Readings Week 12: Professional Development

And so begins my last blog post on the last readings for our class. This week, we read about professional development in the K-12 school setting. It was nice to get a picture of what my K-12 teachers did in the early mornings on “PD” days, where we got to sleep in and start school later! In Semadeni’s “When Teachers Drive Their Learning” (2010), the author describes a teacher-led model of professional development. Teachers in the rural school district of Lincoln County choose which areas of teaching they would like to develop some mastery in, and an “expert” teacher in that area leads group discussion on the strategy. Then, the teachers practice those skills in their classrooms and are evaluated by the master teacher. The school district sounded very supportive of this program: they allowed teachers to use normal school time for the programs, and teachers received a stipend for their time and efforts based on the difficulty of the new skill or strategy. One thing I really liked about that Fusion program is that even if a teacher is inexperienced overall, they might have a specific skill that they can teach to their peers–so anyone could be an expert. This is great because 1) it helps even new teachers feel empowered and 2) it broadens and deepens the pool for professional development: it can bring all kinds of new skills to the forefront.

The Blowers & Reed (2007) article outlined four core competencies for librarians at a public library system in North Carolina. The CCs covered technological skills; the library system’s tech director and specialists realized that technology is a major part of just about all of the library’s service offerings and set out to increase tech competency in the library’s overall staff. They implemented it through “Learning 2.0”: letting staff and librarians learn the new skills on their own time. Discovery, play, and fun were emphasized more than getting something right. The full program took nine weeks; each week introduced a new topic. Participants used blogs to share their thoughts on each week’s new skill (similar to what I’m doing right now!). The librarians/staff in Blowers & Reed also received rewards, but it was more of a fun summer reading program (as described by someone in the article) with prizes: an MP3 player and drawings for a laptop, etc. Fontichiaro (2008) implemented a program based off of Blowers and Reed’s in her school, using the same blogging method. She found that blogging helped create camaraderie for staff members–adding to the overall positive feelings that this kind of PD generates.

I think MLibrary does a great job in encouraging professional development equally for staff and for librarians. They offer many different workshops ranging from tech skills to management strategies to instruction skills. There are also more informal and ongoing group meetings, like reading groups, which range from popular fiction to scholarly publications. Combining some of the aspects of Fusion, where “experts” are identified within peer groups, with the more structured academic workshop system could make for an interesting PD method.


Class Week 11: Twitter, PLNs, Webinars

It was good to be back in class after being out sick one week, then have a “bye day” the other. I enjoyed discussing Twitter: we had a thoughtful discussion on using the social media site not for socializing in our personal lives, but for professional development. At first, I was a bit surprised at what seemed like overall negativity toward using Twitter professionally. My experience with the service so far has been positive and I usually find that I learn something new after reading through librarians’ and other scholarly folks’ conversations on Twitter. However, after breaking out into small groups to talk about the pros and cons of Twitter for professional development, I can see my classmates’ point about some of the obvious downsides of Twitter for professional uses. It can be overwhelming to sift through the vast, rapid stream of tweets, and also difficult to sift through a tweet itself if it is full of hashtags, user handles, quotes, and links (all in 140 characters!).

Discussing the professional benefits of Twitter led to a broader discussion on building professional networks: our next topic was PLNs (personal/professional learning networks). In this small group, we talked about building a PLN for yourself as an academic librarian. The obvious members would be other academic librarians, at your own institution and at others far away. Other categories included scholars and researchers related to your field of interest, especially if you’re interested in subject specialization (as several of us were); scholarly publishers; and digital humanists. This was all relevant to advice I received in an advising appointment: seek out the scholars/researchers in the field with which you are interested in liaising, so that you may better understand the tools they are using and the tools or knowledge they need to do their work.

Class ended early this week, which gave my webinar group a chance to practice our webinar in the software (always a good idea! We worked out a few bugs.)

Readings Week 11: Twitter and Tweeting

This week’s assigned “reading” was to create a Twitter network for ourselves made up of librarians and other people from our career interests. I enjoyed finding new, interesting Twitter users from the fields of library science, iSchool faculty and students, academic and public librarians, and digital humanists (the latter being just as active as librarians, I’ve found). This assignment also helped me to organized my existing group of librarian-ish users whom I already follow–I created a Libraries and iSchool list and started by adding all the relevant users that I already follow. Then I checked their following and followers to find new users. Having a list makes Twitter much more manageable; I can

Some of my first impressions were that librarians are very, very funny. Reading through different conversations can be a bit like going down the rabbit hole; I went from reading up on the Day of DH 2013, to reading librarians’ takes on current events (like thoughts on the bestselling book Lean In), to Andy Woodworth’s (@wawoodworth) #reasonslibrarianscry, to a Flickr account of rad library-inspired tattoos. While this was entertaining, it certainly illustrated that Twitter is meant to be used, not just read. It’s an excellent tool for Interacting and maintaining a conversation with some of the more well-known folks in libraries, an opportunity that students may not get elsewhere.

I am an on-and-off Twitter user; my heaviest tweet traffic comes during conferences–and this is definitely something I noticed in others in the publishing and library fields while I was at those conferences (even my boyfriend commented on this as he sat beside me during the keynote of HASTAC last year–every time Siva Vaidhyanathan uttered some quotable soundbite, the sound of tapping in the room intensified). At conferences, I sometimes feel a bit superficial when I tweet, since I don’t regularly use Twitter at home, and also because “everyone’s doing it.” There’s also a feeling of sounding amateur when using the conference hashtag–all of the big names in the industry could see it! It can be scary to voice your opinion in such a public forum. It can be rewarding, though, too. A Twitter interaction with @ararebit at DLF Forum in Denver last fall led to a chance meeting on my ASB trip to the Folger. I had tweeted about wishing there were more library school students at the conference; a fellow grad student replied and we planned but ultimately failed to meet in person. It turned out she is the girlfriend of one of the Folger’s employees and happened to be there for tea one afternoon and recognized me. It was good to finally connect in person!

Class Week 10: Missing Out, Webinars, Catching Up

I was unfortunately absent from this week’s class due to illness. Fortunately I have wonderful classmates who were happy to fill me in on what I missed! It sounds like there was good discussion and good tips on webinars (thought I did hear there were some technical difficulties setting up webinar accounts–thanks for the tips, Jessica!) I was sorry to miss the discussion on what makes a good webinar, how to balance audience participation with your presentation, etc.

I was also sorry to miss the other part of the discussion on embedded librarianship. Based on the readings and my own conception of what an embedded librarian does, the job seemed pretty straightforward. However, it sounds like in class my fellow students broke down the job description a bit. What is the difference between a good library system with good, caring librarians and an embedded librarian? It sounds like, in class, everyone discussed why we don’t use our SI librarian more. I can’t speak to that because I’ve sought her out specifically, though not in office hours (once over email, and once because I saw her on the reference desk). She was very helpful and I do think she was able to better answer my questions and find good resources for my Dead Media research paper because she is a communication studies/media/LIS librarian.

This also makes me wonder about the differences between embedded librarians and subject specialists. Are embedded librarians different because they are out in the “field” more than subject librarians? Are they handling more day-to-day subject questions, while subject specialists have more expertise in the area and are teaching more formal classes for their departments? These types of questions are intriguing because I can see how they shape the new types of LIS jobs that continue to be created.

Readings Week 10: Webinars

I like reading from How People Learn (Bransford, Brown, & Cocking) every few weeks; because it is written for teachers and focuses very much on learning, I didn’t expect to get as much out of it as some of the other readings. But peppering it in throughout the term has been very helpful and has helped me really reflect on the learning process as well as why I, as a future librarian, should also be familiar with it. This week’s chapter was on the amount of knowledge in a discipline that is required to teach it effectively, as well as the depth of knowledge about learning activities. The biggest thing that struck me in the history section was the way the teachers made history come to life, like having students role play and reenact the debates between rebels and loyalists in the British American colonies. This gave students a personal understanding that the fact-based textbook could not. Other stories in the math and science sections had similar anecdotes, where teachers went (where I would consider) outside the box to get students to think differently about subject matter.

The two other readings this week were about webinars and embedded librarianship. I’ve watched a couple of webinars for work and have been simultaneously impressed and unimpressed: the technology is great, and it was great to see the presenter’s screen and also see the comment box on the side to feel in touch with the other viewers. However, I was unimpressed because it felt a bit dry–and this was probably because the subject mater wasn’t particularly interesting (I’ll keep it anonymous!). At first blush, webinars sound intimidating. Recording a screencast was a challenge itself for me, mostly because it was totally new; webinars are essentially a screencast except they are live, with interaction via polls or audible questions from the virtual audience.

I find embedded librarianship exciting. As I’ve written before, I am interested in academic and special collections libraries and hope to work with specific subject matter, either as a subject specialist or some other new, not-yet-determined position that will arise from users’ needs (like instruction and field librarians). The embedded librarian position is the latter. An embedded librarian can be part of online classes or in person classes, and can be available to a small group of students to utilize at any time during the course of the semester. Montgomery (2010) and Matos, Motley, and Mayer (2010) suggest embedded librarians use webinars to more effectively serve students. Webinars solve the issues of the lack of a physical space in the department in which you are embedded, being able to answer questions from home if there is a great need for a webinar at odd hours, and also for online distance-learning classes.

I can see webinars being especially helpful for online classes, for obvious reasons. At a large research university like Michigan, however, which doesn’t have online-only courses, webinars could also be used to help students feel more comfortable with using library resources. As Matos noted, a lot of students just feel more comfortable asking questions over email than coming into the library. I think that’s a great reason for making webinars, when there are also other factors for which a webinar makes sense.

Class Week 9: One-shot Workshops

This week we met in the same groups as our book clubs and conducted our one-shot workshops in pairs. While there weren’t any snacks this time around, we did have very thoughtful and engaging conversations where everyone had something to say–a benefit of a small group of around ten people. My partner and I went first. Our topic was an idea from Kristin’s lecture one day: whether to note “bad” books in catalog records, and on the ALA’s stance on labeling and rating books. An example of a “bad” book would be Michael Bellesiles’s Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture, which was outed as fraudulent research after having won several awards. Should librarians note that in the book’s catalog record, or should they let users figure that out on their own? (“Bad” could also mean other things to other people, too, like often-challenged books or books of an adult nature.)

I had a slightly harder time wrapping my head around this than the book clubs. Strangely, I was less familiar with book clubs than workshops because I’ve never participated in a book club before; I’ve been a participant in workshops many times as both a student and as a professional, and I’ve also taught a one-shot workshop (it was two hours as opposed to twenty minutes, though). We planned our workshop thoroughly–the analysis and outline part of the ADDIE document really helped–and used the “jigsaw” method, where we split the group in half and gave each group a different article to read and discuss about the topic. Then half of each group switched and told the other participants about what they read. Perhaps it was the twenty-minute time limit, but it was hard to interrupt people and tell them it was time to switch while they were having really lively conversations–which was our goal! We even got some constructive feedback on this, that the participants wished they could have talked more with less guidance from us.

Maybe the reason I was having some trouble conceptualizing the idea of these particular workshops was that they felt a lot like the book club, except this time we chose ethics-themed articles to read and discuss, and we had a much more structured outline of events. Upon reflection my confusion seems like a good thing. I used to think of workshops as places to learn a new skill, like TEI encoding or learning how to use databases to find scholarships. This week showed me that workshops can also be a chance to have a structured discussion with established learning objectives, and that discussing and working through a topic can be a skill, too.

The other workshops all went well. It was fun to participate, and to appreciate the hard work my peers did–everyone was obviously well-prepared. I did notice that the more structured workshops, with clear methods (pair up and read this article, or half read this article and half another, or list the pros and cons of 3D printing) produced more lively discussion.

Class Week 8: Ethics and Workshop Prep

One of the parts of 643 I’ve been enjoying most is the “meta” nature of class–Kristin often teaches us by example, like using a Socratic seminar-style discussion to teach us how to do a Socratic seminar or book club. And the actual content of those discussions are still very relevant to class and are intriguing, complex examples. This week we began class by going over the one-shot workshop and trying to glean what makes a workshop bad or good. It was easier to pick out the bad traits than it was the good. I tried to think about what made the good workshops I’ve attended so good, and all I could come up with was that the instructors were confident, entertaining, and conveyed knowledge and passion for the material. They were also all relaxed and made me feel comfortable and OK with not knowing the answer to everything.

After that we discussed the ALA Code of Ethics, and whether we would change anything. Once again, as with other texts in this class, I got a little shot of motivation from reading the document; it gave me a feeling of affirmation to read about and feel more a part of my future profession and the way it functions. My small group really couldn’t find anything we wanted to change about the code of ethics. There were parts we felt were a bit… wishy washy, like the statement about being balanced between intellectual property rights holders and users. While I wish the ALA had taken a stronger stance on that, I also understand why it was worded that way. Perhaps in the next 10-15 years that part of the document will change. We moved on to discuss some ethical issues that have come up in the news recently. The Toronto Public Library was thinking about implementing two new features to deal with impending budget cuts from the city: one, selling advertisements and printing them on the back of date due receipts, and two, putting “buy this” links for books in their catalog (which would take them to a third-party vendor website). Both made me feel queasy. It was like a Would You Rather…? game, where neither option was appealing. Like I said in class, I feel that public libraries are a sort of haven, and shouldn’t be tainted by commercialism; perhaps the receipt ads would be better because they could feature local businesses, where the “buy this” link would be sending business outside of the community.

As I see several other bloggers in my cohort have already commented upon, I was also a bit disappointed that we didn’t discuss the Lenker reading that had the case studies on ethics and “dangerous questions”. I wanted to hear what others had to think about his use of case studies, his approach using the value ethics model, and his rather abrupt way of ending the article–that Lenker would be happy if all it could do was elicit “sophisticated confusion” for LIS student readers. Both the content and the context of the article were worth unpacking. On the other hand, I like that it brought us together in even deeper discussion in our mini blogosphere!