Posts Tagged 'conferences'

The Future of Reading: Thinking Ahead to the SLJ Summit

It’s already time for another conference – the School Library Journal Leadership Summit will take place over the next couple of days. I was surprised and thrilled to be invited to this event. As a doctoral student in Language and Literacy Education, the conference theme “The Future of Reading” is of great interest to me on a number of levels.  Here are some of the questions and items that are on my mind right now, as I look through the exciting program, preparing for the conference and all the conversations we will have.

What does it mean to read online?

One of my main questions is, what does it mean to read online?  Although books are still important, it is clear that more and more of the reading we do is online – often filled with hyperlinks, dynamic content, and images. How do we read these emerging, often complex, genres?  I was thrilled to see that Don Leu, one of the leaders of the New Literacies Research Team, will be talking with us during the summit.  I heard another member of the New Literacies Research Team, Julie Coiro, speak last year about her research into online reading. I remember her talking about the way the dynamic and linked content can lead readers to be more active in interacting with the texts.  I also remember thinking (Coiro may have said this, actually) that this reading was almost a new form of co-authorship.  It’s nothing new to realize that our own experiences and traits as readers transact with texts, but online genres seem to invite active reading in new ways. And so, the question becomes, how to we properly read online texts?  Does that question even make sense?  Are we thinking about the different strategies readers need to evaluate and comprehend online texts? Of course, librarians have been thinking and teaching about evaluating all kinds of sources for years.  But I can’t help wondering if the preponderance of online reading that many students do leads to new questions and strategies we are only beginning to consider.

For example, Bud the Teacher blogged an excerpt from a post called the Rhetoric of the Hyperlink which offers some pretty amazing discussions of what hyperlinks are and how they function.  There is also a bit about the Kindle in the piece. As we become more and more accustomed to seeing different online texts, (while at the same time they become more and more complex), there is a lot to think about in terms of the way we read and write.

With changes in reading, what happens to writing?

The talk of co-authoring through linked reading and learning about hyperlinks reminds me that we cannot separate reading from writing. So, I am excited to see reading as the central topic for the summit, but to me the future of reading ties directly to writing.  I’ll admit that, in the past, I thought that reading was the primary skill and writing followed.  But after some study and spending a lot of time writing myself and with students, I see that the process works both ways.  Reading and writing are closely aligned and inform one another. I was reminded of a study I read called Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading, from the Alliance for Excellent Education and the Carnegie Corporation. This report is linked here, in addition to others from the Carnegie Corporation. The SLJ Summit will also feature Andrés Henriquez, who works on the Carnegie Council for Advancing Adolescent Literacy.  I hope he will be sharing some of the insights from these reports and others in his talk.

What concerns about intellectual freedom emerge with new ways of reading?

With all the exciting aspects about the future of reading, I also have concerns.  I am sure there will be lots of talk at the summit about gadgets and apps that are intended for reading of different kinds.  I’ve been watching the discussions about many of the different e-readers with some interest. The discussions about ownership of digital materials and DRM are fascinating.  I also watched a talk by Ted Striphas brought some issues to light that I had not considered before.  (He has since released some written versions of this work, including E-Books: No friends of free expression.) Most interesting to me were the way data are collected from Kindles and the legal status of that data. I love the idea of social reading – to me that is such an incredible benefit of reading with technology. The chance to make reading more transparently and globally social is exciting. But, at the same time, Striphas’s arguments bring up some important concerns about privacy for readers, which I think we as librarians should consider. I haven’t thought through his arguments fully, but I hope we keep these concerns in mind as we continue to develop e-reading collections. How do our ongoing commitments to intellectual freedom wind through these new devices, genres, and reading practices?

What about the book?

In closing, I’ve got to admit that my own thoughts on reading have changed a lot over the past few years.  I’ll admit, I have been one of those people who cherish the physical product of a book – one of the “I-love-to-cuddle-up-with-a-book,”  “Books-have-such-a-great-smell,”  “The-tactile-experience-can’t-be-replaced” people.  (In some ways I still am). I’ll admit that I didn’t see the wrenching away of the ideas in the book from it’s physical form coming as quickly as it has. Well, maybe it hasn’t completely separated, but, as I flipped through the new issue of Real Simple yesterday, I came to a page that signaled to me that something big has changed.  Real Simple does regular features on “New Uses for Old Things” and they devoted a full page spread to how to repurpose books.  These involved cutting out words to make new sentences for an activity at the holiday kids table, ripping out pages and forming them into cones to look like festive trees, transforming the pages into bows for presents, and hollowing out pages to make an unexpected gift box.

(Image from Real Simple, November 2010)

One the one hand, I thought about all the kids who do not have books in their homes (not to mention strained library collection budgets) and thought – Don’t cut up your books for holiday decor – Donate the books to a library or charity! Please! But I also think that this page in Real Simple, a somewhat mainstream family magazine, says a lot about the role of books in our lives.  It is not that we don’t love or need books anymore, but their physical container isn’t as important as it once was. Books are not necessarily the cherished objects they used to be.  The content and the container are really beginning to fracture.  Now, we can read comics on our iPads, books on our smartphones, the list goes on…(I’m not sure what will happen to the picture book, but if you believe the New York Times people aren’t reading them as much anymore anyway, so perhaps it doesn’t matter). (And, for the record, I have issues with the NYT story, but I am not sure the reporting is wrong).

So, it should be an exciting few days to talk more about these issues and keep pushing toward the future of reading and the role librarians and libraries will play. I can’t wait to hear what others are thinking about. There are many other excellent speakers that I’ll be blogging and tweeting about this week. The conference hashtag is #sljsummit10.  I hope you’ll join in these exciting discussions.

(Now I am wondering how many of you actually made it to the end of this post, and how many are off following hyperlinks…)


Library Research Seminar, Part 3 and Overall Impressions

Here is my final set of notes from Library Research Seminar – V, held last week at the University of Maryland. You can see my previous posts: Preview, Part 1, and Part 2

First year college students and information: A Phenomenographic investigation

Melissa Gross and Don Latham

Gross and Latham studied students who were considered less skilled in seeking information. They noted the Dunning Kruger effect – these students had a miscalibration between their self-views and their abilities on a test. (Those who were less skilled reported their own abilities as above average).  Gross and Latham wondered if this miscalibration was a metacognitive issue or is it based on different views of what information literacy is, between librarians and the students?  There were a number of interesting data points shared in this presentation, but the main finding was that the students perceptions of information did not line up with authorized definitions of information literacy. I was surprised to hear that the students did not recall hearing about information literacy in their K-12 schools, or at least not the way it is talked about in college.  In a minor point that interested me, the less skilled students also often seemed to remember using their elementary libraries primarily to take Accelerated Reader tests.  You can read more about this project here:

Exploring Intentional Information Evaluation: Students’ Assessment of Complex Issues

Angela Sample, Sean Burns, John M. Budd

This study examined students in a college course and whether or not they can evaluate serious events critically. The assignment was based on a controversial Supreme Court decision about political spending by corporations in elections.  Students read a variety of sources, some of which were commentaries supporting the decision, others which opposed it. Students then participated in (sometimes heated) conversations in class, and wrote a paper about the decision.  The conversations and papers were analyzed for their contents, looking for facts, essence, and sense.  This was a pretty fascinating presentation.

Researching Literacies in Libraries Using Bourdieu’s Conceptual Tools

Beth Friese (that’s me!)

Then, it was my turn to present my paper. I shared my methodology for my dissertation, which will be an ethnographic study of literacies in  a middle school library using Pierre Bourdieu’s conceptual tools as a framework. Some of this topic stems from my frustration at the disconnect between the literacy and library communities.  I’m hoping this project will forge new pathways of dialogue for the two groups. On a personal note, it was great to share my work with such a warm and attentive audience.  I also got some positive comments and thoughtful critiques, which are greatly appreciated!  You’ll be hearing more about this project as time goes on.

After my presentation, I tried to get upstairs to see the posters.  I only got to see a few, but they covered many interesting topics across librarianship.  One that was especially timely to me was about the censorship of LGBT materials in public libraries.  In light of the recent suicides of LGBT young people, positive and supportive materials are even more important today. See the other abstracts from the poster sessions (and presentations) here.

The next panel I attended covered youth librarianship and literature.  I see that this panel has already been thoroughly discussed at Library Scenester by Erin Dorney, another conference fellowship recipient – check it out!

Finally, I attended an interactive session that was fascinating and fun:

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) and 21st century literacies

Derek Hansen, Assistant Professor; Kari Kraus, Assistant Professor; and Elizabeth Bonsignore, Doctoral student, College of Information Studies, University of Maryland

Margeaux Johnson, Science and Technology Librarian and Instruction Coordinator, University of Florida

Georgina B. Goodlander, Interpretive Programs Manager, Smithsonian American Art Museum

This presentation focused on 21st century literacies (in part based on AASL’ Standards for the 21st Century Learner). Several examples of alternate reality games were presented, and libraries and museums figured into all of them.  There’s Humans Vs. Zombies, which takes place at numerous campuses across the country.  At the University of Florida, the library played a role in the game – they even have a Libguide about zombies that gave information relating to the game and has become a popular site for the library.

There have been two ARGS at the Smithsonian American Art Museum – Ghost of a Chance had online elements and then 250 participated in person.  They still played a version of the game once a month, and it ends this month, to be replaced by Pheon which was launching the online component the day of the presentation. Interaction with collection, art making, and interaction play roles in the games. The presenters talked about game design and implementation, which just sounded like complete participatory amazingness.  As I have discussed lately with my students, so many kids (of all ages!) love games. We even got to participate in a mini-game during the presentation, which had steampunk-like clues hidden in blogs, use of old documents, and participatory art. I thought this was an incredible presentation and I need to think about how to use this in my own work. We had such fun laughing and creating and participating.  I can see how this connects with learning and libraries and literacies.  Excellent!

There were other events I could comment on – roundtables and larger sessions, but I think I’ve about exhausted my audience with my notes from this conference.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience.  In my own work, I rarely get to talk to librarians in person. Sitting down to lunch between art librarians and chemistry librarians, or breakfast with archivists, notable scholars, or bloggers, it was wonderful to hear about different kinds of work but also see some common issues we are all facing: budget reductions, service changes, and shifts in thinking about the purpose of and connections between libraries, information institutions and communities in contemporary life.  I was pleased to see a question on the conference evaluation form about opening up opportunities for electronic participation in future Library Research Seminars.  Since this conference only happens every few years, I have a hunch that virtual participation will be even more an expectation when it comes time for LRS-VI.  Sharing high quality research with a wide audience should be part of our goals as a research community, and virtual participation is a vital part of that sharing.

I should also say another thanks to the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which funded my attendance at the conference.  I hope I’ve managed to share a little of what happened there with a wider audience.  I look forward to attending the next Library Research Seminar – hopefully to report the findings of my dissertation research!

I complete this series just in time to prepare for the School Library Journal Leadership Summit next week. Hope I will see some of you there!  I am planning to post some advance thoughts on that conference and its theme before I leave.

Thanks again for reading!

Library Research Seminar Recap, Part 2

This is my second post devoted to sharing what I learned at Library Research Seminar – V, held last week in Maryland.  See the first post here.

Sessions in the afternoon of Day 1

Thomas D. Walker – Cultivating Library Research among MLIS Students – Theses and Other Investigations

Walker studied MLIS programs and their research requirements.  He found that there is a lot of variability in the amount, nature, and type of research required at different institutions. Some programs require a thesis, others require comprehensive exams, and others have substantial term papers. The thesis requirement seems to change a lot about the program.  A research methods course was not an apparent core requirement in many MLIS programs (although there were several people in the audience who wondered if it was a different kind of requirement). He is looking to extend the study to investigate these methods courses in more detail.

Elizabeth Aversa and Diane Barlow – Measuring Success in Graduates of LIS Programs

Aversa and Barlow are working on a research project to understand whether there is a relationship between the delivery of one’s LIS program (online, blended, face-to-face, etc.) and one’s career success. One hurdle they have to jump is answering the question: what is career success?  While there have been many studies about job satisfaction, career success is less studied, in part because “success” is difficult to define. Aversa and Barlow shared some objective and subjective indicators of success, which fell into five categories: money, power, options, growth, and balance. (There were specific items in each of these categories). There are also some alternative indicators in the LIS literature, such as awards and activity in professional organizations.

In order to illustrate how complex “success” is, the audience was divided into groups of 5. We each received some index cards – 5 different colors (to represent the five categories mentioned above), two of each color.  In our groups, we were asked to trade the cards with one another in order to get closer to our visions of a “successful” career. This activity was interesting. The groups found that there were several definitions of success, and the definitions sometimes depended on age, point in career, background, and other factors. For example, I am a mother of 3 relatively young kids, working on my doctorate. I prioritized my cards and work-life balance was very important to me. At this point in my life, I would take less money for a better balance. Learning opportunities, part of the “growth” category, are also important to me. I’d take less power for more learning opportunities. The other people in my group were at different points in their personal and professional lives. Some saw money and power as more important than others, and so on. We also discussed the way some of the 5 are interdependent. This activity was a great demonstration of the topic. It got people talking to each other and showed the complexity of the construct of success. I’ll be interested to see how this project continues to develop.

Jenny Bossaller – Print vs. Online: Teaching Sources in an Online Reference Course

Bossaller teaches reference in an online course. While her predecessor did not use print in her version of the course, Bossaller did for a number of reasons. One of these reasons was to give students the important insight that not everything is available online (with historical research standing as an important example). Bossaller, who teaches students from a broad geographic area, had also heard some concerns from students who lived far away from reference collections. These issues led Bossaller to collect insights from the students who had taken her reference course.

Through a survey of her students, Bossaller found that her assignments, which required both online and print resources, helped students understand libraries and the variable quality of reference sections. Roughly 75% of her students thought print should continue as a requirement for the course, with the main reasons for dissent revolving around concerns about fairness. (Apparently, getting to a print reference section was difficult for some students). Bossaller ended with some of the implications for online reference courses and distance education in LIS.

Next, I attended a panel entitled Youth and Libraries: Four Studies of the Information Behaviors of Today’s Young People

The panel was designed to cover a wide age spectrum, starting with early literacy and ending with college students.

Here’s a brief overview of each talk:

Eliza Dresang – Project VIEWS: Valuable Initiatives in Early Learning that Work Successfully (or do they?)

Dresang reported progress on a larger IMLS-funded project, which aims to determine the outcomes and impacts of early literacy programs in public libraries. Although public libraries have implemented early literacy initiatives over the past decade, there is not much research to show whether and how these programs have made a difference.  The first step is to develop a tool to assess the core literacy knowledge of the librarians providing these services.  Dresang pointed us to but this site does not appear to be active beyond a general description of the project at the moment.  So, this is a work in progress worth watching. I can see the potential for this approach beyond the birth – K spectrum, personally.

Carol Gordon: A Study of a Web-Based Summer Reading Program and Reading Engagement

Gordon outlined an overview of a three-phase study of summer reading, using an engagement model of comprehension as the theoretical foundation for her approach.The first phase called “Reading Takes You Places” is discussed here in detail. The second phase anchored from a different website called . Students played a role in creating this site. The third phase, called Summer Reading Plus, focused on taking the positive attributes of summer reading from the first two phases and transferring them to reading during the school year.

There were many transitions made during the study, showing how this version of summer reading departed from traditional school reading, including free choice instead of mandated lists and so on. Many of the students who participated in these studies did not qualify as high level readers. But, through focus groups in Phase 1, Gordon found that these students didn’t dislike reading – they disliked being forced to read certain things. Many of these students read a lot, but their reading is not validated because it may not come in the form of a traditional book. In Phase 2, online surveys revealed that the students who liked to read felt they had free choice and found the experience of reading satisfying. Students who did not like to read did not report these sentiments, and felt that they could not find books to read. Interestingly, Gordon found that some of the responses students gave to books that might be considered lower-quality were quite sophisticated and high level. In Phase 3 students will be creating their own online reading spaces.

Denise Agosto – Youth Information Behavior as Social Activity: High School Seniors, Social Networks, and Libraries

Agosto studied seniors at a high-tech high school. She found, through focus groups, that it is impossible to separate social networks from other methods of mediated communication, such as texting. Students see the end goal as communication, not technology. She studied the kinds of communication tools these teens use, and correlated these tools to the level of closeness with the message receiver.  Closest friends often received text messages, more causal friends received facebook messages, and broader connections got Facebook posts. Cell phones are extremely important to this group for keeping in touch, especially for close friends and family. Facebook is for a wider range of friends. Other factors that contribute to their selection of communication tools include simplicity of use, speed of communication, and multitasking capabilities.  Many of these students are at least casually connected most of the time.

Agosto found that this group obsessively documented their lives through media and communication. They used Facebook to share information about gatherings and events, as well as a way to find out about new friends and casual acquaintances. There was an undercurrent of talk about addiction, exhaustion, and overcommunication at times throughout the study. Libraries can provide access to the media that needs want to use to connect. We can also promote our services with an emphasis on what teens tell us they need and want.

Nancy B. Turner – Do Students Really Search Differently? Comparative Usability Testing with Students and Library Staff

As a part of a redesign of the search function on the library homepage, Turner studied the different ways students and library staff searched for specific materials, comparing the processes and efficacy of their searches. She found four differences between the searches of students and library staff.

First, the two groups differed on their selection of tools. Students always started with the general search box on the default tab labeled “discover.” Library staff tailored their starting points based on the material they were searching for. Second, the search syntax differed across the two groups. Third, the two groups differed on their knowledge of library resource organization and representation. Fourth, their level of persistence varied.  Librarians often enjoyed a complex search, whereas students preferred finding to searching.

As a result of these findings, the Syracuse library changed the design of their search function on the homepage. This study reminds us that our mental models can make it difficult to see things as our users do.

Overall, I liked this panel a great deal. I can’t help but wish there had been an additional panelist to discuss a study in the elementary and middle grades age range, where my own research is situated.

For more information about these studies, as well as the many other presentations from the conference, check out the conference schedule and abstracts here.

Library Research Seminar: Day 1, Part 1

I’m a bit overdue in posting updates from Library Research Seminar – V (since it ended today!) But, better late than never (I hope!)

Here are my notes from Day 1:

Plenary: David B. Gracy II, Editor of Libraries and the Cultural Record

Title: Is There Counsel in Chose Curtains? Research Agendas for the Times

David Gracy kicked off the conference with “This is a great day for research!” He looked out at the room of attendees and encouraged us to be a part of great conversations.

Dr. Gracy shaped his talk around his time as State Archivist of Texas and the yellow curtains he found in the Archivist’s office.  Why were they so different than the curtains in the other offices? The story behind the curtains is one of interesting people with different ideas of what a state archive and library might be, and how libraries and archives might connect (or disconnect) from each other.

Gracy’s historically informed discussion had many interesting facets worth following up on. He encouraged us to explore the historical dimensions of our research topics and of libraries in general. He emphasized the importance of leading adaptations to the times, especially regarding the relationships between libraries and other parts of the information domain, such as archives. He argued that these domains of the information world confront similar concerns, and that our boundaries are blurred.

Gracy spent time talking about the core questions that seem to be facing the library field, such as: what is a library? For whom does it exist? What functions genuinely fulfill its mission to society? Instead of pulling ideas only from the current community, Gracy urged us to view the questions historically. Many of these questions are persistent throughout library histories. In order to push forward, we must be informed about what has happened before.

I learned about “advocacy history” through Gracy’s speech. He argued that the biographies of courageous librarians can teach us about libraries and how to sustain them through difficult times. He ended with more encouragements and charged us with doing pioneering work. With a keen eye and a sense of context, Gracy encouraged researchers to “open our curtains!”

Sessions I attended, part 1:

Henry Pisciotta: Arts and Architecture Librarian at Penn State University Libraries

The Big Picture: Artists on the Library

For this presentation, Pisciotta selected 60 works of art that critique libraries in some regard. He discussed the ways art can comment on different aspects of library services and collections. Many of the examples he gave were fascinating (and he is going to publish this work at some point). They included everything from sculpture to other physical installations (an artists who placed mirrors behind the self-help books, so that faces would reflect when books were removed – the self-consciousness of someone seeking to help themselves!) The Library Project, produced by a group called Temporary Services, was another fascinating example of art working to critique the library, what it contains (and doesn’t) and who this might benefit.  There were other equally interesting examples of artistic interventions in libraries, which give us points to think about when we are looking in our own self-help mirrors as a profession.

Jennifer Crispin: Using Institutional Ethnography to Explicate Information Work

I first heard about Crispin’s research at the International Association of School Librarians’ conference in Berkeley, CA a couple of years ago.  Back then I heard her presentation about methodology, called Institutional Ethnography. Now she has completed her dissertation and is on the faculty at Sam Houston State University. It was great to get an update and see how the project turned out. (It was also inspiring since I presented my methodology on the morning of Day 2 of LRS-V – seeing her progress and finish gives me hope that in a couple of years I’ll be presenting my own findings!)

Crispin spent extensive time with a middle school librarian for her project. Her goal was to understand more about information work and the influences over school librarian work, taking the lived experience of a school librarian as the point of departure. Crispin found that structures put in place to ensure safety of students and make logistics easier can get in the way of collaboration and student access.  She found that there was a gap between the library literature and on-the-ground library practicalities in this case. Many of the sites recommended by scholars were blocked or inaccessible in this library. There was also little space for students to save their work on school servers. In addition, there was little time for free access to the library for the majority of students.

In conclusion, there are many subtle forces and power relations at work which affect the way a school library works.  Institutional ethnography worked well for understanding these relations. Crispin further wondered about the way teachers figure in to negotiating library access for students (which may be a future area of study).

Charles Seavey: Toward a Geography of Public Libraries 1850-1980

This study tracked library service and growth using public records and maps.  Seavey is examining access and the different levels of library service across time and regions. His presentation showed the way the South has trailed in library service over decades, but has improved in recent times, closing the gap somewhat.  Questions were raised about the inclusiveness of this public data.  Did it include libraries started in churches or libraries emerging from Women’s Clubs? I don’t think we resolved these questions, as the author was not present (a designated representative delivered his paper).  The content and methodology were both interesting. This paper connected back to Gracy’s earlier historical emphasis well.

This ended the first session of papers. I am going to post this section of my commentary now, and continue with more over the next several days. Note that the full schedule along with presenter abstracts is available here.  Read through the program to find out more about the sessions I didn’t attend.  There are also other bloggers writing about the Library Research Seminar. You can read their work here.

A Preview: Library Research Seminar V

In just a few days, I’ll be headed to Library Research Seminar V (LRS-V) at the University of Maryland. I’ve been looking forward to this conference since I first heard about it two years ago at the International Association of School Librarians conference in Berkeley, California. Friends I met there said that Library Research Seminar was a great venue to share ideas with smart researchers and practitioners from all areas of librarianship.  The program looks excellent. I’ll be attending as many sessions about school and public libraries, youth services, and literacies as I can.

I am grateful to have been awarded a Student Fellowship for LRS-V, sponsored by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  This fellowship will allow me to attend the conference. In return, I’ll be blogging and presenting a session.  So, you’ll be seeing more posts later in the week about this conference.  I’ll be presenting a session on Friday morning which covers the methodology for my dissertation.  I’m anxious to talk to librarians and researchers about their ideas regarding literacies, ethnography, and youth. I’m expecting to learn a lot!

Since I also spend time on twitter, I’ll be tweeting from the conference at  I’ve been watching twitter recently and have seen little mention of this conference.  I’m hoping this will change as the conference gets closer.  I’ll be proposing the hashtag #lrsv.  Is anyone reading this going to join me?

More soon, from Maryland!

As always, thanks for reading.

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