Building on information needs (InfoSavvy)

Cell phone on top of address book

Image from

Last year I downsized my work office.  Now I am downsizing my home office.  The project makes another point about info lit.

When I found that the existing shelves did not hold books very well, I adjusted my initial plan to include a bookcase.  To make room for the bookcase I need to haul out some furniture.  That process, in turn, will mean calling my helpers.

The ACRL Information Literacy Framework (2014) describes information seeking as “non-linear and iterative” (p. 10).   I am describing environmental information (the size of my study, the weight of the furniture, etc.), instead of academic information.  Still, information needs change, and one need builds upon previous needs.


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Revised draft.  Retrieved from

Posted by on August 21st, 2014 Comments Off

InfoSavvy on vacation

Placid lake

I have been enjoying a week off.  On Thursday I shall return with a new post.  In the meantime, enjoy your week, too!

Posted by on August 17th, 2014 Comments Off

Researching the romance (InfoSavvy)

Living room with pink furniture

Image from

In the summer we set aside more time for leisure reading.  Pleasure reading time is at the heart of Janice Radway’s classic Reading the Romance.

Radway had interviewed romance readers about the role this practice plays in their lives.  Many of the respondents saw the reading as a respite from the demands of caring for others.  The readers were setting aside a time and space to attend to their own emotional needs (1984/1991, p. 93).

I oversimplify Radway’s findings.  Radway herself (1984/1991) discusses developments that took place since the original 1984 printing  (pp. 1-18).  All the same the work takes seriously something commonly dismissed–leisure reading, especially romance reading.

I have described leisure reading as a reflection of academic research.  I have described it as a springboard to academic research.  This year I celebrate it as the topic of academic research.


Radway, J. A. (1991). Reading the romance: Women, patriarchy, and popular literature. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press. (Original work published 1984)

Posted by on August 7th, 2014 Comments Off

The info lit of postcards (InfoSavvy)

Postcard of steamer on Chautauqua Lake

Image from New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Do you collect postcards?  If so, you know how this hobby involves multiple types of information.  As I sort through a box of family postcards, I’m learning firsthand about these sources.

I started with what I know best–library resources.  The URSUS catalog yielded the books you see on the References list (Though dated, the price guide can serve as a starting point.).  I found the articles in the America: History & Life database (I would recommend Hobbies & Crafts Reference Center as well.).

These readings will inform my conversations with the appropriate people.   For the cards I wish to donate I will need to contact people from various historical societies and special collections.  For the cards I wish to sell I will need to consult collectors and dealers.  These people are information sources, too, after all.


Allmen, D.  (1991). The official identification and price guide to postcards. New York, NY: Ballantine Books.

Getty, R. (2012). Memories for a dime. Alberta History, 60(3), 64–71.

Range, T. E. (1980). The book of postcard collecting. New York, NY: Dutton.

Sprague, S. S. (1979). Old postcards: A look at your ancestors’ world. Family Heritage, 2(4), 100–105.

Vallerand, J. (2013). La carte postale nous raconte [Postcards tell a story]. Canadian Rail: The Magazine of Canada’s Railway Heritage., (557), 265–269.

Wood, J. (1995). The collector’s guide to post cards (Rev. ed.). Gas City, IN: L.-W. Promotions.

Posted by on July 31st, 2014 Comments Off

Rock and roll info lit (InfoSavvy)


Rock concert audience

Image from

Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page told an interviewer a story about misinformation.  Someone had insisted that a song from one LZ album was actually from another.  When Page asked him about his sources, the person mentioned an inaccurate website and notes from a pirated disc.  “Voilà,” ends the story, “comment l’histoire est réécrite! [That is how history is rewritten!]” (Page, 2014, p. 26).

Authority may be contextual, to invoke the ACRL Information Literacy Framework (2014, pp. 7-8), but standards exist.  Page cited the authority of both the official album and his own firsthand knowledge.  In other words he was promoting information literacy–rock style.


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Revised draft.  Retrieved from

Page, J. (2014, May 28). Mes années Led Zeppelin [My Led Zeppelin years; Interview by Sacha Reins]. Paris Match, 3393, 26-27.

Posted by on July 24th, 2014 Comments Off

A refresher on database searching (InfoSavvy)

Iced tea

By Renee Comet (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

What does iced tea have in common with database searching?  Good tea recipes and good search strategies both come from careful refinements.

I had blended two types of tea.  When the resulting batch tasted too much like one of them, I used less of that tea–and more of the other–in my next batch.

Likewise an initial search may not be spot on, but we use the results to shape our next search.  Did we get too many hits?  We can use tighter limits or narrower search terms.  Did we get too few hits?  We can loosen the limits or try broader search terms.  We can even add or remove search terms.

Also, I had chosen the two teas based on my experience that they should go well together.  Background knowledge helps us choose initial search terms as well.

I can use the recipe analogy the next time I talk about database searching.  In the meantime I’ll pour myself a glass of iced tea.

P.S.  For those of you who are into tea, the successful blend was 8 bags of Earl Grey  and two bags of a lavender green tea.

Posted by on July 17th, 2014 Comments Off

When librarians get together (InfoSavvy)

Portland Public Library

By Namiba.Namiba at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

The Social Science Librarians Boot Camp wasn’t my only recent conference.  On June 6 I had attended the Southern Maine Library District Reference Librarians’ meeting.  We attendees gained much from getting together.

We discussed improvements to the Marvel! statewide resources page.  We offered many suggestions.  Though they weren’t directly from regular users, the comments were informed by our day-to-day interactions with our patrons.

We also discussed a trial discovery service, similar to USM’s OneSearch.  At press time we are testing it and offering feedback.

The event had its lighter moments as well.  We even shared favorite entertainment sites.  If you really want an insight into the world of librarians, check out their entertainment.

Since I like song parodies, I couldn’t resist sharing this video by James McGrath.  I hope you are having entertaining get-togethers.

Posted by on July 10th, 2014 Comments Off

An informed musical for July 4th (InfoSavvy)

Vintage July 4th postcard

Image from New York Public Library Digital Gallery

At this time of the year I couldn’t resist mentioning the musical 1776.  The show’s book is  interesting from an information standpoint as well.

The book includes historical notes (Stone & Edwards, 1998, pp.153-165).  This section covers both historically accurate details and details changed for dramatic reasons.   Stone and Edwards even describe how these details were changed: added, deleted, or guessed at.  They also mention events that were rearranged.  Of course they include a bibliography  (pp.169-171).

Though we look for informed work in research papers, let’s not forget information use in other realms, such as musical theater.  I wish you and yours a safe, happy July 4th!


Stone, P., & Edwards, S. (1998). 1776: A musical play. New York, NY: Penguin Books. (Original work published 1970)

Posted by on July 3rd, 2014 Comments Off

Mutual benefit (InfoSavvy)


Image By liftarn ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As I was preparing last week’s post, I listened to a webinar that touched upon a theme from the last two SSL Boot Camp presentations.

In their session Barbara Esty and Kevin Garewal (Baker Library, Harvard Business School) discussed legal and ethical limitations to data mining.  They advised researchers to be specific about what data they want and why they want to use it.  Such information can help in negotiating a workable solution for everyone involved.

Karen Downing (University of Michigan Library) demonstrated grantwriting resources.  She noted a common grant-seeking challenge: failure to fully connect the project to the funder’s mission.

Library consultant Joan Frye Williams made a similar point in a June 18 webinar.  She urged listeners to focus on the partnering relationship first.  She also noted that, when seeking  partners, we should look at our assets and not simply our needs.  Then any resulting projects would best meet the needs of both parties.  Though she wasn’t talking about grant-seeking or research, she touched upon the issue of reciprocity.  How can we develop not only partnerships, but mutually beneficial ones?


Williams, J. F. (2014, June 18). Asset-based collaboration [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from



Posted by on June 26th, 2014 Comments Off

Boot camp buffet (InfoSavvy)


Image by Jordan Klein from San Francisco, United States (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Once more I had the good fortune to attend the Social Science Librarians Boot Camp.  This year’s event took place in a building that had once housed Julia Child’s test kitchen.

Fittingly the first panel concerned food.  Uma Karmarkar (Harvard Business School) shared research on the use of cloth grocery bags and food purchases.  Where cloth bags are voluntary,  users do tend to buy more organic items and more treats, though habituation may occur.  Sasha Fleary (Tufts University) spoke of the numerous factors affecting healthier food choices.  Clinicians need to consider social, cultural, economic, and other facrors when making dietary recommendations.  Even transportation can be a factor for those in areas ill-served by public transportation.  Emily Broad Leib (Harvard Law School) discussed the issues surrounding dates on food packaging.   There is no uniformity in dates, and the confusion can lead consumers to food out prematurely.

Then three doctoral candidates gave us participants a taste of their research.  Though Brandon Foster (Tufts University) advocated open source tools, he did so in the context of an overall workflow.   He mentioned librarians educating users about the research process, as opposed to tools.    Frank Nagle (Harvard Business School) highlighted different projects.  One of these projects also concerned open source tools and productivity.  Claire Brennecke (Yale University) used Baker Library Special Collections to look at historic credit reporting.  She spoke of librarians connecting researchers to the literature of different disciplines.

I can only offer tidbits from these presentations.  Next week I’ll cover the rest of the boot camp and another recent presentation.  In the meantime I thank the hosts and presenters.

Posted by on June 19th, 2014 Comments Off