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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?

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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!  

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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.  

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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.

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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?

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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!

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Wildcard Wednesdays

First Year (Not for the First Time)

A first-year experience is a best practice for student success and retention, but it has to be an experience that works. My institution’s previous FYE – a one-credit required college success course – had an unacceptable DFW rate. (I’m of the opinion that you shouldn’t be able to fail a college success course, but I don’t know how the grading worked.) The library wasn’t involved in planning or teaching the course, but we had relationships with many of the instructors, who brought their classes in for a fifteen-minute library introduction and tour.

That course was retired a few semesters ago, and our replacement FYE is finally launching thanks to the work of our new student engagement manager. The new program consists of a series of workshops covering key college topics and skills. The library was invited to participate, so we’ll be offering several workshops: a standard library orientation, a revival of our popular spotting misinformation session (just in time for election season), and a new offering called Fun Stuff in the Library to highlight recreational reading students may not know they have access to. We’ll offer each session at multiple times and in different delivery methods to maximize attendance.

These workshops aren’t mandatory, so I don’t know how well they will create a consistent, impactful first-year experience. However, we’re willing to try, and the library definitely doesn’t want to be left out of an opportunity to make sure new students know what we have to offer.

Does your college offer a FYE? How is your library involved?

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Wildcard Wednesdays

Reading on the Job

How often have you mentioned your profession to someone and heard in response, “I wish I was a librarian. I love to read!” Librarians know that the bulk of our responsibilities isn’t curling up somewhere with a book, however much we might enjoy doing so. But you can make reading books (and having opinions on them) part of your job.

Numerous publications include or are entirely devoted to book reviews intended to help librarians select titles for their collections. At my library, we regularly read Booklist, Library Journal, Choice, and the New York Times Book Review. Many of these reviews are written by librarians. After all, who better to recommend books than someone else making the same collection development decisions?

I recently saw a notice in Library Journal seeking reviewers for science fiction and fantasy titles. I have a soft spot for SFF (my holds list at the public library is always full of new releases) so I applied, a process that involved sharing some personal and professional information along with two sample reviews. I was accepted and am looking forward to reviewing my first title for an upcoming issue!

Interested in reviewing? Visit the Review for Library Journal page to learn more about their expectations and fill out the online application. I signed up to review genre fiction, but I noticed the most recent LJ issue solicited reviewers in several non-fiction subject areas. A few tips, if you’re interested:

  • Needless to say, consulting some existing reviews in the publication you’re applying to will help ensure your sample reviews are on target.
  • In the case of Library Journal, I’ve been told to expect to write one review per month. I imagine other magazines have a similar workload.
  • Worried about your bookshelf getting cluttered with ARCs? Don’t be – many reviewers now work from digital copies or DRCs. If you don’t already have a NetGalley or Edelweiss account, you may want to set one up to streamline the requesting process. 

I’m looking forward to this new way of contributing to the profession (and getting to officially make reading part of my job!) Now if only the publisher for my first assignment would approve my DRC request…

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Wildcard Wednesdays

Summer in the Stacks

Temperatures are rising. Graduates have walked across the stage at commencement. The fiscal year is winding down. It’s summer, but depending on our contracts, many librarians are still at work. The summer months are often characterized by fewer classes, fewer students, and a slower pace to campus life. This lull offers opportunities to dig into projects we couldn’t get around to during the rush of fall and spring.   

I use summers as a chance to work on new projects and annual tasks like updating our libguides and handouts. Although this is my fourth summer at my current position, it’s only the second I’ve spent on campus. The last two were remote during the first years of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time characterized more by scrambling to create new workarounds than engaging with leisurely projects. But our library is open again for regular summer hours, and that means summer tasks are back. 

Now that I have access to the stacks, a summer project I’m hoping to sink my teeth into is a collection review. The departure of key staff members involved in acquisitions opened an opportunity to reimagine our collection development process. In the past, all librarians in our reference department participated in suggesting titles from periodicals like Choice and Booklist. Two staff members made the final decisions without consulting collection or circulation data. Over time, this led to a lopsided collection reflecting librarians’ interests and impressions.  

Our new approach involves dividing up our collection by classification ranges and reviewing each range with an eye toward the college’s programs. We also recently gained access to Innovative Interface’s Decision Center, which we can use to detect circulation patterns. I hope that this more methodical strategy will help us update our collection and better align it with the needs of our users. Along the way, we may catch books in need of weeding, like some computing guides from the early 2000s we discovered this spring! 

Are you working this summer? What projects will your library be tackling during these quieter months? 

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Wildcard Wednesdays

CJCLS Fan Mail

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