Thursday, January 14, 2016

January 2016

Happy New Year, and welcome to another semester at BRCC! As you begin to prepare for the spring semester, consider incorporating information literacy sessions into your class schedule. We, in the library, offer several ways to reach your students on how to conduct research, use information as a creative process, recognize the value of research and information, and how to search for useful information as strategic exploration. All of these information literacy skills build curiosity, create lifelong learners, and aid in retention. Last semester we held 51 sessions for a total 973 students. While this is a good number, it represents less than a third of BRCC's student population. With your help we can reach even more students. Some of the services we offer include information sharing sessions, custom bibliographic instruction sessions, library orientation sessions, and library tours.  

Information Sharing Sessions

During the fall semester Magnolia Library offered a series of sessions aimed at helping students conduct research through the myriad of resources available to them in the library. These open sessions were held at strategic times for students to drop in outside of their class schedules. Students had the opportunity to bring their research topics and receive one-on-one expert instruction on the research process.

Librarian Kathy Seidel leading an information
sharing session.

Custom Bibliographic Instruction Sessions

The library has long offered custom BI sessions, and we will continue to do so. These sessions are designed for a librarian to come to your class and demonstrate the resources available to students. These sessions are usually timed to a project, paper, or presentation assigned in your class and allow students to see what they can use from the library to help them with that specific project. In these lessons, the librarian works directly with the instructor to create sessions that vary in time, content, and presentation, depending on the requirements set forth by the instructor. BI's do not have to take up your entire class time, sessions have been conducted in as little as 15 minutes.      

Librarian Peter Klubek conducting a BI session on
Architecture at the Acadian Site. 

Library Orientation Sessions

These sessions are similar to BI's, but usually occur at the beginning of the semester and are aimed at an entire cohort of students rather than one specific class. These sessions also tend to be lengthier than a typical BI, as they are meant to demonstrate the resources available to students that they might use throughout their time at BRCC.     

Librarian Lauren McAdams leading a
nursing student library orientation at the
Frazier site.

Library Tours

Like the BI, these sessions are usually custom tailored to the instructor requesting the tour. We can emphasize any or all of the resources available within the library here at BRCC. Oftentimes students do not realize the extent of what's available in their library. It is not uncommon for a tour to conclude with students remarking that they did not know they had access to such a great library. Instructors too, are often pleasantly surprised. Did you know about the "Freedom Shrine" on the third floor, the institutional archive available through archives, or what's included in the two special collections (Carville Earle Collection and Multi-Cultural Children's Collection) on the second floor?   

Librarian Laddawan Kongchum leading a
dual enrollment group tour of the library. 

Information literacy and how to use the library are critical skills in this contemporary information age. Why not encourage your students to attend an information sharing session when you see the flyers in your inbox? Invite your librarian liaison to your class for a BI, library tour, or set up a program orientation. At a recent LCTCS conference one attendee asked one of our librarians their subject and how many students they teach. When they found they were speaking with a librarian, their response was "..oh! You teach all of them." At some point your students will have to use information resources, and we need your help in making certain our students leave BRCC as information savvy individuals that are able to pursue multiple avenues of knowledge as new understanding develops.  

Book Talk
The Crossover
Kwame Alexander
Thursday, January 21, 2016
Magnolia Library 2nd floor

The Magnolia Library is pleased to announce a book talk by Newbery Medal author and poet, Kwame Alexander.  Mr. Alexander received the 2015 Newbery Medal for The Crossover, a sports novel in verse, which also earned a Coretta Scott King Honor award.   The story is about basketball, and of course much more.  According to The Horn Book Magazine, “Alexander has the swagger and cool confidence of a star player and the finesse of a perfectly in-control ball-handler.” You can learn more about him

We hope that you will recommend this presentation to your students.  Kwame Alexander will speak for 30 minutes, then a Q&A, book signing and reception will follow.  Books will be available for purchase at the event.  If you would like to bring a class or would like a sign-in sheet for your class, please let us know.

Thank you for your support, and have a great semester!!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

December 2015

    Baton Rouge Community College and the academic library community lost a valued member and leader on November 24, 2015, with the death of Shereen Marx.  Shereen earned her Masters of Library and Information Science degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in 2010 and was a tireless advocate for libraries and reading as a bridge to student success.

   She mentored countless library student workers and prepared them for future careers, served for 6 years as General Services Librarian at Baton Rouge Community College Magnolia Library, and was a longtime member of ALA and many state and national organizations devoted to the preservation and promotion of libraries and archives.

    She was elected to the Beta Phi Mu International Library & Information Studies Honor Society, and her professionalism, energy, and joie de vivre were an inspiration to her coworkers, colleagues, and students. She will be greatly missed.

    In recognition of the significant contributions of Shereen Marx over the course of her career and the mourning of her death we extend our condolences to her friends and family. Especially her beloved husband, Max Marx. 

    Contributions in her memory may be sent to “Shereen Marx Book Donation” care of the Friends of the Magnolia Library, BRCC Foundation, 201 Community College Drive, Baton Rouge, LA 70806.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Vol 1 issue 9

The BRCC Library Club is pleased to sponsor the "Toys for Tots" toy drive for BRCC again this holiday season. "Toys for Tots" in an initiative of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, whose goal is "to deliver, through a new toy a Christmas, a message of hope to less fortunate youngsters that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens."

This year the drive will be taken to all BRCC sites. Look for the festive collection box on your campus and please donate new, unwrapped toys. The BRCC toy drive will run from November 6 to December 4, 2015.

Want to learn your way around puzzling copyright questions, especially those that make you wonder if you can place a book on Reserve for your students?

Want to enjoy an hour with colleagues and friends and refreshments?  Then join your colleagues at Teaching with Copyrighted Materials:  How to Analyze any Copyright Question in Five Steps.

Best of all, you'll earn one professional development point!

This one-hour program will be delivered by Peggy Hoon, J. D, on Friday, Nov. 20 at 2:00 p.m. in the T + LC and is co-sponsored by the Magnolia Library and the Teaching + Learning Center.  Hoon is the Director of Copyright Policy and Education, LSU Libraries, at Louisiana State University.  She serves as a campus-wide copyright resource for LSU faculty, staff, and students, providing education, and assistance for authors' rights in their works.

For more information, call the Library’s Reference desk at 216-8555

As we enter the last few weeks of fall semester, and the beginning of spring registration, it is inevitable to think about retention. In a recent article published earlier this year, Sidney Eng, and Dereck Stadler specifically examined the impact that libraries had on student retention. Their study broke down institutions according to their Carnegie Classification; with graduate schools, 4-year undergraduate institutions, and the 2-year associate's college. Interestingly, there was no measurable impact of the library on graduate school retention. However, and this is what is important for us, in the two-year college it was found that if students were exposed to even one library instruction session, the likelihood of that student being retained rose by 2%. This is something to consider if you have never had a librarian come to your class. Learning how to use the library and its resources is an invaluable skill that will help our students throughout their college experience. You may also want to encourage your students to sign up for the LIBS 101 course. This 1 credit course is offered each semester in either  the first or second seven weeks.

If you would like to read the article in full you can access it though this link:

Friday, October 16, 2015

Vol 1 Issue 8

Magnolia Library to Host Research 101

Canvas Library Module

      Don't forget that there are many ways to connect and keep in touch with your library. Magnolia Library has created a course within Canvas to give you direct library access. This course is available in each BRCC students' list of courses. BRCC faculty can also access this resource through your list of courses after logging in to Canvas.  

Architecture Bibliographic Instruction event at Acadian

On September 22, Acadian instructor, Darryl Williams’ drafting class received a customized BI that included information on library services and resources relevant to their course of study along with information beneficial to them in fulfilling a semester assignment.
Librarian liaison Peter Klubek, presented a BI session that included information about the library services in addition to resources relevant in the drafting profession available in the library.

In that the class semester assignment require biographical research on famous or renowned architects, following librarian Klubek’ s BI session, the class was treated to a lecture on  subject architecture and architects by special guest lecturer, Professor Jill Bambry. Dr. Bambry, is a current faculty member from of the School of Architecture at southern University, and recently received her PhD in Architecture from University of Cambridge, UK

   Dr. Bambry also shared several two-minute videos featuring architects and architectural techniques.

Finally, librarian Jacquline Jones also shared some books from the library collection on the topic of drafting and architecture. If you would like to set up a similar event for your courses, contact your library liaison, or the reference desk at 225-216-8555.

Reflections of an academic librarian
Month one

Elise Silva
Reprinted from College and Research Libraries News. Vol. 76 No. 8 September 2015 
The day I submitted this essay to C&RL News this spring, I’d been a librarian for one short month. You read that right, a mere 31 days. Because I am working on my MLS, yet carry the title “assistant librarian” I inhabit a strange, liminal space that affords me both a growing familiarity with academic libraries and the objective eye of an outsider.
These liminal spaces can be difficult to occupy—awkward and bumbling. (“Sorry guys! I accidently sent that email to the whole library listserv! Don’t mind me!”) Yet I’d like to think that it affords me a fresh enough perspective on the academic library to have something worth saying. I should disclose that I’ve worked in academia before, teaching literature and writing courses as a full-time faculty member at my current university for several years. Since my switch to the library, however, I’ve noticed several things that I find intriguing, surprising, and even confusing about my new field. I’ve recorded these observations here and wonder if you seasoned readers will agree with my forming opinions.
I’ve been observing the workings of the academic library (as opposed to my native English department) for 31 days now and have noted the following areas as intriguing, surprising, or confusing. I wonder if you seasoned librarians will agree with my observations.

Librarians break stereotypes

      I suppose this shouldn’t come as a shock, but the diversity found within the walls of the library is astounding. The library is made up of all sorts—not only are the faculty as diverse as their fields, the administration, IT folk, instructors, archivists, and catalogers bring a breadth to the library experience that has been eye opening (in a good way). The multifaceted experiences of each member of the library body speaks volumes to the important work that happens here. It also further shows the importance of the ability of the library space to bring us all together, and significance of librarianship in creating a cultural and intellectual community, as well as a shared vocabulary. This is especially important with such varied personalities, job types, and skill sets all working together.

Academic libraries are…academic

      With academia comes competition, bureaucracy, and assessment. These things are not new to me, having come from another area of campus, but I find they are just as prevalent here in the library. Though the structures of libraries vary from institution to institution. I have noticed that there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get things done, and many items to check off the list before moving forward with a project. And that takes time. So if academic librarians are worried about fitting in with their professorial peers, they shouldn’t be. If you’re having a hard time connecting to a faculty member, I’d suggest bringing up issues your experience with organization and bureaucracy in the library. Chances are the same issues will exist in the faculty member’s department, too (though terminology may differ). And shared woes can help spark a co nversation that could end up changing things for the better—or at the very least communicating in a way that your library services are highlighted. No way to make friends better than by complaining together, right?

Collaboration is encouraged

      I’ve been most impressed with the prevalence of collaboration in the library. This might be specific to my institution, however, it should lend itself nicely to other academic libraries, as well. Because the library is an interdisciplinary space by nature, it would follow that library professionals would work together to solve complex problems, publish, and tackle day-to-day issues.
In my previous academic experiences collaboration happened when forced, but wasn’t as natural as it seems in my new library setting. I find this encouraging in a world that seems to be more and more categorized and narrow. Finding shared areas of interest promotes productive dialogue and mutual understanding. Collaboration is desperately needed in academia, and society, at large. Libraries seem like the ideal place to do this.

Culture of protectiveness

      I find that librarians and library staff are very protective of the library. Library space is fought over tooth-and-nail, and those who work within the library are protective of, and revere, the materials they work with. What surprised me most was that this is true of people, as well—hiring someone without an MLS (like I was) can be quite a challenge because those of us not possessing an MLS when applying may be seen as opportunists, a forever outsider, or not truly cut out for librarianship. Like I said, this varies from person to person, and institution to institution, but I think most would agree that the feeling exists.

Remaining relevant is a concern

      This was both confusing and surprising to me—and here I’ll show my cards. A new MLS student not immersed in the world of academic libraries for long, relevancy never crossed my mind. Of course the library is relevant, I thought. Of course libraries will always be around. Of course research matters. Of course librarianship as a profession is an integral part of the university. Having talked with librarians here at my institution, as well as immersing myself in studying and reading up in these areas in the field, I see the numbers and understand where the anxiety comes in.
If librarians are anxious about remaining relevant themselves, I’d say, from a newbie prospective, to make yourself relevant. Building relationships with faculty (and yes, you are peers—don’t feel like you aren’t—even if you don’t have faculty status) will be one of the most important areas of outreach and relevancy you can attain. Because when you reach out to peers, you reach students, too.

Closing thoughts

      I imagine those of you who are still reading this article may have differing views from mine—that is to be expected given your experience in the library and maturation as a professional. I wonder how your perspective differs, but I wonder even more, how it overlaps. Do my observations make sense? Will they change as I, too, grow into the librarian I hope to become?
Perhaps my thoughts can help some of you as you mentor and help newer staff and faculty within the library. Correct our misconceptions, but also listen to our ideas. A fresh, objective view might do more to create innovative programs than you might realize.

© 2015 Elise Silva

Monday, February 17, 2014

Volume 1 Issue 7

In this issue...

there are many ways for you to get involved, get engaged, and feed that overall sense of curiosity that comes from living and working within an academic environment. And the library is here to help!

Your BRCC librarians have attended a professional development session aimed at improving the collection. Read about what we have learned, and look for these developments in the near future!

Displays, films, and events in celebration of Black History Month are offered throughout the month. Come participate in one, or all, and learn about the important contributions of African Americans to our history!

The "Resource Spotlight" highlights the eBook collection this month. At the same time, the book club is gearing up for another semester. Preview this month's book club selection using the eBook collection, and find out more about how you can join the club!

Two articles, one on stand up comedians and the delivery of library instruction and another on how to effectively use Wikipedia in libraries, have been reprinted here. Discover how you can incorporate these ideas in your class!

All this and more!

Librarians Professional Development

Dr. Kurz leads the BRCC librarians in a discussion on the
Multi-Ccultural Chilrens Collection

In January, your BRCC librarians participated in a professional development program that focused on the Multi-Cultural-Childrens Collection. The session was led by Dr. Robin Kurz from LSU School of Library and Information Science.

Dr. Kurz, her gaduate student, and Dean Chavis
Dr. Kurz focuses her studies on equity in library services and specializes in this area for children, teens, and families. She has examined public library youth collections using case study analysis in order to create best practices in collection development and use for diverse populations. Dr. Kurz has presented nationally on collection development for diverse populations, equitable library access, and multicultural library materials and services for youth. At BRCC she has examined our Multi-Cultural Childrens Collection and, with her students, provided recommendations and feedback that could enhance and improve this collection.

Based on her recommendations, the librarians are planning on revising the collection policy for this collection, as well as the relocation of some materials to a general children's collection. These items are kept in the library in support of the Care and Development of Young Children program, a program that has changed significantly with the CATC merger.        

Online Learning Student Orientation

Librarian Lauren McAdams spoke at the Online Learning Student Orientation on January 15. The event was hosted by eLearning Program manager Susan Nealy. Students in attendance at the event got tips on how to succeed in online classes and learned about the Magnolia Library's Online Databases, which are available 24/7.

If you would like to schedule a similar session on the library's databases for your class, contact your liaison, call the library (216-8555), or e-mail to find out more.

Monthly Display

February Display featuring Black History Month
In celebration of Black History Month, the BRCC Magnolia Library has several great resources on display including posters, audios, videos, and books that recognize various people and events throughout Black History. This display is on the 1st floor, of the Magnolia Library.

Stop by and visit today!

Civil Rights Film Series

The BRCC Magnolia Library is pleased to announce a collaboration with LSU Libraries, Southern University Library, East Baton Rouge Parish Libraries, and West Baton Rouge Museum in the NEH initiative "Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle."

As part of this program, we screened two films in February.

Freedom Riders - Wednesday, Feb. 5, 11 a.m., Magnolia Theatre
The Freedom Rides of 1961 were a pivotal moment in the long Civil Rights struggle that redefined America. Based on Raymond Arsenault’s recent book, this documentary film offers an inside look at the brave band of activists who challenged segregation in the Deep South. Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson. Mark Samels, executive producer for American Experience, WGBH.

The Loving Story - Thursday, Feb. 13, 6:30 p.m., Magnolia Theatre
The moving account of Richard and Mildred Loving, who were arrested in 1958 for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage. Their struggle culminated in a landmark Supreme Court decision, Loving v. Virginia (1967) which overturned anti-miscegenation laws in the United States. Directed by Nancy Buirski; produced by Nancy Buirski and Elisabeth Haviland James. A co-production of Augusta Films and HBO Films. Distributed by Icarus Films.

Come and join the Magnolia Library Book Club! This fun and exciting club is open to all BRCC faculty, staff and students. We meet once per month on Wednesday at 12:15 in the library third floor conference room. This month we will be reading Middlemarch by George Eliot, a classic of English literature. Fans of "Downton Abbey" may find much to interest them in Middlemarch.

Kathy Seidel has been listening to an excellent audio recording of Middlemarch read by Juliet Stevenson. A review of this audiobook can be found here. 

In addition, there was an interesting review on NPR last month of a new book that gives us glimpses into Middlemarch, and may tempt you to read the classic along with us. Look for that here.

Middlemarch is available in the Magnolia Library with call number PR4662 .A2 ELI 1994. It is also available electronically in our eBook Collection and through Project Gutenberg. 

Our next meeting will be on Wednesday, March 26, at 12:15.  For more information about the Magnolia Library Book Club, please contact Kathy Seidel at Happy Reading!


What stand-up comedians teach us about library instruction

Four lessons for the classroom

  1. Eamon C. Tewell
+ Author Affiliations
  1. Eamon C. Tewell is reference and instruction librarian at Long Island University, e-mail:
Imagine a typical stand-up comedian speaking to audiences from a stage in a dark comedy club, holding a microphone and leaning on a stool, perhaps making observations about airline food. Now picture a typical instruction librarian in a classroom, presenting resources and evaluation strategies to students, perhaps making observations about scholarly communication.
At first glance, the two appear to have little in common. After watching stand-up comedians perform in a wide variety of venues, I have found that there are not only more similarities than one might expect, but several compelling lessons that librarians can learn from comedians and apply to their own instruction to lead more dynamic classes.
Stand-up comedy has seen a renaissance in recent years due to a burgeoning number of creative alternative comedians and the prevalence of tools such as Twitter and YouTube that make access to comics effortless.
Comedians present their jokes, or “material,” in settings ranging from neighborhood bars to stadiums, and perform anywhere between ten minutes and one hour. Given comedians’ extensive experience in public speaking, engaging audiences, and performing for new faces night after night, it is only sensible that some rules and techniques for stand-up can be used to deliver quality library instruction.
From the beginning of an instruction session to its conclusion, below are four lessons librarians can learn from seasoned stand-ups.

Know how to read an audience

Every reference librarian has led a class that, for whatever reason, did not go as well as anticipated. The comedy world has a dramatic term for unappreciated performances. Bombing—telling jokes and receiving no laughs from the audience—is the worst possible outcome for a comedian. Although even a great comic has an occasional off-night, bombing is frequently the result of miscommunicating with a crowd.
The key to preventing bombing is to assess an audience’s expectations on the fly. Comedians, like library instructors, know to vary their material according to the crowd. The jokes that tourists enjoy may be met with blank, uninterested stares by locals in the same way that graduate students are likely to react to being taught freshmen-level research concepts.
Many comedians use crowd work to begin their performance, which involves calling on an audience member, asking him or her a simple question such as, “Where are you from?” or “What do you do?” and quickly finding a response that the crowd will laugh at. This engages the audience and gives the comic an immediate feel for what types of jokes they find humorous.
Eddie Murphy, an immensely popular comedy veteran who made the transition from stand-up to famous actor, skillfully improvises with a large crowd during his classic 1983 cable special Delirious.1 Murphy not only seizes natural breaks in his performance as an opportunity to acknowledge his audience and take a moment’s rest, but he devises quick retorts to hecklers’ remarks, which wins the crowd’s complete attention.
Applying these principles to library instruction, try commencing class with an icebreaker or a short humorous anecdote. If the group is responsive, ask someone to share a “something-that-happened-to-me” story about an experience in a library. A little crowd work as you begin a session can help students connect with each other and yourself, while setting the tone for the class.

Vary your teaching methods

Librarians providing instruction understand that their teaching methods should go beyond a traditional lecture. What may not be apparent is just how many pedagogical approaches are at one’s disposal. In an entertainment industry where standing on a stage and speaking is de rigeur, the cerebral comic Demetri Martin has successfully incorporated props, visual aids, and music into his work. Take Martin’s 2012 comedy special Standup Comedian as an example. In the space of one hour, only ten minutes longer than the typical one-shot instruction session, Martin captivates audiences with his easel pad for humorous drawings and charts, examples of fake flyers he posted at coffee shops, and by playing guitar and harmonica while telling jokes.
Thankfully, instruction librarians are not expected to play multiple instruments while teaching classes, much less deliver jokes. Taking a closer look at Martin’s methods, he explains the logic behind using an easel pad to convey ideas during his performance in Standup Comedian:Sometimes when I do jokes they don’t work the way I intended, they don’t work as well as I wanted them to, and it’s frustrating, but I hate to give up on a joke...these are some of my jokes that didn’t work the first time around, but I think it’s because I didn’t convey the picture that was in my head, the visual that I was trying to communicate to the audience. But I think that with these “material enhancers” they might work.2
Different teaching methods will be appropriate for different messages. A task that students often find challenging, such as selecting pertinent keywords for searches, could be made easier and more fun by drawing concept maps on an easel pad a la Martin’s approach. Depending on your objectives you may choose to integrate clickers, an interactive game, or a chalkboard into instruction sessions, but Martin demonstrates that the key is to use a variety of methods to reach the audience’s diverse learning styles and keep them involved.

Relate on a personal level

Building empathy and relating with students on a personal level is an effective means of decreasing barriers and the library anxiety of those who may see librarians as unapproachable. All good comedians understand the importance of relatability and incorporating individual experiences into their acts, but perhaps none more so than Louis C.K. As a divorced father of two attempting to balance his longtime comedy career with being a single parent, many of C.K.’s jokes are based on his personal life.
In his critically acclaimed television show Louie, C.K. touches on the same subjects as in his stand-up, from living in New York City (“I like New York. This is the only city where you actually have to say things like, ‘Hey, that’s mine. Don’t pee on that.’”) to divorce (“Being single at 41 after ten years of marriage and two kids is difficult. That’s like having a bunch of money in the currency of a country that doesn’t exist anymore.”)
The best way to create relatability is to teach as your authentic self. If you do not consider yourself a naturally funny person, there is no need to laboriously work jokes into your instruction routine. Instead, try smiling and being natural, and be conversational if the session calls for it. In both the comedy club and the classroom, a dash of personality and spontaneity will improve your performance, and has the added benefit of making you more approachable afterwards.

Use feedback to hone your performance

It is not unheard of for superstar Aziz Ansari of the TV series Parks and Recreation to make surprise guest appearances at small comedy clubs in New York City and Los Angeles. Lucky audience members will see Ansari walk onstage, take his iPhone out of his pocket, press “record,” and set the phone on a stool next to him. After approximately ten minutes of testing new jokes, he will thank the audience and leave to go try his material at another club. Well-known comics will visit up to four shows in one night, recording reactions to their jokes at each appearance. Later they listen to what got big laughs, and what did not, to fine-tune their performances.
Librarians must assess their instruction for the same reason that Ansari records his impromptu performances: to get feedback. Whether asking students questions regarding comprehension using Poll Everywhere, suggesting to a colleague that he or she attend a session to offer advice, or concluding class by having students complete a One-Minute Paper, it is essential to solicit feedback frequently and from a variety of sources. No successful comedian would attempt to spice up a punch line by delivering the identical joke every night without gauging each audience’s reaction. In this same way, instruction should be modified according to the reaction of students, faculty, and colleagues to improve delivery and, consequently, maximize learning opportunities.

Try it again

After receiving feedback on your performance, rework your material and try it again with a new audience. Joan Rivers, a comedian and entertainer for more than 50 years, understands the importance of persistence. The 2010 documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work portrays the comedian’s continual struggle of making people laugh despite in-the-moment challenges she would never have anticipated. In one interview Rivers claims, “The worst thing that ever happened to me on stage is someone ran forward to tell me they loved me and projectile vomited all over the stage.”3 That scenario would certainly make for an instruction session one would rather forget, but the lesson of perseverance in the face of unexpected obstacles speaks for itself.
In the classroom there will invariably be good and bad days, and as instructors it is essential to keep our daily work in perspective. Some sessions may indeed bomb, and when they do, the most productive reaction is to listen to audience expectations, adjust one’s approach, and try again the next day. As any comedian at his or her first open mic can tell you, doing untested material is an arduous undertaking. Remember that no act is perfect the first time. When testing, redesigning, and retesting new material in the classroom, persistence will eventually pay dividends.


Comedians are experts in effectively reading an audience, diversifying their presentation methods, relating to people on a personal level, and tirelessly reworking their material. The next time you watch a comedian pay attention to more than the punch lines. You will find that the methods underpinning the performance apply directly to providing better library instruction and can be easily adopted. Whatever path you take to improve your teaching based on the tried and true methods of stand-ups, please do everyone a favor and refrain from beginning your next class with, “I just flew in from the third floor stacks, and boy are my arms tired!”


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Using Wikipedia in information literacy instruction

Tips for developing research skills

  1. Cate Calhoun
+ Author Affiliations
  1. Cate Calhoun is instruction and reference librarian at Auburn University, e-mail:
As an information literacy instructor at Auburn University, it has been a perpetual struggle to teach students how to successfully search for library resources when they come to their one-time library sessions with only a broad paper topic and no idea how to narrow it down. A student recently told me regarding an English composition due in a few days, “The topic is so broad, I can’t pick an argument. I don’t even know where to start.” I began encouraging students to use a resource that they feel comfortable with as a starting point—Wikipedia.
Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia anyone can edit, was founded in 2001. Controversy over its accuracy and validity began then and continues today. Academic departments have banned it, professors and librarians disparage it. However, Wikipedia is going strong, increasing in both users and number of entries each day.1 Although every student in my class raised his or her hand when asked if they used Wikipedia for research, I still received the comment, “I thought Wikipedia was not okay for research at all!” Students continue to use it even though they know it is not a valid source.
However, students feel comfortable using Wikipedia, and they aren’t the only ones. As Debbie Abilock said in a 2012 article, “Our students may acknowledge that Wikipedia is unreliable, but they use it anyway—and so do we.”2 Rather than shunning the site, its popularity can be used as a learning tool. In my classes I have successfully used Wikipedia for topic development and for finding keywords and additional sources. Students may be surprised that it’s “allowed,” but they have embraced the familiar tool and are using it effectively.

Topic development

“Just getting started on a research assignment is the most difficult part of the research process for me.”3 This was a common finding in a survey by Project Information Literacy, and I often hear it in the classroom, as well. Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for students who aren’t sure how to narrow down a broad topic. Professors often give students a choice of larger topics with the expectation that they will select an aspect of one of the topics on which to focus their paper. However, when student are first trying to locate resources, their search strategies reveal they aren’t sure how to make a broad topic into a smaller, manageable thesis statement or research question to which they can respond within a few pages.
For example, sustainability is a theme that appears in English composition courses. The term sustainability applies to a variety of disciplines, and any number of paper topics could emerge from sustainability as a broad topic. This is an opportunity for Wikipedia to be useful. The Wikipedia entry for sustainability offers the subheadings of “environment,” “economy,” and “social issues.”4 Beneath each of those are narrower topics such as “land use,” “economic opportunity,” and “poverty.”
This breakdown, written in easy-to-understand, nonacademic language, allows students to consider their options for a research question, learn a little more about their individual topics, and even offers links to government websites and peer-reviewed journals. Encouraging use of Wikipedia to understand and develop a topic allows students access to this familiar resource while showing them how to use it appropriately.

Identifying keywords

Even if they have some knowledge of their topic, students may struggle with generating keywords for a search strategy in a library database. As an information literacy objective, students should be able to extract relevant keywords from their research topic. For example, “The effect of drilling for oil in Alaska” could yield “oil,” “drilling,” and “Alaska.” In learning to broaden a search strategy students are encouraged to find related terms and phrases. Using a traditional thesaurus will provide alternative terms, but they may not be relevant to the research topic.
A look at the Wikipedia article “Arctic Refuge drilling controversy” provides a number of options for building a search strategy.5 “Oil and drilling and Alaska” becomes “(oil or crude) and (drilling or oil exploration) and (Alaska or ANWR).” Referencing a Wikipedia article to develop a search strategy is a convenient and fast way to find related terms students may have struggled to brainstorm on their own.

Finding additional resources

A third use for Wikipedia articles relevant to a research topic is found in the list of references appearing at the end of every entry. These links offer a valuable opportunity to teach students about bibliography mining, looking at the bibliographies of articles to “mine” additional resources of value. In Wikipedia, these references appear in linked format. Many citations in a Wikipedia article go to other websites, but some reference lists include magazine, newspaper, and journal articles not freely available on the web. This is a chance to show students how to locate and use a variety of sources using both the Internet and library databases. Students can link to another website and consider its validity, or learn to extract the relevant information from a journal citation needed to locate it. Wikipedian editors look at the references as well as the content, and these references are expected to be valid and reliable. One can see from looking at the edit history of any number of Wikipedia entries that they will be removed if they do not meet these criteria.


If information literacy instructors make a commitment to use Wikipedia in the classroom, students have a comfortable platform in which they can begin to learn more reliable means of research. Wikipedia can act as a bridge to help them become familiar with library resources and a new way to research they may have never learned in high school. Wikipedia continues to increase in popularity, and it is likely that students will continue to use it. Scholars, educators, and librarians should not shun it, but rather embrace it and make it work within a structure of information literacy while furthering students’ education.


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This month we are featuring our eBook collection. The eBook collection is offered through EBSCO, does not require an e-reading device (Kindle, Nook, iPad etc.), and is available to you 24/7. With EBSCO's extensive collection of eBook titles, users can search within a wide range of relevant eBooks using the powerful EBSCOhost search experience. With every search, relevant eBook titles will appear directly alongside databases and other digital content, exposing users to the full depth of the library's offerings. Users can access the full text of eBooks from their computer.

Please view the following tutorial to find out more about searching the EBSCO eBook collection.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Volume 1 issue 6

The library would like to wish you a happy and prosperous New Year! As we look forward to the new year and the upcoming Spring Semester, there are some changes being made that will help serve you better. Our hours have been updated, there are new features in some of our databases, and we are highlighting some services that you might not be aware of. In addition, this blog will now feature articles with links to the source that will, hopefully, entertain and enlighten you. With every new year comes change and the anticipation of what's to come. Let's embrace this with excitement, enthusiasm, euphoria and get 2014 off to a great start.

Library Hours
The library is open before the semester begins on January 21. Please see the schedule below for complete opening times.

8:00 am-6:00 pm Mon-Thur
8:00 am-5pm Friday
CLOSED Saturday

The hours for the library at Mid-City in the spring will be as follows:

Mon-Tues 7:30am-9pm
Wed-Thurs 7:30am-7pm
Fri 7:30am-5pm
Sat 8am-12pm

Library Display

New Year/New You display
As you enter the Magnolia Building from the South entrance you may have noticed the library displays. These displays are changed monthly and are based on a particular theme. This month we are working with New Year/New You.

Each of the items on display address this idea. There are books related to self-improvement, improvement of your teaching style, and even how to create a more positive and improved work environment.

These materials may be checked out, so why not stop by and  see what the library has that can help with your New Year's Resolutions?

Full library display addressing the theme New Year/New You

LexisNexis Update

Heading in to the new semester, you may have noticed a change in our LexisNexis database. They have updated their user interface and to help you navigate the new system, the team at LexisNexis has put together a video demonstrating some of the changes. The video is a little over eight minutes and covers everything you will need to know about using this database. If you have any questions regarding the use of this database, or would like a demonstration of the new features call the library (216-8555).


This month we are featuring our Libguides. LibGuides is our Content Management System that is used to curate knowledge and share information through online Guides on any topic, subject, course, or process happening in Magnolia Library. With over 50 Libguides, many of which are subject specific, we are sure to have a Libguide that's right for you and your course! Some of the content found in our Libguides has been based on feedback from instructors, so if there is something you believe should be included contact your librarian liaison.

To access our libguides from the library Web page, simply click on the Libguides navigation button on the left hand side of your screen. The image to the left illustrates where to locate this link. You can also click the link here.

From the Libguides page, you will be able to select the information most pertinent to you. The full list of Libguides includes:





















































The lives and deaths of academic library staplers

  1. Jason Vance
+ Author Affiliations
  1. Jason Vance is information literacy librarian at Middle Tennessee State University’s James E. Walker Library, e-mail:
We have experienced 15 deaths in my library this semester. Three victims were decapitated. The bodies of two other victims were never found. Others were abused and left for dead. My library is facing a crisis. Staplercide—the murder of library staplers—is at an all-time high.
The average life span for a stapler at my library’s reference desk this past semester was 15.3 days. The most common cause of stapler death was exhaustion. An exhausted stapler would staple once, and then jam, entering a state of nonresponsive “stapler shock.” After a librarian valiantly unjammed it, the stapler would muster one more staple before collapsing again. Often we were not able to intervene before a frustrated student began assaulting the jammed stapler. One should not beat a dead stapler.1
View larger version:
    Stapler 9 is dead at the age of 36 days.
    Like many seasoned reference librarians, experience at the reference desk has turned me into a self-taught stapler triage nurse. Armed with the tools of our trade—screwdrivers, tweezers, and pliers—reference librarians around the world tend to injured and abused staplers and bring them back from near-death experiences. This semester, however, as the carnage raged at my library, I felt more like a coroner than a nurse.
    In January 2013, curiosity and concern drove me to begin documenting the rampant destruction of staplers at my library’s reference desk.
    With help from my colleagues, I discreetly numbered each stapler and noted the date as we put it out for public use. I photographed each stapler and documented it on a Tumblr page I created for this project.2 When each stapler died, I recorded the date and calculated its age in a spreadsheet. Later I added the results of my stapler autopsy and indicated the cause of death.
    Some staplers lasted no more than one day. The longest living stapler succumbed at the age of 45 days. May they all rest in peace.
    We have tried buying different staplers. The staplers we now purchase are Swingline’s Commercial Desk Staplers (Model No. S7044401). The list cost is $25.77. These are nice, high-quality staplers. We buy this model because they last longer than the others we have tried in the past. Plus, Swingline offers a “limited lifetime warranty” on its products. If a customer returns a dead stapler that died with no signs of foul play (my words, not theirs) accompanied by a receipt or proof of purchase, Swingline will send the customer a replacement stapler. To save on shipping costs, I began collecting dead staplers on my desk. My office quickly became a cemetery.
    View larger version:
      A dead stapler funeral pyre.
      We also tried offering our students an electric stapler. Shortly after it was put out for public use, one of our librarians found it with its electrical cord severed. She described a grisly scene. The stapler lay lifeless on the counter, while its ripped power cord was still plugged into the wall. Its naked wires were left exposed as it lay abandoned by the perpetrator. No one knows what happened. Perhaps it was an errant swipe of the neighboring paper cutter blade? Or maybe some anti-technology campus radicals were using violence to make a political statement? Either way, it was an expensive piece of machinery and was not replaced. The suspected foul play voided the terms of the manufacturer’s warranty.
      At this point, you must think our students are savages. Perhaps they are. But evidence suggests that we are not alone. As word of my morbid investigations began to spread via social media, letters of support and sympathy poured in from other libraries.
      Further evidence of this pandemic can be found in the October 2000 issue of Indiana University’s law library newsletter, “Res Ipsa Loquitur.” The library’s associate director described scenes where law students were observed placing staplers on the floor and “using their feet to push the levers.” She added, “We cannot continue to use Library resources to purchase staplers that are going to be abused. The solution is in your hands—take care of the staplers, use them properly, and we will continue to provide them.”3 Res ipsa loquitur, indeed.
      Sometimes frustration can spark creativity. Working in an office filled with dead staplers, I had a flash of inspiration midway through my study. I asked myself, “Why not build a new working stapler using spare parts from dead staplers?” Like a mad scientist in a tower laboratory, I used a quiet spring break week at my university to work on my new top-secret project. The sounds of clanging metal, unbound springs, and incessant hammering emanated from my closed office door. All that was missing was a thunderstorm and a bolt of lightning.
      Finally, when my project was complete, my maniacal laughter was followed by my cry, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” I dubbed my creation, “Frankenstapler,” and released it at the reference desk.
      To quote Robert Walton from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, “What can stop the determined heart and resolved will of man?” As if in answer to this question, our library patrons destroyed my Frankenstapler after only 27 days.
      Another creative venture borne of this staplercide crisis came from William Denton, Web librarian at York University and a fellow library stapler activist.
      We can replace the word library with library stapler in our professional conversations and joke about the American Library Stapler Association. Or we imagine ourselves reading the latest issue of College & Research Library Staplers News. Or how about studying Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Stapler Science? The possibilities are endless.
      View larger version:
        Tweet from a library stapler activist.
        Springshare, purveyors of the popular LibGuides product, also got in on the stapler humor action. They announced a fake product, the LibStapler, as an insensitive April Fools’ joke. Billed as the “Smart Stapler for Libraries,” the LibStapler purported to offer stapler usage statistics, SMS text alerts when staples were running low, diagnostic alerts, and a built in security camera to “catch that person trying to staple more than 20 pages at a time.”4 If this product were real, libraries would pay top dollar for it. But libraries can’t buy a nonexistent product, so the joke is on you, Springshare.
        With no actual American Library Stapler Association and only the dream of a smart LibStapler, what are reference librarians to do?
        Librarians must celebrate the lives of library staplers, however short, and mourn their deaths when they pass. Staplers are destroyed primarily because they are used. Despite the New York Times’ assertion that staplers are dusty and unused in this digital age of PDFs,5 reference librarians know that each of our dead academic library staplers is going down in a blaze of glory. And when a student kills one of our staplers, another one will rise up to meet the fastening challenges of the day.
        However much we want to protect our staplers from our patrons, we must remember the first of Ranganathan’s Five Laws of Library Stapler Science: “Staplers are for use.”


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        Financial literacy

        Why students need librarians to get involved

        1. Adi Redzic
        + Author Affiliations
        1. Adi Redzic serves as the executive director of iOme Challenge, a national think tank on financial literacy and empowerment of young people. For more information about Redzic and iOme Challenge, visit
        ACRL President Trevor A. Dawes’ note: This month, I invited Adi Redzic to write this column to highlight the student’s perspective of why librarians should be involved in financial education. Adi is a recent graduate of Loyola University Chicago and completed his undergraduate degree at St. Norbert’s College in Wisconsin. Having to fund his education primarily on his own, Adi was the founding director of the iOme Challenge, and currently serves as co-chair of my president’s program planning committee. Adi will be the featured speaker at a forum on financial literacy at the 2014 ALA Midwinter Meeting in Philadelphia.
        In the midst of a governmental shutdown in October 2013, political impasse and partisan bickering in Washington D.C., sky-rocketing student and credit card debts, and an impending default on the national debt, the Millennials—those born between 1980 and 2000—cannot help but wonder, what about us?
        Growing up, we have been promised secure futures, well-paying jobs, medals for the job well done, and a slew of other accolades. Go to college, work hard, and you will live an “American Dream,” the storyline went. Now, as some of us have graduated college, 43 percent1 are very concerned about our personal financial situation, with 28 percent only moderately concerned. This reflects the high unemployment rate among our generation. This also reflects the debt we (and our families) have accumulated to pay for college. Is college worth it? The majority of us still believe it is. What we do not believe is that politicians can resolve our financial issues, both individual and collective.

        So what does this tell us?

        It tells us that the fairy tale we had been promised was just that, a tale told by hopeful parents. It also tells us that we, as a generation, will be faced by major financial problems that our elected officials may not necessarily resolve. As the largest generation in the last 100 years (about 80 million strong), we will be responsible for solving the problems that our parents, grandparents, and the system as a whole—including situations beyond any one person’s control—have left for us. It also tells us that these problems, and our obligations to our grandparents, parents, and to our children, will be large—and very, very expensive.
        Solving problems is now a part of the American ethos—that “can-do” attitude. And we have that covered. We also have the “hard-work” covered, regardless of what some pundits would have you believe about “these lazy, young Millennials.” We just do thing differently; we do them together, we tap into our creativity rather than follow old patterns, and we have the audacity to hope.
        However, what we do not have—and what we desperately need—are the tools that will help us solve the problems and therefore secure a great financial future or, more specifically, financial education. In other words, we face a serious, and dangerous, gap in our financial literacy.
        Unlike today, 100 years ago, talking about money wasn’t taboo. Books on financial management were written and widely distributed. I am not talking about high-end pieces that most of us cannot understand; those still exist today, and their authors are wealthy. Rather, I am talking about fundamental financial literacy education resources. Some people would argue that this basic financial education should come from home, from our parents, discussed at a kitchen table. But you see, this is not how things work today. We live in a very different world, where both parents work and they work a lot more hours to secure a lot lower purchasing power than they did 50 or 60 years ago. But even if things were the same, rearing responsible and literate citizens—those who can face the challenges that the entirely new, globalized world presents—is everyone’s responsibility. We don’t leave to the parents the responsibility of teaching language literacy or how to form an argument or how to do basic math equations, do we? We go to school to learn this. So, how come we don’t learn about money in school, too?
        In some places, we do. But expecting an elementary-aged, or even a high-schoolaged, student to think about their retirement, or savings, or government debt—and have those lessons stick—is a bit of a stretch. Now, in college, the story is significantly different. Everything about the college experience is supposed to prepare us for the future: we are often on our own for the first time, we learn about ourselves, we study something that can turn into our profession, we make lifelong relationships, and so on. You get the point.
        During our college years, be it at a community college, four-year school, or in a pursuit of a graduate degree, we also spend a lot of time in a library. But how come librarians and libraries—arguably, the epicenters of an academic life and depositories of knowledge—do not actively offer financial literacy education resources? If they don’t, I believe they should.
        And not because I believe that librarians have nothing else to do. Quite to the contrary, I believe that libraries—and especially, college and research libraries—are uniquely positioned to fulfill this role. Unlike financial institutions and the government at-large, librarians are generally trusted to bring unbiased, well-researched knowledge. And, very importantly, they are also able to connect other campus stakeholders, from the faculty to student life to the larger community and everyone in between in order to deliver a service to students. They are poised to serve as a hub of resources and literacy, a hub that has a potential to impact the lives of millions, and the nation as a whole.
        It is my hope that this column and this year’s ACRL presidential initiative, as well as the work of the Reference and User Services Association is about to embark upon, is only a tip of the proverbial iceberg of the work that will be done in this realm in the future. The responsibility to teach financial literacy falls on all of us, but without the involvement of college librarians, those they are meant to serve—the students—will suffer the most. I hope you will join the cause.


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