Finals 2016

Testing at the end of a semester is part of the process and helps to determine growth, but it’s a time when students are anxiously finishing papers, cramming for tests, and, in the case of one library student worker, finishing a beautiful drawing of burning heart tulips.  The end of the semester has been much different for me.  I haven’t taught in a few weeks and have spent the time working on some on-going projects: instruction scaffolding, assessment, and conference planning.  I’ve also used the time to join together with my coworkers and create a bit of fun to ease those testing brains.

Inspired by some of the work by members of the Library Marketing and Outreach group, we decided to hold a raffle and give away the librarians’ conference room as a designated study space for one lucky winner and their friends.  And to make the win even sweeter (and the poster way cooler), we through in a pizza… and a box of donuts.  It was nice to make a few students happy.raffle-for-finals-2016

We did have a bit of an ulterior motive.  We were hoping that everyone who entered the raffle (66 people) would follow us on social media in order to see if they won.  It seemed logical to us, and we don’t think that we have a lot of current students aware of our social media presence.  But, it didn’t work!  Not a single additional follower!  I’m not entirely sure why.  But, the conference room, donuts, and pizza were a hit.  Our winner was very thankful for the designated space since the library has been very full during the past week.

We wanted to bring joy to more than just a small group of students, so we had a special activity on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Do you like my designs?

Free coffee for students studying in the library was the first by-product of the first meeting of our Student Advisory Board.  (YAY!)  And the coffee was a hit for the entire day!  We went through 160 cups of coffee, which we diligently brewed with a humongous percolator.

One of our student worker’s mothers led us in meditation on Tuesday.  This was my personal favorite moment of finals fun.  Cindy discussed chakras, energy, and how people born after 1991 have an easier time seeing the colors associated with the energy centers of the body.  Apparently this has something to do with crystals in one’s teeth and joints.

And then on Wednesday afternoon we put out cupcakes, icing, and sprinkles for students to decorate!  I’ve had a love affair with Funfetti since high school (you can read more about that in a lovely piece written by my girl) – I have yet to meet someone on this earth who doesn’t love the sprinkles and the sweet fluff of pudding cake.  img_20161214_162004645

And now, as students finish their semester one final at a time, the library is slowly emptying.  It will be very quiet for about a month until the spring semester starts.  I’m anxiously awaiting that time – I’ve been reading the Critical library Pedagogy Handbook and have so many ideas for classroom conversations regarding social justice!

All things to all people: An unjust suggestion and its inverse

In a letter to the Corinthians, Paul discusses winning others to Christianity by making himself like the individuals with which he comes into contact.  “To the weak I become weak, to win the weak.  I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NIV).  This verse was the focus of Sunday school lessons and podcast episodes of my childhood and sometimes it slips into my head when I’m at work.  Paul appears to be recommending flexibility, a quality that may as well be included in the title of Public Services Librarian.  When a student asks me to look over their citations and mentions that I might, also, read the paper to see if it makes sense – I, like many other amenable librarians (I bet), am tempted to do so.  For some, this may not be seen as a fault.  Librarians aren’t converting others to a religion, but the profession puts such a strong emphasis on service that  I often feel like I’m trying to create library converts so that the value of the institution, and essentially my role at the university, is recognized.  I submit that the ‘all things to all people’ model is alive in librarianship because it is alive in me, but this post is a reminder to myself that it is a disservice to myself and my constituents.

Most importantly, I feel like the ‘All things to all people’ model lacks integrity and is the opposite of cultural humility.  Sara Zettervall (2016) calls to librarians to stand up for the experience of others: “Our responsibility as human servants committed to social justice, whether we are social workers or librarians, is to foster awareness in ourselves that our perspective isn’t the only one and trust others when they speak about their own lives.” I am so proud to have this responsibility.  If I were to follow Paul’s example and change the components of my experience in order to connect with others I would be decreasing the importance of their experience.  Instead, I need to listen and support, provide space for other individual’s truth to be heard.  I need to recognize the authority of another’s experience and think about how their experiences have created information that is a valid, important part of the world.

‘All things to all people’ decreases the position with which I see myself.  I need to value myself enough to know my talents, interests, perspective, and schedule and allow my actions to be consequences of these components of my personality.  This will reduce burnout, increase passion, and likely increase the effectiveness of my career.

‘All things to all people’ does not allow me to exhibit inter-relational humility.  When a student requests help in an area where I am not an expert, it is my best course of action to humble myself before them and place value in their endeavor.  I can suggest additional expert resources so that they are receiving the best help and have the best chance at the best result.

I will be content with being some things to some people.  I will seek to exhibit cultural humility, relational humility, and personal strength.  This isn’t anything new, but arguing against the tired monologue in my head that tells me to try to be everything for everyone is freeing.  I needed to hear, from myself, that it is alright to direct my professional life by staying true, being honest, and placing value on both my experience and authority and the experiences and authority of others.  I am only one person, and I have the opportunity to place importance on my community by emphasizing the humility of my situation – I’m good at some things but often need to defer to others.  And, in that way, I can be a good example to all people.

APA Citation Workshop Series

One of the challenges I’ve embraced in my position is instruction of APA formatting and citation.  My colleagues do not enjoy teaching citation style, likely because of the shortcomings of the content: it is neither exciting for students nor challenging for those of us who have mastered it long ago.  Last school year my instruction was limited to a nursing class every once in a while.  This year the nursing department requested that I do APA Citation workshops to encourage student ownership of their success and so began my efforts to create an engaging and informative APA Citation workshop series.

My first worry was student attendance.  A workshop series is only successful if students show up!  Previous library workshops were very poorly attended.  Therefore, for this set of workshops we decided to host them on Blackboard Collaborate.  Each synchronous online meeting is about an hour long from 8-9 PM on dates that spanned my entire work week to provide a variety of possible opportunities.

I created this flyer to advertise the workshop series.  They were sent around campus to department secretaries, posted in hallways, and included in the university-wide daily email.

We’ve had two sessions so far and they have been a relative success!  Student attendance has been around 10 people a session.  I utilize a PowerPoint for presentation purposes, but I want these workshops to be interactive! There are a few components of my instruction that I feel have been critical to our success:

  1.  Poll Everywhere polls.  Everyone loves participating in a poll and they are even more fun when they give students the opportunity to write short answer responses.citation-importance
  2. Color coded reference instruction.  Students don’t seem to see the similarities in each citation even if I specifically state that the type of bibliographic information included in each citation does not change between texts.  Colors help students identify the similarities between references.  I’ve utilized these colors throughout the entire Power Point so that the information in an in-text citation can be connected to the full reference more easily.citing-an-article-screenshot
  3. Practice “reading” citations.  This is a fun opportunity for students to engage with the presentation and helps them to practice identifying the components of the citation.  I generally provide the first example so they know what I’m looking for:  “C. Lockwood wrote “What is the best nursing handover style to ensure continuity of information for hospital patients?,” which was published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies in 2016.  It is in volume 58 on pages 97 through 99.”  Of course, these citations can be read in different ways, but the idea is that they begin to recognize the different pieces of bibliographic information.

Teaching APA citation has been a challenge, but it has provided me with additional experience utilizing Blackboard Collaborate (Ultra – I’m testing the next generation.  It’s great!), leading my own instruction sessions, and engaging students online.  It has seriously increased the number of calls I receive on a daily basis.  I am now widely recognized as the “APA Expert” on campus, and instructors across campus send their students my way for assistance.  In this case, a challenging experience has opened up an opportunity to do something I love!  I have had a few occasions to discuss the benefits of Zotero, a citation management tool that I ADORE, and so I have a few Zotero workshops in my near future.  Stay tuned!

Reflections on Summer #1

I have a note on my desk to remind me to reflect on my experiences and problems and construct my own understanding.  Time and time again I remind myself that reflection is an important part of the learning process; I need to be mindful of my successes and failures and in my day-to-day activities.  The following text is a bit jumbled, as it is my reflection on my first summer employed by a university.  I think this is representative of my experience.  I’ve discovered that summer is a time to work on many projects in rapid succession.

Other academic librarians that I met had told me that the summer is a time to recoup after a long year.  I imagined that my summer would be spent accomplishing a big project (didn’t happen…).  It didn’t occur to me that I would teach for the entire summer.  Yes, it isn’t quite as busy, but the ACCESS classes that I serve go through the summer – so there wasn’t a break.

I did finish a few marketing projects.  I have become more fluid in Adobe Illustrator, so these kinds of projects don’t take me nearly as long as my first design project.

We met as a group of librarians and started trying to identify learning outcomes across the EN-103 classes. This type of project needs to be developed in the summer and then implemented in the fall.  We still have yet to establish a plan for implementation.  Hopefully that occurs in the next week or two.

I utilized LibWizard, a new Springshare tool, for the first time this summer and developed a few quizzes with embedded tutorials.  Students and faculty have responded well to the interactive aspect of these tutorials.  I also implemented a new library space in Blackboard  utilizing the Springshare LTI. Embedded services and resources are more user-friendly, right?  Great interest in this application across campus as well.

Thus far, my entire experience as an academic librarian has been at break-neck speed.  The clear difference I see between my summer and school year schedules is in my priorities.  When students and faculty are on campus my priority is providing great service.  When the library is empty and my inbox isn’t raining e-mails I am able to focus on library improvements and developing new resources.  It’s an interesting and engaging cycle.

Framing the Information Conversation: Framework v. Standards

It’s June 2016 and the ALA rescinded the Standards.  I’m writing primarily for this reason because here I am, a librarian, and this is the first time I’ve seen my professional community up-in-arms.  I’m lurking on the ACRL Framework listserv and have received over 50 e-mails in the past two days in which my peers are “venting” about how the ACRL, an organization that is usually lauded for their professional resources and support, is not supporting the needs of its members.

Personally, I’m baffled.  The Framework appears to me to be an inclusive, progressive document.    All of the Standards are included within the frames.  The frames even include knowledge practices and dispositions that are written in a similar format.  Of course, I became a librarian right after the Framework was published.  It was suggested to me that I take a look at the “new Framework for Information Literacy” as part of the preparation for my interview.  My immediate reaction to the document was one of excitement – I find the Framework to be exciting and inspiring.  I appreciate its “richer, more complex set of core ideas.” The Standards didn’t do justice to describing the information landscape as it is now.  Students come to higher education having lived a life overwhelmed with information, but by being taught particular concepts their own dispositions and mindsets change.  I love the Framework’s attention to novice learners and their development through education and practice towards expert understanding.  This is a story to which every librarian can relate, not one that is exclusive or pejorative.  I’m happy to be a librarian in a post-Framework world.

Finals Fairy: A Failure?

This past week was finals week at DeSales and students were appropriately stressed; many students seemed to live in the library.  We try to give students a way to relieve their stress and have some fun in between their intense study sessions.  We had some success with a coloring competition in the past, but decided to step up our game this semester.  We followed the lead of librarians at Lafayette College, Salisbury University, and Michigan State University and introduced our campus to the #TrexlerFinalsFairy.  We were hoping that treats hidden around the library would be received well and that students would enjoy sharing their findings with others through our hashtag.  We envisioned many students finding the Trexler Library on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and our social media audience widening.

We apparently did not have realistic expectations.  We were extremely disappointed when only five students posted the success of their findings.  We had 64 packages floating around the library and so little response!  We even found some of the packages in the trash.  The majority of students didn’t seem to be interested in the stress balls, pencils, finger mustache temporary tattoos, or candy!  The five students who did post made us smile, so I include them finals fairy response

We aren’t certain why the Finals Fairy didn’t provide us with the social media boost for which we had hoped.  It wasn’t for lack of finals fairy.PNGadvertising, I made a few posters that were put on social media and hung throughout the library.  finals fairy promo It wasn’t because there was a shortage of students or gifts.  Perhaps we just didn’t pick the right
gifts?  In the end, we decided that our endeavors weren’t a complete failure because we made a few students happy and showed them we care.

I am interested to know if other libraries have had more success with efforts to make finals fun…

The One Button Studio: Pushing a button has never harder

One of the newest tools housed within the Trexler Library is our One Button Studio.  The One Button Studio is a video recording platform created by Penn State University that allows students to easily record videos.  And it is VERY EASY.  So much so that our biggest problem is that students are trying to over-complicate the recording process.

Here is how it goes:

  1.  Student books the room, checks out key to room (security precautions), and enters room.
  2. Student puts FAT formatted flash drive into a USB slot. Studio lighting and camera flash to life.
  3. Student hits a button and the countdown begins… 5,4,3,2,1… record!
  4. Student records video.
  5. Student hits button and the recording stops.
  6. Recording is formatted in a few seconds.
  7. Student takes flash drive with correctly formatted video presentation to class.

This tool is streamlined to be easy and to provide a simple service.  However, students were constantly zooming the camera in and out, making it in need of frequent librarian repair.

We decided to make a poster.  one button studio

We are a Catholic University, so we thought that this was an appropriate means of conveying best practices for the One Button Studio.  Since it has been up, we haven’t had one instance of students changing the settings of the camera.

Statistics and Assessment (and how they’ve changed my career path)

One of the things that I really appreciate about librarianship in higher education is the current focus on assessment.  From the ACRL’s Assessment in Action programming to my own Library Director’s collection of statistics on every facet of the library’s use and facilities, librarianship is a number-based profession.  I enjoy having a foundation of facts to back up my own work, and am working more and more on writing learning objectives and collecting assessment information for each class that I teach.  Obviously, this isn’t a change from any other way of doing things (because I’ve been doing this librarian thing for 8 months), but I have made it a priority in my work.

Collecting information on the learning process, the use of our databases, the number of students in the library, the length of librarian reference assistance, etc. generates a lot of numbers.  The resulting challenge has to do with the relationship between data, information, and knowledge.  All of these numbers, on their own, are of no use to anyone.  Given a bit of context they become enlightening, but are still not very valuable if they sit in a file in the depths of a network drive.  Somehow we need to get get the numbers within a contextual setting that provides them meaning and gets them into the minds of our patrons and administrators.  Graphic design has become a
stats infographic fun way to get our statistics in front of the patron population.  Our administration also receives statistics much more positively in a colorful poster format.  No one is above being influenced by a good design done in pleasing colors.

Librarian Design Share has been exceedingly helpful to me because they provide me with a platform to receive peer feedback, and also have great ideas about projects, techniques, and tools.   I decided to utilize Adobe Illustrator for my design endeavors, primarily because it was provided by the University and didn’t take me too long to feel comfortable within the work space.  Most of my time working on poster or infographic design is time spent happily in the library.  I enjoy the process, the change of pace, and the opportunity to be creative.  This is a component of my job that surprises and delights me.  I did not realize that I would have this opportunity, but I hope to continue to progress throughout my career.