Week #11 readings

“Online Webinars” discussed integrating webinars as a method for embedded librarians to instruct more effectively. My experience with webinars entirely lies in professional development; almost every time we got a new system, we had to attend a webinar as training. I know I also get a lot of emails from the ALA about webinars, although I’ve never attended one. I think this article’s take on webinars is interesting because it focuses on webinars as a teaching tool for librarians, and while I knew webinars could be utilized in that way, I’ve never really thought much about it. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve sat through the dreaded one-shot workshop on catalog searching and I’ve always disliked them, which is pretty bad since I worked in a library. But they lacked any engagement, and oftentimes, it was in a room while we sat at our desks; it wasn’t in the computer lab. A webinar would allow for a lot of interactive components, and I like the idea that webinars can be archived and looked at later, and I know often, transcripts are available as well. While we discovered screencasts definitely had their uses, in some situations, webinars are probably going to be a better option. Webinars are (typically) more convenient than having to travel to campus for some students, and would allow them greater access to the librarians. I appreciated the point-of-view that we, as librarians, need to change with the technology because we need to change with patrons’ needs; in this case, students are plugged in all the time, so it only makes sense to plug in with them.

“The Embedded Librarian Online or Face-to-Face” talked about the different embedded librarians at American University. One thing I particularly liked about the article was that it mentioned that librarians cannot expect to sit behind a desk all day and provide reference; that model is changing rapidly. Now, like the article mentioned, the librarian must be out and about, instructing students and faculty on how to use the resources, for example. I think this is important largely because it’s happening in every sort of library, although in a different way. Public librarians no longer sit behind a desk all day either; they’re programming, doing outreach, and many other things. The same is true with school librarians. I think the idea of embedded librarians is an interesting one, and an idea that I admit I haven’t thought a lot about. The difference between the two embedded librarians presented in the article piqued my curiosity; while at first, I thought that embedded librarians with a physical office space was probably the best way to go, at the end of the article, the business librarian brought up an interesting point: while the music department is used to having an embedded librarian, the business school isn’t, and so many of the undergrads are more comfortable emailing. As the librarian, you have to be cognizant of the technology your audience would want. I would be interested to see if the business librarian were to get an office in the school of business, then would the rate of email questions  increase/decrease and would the amount of visitors to his office be enough to justify that office. The idea of an embedded librarian intrigues me, and something I’ll have to read more about. I think I myself would prefer to have that physical space so that I could interact with students/faculty every day (a little 638 school librarian coming out in me there, I think) and I think in departments that are smaller, it would be an invaluable way to get to know students. At the same time, in a part-time MBA program where students attend classes at night, that wouldn’t be very useful, and so there, a more virtual embedded librarian would probably be better.

Chapter 7 of How People Learn showcase effective teaching in math, science, and history. Right away, the chapter grabbed me when it talked about Barb Johnson’s classroom: about how she asked them at the beginning of the year what each student’s questions were about themselves or the world, and then they decided as a class what the class’s collective questions were after working in groups. Then, she would take those questions and map them on to a topic (i.e., if someone asked if they’d live to be 100, they’d study genetics). Now that is effective teaching. But like the chapter points out, that requires a wide range of knowledge. I’ll admit, while the history example was an interesting read, that wasn’t where my curiosity really was, largely because I’ve had stellar history teachers who fit the bill of effective teachers, and so I’m lucky enough to be able to say, “Oh, yeah, I recognize these teachers because I’ve basically had them.” Where my interest was was in the math and science examples, and mostly in the math one. Science was saved for me by AP Biology senior year of high school, but  math was never recoverable from freshman year (sophomore and junior year math classes are a blur, really). I think the last really good math teacher I had was eighth grade, where we celebrated Pi Day by bringing in pie and learning radius, circumference, etc. while using the pies. He also taught us Binomial Benny (long story), but I can factor binomials and trinomials like a champ. I think it’s interesting that the section notes that how teachers look at math directly affects how they teach it, which really makes sense. My eighth grade teacher looked at math as not something abstract, but as something we’d use every day. He’d admit that we weren’t going to maybe use the Pythagorean Theorem every day, but he’d give us an example that wasn’t climbing a mountain that we, as eighth graders, could relate to. My ninth grade math class consisted of the teacher giving us the answers every day, and then we went home and (attempted) to do the homework. But since we hadn’t learned the concepts, we couldn’t duplicate the results. I think Annie Keith’s approach of group work is great; it’s collaboration, and it’s forcing the learning of concepts. As for the science section, I have to admit it took me awhile to get through it, because anytime my brain sees the work physics, it goes “nope” and moves right along. In all seriousness, though, I think a lesson of the two carts colliding would have been helpful since I’m such a visual learner. Instead, my physics class was mostly worksheets. Overall, I think the reading was just an important reminder that while content knowledge is important in teaching, so is understanding how students learn.

Reflections on class #10: One-Shot Workshops wrap-up

Last class, we did our One-Shot Workshops, and they went really well! I had been really nervous beforehand, but after I was done, I couldn’t even begin to imagine why because it was actually a lot of fun!

I’ll admit: being a facilitator, although fun, was nervewracking. It was difficult to gauge the amount of time we’d need, and sometimes it was hard to keep things on track. It really helped that the group Mollie and I were with participated a lot, and there was no teeth-pulling, so to say, when we asked questions (which was a relief). There’s nothing worse than getting up in front of people trying to invite discussion, and then nothing happens. Luckily, we didn’t have to deal with that!

I think I’ve been to one workshop in my entire life, so I really don’t have a sort of “template” to go by, but I enjoyed them and I think they were educational, so they served their purpose, I think! The five we had were:

  • Collaboration between school, public, and academic librarians (which was mine and Mollie’s)
  • An introduction to the World Digital Library
  • How we, as librarians, share (or don’t share) information
  • How to deal with problematic behavior from patrons
  • How to be respectful towards others in awkward situations

I think that when I always thought of a workshop, I always really thought of them teaching you something tangible, of sorts, like how to deal with technology, for example. But they can also include things like how to deal with problematic behavior, so I’m glad I got an exposure to a few different kinds. Almost all of them involved discussion about situations we had personally been in in regards to the topic, and a few included scenarios as well. I think the major problem we had were time constraints; I think several–if not all–of the workshops could have gone on for longer.

My favorite part of the workshop Mollie and I hosted was during our interactive Venn Diagram section; we drew a large Venn Diagram on the board, consisting of three circles, representing school, academic, and public librarians. We then asked our group what sort of situations where each group could collaborate with one another. We got so many varied answers, and there were more than a few situations that I hadn’t thought of before. That portion was the part I was most nervous about because without audience participation, it probably would’ve fallen flat, but our group was great in answering our questions!

So all and all, very good experience! It’s really awesome that we’re getting to be involved in so many different experiences this semester. Although I don’t know if I would have previously thought I could do a workshop, it’s nice to know, after surviving one, that I can!

Reflections on class #9

So last week, we had a really great discussion on ethics in libraries. We were given a scenario where a mother had asked the school to remove a book so that her child couldn’t see it (I forget the title, but essentially the title was an injury that the child had actually sustained). My immediate question was…why? Was the book triggering for the child? Was the child being teased? Ultimately, though, our conclusion was that the Code of Ethics is not one-size-fits-all. What is considered ethical in a public library might not fly in a school library, especially when it comes to censoring books. In a school, the mission is to provide the safest and most comfortable environment for students, and while a public library also aims for those things, its ultimate mission, I believe, is protecting intellectual freedom.

I’ve worked in the YA section for a long time, and have had several requests to take books off of shelves. I always politely listened to parents’ concerns, of course, but I always told them that I could not censor what was put on the shelves. In a school library, though, I’m not sure that I could say the same. I hate to say it, but I think I’m glad that I’m not going to be a school librarian because I think a school library brings up a whole host of issues that I’m not comfortable with. (Kudos to those future school librarians, because I couldn’t do it!)

I think you, as the librarian, always have to consider the situation and decide about where to apply the Code of Ethics from there. I think there are some that think you should follow the Code to the T no matter what, but I think that’s unrealistic and possibly harmful. The Code is a great idea; any time that you have a set of rules for a profession, I think it’s helpful in a lot of situations, but I don’t think that there’s many sets of rules that exist that can be applied in every environment, every situation, all the time.

Okay. I could seriously talk about ethics in libraries all day, so I’ll quit now. But I love when we’re given scenarios in class and then discuss them, because every single time, someone comes up with a point-of-view that I hadn’t thought of before, and may not have ever reached by myself. I’ve noticed SI likes scenarios, and I’m glad, because you can sit there and lecture on a topic all day, but if students can’t apply it to real-world situations, then it’s really no good.

Next week, we’ll be doing our one-shot workshops! (AHHHHH!) Mollie and I are doing it on collaboration between academic, school, and public librarians, which is great because Mollie and I both have experience in an academic library, I have experience in a public library, and Mollie has experience in school libraries, so we’re hoping we’re covered! We’re also hoping that this is something that will appeal to everyone, regardless of their future career choice. Mollie and I talk about this topic a lot, so we’re hoping that shows. We’ll see!

I’ll admit: I’m really nervous. I’m excited about our topic, and I think our activities (which include scenarios, so…good!) are interactive and useful, but this is the sort of thing where I’m just going to have to go with the flow. I’m a little concerned about our time, because I think we’re going to cut it close, but I hope that we can give everyone enough time without running way over. I also hope that people come away with some ideas of how to collaborate, or even with the idea that collaboration is possible. Sometimes, librarians tend to isolate themselves with librarians of the same kind, so to speak, so hopefully if people haven’t thought about branching out, this one-shot workshop will help them to do that!

Week #9 readings

I thought it was interesting to me when, the other day, I was talking to somebody about this week’s blog post and how it was on ethics in libraries. She looked at me and said, “What ethics do you have to worry about in a library?” I scoffed at her, but asked someone else, and they basically gave me the same answer. Maybe I have ignorant friends. (Well, ignorant of that particular subject.) But it just seemed to me that for whatever reason, most people don’t think of librarians having to deal with ethical issues when, in fact, many librarians deal with them quite regularly.

I think (believe?) that we were required to read the Code of Ethics in 647, so for most of us, we’ve seen this Code before. Whenever I read it, I always get this sense of…responsibility, I suppose is the right word, when I think of what we do as librarians. I know a lot of people just think we sit around all day and read, while others do have a broader view and realize there’s a lot more to our jobs than that. But I think my favorite part of the Code is when it states “We have a special obligation to ensure the free flow of information and ideas to present and future generations.” Because, ultimately, isn’t that what we’re all about? Making sure that information, whether it be contained in a physical book, an eBook, or online, is able to be freely accessed by everyone in the present, and in the future as well. For me, that line just sums up very concisely what we’re all about. I think another important point is that we, as librarians (and information professionals in general, really) are responsible for the “dissemination of information.” People are still constantly controlling information and what people can see or can’t see, and it’s been going on LONG before the internet was ever invented. (Book burnings, anyone?) As a librarian, I can’t control if the information is disseminated in that I can’t stand on a street corner with every answer known to humankind right at my fingertips. I can, however, make certain that everyone has equal access and help them if they need help in their quest for information.  The last thing I’d like to point out about the Code of Ethics is the last part before it begins the list: “These statements provide a framework; they cannot and do not dictate conduct to cover particular situations.” I think this is important because there will always be unique situations where you, as the librarian, are going to have situations that aren’t going to be covered in the Code of Ethics. In 647, we were given situations that were extremely sensitive, and not really covered by the Code, and so while the Code is obviously important, there will never be a one-size-fits-all solution.

Speaking of case studies, “Dangerous Questions” by Lenker was definitely an interesting read. Lenker talked about “virtue ethics,” and as far as I understand, it basically means considering what virtues you’re espousing when making an ethical decision. I’m not sure that the case study with Clark was perhaps the best one Lenker could have chosen simply because it’s something that’s now outdated; medical marijuana is now legal in several states, and so for a patron to come up and ask for a book on how to grow it would simply not even really merit a reaction other than helping him or her find the information. However, the situation with Hauptman provides a much clearer moral dilemma. If a patron were to ask for information like that, maybe he or she is writing a book and needs that information. Or, maybe, they want to build a bomb to destroy a suburban home. It’s really impossible to know. So what do you do? I’ve come across a few ethical situations working in a library, and every time, it’s been a struggle between my personal beliefs, the library’s beliefs, the patron’s right to information, and my duty to perhaps protect a patron or others from harm. I think Lenker has some points with his virtue ethics; of course, you always want to consider such things when making a moral decision. I think he also made a fair point that reductivism seems to have a place in ethics, but at the same time, Lenker never really says how to deal with situations where you simply can’t satisfy fulfilling your duty to the patron, others, the institutions and yourself. I think there are situations where you’ll never be able to balance them all. I suppose Lenker is saying that as a librarian you should consider all of those things and not simply the consequences of your actions; I’m not clear. I think I’m also a little unclear as to why my (my being the librarian involved) ideals are being considered. Lenker points out that perhaps you work in a community with ideals vastly different than your own, and in that case, he’s correct; you simply shouldn’t work there. In Clark’s case, he feels that drugs are a waste of time, but that view should never be known by that patron because it doesn’t matter. Maybe he’s doing it for a paper. Maybe he’s a medical grower. Maybe he lives in a state where it’s legal. But that patron should never know Clark thinks it’s a time-waster because librarians aren’t moral police. Some argue that an attitude like that lacks integrity, and argue they may, but you can strongly believe in something and not let it affect another person’s right to the access to the information involved. However, like I said, I think the Clark example isn’t great, so let’s go with the woman and her kids. (I was sort of unsure of what he meant by ‘cattle-roping’; apparently, he means it literally.) Let’s say instead of a book on cattle-roping, which seems a bit unlikely, she asks for a book that you know says that physical force is okay when disciplining children. That to me presents an interesting dilemma, because you as the librarian might disagree. So what do you do? Just because a parent spanks their child might spell abuse to you (or not), and the legal line is gray between physical force that constitutes abuse and what doesn’t. There’s no easy answer to that. And people say being a librarian is easy!

This is definitely an interesting week because I  think ethics is an incredibly important part of a library science curriculum, and one that’s sometimes ignored. I’ll be interested to see what other people thought!

Reflections on class #8

You would think, after so many years in school, I would learn by now the importance of, when writing reflection pieces, to do them right after the event, instead of almost two weeks later. Alas, I have not yet learned that lesson, so for that, I apologize.

At any rate, during the last class, we hosted our book clubs, where five pairs held a 20 or so minute book club about a short piece of their choice. Our group had three fairy tales and two non-fiction pieces, so the mixture was really nice. We decided to do the fairy tales first, and then the other two next, so we got to do some nice compare/contrast of the fairy tales we had. (And since two were by the Brothers Grimm, I learned that the Brothers Grimm just collected the tales and did not write them, which I didn’t know. Shame on me!)

As I thought, our conversations were varied and lively, and brought up so many points that I hadn’t even thought of. (Gender issues in The Fisherman’s Wife was definitely one of them.) For me, being a facilitator was an easy job because the conversation didn’t really need any prompting from Mollie and I. The hardest part for me, as I predicted, was not putting my two cents in; I’m passionate about the subject we picked, and I caught myself a few times before I said anything. People brought up some points I hadn’t considered, and the one I found most interesting was considering the issue of YA literature (and whether it’s too dark or not and whether or not it’s okay to put on shelves) in schools; I had considered this entirely from a public library stance, but putting the articles in the context of a school library, where sometimes the choices don’t lie with the school librarian, definitely made me reconsider some things.

This was definitely a fun class and a really useful one as well. I hope that by being a future YA librarian that I get a lot of opportunities to do book clubs, and I learned a lot facilitating and participating in these. I think any time we get to participate in something like this “for real,” it’s incredibly valuable, because as much as you plan and write questions, it really comes down to the actual meeting and how you (and your fellow facilitators) are involved in the meeting.

So thanks for the great class!