Deepening the Conversation

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


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The good, the bad, the ugly: the Life archive and copyright.

There are *so* many posts I’ve written in my head in the shower the last month, and you can tell that very few of them have made it to the page. For that, I’m sorry. Let’s blame it on transition issues, and I promise to get everything back in gear after the new year.

I had heard a few weeks ago about the Life photo archive being hosted by Google, and didn’t have much of a chance to look it over until a post on Jezebel sent me there yesterday. I spent some time poking around, and fell in love. It’s an unbelievable resource, with images from all over the world, about every conceivable topic, and dating back to 1750 (looks like photos go back to the 1860s, and lazy librarian just checked Wikipedia, and learned that daguerreotypes came about ~1837, and photographs in 1839, so perhaps Life has photos to the 1840s, who knows…).

So, yes, excellent resource, go play, have fun! But that’s not the point of the post. That’s not what has been eating away at my attention these past hours, distracting me and driving me a little crazy.

Are these images under copyright?

Can I show undergrads the Life archive  in the workshop I’m developing about using online images responsibly?

How can two massive companies put an image archive online in 2008 and have no clear copyright statement? Make no statement about usage of the images? Is ti possible that Life opened up and exposed its archives without knowing their copyright status? Do they not care? Do they violate any copyright they might hold by being so ridiculously stupid as to assume normal mortals are going to spend time determining the legal uses of the images? Can we embrace this last comment as force of law?

I’ve been discussing this with some friends and we have many many opinions, but no definitive solution. (I also posted the question to LibNews, but that is a list moderated by batches, and I am beyond frustrated with that kind of list). So I bring this to you and ask the questions: are these images under copyright? Is it possible that some are and some aren’t? Are users of the images responsible for making that determination themselves? Is there any way to declare this acceptable behavior in this day and age?


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LOEX 2008 de-brief: The Overview

So, in my long absence, I went to LOEX. This was my first LOEX, and I really enjoyed it. As with Computers in Libraries, I avoided sessions (a) where I knew the presenter, because I could get slides and notes later (b) that might make me want to change things outside my own self. Of course, once I got back, my Director asked me to share what I learned that the rest of the library might benefit from. I thought I had finally figured out the way to moderate my frustration by focusing only on my own improvement, and now she asks. Note point 3, and watch me bite my tongue. right off.

These are my general impressions, I promise to post some specific details on what was best, worst, most useful later today. And, in the future, I solemnly swear to debrief conferences while at the conferences, because it is very very painful to do it this way!

Sessions I attended:

  • preconference at Elmhurst College
  • Plenary: Creative Collaboration: Setting the Course for the Future of Library Instruction
  • Assessing One-Shot Instruction: Using Post-Assignment Evaluations to Build Better Assignments (handout)
  • We’re out of time! Extending the One-Shot Session Virtually (slides)
  • New Learning, New Scholarship, New Spaces: Creating Dynamic Physical Environments
  • Improving Teaching and Learning through Instructional Partnerships: Building Librarian Relationships with One-on-One, In-depth Conversations (slides)
  • We Built It, They Came, Now What? Lessons Learned From Creating a Successful Course Integrated Information Literacy Program (slides)
  • Plenary: The Future of Libraries in Higher Education (which was inspiring and amazing and worth the cost of admission!)

General themes and overall impressions:

  1. I had been told that LOEX really concentrated on the hands-on and practical, but most of the sessions were the usual sort of info lit presentation – what we did well and interesting. Nothing wrong with that, just that I was expecting something a bit different. Perhaps the little bit different was that these were all high quality!
  2. Keywords: Collaboration, Assessment, innovation
  3. I know this was an information literacy conference, but what i was keying in to most was leadership for innovation. So much of what folks were talking about circled around how good administration, good leadership, involved innovative thinking and creating spaces for creativity. Lots of discussion of not only how to foster innovation, but how to avoiding squelching it. Really, very inspiring, but also a little frustrating. One of the morning plenaries took this on head on, and still managed to sidestep two audience questions directly about how to bring some of this into being when your administration isn’t taking the role of keeping out of the way.
  4. UIUC GSLIS represents! I know a lot more folks in library land than I thought I did (and I though I knew plenty!) Between ACRL-IS involvement for 5 years, attending lots of ALA conferences, the twitterverse and library-land lists in general, I have some pretty deep networks! Throw UIUC into the mix, and I rarely sat down at a table without having a connection to someone. It was really very nice. I spent some quality time a couple of friends, had some good chats with some folks who i wanted to catch up with, was surprised to see some unexpected faces, and met some good folks and possibly made some new friends too. I do feel like I am a part of the ‘LOEX family!
  5. I’m a little freaked out there was a session at LOEX with the exact same title as the session I proposed for Internet Librarian!
  6. Learning Commons. Library as learning space. Ok. I got it. Why are there so many sessions on what is essentially not so complex? Or, what am I missing (and you better tell me, because after 4 sessions at two conferences I really get that movable space, collaborative space, comfy seating, and productivity software coupled with librarians, tech support and other support services is a Learning Commons. Throw in books, and hey! It’s just good library practice! isn’t it?)? Maybe I’m just sad that making our spaces comfortable and useful to students and researchers is cutting edge thinking instead of common sense.
  7. There were a lot of great sessions to choose from! The less positive way to frame this: why did the conference “start” a full day before the conference started? May 1st was a total waste of potentially useful time (the pre-conference trip to Elmhurst College Library was great, but seemed to have been a last minute addition), time that might have helped cut down from 6 concurrent tracks to 5, and thus help eliminate clone-wishing?? Especially given that folks were pretty much stuck at the hotel. Luckily other folks blogged, debriefed, and otherwise made their LOEX experiences avialable, allowing all of us to be in many places at the same time:
  8. Deciding to put together a panel for ACRL and put the proposal together in the interstices at LOEX may have been staggeringly stupid! But we pulled it off, so fingers crossed that it gets accepted.


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Is ten minutes of teaching enough?

So, Colleen’s to do list (which I am mighty impressed by) reminded me of the call for papers for the Library Instruction Cookbook. Which seems like a great idea, tons of active learning ideas! Also, something I would love to contribute to.

The ‘ingredient list’ kind of got under my skin though. Especially this part:

The lesson plan for the activity cannot involve more than 10 minutes of librarian talk. (Our second assumption is that you like to hear yourself talk more than students do. We’ll give you 10 minutes to introduce the activity.)

I do active learning (after all, I went to Immersion. We learn lots about active learning at Immersion!) And I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with content coverage and integrating active learning. But this criteria just rules me out completely! I was thinking this would be a great place for my call & response web page evaluation exercise, taking a completely different approach to teaching evaluating. It’s an exciting activity, and my favorite class to teach. It is very active, and the students are always more engaged here than any other session. They are so engaged that this semester I found I ran out of time due to student participation. Kind of awesome, but also worrisome — I don’t get to cover the rest ‘tomorrow’!

But I talk for more than 10 minutes. And I talk for more than just the very beginning of class. We interact. The whole hour.

Does that mean this isn’t good active learning? Is active learning defined only as introducing something and then turning students loose to do their thang, and then letting them debrief (because if I debriefed,  that would certainly exceed that magical mystery minute mark).

Plus, I have this concern. Am I really misunderstanding the whole nature of teaching, and information literacy, and the course-related one-shot in a non-integrated curriculum? Is it even possible for the students to get enough useful library information with 10 minutes of instruction?

I’m open to being shown how this can work, I really am. I’m also very curious if any of us has been so bold to take just 10 minutes for active teaching and leave the rest of the precious class time to active learning?  Convince me, cajole me,mock me, support me — where do you fall? what do you think?


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Information Whirlwind

Last night I had a really incredible instruction session! What made it so successful? I can’t discount the virtue of 100 minute instruction sessions, for one thing. I tried a new active learning exercise. And I took an unusual tactic — I overwhelmed them. And it worked, it really did! I don’t think it will work every time, but in this case, a rousing success

It was a senior seminar, with an unusually surly bunch of students, and one student laid down the gauntlet in the first five minutes of class, asking about why they always have to come to library sessions and stating that he never learns anything new and always zones out. I explained each session is customized to the level and needs of each course, and other than some basic orienting stuff, different things should be covered in every class he attends. And I challenged him back, stating he was going to learn new things from me.

I had a handout/outline, and I planned on showing them advanced techniques in searching WorldCat and planned on making sure they knew their way to all the hidden places of great delight on the webpage (subject pages, Periodical title search, online encyclopedias…). I was also planning to introduce them to Google Scholar by way of having them read an article in The Nation and having them identify the four books, articles, and government sources obliquely referred to in the first four paragraphs and then talking about how to extract that information and locate the reports etc. using Google Scholar.

I did all of those things. But I did it as a sort of a whirlwind, covering why Google wastes their time, using (online) encyclopedias, bibliographic mining, reading citations, finding known sources, not limiting to full text, article linking from database to database to ILL, extracting information from their casual reading to library resources, using Google Scholar, citing forward.. It was really exciting, I could see the importance and the excitement of this breaking through their ennui. They were madly taking notes, which almost never happens, and making connections and asking questions. Every time we landed back on the Serials Solutions linking page I could see the cycle coming back to them. Because, this whirlwind repeated the same information over and over a few times, and the second time they perked up and the third time they energized. They got it! It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s going to take time. But research can actually be exciting.

I think my favorite part, though, is the way that 2.0 technologies* came into play in this session. The article I used? Crossed my path from a Twitter friend explaining ‘super delegates’. The prof wanted me to cover citation management techniques, which is hard because we don’t support EndNote or RefWorks. So, I asked the students about Firefox use (75% used it), and explained plugins and Zotero. I asked if any of them use social bookmarking, and only one had heard of it, so I explained how del.icio.us and Furl work, and work differently, and explained tagging. I explained how to use email as a citation management system. And they got it, they got why they needed to care about citation management, because they had a vision of how overwhelming the various search tools could be. But they weren’t overwhelmed so much as jazzed, and they had an exciting time in the library and left thinking that librarians may be allies in their quest for the right resources.

Now I just have to figure out why such a clearly wrong approach worked so darn well. Because I would really like to inspire that kind of energy every time I set foot in the classroom!

* our students (and our faculty) are generally not as Net Savvy as the millennials buzz might lead one to believe. That new report about how the Google Generation isn’t really all that aware or excellent online? We knew that at my library. We are constantly humbled by how few of our students are participating online beyond IM and Facebook. Which makes this victory that much the sweeter.


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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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