Notes for the UW infolit Community

March 3, 2009

Starting a Common Book Project

Filed under: collaboration,reading,uw campus committees — mcsarah @ 12:51 pm

UW Madison is initiating a common book program, Go Big Read and we started a little late in the year so it’s a scramble to get this major initiative up and running. I would describe my role as “project manager,” since it’s an initiative of our new Chancellor, but the library is really getting things started. Here are some interesting things about the program:

  • Since we made a campus announcement and put a web form up to initiate an abbrieviated selection process, we have 600 suggestions. The Chancellor will be choosing a book in early April.
  • We’re very interested in curricular integration, so I’ve been going around to meetings with the directors of large-enrollment first-year courses with the Director of the Center for the First Year Experience and the Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning. It’s been interesting to “get on the same page” with such a group.
  • Everyone has lots of ideas that they’re very tied to and everyone is interested in participating or helping out in some way.
  • Should be interesting.

I’m not tied to any one book selection, which makes this whole thing less stressful, so far. I’d be interested to talk to librarians who have had this role in a campus common read project, if that’s you please get in touch!


February 6, 2009

Evolving Directions: Mitra Sharafi

Filed under: faculty and instructors,interdisciplinarity — mcsarah @ 2:59 pm

Mitra Sharafi‘s current research is a book project: Parsing Law: Zoroastrians and Litigation in Colonial South Asia, examining how the Parsi community used the colonial courts (such as related to matrimonial law) and the history of Parsi lawyers as intellectual and cultural “middlemen.”    Some interesting sources used were the magazine “Hindi Punch,”  the “India Office” archive in the BL, and “The Bombay High Court” in Mumbai.  There are few private papers of lawyers and judges, and newspapers are in poor condition.

In her teaching, Mitra Sharafi likes to use visual representations of information (like mnemonics).  She uses the Times digital archive in an assignment for her classes for undergrads, asking them to pick a particular phenomenon or event related to colonial law and find three articles.  These are used in a primary source paper.  Originally they had the option to use more sources, but she found that their skills were inadequate so it was too difficult (perhaps hindering the learning).  She also brings some front pages from the times into the class.  The Legal Studies program sets out to do something very different than what law school does, incorporating cultural sources, social sciences, and humanities.  They are also working to incorporate a more global focus to the program.     She likes to use primary sources that are accessible (i.e. digitized).  Last year she gave them the option of going to rare books, and only a few did it.  Google books is beginning to do amazing things in digitizing primary sources.

I would like to get a copy of the primary sources assignment, either from Mitra Sharafi or from the library liaison, Mary Rader.  This seems like an important model for meaningful research assignments for undergraduates because it gets away from the print/good vs. online/bad dichotomy.

February 2, 2009

Teaching Academy Retreat: Engaging the Diverse Classroom

Filed under: diversity,faculty workshops,student success,uwconferences — mcsarah @ 9:37 am

January 16th I attended the UW Teaching Academy Annual Retreat. The topic was, “What can I do in my classroom to create a welcoming teaching/learning environment for all students?” This is a very important topic on campus right now, as we’ve learned that students from underrepresented groups are not performing well in many of our large, gateway courses. This is more true at UW than at most of our peer institutions and it is true even for students with high ACT scores.

In preparation for the retreat, we read Can We Talk about Race? And other Conversations in an Era of School Resegregation by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D. I’ll add this to our office bookshelf. If you’d like to take a look it’s a quick read and we focused on Chapter 2.

At the workshop, we heard some interesting presentations and worked on some challenging case studies in small groups. We also heard from a student panel, which was so enlightening. I learned about some excellent materials developed by CIRTL, in particular their book, Reaching All Students: A Resource for Teaching in Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics, which I’ll place on our bookshelf, but is also freely available online (!!) I plan to go back to this for classes in all disciplines. This is a topic we should be thinking about for future LILI Forums and Retreats.

January 21, 2009

Library Administrators as Liaisons – Notes

Filed under: liaison forum — mcsarah @ 1:31 pm

Ed Van Gemert spoke to the Liaison Forum about what Administrators’ work as liaisons.   Administrators are always trying to demonstrate the relevance of the library, particularly in the current budget and political environment.   We’re lucky that the library has a great reputation for efficiency and “top-notch services” that we can leverage.  We are always looking for new ways that the library can collaborate with others on campus to demonstrate library’s relevance.


  • Common Book Project with the Chancellor (I will distribute URL when it is up)
  • Reaccreditation
  • Campus Strategic Plan (in draft, Ed will distribute when published)
  • UW System DIN

In these context, administrators think about language and ideas expressed in terms of informing about how libraries support the educational enterprise.   Our image of longevity/stability can create a sense of complacency, we need to constantly update our message and make new connections.  We also need to further develop our political allies to develop stronger constituencies.  The discussion needs to be framed in terms of what our constituencies care about (e.g. for politicians, jobs and the state’s economy).

One area of liaison is to campus administration.  Ken Frazier reports to the Provost but sits on the Leadership Council of the new Chancellor (this is the full group of Deans and Directors).   Every year we put in a budget request for collections, staffing, and facilities via the Vice Chancellor for Budget and Administration.   Library administrators also sit on the Provost’s Executive Group, which includes directors of academic units on campus, vice-provosts, etc.; this is a great spot for developing collaborations.  While campus collaborations and partnerships may appear ad hoc, we are strategic about how we collaborate and partners.

Within UW System, there’s an office devoted to libraries with a $3.2 million dollar budget for shared electronic collections, systemwide technology, statewide document delivery, UWDC, and Minds@UW.   The UW System DIN focused on the shared electronic portion, which still have a chance of getting into the Governor’s budget and through the legislature.   They also work with CUWL and FP&M re: building projects.  Administrators also liaise with larger groups such as ARL and CIC.  Media relations is an important responsibility, but the new position will assist with that.

In the area of shared governance, Ed has been working with the University Library Committee for a long time; this group will be important as we make changes.   The Library Coordinating Committee  is our own group of directors which talks about budget issues (e.g. cost shift from collections to ILL/DD.  Library Management Group).

We discussed ways to better address the information needs of administrators within and outside the libraries.

(Sent to Ed for review 1/21/09)

January 13, 2009

Reading Books

Filed under: collaboration,reading — mcsarah @ 8:24 pm

Quite a few times people have said to me, “I’ve always wanted to be a librarian.  It must be wonderful to be around books all day!”  And I try to remember the last time I touched a book,  particularly one that wasn’t about library science or higher ed.  All that may be changing a little, though.

After talking with the new Chancellor, our University Librarian has convened a campus group to initiate a common book program.  I’ve been asked to lead the project based on my experience with what I really do all day as a librarian, which is organizing projects.   We’re starting way behind schedule with a lot of questions to answer, but what else is new with projects?

My favorite site about common book programs is Barbara Fister’s site, “One Book, One College: Common Reading Programs.”   A new National Endowment for the Arts study just came out showing that reading is on the rise among young adults.   The New York Times article says, “the proportion of overall literary reading increased among virtually all age groups, ethnic and demographic categories since 2002. It increased most dramatically among 18-to-24-year-olds, who had previously shown the most significant declines.”

I also joined a few book clubs this year (never one for moderation) so perhaps I’ll turn this book reading thing around.

January 12, 2009

I’m back — and Educause Targets 21st Century Literacies as Key Issue for 09

Filed under: literacies — mcsarah @ 9:49 pm

Despite my best efforts, it’s tough to stay on top of blogging.

I noticed an important item in CHE today, though, “Educause Names Top Teaching-with-Technology Challenges for 09

I would argue that all the items on the list should be of interest to infolit folks, but in particular #2 on the list is “2. Developing 21st-century literacies — information, digital, and visual — among students and faculty members.” UW system is a pilot for the AACU LEAP initiative, which features information literacy among the essential learning outcomes for liberal education.   Faculty specifically requested that “technology literacy” be added alongside information literacy, and we’ve begun some preliminary meetings to identify synergies between the two.  While in the past our fear has been that technology literacy would confuse or subsume the information literacy issue, this new framework seems to level the playing field.

I’ve created a feed for changes to the wiki and I’m hoping to contribute, participate in these conversations on campus, attend EDUCAUSE, and whatever else I can afford in time and money.

December 5, 2008

Learning Spaces of the Future (ComETS event)

Roberto Rengel from the School of Human Ecology provided some frameworks for thinking about spaces. His background is in interior design and architecture, as well as corporate space design. He talked about enduring characteristics of learning activities and learners.   A good place is convenient, safe, functional, comfortable, inspiring, and multidimensional. Multidimensional spaces address the person as a whole (individual, social, complex)… because people are different in their characteristics and circumstances, designers of informal spaces need to account for different personalities and tasks. Other issues include acoustical properties and luminous environment (combination of natural and artificial lighting), warmth. Inspiration can come from style, furniture, materials, colors and graphics. For a space to be used, it should be part of something bigger than itself.

Carole Turner and Tom Wise talked about “Classrooms of the future.” The learning environment should be technology-rich, take into account leraning outcomes, and blending experiences inside and outside the classroom. Every space on campus should contribute to the learning experience. We discussed whether classroom time is a chance to cover material or facilitate learning. There were two views: that a variety of learning spaces enable learning outside the classroom, so that the classroom time can be used to frame ideas; and that technology enables delivery of content outside the classroom so that the classroom time can be used to facilitate learning through a variety of activities. Tom Wise talked about the FP&M process for buildings: program statement, design development, design/drawings review, bid documents, construction process.  FP&M has “Classroom Design Principles.”   The UW Madison Master Plan includes Education (out to bid), Biochemistry, WID, SOHE, Sterling (L&S), and Union South.

Because I facilitated the panel, I didn’t take notes there or finish this post until today.  The panelists were Cal Bergman (Housing), Jo Ann Carr (School of Education), Carrie Kruse (College Library), and John Staley (Infolabs).  Each presented “on the ground” experiences designing learning spaces.

A lot of interesting perspectives were shared, but the most important outcome seemed to be communication and information-sharing.

November 23, 2008

Google book search for education

Filed under: instructional technology — mcsarah @ 10:21 pm

Thursday, the University Library Committee meeting was devoted to a presentation about Google Book Search by Frances Haugen, who works at Google in the area of search quality and how to expose content from books.

Google is very interested in applications of book search and their other tools for education, and there are some interesting hybrid applications that I wasn’t aware of previously.   From my notes (haven’t tried these yet, so I’m sure some of them need clarification):

“Google tools can be used for collaboration, research projects, real-time feedback on essays, peer editing, cooperative note-taking, and online assignment submission.  Examples of applications for education:

  • Can take a quote from a primary source document and do a book search for books that include/discuss quote and context around it.
  • Can use publication date in book search: “War date:1861-1865”
  • Can highlight part of the book (public domain content), create a document and paste in the link to bring in image from book / snippet.
  • Can compose course packs
  • Can share a “library”, labels & reviews.

Clearly, many of these have enormous potential for teaching and learning in general and especially information literacy.  I’m curious how people are using Google book search and apps in their information literacy programs.  Our Google workshop working group has thought about devoting more time to Google apps, and this seems like a great idea, particularly if there are materials already out there.

21st century literacies

Filed under: literacies — mcsarah @ 8:51 pm

Last week, I gave a talk on our information literacy program – past, present, and future – to a group of thirty graduate students in LIS 626, “information literacy pedagogy,” taught by Madge Klais.   I enjoy these sessions partly because I really reflect and learn best when I am putting together a presentation, and also because I learn a lot from the class.

In planning the presentation, I reread a book chapter on the future of information literacy by Lisa Janicke-Hinchliffe for the Information Literacy Instruction Handbook produced by the ACRL Instruction Section last year. The chapter is short in length and presents a lot of interesting ideas, so I recommend it as a discussion piece.  One idea that I have also been thinking about a lot is that librarians can’t continue to limit ourselves to instruction about publication formats that are in the traditional library purview, i.e. books and journals.   As we are all becoming producers of information in a variety of formats, the distinction between our/good information and their/bad information is increasingly artificial.  It becomes more important to help learners to evaluate the usefulness of any/all information for their needs.

Most information literacy programs have embraced these ideas, but books and journals remain “our” information and our core business.  Partly because we have so much to offer when it comes to information from library collections.  And if we are addressing information in all formats, we have a lot of new problems to solve.

There was an article on  “Becoming Screen Literate” in the New York Times this week.  I recommend this article as well, here’s a snippet: “The fluid and fleeting symbols on a screen pull us away from the classical notions of monumental authors and authority. On the screen, the subjective again trumps the objective. The past is a rush of data streams cut and rearranged into a new mashup, while truth is something you assemble yourself on your own screen as you jump from link to link. We are now in the middle of a second Gutenberg shift — from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.”

A lot of groups on our campus are talking about multimedia literacy, media literacy, and technology literacy.  While it’s very important not to conflate these with information literacy, we certainly can’t stand apart from these conversations and initiatives.  Instead, we’ll have to see them as opportunities to start the solving the problems (copyright, discovery of moving images, training) that are at the intersection of 21st century literacies.

November 6, 2008

Digital Storytelling

I spent Thursday at the systemwide Digital Storytelling Conference put together by Cheryl Diermyer of AT.  From the program description: “While there is no doctrine defining a digital story as a distinct genre, it has become generally associated with a short film (less than 5 minutes), which is a mixture of a written and recorded voiceover with still and moving images, and often a soundtrack. Digital stories are often told in the first person voice and can be used to create connections between students, instructors and content.”

There were many great speakers at this conference, including Joe Lambert of the Center for Digital Storytelling (why didn’t I know about this when I was at Berkeley?).  Unfortunately, I missed the faculty panel for another meeting, but I look forward to talking to Margaret Nellis of UW about her project.   Many applications of digital storytelling involve community organizing, oral history, and service learning.

The most interesting speaker for me was Liv Gjestvang of the Ohio State University Digital Union.  I originally met Liv at the Learning Technology Leadership Insititute this summer, and she has a really interesting background as a video artist and community-based work.   OSU’s Digital Storytelling Program is more academically-focused and she talked about some of the lessons learned in building faculty and staff participation in a program that both tied to the academic mission of the university and retained the personal aspect of storytelling.  Librarians actually initiated their program and remain integral to it. They’ve created an online repository and YouTube page.   I’m looking forward to talking more with Liv and connecting with the librarians she works with.

I see a lot of potential for libraries and information literacy in this kind of program:

  • There’s a potential for students to develop/demonstrate a continuum of skills from information use to production of knowledge.  It would be interesting to take a team approach to developing courses that do this.   Lots of opportunities for engagement and assessment of student learning outcomes.
  • Could we support people looking for images and audio and help them manage the intellectual property issues?  Some projects used geocoding, which is an intersting tie-in.
  • There’s an opportunity for reflection in students telling their own stories, which is part of information literacy beyond learning outcomes that we don’t get at very well.
  • We saw some examples where faculty interest students in their research / courses by creating videos.  I can see potential for using this to get students excited about their role in the research university.
  • Use it to explain to students different majors or disciplines.
  • Librarians at OSU created a digital story about OED and an interesting special collection, so about a particular resource or making research exciting.

The OSU examples are here, and we saw many other interesting examples I could share if people are interested.  Some intersect with other technologies like geocoding.

Next Page »

Blog at