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'Burgeoning' by Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

The readings for this, our last week of class, center on online professional development opportunities. It’s fitting — and, I suspect, no coincidence — that we’re thinking and talking about this topic just after completing a week of webinars designed to present an opportunity to consider new library programs, services, philosophies, and trends.

As others have said, one of the great things about this class is the chance to run what amounts to a series of mini-conferences for preprofessional librarians and information workers — we learn by doing, and from each other. That’s easily been one of my favorite aspects of this semester.

Our collection of webinars has been no different — topics ranged from assistive technologies to open-access publishing to library outreach for young professionals. My group’s presentation looked at the concept of libraries as incubators — for business entrepreneurs, artists, and underserved populations who need a home base for starting a cottage industry or connecting with technologies. You can check out our online handout to read more about some of the organizations we talked about.

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'Maze' by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

This week, my classmates and I ran our own #si643 backchannel on Twitter. A few days into our conversation, I felt like I’d participated in a virtual conference with all my sharp, engaged colleagues. Y’all are a fun bunch.

Last semester was my first experience using any kind of backchannel for class-related but out-of-the-classroom discussion — in that case, a Diigo group where classmates shared links and news related to our discussions of information literacy instruction.

The Twitter backchannel this week was a bit more informal and definitely more interactive, as we traded tweets on open access journals, eBook DRM, computational literacy, and more. While I’ve been a Twitter user for a while now, I primarily use it to follow professionals in my field and to curate my own news feed of neat stuff. Our class conversation required more back-and-forth, and challenged me to hone my responses in such a short format — always a useful tool for clarifying one’s thinking.

Now that I’ve got more than 140 characters, though, I’ll say a bit more about one topic that came up in our discussion: library jargon.

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'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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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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question mark

"Caslon metal type question mark" by Leo Reynolds via Flickr

I’m much better at asking questions than answering them. Guess it’s no surprise I worked as a journalist for years.

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Origami dinosaur

"Triceratops" by EmreAyar via Flickr

And now for something completely different: the book.

I laughed to myself this week when brainstorming this post, realizing that it felt different to be talking about a technology so intimately associated with librarians to the point of stereotype. I suppose it says something about modern iSchools that we are usually arguing over proprietary file formats and digital scholarly publishing models rather than arguing about, you know, reading. It feels refreshing to be back in familiar territory, though, and with a new perspective on The Book, that monolithic concept and cultural institution.

I’m reminded, too, of my work in a preservation class this term, where we practice “media archaeology” — examining the larger historical, cultural, and technological contexts for legacy or defunct media forms, in order to better understand them. It’s great fun to look at player pianos and phantasmagoria and stereopticons, but one of my favorite discussions so far has been the one in which we attempted to see the book “from a distance,” to de-familiarize it and see it anew.

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"Play" by VinothChandar via Flickr.

We had a sharp and thoughtful conversation this week in class about games and gameification — a word my spellchecker still doesn’t recognize, so that must mean it’s trendy — as the two relate to motivation and transfer in school settings.

I’ll attempt to sketch my gameification soapbox quickly:

• “Games” is not a monolithic category — chess is not World of Warcraft is not Tetris, so let’s be precise when we discuss what games “are” or mean for learners.

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Seattle Public Library by OzinOh via Flickr

OK, dumb question:

What does learning look like in the library?

I’m sitting in the Undergraduate Library as I write this, trying to gain a new perspective on a familiar place and feeling very much like Margaret Mead — if Margaret Mead were a librarian with a laptop.

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