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Taking the Show on the Road

November 22, 2010 Leave a comment

A few posts ago, I explained how all of the Reference Librarians were being trained on how to use Moodle.  The idea was that we would learn how to create Moodle courses and then we would act as assistant trainers for faculty.  Our first round of training was with the School of Human Services faculty on the Springfield campus and that went really well.  Faculty learned the basics about how to place content into their courses and to customize them and we learned what worked, and more importantly what didn’t work, in the workshops.  We took that knowledge and prepared for the second round of training, which required us to travel to all 10 of the SHS campuses across the country.

I was assigned to Houston and St. Johnsbury and hit the road with Bridget Gunn, our interim Educational Technologist, and Marsha Jones, the Associate Director for Technology Services in October.  The trip to Houston was my first visit to Texas, but we did not have any time for sightseeing.  We ran three, four hour, training sessions in two days and got about three dozen faculty members up and running with their Moodle classrooms.  St. Johnsbury was a little less hectic with only two training sessions and about two dozen faculty members.  Although Houston and St. Johnsbury couldn’t be more different in terms of climate and culture, I was struck by how similar the faculty were in both locations.

For example, we always had a small group of people who claimed that they were computer neophytes and would probably need lots of help.  Another smaller group would be made up of people who had enough technology experience to pick up everything very quickly.  Then there was the third group comprised of the remaining 70-80% of the faculty who had enough technology experience to follow along, but weren’t what you’d call experts.  Regardless of their level of expertise, they were all willing to give it their best effort and to help each other when necessary.  I’ve always said that I would rather teach a group of people who were willing to learn, but didn’t know anything about what I was going to cover than a group of people who refuse to make an effort to learn something new.  I got my wish in Houston and St. Johnsbury and it made the traveling, the hectic schedule, and the inevitable computer glitches that we ran into worthwhile.

Up next, creating a plan to train the non-SHS faculty on the Springfield campus!

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PE Technology Fair

April 24, 2010 Leave a comment

What on earth, you ask, do climbing walls and librarianship have in common?  Well, it’s kind of a strange story.  It all started when I asked the Dean of the School of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (I’m the liaison to those departments) if their professional conferences includes a vendor fair of some sort.  This was soon after I had registered for Computers in Libraries and I was thinking about the technology librarians are exposed to at most library conferences.  I know, from my liaison work, that more and more technology is being integrated into PE programs across the country, but I wasn’t sure if our students or even our faculty got exposed to any of it.

The Dean replied that he wasn’t sure, but that he was very interested to hear more about what I had in mind.  After a quick e-mail explaining how library conferences usually include some sort of venue for librarians to learn more about technology, such as the “petting zoos,” he quickly arranged a meeting with the two of us and the appropriate faculty members.  Long story short, they decided to throw a small trial technology fair in the spring semester.

One of the vendors who came was company that sells the TreadWall systems that you see me on in the picture.  Imagine a climbing wall that just keeps on going.  I stayed on for around a minute and a half and was wiped out!  It’s an incredible workout.  In addition to that, we had demos of more well know tech like Wii Fit and I gave demonstrations in what wikis are and how PE teachers might use them.  All in all, it was a huge success and the PE faculty hope to have another vendor fair in the fall.

Before I wrap up, I should point out that I wasn’t responsible for organizing the fair itself.  One of our faculty members, Kathy Mangano, did all the legwork necessary to make it happen.  We all joked, however, that I was the one “responsible” for giving her more work to do with my question about technology at PE conferences.  You never know where an innocent question will take you!

Computers In Libraries Conference

March 20, 2010 Leave a comment

As you can see from the pictures, I attended this years Computers in Libraries conference, which was held in Arlington, VA.  I’ve never been to CiL before, but I’ve always asked to go at the beginning of the year when we submit our “wish list” of conferences that we’d like to attend.  Still, I was quite surprised when I got the word that my request had gone through.  Not only that, but one of my colleagues, Sam Anderson, got the green light to go as well.  So we packed our bags and headed off to Virginia for three days of presentations, networking, and all of the other stuff one does at a conference.

One of my main goals was to take in as much as I could from the “Literacies and Fluencies” and “Teaching” tracks.  More specifically, I was hoping to gather as many ideas, programs, etc. as I could and use them to enhance our own information literacy initiative at Springfield College.  I certainly saw some great presentations.  Chad Mairn from St. Petersburg College gave an excellent talk about information fluency, which he argues is at the intersection of information literacy, computer literacy, and critical thinking.  I also learned more about transliteracy.  I wasn’t sure how I felt about the whole transliteracy idea before the conference and I’m still not 100% sure how I feel about it now.  Some of my co-workers argue that it’s just the old wine of information literacy in a new bottle.  I’m not so sure, though.  To me, it seems like a marriage of information literacy and educational technology, which I see as a positive thing.  It’s definitely something that I’m following.

Of course, I did sneak out to see some presentations from other tracks.  Roy Tennant gave a great talk built around his Top Ten Things Library Administrators Should Know About Technology.  I also saw a really great talk by Joe Murphy on mobile literacy and the connection between libraries and mobile devices.  I wasn’t the only one.  This presentation was packed, which I thought was funny for 2 reasons.  One, all we heard about in the previous 2 days was about how mobile was the next big thing for libraries.  If that’s the case, why did they stick the mobile presentation into one of the smaller conference rooms?  There were so many people that they had to stream it into an adjoining room.  Two, it was very difficult to get cell reception in that room or at least it was for my friend who had 0 bars on his iPhone.

No conference is perfect, however, and this one was no exception.  I was specifically disappointed by the presentations that essentially were nothing more than link sharing fests.  It’s not because the sites being suggested were terrible or that the presenters were boring.  In fact, they were all pretty good.  I guess I just didn’t expect to see that kind of presentation at a national conference.  In almost every case, all the links were up on a wiki anyway.  I could have just looked at that on my own.

I was also a little put off by the Apple bashing.  Not because I think Apple is a perfect company.  Far from it.  However, when someone stands there and rails against Apple’s closed systems and secret app approval process, but then proudly proclaims that they bought their iPad, it kind of rubs me the wrong way.  At least Sarah Houghton-Jan had the guts to back up her words with action.  I still don’t agree with her or the rest of them.  Apple is a for profit business.  They have a fiduciary responsibility to  make money for their shareholders.  If you don’t like the way they do it, don’t buy their products.

As I said, however, no conference is perfect and I didn’t expect this one to be.  I enjoyed the overwhelming majority of presentations that I went to and the Hyatt did a great job of putting on the conference in spite of the iffy wi-fi.  Congratulations to everyone who put CiL 2010 on this year.

Success at FitFest

February 21, 2009 Leave a comment

Here I am showing our research guides to one of our students at Fit Fest 2009.  We met a lot of students who were familiar with the library and our resources, but we met even more who were not.  We’re hoping to hear back from them again soon!

At Springfield College, our mission is to educate people “in spirit, mind, and body for leadership in service to humanity.”  That philosophy was in full force at this year’s Fit Fest.  Fit Fest is an annual exhibition that focuses on how individuals can achieve personal wellness.  Visitors could choose from more then 2 dozens exhibits and activities such as blood glucose testing, alcohol education, advice for setting up a home gym, kidney disease screening, and a demonstration of gluten free foods.  All of these topics were chosen because they addressed this year’s theme – “Healthy Living, Healthy People, Healthy Pride” – which was based on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Healthy People 2010 campaign.

Understanding how to find reliable health related information is, of course, a key component to personal wellness.  That’s why the Reference Librarians from Babson Library were there at Fit Fest in full force.  Visitors to our booth had a chance to take a quick quiz to test their web searching savvy and to talk with the Reference Librarians about what health related resources the library provides.  We also got a chance just to connect with students and explain to them just what the library can do for them.  Some were surprised to hear what we had to offer, but we were also pleased to hear others say that they use the library a lot or that a librarian had visited one of their classes.

Maybe it was because of our great booth.  Maybe it was because we were placed between the Wii demonstration and the alcohol awareness booth (where visitors got to put on “beer goggles” to test their ability to do certain tasks while “impaired” – I didn’t do so well!) Whatever the reason, we had a great turnout and talked to a lot of students, faculty, and staff that we might not have reached otherwise.  Fit Fest 2009 was an unqualified success and we’re looking forward to 2010.  See you there!

PVAAL Fall 2009 Meeting

November 18, 2008 Leave a comment

A copy of Kembrew McLeod’s official certification from the U.S. Patent and Trademark office for the phrase “freedom of expression”.  Kembrew patented the phrase to illustrate the lack of safeguards in the existing process.

It rained November 13th, but that did not dampen our spirits as the members of PVAAL gathered together once again for our fall meeting at Springfield College.  This was my first meeting as President so I was a little more anxious then I normally would have been, but everyone’s hard work paid off and the night was a complete success.  Many thanks to the PVAAL board, ARAMARK our catering service, and Babson Library for their efforts and support.

Instead of having a speaker as we usually do, we decided to watch Freedom of Expression: Resistance and Repression in the Age of Intellectual Property – an amazing documentary based on Kembrew’s McLeod’s book of the same name.  Although the documentary brought up many important points, I think the one that struck me the most was the idea that we, as a society, are sacrificing our the future richness of our culture for short term financial gain.  I’m oversimplifying the argument, but the basic idea is that culture is built upon the songs, movies, books, ideas, etc. that come before it.  Many of Disney’s fairly tales, for example, are adaptations of stories that have been around for centuries.  We use the old to build the new, but now with companies (such as Disney) locking up their creative content for increasingly longer and longer periods of time, future artists will not be able to borrow and adapt to create new works.  Does this mean that our culture will be poorer?  Some intellectual property experts fear it will.

As academic librarians, we sometimes take a narrow view of copyright.  It usually centers around teaching students both why it’s important to cite material and how to do it.  This documentary, however, made many of us realize that we need to take a more long range view as well.  We did not come up with any brilliant ideas to save ourselves from the mess that we find ourselves in, but many of us left that evening with a sense that we must do something.  Freedom of expression (with all apologies to Prof. McLeod – I didn’t get copyright permission to use his phrase) is too important a freedom to lose.

PVAAL Spring Meeting 2008

April 14, 2008 Leave a comment

Rebecca Henning presents the treasurer’s report at the PVAAL Spring meeting on March 27, 2008.

On March 27, 2008 the members of PVAAL (Pioneer Valley Association of Academic Librarians) gathered for their spring business meeting at Mount Holyoke College.  PVAAL provides academic librarians in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts with a vehicle to discuss work related issues and, more importantly, an opportunity to connect with one another.  Although we discuss “serious” subjects such as information literacy and collection development, we also enjoy laughing and joking with one another over the unique situations we all experience from time to time as well.

The highlight of our meeting was a presentation by Stephanie Brown, who is currently an Electronic Resource Librarian at UConn.  The title of Stephanie’s talk was “The Adjunct Life and Other LISExtra-curricular Activities” and in it she talked about her role as an adjunct faculty member at the Simmons Graduate School of Library Science.  Specifically, she talked about what motivated her to step into the classroom and the tremendous satisfaction she gets from watching her students graduate and become active members of the profession.  She also talked about her role as an author, both in print publications, such as Library Journal, and on the web, such as her recent contributions to the ACRLog.  This generated quite a bit of discussion among the members about technology in general and the different ways that librarians keep up to date on technology.  One important point was that no one can keep up with everything and that we should be selective in what we spend our time following.  Oh, we need to be flexible too!

The next meeting for PVAAL is sometime in the Fall of 2008.  As president, I will be responsible for planning the event and heard plenty of suggestions for possible programs.  One strong possibility is a round table of library directors from the area.  We have several new, or fairly new, directors and many members felt that it would be useful to hear what their plans are for their institutions and to talk about how we can work together to enhance services.  Whatever the final program turns out to be, I will be looking forward to our fall gathering and for the next chance to catch up with my colleagues.