Libraries and Librarians are Not Neutral, Real

The first thing that I heard from ALA midwinter was the Twitter response to the library neutrality debate, which I loved.  I shared a lot of Library Twitter’s opinions on the debate, including the question Why are we still debating neutrality?  It got me thinking about my own non-neutral experience.  I work to incorporate a lot of instructional practices that highlight voices and deconstruct power in my one-shot sessions.  My latest endeavor in class is to complicate library/librarian neutrality by sharing my own real-life research.  Showing the work I’m doing outside the library shares my values with students and also shows how research is incorporated into life in a non-scholarly environment.  It is a vulnerable act of non-neutrality that that I believe has an extended impact on the classroom environment because students are able to connect with me and the cyclical, sometimes messy, process of research.

Since November 2017 I’ve been organizing with Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild (POWER), which is a grassroots movement that empowers members to become “bold agents of liberation, actively pursuing racial, social, and economic justice for us all.”  Most of my work has been towards economic and racial dignity in Allentown in light of unjust development occurring as a result of state-subsidized building in Center City’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.  The Allentown Coalition for Economic Dignity (ACED) meets weekly – we are working to develop increasing social capital and to identify the needs of the community in order to petition local lawmakers and developers for a community benefits ordinance or agreement.

This work requires a significant amount of research.  Thankfully, many individuals on the team have been involved in researching and educating us all on methods of community organizing, components of successful community benefits agreements, and local community structures.  In order to visualize the way that research contextualizes and advances the work that ACED is doing, I’ve drawn a concept map that I’ve shared in a few advanced research methods courses.

20180226_104941 (1)default

Concept mapping can be a very useful step in a creative research process.  Especially in advanced courses where student’s final product is up to their discretion, I believe concept mapping is a useful tool.  The structure of the concept map lends itself well to organized and thought-out research.  In the middle of the paper is the main topic, with the participants of the scholarly conversation on level 2.  I do introduce the students to Burke’s “Unending Conversation” metaphor and I also emphasize that databases/information resources are often organized by the “who” and so each branch will likely have different resources to search (with some overlap).

One of the things that students don’t often consider is the research that goes into choosing a specific type of product or outcome.  I like to emphasize that ACED has researched the #BlackLivesMatter movement to identify how to use social media to mobilize people around an issue.  Similarly, we are researching the language of successful community benefits ordinances so we have legal precedent as a model for Allentown legislation.  Research is used to gain knowledge on a topic as a basis for strong arguments and it bolsters decisions we make and helps us be effectual.

Providing students with an opportunity for self-guided research and production can result in them being overwhelmed and uncertain.  They may make choices based on their previous experiences with form and miss the joy that comes from work driven by their own interests.  Concept mapping helps!  It creates a structure to the work and a living artifact of what they have done and where they are going.  My own concept map is a little messy and complicated, but it helps me keep track of the work.  It isn’t perfect, but it models a process that has helped me make decisions and learn in a non-scholarly environment.

ACED is a politically oriented group working towards change – an inherently non-neutral effort.  However, I’d argue that many of the decisions we make regarding to use our time are political.  Emily Drabinski says, “each choice we make for something is a choice against some other thing.”  I am making additional choices to position myself as a non-neutral professional in a non-neutral environment.  Sharing my work with students has resulted in personal connections based on real-life vulnerability and shared values.  I think that these kinds of decisions further embed me within the college community, implicitly teach students about the values of librarianship, and position me as an ally in the fight for economic, racial, a social equity.

Introducing Students to Information Privilege: A call for comments!

I’ve just finished a 45-minute lesson in which students learn to distinguish scholarly, trade, and popular resources.

Me:  Can you find scholarly literature in the library? Students: Yes.

Me:  Can you find trade literature in the library?  Students:  Yes.

Me:  Can you find popular literature in the library?  Students: Yes.

Me:  Can you find popular literature through Google?  Students: Yes.

Me:  Can you find trade literature through Google?  Students: Yes.

Me:  Can you find scholarly literature through Google?  Students: Yes.

Me (or another voice from the crowd):  So why the library?  Why are we here?

I love this line of questioning because it seems to change the way that students see me, a librarian.  I think that they come to the library with the idea that I’m pro-library NO MATTER WHAT.  I’m going to defend libraries existence instead of convince them that the library is a resource to use.  It also opens up a conversation about open access and information privilege.

Access to an academic library has clear benefits to the experienced researcher, but students often need to be convinced to take the extra step and try out a library database, to disrupt their Google habit.   Librarians choose the best resources, we filter out the garbage.  Library databases are structured in a way that we can retrieve valuable information more efficiently through strategic searching.  In all three of my most recent classes, students have suggested this information in response to my question.  Then I’ve been able to say that, in addition to carefully curated and organized information, the library has access to more information resources because we have paid for access.  Resources from the New York Times to the Journal of the American Medical Association require payment for access to full-text content.  The scholarly articles that are available online are able to be read through Open Access… the publishers have circumvented traditional publishing means in order to allow everyone to read the work.

I say, “Open Access is an ethical imperative because otherwise only those who can pay have access to the most recent information and so knowledge development is limited to the rich.  You are privileged by your access to information based on your affiliation to this institution.”

This is what I’m interested to hear from you, what is the language you use to introduce information privilege to your students?  How do you set it up?


Information Literacy Roundtable: Active Learning and Interdisciplinary Exchange

January 11th was Trexler Library’s annual Information Literacy Roundtable.  Nine faculty members joined librarians Kelly Cannon, Rachel Hamelers, Susan Falciani, and myself to discuss ways to integrate information literacy into disciplinary curriculum. Each librarian proposed activities for active instruction to engage students in evaluation of information and information structures.  These activities resulted in engaging conversations around disciplinary values, curriculum design, and student experience.

History professor Lynda Yankaskas joined Kelly Cannon in sharing a source evaluation activity that has helped students make informed decisions around resource selection.  In addition to giving her students source requirements for her annotated bibliography assignment, Yankaskas is transparent about the reasons behind these requirements.  Cannon begins a conversation around sources by asking students to evaluate seven sources  (see bottom of guide) that he specifically chose to challenge student’s evaluation skills.  For example, one resource is old and, therefore, not representative of the current scholarly conversation.  Other resources are not scholarly or not specifically written by historians, which are both requirements Yankaskas set for her students’ development as historians.  Perhaps the most challenging source within this activity is a book that discusses historiography, or the writing of history, but not history itself.  Through a class discussion of these resources students begin to recognize that there is a critical element to selecting the best resources for their projects; not all library resources are the same.

Following Cannon and Yankaskas, Susan Falciani brought out some letters from the Muhlenberg archive.  In classes with faculty from a variety of disciplines, Falciani utilizes these primary resources to excite students and inspire them to ask questions.  The Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education emphasizes that the process of research depends upon an increasingly complex line of inquiry.

In interaction with these manuscripts, students are asked to describe and evaluate the text and then identify missing information.  Students identify an information need based on the questions they have about the resource, and are then inspired to dig deeper.  Falciani connected with various faculty that had not previously considered use of Muhlenberg’s archive.  She mentioned that the archive is “not particularly deep, but wide” and that there are many disciplinary connections that can be made to the primary source material.

I suggested a constructivist approach to teaching students about the strategy required for searching databases.  Through student’s knowledge of social media, particularly Twitter, I proposed that students are posed to understand searching strategies required for efficient database navigation.  In my activity, I ask students to describe to a partner how to navigate to a Twitter post.  I draw direct comparisons to library database searching.  For example, searching for a Twitter handle is compared to Author searching and hashtags are compared to searching or controlled language.  Students quickly identify multiple search strategies that can be used within Twitter, but commonly use only one within databases.  This activity encourages use of multiple strategies and persistent searching, which is in line with the “Searching as Strategic Exploration” frame within the Framework.  Faculty questioned student’s knowledge of Twitter, but seemed to appreciate the comparisons, which can be used to connect student’s prior knowledge of databases with educational research.

Rachel Hamelers completed the day by leading a discussion around disciplinary values.  She asked participants to consider what barriers to creation, access, and use of information exist within their disciplines.  Then, she asked what disciplines values in information and how we can make these values transparent to students within their coursework.  Faculty in history shared the challenges that result from language barriers and how international multilingual conferences are breaking down barriers and resulting in greater exchange of information.  In psychology, the traditional value of quantitative methodologies and large sample sizes is being tempered by research within smaller, local contexts.  Interdisciplinary conversation around these challenges and values showed the variation in information literacy instruction across disciplines.

Faculty and librarians parted with knowledge applicable to classroom instruction and assignment development.  Keep an eye out for an additional conversation around information literacy later this spring over wine and cheese.

This post was initially published on 1/12/18 for the Muhlenberg College community on the Trexler Library blog.  I’m sharing it here because I think it’s valuable to the larger librarian community!

Oppression and Information, Learning from One Another

I suggested in a previous post that active learning pedagogies allow students to learn from one another and share different perspectives and experiences.  I’m very invested in increasing my skills at facilitating active learning and recently participated in an Intergroup Dialogue workshop on campus in hopes that I will be able to lead conversation around difficult topics, in particular information privilege.

Unlike race or gender, class (especially as it relates to information literacy) is hard to distinguish.  It’s hard to discuss.  However, I propose that information literacy is a privilege and that our society exhibits similar racial and economic disparities in information literacy as we do in other social sectors. Education affects one’s ability to achieve information literacy and funding for higher education is unequally applied in detriment to low-income Americans.  Access to the internet at usable speeds is increasingly required for access to information and digital redlining plagues our communities.  There are many other ways that systems of power and information literacy are tied.

In a library instruction session, what are the questions that could begin a conversation around information privilege?  How do we better understand each other through the lens of oppression?  If I’m proposing that active learning would allow students with privilege to come into contact with individuals not afforded the same privileges (I think this is truly what Seale means when she identifies students from the “global North” and those who are “subaltern”) how do I make this happen in a classroom space?  Is it even possible in a one shot session?

My answer to that last question is likely not.  It takes time to create spaces of trust and community in order for safe dialogue around privilege to occur.  However, let’s imagine a best case scenario in which students have come together to share their identities and listen to one another.  Here are the questions I’ve come up with:

  1. What information resources are available to you?
  2. What identities/memberships allow you access to these resources?
  3. Has your access changed over time?

It is in this hypothetical ideal scenario that students would be able to link their experiences and social identities with their information privilege,  share moments in their life when they have not had the same access, and explore next steps in advocating for others.  This ideal scenario is not the scenario in which I teach, and I imagine that it isn’t the scenario that many other librarians experience.  I’m going to continue to think about how conversations around information privilege can occur, and I’ll share them here if I have any great ideas.  In the past, I’ve emphasized the privilege of the access and education that my students have now that they are at Muhlenberg, however this is just a momentary declaration and doesn’t allow for the creation of information activists.  I think that the group dialogue discussed above would inspire students to impassioned work for social change.



The Books I Read in 2017


Keeping track of books I’ve read over the year helps me reflect on what else I have accomplished as well.  2017 has been a year of growth – I have more roots and have become more of who I am; I am also branching out and trying new things.  When I take a look at these books I am reminded of my progress in my career, my commitment to rediscovering my love for reading, and the trips my partner and I have taken to visit family and friends.

Spring 2017 was my first semester as an adjunct professor – I taught Web Page Design and began my year hurriedly brushing up on HTML and CSS with the textbook.  I also started a library Student Advisory Board, which was a fun but short-lived experience because I accepted a position at Muhlenberg College as their Assessment and Outreach librarian.  I absolutely recommend Library Assessment in Higher Education for anyone who wants to brush up on how to create an assessment plan, it provides a straightforward guide and good questions to prompt brainstorming.

I attended my first ACRL Conference this year on a scholarship and read Roxane Gay’s An Untamed State and Bad Feminist in preparation for her keynote.  Gay is AMAZING, frank, perceptive, and brave and I read the rest of her books this year as well.

In my new position I’ve connected with some amazing professors.  I’ve worked very closely with one individual to prepare for her upcoming course this coming semester.  In working with her I’ve read Tom McCarthy’s Remainder and Satin Island as well as Philip K. Dick’s Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep?  I’m so thankful for this special relationship especially since it’s so challenging to make true connections in an entirely new campus community.

I’ve done a lot of reading for fun this year – I basically doubled the number of books I read last year.  In my childhood I chose to read for fun at every opportunity, but I’ve diversified my interests in part because I’ve struggled to find books that I find truly engaging.  This year I’ve read so many books that I loved.  Honestly, every book on this list has sucked me in… though I’ve felt more satisfied after some (The Woman Warrior, A Tale for the Time Being, Typical American) than others (The Shadow of the Wind; Boy, Snow, Bird; The Circle).  

Tina Fey’s Bossypants, Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl, and Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods were listened to on trips to Baltimore to visit my best friends.  They moved from Corvallis, Oregon during summer 2016, so these books remind me of the gratitude I feel that they are only an audio book away.  A few of the others I read on vacation to Texas, where I met my partner’s paternal family for the first time, and at the beach, where we enjoyed the sun and surf together with my family for the first time.

Firsts abounded this year and included: slack lining, skiing, hosting a best friends week-long staycation, hanging pictures in our new home, planting an extremely prolific vegetable garden, participating in grassroots organizing, and I started printing and water coloring.  I’m looking forward to a new year, reading books new to me, and continuing to grow roots as I develop in new directions.

Power, Generalizations, and Information Literacy

This year my colleagues and I have focused our collective attention on the politics of information.  The actions of congress (tax reform, budget changes) and the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality make this topic a classroom imperative (if given the time, control of discussion, etc.).  If we do not address the relationship between power and information in the classroom we are not preparing our students to resist the structures and individuals who seek to maintain power by controlling access to information, nevermind producing information that speaks to their ideologies.

Earlier this month our local librarian community had a reading group, which focused on Maura Seale’s (2016) “Enlightenment, Neoliberalism, and Information Literacy.”  Seale (2016) critically evaluates the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education by addressing its liberal and neoliberal epistemological tendencies, which went unnoticed by me (which is proof of my own bias – a good reminder that I am not a neutral reader).  Both liberalism and neoliberalism emphasize the individual over the group and ignore, or “transcend” depending on how you feel about it, historical, social, and cultural differences to achieve a universal goal (Seale, 2016, p. 85).

The very definition of information literacy, in conjunction with a framework written around threshold concepts, emphasizes this focus on the individual and their progress towards an ultimate enlightened status of information literacy.  Thinking about it now, it seems ridiculous that every individual in the world could have the same target for understanding information.  The very notion that there is an objective truth about information needs, structures, processes, … well, I’m still growing.

Library and information science has fallen into a common trap of social science research – belief that our goals or conclusions can be generalized, that the work of some is representative of the whole (see Henrich, Heine, & Norenzayan, 2010).  My primary takeaway from Seale’s (2016) article is that different students require different knowledge of information; their contexts change their understanding of and access to information.

[The education of metropolitan students in the global North] needs to be supplemented with responsibility to the other and rooted in recognition of difference in order to contest neoliberalism.  …Enlightenment notions of liberal subjectivity and rights are also important; they are aspects that are needed in subaltern education, so that subaltern cultures are able to act politically, within the institutions that are invested in those ideas. Seale, 2016, p. 88

This is a reminder to focus on the “local context,” emphasized by Emily Drabinski’s (2014) “Toward a kairos of Library Instruction,” of each class and each reference appointment.  In the places where the Framework does not successfully consider the context of power in regards to information, it is important to address these flaws.  Seale (2016) specifically mentions the failure of Searching as Strategic Exploration, Information Creation as a Process, and Research as Inquiry, which do not successfully recognize the constructedness of information systems and the complexities of knowledge production and the creation process (p. 83).

Active learning pedagogies allow for students to learn and contextualize new information according to their individualized experience.  As teachers, we have the opportunity to present problems in an effort for them to learn through inquiry, application of previous knowledge, and interactions with peers.  Through active learning and open discussions, metropolitan and subaltern students might interact with and learn from one another.

I have many more thoughts surrounding this theme and will continue to write.  I am challenged by these ideas and feel an ever-increasing need to reflect on my experiences in an effort to solidify them within my own mind and grow.


Drabinski, E. (2014). Toward a kairos of library instruction. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 40(5), 480–485.

Henrich, J., Heine, S. J., & Norenzayan, A. (2010). The weirdest people in the world? Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 33(2–3), 61–83.

Seale, M. (2016). Enlightenment, neoliberalism, and information literacy. Canadian Journal of Academic Librarianship, 1. Retrieved from


Creatives and Open Access

Open Access is *supposed* to inspire additional creation of work, specifically because there are no barriers to access or use.  However, it seems that we are so used to working within the realm of traditional copyright we rarely know what to do with work in the public domain or work licensed under Creative Commons.  My upcoming project with the Muhlenberg Open Scholarship Faculty Learning Community will hopefully increase people’s awareness and increase use of open data, textbooks, scholarship, art, etc.

I’m exciting about combining my librarian tendencies towards collection and organization with my penchant for visual design and communication.  Right now I’m in the research stages of this project – trying to identify open resources and looking into other ways that they have been promoted (via libraries, Creative Commons?).  I’d love to hear how your library promotes open resources and creation!  And, hopefully, if this project is successful, I will eventually have a set of posters to share with Librarian Design Share!  

Valuing Scholarship, Methodology, and Leaders in Changing Scholarly Landscapes

A discussion about how to place value on scholarship is also a conversation about the value of scholarship and how to produce good scholarship.  The best scholarship is that which communicates to educators, researchers, and students information that makes a contribution to the field.  This requires language that has meaning, and often language that is more effectual because it is established by the community.  This also requires peer review that questions methodology and is established in an extensive understanding of the subject matter, in order to evaluate quality of literature review.  It also requires researchers to completing their research in a way that allows for replicability.  All of this is independent of the funding model of the journal – though who has the knowledge requirements I mentioned above and also wants to dedicate time and energy to this work if peer review and journal editing are not part of tenure considerations?

I think an interesting element to this conversation is that academics might be padding their resumes by publication in predatory journals, as Ben mentions.  Academics are so invested in publication, in part because of tenure requirements, that they are making various research sacrifices in order to have an interesting article that is able to be published.  In 2012, confronted with a crisis in research replicability, psychologists suggested the following to increase the reliability of their research:

…using undergraduate projects as a route for replicating existing studies; encouraging adversarial collaborations where sceptics replicate studies alongside original investigators; providing accessible outlets for publishing replications; opening up data, methods and workflow; and pre-registering studies including all the intended methods and analyses. (Owens, 2012)

Note these suggestions do not include strengthening the peer review process to keep out shoddy articles or ruining the reputation of the journals that published these articles.  Instead, opening data and methodologies is suggested as a way to increase quality scholarship.

In May 2017 I heard a panel discussion on BBC’s Newshour Extra titled, “What’s Wrong with Science?” that included academics and journal editors calling for a change in the way that researchers submit to academic journals.  Instead of submitting their article after the research is complete, this panel suggested that methodology be submitted for acceptance before the research is done.  The research would be accepted based on its methodological merit, not on the results.

Karen notes that open access journals provide an opportunity to publish failed research.  In a way, the fact that for-profit journals are not publishing this kind of information is evidence of a flawed system; one that researchers are already invested in participation.  Reforming the real-world scientific process through Team Science, as discussed by Patrick, is a great idea.  Academics, or administrators in higher education, are setting the standards for what we value from each other and, also, how we value it.  It’s a cycle that could use some reformation, which is an interesting to think about on this 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.  While we remember Luther (in all of his mythical splendor), we might also remember Aaron Swartz and Alexandra Elbakyan – leaders in the open scholarship movement.

This post was written for a faculty learning community on open scholarship.  It was originally posted on 10/31/17 on the #openberg website.

October 12 – Reflections on Teaching

Two days ago I saw a student taking notes at the end of class and my heart soared when I noticed that she gave the lesson a perfect score.  I laughed when I realized that she had just dated her notes.

I think this moment reveals how eager I am to perform well.  I’m interested in recognition from professors, students, and my colleagues that I have succeeded in communicating the lesson and have been engaging, created safe space, developed relationships.  It’s a lot to expect from an hour and fifteen minutes and, yet, I do continually.

I write learning outcomes before every class.  They never include the following, the implicit outcomes I hope for my students:

Students will be feel safe talking to the librarian.

Students will feel safe asking questions.

Students will be able to articulate their experience in the class.

Students will consider the library a place to experiment, think critically and creatively, and grow.

Today I read a librarian conversation on Twitter where librarians discuss the fact that we are rarely lauded for our teaching capabilities, and I wonder what exactly that means in the context of my classroom endeavors.  I am one of those who did not study instruction in school, but immediately sought out resources and advice upon receiving a job in higher education.  I haven’t been a librarian for long, but my teaching hasn’t stagnated once.  I am reading, processing, and changing my lessons to include activities, opportunities for guided exploration, and conversations.  These changes in the lessons require changes in myself and it is a struggle to remain confident in my instruction when my classroom persona is evolving.  Not that I perform a lot differently in class then I do during the day, but it is challenging to show my character in front of 22 individuals with whom I often don’t have any additional context.

I know from experience that teaching becomes easier with time as relationships are developed between professor and students.  In an attempt to establish relationships quickly I have begun personally introducing myself as students enter the classroom, shaking hands and asking names.  I’ve been able to start a few conversations this way and can occasionally use an individual’s name to call on them in class.  The primary form of library instruction, the one-shot, doesn’t allow time for relationships to be established and context to be created and so the content of instruction has a harder time being embedded in memory.  This is a great argument for why the one-shot should petrify and join the lecture in the cemetery of pedagogical practices behind the library under the tall oak trees.

I think that the theory of threshold concepts upon which the Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education has been written increases the anxiety I feel for my instruction sessions.  Thresholds are barriers that, once crossed, are permanent.  Thus, every instruction session feels like an opportunity to lead students to the threshold and beckon them to cross.  I can’t help but feel a sort of desperation – these lessons are so valuable to life and are given a few short minutes for students to “get it.”  Do you get it?  Do you get it?

I suppose these reflections are leading up to my ultimate pondering – am I a bad teacher?  The kind that librarians are talking about when they discuss how I’ve managed to graduate without a course on instruction?  I don’t want to pursue that line of thought.  Instead, I just want to encourage assessment, peer review, and personal reflection among my peers.  What do you think makes a good teacher and how do you measure against your own unspoken learning outcomes?


Oh Zotero

Transitioning to a new job is fun and leads to a whole lot of reflection on the differences between institutions:  values, teaching practices, culture, etc.  One thing I’ve noticed about instruction at my new job is that I’m asked to teach students how to use Zotero with much more frequency (and I’ve only been here a few weeks!).

If you don’t know what Zotero is: STOP.  This tool will change your research life.  If you do know what Zotero is: skip the next paragraph.  (I used to love choose your own adventure books.)

Zotero is a free citation management tool that will help you collect, organize, and cite information resources and collaborate with other researchers.  The application can be downloaded on any device, but is a web-based platform and so you can continue your work independent of a particular device.  I can’t emphasize enough how much Zotero has helped sustain my professional growth and has led to a reduction of repeated labor.  I don’t lose information, I can return to resources and notes easily, I can collaborate with friends from afar.  I wish I used Zotero in school and most of the students I introduce it to wish they had known about it earlier in their academic careers.

In the past, I’ve created videos showing the citation magic that Zotero provides so that students have some incentive to go through the download process.  I share it here because I think it’s an alright example of a quick video that can be used for outreach or at the beginning of an instruction session.  It is far from perfect.

Downloading Zotero is a struggle.  I tell students to use the web browser that they use to search most frequently, but Zotero is easiest to download when using Google Chrome.  I send download instructions to the professor and students before class so that we can jump right into all of the cool features after (inevitably) troubleshooting issues.  An important step I’ll highlight here is syncing the standalone (device-specific) version with the browser-based version and changing the preferences to sync “as needed.”

Here are the features I always highlight:

  • Making individual folders, including subfolders. Sharing organizational strategies is fun!
  • Making group folders
  • Getting items into folders in Zotero, both automatically (clicking on the browser extension) and manually (populating the fields in a new record)
  • Using notes – asking students how they take notes. Close reading and strategic organization can help with recall and incorporating information into your work!
  • Using tags – I like tagging books as “done” that I’ve finished in my “Books to read” folder. I don’t take them out of the folder because I like seeing what books I’ve added over time via the timeline tool.screenshot
  • Saving searches. Creating folders that automatically populate based on rules that you set up is really fun.  I have a saved search right now that collects items that have the keyword “information literacy” and are published after 2010.  This was probably an example for class that I’ve kept and find interesting.
  • Using the timeline tool, which allows you to visualize entire folders by publication date or date added to the folder.
  • Getting citations into your paper and changing the citation styles. Again, one caveat is that this works best in Microsoft Word, there is not plugin for Google Docs or Pages.  However, the ability to put in parenthetical citations and click a button to have your entire list of used references automatically appear is really cool.  Students that don’t have Word can always drag and drop resources from Zotero to their reference page.

Many instructors at Muhlenberg seem to ask for Zotero instruction for their seniors, prior to a major capstone project.  At DeSales, a few English composition instructors thought Zotero was exciting and would ask for it to be introduced during their students’ first or second semester of school.  It seems to me that seniors are more interested in the tool because they have experienced that organization and citation problems that frequently occur during large research endeavors.  However, I have never refused a Zotero session – I think its value is immense and relevant to everyone.

Zotero brings power to the researcher.  Corporations know that collecting data on what users do is useful over time.  Take that idea and flip it– collect data on your own scholarly endeavors over time.  Organize your work and keep it.  Return to it.  Analyze yourself and identify connections between articles in the variety of disciplines you’ve collected over time.  You’ll likely find new ideas and might even learn about yourself.

I would love to hear about your experiences with Zotero.  Is there interest on your campus?  Is there a particular time or class that requires Zotero instruction?  Do you use it personally?  Do you have any creative methods of teaching Zotero?

If you’re diving into the world of Zotero now you know who you can ask questions!