Posts Tagged ‘ traditional library ’

Listening to [Google Generation] Users #erl13

The ER&L 2013 conference began with a great intro by ER&L founder Bonnie Tijerina who provided her personal theme for this year — bridging our community with other communities and cross-pollinating ideas. Introducing the keynote speaker, it seems an apt theme, as we aim to continually bridge the ER community with our user community.

Michael Eisenberg (University of Washington Information School) provided an overview of the Google Generation (1993-2013) and their information seeking habits informed by the results of the Project Information Literacy. Reminding us of the “stack of needles” information environment in which we and our user find ourselves, Eisenberg offered insights and possible responses to the information needs of this generation. He also offered some interesting projections for the ??? (to be named) Generation of 2013+, like GoogleMS (a Google Microsoft merger) and brain-controlled environments (Google glasses, as a start).

Project Information Literacy (PIL) has to do with questions of how people find information, what they do with it, and what problems are encountered along the way.  Eisenberg presented the findings of the study and provided an excellent worksheet with one column outlining all the results, and another (blank) one for the takeaway lessons for libraries.

The results may not surprise librarians or teaching faculty.  These users have expectations for perfection, and yet believe the best approach is Google.  Their course research sources are limited, but do include course readings, databases, instructors, and, yes, Wikipedia — ignoring faculty recommendations to avoid it and just intentionally not citing it. Their personal research, however was quite different.  Here users start with Google and Wikipedia first.  Don’t you?  Takeaway: Librarians should consider Wikipedia as another social media resource for being where their users are.  Begin reviewing, updating, and writing content here — where users can find it!

Other results of the study emphasize that there are legitimate reasons for all-familiar user procrastination, including multiple jobs, studying, and extra scholarly-curricular activities. Takeaway: Have we changed our thinking and staffing and services to accommodate this or are we just judgers?  Their needs change across the academic year for which opening later hours at crunch time is insufficient to address.

The study also shows these students are in fact applying evaluative criteria to online resources and are asking for help, but still they are not asking librarians.  These users consider librarians as assistants with resources.  Given the stack of needles, they don’t need help with resources.  So what do they need?

What the Google Generation needs goes back to a generation-ago of LIS research — formulating research questions, understanding the research process, and the ability to assess themselves through it!  Carol Kuhlthau anyone?  While K-12 prepares students in writing techniques alone, it is lacking in the steps of the research process. Helping users understand the development of research ideas and managing the process/project of research is a critical need for which Eisenberg challenged the audience of mostly ERLs to think of solutions beyond one-off instruction.

Another interesting portion of the PIL study results was the handout (faculty syllabi) assessment.  [Six out of ten – not sure of this stat, but most!] handouts refer students to print resources and almost none to relevant databases.  Takeaway: Librarians should offer to faculty help with updating these.   At my institution, I attended a new faculty luncheon in which “front loading” course design/content was recommended again and again, especially for new faculty.  So that you “do it right the first time” and recycle/tweak the content in ongoing years.  This and these PIL results continue to make me wonder how the library can help the front loading process both from a distributing the workload and “getting it right” perspective.  This is a big opportunity area for the library to play the role it talks about playing in outreach, course design, copyright, information literacy, etc.

Another surprising finding  was that the library desktop/laptop was seen as a valuable tool in how it helped avoid distractions in ways users’ own technology might not.  This continued a more tried and true notion of the nature of focus and an emphasis on the library as place (they liken it to a monastery). Users used terms like “IT fasting” and noted it requires planning ahead (with parents, with peer expectations, etc). Takeaway:  All of this would be good marketing and outreach ideas.


What was great about this keyonte, besides the useful data shared, was Eisenberg’s approach to put it back on librarians.   This included an actual audience participation in completing the sections of  the PIL results/Library Lessons handout.   My group had the result:  “Defining the task and assessing the process are harder than finding the resources”  One tool my library uses to help with this is an assignment planner tool  (which could use a new name, maybe).  Another interesting suggestion was to use information literacy language that makes sense to user, like using the term credit vs cite, or calling it an article search engine rather than a database.

All of this also supports of the oft-repeated concept that we are transitioning the librarian/library from content to service — which was also highlighted in the closing session, The Courage of our Connections: Thoughts on Professional Identities, Organizational Affiliations and Common Communities by Rachel Frick (well-played ER&L, well-played).  So, have we told our users about all this?  Have we trained our librarians?  Have we adjusted our library spaces? Takeaway: What are we going to do about it?  I would encourage you to find out more about the Project Information Literacy research, and share with your communities what you’re doing about it!


Strengths in Action

((cc) BY-NC-ND) by praecepitum

I am about to start back to work from a 10 week vacation of strategic planning.  Yes, I meant to call it a vacation not because my email backed up, or because deadlines were missed, or others had to pick up the slack of my absence.  It is because I feel as energized as if I’d been spending that time relaxing on the beach and sipping a cool beverage while trusting someone else to  watch the kids.  I’ll admit (let my freak flag fly)  — I do  LOVE strategic planning!  But beyond just being weird in this way, I want to talk about one explanation for this energy (and why I’ve bolded these key words).

Strategy is one of my top five strengths.  I also have Learner, Analytical, and (thank God, or nothing would ever get done) Activator.  My fifth strength, Individualization, means in a nutshell that I’m also good at seeing others’ strengths.  This has all brought me to a point recently where I am just bursting to tell a wider audience about Strengths,  specifically the breakthrough I had using my strengths in this most recent work experience,  and why I continue to promote Strengths in work and life.  A wonderful and succinct background on the  Strengths movement can be found here.  So, I’ll just briefly touch on the concept and focus more on my own experiences.

At my library, I work with the staff  and organizational development council who secured a grant to build individual and organizational awareness of our strengths.  This  groups’ strengths work started a couple of year ago when we traveled together to see Marcus Buckingham speak.  Buckingham is a very engaging speaker. It certainly helps to be smart, funny, handsome and have a British (Australian?) accent, but he is best known, I think, for taking Strengths beyond a mere personality test to a practice, a movement.

After this talk, I ran out to get a book — any book — that would get me the Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment.  My results are from the book Strengths Based Leadership.  However, my 20/20 hindsight advice to you is pick up any other book than this one.  I was anxious to get started and this was the only one in the student union bookstore at the time.  I am currently re-reading through the Buckingham versions — try this to get a test, then  this and this — which I recommend as more approachable starting points.  The other key wisdom to getting this and taking it beyond a personality test, is have someone or group of someones go through the test with you and talk about the results — better yet, a certified strengths coach.

((cc) BY-NC) by Joming Lau

I know it sounds like a racket, especially to academic-minded individuals, and hey, it is in a way because it is a business, for-profit product.  But let’s take it from Creating the Agile Library(1995!), shall we?  Libraries will need to increasingly adopt more business and for-profit models of organizational agility to survive 21st century pressures.  Are they not already? Not all, mind you, but certainly some. Beyond that reason, though, what can we actually learn about the effectiveness of this “better mousetrap”?

I can tell you what I learned from reading and talking about it within my HR and development circles.  I can tell you a great deal more about it from working with my team, learning their strengths and how we might use them together more effectively.  The most powerful lessons came to me from a combination of all of this and what Buckingham pointed out in the video above:

At some point in your career you will be using your strengths most of the time [rather than just some of the time] and it just doesn’t feel the same.

While I feel like I’ve kind of been using my strengths throughout  my career, the lightbulb for me is how different I feel after spending 10 weeks  intensely using my strengths.  Not only am I happier and energized, but I found myself functioning way better at things I usually struggle with.  I’ve been quicker to engage in conversations (my husband is both thankful and annoyed). I didn’t stumble for words in our unit’s  f2f meeting.  I even had several new ideas and have pitched them to folks.  In the language of strengths, this is managing weakness.  But it didn’t feel like managing.  It felt fluid, more like swimming or sailing.  What’s more (and to the point of Strengths), I found where I usually excel, I excelled better and faster.  I  taught, lead, and problem solved off the cuff  — a credit I think to better practice in pulling my learner, analytical, and strategic strengths into action (activator strength).   I tell you the pistons were firing this week in ways that I know are strengths-based, because it’s what the books said they would do.

A final point about my vacation ties back to that Strength Based Leadership book I started with trusting the kids.  Sure, there were things that during my strategic vacation my staff had to deal with in my absence.  Not a lot, but some.  The point is I trust my staff with our work in large part because I know their strengths and they know their strengths.  Email did get backed up, but it got tackled it much quicker.  Imagine if everyone’s strengths were put into play in this way. We would not neglect to attend that development opportunity because no one else can cover our work for us.  We wouldn’t have to laboriously cross-train skill sets to make that happen. We all would begin to trust ours and our colleagues’ strengths and our organizations will be the better for it in all the ways that matter.


Buckingham & Clifton (2001). Now, Discover Your Strengths. New York: Free Press.

Buckingham (2007) Go Put Your Strengths To Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. New York: Free Press.

Buckingham & Coffman (1999). First Break all the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Haricombe, L.J. & Lusher, T.J. (1995) Creating the Agile Library: A Management Guide for Librarians. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

better mousetraps is a term Jim Govan (1977, as cited in Haricombe & Lusher, 1995) used to refer to “potentially useful ideas  that we should examine carefully and then employ as best fits the local situation” (p2).

confessions of a truthbrarian

To all the kind friends who have shared nonamerah’s A Girl You Should Date on my fb wall or spread it across the interwebs for the promotion of reading and librarianship, to those who may be reading my blog or following this truthbrarian in hopes of literary comradery, I confess.  I can relate to nonamerah’s post perhaps only in its painful description of my own young dating failures.  I think I was nerdy and pretty enough to attract suitably interesting and intellectual boys, only to disappoint them with a lack of disciplined bookishness.  You see, I am one of those librarians who doesn’t really read a lot of books — mostly nowadays, I claim, because I’m too busy.  But the whole thing has got me thinking about my entire literary past and inspired me to take stock.

Past elementary school, I couldn’t tell you my librarians’ names, and I don’t recall story times or visits to the public library that involved anything more than a place to do homework and have fries at the Hardees next door.  I actually did. not. believe. my college voice professor who told me the library had books with the full English translations for the various language arias I was working on.  “It can’t be that easy!”, I thought.  And since I never recall seeing what might have been a librarian anywhere in that college library, I never followed up to verify this outrageous claim.

What?!  I know!

As a truthbrarian, I’m obviously not proud of this.  And it’s not even that I have trouble reading or that I don’t enjoy it as a pastime. I do!  In fact I boast at home that among the larger tomes in our recently reestablished home library,  I’ve read the largest of them in their entirety. My husband, the main collector for the library, has read some or all of more of the books and is certainly the more read in our family.  Our eldest daughter is not far behind. But I am a late (or perhaps, interrupted) bloomer.

Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus and José Aruego

While I don’t remember my parents reading to me at home, I do have fond memories of my elementary school librarian and that library. I can still picture the reading bathtub, where the Judy Blume books were located, and what a big deal it was to have visits by author/illustrator, Tommy de Paola, and also Jose Aruego, who showed us step-by-step how he illustrates animals. Fascinating!  I can also recall my mom supporting our local bookstore and my particularly intense preteen reading spree of the entire Sweet Valley Twins series and Garfield comic books – don’t judge.  I also  loved my church library, but only have 3 solid book memories:

  1. The Giving Tree (and other Silverstein poetry)
  2. Joni, an autobiography of diving accident victim turned artist
  3.  a crazy cartoon book about a boy who got bit by a dog with rabies.

My current reading choices retain this pattern for creative humor, biographies, and a touch of morbidity.  But what I remember having an even greater fascination for in these libraries was the organizational system of the books, the act of checking out books, and wanting very badly to stamp and sort.

Many librarians, of course, share this organizational proclivity. But, I’ve always felt that every other librarian must have always loved books in a way that I never fully grasped.  I now know,  that truthbraries give you more than books.  They give you the ability to seek, discover new things, be curious,  and seek even more.  This has always made me a good problem solver and information organizer/seeker.  But that seeking within books and stories in the traditional sense has been late to bloom in my life.

The problem with lackluster seeking (as opposed to desperate seeking)  in books is not just less reading, but that my bibliography relied almost solely on the recommendations of others.  This, for better or worse, boils down to the company you keep.   My first recommendation I count as a plus. My big sister gave me Catcher in the Rye, which led me to inquire and read the entire Salinger bibliography,  articles about him, and his daughter’s biography of him.  However, in my high school naivety, I once settled on a recommended Danielle Steele novel  for a book report, making me reading adverse for quite some time!  However terrible that reading experience was, though, I see now the silver lining was a new-found appreciation for its opposite —  good writing, and the skill to critically evaluate for it. Today, I love to edit and to write.

I recall one more remarkable recommendation through a senior English reading essay (not really recommended as much as part of the reading requirement of the class).   It was a timed essay exam where I nailed a comparison of themes in the Red Badge of Courage.  I remember being super energized by a  feeling of discovery and impressed with how quickly I organized my ideas on paper.  This probably speaks again for my analytical skill and enjoyment of writing than it does for my love of reading.  But it is certainly connected, and I can see, through nonamerah’s A Girl You Should Date,  how those who have immersed themselves more fully and regularly into reading would develop a self-perpetuating love of it.   I am also totally into the concept there that exposure (through reading) to a variety of both creative and factual stories will only make one a better and more creative thinker, conversationalist,  writer, and even lover.  This truthbrarian seeks all of these  adding mother, friend, and leader. A tall order!

While I’ve got a late start to it (overall and in this late 2012 new year’s post), I have recommitted to the avid reading side of my dear profession.  This new year, I  firmly resolve to a reading regimen and welcome suggestions for its  structure and content.  You can keep up with my #2012resolutions progress by following me (@atruthbrarian ) on twitter.


the truth about reference

It’s been quite a month in my personal life, and no wonder  I never got back to filling out that last truthberry picking post.  I see some where I have no memory of what I found interesting at the time.  But, others, like Sheehan’s recent  ALA Techsource post on AI and reference,  are still relevent and worth building on, as other insights and starting points toward my big research interest  — the reapplication of the reference interview to interorganizational communication/information seeking — have come about since then.

It is also ARL stat collection time.   I serve on team monitoring a shared email account for e-resources troubleshooting questions (think of it as a distance cousin of virtual reference) and annually question whether I am supposed to count these as reference transactions.  For your information, ARL defines a reference transaction as:

…an information contact that involves the knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources by a member of the library staff. The term includes information and referral service. Information sources include (a) printed and non-printed material; (b) machine-readable databases (including computer-assisted instruction); (c) the library’s own catalogs and other holdings records; (d) other libraries and institutions through communication or referral; and (e) persons both inside and outside the library. When a staff member uses information gained from previous use of information sources to answer a question, the transaction is reported as a reference transaction even if the source is not consulted again.

I’ve always held, and our head of reference agrees, that we should count them.  But as distance cousins, the majority of questions we get are referrals from the real reference folks who are, thus, already counting them.  This year we may have more transaction to count as we have begun putting our face (our email address) out there a little to assist more directly with things like persistent linking, when resources are on order (and not yet available), and when we know there are likely to be problems with e-resources.  The latter two actually pick up the slack for what our ERM ought to be doing for us —  but that’s another post.  So, what I ultimately mean to point out here, is two-fold:

1) technical services libraries are increasingly access service librarians (our email troubleshooting group  is a concrete example).

2) as a result (and in addition to our counting transactions in this new role), we ought to look at the ARL definition above more closely.

Garden Libraries - The Imaginarium Garden (courtesy of Southfield Public Library, Southfield, MI)

My guess is traditional reference or public services librarians translate these transactions primary as a service to users wherever they are — as in “the library as place” and that place is inside and outside the library (in the Union, dorms, faculty offices, or even via email, IM, social media).  By seeking these reference stats of their colleagues, traditional reference librarians do concede that they aren’t the only transactors with our users.   But, I wonder how many interpret that definition to apply to transactions with people inside the library who work there?  This internal reference transaction among colleagues, I argue, is an activity technical services librarians have long been doing but perhaps not historically thought of as a reference transaction. Some examples of this I’ve thought of might be when we are helping reference staff to answer more technical questions (maybe we should count these twice!), when we help a subject liaison by pulling together reports for collection management, and maybe even when problem solving organizationally and seeking information about each others’ workflows in order to put a bigger picture together.

As for and how to go about answering my research question, this leads me back to Sheehan’s post and whether a direct reapplication of the theory behind the reference interview is the way to go, or whether so much changed both in reference (going virtual) and technical services (going reference) that a new theory is needed.  In addition to my own fascination with AI, the post connects to a debate about 2.0 vs. f2f communication that has stalled me in starting my research.  The post, specifically, led me to ask this question: has the stigma of ‘why’ questions in the reference interview (see Dervin & Dewedney, 1986) diminished as a result of more open sharing in social media?  Or is it (as Sheehan seems to point to) precisely because it’s online that this openness in social media occurs, but the f2f human interaction still requires the finesse of something like neutral questioning?

Other questions I’ve mulled over, related to the ARL stats definition, are whether there are too fundamental of differences in the reference transaction (and the use of reference interview skills) when the players are our working peers than when between librarians and students, faculty, or community users.   I’d be interested to know what you think and suggestions you may have for methodological starting points.

Comments below or emails to atruthbrarian[at]gmail[dot]com are welcome.

Dervin, B., & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral questioning: A new approach to the reference interview. Reference Quarterly25 (4), 506-513.

truthberry picking (to be continued…)

Just a place marker for my post on the berries from ALA Direct this week


Journal 09-25-03

Well, this is probably a strange journal overall.  Some entries I typed from free writing and others I wrote straight onto the computer, either by adding on to discussion topics or creating an original entry.  So, it probably lacks consistency overall.  But, I guess if it isn’t clear in other entries, I can say it here, that I do feel more confident about the issues we’ve discussed in this class.  Whereas at first I was completely overwhelmed by the multiplicity of areas that the information sciences cover, now I feel I can approach it with a growing curiosity.  I am still overwhelmed in as much as if I get going on a topic I tend to be more impassioned than intelligible.  But I think I’m learning more and more.

An article I read recently really takes a bite out of all this realm of our profession.  Rich Lowry in an article titled “The ideological librarians” would have us bottom feeding (as  the joke goes) with the lawyers of the world.  He doesn’t seem to have liked that we’ve let our hair down and become impassioned about civil liberties.  Instead, he seems to be more in a state of shock, revealing a bit of fear of abandonment, as he reflectively defines librarians by the books he learned to read as a kid.  This is just what John Ashcroft also did in his statement regarding the ALA “hype” over the Patriot Act.

My initial entry essay to this degree program was filled with excitement precisely at the fact that it was so obvious to me that the library profession is changing, that we’ve “come unbunned”.  Though I had no idea to what extent I would become involved in this, I am no less confident about this evolving mission.  I do have to wonder, after reading articles like these, if I am (we are?) too isolated in this vision when all around people outside the profession don’t seem to have a clue what librarians do.

To Lowry’s credit, he does bring issues to light that we have discussed in class, especially in the area of fashionable librarians’ and libraries’ social service bent (e.g. the homeless) while contrasting that to the majesty of the more traditional library (e.g. Library of Alexandria).  He also raises questions that I have not yet answered for myself (e.g. Internet access filters).  If nothing else, I think the rising voice of the ALA to these and other issues of public concern is a dramatic statement to our changing role.  So, I guess it is to be expected that it takes people by surprise.  Lowry’s opinion will not stop the change, and perhaps his voice is a diamond in the rough if it causes people to see a little bit of the revolution at hand!

Journal 09-14-03

More thoughts on issues Kurzwiel stirs in me, mostly defining humanity apart from a solely mechanistic rationale.  Searle rebuttals with distinctions between computing symbols and conscious understanding.  Dembski follows by showing how computers lack a frame of reference, context (inability to get the joke).  Though, how many of us out there are just like that — ha ha.

Anyway,what Searle said got me thinking about the technical services side of the library (that being my current work).  Don’t we just sort out [make symbols or code] the info?  How much is consciousness understanding or how many decisions require that “gut” feeling?  A subject cataloger might argue that it is quite a bit — not a technical service, but an art. Taken too far in my train of thought, I wondered how many of us techies could be (ARE BEING) replaced by technology.  In fact we embrace it to a large extent — anything that helps us do our job faster.  What we’ve found is that this sometimes causes a predicament.  If you don’t use the fast technology your work becomes irrelevant (too slow, unnecessary work to get the job done).  On the other hand, embrace it to fully and one might end up wondering what your warm body is even doing there. Maybe that’s drastic.  But I have found myself twiddling my thumbs every now and then when a pile of work I tought would take two hours, I managed through in one.  This is also partly my keeping up with the pace.  My skills [get] faster and computers are [getting] faster.


Is this where libraries in general will find themselves if they embrace too fully the electronic format, if they abandon too  fully the traditional library?  I guess with relief I return to the fact that coincides with my last statement.  Since we (humans) will create the machines, we (librarians) will integrate them into the library.  Then — call me naive — I think any further argument Kurzweil makes (machines self-replicating and such) is too “out there” to worry about right now, if ever.

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