Tuesday, November 23, 2010

fivebooks.com - great collection development / RA resource

Five Books compiles expert recommendations for the best five books in all kinds of fields: Nordic crime fiction, cookbooks, Chinese politics. I checked out the areas I know well, and the contributors are really quite eminent. It's a great way to get started with a topic.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On-the-fly web guides

bit.ly bundles

Lifehacker featured a new service offered by the URL shortening service bit.ly. You can assemble a list of URLs, rearrange and rename them, and sent them on as a single, simple URL. It sounds perfect for on-the-fly creation of custom research guides
  • during instruction sessions,
  • to summarize a virtual reference session, or
  • for patrons who rely on their phones for web access.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Old issues of National Geographic, that bane of collection development, can actually have a use after all - as shelves.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Diversity in YA Cover Art

The blogosphere has had an ongoing controversy over the cover images chosen to represent characters of color in young adult novels - most recently at Feministe, but also, and extensively, at Alas, A Blog. At issue is not just the fact that not only are people of color rarely represented in the text of young adult fiction. On top of that, when non-white protagonists do appear, they are too often "whitewashed" - depicted as white in the cover art.

How can librarians develop a collection that speaks to and about young people of color - without accepting whitewashing?

One possibility is to buy alternate editions of the books with more accurate cover images. In the Feministe post linked above, blogger Chally shows the UK and Australian editions of affected books. Neither of the alternate editions clearly shows characters of color, but at least they don't replace those characters with white people. However, foreign editions are more expensive, and may not always be an option.

I'm not sure I have an answer, but readers do judge books by their covers, and inclusive, accurate covers are an issue in developing an inclusive collection.

Friday, February 5, 2010

#onw2010 Using Technology to Reach More Students in Tough Times

An Analysis on Five Semesters of Data Connecting Students with the Information Literacy Skills They Need to Complete their Assignments
Steve Borrelli & Alex Merrill, Washington State University

How do we respond to enrollment increases with steady staff levels?

Students' main points of contact with the library are the reference desk and the one-shot instruction sessions. The one-shot session is inadequate.
  • Too much info to absorb
  • Not enough time to cover everything
  • No assessment (without cooperation from faculty)
  • Often poorly timed related to assignment schedule
  • Students are absent from session and miss their one chance
  • No opportunity to develop rapport
  • Difficult for students to apply what they learned (often not enough time inside the session)
  • Unrealistic expectations from instructors
  • Widely varying levels of student experience in any one session
  • Students' inaccurate assumptions of their own competence
"The one shot is not information literacy. It's a familiarization exercise that can serve as a doorway into information literacy."

WSU set 6 goals for the BA, 1 of which was information literacy. Faculty actually targeted specific courses in majors as the place of intervention for IL instruction. This was supported by President Obama, and complemented by a CMS (Angel) for every course, making hybrid learning the norm.

For librarians, hybrid learning means
  • Multiple opportunities to reach students
  • Creation of content & assignments for courses
  • Providing online resources that allow to reach more classes
WSU increased the number of students receiving library instruction by 62% from 2006 to 2008, mostly through online interactions.

WSU uses ILE - Information Literacy Education Learning Environment. This was developed in-house, by a librarian, student employee, and IT staff member. It's a flexible tool for collaborative assignment design, that is not itself a tutorial but draws on tutorials available on the free web. This allows it cover a much wider range of topics than a single house-made tutorial.

The classes are designed to inform students what they need to do, educate them with tutorials, assess their learning with multiple choice quizzes, and asses their ability to transfer the information with short answer questions.

As a librarian adds tutorials, they also add quiz questions. Each class in ILE defaults to 4 modules, corresponding to the required proficiencies.
Each tutorial has associated quiz question banks, which the system draws out to create a single unified quiz for the class. Which questions are used is randomized. The quiz bank also shows how students did on the question in the past, giving a benchmark to compare a single class's performance to. You can also create custom questions for a specific class. Custom settings include how many attempts the students can make, due dates, etc.
When students log in, they can register for the class. Then they see the list of assignments (including pre-tests). They work through the modules of tutorials - instructions and learning objects. The essay portion has a WYSIWYG editor and autosaves.

The advantages of this approach is that it allows for rapid customization, using the best available learning objects, and builds in assessment data that the library can examine and respond to.

The library having an in-house system provides stability when the entire campus shifts CMSs. The tight focus on just a few features allows it to be easier to use at those specific tasks. But the general idea could be implemented in any LMS.

Total cost was approximately $24,000, grant funded. Early drafts of the tool encouraged large later donations.

In the courses that used the system, 82% of the students used ILE. As of this week, 1401 students participated just this semester.

In some classes, particularly huge large lectures, ILE is the only method of instruction. For other classes, like 300-level history or English composition, librarians grade assignments and/or provide in-person instruction. For basic composition, the tutorial covers the basics of library services, so that the librarian knows going in what the strengths and needs are. Another customized possibility is to customize the tutorials offered depending on which questions the student got wrong in a pre-test.

Students did the best at questions related to evaluating information, and the worst at accessing information (a statistically significant different). This suggests that the reason sources like Wikipedia show up in Works Cited are not that the students inaccurately evaluate them, but because they don't know how to find anything better.

Within the question categories: In evaluation, the students did best at distinguishing between primary and secondary sources, and worst at identifying services by name. The implication is that we shouldn't be cute in naming catalogs or IRs. [LCC is doing well at this - our catalog is just the catalog; LibGuides are labeled as Research Guides.] In ethics, the students did best at fair use, and again worst at name recognition and local knowledge.

In sum, the contributions of ILE are to reach more students in more classes, and providing better assessment data to understand the students.


Part of what this custom interface provides is stability in the face of shifts between WebCt, Blackboard, Angel, etc. Lane CC seems to be stable with Moodle, so the custom interface probably isn't as useful to us. How can we take advantage of this concept without reinventing our interfaces?

#onw2010 Web Traffic & Campus Trends: A Multi-Institutional Analysis

Jon Jablonski, University of Oregon (soon to be UC Santa Barbara)
Robin Paynter, Portland State University
Laura Zeigen, Oregon Health & Science University

The project evolved from the Orbis Cascade Alliance Research Interest Group. All three universities had web traffic data, which raised the question of whether different university types would have different traffic patterns. The existing library literature didn't establish comparisons or benchmarks, and Google Analytics's library benchmarks doesn't indicate which or what type of libraries.

Many different methods can be used to analysis web logs. Most existing research uses conceptual frameworks, an inductive method so far mostly used on OPAC searches.

This project is a transaction log analysis (not a search log analysis). Common measures include number of hits, unique visitors, page views, etc. Remember that hits includes each different component of a page (images, etc.), and so has been discredited. Also remember that page views includes refreshing, but that pages from Back and Forward aren't counted because they're loaded from cache. Dynamic IP addresses and computers with multiple users complicate the measure of "unique" visitors.

The good part of web log data is that it is a direct behavioral measure - users can't idealize their own behavior. The bad part is that it doesn't tell you about intention or satisfaction.

Cookies are a good source of data, but users often delete them. Flash cookies are more durable.

RSS feeds aren't counted in web logs unless the user clicks through; campus portals and mobile device versions may or may not be counted. And different analysis packages give different results, because they handle corrupted data in the log files differently.

Public library computers with the library page as the home site inflate the page views count.

What are the key performance indicators for library websites? Most current benchmarks are focused on commercial sites, which isn't accurate. For example, is a short time on the site good, because that means that people found what they needed, or is a long time good because they're more engaged. More unique visitors might be better for September, and more return visitors in April. Different library staff have different interests: designers might want to know which browser is being used, but librarians are more likely to want to know paths.

OHSU logs show that the number of new users per month increased steadily from 2005-2008, peaking each year in February and May.

This project's data only includes basic web traffic - not the OPAC, digital collections, databases, or institutional repositories. This highlights that library websites are portals to other types of sites. For example, the UO Library homepage has 42-47 links, and 6 link off the site (catalog, main UO page, etc.)

Comparisons Across Institutions (2008-2009 academic year)
The 3 have very different calendars of traffic. UO and PSU have almost the same enrollment, but UO has much more traffic (nearly 2 million a month versus around 325,000 a month). UO's traditional students show more extreme peaks and valleys for spring and winter break. OHSU is more steady around the year.
Comparing this data to research on journal use shows similar patterns in time and across institution type.
Comparing on visits per days of the week shows more similarity - peaks on Monday and Tuesday, declining steadily to a nadir on Saturday with an uptick on Sunday.
At PSU, 79% of traffic was to top-level pages (home, "About", etc); at UO, it was 57%; at OHSU it was only 14%. OHSU has a very long tail of content - the pages deep inside their website get much more of the traffic. PSU's pattern is due to an active attempt to take no more than 3 clicks to get to needed information. This difference could be due the number of public terminals with the library's page as home: there are many more of these at PSU and UO.
Over the quarter, PSU has high use early in the quarter, drops to nearly nothing at mid quarter, and peaks at the end of the quarter. OHSU is very consistent across the quarter. UO shows consistent use across the quarter, except for graduation week and the week after.
Some of the difference may be due to different software analyzing the raw log data.

This can point to needed services. For example, PSU had a lot of hits on its map finding aid, but has no map librarian.
UO showed a lot of use of its electronic Asian books. Are there similar hidden gems?
This could also be a guide to service provision - for example, mid-quarter might be a fine time for PSU librarians to take a vacation.

#onw2010 Embracing Your Inner Rachel Ray: What TV Chefs can Teach Librarians about Presentation Style

Anna Johnson, Mt. Hood Community College

This session will include clips from FoodTV!

When, how, and from whom did librarians learn public speaking skills?
Nearly all of us facilitate trainings, demonstrate resources, and teach to groups, but almost none of us took public speaking or acting classes.
How would you feel if you needed to demonstrate a new database in 30 minutes? A few would be enthusiastic, but most would be hesitant. Public speaking as one's self (not acting a character) is an emotional experience.

Most librarians are closer to Ben Stein than Rachel Ray, although instruction librarians get closer. Personality can shape our career focus, but all of us can improve our public speaking.

Television cooking shows rely on both personality and structure - the shows are demonstrations. Typical library presentations also last about 30 minutes. Both chefs and librarians have years of experience and are experts on their subjects, and we're also able to teach other people what we know, step-by-step, energetically and enthusiastically.

1) Energy, enthusiasm, and/or passion for the topic
Rachel Ray is able to be fun and enthusiastic about nothing. Sometimes she's got to kill time during preparation, but the energy stays high.

2)Willingness to share your own personal feelings and experiences
This makes us more accessible and relatable. Personal stories can also fill dead air, like in between one-on-one assistance. For example, tell them what you personally have checked out from Summit.

3) Expert knowledge from getting paid to do what you love
Our audience already knows that we're expert - that's why they come to workshops. Don't waste time establishing expertise.

4) Ability to explain what you're doing while you're doing it
This either comes naturally or it doesn't. For people who struggle with public speaking, this is a challenge - how to both do something and narrate it simultaneously.

1) Let the audience know why they should care about this skill and do it themselves.
2) Explain what you're doing and why - and what to avoid
Include explanations about how to rescue from problems.
3) Prepare examples ahead of time
On-the-fly searches are good for engaging an audience, but require intense familiarity with database/catalog being searched. We have to be open to stopping the middle of a presentation to scale appropriately. For example, zoom into the important part of a screen using Control+.
4) Be prepared to skip steps to maximize your time (like a chef's mise-en-place).


What about students who are required to be at a workshop (can't change the channel)?
  • Try to find a connection; relate it to their class.
What about when you don't know the baseline knowledge of the audience?
  • We still need to own our structure: don't let their level of knowledge derail you. This is where preparing helps; you can refer people to different sources.
  • A participant suggests using a quick SurveyMonkey question sent out ahead of time to gauge knowledge level.

What about presenting to faculty - can we assume they respect the expert knowledge?
  • Depends on whether they've invited you (which is easier) or you're hosting an open house. Projecting confidence and owning your own expert knowledge establishes expertise. Confidence helps you be fun.
  • A participant points out that developing a connection with faculty over repeated interactions as a subject liaison supports their perception of expertise (like fans following a specific tv chef). Ideally subject liaisons should correspond to the librarians' experience and passions.

Don't be so concerned about being serious and cramming all the material in there. Feel free to use movie clips to make the presentation more accessible (try The Simpsons).

How can we develop different presentation personae for different audiences?
  • Be okay with a bit of artifice. An alternative persona can make it less intimidating to speak in front of groups.
It's okay to show mistakes and move on from failures. It helps the users see how to dig themselves out of their own mistakes and makes you more personable. Having stories prepared can also help cover dead times.

A participant reminds us to be visually interesting - use props, gesticulate. Props are fun.

How do you know when your audience is engaged?
  • End your presentation with where to find more information and more help. It makes it easier for them to capitalize on their own interest, but if they don't want the tools, there's only so much we can do.
Another participant suggests being enthusiastic about surprising discoveries.

How do you deal with disciplinary interruptions?
  • Remember that tv shows have commercial breaks. Don't do 1 thing for more than 10 minutes without shifting gears, and recap and forecast every 10 minutes. This allows for easier recovery from disruptions, and induces fewer disruptions. A participant suggests including irrelevant image slides for breathing room.
Another participant uses metaphors to persuade students that they care about the information and examples that are relevant to their own lives.

How can we as a profession help librarians develop public speaking skills?
Creative Commons License
Libri & Libertas: Books & Freedom in a Web 2.0 World by Laura H. Wimberley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution - Noncommercial - Share Alike 3.0 United States License.