Sharing stories (InfoSavvy)

Thanksgiving dinner

Image by Ms Jones from California, USA (Our (Almost Traditional) Thanksgiving Dinner) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

I hope you can spend Thanksgiving with your loved ones.  As you share a meal, you’ll probably share stories as well.  Librarians have paid attention to information literacy narratives.

Detmering and Johnson (2012) describe how narratives can tell us much about students’ lived experiences of research.  Bonnet et al (2013) look at students’ personal essays in a similar way.  In both cases narrative yields insights that complement other types of data.

I wish you a fun time swapping stories around the dinner table, and a fruitful time swapping stories in the classroom.  I wish you safe travels, too.


Bonnet, J. L., Cordell, S.A., Cordell, J., Duque, G. J., MacKintosh, P.J., & Peters, A. (2013). The apprentice researcher: Using undergraduate researchers’ personal essays to shape instruction and services. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 13(1), 37-59. doi:10.1353/pla.2013.0007

Detmering, R., & Johnson, A. M. (2012). “Research papers have always seemed very daunting”: Information literacy narratives and the student research experience. Portal: Libraries and the Academy, 12(1), 5-22. doi:10.1353/pla.2012.0004

Posted by on November 20th, 2014 Comments Off

Just right (InfoSavvy)

Cover from The Three Bears storybook

By The_three_bears.djvu: McLoughlin derivative work: Theornamentalist (This file was derived from:  The_three_bears.djvu) [Public domain],

via Wikimedia Commons

Ariew and van Ingen (2014) studied topic development in two sections of a course.  To assess the topics they developed a rubric which covered:

  • The research question itself
  • The research strategy used
  • The articles found 

Though I’m happy to discuss the rubric at length with you,  I’ll highlight one item.

The item asks if the topic was too broad, too narrow, or–as in The Three Bears– just right.   The presenters illustrated each level with examples.  I focus on this item because it is a common enough (at least in my experience) concern for both students and faculty.   I also choose it because it reinforces Ariew and van Ingen’s (2014) call for student practice in this area.

Finally it makes a point about information literacy.  Topics often start out as too broad or too narrow.  Students need to know that refinement is a natural part of the research process.  After all Goldilocks sampled chairs, beds, and porridge that were unmanageable. before finding the ones that were just right.


Ariew, A., & van Ingen, S. (2014, October 22). Moving from impossible to manageable: Helping Students manage and focus research topics [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from

P.S.  I thank Susan Ariew and Sarah van Ingen for using the Three Bears analogy in their presentation.

Posted by on November 13th, 2014 Comments Off

Talking about the topic (InfoSavvy)

Speech bubbles

Image by Jaja7 (File:Talk page green icon.png) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The other week I listened to a webinar where a librarian and a professor shared their collaboration.  Their conversation could start some useful conversations on research topic development.

Ariew and van Ingen (2014) began with the concept of an information need.  They described the dynamic between the language of the searcher’s question and the language of the scholarly literature.  Background resources (discovery tools, reference works, subject experts) are undervalued in mediating between the two.

Equally underrated is practice with narrowing and expanding topics.  As with many things this skill develops with practice.

Not only did Ariew and van Ingen (2014) have audience members share topic development strategies (such as encouraging the students to spend more time pre-searching), they modeled one of their own, role playing.  Then they continued with a discussion of how they assess research topics.  You can read about that part of the talk next week.


Ariew, A., & van Ingen, S. (2014, October 22). Moving from impossible to manageable: Helping Students manage and focus research topics [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from

Posted by on November 6th, 2014 Comments Off

Lower stakes, less scary (InfoSavvy)

Halloween postcard: Bobbing for apples

Image from New York Public Library Digital Gallery

Halloween seems like a fitting time to discuss library research anxiety.  Though I’ll spare you an extensive literature review, I shall share a most interesting article on the subject.

Stewart-Mailhiot (2014) applies the idea of low-stakes writing assignments to library research.  She notes that, as with high-stakes writing, high-stakes research assignments can contribute to anxiety.  Reviewing the literature on both library anxiety and low-stakes writing, she even suggests some possible low-stakes research assignments (p. 39).  The suggestions address a variety of learning outcomes and can reinforce a library visit (pp. 39-40 ).

High-stakes assignments and low-stakes assignments need not be mutually exclusive, of course.  The latter can provide useful practice and build confidence for the former (p. 40).

Doing research may not be a party game.  All the same it need not be so scary.


Stewart-Mailhiot, A. (2014). Same song, different verse: Developing research skills with low stakes assignments. Communications In Information Literacy, 8(1), 32-42. Retrieved  from

Posted by on October 30th, 2014 Comments Off

Thoughts for American Archives Month (InfoSavvy)

American Archives Month graphic

Image from the Society of American Archivists

As many of you know, I am helping maintain the Franco-American Collection, while we search for a new Coordinator.  I couldn’t let American Archives Month go by without some thoughts on the experience.

Though this is my third time helping out between Coordinators, I continue to be amazed by the community memory contained in the Collection.  I recently came upon, for example, programs for music recitals and ice shows.  These events brought people together.

Such resources can help us create more memories.  The Collection hosts a popular singalong series that still brings people together.  I also invite educators and artists to come and be inspired.

To see some of the Collection’s treasures, check out the catalog or finding aids.  You can like the Collection on Facebook as well.



Posted by on October 23rd, 2014 Comments Off

Naming our strengths (InfoSavvy)

exercise weight

Image from

Recently I had the privilege of attending a Faculty Commons presentation  on StrengthsFinder.  For those unfamiliar with it, StrengthsFinder comes out of positive psychology.  Those taking the assessment get a report on their dominant talent themes  from among  the 34 it contains (Spross, Jenkins, & Parker, 2014) .  What does StrengthsFinder have to do with information literacy?

Firstly it gives us a common language for understanding each other.  The ACRL framework (2014) mentions the ability to “communicate effectively with collaborators in shared spaces and learn from multiple points of view” (p. 6).

It also helps us name talents which might be otherwise difficult to articulate.  With this naming also comes the responsibility to use the talents wisely.  The ACRL framework (2014) makes a similar point about acknowledging our own expertise (p. 7).

Finally strengths-based education is not a one-time thing: it involves ongoing reflection and practice.  Likewise information literacy develops through ongoing practice.

Of course this tool  is only a tool.  Still, it is one worth exploring.  You can find out more at the USM Strengths website (2014).

P.S.  Though I use the terms strength and talent interchangeably for convenience, the two terms have distinct meanings in StrengthsFinder.   The General Information on the Strengths website (2014) explains the difference.  I also use Strengths Quest and Strengths Finder interchangeably.

P.P.S. For those who already know about StrengthsFinder, my signature themes are: input, learner, intellection, harmony, and developer.


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

Spross, J., Jenkins, D., & Parker, H. (2014, October 7).  Title III and Strengths Finder information session.  Presentation for the USM Faculty Commons.

 University of Southern Maine (2014). USM strengths. Retrieved from

Posted by on October 16th, 2014 Comments Off

Citing the series (InfoSavvy)

Television remote

Image from

A few weeks ago I shared my anime adventure with Rose of Versailles.  Since the show (Dezaki et al., 2013) had numerous credits, I adapted standard APA reference format to cite it.  This practice brought home two points about citations.

First of all real-life sources are often messier than are the examples in the manuals.  We need to make judgment calls.  As source types evolve (Manjoo, 2010), such judgment becomes even more important.

Secondly, let’s remember a major reason for citation: to help readers find our sources.  I couldn’t list every single credit.  Instead I listed the directors and producers, the credits most useful for finding the DVD.  I also listed the original creator, because that credit was relevant to my discussion.

Standards matter.  Let’s not miss the citation forest for the spacing and capitalization trees, though.  In a recent blog post Michael Stephens (2014) makes the point especially well.

I’ve raised this issue in the past (Check out the Dec 15, 2011 and February 27, 2014 posts.).  Still, the issue bears repeating.


Dezaki, O., & Nagahama, T. (Directors), Ginya, S., Katoì, S., & Gero, K. (Producers), & Ikeda, R. (Original creator). (2013).  The rose of Versailles, Part 1 [Television series]. Grimes, IA:

Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf.

Manjoo, F. (2010, October 15). This is not a blog post: Blogs and web magazines are looking more and more alike. What’s the difference?  Slate.  Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2014, September 24). Citation fixation [Blog post]. Retrieved from                                                                                                   


Posted by on October 9th, 2014 Comments Off

Breaking more rules (InfoSavvy)

No fishing sign--Image from

Yvonne Mery and Andrew See (2014) listed ten rules for creating tutorials:

  1. State your learning outcomes
  2. Address different learning styles
  3. Use images
  4. Use both audio and text
  5. Treat your tutorial as a whole class
  6. Give step-by-step instructions
  7. Use an academic tone
  8. Use knowledge checks
  9. Use menu navigation
  10. Set time constraints

Then they discussed when to break these rules.

For Rules Five and Eight the proposed alternatives were what I had understood as best practices.  Mery and See (2014) recommended mini-tutorials instead of a full-scale tutorial.  Likewise they suggested scenarios or practical applications, not knowledge checks.

More surprising was the advice to break Rule Four.  Audio and text together lead to cognitive overload, though, and we can meet ADA guidelines in other ways.  For example we can offer alternate versions, closed captioning, or screen reader compatibility.

The most surprising rule to break was Rule One.  While learning outcomes can guide us in creating the tutorial, they don’t always add value when stated for the user.

Check last week’s post for coverage of the other rules.  With thanks to Yvonne Mery and to Andrew See, here are some links to model tutorials:


Mery, Y., & See, A. (2014, September 16). You’re doing it wrong: Ten rules to break to create awesome tutorials [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from

Posted by on October 2nd, 2014 Comments Off

Breaking the rules (InfoSavvy)

No fishing sign

Image from

As the libraries create tutorials, I have heard more and more about best practices.  A recent webinar advised us to break some of these rules—for the right reasons, of course.

It depends. . . .

Two common rules, Address Different Learning Styles and Use an Academic Tone, depend on context.  Adapting for visual learners, for example, might not work well for some aural content—and vice versa.  Likewise an academic tone might be wrong for some audiences.  On the flipside, though, attempting to sound “hip” might ring false with some audiences.

What purpose is it serving?

Two other rules, Use Images and Use Menus, make sense in moderation.  Images and menus for their own sake make no sense: they should serve a purpose.

Don’t forget engagement.

Presenters Yvonne Mery and Andrew See also discussed two rules that could interfere with active engagement.  The first is to Give Step-by-step Instructions.  The second is to Set Time Constraints.  For some people specific timings can not only discourage exploration but also increase anxiety.  We can use a more general description (ex. “brief tutorial”) if students should plan their time accordingly.

Mery and See (2014) named ten rules in all.  Next week I’ll go over the remaining four and offer examples of revamped tutorials.  Stay tuned!


Mery, Y., & See, A. (2014, September 16). You’re doing it wrong: Ten rules to break to create awesome tutorials [Archived presentation]. Retrieved from

Posted by on September 25th, 2014 Comments Off

Banned Books Week: Experiencing the comic (InfoSavvy)

Banned Books Week logo

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

This year’s Banned Books Week (Sep. 21-27) features comics and graphic novels.  Ironically I covered comics last year.  This time I’ll discuss one graphic novel, Riyoko Ikeda’s The Rose of Versailles.

Oscar is a girl raised as a boy and trained as a soldier.  As Commander of France’s Royal Guard she faces both scheming nobles and a naive Marie Antoinette.  All the while revolution looms (Dezaki et al., 2013).

Though I had only heard about the novel, I thought it could engage some history students (Perry, 2006).  Recently I viewed the easier-to-borrow animated series (Dezaki et al., 2013).  Viewers could compare its plot and characters to real events and people.  We could say the same about other forms of storytelling: let’s not ignore this form.

Banned Books Week celebrates our right to experience books and related media.  Now I have experienced The Rose of Versailles for myself.


Dezaki, O., & Nagahama, T. (Directors), Ginya, S., Katoì, S., & Gero, K. (Producers), & Ikeda, R. (Original creator). (2013).  The rose of Versailles, Part 1 [Television series]. Grimes, IA: Nozomi Entertainment/Right Stuf.

Perry, M. (2006). In defense of comics and connected habits of mind. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Adult & Higher Education, University of Southern Maine, Gorham, ME.

P.S. At press time I didn’t find specific challenges to The Rose of Versailles.  Still, manga are often challenged.

P.P.S.  Thanks to our interlibrary loan staff for the amazing turnaround time on my DVD request!


Posted by on September 18th, 2014 Comments Off