Rochester, beware! #mnlib17

The Minnesota Library Association conference is in Rochester this year, so if you encounter inordinate numbers of women in cardigans….

I presented this morning, and did okay. I had a few folks ask questions, which is always a good sign.

I’m here with a neighbor and retired librarian, a lovely and elegant woman. Virginia was a librarian with the Rochester Public Schools, and was the first woman of color hired at RPL. She has some interesting stories, as you can imagine. We’re having a good time, hanging out at the conference and visiting different sessions.

It’s always good to hang out with other librarians, which is a luxury I don’t normally have. Being a solitary librarian has its drawbacks, and the lack of peeps to query or just hang out with is one of them. It’s good to be amongst folks that speak the same language.

So, Rochesterites, be on the lookout. There are hundreds of librarians in your midst.


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It’s been a busy few weeks here at MPOW, with school starting up again and an influx of worried, excited, nervous, and hopeful first-year students.  It’s fun to watch as they gather and make friends, and it’s equally as fun to see the students who are now upperclassmen strut about as they flaunt their inside knowledge. It’s all fun.

I’ve been asked to be the faculty adviser for both the acapella singing group and the African cultural group, both of which I readily and humbly accepted. While I’m pretty conversant with singing, I’m much less so with African culture. I look forward to the opportunity to learn more about the the different cultures, about how we might be similar and how we are surely different. (One of the students was telling me yesterday about a dish they remembered with great fondness, describing it so wistfully it was obvious it was a cherished meal. Given that it was a fish that contained roe and was cooked – and served – whole, I was not at all convinced. Of course, their reactions when I described lutefisk were equally horrified.)

It occurs to me that these opportunities are what much of society is lacking of late. We are, most of us, so intent on looking at our various devices that we don’t look up and chat up the person next to us. (Well, I do. Just ask DBF.) We are mostly aware of our own culture and heritage, but don’t inquire as to others. Is it a lack of curiosity? A fear of looking foolish? Or offending? In any case, the fact that we don’t seem to talk to each other anymore is making us insular, and suspicious of those unlike us.

It’s as if we’ve traveled back in time, when you were wary of those not from your village. Short of yanking phones out of the hands of passersby, how do we bridge that gap?

Libraries help, of course. They’re gathering spaces and gatherers and disseminators of knowledge. They have programs that allow you to meet your neighbor and get to know them a bit.

With the almost incomprehensible events of the last few days, I can’t help but wonder whether the lack of connection with each other didn’t play a part. We hear all too often that the perpetrators of this kind of carnage were loners, they had few friends, they were quiet neighbors. I don’t know whether connecting with someone like that would help or not, but I can’t help but think that it wouldn’t hurt.

In any case, I’ll be learning about Ghana and Ethiopia and Liberia in the next few weeks. I can’t wait. And maybe I can pass along a bit about German and French and Irish and Norwegian culture, as well. Connection is a good thing.

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Never forget

“Never forget.”

I see this on many, many Facebook and Twitter posts this morning, and I agree. We should never forget the horrible events that took place 16 years ago. I know I certainly will never forget where I was when I heard what was happening, the feeling when the towers fell, the horror as the full realization of what had happened hit me.Image may contain: skyscraper, sky and outdoor

And then I realize that for our incoming freshman class, the events of 9/11 took place when they were TWO YEARS OLD. For them, it’s an historical event that has no associated memory. I was five when JFK was shot; I have a dim memory of a funeral on television, but certainly none of the horror my parents must have felt when they heard the President had been assassinated.

It’s up to us to pass along the import of 9/11, to help the current (and subsequent) generations understand why we feel it’s an event that deserves remembrance.

To that end, please read my memorial for Howard Lee Kane. May we never forget.

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I’ve been working with the Writing faculty here at MPOW to introduce students to Zotero, which is a bibliographic manager. It’s an add-on to Firefox and will save web pages, PDFs, articles, etc. for retrieval later, and will allow the user to create a bibliography (in the proper format) in a snap. The bibliography needs to be tweaked here and there, but most of it is done. Oh, to have had something like this when I was in grad school!

Meanwhile, I’ve poked around in the Facebook Memories section, and found a few that I thought I’d like to revisit. The pages where whatever I thought I had ‘saved’ no longer existed; the links had been changed, or removed, or had otherwise disappeared in the the ether. I know that DH will occasionally use Facebook to save a recipe he’s interested in trying, and I have friends that will say they’re posting to ‘save’ the page.

In comparing the two, I’m realizing that saving to a bibliographic manager is a better choice than saving something on your Facebook feed. It doesn’t help if the link is lost, but while nothing on the Internet is truly gone, it doesn’t mean it can’t be lost. (Rather like that earring or sock or key you’re missing. It’s lost, but not irretrievable.)

If you haven’t tried one of these bibliographic managers, I would encourage you to give it a try.

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Anchoring Our Practice #acrl2017

The Scholarship of Teaching and Learning in Academic Libraries.

The scholarship of teaching and leaning invites faculty…to view teaching as serious, intellectual work, ask good questions about their students’ learning, seek evidence in their classrooms that can be used to improve practice, and make this work public so that others can critique it, build on it, and contribute to the wider teaching commons. (Shulman, 2006, p.ix).

Framing: a reframing of what you’re doing. Teaching + research + publishing.

Questions to consider:

– what works (or doesn’t!)?

– what impacts learning

– what problems have you solved?

Embarking: Questions – things that make you go hmmmm. What is, what works, visions of the possible.

Support: literature, institution, virtual communities of practice. Look around for literature, may be in disciplinary lit. Virtual networks – #librarianSoTL.

Doing: Benefits – to students, faculty, your institution, the profession, to YOU!

Possibilities: support for others, collaboration with others, your own practice.

Considering: ethics, finding support on campus, partnerships, disseminating research. Consider discipline-specific conferences, journals. Look to journals that are specific to SoTL.

Exploring: much has been written about SoTL:

– Felten (2013); Hutchings (2009); Miller-Young & Yeo (2015)

– Teaching and Learning Inquiry; Journal of the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning; International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning

Little has been published on librarians and SoTL:

– Bradley (2009); Mitchell & Mitchell (2015)

Get outside the library literature!


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Beyond the Commons #acrl2017

Increasing emphasis on learning commons in academic libraries. Study rooms offered in most libraries. (Asks for show of hands for libraries with study rooms. Most of the room raises their hands.)

Some different approaches to collaborative study spaces in academic libraries.

Duke University: have been mulling the idea of learning commons or research commons. Moved forward with the project in 2014; opened in 2015.  The Rupert Commons for Research, Technology & Collaboration. Is on the first floor of one of the campus libraries. Have an open lab area and two computer labs. Have a workshop room where they give workshops. Have spaces for project teams. All teams have access to staff working in the difference areas of research. Crucial – need collaboration of all parts of campus.

Virginia Tech: Launched the Fusion Studio in 2016. Have a variety of areas with white boards,  seating, etc. Have carts with creative supplies.

Georgia Tech: very skewed towards engineering. Had a very underutilized commons that was redesigned. Wanted a space that would exist outside specific programs, so all students and programs could use. Rapid prototyping and ideation focus.

Campus dynamics?

VT: Interdisciplinary problem-based learning. Kept being asked, “Can we leave our stuff here?” Needed a more studio-like environment. Longer-term, complicated projects that needed a home.

Duke: people would take ownership of spaces, so needed to set aside space. Scholarship is changing, and so library needed to change to be a part of it. Beneficial for these project to be part of the library.

GT: Provost identified a conceptual innovation corridor on campus. The library would add space where non-engineering students would feel comfortable interacting with their engineering counterparts. (There are labs on campus that are more engineering-centric.)

Defining access?

Duke: in a high-visibility area. Set up access to the rooms on a reservation basis, though if a room isn’t reserved it is available by application. Need to have project team already assembled. Try to have the application be like a reference interview. Started with an idea of what projects they would see, but found that they were attracting projects they didn’t expect.

GT: 1000 square feet with no doors. Open to anybody. Most of the time, is a stripped-down studio space. Rather a messy space. Access is not restricted at all. Access to the programming of the space was complicated. Control administratively needed a MOU.

VT: Non-visible location, so people don’t tend to wander in. Need to fill out a form of interest. Try to get a sense of the scope of the project. Finding more hackathon-type projects.


Duke: Started with a coordinator and a service desk staffed by students during library hours. Have needed to bring in librarians and library staff to help with the projects. Have had to be cohesive in supporting the teams.

VT: Have a manager with a student development background. Brings a different vantage-point to the team. Brings in different expertise from the campus as needed to assist the teams.

GT: Didn’t add staff, as was contracting the space. However, they determined they needed staff to help manage the space. The department person whose job was to run the space didn’t report to the library, so there were challenges. (“As always, MOU.”)

What does the future hold?

VT: Have a lot of students who would like to do their work on evenings and weekends. Are there different audiences that would use the space during the day? May offer a stipend for teams willing to work on wicked problems.

Duke: Have been focusing on library interaction with students and how they use the space. Have been trying to have the teams identify with a librarian and how they can help the team, whether it’s project management or research. Working on programming with the project teams.

GT: Have seen that students who are starting large-scale projects need space and support at the very beginning of the process. Will be establishing another space in a campus library (currently under construction) that is not a partnership with another entity.

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Truth, Lies, and Managing Information #acrl2017

University of Central Missouri. 2 credit course. Translated experience into developing Personal, Professional and Academic areas. Teaching classes, providing library instruction.

Importance of this structure: aware of right search tool for the job; developing more sophisticated evaluation; providing students with real-life situations. Learn to think.

Critical thinking tools. Not just talking about information literacy as an academic skill-set, but using the skills in their personal and professional lives. Tried to come up with approaches that worked across all. Used the CRAAP test rubric. (Currency, relevancy, authority, accuracy, and purpose.)

Students had to score a resource on a scale of 0-15. Students ended up developing a love-hate relationship with the CRAAP test because they became so familiar with it. Realized that students had trouble recognizing authority, accuracy and purpose.

Had to teach students how to identify and create strong arguments; differentiate opinion from argument. Use multiple sources of evidence, use different kinds of evidence, fully cite sources, acknowledge other points of view respectfully (but explain why yours is better) , and accurately reflect the information coming from other sources.

Scenarios were used throughout the modules – realistic problem that they needed to research and write an opinion on. Ex: write a letter to your sister explaining why she should have her son vaccinated. Professional: write a report for the hospital explaining why special lifting equipment is needed to assist nurses, to reduce back injuries.

Outcomes indicated an enormous increase in the students’ confidence level in skills.

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InfoLit Squad Goals #acrl2017

Using interdisciplinary faculty learning communities to facilitate real talk about information literacy. Jason Vance, Information Literacy librarian at Middle Tennessee State University.

Have a faculty learning community – Learning teaching and innovative technologies center hosts 4-5 faculty learning communities every year. Why not information literacy? Proposal accepted; center recruited and incentivised attendance.

Used ACRL’s Framework as basis for conversations. Faculty had zero familiarity with framework. Scholarship as Conversation was a great conversation, but subsequent frames got messier as the overlaps between them became apparent.

The next semester had a more broad conversation about student writing and research. One conversation centered around citation styles.

Each group is encouraged to see their faculty learning community to contribute to a broader conversation on campus. This group created an Information Literacy Curriculum Integration Grant. The first winner revised her class with such success that her colleagues are revising theirs.

The second outcome was that there was a group of participants that was interested in continuing the conversation. Now have an Information Literacy Faculty Advisory Group. Give feedback on library instruction, serve as review committee on the grant.

Campus-wide conversation and culture change is happening on campus because of this grant.






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lichtensteinI haven’t felt this uncomfortable in quite a while.

It’s the day after the presidential election. My colleagues are walking around obviously grieving, holding each other in hallways as if they are mourning the passing of a dear friend. Many of them look dangerously close to tears.

While I did not vote for the winner, most don’t know that, as I don’t make a habit of broadcasting my choice. However, it is widely known that I lean more towards a conservative point of view. I am catching sidelong glances that are full of thinly-veiled dislike. I can feel the disgust and the disapproval.

Meanwhile, those that share my conservative bent have been coming into my office, shutting the door, and talking about the election. It seems that, in this atmosphere, these conversations must be clandestine.

The small child in me that wants to be liked by everyone cringes from this moue of distaste whenever I draw near. I didn’t vote for him, either! On the other hand, the adult (who is trying not to feel offended by all of this) is annoyed by the behavior, by the assumption that everyone thinks as they do, by the certainty of the correctness of their beliefs.

Academia is infamous for its liberal leanings. I feel that most acutely, today.

It’s interesting that a group that is intent on creating a community where everyone feels welcome seems to have lost that passion today. I most definitely do not feel welcome.


(Credit: Photo: Centre Pompidou)

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No coups.

We have a fairly significant immigrant population here in Rochester, many of whom hail from areas of the world that are plagued by war. They have come to the United States for sanctuary, for a new start, for a better life. Their previous experience taints their world view, and every now and then you get a glimpse of their challenges in meshing their old life with their new one.

This hit home for me in the last presidential election, which was not as contested (or, let’s face it, downright weird) as the current race, but was the usual flavor of election discord. I watched them as they watched the election results, and as their wonder increased as they realized that there would be a winner, and the losers would perhaps grumble, but would accept the winner as the President.

There would be no coups d’etat. There would be no tanks in the streets. People would not be rounded up and never heard from again.

The keys to the White House would change hands (or not, in the case of the last election) and that would be the end of it.

We take for granted this peaceful transition from one administration to another. We vote and we hope that our candidate wins, but we accept if the ‘other guy’ wins instead. The elected candidate becomes Our President, for good or for bad. We pray that whomever wins will do a good job, but we accept the results.

In the turmoil of an election like this one, it’s easy to forget that this country does this one right. It takes the wonder of an immigrant to shine a light on the process, to remind us that we live in a country reserves the right to disagree, but will abide. As The Bloggess reminded us, It’s Going To Be Okay.

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