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Waypoints

December 10, 2012 Comments off

For the past few days, I have temporarily placed my primary hat of librarianship on the rack and taken up the Stetson hat of assessment to attend the 2012 SACS Annual Meeting in Dallas with some colleagues. With assessment firmly on the brain, I am finally getting around to a post that I have been meaning to share for some time. My institution completed a reaccreditation site visit this past spring, concluding a lengthy, two-year self-study process. Or so one might think. The site visit does bring a sense of finality to a self-study, but there is another way to view the assessment activity that drives the self-study process.

waypoint symbolAt the initial meeting for the site visit, the following statement about the reaccreditation process was offered: “It’s not a destination; it’s a journey.” Off and on since that time, I have reflected on that statement. And I consistently end up thinking about one thing:

Waypoints.

Anyone who has ever played a flight sim game or actually flown an airplane is familiar with the concept of the waypoint. In flight navigation, a waypoint is a specific point along a flight route that serves as a marker or guidepost to help keep you on your correct flight path. One dictionary defines a waypoint as “the co-ordinates of a specific location as defined by a GPS.” Another dictionary offers this definition: “An intermediate point on a route or line of travel.” In other words, it’s not an (ultimate) destination, but rather a (point along the) journey.

Waypoints. Yes.

The reaccreditation site visit is typically seen as the “capstone” event of a self-study process, bringing much-needed closure to a long-suffering process that includes massive amounts of data collection and review, many sleepless nights, more meetings that you can shake a stick at, a few more sleepless nights, hours upon hours of writing, and even more sleepless nights. Our minds need some finality to the whole process. We need time to breathe. To quote Jack Nicholson from “A Few Good Men” [with some translative license]: You WANT this to be the end! You NEED this to be the end!

And yet.

There is an ongoing nature to the whole process. Even after the site visit, for example, there still remain those follow-up reports in response to recommendations of the visiting team. In many ways, today’s accreditation process never really ends. It shouldn’t end. The end-game for assessment is improvement and effectiveness, and I believe we will never reach the bottom of the jar of improvement and greater effectiveness. Yes, the site visit could be seen as a singular event in time. Underneath that event, however, flows a steady stream of ongoing activity–a river of assessment. Assessment is an ongoing process of identification, collection, measurement, and review followed by a determination of what level of success is reflected in the outcomes and a plan for using what is learned to benefit and guide going forward. And that is followed by another round of identification, collection, measurement, review, and so on.

So on the return flight back to South Carolina tomorrow afternoon, my colleagues and I will be in a plane that will (hopefully) be hitting its waypoints in order to effectively reach the GSP airport. Likewise, when we get back to campus, we will be aiming for waypoints to guide us through the continual journey of assessment. Happy flying, everyone.

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Categories: Assessment, Education Tags: ,

Reaching Across Campus for Collaboration

October 29, 2010 Comments off

I love the idea of collaboration. It broadens the creative knowledge base, creates a richer planning environment, provides opportunity for improved productivity, and fosters a broader sense of ownership.

CC image via flickr (by woodleywonderworks)

Lynne Bisko and Rebecca Pope-Ruark (Elon University) have published an excellent article in the October issue of C&RL News entitled “Making the Video: Tips for Successful Library-Class Collaborations.” The article describes a collaborative effort between Elon’s Belk Library and a class supported by the University’s Center for Undergraduate Publishing and Information Design (CUPID). Bisko and Pope-Ruark conclude the article with some practical advice for other librarians considering similar collaboration with students. This is worth the read.

Opportunities for collaboration abound. Most recently on our campus, the library…

  • Worked with some students in graphic design on logo concepts
  • Coordinated with Student Services during the 2010 Census to educate students about the U.S. Census and provide information about Census jobs
  • Also with Student Services, shared information about career-related resources and will be crafting a plan for embedding library resources on the Student Services website
  • Is considering a collaborative effort between our library and a marketing class
  • Has begun a conversation with the Art Department about a partnership involving the creativity of some art students, paint, and library walls. The students are loving the idea. I’ll be walking through the library with an art professor later today. Exciting stuff.

Does your library have any stories of collaboration across campus? Successes? Learning experiences?

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How Would You Change Library School?

October 20, 2010 6 comments

The Setup…

There has been quite a bit of discussion lately about the value of a Masters in Library Science degree. Bobbi Newman (Librarian by Day) has two posts (Post #1 and Post #2) that serve as nice digests of these discussions on the web.

There has also been talk about the make-up of the library school curriculum. Most recently, Micah Vandegrift–a current library school student–wrote a guest post for the In the Library with a Lead Pipe blog. Micah describes his idea for what he calls the HackLibSchool experiment which centers (initially, at least) around a collaborative Google Document. The post garnered some chatter on Twitter with the hashtag #HackLibSchool, and now a wiki has been created.

The Question…

How would you change library school if given the chance? As a current library school student or a graduate of a library school, is there anything that you would recommend as an improvement for an MLS program?

Tomorrow (Thursday) I will be attending a session at the South Carolina Library Association 2010 Annual Conference that addresses this very issue. The “SLIS Curriculum Review Forum” session will center around a current review of the core MLS courses taught in the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina. The session will be held in the form of a focus group discussion “to share feedback on skills gained in the program and skills needed in the workplace.”

I know this is super short notice, but I had a late-night, 11th-hour idea…I would love to be able to bring your thoughts to the discussion at tomorrow’s session. Respond with a comment at the end of this post or tweet your “library school reform” suggestion to me at @jkennerly. Here’s a great chance for you to provide some valuable feedback to a real-life library school. Go!

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Dropping Orientation for Ongoing Collaboration

July 23, 2010 2 comments

Last week one of my fellow librarians forwarded to me an article entitled “Using Library Experts Wisely” by Rob Weir and appearing in Inside Higher Education. It wasn’t until this week that I got around to reading it, and I wish I had done so earlier.

Weir, a seasoned professor in higher education, chose to dump the one-shot library orientation session for one of his classes. In its place? An ongoing collaborative effort to make the librarian, Dave MacCourt, an integral part of the course. The article tells their story. What a great real-life example of how the knowledge of a classroom instructor coupled with the expertise of a librarian throughout the semester could improve our students’ learning experience.

Why don’t we do more of this? Two possible reasons come to mind:

  1. It’s easier to go with the status quo. For the professor, perhaps the current course outline is a well-honed product that has been used (effectively) for years. For the librarian, the orientation is possibly so well-rehearsed that it could be given at a moment’s notice with very little effort. To completely rethink the design of a course requires a significant amount of time and energy–particularly if moving to a collaborative approach. Let’s face it: The status quo requires less effort (where less effort = good).
  2. We’re afraid of how the other person will respond. What will the librarian think about the idea of dropping that library instruction session that we have been using for years in this class? How will that professor react to a suggestion that might significantly alter his or her course syllabus? The answer to both of these questions is: We really don’t know. One thing’s for sure: We won’t know unless we have the conversation. And I can’t help but believe that there are a lot of other librarians and professors out there like Rob and Dave (and me). If the suggestion of trying an ongoing, collaborative approach were made, we would sing, like Dave, “I’ve been waiting for years for someone to say that!”

Yes, it would require some work on our end, but think of the benefit to the student.

OK, confession time. I’ve thought of suggesting this semester-long collaborative idea with faculty at my institution more than once but never got beyond mental conceptualization–not really sure how they would respond. If there is anyone else who finds themselves floating in this boat with me, perhaps it’s time for us to just simply ask.

Librarians, professors, students…What about you? Have any of you been part of a class experience that involved exciting collaborative efforts between the instructor and a librarian? I would love to hear your story.

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5 Thoughts for New Librarians

May 17, 2010 Comments off

It is graduation season. Many graduates have just recently tossed their mortarboards into the air, and others will be joining them over the next few weeks. Among them all are those who will be entering the library profession, having earned a masters degree in library science. They are librarians–the newest among the clan.

Last week I was able to find time to read through the May 2010 issue of College & Research Libraries News. In it is an article by Rene Tanner entitled “Making the Most of Your Career: Advice for New Academic Librarians.” Reading this article turned my thoughts to a member of my library staff who was one of those individuals graduating this month with her M.L.I.S. degree. She joined our library staff in January 2006, and I remember very vividly that day back in 2007 when she approached me to let me know that she wanted to pursue a masters degree in library science. It has been a joy mentoring her and watching her learn new skills and develop her own take on what it means to be a librarian. And now, after three years of taking classes part-time while holding down her job at our library, she has completed her studies and officially claimed the right and privilege of being called a librarian. I look forward to the contributions that she will bring to the job as she accepts new responsibilities and challenges.

While there are wiser, more seasoned veteran librarians than me, I would like to offer a few words–5 thoughts–to the newest members of our profession.

1. Celebrate your accomplishments. You have devoted many hours to a graduate library science program. You have gathered wisdom from lectures, broadened your concept of what it means to be an information handler, collaborated with fellow students, tackled issues facing the profession, written your reflections about those issues, learned new skill sets, and shaped your dreams about how you can contribute to the work of libraries. You have come a long way. The real work lies ahead, but for now enjoy what you have accomplished.

2. Find your place. A public library. A college campus library. A K-12 school library. A law library or some other special library. A non-traditional library setting. You may or may not already know the setting where you feel you can most thrive. If so, congratulations. You have subdued half the battle already. If not, be patient, explore the options, talk with veteran librarians, and take note of how you feel about the profession in various settings. The same holds true not only for the setting, but also for the various roles within those settings. Study to learn those jobs/areas within the library where your skill set–your talents–make the greatest contributions and where you feel the most fulfilled at the end of the day.

3. Join the fray. When you land your first library job out of graduate school, remember that you will be joining a group of folks and a library with a history and a mission that is well underway. I guess what I am trying to say is: Acknowledge your role among the many and join in the team effort to provide and promote library resources and services.

4. Sing new songs. While it is important to recognize and work with the existing makeup of a library and its staff, don’t be afraid to bring your abilities and ideas to the table–no matter how new or untraditional they may seem. Be respectful, but be a contributor. Learn and join in with the tunes that are well-known among that library’s staff, but sing your new songs as well. You just may find others humming your new tunes or asking you to teach the song to them.

5. Bring the passion. Right now, do you feel the excitement that comes at the beginning of a journey? Do you have the passion? It is my hope that you are teeming with ideas and energy that will breathe new life into libraries. In a profession that can be underpaid and overlooked, never doubt the value of what you can offer as a librarian. Hold the banner high. With a well-placed passion and professional enthusiasm, you can encourage those around you and make a difference.

To all the recent library school graduates out there, I offer my heart-felt congratulations and my excitement in knowing that there continue to be those who hear and heed the call. Welcome to the ranks, fellow librarians!

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Middle School Observations: Part 4

March 6, 2010 1 comment

This is the final in a series of posts about my experiences during an open house event last month. The open house was for incoming 6th graders and their parents at the middle school where my daughters will be attending next year. In the original post, I introduced 3 observations from that event:

1. The open house was engaging.

2. An understanding of information literacy was present.

And finally…

3.  The media specialist (a.k.a. librarian) was golden!

I love the outdoors, and I frequently get “lost” in my surroundings on a trail, in a forest, or on a mountain rock outcrop overlooking a valley. I could say the same thing about libraries. I love them, and I frequently get “lost” in them. I was very impressed with the middle school library. The entire facility is only three years old, so there is still an attractive newness to the place. Aside from that the library is well-equipped with print resources, technology, and inviting user space. But I was most impressed with the library’s keeper–the media specialist. As a librarian myself, it was invigorating to be an observer of the magic of librarianship that she personified. Her enthusiasm for reading and “research” was evident and contagious. She focused her attention squarely on the children (i.e. her future library users). She drew them into the “orientation” of the library (more engagement). She explained how she works not only in the library but goes out into the classrooms each week to work with the students on their turf (the embedded librarian). She was very clear in the fact that, above all, she is there to help.

I hate to admit it, but there are days that I don’t feel like being a librarian or placing my focus on helping others with their information needs. During such times in the future, I hope I can draw on a vivid memory of how a middle school media specialist offered me a motivational speech on librarianship without even realizing it.

As the media specialist was wrapping up her time with our group, she said to the kids–her future library users [paraphrasing here], “I’m looking forward to seeing you on campus next year. If you ever need help with anything–and not just library stuff–come see me.” Later in the evening I overheard a child talking to her parent. I could tell that she was talking about the visit to the library. She said [exact quote], “I liked her. I’ve never heard a librarian offer to help me with things out of the library.

I reflected on that for quite a while.

In that 11-year-old’s mind, that media specialist is golden.

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Middle School Observations: Part 3

March 3, 2010 Comments off

This is my second follow-up to an original post on my family’s middle school open house adventure and what I gleaned from the experience. In my first follow-up post I talked about how the open house was engaging. And now, my second key observation:

An understanding of information literacy was present.

At one point we were learning about the structure and progression of the 6th-grade history curriculum. One of the described research projects specifically involves the use of websites for information gathering. It was during the explanation of this project that one of the history teachers chimed in with a telling statement. She said, “A big part of this project is to instruct and challenge students to evaluate what they are using from the Internet. Where did it come from? Is it the best information to use?” As an educator and a librarian, I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to hear that coming from someone who will be working with my daughters.

I see students struggle with information literacy on a regular basis. Most of those students are tech savvy. They can manipulate technology, multi-task like there is no tomorrow, and surf the web like a professional athlete. But being tech savvy is not the same as being information literate. ACRL’s Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education–borrowing from the Final Report of the ALA Presidential Committee on Information Literacy–defines information literacy as “a set of abilities requiring individuals to ‘recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information’.” Finding information is one thing. Having the ability to decide what is the best information to use and using it effectively are altogether different. The earlier and more often we can instruct our students and our children on how to approach, assess, and assimilate the information that they are surrounded by each day, the better equipped they will be to engage their world.

Kudos to the elementary, middle, and high school teachers and parents (and college faculty) who understand this, are in a position to make a difference, and take on the challenge. Soldier on.

Watch for one final posting which will wrap up this series about my observations from a middle school open house.

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Categories: Education, Family