January 6, 2015, 3:50 pm
A few months ago this PowerPoint slide appeared in my Twitter stream:
It lingered with me for weeks.
I had never considered a library instruction program taking on matters such as dehumanization, colonizing media, or the economic contradictions in our environment. In all the libraries I’ve worked we struggled to have enough people to cover the core instructional load and I could not have imagined a program focused instead on a social agenda.
My view of information literacy has always been pragmatic and conservative: find, access, evaluate, and use a variety of materials. When I was an instruction librarian at George Washington and Georgia Tech my emphasis was on serving engineering disciplines where the focus was on journals, patents, industry standards, and handbooks.
Typical reference questions were about identifying suitable alloys for high temperatures. The type of…
December 10, 2014, 3:34 pm
Yesterday I posted this tweet and it received a lot of attention so I’ll expand my thoughts.
About a year ago we opened our Multipurpose Room in the library. We framed it as a gathering place for creative, cultural, academic, and social experiences. The one major rule is that everything has to be public: no private events.
We officially opened the doors in January 2014 and hosted many lecturers, film screenings, receptions, workshops, panel discussions, poetry and prose readings, and town hall meetings. But also some unique events too: fashion shows, comedy shows, musical and art performances, digital exhibits, mini-conferences and symposiums, cooking demonstrations, a hackathon, and live TEDx broadcasts. I believe there were some World Cup matches in there too.
We’ve also seen the rise of digital poster sessions. The room has eight large monitors on the walls and two…
August 7, 2014, 2:14 pm
This summer my library went through a strategic realignment. We had the convergence of numerous retirements and other departures that presented us with an opportunity to look across the entire organization and consider some adjustments.
The driving factor behind this effort was to better align the library with the University’s strategic directions. New priorities are emerging across campus and we needed to position ourselves to participate and partner more fully. And yes, I’m aware that’s admin-speak.
One theme we focused on was research. Previously we had two areas that shared this same word:
Research and Instruction Services
Research and Informatics
We decided to define our concept of research around activities such as data curation, scholarly communication, publishing services, repositories, and technology development. This is very different from the traditional…
July 24, 2014, 10:42 am
I recently published an essay in portal. It explores the mindset (and toolkit) of futurists and attempts to connect that to libraries. I blogged about it earlier with the idea of “change literacy”—which I still think is a fascinating concept.
The portal version is fine, but I can’t legally post their PDF – so I made my own. Besides that, academic publisher prints always look a little stodgy and grayish to me, no offense. I prefer a more uplifting wrapper for my words. Design is a vital part of the communications process and I like to have some control over how my ideas are presented.
Here is a snippet:
Librarians could discuss ad infinitum the predictions, proclamations, worries, fears, hopes, and dreams about what libraries are becoming. In fact, as a profession librarians are obsessed with talking about our future. Books, articles, blog posts, conference sessions, an…
July 17, 2014, 2:36 pm
It is very common for librarians to serve as liaisons to academic departments. They teach classes, purchase materials, answer reference questions, assist with research endeavors, and generally get involved with the odds-and-ends of those units. Some librarians also liaise with defined user communities such as first-year students, international students, or students associated with particular residence halls.
This classic approach enables librarians to connect their expertise with different user segments that likely share similar needs, interests, or perspectives. In short, these librarians serve as the human interface of the library.
But things are changing. I think we are in the initial phase of the next evolutionary step of the librarian as liaison. I touched upon this in my last post about the shift from “knowledge service provider to collaborative partner.” ARL is also…
April 9, 2014, 4:56 pm
I’m serving on a “Student Experience Task Force”— which among other things is exploring the relationship between residence halls, classrooms, laboratories, dining facilities, student centers, libraries, gyms, and outdoor spaces across my campus—with an eye toward long-term strategies. This is a yearlong process.
Our first assignment was to “free think” one possibility twenty to thirty years from now. These ideas were not expected to be grounded in reality— but to intentionally be provocative, disruptive, or transformative.
Virginia Tech: Burchard Hall. A desk for every student
Mine was to do away with classrooms. Instead of lecture halls I would give every student their own desk or workbench—similar to what you find in architecture departments. There is an amazing community that forms around…
March 10, 2014, 3:16 pm
ACRL is working to redefine Information Literacy: draft. I’m very happy to see that Threshold Concepts are making it into the conversation. I would like to offer one suggestion: change literacy. I have a forthcoming essay in portal that will hopefully be out this summer, but here is an unedited snippet that touches in the concept. In short, I view the ability to anticipate, create, adapt, and deal with change (in the broadest since) as a vital fluency for people today. If we treat change as a literary then we can better prepare students for the challenges they will face tomorrow.
Forthcoming in portal (July 2014):
Librarians have long been invested in literacy. Historically this involved advocating for reading, and several decades ago information literacy emerged as a focal point for academic libraries. Today new literacies such as data, visual, digital, health…
February 25, 2014, 1:39 pm
From time to time I receive faculty feedback that surprises me. There is a contrasting view that occasionally emerges around the notion that learning should be hard: specifically that the process of identifying and locating information sources should be difficult. I’ve encountered this everywhere I’ve worked. We’ve even been called out for making things “too easy for students.”
Our reference and instruction program exists for the purpose of helping people navigate resources and making it easier for them to do research. Our web tools, such as link-resolvers, subject guides, tutorials, and discovery-layers are intended to get people to the content they want as efficiently and seamlessly as possible. I mean, come on, “save the time of the reader” is baked into our DNA. Libraries exist to help make people’s lives easier/better.
Most of the librarians I know believe in…