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:

 

Combating One-Shot Fatigue

This semester, we geared up to teach quite a few mini workshops. Previously, most of our workshops focused on RefWorks, and attendance has always been low (it’s hard for students to come to something that is voluntary when their schedules are jam-packed!), but we decided to try something new. While most of the workshops were 20-minutes each, a few were 50 minutes.

The 20-minute workshops were my boss’ brainchild. Last fall, we tried to do a Research Starters series, and while we didn’t an uptick right before finals, we opted to try them again in the spring but throughout the term, both before and after spring recess. While I’m not saying we had sky-high attendance this semester, it did help that a few writing professors gave students some extra credit for attending up to three workshops.

In addition to teaching a few of the Research Starter workshops, I had planned to teach a whole slew of other workshops. I was very excited at the beginning of the semester, but after some mental health issues, I had to take a step back and reduce my load. I am going to try to teach the LGBTQ+, women’s, and race/ethnicity research workshops I had wanted to teach in the coming fall (I plan to team up with the apropos Student Services programs for these.) I did, however, teach two additional workshops, including one on Google Scholar and online consumer health information (the latter one needs a little more work; I did run out of time when planning for it).

When I worked at a community college library, I read Green’s “Library Instruction for First-Year Students: Following the Students’ Path” in C&RL News, and it really stuck with me. I know that not everyone loves GS, but, let’s face it, we all use it. Like Wikipedia, I use it before almost every research consultation. I also like to help students understand a tool that they will encounter if they haven’t already. The Google Scholar workshop I designed was 50 minutes, but I plan to adapt it to a 20-minute workshop in the fall. The students who came to the workshop had never used it before but the name recognition made them curious! I loved that. One of the students who attended had actually emailed me a few minutes before asking me if there was still room–of course!–and she literally threw on her shoes and walked over from the dorms. *praise hands*

I know it can be frustrating to create workshops that are not highly attended, but I love working with undergraduate students and getting more face-to-face time with them. And, sometimes, one-shot instruction can get old and feel limiting when working within predominantly faculty-led outcomes. I felt so much freedom when reading Nicholson’s “‘Taking Back’ Information Literacy: Time and the One-Shot in the Neoliberal University” in volume 1 of Pegowsky and McElroy’s The Critical Library Pedagogy (2016):

Information literacy allows the library to demonstrate return on investment to stakeholders in the form of outputs and impacts; the one-shot is important because numbers on spreadsheets make our work visible. Information literacy is, in no small part, a matter of fiscal survival. [Johnson cites Drabinski’s “Toward a Kairos of Library Instruction,” which I have read; read it for an overview of how info lit fits into the curricular changes in the 1980s. It is behind a paywall.] Nevertheless, moving away from an exclusive or predominant focus on teaching within the curriculum to explore ways to engage students and faculty outside of it–even when these activities aren’t seen to count as much as minutes in the classroom–would alleviate frustrations and stress.

I’m not saying I’m engaging in #critlib with Google Scholar, but I am definitely addressing the limitations I feel with my teaching by planning and giving workshops on a variety of topics.

Library Outreach in Public Health

I meant to do a check in regarding my new job for both September and October, which I will get to eventually, but I just had to share about my library outreach success story.

As you may recall, the UC Merced Library launched a liaison program in late August. We have a small staff, so we don’t have subject specialist roles that involve collection development in that area. Four us were assigned to the School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Arts. There are a number of minors, undergraduate, and graduate degrees in these areas, so we split them up. My primary areas are public health, management, and economics. Public health has both an undergraduate and doctoral program.

Our task for the semester was to begin connecting with the graduate group chairs. A colleague and I met with the Social Science graduate group chair to explain about the liaison program and possibly get ideas for how to communicate with the faculty and graduate students working in public health, management, and economics. Since public health is the only social science program with a graduate program, the conservation leaned more towards public health. I had already talked with our Head of Collections and Deputy University Librarian about previous conversations the Library had had with public health faculty, so that gave me some history. The grad group chair also briefly went over these previous  conversations, mostly related around access to some specific journals and data services. The grad group chair gave me the contact name of a professor who teaches a professional seminar for first-year doctoral students and said he would send me an email list of all of the graduate students in public health. The list he sent me included not only student names and contact information but also had the name of each student’s faculty mentor. I made contact with the professor of the class the grad group chair had mentioned, asking if there was something we could do for her students. I sent out a couple of messages, knowing it was a busy time of year, and waited.

While waiting, I discovered that there is a Public Health Seminar Series. I had missed the first talk already, but I contacted the professor who coordinates this series, explaining who I was and that I thought it might be beneficial for me to come to these talks to learn more about public health research. She was very welcoming and seemed pleased about my interest. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole talk due to an appointment, but I took notes and followed-up with the coordinator about the featured researcher’s work. (If you’re interested, the researcher is Dr. Joan Casey, and she discussed her article “High-Density Livestock Operations, Crop Field Application of Manure, and Risk of Community-Associated Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus Infection in Pennsylvania.”)

A little more time passed, and I decided that I needed to contact the students directly. Rather than send out a text-heavy email, I opted for this simple Smore newsletter to introduce myself, the new liaison program, and offer some general services. I also included the link to the article that was discussed at the Public Health Seminar Series for those who, like me, may have missed the citation or were not able to attend the talk. I sent the newsletter to two groups–the students and faculty mentors. I was able to craft different introductory statements in the email that was sent via Smore, so I explained to the faculty mentors that their students had received this information from me. (P.S. The newsletter was viewed 120 times! I also found out that we have a subscription to Mail Chimp, so I will try that next semester.)

The professor I had been trying to contact got a hold of me within a couple of hours after sending out the newsletter! She asked if I could give a session on how the librarians might be able to support students conducting systematic reviews. Thankfully, my colleague, who is the secondary liaison for public health, had done a MOOC on systematic reviews. She sent me some of the materials, so I could look at them. I found a number of useful online guides other libraries have created, which helped me learn more about systematic reviews. After doing some more research on the topic, we created a lesson plan.  The online guides I had looked at also served as the foundation for an online guide we created for the students (below is a screenshot).

Screenshot of Systematic Reviews Guide

We gave the workshop last week, and, although there were parts I could have been better in, it was successful! Some of the students took notes and asked us several questions. We also got good feedback from the students as we were packing up. They seemed happy to have a guide to refer to when doing their own systematic reviews.

The happy story could end here, but it doesn’t. It gets even better.

I sent out a second newsletter with the link to the systematic review guide, information about signing up for an ORCID ID (this campaign had been part of our Open Access Week programming), a reminder about the third installation of the Public Health Seminar Series, and some videos related to using RefWorks. I got a thank you from the professor about coming into her class for the systematic reviews workshop after sending out this second newsletter.

The third installation of the Public Health Seminar Series was this past Tuesday. The talk was given by Dr. Kurt Schnier, an economics professor at UC Merced, who has done work related to organ donation. He spoke about an article under review, “Subsidizing Altruism in Living Organ Donation.” Almost all of the students who had been at the workshop were there, and they recognized me. After the talk, a student asked me about making an appointment to learn how to use RefWorks. When I first walked in, I had heard her talking to someone about some issues she was having accessing an article via Google Scholar, so I asked about that, too. As I was getting up to go, the students mentioned that they were staying to talk to the researcher about his work a bit more, and they asked me to stay!  As the students gave their introductions, I asked the series coordinator if it was okay if I stuck around; it was fine.

It was very interesting to hear some of the students’ concerns. For example, a student was worried that the research she was working on now might pigeon-hole her somehow. The economics professor gave a very good response–that the skills they are learning as graduate students can be applied to the research they will be doing in the future. His background is also varied–he looks at both environmental and health topics through the lens of economics–so that helped eased some of the concerns. I appreciated the connection to lifelong learning; as a librarian, I try to emphasize to freshmen students that the information literacy skills they are learning will help them not only in completing their immediate assignment but throughout their college career and beyond. Even if students aren’t writing papers in the future, they can use what they have learned about information in their work and daily lives.

At the end of this discussion, another student asked me if the library had any book clubs. We don’t, but I am going to look into this. When I got back to my office, I emailed the student who had asked about RefWorks, asking when she would like to come by, and I also asked her about the articles again. She got in touch with me this morning, and I was able to help her track down the articles.

I’m really excited about the the connections I have begun making with our public health graduate students.

Three Months Later

The summer really flew by! Last Thursday marked three months in my new position. I discovered that working throughout the summer is a much better fit for me. I had two years worth of summers off, and that was enough for me. School started on Aug. 24, and it has been a little strange seeing so many students on campus. We have over 2,000 new freshmen and are up to about 7,000 students or so. It’s a small university, but I came a very small center of a community college, and while my previous library was full just because of its small size, it’s amazing to see how busy it is already.

Below is a quick list of some projects and events I worked on this summer and during the first couple of weeks of school. I also observed instruction sessions, met with students for in-person research consultations, and did some digital reference.

  • attended the Library Instruction West 2016 conference and attended and presented at the National Diveristy in Libraries Conference.
  • updated some Guide on the Side tutorials,  investigated and annotated Creative Commons tutorials from other libraries for our internal instruction online guide, and added readings to another instruction online guide.
  • presented and tabled at new student orientations for freshmen, transfer, and graduate students, including one tabling event for Spanish-speaking parents.
  • co-created an online research guide for our Common Read book, Living Downstream.
  • co-taught two plagiarsim workshops for ASCEND, the university’s new student success conference.
  • taught two website overview workshops for new and seasoned library student workers
  • co-planned and tabled our Welcome Week event.
  • created my very first video tutorial using Camtasia, “Requesting a Full-Text Article through UC-eLinks.”
  • met with a new economics faculty member. I am the primary contact for Social Sciences (economics, management, and public health–we have a new Ph.D. program in public health) and am a secondary contact for Interdisciplinary Humanities. My areas in the IH are Spanish, American studies, and history. I am also helping with psychological sciences. Our liaison program is still very much in its infancy, and our goal for the fall is to meet with all the graduate group chairs.
  • attended an all-day TRAIL workshop and inaugural First Year Writing Symposium.
  • attended and participated in library strategic planning meetings.
  • met with the new librarian at my previous institution. The notes I wrote seem to be helping, and I’m really glad I prepared them and cleaned up files as much as I did. I wish her the best!

Below is a list of what’s on the horizon for this fall and the academic year.

  • For this academic year, I’m serving as the local secretary for LAUC-M (I am featured on the main LAUC website this month!), member of  LAUC’s Research and Professional Development Committee, and member of our library’s Student Recognition Committee.
  • We’re starting to book instruction sessions, and I’m looking forward to working with faculty/lecturers and students in the classroom. It’s nice to be in a library where there are strong relationships with the writing lecturers. My experience as a writing tutor in college is what helped me realize I enjoyed working with college students. A big shout out to my long-time friends Matt and Heather who began this work with the library in 2013! I’m also excited that the pilot for the Writing Center in the library is continuing this year.
  • I started my tenure as the incoming co-convener for the Library Marketing and Outreach Interest Group! This group is what encouraged me to get more involved in professional library associations back in 2014. A big shout-out for the folks who encouraged me to apply to be a co-convener. I’m truly honored. This is the type of group where folks are on the leadership for three years, first as incoming convener, convener, and then a post-convener to help the new conveners. We had out first meeting via Google Hangouts this last week. We submitted a proposal to have a panel session at this year’s ALA Annual Conference. I’m hoping our group gets a slot. The idea is that the interest group at large will vote on three presentation topics submitted by group members. The panel members will be those with the winning proposals. Our next meeting is in October. In addition to planning, I will also be helping to manage the Facebook group.
  • I’m also continuing my tenure as a member of ACRL’s CJCLS’ Communications Committee. I started my appointment in 2015, and although I am no longer at a community college, I will be carrying out my role through June 2017. I help out with the Scholarship page on the blog and have written a couple of blog posts. I am thinking about pitching Zotero for the Scholarship page content.
  • I was secretary for ACRL’s IS’ Instruction for Diverse Populations Committee in 2015/2016, and I’m continuing as a member of the group for 2016/2017. We’ll be focused on updating the Multilingual Glossary. Our next meeting is in mid-September.
  • My colleagues and I are going to visit the Yosemite Research Library at the end of September.

Stay tuned! I am having a great time here. I’m looking forward to this semester.

A Genius Idea

I blame Star Trek Beyond. I feel like Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is haunting and taunting me! I went to see Star Trek with my husband last weekend, and when the song came on,  I was reminded of a really cool lesson on illustrating the “scholarship as conversation” frame.

As I was reading ACRL’s Instruction Section’s Spring 2016 Newsletter this past May, and I came across an intriguing lesson idea submitted by Tim Miller, a librarian at Humboldt State University, “Citations & Hip-Hop: Using Genius to Illustrate Scholarship as Conversation.” You can find the article at the link above on page 2, but I also have included it below.

This semester I’ve been participating in a book circle on Emery Petchauer’s Hip-Hop Culture in College Students’ Lives. Our first discussion coincided with an upcoming workshop that I facilitate on citations & plagiarism that I was also in the process of revamping. While discussing the symbolism behind Boogie Down Productions’ 1990 album, Edutainment, I was struck by the similarities between the asynchronous conversations within hip-hop and academic writing. I’m not a huge hip-hop fan, but I decided to delve in and put this idea to practice using another song from that era: Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power.”

Hip-hop music incorporates sampling (using audio snippets) and is filled with references to other songs, lyrics and imagery. Genius, the online song lyric knowledge base and annotation tool, provides a visual representation of these references by incorporating interactive features that allow users to create annotations alongside the text of the lyrics. These annotations provide explanations and context in the form of comments, hyperlinks and images. I purposely chose “Fight the Power” because it is particularly rich with samples, references and imagery that not only provide a background to the meaning behind the song but also point listeners to artists and individuals who inspired the song.

The imagery within Genius helps demonstrate that references in hip-hop create a conversation akin to scholarship: a conversation that is ongoing and unfinished. Just within the intro and first verse there is a variety of examples, including: a link to the music video (with its own visual references), an image of the single for James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” a link to The Soul Children’s “I Don’t Know What This World Is Coming To,” and a movie poster to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, for which the song was written. Genius makes these references come to life by incorporating comments, images and sound – all added by the various Genius users participating in the conversation. (Miller, 2016, p.2).

I would actually really love to do this as a workshop. I think it’s because of my history background; I did a lot of classes related to slavery and Civil Rights, and my interest in social justice. I will definitely keep this idea on my radar. I emailed Tim to let him know how much I enjoyed reading his piece in the newsletter. He let me know that he also uses Genius “to annotate an online article for my workshop on reading academic articles. It is a very easy way to add instructive elements into a webpage. I may explore using it with [LibGuides] to create virtual tours for our online programs” (T. Miller, personal communication, May 9, 2016).

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.