Archive for the 'higher ed' Category


Oct 02 2012

fall semester happened…

by at 10:52 am

And blog posting totally disappeared, gah.

I really like the distinction here between ‘how information works’ and ‘how to work information.’  My instruction sessions usually look like ‘how to work information’ because that is often what the professors and students want – and its instrumental value is immediately apparent.  I do try to weasel in ‘how information works,’ because that is actually the important stuff (that is, seeing information as socially constructed, contingent, and implicated in power relations).

Here’s an essay from Fister on the cult of change.  Not surprisingly, I agree with her (and I really, really hate all of that b-school talk.  It doesn’t MEAN anything).  I would also include stuff like this.  Portable computing might be cheap to THIS guy, but it isn’t to many, many people, and not every book is available digitally.  It’s easy to make provocative statements, but it’s hard to back them up with, you know, any sort of evidence beyond ‘well, this is how I personally do things.’  These sorts of claims are political; what sorts of users is he erasing and disempowering?  Which people matter? I think we can make some pretty good guesses.  He works for the Washington Post, too, so it’s not like he has all (any?) of the answers about technology and media. </snark>

No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,technology news

Feb 03 2012


by at 11:41 am

Busy semester!

This recent article about digital humanities on Inside Higher Ed really gets at what I was talking about in my earlier post:

“Rather, the point is to spur students to “think critically and differently” about digital gateways and to “encourage new forms of close reading, knowledge production and interpretation” in the context of the modern information landscape, said McGrane. A peek behind the curtain, she said, can go a long way toward inculcating a healthy appreciation for the soft power of information gatekeepers and the instruments they use to exercise it.”

This is exactly the type of instruction I think librarians should be doing, and the territory we should claim.  Metadata, search algorithms, and publishing are topics we are *very* familiar with.


I usually like Annoyed Librarian but this column makes me angry.  Unions are the bad guys, really?  The private sector is super productive, REALLY?  Unions are the reason we don’t have factories like Foxconn and that is a GOOD THING.


Faculty have begun boycotting Elsevier.  This is a start, but the problems with scholarly communication practices go beyond just this publisher….



No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,library news,publishing

Jan 05 2012

pondering info lit

by at 3:48 pm

I guess my one new year’s resolution is to post more. Not because I have tons of readers, but to articulate stuff that’s floating around in my head. This is especially important right now, as I’m working on a book chapter…there’s nothing quite like extrinsic motivation, is there?

I have been thinking a lot about the notion of ‘information literacy’, partially due to the chapter I am writing, but also due to some columns and articles I have read recently. In October, the Chronicle had a nice article directed toward faculty, Getting the Most out of Academic Libraries–and Librarians, about how librarians offer some excellent services and gee, maybe faculty should talk to them (I truly appreciate how often the Chronicle includes articles promoting academic libraries and librarians).  One thing that I noticed, though, is that the article very much relied on the notion that librarians don’t teach content, but practical skills.  This distinction is really prevalent in library land, and I’m going to return to it shortly.

The other piece I read is from Barbara Fister’s always excellent Library Journal column.  In it, she argues that what librarians call information literacy undergirds higher education and that librarians and faculty are both responsible for it. Faculty, of course, tend to focus on information literacy within specific disciplinary contexts, while librarians tend to approach it as “finding good stuff to get the job done”.  While I generally agree with this, I also have a couple of critiques. First is that “getting the job done” happens within a particular context, not in a vacuum, and within a college or university environment, that tends to be a disciplinary context (or, better yet, within multiple disciplines). Information seeking is always contextual, even in the ‘real world’.  Yet most discourse within libraryland on information literacy casts it as some sort of disembodied and separate thing that librarians can teach outside of contexts (I don’t think Fister believes this).  I think the notion of information literacy as a set of skills contributes to this, as skills are merely mechanical and thus transferable from one context to the next, as does the insistence from librarians that they own and teach information literacy.

I’m trying to work this out in my mind, but I really think we should move away from this sense of information literacy and embrace the idea that librarians can and should teach both content and meta-cognition. In terms of content, I mean things like database structure, how search algorithms work, the scholarly communication cycle (and how deeply flawed it is), how disciplines are constructed and maintained, how scholarly information is organized, etc.  This is all stuff academic librarians know about, that they can claim, either through library school or their work, and it actually affects the research process.  I realize that entire graduate courses are built around just one of these topics, but I manage to sneak in some of this information when I teach BI sessions, even if the faculty member just wants me to show students how to use the library catalog.

Bringing in these topics helps students begin to think critically about their own research processes and the information ecosystem; this is the meta-cognitive aspect of what we can do and this is what students will take with them after they leave college.  This obviously cannot be taught in one 50 minute session and some students will never reach this point, but this should be where we want them to end up.  And I do think that this is another area that librarians can and should claim, because faculty are often too enmeshed in their own field and too focused on other areas to take this on (this is not a bad thing, just a thing). The privileging of the practical leaves out both of these, I think, and that’s why a lot of people are amazed that we have master’s degrees.  The ACRL info lit standards are relentlessly practical and focused on mastering skills (sigh).

I’ll continue to think on this…. :)

No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,library news

Dec 06 2011

acrlog post

by at 3:41 pm

I haven’t posted in a REALLY long time, but I did write this nice guest post for ACRLog: “On Technologies and Library Space

No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,library news,technology news

Aug 30 2011

murdoch a socialist?

by at 4:14 pm

Strong words from the Guardian:

“What we see here is pure rentier capitalism: monopolising a public resource then charging exorbitant fees to use it. Another term for it is economic parasitism. To obtain the knowledge for which we have already paid, we must surrender our feu to the lairds of learning.”

And they’re talking about scholarly publishing.  <slow clap>

No responses yet | Categories: higher ed,publishing

Next »