Thursday, May 31, 2012

ILA ACRL 2012 - Session 2 - Bringing Information Literacy Skills to the Tablet

In the afternoon the librarians all headed over to the Union for a working lunch.  It followed the same format as past ILA/ACRL lunches, but this time I actually had a hand in some of what was happening.  The Membership Committee submitted our report early, as our chair knew she wasn't going to be able to attend the conference.  I particularly enjoyed the awards portion.  As a member of the Awards Committee I read all of the research submissions & scholarship applications a while back, but it was particularly nice to see the recipients and hear from them firsthand how excited they are about their work!

After lunch we jumped into the afternoon sessions.  The first I attended was a session on iPads.  Usually I have my conference game plan pretty well mapped out before I even arrive, but this time slot was one where I didn't decide where I would be heading until right before (and I'm not going to lie; a little part of my decision was based on the fact that I got to play with the iPad). Another reason I attended this session was because a former Dorian camper of mine, Charlie, who has been a student at Luther for a few years now (gah, I'm getting old), was the tech helper, which is just too adorable (I'm pretty proud of that kid!).  But enough about how I chose this session; let's talk about content!

Bringing Information Literacy Skills to the Tablet was presented by Luther College's Rebecca Sullivan.  As a Luther graduate I was aware of some of the space and technological constraints in the library's instruction areas, the largest issue being no computer equipped instruction lab.  There are labs around campus, but not one within the library that is suitable for instruction.  Bu using iPads, Sullivan was able to work around some of these issues, and allow more flexibility for students to directly apply the skills they learn while being able to move freely around the library (including the stacks...imagine how many post-its they might save!). Sullivan discussed some of the traditional uses for iPads (roving reference/chat, student/faculty petting zoo to help them feel more comfortable with technology, e-readers for books, OPAC stations for service spots, self-guided tours, conveniently located instruction videos, student worker use with shelf reading/weeding, and -- as they did at UD -- and easy way to keep in-house statistics for materials use & space use).  Essentially, Luther uses the iPads as a classroom set, similar to a laptop cart.  She highlighted a few apps for classroom use and noted the importance of syncing all of the iPads to one iTunes account (so they all have the same apps laid out in the same way, making instruction easier).  Just as with laptop carts, this classroom set of iPads is stored and charged within a secured cart.  The cart may be checked out as a whole, and then each iPad is individually barcoded & signed out to individual students (as to better prevent the iPads from disappearing).  They also are able to track the devices on campus by looking at when & where the device last accessed wireless.  They've only had one issue with an iPad not being returned, which, given the portable nature of the device, isn't too shabby! Sullivan mentioned a couple of particularly useful apps for reading and annotating PDFs: GoodReader and iAnnotate.  Luther just began working with Mac AirServer (only $4 per computer for a bulk license), which allows you to project your iPad screen onto another computer (or in this case, through a computer and then onto the screen wirelessly). It made me think of a less sophisticated (less expensive) version of SynchronEYES.  You can project your own screen, or have students access the Mac AirServer to project their screen, but you don't have the ability to take over the devices to project your screen onto each device (as you do with SynchronEYES) or to choose and display a student's screen on your own (without asking them to access the AirServer), which could potentially slow things down in class.

As with any technology, there are always some challenges to consider.  First: distraction. A simple solution is to just ask students to close the covers when you need to deliver instructions or prepare them for an activity, and then have them open the cover back up when it is time for them to apply the skills that were introduced. Another challenge (and this is big with me and my uber-love for multiple windows with multiple tabs) is that it can be difficult to multitask using iPads because navigating multiple applications can be a little cumbersome.  You must have cloud storage available, so students can later access their documents from any device.  Another big thing to keep in mind is that printing from iPads (or any wireless device) to a networked printer can sometimes be tricky.

I asked about using this technology with students who may have special needs.  Traditionally Apple products have been very user friendly & disability friendly, but I wondered about how that would work with a large classroom set of these devices.  From the usability standpoint, the product itself is fantastic, but students with disabilities would have to bring in their own devices in order to be sure their accessibility settings were kept.  This brings up two large concerns for me: 1) in my mind this creates an even greater rift between the "haves" and the "have-nots" -- particularly when you add a learning or physical disability into the equation on top of financial concerns.  2) From a logistical standpoint, there would be issues with the apps and other pages instructors may have pre-loaded or synced onto the classroom set of iPads that wouldn't be loaded or arranged on the student's personal iPad they brought in because they wanted to be sure their accessibility settings were available to them during the class...

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

ILA ACRL 2012 - Session 1 - Honoring the Leisure Nook

Saving Space: Honoring the Leisure Nook was presented by Kathryn J. Morgan, Julia Dickinson, Stella Herzig, & Joyce Haack, all from St. Ambrose University.


This session discussed both the research and practical pieces supporting having a leisure collection within an academic library.  Here is just a little bit of the research they mentioned (I'm more of a practical bits of wisdom & ideas for implementation kind of a person, but still value the literature review they shared). This is something we've assumed for some time: recreational reading promotes better reading comprehension of academic texts, higher order reasoning skills, and civic participation, all of which are desirable attributes from college educated adults (Rathe, 2006, p. 82).  In addition, students gain access to the library in a non-intimidating way, transferring their familiarity of their school or public library's leisure collection and attaching that (in a small way) to the college/university collection.  

The nature of spaces within the library was also an important part of the presentation.  One must consider access, visibility, and, just like in business, how using high-traffic spaces & strategies that capitalize on the "impulse buy," or in this case the impulse check-out, can really serve your population well. In addition to the placement of the collection, the librarians also had to consider the other spaces in the library.  Many students may seek a space that is safe from everyday distraction, one that is disconnected from technology, but still promotes a sense of community.  At one point I tweeted "social vs communal space--students like to see others as they study alone (misery loves company?)." And that's right.  It's nice to know where you can go to find a brief distraction from your studies, but at the same time having that study place you can call your own is where the real work happens for students.  By adding the leisure reading nook, the library helps to nurture the whole student, not just the academic side, making the library the student's Third Place (or at least moving it up in the rankings).  St. Ambrose marketed the leisure collection using a blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and by using traditional email alerts to those who are subscribed.  

As for the logistics of the program, the library began by leasing books from a vendor, but switched to purchasing materials after realizing their popularity.  They are able to purchase between 40-50 new materials per year, and get donations through their partnership with the public library.  The public library participates in a "rapid read" program wherein they purchase many copies of newly released popular materials.  Once the demand begins to drop, they weed the duplicates from the collection and send them to St. Ambrose to be used in their leisure collection.  The collection is weeded yearly and they generally try to keep only new and fresh materials (under 5 years old).  They sell their discards at the campus book sale.  What especially caught my interest was the Summer Reading Program they developed for all interested staff, faculty, and summer student workers.  They had a kick-off party with root beer floats, and one end-of-the-program prize winner received a Kindle.  

I was curious as to how this program had impacted developments with academic departments, increased instruction, or improved foot traffic in the library.  While they had anecdotal evidence, they had a technical malfunction and lost many of the statistics that would help them assess that impact.  Another interesting topic that arose in the time for questions was the idea of a bridge collection, that features popular reading as a bridge to lead students to academic reading.  There is also the Alex Awards list that features titles written for adults, but would have appeal to young adults, which may help with title selection and help with that transition from high school to college.  

I particularly enjoyed this session and am looking forward to beginning a leisure collection here at Grand View! I've been wanting to do some programming around YA books, and perhaps beginning this collection will build further interest in a shared group reading experience with our students.

Edit: One thing I forgot to mention earlier, but saw that I tweeted about, is that the library & college/university as a whole can present the library resources, leisure nook, and summer reading program as an employee benefit at new employee orientation, which may help attract and retain invested faculty/staff. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

ILA ACRL 2012 - Preconference & Keynote

This spring's ILA/ACRL Conference allowed me to return to my undergraduate institution, so basically it was like going home for a few days and nerding out with fellow librarians (meant in the nicest way, as I embrace my enthusiastic nerdiness).  The events began with a Thursday evening tour of the Seed Savers Exchange library & labs.  I am a hard-core Decorah lover, but there are still many Decorah attractions I've not yet seen and Seed Savers was one of them.  Bill Musser, former Luther librarian & current do-it-all, one-man-show librarian led the library portion of the tour, while another Seed Savers employee shared the lab portion.  I'm not big into gardens or agriculture, but I still had a great time learning about how this one place serves a wide range of purposes, and how the library supports that mission.



After the tour there was a fun reception, and then the evening dine-arounds.  I lucked out and chose a fantastic bunch of librarians with whom to share the evening (but, since librarians are the nicest people ever, it would have been pretty difficult to not have had a wonderful dinner with any of the groups dining around at various restaurants).  We had a lovely supper filled with the delicious food, fun conversation, and a fair dose of laughter at Rubaiyat Restaurant. I got to better know other librarians from the Des Moines area and beyond and also got a chance to visit with the keynote speaker, Michael Porter, who joined us for the evening.

The next day began early, as I arrived on campus around 7 a.m. to assist with setting up Membership Committee materials and other signs.  The conference began with a general welcome and introductions from the ILA/ACRL Spring Conference Committee Chair, the ILA/ACRL President, and the Vice President/Dean of Luther College.  Then Michael Porter, President of Library Renewal, shared his passion and ideas for the future of libraries with us. He began with a simple, yet important equation: libraries = content + community.  I think this speaks to the heart and mission of libraries: service to patrons is why we exist.  We need to bring them the content they need (and oftentimes the content they don't yet know they need) in order to fully nurture them as an entire person (meeting their educational needs, social needs, and even emotional needs in the case of programming & support meetings held in group spaces).  As Porter noted in his presentation, libraries balance out economic and other disparities and are a place where all can come to access information, be a part of the community, learn, and exchange information and perspectives.  The library serves as an equalizer, providing opportunities for all, no matter the circumstance.

This is something I am very passionate about and found myself agreeing with much of what he had to share.  I find myself drawn serve those in need; in my past life as an orchestra teacher I served children in a community that was struggling (and continues to struggle) economically.  Currently I am in an institution where students have struggled academically or financially but are working hard toward a better future for themselves. I often think of Grand View as a place that embraces all kinds of learners, especially those who may not have been accepted anywhere else, and this is a part of my vocation as a librarian and educator--to meet students where they are and help them reach where they need to be.  We can talk about the principles of librarianship (access, community, preservation, learning, literacy, dissemination of knowledge, etc.), but, in my opinion, when you boil those all down to their simplest form they would all fall under this larger umbrella of service.

Porter also emphasized the importance of adaptation to meet the needs of those we serve (and, for libraries to survive in the future, we must adapt).  So much has changed in the past two decades, but how have libraries embraced this? I think the nature of change in academia has already been a form of hindrance to the type of progress Porter and Library Renewal seek, as it does tend to take a very long time.  Library Renewal looks to forward the switch from the current emphasis on print and what I'm calling "broken e-content" (clunky, inaccessible, overpriced, not managed in a way that best serves users, etc.) toward a more open and transparent information sharing platform, changing the infrastructure so that libraries & patrons have a say in how they receive digital content, as opposed to being at the mercy of the greater publishing industry.  That's not to say all publishers are evil--they are also currently experiencing a huge shift in how they do their business and are learning to adapt, but how is the way they are choosing to adapt hindering big picture progress (and at what cost to the public)?

If nothing, I heard an awesome new phrase I can begin incorporating into my quirky phrase repertoire: completely borked, so that's a pretty sweet deal.  Seriously though, I share much of Porter's enthusiasm and passion for raising awareness of these issues and for bringing about change, but at the same time, I know I'm starting my second career as a new librarian in an institution with 4 librarians to staff all instruction, reference, outreach initiatives, do liaison work, and all of the other things that come along with academic libraries, so the change I can make at this point (especially as a non-bigwig person) involves speaking out to legislators, doing what I can to promote change on a local and individual level--and change takes time...