Final Readings: The Learning Continues

This week’s readings were well suited to our last class. They all dealt with different ways in which we can continue our learning as professionals throughout our careers. While it may be disheartening that we will never know all that we need to in our jobs, it should also be exciting – a sign that the profession and world is constantly changing and that we have no reason to become bored.

“When Teachers Drive Their Learning” by Joseph Semadeni

This article describes a model of professional development for teachers, called Fusion, created by a rural school in Wyoming. Through Fusion, teachers can choose specific areas of interest (or in which they feel they need growth), learn about them during work hours, and then be rewarded when they demonstrate that they have used the knowledge gleaned from these studies. Some elements that I liked or found particularly interesting were:

  • The school’s commitment to teachers’ professional development. Semadeni writes, “Teachers who choose not to participate in Fusion work with principals to develop their own plans for improving professionally” (66). This suggests that school really desires its teachers to continue to grow, most likely for the sake of not only the teachers but the students and school as a whole.
  • Teachers have to do a reading-and-writing assignment about what they have learned. This sounded so much like something a student would have to do that I was once again reminded of how teachers must continue to learn as their pupils do.
  • Upon successful demonstration of mastery of the practice that they learned, teachers can earn a financial reward. While it makes sense to use incentives to further motivate participation, I was not so familiar with monetary rewards for professional development. It certainly worked for Fusion (and I am sure it would work in other situations)!

“The C’s of Our Sea Change” by Helene Blowers and Lori Reed

This article addressed professional development in terms of continued learning about technology in a library. The Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County implemented a program called Learning 2.0 for this purpose. Once again, I would like to point out a couple parts of the article that struck me:

  • Staff were encouraged to play around with the different Web 2.0 tools. This reminded me a lot of class where we got to test out various tools, especially when we went together over how to use Blackboard Collaborate and, earlier in the semester, when we had to produce a visualization of a question we had from the readings. Not only was this a great way to discover various features of the tool, but it also helped to build confidence.
  • Once again, I bring up confidence – perhaps because this is an area in which I know I need more work! The article mentions that participants began to experiment and play around more with the tools as they became more comfortable and confident with them. For me, class has had the same effect. As I have tried out Twitter, webinars, screencasts, blogging, etc., I have gotten over some of my technophobia and feel more excited about trying other tools and kinds of social media in the future.

“Planning an Online Professional Development Module” by Kristin Fontichiaro

This article discusses implementing the aforementioned Learning 2.0 model into an elementary school setting. Below are the points I found the most interesting:

  • In blogging about the tools, participants were specifically asked to think about how they might be useful or not useful in their lives, personal or professional. Then, they had to consider the tools and how they might be used in the classroom, including any surrounding issues. This reflection is important to make sure that the person is not just using the tool but considering its potential implications, including possible problems.
  • Like the previous article, unofficial teamwork resulted and feelings of community developed. Even the first article by Semadeni mentions a sense of reciprocal learning. It is wonderful to know that professional development can move beyond a personal endeavor to a cooperative effort that is beneficial for all involved.
  • The article ended with a call for others to join in this project. I should consider this in the future: you can call out to other organizations and individuals to join once you have a system fairly well established so that you have something to offer other institutions as incentive and can learn more from them by increasing the number and variety of participants.

 

I mentioned in the beginning that the fact that we always have to learn more is both disheartening and exciting. It is also comforting because we can know when we are starting out that we are not the only ones who have to learn more. We must all continue to seek out education. By doing so, we not only strengthen ourselves and our institution but also our profession, better assisting our patrons and showing that there really is a lot of knowledge necessary in the job of a librarian.

Works Cited

Blowers, Helene, and Lori Reed. “The C’s of Our Sea Change: Plans for Training Staff, from Core Competencies to Learning 2.0.” Computers in Libraries 27.2 (2007): 10-15.

Fontichiaro, Kristin. “Planning an Online Professional Development Module.” School Library Media Activities Monthly 25.2 (2008): 30-31.

Semadeni, Joseph. “When Teachers Drive Their Learning.” Educational Leadership 67.8 (2010): 66-69.

 

Advertisements

Class 13: Webinars in Action

We finally had our webinar! While there were some small trip-ups, overall, I think everything went well.

On the day of our webinar, we went to the classroom early (as we were using this space for our webinar), and did one more run-through. Because we had made some changes to the slides and script over time, as well as to help us feel more at ease with the technology, this additional practice run was important. We had a little time to spare at the end of our practice, which was good in case some issues arose at the last minute.

Our main slip-up was at the beginning of our webinar. I am still not sure exactly what happened, but the chat was set so that the participants were only chatting with us, the moderators, instead of with the entire group. Thankfully, one of my group members noticed this and quickly fixed the issue. We also had some difficulty figuring out how to share the archived webinar, as a link, with others, and it was hard to find this information through the online Blackboard Collaborate tech support. Once again, my group member came to the rescue. I really wish it was easier to figure out the features of this tool! Better tech support and increased user-friendliness would have been appreciated. Normally, I would just blame my lack of tech-savvy, but I know my group members, others in my class, and even the professor struggled with Blackboard.

Otherwise, our presentation ran fairly smoothly, thanks to our script, practices, and teamwork. The main challenge, for me, was trying to keep up with all the features, which was difficult even while having the moderator and presenter roles separate. Although my group members and I were in the same room, trying to communicate silently and effectively with each other was sometimes hard. I really appreciated having the others there, though, as they often pointed out minor issues or points to address when I was caught up in some other part of the presentation.

After we finished our presentation, we listened to three more webinars from our classmates. We had such a wide array of topics on underrepresented groups, I only wished I could have attended more! I will point out just a few highlights from each that I attended:

1) Millennials: Get in my library!

I loved the ideas that the group generated on how to get millenials involved in the library, from restaurant and bar nights to speed-dating. I know I would love to get together with others and discuss books! As a millenial myself, this topic definitely spoke to me, personally.

2) Wealth in the Walls of your Library: Library Resources for Poor and Homeless People

This group brought up some really interesting points I had not thought about regarding needs of the poor and homeless populations, and there was plenty of involved discussion and debate in the chat, too, including the danger of conflating poverty and homelessness and different methods of dealing with fines. I never really considered the difficulties in getting a library card for the homeless, in particular, nor the potential for having facilities that homeless people might lack, such as a space for laundry. The one question I raised in chat was how these concerns and services might be applied to academic libraries, considering they are less likely to think about this population than public libraries, although they still deal with the general public using their building.

3) New School/Old School: How Libraries Serve Senior Citizens

Aside from the strength of the topic itself, I thought the format and style of the presentation was very strong. The slides were simple and clean (without too much text), and the points were organized, flowing easily from one to the next. The group also made sure to include both Creative Commons citations and a formal works cited at the end.


 

My one persistent thought throughout both my own webinar and participating in others’ was that, while I like the interactivity of the webinar, I think it also promotes a kind of distraction. In particular, I found it challenging to take part in the conversations in chat while still listening to the presentation. Maybe if you have trouble focusing on the presentation anyway, or if you are incredible at multi-tasking, this works. I cannot help but think, though, of a point that was brought up earlier in class: that my generation (the millenials) tends to think that it is better at multi-tasking than it really is. I freely admit that I am one who likes to multi-task to some extent but also shies away from it because I know my attention suffers as a result. Furthermore, I sometimes feel guilty for multi-tasking because it means that I do not listen as carefully to someone who is trying to communicate with me, and this seems rather disrespectful and unkind, whether it is a professor in class, my parents on Skype, or my classmates in this webinar.

 

 

 

Class 12: Gearing Up for Webinars

It seems like we are not required to blog this week, according to our syllabus. Just in case, though, I will very briefly discuss our last class in which we spent a great deal of time going over webinar logistics.

To be completely honest, while I was glad that we actually had a chance to play around with the webinar tool in class, I became extremely anxious as a result, too. The webinar technology seems so much more complicated than other tools we have used before (say, for screencasts). There are so many possible features you could use, like the white board, emoticons, video, chat (both private and public), polling, etc., that can take some time to figure out and require a degree of organization to ensure that things do not get out of hand (e.g., when my classmates were doodling on the slides with the white board feature) and to try to keep track of all that is going on at once.

Here are a few facts about Blackboard’s webinar tool that I learned:

  • If you want to archive your webinar, do not forget to hit the record button (presented to you in a box the moment you sign in).
  • Because slides can take quite some time to load, get on to Blackboard early.
  • You can set slides to Follow so that participants cannot skip ahead in your presentation.
  • You can chat privately with one person if you click on that person’s name.
  • At the end, ask everyone to move out of the chat room.

Because we are in a group of three, the presenter does not have to keep track of everything; instead, the moderator watches out for what is happening in the chat room. Because I felt that I was slower than many of my classmates in finding and using the many features of Blackboard, though, I am still very nervous. Hopefully, practicing with the members of my group will make me more comfortable and confident!

 

My Introduction to Twitter

For class this week, we had to join Twitter, follow our bloggers of choice, find followers of those bloggers and follow them, and tweet and re-tweet.

Although, due to an invitation from a friend, I had joined Twitter a couple months back, I had yet to take advantage of any of its features. I went it to with a degree of anxiety because – I am kind of embarrassed to say – I still did not have a good grasp of how to tweet or retweet or what these terms even meant. In particular, while I had seen “#” and “@” used before, I did not understand how they were being used. I definitely had to look at Twitter’s support pages in order to figure out these actions and symbols.

As I have often found with this class, however, my initial anxiety was followed by interest and enthusiasm, perhaps even a degree of confidence when I realized that I could use these tools (not to sound too much like a very old technophobe). It was exciting seeing some of the people and organizations following the bloggers I mentioned in a previous post (view my post here), especially some of the big names like the Library of Congress and even children’s author Megan Cabot! I only wished I could have had more time to peruse names of people I want to follow… I guess I can always do this later!

For me, two aspects of this class assignment on Twitter were particularly difficult: limiting my writing and knowing how formal/informal to go. Although the School of Information has cut a lot of the English-major verbosity out of me, this trait still lingers. As may be evident from my blog posts, writing a lot is almost never an issue for me. Succinctness, on the other hand can prove problematic. Because of my tendency for lengthiness, this was a particularly good way for me to practice getting straight to the point, a skill especially useful these days when people have access to a lot of information but do not have the time to read all of it.

I also was not sure what kind of tone I should use considering this was a class assignment with my name attached to it. The assignment description was left broad, giving students a great deal of freedom in their interpretation of who they should follow and what they should tweet and retweet to their classmates. I followed librarians and archivists (and one digital humanist) who were using Twitter more personally and those who were using it more professionally. I also found libraries, archives, and museums of interest. As for my tweets and retweets, I tried a casual and fun but library- and information-related approach, finding interesting work done by libraries to retweet and my own thoughts on libraries and school to tweet.

My main concern now: that Twitter does not become another digital addiction! 

 

 

Class 11: Libraries: Places of Technology… and Drugs!?

We covered a lot of ground in class, as is obvious by the rather unusual title of this post. I will focus particularly on the news surrounding the Ann Arbor District Library (AADL) and webinars / embedded librarianship as it relates to introversion.

Drugs at the AADL… and Elsewhere? 

Ann Arbor District Library

“Ann Arbor District Library” by Andrew Horne is licensed under Flickr CC BY 2.0

When it was proposed that a public park be built next to the AADL, director Josie Parker made what many saw as a shocking statement about the fact that drug and alcohol use within the public library has been a continued problem. She mentioned this to make the point that these factors needed to be taken into consideration before creating another space that might require extra regulation. Although I can imagine these problems occurring, it was still surprising to hear about them, especially because I had never seen any incidents happen when visiting the AADL. Perhaps I need to be a more frequent visitor to notice them (or less oblivious!). At the same time Josie Parker praised the police for always being on hand and working discreetly, so this might be another reason why I had never encountered these issues. This made me really think for the first time about what is probably a situation in many libraries across the country. A library cannot simply be labelled a terrible place to go. As one of my classmates said, the library has both perks and problems (not her words exactly, but that was the gist). At the same time, I feel that I am now more aware of some challenges that I have not heard often discussed in my workplace or in school.

Get Josie Parker’s thoughtful views on what is happening at the library, plus opinions on the park, here: http://www.mlive.com/news/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/03/qa_josie_parker_talks_about_he.html#incart_m-rpt-2

Giving Introverts a Chance to Shine

I talk more in this class than I have in almost any other School of Information class, but I am most definitely an introvert. This is why I really took to a couple of ideas:

1) Webinars can allow the usually reserved person to shine. They afford a different way of communication, less direct and therefore more comfortable for some. (I hope this is the case for me when I do my first webinar!)

2) Although librarians on online chat can offer a variety of services and benefits, one may be that it allows the patron some degree of anonymity. People may feel embarrassed asking what may seem to be a simple question in person or might often avoid face-to-face interactions. This is a nice tool, in such cases. (Although, it should be noted, this anonymity can also encourage spamming and abuse of the system.)

Libraries, because they are often associated with quiet and individual reading and research, might have always seemed like a haven for introverts. What we see here is that, even in the digital age, introverts (both librarians and patrons) can continue to find support in library technology.

Mostly Webinars

This week’s readings or relevant materials mostly dealt with webinars.

“Online Webinars! Interactive Learning Where Our Users Are” by Susan Montgomery

I felt that the title of this article was slightly misleading, since Susan Montgomery addresses more than just webinars. While I went into the reading expecting just to learn about webinars, I got a much better sense of ways of incorporating “embedded librarianship,” in general.

Embedded librarianship refers to a system in which librarians are placed within a course to provide reference as close to the point of need as possible. Interactions can happen in-person or through online Webinars. All formats are supposed to emphasize interactive learning (although, I think most librarians, even if not embedded are encouraged to provide this kind of instruction, nowadays).

To me, what was most interesting was the usual audience for this embedded librarianship. A majority of the examples Montgomery gave were of distance-learning students. Since I do not know as much about online courses, never having taken part in them, I am glad that this article brought to my attention the needs and ways of addressing this specific group.

“The Embedded Librarian Online or Face-to-Face” by Michael Matmos, et al.

This article looks much more closely at departmental support provided by the embedded librarian, while also discussing online tools for accomplishing this. Sometimes, the librarian is even located physically within the department, as opposed to at the school library.

Perhaps I am old-fashioned, but I like the library as a physical space and the librarian community that I have there. The library can often act as a meeting place for various people and a hub of a wide range of activity and research. I would miss this if I was physically embedded in a department (although this could well strengthen ties to the faculty, staff, and students). For this reason, I would prefer to be virtually embedded, so that I could still have a presence at the point of need but also a physical space of my choosing.

Materials for Our Upcoming Webinar

To be quite honest, although I had often heard of webinars and had considered joining some of them, up until now, I have had absolutely no actual experience with webinars. In fact, before actually watching one right before this post and reading about our assignment, I was not even sure of the definition of a webinar. I assumed they were online workshops, but I was not aware of the degree to which they could incorporate interactive components.

Some facts I learned about webinars (sorry – I realize these are very basic, but for me they were new!):

  • You can use slides in webinars
  • People often upload handouts as extra resources
  • Polling, “raising hands,” and chat are some of the interactive tools available
  • There is a role for “chat moderators” (as opposed to the “presenter(s)”)
  • Audio delay can occur
  • Having a good connection is important!

We were given some possible sources for sample webinars. Here are a couple of these sites:

ImageIdaho Commission for Libraries

http://libraries.idaho.gov/freetraining

 

ImageINFOhio

http://educators.infohio.org/lwi

In particular, I was looking for archived webinars. Although I did a more detailed look at an INFOhio webinar, I preferred the viewing structure for the Idaho Commission for Libraries. Idaho’s used Adobe Connect, and I was able to see the interactive features much more easily so that it was almost like the webinar was happening live. The archived version for the INFOhio webinar, however, was much more like a snapshot video, and I was unable to see a lot of the participant action (including chats and hand-raising – I could only see the very first chats for quite some time).

Watching at least one webinar, however, helped me get a much better sense of what a webinar can be, since the readings were more focused on the effect rather than the content of webinars. In the webinar I focused on, I could tell that the presenter was fairly new to doing webinars, as well, so there were some technical rough patches. Highlights, however, included the very visual slides used (including at least one nice infographic) and the wrap-up, which answered various questions from the chat and provided additional sources.

(Note: I have focused on the form of the webinar more than the content, since this is what is probably most useful for our class assignment.)

ImageWatch the webinar I mention above: http://educators.infohio.org/viewlwi/item/lwi20130207?alt=lwi20130207&altid=253&returnto=Webinar%20Archive:/lwi-archive/

On a slightly different note…

Chapter 7 of How People Learn

This chapter emphasizes the necessity for differentiating between teaching done in different disciplines. What authors continue to reiterate is that teachers are not necessarily good at teaching in every subject and that content knowledge of the subject (as opposed to pedagogical knowledge) by itself is not adequate. Another interesting theme I found throughout the chapter is that even the teachers chosen as role models here are constantly learning from and adapting with their students. I took this as highly encouraging to anyone who hopes to improve as an instructor. Not only is there always room for growth, but one can grow!

Speaking of growth mindsets, it may also be important to note that the chapter suggests younger students (pre-college) can do more than just memorize facts and that it is important for them to think “like experts.” While basic knowledge is, of course, important, the analytical processes and higher levels of thinking are also key in truly understanding these various disciplines and making them meaningful. It is somewhat strange that we (as in, society) make such decisions about what children can and cannot handle. I have no doubt that much of the push of standardized testing – tending to rely heavily upon memorization – does not help.

Now, the question is how to apply this to a librarian situation. Librarians are often instructors but not always of specific disciplines. I even wondered about this for elementary school teachers (aside from such teachers as the music teacher, gym teacher, or art teacher): how they can have the requisite subject pedagogical knowledge when they are teachers of so many subjects. At least for librarians, this kind of knowledge could mean that the librarian has a good grasp of various useful resources and students’ resource needs. As they work with different subjects, faculty, classes, and students, this knowledge may broaden and deepen further. In some ways, it seems like an insurmountable task. At the same time, it stresses the importance of librarians’ continuing education and how significant of a source they can be.

Works Consulted

Bransford, John, et al. How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 2000.

Colpi, Emily. “Curation: Trends, Tools, and Teaching.” INFOhio. INFOhio, 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. http://educators.infohio.org/viewlwi/item/lwi20130207?alt=lwi20130207&altid=253&returnto=Webinar%20Archive:/lwi-archive/.

“FREE TRAINING.” Idaho Commission for Libraries. Idaho Commission for Libraries, 2011. Web. 26 Mar. 2014. http://libraries.idaho.gov/freetraining.

Matos, Michael A., Nobue Matsuoka-Motley, and William Mayer. “The Embedded Librarian Online or Face-to-Face: American University’s Experiences.” Public Services Quarterly 6.2-3 (2010): 130-39.

Montgomery, Susan E. “Online Webinars! Interactive Learning Where Our Users Are: The Future of Embedded Librarianship.” Public Services Quarterly 6.2-3 (2010): 306-11.

 

Class 10: One-Shot Workshops

For this class, we were tasked with conducting one-shot workshops for our previous book club members. In particular, we were asked to pick a topic related to ethics or some other idea that had come up in our classmates’ blogs. In our group, this produced a variety of themes and numerous different approaches for teaching them. Some were more technology-oriented, while others were more like straight ethics discussions. Another was more of an introduction to a function of libraries.

The first group focused on copyright and Creative Commons. While one of my classes had touched upon some basics, I remembered very little, and it definitely did not go as in-depth as this presentation did. I thought it was a clever and useful idea to have us actually try to do an attribution of our own (although I did not end up posting it). While I felt some anxiety about doing it correctly at first, I realized that there were examples on their slides that I could use as reference. I am very glad they shared their slides, as I will be able to refer to them later if I ever need a quick refresher.

My partner and I went next. Since diversity has been such a hot topic everywhere, including in our library system, we wanted to structure our workshop around discussions of ways to interpret diversity in the library context. First, we started with a question on what diversity might look like in the library, and then we shuffled the group up a little for our next questions on diversity in staff and in holdings. I think this format reinforced to me how difficult trying to balance a discussion can be, ensuring that everyone feels comfortable sharing their opinions, not dominating or attempting to control the flow too much (I felt as though I did this better this time than in the book club). I think I have to realize that some silences are okay, too, and not become overly worried by them.

Our workshop was followed by another mostly discussion-based one on weeding collections. What I particularly liked about this group was their first question on how we weeded our own closets of clothes. This connects well with members’ previous knowledge, something we have been told to consider throughout our semester. What is nice about this, too, is that it is something that everyone has experience with and casual a question enough that all can loosen up. It was a good way to start off the workshop.

The second to last group dealt with censorship in libraries. I think this workshop had two major reasons for being a hit: its topic (many had knowledge of and personal feelings about the books listed on the banned lists) and its audience (high school students, so we had to role-play). Everyone particularly got a kick out of pretending to be high school students, so I will definitely consider this tactic of teaching in the future (although some degree of control usually becomes necessary to ensure that the group does not get too side-tracked). I only wish I could have let down my reserve more so that I could have better played the part!

The last workshop dealt with Mac Voice Over, a wonderful opportunity to get some exposure to this technology. Although we did not have enough Apple computers for the entire group, we all did our best with sharing, and everyone was engrossed in trying to make different commands work. At the very least, even if I never end up using this software, I now have a slightly better understanding than I did before of the kind of concerns and needs, when it comes to computers, of those who are visually impaired.

This was a great opportunity, not only to learn about various topics but to think about various teaching methods that can make something as short as a 20 minute workshop more memorable – whether it is discussions, role-playing, or demonstrations. While I will inevitably be somewhat nervous (I was even nervous with a partner and a group of supportive people I knew!), I will at least have a few more tools in my kit to try to get my point across in a short period of time.

 

Class 9: Food, the Middle Ground, and the Right to Choose

There were so many topics covered in class today surrounding one-shot workshops (our next assignment) and ethics in libraries. For the sake of space and coherency, however, I am going to try to be more focused in this post.

In discussing our previous book clubs, we became very animated on the topic of food, since many of us had brought it to have a good time ourselves and to make sure that others enjoyed our club even more. In general, everyone seems to love food, and one of my classmates brought up the point that food is a universal sign of welcome, a point I had not previously considered. (I will have to think about this for our one-shot workshop this week…)

Perhaps it was fitting, after the excitement that talking about food generated, that the professor later brought up a webpage comparing Whole Foods and Walmart and looking at the number of groceries sold at Walmart that would be banned by Whole Foods (try out the fun sliding visualization at http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2014/02/whole_foods_and_walmart_how_many_groceries_sold_at_walmart_would_be_banned.html). The professor asked us whether, after seeing how many of the foods at Walmart were not allowed on Whole Foods shelves, we would choose Walmart or Whole Foods.

Despite the fact that the article showed the extent to which Walmart’s foods did not match up to those of Whole Foods, my classmates questioned Whole Foods, for very good reasons. They brought up the fact that Whole Foods is too expensive for many budgets and that the food was not always safe (giving a false sense of security), for example. For me, while I realize that not every place has a wealth of grocery stores, I could not help but feel that it is nice to have both.

I do not buy groceries at Whole Foods very often. Mostly, I go there to get something nice for a gathering or if I need some more obscure ingredients. I probably would shop there more frequently if I had the funds, and it is nice to have items selected for you for their higher quality from time to time.

Yet, for the most part, I shop at chain grocery stores (not Walmart, although carrying many of the same products) because of their affordability. There also may be some products there that do not quite meet Whole Foods standards but hit the spot every now and then (like unhealthy snacks). It also depends on the product I am buying: for better or worse, I either care less about or trust more household goods like laundry detergent and dish soap that are just brand-name items.

In class, we brought this conversation to libraries and censorship, the conversation revolving around whether a library should be allowed to keep materials away from its patrons. Obviously, just as with grocery stores, some places may not have many libraries from which to choose. However, transferring what I said in the previous paragraphs, is it not possible that each library can determine what is right for its collection if there are multiple libraries? As was discussed in class, school libraries are particularly sensitive grounds because the librarian has to act as a kind of additional guardian to the students. I do feel that public libraries should be allowed a wider variety of material (including controversial items) because they serve the wider public.

Since librarians are often motivated by the desire to serve their patrons, it is complicated if one’s patrons are not happy with the materials housed at the library. Nevertheless, we, as librarians, are kind of like representatives in the government, doing our best to listen to what our patrons want but still, ultimately, using our own judgment to make decisions. Hopefully, even in a situation where there is no answer that will make all parties content, if we make our choices very thoughtfully, we cannot truly go wrong. Furthermore, if a variety of libraries is available to a population, they may also have the freedom to choose a space that best fits their needs. Thus, in my title, “the right to choose” is both for the librarian and the patron.

Works Consulted

Blatt, Ben. “How Many of the Groceries Sold at Walmart Would Be Banned at Whole Foods?” Slate Magazine. The Slate Group, 18 Feb. 2014. Web. 14 Mar. 2014. http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2014/02/whole_foods_and_walmart_how_many_groceries_sold_at_walmart_would_be_banned.html.

Librarian Ethics

This week’s readings dealt with professional ethics in libraries (or how to act ethically as a librarian).

One of the readings was the ALA Code of Ethics, which outlines the principles that the association believes are (or should be) at the core of the library profession. I actually enjoyed the idealism in this document. It is an empowering document for librarians, not only mentioning the library’s important role in the information world, but also the library’s mission to promote access and intellectual freedom (including fighting against censorship of library materials). As an aspiring professional, I also appreciated the final principle of encouraging future librarians.

I had rather more mixed feelings when it came to the Mark Lenker piece, “Dangerous Questions at the Reference Desk.” Lenker presents an interesting framework for how to handle difficult ethical dilemmas. This approach is Virtue Ethics. In using Virtue Ethics, one considers both the virtues and vices of each possible action to decide whether it is legitimate or not. It also emphasizes the importance of looking at all of the stakeholders in the situation and how each course of action would affect them.

I think this article works well in presenting a theoretical/philosophical method to understanding an ethical dilemma and ensuring that one does not skip over details or neglect the different sides of a situation. At the same time, I had a little more difficulty envisioning how I might apply this in a real-life situation. While the author presents a case study, and probably does not want to sway the reader in favor of one decision or another, I still would have liked to have seen a decision process. Perhaps this is not meant to present a means of making a choice so much as a way of thinking about all the possibilities of a complex question that challenge one’s ethical beliefs. At the same time, as someone who usually over-thinks and over-analyzes, coming at a problem at all different angles and finding it difficult to decide anything, more of a utilitarian focus (thinking of which outcome will lead to the most happiness for all involved) might be useful. As long as one does not ignore all the options but just does not choose them, might this not be an okay approach? Perhaps our next class will enlighten me more on how to apply Virtue Ethics practically. Maybe it will also teach me whether this is meant as a way to make ethical choices or is just a prepping process for understanding the ethical dilemma fully.

Works Consulted

“Code of Ethics of the American Library Association.” American Library Association. American Library Association, n.d. Web. 04 Mar. 2014.

Lenker, Mark. “Dangerous Questions at the Reference Desk: A Virtue Ethics Approach.” Journal of Information Ethics 17.1 (2008): 43-53.

Class 8: Book Clubs!

Bluebeard with his bride, by Edmund Dulac

Illustration by Edmund Dulac for “Blue Beard” (http://childhoodreading.com/?p=20)

For this post, I would like to start with some points on the readings that I had not thought of that came up in the book clubs. Afterward, I will briefly reflect on the overall process of conducting and participating in these book clubs.

“For Comfort and Posterity, Digital Archives Gather Crowds” by Jennifer Howard

  • One topic of discussion was  how to regulate the quality and content of such an archive and whether this was even necessary or ethical.
  • One person mentioned the significance of capturing people’s memories because sometimes there is only one person left who still remembers a particular event. These people may not always be the “major players” in an event, but might have just been “in the right place at the right time.”

“The Syrian Opposition Is Disappearing from Facebook” by Michael Pizzi (click here for article)

  • One point of discussion was how Facebook has taken on or been faced with many more roles than it probably initially intended. Questions arise from this. Is/can Facebook act as a kind of repository? Should Facebook take sides on political issues?
  • One question that the discussion leaders raised was whether graphic content was necessary. One of our group members expressed that, although he is sympathetic to the cause of the Syrian opposition, he does not want to see graphic content. Probably, there are quite a few of us who feel the same way.

“The Use of Force” by William Carlos Williams (click here for story)

  • Because the narrative structure was set up for the reader to feel as though one was hearing the very personal thoughts of the narrator/doctor, I felt somewhat more sympathetic to the doctor than many of the rest of my group members did. It was interesting to hear the group discuss the story from the child’s and parents’ perspectives, as well.
  • Someone brought up the possibility that class struggle (between the parents and doctor) may have also been a theme, since it is possible to read the parents as immigrants.

“Blue Beard,” Illustrated by Edmund Dulac (click here for story)

  • As a warning against curiosity seemed to be the main moral of the story, we discussed curiosity from at least a couple of different angles. I particularly liked someone’s point that there are often stories warning against women’s curiosity (i.e., using a gender framework to read this tale).
  • The discussion leaders’ brought up a particularly interesting question of why the wife is never named. We talked about whether this could mean that the wife really has no voice or agency throughout or whether it could also make the wife a more universal kind of character, either in the sense that she can be universally related to or that she is made into just another generic female character.

“Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood (click here for story)

  • One person mentioned that the title is in quotes, making the happiness of the endings questionable. I had not noticed this at all before!
  • When trying to see whether people responded to the story in terms of gender at all, it seemed most people had not done so. For example, one person mentioned that she read the tale with Atwood’s reputation as a writer, not as a feminist, in mind.

Overall Assessment

These book clubs were a fun, more informal way to prepare materials for and engage with my classmates. One of the aspects that I loved of my English major was that it was an opportunity to read a text in many different ways. These book clubs were no different. As you can see from my bullet points above, there were many factors I would never have considered without talking to the other group members. Everyone was engaged, and participants did their best to be active in order to support the discussion leaders.

I did find two factors particularly challenging, though:

1) As the professor mentioned in class, it can be difficult, sometimes, to know when to allow space for discussion, to hold back from leading too much. Although I am usually a fairly reserved person, the thought of silence in a book club I was running made me nervous, so I am not sure how effective I was in keeping myself from jumping in too often.

2) Three hours of doing most anything is difficult, even when it is something fun and engaging like our book clubs. Ultimately, I think our desire to make this experience a success, as well as frequent food breaks helped us get through and make this book club event a worthwhile one for all.