Friday, October 31, 2008

Slow Fires Film Screening

by Beth Ann Koelsch

On Tuesday, October 28, the Staff Development Committee sponsored a screening of the film Slow Fires: On the Preservation of the Human Record. The film is about how library and archival materials such as books, other paper-based materials, photographs, film, and sound recordings deteriorate due to the composition of the materials and environmental factors.

Information about the film can be found from The American Film Foundation website.

Afterwards, manuscripts curator Jennifer Motszko led a discussion about environmental and storage policy best practices.

25 staff and faculty attended the screening and enjoyed classic movie candy!

(photo by Dean Rhodes)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Assessing Library Instruction - CE from MAC conference Morgantown WV

Last week Hannah Winkler and I attended the 2008 Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Medical Library Association meeting in Morgantown WV. My geeky but laudable goals for the meeting were to present our poster on chat services, to attend a promising CE course, to catch up on trends and projects in health/medical librarianship, and to seek out hotel amenities, local landmarks and restaurants. Missions accomplished :)

The CE was the first event of the conference for me and it'll be the subject of this post.

ASSESSMENT OF INFORMATION LITERACY: IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES, Jennifer Nutefall and and Deborah Gaspar, George Washington University

During the introduction, the instructors emphasized the importance of deciding what to assess (student learning vs. instruction technique) and advised that it's best to measure one OR the other (not both) in a one-shot library instruction session. Jennifer and Deborah demonstrated techniques for both types of assessment plus they covered programmatic assessment. Once or twice the discussion was dominated by librarians concerned about the challenges of library instruction or the challenges of librarianship at their particular institutions. Otherwise this was a very useful course, with several take-away ideas for assessing one-shot library instruction and applying that assessment.

Advice/reminders of most immediate use to me:

  • Learning outcomes - Be sure to clearly define learning outcomes for each lesson with active, Bloom's taxonomy type language. This gives the instructor something to assess.
  • Observation assessment – During library instruction, note student reactions, behavior, and questions. I like this technique b/c it taps into a tried and true part of my usual instruction approach.
  • Muddiest point – After exercise, preceding break or at end of session, ask students to write “what is unclear/what do you want to know more about?” I've tried this before but not in mid-stream during a session.
    Read/study assessment techniques - This book was described as a good place to start - Angelo, T. (1993). Classroom Assessment Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Several of these techniques are described in Avril Cunningham's article Using “Ready-to-Go”Assessment Tools to Create a Year Long Assessment Portfolio and Improve Instruction, College & Undergraduate Libraries, Vol. 13(2) 2006.
Compelling possibilities:

  • Instruction librarian peer assessment - The GWU librarians have a nice framework. Their approach seems likely to promote useful feedback while preserving working relationships.
  • Start a pedagogy review group - Like a journal club, each librarian reads an article about a teaching strategy and discusses how it could be applied
  • Research Readiness Self-Assessment (RRSA) - Assessment tool mentioned by a participant
  • Audience response systems/clickers - Several participants gave kudos to this fun, on the fly approach to assessing instruction
  • Create an assessment portfolio - At GWU the instruction coordinator created a binder with tabs for various types of assessment then encourages instruction librarians to submit examples and results of their LI assessments
  • Apply assessment to university mission - What kinds of assessment are being conducted? How can this work be used to "paint a picture" of library contributions towards the university mission?
Also mentioned during the conference - online CE courses free to SE/A member libraries (that includes us!!). Next session is All About MeSH, Weds 11/19 noon-1.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Real American Government Information, in Northern VA of All Places!

Last week I was able to attend the biannual Federal Depository Library Conference in Arlington, VA. In addition to spending time with some old friends and meeting new ones (hey Audrey - knitters!), I was nearly overwhelmed by the great choices of sessions being offered. These conferences coincide with the Federal Depository Library Council meetings, but I felt safe in skipping most of the Council working sessions as they are documented in exquisite (some would say excruciating) detail in GPO's Administrative Notes, so I was free to choose from the three other concurrent tracks during most of my time, and even squeezed in some promotional events offered by Lexis-Nexis and Marcive.

Some of the presentations were put on by various agency personnel, and highlighted that agency's online offerings and other services. Most of the presentations have already been posted to the conference website, and I encourage anyone who's interested to check them out! I attended those dealing with:

Other sessions that also dealt primarily with online content included the following:

Some of the more thought-provoking sessions dealt with meeting the users' needs through the appropriate combination of collections and services, a topic that drives our own library.

I also indulged in some of the geekier offerings, targeted specifically at those whose work revolves around the minutiae of SuDoc classifications, shipping lists, claims, corrections, and shelflists, and described the tools available to make our lives easier. I won't bore you with the details, but yes, I enjoyed them immensely...

Finally, the plenary sessions at this conference reinforced my takeaway experience of the FDLP Interagency Seminar in August; although the GPO and the FDLP are bureaucracies, and prone to the same issues that affect any bureaucracy, these organizations have taken to heart their missions of providing Government Information to the people of this country, and have adapted to a changing environment with the intention of improving their contributions to the library community. They understand that the lines have blurred between collections, services, communication, access, and stewardship, and they are committed to capitalizing on this situation, to the ultimate benefit of users everywhere. I feel lucky to have been able to attend this conference, network with my colleagues from all over the country, and soak up some of the energy that is infusing the depository community these days!

If any of you are interested in hearing more about the sessions I've described, or anything having to do with Government Information or the FDLP, please get in touch with me -- I'm happy to share what I know!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is Element K OK?

From Jason Alston

Update (July 21, 2009): Element K has been discontinued due to the budget crisis.

As someone who is not a big fan of online classes and online instruction, I’m probably not the best person to offer up an opinion on Element K, a service that UNC-Greensboro offers to its faculty and staff for professional development purposes. But being that I’m possibly the only Jackson Library employee who is making use of Element K, I thought it may be helpful to my colleagues if I shared my thoughts about the service. Other Jackson employees who seek sensible (read: free) professional development opportunities need to know - at the very least - that this option is available to them.

First, some background. According to its Web site, Element K offers “learning solutions” to its clients, and these learning solutions, “provide clients with a holistic approach that addresses their business needs.” Element K boasts offering 2,800 e-Learning courses total, and it appears that a significant amount of these e-Learning courses are available to those using UNCG’s “Element K online learning” resources.

UNCG’s Element K catalog features courses in 14 broad subject areas: Business Skills & Soft Skills, Cisco, Communications Technologies, Databases, Design & Media, E-Business, Home Computing, IBM/Lotus Collaboration Technologies, IT Security, Microsoft IT Professional, Office Productivity, Programming & Web Management, Project Management, and finally, “Hardware, Networks & Operating Systems.” There are narrower concentrations within each of the 14 subject areas, and online course offerings within each of the concentrations. The online courses are basically self-paced tutorials that allow users to complete the coursework at their convenience and at a rate they are comfortable with.

The self-paced courses will vary in length. An HTML 4.01 course that I recently completed was made up of only six lessons. A more involved introduction to Dreamweaver 3 course, however, consists of 21 individual lessons, and I have only completed about a third of this course. The tutorial slides in these courses contain written explanatory information for those who learn best by reading; additionally, the words on these slides are spoken aloud verbatim by a pre-recorded voice for those who learn best by hearing the information.

Some interactive learning is also included, as users will be instructed to perform small tasks during their lessons and will not be allowed to move on to the next tutorial slide until the task is performed. For example, in one of the Dreamweaver lessons, the user is guided through the process of replacing a line break in imported text with a paragraph break. This is likely designed to facilitate learning for users who best learn through interaction or by performing a task. Once the user has taken all the lessons within a course, they may take a quiz in order to officially complete that course.

So just how effective and worthwhile is Element K?

Honestly, I’ve found this service to be useful in “laying the groundwork” for competency in the software applications I’ve taken coursework in, and not much else. A user should not undertake a software course on Element K with the expectation that they will be proficient in using the software application once they complete the course. If anything, the user will – upon completion of the course – understand the basics of why features in a software program behave as they do, and will have a decent understand of what the program is capable of. Element K could also be a sufficient refresher resource for those who haven’t used a software application in a while and need to re-familiarize themselves with the program.

But the buck seems to basically stop there. Don’t count on Element K to help you reach proficiency with a software application significantly faster than a cold turkey, trial and error approach to the program would. Also, while you may be tempted to breeze through the individual lessons in a course like Dreamweaver 3, which contains 21 lessons and has 20-25 slides per lesson, I’d advise you to take only one lesson in a sitting and take at least a five-minute break after each lesson if you want to take lessons back to back. If you attempt to cram with Element K, you will quickly find the presentation of the slides to be repetitive, making each individual slide more difficult to focus on and pay attention to. Cramming will also cause most users to zone out after hearing too much of the monotone lecture of the narrator. Many users will consider the progression of the courses to be more “snail-pace” than “self-pace.”

Element K classes do have a limited usefulness and my recommendation would be that Jackson employees at least browse the lengthy catalog and see if there is coursework related to a topic that they wish to know more about (I wanted to learn more about web design, so I chose to take courses in that discipline first). Taking a course certainly shouldn’t be harmful (unless, of course, one takes an Element K course as an excuse to get out of a meeting or reference desk duty). Also, bear in mind that I’ve only attempted two of the allegedly over 2,000 courses on Element K, and both these courses were in the “Web Design” discipline. Other courses in other subject areas may or may not be more effective to their users, and different users will have differing opinions on how effective ANY Element K course is!

To try your hand at some Element K action on campus, go to the Element K web portal and use your current Novell log-in information (note that your password for Element K won’t change, even when your Novell password is updated). I don’t know if Element K is accessible off-campus; if you find out that it is, please leave a comment and I’ll update the blog.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

ARL National Diversity in Libraries conference

From Rachel Stinehelfer:

I attended the ARL National Diversity in Libraries conference in Louisville, KY along with Jason Alston, Rosann Bazirjian, Anthony Chow, Gerald Holmes and Mary Krautter. UNCG was well represented! I enjoyed lots of the sessions at the conference and enjoyed even more getting to spend time with former and current colleagues and meeting new colleagues from all over.
While I think we can do lots more than what we are doing in the way of Diversity programming, I walked away from the conference feeling pretty confident about our organization and the efforts we have made with our Residency program, the Diversity Committee and the recent invited speakers.

My favorite, and most challenging session was by Tracie Hall who is the Assistant Dean at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at Dominican University. Ms. Hall held a two hour dialogue called "Invited But Not Included: Library Workforce Diversity in Conflict (or What To Do When Diversity at Work Isn't Working)". It was a very thoughtful and engaging conversation that boiled down to building relationships with your colleagues will better your understanding of them and will improve the organization as a whole.

Jose Aponte gave the opening remarks at the conference and used his Puerto Rican background to connect with what is important in the workplace. He used many Spanish words to relate to the concepts of a successful work environment. The ones that stood out to me were RESPECT and FAMILY. Some people do not like to use the word family when relating to work, but I find it helpful to think about the whole organization as a family. Some people you are very close to, others not as much, and some with whom you have conflict, however we are all working toward a greater goal of library service.

I will step down from the soapbox now! Attending the Diversity in Libraries conference was a wonderful experience and I hope to incorporate many of lessons I learned to our work world.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Another Society of American Archivists Conference Report

I attended the Society of American Archivist Conference in San Francisco from August 26-31st, 2008. I attended sessions about developing collection development policies, working with university instructors to integrate archival materials into undergraduate courses, and digitizing and digital access issues for archival collections. I also attended the Manuscript Repositories and Oral History section meetings and toured an “alternative” repository.

You can learn more about the conference here:

One of the personal highlights was meeting Beth Carmicheal, who was my predecessor as the Curator of the Women Veterans Historical Collection! Beth Ann (that's me) is on the left and Beth Carmichael is on the right.

So that my report doesn't overlap with other reports (Like Michelle's!), I will report on only 2 of the sessions I attended as well as reporting on the section meetings and repository tour.

Brief Session Hightlights:


Pam Hackbart-Dean from the Special Collections Research Center, Southern Illinois University Carbondale discussed the necessity of having a Collection Development Policy in place.

Policies are necessary to:

· reduce personal bias in collecting;

· improve the consistency of collecting efforts;

· identify gaps in the collection,

· establish systematic collecting efforts and planning;

· help collectors prioritize what to collect;

· aid in continuity of collecting efforts;

· help with public relations (i.e. potential donors will understand what will and what will not be collected);

· streamline/focus cataloguing;

· help with planning for storage and preservation issues/decisions;

· hold collector accountable for collecting decisions; and

· focus a commitment to collecting goals.

Nanci Young from Smith College Archives discussed strategies on how to refuse materials, which is an important issue for any archives.

She elaborated on how and why telling donors “no” is difficult for archivists to do. For example, if materials in question are being donated by the creator’s children they can especially feel that the materials have great value. As archivists we cannot essentially determine “value”, but we can decide whether or not it fits /adds to our collection.

Nanci Young's Strategies to “Getting to No”:

· Have a clear mission statement;

· Make collection principles known to donors;

· Keep a printed copy of mission statement and collection policies at your desk so that you can refer to them quickly when talking to donors;

· Have a list of referrals that you can give to potential donors. This shows that we do not think their materials are worthless, but that they might just be more appropriate elsewhere;

· Stall: don’t make quick decisions. Take the time to “court” donors so that they understand not only the rationale behind your decisions but also your good will;

· Give the donor a list of guidelines.

· Redirect: Explain that out-of-scope or redundant materials could be placed elsewhere and have a list of referrals;

· Offer preservation information to the donor; and

· Give donors emotional validation- they have an emotional attachment to materials. Listen to their stories and ACKNOWLEDGE THEM WITH APPRECIATION that they thought of the archives.


Liz Losh from the University of California Irvine, Kerry Scott from the University of California, Santa Cruz and Bill Landis from Yale University presented at this session.


• Archivists need to impress upon instructors that “undergraduates need to have substantive research experiences”.

• Students want e-copies of all materials used.

• For classes, create a simple class webpage and class blog.

• Put materials on hold for students but also provide information about where materials are stored in the collections.

• Give students a standard set of questions they all will answer. Have them do a short in-class assignment.

• Insist that instructor is present during the class(es).

• Encourage faculty to “partner” by interacting with you during class.

• Try to tie the materials into current events so that they
are “relevant/interesting” to students.


This meeting was focused on discussing the use of Web 2.0 tools to publicize archives.

Stephen Fletcher, the photographic archivist at UNC-Chapel Hill discussed the award-winning “View to Hugh” wordpress blog (Hugh Morton)

The purpose of creating the blog was to foster discussion about and interest in collection, share information about this collection and show how archivists work.

His recommendations for publicizing blogs:

· send information to listservs and other blogs

· get the library staff involved (e.g. send info to alumni)

· must do self promotion

· clean and simple design

· friendly, conversational (non-jargon/non-academic tone) to encourage user participation and comments

· regular postings

· respond to user comments

· tie in to anniversaries and events to postings

· get media interested

· get other people involved ( to info on other sites) have users/grad students do postings. Ask users to i.d. photos (e.g. “What basketball game is this?”).


There were presentations about two oral history projects:

1) Joe Lampert: founder of the Center for Digital Storytelling

Check out this documentary – Native American WWII army nurse veteran Marcella LeBeau called “Never Forget”

2) Howard Levin, the Director of Digital Tools that Enhance the Learning Process at the Urban School of San Francisco, discussed the high school course “Telling their Stories: An Approach to the Use of Oral Histories”. At this school, high school students spend all year preparing for and conducting oral histories with survivors and liberators of concentration camps.

Tour of the Prelinger Library

The Prelinger Library is a private library financed by the Prelinger film archives. A couple combined their book collection and operates it as a personal project (it is not incorporated as a non-profit). The repository holds approximately 50,000 items – including books, serials, government documents and ephemera. Their material is arranged by subject and not separated by materials or chronology (e.g. no cataloguing system; government documents are shelved with monographs and bound journals). Their taxonomy encourages browsing. The collection specializes in local and regional materials (including maps and natural history), landscape and land use, industry and urban infrastructure, architectural design, graphic design, sales, telecommunications, film and television, gender and civil rights issues, among other topics. The curator told me that the collection is used by a variety of patrons, including art students who use the imagery in the materials for inspiration. They will scan and copy materials free of charge for patrons. They have digitized many of their books.

Their mission statement: “To foster discovery and serendipity in a browser-friendly, experience-based environment; to demonstrate that new and unforeseen benefits arise from the synthesis between analog and digital cultures; to experiment with new and expanded forms of access to information; and to convey community around a collection where history is made a visible and usable part of today."

There was a big all-conference reception at the San Francisco Public Library, which was very, very modern. Only trained archvists should be allowed to eat and drink in the library stacks.