Friday, February 22, 2008

MeeboMe and Facebook

A coworker and I recently set up a fan page for our library in Facebook, MeeboMe, and Pidgin.

The fan page was a lot of fun to create, as well as quick and easy. We suggested to a number of student workers that they become fans. We are currently up to 11 fans. Our fan page includes a MeeboMe widget, as well as the usual discussion board, pictures, notes, events, general info, etc. I may have to peruse the list of apps to see if any others would be good additions. Also great about the Facebook fan page is that you can see statistics. People may become fans and never look at the page again. Stats allow us to see how often people actually visit.

We also put a MeeboMe widget on our subject guides (hooray for pbwiki's sidebar! I did not want to have to install it on each page. Plus, if you edit the page, it changes the widget code for some unknown reason. This makes the widget stop working until I re-paste in the correct code. Not sure why it does that, but it's quite annoying). We also intend to find out if it's possible to put the widget on our library page within the campus portal.

Trillian, our current IM client, only allows us to add AIM, ICQ, MSN, and Yahoo accounts in the free version (how silly). So we switched to Pidgin. Chad Boeninger at Library Voice has an excellent explanation of how to set up MeeboMe and Pidgin. We also added a Google Talk account just to cover all our bases. Not that students don't all just use AIM anyway.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Public Library Resources

It always amazes me when I check out public library websites and discover all the great resources they have to offer. Ohio and PA have fantastic public library networks that group purchase databases to give everyone in the state with a library card access to those databases (well, perhaps. I think some states give everyone access but others require individual libraries to pay to be a member and have access).

So if you want to check them out, here's how to do it:

Ohio: Visit the OPLIN (Ohio Public Library Information Network) website, click on Research Databases on the left hand side (or just click here), and pick a resource. You will be prompted to enter your library card number or zip code. I think it recognizes most Ohio computers and just prompts for zip code, so technically you probably don't even need a library card.

PA: Not quite as easy. You need to go through the website of whichever public library you use. The library network is called POWER Library. However, many of the public libraries probably provide additional databases as well (well, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh does, at least).

Everyone Else: Check out the website of your local library. Look for a link to "Research Databases", "Resources", etc. Then find out what your library offers.

What kind of things are often included?
  • Resources for kids to use for research
  • Car repair databases
  • Financial databases (Standard & Poors, Morningstar, etc)
  • EBSCO databases - Academic Search Premier, Health Source, Business Search Premier, EBSCO Animals, and much more
  • Resources to help you find popular reading materials (NoveList)
  • Online encyclopedias
  • Lots lots lots more.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Google Generation

I am finally getting around to reading the CIBER briefing paper entitled "Information behaviour of the researcher of the future" (Jan 11, 2008). It discusses the "Google Generation," which it defines as including those born after 1993.

It contains some interesting information:
Users assess authority and trust for themselves in a matter of seconds by dipping and cross-checking across different sites and by relying on favoured brands (e.g. Google). (p.10)
Some of the information is completely unsurprising (i.e. I see it in college students all the time):
young people have a poor understanding of their information needs and thus find it difficult to develop effective search strategies. (p.12)
faced with a long list of search hits, young people find it difficult to assess the relevance of the materials presented and often print off pages with no more than a perfunctory glance at them. (p.12)
Which often leaves them in trouble when they go to write the paper the night before and find they have a bunch of unrelated articles that they need to use to write a coherent paper.

The study also examined a number of characteristics commonly associated with the Google generation. For example, "They have zero tolerance for delay and their information needs must be fulfilled immediately" (p.19). This particular example was found by the report to lack hard evidence in support of it. Interesting, because I would have thought this was particularly true. However, the idea that they are a "cut and paste" generation with lots of plagiarism seems generally true. Also, the idea that the Google Generation consists of "expert searchers" was examined. Ciber's conclusion:
This is a dangerous myth. Digital literacies and information literacies do not go hand in hand. A careful look at the literature over the past 25 years finds no improvement (or deterioration) in young people's information skills. (p. 20)
Also interesting is the idea that students really need to have "exposure to basic library skills" earlier in life - from parents, school libraries, public library, or classroom. I'm not sure what all is included in these basic library skills, but I think even the most basic exposure (being in a library, talking with a friendly librarian, etc) increases future library use. For some reason, libraries are often viewed as intimidating places (and those librarians, they are scary as can be!), and early exposure would reduce this library anxiety (unless of course they encountered a crotchety shushing librarian). This then makes for college students who would perhaps be far more receptive to the library and use of the library, and more open to learning advanced library skills.

Of course, another reason (and the one mentioned by this report) for early exposure to basic library skills is to prevent the development of poor skills which would be hard to overcome. The whole "I'll just find everything through Google because everything there seems pretty reliable" mentality.

Some interesting implications and some big hurdles. It seems to me that it's getting less and less likely that younger children will get basic library skills exposure. This is particularly true with the school library, since they keep firing all of those librarians.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lots of Instruction

I always forget how crazy the weather gets in winter in my neck of the woods. I have always lived in the same general vicinity (give or take 150 miles), and still I forget every winter. Today it is 60 and absolutely pouring. Thursday they are calling for snow. Gotta love it.

I have been pretty busy lately with instruction. I had 7 sessions in 2 weeks. While that may not seem like a huge amount, it is when considering it's all the sessions I had lined up (last one is today). They just all came at once, and with it being a new job and needing to prove to a new set of professors that I can help their students, it's been a little stressful. Additionally, I am now responsible for business-related instruction, which is pretty new to me, so I have had to do a lot of research for a few of the sessions.

But I do love teaching. And I love working one on one with the students. I actually visited one class twice. The first time was for a standard instruction session, the second time was just to answer questions while the students were searching the databases. I think it's great that this professor wants his students to become so familiar with the databases that he schedules several days of class time to do it. The class is a research class, actually, so it makes sense.

I also really liked that he made sure to emphasize both times that one of the major reasons I came to the class was so everyone would get to know me and could feel comfortable coming to me with questions in the future. To me, that's a very important component, so it's great when profs think so too.

While I have probably written about it before, I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to give students time to do some searching on their own during the session. They need time to apply what they learn and also to assimilate new information into their already existing knowledge base. In most cases, I prefer to have them search first so I can see what they already know and what techniques will be most useful to point out. However, with a recent class, I went over everything first because there were two specific limiters that gave them exactly the type of articles they needed. It seemed silly to make them struggle on their own before showing them the two things they really needed to know.