Questioning assumptions (InfoSavvy)

Question mark

 ”Question mark”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

In a blog post Barbara Fister (2014) reports on the Adobe Digital Editions privacy fiasco (Hoffelder, 2014).  As eye-opening as the revelations are, the post also impresses me in its questioning of assumptions.

Fister (2014) refuses to assume that library users don’t care about privacy.  “Show me the evidence,” she writes, “that they really, truly, have no problem with all kinds of people knowing what pages they’re read from all of the books they have borrowed. . .” (para. 3, bullet point 3).

Then Fister (2014) questions the digital natives stereotype (para. 3, bullet point 3).   The idea that all people of a certain age engage with technology in the same way neglects other social, cultural,  and economic factors (Lanclos, n.d., para. 5).

Most importantly Fister (2014) refuses to take for granted that such privacy breaches are simply the future.  Unquestioning acceptance of “progress” can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy (para. 3, bullet point 3).

As I am still learning about the Adobe Digital Editions issue, I may have to question some of my own assumptions.  Still, examining assumptions is a part of information literacy (ACRL, 2014, p. 1).


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Draft 3.  Retrieved from

Fister, B. (2014, October 9). The reader has no clothes [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Hoffelder, N. (2014, October 6). Adobe is spying on users, collecting data on their ebook libraries [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Lanclos, D. (n.d.). How I learned to stop worrying about digital natives and love V&R [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Posted by on March 26th, 2015 Comments Off

Resources for alums 2015 (InfoSavvy)

Sun through a leafy canopy

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Can we really be this far into the semester already?!  Before the semester grows too late, I’ll do my annual post on resources for our soon-to-be alumni.

As always I’ll start with our alumni services page.  Then I’ll link to the posts from years past:

To this growing list  I’ll add Practical Money Skills–Financial Literacy for Everyone.  This is a resource new grads–and the rest of us–can use.

Please share these resources with your students.  Please share the USM Libraries’ early congratulations as well.


P.S.  The image has no connection with the theme.: I  simply liked it.  At this point in the semester couldn’t we all use a pleasant, relaxing view?

Posted by on March 19th, 2015 Comments Off

The art of the webinar (InfoSavvy)

An apple, an open laptop, and four closed notebooks

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As an increasingly common means of sharing information the webinar deserves some attention.  My experience as a participant has attuned me to what the better webinars do well.  These best practices include:

Keeping the webinar brief

We’re busy people.  The best webinars get to the point and don’t try to cover everything.

Making it interactive

My favorite webinars make room for questions or otherwise engage participants.  If the presenters cannot address a question in the time given, they respond afterward.

Elaborating on the slides

Reading directly from slides can bore an audience (7 PowerPoint mistakes, 2011, para. 3): the better talks are value-added.   The one exception I could see to this rule would be for ADA compliance–where the slides could serve as a transcript.  Even there, though, captioning the talk would be more interesting.

Making the recording available

A potentially useful webinar may take place at an inconvenient time, or we may be interrupted during a webinar (I was interrupted twice during one particular talk.).  A recording should be not only available, but also easy to find.

These rules are neither new nor specific to webinars.  Still, presenting information is an important part of information literacy (ACRL, 2000, p. 13).  Best practices bear repeating.


7 PowerPoint mistakes that drive people crazy. (2011). [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Association of College & Research Libraries. (2000). Information literacy competency standards for higher education. Chicago, IL: Author.

Posted by on March 12th, 2015 Comments Off

Wikipedia for justice (InfoSavvy)

Scales of justice

By Nerun (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I have written before about the wise use of Wikipedia.  Booth (2014) highlights assignments where students create well-researched Wikipedia entries or edit existing ones.  These assignments serve a twofold purpose.

First of all students get experience writing for audiences other than the instructor.  This exposure may prepare students for workplace writing tasks.  Gordon (2014) tells the story of medical students editing Wikipedia articles and learning how to explain the science to patients.

Secondly learners get to use their access to library resources for  larger social purposes.  The research reaches an audience who may not have access to college libraries (Booth, 2014).  In a university community we can easily take such library resources for granted.  For certain topics the research can even fill gaps in Wikipedia’s coverage, as in the case of Howard University students adding content on African American history (Smith, 2015).

Of course Wikipedia editing doesn’t work for all types of research projects.  Since it relies on published sources, for example, it would not work for many types of primary research (Gordon, 2014).  Still, given the large numbers of people who use Wikipedia, why not use it for justice?


Booth, C. (2014, December 1). On information privilege [Blog post].  Retrieved from

Gordon, L. (2014, June 14).  Wikipedia pops up in bibliographies, and even college curricula.  The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved from

Smith, J. F. (2015, February 19).  Howard University fills in Wikipedia’s gaps in black history.  The New York Times.  Retrieved from


Posted by on March 5th, 2015 Comments Off

The Third Annual Savvies (InfoSavvy)

Glass star

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Break out the beverages and snacks! It’s time for the third annual InfoSavvy Movie Awards, my quirky answer to the Oscars.  As usual the credits come from the Internet Movie Database.  This year’s Savvies go to:

For Overall Film

The Hoax (2006): Dir. Lasse Hallström; Written by William Wheeler (screenplay) & Clifford Irving (book); Starring Richard Gere, Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Stanley Tucci.

Information literacy involves the ethical use of information (ACRL, 2014, p. 1): this film serves as a case study of information used unethically.  Clifford Irving stole and forged documents to pen a fake biography of Howard Hughes.  Then he conned a major publisher into accepting the book.

The Monuments Men (2014):Dir. George Clooney; Written by George Clooney & Grant Heslov (screenplay), Robert M. Edsel & Bret Witter (book); Starring George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban.

Yes, I watched this movie because of the men in it.  All the same the “monuments” speak to the value of our cultural treasures.  Also, each member brought particular expertise (art history, architecture, sculpture, graphic design, etc.) to the team.  Information literacy has such a social component (ACRL, 2014, p. 1) .

For Noteworthy Scene

Good Will Hunting (1997): Dir. Gus  van Sant; Written by Matt Damon & Ben Affleck; Starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Robin Williams,  Minnie Driver, Stellan Skarsgård.

Working-class genius Will gets into a shouting match with an ivy leaguer.  He (Will) boasts that libraries gave him  an ivy league education for free.  Booth (2014) writes of information privilege and of the library’s role in combatting it.

High Fidelity (2000): Dir. Stephen Frears; Written by Nick Hornby (book), D.V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, & Scott Rosenberg (screenplay); Starring John Cusack, Iben Hjejle, Todd Louiso, Jack Black.

I found out about this movie from Peterson (2010).  In one brief scene Rob, a record store owner, is organizing his personal record collection.  He organizes it neither alphabetically nor chronologically.  Instead he organizes it autobiographically–by the significance the album had in his life.  Organizing information is part of information literacy, as is realizing that the organizational systems are based on shared conventions (ACRL, 2014, p. 9).


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Draft 3.  Retrieved from

Booth, C. (2014, December 1). On information privilege [Blog post].  Retrieved from

Peterson, N. (2010). It came from Hollywood: Using popular media to enhance information literacy instruction.  College & Research Libraries News, 71(2), 66-74.

Posted by on February 26th, 2015 Comments Off

InfoSavvy on vacation (winter 2015)

Aromatherapy candles

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I am on vacation this week.  Stay tuned next week for the InfoSavvy movie awards.  In the meantime have a safe, relaxing winter break.

Posted by on February 19th, 2015 Comments Off

College readiness and info lit (InfoSavvy)

Laptop, notebooks, and apple

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An adult ed colleague recently told me about the College & Career Readiness Standards for Adult Ed (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).  Thinking of the adult students in our classes, I took a look at the document.  Chapter Four speaks to information literacy.

It begins with a discussion of shifts in literacy instruction.  Shift One is a shift to “regular practice with  complex text and its academic language” (p. 9).  Information literacy habits only become habits if you practice them.  Also, scholarly articles are complex and use academic language.  Where and how can we provide opportunities for students to engage with such language?

This question connects to Shift 3, “Building knowledge through content-rich nonfiction” (p. 10).  To find such material students need to recognize such material.  To recognize such material they even need exposure to it.

The document was written for a college prep setting.  Still, many current students have the same needs.


U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education. (2013).  College and career readiness standards for adult education (Report No. ED-CFO-10-A-0117/0001.).

  Washington, DC.  Retrieved from

Posted by on February 12th, 2015 Comments Off

Foregrounding background resources (InfoSavvy)

floral background image

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In some instruction sessions I mention background resources–often in passing, as the focus is usually on scholarly articles.  Though scholarly articles are part of the information landscape, let’s give background information some long-overdue attention.

The libraries have a variety of specialized dictionaries and encyclopedias.  CredoReference is a great place to search many of them at once.  The entries provide terminology we can use in our searches.  Searching may be iterative (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2014, p.9).  Still, better search terms lead to better initial searches.

Let’s not forget newspapers or current events sources, such as CQ Researcher.  From a news article we can move on to more scholarly treatment of an issue.

These resources are familiar enough.  All the same they deserve their moment in the foreground.


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Draft 3.  Retrieved from



Posted by on February 5th, 2015 Comments Off

Responding to recordings, responding to research (InfoSavvy)

Record player

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Have you heard of a response recording, a.k.a. an answer song?  As the name implies, it is a song released in response to an earlier recording.  Sometimes it will parody the original piece.  Sometimes it will continue the story related in the original.  Sometimes it will challenge the viewpoint of the original, or at least offer an alternative viewpoint (Cooper & Haney, 1990, pp. xiii-xxi).  Why am I even bringing up this topic?

Scholarship itself involves responding to previous scholarship.  The ACRL Information Literacy Framework describes scholarship as a conversation (2014, p.11).  Think of the works you have cited in your research.  At times haven’t you challenged or  expanded upon these works?

Answer songs provide a fresh way to consider the concept.  Cooper and Haney (1990) provide an extensive list of pre-1990 recordings.  Smith (1986) tells the story behind “Papa Wants the Best for You,” which gives the father’s response to “Papa Don’t Preach.”  More recent examples exist, though these earlier ones are well-documented and model the conversation.


Association of College & Research Libraries (2014). Framework for information literacy for higher education: Draft 3.  Retrieved from

Cooper, B.L., & Haney, W.S. (1990). Response recordings: An answer song discography 1950-1990.  Metuchen, NJ: Scarecrow Press.

Smith, L. (1986, October 22). Papa gets second chance in new video. Sarasota Herald-Tribune, p. 5E. Retrieved from,2137407

P.S. On a lighter note you can watch the video for “Queen of the House,” which parodies “King of the Road.”

Posted by on January 29th, 2015 Comments Off

The album and the journal (InfoSavvy)

CD player and MP3 player

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With the upcoming Grammy Awards I’ll indulge in recording industry metaphors for the next couple of weeks.  Online music stores (iTunes, Amazon, etc.) let you download–after you’ve purchased it–an individual song or an entire album.  Likewise a library database lets you view (if we’ve purchased the subscription) an individual article or the entire issue.  Why does this similarity matter?

In both cases you can lose something by taking the individual item out of context.  Is the song part of a concept album or a soundtrack, for example?  Is the article part of a special issue?

On the other hand you gain convenience.  Why should you pay for a whole album when you want one particular song?  Why would you read an entire issue when you want one particular article?

Those new to academic research may not be familiar with article databases.  They may either own an MP3 player or at least understand the concept of music downloads.  Perhaps the analogy might make journals and databases more understandable.


Posted by on January 22nd, 2015 Comments Off