Monthly Archives: November 2010

Notice of hiatus

Hi folks,

My family and I were in a car accident this month. We’re all relatively okay, but it seems that it’s going to be a little while before I’m back to 100%. Writing for this blog is one of the things that I’ve decided is getting put on hold while I deal with stuff and heal. Thanks for bearing with it. I hope to be back around New Year’s, so happy holiday season.


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Filed under Uncategorized

Standardization as a barrier: LCSH’ing Community

Alright, I will freely admit I just put LCSH in the title to phish librarians – so please no hard feelings from my cataloguing friends (please do watch the video at the end)  … but on a more serious note:

There are some things that most of us would agree – to standardize seems to make sense or be in our best interest, or, the public’s best interest.  For example, no doubt, a lot of us would agree that a standardized minimum wage can be a good thing.  And, of course, there are lots of safety standards that make a lot of sense.

However, I think we can get caught up in believing that to standardize provides the best public service where libraries are concerned.  Or, better put, I think we need to be careful in the application of standardization with community led library services – especially since the needs of various communities (both geographical communities and communities of interest – e.g. web 2.0 users, youth, immigrants, etc.) vary so greatly.  “Models” across the board, do not always address specific concerns of diverse communities.  For instance, “Pilots” do not always work the same in every different community, or, neighbourhood.  What makes sense at one point in time or place, may not at another.  Each community is different.

From a community led perspective, it may be important to create standardized processes, which provide a set of guidelines on how to implement community led techniques (e.g. asset mapping, community entry, etc.).  However, even these standardized guidelines, allow for a certain level of variability or adaptation, in order to allow for the flexibility need to work with communities.  There application should not be a standardized linear (predetermined) process.  If it is predetermined, it is not community led.

Even our own individual interpretations of policies, and, guidelines may differ – causing variations in a standard.  I think we need to be more comfortable working with flexibility – and support each other when we make decisions outside of the “standard.”   This is how and when innovative new practices/services/programs can be identified, created, and evaluated.

So, rather than be annoyed when another person makes a decision against the norm, we need to try and understand why the decision was made and how that might affect us in the future.  I think we get too caught up with equating standards with “fairness” and equality.

I think we need to put that idea aside, and start applying equity.  Standardized guidelines are great to have in place for the times when you need them but I do think we need to be flexible in their application.

** For some chuckles – clink on this link to applying cataloguing standards onto community

Special thanks to others for input on this blog posting~!



Filed under community development, public libraries

Library Instruction in my non-LIS Classes

This post is, in part, a follow up to my Embarrassing confessional: I am the faculty we complain about post of about 18 months ago, in which I tried to analyze my professor-job from the perspective of my librarian-job.  In that post I said,

“Maybe, just maybe, when I revise my Intro class in a year or so, I’ll get around to adding that library project.”

Having put that in print, when I had the opportunity to revise said intro class this past spring, I put my money where my mouth (keyboard) was and reached out to the library, requesting a library class session in the fall semester. The planning process was a bit bumpy around communications, and as a librarian myself I had to really rein in my “this is the way I would do this” and let my library do things their way – a way which was more one-size-fits-all than my (possibly overzealous) ideal. There was some tailoring to subjects in my course, but  it was far from a unique, collaborative model of library-classroom instruction.

I sat in on my class’ library instruction session and found myself shockingly critical of it. First of all, it was in a classroom rather than a computer lab, which I know cuts down on distractions but also makes the lecture more abstract and less engaging. I didn’t find the presenting librarian very enthusiastic, and although he did come across as competent, he wasn’t able to answer a student question about Boolean defaults ( my language, not the student’s) in a particular search interface he was teaching.

After the lecture portion, the students were released into the library to complete their assignments, but the computer lab was too small and crowded, so they had to triple/quadruple/quintuple up on computers, effectively turning this into a group project. Some of my students, who presumably knew the routine from other classes, had brought their own laptops and completed the assignment during the lecture.

I left the lecture feeling kind of uninspired and less than thrilled. I figured that next time around I’d just create my own, more course-integrated, library assignment.

HOWEVER, the feedback from students has been much more positive than I anticipated. While one or two students complained over having done basically the same assignment in multiple other classes already, to some extent that’s okay (I mean, if a third-year student is taking a 100-level class, you have to assume there may be some repetition). However, the majority of students told me they found the session either helpful or very helpful in preparing for their research projects, and since I wasn’t the one teaching the session I don’t think there was too much disingenuousness in those responses. After my unsatisfying past attempt at presenting my own professor-facilitated library skills in-class lecture, I definitely see the value of having someone the students perceive as a Librarian-Expert present the library skills workshop, and just reinforcing it in class with my professor hat firmly on my head. I’ll reserve my judgment on effectiveness of this year’s library skills session until I see the final research papers, but unless I randomize a cohort of students and compare research results (hmm….that’s a thought!) it’s basically all anecdotal data.

This experience has caused me to sit back and reflect a bit. I’ve never worked full-time as an academic librarian in a University Library. I’m one of those fairly-newly-minted-MLIS upstart whippersnappers who pours energy into my endeavours and strives for creativity and engagement all the time. However, maybe that’s not always totally necessary. I mean, I need to do this to stay engaged in my work, but maybe it’s okay for some of my peers to present in ways that are not the freshest all the time, if the methods they’re using work pretty well and are sustainable over time.

As you can probably tell, I’m struggling with somewhat-conflicting instincts here: being constantly critical vs. bring unquestioningly supportive of peers; relying on the tried-and-true vs. constantly striving to be fresh and engaging. While I still want to try to work to further customize the library session for this class, both to more specifically address the issues I see students having (e.g. scholarly vs. popular sources!!!) and to be more different from the library skills sessions they may have attended in other classes, I’m a tentative convert, and plan to offer the library skills workshop, in the library, again next year.



Filed under academic libraries, The Profession