Category Archives: Commentary

September 26, 2011, 5:24 pm

What It Takes To Become A Scholar: helping students scale the taxonomy

We’re working on round two of our graduate student ethnography project. I plan to release the findings in January as a collection of whitepapers. The batch will include themes such as mentoring, collaboration, criticism, and work process. But my favorite thread is the progression from student to scholar. It has been fascinating to review the self-analysis and see how a scholar is defined.

Two predominate qualities emerged: independence & creation.

Some sample quotes:

1. “As you go through grad school at least in English, you begin to develop more into sort of an independent writer and scholar…. You start thinking more in terms of I’m making a book length argument that has to be interesting vs. I’ve gotta write this short argument that I think is what my professor wants.”

2. “As an undergrad, you were presented with deadlines that were dictated by others. And they we…

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July 19, 2011, 8:06 pm

Instructionally Adrift? Are instructors letting their students down?

At ALA 2011 Steven Bell turned me on to the book Academically Adrift. He wrote a thoughtful piece on it back in January— I’m a little slow getting a response out.

The gist of it boils down to the notion that students don’t appear to be learning much (academically speaking) during their time away at college—and hence there is some question about the value (and investment) of a college degree.

This is largely based on findings reporting that when students were tested before and after their college years there was little progress in standardized scores, suggesting that the college experience (which of course encompasses more than just courses) does little to advance intellectual development.

Bell points out that there is a lot of finger pointing and I tend to point mine at the K-12 system, which doesn’t prepare people (myself included) for college. However, while watching…

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December 16, 2010, 12:02 pm

The Steps (or Pathway) to Pride: the ultimate goal of library outreach

This is another concept from my whiteboard sessions:


When I talk about outreach and marketing and related promotional matters— people often think that I am working just to drive up business… increase volume. That's not always the case… or rather, that's not the sole purpose. Our reference librarians would probably be upset if I brought in 10,000 more questions a year. Our reserves staff probably couldn't handle a doubling of materials from faculty.


My goal is not to just increase usage, but rather, to see it as a step toward a larger purpose. It's not to help patrons become better users of the library. Nor is it to design a satisfying library experience. Ultimately… my goal… right now… is to build pride in the library. Building a brand.

Library Spirit?
It's bowl season and there is all this mounting school pride channeled via football teams (UCF upsets UGA, you read it…

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December 7, 2010, 10:20 am

Levels of Patron Assistance: too much pressure on the top? (another conceptual pyramid)

So the whole pyramid thing… An Assistant Dean turned me on to them. We were talking in my office and he saw my white board– we chatted about the engagement theory and he mentioned that over in Career Services they explored a similar concept based on services. In a nutshell, they offer a hierarchy of services attempting to match different student needs:


A student might come in and need help with a resume. While she might just need a handout describing formatting, she could be directed to a career planning professional. This might be similar to a patron asking where BF637.T5 A45 2001 is located. Rather than giving him a floor plan or directing him to the BF range, it would be like setting up an appointment with a subject librarian.


The sense I got from the Career Services example is that their model is directly tied to expenses. It costs them a lot in terms of salary and time to sit…

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November 24, 2010, 11:01 am

How About Some Nominalism For Thanksgiving?

Heading into the holidays I want to reflect for a moment on one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. It occurred my senior year of undergrad, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. I was in a Renaissance & Reformation course (intellectual history) with about 30 other students. There were only six of us present that day and the professor said that his lecture was too important for the others to miss– so he decided to cancel class and offered to meet us at Applebee’s for a 2-for-1 drink special—and that he’d buy the first round.


This was an unexpected and really cool experience. He was an older German fellow and used colorful language during his lectures– a tough grader too. I remember that he liked to challenge popular notions of history and historical figures and dig into the psyche of the material. He was really into Freud and the primal motivations behind people’s actions….

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May 16, 2010, 1:21 pm

200th post = 4 years

So here we go. 200th post. It’s taken me four
years to get here, but that’s not too bad. It averages out to about a post per
month. Ideally I aim for one every two weeks, give or take a week. By some
accounts that’s very slow. Will Manley
cracked 100 posts in less than 6 months. And Steven Bell probably has 2,000+
over at The KeptUp Librarian (circa
2003.) But hey—tons of library blogs have gone under, and happily I’m still


I’m in the process of retagging everything. My taxonomy has
gotten way out of wack and so over the next several days I’m going to hack at
it. I’m also going to play around with some different themes and typepad tools.
I never really considered myself a blogger, just a guy who uses a blog to tell
a story… but now, after four years, I guess I should embrace the blogger
image.  What I’m saying is I’m
going to try and make the blog look and…

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June 6, 2006, 8:18 am

Desk slow? check out the annoyed librarian

Great post from my new favorite blog: The Annoyed Librarian. Takes the ubiquitous model to a whole new extreme! It cracks me up, especially the Journal of Soup Marketing and the 69,300,000 google hits hits via smart phone. Seriously, great stuff!


There is another excellent post on library fads:

Are you the sort of person who starts salivating and wants desparately to share your thoughts and feelings when any of the following topics arise: Library 2.0, library blogging, library RSS, library IM, library podcasting, library marketing, library gaming, library advocacy, Such-and-such @ Your Library, information literacy, "millenials," "nextgen"…… Or are you all faking? I really want to know, because that way I can decide: should I feel like I’m in on the joke and just chuckle as you pretend to care deeply about this stuff, or should I eye you suspiciously and slowly back out of…

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May 22, 2006, 2:35 pm

What is The Ubiquitous Librarian?

The Ubiquitous Librarian is everywhere! The Ubiquitous Librarian constantly seeks new ways to interact with users. The Ubiquitous Librarian is all about participation. It’s about stepping outside of the library and interacting with patrons wherever they may be: online, in the classroom, in the hallway, at football games, in the cafeteria, off campus. Instead of trying to force them into the library, into our world, the ubiquitous librarian is embedded into their world. It’s about not pushing the library agenda, but rather about participating in the larger community we serve.


Put simply: Instead of trying to make your library seem cool, be a librarian and do cool things.


This concept developed out of my experiments with blogs. I was using LiveJournal to communicate with friends and discovered the journals of several students. By “be-friending” them and…

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