Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What do 8th graders know about a librarian?

On my campus, one of the community outreach acitivites we participate in is to host 8th graders from several counties for career days,usually for several Fridays in the Fall. During these tours, the students visit our campus and the local vocational school - they get college prep, tech prep and vocational prep exposure while we try to make it fun for them. While on our campus, several activities are created to give them some career information. (The library, by the way, hosts Library Jeopardy, where the kids learn about library skills and research as well as some information about both our schools and win prizes). We usually host over 800 kids during this time.

One activity that I enjoy working with is "What's My Line" where professionals in the community come and the students try to ask us questions to guess our profession. There are usually 5-6 of us in a session and the students rotate among us in groups. They play as a group for prizes. I love doing this because it's fun to see how the kids ask us questions and because most often, they cannot guess what I do. We are only allowed to answer yes, no or sometimes, so how they ask us questions depends on how we answer them. I am known as the Queen of Sometimes, because 90% of the time, that's how I answer! The questions themselves are interesting as are the interactions of the kids in the groups.

What I see the kids learning from this is that jobs are not always clear cut or black and white. They slowly realize that many jobs use a variety of skills and knowledge and you can't always assume that if you work around books, you are a librarian (we've had lawyers and real estate folks answer yes to that!).

Does this sound like some of you? - Do you have an office (yes); do you do physical labor (sometimes - when I move displays and furniture around); do you work with one person (sometimes) or large groups of people (sometimes); do you work outside (sometimes - when we are doing welcome week activities); am I in the same place everyday (sometimes), do you have to wear a uniform (no!); do you work with computers (yes); do you work with food (sometimes if I am hosting an an event); do you need a college degree for your job (yes- for my job as director); is your job boring (no!); are math skills important (yes!); is your job dangerous unless you are properly trained (I say no, but I pause and wonder if that is really true); do you train others (sometimes); do you work by yourself (sometimes); do you work with others as a team (sometimes). Sometimes they will look at me and say I look like a librarian; most of the time they think I am a bank manager or the head of a hospital or something like that. When you were in the 8th grade, what did you think a librarian did??

Thursday, November 08, 2007

ALAO Conference Photos

ALAO's Public Relations Co-ordinator, Peggy Rector assistant to the director at Denison University Library, has placed photographs (139 them) on Picture Trail for our viewing pleasure.

Here's the link: 2007 ALAO Conference.

Thanks for the great pictures, Peggy!

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New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology

"Halfway through the semester in his market research course at Roanoke College last fall, only moments after announcing a policy of zero tolerance for cell phone use in the classroom, Prof. Ali Nazemi heard a telltale ring. Then he spotted a young man named Neil Noland fumbling with his phone, trying to turn it off before being caught.

“Neil, can I see that phone?” Professor Nazemi said, more in a command than a question. The student surrendered it. Professor Nazemi opened his briefcase, produced a hammer and proceeded to smash the offending device. Throughout the classroom, student faces went ashen." (Samuel G. Freedman, New York Times, 11/7/07)

Before becoming too outraged (or instinctively applauding) this professors handling of an increasing classroom problem, click on the article title link and read; it was a setup with interesting results. Found via Steven Bell's blog, the Kept-Up Academic Librarian, this is a growing situation in today's classrooms.

Why situation? Students do not necessarily view the intrusive technology as a problem. There has been an increasing amount of discussion regarding technology and noise, see Steven's post on the ACRL blog from last week; The Academic library is no place for fun.

As a member of the previously discussed technology Faculty Learning Community at Ashland, we are two meetings in to the year long discovery of educational technology, integrating it into our curriculums and libraries, and looking at the intrinsic value of said technology. Something we have not yet discussed is this particular aspect of the technology. Beyond the obvious, how do we make the determination of useful verses intrusive?

Earlier this week several librarians on staff, myself included, viewed a Blended Librarian webcast (part of the Learning Times Network). The topic for this particular session was Designing Deliberately--Putting Pedagogy Into Your Library Instruction Products, and Nadaleen Tempelman-Kluit spoke to Multimedia Learning & Pedagogy. Within this presentation, Ms. Tempelman-Kluit discussed 7 principles of multimedia design, included was one that is particularly relevant to this post: "Students learn better when extraneous words, pictures, and sounds are excluded." While this includes simple things such as keyboard typing and mouse clicks during presentations, the argument could be made that inclusion of extraneous technology such as cell phones, blackberries, and texting would be part of this whole.

One thing is sure; the balancing act between integrating instructional technology in a classroom for learning purposes and removing it for the same, yet different, reason is just beginning.

Update: See also Will Richardson's blog, Weblogg-ed for his response to this NYT article.

"We can try to fight this, I suppose, as many schools are. Or, we can try to inculcate appropriate use from early on by modeling our own cell phone use to access infromation and learn throughout the curriculum. Bottom line is yep, this is a much more distract-able world. We have to somehow find strategies to teach our kids to use cell phones and computers and the like in effective ways, and we also have to bend our thinking a bit in terms of what we ask our kids to do in classrooms in the first place. " (Richardson, Weblogg-ed, 11/08/07)

Again, though much of this focus is upon traditional classrooms, library instruction is facing this obstacle - or opportunity - as well.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Why do librarians want to help?

I was recently interviewed by my local newspaper (The Marion Star) for a feature they call "My Story." Ordinary folks in the community are interviewed and highlighted. I was delighted that they asked me and I tried my best to answer thoughtfully and honestly the many questions asked. The reporter, as he listened to me talk (and talk and talk), wondered aloud how I got such a desire to help people. You know, I'm not really sure; my parents were middle-class hard working folks, who didn't have a lot of time or money to spare. Both tried to be involved in school activities and be proud parents. I have worked in libraries since I was in 6th grade; I learned lots of things along the way. I discovered that when I was able to find a book that was shelved wrong (to fill a request), or help another student find a resource (that they couldn't find on their own), I always felt good. I was fortunate to work with lots of folks at different points in their careers and each contributed some sort of influence upon my thinking and how I viewed working in a library.

I always loved processing books; something about those brand new books looking so neat and pristine made me feel proud. I also learned that by processing those books, I was able to remember and offer suggestions to students who were looking for info.

As I continue in my career, I find that my job perspective spills over to everyday life; I love helping out in concessions for our local sporting events. It might be silly, but knowing that I can provide what they need as fast as possible is fun. I know it helps the folks who must coordinate and manage the concessions to have a worker who is reliable and able to handle the job. I think of all the ways librarians serve: the public, the campus, on committees and boards, fundraising and activities, etc. Sometimes we lead, sometimes we support.

In order to be a good leader, sometimes its best to be a better supporter and help others achieve. That's why librarians are good at what they do. We understand what's needed at different times - but in the long run, we have still helped those around us who needed it.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Reviewers Needed!

Technical Services Quarterly (TSQ) published by Haworth Press is one of the premiere journals for the Technical Services world and I am privileged to be one of the editors for the column "Tech Services on the Web". My co-editors and colleagues, Del Williams and Frank Bove, search out web sites that we've found useful and review them. We cover the gamut of the technical services world: acquisition, cataloging, electronic resources, metadata services, librarian bloggers, training, tools, and whatever else passes our way.

This is a fun job! I tend to review 3 or more sites that are related to a specific topic, usually relating to my passions for metadata and cataloging. For example, I wrote a two-part review of 13 metadata resources in volume 24, nos. 1 and 2 (2006), including Dublin Core Metadata Initiative; Encoded Archival Description; An Introduction to Metadata; Introduction to Metadata: Pathways to Digital Information; and Metadata Reference Guide: A Guide to Metadata by the Metadata Advisory Group of the MIT Libraries. As an audio-visual cataloger, I focused on tools I use to perform my job in volume 24,no. 3 (2007), including Archival Moving Image Materials: A Cataloging Manual; Guide to Cataloging DVDs Using AACR2r Chapters 7 and 9; DVD Demystified; DVD Forum; The Internet Movie Database; and Online Film Dictionary. For an upcoming issue, I will be writing on sites that list commonly misspelled words in online catalog records. Anything is fair game.

Help Please!

Del, Frank, and I need your help! We are looking for reviewers. If you are interested in writing a review for our column, please contact us at If you’re not interested in writing reviews yourself but have a favorite site or sites that you’d like to share, please email us at the same address. We're looking forward to hearing from you!