Open Source Workshop in NJ

If you’re in the area and want to learn about open source, you might want to attend this event at the Cherry Hill Public Library hosted by the South Jersey Regional Library Cooperative:

August 13: Tech Talk: All Grown Up: Open Source for Libraries:

“Open Source” – a term you may have heard thrown about at conferences and on mailing lists – but what does it mean? This session will not only define the term “Open Source” but will show librarians exactly how it can be used within their libraries.

Learn to separate the myths from the facts, learn about the tools that are available to your libraries and most importantly learn about how open source can free you from the costs associated with many proprietary library products. Click here for complete details and registration form.

If you can’t make this one, check out my presentation schedule to see other classes I’m offering on open source.

Fall Talks

Can you believe that I’m already scheduled for some of my fall talks? Well, I wanted to share a few of these with you since you can register already:

Hope to see you there!

Blackboard comes to Facebook

This doesn’t make me like Blackboard anymore, but it’s worth mentioning that you can now access Blackboard via Facebook with a new app.

Let’s face it. You would live on Facebook if you could. Imagine a world where you could manage your entire life from Facebook – it’s not that far off! Right now, though, one thing missing is your academic life. You have to access a different system to get your course information and you don’t always know when something new has been posted or assigned, so it’s difficult for you to stay on top of your studies. We get it. That’s why Blackboard is offering Blackboard Sync™, an application that delivers course information and updates from Blackboard to you inside Facebook.

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Reality 2.0: Transforming Ourselves & Our Association

Last night I got to hear Stephen Abram talk about the future of SLA & librarianship. First (and most important) I have uploaded my pictures to Flickr.

Stephen started with a mini rant (a good rant) about the fact that there is no proof that the book is at risk. Reading stats are going up and book sales are going up. That said, do we hear that librarians are at risk? Ever hear this one, “Everything’s on the Internet.” The fact is that librarians are at risk even if books aren’t. In short, there are some serious issues we have to get stronger about talking about.

Stephen mentioned that we’re about to experience some huge changes. If you think about it, we haven’t had any major changes in a long while. Our grandparents had a bunch of huge changes all hit them at once (phones, tv, 2 world wars, etc) and it’s time for that to happen again. North America is way behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. In Europe, people are using their phones for everything. They have free TV delivered through their phone and text messages for everything. I’m not a fan of this movement – maybe it’s just because of the costs associated with it here – but – I just want a phone – I don’t need it to double as a TV.

When it comes to digitization, China is only 5 years from digitizing everything written in Chinese. It’s not going to be long before everything is available in digital format. We’re going to need the tools to take advantage of this content.

So, what does this have to do with SLA? Everything! The world is changing and librarians have to change with it and SLA wants to help librarians make that change as smooth as possible. One interesting point that Stephen brought up was the fact that when someone leaves an organization one of the first things they do is clear off their computer – bookmarks and all. This means that all the great resources that long time librarians have collected are lost. We have to start storing our data in collaborative spaces so that we can all benefit from each other’s knowledge. I love this! And this is why I took so much pride in working on improving the Jenkins Law Library research links (a project) – I wanted to make sure we were sharing our resources with any one who might need them.

Stephen asks that instead of sharing the myth amongst ourselves that we’re collaborative, why not be collaborative? I love this! The fact is that the nature of associations is changing – something I wrote about in library school. The main selling point for associations used to be networking – but now with tools like Ning, Facebook and LinkedIn – why do I need an association to find fellow peers? With these tools threatening library associations as we know them, what can SLA do to continue to be important for librarians? The answer is learning and innovation.

One way that SLA is setting itself apart (in my opinion) is their Click-U. Educational events for SLA members. What I didn’t know is that they have a regular presentation by Gary Price where he shares the newest tools he’s found for researching and they have a monthly free course available. Being a recently graduated student, I’m a bit too poor to pay for too many classes – so I love to find things for cheap or free!

SLA also offers members access to over 1000 e-books on leadership and management topics (apparently we were told about this – but I missed it somehow – after writing this I’m heading to the SLA site to check out my member profile). They also offer what they call ExecuBooks Summaries – they are 4 page summaries of new releases.

The thing I’m most excited about hasn’t been released yet, but I’m keeping my eyes open for it, the Innovation Labs. This area of the SLA site will be a testing bed for members to try out all kinds of free and proprietary software without having to install it or pay for it. Some of the big names will include Acrobat, Dreamweaver, Blogger, Survey Monkey and Confluence. It’s basically a place for everyone to play!! This area of the site will also have over 25000 software training videos from atomic learning. How great is that???

While this isn’t everything that Stephen talked about, these were the bits that I was able to write down as he sped through his awesome talk. He certainly made me pay even more attention to what the association is doing for us – I hope he did the same for some of the rest of you.

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NJLA: Tools for Engagement in Library Instruction

Eleonora Dubicki and Jacqui DaCosta talked to us about how to keep students engaged while teaching about libraries. That said, I went because I wanted to learn teaching techniques that can be used in any instruction – and I did!!

Active Learning

We started with the rules for library bingo. This is the first way to keep students engaged. Basically, we listen which the instructor speaks everytime one of the words on our cards was spoken we marked our cards. Once the card had everything marked we called out Bingo – well not “we” – I didn’t win :(

This is part of active learning. This technique is about using techniques that shift library instruction from lecturing to guiding or coaching students.

Active learning:

  • engages students in the learning process
  • elicits student discovery
  • captures their attention (in a 45 minute class students would get bored – now takes 75 minutes and it’s hard to get the students out)
  • addresses multiple learning styles (oral, visual, exercises – so they can practice as well)
  • creates an experience they can relate to and replicate (rather than going step by step and having them follow along, now because students are doing their own searching and keywords it’s an experience they can replicate later)
  • provides immediate feedback to the instructor

Confucius says “I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand” – I love it!!

The goal is to reach the bottom of the learning pyramid and try to get students to be able to teach each other:

Learning Pyramid

  • lecture
  • reading
  • audiovisual
  • demonstration
  • discussion
  • practice doing
  • teach others

To participate in active learning you have to be comfortable giving up the control of the classroom to the students. This requires more prep time. For bingo you have to know what words will be used in the lectures so that someone can win – you have to print out the cards and get the bingo markers and prizes.

When teaching a class powerpoint slides work really well with visual learners – they hear her say something and then they see it – I am like this – I hate reading slides, but I do like having them there so that I can reference them if I missed hearing something while taking notes. Handouts are always handy because students can take them with you.

Asking for feedback

They also create a one minute evaluation sheet with four open ended questions that allow the students to provide feedback about the class:

  • what did you learn
  • what are you still confused about
  • general comments
  • rate the session (ratings are all on the high side – they like the interaction with it)

Another way to get feedback is to give a library session questionnaire at the beginning of the session – or before people arrive. This means that participants have questions prepared if things aren’t covered – so at the end when you ask “do you have any questions” at least one person will have on prepared. You can collect the papers at the end of the session and this gives the instructor a chance to reply to students after session (“we didn’t cover this in class and I wanted to address your question”). Lastly, this helps you prepare for future sessions by showing you what people are expecting based on your description and title.

Cephalonian Method

Another method of active learning that we were introduced to is called the Cephalonia method (yes, I created a page for this on Wikipedia – please feel free to edit and add more info if you’re an expert). The Cephalonian method uses a fusion of color, image, humor and music to keep students engaged in the learning process. This method was started at the Cardiff University by Linda Davies and Nigel Morgan and was introduced to the British Library Public in 2004.

Some quick points about the Cephalonian method:

  • been used for large groups (200+)
  • been used for small groups
  • a variety of institutions around the world
  • graduates and undergraduates
  • used very much for orientation
  • used initially for large group orientation and to replace tours

How does it work? In our small group the instructor passed out 8 colored cards (they were hidden in our packets) with a question or statement on them. There were 2 of each color and each color was associated with a specific category – for your library orientation you might have one for the catalog, one for services, one for rules, etc. For the instructor this means being prepared to answer any questions asked and having the technology to match. Our instructor had a cheat sheet that told her the slide number for each card so that she could easily show that slide in answer to the question (this is because you have no control over what order the questions are asked. For the students this means having questions given to them – it starts discussion and acts as a great icebreaker. The instructor can say “does anyone have a pink card?” and then the students can read the card out for the whole class.


  • students seem to like it
  • they laugh with you and want to see what’s next
  • faculty thought it was wonderful


  • good icebreaker
  • adaptable for different audiences
  • as well as being fun it does meet the learning objectives of being interactive

What can go wrong:

  • technology can fail
  • students shy
  • invite a bit of chaos into your classroom
  • colorblindness (you could put the word for the color on the handout)

Mix it up

Another way to keep students engaged is to “mix it up.” You can do this with games like Guess-the-google. This is a great way to introduce library students to keyword searching. It shows a montage of images that all match a specific keyword. At first students don’t participate, but then when see that they have a score of zero they start to compete and have fun with it.

Another way is simply to have a virtual tour of the library playing as students enter the room. There may not be enough time to do this during the class and it gets students engaged right as they enter the door.

Other tools you can try in library instruction:


  • keyword exercise
  • pick a topic and guess the keywords
  • brainstorming
  • think pair and share – collaborative learning – pick a topic and pair up with a student near them and discuss – then share with the rest of the class

Use creative research topics

  • new marketing strategies for video games
  • consumers are concerned about identity theft and privacy
  • hip hop lyrics draw outrage


  • have students demo a database search (as the student goes through the instructor can then point out things and ask questions)

What did the students have to say about all of this?

  • “I think more discussion is good”
  • “Letting the students follow along makes remembering the steps easy”
  • “the exercises were helpful, fun and informative”


Some of these methods may not be for everybody, these are just some fun ideas that you can mix and match to make your classes more interesting and engaging.

I’m not sure I’d be able to pull off the Cephalonian method – but I’m thinking of creating some open source bingo cards!! :)

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Students aren’t so web-savvy

This is an interesting interview:

Eszter Hargittai, an assistant professor in Northwestern University’s sociology department, has discovered that students aren’t nearly as Web-savvy as they, or their elders, assume.

Ms. Hargittai studies the technological fluency of college freshmen. She found that they lack a basic understanding of such terms as BCC (blind copy on e-mail), podcasting, and phishing. This spring she will start a national poster-and-video contest to promote Web-related skills.

Eszter goes on to explain her study and its results. I found the comments as interesting as the interview itself. One comment in particular made me laugh:

Finally someone says it. We listen ad nauseam to administrators and journalists blather about tech in the classroom and this generation’s web-and-computer savvy. Bollocks. My students (at an R-1) have had enormous difficulty posting documents to Blackboard and WebCT; don’t know how to use a program’s tutorial; don’t know how to save documents in different file formats than the default; don’t realize they can discover basic information about our university (e.g. a phone directory, a registration calendar) through our webpage. They are as tech savvy as they are anything-else savvy: not so much, unfortunately.

Here’s my question – the first time you tried to use Blackboard or WebCT were you able to post info to it? As a very web-savvy person I have to say that Blackboard at least (since I never had to use WebCT) is one of the most user-unfriendly tools I’ve ever had to use. Do not use Blackboard as a measure of your students web savviness. Also – I’m really glad I didn’t have this person as one of my professors. How can any instructor be so negative about their students? If you think they know nothing then how can you teach them effectively?

All that said – I agree with the studies results. I found it interesting that my sister who recently finished college didn’t know about things that are part of my everyday web life – RSS, Blogs, etc. We should never make assumptions about our students/audience. We should always start at the beginning – as educators it’s our jobs to teach students about these tools and how they can be used in the professional world.

Free Koha Webinars

I found this on the VALE Users’ / NJ ACRL / NJLA CUS Conference Blog:

You and your staff are invited to attend a free WALDO/LibLime webinar featuring the Koha Integrated Library Software. As you heard at the Next Generation Academic Library System Symposium sponsored by IMLS, VALEnj and The College of New Jersey, WALDO is partnering with LibLime for its new ILS and is excited about the progress that has already been made.

The webinars are scheduled for:

  • (1) Monday, April 21, 2008, 9:00 am EDT
  • (2) Monday, May 19, 2008, 9:00 am EDT

If you want to attend either session, please contact Becky Bell to register for this event:

Becky Bell
Open Source ILS Consultant
Phone: (800) 326-6495 Ext. 6

This webinar is being presented using WebEx. If you have not used WebEx before, please point your browser to so you can test your browser and operating system.

The playback of UCF (Universal Communications Format) rich media files requires appropriate players. To view this type of rich media files in the meeting, please check whether you have the players installed on your computer by going to

Robert Karen
Director of Member Services
Phone: (800) 326-6495 Ext. 1
Fax: (914) 729-1985

The MLS Debate

I didn’t respond to Rachel Singer Gordon’s post about what makes a librarian – mostly because I’ve made it pretty clear what my opinion is in the past – but I just have to laugh at this comment and Rachel’s response:

Librarianship is a profession akin to medicine or law. You don’t see people without law degrees calling themselves lawyers; you don’t see people without MDs calling themselves doctors; people without the MLS shouldn’t be able to call themselves librarians.

This comparison is ludicrous. Go ahead: compare your year or two of library school to law school + the bar, or medical school + a residency. Do it with a straight face. I’ll wait for you to compose yourself…

Unfortunately I have heard this one before too! My response (while Rachel’s is awesome) goes a different way. Doctors & lawyers are required to continue their education. They (and other professionals) have to attend X number of credit courses a year in order to keep up with their fields – are librarians? Some – but not all. If librarians were all required to continue their education in order to keep up with changes in the field of research then I’d say this was a valid comparison – but it’s not – because librarians get their MLS and then they get to be called librarians for life – that’s what I consider “ludicrous.”

Using our brains?

Phil Bradley points to an interesting article entitled: Lecturer Bans Students From Using Google And Wikipedia. In the article a professor states that she doesn’t allow students to use Google or Wikipedia because she wants them to use their brains – but at the same time she provides a reading list and wants students to cite those resources – ummm – I have to agree with Phil on this:

I’m sorry, but how is that encouraging them to use their own brains? How is that encouraging them to research and analyse? Quite frankly the idea of an academic banning anything is pretty poor in my book, and from the report, she clearly has little grasp on the situation. Surely it would be far better to encourage students to compare resources, to work with them to actually gain this ability to research and analyse?

Why not require a combination of sources? By giving them a list you’re making their lives easier and not really encouraging the to learn how to research and “use their own brains.”