Monthly Archives: January 2014

Well, you could teach citation.

I counted it as a major victory last semester that I wasn’t once asked to teach citation. In my experience requests for teaching citation come in conjunction with other instructional goals, and usually in classes with required library instruction. “If I am required to have library instruction, I guess you could teach citation” seems to be the subtext of these requests. I loftily assigned subjective meaning to this lack of requests: No one asked me to teach citation because having seen what I do in class, they now know that I have more to offer than that. Possibly true. Of course, then again, I just got a dedicated request to come and teach MLA and APA (in the same class, no less) without any curriculum imposed required library instruction. So there’s that. Jessica Olin wrote a great post on why she’s still a citation curmudgeon, and I find I fall firmly into that camp.

I’m not exactly sure where the idea that librarians are experts on citation came from. We work with the materials. We may be more helpful than your average academic at determining what the material is, and therefore, what form to use to cite it. But teaching how to properly cite is not the business I want to be in.

For one thing, writing a citation is basically just following a set of directions. Once you’ve determined what type of material it is (a legitimately confusing process at times) all you need to do is fill in the blanks, follow the form. It’s that simple.

Secondly, I am not the one who grades the papers. I should not be making the final determination on whether a bibliography is correct. The professors grade the papers. The professors are the final word on whether or not a bibliography meets requirements, not the librarians. They are the experts in their fields and should be making all judgments on what is professionally appropriate in context.

Thirdly, there are so many free and easy places that can help with citation. We have a dedicated webpage to citation resources on the library website. We have materials on permanent reserve. Our databases cite with the click of a button. There is Easy Bib and Citation Machine, which many of our students come to campus having already used. While it is true that professors may not know about these resources, I think that most citation instruction requests come because the professors themselves don’t want to teach it, not because they feel a librarian is more qualified.

I did not say no to the citation instruction request I received today, but I did make it clear that covering the resources requested would take no more than 10 minutes. I also suggested a few other lesson outlines that might be of use such as how to manage research or how to use research effectively. No go. I truly believe that face time is valuable time with students. This is why I didn’t say no even though I feel my skills are better used elsewhere. I am working to move away from point and click instruction as much as possible and I’m struggling to teach students how to cite follow directions in a way that is not painful for me or for them. You know the kind of lesson I’m talking about. The kind where you stand up in front of the classroom and just show people where to click on a website, talking the whole way. This is just as boring for me as for the students.

I’m in a bind, here. Does anyone have an engaging, active lesson that they use to teach citation?

Market this

You guys, marketing is not something that comes naturally to me. It really doesn’t. We have an OverDrive subscription as part of a consortium purchase that has been very underused because, um, people didn’t know about it, which is probably my fault. It could also be underused for a few other reasons. For instance:

  1. This isn’t a campus of fiction readers.
  2. Kindles, iPads, and other portable reading devices (including smartphones) are fairly rare here.

It’s my job to try and figure out if the service is useful to us, so basically, I need to figure out if people will actually use it if they know about it. That means I need a strategy.

MtgAcademic(L)

I read Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students by Brian Mathews not long after I started working. I found his no-nonsense approach to students to be very refreshing and directly in line with my own experience working with students. I appreciated his tell-it-like-it-is approach to libraries in general, too. No BS here, thank you very much, just solid well-reasoned strategy with fully actionable suggestions.

So when it came time to formulate a marketing strategy, I pulled the book down from my shelf and thumbed through the post-it flags I’d left in there from last time. For this particular project, I found Chapter 8 Promotional Building Blocks to be the most helpful. I already had ideas of where I wanted to spread my message, and this chapter helped me identify a few more. From there it was just a matter of sitting down with a piece of paper and deciding how to roll out the message in an organic way.

Once I got into it and thought about it systematically, it wasn’t nearly as intimidating to design a marketing strategy as I thought it would be. A solid list, a time table, some strategic reminders in Outlook, and the handy marketing and outreach materials from OverDrive and I’m in business.

In other news, I’m thinking about adding a “recommended reading” tab on the blog. I really try to keep a professional book going at all times and spend a bit of time each week chipping away at it. A lot of times, the books aren’t all that great, or a kind of obvious. Usually when I read a great one I blog about it. They are all tagged “recommended reading” but it might be useful to have them all listed somewhere. What do you think?

Toys!

popup-paperwhite-diff

I bought a Kindle Paperwhite with some of my professional development money. I’ve been waffling for 2 years on whether or not to buy an iPad with the PD money, and it’s just never been the right answer for me. I don’t see the need for an iPad in my life, and should I ever need one for a bit I can simply borrow one from the library. My Kindle, however, I do use fairly regularly, and it was starting to show its wear. I’d heard good things about the Paperwhite, so I ordered it and then sold my old Kindle Keyboard on Craigslist for $50 (which, by the way, is more than it is listed for used on Amazon. High five!)

I really like the Paperwhite, especially since I can choose to turn off the backlight. I mostly use it for low-light situations as a built-in book light, but I believe this is not the intention of the designers. I can tell this because the screen clearly instructs the user to use the high setting for bright light and the low setting for low light. I’m pretty sharp. Anyway, I think that’s backwards, but I’m not on the market for the absolute highest contrast possible in bright light. There is a nice range in the backlight, and you can usually find a sweet spot in any lighting situation where the backlight can create a comfortable reading situation.

The interface has changed quite a bit since my Kindle Keyboard, but things seems to work pretty seamlessly. Creating collections is a bit more confusing but I’m willing to chalk that up to user error. One feature that is hugely improved is the footnote feature. The old models had you jumping great distances through the book to the notes section and getting back to where you were before you read the footnote was a pain. The Paperwhite does footnotes like pop-ups. This works so much better, I can’t even tell you. If the whole page has to reload when you close the footnote, well, it’s still much improved over my previous experience.

The one thing that is unexpectedly less than awesome is the touchscreen turn. I used to be continually trying to turn pages backwards in my Kindle Keyboard with the button on the left-hand side, which was simply a duplicate of the page-forward button on the right. I thought I would really like the fact that on the touchscreen Kindles, you touch the right of the page to move forward and the left side to move back. Generally, I do like this functionality better than the Keyboard. It’s the actual touch screen thing that throws me. The device is almost entirely screen, which means there’s not a lot of safe area for you to touch and hold when you’re using it. Unlike an actual book or non-touchscreen Kindles, you can’t just simply rest your hands or fingers on the part of the page you aren’t reading. Do this and you turn a page. Where do I put my fingers? Where do I rest my thumb when I’m not turning a page? I read very fast, so simply moving my hand in and out of page turning position is not an option. I have my text size set to the smallest possible, but I still turn a page 5+ times a minute. Anyone have advice on optimal Kindle reading position?

I just finished Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke through Overdrive. I have had cause to truly appreciate the new footnote functionality, as this book was chock full of them. I love a good footnote. I’d recommend the book – well written, extremely thoroughly thought-out, engaging. My only complaint is the length. At the end you realize how carefully the book is put together and there are few truly extraneous parts, but it took me more than a month to read it. By the end I was very ready to be done. I’m in the market for something fun, fast, and possibly not that great for me. Ideas?

New Year Clean-up

new header

I’ve done a little clean up here around the old blog. The Skillshare class I took before I left for the holidays really got me started thinking about how I’m presenting myself as a professional on the internet, and I wasn’t, really. Presenting myself as a professional, I mean. This little space read much more like an I’ve-just-graduated-oh-God-give-me-a-job website. I’ve got a job, and I’m happy with it, thank you very much. Hence, new menu, updated header, etc. I got rid of the clutter and I have a new, stripped down About page and an updated CV to go with it. It never hurts to have an updated CV on hand, especially since that’s one thing I won’t have to worry about come SME review time. Considering how long it took me to make the changes I wanted to it, I would encourage you to do the same in this between-semesters quiet. The formatting, oh, the formatting.