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Monthly Archives: March 2013

The reading for this week concentrated on non-traditional forms of education and embedded librarianship. Chapter 7 from How People Learn discusses the balancing act teachers must make between their deep knowledge of a particular subject and their understanding of the process of learning and the activities that support that process. When this balancing act is mastered, students are able to achieve deep understanding of the subjects their studying. Though this chapter was very specific to teaching and traditional subject areas, the principles and examples discussed in the chapter provide really great ideas of how as librarians we can find ways to support that kind of teaching as well as teach the skills and knowledge that we have to offer to patrons.

The other reads for this week were two journal articles from Public Service Quarterly. The articles discussed the role of embedded librarianship, mostly in the academic setting. Two types of the embedded librarian are discussed in the Matos article. The traditional form of the embedded librarian defined by Matos et al. is where a librarian is placed into a specific department in order to give them specialized help. The non-traditional embedded librarian is one who offers a hybrid of library services to a department that did not necessarily receive a lot of library support in the past. (p. 131)  My understanding of the non-traditional embedded librarian is that he/she flows between a more general library institution and the specific department serving as a reference librarian, instructional librarian, collection manager, etc.

Much of the discussion of the embedded librarian focused on academic libraries and how the role of the embedded librarian has functioned and changed in universities. As I have expressed previously, I am interested in public libraries broadly, but more specifically in outreach, and children and young adult services. Though our readings concentrated on academic libraries, I think that this type of library role would be very successful and useful public libraries in urban communities. On of the workshops that I heard last week discussed developing community partnerships. The embedded librarian could make a big impact on non-profit organizations who lack resources or money for information services they may need. Community gardening groups or Urban agriculture organizations could use an embedded librarian to find more information about soil testing, organic gardening, or winter crops. Already existing partnerships with child care providers and senior centers may benefit financially from having an embedded librarian in their center to have story time or workshops on online computing.

The biggest thought that stuck me while completing these readings was the possibly of public librarians embedded in public school systems that may lack library staff due to funding. The embedded librarian could offer expert services to the, likely overwhelmed and overworked, school librarian. A partnership like this could benefit the school librarian, the teachers and the students. In addition, this kind of partnership could  help bring awareness to the community and school administrators about the importance of library service in the school system and hopefully lead to greater financial support of school libraries in the district. Though this partnership may be difficult to carryout and may have logistical road-blocks, I think that it has potential to be a great service to the community as a whole.

This week instead of lecture, we met in our small groups and lead one-shot workshops in the same  pairs as our book club. All of the topics were somehow related to ethics, and I walked away from this assignment with a lot things to think about. I was surprised how interconnected a lot of our topics ended up being, which allowed for us to have really great discussions through out the night. The first group’s workshop was on cultural sensitivity, the second groups topics (which was my group) discussed how to approach ethically challenging questions at the reference desk, the third group discussed how to decide and defend your library’s decision to include/exclude both gay and anti-gay literature in the collection, and lastly, the fourth group discussed how to expand your library’s outreach in the community.

Each group took different teaching/discussion strategies for the one-shot workshop which allowed me to observe a lot of different activities and methods to carryout a workshop. The first group Introduced the topic and why cultural sensitivity is important for us. The bulk of the workshop was organized around discussion, which I thought went very well with the subject of their workshop.

Our group took a more instructive approach initially where we as facilitators went over key points about reference desk practice, steps to breakdown difficult questions, and an exploratory case. The second half of our time slot was used for discussion, both in pairs and our “large” group.

The third presenters started out their presentation with a short introduction and then went straight into activities for us to do in order to break the ice and get us thinking on the subject. I thought this was a great way to start a discussion about gay and anti-gay literature without emphasizing their personal opinions into the discussion at the very beginning. The structure of their workshop allowed the topic to be discussed in a professional manner despite being a politically charged topic.

Last, but definitely not least,  the fourth group broke down their workshop into four main sections, brainstorming, instruction, small group discussion, and large group discussion. What I liked most about this group’s workshop was that they built up to the end task, which was for us to make an “action plan” for us to build a relationship between our library and an organization in our community.Overall, I learned a lot from my classmate’s examples and really enjoyed this assignment.

The topic for this weeks class was ethics. After I completed the readings for my class prep, I wasn’t sure what to expect from class. I was anticipating having a discussion about the Lenker reading and finding out what all of my classmates thought about it. I was also interested in finding out how some of my classmates would have handled the “dangerous questions” that were described in the readings. However, I was surprised that we did not have an in depth discussion relating to the specific scenarios that Lenker created.

Instead, Kristin brought some real life examples of controversial decisions in libraries that do not occur at the reference desk. Though I was a little disappointed that my confusion about difficult reference desk questions was not cleared up, I thought that our discussion was very rewarding. I was glad that we were able to to engage with the topic of ethics in ways that I haven’t had the chance to do in my library classes yet at SI. It was really useful to get a picture of how all kinds of library decisions, especially those away from the reference desk, could possibly conflict with the ALA’s code of ethics.

I was particularly surprised that overall our class felt more comfortable with placing advertisements on library receipts than allowing patrons to opt out to purchase a book from a third party retailer, allowing the library to collect a percentage of the sale. My small group had the opposite reaction than the majority of the class. Initially, I thought that putting adds on the back of library slips/receipts would be a good idea. The library could make some revenue, it could build good professional relationships with local bushiness and organizations and it could be a reminder to patrons that the library has very limited resources to provide services with. Though the last benefit is rather passive aggressive, it could be used as a bargaining chip. However, in our small group discussion we came up with countless scenarios that could create problems for the library. I can only imagine the long legal meetings that the library had to go through in order to create a legal contract that outlines the conditions that the advertisements must fulfill. In contrast, a “buy now” option through a third party retailer would likely be less obtrusive to the patron. Though there are still legal/practical things that the library would need to work out to make the system work, I think it presents fewer places for conflicts to arise. Transparency would need to be key for the system to work. I think the library would need to go to great lengths to make sure patrons understand when they are leaving the library website, as well as other privacy concerns. Though only one retailer was participating at the time, I think that if more retailers joined the program, the better the program would look to the public.

Overall, I thought yesterday’s class was very interesting and not what I was expecting. I was, definitely pleasantly surprised.  As for the more practical questions that I had going into class after completing the readings, I’m hoping that our one shot workshops next week will provide a chance for me to gain some clarity of how to ensure that my own work follows ethical guidelines.

As information professionals I think it is very important to have a set of ethical and moral standards that we abide by. I think that these moral and ethical standards should be set at many different levels, the professional, the institutional and the personal. This is the second time at SI that I have encountered the topic in ethics in libraries, and I have felt that the standards set at the professional level are more suggestions for professional conduct, rather than strict declarations of behavior. In scenarios offered I often feel that we are left at the discretion or our institutions or our own moral judgement. Often times when reading case stories I wish that a hard conclusion would be drawn about what to do at the reference desk what a patron does…(insert controversial interaction here). When finished with examples like the ones in Mark Lenker’s article, “Dangerous Questions at the Reference Desk” I wish that I was given a hard conclusion on the difficult scenarios. Case studies like these tend to leave me feeling with little to rely on other than my own intuition and ethical and moral beliefs. Perhaps I lack a true feeling of direction because I do not have an intermediate authority to rely on such as an institution, between my own beliefs and the ALA code of ethics. Unfortunately, I do not think these difficult questions will become easier to answer once I reach the real world and real patrons.

I am looking forward to reading the thoughts of the bloggers in my cohort and to the ideas of my classmates. The ethical and moral questions we are going to run into as library professionals are likely going to be even more difficult and blurry once we are out of school and working professionals. I hope that I can gain clarity from class and discussion to help me better understand where I should be drawing the line between my personal beliefs, the institution’s standards, and ALA’s codes. Especially when the three may be in conflict.

This week’s class was our book club meeting and it was a blast! There were nine of us in our group and we all brought different perspectives to the meeting which lead to some really interesting discussions about the readings. We discussed five different stories and surprisingly, all of the stories dealt with central themes of change and memory. I initially thought that the readings that we each picked were very distinct, but through our discussion on Monday I began to see a lot more connections between.

The Beautiful People

“The Beautiful People” is a futuristic, sci-fi, short story about an 18 year old girl, Mary, who is questioning her societal norms as she approaches her inevitable “transformation” where all of her flaws will be removed. Marry lives in a world in the future where there are no longer books, only “tapes” that show moving pictures, and where people live for much longer than they do today.

We had a great discussion about this book, and some of the themes that I particularly enjoyed discussing was the idea of self, and what Marry is afraid of losing of herself after the transformation. We also discussed how their world/society could have been created and what lead to the destruction of the subconscious. Because this story was written in the 1952, we discussed the historical context that Charles Beaumont was writing from and what warning he was trying to give to people.

Return to River Town

“Return to River Town” is a National Geographic article written by Peter Hessler who reflects on his visit to Fuling China in 1992 and the rapid change that the rural village has undergone since his time in the Peace Core. Hessler writes about the Dam that was built in Fuling and the positive and negative effects it has had on the landscape and people living there.

I thought this was a really interesting choice for a book club meeting, and our discussion was a great example of how non-fiction pieces can be working into a book club meeting. Though “Return to River Town” was non-fiction, the article had a strong narrative voice that made it easy to discuss. One of our group members read Hessler’s book River Town which was really helpful for our discussion.

The Bear Came Over the Mountain

“The Bear Came Over the Mountain” by Alice Munro was the short story that my partner and I chose for the book club. The story follows the life of Grant and Fiona in a non-linear fashion as Fiona develops dementia and is admitted to a nursing home called Meadowlake. After Fiona is admitted she develops a relationship with another patient named Aubrey which calls in to question Grant’s past indiscretions and infidelity. The short story includes themes of memory, infidelity, and gender.

I really enjoyed our discussion of this short story especially how people perceived Aubrey, Fiona’s “boyfriend” during the first month of her stay at Meadowlake. We also discussed some hypothetical questions like did Fiona know about Grant’s numerous affairs during their marriage? Was Fiona faithful to Grant during their marriage? Does Grant begin a relationship with Aubrey’s wife Marian? The short story was the only reading in the bunch that was written by a woman, but the story was written from a male protagonist which brought the role of gender to the forefront of our discussion.

The Right Book

“The Right Book” is a chapter from With a Little Help written by Cory Doctorow about the next 150 years of book selling. The story starts with book selling revolving around paper books that seem to resemble a kind of fan fiction and in 150 years develop into a performance of the stories.

The part of our discussion that I enjoyed the most was about how libraries seem non existent in the story. There was a large emphasis in the story of connecting with young readers and young people who do not necessarily read. Our conversation evolved into what we thought book selling will look like in 150 years and how libraries would fit into that story.

The Catbird Seat

“The Catbird Seat” is a short story written by James Thurber in 1942. The protagonist, Mr. Martin,  fantasizes about killing a co-worker, Mrs. Barrow who is causing problems for him at his job. Eventually Mr. Martin visits Mrs. Barrow and frightens her, though he is unable to actually carry out his fantasy.

We had a great discussion about this story in the book group because there were a lot of different reactions to it. Some people found the story humorous, while others found Mrs. Barrow depicted in a sexist and unfair light. I personally found the story to be very dark, exploring mental illness in a humorous way. (Think American Psycho). Because of these diverse responses we had a lot to discuss and debate about what Thurber intended the story to be, especially given the time period that the story was written in.

Overall I had a great time at our book club and learned a lot from my classmates on how to facilitate discussions well! A big thanks to everyone in my group for being so great!

In class this week we will be conducting a small book group meeting with ten of us in each group. For preparation for our book group we paired up, assigned a reading, and read each other’s reading choices. I’ve really enjoyed completing my classmate’s reading choices and am becoming very excited about tomorrow’s meeting.

The readings assigned for this week are incredibly diverse: including three short stories, one of which is science fiction, a short chapter out of a fiction book, and a non-fiction, National Geographic article. The diversity of our choices exemplify how book groups can expand beyond the book. The maximum length out of our reading picks is 12 pages. The topics expand from the delusions of an old man and his desire for murder in a fictional short story to the rapid development of China since the 1990’s. The themes discussed range from environmental protection, patient care for Alzheimer’s patients, infidelity, conformity, to superficial desires. Though in our book group tomorrow each reading will only be discussed for twenty minutes, I think all of these picks could be discussed for much longer than that and be used as the material for an entire book group meeting. The variety of the readings chosen for this week demonstrated to me ways that the traditional book club meeting can be changed, altered, and tailored for the needs and desires of a specific group of people. These changes can be used to draw in new patrons that were previously left out of book clubs in a community.

I was particularly surprised by the National Geographic non-fiction article chosen for the book group meeting. I think this pick surprised me because it is not something that I would have chosen. That thought got me to thinking about how that is exactly the kind of decisions that we do not want to make as librarians: choices made based solely on our own likes and dislikes. Last week in class we talked a lot about how to break the norms of a traditional book club in order to involve different library patrons, so I was a little let down with my self that I was so surprised to find a non-fiction piece in my reading for this week. I think that non-fiction choices in a public library could be a great addition to a book club that is trying to bring in more men, recent college graduates, or even as a learning tool for K-12 students during the summer. Though non-fiction pieces for a book group may not be a good fit for all public libraries, they could be a great fit for certain communities and some library users.

I am very excited to go attend the book club meeting tomorrow and see how my fellow classmates lead their book club and learn from their examples. But to be perfectly honest, I think I am just as excited to discuss all of the intriguing readings that my classmates chose!