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 (http://openclipart.org/media/files/liftarn/2604) [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 http://stateofmaine.adobeconnect.com/p1m6a61t8az/



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 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/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

InfoSavvy vacation time

Boats at sunset

Image from freeimages.co.uk

Hi, everyone!

I’m on vacation this week.  Tune in next week for a post about the recent Social Science Librarians Boot camp.

Posted by on June 12th, 2014 Comments Off

Audiobooks and traffic safety (InfoSavvy)

Audio discs and earbuds

Image from freeimages.co.uk

June is Audiobook Month. Remember that you can borrow CD audiobooks (through the library catalog) or download MP3 audiobooks (through the Maine InfoNet Download Library ).  Audiobooks can also illustrate an effective use of KWL (Know/Want to know/Learn).

A magazine article (Vanderbilt 2013) cited a study looking at exposure to different distractions–including audiobooks.  How do I find the actual study?

K (What do I know?)

From the magazine article I get the primary author’s name, Strayer.   I even get the study title, Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile.

W(What do I want to know?)

Where is the actual study?  How can I obtain it?

L(What did I learn?)

Though an initial database search did not produce it, I found the report through a Google Search.   In the PsycINFO database I did find other articles by Strayer.

Overall the study put audiobooks higher on the distraction scale than listening to the radio, but lower than talking with a passenger or using a cell phone (Strayer et al., 2013, p. 28).  Until next time I wish you pleasant listening and safe travels.



Strayer, D. L., Cooper, J. M., Turrill, J., Coleman, J., Medeiros-Ward, N., & Biondi, F. (2013, June). Measuring cognitive distraction in the automobile. Washington, DC: AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Retrieved from https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/MeasuringCognitiveDistractions.pdf

Vanderbilt, T. (2013, July/August). What’s on your mind? Groundbreaking research lends weight to the debate over distracted driving.  AAA Northern New England Journey.  Retrieved from http://ww1.northernnewengland.aaa.com/new-england-journey/


Posted by on June 6th, 2014 Comments Off

Five InfoSavvy years

Chocolate cake

Image from freeimages.co.uk

Since I had gradually gone from occasional contributor to regular contributor, I don’t really know when I started posting regularly to this blog.  I do know that I have been posting in some capacity for over five years.  In honor of this milestone–whenever it was–I’ll share some of my favorite entries.

I’ll start with my posts from 10/13/11 and 4/5/12.  Those were in honor of my mom and my dad respectively.

I also enjoy the posts based on TV or on leisure reading.  My favorite TV-themed post would have to be the 7/5/12 Greatest American Hero piece.  My favorite summer reading post is the “Earl and the smuggling master” piece from 7/18/13.

I’ll close with my 9/1/11 piece and my 2/7/13 post.   Those two posts speak to how I value lifelong learning.

On that note I don’t wish to simply reminisce about past entries.  Note that I listed six items–five to represent five years, and one to grow on.

Keep watching for future posts–starting with next week’s.  Thanks for reading!



Posted by on May 29th, 2014 Comments Off

The dance of info lit

Image from dance manual

Image by Saul Brothers (http://memory.loc.gov/musdi/161/0034.gif) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dancing with the Stars just crowned its newest champions.  What does this show have to do with information literacy?

On the show the judges look for content that marks a particular dance style (waltz, tango, etc.).  In info lit we help people look for content that meets certain criteria (articles from peer-reviewed journals, for ex.).

With practice even the less confident or technically skilled celebrities grow as dancers.  Practice likewise helps even novice researchers develop better habits.

The professional partners also step outside of their respective comfort zones.  Sometimes they are given a dance style they have not performed very often.  Information literacy is lifelong learning: we do well to embody this truth ourselves.  When we encounter a new interface or genre, we can acknowledge that we are learning alongside the students.

Finally, the celebrity contestant comes to the ballroom with his or her given background and experiences.  The professional partner draws upon these experiences and strengths in choreographing a routine.  How can we draw upon the information literacies our students already bring into class?




Posted by on May 22nd, 2014 Comments Off

The commencement of lifelong learning (InfoSavvy)

Path with flowers alongside

Image from freeimages.co.uk

Commencement was a wonderful reminder of why we do what we do!  To borrow the cliché our graduates are starting on a new learning path.  Let us renew our commitment to lifelong learning as well.  How do we model lifelong learning for our next group of students?  I’ve started to assemble some readings on the subject:

Beynon, M., & Harfield, A. (2007). Lifelong learning, empirical modelling and the promises of constructivism. Journal of Computers, 2(3), 43-55.

Blanchard, K. D. (2012). Modeling lifelong learning: Collaborative teaching across disciplinary lines. Teaching Theology & Religion, 15(4), 338-354. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9647.2012.00826.x

Cooper, S. (2013). Class by class and measure by measure: Modeling lifelong learning. General Music Today, 26(2), 3-3. doi:10.1177/1048371312469376

Stay tuned for more thoughts on the subject!  In the meantime I’ll close with the poem (translated afterward) I promised to share last year:

Prépare ton esprit.

Étudie ton métier,

Comme la chimie ou la poésie.

Ne cesse pas d’apprendre.

Prépare ton con coeur et ton âme aussi.

N’oublie pas la charité.

Attends, attends, mon ami,

La joie inattendue.

TRANSL:  Prepare your mind.

Study your trade,

Like chemistry or poetry.

Never cease to learn.

Prepare your heart and your soul as well.

Do not forget charity.

Wait, wait, my friend,

For unexpected joy.


Posted by on May 15th, 2014 Comments Off