Posts Tagged 'youth'

Meandering Meditations About Readers

One of my favorite parts of being a researcher is talking to people.

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve been “hanging out” (in a researchy way) in a middle school library media center since March.  This week I had the pleasure of interviewing students at the school. Contrary to current popular notions of reading, this school has a lot of boys who read enthusiastically. Four of them were kind enough to speak to me.

These students are incredibly dedicated users of school library resources. They read voraciously, at time multiple books per week. Their teachers allow them to go to the school library as often as they like. The collection in the school library, as they told me, is well-stocked to meet their needs.

As school winds down, these students have been on my mind. Like many (perhaps even most) school libraries, the facility is not open during the summer months. I admire school librarians who keep their libraries open intermittently for checkouts during the summer. But, I also see the position of the school librarians who does not open their spaces, especially if there is no funding to support this investment of time.

But that’s not what sticks with me.

As I spoke to them this week, all of these young readers were so clear on the incredible benefits they derive from a school library staffed by their certified school librarian. I was nearly moved to tears to hear them speak of their school librarian with such esteem and affection. When I asked them what they would be reading this summer, these boys, for the most part, thought they would be able to find enough reading materials between home and trips to the public library. I could sense some anxiety though, or a feeling of loss at not having access to their school library.

I am not sure why I keep coming back to this feeling. It is not my purpose to be critical of the school librarian, or the families, or anything in the situation, really.

Instead, I keep thinking of the thousands and thousands of children across this country who are losing their librarians to less qualified staff. I keep thinking of collections unreplenished. I keep thinking of all that is being stripped away from libraries, indeed from young people, right now. To be honest, it is hard not to be heartbroken (and angry!)

I think of the young readers I spoke to this week. I see in them, and hear from them, the wealth that a robust school library program brings.  For them, it is a couple of months until the lights flip back on and the bright face of their school librarian welcomes them.

They are the lucky ones.

In a couple of months, in many libraries across this country, the scene will not be nearly so sunny. I think about all the shade that is being cast in school libraries around this country. When will all the rest see the light?

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.

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