Tuesday, February 22, 2011

University of Dubuque - Charles C. Myers Library Tour

Some may find it interesting to see a few of the library spaces where I spend much of my time. I took these photos early one morning in January. (There are some important spaces I wasn't able to include as I was being careful to avoid taking pictures of students, keeping in mind photo release/consent).

Monday, February 21, 2011

Week Seven: Web Meetings, Career Week Displays, and Scheduling Reference/Instruction

The week began with a meeting that returned to an earlier discussion about the library's "How Do I?" page. Jenny, another intern, shared some examples with the committee and we discussed the features we liked and those we didn't. Quite a bit of time was spent discussing: purpose, audience(s), format(s), and the features themselves. While students are the primary audience for the FAQ/How Do I? page, we still need to keep in mind faculty and other library patrons. There is a heavy lean toward Information Literacy as the focus, but there are still elements that are straight forward Q & A. Many of us liked the clear language and the white space found on the University of Central Florida's website. We also liked the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee's simple, browsable, one page format. Though fairly well hidden (those unfamiliar with the website would have to look carefully to find it), the page presents basics using headers to categorize questions (that use jargon-free language). A sub-committee (made up of Jenny, Anne Marie, Becky, and me) are going to review the websites and create an outline of the content and presentation we would like to see for the new version of the "How Do I" page. What was left of Monday was spent reviewing professional literature.

The library is almost to the implementation stages for the Library Student Worker Career Development Program, where students are paid to visit with a representative from the Career Services Office. I worked with Diana Newman, the library secretary, to finish up the brochure that will be given to students. The rest of the week was spent preparing materials for the Career Week display. I looked up various items in the catalog (general suggestions were given by Trina, our contact in the Career Services Office), printed off my list, and explored the stacks to find materials for the physical display. My cart filled with résumé writing guides, discipline-specific career guides, books geared to help students find their vocation, and popular movies about students finding their way in college and the "real world." I changed all of the items' status to "on display" should anyone be looking for them, and set them up on the reference shelves on the main floor of the library (near the main entrance). Right after I set the items up, a student came to the reference desk asking about cover letters--I was able to directly to the display and grab a book that helped her prepare her application to become a Dorm Resident Assistant!

I was also able to review my teaching with Anne Marie (who had observed me the week before). In the next few weeks I'll be assuming more solo teaching and reference desk responsibilities. We also discussed institutional repositories, library assessments, reporting library statistics to various agencies, and University accreditation (more on that in the future). Jenny and I are also going to be working together to facilitate a professional development book discussion with the librarians (happening in early April).

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Week Six: Assisting, Teaching, Shadowing, and Celebrating Scholarship & Creativity

I packed a lot in to this first full week of February. On Monday I did my first solo stint at the Reference Desk because one of the librarians wasn't feeling well, so I volunteered to slide in and man the station. While I only had a couple of reference questions, it was still nice to be able to be there and help. I also observed a sociology class where students answered questions based on their readings. They considered the various types of resources needed to answer the questions (articles, books, primary, secondary, etc.) and talked about keywords for searching. After an orientation to the catalog and Academic Search Premiere, they were off to answer their questions! There are a couple of quirks to the current library catalog to keep in mind when students are searching for books. Of course, the library catalog isn't intuitive when it comes to creative student spelling and won't anticipate or offer suggestions like Google might. Another thing to keep in mind is that when the catalog finds resources that match your search terms, it bumps the most recent item to the top of the list (and the catalog recently added new e-book titles). By returning e-books as the first search results, some students were ignoring those print resources they were seeking (for those unable or unwilling to download the e-books). We showed students how to limit by material type, which helped them be more successful.

Sprinkled throughout the week was prep work and various other ongoing projects. Tuesday was a day filled with teaching (both observing and assisting). I worked with two sections of a World History class preparing for an upcoming assignment that leads them to a larger paper (due in April). We searched for relevant articles concerning a student-chosen topic within a certain time range. Students would engage with the articles, providing commentary on the viewpoints presented for their assignment, and eventually bring the information together for a longer paper. Many of the students were able to find all of the articles they needed for the rest of the semester (though for this class day, they were only required to find their first article--but we encouraged them to get as much done as they could to be ready for their upcoming article discussions).

Wednesday I observed one section and was able to teach on my own (WOO HOO!)! I worked with two World View II (WV2) classes. The first was an 8 a.m. class who, though still a little sleepy, was able to engage with information about their local organization, St. Mark's. Following the templates provided for all WV2 sessions, I began by introducing myself and what we would be doing for class that day. We discussed the "big picture" and the impact individuals can have by simply doing and being involved. The students will eventually present about their community organization at the Service Learning Fair, sharing with their peers what the organization does. After talking about various sources that may be used, and bias that goes along with sources, the students broke off into groups to answer the questions about who is involved with and benefits from the services they provide, how the organization is structured, how it is funded, and they developed additional questions to be presented to the organization representative when they met later that week.

All of the students answered questions that were provided using Moodle forums (they added threads to the posted questions). With the last 10-15 minutes of class, students reported back to the entire group a few interesting things they found as they were searching. This process was repeated for an afternoon class researching Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I enjoyed helping the students work collaboratively to find the information they were looking for. There was definitely some redirecting students away from unreliable resources toward things that would more easily help them answer their questions. At one point I used the example of a Wikipedia article I saw (and took a screenshot of) that listed a town's nickname as "The Armpit of America," and it's motto as "Too lazy to commute. Let's go on title [sic] 19." The article also notes the population as "15,579 Smiling toothless methheads." While this example is extreme, and the above mentioned information was removed that same day, it was effective in driving home the point that while Wikipedia is a fine place to start to find out basic information to steer your search in the right direction, it should not be your only source.

I returned to campus again on Friday for a shadowing session with Jon Helmke, Assistant Director for Library Systems and Technical Services. Jon teaches instruction sessions and performs liaison duties to various departments on campus (as do all of the librarians at UD), is responsible for maintaining the library systems (including Horizon and ILLiad), vendor correspondences for electronic resources, Gold Rush Electronic Resource Management System, and the Data Central Project. He supervises Meris, Sue, and Meghann (who I talked about in week five). Jon works with the University webmaster to keep a uniform look for the library's website while adding content. We discussed eventually moving from Horizon to a cloud-based system (similar to the new World Cat), or possibly even going Open Source, but at this point that just an idea they are keeping in mind but not actively pursuing.

After spending time learning more about Jon's duties, I worked on a project to learn more about the Report on the geological survey of the state of Iowa (and another from the state of Wisconsin) that had been donated. After exploring the online Library of Congress National Union Catalog, I went down to the basement archives to check out the print version (just to be sure, and to say I'd actually used the print version) and found that even though the item says it's Volume 1 (part 1 and 2 for the Iowa survey, and just one part for the Wisconsin) only one volume was ever published (we wanted to be sure it was complete before adding it to the collection).

The afternoon was filled with scholarship and creativity as the library held their annual Scholarship and Creativity Celebration which displayed scholarly works, and artistic/musical talents of those who work at UD. The reception included food (of course), music, and spoken word. It was quite the event, and wonderful to see that so many are active within their disciplines! Friday was also UD night at the Dubuque Fighting Saints game (and it was a close one too--overtime leading to a sudden death shootout, but ultimately a home team loss)!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Article 4: Promoting and Archiving Student Work through an Institutional Repository: Trinity University, LASR, and the Digital Commons

Nolan, C. W., & Costanza, J. (2006). Promoting and archiving student work through an institutional repository: Trinity University, LASR, and the Digital Commons. Serials Review, 32(2), 92-98. doi:10.1016/j.serrev.2006.03.009

Institutional repositories (IR) have typically focused on faculty scholarship. Trinity University, along with Carleton, Dickinson, and Middlebury Colleges, began an IR featuring student work in order to promote student scholarship, and help students and faculty better understand copyright issues and alternative publishing. ProQuest hosts the server, manages the accompanying software, and makes the libraries' content shared and searchable by each institution; each library independently manages it's own Digital Commons site. Traditionally, IRs have focused on faculty publications; the new idea of the student IR required education of faculty, students, and staff, though students were more receptive to the IR, noting the discoverability of their work to future employers and graduate schools. The students submit their senior papers/projects via web form to the Liberal Arts Scholarly Repository (LASR). Each institution determines collection guidelines. Some considerations for those institutions interested in beginning something similar include staffing and financial expenses, marketing the concept to the institution, collaborative work with other institutions, determining scope (which types of work are included?), pre-publication and copyright concerns in regards to future publishing, ownership and copyright, formats accepted, length of preservation commitment, metadata, migration as platforms/formats change, and departmental concerns from around campus. By developing the IR as a consortium, LASR was able to receive vendor discounts, sharing of student work throughout all participating institutions, and has the potential for sharing procedures, collection policies, and metadata creation. Authors utilizing the IR receive statistics detailing the use of their work.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Tech Blog Discussion: What is Your Library Doing about Emerging Technologies?

Jeffries, C. (2010, July 6). What is your Library doing about Emerging Technologies? LITA Blog. Retrieved February 15, 2011, from http://litablog.org/2010/07/what-is-your-library-doing-about-emerging-technologies/

Courtney Jeffries summarizes the LITA panel presentation from the ALA 2010 annual conference. Group 1 tackled the question “What are emerging technologies and how should they be adapted for libraries?” Rather than emphasize the (growing and changing) technologies, I loved one of the panelist’s responses (Elisabeth Leonard from Western Carolina University) who emphasizes the users. “Leonard suggested that as librarians we should “think through the eyes of our users.” Who are we trying to meet and where do they want us meeting them? What’s the context? An example given was social networking. Facebook, Twitter, and other similar platforms, while considered emerging to many librarians, have seemingly always been present for younger library users/college students. (This is something I’ve been struggling with in exploring emerging technologies. What is considered emerging? Much of the professional literature emphasizes technologies that have become a part of my daily life, i.e. Facebook, Twitter, chat, online videos, course management tools, wikis, RSS feeds/readers, blogs, etc.) The summary article also notes that Leonard “added that the reverse could be argued for another user group.” This is particularly timely now that many non-traditional students are returning to collegiate studies. While it would be easy to heavily rely on emerging technologies and social networking, it’s also important to consider the learning curve for these returning students. Not only are they making big changes in their professional lives; they are also encountering many new technologies they likely did not have to use before they began their professional careers (i.e. course management software, electronic databases, online forums, online course registration, even email).

In the session summary Jeffries note’s the reaction of Frank Cerone’s (Purdue University Calumet) to including social networking under the umbrella of emerging technologies. Cerone “argued that social networking sites are not emerging technologies for any user group.” He instead directs us to examine commercial technologies. Cerone gave the example of 3-D television as an emerging technology, though Leonard considers it a “leading edge technology,” as opposed to an emerging one. I am hesitant to embrace these commercial “leading edge technologies” (mostly based on my frugal nature), questioning how they can be used to further the educational goals of the institutions, students, faculty, and learning communities we serve. Keeping in mind how these technologies can supplement and improve our communication or other services we provide is key (are we purchasing/using just to feel more technologically advanced?).

Group 2 discussed the “daily tasks and skills required of emerging technologies librarians.” Those who contributed for this session were Amanda Margis (Warren-Newport Public Library), Danielle Whren Johnson (Loyola/Notre Dame Library), Darcy Del Bosque (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Elisabeth Abarbanel (Brentwood School, Los Angeles), and Rebekah Kilzer (Drexel University Libraries). Many of the panelists emphasized the changing roles of librarians, no matter the populations served. Embracing flexibility, being involved, sharing technologies with colleagues, introducing new terms and programs to those around you. Kilzer shared a bit about her beginnings as Emerging Technologies Librarian at Drexel University Libraries. A wonderful suggestion for anyone beginning a new position is to take note of those technologies that have already been utilized. Also, visiting with “colleagues about their expectations of and suggestions for emerging technologies at their libraries” is a great way to gauge where the library is, where the librarians are, and where to start (what sort of things can be introduced? What will support the mission of the university/library?). Particularly relevant were the answers to the question “ How can librarians sty current when it comes to emerging technologies?” Tech feeds and blogs like:
Mashable (mentioned in my last blog post)
In the Library With the Lead Pipe (one I really like and have subscribed to for a while now)
Non-profit Tech Blog
Museum 2.0
Margis suggested (and I agree), “if you want to stay up-to-date, play with the technology...Even if you don’t have it, just get your hands on it...Experiment, test, and reevaluate.” This is something I’ve been working with throughout the semester. I also think approaching the technology from a different perspective (thinking of it from a student’s perspective, a faculty perspective, a patron from the greater community with borrowing privileges) is key to effectively incorporating it into your library. Whren emphasized attending conferences, particularly those not library related to see what new things can be incorporated.

The next question addressed assessing emerging technology projects. Del Bosque suggests not just looking at what other libraries are doing, but rather looking at your local population. How is success defined? She suggests “Usability testing, surveys, and focus groups.”

Group 3 consisted of Cynthia Johnson (University of California, Irvine), Jacquelyn Erdman (East Carolina University), Kathryn Munson (Southeastern Louisiana University), and Marissa Ball (Florida International University). Assuming the responsibilities associated with adopting emerging technologies requires management and can be quite a commitment. Will you have an emerging technologies librarian? Are there librarians who have expressed interest in emerging technologies? How might responsibilities be shifted to assume the tasks associated with emerging technologies? At UC-Irvine, Johnson says her position is a consulting role (in addition to their web services department). Erdman works with a committee at East Carolina University. Florida employs a team-based approach, and has incorporated the following two tools in instruction and collection development:
LibX (an extension for Firefox and Explorer... Lately I have been using Chrome, so I may have to switch back to Firefox to experiment with it).
I have enjoyed creating simple, easy (and free!) screencasts using Jing, but have not used LibX, though I can definitely see its usefulness (I’ve just not had occasion to use it yet).

It was good to hear Erdman talk about emerging technologies while still keeping (restricting) budgets in mind. At East Carolina University they hosted “an in-house conference that focused on emerging technologies.” Sharing these tools with your local colleagues can not only help with the technologies presented that day, but can also cultivate a continuing dialog that can benefit everyone in the future. I like Munson’s suggestion of documenting what you are (and are not) doing and why. The key to this is finding a simple, efficient (i.e. not time consuming) way to do this in addition to the many duties librarians perform. Making sure your emerging technologies mission mirrors that of your university and library is important (otherwise, why are you doing what you are doing?). Johnson collaborated with other departments (educational technologies and web services) to achieve some technology goals. Right now I am interning at a small university library where collaboration is key between areas of the library, technology departments, and the larger campus.

One use of Twitter that I found somewhat surprising was what Johnson reported. “After setting up the library’s Twitter account, Johnson watched as it evolved into a virtual suggestion box. Johnson welcomed this unforeseen use of Twitter. Despite the suggestion box that had lived at the library for years, user feedback flooded the library’s Twitter account.” This emphasizes meeting the library users where they are.

David Ratledge (University of Tennessee), Gwen Evans (Bowling Green State University), and Rebecca K. Miller (Virginia Tech), made up the last group and discussed libraries and risk taking with emerging technologies. Evans utilizes Computer Science students, working with them to develop new technological offerings. By partnering experienced CS students with new CS students, there is some peer training that happens but, as can be expected, there are always unexpected challenges associated with this. Enthusiasm can sometimes overshadow practicality when it comes to taking on new tasks, so being sure you do have the resources to commit to new technologies (both man power and financial) is important to keep in mind. Making sure there is a long-range plan in place is important for maintaining new technologies.

Ratledge had a good point when he said, “Your users might be on Facebook, but, do they want you–the library–on Facebook?” When students are looking for assistance, is the first place they will look Facebook? Or will they automatically go to the library web page? What platform is best for supporting your library’s users’ needs? Another idea for discussing and experimenting with new technologies is a brown bag technology lunch series in which ideas can be exchanged (and technologies demonstrated or tried by participants).

Friday, February 11, 2011

Article 3: Information Literacy and First-Year Students

Orme, W. A. (2008). Information literacy and first-year students. New Directions for Teaching & Learning, 2008(114), 63-70.

The definition of Information Literacy (IL) has changed as new technologies have been incorporated into higher education. What began as recognizing, locating, evaluating, and effectively using information has changed to a relational relationship based on information need and other contextual factors (previous knowledge and experience, instructor epistemological beliefs, and student characteristics). While some think of first-year students as "empty vessels," those following a more constructivist approach believe orienting the students to their new learning environment and academic culture can (and should) be done by meeting the students where they are in terms of their previous learning experiences. By using previous experience and orienting it toward this new environment, students are given meaningful learning experiences that can be used as a foundation for future learning and inquiry. Challenging held assumptions can also expand the student's knowledge base. Supporting this constructivist approach is the practice of giving additional academic assistance to "at risk" students (typically first-year, first-generation). This practice recognizes the "probable lack of a supporting environment that can help negotiate the challenges of an academic setting." Emphasis is placed on the nature of knowledge and how it is acquired, setting a foundation for lifelong learning within the students' first year.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Week Five: Archives & Special Collections, Technical Services, and Snow (Also known as the longest blog post for the shortest week)

Week five began with a wonderful orientation to the library's Archives & Special Collections given by Joel Samuels, University Archivist. After introducing ourselves (UD is working with another intern, Jenny Parker, doing her coursework online through University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee), and participating in a little bit of "library school talk," we moved from Joel's office to the room housing the Archives & Special Collections. Essentially the structure is a large concrete box with an independent heating, cooling, and humidity system, and is surrounded by a layer of dead air and another layer of concrete. It is secure and fire resistant, with fire sensors throughout the space. Fire must be detected in two zones before triggering the system to release chemicals (preventing extra damage in the event of sensor malfunction).

Throughout our time in the Archives & Special Collections, University history was woven within the tour (as one might expect). I won't give a lengthy account, particularly because I am no UD history expert, but I will include a bit, to give some perspective on the types of items collected. The foundation for the University began in 1846 when the Rev. and Mrs. Peter Flury came to Dubuque to minister to German-speaking immigrants. In 1847, Flury organized the charter congregation of the German Evangelical Church. In 1849 he returned to Switzerland and the church continued under the leadership of a handful of pastors over the years, continuing Flury's mission. A highly influential church member, and eventual pastor, Adrian Van Vliet came to Dubuque and began a German school for ministers. In 1854 the German Evangelical Church of Dubuque became the First German Presbyterian Church. Van Vliet's school continued to grow, and was continued by Rev. Jacob Conzett, one of his students, after Van Vliet's death. The seminary expanded under Conzett's leadership, and reorganized a few times over the next 25 years, bringing in new leadership and refocusing the curriculum--eventually realizing the need for the use of English as opposed to the earlier German emphasis. This eventually became the Synod of the West and what we know today as University of Dubuque. More information can be found here (http://www.dbq.edu/childofthechurch/) and here (http://www.dbq.edu/library/collectionspdf/summaryhistoryofthesynodofthewest.pdf).

The archives/special collections core collection consists of items Joseph L. Mihelic, former University Archivist, compiled and organized. The collection covers a wide variety of topics/artifacts including various leaders' time at UD, papers from various offices around campus, faculty papers, related church artifacts Mihelic's files and papers from his estate, seminary documents and publications, German Presbyterian materials, Iowa history collections, various artifacts and artwork, and published works of influential UD graduates (including Tony Danza's cookbook, true story). It was fascinating to hear about the individuals whose names I recognized from various buildings around campus (though, from what I can tell, there's no Tony Danza Memorial Hall at this time). The oldest item in the collection is their copy of Martin Luther's German Bible written within 20 years of Martin Luther's death (1546). Crazy to think I was able to handle that object! They also have Luther's commentary on Galatians.

In the middle of the week we received a little bit of snow (as in thirteen inches) which caused the University to cancel classes, and also made it a two-day week for me (as I had been planning on going in on Friday anyway).

Friday was filled with shadowing in Tech. Services. The day began with shadowing in Acquisitions with Meris Muminovic. We talked about the basics of ordering and accounting and he showed us JTacq, which is basically magic. JTacq is an open source, customizable collection development purchasing agent that works by importing purchase request lists (from Books in Print or you may enter each individually), or patron requests (collected via a form on the library's website or through written slips/emails). The student requests are forwarded on for approval from library management or collection managers. The program goes through Amazon to purchase the least expensive, but new, copies of the requested materials--but Meris also checks to see if the title is duplicated in the library's YBP standing orders (which can't be returned) and the catalog's holdings. Presently, if the library has the book in e-book form or if Wartburg has a copy the UD library still purchases the print copy for the UD library (even though sharing does occur between Wartburg and UD). If a student has requested the item, the provisional record is flagged so that student/faculty member will be notified once the item is received and fully processed.

JTacq allows for budget reports to be run by importing information from SirsiDinix-Horizon. E-book purchasing is done on as needed, when requested or required for a class. If the library knows about the need for the e-book, they will purchase it right away to eliminate the added expense (each e-book gets three views, with a reduced cost for each view, before the item is fully purchased by the library). E-books are purchased through EBL, not JTacq.

The next job shadow session was in Cataloging and Interlibrary Loans with Susan Reiter. She emphasized the importance of student workers. For the Interlibrary portion of the position, Susan uses OCLC ILLiad 8.0 for handling the borrowing, lending, and document delivery needs of UD. ILLiad allows for customization. In this case, UD was able to customize the lending periods for their materials, setting the period at four weeks. As is the case with many libraries, UD prefers to work with free lending libraries and the customization allows for lists to be made in ILLiad to utilize these libraries first.

The UD "Buy, not Borrow" program purchases student requests that are: books, fairly recent publications (from the year of 2000 or newer), $50 or less. This was new to me, but makes sense if the items will be heavily used.

We briefly talked about OCLC and cataloging. UD modifies some LC call numbers for specific collections (those used for certain classes that are shelved in special areas of the library, those that are in the Curriculum Library, and those that are gifts all have modified bibliographic records, subject headings, and/or call numbers in the local catalog).

In the afternoon, we visited Meghann Toohey in serials. Part of Meghann's job is to coordinate the online Rosetta Stone language classes/use. Because of limited numbers of users (30 users), Meghann coordinates registration and enrollment in sessions. She also keeps statistics on the languages used, the number of people per session, and the types of users (faculty, students). The online version of Rosetta Stone is new to UD (just began within the last tear of two) so they are hoping to compile data to guide future use.

UD uses Ebsco for the majority of the periodical purchases (and a handful of local publishers for smaller publications) which makes accounting and requesting claims much simpler (all claims requests are done online through Ebsco and further correspondence is done through email with an Ebsco representative). We discussed Gold Rush (view UD's version here under "Find Articles"-->"Journal List": http://goldrush.coalliance.org/index.cfm?inst_code=123_UDL; learn more here: http://grweb.coalliance.org/). Gold Rush allows for searching for articles and journals, keeps online holdings and coverage dates up to date, provides a staff toolbox, allows for spreadsheets to be uploaded, and keeps subscription information and statistics all in one place (including contact information for subscription providers).

Something else new to me was the Back Serve program, which allows libraries to request print copies of journals missing from their holdings. These requests are filled by other libraries with duplicate copies of the requested materials.

Of course, throughout my time here I will continue to do some collection development work, placing titles in the preliminary ordering carts to be evaluated by Anne Marie and ordered by acquisitions.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Article Discussion: Library on the Go: A Focus Group Study of the Mobile Web and the Academic Library

Seeholzer, J. & Salem, J. A., Jr. (2011). Library on the go: A focus group study of the mobile Web and the academic library. College & Research Libraries. 72(1), 9-20.

The authors examined the use of mobile Web technologies and design at Kent State University. Their literature review showed an increase in mobile device Web use. This only makes sense as smart phones (and plans) become more accessible and affordable. While “librarians are already using the mobile Web to deliver library instruction, access book and audiobook collections, conduct audio tours, send out text message notifications, and provide reference assistance,” there were no published studies about how mobile Web is used by library patrons, and how libraries created their mobile Web sites for patron use.

The librarians at Kent State organized four focus groups (one pilot group, three focus groups), comprised of Kent State students (both undergraduate and graduate). These students were recruited in a variety of ways, including online ads, flyers around campus, and word of mouth. Students received lunch and $10 added to their campus debit card for participating. The met in a conference room at the library, where the library’s website was projected, along with other libraries’ mobile websites. The group used an iPod Touch to examine the mobile sites. The same prompts were used throughout the focus groups, and a total of 20 students were included.

The results were fairly consistent across the different sessions. Those topics most focused on were “1) use and perception of the mobile Web by KSU students; 2) library resources for the mobile Web; and 3) other technologies for the library to explore.”

Use of the Mobile Web, Library Resources by KSU Students

Most students had Web enabled devices (phones, iPods, etc.). Those who didn’t “expressed interest in obtaining a mobile device with Web connectivity.” There were varied levels of personal Web device use, but those who did use it often (i.e. daily) tended to favor websites like “Facebook, e-mail, weather, directions and sports sites.” When asked about using the library’s Web page, many noted its value for beginning research (quick) such as looking up call numbers, browsing the library catalog, and database searching (if it were to be made available to mobile devices), but not for in-depth work, which they were more likely to do on a laptop or other computer.

One thing I found interesting was the authors’ findings in regards to which parts of the library website students see as most useful on their mobile device (i.e. research, services, about us). “Surprisingly, a number of participants identified research databases as an essential element of a mobile version of the Libraries’ Web site...Even after participants were informed that research databases would most likely not be formatted for mobile devices, they still expressed interest in having these tools available from the library’s mobile site,” to be able to begin their research from anywhere, during pockets of free time. Also of great interest, under the “Services” section of the Web site, are Course Reserves and the ability to check the status of their account (due dates, holds). Though librarians anticipated students to show great interest in the mobile “About Us” page, few students were interested in the details found there (hours, locations and directions, staff directory), and were more interested in an explanation of using call numbers or a guide to finding books on the shelf. Also, “participants identified the ability to contact a librarian as being of prime importance.” Having the “Contact Us” button was emphasized, whether the contact happens through texting or through a web interface, having librarian help wherever the students were was an important part of the service. “About Us” was ranked last when students were asked to rank aspects of the Web site.

Students were also given the opportunity to discuss “other features they would like to see the library provide on mobile devices.” Not surprising, improved functionality of the library’s catalog, the ability to personalize and customize (i.e. accounts), and texting questions to librarians were all mentioned. For the catalog, searching, putting items on hold, renewing items, having text notifications sent when requested items are available, and library appointment text reminders (meetings with librarians/library events/upcoming project deadlines).

Briefly mentioned was mobile site design. The students indicated the “bare bones” site felt lacking compared to other mobile sites with which they were familiar. Also, limiting the number of links on the mobile Web site for simplicity and usability is important, but also including a link to the main Web site was important (in case they weren’t able to find what they need on the mobile site; using it may be clunky, but if it has what they need, they’ll use it).

In the future, the librarians at Kent State want to continue to have student input when planning Web reviews; further qualitative research needs to be done and published, adding to the professional literature.

This was interesting to read and generally apply some of the ideas introduced in the article to our discussions about the University of Dubuque’s “How do I...” webpage (similar to many FAQ pages). We are thinking about a variety of populations we are serving/targeting with this one page, design concepts (how to make it useful, concise but informative, and clean & easy to use). We’ve started examining other libraries’ websites, noting those things we like, what we might adapt to meet the needs of our users, wording, coding, searching, etc. At this point, the UD library’s website has to fit within the framework of the large University’s design and lay-out standards but, keeping that in mind, we are still able to be flexible with our approach and design that we will discuss with the University library Web liaison.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Video Discussion: Frontline: Digital Nation

Dretzin, R. (Producer). (Feb. 2, 2010). Digital nation: Life on the virtual frontier [Frontline]. Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation. DVD.

In an effort to better understand the implications of digital media on learning (and how different areas of education and work are embracing it) I watched "Digital Nation: Life on the Virtual Frontier." I will highlight and discuss a few of the main points, and their implication as libraries and librarians continue to adapt their service to meet ever-changing patron needs.

According to the video (and supported by my personal observations) everyone is immersed in technology. Technology is used in daily activities from work to play, and it's not just in large technology-oriented companies. Multitasking in military operations and elementary schools happens. The correspondents visited the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA, one of the most wired college campuses in the nation. What they saw there was constant multitasking. Students were using chat, email, in-person conversation, Facebook, and multiple other computer applications--and not just between classes, but during class. Instructors discussed how that changes how they teach. By modifying their teaching practices to distract students from the Web. This is a difficult task; one many professors are struggling with. One professor's observations were that students were not balancing this intense multitasking with their studies, and scores are suffering.

So, are we changing what it means to be human by using this wide range of technology so much? According to the video young people (age ranges were undefined, but it was implied to be elementary through high school aged children) are spending over fifty hours per week with digital media. It is unsure how this is impacting brain development, though researchers are attempting to observe. Gary Small, from UCLA, has been studying brain scans of those reading a book and comparing them to those conducting an online search using Google. When using Google, the decision-making parts of the brain showed increased activity. What is unknown is to what level this impacts learning.

The correspondents went to South Korea to observe a culture that has fully embraced digital media. They examined the fallout of the digital revolution. Of the approximate 90% of Korean children using the internet, 10-15% are in what is considered the high-risk group for digital addictions. Because we are now so connected through devices we are now living connected all of the time. In the schools, Korean children go online the same time they are taught to read (second grade), but are also taught how to use computers responsibly (including songs about internet safety, posters throughout the school emphasizing proper internet etiquette, and school lessons).

At a school back in the United States, the classroom teachers are meeting kids where they are (and prefer to learn) incorporating technology into their classroom. The teachers and administrators see education adapting to a different purpose, requiring students to produce digital artifacts (do things, build things, solve problems), not strictly memorize. This fluency in technology lends itself to communication and problem solving, and presenting classroom content when technology is utilized makes more sense to the students as learners (as opposed to traditional lecture-type instruction). A couple of online resources mentioned were Edublogs (for student and teacher classroom blogging and sharing) and Ning (for creating a social network, in this case, specifically for a class or assignment). I like the limited nature of both (the education focus, and the self-created networks/social Web page), but feel they best serve the K-12 environment. If utilized within the higher ed. community, students might feel as though they have "one more thing to check" (in addition to their school email, personal email, Facebook, Twitter, course management software, class registration interface, etc.). Some schools, once considered failing, upon integrating laptop use into their courses have seen attendance greatly improve, student scores improve, and violence decrease.

Others are concerned about how this impacts students' attention spans, how it impacts the thought process, and how online distractions detract from learning. Todd Oppenheimer, the author of The Flickering Mind, worries about the loss of linear thought. Others have noted the difference reflected in student writing. No longer written as a whole, student papers are often paragraphs pieced together into essays, lacking flow and coherency.

New approaches to learning and teaching will always stimulate discussion. While it is comforting for many to approach education using known techniques, it is also important to keep in mind that the old ways that were once considered the most effective approach are sometimes held in practice for too long. Simply because it was once the best approach, does not mean it is the best approach forever (if that was the case we would have few medical, mechanical, and technological advances).

A wide range of technologies and their use were examined, one of which was Virtual Reality (particularly Second Life). The correspondents showed the business applications for Second Life and other technologies that allow for remote working. Instead of IBM conducting meetings in-person, flying workers to various locations, meetings were held in Second Life. The users preferred Second Life to conference phone calls because the added element of perceived interaction (with the avatars) added a more personal feel. Researchers at the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford have been studying children and their perceptions of virtual reality. They found young children had difficulty differentiating between reality and virtual reality when recalling different experiences.

The military has found use for digital simulations, gaming, and technologies allowing for remote piloting. Digital simulations are used to help train personnel, as well as help treat individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The Army has begun using gaming centers (Army Experience Centers, modeled after the Apple Store) for recruiting. Though controversial in some areas, representatives have found them helpful for increasing recruits, and for visiting with potential recruits who are too young to sign up for service. Another application using digital technologies is the use of remote pilots to fly drones in the Middle East. I can see continued use of these types of technologies at University of Dubuque (where I am doing my internship), particularly with their pilot programs. Allowing students opportunities to practice as much as they can without using fuel or risking expensive equipment is invaluable to this community. We have one flight simulator equipped computer in the library in addition to the equipment housed elsewhere.

At Quest to Learn in New York, the students' entire education is surrounded by technology. They learn through games and navigate easily between the real world and digital experiences. The teachers and students feel the mix results in an engaging learning experience, in which learning is done through problem solving and first-hand experience. One teacher compared the game world to that in novels, saying it was equally as rich of an environment. By using their interests to motivate students you are creating that engaging environment necessary for learning. Critics are hesitant to embrace the degree to which Quest to Learn has integrated these technologies, saying sustained conversations about the future of education, what we value as components of education, and what is sacrificed through this process, need to occur. A large theme throughout the program was what is technology's impact on us, how is it changing us and remaking the world in the process?

I have observed both the perceived benefits, draw backs, and reactions to incorporating technology in students, faculty, and myself. While new technology shouldn't be dismissed, I am one who prefers to experiment and test out tools prior to incorporating them into my teaching repertoire. In having that strong background, I feel more comfortable when employing the technology professionally. That said, with the speed technology is changing, it requires constant adaptation on my part, and I can see how veteran teachers might prefer to stick with their tested and true teaching techniques. Students are (usually) those comfortable with merging their digital world with their in-person world, overlapping their Facebook, Twitter, coursework and in-person interactions. Particularly with library instruction sessions held in computer labs, keeping students on task can be difficult--which calls back to how engaging the instructors are. If the instructor is engaging and creating a learning environment in which students are expected to actively participate (whether it be through verbal discussion or online forums), the students will be more invested in what is happening than what may be happening on Twitter or Facebook. It's constantly changing, and I'm glad to be along for the ride!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Article Discussion: Making Twitter Work: A Guide for the Uninitiated, the Skeptical, and the Pragmatic

In an effort to embrace the technologies I am exploring, I joined Twitter a few weeks ago. I've connected with some friends, and have added the occasional comedian, many library-related tweeters, and news organizations. I can definitely see how some may easily get lost in the "Twittersphere," but how can it work for libraries and professionals? It is another way to directly connect with library users--and the "keep it short, stupid" set-up of Twitter is convenient for those with little time to commit to social networking. I'm still learning, but what does Forrestal have to say about Twitter?

Forrestala, V. (2011). Making Twitter Work: A Guide for the Uninitiated, the Skeptical, and the Pragmatic. The Reference Librarian, 52(1), 146-151. doi:10.1080/02763877.2011.527607

As many of us who have explored Twitter can see, communication via this medium continues to grow. Librarians are some of the most active Twitter users, and Forrestala cites Young's 2010 study of influence on Twitter, stating "an unnamed librarian as being one of the most influential non-celebrity users on the service."

For those not familiar with Twitter, it is a website that allows users to post short updates or conversation starters (up to 140 characters). Users can follow others' updates (tweets), and profiles may be either public or private, depending upon user preference. If you decide to make your profile private, those who wish to read your tweets must request and be approved by you. You can also have conversations with other Twitter users by utilizing the @ symbol along with their username. Retweeting is sharing another's post with those who follow you. Hashtags (#) allow for tagging, attaching labels to tweets to organize them. A common hashtag currently being employed is the #Egypt label. If you click on the hashtag, Twitter compiles the tweets that have included that label, allowing you to see what others are saying about it (not just those you follow).

Accessing Twitter is done in a variety of ways. You can visit the Twitter website, desktop applications like TweetDeck or Seesmic, access it via smart phone, or submit new tweets using text messaging. But how can you make using Twitter meaningful for your library and those who follow your library?

Forrestala recommends making what you Tweet meaningful by creating conversation, not just broadcasting happenings or making announcements. By making it a place where conversation can happen, you bring the interactive aspect to the media that others may not be incorporating. The article says you can also create an RSS feed (covered in my last post) for certain searches, i.e. the name of your library, by utilizing the "feed for this query" link. While this is true for what is currently the "old twitter" the new redesign appears to have eliminated this option (or at least hidden it very well).

As a librarian, you can create a list of people in your area who have tweeted about library-related topics. Forrestala gives the examples of "research," "paper," or "writing." You can respond to their post, directing them to your library's services, even though the post doesn't mention the word "library" or "homework," reaching out to users less likely to seek out assistance.

By searching your library Twitter can serve as a "virtual comment box" to learn more about what your users are saying about you. You can also put widgets (a box that links to your tweets) that can direct others to your tweets, or that can show your most recent tweets--particularly useful for those not interested in setting up a Twitter account, but may still be interested in quick snippets about library happenings. You can also connect your tweets to display in other forms of social media (i.e. Facebook, website, blog).

An interesting experiment done by Harvard was the "Library Hose" which generated a tweet for every book that was checked out (including title and author, not any information that could identify the patron). This gets one point across: the library is widely used. But it ignores another point the author highly values: using Twitter as a way to communicate with library users, to open communication and dialog (as opposed to a broadcasting tool).

Particularly helpful for those looking into using Twitter was the section highlighting strategy. Figuring out the purpose and focus of your account comes first. Connecting the Twitter profile to your organization, not just electronically, but also visually but incorporating images, colors, and other links helps to establish the credibility of the account. Examine best practices, including rules for behavior and interaction. Forrestala continues to emphasize the interactive uses of Twitter, lending itself to conversation. Checking your account regularly helps users feel less like they are being ignored (particularly important with reference interactions)and (perhaps) may be more likely to form a positive association with the library. The author notes that being active and helpful can help the institution in the long run (with future alumni donations) if users can maintain a lasting connection to the school. It can also be a great starting point for a conversation, which may then be moved to another medium (i.e. blog, phone, email, Facebook, in-person).

For professional growth, librarians can follow live tweeting at conferences, colleagues tweets, and breaking news.

Three blogs Forrestala mentions (that I plan on exploring in more depth) are:
Tame the Web
Librarians Matter

An article came across my Twitter feed (someone retweeted the article) about the "10 Twitter Features You Might Be Missing."

Sherman, A. (2011). 10 Twitter features you might be missing. Gigaom. Retrieved from http://gigaom.com/collaboration/10-twitter-features-you-might-be-missing/.

Sherman quickly and easily highlights some of the features basic users of Twitter might be overlooking. I will briefly outline the main points:

  • Take a look at Twitter's suggestions (under "Who to Follow--View Suggestions." You can even browse by interest or have Twitter use your email account to find people you know from your address book.
  • Twitter for business: the guide lists terms, best practices, case studies and tips.
  • You can advertise on Twitter and use analytics to find out more about your users (though this applies more to businesses than libraries).
  • As Forrestala mentioned above (though, with more of a RSS feed emphasis), using the searching features (and saving your searches, or making lists) you can check for new tweets about topics related to your services.
  • Twitter Tales: this was new to me. Twitter tales are brief stories featuring Twitter users. This can be particularly helpful to glean new ideas about how to use Twitter to meet your patrons' needs.
  • Widgets: these badges can be used to advertise your Twitter page, display tweets, and allow others to follow your posts from boxes that can be embedded in websites, blogs, etc.
  • Similar to widgets are the "Follow Me" buttons, which are basically html coding that links to your Twitter page. Another embeddable element is the "Tweet Button" which allows others to tweet about your blog or webpage with the click of a button.
  • Keyboard Shortcuts: The article showed this awesome image of the various shortcuts (below).