Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reading as an addiction

Great quote from Diane Setterfield in the back of her book The Thirteenth Tale. (see my review) Setterfield is answering the question:
Margaret says on page 4 that reading can be dangerous. In what ways do you think that is true, besides falling off of stone walls while wrapped in a story?

an excerpt of Setterfield's answer:
... about whether reading could be considered an addiction. It is, after all, mind altering. (I'd be interested to know what what happens inside the brain, chemically and structurally, when someone reads. It might shed light on the reading addiction question.) I know there are people who don't read fiction at all and I find it hard to understand how they can bear to be inside the same head all the time. ... I find it so soothing to have another mind I can just hop into by opening a book. In fact if I have to get a train and I don't have enough reading with me, I can feel quite panicky. So am I addicted? And is it dangerous?
Is reading dangerous? I don't know. But I know one thing that is always dangerous, and that is not living. So I resist the lure of the kitchen/library. For now, at least.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

IUPUI Library

While visiting Indianapolis, I stopped by in the IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis) Library It serves a mostly commuter population of 21,000. The main library is five stories, the lower level containing the archives, an auditorium and student lounge with vending machines. The first floor has the Teaching & Learning Cetner and the IUPUI Office for Professional Development, Library administrations and some meeting rooms. The second floor is the main floor of the library with circulation and the reference area, which includes an Academic Commons, reduced reference stacks, current periodicals, micorforms, and government documents in compressed shelving. The Academic Commons consists of numerous computers - regular single service stations, an area for multi-media, and a couple of areas with wavy partitions, tables with computers for groups, with movable tables, chairs, and white boards for working. This was largely funded by local businesses interested in technically savvy workers. There was also a special philanthropy library on this floor and the grad student at the reference desk had gotten a MA in philanthropy studies and showed me that they are offering the first PhD program in the field. The third and fourth floors were quiet areas with book stacks, four areas of 28 computers each with a computer consultant on the fourth floor. There were faculty offices (library and university), banks of carrels, all having electrical outlets and various other connections available. Grad carrels were out in the open, but had lockable cabinets. Every floor had comfy seating areas. Almost all the computer needed login access.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Reference Question from UN Diplomat

I don't know how to title this. On one hand it was a wonderful personal adventure, on the other it was the ultimate answer to a reference question, it also talks to trust and serendipity. I just want to share the story with friends and colleagues who might appreciate it.

Yesterday afternoon I got a phone call at the Reference Desk from a woman who asked if we had a student ride service. She needed a ride for her husband, a UN diplomat, from Kalamazoo to Charlevoix or at least Cadillac ASAP. I spent some time trying to find a service like that for her, we even called one of our students, but found nothing. Before I could call the woman back, her husband called - he has just started the job at the UN, and just ended his job with Newsweek, so his credit cards don't work. I started thinking, maybe I could give this interesting person the ride. I left numbers with a colleague for safety's sake and went to pick him up at the airport. He provided the most delightful two and a half hours of conversation I've had in a long time.

Michael Meyer started as a banker, was bored, wrote a list of what he'd really like to do - travel, meet people, be on the edge of change, and realized that he could be a foreign correspondent. The next day he requested an application to the journalism program at Columbia.

Mike was working for Newsweek when in 1988 he applied to be the East European correspondent. Someone else got the job, but decided that would not be a good career move, as nothing much was happening there, so Mike took the position. He traveled extensively throughout Eastern Europe during the times of change. He even visited Latvia in 1991, the year of the barricades and eventual freedom. So you can imagine we had a lot to discuss. He is now writing a book titled 1989: The Year the World Changed (or something like that). In writing his book he is going through foreign policy memos and is amazed at how wrong Condoleezza Rice was about the Soviet Union back then. As a journalist he could see that there were real changes happening.

At one point he took over a year off to live in Kosovo and worked with the UN peace keeping mission. Then back to Newsweek, the European office, then focused on technology issues in the mid 90's. I'll have to read some of his articles (276 for his name and Newsweek in ProQuest).

Three weeks ago he started working for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as head of communications. (Thank goodness I had just read an article about Ki-moon.) Mike's job is to find the "voice" for Ki-moon, some way to communicate his ideas to the world. While we were driving, Mike got a phone call from someone at the UN, who was upset about an article that had just appeared in the journal Foreign Policy, criticizing Ki-moon's first six months at the UN. Mike knows the editor of Foreign Policy and promised to get out a letter to the editor soon. Later he got a text message that it wasn't in the journal, but on a blog. Mike had warned them that the six month mark was coming up and to be prepared for criticism.

Turns out that Mike has been on the Council of Foreign Relations for the last ten years. I have been in their office in NYC, because one of my Latvian teachers - Janis Kreslins - worked in the library there. They publish the journal Foreign Affairs. I just lucked out that I knew something about most of the things we talked about.

Mike's wife Suzanne is a champion of using games for educational purposes. He described A Force More Powerful, a game of nonviolent strategy. Mike recommended the book Everything Bad is Good for You that talks to this. In our brief phone conversation Suzanne mentioned that she is working with a major foundation, and that funding for libraries has recently come up. Must be why she thought to call us.

Anyway, the time flew by and I've got an invitation to lunch in NYC, a tour of the UN, and an introduction to the General-Secretary, if he's in his office. The chances of collecting on that are slim, but just thinking about the possibility is fun.

I didn't consider this to be going the extra mile (or 300 miles) in answering a reference question, but a wonderful adventure.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Best of ACRL in Baltimore

The best presentations had little to do with libraries, but the two keynote speakers I had the privilege to hear were outstanding. Michael Eric Dyson, a scholar who has written on the effect of Hurricane Katrina on the Black community, has refuted Bill Cosby, analyzed rap, and more, just about rapped his whole speech. I was amazed and wondered what David Isaacson would have made of him. His sense of the language was incredible, he covered many relevant topics to librarians and he explained the linguistic complexity of Ebonics. This was entertaining and informational all at once.

John Waters, director of movies like Hairspray and Polyester, though I only have seen his Pink Flamingos, was entertaining and edgy. Most would think this was too outlandish for librarians, but he knew he was talking to one of the most liberal minded groups ever – at least in the sense that we fight hard to protect everyone’s freedom of speech. Waters has definitely been one of those to test the limits. He suggested some ways librarians could increase the interest in libraries – by disrobing (no one would believe it happened), padding crotches, translating books into Ebonics, if kids are on drugs – act like we are on drugs. I found myself laughing a lot, though not everyone at my table was laughing, so even among librarians, this was a bit edgy. I found his talk refreshing, like refreshing your palette between courses, this refreshed my mind between serious conference presentations.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, I have to say the session that excited me the most personally and has gotten me dreaming pipe dreams, was a session on information literacy in the Arab countries. I went to see if I could glean some ideas for our international students, but instead, I am ready to take off and work in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. One of the presenters was Carol Hansen, my mentor at the Immersion program a few years back, who was just getting ready to go to UAE. She presented with a colleague from Zayed University in UAE, and another colleague from the American University in Cairo. After the session a man from a Midwest college was talking about being asked to set up a library in UAE for an engineering college being set up by his school. These places are looking for librarians, and Dubai sounded like a very interesting place to go. Wonder if I could talk my son into going?r (I think they usually ask for a 3 year contract, so it might be after he’s done with high school.)

Otherwise the most exciting session was from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on the things they have done to appeal to the millennials. Whenever I have heard Lisa Hinchcliffe speak, she has impressed me, and this was no exception. Their undergrad library is full to capacity and beyond, starting from the second half of the semester. Their circulation statistics have gone up tremendously. What are they doing?

  • Learning Commons – with coordinator
  • Combined four service desks – circulation, reference, media booking, and ??? (have to check)
  • Gaming nights
  • Purchased games and game consoles (Playstations, X-boxes)
    • 75% of the games are out at any one time
    • Have chosen to get a few less books
  • Check out laptops, MP3 players and more
  • Videos and DVDs out of closed stacks -open circulation
  • Priority to digital formats – who uses print reference sources willingly?
  • Quiet study areas are in other libraries, but students have self designated the lower level as quiet

These are all good ideas, but the thing that amazed me the most, was that from idea to implementation takes about 2 to 3 weeks for them. They are not afraid to try things, change policies, and if they don’t work, they go back, and move on. The only real example of things not working was that when they combined the service desks, they thought they didn’t need a real chain of command, and that responsibilities would work out for themselves and they didn’t.

There were many, many good ideas presented in panels, papers, poster sessions, exhibits, and just in talking with people. The rest I will try to organize into categories.

Web 2.0/ MySpace/ FaceBook/ Second Life

  • Create a library search box that students can put on MySpace or Web CT
  • Use FaceBook to offer lib help to specific classes
  • Use student blogs to advertise what student life is like at WMU
    • Librarians can search and respond to any research issues
  • Get involved with Second Life – even if it isn’t used for traditional reference yet, we need to know how to maneuver in it


  • Trends: shorter, modular, point of need, more interactivity, assessment component, gaming elements
  • Use multimedia creation software, team approach, oustource parts, get grant support
  • Trends in use – course requirement, links from course mgmt systems, distance learning, marketing to select groups, point of need “push” marketing


  • Side by side reference, sometimes with 2 computers, so students can do with you
  • Reference blog – a special blog to keep track of reference questions – keeps statistics, lets you see how students and your colleagues are answering questions, lets you add ideas, makes it easier for repeat questions (open source)

Information Literacy Assessment

  • South Dakota continues to refine their Info Lit Exam and we could still be beta testers
  • James Madison seems to be another one to check out
  • SAILS – seems ready for prime time according to a poster session

Subject Guides

  • Portland State has created Topic Watch guides for business & film studies
    • Composed of RSS feeds (news blogs), podcasts, webinars, federated search, some programmable websites, new book lists


  • Get involved with Study Abroad programs – help prepare students


  • Creative commons – new term I learned for open publication license

Monday, March 26, 2007

Michigan Academy Annual Meeting 2007

Michigan Academy of Science Arts and Letters Annual Meeting
Library and Information Science Section
Friday, March 9, 2007
Held at Ferris State University, Big Rapids, MI

Presider: Aparna Zambare, Central Michigan University


Material requests in an electronic environment. Joe Badics, Eastern Michigan University Library
Badics reported how they have phased out paper forms for acquisitions at EMU, and analyzed the requests received. 80% are for books, 78% requests were filled. The most interesting analysis concerned who was requesting materials. Art and history were the most active, 50% of the requests came from 4 people (or some other very small number.) Only 42 our of 736 faculty are requesting materials and only 30 students out of thousands. Many departments are not requesting anything. Another side note – people don’t use reserves much.

Trends in Online Library Tutorials. Maira Bundza, Western Michigan University

Consumer Health Websites as a Platform for Teaching Evaluation of Internet Content in a Library Instruction Course. Robin M. Sabo, Central Michigan University
50% of adults are not health literate, and since looking for health issues is the third most common use of the Internet, maybe librarians can help. In the Introduction to Library Research class, Sabo has students evaluate health websites, such as hoax site. There are public initiatives for improving information literacy as well as health literacy.

Teaching the Evidence-Based Practice Model in an Academic Health Sciences Library. Elizabeth Retzel Bucciarelli, Eastern Michigan University

Process of Constructing Medical Strategic Information Sources Use Value: Applications to Brussels (Belgium) and Lyon (France) Universities hospitals Setting. Samuel Tietse, University of Lille3 (France)
This librarian from France shared his research on the information sources used by medical professionals. One of the most often used was online contact with colleagues.

Googleocity: Information at the Speed of Chaos. Rhonda Fowler and Susann deVries, Eastern Michigan University

Sharing the New, Cool and Useful: WSU’s Emerging Issues Forum. Michael C. Sensiba, Wayne State University
This was the most interesting session on a way to keep librarians aware and on top of rapid and profound change. Using a commercial website Squidoo as a tool, Michael posts materials on this site for pre-discussion reading, which helps focus the discussion, and allows those who were unable to attend to still get the information. Discussions have been held on Social Networking , Viral Marketing & Libraries , Citation Management, and the next one will be on Second Life.

Why Should My Library Be Involved in the Institutional Repository? Ruth Helwig, Central Michigan University

Digital Commons Inspires Chapbook Project For Urban High School Poets: A Wayne State University Libraries Community Outreach Program. Lothar Spang, Wayne State University, and Deborah J. Tucker, Wayne State University
These librarians talked about an outreach project, where they encouraged at risk kids to write poems and then format them for in print and digital publication. Students were proud of their work, wanted a print copy and were interested in keeping the rights to their work.

Challenges of Undergraduate Education – Mark Harris, Ferris State University


PromptCat or Brief: Using Vendors Records in the Acquisitions Process. Randle Gedeon, Western Michigan University
I learned what we are doing in our own institution!

Teaching Our Teachers Part Two: Identifying, Ranking, and Assessing the Acquisition of Core Competencies for Instruction Librarians. Sarah Fabian, Eastern Michigan University

Patron privacy are we serious? Daniel Fidel Ferrer, Central Michigan University

Venturing off the island: Librarian involvement in the campus community. Jennifer Starkey & Angela Kelleher, Alma College

Faculty Status and Collective Bargaining: Panel Discussion of Professional Issues for Academic Librarians. Panel Presentation: Daniel Ferrer, Central Michigan University, Scott Garrison, Galen Rike, and Dianna Sachs, Western Michigan University