Thanksgiving wishes (InfoSavvy)

Vintage Thanksgving postcard featuring farm produce

Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library. Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving. Retrieved from

We wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday.

Posted by on November 25th, 2015 Comments Off

Managing information (InfoSavvy)

Thanksgiving Dinner

Image By D Sharon Pruitt/ Pink Sherbet Photography from USA [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Since we are nearing a holiday that celebrates abundance, how do we manage (overly) plentiful information?  This week let’s explore this question.

Zastrow (2014) offers a useful overview of personal information management with plentiful resources.  One of those sources is helping me organize my photos: yes, even those of us who deal with information for a living can use some tips.

In The Creative Habit choreographer Twyla Tharp (2006) describes how she organizes the research for her dances.  Though she explains why she uses her particular system, she urges readers to find systems that work for them.  The key is to have a system (pp. 78-90).

These readings are but two sources for inspiration.  How do you manage information abundance?


Tharp, T. (2006). The creative habit: Learn it and use it for life: A practical guide.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Zastrow, J. (2014). PIM 101: Personal information management. Computers In Libraries, 34(2), 22-24. Retrieved from


Posted by on November 19th, 2015 Comments Off

More on evaluating multiple sources (InfoSavvy)

Image By Martorell (Self-published work by Martorell) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 (, CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 ( or LGPL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week I touched upon the idea of cross-checking sources.  What happens, though, when sources conflict with one another?

Bråten, Braasch, Strømsø, and Ferguson (2015) looked at this question.  They had students read six documents offering different views on a scientific issue.   Document types ranged from a textbook excerpt to a popular science article to a debate article (p. 326).

Specifically the documents concerned cell phone use and cancer.  Student participants wrote an essay on the topic.  The researchers looked at how they used the six sources in those essays (Bråten et al, 2015, pp. 329-330).

Then participants rank-ordered the documents for trustworthiness and offered the rationale for their rankings.  The authors grouped the rationale statements into content reasons, author reasons (based on the author’s background or intent), document reasons (based on the document’s type or purpose), publication reasons (based on the specific publication’s reputation or purpose), and personal reasons.

I’ll need to read the article in more depth to fully process the results.  All the same we can learn much by thinking about different source types and different evaluation criteria.


Bråten, I., Braasch, J.L.G., Strømsø, H.I., & Ferguson,  L. E. (2015). Establishing trustworthiness when students read multiple documents containing conflicting scientific evidence. Reading Psychology, 36(4), 315-349. doi: 10.1080/02702711.2013.864362

Posted by on November 12th, 2015 Comments Off

Web evaluation checklists (InfoSavvy)

Meola (2004) critiques an over reliance on checklists as web evaluation tools.  Nonetheless two checklists merit attention.

The first is from the Kaiser Family Foundation (2003): the second is from John McManus (2013).  The lists apply not only to web resources, but to any sources.  In this way they avoid villainizing web resources simply due to their format.

Both lists also ask users to think about what is missing from a source.  At times what is omitted is as telling as what is included.

Finally, the SMELL (Source, Motivation, Evidence, Logic, Left out) checklist involves checking the information against other sources (McManus, 2013).  Is that practice so different from the contextual evaluation that Meola advocates (2004, p. 338)?

I agree with Meola (2004) that we don’t want to encourage rote or superficial evaluation.  Still, a good checklist can remind us of basic questions.  Then we have time for the deeper questions.  As Gawande puts it, “the checklist gets the dumb stuff out of the way, the routines your brain shouldn’t have to occupy itself with” (2010, p. 177).

In short checklists are one tool, but not the be all and end all, of source evaluation.  How can we develop a whole tool kit?


Gawande, A. (2010). The checklist manifesto: How to get things right. New York, NY: Metropolitan Books.

Kaiser Family Foundation. (2003).  Key facts: Media literacy. Retrieved from

McManus, J. (2013, February 7). Don’t be fooled: Use the SMELL test to separate fact from fiction online. MediaShift. Retrieved from

Meola, M. (2004). Chucking the checklist: A contextual approach to teaching undergraduates web-site evaluation.  Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 4(3), 331-344.

Posted by on November 5th, 2015 Comments Off

Popular to scholarly, Halloween style (InfoSavvy)

Superhero reading

Image by Thibault fr (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons

Every so often I demonstrate how a non-scholarly source can lead to scholarly ones: that’s why I write my summer reading posts.    Halloween inspired yet another example.

A blog post (Gibrich, 2015) described incorporating costume elements into a work wardrobe.  This piece sent me in two directions.

Since Gibrich (2015, Before You Begin section, para. 1) advised knowing your employer’s written and unwritten dress codes, I looked for scholarly articles on workplace dress codes.   One article (Saiki, 2013) looked at low-income job seekers and their perceptions of work attire.

Another obvious direction was the concept of costume play, or cosplay.  For a look at gender and cosplay I found a piece by Scott (2015).

These are but two examples, and neither one is developed enough for a full-scale project.  Still, they highlight the role of non-scholarly content in research.  Have a safe and happy Halloween!



Gibrich, C. (2015, September 7). Cosplay in the workplace [ Blog post]. Retrieved from

Saiki, D. (2013). Identification of workplace dress by low-income job seekers. Journal Of Employment Counseling, 50(2), 50-58. doi:10.1002/j.2161-1920.2013.00024.x

Scott, S.(2015). Cosplay is serious business: Gendering material fan labor on Heroes of cosplay. Cinema Journal 54(3), 146-154. doi:10.1353/cj.2015.0029

Posted by on October 29th, 2015 Comments Off

Blogs and scholarly conversation (InfoSavvy)

WordPress 10th anniversary

Image by Lisa Risager from Denmark (WordPress 10th anniversary  Uploaded by palnatoke) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

As a blogger I follow some favorite blogs.  A recent post in one of them highlighted research as a conversation.

LaGuardia (2015) summarized the first two phases of a Project Information Literacy study.  Phase 1 interviews found that recent graduates followed blogs in various ways: lurking, fully participating, etc. (¶ 6).  These strategies would be akin to levels of  participation in a conversation, from passively listening to fully engaged.

The post itself furthers the conversation by directing readers to the Project Information Literacy Reports.  After all  I can read the Phase 1 report (Head, 2014) to make an informed comment about the piece I mentioned above.

This concept seems obvious, yet bears repeating.  West (2015) devotes an entire lesson to the topic.  If people already follow blog conversations in daily life, we can use those conversations to explain scholarly conversations.


Head, A. J. (2014, July 29). Project Information Literacy’s lifelong learning study, phase one: Interviews with recent graduates.  Research brief.  Retrieved from

LaGuardia, C. (2015, August 6). College graduates, critical thinking, and information strategies [Blog post]. Retrieved from

West, B. (2015). Starting points: The role of blogs in scholarly conversation.  In P. Bravender, H. McClure, & G. Schaub (Eds.), Teaching information literacy threshold concepts: Lesson plans for librarians (pp. 32-36). Chicago, IL: Association of College & Research Libraries.

Posted by on October 22nd, 2015 Comments Off

Open Access and Your Work (InfoSavvy)

Information literacy includes developments in scholarly communication (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015).  With this point in mind I salute Open Access Week (October 19-15).

McKinnon and Helge (2014) offer a good basic overview of open access as a concept.  They explain the difference between green open access, where the item is freely available, and gold open access, which often involves an author fee to the publisher.  An example of the former would be preprint articles in an institutional repository (pp. 14-15).

I oversimplify for the sake of discussion.  Still, the mention of a repository serves as a good reminder about our repository, Digital Commons@USM.  If you have recently published or presented something, let your liaison librarian know.  He or she can add your work to the repository.   There it can get more of the attention it deserves!


Association of College & Research Libraries (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.  Retrieved from

McKinnon, L. F., & Helge, K. S. (2014). Copyright, open access and library instruction.  Library Hi Tech News, 31(10), 14-16. doi: 10.1108/LHTN-07-2014-0064

Posted by on October 15th, 2015 Comments Off

Learning about altmetrics (InfoSavvy)


Image from

As useful as the peer review process still is, it does not account for the new and varied ways in which research is being shared.  How do blog posts about an article, for instance, reflect its impact?  What does a scholar’s Twitter following measure?  These are the types of questions addressed through altmetrics.

What are altmetrics?  One site (“Altmetrics,” n.d., ¶ 1 ) defines them as “the creation and study of new metrics based on the Social web for analyzing and informing scholarship.”   Priem, Taraborelli, Groth, and Neylon (2010) provide a more thorough discussion of the concept in the Altmetrics Manifesto.

The American Library Association’s Library Instruction Round Table has addressed the concept (“Tech talk,” 2014). In the library literature we also have an article by Wilson (2013).

Scholarship doesn’t take place in a vacuum.  Altmetrics acknowledge this fact.


Altmetrics: About. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Priem, J., Taraborelli, D., Groth, P. , & Neylon, C. (2010). Altmetrics: A manifesto. Retrieved from

Tech talk: Altmetrics. (2014, June). LIRT News, 36(4), 13-22.  Retrieved from

Wilson, V. (2013). Research methods: Altmetrics. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice, 8(1), 126-128. Retrieved from


Posted by on October 8th, 2015 Comments Off

American Archives Month 2015 (InfoSavvy)

Skeleton key

Image from

The ACRL Information Literacy Framework (2015) mentions the information ecosystem.  Both material and digital sources are part of that ecosystem.  The materiality of archival sources complements the increasingly digital nature of regular library collections (Samuelson & Coker, 2014).  American Archives Month serves as a good reminder of this fact.


Association of College & Research Libraries (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.  Retrieved from

Samuelson, T., & Coker, C. (2014). Mind the gap: Integrating special collections teaching.  Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 14(1), 51-66.

Posted by on October 1st, 2015 Comments Off

Banned Books Week 2015 (InfoSavvy)

Banned Books Week logo

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Each year I post about Banned Books Week.  I do so because information literacy addresses the social issues around information (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015).  Banned Books Week 2015(September 27-October 3) will focus on young adult books.

Paint Me Like I Am: Teen Poems (WritersCorps, 2003) was challenged twice in one period.  A 2009 parental challenge led a Vineyard, NJ school principal to remove the pages with the poem “Diary of an abusive stepfather.”  In 2010 the North Fond du Lac, WI school district required the middle/high school library’s copy to be labeled for high school use (Doyle, 2010, p. 8).

Vigilante Poets of Selwyn Academy concerns both teen poets and censorship.  When a sleazy competition show comes to their school, four friends use poetry to launch a protest (Hattemer, 2014).

I celebrated Banned Books Week with a challenged title and a tie-in.  Will you celebrate it?


Association of College & Research Libraries (2015). Framework for information literacy for higher education.  Retrieved from

Doyle, R.P. (2010).  Think for yourself and let others do the same: Books challenged or banned in 2009-2010.  Retrieved from

Hattemer, K. (2014). The vigilante poets of Selwyn Academy. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

WritersCorps. (2003). Paint me like I am: Teen poems. New York, NY: HarperTempest.



Posted by on September 24th, 2015 Comments Off