Routers, routers everywhere

I typed Northfield too quickly in my registration form.

The internet connection here at IL2008 has been bolstered by a bunch of additional wireless routers, and I can safely write this AND post it without getting kicked off the connection (I think).

It’s near the end of the day, and I’m in the E-Copyright: Online Tools session that I thought would help me understand what my colleagues in the graduate school have to deal with when obtaining copyright permission for readings that aren’t part of the library’s collection. And I am learning a bit, things I didn’t know before, but I don’t expect to have to recall much of this because my colleagues use an external company to handle copyright clearance. And I’m a little more grateful for that because this stuff is daunting.

Great sessions so far. I learned a lot of tips and tools for improving websites, and I look forward to launching into a couple of new projects this year.

More later. For now, check this out (it makes me smile):

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Off to Monterey

I’m almost set for my trip to the Internet Librarian conference. The one thing I’m missing, though, is this:

I should have made this last week so I would get it in time for the conference. Oh well.

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But I’m a taxpayer!

Norwich doesn’t do traditional ILL for our online learners. Given the amount of time an item spends in transit (from the lending library to Norwich to the student and back to Norwich and the lending library), our graduate students have little time to use the material. (Often, we will purchase a requested book for our collection, and the requesting student gets it first.) It can be far faster, though, for our distance learning students to make an ILL request through their local public library than through Norwich.

One of the administrators of a graduate program I work with brought an interesting problem to my attention: some of our distance learning students are being informed by their local libraries that they can’t use these libraries to do research towards a degree at another institution. Apparently, this “policy” isn’t limited to local college and university libraries: my colleague mentioned that a public library system in one of the nation’s largest cities will not lend to our students for the same reason. But, um, aren’t our students paying taxes to use their public libraries? Hello?

I asked to be informed the next time a graduate student encounters this roadblock. I’d like to learn about this firsthand.

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Internet Librarian schedule

Most of the sessions I plan to attend on the first day of the Internet Librarian conference fall in the Web Design track:

  • Designing the Digital Experience Presentation
  • Fast & Easy Site Tune-Ups
  • Cool Tools for Library Webmasters
  • Facebook & Libraries: An Ethnographic Evolution

I’m drawn to one of the Information Discovery & Search sessions, Search Widgets & Gadgets for Libraries, because the speakers will discuss learning management systems. I’m also going to check out E-Copyright: Online Tools from the Digital Libraries track; copyright clearance is not part of my responsibilities, but I’d like to have a better understanding of what my colleagues in the School of Graduate Studies deal with.

On day two of the conference, I’ll focus mostly on the Learning track:

  • LOL @ Your Library: Live Online Learning
  • Streaming Media & Re-Tooling Library Services for Online Learners
  • Blending Technologies for Library Promotion & Instruction

The Solving Problems track has an interesting program on Solving the Money Problem, and I look forward to hearing ways we can improve our library website.

I’m torn between two sessions that happen at the same time. One is Embedding Libraries/Librarians in Learning in the Innovation & Change track. It’s scheduled at the same time as another Learning track program, Podcasting & Video Tutorials: Designing, Creating, & Making Them Work. I might try to scoot from one to the other.

I haven’t quite figured out my schedule for day three. I like the sound of Crafting the User-Centered Library from the Planning track. There’s a session about Twitter that would be fun to go to (that’s in the Social Media track). After lunch, I’m torn between three simultaneous sessions:

  1. Web 2.0 Tools for Online CM Workflow & Intranets (Digital Operations track)
  2. Making Movies: Cameras, Lights, Action (Social Media track)
  3. Pecha Kucha — Conversation Face-Off! (Planning track)

Before the closing keynote, I’d like to attend Information Visualization Tools (in the Digital Operations track), which will I think will be particularly helpful in my undergraduate instruction sessions.

I’m excited about the program because it touches on many aspects of my job: working with online and on-campus learners, synchronous and asynchronous library instruction, tutorial design, web design, and using web 2.0 technology to benefit students and intra-library communication.

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Fact Check for faculty and students

It can happen at any time. Maybe a student comes up to the reference desk. Maybe you’re reviewing a professor’s assignment in order to prepare library instruction for his class. You can almost see it coming. And, soon enough, there it is: The Directions.

“You must use library resources to complete this assignment. You may not use online resources.”

There are many variations to this terrible, terrible misdirection, but the point is the same: faculty who don’t understand that libraries can collect reputable and scholarly material in electronic format mislead their students and cause them to miss out on a lot of useful and pertinent sources (perhaps the most useful and pertinent sources to the topic).

Maybe some faculty mean “you may not use crappy online resources,” but they don’t explain that, and students get this tunnel vision and are fearful of even approaching a computer to use the catalog. Librarians (and faculty) lose a great teaching moment because of someone’s misunderstanding of online resources.

However, some faculty truly mean that they want all or some of their resources to come from the library because they want students to have the experience of pulling something off the shelf.

(I have several witty comebacks for this and a selection of facial expressions, none of which I will actually execute because I am a professional.  And I’m good at controlling my reactions in difficult situations, thanks to watching hours and hours of experimental film in college.)

I find it terribly interesting (and frustrating) that this happens only at the undergraduate level. Although, maybe it’s a more clear distinction for me because the graduate programs I work with are conducted online and rely heavily on the use of electronic resources. Why can’t the undergraduate faculty also steer their students to the vast and wonderful (and expensive) collection of materials we have online? To quote Chef from South Park, “There’s a time and place for everything, and it’s called college.” (Yes, he was talking about doing drugs, and I’m talking about developing research skills. Just stay with me.) This is the point where we want to teach students about evaluating resources and particularly to develop this generation’s experience with technology and searching on the internet.

And professors want to test their fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Awesome. (Sorry. That was snarky.)

The answer to this is outreach/communication/orientation. Librarians understand this. I’m not saying anything new. Librarians need to inform (or remind) the faculty of our excellent electronic collections, and alert them to the confusion they cause when students take those instructions literally and quite seriously. Faculty need to pay more attention to what they and their students have at their disposal through the library.

Faculty and librarians need to be on the same page, and many of us are. We’re never at odds with one another, but when faculty instruct their students against using (or limit their use of) online resources, student have a tough time believing librarians when we explain that the library invests in quality online resources that are appropriate for the assignment. Sometimes I change it up and say, “the University has chosen to provide these online resources.” I wonder if that makes any difference. It reminds me of political campaign ads where one party responds to the smallest amount of misinformation (“you can’t trust anything online”) with a carefully placed endorsement from another group (“the University stands behind these online resources”).

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Internet Librarian conference

I’m excited to attend the Internet Librarian conference next month in Monterey. The program looks great, and I’m excited about the daily keynotes.

Same old conference dilemma, though: a few sessions in different tracks look equally interesting, but they’re at the same time. Being a first-time attendee, I’m curious to see how information will be provided after the conference. This is clearly a tech-savvy group that will upload their slideshows, and I see that presenters and attendees are encouraged to tag their presentations, photos, and blog posts as IL2008. I’m fairly confident that I’ll be able to catch up on sessions that I’m unable to attend live.

This is my first trip to California. I don’t know how much free time I’ll have in Monterey, but I’ll ask my sister about nearby can’t-miss sights (she studied at the Defense Language Institute in the 90’s). Your suggestions are welcome!

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Another way to communicate online

I’ll say it again: I’m grateful to come into this job just as the new course management software is being rolled out. It’s helpful to be able to learn ANGEL alongside my colleagues, the faculty, and students, because I’ll learn so much more by being part of the initial launch.

It’s been helpful to learn about the behind-the-scenes technical aspects of ANGEL, but I’m most looking forward to learning how the students decide to use ANGEL. Specifically, I’m curious to see how they use the Ask a Librarian discussion forum.

Norwich students have several ways to contact me and my reference colleagues: we use email, phone, and instant messaging. My predecessor (now my boss) experimented with being an embedded librarian and quickly learned that it was too time-consuming to check in with all of the seminars in our ten graduate programs.

ANGEL offers an efficient solution: a discussion forum that’s accessible to students in all programs. It’s called Ask a Librarian, and my colleagues and I will check daily for new posts. The forum is efficient because we’ll only have to check one location in ANGEL for new posts, but that’s just icing on the cake: I think it’s more important that the posts and replies are visible to every student in every program. My hope is that the questions posted (and answered) there will be useful to students across disciplines.

Still, I can’t predict how Ask a Librarian will be used. Will most questions be general or topic-specific? Will other students respond to a post and offer advice or further information about the problem? Will the forum get much traffic, or will students prefer to use email, the phone, and instant messaging? (It just occurred to me that the younger students may see the discussion forum as an extension of status messages in Facebook: a place to mention something about your life within your community and invite feedback. Conversely, perhaps there will be some students who prefer to ask their questions privately by one of our other methods.)

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