Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Mentoring Meeting

The week before Christmas I met with my ILA/ACRL mentor, Rebecca Funke (Director of the DMACC libraries). This was our first meeting. I was able to see the Ankeny campus library, learn more about their collection, meet some of the other library staff, hear about their policies & procedures, and ask tons of questions (like the new librarian I am). It was interesting to hear about their set-up, and hear the similarities between what we are doing at as a university & what they are doing as a community college. I shared a bit about what we are doing with the embedded librarian program & how we structure our instruction sessions. There were several take-aways from the day spent in Ankeny, but one that I'd like to take steps toward implementing within the next year is to have an all-campus reads program. (It all depends on administrative approval, collaboration between other areas on campus, effective marketing, and overall interest.) The Iowa Center for the Book chooses one book each year to be the All Iowa Reads selection; this year's selection is Tracy Kidder's Strength in What Remains.I have been brainstorming about marketing and programming related to a campus-wide program.  Possibilities include:

  • a read-in
  • collaboration with student groups
  • collaboration with faculty & departments on campus
  • perhaps a raffle with book give-aways
  • utilizing the existing book trailer to increase interest 

Creating marketing materials, talking to the on-campus radio and television production groups as well as the student newspaper to help get the word out & to cover events held throughout the year (semester?) is going to be a big part of getting this program started.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Article Discussion: Using Google Forms to Schedule Classes in Your Library

Kenney, J. (2011). Using Google Forms to schedule classes in your library. Journal of Library Innovation 2(2). Retrieved December 1, 2011 from

What is awesome about no longer being in grad school (besides having a job with health insurance, having my own apartment, sleeping on a regular basis instead of pulling all-nighters, and actually getting to see my friends and family) is that I don't have to read articles I find boring. I get to choose the articles I get to read! (Believe me, this is pretty darn luxurious! I love practical articles where I find something in it that I can actually apply right away!) I was really excited when I began browsing the Directory of Open Access Journals ( and came across the Journal of Library Innovation. One: because, let's face it—I'm frugal and the fact that it's open access (free!) makes me feel like I'm getting a great deal; two: because the articles are remarkably readable and practical; three: because I drink the Google Kool-Aid, and what did appear before me but an article about using Google tools to make life easier! I'm sold!

So, let’s talk about this wonderfully practical article that uses Google magic, shall we? Kenney is a high school librarian who uses Google Forms (GF) to schedule classes in the library. Though our institution is a university, we have a similar break-down with our number of students (Grand View serves about 2,000 students; Bristol Eastern High School has 1,300) and types of facilities available (both BEHS and GV have one computer lab devoted to library instruction).

When I arrived this summer I visited with my colleagues about using GF as a replacement to paper stats. During my internship at University of Dubuque (UD), we used GF for this purpose and it worked fantastically, so we revised the UD form to make it simpler and began implementing the new statistics procedures. In the past, as a student leader in SLIS at Indiana University (IU), I had used GF to coordinate events, gather RSVP information, help with officer elections, etc., so I was already comfortable with the format. Kenney took it a step further and uses it for scheduling instruction (love this!).

As an Instruction Assistant at IU, course instructors scheduled library instruction sessions using a PHP form. This is a similar concept, but could be more difficult to implement depending on access to server space and coding experience. GF allows librarians to easily make and modify a form that meets their instruction scheduling needs, and all of the information is kept in a central location (not to mention automatically organized in a rockin' spreadsheet).

Prior to using GF, Kenney's procedure was to have teachers email back and forth with her to line up not only the times/dates, but also exchange several emails about what was to be included in the session, assignment expectations, etc. Though I am not our official scheduler, I have visited with our librarian about the (sometimes…) lack of information we receive from instructors regarding what they want their students to learn during the library instruction sessions, resulting in a situations and email exchanges similar to those Kenney experienced. Implementing the form would simplify this experience for all involved. Also, Kenney's form included a detailed list of the services and types of instruction the library provides. This allowed her to highlight specific resources and technologies that instructors might not have otherwise thought to include in their requested instruction session. She then transferred the submitted information from the Google spreadsheet into a calendar item. The calendar was available for classroom instructors to see (so they would know when instruction was/was not available).

I think it's a fantastic solution using resources that are freely available to simplify a process (and keep your email inbox tidier)! There are a few caveats that we need to consider, should we decide to implement this new method. I think educating faculty about the new procedure and form is the top consideration. Some professors may not be comfortable with electronic forms, so some training may be necessary. Populating the calendar with instruction sessions/information may be a bit clunky, but it is no clunkier than what we are currently doing—and this procedure would eliminate excessive email exchanges. Another consideration is that, even though Google works to make many things customizable, we still can't accept attachments via the forms; we could add a mailto link to the form so they automatically send it to the right person (so it can be added to the right calendar item).

I've shared this with my colleague, who sounds keen on making this work for our library. Fingers crossed for a simpler instruction scheduling process for all involved!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Article Discussion: Searching Where for What: A Comparison of use of the Library Catalogue, Google and Wikipedia

Waller, V. (2011). Searching where for what: A comparison of use of the library catalogue, Google and Wikipedia. Library and Information Research 35(110). Retrieved November 28, 2011 from Freely Accessible Science Journals.

I’m pretty sure every instruction librarian has struggled with students who simply want to Google or search Wikipedia to find “research” for their course assignments. This is nothing new. Students tend to gravitate toward the familiar, and toward what they think is the easiest route. In fact, I received an email from a student that said “I just ended up looking it up on Google. Google knows all.” (Granted it was very early in the semester, before I had gotten into their class to do any IL instruction, but still). So when I saw “Searching where for what: A comparison of use of the library catalogue, Google and Wikipedia” I was intrigued. We all turn to different resources for different research needs. Let’s be honest, I won’t turn to the library’s catalog or databases to figure out when Beyonce announced her pregnancy (2011 VMAs, Aug. 28th) or whether Jason Segel is married (Single! But I knew that from a Letterman interview...I digress); Wikipedia is just fine for that. But, if I’m looking to write a paper for a grade (hint hint, students), I should use something more credible. So as part of my instruction, we discuss web quality. I share fun examples of less-than-stellar websites, and then have the “Come to Jesus” moment when it comes to using Wikipedia. (See slide four below.)

I don’t know if you can see it, but the Wikipedia entry for Newton, IA shows the nickname to be “The Armpit of America,” the motto as “Too lazy to commute. Let’s go on title 19,” and the population is made up of “15,579 Smiling toothless methheads” (keepin’ it classy, Wikipedia). That usually gets a chuckle out of the students, and opens their eyes to just how easily this information can be manipulated. I tell them that I went back just one hour after I took the screenshot, and the information had been changed back to something less controversial—so not only can Wikipedia be ridiculously incorrect, it’s also not a stable, constant resource.

While reading the article “Searching where for what: A comparison of use of the library catalogue, Google and Wikipedia” I was interested in seeing what might be implied about user behaviors and the reasoning behind it. Waller examines the catalogue (yes, spelled the British way) searches in the State Library of Victoria (Australia) as compared to the searches done in Google and Wikipedia. The researcher looked at the following categories: popular culture, ecommerce, business-related, cultural practice, computing/web, health, history, science (including math), place/building, contemporary issues (news, government information), books/authors, high culture, adult (XXX or dating sites), genealogy, unknown, and other. Waller used transaction logs to gather data from the library/internet users without impacting their behavior. The findings showed that 20% of catalogue users were researching contemporary issues, wherein only 5% of Google searches were seeking information on contemporary issues. Quite the opposite was the case when researchers examined the results for pop culture; 29% of Google queries and 40% of searches that took users to Wikipedia. The article contains more information about the nitty-gritty results, but in the end, I wasn’t surprised by the user behaviors.

While not Earth-shattering, it was eye-opening to hear concrete numbers regarding Google use versus library catalog use. According to Waller, “Google is used approximately one hundred times more often than the State Library catalogue to look up information on contemporary issues. Similarly for every five library catalogue searches, there are in the order of 500 searches conducted in Victoria using Wikipedia…Wikipedia is used approximately twenty five times more often than the State Library catalogue to look up information on contemporary issues.”

I encourage my students who are working on research papers to ask “So what?” or “What’s the big deal; why should I care?” Waller’s “so what?” suggests that libraries should monitor the catalogue query subjects to better understand how their collections are being used (or where there are gaps in the collection that should be filled with new purchases). This approach would still leave gaps in the data, not allowing researchers to understand users’ reasoning behind their searching habits. Perhaps patrons are simply unaware of the depth of the library’s collection regarding their topic so, instead of searching the library catalog, they search online elsewhere. The issue then becomes educating library users about the collection, as opposed to modifying holdings. I like that Waller points out the advantages of using library resources over (possibly sketchy) web resources: difficult to find “authentic meaning when using a search engine,” most users don’t dig deeply enough into the search results (past the first page of results), you get all of the bibliographic information you need to properly cite your sources when using library resources, and information on like topics is grouped together (making students’ research easier). Waller failed to mention that when you use library resources, you’re likely to have at least one librarian you can contact when you have questions, need help sifting through and interpreting information, or need help remembering to breathe because your paper is due tomorrow and you know you should have started it sooner but you didn’t and you realize now that you kind of screwed yourself over but really you just need to get it done and just survive until the end of the semester (where’s the closest cup of coffee?). (Not that I’ve seen students do this or anything…)

In the end, the article didn’t necessarily address user motivations, but it did reinforce that, as an instruction librarian, I need to continue to educate my students about the need to dig deeper—especially when they think they already know how to search and find quality information.