“Hello? Hello? Is anybody in there…”[9751 musings; week #12]

I had a distance student moment the other day…(with apologies to Pink Floyd).

As a soon-to-be graduate of the MLIS programme, I received an email from the faculty’s administrative staff asking if I would take the time to fill out a graduate survey about the programme. I assume it’s kinda like an “exit interview” type affair: what you liked, didn’t like, hoped to see, etc. The reason I say “assume” is because as a distance student, I have no survey to fill out. You see, the survey is placed in each student’s mailbox at school. Let me clarify even more: it’s a real mailbox not a virtual one. In fact, even if I were at school and could pick it up, I wouldn’t be able to find it because I don’t have a mailbox. I am currently taking one course-my last one-via distance. As such, I have no on-campus mailbox/pigeonhole type thing. What-ever-you-want-to-call-it, I just don’t got it. So, what do I do? I know, I know: I could email and explain the situation and without a doubt, someone would send me something to fill out. But that’s not the point. The point is that the distance student has not been considered. Or at least it appears that way.

And this isn’t the first time I’ve had this brought to my attention. Earlier in the semester, an opportunity to sign-up for job-shadowing placements was sent out via an email broadcast. In order to put forward one’s job-shadowing request/application, one had to (essentially) fill out a form. A form which was located in our resource centre. On campus. In this case, because I really wanted to get a chance at a job shadow, I emailed the professor who was acting as coordinator. He was great and quickly explained (in a follow-up email) how distance students could “apply”. So all was good–and I got a job shadow. (Yay!)

Ultimately, these aren’t huge issues (and basically, I’ve gotten out of having to fill out the survey). But the fact remains, there are gaps when it comes to ensuring equitable access for distance students. Anyway, as I said, just a distance student moment…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to listen to The Wall

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Posted by on November 25, 2012 in 9751 stuff...


Anybody got a Twoonie?

For or a little more info, check out today’s Globe and Mail: Biblio-Mat: For $2, a new invention for old books“.

(I think it’s time for a little trip to Toronto!)

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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Random stuff...


…and what’s on your shelf?

From “Naked Lunch” to “Trainspotting”, “Alias Grace” to “The Bell Jar”…hmmm, wonder what that says about me? Perhaps not the best time for psychoanalysis…

What does a your personal library say about you? Or about anyone else for that matter–say, Malcolm Gladwell or Stephanie Meyer or Tony Hawk? Well then, check out this weekend’s Globe and Mail  for an excerpt on the recently published “My Ideal Bookshelf” by Jane Mount.

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in Random stuff...


Dictionary decisions… [9751 musings; week #11]

In my last post I mentioned something about language evolution: specifically, how technology (among other things) has created a new lexicon (I was referring to the using of “IMing” for “instant messaging” as it was used in an article.

…look under “M” for “mwhahahaha”.
Image credit: Microsoft Office Clipart

Apparently, I’m not the only one who finds this interesting (for lack of a better word). A recent snippet on CBC’s  Lang & O’Leary Exchange had Amanda Lang weighing-in on the mobility of language (it’s at the 3:45 minute mark); this was brought about by  Oxford Dictionaries’ choice  of the word “gif” as the North American Word of the Year.

By the way, the British Word of the Year is “omnishambles”. This CBC news article fills you in: “Oxford says ‘omnishambles’ Word of the Year in Britain“.

Oh! and by the way: did you know “e-learning” (along with “group hug” and “mwahahaha” among others) was added to the Oxford Dictionaries in August of this year?

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Posted by on November 20, 2012 in 9751 stuff...


Mobile me…in 5 years (9751 weekly response #11)

It’s funny the things that make you pause…

I had just started reading the the “Are You Ready for Mobile Learning Article?” and didn’t get any further than the anedoctal preamble when I stopped to consider the influence of technology. You see, in the anecdote there was a reference to a student sending an IM (instant message) to a professor (regarding course work or something to that effect). As if the fact that the acronym (IM) without explanation (therefore assuming the reader understood) wasn’t enough, further on the reader sees the term “IMing”; so, “instant message+ing”. And while I didn’t give the IM a second glance (either proving automatically understood the acronym or–and more likely–proving that I need to pay more attention when reading for information), the “IMing” threw me for a minute. I mean there was a moment of “Why are we talking about a Ming Vase?” that went through my head (proving that I was at least paying enough attention to realize that contextually, “hey, that didn’t make sense”) before I was able to put together the meaning of the term.

And that’s what gave me pause.

The idea of the introduction of new vocabulary into our daily lexicon. And certainly, ever evolving technology is one way that this is done. Just think of all the words that we now use that are the result of new technology (and I’m not even talking text-speak short forms): IM, Google, podcast, anything Apple-iPod, iPhone, etc.; even the word “text”: while the word itself is not new, we now use it as a verb, whereas previously, it was mainly a noun.

Anyway…moving on. (Really and truly, it’s amazing that I get anything done…)

This article was published in 2007. I find it interesting to reflect on what was considered “the brave new world” of mobile learning, half a decade later. Good predictions? Bad? Or, status quo? Which technologies lived up to their hype and which were left lingering a slow death on the roadside?

There was quite a bit on podcasting and its role in the learning environment, even so far as to offer pedagogical suggestions as how to best create a podcast (not too long, and not too broad a topic: stay focussed). While I’ve created a podcast (as part of coursework), I have yet to listen to one. Even for entertainment purposes and certainly not for any learning purpose; I’ve had no profs or (teacher related) professional development opportunities offered as podcasts. In fact, I rarely use my iPod. To be truthful, I don’t like sticking stuff in my ears. It makes me nauseous. So I suppose that none of my MLIS profs decided to use podcasting as a means of teaching, is a good thing for me. But I’m curious: how often are they used? I do remember reading about a UK school that offered iPod borrowing at the school library: the iPods contain exam review/revision material for O-levels or A-levels. Students would use them to prep for their upcoming tests. Apparently, students marks went up significantly after introducing the devices.

Studying hard…or hardly studying?
Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clipart

One of the benefits of mobile technology is that it allows for meeting students where they are (wherever that may be). So yes, offering the opportunity to listen to a lecture on the loooong bus ride to school, or being able to text (or in the very least email) your prof/TA/study partner when the question comes to mind, those are both ways of multi-tasking and offering just-in-time learning opportunities. But is it conducive to learning? Really, learning. Like, if I’m on the bus listening to my lecture, and looking around and being distracted by a two year having a tantrum, am I really taking in information? Or, if I’m able to text or email a question (and if lucky, receive a quick response), do I ever bother to try problem-solving myself? After all, someone will get back to me–won’t they?

The article also offers a pro & con list of mobile technologies and I have to say: what is an “UMPC” and does anyone still use PDAs? Haven’t the Smartphones (another one on the list) basically usurped those? And as for the “UMPC”, which is an “ultra mobile PC”, still what is that? Like a tablet (iPad-esque)? ‘Cause, if it’s not there’s one piece of technology that didn’t really rise to the occasion (or did it, and I just don’t understand what it is?) I also find it funny that the USB stick is considered a mobile device. I mean, I know it is, but I was thinking about something that demands a little more interactivity. I guess an example of how the article’s dated is the concept of cloud computing–I mean that allows for pretty serious mobility–isn’t even mentioned. 5 years-that’s all.

Once again–and the article does bring this up–I’m reminded about the digital divide that’s created when we start to expect everyone to have a smart phone/an iPod/a laptop etc.; this worries me in the educational environment. Given the way technology changes (5 years remember!!) and updates, it can be extremely costly to keep up with the digital Jones…will all kids get the same access to both information and education? I dunno.

What’s it going to look like in 5 years?

Corbeil, J. R., & Valdes-Corbeil, M. E. (2007). Are you ready for mobile learning? Educause Quarterly, 30(2), 31-58.

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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in 9751 stuff...


Extra! Extra! Read all about it! (9751 weekly response #10)

I have to say that this is the first article that I have read (possibly at all, but certainly in a long time) with a focus on a special library. (Apologies to all those who work in a special library!) I found it really quite interesting–although I have to be honest, what I found most interesting was the actual job-working as research librarians in (what appeared to be) a newspaper environment. How cool would that be?! Though, I’m sure it would be quite stressful given the deadlines that dailies demand. I had a previous career in publishing–working for a magazine, for a not-for-profit professional organization, and for a graphic design firm–so I have a little bit of experience with that type of deadline driven environment. Though certainly not the type of turnaround required for a big newspaper. But I think some of the zeitgeist would be similar.

I never thought of newspapers/journalists utilizing the skills and services of a librarian. Don’t know why…I mean I know that organizations like–well, like the CBC, have librarians to maintain in-house media libraries. But I guess that’s where my thinking ended: in the librarian as curator type role. (In fact I think there was a recent job posting at CBC for that type of position.) And I think my ignorance is based on the fact that I always thought that part and parcel of journalism was researching. I never stopped to think that they might need the support of professionals other than an editor and, well, a photographer! (Shows how much I know!) But it does make sense now that I think about it: all of that background information to be sifted through–particularly when time is of such the essence.

I was struck in a couple of places how much “embedding” a librarian into the newspaper situation was similar to that in an education environment, particularly when the article outlined how the librarian role was changing. For example, it was specifically mentioned that a “[t]ransition from a ‘generalist’…to a more content-specialized…” (p. 541) was one trend that had been noticed, along with the idea of the embedded librarian being more pro-active and better able to support the needs of the patrons, as opposed to waiting to be “invited in” (as it were) and therefor only being reactive to the needs of the patrons. Both of these ideas were discussed in an article I read earlier on embedded librarianship in the academic environs (though for the life of me, I can’t remember which one just now; I think it’s somewhere in a blog post!).

Concern…”that editorial staff wouldn’t take to kindly to having librarians plunked into their midst.”
Image credit: Microsoft Office Clipart

Furthermore, I was also struck by the similarity of the challenges; that in placing individual (or small groups of) librarians into different editorial teams, that librarians were concerned that they would look touch with each other : “Concerns included loss of team cohesion…” (p. 543). And also that editorial staff wouldn’t take to kindly to having librarians plunked into their midst. This is also similar to the way in which librarians perceived faculty welcoming their arrival–or not.

Ultimately, the change to the way in which the library (decentralized) and librarians (embedded) operated at Fairfax was significant; overall, it appears it was a successful decision. I’d be curious to know how things worked out in the long term. After all, the article is from 2007 and so much has changed since then in technology, media, and information services. A quick look into Fairfax Media shows that it is still a large media empire. I did scan through the job board to see if they were currently hiring information/library professionals but nothing was posted just right now, so that proves nothing.

Maybe a little more research on my part is needed, yes? Hmm…does anyone know a good librarian to help me?!

Brown, D., & Leith, D. (2007). Integration of the research library service into the editorial process; “Embedding” the librarian into the media. Aslib Proceedings, 59, 539-549. dpi: 10.1108/00012530710839614

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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in 9751 stuff...


“…and is there anything else I can help you with?” (9751 weekly response #9)

Part of last week’s “class” involved a discussion on virtual reference chat. A couple colleagues who have experience in this area were sharing some of their experiences and insight into this aspect of librarianship. As someone who has never had the opportunity to work in reference–virtual or otherwise–I found it quite interesting. More in fact because just that day I had done my job-shadowing at Conestoga College and one of the librarians who was hosting me, did have an ASKOn (the virtual reference service offered by Knowledge Ontario and used by a variety of public and college libraries in the provide) session that day. I wasn’t there for the whole thing, but he did give me a quick overview of how it worked.

My natural assumption of VR chat was that it would be challenging, primarily due to the fact that those involved would miss out on both the physical cues of communication as well as the auditory ones (unless of course there’s voice chat). My next natural inclination, also based on a lack of visuals, was that a VR interaction/interview would also take longer than f2f because of you can’t “show” the patron the set of steps taken or what the screen looks like, etc. It just seems to me there would be a lot more “description” involved. (And I only based this supposition on the challenges I’ve faced when trying to “walk”–over the phone–my mother through how to create a Word file/manage her email/download photos from her camera.) And, it appears that I wasn’t far off. Colleague Research Guardian shares some of her thoughts and experiences as an Ask A Librarian (the virtual reference service offered by a group of Ontario universities) intern in a recent posting on her blog, Distance Librarian, and she highlights some of these specific issues.

“Service with a smile…”
Image credit: Microsoft Office Clipart

I then decided to take a read through the article “Are We Getting Warmer? Query Clarification in Live Chat Virtual Reference“. Interestingly, one of the most important things I took away from the article, also supports an observation made by Research Guardian: the importance of customer service. Here are two quotes to highlight that “service with a smile” is golden with patrons (whether virtually or in person):

  • “…74% users reported that relational, interpersonal factors were more important than content-related factors in assessing FtF reference interactions…” (p. 261)
  • “…asking users the follow-up inquiry of whether their question was answered completely to be a strong predictor of satisfaction” (p. 262)

The other thing I find interesting about reference–and again, this is reference in general and not specific to VR–is how often patrons don’t really know what they want to ask. I know we all learned that in 9003, but it still kinda surprises me. And in fact when I was job-shadowing, I asked just that of one of my hosts. And he said it was true: that what someone thinks they need or want is rarely that. To that end, there’s another cool quote in the article describing question negotiation. It’s defined as “…one person’s attempt ‘to describe for another person not something he knows, but something he does not know” (p. 260). Try and say that 10x fast!

Oh! And finally, the other thing I didn’t really think about–which would add to a patron not really being clear on what he or she was asking–is the fact that many reference interviews/interactions occur because of “imposed queries” (p. 261): for example, questions that are the result of an assignment, or asking on behalf of someone else. In terms of the assignment aspect, this is where academic librarians would benefit from liaising with instructors in order to have a heads-up about upcoming research assignments. This is in fact what they do at Conestoga: have copies of assignments in the Library Resource Centre in order that should a student require specific course related reference, the librarians do have a sense of what is required. Of course, this works best in a smaller library environment. (Can you imagine it working at Weldon?!?)

Radford, M. L. et al. (2011). Are we getting warmer: Query clarification in live chat virtual reference. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 50(3), 259-279.

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Posted by on November 6, 2012 in 9751 stuff...