Thursday, September 20, 2007

Ugh, I'm moving!

I have put off posting about this, but since my move is now looming in the very near future (2 days - ACK!), I suppose I should write about it.

I have a new job in Pittsburgh. My last day at my current position is tomorrow. I have one week off during which I get to move all my stuff (and I have accumulated a lot more than I realized in the last two years!). Then, on October 1st, I start my new job.

Change is always a challenge. There are things I will miss, and things I will not miss. I will not miss living in Southeast Ohio. That is one of the main reasons I always hoped to spend only 2-3 years at my current position. I will not miss the half hour commute to work.

But there is much I will miss (and not necessarily in this order):

1. Ohio. This will be my first time living outside of Ohio, and I'm sure it's good for me and all, but Ohio is "library utopia", as a Kent SLIS prof once said. I will miss the very open public library system, but even more so I will miss the amazing OhioLINK. All states should copy Ohio and establish such a fantastic consortium. I am not sure how I will live without it (okay okay, that's slightly melodramatic, but ask anyone in OhioLINK and they'll rave about it too). I will also miss the various OhioLINK people I have had the chance to work with - there are some great librarians in Ohio.

2. My coworkers. I have fabulous coworkers, and I will really miss them. My boss is very supportive of the library staff, of our various endeavors, of professional development - which has been truly wonderful. Over the past two years, I have had a fantastic time working very closely with one of my coworkers. He is a jack-of-all-trades librarian, knowledgeable about pretty much anything, including random pop culture tidbits. I knew another such librarian at Kent, and it's something I aspire to be (well, except perhaps the part about pop culture tidbits - if it weren't for my coworker, I'd be completely out of the loop on most of that stuff). We are also a small staff, so I can just pop in to anyone's office with a question. Basically, after 2 years of working with the same great people 5 days a week, I cannot imagine how I would not miss them.

3. The professors. I work at the same institution where I did my undergrad. So 4 years of undergrad coupled with 2 years of being a member of the staff have allowed me to get to know all the faculty here. I think I can finally say, after 2 years, that I know all of them by sight and name, and most of them I know much better than that. I've really enjoyed working with them and their students over the past two years.

4. Teaching. I have taught a 2 credit hour Library Research Methods class twice now and loved almost every minute of it (I have to say "almost" - there are always frustrations). My new place of work does not have this option, and I will miss it.

5. Too much more to mention.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me!

I've been writing this blog for 2 years, as of today. My dedication to keeping up with it wanes at times, but always seems to bounce back.

And now I've finally found some original content to contribute, instead of just commenting on what everyone else blogs about. The current series is Teaching Techniques, and the Show Your Faculty Some Love series (perhaps to be renamed, perhaps not) is coming soon. I have plans for a series dealing with reaching students as well.

Variety is the spice of... class!

Teaching Technique #4: Switch up your Teaching Style

I have read this in a number of books and articles, so it must be an important one.

Students get bored with the same old lecture format every class. It is a good idea to switch it up a bit and try some new techniques. We actually make our Library Research Methods class very hands-on, which is a good start, but not nearly enough. If the students get used to walking into class each day, receiving a mini-lecture, and then completing a hands-on assignment, they'll get bored.

So try to use as many of these as possible:
  1. Discussion - I assigned two reaction papers during the semester and then we would take class time to discuss them (more on this in a later post).
  2. Use PowerPoint (but not every time!) - I used it twice last semester. Once when teaching citations - I put up examples of bad citations and asked them to find the author, the title, etc. When they struggled, I told them this is why we need to cite things properly (I stole this idea from someone and I apologize, but I cannot remember who).
  3. Group work versus individual work - Use both!
  4. Presentations - One assignment I gave asked them to work in pairs to research a database of their choosing. They then presented it to the class. I only did this the second time I taught and it could use some refining. However, I think working in a presentation is a good idea.
There are many other possibilities, but those are the ones I've used with some (or a lot of) success. Variety really is the way to go.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Addy Will Know

Today is just post-tastic, I guess. :)

Here's a fun new librarian song: Addy Will Know by SNMNMNM. Lyrics are here. Even better, they are asking librarians to send in videos of themselves singing the song, and they'll make a video out of those. The only way I'd even consider participating was if it were a silent video, though.

It's a pretty catchy tune. I give my coworker permission to go around singing this one, if only he will lay off Chocolate Rain. :)

Can't we all just share? For free?

I am getting really fed up with the astronomical costs of journal subscriptions. But then again, what librarian isn't?

Marc Meola has a very interesting post about the issue of open access for journals on ACRLog. Apparently, there is a group called PRISM who has created a PR campaign to oppose open access. They link open access "with lack of peer review, government censorship, and theft of intellectual property."

Where do they come up with this stuff?!

1. I do not see this causing a lack of peer review. There can still be peer review. Peer reviewers aren't paid in the first place. So what costs are really involved (and we all know these are all financial issues, so why not talk cost). A good example of this would be the world of computer science. I know a computer scientist or two, and they can get just about everything they want for free over the web. Sounds like open access to me! And it is still high quality stuff (well, I am told it is, I certainly don't understand any of it).

2. Government censorship? Wow, I'm lost. HOW is this government censorship. If anything it's the exact opposite of censorship - opening it up to a much wider audience.

3. Theft of intellectual property. Okay, that's just ridiculous. The researchers who write this stuff aren't even paid for it in the first place (okay okay, with the exception of grants). They certainly aren't paid for it's publication. Let's ask them if they want their stuff to be sold for extremely high prices. I think they'd want more open access. The more people their research reaches, the better, right?

I am also curious to know the extent to which library journals are open access. I'm sure this info is out there, but I do not have it. Are they just as bad as the rest of them?

Journalicious!

Teaching Technique #3: Keep a Journal
I found this to be a very helpful tool. It works excellently when you are just starting to teach a class. I do not know if you would need to keep one once you already taught the class for several years.

Each day after class (well, I usually remembered), I wrote a brief journal entry on what we did, what worked, where the students had trouble, what seemed to bore them beyond belief, when class was too short, when I ran out of time, etc. The first time around it was useful as a reflection tool, as well as for some slight venting of frustrations. It also helped me feel less guilty when I "failed" because I recorded it so I could improve the next time around.

Then when I went to teach the class the second year, I used the journal to help me reorder the class topics in my syllabus, and to figure out which ones needed more time and which ones needed less. In addition, during the second year of teaching, I often consulted the journal to see what I had done while teaching a particular topic so I could make changes as necessary. I continued the journal for the second year and have since looked back on it for various information - e.g. what questions I asked during pop quizzes, what ice breaker I used.

Keeping a journal may not work for everyone, but I found it very helpful.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

More E-Readers

According to a New York Times article, Amazon is apparently breaking into the E-Reader market, whatever that market might be. So far, E-Readers have not taken off.

Amazon also intends to make their e-books proprietary - only accessible with Amazon's particular E-Reader. Personally, I think that's a rather stupid marketing decision. Cross-platform usability is a much better idea, and hopefully Amazon will realize that soon.

Also mentioned is that Google is going to start charging users for access to the books under copyright on Google Book Search. While this is a logical next step for Google, I feel rather irritated. I just know students will use that and pay for access to these books, when they could use the library and get the books through the OhioLINK catalog for free in 2-3 business days. Sigh. We already try to warn students against paying for articles they find through Google (the library offers so many of those for free electronically), and now here's another one to counter. Fun.

Break that Ice!

Teaching Technique #2: Ice Breakers
As a student, I usually hated ice breakers. As a teacher, I love them. When used properly, they are an excellent tool for introducing students to each other and for getting to know your students. They also help with remembering names (something I admit I'm bad at doing).

Successful Beginnings for College Teaching lists some fantastic ice breakers. I know I said it in my last post, but if you are teaching, READ THIS BOOK!

Anyway, one great icebreaker I found in this book works like this:

Give each student a 3x5 card. On one side, have them write some basic information about themselves. I asked for their full name (w/preferred first name), preferred email, and major. On the other side, I had them write 2-3 unique things about themselves. I remember trying to do this as a student and never being able to come up with anything, so, as the teacher, I gave personal examples:
1. I've been to China
2. I took nine years of piano lessons and never play anymore, much to my parents' dismay.
3. I went to Muskingum as a student and now I work here.

After they finished filling out their cards, I asked them to go around and introduce themselves to each other - giving their names and their unique things.

Last, I collected the cards, read the unique things to the class as a whole, and had them tell me who it was. The person whose card it was wasn’t allowed to say, of course.

This worked wonderfully. They came up with some pretty funny stuff. We learned interesting things about each other, and they started to get to know each other.

The only problem is that the class I teach tends to be one of those "I'll take it and pray I get into the class I really want" classes. So I had 6 students on day 1, 14 on Day 2, and still more changes on Day 3. By Day 3 Add/Drop has ended, so in the future I would do another icebreaker (but a different one, of course) that day if I had a similar change in students.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Teaching Library Research

Twice now I've taught a semester-long 2 credit hour Library Research Methods class. It's been a blast! There are a few techniques I've gleaned from various readings that have proven extraordinarily successful, and I thought I'd start sharing these on this blog.

Teaching Technique # 1: The Pop Quiz
Now, before you all shriek in horror, hear me out. This is used as an assessment of attendance. With approximately 28 total class meetings, I gave 11 pop quizzes, with the 11th being extra credit.

As long as the student takes the quiz, full credit (2 points) is given. If the quiz is given at the beginning of class, and students enter once the quiz is in progress, they are not allowed to take it. Thus - Don't be late!

Questions asked are used to assess student understanding of topics (i.e., what I need to explain better), student opinions of teaching methods, student questions, etc. Here's a list of questions I've asked:

  1. What was the most important thing you learned today? What are you still confused about?
  2. What do you like most about this class? What do you like least?
  3. What is a scholarly journal article?
  4. List as many limiting and advanced search options as you can think of.
  5. What is difficult or confusing about writing annotations?
  6. What questions do you still have based on what you’ve learned in this course?
  7. Which teaching/learning technique in this class has worked best for you? Worst? (getting at discussion, hands-on, group work, etc)
  8. What questions do you have about the final project?
As I said, it worked fantastically! Students love being solicited for input (this works in the library as well - have a comment box or give a survey asking for their comments on what could be done to improve their library experience!). My colleague, Andrew, is trying Pop Quizzes as he teaches the class this semester. While skeptical at first, he's since commented that it really does work well.

[I am no longer 100% sure, but I think this came from the most excellent book, Successful Beginnings for College Teaching. It's one of the best teaching books I've read!]

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's a great URL

ilovelibraries.org. For all your library-related needs.

It also has a link to a Public Library Search. Nice! Now you can find a list of every public library in your area.

Definition of Librarian

Well, I don't think anyone can beat the Uncyclopedia's definition of Librarian. The people who wrote and edited that entry really know what a librarian is!