Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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FRBRize me! (or, I’m not scattered, I’m just multi-faceted)

Dear readers, don’t fear, I have not forgotten you! In the past two weeks I have started four blog posts on at least three different topics, and have written at least that many more in my head while drifting off to sleep at night… Alas, the semester has begun and with it the fracturing of my time and attention.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the passing comment my director made about needing me to focus and stop going in so many directions. I snorted and put the thought aside (it was an emailed comment…). But i do struggle with this. I was hired to have no focus — to select materials in six diverse and complex subject areas (and build relationships with those units) and to provide instruction without regard to my specialties or my collection development areas. As such, I was hired to be a big picture thinker, and I bring that. To wit:

I am passionate about information literacy, and wish I could spend more time learning about pedagogy and applying it, refining assessment techniques, developing more and better relationships with my regular profs and new profs and profs who don’t use instruction but would benefit.

I am fascinated with collection development in a small undergraduate institution. What does it mean to have a collection that solely supports student learning at this level? How do balance and bias come into the criteria? How do you support interdisciplinary topics on a tiny budget when they have no designated line? How to build the relationships with other selectors when our areas overlap (and maybe they don’t perceive the overlap)? How to manage areas that aren’t taught but need to be int he library collection? How to use collections information to leverage library usefulness and expand information literacy where it is most needed, and let departments know that their collection use tells us something about their students they might not know?

Electronic resources are an issue too — the concerns about owning or licensing materials, about the role of selecting what we want versus selecting aggregators who select is still an issue, and it is now moving into the reference collection, and perhaps soon into the monograph collection. How can we come to peace with these trends given our budget, staffing, and consortial situation?

The digital frontiers also raise concerns about moving selection and instruction into digital realms, educating our students and colleagues about the information tools they need to be familiar with, and the digital footprint issues they should be aware of or concerned about — and all this means educating myself as well.

And then there are the issues of being a member of the college community and all that brings to bear.

So, am I intellectually scattered? Yeah, I’ve got a lot of balls in the air at work. Is it possible for me to do the job I have and be focused? I’m having a hard time seeing it…. I can put it all under a large umbrella (“user-centered holistic librarianship” is my term du jour; “undergraduate education and The Library” works most days too) and say it’s all one thing, but that’s just gilding the lily. Is there another way to do my job, do it well, and find intellectual focus? I can’t be the only one in this position — what say you? How have you managed the conflict between engaging in a job that demands multiple personalities and focusing on becoming expert in a single thing?

Curious minds want to know ;)


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InfoLit success stories

Yesterday afternoon, Winter Break (and all my attempts to get My Own Work done) officially ended. My research afternoon time was lost under a sea of returning faculty requests for the status of their books and some lovely-but-time-consuming library instruction consultations.

My new class websites (example), started on a whim and used only when paper seems unwieldy (I cling to giving them a piece of paper, to take notes on and follow along with, and to have my contact info. I think it makes a difference, I know others disagree….) led to bringing a second year prof on board for library instruction. She was so enthused about my making her class their own website with information on primary sources and hand-selected resources from the free web and the library, she finally agreed to bring her class in . Hoo-rah for me! I don’t know why some profs are so resistant, and I don’t understand why this was so persuasive, but I’m really so happy it was in my bag of tricks! Of course, now I have to identify primary sources on Modern African history from the perspective of Africa (and ‘Africa looks back at Europe’) to populate the page with, but a challenge is good, yes?

My favorite prof (henceforth MFP) and I finally sat down at the syllabus polishing stage and restructured his assignments and slotted in six (six, I get six!) library instruction sessions. We used to do four, but I have talked him up to six (seven would be ideal –we’ll get there!). After almost three years of working together, we have a great rapport and he’s very amenable to my ideas.

So, what have we done?

  1. Because this is a class within a class, I get to do some real assessment, with pre- and post-tests. And this year, I’m going to revamp them
  2. This year, we got on the ball and talked through all of the assignments for the semester- and changed almost all of them to fit information literacy development! And I will be first-draft writing two of them.
  3. We’ve added a session just on introducing library research (and I’ve offered to make him a scavenger hunt for them to do before the session. I think of it as opening them up to what they don’t know they don’t know- one of our biggest stumbling blocks, imo.)
  4. We also have a session just on background research and format. Why use newspapers, when the free web is the right place, why you really truly do need to read books. I’m so pleased to have a whole session on just this.
  5. MFP has come to my side on my scholarly article and first year students bug bear (there will be a post on this, very soon!). We are doing a session on books, and a session on evaluating websites, and then a session on Articles. The article session (no longer first but last) will be on finding appropriate Reliable Sources (as opposed to peer reviewed articles)
  6. We’re also doing a wrap up session, which I pulled together very last minute last semester and am looking forward to thinking through this year.
  7. We’re going to see if we can make an article out of all this work we’ve done together.

Now I just have to figure out how to make this much work and effort and success take up a significant amount of space in my reappointment review folio!

And, figure out how bring more profs into the fold.


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What does “Faculty” mean? (your opinions, please!)

Steven Bell’s ACRLlog post What it Really Means to be A Faculty Member has gotten me thinking, particularly about what it means to be a member of the faculty. I posted a comment there about how I might define faculty status, and have spent a few hours searching Google, GoogleScholar, The Policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees, and EBSCO Education databases for a definition (my facultystatus del.icio.us tag and faculty status on Furl will be very dynamic over the next few days…). While I have found an overwhelming number of articles about librarians and faculty status (just search for faculty status — 85% of what turns up is about librarians!) I have seen nothing that effectively defines faculty — including in my own university’s governing documents.

Right now, I’m planning on turning this quest into an opinion piece on what it means to be faculty and the ways that the being an academic librarian fits that meaning (because for me, this is true). I have a score or so of articles to look through to see if faculty si defined there (most seem to be very concerned with tenure and tenure requirements and protections, and not with how librarians do the work of Faculty Members, whatever that is)

I’m pasting a bulleted form of my ACRLlog comment below, and I’m very interested in your opinions — what does “faculty” imply to you? Remember, “teaching faculty” isn’t the only faculty! There are plenty of research faculty who spend as little time in the classroom as they can can get away with it! Am I completely off the mark? Have I missed vital aspects? Am I thinking too closely about my own work and not broadly enough?

  • actively involved in faculty governance,
  • actively involved in setting general education requirements
  • actively involved in being expert in my field
  • actively involved in using that expertise to maximize possibilities for student excellence
  • research and publications within areas of expertise for practical advancement of the pursuit of student excellence
  • research and publications within areas of expertise on theoretical implications for the sake of furthering knowledge.

Summed up,

  • actively involved in student learning
  • perform university service
  • participate in shared governance
  • have a defined area of subject specialization
  • perform research and publication within that area
  • formal and informal teaching
  • well-trained in teaching and pedagogy.
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