Friday, June 11, 2010

Get a Free Education!

Or free teaching materials! EDUCAUSE put out a 7 Things You Should Know About... Open Educational Resources article that was quite interesting. I knew about MIT making some of its lectures available for free, but I didn't know about all of the various options.

Some of the interesting ones include:
  • University of the People - get a free online education
  • MIT CourseWare - includes the course material for over 2,000 MIT courses that faculty at other institutions can use
  • Connexions from Rice University - shared course materials
  • Carnegie Mellon's Open Learning Initiative - free online courses for students as well as materials for instructors
  • iTunes U - From the site: "There are over 600 universities with active iTunes U sites. About half of these institutions — including Stanford, Yale, MIT, Oxford, and UC Berkeley — distribute their content publicly on the iTunes Store."
What a great trend - the opportunity to use other people's course materials, as well as educate yourself for free! As the EDUCAUSE article noted, there is a variance in the quality of material, so be aware that not everything you find on these sites will be great. However, definitely worth a look.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age

The article, Individual Knowledge in the Internet Age (EDUCAUSE Review), is not exactly what you would expect from the co-founder of Wikipedia. He expresses concern that we are underemphasizing the importance of individual knowledge. Instead, we have turned to the internet as such a readily available source of knowledge that students no longer need to memorize facts. In addition, the increasing number of assignments that revolve around students working together to create knowledge is not necessarily a good trend.

He also argues that the internet is not a good replacement for a complex, dense book.

An interesting read. Makes me want to go read War and Peace. Or maybe not... :)

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Two Types of Librarians

There seem to be two types of librarians: (a) those who think the library is a privilege and users must respect that; and (b) those who recognize that libraries wouldn't be around without the users.

In the book Bite-Sized Marketing by Nancy Dowd, Mary Evangeliste, and Jonathan Siberman, the authors lay out "The New-Media Marketing Manifesto." One statement of this manifesto illustrates which type of librarian we should all strive to be:
I will remember that my job is not to convince people that they need libraries but to convince libraries that they need people (p. 17).
Let's all repeat that a few times.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

User Friendly Library Stats

I love this quick 2-page document of public library statistics that OCLC put out: How Libraries Stack Up 2010. My library could definitely benefit from putting out a short, colorful document like this - for administrators, for the Board of Trustees, etc. Even if we only used it to compare ourselves to past statistics or made general comments in relation to number of students on campus.

For example, last year our stats showed that there were nearly 160,000 visitors to the library. If I estimate the campus population at 2000 (it's somewhere around there), that's basically like saying everyone visited the library 80 times.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Reference Librarian is a "Secret Weapon"

What a great article from the Washington Post's "Campus Overload" blog about reference librarians being a student's "secret weapon" when working on a research paper.

I would also add that we are great at lowering stress levels. By the time students come to us, they are often so stressed out about the information they need to find. Many have already tried, and some have even become convinced there's nothing on their topic. However, we're willing and able to help, and we won't stop until we find them something.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Redoing a library website

For many years, my library has been maintaining a number of websites with various degrees of success. IT recently redid the public university website, but before they did so there was an extensive library website available on it. We hardly ever touched it. It was viewed as mostly information for potential students, and there were no live links to databases and other resources. Thus, some of the information available on this site was rather out of date and perhaps even inaccurate.

As a second website, I maintain our subject guides via an external wiki. I update these quite frequently. This is the only site that we have the ability to update at present.

Finally, the main library website is located behind an intranet. This has been a source of frustration for a number of reasons. We are constrained within the restrictive parameters of a content management system. I recognize that most universities use content management systems for their websites, but the one used for our intranet has been particularly difficult in the past. To be fair to IT, I think it isn't quite as restrictive as it seems. However, we currently do not have the ability to make modifications on our own. This then means we have to bug IT every time we add a new database, remove one, need to update a description, etc. This would certainly become a lot of work for IT if we wanted to get much fancier with our design. A final source of frustration with the intranet is that we cannot link anyone directly to a page within it. They will just be bumped out to the main login screen. Once they login, they are taken to the first page as usual, instead of the one you hoped to link them to. This results in a lot of "click on blank, then blank, then blank" ad nauseum.

Thus, we decided it was high time to redo the website in such a way that we will have control over updating the content. We also want to have only one main library website to update instead of two. And, of course, we want a website on the public side of things so that we can link users directly to the information they need. After going through the proper channels and obtaining permission, we were able to start working towards a website that meets all these requirements. The subject guides will continue in their present form.

In order to make a website that will be helpful to everyone, we are doing a variety of testing. Thus far, we have conducted several focus groups (to be discussed further in a future post). We hope to do individual usability testing soon on the prototype of the new site. If usability testing reveals a variety of problems, we'll resort to other techniques, such as card sort.

I hope to continue posting as we move through this process. I am also very hopeful that all this testing will result in a highly user-friendly website for our patrons.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Very Belated Thanks

Way back in December, Sidthegnomenator of Confessions of a Middle-aged Coffee Addict gave me a Kreativ Blogger Award. In typical fashion, I started a response post, and then time got away from me. I would just like to take the time now to thank her for the award. :)

It was really a rather surprising award. First of all, after over 4 and 1/2 years of blogging (wow, has it really been that long?) this is the first award I've been given. Secondly, given my lack of posts, I was extremely surprised to find that someone I don't personally know actually reads my blog (I'm sure I still have a number of friends out there who feel obligated).

I hope to someday soon get back to blogging on a more regular basis, but right now, life is crazy. I'm taking a graduate class, planning a wedding (my own - and I have quickly determined that I will never again plan another event this size), and house hunting, all while working full-time. Work is often fairly busy so I don't get around to blogging there either. But someday I will start blogging again!

But, really, thank you, Sidthegnomenator! And everyone else, check out her blog. :)

Cheating with Technology is Not Cheating?!

Plagiarism is a rampant problem on campuses and has been discussed in depth at mine. I was on a committee that discussed it, and I have taught quite a few instruction sessions on plagiarism.

So I found this article from The Chronicle of Higher Education particularly interesting. Apparently, students don't consider it cheating if they use technological methods, such as a graphing calculator with equations stored on it.

It's also interesting that professors often overlook it. It does make sense that people who cheat will ultimately do poorly on tests, but still. Really? What has happened to higher education?

And lastly, I think a call to standardize punishment for cheating is in order. My campus has an honor code and a system of enforcement. However, it doesn't get at the different types of plagiarism - unintentional, lesser plagiarism, full-blown plagiarism, etc - so professors often handle it in class and don't report it. This also results in inconsistencies across courses and frequent cheaters not getting reprimanded (well, I'd assume that latter happens, but I haven't heard of any situations).

Interesting stuff.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

On Weeding

It seems to me that few people really like to weed. I'm not sure I particularly love it, but there is something very satisfactory about clearing the collection of unwanted and unused items. I don't think academic librarians will ever hear the end of comments about how all the books in the stacks are old, but at least we can do our part to weed out some of them.

Right now, we are rather short on shelf space on the third floor of our library. While another row of shelving might be nice, I suspect we can clear a decent amount of space just by doing a bit of weeding. We are focusing first on duplicates (ever-so-affectionately called "dupes"). For the most part, academic libraries do not need duplicate copies of items, especially if they are rarely, or never, used. We are starting with the particularly tight areas, and will then move on to the rest of the third floor.

Then, we'll weed, starting with the tight areas, and finally we'll shift the whole floor.

The project will take a while, but I think we'll see a nice benefit of all the work. I am nearly finished shifting all of the books on our second floor. I've been at it for maybe 2 years, because I can only shift during breaks - the second floor is our only quiet study floor. It's really nice to see all the shelf-space now available in previously constricted areas. I'm sure our student workers appreciate the ease of shelving. Whether anyone else notices, who knows.

And, of course, all our weeded books go to Better World Books. I love their library discards program and highly recommend it.