IAmRUSA Interviewee for the Week of January 13th is
Ask him a question!
Hi, everyone. Today, Monday January 13, 2014 is the first day of classes at the University of Dayton. The campus is buzzing with students heading off to class, excited and nervous about their new courses. This afternoon, I have office hours in the School of Engineering. Several years ago the dean of engineering asked if I could work in their building a few hours a week. I think librarians need to get out of their libraries and be where the patrons are. Libraries exist because we serve the community we are associated with. So, I encourage you to take part in the events going on campus or in your town. Go meet some people, have some fun, and get out of the office.
I really like the idea of doing out of office hours in other departments - may I ask how your office hours at the school of Engineering work? Do students bring you research topics or questions and then you get back to them later or is it more like orientations for databases they may find useful.
The idea of doing library work outside of the library seems both fun and a little scary, as you would only have (I presume) access to the library website and your wits. Could you possibly give an example of the type of question a student may come in asking you?
Kirk, thanks for the question. The most important things for successful office hours are the support of your dean or library director. Then, you need the support of the dean of the unit you are working with. Particularly, they need to assign you to a convenient location. Luckily, I am in the first year advising office, so students are used to coming into this office. I share the office with a person from career services and a retired engineering professor. We split up our times in the office. And the last thing you need for successful office hours is you need to be there. As you tell students, faculty, and staff that you are available at that time, you need to be in the office during your office hours.
Students usually email and make an appointment. I offer either to meet in the library or in the engineering building. Because engineering students are so familiar with that building, they usually pick that time if its convenient for their classes. So, I usually have an idea of what they are working on before we meet. With access to the library web site, and as you say, your wits, I am able to work with students just as well as in the library.
Last semester I worked with 12 students or student groups. The senior design seminar students are strongly encouraged to make an appointment with me. One of my favorite ones was a group of senior engineering students, both mechanical and civil engineering. They were looking at the design of railroad car floors. Specifically, they were looking for a stronger, lighter, and cheaper material than the plywood they are currently made of. The design the students came up with would save fuel, be more environmentally friendly, and cost less. It was a classic engineering problem. We found some articles, conference proceedings, and as I recall, standards that were applicable.
The next question is what if you set up the office hours and students don't come. Is this a good use of your time? I always bring my laptop so I can work on email or other items. Also, your presence in the building is useful for liaison work. People will stop you in the halls and ask you the question that they may have been planning to email to you. You talk to profs, talk to students, talk to staff, just see what is happening in the departments.
So, I would encourage librarians to give it a try.
Hi everyone, today is Tuesday January 14, and I am compiling the Dartmouth Medal Committee lists in preparation for the American Library Association Midwinter conference in Philadelphia. The Dartmouth Medal is sponsered by RUSA and highlights the best new reference book of the year. For more about the Dartmouth Medal, visit here.
What can reference librarians learn by looking at previous Dartmouth Medal winners? Previous winners are kind of an all-star list of reference sources. Reference librarians can improve their skills by knowing the sources. One of the best ways to learn sources is to review them. I began my career by serving on the RASD (now RUSA) Outstanding Reference Sources Committee. From there I reviewed reference books for Choice and Booklist. I also contributed to Reference Sources for Small and Medium Sized Libraries, published by ALA. I'm the editor for the 7th edition, and am happy to announce that the 8th edition will be published in the spring. So, if we know our sources, we can improve our reference skills.
How do you evaluate a reference source? Sitting on the "reference" bookshelf in my office is Louis Shore's Basic Reference Sources, published by ALA. My edition is from 1954. He says on page 18 and 19:
Study and Evaluation of Reference Books.
Because reference books are different in purpose from other books they require special study and evaluation For convenience in examining and appraising reference books the flowing checkpoints are suggested:
1. Authorship. What are the qualifications in experience and education of the author, authors, contributors, and editors by reputation and as revealed in previous works? To what extent are the authors responsible for the materials attributed to them?
2. Auspices. What is the reputation of the publisher or the sponsoring agency?
3. Genealogy. Is the work new? Is it based on a previous publication, what is the extent of the revision?
4. Purpose. To what extent is the statement of purpose in the preface fulfilled in the text?
5. Coverage. What is the range of subject matter and what are the limitations? How does this work relate to and compare with other works of similar scope?
6. Recency. How up to date is the material? Are all of the articles and bibliographies as recent as the last copyright date?
7. Bibliographies. To what extent do the bibliographies indicate scholarship and send the user on to additional information?
8. Accuracy. How through, reliable and complete are the facts?
9. Objectivity. Is there any bias in controversial issues? How balanced is the space given on subject as compared with others of equal importance?
10. Style. Is the level of writing for layman or scholar, adult or child? How readable is the work?
11. Sequence. Does the sequence of content follow classified, chronologic, geographic, tabular or alphabetic order? If alphabetic are the topics large or small? How are the alphabeted?
12. Indexing. Is the main text arrangement adequately complemented by indexes and cross reference?
13. Physical make up. Do binding, paper, type and layout meet minimum specification?
14. Illustrations. Are the illustrations of good quality, are they of real significance, and are the directly related to the text?
VI. Special features
15. Distinction. What features distinguish this reference book from all others?
Good Morning. Its cold and grey this morning, with some big fat snow flurries. I like the snow when it has big snowflakes, as long as there aren't too many of them. Today I have our Instruction Team meeting. We have a very active library instruction program, with discipline specific classes and many English classes visiting the library.
Several years ago, I was teaching a graduate education class about literature searching methods. One student raised their hand and asked "But what does this mean?" So I said, "I'll show you." Since then, I've changed the style of my library instruction classes. I lecture much less, and have them learn by doing. I have students look up a book, it amazes me how many students haven't taken a book out of the library for any reason. And I ask "What is a book for?" With some prompting, they can usually recognize the value of a book for their research papers. Usually I've gotten a few sample searches from the students at the start of class, so next I have them go to an appropriate database, whether that is the discovery layer or a subject specific database. From there, I have them put in a sample search using Boolean operators. And they see how to get to a full text article. Then I turn them loose with their topics and see how they do.
I focus on active learning and retention, knowing that the information literary skills they develop will come in handy for this course and for others. The feedback I get from both the professors and students lets me know that they appreciate my dynamic instruction style.
Do you have any tips you'd like to share about your library instruction?
Hi, I had a busy day yesterday, and forgot to check in for the IAmRUSA interview. I had a introductory tour for new international students. The University of Dayton has significantly increased the number of students from abroad, as I imagine your universities may have as well. We strive to create a welcoming atmosphere for all of our students, and we know that the international students spend a lot of time in the library. Its a comfortable place to study, see their friends, and maybe read some online news from home. What strategies have worked for you in your libraries to help develop better cross-cultural communication? Does your library hire international students to staff the Info Desk?
Then, I had a shift on the Information Desk. The semester is pretty quiet right now, but we do get questions on how to print, how to cite for papers, how to locate books. The longer research questions tend to be set up as appointments, and the shorter Info Desk questions tend towards helping the student at the point of need.
One thing that we've been discussing is the truly atrocious citation style that our students have. The discussion came from the undergraduate honors workshops we'll be doing later this semester. Some examples were shared and most bibliographic information was lacking. All they had was title and web site. But, do you remember when people used to distinguish between an indexing service and an abstracting service. Publishing folks still call their databases "A&I" products. They have morphed into databases for us, and to our users, they are simply search engines. So let me propose a outlandish question: Suppose that the students creating these insufficient bibliographies are not wrong. They found it by searching on the internet. They view the database, in this case, PubMed as a search engine. They view the results, not as journal articles, but as web pages.
What is a journal? We know from the history of publishing that they began as way for scholars to talk to each other. They are now budget eating megaliths that give us headaches. But, what if they are indeed scholarly web pages that student find using search engines. Maybe all they need in order for someone to find it again is an author or authors, title, and site where it was searched from. Maybe we are hanging on to a legacy system, and maybe our students are leading the way to a cleaner more sensible style of bibliographic description. Think about it...
Then, I was working on a collection evaluation report for the Geology collection. We have an undergraduate program in Geology and in Environmental Geology. We have 3104 circulating books with a QE- Geology call number. My library implemented our modern library system in 1994. Here is the circulation data for Geology for the last 20 years:
Circulations Titles Percent
0 1986 64%
1 561 18%
2-5 458 14.7%
6-10 72 2.3%
11+ 27 .8%
Total circulating titles= 3104
If you look at this data, 82% of our books in this field have circulated zero or one time. What does that mean for our collection development policy? What does that mean vis-a-vis on demand ordering for ebooks? We do a "dust test" when making weeding decisions. If a book is covered in dust, then its obviously a low use title. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Hi everyone. Its been a pleasure to be the guest on IAmRUSA. I'm preparing to head off to ALA Midwinter next week. My first ALA Midwinter was 30 years ago; I had two big roommates and the smallest hotel room I've ever been in. Hopefully, this trip will be better. I want to encourage you to get involved with RUSA, or with another division of ALA. You can't tell where it will lead. So many opportunities (speaking, publishing, and involvement) have arisen because I was at the conference. Check out the schedule and see what events you'd like to go to. And come to the RUSA Awards Ceremony on Sunday, Jan 26 from 5:00-6:30 and say hi to me.