You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2012.

'Neurons' by MikeBlogs via Flickr

What’s the best balance between insider status and outsider status for librarians in academia?

The In the Library with the Lead Pipe article I mentioned in my last post points out how librarians in academia can benefit from their position on the periphery of a discipline, and I agree that one of librarianship’s strengths is the ability to serve as a connector between and among disciplines. On an interpersonal level, librarians can take on the mantle of tutor when working with students who need a coach or a guide, not another teacher to report to.

This week’s class discussion on embedded librarianship dovetailed with another conversation I had this week regarding online reference and librarians’ duty to “go where the user is.”

So, I’m struck by these twin poles: Do we (always) go where the user is, right down to an office in the user’s home department? Or do we maintain enough distance to provide perspective?
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"Laboratory" by tk-link via Flickr

As students practice inquiry-based learning, they are also learning to enter into the discourse of a new discipline. They learn to think like a scientist, or like a mathematician, or like a historian, as we read in this week’s chapter from How People Learn (2000). This book never ceases to thrill me with engaging snapshots of classrooms where teachers lead these forays into a new epistemology.

Yet the book’s emphasis on pedagogical content knowledge (p. 155) has me wondering what that looks like for librarians who teach.

In short, do we also want students to “think like a librarian” as they learn information literacy skills and dispositions? Why do I feel reluctant as I type that? Why does this phrase not carry the same cachet as learning to “think like a scientist”?

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"Drawbot Action" by Pete Prodoehl via Flickr

Good things happen when you get a bunch of sharp librarians-to-be together in a tiny conference room to hash out emerging trends in the profession.

Above all, I loved the variety and creativity of this week’s one-shot workshops, a collection of team-led 20-minute discussions on topics ranging from the Patriot Act’s implications for libraries, to the ethics of makerspaces, to libraries as third spaces.

Even better, I learned something.
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Our focus on ethics in class this week demonstrated to me how much I’ve benefited from being a part of the SI community as it hashes out current events and ethical dilemmas in the field of information work. I was also reflecting on the ways in which listservs and other online communication have opened up avenues for discussion.

I’m a longtime listserv and message board lurker, but I have been making an effort to become more involved in online discussion, which is getting easier as I gain more comfortability and expertise with information and library science-related topics. I joined Twitter earlier this year, and I’ve been pleasantly challenged by its format to produce thoughtful, concise commentary and discussion with peers and info professionals. Besides, it’s a fun exercise in brevity for me, a (somewhat rusty!) former headline writer.

Two SI listserv threads in particular came to mind this week as we discussed ethical standards in librarianship: one on the recent “homeless hotspot” controversy at SXSW, and one from a few weeks ago about a GPS mobile app that directs users to avoid specific walking routes based on crime statistics. The latter thread inspired a panel discussion this week at SI that I heard great things about! Unfortunately, I had to miss it due to work, but I participated in discussion via Twitter.

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"Inner Circle" by jronaldlee via Flickr

It was hard to organize my thoughts this week in response to our readings on the values and standards of librarianship, and how to approach ethical dilemmas that challenge those values.

I kept picturing those Russian nesting dolls, where concepts lead to other concepts and questions: ethics relates to professional identity relates to institutional identity relates to politics relates to activism relates to personal identity.

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"Bent" by Dirk Dallas via Flickr

After facilitating a book club discussion this week, I was thinking about how much of my experience being a group leader in a classroom setting has been shaped by my few semesters of teaching experience.

I’ve written a bit before about my time as a teaching assistant for college writing & rhetoric. I realize looking back on it, that my style of discussion facilitation came about in part because I needed to offer what one of my teaching mentors refers to as a “field of words” — a running narration by the teacher to provide context, point out intriguing passages in a text, ask questions, play devil’s advocate, etc., in order to lay the groundwork for a student to feel comfortable enough to jump into the conversation.
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We’ve got a tremendous variety of reading selections for this week’s book club. I’m looking forward to the small group discussions — like the high school students described in last week’s reading on Socratic Seminars, I find that debate among peers can be incredibly instructive and push me to see things in a new way or to reconsider my ideas.

My group’s selections range from The Federalist Papers, which I don’t think I’ve read since ninth-grade history, to one of my all-time favorite short stories “A Perfect Day for Bananafish” by J.D. Salinger.

I’ll touch on some details and questions that struck me as I read our stories and articles in preparation for discussion.

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