3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant Journal*

by Michal Strutin

(*In a break from the usual Footnotes format, Michal Strutin's Journal is available on her blog, at http://michalstrutin.typepad.com/librarian_on_the_loose/. The following is reprinted -- sans photos -- with permission.)

June 25, 2005

Breathe into a paper bag...

Day 1 (pre-conference) was a bit breathless, figuring out how to get from here to there�here and there all being within McCormick Place. Eat as much as you want. You can’t gain weight with all this walking.

A few logistics: Bus #3 south from upper Michigan worked just fine. Took about 20 minutes and stops right at the McC Pl. entrance. But that wasn’t at rush hour. If you want to check the schedule, try RTA Chicago. I took the shuttle back and that worked fine, too. So far, so good. Except: what in the name of architecture is going on at Soldier Field? Looks like the old building is being attacked by a Cuisenart or some other piece of kitchen equipment.

I attended ACRL’s Instructional Design pre-conference session. The keynote speaker, Jim Russell, Professor Emeritus of Educational Technology at Purdue clearly has done this a few times. He was crisp yet relaxed, funny, but made germane points. His big take-home: practice with feedback�the more immediate the feedback the better.

In the session, the speakers talked about the importance of having objectives for any lesson, information literacy or otherwise. Russell’s example objective: "Given a unicycle and a flat, smooth surface, the student will be able to ride the unicycle 50 yards without falling off." He said most professors do the "sage on a stage" thing and lecture. Good profs show DVDs of someone learning to ride a unicycle. The best profs bring in a unicycle and let students try it.

To assess a lesson, Russell said, too often instructors miss the point and do things like a paper and pencil test on the history of spokes. The right assessment: riding the unicycle. "Practice with feedback" where the feedback is instantaneous: you either ride or fall. He said authentic assessment is not rote memorization. It is practical use of the information learned.

He described the simplest instruction model he knows. Three steps: Objectives, Activities, Assessment. Each can loop back into the other two.

In response to a question, Russell estimated 3-6 hours of preparation goes into each hour of well-designed instruction. Another question: how can you have practice with feedback if you only have an hour? Answer: you can work with the subject faculty and have them administer the practice and assessment parts of the lesson, based on your instruction. Yes, but what if the instructor says "fine," but actually provides faulty or no follow-through?

Each attendee was assigned two of the four break-out sessions. I heard Nancy Dewald’s (Penn State) session on Design and Development. She walked us through aspects of the ADDIE model of instructional design: analysis, design, development, implementation, evaluation. ( http://ed.isu.edu/addie/ ) She reiterated the importance of objectives, gave examples of ADDIE in the context of Bloom’s taxonomy (Google Bloom’s taxonomy—too many to mention).

Dewald urged looking at Designing Effective Instruction by G.R. Morrison, S.M. Ross, and J.E. Kemp (John Wiley & Sons, 2004, 4th ed.). Then I had to duck out for Placement Center stuff.

In Emily Okada’s (Indiana Univ.) afternoon session on Curriculum Assessment, getting faculty to buy into information literacy instruction was one large theme. "Talk like they talk," she said. Let them know what’s in it for them. Explain how you can help their students meet expectations and let the faculty think it was their idea. Woo them. Use "cookie diplomacy." Find out what their personal research needs are and give them some ideas for enhancing their research using IL skills. That way they’ll have a more visceral understanding of why it’s important for their students to have IL skills.

In the overall wrap-up, it sounded like people wanted more specific examples. Here aresome ideas mentioned by participants in Okada’s session:

  • Keep a list of what assignments caused problems and how those problems were manifested.
  • Organize a Lunch with Your Librarian for all new faculty newer staff.
  • Have joint office hours with the subject faculty (hmmm, would any agree to this?)
  • One library evaluated students over three years of their college education. Some got IL skills; some did not. Those who did had much higher skills.

We talked about keeping up the conference listserv so people could post questions, advice, what worked for them�.

Later, at the NMRT Meet & Greet in the Homewood Suites Hotel near upper Michigan, my NMRT mentor and others assured me that I could never do everything I had listed on my own personal schedule for the conference. Whew! Afterward, went out for a walk, bumped into someone I’d talked with at the Meet & Greet, and went to the Star of Siam�finally. Good Thai food for very reasonable cost. We talked and talked about books, the pleasures of digital libraries, and a whole lot more. Aha—so these serendipitous meetings with like-minded people are another reason for coming to ALA.

Eyes drooping, very late. No time for tastefully arranging/HTMLing or cropping photos. I’m just plopping them in.

June 26, 2005

Snacks Are Key

Ok, now I'm getting the hang of this. Or, I'm too darn tired to worry about it. Key to my overscheduled conference day: snacks in the backpack. When all the food lines wrap around the corner and you've got to make a meeting, best bet is to wolf down snacks you've brought along. I don't mean empty calorie snacks like Ho-Hos. I mean seriously healthy snacks like honey-roasted peanuts. Right.

The other thing I've learned is that when you have a scheduling conflict, always choose the one that requires the least travel.

My day started with the NMRT Orientation Meeting. First an ice-breaker scavenger hunt. We had to get signatures of librarians in the room who fit a list of 20 criteria. Things such as has a tattoo (j'ever wonder where that word came from?), works in tech services.

Then Leslie Burger, ALA President-Elect-Elect spoke about her five goals:

  • Get real money to libraries so they can experiement with serving their communities better (i.e., working Capitol Hill).
  • ALA needs to be on people's tongues; like moveon.org, known for widespread advocacy at a moment's notice.
  • Recruitment & salaries. Despite the recent Library Journal article on the difficulty of finding entry-level jobs, Burger said lots of librarians will be needed in the near future to place those retiring. (I'm a member of the NewLib listserv, where a lot of new librarians are frustrated, finding this not to be the case.)
  • Provide librarians with more leadership skills.
  • Look at ways to transform ALA in light of idea that all healthy organizations are dynamic and self-examining.

Kara Whatley, who organized the orientation, had a trolling tip: If you cruise through Exhibits on Tuesday morning you can get some Deeply Discounted books from published who don't want to schlep them home. (Kara was also my NMRT mentor and gave me enough good advice so that I didn't have to breathe into a paper bag. NMRT is definitely a user-friendly way to segue into the large, amorphous world of ALA.)

Courtney Deines-Jones, a consultant with a very rye tongue, had some other Exhibits advice: rather than load your Exhibits-gotten posters in a bag, get a mailing tube from the Post Office at the back of the Exhibits Hall and load up that way. Keeps the posters unwrinkled and then you can mail them. There's also a P.O. on Ohio Street, she said. And there's a luggage drop on the Exhibits floor for those who have to go directly to the airport.

I spent the noon hour staffing the NMRT booth (5022) at one corner of the Exhibits hall. If you head that way, pick up NMRT's red "Your Guide to Things to Do" in Chicago. Some good stuff: H&M shopping on N.Mich, etc.

I had some interviews (yes, I'm one of those job-hungry NewLibbers) then tried to catch a bit of the "Reach Outside the Box," session on unique outreach programs. Turns out a number of the program ideas are from the Memphis Public Library. And they do have some great outreach. But I already knew that. Did a poster session and article for TN Lib Assoc. last year on Outreach, detailing some of the state's best outreach programs. Check out Memphis Public Library's FAN (Family Activity Night). They do good.

No point in revisiting something I already know, so I headed off to the Exhibits Hall. Got one of those cool blue fabric DEMCO bags (with a zippered inside pocket!). Didn't get a Sage Publications ice-cream cone--the line was too long, but I sure wanted one. Picked up literature/CDs from vendors on management software for digital collections, and generally wandered around like a deer in the someone's headlights. Tell me, what great stuff did I miss?

Rushed back to my hotel, dumped as much as I could, changed into my Scholarship Bash volunteer outfit, then down to the Museum of Science and Industry. Oh, yes, the incredibly annoying stop at McCormick Place on the way where there was a long tangle of bus lines, including the one to the Bash, for busses that seemed never to come.

Once at the Museum I forgot the transportation trauma and stuffed some food into my mouth before my shift began. The blues group was hot and, in case the museum was, Proquest provided nifty little light-up fans for all ticket-holders. I practically grew up in the Museum, so I took a quick tour to all my favorite places: Old Main Street (& finally grabbed some ice cream), Colleen Moore's castle, the Heart where my sister and brothers chased each other through and around the chambers when we were at that age. Back to my Bash station and mea culpa to all those people who I sent in the wrong direction for bathrooms.

So ends Day 2.

June 27, 2005

Enough information--bring on the B52s!

Well, that was at the end of the day (Sun. 6/26). In between was a lot of information. I spent most of the day taking notes in large Marriott ballrooms.

In the morning, Sara Weissman (Morris County, New Jersey, Public Library), Charles McClure (Florida State University, and Sharon Morris (Colorado State University) presented "E-Reference Services: What Are Our Users Telling Us?" All said some of the biggest users of e-reference--e-mail and IM--were teens. Saving time was the big issue for them.

Information-seeking behavior varied by age groups, Morris found. Older teens started their own searches and contacted librarians when they got stuck. Often, middle-schoolers started by asking a reference librarian. Morris's clutch of quotes from info-seeking teens are stuff you just can't make up. Here's one:

"You people need to get a live [sic]. I mean if you have time to talk to me at 8 in the morning then you have issues and do you need a tissue. You are sooo retarded."

One problem that Weissman mentioned is that a main source for e-reference funding is LSTA (Library Services and Technology Act) grants, which require evaluation analyses. Couple of problems:

  1. E-reference use is still low in most places, percentages in the single digits and teens. How to justify spending more money when the numbers are low? A librarian from King County, Washington, where e-reference has really taken hold, pointed out that they get 350 e-ref questions per week. More than most other places mentioned by a factor of 10+.
  2. How to evaluate? McClure mentioned four ways: statistical analysis, peer review of chat-session transcripts, patron exit surveys, and phone interviews. But he and the others pointed out out complicated and sometimes pointless it can be to get valid information this way.

Apparently, most patrons, when asked if they had a good library experience, say "yes" whether they did or not. I guess it's the same as when you're near the end of a mediocre restaurant meal and the maitre d' walks by and asks, "Was everything satisfactory?" Unless you've crunched down on glass in your salad, which I did once, most people just nod "yes" politely. In libraries, sometimes people don't even know if they've gotten satisfactory information, especially when whatever's found on the first two screens of a Google search satisfies.

Weissman suggests e-ref get a standardized front end (name and interface), such as askwi.info for e-ref in Wisconsin, askco, askma, et al. Such familiarization and more good marketing of e-services seems a smart way to go. People like what they know.

Basically, e-reference still needs more marketing and better integration into the larger library picture. But with computer-savvy teens becoming adults, it seems like it will only grow.

Here's a few e-ref-related websites mentioned by the speakers:



http://quartz.syr.edu/quality (Assessing quality in digital reference)

Since today was mostly large groups sitting in large rooms with speakers at the front (i.e., makes for boring images), today's pix are a mix of scenes I saw walking around north Michigan Ave. Lunch was close to the Marriott and a treat: sushi at Sushi Izagaya. I got a vegetarian bento box: tempura; sushi with cucumber, avocado, asparagus, mushroom; salad with ginger dressing; a sauteed tofu patty with delish sauce, another cold salad of spinach, shitake mushrooms, eggplant, and peanuts. Oh, and miso.

Top Ten Tech Trends:

I'm not going to name all the speakers (nearly 10) because fatigue is setting in. And I'm just going to cover the highlights, the trends that came up more than once, or those that particularly piqued my interest.

  • Self-sufficient virtual libraries with streaming audio/video, ILL, and more.
  • Storage systems. With info-overload and digital migration problems, a preservation model must be found. Digital repositories and how to connect them.
  • The OPAC Still Sucks.
  • Metasearch: how to bring disparate resources together seamlessly. Said in a number of ways by a number of speakers.
  • How to supply better web services (this relates to metasearch and was mentioned by a few speakers). An example: Roy Tennent mentioned how www.chicagocrime.org uses statistics with Google maps to color-code types of crime where they occur.
  • No more citation databases (yes, and how frustrating are those): match citation with content.
  • Digital Rights Management: so when you check out an audio or video from the library, actually or virtually, it will play on the player you have/use.
  • Figuring out the relationship between libraries and McGoogle.
  • Integrating open access and open source into the larger library system.
  • Personalization. Info overload = patrons looking for more personalized services and technologies, such as "push" technologies.
  • Growth of interactive marketplaces, such as craigslist, blogs, wikis, file-sharing. How do libraries fit with this growing community of trickle-up technology?
  • How to deal with the rise of the "plagiosphere" and the possible crush of fair use.

After a day full of info, I needed some down time, so I walked toward the Water Tower on my way to the Museum of Contemporary Art. Free today...because most of the galleries were closed, as new exhibits were being readied. Disappointing. Some of what I saw was provocative. Much was not. So I sat out on the patio and sipped a cold latte.

3M/NMRT Social:

Annis Lee Adams (Univ. of Hawaii), Philip Homan (Idaho State Univ.), and I were recognized for winning the 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant, which paid for us to come to ALA. Might not be here otherwise, and we are all three grateful. (I'll be at the 3M booth, #2016, tomorrow noon-1.)

The three of us finally met, talked, enjoyed each other's company. Yummy desserts: chocolate fondue with a variety of dipping delights and an assortment of bite-sized cannoli, fruit tarts, cheese-cakey things...mmmmm. Fueled on sugar and drinks: let the dancing begin! I found some UT compatriots and we rocked out to the B52s Love Shack and other tunes. Librarians in buns with eye-glass chains. I think NOT.

June 29, 2005

Fare Thee Well...

Monday was my last day at the conference, and it was a day of catch up. I wanted to make the Science Library in the 21st Century session, but just had too much to do. If anyone has some germane comments from that, I'd sure like to hear.

I was still north of the river when I got a call from Rita Scher, dean of Sherrod Library at East Tennessee State University (Johnson City, where I did internships, where I live). She and Katy Libby, my cataloging supervisor, were standing at Elsevier's booth. Rita asked if I was anywhere near. Nuts, no.

I got down to McCormick Place a bit before my stint at the 3M booth, wandered around in the Exhibits and bumped into Katy at the fantasy books tables and greeted her like a long-lost relative. Even though it's great to run into someone from home, everywhere I went--every event, session, shuttle-bus trip--I met friendly librarians. What, is it a condition of employment? Or do the non-friendly stay home? Or glue themselves together in laminated cliques? Even though I spent a good bit of time rushing about without a companion, I never once felt alone in this crowd of ~25,000. The one thing I did need by the end of the conference was quiet, a wall of silence for my ears.

I had to be at the 3M/NMRT booth at noon and was now out of time, so grabbed a bite of lunch...mmmmm carrot-cake from a book vendor. (BTW--did I mention that my Saturday hour in the NMRT booth passed in a flash. Who doesn't like NMRT? It would be like saying no to mom or apple pie.)

Each of us 3M/NMRT Professional Development Grant winners spent an hour in the 3M booth. But I'm not sure exactly what my function was. One of the 3M managers showed me around the products. I was impressed by their new self-check machine. I was even more taken with the wand that you can use to scan shelves for inventory, misplaced books, holds, etc. Goodbye eye strain and human error. (Not to say that machines don't make mistakes.)

I took a survey on how much I'd pay and what features I'd want regarding a lower-cost self-check prototype. So nonfunctional in that guesstimate, I probably skewed the survey way to the low end. 3M gave me a cool pen that has page-tag Post-Its built into the shaft.

I also took a quicker 3M survey on options of "aestheticizing" library-exit walk-through security gates. Would I like the gate in wood veneer? If so, what flavor of wood? How much would I pay? Would I like the gate in a color other than white? If so, which color and how much would I pay? Well, considering how much libraries are hurting for funds, I had to say $1 just to get myself on to the next screen...

...until I got to the options regarding gates with designs and images on them. Hmmmmm. A waterfall swirl would be pretty, but what if you thought NASCAR? (I'm from NASCAR country, although these days that could be anywhere.) You could charge companies big money for top placement spots on the gates. 3M might ante up at eye level. Innovative Interfaces and Ex Libris might jockey for position at elbow height. Think of the income!

Afterward I got so involved in a personal meeting that I missed the NMRT board and chair meeting back at the Marriott. A week or so earlier, Nadine Flores, incoming NMRT president, had caught me by cell in the Rite Aid greeting card aisle to ask if I would chair NMRT's Scholarship and Research Committee. Another deer-in-the-headlights moment. "Yes," I said. But, considering part of the object is publication and that's my background, it makes sense. By the time I arrived at the Marriott, the room was closed. So I called Nadine. She, Amanda Roberts (incoming NMRT VP), and I will be brain-storming ideas. Good stuff bubbling up.

All of a sudden, my first ALA conference was over. I felt like a top that had run out of spin and was in danger of toppling.

Just then, my sister Carol and step-daughter Tammy showed up for my last night in the city. We walked over to Emilio's on E. Ohio and spent two hours sampling six plates of tapas: thin-sliced portobellos in various sauces, duck-pate ravioli, curried chicken, eggplant rolled around goat cheese...with tastes of poached pears, profiterols, and flan for dessert. Bottles of wine are half-price on Mondays. Needless to say... Afterward we were so stuffed we had to walk down to Navy Pier and back.

The next day: an early architectural boat tour, before the 90-degree heat hit. Oh so worth it. And that's where today's pix come from, along with images from Millennium Park, which we wandered afterward.

The Frank Gehry-designed pavilion is striking.

The Bean (Cloud Gate) is sumptuously reflective despite the fact that it's being fixed.

What I loved the most is the Crown Fountain. This is such a people-friendly park, drawing Chicagoans and tourists alike, and clutches of delighted kids were splashing at the base of Crown Fountain's two facing towers with a broad splashing promenade between. Besides the waterfall effects of these fountains, moving images of faces are projected onto them, one on each tower. At a certain point, all the kids gathered below the mouth of the image. The mouth puckered, the kids sucked in their breath in anticipation, and....Splooosh...a jet of water shot out of the mouth, spraying kids as they jumped and danced in the cooling spray.

This city. Makes this Mid-westerner think I should return. Then I remember winters.

I'm not going to blog/blab unless there's good (or halfway good) reason, so I think this blog will come to an end with the end of the 2005 ALA conference. I am, however, going to Israel in a week to see my son, Ami, compete in the beach-volleyball open competitions of the Maccabiah Games. (Called the Jewish Olympics, it's held every four years.) Ami, a young psychologist, is big on the Southern California beach volleyball circuit. I know Israel and I'm going to wander around quaint neighorhoods such as Neve Tsedek, besides watching tall guys spike balls. Interested? Join me in a week or so at http://michalstrutin.typepad.com/maccabiah

...and thanks for joining me at American Library Association's 2005 conference.