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Juniata-Conemaugh Chapter and CRD Workshops June 5, 2012

Posted by Christopher Lemery in CRD, PaLA.
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The week of May 21st was a crazy busy week for me! I had not one, but two conferences of sorts. The 3-day weekend was much appreciated!

On Wednesday the 23rd, I had the PA Library Association (PaLA) Juniata-Conemaugh Spring Workshop at State College. In case you’re not familiar with PaLA, it’s divided into 8 geographic areas which are called chapters (see the PaLA map here). Each chapter has a one- or two-day workshop, which is usually constructed around a theme and features discussions and presentations around that theme. For the J-C Chapter, this is our biggest event of the year, and this year’s Workshop went spectacularly well.

I’m the 2012 Chapter Chair, so, along with vice chair Melanie Phillips, Sherry Roth, Paula Collins, Tracy Carey, and Diane Schmidt, we planned the workshop. Early on, it was clear that we should hold it in State College and center it around the Penn State Pattee Library Knowledge Commons, which now encompasses most of the Pattee’s first floor. The KC is straight-up awesome. It’s got great computers, multifunction group study rooms, a great Mac lab and a one-touch video recording studio. The KC was built in stages over several years and it’s made the Library 5 times better (though, of course, I liked it just fine before)! We wanted to give librarians from all over the opportunity to see the KC because it wasn’t complete in time for last October’s PaLA Annual conference in State College.

We named the Workshop Designing a Digital Media Lab: Low-Cost, Innovative Solutions for Every Library (see the brochure and schedule here). We had a big crowd of 45 people, including 25 or so academic librarians, which is unusual for our workshops, which tend to have more public library attendees. The workshop began with a tour of the KC in the morning, which was lead by KC Head Joe Fennewald. The tour went very well and it was very instructive for all the participants, who got a lot out of it. (By the way, if anyone’s interested in seeing the KC, contact Joe. He loves giving tours!)

The afternoon consisted of presentations about the PSU KC  and the knowledge commons concept  in the afternoon. Two of our presentations were from two public librarians from other states: Rose Faber from Barrington Area Library just outside of Chicago and Jesse Montero with Brooklyn Public Library in, um, Brooklyn. Rose and Jesse came to our attention via some articles on the “knowledge commons” concept and how it’s been used in public libraries. You may have noticed that both Rose and Jesse aren’t exactly next door. We decided to have them present via Skype because it’s easy and convenient. Also,we’d be demonstrating digital literacy, which is one of the pillars of the knowledge commons concept.

I admit I was nervous about using Skype for presentations. I haven’t used Skype much, and when I did it didn’t go smoothly. Therefore, I did an initial run-through with Jesse and Rose to iron out any problems. It’s a good thing I did so, because I discovered that we had connectivity problems and they couldn’t hear me. The connectivity problems stemmed from an outdated version of Skype on my end, which was resolved with some help from the IT department. I thought that would solve the microphone problems, but that was caused by thewebcam driver not being up to date, either. Once the updates were installed, the problems were fixed and, aside from a brief connectivity hiccup, the Skype presentations went very well and no one seemed to mind they were done via Skype.

Rose Faber’s Skype presentation at the Workshop

On Thursday May 24th, I went with Penn State Librarians Joe Fennewald and Emily Rimland to the PaLA College and Research Division Workshop at Bucks County Community College. It was a long haul, but it was definitely worth the trip! The  Workshop’s theme was “Digital Natives or Digitally Naive?: Lessons on Digital and Media Literacy.” The keynote speaker in the morning was Renee Hobbs of the University of Rhode Island’s Harrington School of Communication and Media. Her presentation (the slides for which are here) was very interesting and thought provoking. Here are some of her more interesting points and questions:

  • We’re torn between empowerment from technology and protecting our existing culture
  • Reading is shaped by the tech we read with
  • how will digital media reshape relationships?
  • How will digital media change our sense of identity and agency?
  • We have a “parasocial” relationship with media figures: we know them, but they don’t know us
  • Media literacy requires knowing the economics and politics of media
    • Why don’t English majors learn about the economics of publishing? (Great question!)
  • Messages are representations
  • Meaning is not in a text, it’s in our heads

Renee also defined the learning process (or cycle) of digital and media in these steps:

  1. access
  2. analyze
  3. create
  4. reflect
  5. act

She then had us work in groups to try and prioritize 4 different definitions of digital literacy:

  • Computer and Web access skills
    • Filling out forms on Web, navigation, etc.
  • Authorship
  • Issues of representation
    • How do we distinguish between a high quality and poor quality source?
    • Why do some stories get retold?
  • Online social responsibility

Of course, trying to prioritize these was an impossible task, which was the point. All these competing definitions are intertwined with one another and are used by different people and entities at different times.

I really appreciated Renee’s talk. It was clear that she comes from more of a media and communication theory perspective than I do. However, this was helpful, as it was a different and more critical perspective than I have on a daily basis. A lot of what she said meshes with articles that I’ve read defining and discussing critical information literacy, so it wasn’t entirely new. Her research areas and the Harrington School are interesting, so I’ll try and keep an eye on them.

The CRD afternoon session I attended was a presentation by Shelly McCoy and Hannah Lee of  The Student Multimedia Design Center at the University of Delaware Library. Their design center is located in a knowledge commons very much like Penn State’s. In fact, I later learned that UDel was one of the locations toured by the Penn State Knowledge Commons planning committee early in the design process! Shelly and Hanna’s presentation, “Multimedia Literacy: A Plan to Get Started,” was about their efforts to teach multimedia literacy and integrate it with the broader information literacy program.

One of the most interesting and surprising things I learned from the presentation is that some faculty are assigning multimedia projects with essentially no guidelines or rubrics for such projects! There are some departments that have mandated that at least one project in a department class have a multimedia component, so a few professors are tossing the component in without much thought. Some of them also assume that students know what they’re doing with multimedia, which is not the case with the more sophisticated programs and techniques. One of the main things Shelly and Hanna want to do is get acquainted with faculty and cooperate with them on designing assignments and due dates so they can try and regulate use of the Multimedia Design Center and its associated video cameras which are available for check out. I have heard many librarians talk about the holy grail of helping faculty with assignment design, and that cooperation seems to be very much needed when it comes to multimedia projects!

Welcome Back? October 16, 2011

Posted by Christopher Lemery in Library Instruction, PaLA.
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Hello again, everyone. You may have noticed that this blog went on a little six-month hiatus. It’s not the first time a blog has been “orphaned,” and it definitely won’t be the last. However, I will try and update the site more regularly from now on. I also hope to write about what’s been going on with me the past few months. For now however, I wanted to write about the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) Annual Conference which was held here in State College from October 2-5.

First off, let me say how great it is to have a conference in your own town. It’s great to be able to roll out of your own bed and drive right to the conference. This is particularly nice when you get a nasty cold the day before the conference! The downside is that it didn’t “feel” like a conference in the way the past two PaLA Annual conferences did because I didn’t have to travel.

I went to a lot of good sessions, but I’ll highlight only a few here. Many of the session presentations and handouts can be found here at the PaLA website.

The first session I went to was “Assessment as a Collaborative Activity: Evaluating Faculty/Librarian Partnerships in the Development of Assessment Tools” by Larissa Gordon from Arcadia University. Larissa’s main theme was that planning an information literacy assessment program is messy and is cyclical rather than a one-time thing. Larissa said that a good assessment program involves 4 groups:

  1. instruction librarians
  2. classroom faculty
  3. teaching & learning center
  4. program coordinators

The term “program coordinator” was new to me, but Larissa explained that it is a full-time faculty member who oversees a program in a department. They’re not the same thing as a department head. They may be called something different depending on the school. My main takeaway from the session was Larissa’s broader view of assessment. I always thought about assessment as primarily involving the instruction librarians and faculty, but I now see the benefit of conceptualizing it as a continuous dialogue between these 4 groups. Larissa also pointed out that a new assessment program can build on already-existing efforts in a given department or college. She also noted that faculty and program coordinators may feel that they’re being judged when assessment is done and may push back against it. However, it’s key to emphasize that the assessment is of the information literacy the librarian is doing, not of the class or the professor.

I next went to by Calvin Wang, who’s also from Arcadia. Called “An End-Run down the Rights,” he discussed good instruction sessions and one-on-one consultations. He noted the importance of “rights” in a good instruction session and critical thinking activity:

  • the right activity
  • for the right knowledge
  • to the right population
  • at the right time
  • under the right circumstances

After looking at the confluence of “rights” that have to be in place, it’s no wonder that instruction sessions don’t always succeed!

One session that really opened my eyes was entitled “Demonstrating the Value of Academic Libraries: Three Perspectives.” Melissa Gold of Millersville U. talked about curriculum mapping, which is a graphical representation of the cirriculum. Its most common form is a grid you fill in with goals and ratings. Creating a curriculum map is time-consuming and it’s usually best viewed as a continuous process of improvement, but it can help other academic departments and university administration easily see how the library is doing.

Scott Anderson, of Millersville U. , had a presentation (the PPT file can be found here) about WeaveOnline, which is a really powerful (and expensive!) software package that helps with reporting and tracking of planning and assessment activities across the university campus. Scott said that in filling in its part in the program, the library can essentially “push” its reports and results into university-wide reports so their work shows up without having someone ask for it. Scott said they’ve also linked with information literacy components of academic departments’ assessments, which helps market the Library’s accomplishments and demonstrate value. Dick Swain from West Chester University discussed TracDat and LibPAS, two other assessment programs.

My takeaway from this session was that demonstrating value is a lot more than saying “look, we have x number of students using our library!” It’s becoming increasingly complex and time-consuming as assessment becomes more important at many institutions. If used well, however, these programs can really help market the library and show areas where improvement is necessary.

The final presentation I want to highlight is “Rethinking Information Literacy: Classroom Evidence for Incorporating Students’ Social Media Practices Into our Professional Understanding” by Donna Mazziotti and Teresa Grettano of the University of Scranton. Their excellent presentation (which is available on the PaLA Conference page I linked to at the beginning) was the most interesting and thought-provoking one I attended. Mazziotti is a Librarian and Grettano is an English professor. They teamed up to teach a rhetoric and social media class that used Facebook and incorporated many information literacy components. They highlighted some of the things they learned from the class, including:

  • information is now social
    • Facebook users notice who shared a story and the sharer’s comments before the original source and content of the story
  • things that aren’t free are viewed more skeptically
    • makes justifying library resources in paid databases tougher
  • passion and expertise are now conflated

Their presentation showed that social media and the social way information is sought and discovered will have significant implications for information literacy standards and instruction methods going forward. I’ll be interested to see how the ACRL information literacy standards change in the future!

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