Friday, May 27, 2011

Webinar Participation: The Fine Art of Weeding

I’ve developed a love of weeding in libraries.  Libraries need healthy collections.  Weeding, much like in gardening, helps them accomplish this.  And I’ll admit it’s taken me years to gain an appreciation for this task.  I think working on a mock collection development policy for a hospital library helped raise my awareness.

Keri Cascio presented “Culling Your Collection: The Fine Art of Weeding” through ALCTS.  Cascio is a branch manager for the St. Charles City-County Library District.

She started off with several reasons why librarians should weed collections:

Space – Libraries need shelf space, and even utilizing compact shelving may not solve all the space problems a library has.  Books sitting on shelves also cost money-just sitting there.

Time – Getting rid of unnecessary materials can help streamline shelving processes.  It can also help patrons find the items they need quicker.

Appeal – As much as I like antique books and jewelry, I don’t like “old” or “dirty” books and jewelry.  You know the difference.  One has value and enriches a collection.  It has history.  The other is a piece of junk, sometimes an unsanitary piece of junk.  If you have a bunch of junk in your collection, patrons are going to lose interest.

Reputation – Are you up to date?  Can your patrons find relevant and reliable information?  Or do you still have books listing Pluto as a planet on your shelves?  Textbooks outdated?  Medical and technical texts more than a few years old?  I’ve walked into libraries with out of date testing manuals, out of date technical certification manuals, and out of date medical books.  And I’ve walked right back out.  There is no excuse for that.

Collection Needs – Weeding can help you see what’s missing in your collection, what you have too much of, and what you need to repair/replace.

Collection Strengths and Weaknesses – Weeding places librarians into the thick of the collection.  They gain a familiarity with items they may have never seen.  Librarians also come away from the weeding process knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the collection and possibly how to work with those variables.

Cascio also discussed the Texas State Libraries and Archives Commission CREW method.  CREW stands for Continuous Review, Evaluation, and Weeding.  Check out the link for more info.

Weeding seems, at least to me, to be based on common sense.  Don’t keep irrelevant and outdated titles.  Keep your collection up to date and appropriate for your patron base.  I know it’s difficult to let go, but it’s necessary to maintain a relevant collection.  And, keep in mind that if you can get a title elsewhere (ILL anyone?) why bother keeping it on your shelves, especially if it hasn’t been checked out for years?

Cascio did mention some very important points concerning weeding.  It takes time.  Sometimes, it takes lots and lots of time.  You have to plan.  And starting small is better than not starting at all, especially if your librarians are new to weeding.  Also, make sure your library has policies regarding weeding (on purchases, gifts, etc.).  It saves libraries trouble in the long run.

The webinar closed with some sample policies from various libraries and some options for disposal (sales, recycling, donations, etc.).  All in all it was a good presentation and reinforced my admiration for weeding and the librarians capable of getting this important job done.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Early B-day Present

I got a Kindle!!! My hubby just gave me my b-day present early. Bloody hell! I got a Kindle!!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's the End of the World as We Know It! Or Not.

I had a wonderful day yesterday.  My neighbors, their kids, and I dug up a garden bed for a small community garden.  I've got blisters and bug bites.  :)

We decided pizza and beer would be a great idea last night.  We all wanted to celebrate the world not ending in addition to the garden.  I didn't come inside until about four this morning, so I'm tired and sore.  But I feel accomplished about the garden.  And snarky about the world not ending.  I guess all those rapture morons will have to wait for the sun to go flooy just like everyone else.

Friday, May 20, 2011

I Can Haz Job?

I have an interview in about an hour.  Nervous but wearing a fabulous dress.  :) 

I've actually snagged the possibility of a couple more interviews in the coming weeks at more libraries.  I'm excited!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Summary: Video Games and Stealth Assessment-Sneaky Teachers

I just read the neatest little article.  Anyone reading bits of my blog knows I’m a critical thinking geek.  I also happen to love adventure video games.  They’re really great at developing critical thinking skills.  I’m even thinking of ways to incorporate some of my favorites from BigFish Games into information literacy courses as a way to encourage critical thinking skills in fun ways.  However, I never thought of the sneaky uses detailed in this article.

Article: Kaya, Travis. (2010). “A ‘Stealth Assessment’ Turns to Video Games to Measure Thinking Skills.” Chronicle of Higher Education, 57(12).  A13. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Kaya gets Valerie Shute (here’s her webpage), an associate professor of educational psychology at Florida State University, to discuss stealth assessment.  In order to test students’ thinking skills, among other things, without inducing test anxiety, Shute has utilized video games.  Students already grow up playing games.  They’re enjoyable and can reduce anxiety rather than causing it.  It also helps that video games can be used in the classroom without the students realizing they’re being tested.  It conveys more realistic results to professors. 

Shute sees stealth assessment as a way of modernizing teaching for groups of all ages.  Video games can draw students by increasing the desire of a student to participate.  It increases the relevance of some course projects by modernizing the instruction and gaining the students interest.

A couple of games in the article interested me right away. 

Shute designed a computer game (Smithtown) for undergraduates several years back.  It helped them learn microeconomics.  Think about that.  A game for learning microeconomics.  How cool is that?  Students had to alter economic factors and look at the results.  It ended up teaching important lessons about scientific inquiry.  If the students altered too many variables, they wouldn’t be able to determine the cause and effect relationship of their experiments.  Students learned to be patient, work with smaller numbers of variables, and dig out the actual cause/effect relationships. 

The second game is another game promoted for in-class use by Shute.  It was created by the University of Indiana’s Center for Research on Learning and Technology.  Taiga Park deals with ecology.  Students have to investigate the cause of a large scale fish die-off.  They get to interview witnesses and business owners and learn about basic scientific principles involved in ecological research.  It just sounds neat!

I think I may have to give Shute a hug if I ever meet her.  This is awesome stuff.  I love the twenty-first century.  I swear when I finally get hold of a librarian position, I’m going to be pushing video games for the info lit courses.  I cannot think a better way to engage college age students and still get them learning.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My thoughts on Wikipedia

I’ve been asked what I think about Wikipedia.  So, I thought I’d post a few comments.

Many moons ago I told my composition students to avoid wikis at all costs.  Wikipedia was the devil and to be shunned like a red-headed step-child.  I hated it.  It was always the first thing students looked at, and many of them never wanted to move beyond it.  So, I banned Wikipedia. 

Then, as I started doing more and more online research for fun (geek, remember), I found that Wikipedia wasn’t so bad as a preliminary resource.  Sometimes I’ll need a quick explanation about a time period, character, book, band, etc.  Wikipedia is pretty reliable as far as that goes.  I even post links to Wikipedia articles on this blog.  I like to use other sources, but it is quick and easy to read.  So, it gets utilized regularly. 

HOWEVER, and this is important so pay attention, Wikipedia should never be used as a resource for a bibliography or citation in a research paper.  I repeat, do not quote this as a scholarly source.  Wiki’s, by their very nature, tend to have the occasional inaccuracy.  They can often be edited by non-experts.  When conducting important research, especially for educational purposes and citations, look for scholarly and reputable sources.  Don’t use Wikipedia in those cases.

I suppose that’s all I can really say on the subject.  I don’t have any kind of bone to pick with Wikipedia.  I now think wikis are important aspects of the online world, and they can be useful for preliminary research, study sessions, or just fun facts.  But I don’t depend on them.  And I try to find other sources from more scholarly authors when I can.

Database Reviews!!!

I think I’m gonna start reviewing bibliographic databases on this blog.  It gives me a way to review over the many databases I’ve used in the past and discover new databases for future use.  Any librarian worth her salt needs to be familiar with a variety of databases.  This little task should keep me up to date while I wait for gainful employment.  J

I’m not setting a day every week.  I’m just going to post as I dig through some databases.  My goal is to post once a week on this, but I make no promises.  I’m going to try to vary the subject focus, so I won’t just be posting general or humanities or biology databases. 

This may also be useful for some of my readers not in the realm of library science.  Students at all levels should be familiar with at least a few databases.  Knowing where to look online is important for research efficiency, especially given that a great deal of research is done online nowadays.  You may also learn something you don’t know about the library world.  It could be fun.

This week I’m just going to give some general information regarding bibliographic databases.

Most of the time bibliographic databases are just called databases.  The basic format is just what it sounds like:  A bibliography of articles or other resources located online.  I associate databases with universities and colleges, but your public library is bound to have access to a few (here’s an example from the New York Public Library).  A database is searchable and gives researchers a chance to find citations and interesting information resources.  These databases can also list where the item is located (for instance, if your university owns the item).  Many databases have access to full-text articles.  This wasn’t the case several years back, but given how popular they are, full-text databases are becoming the norm. 

This is awesome for patrons.  As long as you have your institution’s codes, you can access research anywhere you have internet access.  This also makes it easier to access information 24/7.  Having gone through two graduate schools, I can say this kind of access becomes vital to a student’s life.  My last graduate degree was online.  Accessing my university’s libraries would have required a five hour drive.  The ability to access articles and citations (useful for local ILL) made the degree possible.  It’s also nice having the ability to research while in your pajamas.

Databases can be general in that they’ll cover a little bit of everything.  Or they can be subject specific.  Subject specific databases can be broad and cover all the hard sciences or the humanities.  They can also be very specific and just cover fields like nursing or psychology.  There are literally hundreds of databases.  No person is expected to know them all.  At least that’s not the impression I got working on my library science degree (oh, there are databases just for library science). 

Databases are often found as aggregators.  This means multiple databases can be searched simultaneously, using a common search interface.  The search screen (with all the fun search boxes) you’re looking at may just cover one database or it may contain several databases (an aggregator).  Aggregators make it easier for a user to search without having to dig through all the database descriptions to find the “right” one.  This can, however, cause problems.  An aggregator is only as good as the least efficient database.  It’s just like in team sports.  The team is just as good as the weakest player.  Searching in some aggregators can be less fruitful than just searching in a lone database if the aggregator contains a database with inefficient search capabilities.  As far as I know, this is getting worked out.  I’ve not encountered too many problems myself. 

That said, whether using lone databases or aggregators, conducting multiple searches is in a researcher’s best interest.  Too many times I’ve seen students walk away from research with the first handful or articles they find, usually complaining later when they have trouble.  I cannot stress this enough:  Utilize multiple databases if you can, conduct multiple searches using a variety of search terms, and don’t be so lazy as to take the first article you find!  Research is hard work.  You cannot expect good results with a five minute database session.

Ok.  I think I’ve covered enough tonight.  I would also like to point out to my readers that having trouble with databases is normal, especially to new researchers.  Searching these badboys can be overwhelming to new users.  You know what’s the best way through this initial awkwardness and fear?  A librarian!  If you have trouble, a librarian can help you figure out what database to use and how to efficiently search said database.  And many academic libraries offer bibliographic instruction sessions focusing on the use of online databases.  Research is a skill that takes education and practice to master.  Take advantage of what libraries and librarians offer you in this regard.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Fallacy: Argumentum ad ignorantiam

So, it’s been a little while since I posted a Friday Fallacy.  I’ve been focusing on the job search.  Then, we had the wonderful week of storms and flooding.  The Kroger down the road flooded. Luckily, the liquor store next to it is on a hill and they sandbagged.  J  Kroger was nice enough to donate the food from the store, so it should have helped some of the displaced. 

So, this week’s fallacy is a fun one.  The argument from ignorance is pretty much what it says.  People will try to argue the validity of something because it hasn’t been disproven.  So, let’s say that I tell you the reason vacuums get that icky odor when they break is because of a microscopic vacuum skunk living inside the vacuum engine.  You argue that’s not the case, but don’t really understand the exact mechanical cause creating the icky odor.  Since you can’t tell me the mechanical details and since you can’t disprove the existence of the microscopic vacuum skunk, I declare victory in the debate.  The microscopic vacuum skunk causes the icky odor and, since you couldn’t give me an immediate alternative or disprove the mvs, I’m convinced you’re wrong.  It’s aggravating, and it’s also an argument from ignorance. 

It’s like when people argue for the existence of an afterlife.  There’s absolutely zero proof of life after death.  There’s also nothing conclusively disproving life after death either.  The appropriate state of mind is to not accept something until there is at least some evidence, but many people believe in a life after death (Heaven, Hell, Summerland, Valhalla, reincarnation, etc.).  These people will sometimes argue that they could be right by using the argument from ignorance.  Because no one has yet to disprove life after death, they argue that they must be correct in assuming reincarnation or heaven, or hell, or whatever. 

Just because we don’t know something for sure, doesn’t mean you can just pull something out of your nether regions and claim it’s factual.  You need verifiable proof.

There is one important note I should mention.  I think the “Logical Fallacies and Art of Debate” website says it best:

Whether or not an argumentum ad ignorantiam is really fallacious depends crucially upon the burden of proof. In an American courtroom, where the burden of proof rests with the prosecution, it would be fallacious for the prosecution to argue, "The defendant has no alibi, therefore he must have committed the crime." But it would be perfectly valid for the defense to argue, "The prosecution has not proven the defendant committed the crime, therefore you should declare him not guilty." Both statements have the form of an argumentum ad ignorantiam; the difference is the burden of proof.

In debate, the proposing team in a debate round is usually (but not always) assumed to have the burden of proof, which means that if the team fails to prove the proposition to the satisfaction of the judge, the opposition wins. In a sense, the opposition team's case is assumed true until proven false.

There are a zillion other example of this fallacy and several varieties of it.  Feel free to post some examples in the comments if you feel so inclined.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

LIS 623 Course Summary: Information in the Humanities

As usual with graduate school, this course had an uber ton of readings.  I’ll be honest.  When I had a sense of déjà vu out of an article, I’d usually skim it.  The course textbook was neat.  The Humanities:  A Selective Guide to Information Sources, by Ron Blazek and Elizabeth Aversal, was primarily one big annotated bibliography.  The fifth edition was published in 2000, so it is a little outdated.

One of our main projects consisted of updating the textbook.  My group worked on the sections covering Philosophy and Religion, Mythology, & Folklore.  It was fun (yes, I’m a geek).  I updated some of the resources already included and added a few more relevant sources.  Since 9-11-2001, the atheist community has grown and gained more visibility.  Since the textbook had absolutely zero resources pertaining to freethinkers, non-religious folks, and/or atheists, I added a handful of sources on those topics.  The professor informed us she wanted to update the text and had been in contact with the publishers.  However, I’ve yet to hear anything back from her regarding the update.

I suppose the most important knowledge, in addition to the tons of humanities resources, I took away from the course involved the information needs of humanities scholars and students.  Since I have a MA in Literature and I’ve worked in a small academic library, I can attest to the general accuracy of the claims.

As a general rule, Humanities scholars:
·       Work independently, as opposed to more team efforts by scientists (look at article by-lines to see this in action)
·       Like to browse
·       Use a variety of subjects and sources as opposed to other fields (personal experience: I’ve written conference papers requiring the use of sources from literature, history, religion, philosophy and the sciences-all in the same paper)
·       Utilize “chaining” (citation tracking, following works cited of relevant articles in order to find more resources)
·       Utilize technology to a lesser degree than other fields (this is changing with the newer generations of humanities students and scholars)

We also worked through numerous sets of reference questions.  Each set contained ten ready reference and five more complicated reference questions.  The professor forbid the use of Google “on pain of death.”  Each set covered a different subject in the Humanities and gave me lots of reference practice in addition to my library assistant duties at WKCTC.