Lindsay Roberts

Connecting people with information


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Showing the Seams of Scholarly Publishing

My first peer-reviewed article has just been accepted by College & Research Libraries. I feel relief, gratitude, euphoria, and the desire to take a three-day nap. However, I recently attended Library Instruction West in Salt Lake, where Donna Lanclos gave a fantastic keynote about the value of professional vulnerability and showing the seams of scholarship, including the messy parts of what we do (GULP). I very much like the idea of taking scholarly publishing down from its seemingly unattainable pedestal and making the process more transparent, something I wish had been more available to me early on. After four years of work on this project, I thought I’d reflect a little on the ups and downs and what I’ve learned about scholarly publishing so far.

Also, here is the preprint of “Research in the Real World: Improving Adult Learners’ Web Search and Evaluation Skills Through Motivational Design and Problem-Based Learning.” The article will be published in July 2017. Wheee!!!

  1. It takes a village to publish a scholarly article. Seriously. From the early days of conceptualizing this project as the capstone for my masters in library science through a hairy IRB process to the final recent drafts, I’ve talked with and received feedback and suggestions from so many, many kind and helpful people. Here are a few: Krystyna Matusiak, my wonderful advisor, who met with me many times as I struggled to conceptualize the study. Her reading suggestions gave me a solid foundation in the evolution from bibliographic instruction to information literacy and now metaliteracy. Myntha Cuffy, my RMS teacher who was willing to critique my project proposal over Thanksgiving break; Jeff Sauro, whose wonderful Usability class helped me strengthen my hold on basic statistics and pretty Excel graphs; Martin Garnar, who suggested the title for the project, Research in the Real World; Chris Brown for reviewing a draft of the manuscript and providing encouragement; the wonderful library staff at Arapahoe Community College, including Lisa Grabowski, Casey Lansinger, Ann Priestman for their suggested revisions and support, and Andrea Reveley (who didn’t read the manuscript, but heard me groaning in my office as I revised the Chicago citations by hand, over and over). My sister, Niki Miyata for her sensible suggestions to improve flow. I have a huge debt of gratitude to my parents, Michael and Theresa Roberts, who read several versions, helped get me out of tight spots with my data analysis (never use “check all that apply!;” definitely pilot test your instruments), and kept me going by politely asking now and then, “how is your article coming along?” They offered tough, honest, and always constructive feedback. Also beer.
    Once my paper was submitted to C&RL I received extremely helpful feedback from three reviewers. Their suggestions helped me reframe and reposition the paper within the current literature, broadening the conclusions to apply to the wider community of teaching librarians. I’m also thankful to a CU Boulder colleague for sharing a sample letter in response to reviewers’ comments. This was so helpful in letting me see the tone and type of comments for my own letters. The paper became far better as a result of everyone’s suggestions, time, and care, and I am so very grateful.
    In spite of Western academia’s longstanding mythos of scholars in monastic solitude, it is clear to me now that scholarship doesn’t exist in isolation. From the thoughts and writings of others in the literature review to the casual hallway conversation, everything we experience contributes to how we think, plan, process, and (maybe) produce a final product.
  2. There is no good reason not to use citation management software. For the first several rounds of drafts, I completed footnotes and in-text citations by hand. This was dumb and I really should have known better. I kept thinking that I was so close and just had a few more small changes to make. Looking back, it would have saved enormous time and energy to have used Mendeley or Zotero earlier on. I was concerned that College & Research Libraries’ citation style is an adapted version of Chicago’s Author-Date format and that the automated citation style wouldn’t quite get it right. It seems to be close enough, though, and a huge time saver. It actually only took about half a day to convert all of my in-text citations to Mendeley, which then made creating the bibliography a three-second process. Now I know better!
  3. The process moves in fits and starts. While I started thinking about this article and reading related literature in late 2012, there have been weeks and sometimes months where progress stalled for one reason or another. In French, there is a wonderful verb, perfectioner to describe the process of making something perfect. For some reason, instead of translating this to “perfecting,” I think of it as “perfectioning,” which somehow feels more accurate. In the last four years,I did a good bit of perfectioning, feeling like an imposter, and feeling overwhelmed, which is part of why I took as long as I did to submit the article to a journal. I did learn that I could completely revise and overhaul the article in a short turn-around time–one month after the initial round of revisions from C&RL. Then two weeks after the second round. I think the most significant progress I made was in these kinds of short, highly focused, intense bursts, followed by lots of fallow time to rest and mentally/emotionally regroup.
    Since this was my first try at scholarly publishing I was also surprised at the timeline and not sure what to expert. Here is a summary of what I experienced, though I hear this varies widely:
  • October 31, 2015: Held my breath while clicking the “submit” button to finally send the article to C&RL.
  • February 23, 2015: Received the first round of revisions and feedback from C&RL with a decision of “revise and resubmit” and a one-month deadline.
  • March 24, 2015: Submitted my revisions while running a high fever and battling the flu. We were also having a huge snowstorm and I was worried the power (and therefore internet) would go out at any time.
  • May 5, 2016: Received second round of feedback from reviewers with a decision of “accept with revisions” and a two-week deadline.
  • May 20, 2016: Submitted my final revisions and then went fishing.
  • May 31, 2016: Received final acceptance for the article. HOORAY! Signed and submitted the Author agreement. Then realized there was a typo in the title and frantically emailed everyone I could find at the journal to ask to have it corrected before the preprint was posted. Rookie mistake, after all my rounds of revisions, and one I won’t make again.
  • June 1, 2016: Pre-print posted online.
  • July 1, 2017: The real deal shiny copy-edited article will be officially published.
  1. I want stronger data analysis and research design skillz. Since library school, I’ve been frustrated by the sometimes wimpy scholarship in our field. There are many reasons for this, not least of which is that most of us have a master’s as our terminal degree and lack the rigorous methods training and mentoring of PhD programs. Not to mention just time spent in the literature and thinking about the field, since most master’s students spend 2-4 years compared to the 5+ most PhD students spend immersed in the literature and perhaps working on research teams. Excuses aside, I plan to sit in on a quantitative research methods sequence offered by our School of Education in Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 to become more comfortable with fancy tools (they use STATA–oooh, shiny! Expensive!) and ways of conceptualizing research study design.

I would love to talk more with others about their experiences and processes with planning, writing, and publishing. Especially the messy, seam-y, and rewarding parts.

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Top 5: What I learned about being a librarian from working in a bookstore

I worked at the wonderful Boulder Book Store for five years. I tried out pretty much every position I could: bookseller, special orders department, author event host, floor staff coordinator, and sidelines buyer (I still miss the yummy chocolate samples!). While my LIS classes in ethics, database searching, and digitization provided wonderful training, I’ve come to see that there was a lot of value in what I learned as a bookseller: how to transform patrons into library evangelists. I think these simple strategies go a long way towards easing library anxiety for students at my community college and encouraging regular use of our services.

  • #1 treat your customers/patrons/students as if your survival depends on them. Because it does. Bookstores realize that customers can easily go to Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble for books. Independent bookstore prices aren’t usually better than the competition, though we tried to complement our new books with nice used copies and remainder books. We knew that customer service and the store’s community atmosphere were our only advantages over big box stores and online retailers. What customers are looking for in a physical bookstore is that interaction with people who also love to read and a lovely environment. In academic libraries, our competition comes in the forms of Google, Google books, or Yahoo answers, among others. When students contact us, they are looking for that human connection and advice, as well as a pleasant place to study. These are both huge opportunities to create positive experiences.
  • #2 be happy to see them. Look up, smile, and greet everyone who walks in the library doors. Sounds simple, but makes a huge difference, especially for people (like me) who would rather try to find it themselves. Creating that small positive interaction lets students know that they can come back and ask a question if they have trouble and they can count on a friendly reception. When you walk around and see someone with a confused look, ask, “What can I help you with?” This leaves the question open-ended and is more likely to generate a real response. Asking “Are you finding everything?” or “Do you need help?” is more likely to generate a quick ‘no,’ regardless of the true answer.
  • #3 know what people want. Reader’s advisory is part of daily life. Rather than having reader’s advisory specialists, every person working in the bookstore was empowered to have a conversation with a customer about their reading interests, habits, and how to find their next favorite book. This is an extremely personalized service model. To be successful, staff must keep minimally up to date with popular books and series so that you recognize when people are asking for, “that red book about the dog?” they likely mean The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. Public libraries probably do this innately, but it’s sometimes more of a stretch at academic libraries. I found in the past year that I am definitely guilty of not knowing about popular books in certain genres–mysteries, especially!
  • #4 be a real human. Try starting reference conversations (rather than transactions/interviews!) by asking what the patron’s name is (and telling them yours!), what class the information is for, etc. Students feel more comfortable when they feel like there is give and take. This communicates that you are approachable and makes them feel more comfortable asking for help. They may also share important information that might not have come out if they had tried asking a specific question. For instance, “How do I look up a book?” becomes, “I really need help finding information on ADHD and education for my 8 page paper, due today.” Having a friendly conversation with patrons is different from recommendations that librarians be as neutral and removed as possible. Maybe that’s okay. Especially when we’re trying to make sure that students have a positive experience with the library and become “repeat users.”
  • #5 treat referrals like gold. Conversations are how students and faculty let others know about great service via word of mouth. They’ll say, “Go see so-and-so at the library. They were super helpful in my last assignment and they’ll take care of you.” When another student, faculty member, or service on campus recommends your library, treat that referral like gold. This is how good vibes spread, especially if your library has struggled to be visible on campus or show value in the past! The inverse is true–avoiding impersonal hand-offs to other departments or staff is important. We regularly walk lost students to other offices on campus, just to build a positive impression for the future. We think that actions like this contribute to student retention at our school and a reputation as a very hospitable campus.

A caveat. I’ll admit, there is a dichotomy between providing great service for a customer and teaching students to do things themselves. My first priority is teaching and empowering students to find and create themselves. But I also try to make sure that every student who leaves the library is interested in returning. Even after a (perhaps) difficult conversation about (perhaps) very large fines…


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Carebrarians: Librarians and Mental Health Training

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A co-worker of mine and I just participated in a Mental Health First Responder course, offered through Mental Health First Aid Colorado network, part of the larger national Mental Health First Aid group. The groups’ aims are to have many more people complete Mental Health First Aid Responder training, similar to CPR and other first aid trainings. The training covered signs and symptoms for common mental health issues: depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, psychotic disorders, and substance abuse issues. The course emphasizes that mental health first aid is first and foremost a bridge to professional mental health resources. Yet the course gave practical, down to earth recommendations for compassionately talking with friends, family, (or patrons!) dealing with these issues.

I thought it was particularly helpful that our instructor discussed mental health in terms of a spectrum–that many mental health disorders are manageable with treatment–and gave clear definitions of when a mental health issue needs to be addressed with professional help, usually when the symptoms starts to interfere with work, home, relationships, or a person’s normal activities.

The course also addressed the very real mental health stigmas in our culture. I thought it was particularly interesting to hear that on average, it takes someone suffering from a mental health issue eight or more years of struggling on their own before they seek treatment (Wang, Berglund, Olfson, Pincus, Wells, & Kessler, 2005). And that when people do seek treatment, they are much more likely to focus on describing any physical symptoms rather than emotional ones. Some of the other statistics presented painted a very different picture of mental illness compared with what we see on tv and other media. The training handbook cites Kessler, Berglund, Demler, Jin, and Walters (2005), saying that more than half of American adults will experience some type of mental health issue at some point.

The program teaches an acronym for mental health first aid steps that is similar to CPR’s ABC. The ALGEE acronym stands for Assess for risk of suicide, Listen non-judgmentally, Give reassurance, Encourage appropriate professional help, and Encourage self-help and other support strategies (Mental Health Association of Maryland, Missouri Department of Mental Health, and National Council for Behavioral Health, 2013).

My cohort was primarily other librarians from public, academic, and specialized libraries. It was really interesting to me that the public librarians had no qualms about whether conversations with patrons on mental health issues were part of their jobs. A colleague mentioned that Denver Public Library is hiring a social worker and quite a few other public libraries have done or plan to do so soon. Yet among the academic and special library folks, I think many of us experienced a hesitancy– that mental health first aid was maybe “none of our business,” outside of our boundaries as professionals, or that our ethics of impartiality protect/prevent us from having these conversations.

I was glad that our instructor underlined the importance of boundaries and your own comfort level when attempting to offer help to others; yet she made it very clear that caring for our neighbors, our patrons, and those in our community is something every person can, and probably should do. Also that checking in with someone or having a conversation about what they need to feel better is a very human thing to do. These conversations needn’t be stressful or scary when prepared with the courses’ techniques. I would highly recommend this course to anyone–and I think it would be particularly valuable for librarians and educators.

And so the past few weeks I’ve been intentionally asking a few more open-ended questions when patrons disclose a mental health issue they are struggling with instead of shying away. I’ve offered additional resources to a couple of folks. And I am much more aware of my own reactions to patrons’ behavior and what messages I might be unconsciously sending. I hope I’m on my way to becoming a Carebrarian 😉

References:

Kessler, R.C., Berglund, P.A., Demler, O., Jin, R., and Walters, E.E. (2005). Lifetime prevalence and age-of-onset distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R). Archives of General Psychiatry. 62, 593-602.

Mental Health Association of Maryland, Missouri Department of Mental Health, and National Council for Behavioral Health. (2013). Mental Health First Aid USA, Revised First Edition. Lutherville, MD: Mental Health Association of Maryland.

Wang, P.S., Berglund, P. Olfson, M., Pincus, H.A., Wells, K.B., and Kessler, R.C. (2005). Failure and delay in initial treatment contact after first onset of mental disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry. 62, 629-640.


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LOEX 2015 Takeaways (Or, why is this the first LOEX I’ve been to?!)

A month later, my brain is still processing sessions from LOEX 2015. My first time at LOEX was eye-opening. How wonderful to be surrounded by academic librarians struggling with the same questions. “How do we use the new ACRL Framework? How do we teach one-shots effectively when information literacy skills could easily fill a 3-credit class? How do we integrate active learning into our sessions? How best to work with faculty?” And so on.

Here are some of my faves:

  • Where Knowledge Meets Experience: The Library’s Role in Experiential Learning, Elizabeth Price and Becky Richardson, Murray State
    • Gave great realistic case studies of the library as 3rd-party client for class projects such as an anthropology class’s space study, or a PR class’s social media strategic plan.
    • Emphasized the importance of George Kuh’s High Impact Practices–how service learning and other hands-on experiences tie all of the loose threads of students’ academic work together.
  • Hacking the Framework: Using Science of Story to Address the Dispositions, John Watts, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Joshua Vossler, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
    • Story, Curiosity, and Reward-Based Learning – learning is motivated by curiosity. Information conveyed through stories sticks better. Stories tie in with memory through neuro-coupling, where the listeners come to feel what the storyteller is communicating.
    • To be a better storyteller: Use sensory and emotional language; Inner dialogue, ie Carrie Bradshaw, Sex and the City; Use outer dialogue, ie voices create multiple characters, (stand-up comics do this all the time); create drama through silence, pauses, exaggeration builds tension
    • What storytelling isn’t: Acting. No miming. A gesture that drives home a point is okay. You will become a window into the story. You recede and the story and language envelops the listener. You’re channeling the story.
    • A side note: I could listen to these guys talk for hours. Intelligent and hilarious. Loved the storytelling video they’d created. Definitely one of the most engaging presentations of the conference.
  • Backward Design: A Must-Have Library Instructional Design Strategy, Sarah LeMire (Texas A&M), Donna Ziegenfuss (Univ of Utah)
    • Drawing on the work of L. Dee Fink’s Creating Significant Learning Experiences (2003), advocate using alignment grids as part of course planning process. Importance of aligning session goals with overall course, program, and institutional goals. This helps show the value of library instruction sessions.
    • Fantastic handouts and course materials. Still sorting through these and the Canvas course!
  • Saturday Plenary: Groups, Games & Flipping: Remaining Purposeful amidst a Multitude of Teaching Options, Bridget Arend, University of Denver Office for Teaching and Learning
    • Importance of choosing the right educational activity for the outcome. Example of why discussions cause “crickets” among students– that teaching method is best for sharing perspectives, not for covering content.
    • Emphasis on active learning’s clear effectiveness over traditional lecture as sole instructional method. Freeman, Eddy, McDonough, Smith, Okoroafor, Jordt, and Wenderoth’s 2014 article, Active learning increases student performance in science, engineering, and mathematics, compared 228 studies of active learning. Found that underrepresented students and women were greatly helped by active learning activities. Wired gives a great summary of the article.
  • Lightning Talk: Inspired by Failure: Engaging Students with an Active Learning Exercise on Authority, Rebecca Hewitt (Hartwick College)
    • Loved her idea of the “Pyramid of Evidence” using post-it notes for students to discuss and visualize their conceptions of “authority” among types of sources. Tried this with a group of Astronomy students last week and we had a fantastic 1/2 hour discussion, including where “intuition” fits on the pyramid.
  • Drinking on the Job: Workplace Literacy, Alison Hicks (CU-Boulder)
    • There has long been tension between academic work and workplace literacy. Professors often don’t like to spend time on the practical skills students will need. Negative perception that it’s too “vocational.” But, workplace literacy is HUGELY important for students to be able to adapt to the social/cultural aspects of a job, be employeable after graduation, and build lifelong learning and transferable skills.
    • Information-seeking in the workplace differs from academic work in several ways: It is non-linnear, not well planned, not individual. Often there are challenges like secrecy, a lack of access to paid resources, workplaces are much more team-focused (info isn’t used in a vacuum, ie, your student paper). Workplaces often utilize peers, institutional knowledge, and other departments for information.
    • Australian Researcher Anne Marie Lloyd (2007) studied firefighters and other professions that are very info-rich. She found they were highly social: telling stories sitting around the fire station was how they learned many of their best practices and developed expertise. It was also corporeal, embodying automatic and sensory knowledge, such as being able to take off a glove and give an approximate temp of the fire and other conditions. Other types of corporeal knowledge include driving a manual car and recognizing the right time to switch gears by the sound of the engine.
    • Personal Learning Environments (PLE) can be a way of raising awareness and teaching workplace literacy. PLEs map tools, artefacts, processes and physical connections that allow learners to manage their learning (Couros, 2010; ELI, 2009; Drexler, 2007).
    • Really cool visual PLE: https://www.flickr.com/photos/24823508@N04/6992313131
    • Wish I had a bibliography for this session as my note-taking wasn’t able to keep up with all of the wonderful studies mentioned. Plan to read some of Alison’s related papers in the next few weeks.

I’ll be setting an Outlook reminder to register for next year’s conference!


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Therapy Dogs bring Smiles, Stress-Relief

A 2009 study found that by gazing at their dogs pet owners can increase their oxytocin levels, thereby improving their overall mood. ACC Librarians concur! Students, faculty, and staff who attended our March 10 Therapy Dogs event left with big smiles and reduced stress. Gidget, Lambchop, Rosetta, Franz, Vitas, and Oboe are therapy dogs or guide-dogs-in-training. Their owners volunteer at Littleton Adventist Hospital or raise puppies for Guide Dogs for the Blind. We’re excited to have them back again during finals week!

Visit to Otero Junior College Learning Commons

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On April 18, I was able to visit Otero Junior College’s beautifully renovated Learning Commons in La Hunta, Colorado. Here are some of the highlights.

  • Love how old and new architectural elements were melded. Original wood paneling in the ceiling gives the main room an organic feel
  • Cafe space integrated into the Library (the only Starbucks in town!). The cafe space can be used for events and trainings without disturbing students in other areas of the Learning Commons.
  • Carpet colors were used to create a “pathway” to the main service points, eliminating the need for most signage
  • “Did you read this?” tally marks on magazines to track usage of materials
  • Plenty of technology additions! Carts of computers for checkout by students or faculty. Two video editing rooms, plenty of outlets for laptops near seating areas.
  • Incorporation of local art connects with local history (including the giant dinosaur shoulder blade!)

Huge thanks to Sue Keefer for showing us around her gorgeous space!

This gallery contains 7 photos