Teaching

The Research Project: Scaffolding & Exploring Information as a Freedom & Justice Issue

The research paper. It’s funny–I have my FJS students read Barbara Fister’s article on “Why the Research Paper isn’t Working,” but they still have to write a paper for me. It’s an upper-level class, after all, and for the first iteration of this course, the research paper is how I’m scaffolding in information literacy as well as keeping students well on track to completing a larger project as they consider concepts throughout the course.

Back on topic: for my FJS 340 course, my students are required to work on a research paper. Essentially, they get to explore any conflict or issue of interest to them that involves questions of freedom and justice, but they must explore their conflict from an information perspective (which is our focus for the class). I leave the subject matter wide open for a reason–the course I teach is an upper-level general education course, multidisciplinary and international in scope. I want students to choose a topic of interest to them, since they’ll be living with it for a few months.

Having worked an academic library reference desk for more than a decade now, I know that undergraduate students with wide-open options for paper topics are wild-haired, confused things, dazed by possibility and overwhelmed with options. (An exaggeration? Perhaps not by much.) This confusion often manifests among freshmen and sophomores, who may not have enough grasp of a subject yet to have particularly well-thought out areas of interest.

This semester, I found the largest part of the struggle for my students wasn’t actually identifying a topic of interest, it was in the attempt to articulate the information issue(s) at hand for their particular conflict. The topics themselves are fascinating, and the students were excited to focus on something of their own divining. Topics of interest included felons’ loss of voting rights, Native American land rights issues vis-a-vis the federal government, the illegal car modification and racing community, black women’s experience of violence by law enforcement officers, prisoner access to information through prison libraries, and women’s voting rights, among others.

Refining the Research Topic: Let the Students Hash It Out

More difficult than identifying the social justice issue students wanted to focus on was identifying the information issue at work within the larger social justice context. This go-round, I had students submit their topics to me as part of their weekly assignment early in the semester. Fielding questions about the assignment, I decided to use a portion of class time to have student discuss and white-board their topics, exploring not just what angle of their larger social justice issue they wanted to tackle, but having them attempt to articulate how information was a crucial component of their topic.

At this point in the semester, we had covered not just freedom and justice theory, but some information theory, and readings on information poverty, ways of knowing, and how information is used and viewed in various disciplines. The discussion at this point revolved around deciding what the information issues at hand might be. Questions I had students consider included:

  • How is information at work here?
  • Are there information haves and have-nots in this situation?
  • What processes are being informed, or not, and by whom?

And from here, the students engaged with each other, pressing each other to expand on their topics and to hearken back to the readings for concepts. Three examples that stand out of students taking underdeveloped topics and really hashing out a better way to think of them as information-centric:

  • The student interested in felons’ loss of voting rights refined her idea to focus on how the denial of voting rights means felons cannot inform the political process through voting, and she wants to explore what information loss is there, what alternative avenues felons can pursue to inform the political process, and whether those avenues have the same impact as informing through voting.
  • The student interested in the conflict between Native Americans and the federal government over land ownership was able to articulate the conflict between a dominant culture dependent on written record of ownership and the non-written record-keeping of a minority or oppressed culture, and how different “ways of knowing” come into conflict.
  • The student interested in car modification and police profiling decided to focus on information communities surrounding taboo subculture practices, the information-signaling people use to identify themselves as belonging to the community, and the information-signaling that law enforcement recognizes and uses to police the community.

All of the students’ topics benefitted from the class exploring each topic, and discussing how the information concepts covered to date in class readings could be made a focal point for each research project. Having students lead the discussion for each topic and probe each other for more information to help build a case for a topic was incredibly effective, and received unanimous approval after the exercise. Yet again, something that happened serendipitously I am now going to build into the class for next semester. I love learning better ways to make things happen from my students! I’m also genuinely excited to read their final papers.

Basic Scaffolding: The Annotated Bibliography

To ensure that students actually consider their topics in depth before the paper is actually due, I tried to scaffold assignments related to the project throughout the semester. Like the active journaling assignments for the course, the smaller assignments were for low-stakes grades, but in totality the pieces of the project add up to the major part of the grade for the course.

The annotated bibliography is a wonderful assignment, for a few reasons. First of all, and most important to me, it means my students have to at least do some basic searching of their topic some weeks before the project is due. I scheduled an information literacy session (just like I ask my fellow faculty to do), and it was taught by Awesome Amy, our Dean of the Library. (I would have loved to teach the session, but I wanted students to be exposed to other librarians as much as possible.) They learned to refine research topics, choose appropriate databases, and work with keywording. Most importantly for my purposes, they also learned the need to synthesize information from multiple sources, and that The Perfect Article does not exist.

The annotated bibliography is also a good opportunity for students to make mistakes. I allow students to use either APA or MLA, since the course is a GenEd and I expect to have majors from across the spectrum. (Since I’ve completed graduate theses in both styles, I’m comfortable correcting both, though most faculty I know require one or the other.) Students can murder the annotation style and I can help them at this point, before the higher-stakes paper.

The annotations were also a good way for me to eyeball which students might have difficulty digesting and writing up academic work, catching it early, and supporting them so that the drafting process is not as painful.

The Project Plan Outline

The next stage is what I called the project plan outline, where students submit an outline of their paper. The writeup indicates not just the outline of the overall paper, but initial thoughts for each section, where their different research sources will be used in the paper, where they indicate they’ll use interviews and other information. It forces students to consider how they will structure their paper, and not to believe that simply finding relevant sources was enough. This is a stage where I can indicate where they might need sources in addition to those they discovered earlier, to support assertions or firm up a section of the paper.

The Rough Draft

The rough draft is the first draft of the full paper. This is a great opportunity for students to have a full draft done (and to have my comments back before Thanksgiving!) and to have their mistakes or weaknesses again sussed out in a low-stakes assignment. I also discovered that watching student papers grow organically through these scaffolding assignments allowed me to treat them as the experts on the subject, and to make that clear to them. Lots of shy smiles when I would tell a student, “You know more about this particular subject than I do! Seriously. You’ve done the research to support the argument you are making. I am just here to help you work on the structure, to help with your writing, and to identify weaknesses for you to address, given your knowledge and research.” The biggest breakthroughs for me were every time I saw a student smile, and truly take ownership of their topic. It also, I think, helped create a mentor/mentee relationship instead of a more adversarial or intimidating relationship. I’m still waiting for the student reviews of teaching, though.

The Final Paper and Presentation

The presentations happened during the last class session. The students had created the assessment and grading rubric for the final presentation as a class session with Dr. Sohui Lee, our Faculty Director of the Writing and Multiliteracy Center. Students each had 10-12 minutes to present their research and field questions. Previous to the sessions, we explored how academic conferences were populated and presented, and how my intent was for them to conduct themselves in similar fashion. The presentations themselves were excellent, and had a celebratory atmosphere–one student had her husband attend her presentation, and my own husband delivered burritos from a local carniceria. The students were not only responsible for developing the rubric for the assignment, they were also responsible for filling out the rubric and assessment for each of their peers. This assignment earned them credit for participating in the assessment, and was also used as 50% of their grade for the final presentation (the other 50% was my own grading of their presentation). The result was that the students offered considered and thoughtful comments along with a grade for their peers’ presentations, and had a stake in addressing all of the points in the rubric they had themselves created.

Moving Forward: Evolving Into Service Learning

For future iterations, I’m considering a bigger service learning component option. I just requested a meeting with our Center for Community Engagement folks, and we’ll be talking in January about how I might be able to make this happen for the Spring 2016 iteration of the class. Since the focus of my version of the topics course is on information as a freedom and justice issue, developing a service-learning component where students help to identify and address a community information need seems to fit nicely with our university mission pillars and (I hope) with the intent of the Freedom & Justice Studies program itself. (More on this as I find out more and consult with the faculty in charge of the program!)

Serendipitous Syllabus Overload, and Having Students Help Build a Course

Teacher-Librarians

In practice here at CSUCI Broome Library, we are all teaching librarians. when I schedule information literacy sessions, all librarians are up for grabs for me–my Head of Public Services and Outreach, Head of Unique Collections and Scholarly Communication, my Collections & Technical Services Coordinator, my Electronic Resources Librarian, my Original Cataloging Librarian, even my dean/AVP. Everybody’s on deck when there’s an instruction need, and with over 120 information literacy sessions scheduled this fall alone, everybody bats, and everybody bats big. In addition to the many information literacy sessions we teach, many of us also teach semester-long classes.

Before I talk about teaching my credit course this semester, some important background. Here at CSUCI, the librarians (who have tenure-track faculty status) regularly teach and co-teach credit courses in disciplines where we’re qualified, in addition to classes actually certified under the LIB (Library as home department) heading. We’re teaching (or co-teaching in some cases) both lower- and upper-division courses in English, University Studies, Political Science, History, Communication, and Freedom & Justice Studies, among others. It’s pretty difficult not to trip over us anywhere in the curriculum. In theory (and sometimes practice), the home departments get us on buyout either through their budget or through a grant, so that the library dean can hire part-time lecturers to fill behind us for things like reference desk time and other duties that are more easily transferred to another person. (Whether librarians are tenure-track, whether they teach, and how that is decided and practiced varies widely, even in my own experience across a handful of state universities.)

Here at Broome Library, we are encouraged to teach within home departments and effectively become embedded information literacy ninjas, integrating information literacy concepts and work into the regular work of the curriculum, especially since information literacy is specifically written into our general education requirements. I’m still new to the politics of the place, but our teaching seems to go over well with all involved. The struggle becomes when the buyout doesn’t quite happen, and resources get strained. We can easily backfill reference desk hours, but other duties are not so easily re-assigned. General wisdom is that teaching one class per semester is do-able, and most librarians teach one class every or every-other semester. Occasionally opportunities related to grants and new initiatives come up and someone teaches two classes, but from what I’ve seen, it’s a grueling pace to have to keep. Just the one class has kept me pretty well on my toes this semester.

Sooprize Collaboration: Including Students in Syllabus-Building

This semester I’ve been teaching FJS 340: Exploring Freedom and Justice, a first-time course for me. It’s been going very well — my initial syllabus scared the students a bit: because we have a 2 hour 50 minute block for class once a week, I treated each block as two classes, and took seriously the idea that for a 3-credit class, at least 9 hours of work was going into it per week. Add to that what *I* figure I can read and digest across 9 hours, and cue panicked undergrads in a gen-ed course faced with what was essentially a graduate-level workload. My initial misstep actually led to a great activity, though, in which I gave my students the opportunity to choose which readings they would focus on each week. From the initial syllabus, we went week by week, and I indicated which two readings were foundational and would be required. After that, I described each of the remaining readings *and why I chose to include them on the syllabus*, and the students, in collaboration with each other, chose two to three more readings from the remaining four to seven that were listed for the week.

It was an eye-opening experience–I approached building my syllabus as seriously and carefully as any architect, building a list of readings from a broad bibliography painstakingly developed, paring it down to what I thought was essential and including some items I hoped students would find uncomfortable, intriguing, or controversial. Since the course is multidisciplinary in nature, I talked with colleagues both in and out of the library for ideas and readings, but I hadn’t considered consulting students in the building of my syllabus. It turns out that students really engaged in the exercise, and because they are the ones who have effectively chosen the readings for each week, they’ve taken real ownership of the material (to the point of calling folks out for being the deciding vote for choosing a particular article, and then being caught out in discussion as the one not reading it).

We also went through the list of assignments and pared those down, though that was mostly removing one large project, rearranging some due dates, and redistributing point values. I discovered that what some may find tedious in terms of syllabus revision, the students found fascinating–the nuts and bolts behind the decision-making of course creation, how point values were determined, why assignments were included and what they were designed to do in terms of asking students to demonstrate mastery. Course-creation became a real conversation and a bit more of a collaboration with students than I’ve experienced in the past.

The accidental and conversational approach to a too-large syllabus worked so well that I’m actually going to build this in as part of the first day’s activities for the next time I teach the course, in Spring 2016. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to structure this in such a way that I might study it and report out, so any ideas welcome.

Engaged Journaling vs. Weekly Critical Reflection Assignments

This exercise, though accidental, synergized nicely with the way assignments were designed. In addition to a large research project scaffolded through the semester (more on that in a moment), in the past I’ve assigned students to complete a weekly critical reflection on the material they read for class. The intent of the assignment is not to get the students to summarize–I tell them I’ve already read the material, I assume they’re going to do the same–but to have the students think critically about where they see the principles for the week manifested in their own worlds, what that means, and how/whether the week’s material changed how they think about something. Inevitably, though, the weekly reflections become summaries. The students begin to detest writing them, I start to detest reading them. I attended a workshop on building community in the classroom with Dr. Jacob Jenkins (Dr. J) of our Communication faculty, and he generously shared with me his work on active/engaged journaling exercises.

Though I did ask students for critical reflections during a few weeks (particularly where I ask them to consider what information is valued in their field, and how it is valued), for most of the other weeks I asked them to engage the material in different ways. During the week where I ask them to consider readings on various “ways of knowing,” students were asked to write a poem or song lyric capturing a ‘way of knowing’ other than academic, with the option of performing their piece in class live or recording it to play to the class via YouTube. During a week where we considered information as a freedom and justice issue within the context of political science and international conflict, students were tasked with selecting an image that felt significant to them after considering that week’s readings, and speaking for 1-2 minutes on why they chose that image and how it resonated with their understanding of concepts within the readings.

So far, the assignments have been a success. The biggest success has been generating conversation between students regarding the choices they made, and what concepts are more difficult to grasp than others. The assignments are low stakes in terms of points, but really help to start off each class session with energy (not a small thing for a 12:00-2:50pm class), and the chance to work with concepts in a more personal, engaging way than just academic narrative appears to (1) inform how well students understand the concepts presented, and (2) make students much more open to discussing difficulties they encountered in the material, both in terms of comprehension and in terms of struggling with questions of social justice within particular contexts. This is no mean feat–before we explore information in different disciplines (such as economics and business, health, political science, and others), students have to master theories of freedom and justice. This means the first few weeks are heavy on political theory, which can be tough for students to get through. Low stakes assignments designed to elicit questions and identify challenges early mean that by the time we make it out into the disciplines we want to explore, students are comfortable with identifying the concepts of freedom and justice at work, as well as identifying those not actively considered by parties to various information conflicts.

The assignments also prime students for discussion–students have been eager to share their work and creativity, and the way I organize class is usually around a number of larger discussion questions instead of lecture. Because students have just engaged with sharing their assignment, moving into discussion about the readings (which were the foundation for their assignments) works well in terms of transition. We move from sharing the assignment, to covering concepts and lingering questions, and then into application across cultures and connection across disciplines.

It’s not all fun and games; my students are required to work on a research paper throughout the term–more on that in the next post. But so far, both the syllabus-decisions and the engaged journaling exercises (hat-tip to Dr. J!) have been huge successes for my course, and I’m looking forward to seeing how students respond to the next iteration when I intentionally include their feedback. I’m going to be doing a search for some literature on faculty who have involved students this way in syllabus-building, so if you know of any good reads on the subject, please share!

Riding the Wrecking Ball, Or, Fall Semester: 2015

This semester has been a grueling one–it started with a bang, and is just now beginning to let up. And by ‘let up,’ I mean it’s just now that I can start getting to my long to-do list of things I was hoping to accomplish this semester that fall just outside my primary duties of coordinating and scheduling instruction. That list includes reflecting on my teaching,

Summer 2015

Summer was a wild one, with some rough health issues, then a week away at PhD camp for the Mythological Studies degree, then the first week of August in Seattle for the ACRL Immersion program, then coming back to welcoming the new faculty, developing the syllabus for my new class, and scheduling library instruction.

September: All Information Literacy Instruction, All the Time

In September, I taught 27 instruction sessions across all manner of subjects (including Anthropology, Art, Business, Education, English, Environmental Science & Resource Management, Communication, Psychology, Political Science, Spanish, University Studies). Something I really value about the way our library works is that we are true partners with faculty–for every instruction session I teach, I make personal contact with the faculty member, and we craft the instruction session to be specific to what they want their students to learn in the context of their research assignment. Another policy that existed before I came that I’m happy with is that faculty are required to attend library sessions with their classes; no faculty member, no session. I’ve broken this policy on a few occasions where a faculty member made a specific request, and every time it has resulted in a poorer session not only because the professor tends to have a moderating effect on student behavior, but because we dig into the details of the assignment and it is always surprising how little the students understand, and how much the professor has to explain that they thought was clear. The value-add of that short conversation and having students articulate their understanding of their information needs (and having the professor see how *un*clear their instructions were) is immense.

I’ve made some good connections this year in teaching that I’ve been excited about. I’ve noticed that something as simple as asking if students are happy with their results, instead of whether they are getting good results, has led to better conversations with students about refinement and articulating their need. When teaching students how to read a full record from one of our databases, I hit on the idea (not novel, probably, but a new connection for me) that the hyperlinked subject terms effectively work like hashtags. It definitely livens up class when we can connect something familiar like #whitepeopleproblems or #bringbackourgirls to translating the pieces of research information in a record, and there’s a genuine “aha” moment I see in students’ eyes. That has been incredibly rewarding, so I’m using that analogy to death in relevant sessions.

I’ve had a huge uptick in the number of students emailing me after sessions, stopping me around campus, and coming by to see me at the library. It makes me happy that they come back to ask more questions, and so far (according to informal poll and students coming up to me after sessions and randomly during the day) the students feel that they’ve learned something new and useful in each of the sessions.

October

Somehow I’m only 8 instruction sessions into October–it feels like more, but they’ve also been upper-level and more specialized (including one session entirely on using EndNoteWeb for a Chicano Studies class). It’s been a blur – the rheumatoid arthritis was a real monkeywrench thrown into things this month with some uncontrollable inflammation, pain and swelling, and I spent the month mostly resting at home during off-time so I could work, hurling myself through the workday, and then heading home to collapse and do it all again. October is a vague blur of steroids, teaching, reference, meetings, and doctor appointments. By the grace of my colleagues who helped me with coverage and offered generous emotional support and cheerleading, and my husband who handles everything so that I can collapse, I’m still here, and if I make it through this week, I get to step into November. Ooh-rah! Next up to end the month (and my to-do right after I finish dashing this off) is setting up and testing Zoom for my first distance-delivered instruction session.

To Come

In the more-to-come for the back end of the semester, I’m getting caught up on grading for the course I’m teaching in Freedom and Justice Studies, working to establish some standards and options for distance information-literacy sessions, working on a gnarly revise-and-resubmit, and during the post-finals dip I’ll be getting to the chapters submitted for the edited collection I’ve contracted with ALA Editions. I’ll also be working with our director of the Writing & Multiliteracy Center to develop a new workshop series. I was lucky enough to have a talented friend and author come forward as a co-editor to finish the work on the collected papers on mythology and contemporary women poets that I started a few years ago, and thanks to her energy and talent, the collection is speeding toward publication and should come out in 2016. (More on this in another post where I discuss the difficulty of letting go a project I simply couldn’t finish.) So, always more to do, but it’s always interesting. Onward!

Looking at Summer 2015

Things on my librarian brain:

  • Our library team is working on our MOU (Memo of Understanding) in response to the program review we recently had (where outside folks come in and evaluate us). [Side note: in my previous life as an Access Services manager, an MOU was the first step in the disciplinary process of an employee. Not so with this MOU, this is just a normal response with a 2 and 5 year plan to address each item where needs were noted.]
  • Sort of related to the above, the 2015 ACRL Immersion Program has begun! Though I won’t head to Seattle until the beginning of August, the Moodle course is up and running, our readings and pre-assignments have been posted. I’m hoping to leverage the Immersion program to inform how we want our information literacy program to evolve for a growing campus with semistatic resources.
  • A “freemium ” model of peer-review, where authors could pay for faster review of their articles, was pretty much unanimously shot down as privileging moneyed scholars over non-moneyed. It was a trial by Nature Publishing Group to outsource peer-review for authors who could pay the price and were interested in being published faster. What if research funded by private interests is able to pay Gold OA fees and expedited review fees, whereas researchers dependent on academic institutions cannot? Does it matter if research funded by private interests, or more well-to-do universities, can be published faster? There’s still a shred of equality left in peer-reviewed journal article publishing (note I said a thread; I know this area is also fraught with politics and foibles). Is this something librarians are keeping an eye on, and/or talking about?
  • I’ll be working on my Freedom & Justice Studies class in this summer’s GE (General Education) Design & Assessment Institute in early June on campus. Among other things in the day-and-a-half learning opportunity, I hope to better match my assignments to student learning outcomes (I find I can always learn more in this area!) and turn my major class assignment into one of the campus Signature Assignments. The program is limited to 12 slots, so I’m very excited for the opportunity.
  • Submitted a journal article to the Journal of Practical Academic Librarianship, but in re-reviewing it, I think I may have benefited from a more thorough literature review. I’m expecting that one to bounce back, but we’ll see.
  • Completed the preparation work for a new research project with a colleague in the Communication department, and will be bringing the IRB paperwork to my chair so she can sign off on it before it heads to the IRB committee.  We’ll be looking at whether supplemental information literacy material (in the forms of point-of-need tutorials and a discussion board with a librarian) have any impact at all on student research products.

The Teaching Librarian: FJS 340 and Teaching Full-Credit Courses

To my great delight, I’ve been invited to teach in the Freedom and Justice Studies minor in Fall 2015. I’ll be teaching the three-credit upper-division interdisciplinary general education course FJS 340: Exploring Freedom and Justice on Thursday afternoons in fall 2015. The course description as it appears in the catalog is:

Starting from philosophical understandings of identity, community, and democracy the course focuses on themes such as slavery and emancipation; migration, exile, and diaspora; violence and reconciliation. Using an interdisciplinary lens that engages fields as wide-ranging as economics and literature, students will engage in trans-historical, cross-cultural exploration of freedom and justice and the various ways different peoples have attempted to put them into practice. Students will engage tools to analyze the relationship between these concepts and the structure of identity and its material effects.

Effectively the course chooses a wicked problem and explores it in an interdisciplinary way from a foundation of freedom and justice philosophy. Unsurprisingly, as a librarian, the wicked problem that struck me immediately was information. Access to information (the haves and have-nots), privileged authorship and dissemination of information, control (or lack thereof) of information, personal information issues–all critically important, and all related to our understanding and exercise of freedom and justice. As an interdisciplinary creature myself, that part of the course description also appealed to me as a way to integrate my own studies, and engage students in various fields. Happily, Dr. Julia Balén who runs the program agreed that information is an interesting lens for the course, and my Library chair and AVP agreed that not only is it a great topic to teach, but it also matches up with our library’s engagement with information literacy as a general education outcome and as something we would like to see more prominently featured in the curriculum.

Because balance is something I am working hard to achieve, my chair recommended a reduction in my committee work because of the increase on the teaching side. I will be taking on the course as part of my teaching duties. Occasionally (and optimally), departments bringing in folks from outside their department to teach a course offer what we call a “buy-out,” where the department would pay the library for my WTU (weighted teaching unit) time, and the Library could (in the best -case scenario) use those funds to hire a part-time person to replace me on the reference desk, or in some of my other duties. (I’ve worked at other universities where librarians were not expected to engage in teaching, and those teaching duties would fall outside my regular assignment, to be done outside Library time. In that case, a department would hire me as an adjunct and pay me separately from my regular paycheck. So, things may be handled differently depending on your institution. It’s a good question to ask during  the interview if you are interested in teaching semester-long courses, since it does have political, budgetary, and workload repercussions depending on the system.)

I am currently working on designing the course, and am developing a working bibliography crossing  disciplines, cultures, and kinds of information (For those interested, see FJS 340 Bibliography-In-Progress). After a foundation in philosophies of freedom and justice, theories of information, and readings on information poverty and information literacy, the course will be structured weekly by discipline (health, economics, politics, conflict and war, education, etc.). In an attempt to have students think about information broadly, we won’t only be using book chapters and research articles (though right now the bibliography is mostly just that). Students will also be considering art, poetry, fiction, memoir, testimonio, music, video, and other forms of information.

The course is a writing-intensive one, so I am also working on developing the writing assignments . I have used weekly critical reflection papers in previous courses as a way to make students engage with the material, but a weekly paper can become rote and dull. As an ISLAS Faculty Fellow, I recently attended a workshop by Dr. Jacob Jenkins (affectionately known on campus as Dr. J) on building community in the classroom, and he was kind enough to share with me a number of his efforts¹ to engage students in journaling that allowed students to be creative in engaging the material.  Another ISLAS workshop by Dr. Jenny Luna addressed the power of testimonio in capturing the experience of the disenfranchised and incorporating testimonio in the college classroom, which inspired me to make sure that I include readings on this valuable kind of information. I have a vague idea for an assignment that asks students to identify an information issue in their communities, identify stakeholders and the freedom and justice concepts involved, and explore the information issue in depth, both with background research and active engagement through interviews. (I’m currently working with the Center for Community Engagement since I know they will have great ideas for helping me turn this general idea into a dynamite engagement opportunity.) Working on this has been a great way to pick my library and campus colleagues’ brains about their favorite readings in their area of study on the issue of information (hello, undercover outreach!), as well as an exercise for myself in both creativity and restraint. (I know the linked bibliography is already too long and complicated for a single undergrad gen-ed course. I know. But it’s nice to know I have options!)

In reality, designing this course is a dream assignment for a librarian. What do we want students to know about information, and its impact on freedom and justice? How do our conceptions of freedom and justice shape our thoughts about information? My intent is to offer the students a smorgasbord of readings in various disciplines to whet their appetites and engage both their critical thinking and their imaginations. Right now I’m working on this on weekends and evenings, but I imagine it will creep into my summer days as I work on the actual syllabus and day-by-day structure of the course. You can expect more from me on this, I’m sure, and I am also looking forward to reflecting on the course as I teach it. If you have any ideas for readings, assignments, or other information you would recommend for this kind of course, please do share. I will share the final bibliography as well as the syllabus once they’re completed.

References

¹ Jenkins, Jacob. “Engaged Journaling: Using Experiential Learning Theory to Employ Multiple Learning Styles.” with T. Clarke. Paper delivered at Western States Communication Association Annual Convention. Spokane, WA, Feb 20, 2015. (https://www.westcomm.org/convention/documents/2015WSCAProgram.pdf)

 

 

 

Barreling Toward the End of My First CSUCI Spring Semester

In order of importance, the things going on as the semester careens to a close:

On the library front:

  • Finals are coming, finals are coming! Students are feeling the pressure, which means we at the library do, too. ALL OF THE PRINTING.  On an admittedly less-than-superior printing setup. And the last papers of the semester, so we’re seeing some hail-Marys at the reference desk;
  • This will be my first finals where I take lead on the end of semester feedback. We set up “graffiti” boards with giant post-it’s on whiteboards asking what we’re doing right, and what we can improve, and collect all that information. We also have a student survey, and a faculty survey. My colleagues all tabulate and organize the data, and we’ll see what we can do to improve for next finals season;
  • The 24-hour library. The week before and the week of finals, we stretch the library and its staff to 24 hours for our students. Thank goodness for the folks who work the overnight! I’m picking up some 6am shifts, but those are easier for me than the late evening or midnight shifts, now that I’ve apparently become an elder;
  • The Party of the Year is later this month: The Faculty Accomplishments Party. Cited by faculty as THE party of the year, and something that spurs them to get some research published or presented by the deadline, this bash is where the library celebrates our faculty here at Channel Islands. There are awards, faculty who have published or presented something in the past year get a spiffy poster of their work, and there is general merriment. And wine and beer. And laughter. This will be my first, and I’m excited, since when I was here for the interview, nearly everyone cited it as The Most Important Thing to Know About Being A Faculty Member Here.

On the personal/life front:

  • Lots of doctor appointments, since I’ve been feeling crappy. Turns out I’m gluten intolerant, and nightshade intolerant, and all-sorts-of-foodstuff-intolerant, so I’m going on the autoimmune protocol diet. A royal PITA in terms of food lists and preparation, but apparently it’s what I need, so. Hrmp. Think super-restricted Paleo-style. No grains/gluten (but corn! But rice!), legumes, dairy, eggs. nuts, seeds, sweeteners, nightshades (white potatoes, tomatoes, bell peppers, etc.), modern vegetable oils, refined sugars,  and processed food chemicals. Since part of my reaction is histamine-related (a bad reaction and all of my tattoos actually raise up on my skin!), that also means no lemon, lime, kiwi, mango, processed meat (ONOES BACON), bananas, and strawberries, among other things. SAD. PANDA;
  • Fabulous Husband and I have gotten into the habit of walking the dogs to the dog park. There’s nothing quite so silly as a duo of basset hounds running a few laps, and then collapsing for the rest of the hour. Except maybe the sight of Fabulous Husband and I running, trying to encourage them to get up and chase us;
  • Fabulous Husband and I are signed up to do a 5k at the end of the month, right before our 2-ear wedding anniversary. Which I have not at all begun training for (the 5k, not the anniversary), and is the result of a New Year’s Resolution when I was feeling feisty. Oh, New Year Colleen. You were so optimistic. *pats self on head*

On the research front:

  • The magical and hard-working copy-editors at The Journal of Academic Librarianship have done their work, fixed my gaffes, and that article should be coming online shortly;
  • Today was the deadline for book chapter proposals from library directors discussion leadership skill lessons learned. 36 excellent proposals received (woohoo!), and now (well, likely next weekend) I have to go through them and do some selecting, and respond to the authors by May 1;
  • I’m finishing up editing the chapters for another book on contemporary women poets and mythology. These authors have been extremely patient with me as timelines were extended due to my health, the move, the new job, my health, etc. I’m looking forward to having these out of my hands, and this project out into the world;
  • I have a few articles in the works. One more coming out of the dissertation on leadership development at different levels of the organization (probably to submit to College & Research Libraries), one on using ritual theory to explore chronic illness (proposal accepted by New Directions in the Humanities), and one on intersections of myth, technology, and information literacy;
  • I’ll be presenting in mid-June at CaVraCon (California Visual Resources Association conference) on using digital images in information literacy instruction;
  • I’m waiting to hear back about my proposals to present at the internet Librarian conference in October. I think those announcements usually go out in late June or early July;
  • I have a full-length poetry manuscript out and under review at a few different small presses;
  • I have 3 manuscripts in-progress and one data-collection project that I won’t fool with until summer;
  • Oh, yeah, still working on that Ph.D. in Mythological Studies. Which reminds me to pack my reading for the first spring session.

And in teaching:

  • My last information literacy sessions are next week, early Monday morning and late Tuesday evening;
  • Which means it’s time to look back at the stats and see how we’re doing, and who we’re touching;
  • And I’m in super informal discussions with the chair of the Freedom & Justice Studies minor about the possibility of my teaching FJS 340 in the Fall semester. Titled Explorations of Freedom and Justice, it’s an opportunity to pick a wicked problem and look at it across time, cultures, and disciplines. I’d like to look at information access as the wicked problem, and am having a grand old time culling building a bibliography, structuring a syllabus, and thinking about how I can develop engaging assignments.
Possible sources for FJS 340 readings

Possible sources for FJS 340 readings (minus the 50+ journal articles under consideration). Do you have recommendations?