February 10, 2015, 2:45 pm

Are We Teaching Spatial Agency? The subliminal message of flexible furniture

Does space matter? Does the selection and arrangement of furniture and technology impact behavior? I think so. The tools around us impact what we can build. So if we follow this line of thought: can we design spaces that enable students to be more creative, more collaborative, or more innovative? Can we offer environments that encourage concentration, curiosity, or confidence?

I’ve been chasing these questions for the past ten years. It started at Georgia Tech where we experimented with atmospheric elements like sound, shape, and lighting. We could quickly recalibrate a room and completely change its mood and functionality. This is where I began thinking about the psychology of place.

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Georgia Tech Library, courtesy of Dottie Hunt

My thoughts were recently augmented by Frank Shushok, Senior Associate Vice…

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January 27, 2015, 4:48 pm

Learning Commons as Symbol: the new heart of our communities?

Last month I saw a presentation by Robert Sumichrast, Dean of the Pamplin College of Business here at Virginia Tech. He shared his vision for a series of new buildings that would comprise the Business Learning Community. The concept is still coming together but it includes several interconnected structures: offices, classrooms, and residential spaces. The centerpiece is an experiential learning commons.

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Early concept of the Business Learning Community at Virginia Tech.

 

Several aspects are informing the design. First is Innovate, a residential living learning community that fosters the startup spirit. It brings together students from different disciplines and surrounds them with a curriculum and mentorship that encourages entrepreneurship.

Second is a recent renovation. The atrium in the current business…

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January 20, 2015, 4:21 pm

Sheep Rot & Rogue Publishers: advertising in early scientific journals

I’ve been watching a great talk by Jason Priem on altmetrics.

During the presentation he mentions the history of scientific journals and how they evolved from handwritten letters describing observations into aggregated print volumes for a larger audience. Philosophical Transactions was the first one. I was curious about the composition of science articles in 1665 so I clicked around. Here is a partial listing from the inaugural issue:

journal1What grabbed your attention? For me it was the calf. A very odd monstrous calf!

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I thought it was  quaint but then I saw the front page of the Wall Street Journal last week and we’re still admiring livestock 350 years later.

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It is interesting to observe how journals evolved from short blurbs into longer articles. You can also trace the slow adoption of scholarly writing conventions and…

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January 12, 2015, 3:29 pm

Millions of Sources: the disruption of history and the humanities?

Last week I mentioned a tweet on critical pedagogy that stuck with me. Here is another item from 2014 that really got me thinking.

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This was from an ARL meeting on the future of scholarly monographs. I blogged about it back in October 2014 but I wanted to go deeper. I spoke with Laura Mandell (Professor of English & Director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M) just before winter break. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Print Humanities
The humanities as we know them should be called the print humanities. They began with the rise of print materials and the practices and methodologies associated with them are bound to that format. Right now we have print humanities and digital humanities but eventually all humanities will be digital humanities. We’re in an evolutionary stage.

While many people feel an emotional attachment…

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January 6, 2015, 3:50 pm

Diving into critical pedagogy: an alterative view of information literacy

A few months ago this PowerPoint slide appeared in my Twitter stream:

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 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.

alloysTypical reference questions were about identifying suitable alloys for high temperatures. The type of…

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January 3, 2015, 5:53 pm

Three Central Themes for 2015: critical pedagogy, lean libraries, & creative disruption

This is my ninth year blogging. When I started The Ubiquitous Librarian my intention was to explore engagement techniques—new ways of connecting with the community I served. The blog helped document some of these efforts and provided a conversation channel with others doing similar work.

I tend to be all over the map: technology, scholarly communication, marketing, assessment, learning commons, classroomshackathons, embedded librarians, and so on. As I’ve moved into library administration my tone and content as changed. And when I eventually switched over to the Chronicle of Higher Education that altered my voice as well.

Every so often I contemplate walking away from the blog. Sometimes it feels more like a chore rather than a creative outlet. The Chronicle doesn’t pay me, but they do amplify my message. When I hear from software developers, architects, faculty, CIOs, or…

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December 18, 2014, 3:56 pm

Digital Ephemera During Finals: a photo essay

I always like finals because the campus has a heightened sense of purpose. This semester I came down with a bad cold and had to miss most of the excitement. Fortunately social media enabled me to follow along from home.

catstudy2brokechairgymjump2chair_rollingspunchairsred_bull_libdrinksredbull_deskcheese2grill_cheese_at_libtara_grill_cheesecheesesandsdefeatednapssleepbagmathbrainlearningflirtycrysmartiesbeatsosufutureapple_treeleaving_libsunrise

BTW: Six years ago I posted on the Anatomy of the All-Nighter. It’s interesting to see how much social technology has advanced since then.

Happy Holidays everyone.

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December 10, 2014, 3:34 pm

The Rise of Digital Poster Sessions: creating new learning interactions in the library

postersYesterday 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.

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We’ve also seen the rise of digital poster sessions. The room has eight large monitors on the walls and two…

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November 24, 2014, 2:58 pm

Libraries as Problem Shapers: some thoughts sparked by Brian Croxall (five things that we mean when we say digital humanities)

A few weeks ago I met Brian Croxall and learned about Emory’s Center for Digital Scholarship. I thought it was interesting that it began as a research commons for faculty and graduate students… but that it went underutilized. They re-worked the concept and built a co-working environment filled with experts in data, gis, digital humanities, pedagogy, educational technology, and other specialties. The team works together in shared space, but also offers open work areas for faculty to come in and collaborate with them.

Increasingly I’m hearing more about librarians-as-consultants: how we can help guide your teaching and research activities in new directions. Here is a snippet from the Center’s website:

 “…provides consultation and support for digital teaching, research, publishing, and preservation. We offer faculty and students the space, expertise, and project…

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November 18, 2014, 3:27 pm

In the Act of Service: social entrepreneurship in the classroom

As a follow-up to last week’s post I want to tell the story of one of my colleagues. We talk occasionally about social entrepreneurship and I thought it might be helpful to explore that context through a library instruction effort.

“There will be 50 groups selling lemonade. They’ll be competing to see who can make the most money.”

I was instantly intrigued by this assignment. I imagined clusters of students hawking lemonade all across campus. The lemonade stand represents the classic business model, challenging students to be creative. When everyone is literally selling the same product you have to think differently to gain attention. This is how one of our librarians first presented this course to me and I was curious to see what would happen.

The Context
Our business librarian, Ellen Krupar, served an important instructional role within this course. Since she herself…

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