Summer in the Library

As an academic librarian your work life revolves around your institution’s academic calendar. This means that breaks between semesters are perfect for working on long term projects and professional development. Starting a new academic library job at the beginning of summer semester is great because it lets you ease in slowly to the new environment. There are less students on campus, less classes being held, and therefore there’s more time to work on things. I have tried to make the most of my time, and I’m anxious for Fall semester to start in a week and a half. My main goal this summer has been to learn about my institution and my library. I gave my second orientation for new students yesterday and felt much more confident about what I presented than I did the first time.

I’ve done a lot of prep work for my outreach efforts that will kick into high gear in the Fall. I’ve created a handout and Prezi for orientations and general library sessions. I’m almost done writing a newsletter to send out to students in the first or second week of classes. I created an email/handout to introduce myself to the faculty members on my campus. I was given a set of promotional flash drives to hand out to faculty and I’ve loaded them with content and have them ready to distribute. I’ve met four of the faculty members and have already scheduled two library intro sessions and a research instruction session. I’ve been working with one of my other regional librarians to take on teaching two sections of an online nursing research course, and to revise the library portion of the course for the Spring. I created an evaluation for faculty to complete after I teach a class for them. I’m happy to have gotten so much done and to have also had time for professional development that I didn’t have time for in my last job.

In my previous job I used to make a priority list of what I needed to do and the steps I needed to take to complete a task/project. It worked fine but I’d find myself having to print a new version weekly or monthly depending on how many notes I made on the sheet. Shortly after starting here I found a website called Workflowy that lets you make text based lists. It has a clean interface, good keyboard controls, uses hashtags for organization and lets you share lists with groups. I’ve been using it for my priority list and have found it very helpful. I like that you can hide things you’ve completed but then view them again if needed.

I’m also exploring the use of mind maps to help me plan for future tasks and projects. I watched a recorded webinar about them from the Florida Library Webinars series this week. The webinar was a bit repetitive but the speaker did walk participants through two mind mapping exercises that were helpful in grasping the concept and value of mind mapping as a tool. I wish I had a whiteboard in my office to make maps because fitting them on a sheet of paper is limiting, but I don’t have that luxury. I have downloaded a couple free programs to test out. I think my first map will be used to help me plan for the research instruction session I’ll be teaching in September. The class is Research Methods in Psychology and the instructor shared her syllabus with me last week. They have some really great projects and I’m really excited to work with an upper level Psychology class. I’ll be visiting their class in August for a short info session which will free up time in class to do hands on work. I’m sure I’ll be posting more about the class when it gets closer.

The other big project I’m working on (struggling with) is writing my first article. It’s not necessarily required for me to get promoted to the next rank since I have a solid presentation and service background, but it is something I’d like to do and that will help build a foundation for my career. As I mentioned in my last post, there’s a lot of pressure on young librarians to be rockstars and build this immediate presence, I have to remind myself that what I’ve accomplished in my first 23 months as a librarian is valuable and worthy of celebration. I am still searching for a topic. I thought about writing about how to make the most of your first library job but the words don’t seem to be flowing like I thought they might. I have some good case studies from my last job but I feel weird using that as a topic since I’m no longer there. I have some ideas kicking around in my brain for future research but I’m waiting to see where my first “real” semester here takes me before I commit to anything. Advice on getting published and identifying topics is greatly appreciated!


Life and Instruction

Next week will be my first week back to normal after several hectic weeks starting with ALA. I took of Friday of last week and Monday of this week to spend time with my parents in New York. I try not to be negative or too personal here, but I think sharing is helpful for me to move forward. The main reason I went to see them is because the day after we moved to Florida, my Dad had a major stroke. This was the first time I’ve been able to see him since that happened, and it was difficult. The day before I arrived he moved from an intensive rehabilitation facility to a nursing home. His speech has improved but is still affected. He can’t swallow and has a feeding tube in place. He has very limited movement on his right side and is essentially wheelchair bound at this point. He will still be getting several hours of therapy a day at the nursing home, but we have a long way to go. I am trying to use this uphill battle as a way to keep the rest of my life in perspective.

When things start to feel stressful or make me impatient, I remind myself that I am lucky to be in good health, have a job I enjoy that improves people’s lives, and have a supportive network of friends, family and colleagues. I also look forward to coming to work each day and having time where I am too busy or focused to think about what’s going on with my Dad. This bloated introduction is basically my way of saying that I don’t have much to blog about today, but I have been kicking around some ideas about instruction that I am looking forward to implementing in the Fall. I can’t really plan sessions yet because I don’t have any standing instruction requests here. I am the first UCF Librarian full time at this position and a majority of my faculty are new or adjunct, so I am going to cross my fingers that I can introduce myself in a way that helps faculty see the value of library instruction for their courses.

In no particular order, here’s a list of ideas I’ve been mulling over, articles I’ve read, and websites that I’ve bookmarked relating to instruction since I started at UCF.

For Business classes – Have students work on a company profile: pick a company they currently/want to work for, find their annual report, find news/articles, and then compare the information between the two – works for individuals, pairs or groups

Send out a survey before the class meets to assess what is troubling students about their assignment/project/paper – This will allow me to better tailor my instruction & to generate a word cloud to present at the beginning of class. Speaking of word clouds, I found a neat little app yesterday called Textal  that generates word clouds from URLs, Twitter and documents.

In class activity – Find a popular article with uncited references to research studies and show students how to find them using combination of web and UCF sources. If the instructor is willing they can do an assignment evaluating the actual research vs. how it’s presented in popular media.

One of my new co-workers does this icebreaker activity at the beginning of class – Put questions/statements on whiteboards (ex. “I’ve had library instruction before”) before class; when class comes in give each person sticky notes to place underneath statements they agree with. This is an in person version of my survey idea. I like it because it anonymizes the process (better than raised hands) and is low tech.

Assessment – Faculty evaluation of sessions is something we didn’t do in my previous institution, but is something I think I’d like to implement here. It’s a little scary to put myself out there, but I know that I can’t improve if I don’t get feedback. It’s nice starting with a fresh slate because I can do things without hearing “That’s not how we usually do it.”

Team Based Learning – Many of the exercises I currently use, and some of my ideas fit the concept of Team Based Learning (adapted for a one shot). A great resource on the fundamentals of this practice is the website for a presentation on the topic given at LOEX in May titled Fine Tuning The Group Activity Using The 4S Structure.

Interactive Learning – One of my goals is to always include some type of interactive activity in my instruction sessions. Some topics in particular lend themselves well to this, and give students the chance to create while they learn. Char Booth wrote a blog post in February about what she calls collaborative sabotage, and I want to use some of this process in a workshop I’m planning for the Spring on presentation skills. A colleague I met recently as part of an informal distance librarian chat group I was invited to join sent a great article to our group yesterday on incorporating interactivity in the online classroom. The article is titled “Innovation in the Academy: Creating an Online Information Literacy Course”. Here’s the citation: Clapp, M. J., Johnson, M., Schwieder, D., & Craig, C. L. (2013). Innovation in the Academy: Creating an Online Information Literacy Course. Journal of Library & Information Services in Distance Learning, 7(3), 247-263. doi: 10.1080/1533290X.2013.805663


Navigating the World of Scholarly Communication

One of the biggest changes that resulted from my new position is the move from a 2 year institution to an institution that offers graduate degrees. I have the chance to work with students with a huge range of information needs and to work with faculty who may be deeply involved in their own research and writing endeavors. It’s slow this summer and I’ve only met one faculty member, who I believe is currently an adjunct and therefore not working on tenure, but I may have faculty members working on their own tenure in the future. I knew that one area I needed to learn more about when I came here was scholarly communication.

I was lucky at Cleveland to work with a few amazing professors who were working on their own research, and one in particular who was very concerned with getting his students to learn how scholars communicate through their work and through other avenues. This helped prime me for the work I’m getting a chance to do here. My first week at UCF I had the (amazing) opportunity to meet with many of my new colleagues in their spaces. I kept noticing this giant, full color poster scattered around various offices. UCF has a Scholarly Communication Department, and one of their most visible projects is the (ongoing) development of the Research Lifecycle at UCF. The Research Lifecycle is “a unified model of campus-wide support and services available to UCF researchers.” I love it because it includes the library at multiple points throughout the process, and helps people new to the process to become familiar with both the steps one takes and the support available when working on research. Two of our librarians are presenting a poster session on it at ALA on Sunday afternoon called “Connecting the Dots: Defining Scholarly Services in a Research Lifecycle Model” if you’re attending!
Shortly after I started, I got an email announcing a Scholarly Communication training being held at UCF and I quickly RSVP’d to the two day session. The training was facilitated by Stephanie Davis-Kahl from Illinois Wesleyan University  . The slides she used throughout her presentation are part of the “Scholarly Communications Roadshow” developed by ACRL. The presentation was lecture heavy in the beginning, but completely packed full of helpful resources and examples. UCF invited the librarians from nearby Rollins College to attend, and it was interesting to hear their perspective since they are so vastly different from UCF (small, private, etc.). Later in the first day and the second day had more opportunities for small group and large group discussions on various topics. Personally I thought it was extremely helpful and useful for me to sort out what I knew and figure out where I need to improve my knowledge.
I was aware of the need for scholars to prove the value of the medium where they publish, but unfamiliar with the resources used to determine this value. The discussions on altmetrics being developed to argue the value of a scholarly work was fascinating. I think that this is an area where librarians can help our faculty and graduate students, but also help facilitate conversations on the changing research landscape. I read a post by Lauren Pressley yesterday on blogging vs. peer reviewed publishing that really drives this point home.
Another big takeaway was something academic librarians can always be reminded of: always approach faculty with how things benefit them. That’s easy to do with discussions on peer review, journal vetting, and altmetrics. Another way we can do that is by helping them understand their copyright rights as authors. The training included a wonderful exercise where we read contracts from different journals and discussed how restrictive/open they were and how we could use that information to talk with faculty. Getting faculty comfortable with open educational resources is another avenue for communication. We can help them to discover and use these varied resources (textbooks, articles, websites like MIT’s Visualizing Cultures, etc.) to enhance the work they are doing with students and in their own scholarly endeavors. I’m extremely grateful to be working for an organization that provides opportunities for professional development and I’m looking forward to using my new knowledge in this area in the future.

The Next Chapter

It’s been five weeks since I started my new position as a Regional Campus Librarian for the University of Central Florida. I can’t believe how quickly the time has passed. I certainly intended to update my blog sooner than this, but the first few weeks of a job are intense, especially this one! I wrote a post before I left my last job that outlines what this one is. My position is unique in that I’m employed by the UCF library but work on the campus of Valencia College Osceola campus in Kissimmee. UCF has partnered with several state colleges in the Orlando vicinity to form a network of Regional Campuses that hold UCF classes. I am the first full time UCF Librarian at this campus, and will work to support the UCF students, faculty and staff located here in Osceola.

I also work at the reference desk which primarily serves Valencia students. The ratio of Valencia to UCF students in the Fall will be something like 30 to 1, so I have to know what their priorities are as well because I will be working with Valencia students on a daily basis. In terms of starting my new job, this means learning two separate systems. It’s been a lot of information to absorb but the UCF and Valencia librarians have all been amazing and supportive of my learning curve. I spent my first full week on the main UCF campus in Orlando meeting with various people and departments. My supervisor had lists of people to meet, information to learn, and tasks to complete. I am so thankful that she had these in place. It made the training process less scary and more manageable. I’m still working on checking a few key people off my list of meetings, but I’ve completed almost everything else I needed to.

I haven’t yet worked a full week on the Osceola campus, I keep going to the main Orlando campus or some of our other locations for meetings and trainings. Yesterday I got to visit the College of Medicine with other regional librarians and librarians from the main campus. We got a two hour tour of the school and the library and it was incredible! I feel so blessed to be a part of an institution that is focused on being innovative and forming partnerships within the local community to foster student success.

One of the most interesting things for me in this transition is to see how much of what I was doing at Cleveland transfers to my role here. I observed one of the Valencia librarians’ instruction sessions a few weeks ago and I could have easily taught the class myself. The only real difference is that students have different resources and a different way to access them. I have tried to spend time orienting myself to the resources that are new to me (or ones I haven’t had access to since graduate school).

My big focus at first is going to be outreach to the faculty and students on this campus. Last week I finally felt comfortable enough to introduce myself to a faculty member who teaches Public Administration. Within 5 minutes of talking with him he asked me to come to his class that afternoon to teach a short session on APA format. I was thrilled to be able to get into a class that quickly and took advantage of the opportunity. I had a few hours to prepare so I created a quick presentation based off the Plagiarism & Citations workshops I used to do at Cleveland. I had a great time working with the upper level students, something I didn’t get to experience at Cleveland. They were very engaged and asked at least 10 good questions. After the session I connected with the faculty member on LinkedIn and he actually endorsed me for Public Speaking, so I think I must have done something right! That faculty member has already been in the library and will hopefully be an advocate for the library with other faculty members in the Fall.

Last week I also had the opportunity to attend a day and a half long training on Scholarly Communications on the main campus. I hope to write a recap of the whole session for my next post. I am excited to get involved in some new areas of librarianship that weren’t relevant/feasible in my role as a community college librarian. So far this job has been perfect because I still get to do a little bit of everything, but now I get to work with upper level students and with faculty who are actively working on tenure and publications. Speaking of publications, one of my goals for my first year here is to get an article published. I’m just starting to work on that now.

This week I spent some time working on my ACRL committee duties. I am the co-chair of the ACRL DLS 2014 ALA Conference Program Planning Committee. We have partnered with the same committee in ULS to work on a joint program proposal. We had our first meeting this week using ALA Connect’s chat space. I facilitated the meeting and was extremely pleased with the results. Our groups worked well together and the pieces of the plan seemed to fall into place without much friction. After the meeting I felt that same runner’s high type feeling I get after a good instruction session (which I did experience after my APA session last week). I want to set a goal for myself to become involved in leadership. I enjoy doing it and think I have been successful in that role when I’ve taken it on in my life.

This change has been overwhelming in the usual ways (moving to a new state, new job, etc.) but has also been invigorating. I feel like I have access to a whole new set of opportunities and challenges, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the next year brings. I know that this year will bring me to my first ALA conference at the end of the month and I am totally freaked out and excited about that! I can’t wait to see old friends, meet up with people I only know virtually, and make new connections that will last throughout my career.

Flexing My Library Muscles

This week started with the North Carolina Community College Learning Resources Association annual conference in Wilmington, NC. I went to school in Wilmington so it was nice to be in a familiar place. I also enjoy this particular conference because it’s only for NC community college librarians so every session was relevant and I got to catch up with some friends from across the state. The conference started with a short welcome by the president of the host college followed by a keynote from Cal Shepard (State Librarian at the State Library of North Carolina). Both of them mentioned my presentation by name during their talks! It was pretty funny, all the people in the room that knew me and my title were giving me looks.

Speaking of people I knew, not only did I get to see my library friends, but I also had family at the conference. My Aunt Barbara is a part time librarian at Cape Fear CC and was able to attend the conference. It was neat to have a family member there, certainly a unique experience! My presentation was in the first slot after the keynote, and I was a bit frustrated with the conference planners. I left a minute or two early to make sure I could set up and got to my assigned room to find it locked. Thankfully my aunt was able to track down a maintenance person to open the room. Obviously, the computer wasn’t running and by the time I had my slides downloaded it was already time to start. There were no instructions on  how to use the projector and I was worried about timing so I started without them projected and turned my monitor out to the room.

I had great attendance. I didn’t count but I know I made 30 handouts which I ran out of, and I had about 10 people standing at the back of the room. I actually had a nightmare two nights before the conference that I couldn’t get my slides to work and I told that story as an ice breaker and to give myself time to recover. One of the librarians from Cape Fear was able to get my slides projected by the 3rd or 4th slide and I think I handled it as well as I could have. Once I got past the beginning hiccups I was pleased with the rest of the presentation, but feel as though I could have done better if I hadn’t started that way.

My presentation was titled “Flexing Your Library Muscles”. In hindsight I would have added a subtitle like “Outreach across the campus” or something similar. The description I wrote was “This presentation identifies how to use your strengths, be flexible, and stretch yourself as a librarian in a community college library. These skills will be paired with concrete examples of how each skill has been used by librarians at Cleveland Community College to enhance the services provided to our patrons. Participants will leave this presentation with strategies for improving outreach to students and faculty, enhancing in person and online library instruction, and partnering with other campus departments.” You can find my slides here  and the conference website has my handout document.

I left time at the end for people to pair & share using their handout to discuss ideas for things they could do in their own library or that they already do. The room burst into chaos so I thought that was a good sign. Several people shared their experiences and asked questions. My co-worker that attended told me it’s one of the most useful presentations she’s ever been to at a library conference (and that includes multiple ALA and ACRL conferences). That was really nice to hear. I also got a shoutout on Twitter from someone I didn’t know personally that said “great presentation”, so I feel good about the whole thing. I’m keeping an eye out for calls for proposals at upcoming conferences. I really enjoy presenting.

The rest of the conference was good. I had several great conversations about library and non-library things with new and old friends. I picked up some ideas for eBooks. Unfortunately, I started the day with a sore throat and ended it with a worse sore throat, canceled plans with friends for that night, and the inability to attend the second half day of the conference. I’m still feeling rough today. I had to come in yesterday as I had two Psychology classes scheduled in the morning that no one else could have taught. The classes went well. Both of them ended before their class session and every single student in both classes stayed after being dismissed to look for resources or ask questions. I’ve been using the Habits Pro app to record one positive moment from each work day, and that was definitely it yesterday!

As a final note, I’m a huge blog fan and I love Google Reader. Check out this article by John Paul Titlow for a great perspective on the loss of Google Reader.

Checking In

I last posted 2 weeks ago, and my commitment to this blog is nagging at me to post something. I took this short hiatus (followed by this short post) due to a combination of factors in my personal and professional life. I had a random stomach illness last week that caused my Thursday night blogging time to be overbooked with rescheduled things and wading through two days of emails and responsibilities that I’d missed. I hate missing a day, and two is even worse! We had our second Library Out Loud session for faculty and our second Library Film Night on Thursday evening. The Library Out Loud session had six attendees, which is better than the four from the last session. I think part of the paltry attendance was the fact that due to my illness it was rescheduled. It’s unfortunate because I presented on our streaming video services and most of the attendees were faculty who I know are already using them!

Our film only had one student attendee but one of our staff members also attended and stayed for the entire film. We screened “Dark Passages” which is an older PBS piece on the West African slave trade. The discussion was led by one of our faculty members in Religion who has a degree in African American History. The staff member who attended talked about how he could trace his lineage back to West African and about growing up in the South in the late 1950s. It was a fantastic experience for the student who attended, and I wish more students could have been there for that. The faculty and staff member both stayed for 15 minutes after the discussion showing the student online resources relating to the film and her interests. I was so impressed with them, and it made me feel good to be a part of an institution where that happened. I’m glad we started this series and hope that we can promote it better through the rest of the semester to increase attendance.

I finished the “What the Best College Teachers Do” and had intended for my next post to be a review, so I will aspire to complete that next week. I’ve moved onto reading “Resonate” by Nancy Duarte. I have some big presentations coming up and read good things about this book. I love it so far. For anyone else working on a big presentation, I highly recommend this Presentations 101 guide from  the Little Red School House & Elisabeth Irwin High School.

Critical thinking

Our library began licensing Credo Reference about this time last year. For those of you unfamiliar with the service, it’s both a web based platform and collection of virtual reference titles. We are considering a move toward a smaller print reference collection, and the use of Credo is a good first step. Now that we’ve had time to get used to it, we’ve been heavily promoting it to faculty and staff. We had a faculty information session on Credo a few weeks ago, and have been demonstrating it in classes throughout the year. We got an email from Credo during the Fall semester about having our students participate in a survey on information literacy and e-resources. We decided to participate in the survey. Students had a chance to win an iPad if they participated, and I think that definitely motivated our students because 196 of them participated!

We got an email a few weeks ago with the raw data results. I took some time to analyze them and shared them first with our library director, and then this week I sent an email to faculty highlighting some key points. The survey questions were interesting and covered usage, knowledge, opinions, and preferences. The main themes that jumped out at me are that students look to the Internet as a first source of information, they don’t understand plagiarism or why citations are important, they have trouble distinguishing authoritative resources, and they like having concrete materials from instructors/the library to use as references.

In the faculty email I ended with a promotion of some of the services we can provide such as instruction, custom research guides, and our upcoming plagiarism & citations workshops. I am very happy to have this data to use as I work through my redesign of our instructional program. In the upper level English classes I’ve been teaching the last few weeks I’ve moved away from showing students how to search our catalog and a selection of other databases and have tried to focus more on theoretical concepts that foster critical thinking about the research process. One of the main themes in the results that jumped out was that students struggle with critical thinking. I think this is generational, and by that I mean everyone who is living currently in this age of easy access to information NOT age ranges. Even though I have extensive training and knowledge about research, there are still times when I rely on the easy answer from a quick Google search.

One of the best moments I had this week was at the end of an English class where a student raised her hand to say something to the effect of “So why would we even use Google when the library resources are so much better for our research?”. I just about died on the spot, it was so perfect! That being said, I don’t think students should shun the Internet. There are fantastic resources that exist online and are accessed only via search engine or direct linking, and I worry that some instructors are finding it easier to ban Internet sources than to teach students how to critically evaluate them. I am happy to do that in library sessions, but I hope that message is being reinforced in the classroom.