Monthly Archives: September 2006

It’s a Great Conference When

I’ve been to a few conferences in my professional career (really, far more than I want to recall) but few stick out as engaging and thought provoking as the one I attended earlier this week. All too often conference sessions can just wash over one with brief – but only fleeting – notice. Not true at the ARL Library Assessment Conference: Building Effective, Sustainable, Practical Assessment ( Our fellow bloggers over at have summaries of a number of sessions.

Why do I think it was such a great conference though? Because the notes I found myself taking weren’t summaries of what the speakers were saying but rather an ongoing conversation with myself about how the information helped interpret things in my own organization, prompted ideas for projects, led me to identify new potential partners for projects, etc. This may have been helped along by knowing the conference proceedings will be published eventually (hint, hint for those of you not able to be there – worth watching for!) but somehow things came together in ways they don’t always. I do owe a small disclaimer here that I was on the planning committee but my role was small but, in the end, I think the speakers and attendees created the environment, not the planners.

Oh, and, if I ever see Plenary Speaker Chancellor John Lombardi of University of Massachusetts-Amherst speaking at another conference I’ll be waiting in line for that session. I can’t say I agreed with everything he said but he has me thinking really deeply about core issues – including: what is a research library, is a learning commons more than a high-tech study hall, and does user satisfaction data help us compete for resources?

New ideas. Deep thoughts. Satisfactory outcomes. Plus, a new item on my to-do list: plan to attend the next Library Assessment Conference in Seattle in late summer 2008.

Get To Know Your Moblearners

Just last night one of our circulation desk student workers was showing me her new Sidekick and explaining to me how it works and its various features. I still marvel at the student’s ability to text out a message so quickly with just two thumbs. We should expect to see more of our students with all types of handheld information devices. Digital mobility is a critical part of their lifestyle. They communicate and learn moving from place to place, and enlist an array of devices, primarily laptops and cellphones to facilitate their moblearning ways. At least this is according to new data from the 2006 Alloy College Explorer Study. According to the study students now own a record number of gadgets that “tether them to a sophisticated, wired campus where connectedness extends from the dorm room to the classroom and all points in between.” So in what ways are moblearners navigating their lives?:

  • 50% of students came to college with a laptop
  • Students spend 6.5 hours a week in social network sites
  • Students claim an average of 111 friends and 61% interact with people that are total strangers on the social network sites
  • 85% of students plug into MP3 devices frequently
  • Students spend 20 minutes each day sending and receiving text messages
  • Over 70% of all students use courseware and administrative tools in managing their academic existence
  • I don’t know about you but I am sometimes concerned that academic libraries are, to a significant degree, not ready for moblearners. By that I mean that our resources are far from ready to be used efficiently on the mobile devices that are dominating students’ lives. I know there are a few libraries out there that have experimented with delivering databases to the handheld device, but those seem few and far between. What I would really like to see are more traditional database aggregators developing their products for the small screen so that academic libraries can be a part of the mainstream mobile learning environment. We may also need to do more with texting as a communication channel. I suppose the saving grace of all this change is that there are abundant challenges for academic librarians as we navigate the road to relevancy. Having to adapt to moblearners and much more will keep us from growing complacent.

    A Goodbye And A Hello

    It is time for change within the ACRLog blogging team. It is with some sadness that we bid farewell to Scott Walter. Many of you know Scott, Assistant Dean of Libraries and Visiting Assistant Professor of Teaching & Leadership at the University of Kansas, but few of you would know just how much he contributed to the early development of ACRLog. Scott was instrumental in many of the early decisions about how to structure the blog or what our content focus would be, and he really helped to get ACRLog off the ground. But if he ever tells you the name was his idea, just tell him you also believe Al Gore invented the Internet. Scott delivered some great posts in this space and we appreciated every word, but he was ready to move on to other professional activities. In fact, he’ll be running for ACRL’s top office, ACRL President-Elect/President for 2007. We wish Scott good luck in the election. Thank you Scott!

    One of Scott’s specialty topics as a member of the blog team was teaching and learning issues, as well as information literacy. Although we say goodbye to Scott, it is time now to say hello to a new member of the blog team. We welcome Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe, Head of the Undergraduate Library and Coordinator for Information Literacy Services and Instruction at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I think many of you also know Lisa, one of academic librarianship’s premier experts on information literacy. She has written extensively on the topic, and you may also have known her as the editor of Research Strategies. Lisa once told me that she is a commentor and not a blogger. Well, I’ve read many of her comments and most of them would make darn good blog posts – which is why I asked her to make the move from commentor to blogger. The other members of the ACRLog team and I are glad she did. We are honored to have Lisa join the team, and we look forward to her posts. Welcome Lisa.

    Learning From The New Generation

    Intergenerational learning plays an important role in the development and maturation of academic librarians. In addition to the many senior colleagues I’ve learned from in academic libraries where I have worked, I’ve also been privileged to participate in more formal mentoring programs such as the one for new college library directors. More than a few good ideas and pieces of advice have come from library directors who’ve been there before me. The younger librarian learning from older librarian is the traditional relationship that comes to mind when considering what intergenerational learning means in our profession. But I see a new, less formal type of learning relationship developing in my own work, and I think it’s something members of my generation should be embracing more deeply in academic librarianship.

    Over the past few years I’ve been establishing relationships with some academic librarians who are relatively new to the profession, and who are doing interesting work. Why am I doing this? Well, for one thing it’s stimulating to seek them out and better understand the work these folks are doing, and I’m finding it’s a great way to learn about new things that I sometimes am unable to grasp. For example, if you still have yet to explore a social network or try instant messaging it can really help to have a colleague give you a personal introduction to the technology, as well as how it can be put to effective use in a library environment. Often, but not always, the best colleague for that is someone younger who is more adept at using these tools. But these relationships are two-way streets. I can provide some advice for professional development, provide encouragement to them to write or present on their own, or proofread something that person has already written.

    The most fruitful relationship I’ve developed with a younger colleague is with John Shank. John is a tenure-track librarian and instructional designer at a Penn State University satellite campus library. We’ve been working on collaborative projects, after a chance meeting at a local conference, for close to three years now. It’s resulted in some articles and workshops, but we’ve also explored our mutual interests in integrating instructional design and technology into academic librarianship through an ongoing project we call Blended Librarianship. This is a whole new skill set I wanted to learn about in more detail, and John had more experience than I did in instructional design and technology. Through our work I’ve learned a great deal from him (e.g., understanding what digital learning materials are). This mutually beneficial partnership lead me to be more open to connecting with younger colleagues, and being equally open about learning from them – and not feeling that I, as the senior librarian – needed to be the one to do the teaching.

    More recently I’ve been communicating with Brian Mathews of Georgia Tech. He’s agreed to be a webcast guest speaker in October for the Blended Librarians Online Learning Community, and it’s given me an opportunity to have a few exchanges with him about topics we’ve each been writing about in our blog posts. Brian is adept at using a variety of technologies and electronic devices (he sends a good number of his e-mails from his mobile device which gives me an opportunity to interpret texting, and he’s the only library colleague I have who actually IMs me), and I’m sure if I have questions about them he can provide some insight. I also just recently communicated with Aaron Schmidt who is known for his blog Walking Paper, and is an active conference presenter. We’ll be getting together for an upcoming edition of Soaring to Excellence. Aaron works in the public library sector, but in his work with teens he’s developed expertise in using IM for service provision and he knows quite a bit about using gaming in libraries. His patrons are my next students, so I think there’s a good deal I can learn from Aaron and his peers. I’ve also met some new, younger colleagues through committee work for the ACRL National Conference, and I think they are open to having me question them about some of the new technologies with which they are at ease.

    So I’m all for these informal relationships with younger colleagues. We all have a great deal to learn in this time of rapidly shifting technology change, and the baby boomers are going to be better off if they find their guides to it among the newer generation of library professionals. But making these connections is going to take some effort from the older generation. To promote what I might call “reverse intergenerational learning” we need to have more mixing of the library networks because we tend to exist in two rather different cliques, and that’s not a good thing. One step would be to get more of the younger generation involved in traditional library conferencing, whether it’s just having them attend or inviting their participation on committees. I would urge the baby boomers to be more aggressive about reading the blogs of this new generation to know what they’re saying, and discover the technologies with which they have expertise. Are you even using RSS and news aggregators to track the blogs of our younger colleagues? I’m sure there’s more that can be done to promote intergeneration mixing in academic librarianship, so please share your ideas with your comments.

    If you stay in this profession long enough eventually everyone will be a younger colleague. But don’t wait until then. Start reaching out to discover the interesting work being done by your younger colleagues, and make an effort to learn more about it – with their support.

    Graphic For Explaining How Search Engines Work

    This one is a little off topic for ACRLog but I think it helps to point out the amount of good content out there that can help support what we try to do in the classroom through user education. I do a few instruction sessions where part of the exercise involves helping students to understand how search engines, particularly Google, actually work – and how they determine the ordering of search results. If you want to experiment try asking students to explain their understanding of how it all works. After getting a fair number of complete misunderstandings and some interesting fictional accounts, it’s now time for you to explain how they actually do work. That’s where it can get a little tricky. You don’t want to be overly technical, boring or detail oriented – and you may be trying to fit this into a 50-minute session.

    That’s why I was pleased to discover this graphic as part of this larger series of articles about Google that appeared in the Chicago Tribune yesterday. I think this is the sort of graphic that, while the print would be small on a projected screen, has graphics that are appealing and provide a logical explanation of the path through which web content is indexed and made retrieveable by engines. I think this would allow me to quickly present the inner workings of an engine like Google in a concise and logical manner (admittedly, my past attempts to describe this process have resulted in more than a few perplexed looks from students). As far as getting to it quickly when I need it – since this page probably won’t be available over time, I FURLed it for when I need to retrieve it – although I suppose you could capture it with a tool like Snag-It to create your own graphic.

    It always surprising, in a pleasant way, to discover something like this graphic, but it also makes me wonder how much other good content is constantly flying under our radar. This is particularly applicable to the many graphics and resources librarians are creating on their own for purposes like user education. I can sometimes find these sorts of things in MERLOT or ACRL’s own PRIMO, but not often enough. I guess that bloggers can help by sharing these resources as they are discovered.