My first job after finishing my library science degree was at a public library in Camden, New Jersey. For many patrons, the library computers were their only access to computers and the internet. I helped patrons fill out job applications, write resumes, and more. I remember trying to help a patron book an appointment for an immigration interview. New appointments opened up at midnight, but by the time the Library opened, all of the appointment slots would already be taken. That job taught me digital inclusion involves more than providing access to computers, but also access to broadband and Wi-Fi, digital skills, technical support, and online content that enables all to participate. You can find a complete definition of digital inclusion on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA) website.
In my current job at a community college library, we lend laptops, calculators, and hotspots to students, and many students use our space for access to Wi-Fi and computers. Our lending services have grown over the last few years, as the pandemic put a spotlight on digital inclusion. The 2023 Net Inclusion Conference organized by NDIA was held at the end of February. I did not attend, but discovered that many resources related to the conference can be found online and wanted to share these resources, as they are relevant to libraries:
By Molly Ledermann, Washtenaw Community College, MiALA CCIG Chair
The Michigan Academic Library Association (MiALA) Community College Interest Group meets virtually every other month to network, problem-solve, discuss hot topics, and learn together. In December, we decided to devote the entire meeting to experiencing a new misinformation escape room from the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public. It is the first of several interactive misinformation games that will be available through Loki’s Loop, a research project of the UW Center for an Informed Public with the UW Technology & Social Change Group, UW GAMER Research Group and Puzzle Break.
Three librarians, Suzanne Bernsten of Lansing Community College, Jen Fiero of Jackson Community College, and Laura Taylor of Macomb Community College, learned how to facilitate the escape room in advance so that they could run the activity for the rest of the librarians. So often as teaching librarians, we only experience learning activities that we have prepared, adapted, or created ourselves. As one of the participants, I can say that it was both fun and eye-opening to go through the escape room from the perspective of a student and have no advance knowledge of what was going to happen next!
The escape room is called “The Euphorigen Investigation.” Participants must investigate claims a company is making about the success of its newest supplement before the government introduces it to the public water supply. Puzzles challenge participants to use their information literacy, data literacy, and self-reflection skills, as they navigate misleading charts, identify deepfake images, reflect on the impact of social media behaviors, and recognize the influence of confirmation bias. The escape room took just under 45 minutes to complete and solving the puzzles was definitely a team effort. We did need an occasional tip from one of the facilitators when we got stuck on the mechanics of manipulating and moving through a specific puzzle.
During our debrief, everyone agreed that the storyline, puzzle construction, and images were outstanding. We discussed how the activity would be great not only for students as part of a class, but also as professional development for faculty or staff. Post-activity discussion could easily be tailored to a specific audience, or highlight particular puzzles in the game. The best part is that the Escape Room is available in both virtual and in-person formats so it isn’t tied to a specific mode of delivery. Everyone left the meeting brimming with excitement and ideas about how they could use the activity in their own institutions.
Time is one of the biggest challenges in a community college library. We all know how many webinars go unwatched, saved links go unclicked, and articles go unread. When we can set aside even a short amount of time to explore together, everyone benefits! Our MiALA Community College Interest Group is already looking forward to exploring more activities and ideas together in the future.
I am the lead for our library’s web improvement team. We meet once a month and at every meeting, we set aside about 10 minutes for a team member to share something they have learned about technology related to libraries. Sometimes people share an article they read or information from a webinar or workshop they attended. By calling it “show and tell,” I try to emphasize that it isn’t a formal presentation, but an informal chance to share.
Here are some of the sources I encourage team members to use in looking for content to share:
Need to find images for a presentation, blog post, or website? I wanted to share some websites I like to use to find images. Please share additional suggestions in the comments!
Creative Commons Search websites for images you can share, use, and remix. Creative Commons allows creators of works to release them into the public domain or license works by placing some restrictions on their use.
Moving to synchronous virtual library instruction during the past year, I have experimented with lots of different types of technologies such as Google Docs, Padlet, and Poll Everywhere.
I found that one of the easiest ways to make online instruction sessions interactive is simply using the chat box built into the web conferencing system. The advantage of this is that students are already familiar with the tool, and they don’t need to leave the web conferencing interface in order to respond. Also, students can choose to respond to the whole class or just to the instructor. I find that students often use this feature when I point it out in my introduction.
Here are some questions that my colleagues and I have used in chat during instruction:
What is one question you have about doing research?
What is one tip you have for other students about doing research
Find an article about your topic. Put 2-3 new ideas from the article in the chat.
Ask students to respond with a number for quick feedback, e.g. Have you used the research databases before?
Find an article and copy and paste the citation information in the chat.
A technique I have used a lot is to give students time to search and then ask them to cut and paste the citation for an article that they found in the chat box. This can be very helpful to see if students are on the right track. Students often send a private chat during this time if they are having trouble, and I can give them tips. When we get back together as a group, we can look together at one of the articles shared. It is also a way to make sure students know that databases can generate citations and that sometimes those citations need to be tweaked to follow proper formatting.
How do you use the chat box in online library instruction?
For years, I mostly used Google Docs as a tool to jointly write, give feedback, and edit documents with colleagues. More recently I’ve been experimenting with different uses of Google Docs that leverage anonymous participation and the fact that all contributing can see what others are writing in real time. Below are a few ways I use Google Docs in my job as a community college librarian. I’d love to hear how you use Google Docs.
Warm up for Library Instruction
When I do instruction for Composition 2 classes, I like to start by finding out what students already know. When teaching in person, I sometimes do this using post it notes. Teaching online, I started giving students 5 minutes at the beginning of class to respond on a Google Doc called Share Your Experiences with Research. I ask students to share either a research tip or a question. Then we discuss what they wrote. It is a great way to warm up and get students active at the beginning of class. Later in the class, I use the same Google Doc to ask students to brainstorm keywords for their topic. It is helpful to have all of these activities together in one document, so I can share one link for the interactive parts of the lesson.
Shared Document for Online Resource Fair
When our face to face college resource fair couldn’t happen last year due to the pandemic, we wanted to figure out a way to put it online. I set up a Google Doc for the Online Resource Fair and asked representatives from the different student service and academic affairs areas who usually attend the fair to add the top 3 questions that they get from faculty and/or students. Then, during the faculty professional activity (PA) days, we provided access to the Google Doc from the PA Day Website. We told faculty they could read the information and also add questions. Staff checked the document at the end of PA Days and responded to questions. Although only two questions were added to the document, faculty did report that they found the information was helpful. And using Google Docs was an easy way to gather information from many different units on campus and present it to faculty. I did some editing after the information was added to standardize the format, but it was a lot easier that putting together information from a lot of emails.
Interactive Transcript Review Activity
At a recent online conference presentation about virtual reference, I used a Google Doc to help facilitate an interactive Transcript Review Activity. I put the directions for the activity at the top of the page, provided the text of a transcript to review, and gave space for librarians to share their observations. Then we discussed the observations as a group. I plan to repeat this activity with librarians at our college as it was a great way to review virtual reference best practices in an online format.
Group Brainstorming during a Staff Meeting
Last year, our Library was part of a renovation project and we needed to discuss what to name our new space. It was a difficult issue to discuss as we all had very strong feelings about the topic. For our online meeting, I created a Google Doc and asked all staff to spend 10 minutes making suggestions and asking questions on the document before we had a discussion. Because it was something people felt very strongly about, it was helpful to have time to write down our ideas first, before speaking. More staff had a chance to weigh in, as some might have been reluctant to speak up during the meeting. And we coiud all see a variety of ideas on the shared document before we started to discuss them as a group.
How do you use Google Docs in your work? Are there other technology tools you’d like us to feature in this monthly column?