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!

This week’s class was one of my favorite discussions so far. Not only did we learn practical skills of leading a book club and running a Socratic seminar, but we also had a thought provoking discussion about Prensky’s article, “In the 21st-Century University.”

I really appreciated our discussion about the do’s and don’ts of a book club. I felt that the diversity of our class’s professional interests strengthened this comparison. It reminded me that when doing a book club, you need to supply the group with the atmosphere and books that that specific group want. As librarian’s we really need to pay attention and listen to all of our patrons, which may mean having a variety of books clubs with a variety of books and tones. Class also reminded me that book clubs are a good way to bring in non-library users and new patrons to the library by offering book clubs to a new demographic.

Our book club like discussion in the last hour of class was also really helpful in seeing how a book club/Socratic seminar should be approached. I also got a lot out of the discussion itself. When Kristin asked us to share what we took away from the discussion, I was glad that I had a lot of time to brainstorm before the spotlight snaked around the room to me. Our discussion covered a lot of different ideas and approached the article from so many different angles that I wasn’t sure what the most important moment for me was or how to explain it in just a few sentences. After a while I realized my biggest lesson was how to build innovative ideas that actually work and are not just successful, but powerful. And as I said in class, this article made me think about that innovation is kind of a balancing act between preservation and nuance, with a purpose of moving towards a specific goal.

I know that the lessons from this class in particular will be helpful in the next couple of weeks as my partner and I plan our book club. But the lessons will also be helpful as I continue to think about what direction I see myself going after I leave SI and what kind of work I want to be doing as a librarian.

It should be no surprise that as a librarian in training, I love books. I love reading books, collecting books, discussing books, the list could go on and on. Like I said, this should be no surprise as loving books is practically a prerequisite for library school. But I think one reason that I love books so much is how they can help a person grow emotionally and intellectually. This is one reason that I think I am so interested in library outreach and reaching out to the undeserved. I was really inspired by the Library Journal article “The Evolving Book Group” that discussed library book groups for county correction facilities and the county court system. The program reminded me of a club at my undergraduate university that brought books into local correction facilities for the inmates and gave the inmates with families the resources and tools for them to record themselves reading stories for their children. I think that programs and organizations like these are really great examples of how libraries, library patrons, and library resources can strive to reach very specific undeserved communities and make a positive impact on their lives.

Like many other book lovers, when I encounter a person how claims they hate reading or are not good at reading I develop a sudden urge to force upon them a stack of books that I claim “changed my life.” But I think the readings from this week bring up the important point that many people who claim to not like reading were not given the opportunity to learn how to actively read. Though I was not an English major in college, every semester I was enrolled in at least one thematic English or literature course.  These classes taught me many lessons, one in particular that writers do not control the meaning of their work. Once a writer publishes, the reader holds control over what that piece of literature means and stands for. Though, in “Teaching Reading: Beyond the Plot,”Margaret Metzger points out that this is a very slippery slope when working with K-12 students. Because while an author’s written work can be transformed to have many meanings, it cannot be transformed to have any meaning. To me, the most important skill that Socratic Seminars teach a student is to decipher the social, cultural, political, historical, moral, ethical, etc. issues the author is presenting and address how they do or do not align with the reader’s own values, beliefs, and experiences.

Reflecting on Monday night’s class I couldn’t  find just one take away from the class. This is not because I found the discussion uninspiring, but rather that there were too many unrelated topics that I found engaging. I’m not sure if it was because of my own Monday night drowsiness or not, but class felt a little bit of a “grab bag”, “anything goes” kind of class. I walked out of class with two major ideas in mind with a little librarian humor thrown in.

I was very glad that we came back to Jana McGonigal’s TED talk on gaming because I was interested to hear what my classmates thought about the topic. While I am interested in how gaming can be integrated into library programs for all ages, I was a little hesitant of McGonigal’s gaming “fix all” theory. A lot of my own suspicions about the presentation may be due to the quick paced, over and done format of TED talks. Something I wish McGonigal would have talked about more is the uptake of her environmentalist game among non-gamers in gaming rich cultures. I suspect that in the right format (like an iPad or iPhone or other trendy device) non gaming populations may be quick to pick up games that align with their personal values. My suspicions are backed by research with a sample size of one, but I would be interested to see the impact of these types of games on non gaming groups in addition to those who already game.

The other big take away I had from class felt like an accidental lesson. I feel lucky, and a little intimidated, to be part of a community that is so well connected. I find it awesome, for a lack of a better word, that Kristin can give us the inside scoop on many of the bloggers, especially the ones that I find myself admiring. Since I began school at SI, “Networking” has been frequently dropped as the secret to life that will land us internships, part time jobs, and jobs that we could only have dreamed of. But networking has always felt like this elusive and esoteric thing that we’re all supposed to know how to do. However, the last couple weeks I’ve been beginning to recognize networking a more natural process in grad school. Though I’m not sure this means I’ve finally drank the SI kool-aid, but I think perhaps this class in professional practices is steering me in the right direction.