.L. Ayala & Salvador Guereña (Eds.), Pathways to progress: Issues and advances in Latino librarianship (103-124). Santa Barbara: Libraries Unlimited.

Price (2010)? Why would I write only this? I should use this to show students why taking good notes saves a lot of hair-pulling.

Academic Libraries Spearheading Diversity and Cultural Initiatives on University Campuses

In this lightning round, librarians from four institutions shared what they have been doing on their campuses to support diversity and introducing students to new cultures.

I was very impressed by the programming work at the University of Cincinnati Library. One thing they did was provide students with diversity/inclusion journals at the beginning of the year. These are just composition books, so not at all expensive. During each cultural event or program, the library provided a writing prompt for students to reflect on. The journals were not collected; the intent was to help cultivate a culture of writing. While the librarians shared several wonderful examples of diversity programming and events, there were two that I was very interested in. Around Thanksgiving, the library held an event called Coming Together to Give Thanks. The speakers were students who shared cultural foods, rituals, and traditions from their home countries or ethnic backgrounds. I was also very drawn to the library’s Reading Around the World book club. Click here to find their LibGuide to learn more about it.

At the University of Tennessee Knoxville, there is a campus-wide diversity committee with library representation. I believe there are also campus representatives on the library’s diversity committee. For the last 15 years, the University Libraries have had a three-year diversity residency program. I was very impressed to learn that the library still has a relationship with former residents. The university also has an Office for Diversity and Interculturalism, a Black Issues Conference, and an International Festival. I didn’t write down how the library is involved, which is a bummer, but I can contact the librarians who spoke about these programs and events. The campus and the library seem very engaged in diversity efforts.

Chapman University, which has an emphasis on global citizenship, has a very robust exhibit program focused on diversity in its Leatherby Libraries. Essraa Nawar (check out her TED Talk!), the library development coordinator, explained that she has had great success in pairing fundraising with diversity efforts. I was so blown away by the sorts of donors and exhibits they have had at Chapman that I didn’t even write down a single example.

I was so happy to see folks from California State University Fresno! I’m a CSU graduate–both for my undergraduate and graduate degrees, and Fresno is just south of Merced. I was also very impressed with the Henry Madden Library‘s diversity work both in and outside the library. Click here to see the library’s diversity committee Facebook page. The committee supports the university’s mission to promote and celebrate diversity through library programming and exhibits, LGBTQ Allies, Library Diversity Lounge, Meditation and Prayer Room, and International Coffee Hour Presentations.

Educating the Educators: Proactive Approaches to the Inclusive Classroom

This session was comprised of two individual presentations. The first presentation was given by Paula M. Smith from Penn State Abington and focused on the Global Awareness Dialogue Project (GADP). GADP is a faculty development program that engages faculty in the exchange of ideas about contemporary global issues in education, with an emphasis on non-Western educational systems. The sessions are three hours long and are open to 20 or so faculty members who register for the program.

After Smith introduced the session, we were asked to complete The Numbers Exercise, which was developed by Roxanna Senyshyn and Marianne Brandt. Essentially, it’s a list of simple math problems, but the directions indicate that subtract means to multiply; divide means to add; add means to divide; and multiply means to subtract. So 12 x 2 really means 12-2. After a few minutes, Smith asked how we felt completing the worksheet. I said it was stressful. The idea behind this is that this is the sort of frustration international and immigrant students feel navigating American academic life.

Smith then discussed the types of GADP sessions they have had at the university. In one program,  a panel of international and immigrant students, representing East Asian, African, South Asian, and Middle Eastern backgrounds, were able to tell faculty members about some struggles they have had in the classroom. For example, Chinese students were not familiar with cursive. Students were Googling the characters one by one! The students also said they felt stupid because many of their classmates would leave exams early. Chinese students, if given 30 minutes, will use the whole time. There are also some challenges about what academic integrity means in a western framework. What a wonderful way to include student voices and help faculty foster more inclusive classrooms.

I’m really itching to talk to someone about this, but being so new, I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me. However, the person in charge of Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning is also new. We actually sat next to each other at the new employee orientation.

One neat thing I jotted down that was a result of one of the GADP sessions was that faculty members who speak more than one language started putting little stickers (or signs) on their windows/doors that said, “My name is_____. I speak ________.” How fabulous! I’m thinking about doing that underneath the name plate on my office window.

The second presentation was given by Shannon Simpson from Johns Hopkins University. She helped developed the Toolkit for Inclusive Learning Environments (TILE), which is a toolkit of “best practices [and] a repository of specific examples that all faculty are welcome to replicate or re-use.”

Simpson shared a sample assignment that professors/librarians teaching information literacy, business, marketing, and communication could use. It’s a simple but effective assignment. “In 2014 a food and entertainment public relations firm called Strange Fruit was the subject of a media backlash. Ask the students to Google the term strange fruit to see why.” (I literally gasped out loud that no one at this company knew what this meant!) Students then answer these questions:

  • To what does the term refer?
  • Where did the term originate and who has used it since then?
  • What would you tell this firm if during the media firestorm they had come to you for advice?

During the session, we also did a pair-share in which we came up with groups or people we could partner with to share about TILE, such as a diversity committee, student life/affinity groups, teaching and learning groups, university departments, human resources, provost/president’s office, and other relevant people or groups. I plan to share this resource with the Center for Engaged Teaching and Learning. I will probably also share this resource with some of the writing lecturers I know who I think would be interested in this. I also plan to ask my colleagues from ACRL’s Instruction for Diverse Populations Committee if we can add this resource to the bibliography; the general resources section is a great catch-all.

Why We Stay: The Motivation of Veteran Underrepresented Minority Academic Librarians

I actually met Antonia (Toni) Olivas trying to find where the keynote address was going to be held, and I am glad I was able to attend the session she was moderating. While Olivas was completing her dissertation on motivational theory, she realized she wanted to do a larger project and decided to edit a book. Choosing to Lead: The Motivational Factors of Underrepresented Minority Librarians in Higher Education will be published in early 2017, and I can’t wait to read it.

At the beginning of the session, Olivas briefly discussed Chan and Drasgow’s (2001) Motivation to Lead (MTL), which includes personality, values, self-efficacy, and previous experience. Motivational identities include affective, social normative, and non-calculative. Most minority librarians stay in the profession due to these identities.

This panel was organized around the themes of the chapters in Olivas’ book. The panelists included Shannon Jones, Oscar Baeza, and Binh P Le. Each gave advice or their perspective based on the themes of the chapters. I actually found this to be a very applicable session, and I honestly feel like the advice is helpful for all new and early career librarians.

Chapter 1, for example, is on self-development, and Jones explained that librarians should have a strategic plan for themselves. Write your own SWOT analysis and make a three-year career road map. I haven’t actually done this before. I have had goals and met them and made new goals, but I’ve not ever done this systematically. This is definitely a project I need to undertake this semester, especially as I have started a new job.

Chapter 2 is on knowing yourself. Baeza explained that librarians should know who they are, including knowing their strengths and weaknesses and where they come from. He emphasized family history. I find this to be absolutely true. Every time I begin to think of myself as not being successful, I remind myself that my family is proud of me. That is enough. I am so thankful for the support they have given me, even if they didn’t understand what I was doing.

Chapter 3 is on trust. Le said it plainly, “People need to trust you in order for you to lead.”

Chapter 4 is on family impact. This sort of goes with chapter 2 for me. Jones shared a beautiful story about her grandmother wanting her grandchildren to go to college, to do the things she was not given the opportunity to do as black woman born in 1912. Jones’ grandmother had a seventh grade education. She had a saying that if people wanted to keep things from black people, they would put them in books. She cultivated a culture of reading, taking her grandchildren to the library and teaching them that they should look for answers to questions. It was so touching to hear Jones talk about the impact her grandmother made on her life.

Chapter 5 is on support groups. Jones mentioned that mentors are “for a reason and a season.” I find this to be true. Currently, I realize I am in need of a couple of new mentors. She also mentioned that mentors advise and friends inspire. Certainly, your mentor should be a cheerleader in some ways, but constructive criticism is needed, too.The other thing Jones said that I found particularly inspiring was to be brave enough to walk through doors people open for you. I was intimidated about starting my new job, but then I heard from one of my references about a conversation she had had with the folks here. Without saying too much, I knew it would be both a place where I could help the library meet its goals and mission and also grow as person and professional. Jones also advised that we ought to open doors for others. If you are in the position of being a mentor, be honest, realistic, responsive, and create an exit strategy for the mentorship for both yourself and the person you are mentoring if it doesn’t work out. s

Chapter 6 has to do with involvement. Some of the most fulfilling experiences for me have been participating in campus and national committees. I am really glad that I didn’t shy away from contributing where I could in my previous job, and I am also finding ways to contribute at my new employer, both in the library and university-wide. Le really spoke well when he said committee work is not something we should avoid but actively seek out, even if it means you have to ask how you can contribute if there isn’t a specific call.

Chapter 7 is on preventing burn out. I know this is the area where I struggle. The panelists all emphasized that self-care is essential, and each shared some ways that they blow off steam or find inspiration, from keeping thank you notes to finding non-library people to you can vent to. Jones also advised that we ought to be selective about projects we take on. Some questions to ask yourself include whether an opportunity fits within your plan and/or if you can do it well in addition to your other duties and responsibilities

We skipped a couple of chapters to wrap up the session, but one of the last words of advice I wrote down was that it’s okay to sell yourself and toot your own horn.

The Library as Connector: Creating Collaborative Outreach Opportunities for Diverse Student Populations

I was really interested in attending this session because one of the people on the ACRL committee I am on works at University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV), and I also wanted to see my fellow University of California colleagues Roberto Delgadillo and Robin Gustafson from the University Library at UC Davis. This was a fantastic session!

The UNLV University Libraries have done fantastic work with the LGBT community at the university and area high schools. I was impressed, and it was good to know that the library is helping students who may be struggling with their identity find a place where they can be themselves and be successful college students.

The presenters introduced research about why it is important for them to work with LGBTQ students. GLSEN’s National School Climate Survey “… has consistently indicated that a safer school climate directly relates to the availability of LGBT school-based resources and support, including Gay-Straight Alliances, inclusive curriculum, supportive school staff, and comprehensive anti-bullying policies.” The presenters briefly asked if anyone in the audience had seen the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Ask Me video. I have, and it is very moving. In the video, LGBTQ students express what they want their professors to know. Lastly, the presenters shared a book called Student Success in College: Creating Conditions That Matter (2010). Not only can the library “play a big role by providing student access to LGBTQ people, history, and events through library and internet sources,” but we can also build a community where students can pursue education and learning with less fear. Click here to check out the UNLV University Libraries’ LGBTQIA LibGuide.

In order to build community, the University Libraries have had some really neat events. For example, for this year’s REMixed Week (as a culturally mixed person, I was really excited to see this), the Lied Library, in collaboration with UNLV’s  Center for Social Justice, MEChA, Jean Nidetch Women’s Center, Gender and Sexuality Studies, University, and Students Organizing Diversity Activities (SODA), held a paint party and screening of Transvisible: The Bamby Salcedo Story. The library also participated in the Coming Out Carnival and GSA Talent Show. They also held a Banned Books Buffet Book Tasting, which was an interactive, self-paced event that highlighted books censored for various reasons. The library also has helped foster partnerships between the University’s GSA and the GSAs at area high schools.

The presentation from from UC Davis focused on how the library aligned its diversity goals to the campus goals by creating strategic partnerships to empower all students. This presentation was interesting because it included mini presentations from the director for the new Strategic Chicana/o and Latina/o Retention Initiatives and the director for Academic Services in the  the Athletics department at UC Davis, who touched on how the library has been assisting in their efforts to aid Latino students and student-athletes. While the University doesn’t yet have a center for Chicana/o and Latina/o students yet, it does have a Center for African Diaspora Student Success and plans to open a Native American student center and a center for Chicana/o and Latina/o students. (Click here to see a list of multicultural resources available at UC Davis.) In reaching the student-athletes, the library has helped in a life skills class that is designed for athletes but is not required. In the class, the library has given workshops and gone over services, such as the 24/7 chat service. The library also has allowed the football team to have evening study sessions. The Academic Services director from the Athletics Department let participants know that every athletics department has academic services staff and suggested getting in contact to form a collaboration to reach student-athletes.

Goodbye Pt. 1

Last Friday was my last campus faculty meeting for the school year and Los Banos Campus‘ Merit and Awards Ceremony. A couple of weeks before the official Merced College graduation ceremony, we honor Los Banos students who are graduating (this was my second and last year to read the names), scholarship recipients (I was on the committee in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016), and Student of the Month and Year winners (I was on the committee in 2014/2015 and 2015/2016). We also honor a staff member as the Los Banos Campus Classified Staff Member of the Year, and one of my good friends, our Student Services Assistant, won the well-deserved honor.

What I didn’t expect was a little going-away recognition. Our faculty lead presented me and a colleague who is moving to the main campus with lovely matted photos of the Los Banos with nice messages written by our colleagues on the mat. We have wonderful staff and faculty members in Los Banos. I am going to miss this tight-knit team. I will definitely be hanging this in my new office.

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But it’s not goodbye quite yet. We still have graduation at the end of the month where I will don my Masters hood one last time with my colleagues as we celebrate our students’ successes. I’ve had months to process my move, but I think I’m going to need waterproof mascara.

Evaluating Infographics

I subscribe to communications from the Online Learning Consortium, and a couple of weeks ago, they sent out an infographic about the state of online education. Since I’m interested in online learning (I did my MLIS online, and I have taken a class on teaching online), I took a look at it, and I was surprised that the infographic indicated that 75 percent of undergraduates are age 25 or older. Right now I work at a community college library in Central California, and we have a ton of nontraditional students, but the number of students age 25 and older is 35.6 percent; statewide, the number of community college students who are age 25 or older is 42.9 percent. The 75 percent figure that all undergraduates in the country are nontraditional as claimed by OLC seemed wrong to me. 75 percent?! [Although, I did discover that, according to Choy (2002), if a more broad definition of nontraditional is used, this figure is estimated at 73 percent.]

I seem to be helping a lot of students with fact-checking specific statistics lately.  Thankfully, I can point students to resources like the National Center of Education Statistics (NCES) data, but statistics aren’t easy to look through or interpret, demonstrated by my experience analyzing the infographic.

OLC cited sources at the very bottom of the infographic, but it’s not clear which source goes to which fact. I dug into every single link to try to figure out where this 75 percent thing came from, but I was a little overwhelmed because I am not drawn to charts, lines, and numbers (data scientists and data science/statistics librarians, I bow down). I also recruited the librarians at the other campus to help me, and one of them wrote back to me that they had over-simplified the information as the education statistics are divided by type of college. Here’s what the National Center for Education Statistics’ Characteristics of Postsecondary Students information actually says:

In 2013, a higher percentage of full-time undergraduate students at public and private nonprofit 4-year institutions were young adults (i.e., under the age of 25) than at comparable 2-year institutions. At public and private nonprofit 4-year institutions, most of the full-time undergraduates (88 and 86 percent, respectively) were young adults. At private for-profit 4-year institutions, however, just 30 percent of full-time students were young adults (39 percent were ages 25–34, and 31 percent were age 35 and older).

Not cool OLC.

Evaluating, analyzing, and interpreting information, whether in text, numbers, or images is such an important skill, not just for school purposes; it’s a life skill. One of my good friends who teaches English shared Sheida White’s article “Seven Sets of Evidence-Based Skills for Successful Literacy Performance” (2011) from the now defunct Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal. In the article, which is based on her book Understanding Adult Functional Literacy: Connecting Text Features, Task Demands, and Respondent Skills (2011), she lists seven skills that are needed for “adolescents and adults to meet the literacy demands of education, work, citizenship, and daily life,” which include text search skills, inferential skills, language comprehension skills, basic reading skills, computation identification skills, computation performance skills, and application skills (p. 40). White writes:

…[S]econdary, post-secondary, and adult education programs typically do not provide explicit classroom instruction in the quantitative literacy skills needed to work with numbers embedded in prose and document texts. In fact, mathematical information is often stripped away from any surrounding authentic texts in schools to produce a cleaner measure of students’ skills in mathematics as a separate domain. This approach, does not reflect the way adolescents and adults typically encounter quantitative problems in their daily lives, including workplaces. (p. 47)

This article changed the way my friend taught her courses. Like many English and communication teachers, she has an assignment where she has students evaluate an advertisement for modes of persuasion, but she started adding in-class assignments where students had to breakdown a passage with numbers to build their own chart. She also has them analyze charts and write down what they think the chart is showing. This was a hard task for some of her lower level students. She and I dreamed of creating a learning community between English, math, and the library resources class (I have never taught it, and we were planning to offer it in Spring 2017, but I’m leaving) to work on some of these and other literacies. (See Jacobson and Mackey’s presentation from ACRL 2013 on metaliteracy and the Metaliteracy blog).

I often think about the assignments I might give if I taught information literacy in a credit class environment. I love the idea of evaluating an infographic or looking at and interpreting a chart. So far, Project CORA doesn’t have an assignment on evaluating infographics but rather has an assignment on designing infographics, but I will do a little more digging elsewhere later. Brain Pickings recently had an article about the new book Jane Jacobs: The Last Interview and Other Conversations, where Jacobs is quoted as saying:

If I were running a school, I’d have one standing assignment that would begin in the first grade and go on all through school, every week: that each child should bring in something said by an authority — it could be by the teacher, or something they see in print, but something that they don’t agree with — and refute it.

I think with some modification a weekly statistics-checking exercise done in PolitiFact (the editor has a Masters in journalism and a Masters in Library and Information Science) fashion might be fun. I know the perfect infographic to start with. 😉

Choy, S. (2002). Nontraditional undergraduates. Retrieved from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2002/2002012.pdf

Jacobson, T.E., & Mackey, T. (2013). What’s in a name? Information literacy, metaliteracy, or transliteracy? [SlideShare slides]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/tmackey/acrl-2013

National Center of Education Statistics. (2015, May). The condition of education: Characteristics of postsecondary students. Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_csb.asp

Online Learning Consortium. (2016). 2016 higher education online learning landscape. Retrieved from http://info2.onlinelearningconsortium.org/rs/897-CSM-305/images/OLC2016ONLINELEARNINGIMPERATIVEINFOGRAPHIC.pdf

Popova, M. (2016, May 4). Urbanism patron saint Jane Jacobs on our civic duty in cultivating cities that foster a creative life [Weblog]. Retrieved from https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/05/04/jane-jacobs-last-interview/

White, S. (2011). Seven sets of evidence-based skills for successful literacy performance. Adult Basic Education and Literacy Journal, 5(1), 38-48. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ918178

Citation Tools

A while back, one of my friends from college who now teaches writing where we went to school together sent me a message about a little debate in a writing instruction-related listserv about how university libraries always seem to market citation tools to students, making students become dependent on machines to do the work for them. This is an advertising tactic, but the workshop the library is putting on might actually show students how these tools aren’t 100 percent accurate. This was pretty much what he thought was likely but wanted to see what I thought. I do support these tools when used appropriately. The reality is that a lot of our students do find and use these tools on their own; I might as well give them some pointers.

In instruction sessions, I point out citation tool features in databases, but I always comment that the citations aren’t to be taken at face value. I usually do an example and ask students to point out what is incorrect in hopes that they remember that it isn’t always right. I do support using the tools in order to save time —students can copy-paste and correct by looking at their writer’s guides, which often have sections on citing in APA and MLA; the APA or MLA handbooks; Library handouts; Library LibGuides on APA and MLA; or even by googling Purdue OWL’s APA or MLA Formatting Guides. I even have Purdue OWL linked on my LibGuides for APA and MLA. I also have other citation tools listed in those online guides with a note indicating that these tools are not perfect.

I went on to tell my friend, “Ain’t no one just telling them to use the tools point blank.”

Well, I was wrong. Recently, someone in an academic library listserv was complaining that EBSCOhost needs to get its act together to fix the problems in their citation tool feature because the “nice librarian is telling students to use the feature, and students are getting points marked off.”

I’m just going to say it. You are not doing your job if you are simply telling students to use these tools. That was the gist of the feeling among the people who did a reply-all response. No tool is going to be perfect, but it’s not difficult to live in the happy place I’ve described above. There is so much help available to double-check citations, and if points off is what is going to motivate students to learn or at least take the time to check, so be it. The other challenge is that students, who do seem to understand why we cite, at least when I’ve asked students in class, don’t seem know why there are different styles or why they must be so precise when using a particular format. There needs to be a much deeper conversation, and I am sure this does happen in research instruction and writing instruction courses. It’s just part of getting students familiar with academic culture.

With that said, librarians, what are your favorite tools to help students cite or keep track of citations? While I only list links on my LibGuides to free tools (again, with a word of caution), here are some free and fee-based tools that I know about, though the only one I personally use is Zotero. Diigo does look really interesting, so it may be one I try out for myself. The last citation builder I played with is North Carolina State University Libraries’ Citation Builder.

BibMe

Citation Builder

Cite This for Me

Diigo

EasyBib

KnightCite

Mendeley

NoodleTools

Perrla

RefMe

RefWorks

Son of Citation Machine

Zotero

 

Local History

I had an epic struggle choosing a major when I was in college. I started off  as a sociology major, then social science (sociology, history, and criminal justice), but all the while I was also taking English classes. Eventually, I realized having essentially three minors as a social science major was probably not the best idea. At the end of the day, how I decided to mark the paperwork as history is that I had one more class done than in English. The reality is that I thought everything was interesting–no wonder LIS was so appealing!

However, before library school, I was in a history MA program for a week…until I found out I’d be able to go to library school. Ultimately, I think I would have stayed on if I had found my little history niche. I was surrounded by people who were really into specific areas–Latin American protest art, Civil War, etc. It’s only now that I have worked in public and college libraries that I realize my little history place is actually local history, and I think it’s more because I know it can be a big challenge to actually do effective history research at the local level. There is so much that is forgotten or boxed up. (Recently, I read a really neat article by history professor Peter Knupfer and his experience in developing and guiding students through a project-centered study on a nearby community’s grapple with desegregation; students in his class were able to appreciate that local history research is difficult because the sources are not readily available.  A service-learning style project like this would be such a cool way to apply the Framework, don’t you think? My librarian heart swoons at the possibilities.)

In the summer of 2009, I volunteered at the Merced County Courthouse Museum and at the UC Merced Library. At the museum, I researched the building of the Japanese Assembly Center during World War II in Merced. My research was used in a documentary called Merced Assembly Center: Injustice Immortalized and in the Densho Encyclopedia. Here is a Merced Sun-Star article that references my research. I also wrote an article eliciting more information from the community in the Merced County Courthouse Museum’s column in the Merced Sun-Star, but there isn’t a digital copy–this is another difficult thing about small local papers and doing local history research. (Speaking of UC Merced and hidden collections, I discovered that UC’s Calisphere collections contain WWII Japanase American Assembly Center newsletters and the beginnings of a Merced Local History collection. Pretty cool!)

While writing up the laundry list of stuff for the new librarian coming on board to know, I began drafting a section about things I didn’t get a chance to do but would have loved to see through at the Los Banos Campus Library at Merced College. One of the things I really wanted to do was create a local history area. Here’s a little write up from American Libraries magazine, “What To Collect?,” from last summer that outlines the kinds of resources a public library might think about collecting to create a Local History Reference Collection (LHRC).

At the Los Banos Campus Library, there is a mishmash of items in the 300s, 500s, 900s, and in reference that deal with Los Banos and Merced County, but I would love for these things to be housed together. I have asked off and on for approval to do this from the main library, but I haven’t ever gotten an answer to any requests. Honestly, it just requires us to make changes in the catalog for location and call number–all we need to do is put a letter in front, like we have R for reference–and redo a few stickers. We don’t have tons and tons since we’re such a small library. The question is what letter should go in front? SC for special collections? LR for local reference? LHRC is just way too long.

Another thing related to this would be to work with the public library and the little local museum to compile some kind of pathfinder for researching local history. The museum is barely functional from what I understand (I never got a chance to visit–working and living in different counties is rough), so I am pretty curious what kind of resources are housed there.

Aerial view of Merced Assembly Center, California, c. 1942. (2015, July 17). Densho Encyclopedia. Retrieved May 5, 2016 from http://encyclopedia.densho.org/sources/en-denshopd-i224-00004-1/

Knupfer, P. Consultants in the classroom: Student/teacher collaborations in community history. The Journal of American History, 99(4), 1161-1175. doi:10.1093/jahist/jas602

 

Tablets Pt. 2

An update on that tablet project I mentioned back in the fall.

Back in September, I found out I had one week to submit paperwork for a grant offered through student equity funding. I had planned to do a survey about our students’ technology usage in order to make some mobile technology recommendations to my dean, but I had to scrap the whole plan with the unexpected deadline and opportunity.We initially received 33 percent of the funds for 36 Microsoft Surface Pro 3s (at the time, this was the college approved tablet) and a charge cart. However, a little later, the Library received funding for all 36 tablets. The tablets are mostly for library instruction since we don’t have an instructional space, but we decided to circulate 5-10 for in-house use when not being used in the classroom.

We finally got everything delivered at the very end of 2015/beginning of 2016, but, long story short, we just started checking out a few this last week. I am bummed I wasn’t able to use them for instruction. I am also sad that I won’t be seeing this project through since I am heading to a new job in June.

With all the delays and my exit timeline, I forgot all about apps. One of the part-time librarians recently reminded me about apps after I sent her a Storify summary of a Twitter chat about tablets by ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Instructional Technologies Committee. Here’s the accompanying Winter 2016 edition of the Instructional Technologies’ Tips and Trends newsletter. Back when I used to do butcher paper posters in the hallway outside the Library doors with questions for students to respond to on Post-It notes, one of the questions I asked was about apps students use to help them with their work. I didn’t get much of a response, though. After this email conversation, I remembered that I had saved a really cool idea that could be modified a bit to figure out what sorts of free apps might be added to the Surface Pros. It really needs to be guided by our students (we really need a student advisory committee!). In 2014, there was a message in the collib-l listserv from a librarian named Beth Johns about a drop-in workshop she and a colleague did about apps.

One of my colleagues and I experimented with a drop in workshop for students last February. It was called “Sips, Snacks and Apps” and was designed as a “sharing” workshop–the plan was to share information on mobile apps that have an academic purpose (such as library database apps) with students and find out what they use in their academic life.

We didn’t get a huge turnout, but some students were coaxed into attending and thanks to one of our student workers who also wrote for the student newspaper, we had a short article published on the event. Snacks included coffee, tea and lemonade to drink and cookies to eat. We held it in a group study room, but when we do it again (planning for the fall!) we want to hold it in a more public place. This room was not a good location–kind of hidden in the library. I think we will hold it near the library entrance next time. The few who attended, including one faculty member, seemed to enjoy it. It was more about building relationships than the topic of mobile apps. I’ve attached a pdf of one of the flyers.

With this particular topic, it seems that students at our school are not yet using library or academic apps (unless they are just not telling us what they use), but we did find out that those with iPhones sometimes use Siri to figure out alternative keywords when they are researching something, so that was helpful and interesting!

I mentioned to our part-time librarian that what we could do is come up with our own list of apps that work with Windows, and then see what students want from that master list, as well as look into others that are suggested. If were going to stay, I would set up a student advisory committee that includes our student workers and other students. With less than a month left until I leave my job, I do plan to add this tidbit to the notes I’m leaving for the new librarian.