Banned Books in Academic Libraries

I read a great article by Scott DiMarco over at ACRL News – “Why I banned a book.”

Yes, I banned a book. I am a seasoned librarian and academic library director and a supporter of free speech and democracy, but I banned a book. The term heresy quickly comes to mind in the world of librarianship, but the story is much deeper than it first appears. The very temporary banning was simply an object lesson to our campus community on the arbitrary and capricious nature of censorship, as well as providing an interesting take on the nature of social media. Read the full article

Yes, academic librarian Scott of Mansfield University of Pennsylvania banned a book – but not for the reasons you think. He banned a book to stir up emotions on a campus that showed no interest in attending Banned Books Week events. And it worked, too! Thousands of people responded with outrage – to what they found out was a hoax.

Are these desperate times for library events?

I’m sure you’ve experienced similar frustrations at your library. You plan an event months in advance, hire a speaker or come up with what you think is a brilliant presentation, and then four people show up. All of whom are colleagues.

What would you do? Would you merely cope with disappointment or would you vow to boost attendance next time?

How far would YOU go to get the academic community interested in the issues that your library is promoting?

Read the rest of Scott’s article over at ACRL News, and chime in with your thoughts below!

Google Reader dies today. Don’t lose your favorite feeds!

If you use Google Reader and you haven’t switched, you’re down to the wire! The Google service ends today. But fear not – I offer up a collection of links with alternatives below!

If you have no idea what Google Reader is – it might be time for you to read up on feed aggregators! If you visit a lot of sites daily just to see what’s new – you might want to switch to an aggregator, which will collect all of your sites’ updates for you in one place. Aggregators put all your new blog posts and news articles in one page for easy viewing. (Or, anything with an RSS feed, at least, like this blog! ; ) Here’s an overview of RSS feeds for newbies.

From Lifehacker:

Google Reader Is Shutting Down; Here Are the Best Alternatives


10 Google Reader Alternatives That Will Ease Your RSS Pain

Redmond Pie:

Top 5 Google Reader Alternatives | Redmond Pie

Microsoft Outlook can also collect new posts for you. Here are instructions on

How to add RSS feeds to Outlook

What are blogs, anyway?

Blogs are a great way to keep up-to-date on what’s going on in Library Land and beyond! Here’s some blogs I recommend following:

Ask A ManagerAll of your work and job searching questions answered!

Rapid e-Learning Blog: Designing online courses? All the tips you need! (From

iLibrarian Blog from Lots of tech tips for library-types!

And, of course, you should follow this blog! ; )

What blogs do you follow?

Are you ready for the ALA conference?

Bags packed? Schedule highlighted? Are you ready for the 2013 ALA Conference?

Today, I’m offering up a collection of links to help you make the most of ALA 2013!

American Libraries direct has a great list of conference events and activities in Chicago.

ALA also offers a PDF you can print and take with you of making the most of your conference experience

Sara Dixon over at INALJ offers her thoughts on whether attending is worth it for those that have to pay themselves

Here’s Library Journal’s guide to attending the conference

PC Sweeney tells you how to be awesome at going to library conferences

John Scalzi and Cory Doctorow will both be there, among other fabulous authors

Open Access is a big deal for academic libraries! Check out Scholarly Communication events at ALA

While you’re there – take a tour of local Chicago libraries

Of course – attending a conference shouldn’t be all work. Take time to eat, drink, and do something fun!

Wear your walking shoes, hit the exhibit hall, and remember to bring back some swag for the rest of us!!

EDIT: And furthermore, here’s a list of free food opportunities at ALA to help you stretch your travel dollars

What events are YOU most looking forward to at ALA 2013?

Learning Badges: A solution to growing library instruction programs?

Let’s face it: academic libraries are only going to continue having to do more with less. As print circulation drops, use of  online library resources (hopefully) rises – but how is your library meeting the challenge of teaching students to use online resources efficiently? I would guess that most instruction librarians are already on teaching overload! The solution may lie in online classes – but not the for-credit, instructor-led classes that you’re used to!


The future of information literacy instruction may, instead, lie in learning badges! Many college and university libraries are turning to “gamification” or short, online modules, that teach students specific info lit skills and reward students with colorful, virtual “badges” that the students can collect and show off. Purdue University seems to be at the forefront of developing academic library badges. Take a look at U of A librarian Nicole Pagowsky’s review of Purdue’s beta badge program.

Done well, learning badges look like some of those developed at University of California, Davis, for the sustainable agriculture program. Earned badges allow students to show the world what they’ve learned. “Each badge would allow the employer to click through to more detailed levels of evidence and explanation—documents, assessment results, hyperlinks, video, and more.” Badges are fully explained and hopefully transferrable to use outside of academia.

In fact, learning badges have the potential to transform records of academic learning as we know it today:

Compared with the new open badge systems, the standard college transcript looks like a sad and archaic thing. Its considerable value is not based on the information it provides, which is paltry. What does a letter grade in a course often described only by the combination of a generic department label and an arbitrary number (e.g. Econ 302) really mean? Nobody knows, which is why accredited colleges often don’t trust that information for the purposes of credit transfer, even when it comes from other accredited colleges.

What do you think? Do you see potential for learning badges at your institution?

“So You Have Blue Hair”: On looks and working in a library

Say the candidate walks into the interview with blue hair and piercings. Maybe she’s also wearing bright pink boots along with her slacks and blazer. What do you think?

Katy Perry does well for herself, right?

Public library employee Elinor Crosby, of Nova Scotia, says that she stays true to herself by maintaining a professional look but also incorporating her personality, which includes all of the above:

The librarian who convinced me to go and do my MLIS insisted that librarians didn’t care what you looked like as long as you could do the job, and I have found this to be true.

In my limited library experience, I haven’t met any library employees with hair color that doesn’t occur naturally, or with uncommon facial piercings, but I’ve definitely met people that are proud to show off their personal style with their work attire. Yet, we don’t seem to have much of a dress code at my library at Arizona State, and I think most people here dress however they feel most comfortable.

What do you think? Does physical appearance of a potential employee affect whether or not you’d be interesting in hiring her, professional skills aside?

See the entire post over at INALJ: So You Have Blue Hair

Project Information Literacy


How do college students start their research? Most academic library employees know the quick answer: Google and Wikipedia! But there’s more to the story. How do college students move through the research process in the digital age, and why do they approach it as they do?

Project Information Literacy‘s (PIL) mission is to reveal the answers to this question. PIL is a nonprofit that is partnered with University of Washington’s i-School. Their goal is to re-shape research skills curriculum to help students as they are, not as we wish they would be.

PIL has already completed six major studies since 2008 in an attempt to “to investigate how they find, evaluate, and use information for their course work and for addressing issues that arise in their everyday lives.”

One of their findings is that while students’ lives are dramatically different in this age of technology, many college professors stick to old-fashioned teaching methods:

Despite the seismic changes in the way that information is now created and delivered, 83% of instructors’ handouts for research assignments PIL analyzed in 2010 called for the standard research paper. Few handouts asked students to present findings using other formats, including multimedia and oral presentations.

PIL also studies how students’ research skills carry over into their personal lives and post-graduate jobs. Even classically “information-literate” students still struggle in the workplace. In a column from late-2012 over on Inside Higher Ed, one librarian summarizes a key report from PIL documenting the struggles of recent college grads:

What they hadn’t learned was how to deal with questions that didn’t have an answer that could be found in a text, whether online or in print. Their work assignments lacked the structure and instructions that college assignments had, their deadlines were tighter, and the stakes were higher. They felt their jobs were at risk. One key need graduates identified was finding mentors and informants. As one focus group participant put it, “the biggest hurdle for me was getting used to talking to strangers” (19).

Even with the prevalence of social networking, students might still need to work on their social skills to help themselves get ahead in life!

Check out this overview of PIL that features super-hip music:

Automate your life: Let IFTTT “put the internet to work for you”

Have you heard of If This Then That (IFTTT)? It’s a social media mash-up tool that lets you conveniently automate online tasks!

The structure is simple: if one thing happens, then do something else:

These automated tasks are called recipes. IFTTT users create recipes to share with the world! Simply create an account on IFTTT and share your social media info with the site. Worry not, IFTTT has been reviewed by PCWorld, NY Time’s Gadgetwise blog, and Time magazine.  So take advantage, try one, and see if your life gets better:

End of the e-textbook? Publishers offer Blackboard content integration

Publisher McGraw-Hill is partnering with Blackboard to provide more than just a course e-book. The publisher now offers course textbooks, assignments, and assessments that can be fully integrated into an existing LMS.

I spotted this article, McGraw-Hill and Blackboard: Partnering to Create the Learning Experience of the Future (via iLibrarian), and immediately wondered what the implications might be here for online learning and academic libraries.

While this post reads more like a corporate press release extolling the virtues of such a partnership, an immediate concern that comes to mind is whether this might turn into a corporate monopoly. That is, could an instructor individually partner with McGraw-Hill to integrate content for one course, but not another? Or would this have to be settled at the institution level, with a publisher requiring that it have exclusive rights to provide content for all of the school’s classes?

McGraw-Hill is proud to offer “pre-packaged” courses:

“With vetted and peer-reviewed content available, faculty [members] don’t need to spend as much time building core content; instead they can focus on how to add to their course based on an incident that happened in the class or a current event. Instructors can easily adapt to student needs,” says Fontenot.

This immediacy also increases an online course’s scalability. “Using pre-packaged content helps an instructor go from teaching 50 to 300 students without the time commitment of creating another course shell,” she says.

In the growing push towards growing online academic offerings, “pre-packaged” content like this will have a certain appeal. But just as Amazon only licenses e-books and doesn’t sell them, occasionally a book will be deleted from users’ Kindle should Amazon deem it necessary. No explanation required. If a single provider provides all course content, and retains licensing rights, does this put students at risk should content be pulled mid-semester? What rights would an institution retain if it doesn’t own its courses’ content?

This isn’t to say that this type of content integration is a wholly bad idea. I think that incorporating textbook content into an online course will improve the user experience. Academic libraries, though, already have a lot of funds invested in academic databases and e-content. I wonder if content could be incorporated from sources that an institution is already paying for, rather than paying more for potentially duplicate content.

What are the implications here for online learning? And how can libraries better serve students in online classes?

Is the STEM worker shortage a myth?

The online magazine Slate discussed a new study that shows only 1 out of every 2 STEM graduates is actually employed in a STEM job.

The full report, from the Economic Policy Institute, concluded that both computer science and engineering majors produce fifty percent more graduates than are hired. Unemployment has risen while wages have fallen in the last ten years. However, the number of skilled guest-workers in these fields has increased in the same time-span.

And in contrast to reports that the United States has a failing education system, authors showed that the U.S. has the world’s largest share of high-performing students.

So what’s going on, and how can we help STEM students find employment in their fields?

Definitely check out the thought-provoking slides and let us know what you think!