Library Babel Fish

Library Babel Fish

A college librarian's take on technology

May 30, 2012 - 9:08pm
I teach a course in the spring called Information Fluency (rather a lame title, but I was suffering from lack of creativity when I submitted the course proposal years ago; maybe I should hold a “name this course” contest). It’s an upper division undergraduate course pitched to students who are planning to go to graduate school, giving them a chance to learn more about the way the literature of their field works as well as generally how to use library and internet tools for research. One of their assignments is to interview a researcher in their field.                                                                                                                                                               
May 22, 2012 - 8:20pm
If you don’t have time to read this entire blog post, here’s the tl;dr version: if you think, as I do, that the investment we make in basic research should be maximized through making that research accessible to all, sign the petition.
May 13, 2012 - 11:21pm
It’s funny. Tuesday night I wrote a blog post addressed to students in a course I teach about why I find Twitter such an indispensable  tool for keeping up with new developments of professional interest. They had fanned out across campus to interview faculty and pretty much determined that I’m a freak. Nobody else used Twitter for keeping up. Last night, I updated that blog post with a good example: before calling it a night, I checked my Twitter feed and learned that a decision had finally been handed down in the GSU case. This is big news.
May 9, 2012 - 10:00pm
There has been a lot of ferment about the future of information and our cultural record in recent weeks. There are signs that within our students' lifetimes our gardens will not be so walled. It makes sense to focus our teaching on the skills of joining scholarly conversations wherever they will take place, in hopes that those conversations will not always be restricted to those with temporary access to academic libraries.
May 2, 2012 - 9:14pm
Last week I felt depressed about how many automated approaches to producing and grading writing were coming on the market and I ended my gloomy thoughts with an exhortation. Think about your assignments that ask students to find sources and write about them. What are you hoping students will learn? Are they learning it? Is there a way to make the whole process less mechanical? I got an email suggesting that it would be useful if I actually tried to answer that question myself. Fair enough. I'll give it a shot.
April 26, 2012 - 9:55pm
The other day, I was nonplussed to read a recap of a study here that found human and robot graders fared equally well in assessing the work of student writers. The robo-graders, according to the study, do as good a job as humans at assessing clarity, sentence structure, and sometimes (but not always) relevant content. While my initial reaction was “huh?” it’s important to note that this study only compared processes for scoring standardized tests. It has nothing at all to do with what happens in the classroom when students are learning to write. In fact, it really has nothing to do with teaching or learning, only testing, and testing the wrong things at that.
April 19, 2012 - 8:48pm
The Supremes have agreed to hear a case that has some troubling implications for libraries. Kirtsaeng v. Wiley is not just about textbooks. It’s about whether any work that is copyrighted and produced outside the United States can be legally loaned or resold in the U.S. without the copyright owner’s permission. We’re talking about the First Sale Doctrine, which is how libraries get away with our profligate sharing.
April 11, 2012 - 8:55pm
A colleague and I are interested in finding out more about how students use library books before we invest a lot of money in ebook collections. Given the unsettled state of the ebook market, there's no telling where we're all headed.
April 2, 2012 - 9:45pm
The bizarrely ill-informed opinion piece by David Levy, “Do College Teachers Work Hard Enough?” in the Washington Post caused a lot of predictable outrage among college teachers. I was reminded of it when I read a new essay by Steve Coffman, "The Decline and Fall of the Library Empire." 
March 29, 2012 - 8:53pm
Last week I was so inspired by John Duffy’s essay, “Virtuous Arguments,” that I sent it to the director of our first term seminar program, thinking it would be worth discussion among the faculty who teach this course. I try not to do this too often; the poor man is busy, and I could easily fill his inbox regularly with advice he doesn’t need. But I was particularly taken with Duffy’s notion that what we really are teaching when we teach first semester writers is how to make an ethical argument. This idea resonated with me because I think the most important thing students can learn by using a library is how to go about making up their minds - or changing the minds of other people - in an ethical manner.  And yet, I’m not sure how well we actually convey that when we help students learn research skills.

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