Category Archives: instruction

a heartwarming tale of library instruction on a wicked cold night

So in a class that I taught earlier today, some of the students were looking at some of the subject encyclopedias I brought in, talking about photocopying articles, and writing down the call numbers so they could go to the reference collection and use them later!!!!

OK, that’s what warms my heart, isn’t it sad? I do really like it when students use print resources, instead of confining their research only to article databases, especially when they are in the early stages of a project and could really stand to benefit from some background information. I feel like lighting a candle for one of the patron saints of libraries. Or burning incense for Manjushri (I guess because wisdom is associated with him).

I’m now really tired of the snow after standing outside in the cold for around 45 minutes to catch my bus home from work. I tried my “Pain is a thing of the mind. The mind can be controlled.” denial technique. You know, what Spock says when confronted with pain. I really watched too much Star Trek during my formative years. I found it sort of difficult to apply this technique to standing outside in a blizzard though:

The snow in my shoes is a thing of the mind.
My pre-frostbitten fingers are a thing of the mind.
My icy nose is a thing of the mind.
My damp snow coated coat is a thing of the mind.
The pizza delivery car that I am thinking of carjacking so I can use the pizza as warm gooey insulation from the cold is a thing of the mind.

The Spock pain denial technique really didn’t work too well. Perhaps you also have to have Vulcan physiology. Anyway, I’m home now drinking boozed-up cocoa and eating cinnamon toast, which makes everything better.

google scholar and technorati tags

I think I’m going to try mentioning google scholar in my classes this semester. I’m not going to spend a bunch of time on it, unless requested. I plan to take an informal poll to see if students have heard of it already, mention the importance of using the proxied link from our library’s web site if they are using it from off campus, run a sample search and demonstrate the library lookup features. I think for the average undergrad it would honestly be a great starting point, and it would help them find more scholarly sources then they would otherwise find using regular google. My classes haven’t started yet, so we’ll see how it goes over the next few months.

I’m slightly mystified by technorati tags. Specifically, I’m mystified that I seem to have such prominent placement on the library tag page. I’m guessing that it is because I have a category feed for “library,” but I would think that there should be some actual A-list library bloggers on that page. I wonder if the tags play well with wordpress, or if Technorati isn’t displaying posts by blog authority on their tag pages — not that anything I’m saying about libraries isn’t fabulous, I was just expecting some other people to be listed on the page before I would be. They only seem to be tracking 23 blogs with that tag, which seems very low. That might be the explanation right there.

MMOG info lit: don’t do it

Alane from OCLC left a comment on my post about the Gaming and Information Literacy program at ALA asking me to elaborate on why I think an info lit MMOG game isn’t such a good idea. A little bit of disclosure about my own background – I’ve been teaching library workshops and instruction sessions for around 5 years (counting graduate school). I’ve never taught a semester-long information literacy class. My only experience with MMOGs was briefly beta testing There. Here we go:

1) I don’t think a library or even a group of libraries would be able to put together enough money to hire someone to develop a MMOG that would end up being a really good, cutting edge game.

2) If part of the strength of MMOG is giving people a platform to develop a community, why would students want to gather around the idea of information literacy? And if you require students to play the MMOG or if it is closely aligned with an institution like the university or a library, how will they find it compelling enough to stay and explore? I think that the third places that students are naturally attracted to online are going to be sites that are more social than educational like ratemyprofessor (which has a find articles/research paper help section, isn’t that interesting) or thefacebook and not officially sponsored by or affiliated by a university.

3) What would it look like? I think the idea of a virtual library where you’d have student avatars walking around talking to librarian avatars is kinda lame, and not very effective since so much research now is not dependent on being in a physical library. I honestly can’t envision what the content of an info lit MMOG would be. I also think that students don’t want to linger over research. They want to find what they need quickly, so we should be developing tools that would make research more efficient. I’m not sure if the open, unstructured interactions of an MMOG are the best vehicle to help students find information quickly or pick up skills at the time of need.

4) Are the community building aspects of an MMOG needed when students are already living in a university community? Why would you go into a game environment to interact with other students when you can either instant message them, or meet over microwave popcorn in your dorm lounge?

5) I think it would be more interesting to focus on providing students with better tools to research and write papers. As it is now, a student might need to search the web, the library catalog, and a couple article databases to find materials. They might have the option of using a citation management tool like RefWorks to keep track of their citations. They are scattered all over the place with different interfaces for finding information and different tools for organizing information, and then they use another software program to write about the information that they’ve found. It would be better to devote some resources to bringing all of these activities closer together, making all the tools students use work together in a seamless, more usable fashion.

Good grief, I think I just made a good case for trying to turn myself into a software developer! The horror!!!!!!

@%&! Library Instruction!

It never fails, around two weeks before my last class is scheduled I start feeling totally burnt-out. This happens every year. I’m feeling insanely cranky about teaching right now. Sometimes the subject matter just gets so repetitive, it is a little difficult for me to maintain my enthusiasm even though usually all the students and professors I work with are great. I can fake enthusiasm though! This is where my adventures in acting when I was in high school come in handy — someday I’ll write about the lame musical where I had to sing a solo and dance on top of a table, the time I had to ace bandage my breasts to play a foppish male swordsman, or the time I had to flail around on stage as the wife of a sheep stealer in a mystery play. Oh, wait, I just wrote about that, never mind 😉

Someday when I form a punk librarian band, I’ll pen a protest song about library instruction. I will of course play the cello, because there is no instrument more punk than the cello. Here’s the start of my song:

Library Instruction!
Die Die Die!
Database searching!
Cry Cry Cry!
Boolean Operators!
Blah Blah Blah!
Lexis Nexis

Chorus: Yoko Ono style wailing.

I think that might work, don’t you?

I think I have Thursday off this week. I’m gonna go see the Incredibles. Only 17 more classes left for this semester, and then I’m done!

no more classes!

Its kind of funny that earlier this semester I was slightly anxious about my statistics going down a little bit in terms of the number of classes coming in for the departments that I coordinate. I was just checking my work e-mail (it is probably very sad that I’m checking my work e-mail right before I’m going to bed) and I have three more requests to schedule library instruction that came in after I left this evening. All for the same week of November! When a ton of other classes are already coming. No more I say! No more library instruction classes!

Library instruction, I say thee Nay!!!!

2 for 1

I thought I was teaching one class this evening, but I looked at my schedule and discovered that I was teaching 2 classes. Yikes! Fortunately, I’m in full teaching mode nowadays so suddenly teaching an extra class wasn’t too bad. I was a little punchy by the end of the night. Somedays I’d like to have a couple robot duplicates of myself, like Superman. That way, one of my robots could teach a class while I’m at home watching dvds.

how strange

I’m sitting around after work watching a baseball game. I don’t think I’ve done this before. There must be something in the water.

I taught a class this evening (a very laid-back one, because instead of a professor, this was a class where seniors teach freshmen as part of an advising program), and when they came to the library, they asked if I could teach them to use the library very quickly, because they actually wanted to go watch the game. And I was totally OK with that, I didn’t mind going home a half-hour earlier. So I covered how to search a couple databases, how to use boolean operators and truncation, discussed the wonderful world of reference books, showed various features of the library web site, and explained the difference between using a search engine like google and using library resources in around 25 minutes. Go me!

There is a barbershop in my neighborhood offering free head shaves for Sox fans. The bus driver was yelling out a running commentary on the game on my way home. As I got off the bus, he started speaking to me in baseball language. I have to admit I didn’t understand what he was saying, it was like “Blah blah blah pitching. Blah blah blah Ortiz. Blah blah blah relief pitcher!” And I replied “Really?! You don’t say!”

Wow, how about that Johnny Damon?!!!!


Every semester it always takes me a little while to get adjusted to all the public speaking I do once the classes I work with start coming to the library. Today I spoke at a meeting and taught 2 classes in a row this evening, and I am totally drained. I gave out my aim info in one of the classes and a few people giggled, I don’t know if I selected a funny screenname or if they just found the idea of instant messaging a librarian weird. I think it will be an interesting experiment to see if anyone actually instant messages me with library questions. 🙂

I was able to get a little bit of preparation done for a workshop on RSS I’m teaching later this week. It also looks like my department is going to investigate setting up a blog for internal communication, so that’s very cool.

I subscribed to NEWLIB-L several weeks ago, and I’m just finding that listserv a little odd. I’m not sure if its because I’m not “new” enough as a librarian or if I just have a hard time relating to the topics discussed.


Since it is summer, I’m planning my classes in the fall and I’ve decided to set up a library/work AIM screenname and give it out in my classes along with my e-mail address. Why didn’t I think of doing this before, like 2-3 years ago?
I don’t tend to get a ton of e-mail questions after I teach a library class. I’d like to think it is because I’m such a wonderful teacher everyone has absorbed all they will ever need to know about research in 45 minutes. Maybe I’ll get a few more follow-up questions this way, and be able to do “point of need” library help via AIM. We shall see…..