Archive for the 'information literacy' category

Around the Web: Ada Lovelace Day, Wikipedia & Women in Science

My library is hosting a Ada Lovelace Day event tomorrow (ok, a little late...). Continuing in a tradition of having Women in Science Wikipedia Edit-a-thons, we're hosting our own Wikipedia Women in Science Edit-a-thon!

I've been doing a fair bit of reading over the last couple of years about Wikipedia culture and especially how it relates to the under-representation of women both as editors and as subjects of articles. So I thought I'd share some of my readings here with all of you.

Of course, this list is in no way comprehensive or complete. I welcome suggestions for further readings in the comments, either on edit-a-thons, women in science, Wikipedia culture or any of the intersections of those topics.


About Wikipedia Edit-a-thons


About Wikipedia and Editor Culture More Generally

I'm working on a LibGuide for the event which I'll post here once I make it live.

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Scitech librarians take note: The Western Conference on Science Education

The biennial Western Conference on Science Education will be taking place this coming July 9–July 11, 2013.

I'm thinking very seriously of going and I think science/engineering librarians in general should consider doing so as well.

Here's how they describe it:

The biennial Western Conference for Science Education creates an ongoing organizational infrastructure that invites teaching and research faculty, librarians and other educational professionals, regardless of their experience level, to collaborate on the improvement of post-secondary Science education through the exchange of experience, innovation, ideas, and research in teaching and learning across disciplines.

Although situated in the context of Canadian higher education in Science, the Western Conference recognizes that fundamental issues in teaching and learning often transcend disciplinary, institutional, and national boundaries. Participation by colleagues working outside the country, or outside the traditional disciplines of Science, is welcome.

Specifically, the Western Conference for Science Education is designed to create and sustain an on-going organizational structure that:

  1. enhances a Science education community by enticing faculty and educational staff to venture out of their respective discipline-specific circles to meet, discuss, and collaborate with one another;
  2. promotes ongoing improvement in post-secondary Science education through support of a range of scholarly approaches to teaching and learning;
  3. contributes to the professional development of Science educators by providing access to educational leaders, resources, and training;
  4. promotes productive inter-relationships between educators and various private sector academic publishers, suppliers, technology providers etc;
  5. provides an avenue to share ideas, innovation, and research;
  6. ensures that Conference proceedings are archived and accessible.

Conferences are planned for every other year after 2013. On off-years, we encourage other colleagues, organizations and institutions to host synergistic events that benefit from, and in turn increase, the momentum created by the Western Conferences.

The call for proposals is here and the submission guidelines here.

The conference topic threads have a lot of scope for the kinds of work librarians do:

Thread A: Teaching and Learning Science
Thread B: Evaluation of Learning
Thread C: Curriculum
Thread D: Education Technologies and Innovative Resources
Thread E: Other

And the session formats leave a lot of leeway for interesting ways to pitch that work. In particular, the "Short & Tweet" format seems to have a lot of possibility for advocacy.

  • Workshops: Workshops are highly participatory hands-on 80 minute sessions allowing participants to come away with a product, tool, or skill.
  • Presentations: Presentations are 40 minute sessions providing the opportunity for presenters to engage with their peers in the form of a traditional paper, novel demonstration, provocative debate, or other creative formats. When appropriate, two complementary presentations will be paired.
  • Short and Tweets: This is an engaging 14.0 minute live presentation that will be summarized in 140 characters. Short and Tweets will be collected and presented in six-packs.
  • Posters: Posters are self-explanatory visual displays offered in a format that promotes informal dialogue between the poster’s author(s) and their peers. At least one of the poster's authors will be available for discussion during the Poster Session.

The Canadian Engineering Education Association annual conference (June 17-20) is another I'm considering for the spring/summer and I know that it's also a very good conference for engineering librarians.

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Call for Posts and Papers: Librarianship by Walking Around

A project I heartily endorse on a topic near and dear to my heart, launched by the Library Society of the World, Librarianship by Walking Around:

The Library Society of the World is putting together an online and print-on-demand anthology of weblog posts, essays, articles, and other material entitled Librarianship by Walking Around, patterned after the successful Hacking the Academy project.

Librarianship doesn't just happen in the library! Librarianship happens wherever information exchange happens--that is, just about everywhere. Librarianship by Walking Around celebrates librarians who leave their libraries and their comfort zones to ply the library trade.

Submit your work or suggest another's by commenting here, tweeting the link with the hashtag #libwalk, or posting to the Library Society of the World's FriendFeed group by Friday, October 21. Themes may include (but are not limited to):

  • Serendipitous encounters (and how to engineer them)
  • Joining patron communities
  • Walking around online
  • Walking around non-library literature and non-library conferences
  • Embedded librarianship (in all its forms)

All on-topic submissions will appear on the project's web page. The LSW will select from these for the anthology, expected to be available in free .epub and low-cost print-on-demand versions. All authors whose pieces are chosen for the anthology will be asked to license the piece as CC-BY. Authors unwilling to do so will not appear in the anthology.

Walk around the information world with us!

I've already submitted a couple of older posts to the project and I'd encourage everyone else out there to consider submitting as well.

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Who's knowledgeable about science, technology, history and literature?

Jul 21 2011 Published by under information literacy, librarianship, reference

Reference librarians, of course!

I'm reading Last Car to Elysian Fields by mystery writer James Lee Burke and came across this rather nice passage on pages 141-142.

So where do you go to find a researcher who is intelligent, imaginative, skilled in the use of computers, devoted to discovering the truth, and knowledgeable about science, technology, history and literature, and who usually works for dirt and gets credit for nothing?

After lunch I drove down to the city library on Main and asked the reference librarian...

And the whole scene in the novel is really very good, as Burke's protagonist Dave Robicheaux and the librarian hunt up some information on a particular blues musician. I really like how the reference interview and how the relentless hunt for more and better information that so obsesses librarians is portrayed.

Burke is a terrific writer, by the way, and all his novels are well worth checking out especially is you like hard boiled/noir crime fiction.

I have noted Burke's love of librarians before.

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Issues in Science & Technology Librarianship, Spring 2011

As usual, a wealth of interesting articles in the latest ISTL:

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Intelligent design & creationism vs. teaching & scholarship

A couple of odd ones from last week's Inside Higher Ed, both related to the way scholarship, higher education and the intelligent design/creationism movement intersect.

First up, Blasphemy of a Different Kind, involving people possibly being fired for teaching evolution at an Adventist school. Although the university involved claims that the firings weren't related to the teaching of evolution, it's hard to imagine that there wasn't some connection.

The president of La Sierra's board of trustees on Friday asked for the resignations of Jeff Kaatz, the vice president for university advancement; Jim Beach, the dean of arts and sciences; Lenny Darnell, a trustee; and Gary Bradley, an adjunct professor of biology, according to a campuswide note from the administration.

The university, which is affiliated with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, has been dealing in recent months with a controversy over the teaching of evolution that has its Adventist benefactors threatening to withdraw its religious accreditation -- and the $4 million per annum that comes with it. Now the university faces a scandal in which a trustee, a vice president, a dean, and an adjunct professor were asked to resign over a recording made, purportedly by accident, of the four men talking informally about the church and university leadership.

Next is Paying for Rejection about a case where a journal has rejected/retracted an article by and Intelligent Design advocate after it was initially published on their website but before it appeared in the print edition. The published reached a financial settlement with the author to compensate for the retroactive rejection.

A mathematics journal has reached a financial settlement with an advocate of intelligent design after withdrawing a paper by him shortly before publication.

Applied Mathematics Letters accepted the paper by Granville Sewell, professor of mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso, earlier this year. The paper, "A Second Look at the Second Law," questioned the second law of thermodynamics: a fundamental law of physics that states that disorder - entropy - always increases in a closed system.

The paper was posted on the journal's website but was retracted shortly before its scheduled publication in the print edition.

In response to a complaint about the article from science blogger David vun Kannon, the journal's editor-in-chief, Ervin Rodin, director of the Center for Optimization and Semantic Control at Washington University in St Louis, offered his apologies for even considering the paper for publication.

"Applied Mathematics Letters is attempting to live up to its aim of being an outlet of 'rapid publication.' Unfortunately, this may sometimes lead to hastiness," he wrote.

A couple of very interesting cases, certainly not completely clear cut to the outsider in terms of exactly what happened or why. It both cases I would guess that we have far from complete information.

Read the IHE stories and see for yourself. Both are certainly case studies in the fact that science and religion just don't mix.

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My presentation for Scholarship in the Public Eye: The Case for Social Media

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, I did a short presentation on Scholarship in the Public Eye: The Case for Social Media as part of a panel for a York Faculty of Graduate Studies Scholarly Communications Series.

And yes, I was the Twitter guy, although some of the other presenters did talk about their use of Twitter. Basically, my point was that Twitter and blogs can be part and parcel of the research and research outreach life of academics. I mostly concentrated on Twitter, but I did try and make the same sorts of points about blogging as well as I spoke.

Anyways, I thought I would share my "slides" here.

You may have noticed, if you went through them at all, that they're a bit odd.

Yes, every single slide is a tweet. They're mostly by other people but I did feel I had to tweet a few things on my own to tie the threads together a bit better. The tool I used to do the presentation itself was the absolutely wonderful web service Storify. Basically Storify allows you to aggregate web objects into linear stories. And you can turn those stories into slideshows, which is what I did.

You can see my Storify story here and as a slide show here. It's a bit odd, but to make the slide show work, you have to click the slide and then use the left and right arrows.

I have a ton of praise for Storify. It was great to use and for a few of the more intricate details I had to work out, their Twitter tech support was fantastic. Overall, I would recommend it for similar projects. The only downside was that in my very particular application, it was a bit difficult to stitch together a presentation narrative from other people's tweets so I'm not sure what I did would work so well for a full length presentation.

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Preliminary thoughts on McMastergate, or, Why so touchy?

Yeah, and I'm touchy and upset and discomfited by this whole thing as much as anyone. This is about my touchiness, not yours. Although please feel free to add your own feelings in the comments.

Thinking about it over the last few days I've come to glimpse the sources of my own unease.

And I've come to think that they are related to the various threads that are becoming tangled up in this controversy. It's almost like there's a Cartesian diagram with four or more quadrants of issues and all the various responses are each focusing on one drawn through one or two or three of those quadrants.

(Yeah, I know, if there are more than four they aren't quadrants, but bear with me.)

The problem is, if I'm talking about a line through One and Three and you're interested in responding to Three and Four -- well, it gets heated.

And I can have distinctly different reactions to various of the strains of comment. And that's because I various levels of comfort with the Trzeciakian stance on the issues represented by the quadrants, ranging from severe disagreement to a willingness to acknowledge and discuss the implications in a constructive way.

Here's what I think is going on, at least for me:

  • There are useful and interesting things that Jeff Trzeciak has done at McMaster that seriously advance the cause of academic libraries.
  • The genuinely problematic situation at McMaster around how some of those ideas have been implemented.
  • A real desire on the part of library degree-holding librarians to be at the core of the services that academic libraries provide to their patrons. Those services include collection development and management in the very broadest sense, faculty liaison, reference, information literacy, research support and everything else.
  • The need to get people with the widest possible range of talents working in libraries to help provide those services, including of course IT people and subject PhDs.
  • The ongoing discussion about the past, present and future of librarian education.
  • Very real human resources challenges in academic libraries revolving around, among other things, retirements, tenure and reskilling.

And more. I'm sure you all can add your own quadrants to the mix. But these are the ones running around my brain.

I'm still struggling with this and I hope to come out with further thoughts in the future.

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Librarians are universally the most collegial professionals on campus

Hey, it wasn't me that said that. It wasn't even another academic librarian.

It was Joshua Kim in his post from today's Inside Higher Ed, 5 Reasons Librarians Are the Future of Ed Tech.

It's a great post, talking from an outsider's perspective about what librarians bring to the educational process. Kim concentrates on the role that libraries and librarians can play in moving into campus educational technology roles but really, the list he gives applies to the roles that we can play all across the various functions on average campus. Especially those we play as librarians.

Not as explicitly part of educational technology departments or, perhaps, research or outreach offices. But as explicitly part of libraries. Those roles of course encompass facilitating and advancing the institution's educational mission, research activities, governance, outreach, educational technology, the whole enchilada.

The five reasons are, with Kim's full explanation for the one that needs that context the most:

  • Service Orientation
  • Strong Relationships
  • Multilingualism: People trained in information science enjoy the benefits of a broad set of skills and perspectives. Some librarians are trained in the disciplines of the faculty and courses they work with, and all librarians have the baseline of skills to relate to the full range of academics. Librarians speak the language of research, are familiar with its tools and practices, and can connect specialists with the databases, journal and articles they need to accomplish their work. The training and practice of librarians encourages a comfort with a wide range of disciplines, ensuring a common language (and worldview) across the academy. Where technologists might thrive with specialized knowledge (networking, server administration etc.), librarians being largely client facing need to speak many languages.
  • Technology Experience
  • Collegiality

I like the way he ends his post:

The discussion about Library / IT campus mergers is, I think, largely besides the point. Formal mergers may or may not happen, either way the future of academic technology belongs to the librarians (and those most like them). Us non-librarians would do well to learn from and emulate our colleagues from the Library.

So, to the librarians out there reading this, stand a little taller today.

To the faculty members and researchers out there reading this, take a moment and think how you could collaborate with a librarian to advance the goals of your institution.

Thanks, Joshua. We appreciate it.

(Some of this is also inspired by the general academic librarian angstiness going on right now. I'll do a bit of a focused "Around the Web" on that next week, probably Monday.)

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University Professors Teach Too Much

This series of four posts by William M. Briggs is pretty interesting stuff.

The kind of thing where I'm torn: is it the most brilliant and perceptive thing I've ever read about higher education or is it a series of slightly early April 1st posts?

Dear Internet, I really need all you people out there to help me figure this one out. Which way does it go.

And by the way, you really have to read all four posts to get the complete message. The comment streams are interesting too.

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part I

Here is what everybody knows: the best researchers are often not the best teachers. Statistically, the relationship is negatively correlated. Prowess in the lab implies indexterity in the classroom. This is natural. An individual managing four graduate students, one post-doc, writing a new grant, revising an old one, and writing papers from the results of a third cannot devote adequate energy to preparing a Friday-morning quiz on "What is a paragraph?" to freshmen, of which a non-trivial fraction are hungover or otherwise sleep deprived. I am speaking "on average", of the predominant reality, and therefore it would be a fallacy to counter with examples of exceptional researchers who are also brilliant teachers.


Universities should become bipartite: college and research institute under one banner. In practice, each would--and should--have little to do with the other, though they would share the same name and school colors. The college mandate is to teach all undergraduate courses and those graduate courses which are non-specialized. The people that man colleges should not be researchers--unless, as will be rare, somebody wants to cross the line and write a paper on a subject dear to them. The people that man research institutes should not be teachers--unless, as will be rare, somebody wants to cross the line for a temporary change of scenery. It would be best if some "universities" eschew all research (via attrition of workers) and become solely colleges. Other universities should separate from, or eliminate their college components, and become solely research institutes.

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part II

Requiring teachers to write papers is asking them to do what they are not good at. If they were good at it (and had the desire), they would be researchers and not teachers. Teachers are wasting time publishing an article in the South-by-Southwest Far East Asia Journal of Research: C when they could have been polishing a lecture, holding extra office hours, or in just plain reading. It is a waste because the paper will never be read by anybody except the one or two referees attached to the journal, and it fools the teacher into thinking he has been productive. It also fools the promotion committee (which obsessively counts papers) into thinking they are measuring the ability of the teacher to do his job.

Counting papers is like eating opium: it is an addiction everybody knows its wrong, but nobody can resist. It's only a wonder academics don't receive spam promising a "Proven method to grow your paper numbers. 7++ new citations! Make Deans scream in delight!!!"

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part III

Colleges themselves--which, I remind us, are to be separated from research institutes--should be broken in two: traditional college and technical or trade school (this break need only be administrative and not physical). As Russell Kirk tells us, college exists to impart wisdom, not knowledge, and certainly not information or even, as is by now commonplace, trivia. Trade schools should take students interested solely or mainly in obtaining a skill or a "degree", a talisman which they must emboss on their resume to get a job at one of the many non-contemplative and undiscerning companies which require them.

Incidentally, this purblind requirement of a "degree"--and not of knowledge or ability--is why there are too many kids going to college.

Trade school will encompass majors like "business", "marketing", "sports management", "diversity studies" of any kind, "communications", "journalism", "computer science", "health", "nursing", "art" of any stripe, "engineering", "security" (yes, it exists), "criminal science1", "hotel management", and so forth, which give students a taste--an amuse bouche, but no more--of the fields in which they will toil. Cosmetology and refrigeration schools have the right idea (I do not jest nor denigrate; these are useful, honest places).


College is not a place to learn a trade or skill of any kind. It is not job training. It is a place to think; rather, a place to learn how to think, to develop the habit of discernment. As Cardinal Newman said, college is a place to "open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, [and] eloquent expression." College is the first step for those who would be future leaders.

University Professors Teach Too Much: Part IV

What Should Be Taught

I suggested (in Part III) that "computer science" students should be housed in trade schools and not college. This is because the vast majority of enrollees in this subject only want to secure a job in programming, web or game design, or the like. These earnest, honest folk really don't need to know more than the basics. (In a strange twist, professors, insisting on purity (and theory), won't teach what most of these kids want to learn. Teaching actual languages is seen as an left to trade schools?)

Hey! Wouldn't it be nice if computer students knew all about unsolvability, Turing tests, the theory of languages. It would indeed. It would also be nice if they knew all about differential equations, analysis, group theory, quantum chemistry, string theory, all the various niceties of electronic engineering, and so on, plus (for their customers) Spanish, Chinese, and French. And since no education would be complete without a thorough understanding of history, give 'em that. Shouldn't they know something about literature? And writing? And a slew of other subjects? Yes, absolutely. Let's well-round them!

I have to admit, I'm intrigued if not quite convinced.

I have some questions that perhaps the crowd can help me with:

  • How possible would it be to disentangle research from teaching in terms of government funding to the various types of institutions?
  • How would research time & effort be allocated for fields that don't have immediate practical application or sources of outside funding?
  • Are faculty so completely and uniformly convinced that research and undergraduate teaching don't somehow inform each other?
  • How much does the above vary by discipline?
  • Are students' real interests well served in this model?
  • Is the library's role in these types of institutions enhanced, diminished or about the same?


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