Links of interest: March 4, 2011

One of the huge issues this week was the ongoing conversation (and sometimes argument) about eBooks and libraries. As you may know, OverDrive (the primary seller of eBook services to libraries) sent out a letter late last week with some concerning news: namely, that Harper Collins wanted to significantly change its ebook terms, so that once you ‘buy’ an ebook to be distributed via Overdrive, it could only circulate 26 times, and then no more. (And in addition, that it would remain checked out for the full length of the loan term, even if the reader ‘returned’ it, and could not be read by multiple readers at once – in other words, not taking advantage of the digital nature of the product.)

Lots of people have great posts on this.

All have some additional good points in the comments.

I’ve seen some people ask where the 26 number comes from. I seem to recall from my library school days that that’s the average number of circulations a hardcover book gets before it needs to be retired for practical reasons (the binding’s falling apart, pages are missing, it suffers an unfortunate mishap, etc.) However, as anyone with basic statistics knowledge can figure out, a lot of books circulate a lot less than that (and therefore do interesting things to the average), and therefore some books also circulate many more times than that, without problems. Picking it as the number for an ebook circulation is therefore even more problematic than it first appears.

Copyright notes:

Brian at Swiss Army Librarian notes that the Copyright Clearance Center has released a new video called “Copyright on Campus”. He also links to several past videos they’ve done. These are a great resource, and about as fun as anything about copyright is probably going to manage to get.  (Note: there’s stuff they don’t address, but there’s only so much you can do in 5 minute videos.)

Other interesting notes:

Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me (my favorite new quiz show) has a fascinating post on their blog on why they spell “Gadhafi” that way (as opposed to the 36 other variations out there – the challenge of translating from one alphabet and language into others.) The answer goes back to a letter from Minnesota school children back in 1986.

Doug Johnson has a great post about ways to make research assignments more interesting to students that are very much along my own preferences in this area for two reasons: first, boredom does not lead to great learning, and secondly, learning how to research and evaluate topics you’re interested in has much broader lifelong learning implications than learning how to do academic papers.

(It’s not that academic papers are a bad skill – I still think we ought to teach it, and ask students to do it on an ongoing basis. But that shouldn’t be the only kind of research we teach. Realistically, how often do you do that kind of academic-paper research once you graduate, unless you become an academic? Compared to how often you’re going to get interested in a subject and want to learn more for your own pleasure, or do research to improve your health, or because you’re travelling somewhere, or whatever else?)

Doug also has a post about whether we’re communicating in places where people are listening – something I want to take on here in the near future. (I’m a big believer in the idea that different kinds of technology do different things well, and we should pick the ones that work.)

Dear Author, one of the major romance genre blogs, takes on the question of “When does a reader know too much?” – in other words, how is the reading experience affected by having seen an author interact online, whether that’s a problematic way, an overly personal way, or even a very positive way?

And finally, Cassandra, writing on the DailyKos (not a place you normally expect to see this) has a lovely ode to the role of the public library in her rural Appalachian community, and why the internet access the library supplies is so critical in particular.

Links post: February 25th, 2011

A few links for this week:

Why do we use this tool?

I’ve been reading a lot of back posts from Havi Brooks this week, whose stuff I adore and recommend on the productivity/doing stuff better front, but found one from her from 2008 about Twitter that I really liked and wanted to highlight – it’s a great focus on “Why use this tool, what is it best for?” that I appreciate a lot as an approach.

On Borders and bankruptcy:

I’ve been reading various commentary on this (as one does when one’s personal and professional blog reading includes a number of authors naturally interested in the topic of where their books might be sold and what that means), and have been hoping someone would come up with a really great link roundup. Writer Beware has done so! There are some interesting additional links in comments.

(If you write, or are thinking about writing for publication, especially in genre literature, I recommend reading them in general: they bust publishing scams and all those ideas that seem tempting, but don’t quite add up.)

Library stuff :

Links of Interest : February 18th, 2011

Tech literacy notes:

danah boyd has a new piece about how teens use Twitter, and the related privacy negotiation involved. (And the fact that teens seem to be doing just fine with it, mostly.)

New technology needs:

I’ve seen extensive discussion in several places recently (The PubLib list, in particular, but elsewhere) about library patrons using apps to scan their library (or grocery, or whatever) card and carry the device, not the card. Brian at Swiss Army Librarian has a great post on the issues of using scanned barcodes on mobile devices, and looks not only at the policy piece, but at the technology one (many scanners won’t correctly read the screen version, but there’s a cheap fix).

Brian also had a great piece on keyloggers, and why it’s so critical for librarians to be aware of what their technology devices look like and do, so they can spot things that shouldn’t be there. This lead him to a third post, talking about what technology skills librarians should have, and why (or at least a start on a meaningful list.)

Better teaching:

Iris, at Pegasus Librarian, has had several great posts this week, on multi-disciplinary seminars, uncovering research practices in student writing, and “Breaking up with best practices, hooking up with learning goals“, which is a great title and an even better post.

I always love Iris’s attention to process and detail, but I particularly love the post on research writing, and the rubric and materials she links to immediately made my brain start wandering across what things could be implemented in other settings – both other educational settings, but also in conversations about online literacy, digitial citizenship, and so on.

Doug Johnson has been running pieces this week from a chapter of the “technology survival” book he’s working on for teachers. In it, he lays out three samples of how different schools and settings might use technology, all of which have some obvious benefits, but also some flaws or at least challenges. You can read some of the background behind his approach (with links to the three examples).

And from a different perspective, a post on one of the personal finance blogs I read, Get Rich Slowly, had a guest post about an 11 year old’s first budget (and ongoing cost decisions) that I found really interesting from the perspective of “stuff we don’t always teach/talk about well”. I found the need to jump back and start with more basics (about what the point of a budget is, why it’s useful, etc.) to be a really interesting analogy to where I sometimes find myself in information literacy work – just because someone knows how to use a piece of technology for one task doesn’t mean that they know all about using it thoughtfully.

Future of the field:

Doug Johnson has an interesting post on how to answer the question of “Should I go into the school library field?” I also like the two School Library Journal articles he links to at the end of his post.

Links of interest : February 11th, 2011

Welcome to this week’s installment of interesting links! Coming soon, another post on file management – naming conventions (I’m about halfway through a draft.)

Credit where it’s due: Do you use Creative Commons materials? Do you get frustrated figuring out what you need to cite and how? The OpenAttribute project is designed to help: it’s a browser add-on that looks for information on the page to formulate the citation.

What should people know about dinosaurs? Ok, I admit, I never entirely outgrew the “dinosaurs are neat!” phase of my childhood, but I’m actually equally fascinated by the question of “What *should* people know about a particular subject, and how do we figure that out?” So, imagine my delight in getting a pointer to a post that combines the two. Tom Holz (a paleontologist who focuses on the tyrannosaurus rex) has written a guest post about that very topic, with both general and specific things he thinks people ought to know about the field and why they matter.

A follow-up from last week – namely the bit about BitchMedia’s 100 Best Feminist YA list removing some titles. This week, I bring you Scott Westerfeld on the topic (author of many things, including the Uglies/Pretties/Specials series, and more recently Leviathan

On the issue of diversity, there was a fascinating article from a professor, Margaret Price, about the ways that academic hiring processes are particularly challenging for people with particular learning styles, or disabilities. The article also makes some interesting points about how a gruellingly lengthy interview day (of 8+ hours with very limited breaks) is not actually showing you someone at their best – or as they’d be during a regular teaching day. As more and more schools recognise the importance of diversity and pluralism in all directions, I hope that some of these ideas will become more common.

I know that I’ve deeply appreciated interviews that pay attention to these things, including sharing names of the people on a committee in writing before or during the interview (so that I can match the name and the person and their role as we go rather than try to sort out names and their correct spelling afterwards), and that give reasonable breaks to collect my thoughts and remind myself of what I want to focus on for the next conversation.

As a librarian, how I talk about things with faculty is often different than what and how I want to talk about things with technology staff, for example – and both are definitely different than how I interact with kids.) Obviously, I’m good at changing modes on the fly (that’s part of the job, really), but I do better at it with a moment to get a drink of water, gather my thoughts, look at my notes, and take a deep breath (all things that I’d plan into a typical workday on the job.)

Looking for a good guide to Facebook settings? Mashable has just come out with a really nice, new summary of settings to be aware of. I like to keep an up to date (last month or three) in my bookmarks because they do tend to change things, don’t they?

What technology changes: Henry Jenkins has a great post about how open book exams must change in a wired educational setting – all excellent points. Personally, I’m convinced that it’s possible to design exams (and other projects) such that online resources are helpful – but only if you already know the subject pretty well. This does mean moving away from simple identification questions (which are trivial if you have online access to resources), and moving into questions that require you to understand those terms, but which focus mostly on doing something else with them.

Joyce Valenza is also thinking about this general topic, but from a different direction, in her post about creating a new Research Tools resource online (as she’s moving her materials to LibGuide)

Links post: February 4th, 2011

Short list today: this week has been full of job stuff – last week was sending out lots of applications, this one has been visiting Boston mostly for a hiring conference today and tomorrow which has so far gone well (I liked all three of the interviews I’ve done so far, and I think they’d all be interesting jobs with great kids, but they’re rather different settings, which is also cool.)

Tech literacy:
LG, a maker of various electronic gadgetry, have combined forces with Jane Lynch (of Glee and various other TV fame) to do a series of short videos about various aspects of texting behavior. They’re funny and informative. Their website has links to the videos, but also other resources for parents looking to talk to their kids about texting and electronics-mediated behavior.

Mashable has a nice guide to creating a Facebook engagement policy that’s aimed at businesses, but just as applicable to libraries and other organizations.

Tools:
A discussion on one of my library boards pointed out a great resource for people taking over archives as a project – particularly apropos for me, because one of my interviews had just asked about my experience with it (I have some, in fact, but more tools are always great.)

Other amusements and news:
Most of you have probably already seen links about the hawk trapped in the Library of Congress’s main reading room, but they managed to catch it on the 26th. (It’s getting checked out by raptor rehab folks, and will be released in a more natural location.)

John Scalzi has a post about an interesting issue – the inclusion or removal of titles from a “100 best titles” list – in this case, a list from BitchMedia of 100 best YA titles for feminist readers. (I do sort of wish he’d left comments open, because his comment space is a very different place from that thread, and I’d have liked to see both approaches to discussion.)

And Jessamyn West, of MetaFilter, had an essay on the NYT about the recent news that only 15% of Wikipedia contributors are female. (MetaFilter, where she is a moderator, takes several steps to make the site a space that is more inclusive of women.) The comments, however, are pre-101 level on this issue: for further reading on related topics, I recommend the Geek Feminism blog.

Me, I think it’s a complex issue, but I’m fascinated by the question of how the choices we make in online settings create places people do or don’t feel comfortable contributing. I don’t think every space has to have the same goals (and in fact, don’t want them to – that’d be boring), but I think more sites being more deliberate about their choices and particularly what those choices mean is never a bad thing.

Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Welcome to the return of the links posts! I’ve got an interesting collection again, so here we go:

Continue reading Links of interest: January 21, 2011

Information literacy skills we’re not teaching

I got to thinking recently that there are a whole lot of information literacy skills we’re really not teaching at the moment – many of which are actually quite useful (or potentially so.)

[edited to add: I did get a question about ‘we’ in the above, so it’s probably worth noting here that when I write on this blog, I’m writing from the general perspective of a librarian with strong experience in the secondary school setting, and a general background in formal educational settings (high school, college). I certainly know individuals who are teaching some or all of the things I talk about below, but I know of very few where all of these things are clearly a part of the structured learning expectations, or taught/discussed in any sort of clear way (maybe beyond a few minutes of “Remember to back up your files” kinds of things.

Also, because I’ve had about three people go “I wish someone would talk about that” I’m going to make it a priority to write up some of how I do these things (and why I do them that way) in the near future.]

Tagging and other folksonomy issues:
Tagging is a lovely thing – being able to put labels on things, so you can find them again later. However, it’s also painfully easy for a tagging system to get unwieldy, especially after a year or two. What would happen if we talked about the process of creating a system (figuring out which tags are likely to be useful to you later), and also about maintaining a system (reviewing it every so often to make sure it’s still working well.) Plus, things like how they work on different systems: tagging someone on Facebook, for example, has different implications than tagging a particular book on LibraryThing.

File management:
I don’t know about you, but how I manage my files continues to change and grow. I’m still prone to organizing things in folders, and to creating quick links (via aliases, my dock, and other options) to the files I use most frequently. But at the same time, I also know that there’s some powerful search tools built into my computer these days (that weren’t there in the dawn of time, when I started using an Apple IIc, way back when.)

Searching is great, but like all searches, it involves some knowing what you’re looking for (for example, when the file was last edited, the name, a reasonably unique search term.) If I search on my computer for files containing the word ‘librarian’ or ‘book’ or ‘writing’ for example, I get hundreds, sometimes thousands of files, so I have to pick different terms. There’s also the question of maintaining different versions of files, and keeping them straight. And when we start sharing files – either by emailing an attachment, uploading to a central server (or something like GoogleDocs), it gets even more important to pick meaningful file names.

There are all sorts of techniques for these – but I know a lot of people don’t really know about them. We should change that, somehow.

Making thoughtful choices about time:
One of the real challenges of the online age is .. well, there’s so much to do. It’s so easy to get distracted by some interesting link, and lose track of time. I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can build the pattern of self-awareness into more of our online interactions, but I think talking about it is a good start. Where do we spend time online? Why?

Doing something because it’s fun is often fine, but sometimes we stay in online spaces that are no longer fun, because we’ve got the habit. What happens when we change that? All these questions – and many more – are conversations I very much want to see in broader conversation, not just with current students, but with everyone. (And it’s in my list of topics to blog more about here…)

Productivity tools:
One thing I kept pointing out in discussions about the 1:1 laptop initiative at the previous job was something that seems like a small change, but can be huge. What happens when every student in the class has reliable access to class resources? When a teacher could, say, create a calendar with deadlines and reminders, and have every student sync to it, so they’d know about deadlines or other details?

We’ve taught students about analog calendars for years – but what happens when students can tap into the wide range of productivity and task management tools out there, and use them to manage their assignments? Not only will they be better off now (and hopefully, a bit less stressed), but they’ll be learning great skills for the future. (Even though the tools will certainly change, the basic process of getting used to entering it somewhere, managing lists of tasks, etc. will probably still be there.)

(There will be a return of the links posts on Friday: over the holidays, I was getting many fewer links I really wanted to share, but I’ve got a nice collection again.)

Links of interest: December 17th, 2010

Good afternoon! Links today – and links sometime in the next two weeks, but precisely when will depend on what I find, since I suspect many of my regular sources may slow down a little over the next two weeks.

Today’s links include a lot of discussion about social bookmarking tools, changing how we look at doing things, and a hippo.(Actually, a hippo, a loris, a hydra, and an infinite string of elephants and camels. But who’s counting?)

Continue reading Links of interest: December 17th, 2010

Links of interest: December 6, 2010

(Yes, I try to do these on Fridays, but last Friday I had an interview, and the Friday before was Thankgiving. This week is busy too, so I’m doing this now.)

Last Wednesday and Thursday, I took part in a free WebJunction conference that focused on 21st century librarianship. There were lots of great ideas and discussions (and the WebJunction staff and software worked very smoothly). You can now see all the conference materials (including the presentations and the simultaneous chat sessions) online. I particularly liked Pat Wagner’s presentation on staying committed to great customer service, but there were lots of other good conversations.

On the topic of learning more, how had I missed the site fivebooks.com until now? They ask experts in a field (anything from architectural history to political satire to mysteries to .. well, anything) to recommend five books that would give someone a solid understanding of the topic. And why, which is in many ways the more interesting bit.

And Discover Magazine has an intriguing article about using a simple writing exercise to vastly improve student achievement in a challenging class.

What’s the goal of being online?

Several links I’ve come across in the past week or so have talked about both the powers and perils of online interaction.

Doug Johnson revisits an old post of his from 2005 that talks about why restricting online access in schools is problematic. What I find interesting is how much is still like that – but also how much things have changed in some schools.

And I love Scott McLeod’s post about the things we’d be doing (differently) if we truly supported educational technology. (I’m glad to say I’ve done more than a few of them.)

Common advice to authors these days is to be involved online – but how? A post from Betsy Lerner (an agent) looks at a few of the complexities.

I’m very fond of Common Craft’s explanations of media and technology – and they’ve got a new one about social media and the workplace. Particularly great if you know people in smaller businesses trying to figure out where to get started with the subject.

And BoingBoing shared a presentation that makes one think about the power of online tools, and the importance of teaching evaluation skills – and common sense. (The actual combination of events is, as commenters point out, unlikely, but at the same time, I think it’s an interesting case study in looking at other ways to send a situation.)

For librarians and library geeks:

Links of interest: November 19, 2010

Still mulling over some of the other posts I want to do, but this week there are lots of lovely links!

Bullying and other relational aggression problems.

danah boyd has a great piece on how talking about bullying with teens might not be working because many teens don’t see relational aggression as bullying – they don’t call it that, but instead, as danah says, “They’d be talking about “starting drama” or “getting into fights” or “getting into my business” or “being mean.”

And, related, Tor.com just published a chilling and powerful short story about the costs of seeking acceptance: “Ponies” by Kij Johnson.

Web design:

The San Jose Public Library system launched a brand new website this week, and it’s been getting a lot of attention. They’ve made some very deliberate choices.

Sarah Houghton-Jan, the Digital Futures manager at SJPL talks about the project at her blog Librarian in Black. And of course, links to the new site.

Emily Lloyd, at Shelf Check, highlights one very cool thing, where Sarah says in that post “Every single staff member at SJPL has been asked and empowered to create blog posts for the new site.  That means everyone.  No limiting by classification, specialization, or degree-holding nonsense.  We’re all smart.  We all have things we know about and want to share with our library users.  We currently have over 300 staff set up to create content and I couldn’t be happier.” They’re also not pre-moderating either posts by staff or comments by library users.

Their posting and commenting guidelines are over here, for the curious, and seem pretty solid.

And Brian Herzog has a great roundup of web design links and tips – focused on libraries, but with lots of general application.

Intellectual integrity:

The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a piece on the 12th from someone who says he’s had a quite lucrative business writing papers for pay. The article itself is interesting, but I also recommend the extensive discussion at Making Light that goes into various aspects in more depth (especially since the regular comment base includes a number of educators at various levels.)

Facebook news:

One of the big pieces of news on Monday was Facebook’s new messaging system. TechCrunch has a summary. And there’s another piece from Business Insider about how the complexity of the system might not be so useful. But if you’re still curious, Boy Genius Report has screenshots and other details of how it actually works.

There was also a bug which disabled a number of user accounts – apparently, all of women. SFGate has an overview and ReadWriteWeb has more. Boy Genius Report has some commentary, and also asked about the problematic request to submit government ID to get the account reinstated.  Gawker has a bit more. I’m seeing mixed reports about whether accounts have been reinstated, and will be keeping my eyes open for more this week.

One of the things I’m mulling about Facebook is their assumption that everyone uses the technology and tools and resources the same way. Which is. .. erm, not so much true. Even without getting into the topic of fake accounts, what about authors and artists who create under pseudonyms, those who use a maiden name professionally and a different name socially (or vice versa), people in the midst of name changes for any and varied reason. Any system that fails to allow for this is going to have problems. Ditto the thing about how people use different kinds of messaging for different reasons and with different people, and combining them might not actually work for a number of people.

General links:

The Carl Brandon Society (focused on authors and characters of color in speculative fiction) is holding a drawing for five e-readers.The funds raised will benefit the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship, a fund that sends two emerging writers of color to the Clarion writers workshops annually. The e-readers come pre-loaded with an amazing array of reading material from writers of color in the speculative fiction field. More details and the link  to buy ($1) tickets at their site.

Iris at Pegasus Librarian has a great post on being a guest lecturer in a class rather than a librarian. I had another conversation this week that reminded me how powerful being there, being flexible, and not trying to do everything can sometimes be the most powerful learning experiences.

And Jenica has a wonderful post about what good service actually looks like.

Ideaplay has a detailed commentary on Nicholas Carr’s new book: The shallows: What the Internet is doing to our brains. (Haven’t read the book yet, but it’s on my reserve list at the library.)

WebJunction has a brief (5 minute) video with David Lee King from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library system on 5 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Patrons on the Web.

In the comments on danah’s post below, I discovered a new blog: Beyond Netiquette, which focuses on how we actually behave while using all these technology things, with some thoughtful posts and specific ideas.

The New York Times had a great piece on how digital resources and tools are deepening our understanding not just in the sciences, but also in the humanities, with links to some specific projects.

The EduBlog awards are out, with some great links to educational blogs asking great questions and sharing wonderful resources. Related, Doug Johnson has a really interesting post on what kind of value librarians and technology staff offer compared to, say, a slightly smaller class size. (He is a passionate advocate for libraries and technologies, but he’s also looking at the budget challenges.)

And in follow-ups from previous weeks, Cooks’ Source has apparently called it quits, according to a local area newspaper (and in fact the site is now down.) I continue to be bemused by the fact that Griggs keeps focusing on the initiating event, while ignoring the fact that a number of other pieces (including from much larger organizations) were also copied and taken without permission. I don’t think it’s fooling anyone.

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Research Librarian at the Perkins School for the Blind

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