Friday, April 27, 2007

ACRL Poster Session: Libraries and Social Networks

The idea of libraries setting up profiles on social networks to meet students where they are is something I have not fully made up my mind about yet. I have profiles on both Facebook and MySpace. However, I joined MySpace because I'm a Millennial and my friends were doing it, not for library reasons. I think I joined Facebook partly to connect with students at my place of employment, but I've ended up connecting more with other friends there, too.

But anyway, a poster session I viewed at ACRL questioned "Do Students want Librarians in Their Turf?" The librarian, Jenny Emanuel from the University of Central Missouri, is a Millennial librarian, too, and is skeptical about libraries invading students' turf.

Here's what she found in the 50 responses to her survey:
  • 80% have social network profiles, which is less than she (and I) expected
  • "Only 34% of students would add a librarian as a friend; 18% would not; and 48% indicated a maybe"
  • Students were asked to indicate what type of library-related information they'd be interested in receiving through a social network - links to resources in their major (68% yes), ability to ask a question of a librarian (63%), search for library materials (62%), links to other resources (59%). 15% did not want any linked content
So the results are mixed. And that's probably why I feel kind of skeptical but not opposed. For me, I think it's important to let them find you and not to seek them out. I have students request to add me on Facebook, but I don't request to add them. I may mention I have an account, but that's it.

I think we can be in the social networks, but I don't think we should force ourselves into their friends list.

Thoughts on Conference Blogging

Sometimes I feel like a sorry excuse for a blogger. I attended the ACRL Conference and also the Ball State Copyright Conference recently, and have I posted about the sessions? Not really - just one so far, and only because a coworker let me know that someone in the blogosphere was really interested in that particular session. And now that I have a little bit of free time and work is slowing down, I'm sure people have already posted about most of the stuff anyway.

Part of it is that, personally, I don't enjoy reading through people's conference session notes. I have no interest in reading a scattered outline'o'stuff. It's not coherent, I don't understand all the bullet points, and I don't get anything from it really. And if written in paragraph form, the summaries are often so long! Am I just an impatient Millennial?

I think another part of it is that I tend to prefer to research whatever I'm interested in at the moment. Excessively research it. So when I really want to know about a topic, I go out and find the information. Although I do stumble on a lot of interesting stuff in the blogs I read too.

So I'm torn about conference blogging.

However, I intend to start slowly going through all the handouts and such - to see what information I can apply to my library. I've already implemented a few things. I finally surveyed the students on a few things albeit very informally. And also created a student art wall - or rather, asked my student worker to display her beautiful photography on a wall of the library.

Maybe I'll just concentrate on the stuff I think is useful, as opposed to all the sessions I attended - there were so many!

Friday, April 20, 2007

RIP Kurt Vonnegut

Okay, so I realize this happened over a week ago. But I'm just now going through my backlog of emails. I remember seeing the email when it first arrived and thinking, I need to post about that. Ooops.

But anyway, Kurt Vonnegut has passed away. Very sad. :( I've quite enjoyed several of his books - Cat's Cradle is my favorite and one of those books you get forced to read in school that I actually enjoyed, and still enjoy. I also read Breakfast of Champions and listened to Slaughter-House Five on tape, and have probably consumed more over the years.

If, for some bizarre reason, you've never read Cat's Cradle, I highly recommend it. It's such a fascinating book and an easy read. Hmmm, perhaps I should revisit it yet again...

Humorous Library Questions

I am not a public librarian and do not get nearly as many humorous questions from library patrons as the public libraries do, but I have greatly enjoyed a recent thread from a listserv I am on (LIBREF - archives here), asking for funny reference questions. The Star Beacon in Ashtabula, Ohio recently published a story that included some of these questions. It's definitely worth a read.

And some other humorous anecdotes can be found in the main story about the job of a reference librarian at Ashtabula County District Library here.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Muckrakers at ACRL

ACRL Session: Muckrakers: Engaging Students in the Research Process Through an Online Game.
Presenters: Paola Ceccarini, Ann Brown, and Cathy Eisenhower of George Washington University

This is one of the last sessions I attended but interest has been expressed so I'm writing it up now. The only handout was a bibliography, so hopefully I'm deciphering my notes properly.

The goal of this project - the creation of an online game to teach research skills - was to "develop virtual instruction that encourages collaborative learning, peer evaluation, exploration, and critical thinking." They wanted to incorporate 3 teaching methods: Collaborative learning, peer teaching, and exploration and discovery.

The idea is that MMORGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games), such as World of Warcraft, have clear goals, clear and relevant feedback, and keep challenges in balance with user skills (the tasks are doable - you may have to try a few times, but eventually you'll learn enough to get past it). These things all help to maintain attention. I once heard that the test of a truly good MMORG (or probably any game) is how much time you lose track of while playing it.

Some details about the game George Washington University is developing:
1. Research skills are a BY PRODUCT - if you conduct research, you gain more points.
2. Students can leave text messages in the game for their friends
3. They can talk to each other during the game.
4. The characters have PDAs for taking notes and other tasks.

The game is set up so that each player is working for one of three newspapers which each have different political slants. The players are expected to keep a log of their research. They come up with individual topics, research them, and then pitch them to their teammates. The teammates then pick one of those topics - the one that sounds the best - and pitch that to the whole newspaper staff.

I think scoring is done through how users rate each other's work? So if someone's topic is chosen, he or she gets more points. I think...

The cost to the librarians so far is 2 years, and at least 10% of their work time. And it's not done. The programming has been done entirely by one graduate student which can be problematic, because research shows that it's best to have at least 3 programmers to get the different perspectives needed. Plus, it really is too much work for one grad student. One example of this is that they had to go with 2D instead of 3D.

We were shown an excerpt from the game, and it looks pretty good. They included both text and audio for different learning styles. The dialogue was quite humorous and not cheesy (at least, as far as I can remember). However, they still don't have a working version to test due to technical difficulties.

Overall, what I got out of this session was this: It's just not really doable. They are two years into it and still going. The shared value of games is not very good because it's not cost-effective to customize it to your own institution. And it takes a lot of work and a lot of time. Libraries just can't compare to game companies which can afford to hire many programmers to design these things.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Stats about Internet Use

Well, I'm back from the ACRL Conference and will hopefully be posting about that soon, but for now, I'm reading a very interesting summary of the 2007 Digital Future Report from Center For The Digital Future. They survey more than 2,000 individuals in the U.S. and have interviewed the same people over 6 years in order to collect longitudinal data.

Some interesting statistics:
  • 37% of those polled still access the Internet through a dial-up telephone modem. Yuck!
  • 50% access it through broadband
  • 51.1% are buying online
  • 86.8% of those 16 and over express at least some concern about providing their personal info when buying online
  • 69.7% of all Americans use email
  • Users who use the internet for work say they are actively doing so for an average of 7.8 hours per week (that's it!?)
However, the statistic that completely horrified me, quoted directly from the summary [bolding mine], is:
Information on the Internet: is it reliable and accurate? -- The number of users who believe that most or all of the information on the Internet is reliable and accurate grew sharply over 2005, reversing a three-year decline. Well over half of users (55.2 percent) say that most or all of the information online is reliable and accurate – up from 48.8 percent in 2005, but still below the peak in 2001 (58 percent).