Friday, September 28, 2007

Participating in a Faculty Learning Community

On campus professional development opportunities are not always readily available to library professionals in academics. Librarians may be faculty, non-tenured faculty, or staff, just to name a few possible ranks within the ivory tower. Librarians at Ashland are faculty (non-tenured) and as such may participate in various available professional development activities; this fall I have joined the Teaching with Technology Faculty Learning Community.

What is a Faculty Learning Community, or FLC? Beverly Heimann, Coordinator of Faculty Development at Ashland University, presented some background information on the concept of FLC's:

Developing Faculty and Professional Learning Communities (FLCs) to Transform Campus Culture for Learning

"A faculty learning community (FLC) is a group of trans-disciplinary faculty, graduate students and professional staff group of size 6-15 or more (8 to 12 is the recommended size) engaging in an active, collaborative, yearlong program with a curriculum about enhancing teaching and learning and with frequent seminars and activities that provide learning, development, transdisciplinarity, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and community building. A participant in an FLC may select a focus course or project to try out innovations, assess resulting student learning, and prepare a course or project mini-portfolio to show the results; engage in biweekly seminars and some retreats; work with student associates; and present project results to the campus and at national conferences. Evidence shows that FLCs increase faculty interest in teaching and learning and provide safety and support for faculty to investigate, attempt, passes, and adopt new (to them) methods." (FLC: What are they, 9/28/07)

Ashland's Faculty Learning Community is topic-based, teaching with technology, and defined as:

"The Teaching with Technology Faculty Learning Community will be a cohortbased group of faculty who will be actively engaged in the exploration, discovery, and learning of how to best employ technology in teaching – whether it be in the traditional classroom or in virtual classrooms." (Faculty Learning Community, Ashland University)

There are currently two separate communities involved with teaching with technology, each has fifteen members (including the facilitators), pre-determined the topics to be discussed at an opening retreat held in August at the Shisler Center in Wooster, and scheduled six session dates to be held throughout the 2007-2008 academic year. My communities topics are:

  • Podcasting, Desktop Movies and TeacherTube/YouTube: Creating interactive videos and podcast of lectures, tutorials and informational sessions.
  • Blogs, Wikis & MySpace: Using popular free technologies to engage in reflective practice and develop critical writing skills.
  • PowerPoint and Beyond: Expanding the possibilities of the slide show.
  • SMART classroom technologies and it's assessment.
  • Creating web pages: Designing and uploading web pages on the Ashland server and free web servers (see also portfolios).
  • Enhancing the online experience with LMS and Web Conferencing.

In true learning community fashion, each member is responsible for leading and co-facilitating a session and highlighting hands-on learning during the meeting. Last week, September 28th, was the first official meeting and focused upon podcasting, video-casting, and tutorials with screen capturing software. By the end of the three hour session, each attendee had used a video camera, loaded the digital video onto computers, and had opportunity to edit and add voice to the video! A number of members were interested in creating movies out of existing presentations and we further explored saving PowerPoint presentations as individual photos (.jpeg and .gif) and importing them into Windows Movie Maker.

I started working with Camtasia, developing a tour of the "new" Instructional Resource Center Web Site to post on the IRC blog, with a secondary option of placing it on the "What's New" page. I am not quite finished as of yet, but hope to finish within the next week. Our next session is scheduled for November 2nd and I am looking forward to learning more about Wiki's and MySpace. Working as an adjunct instructor for the College of Education, increasing my technology skills is mandatory. As a librarian, many of these topics will be useful in the Library, Instructional Resource Center, and provide opportunity for increasing the usability of the Library web page.

Tags: Academic Librarian, Faculty Learning Communities, Teaching with Technology, Libraries & Technology

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

YALSA: Teens' Top Ten

The Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) blog has information regarding the 2007 Teens' Top Ten. This list, "the only book award list that is recommended soley by teens," has been posted on the YALSA blog and the Teens' Top Ten web site. Teen groups selected the twenty five books, all published in 2006 and 2007.

About the Teens:"Nominators are members of teen book groupsin five school and public libraries around the country Conneccticutt, Kansas, New Jersey, New Hampshire, and Utah selected for their experience in discussing books." - Teen Read Week, YALSA

The 25 Nominated titles are:

I am always intrigued learning what young adults are reading verses what we think they are reading. Differences between public and academic libraries are often noticeable in this particular area as our patron base differs; public libraries purchasing for the teens and academic libraries supporting the curriculum of teacher education programs teaching the teens. AU library has fourteen of the twenty five titles listed (alas, only 56%) and I have read several of them.

My favorites in this group? I enjoyed both Firegirl and Life as We Knew It. For more on these books, links from this post go to and most have reviews from Booklist, School Library Journal, and Publisher's Weekly.

Voting will take place during Teen Read Week October 14 - 20, 2007.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007

Borrowing library books

Amongst my various Bloglines feeds on Wednesday afternoon was a new Read Roger post; Throw the book at her? In it were links to an incident concerning a Lewiston, Maine library patron who decided the content and illustrations of a children's book inappropriate, has checked them out of the library, and refuses to return them.

From the Associated Press
Boston Sun Journal

Critic of sex education book refuses to return library copies
September 18, 2007

LEWISTON, Maine --A Lewiston woman who was upset by the content of an acclaimed sex education book published 14 years ago has checked out copies from two libraries and refuses to give them back.

"Since I have been sufficiently horrified of the illustrations and the sexually graphic, amoral abnormal contents, I will not be returning the books," JoAn Karkos wrote the Lewiston and Auburn public libraries last month.

Each letter was accompanied by a check for $20.95 to cover the cost of the book, "It's Perfectly Normal: Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex & Sexual Health."

"This has never happened before," said Rick Speer, director of the Lewiston Public Library. "It is clearly theft."

Speer returned the check, along with a form Karkos could use to request that the book be removed from library shelves. But he said he may seek help from police if she doesn't return what she borrowed.

"That's really what we want," Speer said. "We want the book back."

Written by Robie H. Harris and illustrated by Michael Emberley, the book features frank but cartoon-like illustrations of naked people in chapters on topics that include abstinence, masturbation and sexually transmitted diseases.

The publisher, Massachusetts-based Candlewick Press, said "It's Perfectly Normal" has been sold in 25 countries and translated into 21 languages.

Championed by Planned Parenthood, the book has come under fire from conservative groups such as Concerned Women for America and the anti-abortion American Life League. It was the American Library Association's most challenged book in 2005, topping a list that also included books by J.D. Salinger, Toni Morrison and Judy Blume.

Karkos, 64, said in an interview Tuesday that she first heard of the book from the American Life League, an anti-abortion group. She felt compelled to act after she checked out the book and found it to be "pornographic" and worse than she originally feared.

"Hopefully, this will harness enough people to be sufficiently horrified and and want to speak out, to say it's gone too far," Karkos said, adding that she was aware that drawing attention to the book might raise people's interest in it.

Rosemary Waltos, director of the Auburn Public Library, said Karkos' decision not to return the book was "an inappropriate act" that will likely prove fruitless.

"If somebody wants a copy, they can get one," she said, noting that at least three dozen Maine libraries have copies available for interlibrary loan.

Both libraries have ordered replacements for the books Karkos took. Speers ordered two more copies because of an increase in requests for the book after the (Lewiston) Sun Journal published a letter from Karkos condemning the book.

There has been a subsequent flurry of interest regarding this issue, especially happening this close to ALA's yearly celebration Banned Books Week. Here are a few links to more information:

Comments on the news articles and blogs range from "how dare she" to "bravo." I found a statement on the Boston Daily Blog from a LIS student particularly well done:

"Not everyone will like what is selected for a library — not even librarians at times — but it is important that the materials selected present ideas and views in every area (liberal, conservative, radical, etc.) and should be, at the very least, unbiased. Librarians take extra means to selecting material and analyze how the materials will be used. They understand that some books may cause an uproar and they are trained to know how to handle those type of situations. It is not up to a library patron or a librarian on selecting books, it is rather on the basis on meeting the needs of the public." LIS Student, Comments, Boston Daily Blog

This student is right; librarians are trained to select books for their library and library patrons. Not everyone will agree with the selections, therefore policy is in place to process this through legal channels; recourse on what may be perceived to be objectionable material is available to every patron.

Books are not selected for collections without thought to readership, usability, function, and information. Librarians take pride in their collections and the development thereof. Case in point, each year when a children's literature professor brings his class to the IRC he mentions that prior to my arrival, the collection was seen as somewhat stagnant and did not fulfill needs for his class. As a result, he did not bring them to the library. Size and breadth of the collection before my arrival was contingent upon a small budget for children's literature; there were many quality titles in the collection. A budget increase allowed for considerable growth and ability to purchase curriculum supporting children's literature. I take pride in knowing "my" collection is growing and meeting the needs of library patrons.

Curiosity compelled me to see if AU library had It's Perfectly Normal as part of the juvenile circulating collection. We do not. However, OhioLINK has 20 libraries with the original 1994 publication, and six libraries with the 2004 ten year anniversary edition. Both public and academic libraries have copies in their collection; interestingly, various public library copies were checked out and several academic libraries had their copies tagged local use only. The book is particularly well represented in larger academic libraries, public libraries, and academic libraries with curriculum materials centers. If interested, Amazon and Barnes & have the book and both have reviews from Publishers Weekly and School Library Journal.

Wrapping this up with a neat bow is the upcoming celebration of ALA's Banned Books Week, this year taking place September 29 - October 6. One of the most frequently challenged books in 2005? Robie H. Harris's title It's Perfectly Normal.

Have you read a challenged book lately?

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Smile, smile, smile :-)

Happy Birthday to Smiley! Reported by Wired Blogs, The Chronicle, and undoubtedly dozens more technology and news blogs, today is Smiley's 25th birthday. Invented by Scott Fahlman at Carnegie Mellon University in 1982, Smiley has since been used (and misused!) and has been the forefather to emoticons.

"Fahlman posted the first emoticon Sept. 19, 1982 in answer to a discussion about the limits of humor in online test and how users could denote comments meant to be taken lightly. Despite the protests of many an English professor, who claim (quite correctly) that the limits of humor in text are the result of poor writing skills, emoticons are here to stay." (Gilbertson, Compiler Wired Blogs, 9/19/07)

Is it odd that today is also "Talk Like a Pirate Day?"


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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Settling into a New Semester

I had every intention of writing a mass of posts for Library Cloud as soon as Diane invited me to participate, but as often happens my good intentions got blind-sided by reality. Preparing for fall semester and getting through those first couple of weeks with sanity intact became my only goal and poor Library Cloud has had to wait a bit until I could think clearly again <grin>. Now that we're into the third week of classes, I find myself, like many of my fellow University of Akron colleagues, more than a bit frustrated and wondering about the sanity of the world at large.

If you've been keeping up with the news, UA is one of those universities recently plagued by bomb threats (CBS News | FBI Probing University Bomb Threats). We've had some buildings closed for parts of the day and classes canceled or moved to other buildings as the police painstakingly went through each inch of the threatened buildings to check for explosives.

So instead of the usual beginning of semester computer problems and confused freshmen, we've had to deal with bomb threats. Needless to say, everyone is a bit jittery but overall, the campus has come closer together in the face of these threats. With the assistance of local and state police and the FBI, UA is taking every threat seriously, informing the campus community in a timely manner, and diligently investigating every lead. Counselors are available for anyone suffering from stress over these issues.

At the library, we have been reviewing our emergency procedures and doing our best to present a calm face to our colleagues and students, reassuringly going about our normal business as usual, but more alert to our surroundings. Over my 27 years in librarianship, I've encountered the verbally abusive, the mentally ill, sex in the stacks, theft, fights, lost children, strange and unusual things left in bookdrops and in books themselves, and, of course, people without a clue. This is my first experience of a bomb threat, but I have to admit, I do feel safe here.

Why do I feel safe here? Well, I think it's the regular communication with the campus at large that does it for me. Like most people, if I know what's going on it's more difficult to panic over imagined possibilities. Seeing more of a police presence on campus is also reassuring. Folks on campus can have no doubt about how serious UA is in terms of dealing with these threats.

So as we wait for answers (who is responsible for these threats and why), we continue our daily routines. Students continue to come to the library, asking for help with research databases, and learning how to print from the Library's many computers. Library faculty and staff continue on as usual, working with students, attending committee meetings, and maybe being a bit more vigilant than usual. And all of us are thankful to the UA Police, the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety, and the UA Administration for their efforts in keeping us all safe.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Blog Etiquette

I just read the September issue of Campus Technology last night and in it was an a column about blogging. The Editor-in-Chief, Katherine Grayson, was commenting on an IT blog that was not getting read. She offered some suggestions, which I thought were useful for bloggers to remember (which now means me!). The particular blog was intended to mark the progress of a construction project, but no one was reading it. She mentioned some good points, such as many blogs are long- winded and not organized for easy retrieval of info. Being succinct, using bullets, boxes, headlines and other editorial type features would be more helpful and allows readers to see quickly what was new. See the complete article at

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

That librarian stereotype

A hot article topic remains the changing face of librarianship; how many new, and not so new, librarians continue to break the molds we were forced into many years ago. At home over Labor Day weekend, I chanced upon an article in the Valley News Dispatch Sunday Living edition featuring three librarians in the Pittsburgh area who are doing their part to change how people view the profession.

Not So Prim and Proper introduces Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh librarians Sara Beasley and Tim Williams, both employed at the main branch in Oakland, and Charlene Hoffer, a librarian at the Vandergrift Public Library. An excerpt from the article, and something to remember because new does not always mean better:

"But while librarians might now skydive, ride motorcycles, play hockey or perform in noise-metal bands, they still have respect for those quiet, stern women who for so long made libraries a refuge of information and knowledge."

"So much credit has to be given to the librarians who came before us," Williams says. "They laid the foundation for the impressive collections we have here -- the resources, the indexes, the organization of it. Every day, I feel humbled by it." (Not So Prim and Proper, Regis Behe, VND, 9/2/07)

Kudos to the "not so prim and proper" librarians featured in this article (though I do wish they would have taken the photo in the Vandergrift library nearer some of their new titles)! It is always a joy to see local papers feature and appreciate libraries and librarians.

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