Journeys of curiosity (InfoSavvy)

Yellow brick road on the Pennine Way bridleway, United Kingdom

Image by Bob Jenkins [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


I hope you’re enjoying your summer–and your summer reading.  I just read Kristin Chenoweth’s memoir, A Little Bit Wicked.

The title alludes to Chenoweth’s role as Galinda in the Broadway musical Wicked (Chenoweth & Rodgers, 2009). Kruse and Prettyman (2008) had looked at women’s leadership styles as embodied in the show’s three major female characters.

The article and the memoir have sparked my curiosity about the musical’s source material (Maguire, 1996).  After all, isn’t curiosity part of information literacy (Hensley, 2004)?

My summer reading has taken me to Broadway, to the leadership literature and to Oz.  Where is your summer reading taking you?


Chenoweth, K., & Rodgers, J. (2009). A little bit wicked: Life, love, and faith in stages. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Hensley, R. B. (2004). Curiosity and creativity as attributes of information literacy. Reference & User Services Quarterly, 44(1), 31–36. Retrieved from

Kruse, S. D., & Prettyman, S. S. (2008). Women, leadership, and power: revisiting the Wicked Witch of the West. Gender & Education, 20(5), 451-464. doi:10.1080/09540250701805797

Maguire, G. (1996). Wicked: The life and times of the Wicked Witch of the West. New York, NY: ReganBooks.

Posted by on July 23rd, 2015 Comments Off

Customer service–by whatever name (InfoSavvy)

Grand Century Place Customer Service Centre

Image by WiNG (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Maine Academic Libraries Day (June 16) concerned the customer experience.  Though I can’t do justice to the morning program, I can give you the highlights.

Keynote speaker Kelly McDonald (McDonald Marketing) spoke of understanding our customers’ lives and tailoring our services accordingly.  To serve a community we need to listen to its members and learn its values.  As one example McDonald described a bank that adequately provided both ATM/mobile service and live tellers.   Since it had many members who valued convenience and many members who valued social interaction,  the bank’s community needed both services.

Afterward some librarian panelists shared their wisdom about patron service.  Carmen Greenlee (Bowdoin College) talked about outreach to faculty, from serving on search committees to marking faculty milestones.  Joyce Rumery (University of Maine) also emphasized the building of relationships: faculty comments showed how these relationships matter.  Laura Juraska (Bates College) offered examples of the service philosophy “Make it easier.  Make it special.  Make it their place.  Make ourselves available.”  Bob Heath (Colby College) focused on the training of student workers.  Bethany Kenyon (University of New England) described such services as 24-hour spaces.

I use the terms “customer” and “patron” interchangeably. Whatever term we use, we librarians attend such events to better our service to you.


Posted by on July 16th, 2015 Comments Off

Unpacking conference learning (InfoSavvy)


Image by Alf van Beem (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

When I return from a conference, I share what I learned there.  Often I learn as much from the travel as I do from the event itself.

The night before one conference I discovered stains on the top I’d packed.  Since it was a one-day workshop, I had brought only one dress top, and spot cleaning did not save it.  Fortunately a local friend knew of a nearby Goodwill® store, where I found a suitable top.  I learned to check my clothes in varied lighting before I pack.  More to the point, I valued  local information even more than I had before.

While packing for another conference I used a checklist.  I had made the list overwhelming, though.  Next time I’ll follow Atul Gawande’s advice in The Checklist Manifesto and better tailor the list to my needs.

My examples may seem trivial, yet they both involve using information.  By paying attention to such everyday information use, we can encourage our students to do likewise.  Then we can build on this existing information literacy–both theirs and ours.


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

Posted by on July 9th, 2015 Comments Off

Hot topics for the 4th (InfoSavvy)

Fireworks over the Lincoln Memorial

By J.W.Photography from Annapolis (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

July 4th reminds us of our responsibilities as citizens.  Among these is to remain at least somewhat informed about current issues.  The libraries have a series of Hot Topics guides to help us stay informed.  Topics include  homelessness and vaccination.

You can view the full set via the library homepage.  From the Quick Links choose Subject Guides.   Then choose the subject Hot Topics.

Keep checking the site: your librarians are continually updating the guides and adding new ones.  Meanwhile I wish you a safe and happy 4th.


Posted by on July 2nd, 2015 Comments Off

Conference Conversation (InfoSavvy)

Watrous painting called Discussion

Harry Wilson Watrous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The ACRL/NEC Conference and the Social Science Librarians Boot Camp were not my only recent workshops.  On May 29 I attended Maine Larger Libraries Staff Development Day.  Interestingly the event echoed themes from the ACRL/NEC event.

In both cases the speakers discussed libraries as space–particularly as space for discovery, exploration, and collaboration.  Both sets of speakers stressed the value of user input in library design.

Why am I highlighting themes rather than doing a more complete overview?  Firstly I admit to a bit of conference fatigue (I remain grateful that I can attend conferences, though.).  Secondly I could not get all of the speakers’ permissions by press time.  Most importantly I can show these conferences as part of an ongoing conversation.  After all, isn’t scholarship a conversation (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015)?


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

Posted by on June 25th, 2015 Comments Off

The 5th Annual SSL Boot Camp part two (InfoSavvy)


By User:MeekMark based on jpg version by Wikipedia:User:Dysprosia (Prototype) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Lauren Conoscenti (Tufts University) led the afternoon breakout session on survey research.  Though I had learned survey basics in different courses, I felt that I could use a refresher.  Besides, I was bound to learn a few more tips.

I did learn, for example, to coordinate schedules with the office of institutional research.  That way  I don’t send out my survey at a time when people are already inundated with surveys.

This tip demonstrated how best practices are intertwined with better data.  Higher response rates generally give us better–or at least fuller– data.  Sending out a survey at the wrong time, for example, can lead to survey fatigue in our population.  Survey fatigue leads to fewer respondents.

Even aesthetics can impact response rates or completeness of surveys.  An overly long list of options can lead to people checking items at the top of the list and ignoring the choices near the end.  Alternately people could ignore the question entirely.  Either strategy would skew the results.

Most importantly the talk reinforced the need to start with your research question.  Is a survey the best data collection for my particular question?   Answering this question is the first step to better data.


Posted by on June 18th, 2015 Comments Off

The 5th Annual SSL Boot Camp Part one (InfoSavvy)

Tufts University

By Steve McFarland from somerville, ma., usa (light on the hill) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

June 5 marked the 5th annual Social Science Librarians Boot Camp.   Though I am awaiting some permissions, here are the highlights I can relate at press time.

The day started with faculty speakers sharing their research.  Dr. Calvin Gidney (Tufts University) thought about what children learn about themselves and about the world through television.   He and his team examined the content, especially sociolinguistic content, of several top-rated cartoons.   The project will continue with interviews of the shows’ producers and with a study of how children understand the content.   Dr. Jennie Pyers (Wellesley College) discussed her research on language delay and theory of mind.  She looked at how language delay impacts such abilities as inferring intentions and coordinating pretend play.  In the process I also learned about a relatively new language, Nicaraguan Sign Language.  Dr. Ruth Grossman (Emerson College) presented on her work with children who have high-functioning autism.  She researched both how these children express themselves and how their communication is perceived by others.  The findings will be useful to those who help such children.

Then a panel of doctoral candidates spoke about their use of libraries.  Sarah Detzner (Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy) spoke as a  writing center director.   She noted some common gaps in student understanding.  She suggested some possible ways to address these gaps: progressive assignments, integrated workshops, models, etc.   William Johnston (Harvard University Graduate School of Education) offered a library user perspective.  He recommended more consistency in online platforms.  He also saw a librarian role in educating students about different publishing opportunities, including alternatives to peer-reviewed journals.

Of course this post doesn’t do justice to any of these presentations.  If you’d like to know more, please let me know.  Next week I’ll discuss the afternoon session.

Posted by on June 11th, 2015 Comments Off

InfoSavvy vacation week

Beach pebbles

Image from

I’m on vacation this week.  Stay tuned for news of conferences and more.


Posted by on June 3rd, 2015 Comments Off

Dating the unpopular database (InfoSavvy)

Wrist corsage

By Tai Gray from Provo, USA (Corsage  Uploaded by France3470) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Discovery sites (for ex. OneSearch) have a database recommendation feature.  At times this feature nicely helps us focus our research.  Sometimes, though, it suggests only the popular kids as information prom dates.  We can overlook a less popular database with potentially valuable articles.  Andrew (2014) discusses this idea in a blog post about serendipity and online research.

The post (2014) links to Fine and Deegan’s definition of serendipity: “the unique and contingent mix of insight coupled with chance” (What is Serendipitous? section, para. 1).  To use my prom analogy, the insight would be openness to an unpopular prom date.  In research the insight is an openness to unusual connections among ideas.

The rest of the post (2014) discusses new tools that could better foster serendipity.  Such tools include Serendip-o-matic.  While I invite you to try them, my point is less about a tool than about a willingness to seek unusual connections.  Even the ACRL Framework (2015) mentions “mental flexibility” and “serendipitous methods of information gathering” (Searching as Strategic Exploration section, para. 3).

My prom metaphor may leave much to be desired.  Still, we can have a good time with an unpopular date–or an unpopular database.


Andrew, L. (2014, July 16). I’m feeling lucky: Can algorithms better engineer serendipity in research–or in journalism? [Blog post}.  Retrieved from

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

Posted by on May 28th, 2015 Comments Off

Space for Collaboration (InfoSavvy)

Image from

On May 8  ACRL’s New England Chapter held its annual conference, “Spacing Out with the Library.”  Both keynote speakers discussed the role of space in fostering collaboration.  Marie Sorensen (Sorensen Partners | Architects + Planners, Inc.) focused on physical space, while David Weinberger (Berkman Center for Internet & Society, Harvard University) focused on virtual space.  Librarians can enhance these spaces to foster shared stories and a sense of community.

Collaboration with stakeholders can change a space.   Cate Hirschbiel and Julie Petzold (Emerson College) described how they sought user input for a redesign.  Then they shared their  challenges communicating progress on the project .  They also shared images of the new room in varied uses.

In their session Matt Bejune and Sam O’Connell (Worcester State University) took listeners through different iterations of their information literacy assignments.   They described how the lessons became more active each time.  They stressed the importance of building a good working relationship.  Most importantly they encouraged listeners to take chances in their teaching collaborations.

Other highlights included a session on flipped classrooms  (Eric Styles, Sarah Zimmermann, and Eric LaForest; The Loomis Chaffee School) and a tour of the Osher Map Library.  Thanks to the Osher Map Library for providing the physical space.   Thanks to ACRL New England for streaming the conference to there across virtual space.  Doesn’t that arrangement sound like a collaboration?




Posted by on May 21st, 2015 Comments Off