Friday, May 25, 2012

Google "Research" Tool

First off, let me have a slight panic moment: why is Google trying to make librarians obsolete? Since they don't necessarily even understand what we do?

Having said that, let me tell you a little bit about a new "research" tool on Google. I read an interesting (depressing) review on the Chronicle's ProfHacker blog about Google docs' addition of a Research Tool (official language). Basically, users can highlight select portions of text in a Google doc, click on the Tools menu, and have Google try to find a matching citation on the web. Recent changes to the feature allow users to limit to Google Scholar and make citations in APA, MLA, and Chicago. I will also state that at least two people in the comment fields had written reviews earlier in the week only to have Google update the Research Tool, thus rendering their reviews obsolete. So as you read this post, keep in mind some of the features may have changed.

The research tool has pros and cons.

Students really struggle with citation.
Having a tool to show them how to do it will help
Will students actually learn the citation style for their discipline?
And how important is that?
Students will have help doing research with tools that are familiar to them.Information literacy is an important component of an academic library.
Using this tool is no proof that students actually understand the concepts of information literacy.
Students can limit their search to academic resources.What guarantee is there that the students will read more than the abstract if they can't access the article?
Might help cut down on plagiarismBut will students do the research themselves and then write the paper?
Or will they write the paper and then try to find sources that fit what they wrote?

I'm sure there are more pros and cons than what I listed.

What I found most shocking were the comments from the faculty members at the bottom of the page. I felt as though none of them addressed the possible pitfalls of the tool. Granted none of them were librarians, and perhaps I am being reactionary.


Monday, May 21, 2012

College Librarians and Media Specialists of Washington State Spring Conference

Last week I attended the CLAMS conference at South Seattle Community College in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle. It was a two day conference entitled Library Advocacy Success Stories. I couldn’t attend all sessions because of my work schedule, but I had a few nuggets I thought I’d share.
The first day featured a “library success” presentation by Pierce College, mostly about their recent remodel of the library space. It really turned out beautifully. They focused on creating clearly defined spaces for different types of learning – collaborative, individual, multi-media, instruction – and different “vibes” – absolute silence, coffee-shop, whisper-level, interactive etc.

This photo from Library Journal terms it as “zoned” for different types of interaction. The signage is all one-word. The reference desk just says ASK and the circ desk says BORROW. You can kind of see them in this photo:

I’m not sure if I’m 100% sold on those terms, but the effect is striking and definitely closer to meaning something to a student than REFERENCE and CIRCULATION. (As I just read somewhere the latter terms are what WE do and the others are what the STUDENTS do – shouldn’t we be using signage that speaks to the user not us?)
One of the key phrases I took away from the presentation was the idea of “facilities as pedagogy.” We are having an impact on learning through our layout, facilities, signage, and yes, even furniture, and we should remember that if we’re ever lucky enough to have money to remodel J
Another important piece of their presentation was that the way they were able to get the money to remodel was by “proving their worth” in our favorite way… assessment. Oh, Pine Tree will never leave us. They were able, through surveys and analysis, to positively correlate interactions with a librarian with a higher student GPA at Pierce College. This really hit me – this is probably true at all of our institutions, but we have to create the data for anyone to know or care. No one is going to come along and create this data for us; we have to take the initiative. But when we do, our reward will be the irrefutable evidence that we matter to student success and (hopefully) the guarantee that our positions will exist in perpetuity. They left us with: “assess what you value, don’t value that which you can assess.” This is easier said than done, but something to think about.
Day two featured a series of shorter presentations on a variety of topics. I’m running out of steam so I will make them another post. Hope to see you all at ALA2012!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Preservation Tidbit

I am currently taking an online course in textile preservation through the Northern States Conservation Center. A little tidbit from my readings, related to the importance of environmental monitoring in museum and library areas with exhibits:

"One person can release approximately the same heat as a 60 watt light bulb and approximately a wineglass-full of water per hour." (Standards in the Museum Care of Costume and Textile Collections, 1998).

Which can, really, have a large impact on your collection if you have lot of people coming to an exhibit! Yikes!

Monday, May 7, 2012

What would Alanis Morissette say?

A few weeks ago I was helping a student with her research paper for Freshman Composition. In her paper, she wanted to argue that pit bulls have gotten an unfair reputation as a breed, and that they really make excellent pets. As we talked about her research and why she chose this topic, she told me over and over again about her own dogs, and how her pit bulls are incredibly sweet and well-behaved. Since she couldn't build an entire research paper around describing her pets' behavior, she thought she might look for some sources about dog behavior and training in general, to make the argument that training has a major influence over inherent breed characteristics.

All right, great. Our college has a strong veterinary science program, so there were a number of dog behavior books for her to choose from. One of the ones she checked out was "Cesar's Way," by the Dog Whisperer himself, Cesar Millan. The book came back from its trip to her home (with her sweet, well-behaved pit bulls) looking like this:

Of course I realize that one mutilated book doesn't exactly invalidate her argument, nor does it necessarily indicate that her dogs are out of control. But since I know what her research was about, I just find it so deliciously... what's the word? Does it start with an "I"?