The gears are turning once again

During my time as a stay-at-home parent, I’ve kept up with our field through social media, local meetings, and conferences. Lately I find myself inspired to return to posting my thoughts on librarianship. This inspiration comes from events, articles, and conversations that are often tied to librarianship but are sometimes only very loosely connected.

How's this angle?

My posts may not be original or up-to-date, but maybe I’m looking at our profession from enough of a different angle to inspire you to join me, here, in conversation.

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A distance

There’s no other experience I’d leave my job at Norwich for than that of being a stay-at-home parent. Now being a distance learning librarian takes on a new meaning: I’m staying connected to libraries and online learning from a distance.

I look forward to what the next few years bring, personally and professionally. I see myself returning to a role where I support online learners unless some other opportunity presents itself; who knows by what door I’ll reenter the world of librarianship.

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Why do online students drop out?

I just read about a survey of students who dropped out of online degree and certificate programs. Money was the main reason students dropped out: 41% named financial challenges as the reason they dropped out, followed by life events (32%). I wonder if losing one’s job falls under “life events.”

I know Norwich has seen students fail to return to school in recent semesters because of financial difficulties. The University is proactively working with undergraduates and their parents to find ways to keep students in school. It’s an admirable effort.

I’m not exactly sure how things are going on the graduate school end of things, but I know my colleagues actively query accepted students who don’t end up enrolling in our programs. I’m sure they do the same of students who drop out.

But back to this survey, which found that 21% of respondents said they dropped out due to “lack of faculty interaction.” I doubt that Norwich students would say they have a lack of faculty interaction! One of the things I like best about our graduate programs is that the instructors are quite engaged with the students. That’s because they are required to be: instructors are held to very high standards and are expected to
maintain a certain level of support and frequency of communication with their students.

That’s a benefit of online learning vs. on-campus learning: the graduate program staff can, for example, monitor how long it takes an instructor to respond to a student’s question in the online classroom. It requires a lot of time to be a successful online student, and Norwich recognizes that it also requires a lot of time to be a successful online instructor.

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Take my job!

(post updated 1/19/09)

I am leaving my job in a few months.

I’m a little sad about it because I love my job, so I want to leave it in good hands. Come apply for it if you think the job description is as perfect for you as it is for me:

Distance Learning Librarian, Norwich University, Northfield, VT

The Kreitzberg Library at Norwich University seeks an energetic, tech-savvy and service-oriented librarian to join the library team in developing and providing services to our distance learning population. Norwich University enrolls 1300 online students in 10 master’s degree programs.

Position Description: The Distance Learning Librarian develops procedures and implements programs for library distance education services. Develops and maintains library web presence, web technologies and instructional materials for distance education. Serves as a liaison to campus units involved with distance education. Provides support to distance learners and faculty teaching distance education courses. Coordinates activities of library staff in their work associated with distance education. Collaborates with faculty, library staff and departments to develop collections and services to support distance education programs. Participates as a member of team providing reference and instruction in a broad range of subject areas. Some evening/weekend hours required. Reports to the Head of Instructional Initiatives.


Required Qualifications
• ALA-accredited master’s degree in library and/or information science
• Knowledge of current and emerging trends in instructional technologies
• Demonstrated ability to design web pages using HTML and CSS
• Ability to speak and write knowledgeably and effectively
• Strong customer service orientation
• Ability to work with various stakeholders and in team environments
• Excellent organizational and time management skills

Preferred Qualifications
• Demonstrated experience in learning and applying new technologies
• Experience with online course management systems
• Experience developing online tutorials
• Experience providing reference assistance and instruction
• Knowledge of scripting languages and database design

Salary: Minimum salary of $40,000, commensurate with qualifications and experience. This is a faculty rank, non-tenure track appointment commensurate with academic achievements. Compensation includes a benefits package of medical, dental, group life and long term disability insurance, flexible spending accounts for health and dependent care, a retirement annuity plan, tuition scholarships for eligible employees and their family members, and generous professional development support.

Deadline: Review of applications will begin on Feb 2, 2009 and will continue until the position is filled.

To Apply: Send a cover letter (including the URLs of any websites you’ve designed), resume, the contact information for three references, and a completed Norwich University Employment Application to:

Environment: Norwich University enrolls a civilian and military student body of 3,300 FTEs in undergraduate, professional and graduate programs. Most of the graduate programs are offered exclusively in an online environment. The library is a beautifully designed, sixteen year old facility with six floors. It contains more than 175,000 volumes and receives nearly 33,000 periodical titles in print or electronic formats. The library is part of a statewide library network and participates in several consortia.

Northfield, a New England village with population of 5,800, was founded in 1781 and is ten miles south of Montpelier, the Vermont state capital. It is 150 miles north of Boston and 100 miles south of Montreal.

More Information on Norwich University:

Institutional Profile

Kreitzberg Library

School of Graduate Studies

Official Vermont Tourism Site

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A finger on the pulse

(Hello again, neglected blog.)

In order to best serve our online students, our library has access to all of the sections of all of the courses offered in ANGEL. A side effect of being in every single section is that we get a copy of every single email that’s sent to a course’s entire roster. At first, this seemed like a burden with only a teeny payout of being able to keep up with news and issues I might not otherwise hear about.citationpost

A recent example of this benefit was a flurry of messages from instructors (in different programs) reminding, pleading, and demanding that their students pay closer attention to the format of their references and citations.

A-ha! Sounds like a job for passive programming! (That’s a term from my residence life years, when I did passive programming such as posting a weekly weather report for my residents; active programming is more along the lines of breakfast with the custodial staff or a movie night.)

I added a post to our blog advertising or encouraging students to visit the section of their research guide regarding citing sources. This message appears within a feed on every graduate program’s library website. (See image) Hopefully this will catch our students’ eyes as they return to the library website to relocate the information their instructors expect them to include in these assignments.

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EULA will protect you from the devil

I subscribe to XKCD because it’s so darn good. (Stick figures rock.) After posting the link to Reasonable Agreement, I really must share Randall Munroe’s take on the End User License Agreement.

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Last day of IL2008

A few more sessions to go before the end of the conference. I’ve been much more inspired by sessions where I learn new things (naturally!) from people who do different work than I.

There’s definitely a point of information saturation, so I took part of our lunch hour to get out of the conference center and take a close-up look at the Pacific.

My travel home will span two days, so I have time to process what I’ve heard and plan a few projects to complete by the end of the year. The first is one that I’ve wanted to do for a couple months: create a Firefox add-on for searching the library journal holdings (by title) and the catalog (probably by keyword).

The second plan is actually a revision of a plan I emailed to my boss on Friday before I left for Monterey: instead of waiting a few more months to assess our Ask a Librarian discussion forum in ANGEL, I want to start assessing the service right now. It’s been up for almost three months, and there’s already data I can use. I don’t need to wait.

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