By Elizabeth Wroten
On 11, Jan 2013 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Here are a few links to interesting articles and the like that I have come across over the past week and a half.
Social Media Plan: Found this one through Twitter. I really agree that there is a time and place for a plan and that time and place is usually when you need something big picture, not minutiae like using social media. That doesn’t, as Troy Swanson says, preclude having policies that set tone, etc. but overthinking really does kill spontaneity.
Learning Theories for the time-strapped librarian: You’ve probably figured out that I really like Stephen’s Lighthouse. He’s always got something that resonates with me each week. I totally agree with him that it is important for librarians, especially those working with students on an academic level, to understand how people learn and learning theories. This helpful little infographic does a decent job of distilling some of it down. I can’t say how complete it is, but it can’t hurt to review it.
Shallow Research: From the SLJ monthly (?) newsletter. I seem to like the topics and opinions of the Guybrarian and his Gal. I agree students can do a lot of shallow research. We need to work on improving that, but also remember not to be rabid about promoting over-researching (and overthinking!) topics. Sometimes you just need a quick tip on how to remove a stain. (I’ve got a 16 month old, stains are my life right now.)
I’m not sure, at this point, where I’ll end up when I go back to work but I’m hoping its to a school library or at least to children’s/youth services. To that end I’m trying to keep up with school related news, including the new Common Core Standards that everyone is talking about. I came across this archive of a webcast from SLJ that discusses how they relate to libraries. I’m hoping to make some time to watch this.
Finally, this is so true and also extremely funny. Calling librarians the original search engine is like calling astronomers the original telescope. Too funny!
Enjoy the links. Hope you find something interesting.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 07, Jan 2013 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I know there’s an age old debate in Libraryland about what to call the people who visit our libraries. There was recently an excellent post about it on Designing Better Libraries and I totally agreed with the ideas in it. But the debate came up again, for me, in this recent piece in the New York Times about libraries and bookstores, so I thought I would add my two cents.
I don’t think it matters what we call those people who come through our doors (virtual or real). What matters is that we give them a great user experience.
I’m a strong believer in customer service be it at a store, a restaurant, an airport, where ever. I have expectations for how I will be treated when I go somewhere, especially where I am either paying for the service through my taxes (e.g. the sheriff’s office, the library, etc.) or where I will be spending my hard-earned money. I want to be greeted and acknowledged, not ignored. I want to feel welcome. I want to be treated fairly, politely, and respectfully. I want to be asked if I need help, especially if I am standing near an employee clearly waiting to be helped. I also want to be apologetically told if you can’t immediately help me or serve me. I want to be thanked if I am kind or spend money. I know this can sound demanding, but for the most part, I’m low maintenance. I don’t expect groveling or great shows of gratitude.
The thing is, I think librarians need to realize that we are in customer service. We are there to serve the people who come in and wouldn’t be there if not for them. We need to be friendly and helpful. Librarians love to talk about how we have knowledge and skills in all different areas that we want to share with people, so we need to make sure those people want to come to the library and learn from us and use our collections.
I do understand there are always people who are rude and undeserving of politeness. I like to call them jerks (or worse), not customers or patrons. Sometimes it’s hard to keep your composure, but if you do they look all the worse for being out of line. Keeping customer service in mind doesn’t mean we need to let people walk all over us or carry on deep conversations with people while we check out books. Just that we need to remember why we got into the profession.
So, as I said, it doesn’t matter what we call the people who come through our doors. If it helps you to think of them as customers so that you remember to give them a positive user experience, then you should. If you already know and think it sounds too insulting to call them customers, then don’t. Just be sure everyone is getting what they need with a smile or at least a polite and respectful attitude.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 28, Dec 2012 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
These links have nothing to do with the holidays except for the fact that this post is published between Christmas and New Years. Sorry to disappoint.
Google Search: I found this one Stephen’s Lighthouse. It is a set of Google search tips for students. I know kids like to think they are good at finding stuff on the Internet. And they are. What they find just isn’t always relevant. I love ridiculous videos as much as the next person, but these tips can help them find what they really need.
In keeping with Google Search, I’m not sure if I’ve shared this before, but Google has premade lesson plans for teaching search techniques to a range of age and skill levels.
Library/-ian Stereotypes: A great infographic about what librarians actually do and what libraries can do for you. I know we all know how important librarians and libraries are, but sometimes the public forgets or doesn’t know. From eBook Friendly via Stephen’s Lighthouse (of course).
Library Extension for Chrome: There is a nifty little extension for Chrome that will tell you if an item you are looking at on Amazon is available at your local library. I’m giving it a try in the next couple weeks. I think I found this one through someone on Twitter, but I hate to admit I’ve forgotten who.
I hope everyone has a safe New Year’s Eve and a happy, healthy 2013. Hope to see you back here in the new year.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 26, Dec 2012 | In Research | By Elizabeth Wroten
‘Tis the time for charitable giving. Many people are either more aware of those in need at this time of year or they are trying to get the last tax-deductible donation in by the first of the new year. Either way, the question of who to give your money to may come up. To answer the question of how to get the most for what you give there are a couple good places to look.
I was recently listening to NPR and they had an interview with a moral philosopher who had started an organization dedicated to giving a significant portion of income to the most effective (and affective) charities. Giving What We Can has evaluated charity effectiveness based on case studies, control trials, statistical evidence, etc. You can read about Giving What We Can on their website. The arguments for giving and giving to their top three charities is very compelling and very interesting. You can listen to the interview with the founder Toby Ord here.
If you want more comprehensive information about more charities (including ones that get poor ratings) you can also visit another charity evaluator, this one based in the US, Give Well. They have three top charities, but include information about others. If there is a particular type of charity you want to give to (microfinance, health, etc.) they can give you suggestions for good recipients as well as steer you clear of any charities that are ineffective.
My own family will be giving this year and in the coming year and I will be relying on these sources to help my money go further.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 24, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I do think this whole Instagram maelstrom has raised some interesting issues about privacy and ownership on the Internet. Although I am considered a part of the Millennial generation, I did not grow up with Internet or even a computer in the house until I was older. And our setup looked nothing like the setup of kids a good 10 years younger than me (who are also lumped into the Millennial generation). That being said I do share more characteristics and opionions with a younger set when it comes to the Internet and privacy. I really think there is a generational gap in regards to these issues.
Let me begin by sharing what practices I think are not okay, because I know my feelings are not what everyone in Libraryland agrees with. I disagree with the implied idea that Instgram can use and profit from someone’s photos without compensating them. I don’t think children should be targeted. Prey on those of us who are capable of understanding what you are doing with our information and can make more informed decisions. I don’t think publishers are being reasonable in their “agreements” with libraries. Help libraries out by providing them with sustainable models that protect their investments (i.e. possible ownership of electronic materials or continued access to what has been paid for). They are some of your biggest, or even only, customers.
But really when it comes to ownership of things like eBooks I am lax. I understand that libraries feel the need to own their collections. I understand that there are weird gray areas because of the possiblity of losing access to things you have paid for. Personally, I purchase physical copies or download (and occasionally print) electronic copies of articles and books I really want to have access to in perpetuity. I think publishers are preying on people, but I also think we need to begin looking at digital content in a new way. I remember balking at the thought that I would have to buy a new computer every few years or upgrade my software, but I no longer bat an eye at that. I think in part this is because I have adapted to a new way of thinking about technology. I’m not saying we need to accept what the publishers are offering in terms of licensing agreements, just that we need to think of eBooks and eContent as different from physical books and physical content. Do we really need to hang on to Fifty Shades of Gray for the next fifty years? God, I hope not. Weeding could get a whole lot easier.
In terms of internet privacy I have read quite a bit about the information being collected on me. I have also read about how companies use that to market to me and to others like me. But all things told, I don’t worry too much about it. Not yet. I am not opposed to targeted ads. If you’re going to give me coupon I would prefer it be for something I would want to buy. I can always ignore it. The quantity of data collected and my own obscurity also reassure me that I am not being singled out. Google collects a lot of data, yes. So do Facebook and Amazon. But they collect it on millions of people. Millions. I don’t stick out in the crowd. It is unlikely that, currently, I will be singled out. I think the possibility of my wallet being stolen and credit card being used as more of a threat. I believe my generation is much less private (as evidenced by Facebook) than generations before us. Is this good or bad, here or there? I don’t know.
There must be a line somewhere and I don’t want companies to cross it before we can ensure our safety and well being. Obviously ownership, eBooks and privacy are things that are huge in libraries and in other circles right now, so I’m keeping my eye on the situations. I’m even following privacy legislation and law. As things develop and change I’m sure my opinion will too. For the time being I just don’t worry about it. Not to mention I’m not going to stop using Google, or Amazon, or Facebook. Sorry if I sound like something out of Tron, but we live on the grid now.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 21, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
I hopped on the eBook bandwagon about five years ago when I purchased my first Sony eReader. I was curious about the technology and had a lot of free time to read (i.e. no kids), so packing fewer books in my purse was very appealing. I was a little irked that the books weren’t cheaper than their print counterparts since I was funding the reader too. But who was I kidding? I was going to buy the books regardless. What was a few more dollars to pay for the reader.
Now my family has that old Sony, several iPads, and a Nook. Not to mention the Nook app on our iPhones. (Hey, my husband is a technology director.) As much as I enjoy reading the occasional novel (mostly YA) on it, I haven’t been super impressed with eBooks.
The technology has improved drastically since I bought that Sony. But to me, most eBooks aren’t any different than what Gutenberg was turning out on his press. The problem with this is is, eBooks are technology. They aren’t bound (ha!) to the physical page. They can and should engage you in a different way.
I remember when the magazine Project came out on the iPad. (See here for a video walk through from Tech Crunch.) That to me was a huge step in the right direction for what eBooks should be doing. It utilized some of the many things that made the iPad unique- touch, animations, sound, color display, etc. Now many eReaders have the same features, so use them!
I remained unimpressed, until the other day when I downloaded the Charlie Brown Christmas app as well as Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton. Both were books for my daughter. It suddenly dawned on me that children’s eBooks have actually been quite innovative in an attempt to engage those squirmy little beasts. We have Pat the Bunny, Pete, and Nighty Night on our iPad and all of those books make use of the broad range of iPad/eReader features.
I would like to note, at this point, that my daughter has an enormous personal collection (we’re talking hundreds strong) of print children’s books. I don’t think eBooks for children will replace beautiful copies of their most beloved books (although…if I have to read Happy Hippo, Angry Duck one more time…), but I think it’s really wonderful to see that someone out there in the land of publishing is thinking about more than just scanning the print version of a book. I would like to see this for textbooks, non fiction books, and even fiction novels. How about special features like on DVDs, like author interviews, different versions of the cover, interactive drawings (I’m thinking of you Leviathan!), etc. So, let’s start thinking outside the bound book.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 19, Dec 2012 | In Remix | By Elizabeth Wroten
I just read this article about the racism that is rampant in YA book covers. It was such an informative post and I for one will admit I was only partially conscious of the state of YA covers.
What I wanted to add to this article was something I became acutely aware of after becoming a mother to a girl. These YA covers are detrimental to white girls, too. Notice that the girls on the covers shown (and the many more put on display in libraries and bookstores) are very airbrushed? They have flawless skin – not a pimple, red spot or freckle in sight. They are wearing sexy clothing. They are very thin and mostly tall. How many girls of any color do you know that are naturally built like that? I only know one, maybe two. Lucky her. Unlucky the rest of us who are told to make our bodies conform to that ideal. No matter how accepting we are of how we look (tall, thin, short, round, busty, hippy, brown, white, etc.) we still feel the pressure and still have moments of weakness where we look at ourselves in the mirror and wish we were just a little bit thinner, a little lighter skinned, a little taller.
And it isn’t only girls who get bombarded with impossible body ideals. Boys get it, too. Not every man has a rippling chest and six pack. Not every man is tan with perfect skin. I feel for the boys too.
Now it’s creeping into our books. A place that should be an escape. Especially since so many books do such a good job of putting girls of all stripes up on a pedestal. How about Katniss? She wasn’t much of a “girl” but she still kicked some serious ass. How about Ismae from Grave Mercy? She’s got some serious scars on her body, but she also kicks ass. Even Bella from Twilight is supposed to be plain, not some great beauty. I like beautiful book covers and I frequently pick up books where the cover has caught my attention. But I think you can have your cake and eat it too. You can have normal looking girls, girls who match the character in the book, and a beautiful cover.
So it comes down to the question, what can we do about changing or at least impacting bad body image as librarians? I don’t know. I really don’t. As a parent I will be doing my utmost to ensure that my daughter has a healthy self-image and understanding that Hollywood bodies do not equal normal. We don’t talk about weight in a negative way. We don’t hold up images of women as an ideal. I try to show her diversity of all kinds. I tell her she is beautiful. Did I mention my daughter is only 16 months? It needs to start early because the media gets to them early (Pink Legos? That make tea parties? As if girls can’t play with “boy” colors and don’t want to make their own forts, planes, trains, etc.). But as a librarian, I just don’t know.
I have seen an activity that could help to combat some of this negativity. It might be worth a try and if nothing else, it would be fun. Have either a book club or TAG or English class read a book with out seeing the cover (enshroud it with kraft paper), then create their own cover. I know a lot of kids might shy away from this. Especially, if they felt they had to draw a person, but I would encourage them to take their own pictures or find images online. This doesn’t have to be a super-slick, publisher-quality cover. Just a good representation of what they think the cover should look like. Then do a big reveal of the publisher’s cover and compare and contrast the two. I’d be very curious to see what happens if you use one of the books where the picture on the front doesn’t match the words in the book at all.
My husband sent over this article to me. I’ve been using Instagram to take pictures for my other two blogs, so I was glad for the heads up. I personally don’t like the sounds of this, but I’m interested to see how it plays out. Was it a poor wording choice on Instagram’s part (I sort of doubt it) or is it really meant to leave the option for exploiting its users open?
In the meantime, I have switched over to using Eyeem. There are other app options for those of you who are concerned. I believe the above article mentions Hipstamatic, too. If Instagram doesn’t change the wording by the time the new changes go into effect on January 16th I will be deleting my account just to be on the safe side. I don’t really take fantastic pictures, but I don’t want to be taken advantage of in any case.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 17, Dec 2012 | In Reading Round Up | By Elizabeth Wroten
Here is a collection of links (with comments, because it wouldn’t be complete with out my blatherings) of various things that I have been reading online over the past few days. They are all things I have found interesting and pertinent.
Oops, I did it again: Forbes article on the war over eBooks. I know I’m fed up with hearing about eBooks, but they are important. I know I don’t have experience as a purchaser of eBooks for libraries, but I can certainly see and understand how problematic it is. I do tend to agree that we need a new model for purchasing them and I also agree that the status quo (and the stalemate) are not doing anyone any good.
I would also like to add that, I wish book publishers would also stop thinking about eBooks as physical books. Let’s not have a legacy culture in eBooks, with pricing or with format. The technology we have now and will have can open up the book experience. (Upcoming post about how I think children’s eBooks are busting out of the mould).
Yes, just yes: Oh how I want to have a drink with these ladies. I also want to start up a Sacramento chapter of their book club. Any takers? This blog is now added to my reader.
Timely: I thought this was a timely article given the post I wrote a few days ago to the Octagon. I’m not sure Facebook in schools can really be considered intellectual freedom, but if you begin encroaching on one thing it’s easier to get to the next. I would rather err on the side of caution. Personally. I also know there are a lot of reasons for not.
Brain Pickings: Okay, I subscribe to this weekly email. They review books and talk about stuff. Existential, brainy, think-y stuff. Sometimes I skim it, sometimes I read it top to bottom. It is always thought provoking and I love it. Found this particular article reviewing a book about how to talk about books you’ve never read. I think, as the skill is described, it is a skill all librarians need to have and need to continually fine tune. There (sadly) isn’t enough time to read everything, but we need to sell it and we need to be able to place it in a framework (as the book/article suggests). Take some time with this little piece. I think it will resonate with librarians.
By Elizabeth Wroten
On 14, Dec 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
Wednesday I attended the ALA webinar on assessing digital literacy. (It was quite interesting and you can watch the recording here.) As a school librarian this is obviously a topic that interests me, but after the first question the moderator fired off I realized I hadn’t really thought enough about the fundamentals.
Here are just a few thoughts I had while listening to the discussion:
- What is digital literacy? This was that first question and one of the presenters gave a fantastic definition. But is it more or less?
- Adding to that idea, does digital literacy include digital citizenship? I think it should, but it might make teaching and assessing digital literacy too unwieldy. Certainly being culturally literate, which is a partial real world counterpart of digital literacy, invloves being socially literate.
- Does it include hardware (like turning the computer on) and/or software (like how to use Word)? Or is it just skills you can apply as you jump from one software, platform, or media to another? I think it’s the latter, but I’ve seen it taught as software and also think hardware shouldn’t be ruled out, especially with certain groups of people.
- Tying in with the previous question, does the definition of digital literacy change with type of library you work in (e.g. public vs. academic/school)? Patrons of a public library may have very different digital needs from students in a college research library. Do we expect every person to acquire the ability to formulate successful database searches for academic articles? Do you need to double check that college students can turn their computer on?
I don’t have the answers, or at least complete answers, to these questions. And I’m not sure anyone does. I also think we could debate this stuff until the cows come home, but it won’t get us any closer to successfully teaching digital literacy. Still, I think it’s helpful to have at least a basic understanding of what we mean when we say “digital literacy”. If only so it can evolve as time goes on and technology continues to become more ubiquitous and powerful. If you have any thoughts, please feel free to leave them in the comments.