Wildcard Wednesdays

Libraries as Partners in Teaching and Learning

Last fall, I took over coordinating my campus Teaching and Learning Center in addition to my regular duties. In some ways, this is a natural fit. Not long after taking the position, I read Mary C. Wright’s Centers for Teaching and Learning: The New Landscape in Higher Education.

Centers for Teaching and Learning book cover

While it didn’t provide as much practical advice as I’d hoped for, it outlined four key variants of TLCs or CTLs: hub (connects campus community, centralizes resources), sieve (interprets and applies evidence-based research), incubator (develops faculty), and temple (recognizes and celebrates instructors). Ideally, a college library already fills some of these roles, particularly as a resource hub. Many of us are also used to proactively marketing our services, which has made relentlessly promoting TLC events familiar. One of our part-time librarians even taught a session through the TLC showing faculty how to access our ebook collection!

In other ways, it’s a more awkward fit. While I teach a one-credit course, I’m classified as non-teaching faculty, and teaching faculty and I don’t always share the same priorities and concerns. My availability is different from someone with a full teaching load, so I’ve had to lean on other faculty for advice on scheduling events. I’m thankful to have a steering committee to gather feedback from, which also gives me a chance to build more connections with faculty across campus.

As the American public questions the value of higher education, it’s more important than ever to provide high-quality instruction. Teaching & Learning Centers are one way some colleges are trying to support faculty in delivering that. In my opinion, whether it’s a natural or challenging fit, there’s value in librarians getting involved in this work. Does your college have a TLC? Is the library involved?

Collections Programming Wildcard Wednesdays

Poetry from the Stacks

Earlier this year, I attended the ACRL Instruction Section Virtual Engagement Committee’s lightning round presentation: Engaging Students in Library Instruction – Experimentation and Innovation. Stefanie Hilles’ portion of the webinar – Engaging College Students in the Library through Serendipitous Browsing: A Creative Exploration – caught my fancy. She took inspiration from Nina Katchadourian’s Sorted Book series to create an activity engaging students with her library’s print collection.  

Our library recently completed a collection overhaul, transforming our stacks from overstuffed shelves crowded with faded titles to a sleeker, fresher look. We want students to browse, so for our summer book display, I asked library staff to create book spine poems of their own. The submissions ranged from ironic

Book spines stacked to read: The end of ice/ flames in our forest/ nothing to see here/ making the most of your money now.

to lyrical

Books stacked to read: the weaving explorer/ star gazer/ carve/ diamonds/ into the abyss/ creating their own image/ the glass universe.

to celebratory.

Books stacked to read: The best place to work/ the midnight library/ rereading childhood books/ banned books/ books for a living/ picture books for children/ heaven.

The poems are on display now, along with a sign encouraging students to make their own. 

So far we haven’t gotten any takers – it’s been a slow start to the summer – but I’m hopeful that some students will try their hands at book spine poetry. If not, maybe we’ll try the display again during a higher traffic part of the year!  

Leadership Outreach

It’s not too late to join the team!

Although the formal application period has passed, the CJCLS Communications Committee is still looking for additional members. The charge of the committee is as follows:

To facilitate the sharing of ideas, best practices and news from ACRL/ALA units and relevant outside agencies to CJCLS members; assess the many communication options available and maintain a formal communication plan to disseminate information among CJCLS members. Membership on this committee includes the Section’s Webmaster and Newsletter Editor.

Hear from members about the value of joining the committee:

  • The committee is regularly active and working on projects.
  • It’s a chance for us to celebrate the work being done in community colleges! So much of ACRL content is focused on four-year institutions and not relevant to community colleges with fewer resources.
  • Get professional writing opportunities (like these blog posts!) to put in your portfolio.
  • Highlight news and innovations from community colleges across the country.

Interested? Reach out to the incoming chair Lisa Eichholtz on ALA Connect.


There’s More to the Story

This week is National Library Week! Our library has had a library-themed book display up all month (featuring titles such as Susan Orlean’s The Library Book) and I will be surprising my colleagues on Tuesday with some edible tokens of appreciation. Luckily I do not believe any of them read this blog.

There's more to the story. National Library Week April 23-29, 2023.

The theme this year is There’s More to the Story. ALA explains:

Libraries are full of stories in a variety of formats from picture books to large print, audiobooks to ebooks, and more. But there’s so much more to the story. Libraries of Things lend items like museum passes, games, musical instruments, and tools. Library programming brings communities together for entertainment, education, and connection through book clubs, storytimes, movie nights, crafting classes, and lectures. Library infrastructure advances communities, providing internet and technology access, literacy skills, and support for businesses, job seekers, and entrepreneurs. National Library Week 2023 will be a great time to tell your library’s multi-faceted story.

Individual days have their own themes:

  • Monday: Right to Read Day
  • Tuesday: National Library Workers Day
  • Wednesday: National Library Outreach Day
  • Thursday: Take Action for Libraries Day

Want more details? Interested in the ways ALA recommends taking action for each of these days? Want some social media graphics like the one featured in this post? Visit the National Library Week page for more!

How are you celebrating National Library Week in your library?

Wildcard Wednesdays

Webinar: Using ChatGPT to Engage in Library Instruction

If you read any education publications, you’ve probably heard about ChatGPT, whether you want to or not. Writers’ reactions range from excitement to doomsaying to dismissal, but everyone seems to have something to say.

A common topic of discussion is how ChatGPT will impact student research and writing. Although I haven’t encountered this myself, I’ve heard stories of librarians being approached by students with citations they want to track down, only to learn that the student generated the citation using ChatGPT and the article does not actually exist. I’ve also heard about schools considering banning the software. Nothing of the sort has happened at my own institution – in fact, there have been no statements, mandates, or guidance put forth at all. If people at my college are discussing ChatGPT, it is only behind closed doors.

Because of this, I was intrigued to come across a recording for a LiLi Show and Tell webinar from February 2023: Using ChatGPT to Engage in Library Instruction? Challenges and Opportunities by Ray Pun. In the presentation (embedded below) Pun introduces librarians to some basics about how the tool works, discusses benefits and risks associated with its use (with a focus on BIPOC and international students), explores how ChatGPT complicates citation and attribution, and offers ideas for activities integrating ChatGPT into information literacy instruction, with an eye toward helping students approach the tool more critically.

Pun takes pains to clarify that the content of the presentation will become outdated quickly (in fact, GPT-4 was released after the recording), but I still found a lot of the information thought provoking. In particular, his point that suspicions over ChatGPT use could fall more heavily on BIPOC and international students gave me pause. Instructors relying on stereotypes might have lower expectations for, say, non-native English speakers’ writing, and if the writing exceeded those expectations, they could falsely accuse the students of using AI assistance. It’s a reminder that educators need to remain aware of their own biases.

Although I don’t have a ChatGPT account and am not currently planning on making one, I was also taken by one of Pun’s suggested activities: having the AI generate a reading list of sources for a topic and then asking students to critique the list. Are all the sources real? Do the selections make sense? What’s left out? It’s a good way to show students the limitations of the AI and get them thinking about the broader limitations of ‘canonical’ research – the AI’s selections will likely recreate hegemonic biases in whose research gets the most attention.

Whether we like it or not, and whether commentators’ positive and negative predictions end up being overblown, AI is something we as librarians will have to deal with for the foreseeable future. Presentations like Pun’s are a great way for us to start thinking about how to handle it.  


The Forgotten Faculty

At my college, librarians are considered faculty. We share the classification of “non-teaching faculty” with counselors, even though both librarians and counselors offer elective courses and programming such as workshops or instruction sessions. This status is a good thing – it means we’re protected by the faculty union and contract, which impacts everything from pay to representation.

As valuable as this faculty designation is, it sometimes doesn’t seem to register with the rest of the campus community. I can’t blame teaching faculty for rallying behind issues impacting them – these days in education everyone is having to fight to protect their interests. However, it’s been frustrating to have to explain repeatedly to surprised colleagues that I am a fellow faculty member. A high-level college administrator once commented that they “would’ve liked to see someone from academics in the room” in a meeting where I and a counselor were both present.

These interactions have led me to wonder what can be done to bridge this gap. Non-teaching faculty attend faculty meetings and sometimes lead campus faculty associations. We often share information about our instructional services, but it seems like the message isn’t always getting through.

I’m writing this post out of curiosity – are librarians faculty at your campus? If so, have you had similar experiences? What have you done to raise the profile of librarians with teaching faculty and administrators at your institution?

Wildcard Wednesdays

Marketing Digital Titles with QR Codes

A few years ago, our college gained access to our consortium’s OverDrive collection, which helped us radically expand our collection. As a community college library, there’s a limit to how many fiction titles we can purchase. Our primary mission is to support the curriculum, but we also value giving our students access to leisure reading. OverDrive allows us to do that while saving money and shelf space. We purchase titles for the collection, but we also benefit from the purchases of other members of the consortium, including several large public library systems.

Although OverDrive was a great addition to our collection, it hadn’t been seeing much use. We marketed the acquisition to faculty but had difficulty reaching students directly. Our solution? QR codes.

QR codes may not be as omnipresent as they were a few years ago, but they’re still useful, especially when your student body is frequently on their phones. Our staff uses Canva to design library signage, and Canva has a built in QR code generator! When working on a project in Canva, navigate to the apps section of the editor side panel. Plug in a URL, and you have a QR code ready to add to a design.

The Canva apps interface, showing QR code as the first popular option.

Where have we been putting those QR codes? Everywhere. From our print shop, we’ve ordered large movie-style posters displayed on a sandwich board outside the library building. Slides featuring literary jokes alongside QR codes to the books being referenced cycle through campus digital screens.

Six book covers decorated with blurbs and QR codes arranged in a display. The display sign reads Cozy up with a new book over break.

We’re also integrating our digital collections into book displays. While older displays were limited by what we had in our physical collection – which in turn limited the themes we could choose – now we bring in digital titles by propping up cardboard-backed cover printouts with QR codes. This lets digital books take up just as much space as physical books. We even did an all-digital book display in December, when students wouldn’t be able to check out print titles over the winter break.

Is it working? We haven’t gotten the latest usage stats for our OverDrive collection yet, but we’ve had several students ask about digital titles, and the campus vice president mentioned (unprompted!) how creative she found our digital slides. 

Overall, this has been a great way to give our digital collections equal visual presence in our library and draw students’ attention toward an underutilized resource. I may be a staunch opponent of QR codes replacing printed menus, but I encourage you to explore using them to leverage access to your digital collections.


Updating Your Collection… While Updating Your Staff

A while ago, I wrote about starting a major collection review in my library after the staff members in charge of acquisitions departed. Our review has revealed a lot of (sometimes amusingly, sometimes alarmingly) outdated materials. One highlight was a book on the potential of a hot new website… MySpace.

As satisfying as it is to dig into a big project, I don’t want to find myself in this situation again ten years from now, or leave a similar mess for my predecessor. Our library needs a more structured collection development plan, including a plan for weeding. This is complicated by our reliance on part-time positions – I am the only full-time librarian with collection development responsibilities, supported by a group of PT librarians that has seen significant turnover since I started this position. A liaison model where everyone claims an area of expertise isn’t sustainable in this situation – what happens when a PT librarian departs?

I put out a call on ALA Connect to see if anyone else had solutions to this conundrum. Here are a few suggestions I received:

A librarian from a larger community college than mine has been able to use a liaison model, with specific librarians claiming multiple areas. They also receive purchase suggestions from thier book jobber GOBI based on their library’s profile. However, they don’t have a set schedule for weeding or selection, and both can fall to the wayside when the library gets busy.

A different tactic shared with me was a weeding cycle where all the librarians worked on the same call number section (in this case using LoC classification), with the cycle lasting a total of eight years. Sections where publication date is critical, such as medical information, have a shorter four year cycle. Focusing on one section at a time means the plan is not impacted by staff turnover.

A third library had also found themselves with a collection where weeding had been neglected due to the college’s small size and limited staff time. Their approach was to develop a weeding schedule that aligned with their disciplines’ five year review cycle. That way, faculty would be thinking about their program’s needs at the same time, and the librarians could build collection updating into the review feedback process.

There are some good ideas here, and I’d love to hear more. How do you approach collection development and maintenance at your college?

Wildcard Wednesdays

Passively Engaging Students

We all have our strengths, and I’ll be the first to admit that design isn’t one of mine. That’s why I’ve been excited that several of our new hires are more decoratively inclined. For the first time at my library, the circulation area has transformed for Halloween, with skulls leering on tables and spiderwebs festooning our display of seasonally spooky reads.

Our circulation team has gone beyond grisly decor to engage students. As part of the October decorations, they hid ghosts around the library, wrote up a list of clues, and encouraged students to find them in exchange for a prize. I’ve already spotted one student on the hunt taking selfies with her successful finds.  

A sign reading 'find the ghosts hidden around the library for a prize'. A ghost silhouette cut out of old book pages hovers next to the sign.

In the past, our book displays went up for one or two months and remained static during that time. With enthusiastic new staff (including some with mastery of Canva) we’ve started doing weekly mini-displays based on themes a reference team member finds in Chase’s Calendar of Events. She pairs our physical book displays with QR codes directing students toward ebooks and audiobooks in our Overdrive collection. (During Happy Cat Month, aka September, we added pictures of adoptable felines from the campus Veterinary technology program.) We’ve seen increased circulation of physical and digital titles since the start of these mini-displays.

That’s not the only way we’ve invited students to join in on the fun. A weeding project left us with plenty of excess books, which have been transformed into raw material for origami butterflies now frozen in flight across the walls of our circulation section. Two library representatives brought extra pages to the campus wellness fair, and students crowded around their table learning how to transform old books into butterflies or intricately folded bookmarks. Now detailed instructions and spare pages fill slots that formerly housed print newspapers for students to enjoy.

A library wall covered in folded paper butterflies. Pages of origami instructions are held in an old newspaper stand. A ghost peeks out from behind the stand.
Butterflies fly across the circulation wall near the origami station. Can you spot the hidden ghost peeking out?

After several slow semesters post-reopening, our library is busy again. That may have happened no matter what, but I like to think our new decorations, eye-catching displays, and engagement opportunities helped draw students in. I can’t wait to see what else our team comes up with.

Does your library engage in passive programming? What do you do to catch students’ eyes while they’re in the library?

Wildcard Wednesdays

Afternoon of Social Justice Roundup

The logo for Afternoon of Social Justice featuring a cupped hand holding the Earth.

I was unable to attend the 2022 SRRT Afternoon of Social Justice live when it aired on August 3. However, I was able to view the recordings after their release. I encourage you to watch the presentations yourself, but here’s a little of what to expect from the sessions.

Paying Better Attention to Indigenous Communities

First, Karleen Delaurier-Lyle at Xwi7xwa Library reminded us that Indigenous knowledge is relational rather than compartmentalized and isn’t always best served by library classification systems. She used the example of Indigenous languages, which are classified under X in the modified version of the Brian Deer Classification System the library uses. Many other resources in the library have valuable information on language, but they’re not housed in that section of the stacks. She described an activity she does with students that reveals these materials scattered throughout the library and emphasizes how important it is to look beyond standard classification.

Next, Kael Moffat defined settler colonialism using Patrick Wolfe’s emphasis on the logic of elimination, which strives to erase Indigenous people via destruction or assimilation. Moffat then outlined settlers’ responsibilities in combatting this system. While Indigenous people decolonize, settlers are responsible for desettling. Some elements of desettling: learning the stories of Indigenous communities local to your area, listening to them, amplifying their voices, and acting in support. He also shared a longer list of desettling questions libraries can ask themselves and steps they can take to move forward in this work.

Neurodiversity in the Library

Rachel Bussan and Kate Thompson from West Des Moines Public Library both presented on neurodiversity, with an emphasis on autism, with Bussan drawing from personal and Thompson drawing from familial experience. Bussan was diagnosed with autism and bipolar disorder at 26, while Thompson was inspired to go into librarianship after her son struggled at a storytime not designed for his needs.

Both offered a wealth of tips on how to communicate with neurodivergent people, how to run accessible job interviews, and how to support neurodivergent employees once they have been hired. For example, during conversations, it’s a good idea to minimize distractions and other stimuli. A point they returned to was that everyone’s needs are different, and these guidelines should be adjusted for each person. A key takeaway: hire neurodivergent people in your libraries. They’ll know what they need better than you can.

Thompson also touched on some broader disability topics, such as the curb cut effect making accommodations beneficial to everyone, and the medical versus social models of disability and how those can change how we view the world. Both presenters ended with a wealth of resources, including, of course, book recommendations. 

This is just a taste of the presentations – if anything sounds interesting, be sure to watch for yourself!