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

To the information literate student (InfoSavvy)

Graduation cake

Image By David Goehring from San Francisco, CA, USA (Graduation Cake Guy) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Graduation brings to mind lifelong learning.  Lifelong learning brings to mind the phrase “information literate student” from the ACRL Standards (2000).  I had problems with this term.  Now the time has come to rehabilitate it.

Let’s start with the words “information literate.”  To me they implied information literacy as something achieved once and for all.  This is not the case: the information landscape is ever changing.  Let’s think of information literacy, then, as a state of mind.  In this state we keep developing our skills and habits of information use.

The word “student” also felt too restrictive.  After all, students are not the only ones who use information.  Aren’t we all students, though–of our disciplines, of teaching, of life itself?

Let us all be information literate students!  Congratulations to our graduates!


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



Posted by on May 14th, 2015 Comments Off

Poetry of the Natural Sciences (InfoSavvy)

Close-up of a rose

Image from

At first glance poetry and the natural sciences may seem far apart.  As Padel (20i1) notes, though, both poetry and science look at concrete particulars (¶ 7).

Rillero (1999) describes the use of haiku in a biology class.  Since haiku concern nature and use few words, they can encourage students to closely observe nature (pp. 346-347).

In other words both scientists and poets deal with messy details.  A  draft  (2014) of the  ACRL Framework encourages us to “embrace the ‘messiness’ of research” (p. 10).

I wrote a second National Poetry Month post to give the natural sciences equal time.  Once more we can observe information literacy in action, too.


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

 Padel, R. (2011, December 9). The science of poetry, the poetry of science. The Guardian.  Retrieved from

Rillero, P. (1999, March/April). Haiku and science: Observing, reflecting, and writing about nature.  Journal of College Science Teaching, 28(5), 345-347.

Posted by on May 7th, 2015 Comments Off

Poetry of the Social Sciences (InfoSavvy)

Innisfree Poetry Bookstore in Boulder, Colorado

Image by Coffeepusher (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons


I wanted this year’s National Poetry Month post to reach beyond the humanities.  In the social sciences researchers have been using poetic techniques to interpret and represent their data.

Woodley (2004) describes how poetic devices can aid in analyzing an interview transcript.  Line breaks, for example, call attention to phrases which merit a second look.  Similarly poetic white space better conveys an interviewee’s silence than does conventional punctuation (p. 53).

Lahman et al (2011) demonstrate different ways to represent research poetically: free-form, elegy, or haiku (pp. 891-893).  Each form highlights different aspects of the data.  They also encourage researchers to try research poetry even if early attempts are not perfect (pp. 894-895).  Through practice comes growth.

These are but two examples of poetry being used in the social sciences.  They also concern how we present information, which is an aspect of information literacy (ACRL, 2000, p.13).



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

Lahman, M.K.E., Rodriguez, K.L., Richard, V.M., Geist, M.R., Schendel, R.K., & Graglia, P.E. (2011). (Re)forming research poetry. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(9), 887-896. doi: 10.1177/1077800411423219

Woodley, K. (2004). Let the data sing: Representing discourse in poetic form. Oral History, 32(1), 49-58. Retrieved from

Posted by on April 30th, 2015 Comments Off

Happy World Book Night! (InfoSavvy)

World Book Night logo

Image from the World Book Night website

Tonight is World Book Night.  I’ll celebrate it by focusing on family literacy.  Here are a few resources on the subject:

What books do you like to share with your family?  What books did you enjoy as a child?  Enjoy those books–tonight or any other night!

Posted by on April 23rd, 2015 Comments Off

A new star in the info lit sky (InfoSavvy)

Map of the constellation Andromeda

By Orthogaffe at fr.wikipedia Later version(s) were uploaded by Looxix at fr.wikipedia. [GFDL ( , from Wikimedia Commons

The Association of College & Research Libraries (2015) has added the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education to its “constellation of information literacy documents (”  It is not meant to be prescriptive (Introduction, para. 2), nor is it replacing the Standards.  As a constellation of stars guides navigation, these documents can guide our discussions of research.

I invite you to read the Framework.  Then let your liaison librarian know what you think of it.  What aspects of it are useful?  Where are the Standards (2000) more useful?  How can each shed light on research and learning?


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

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



Posted by on April 17th, 2015 Comments Off

The possibilities of collaboration (InfoSavvy)

National Library Week logo

Image from the American Library Association

National Library Week (April 12-18) will soon be here.  This year’s theme is unlimited possibilities.  What could the theme mean for colleges and their libraries?

Possibilities abound in terms of curricular collaborations.  Lippincott (2015) describes librarians and instructors working together not only in freshman comp, but also in upper-level courses.  Likewise she envisions a greater range of student projects in a variety of media.  Page 36 of the article has a handy chart describing these and related shifts.

How would such collaborations look in our libraries and classrooms?  The possibilities are bounded only by our instructional needs and our imaginations.


Lippincott, J.K. (2015, March/April). The future for teaching and learning: Librarians’ deepening involvement in pedagogy and curriculum.  American Libraries, 46(3/4), 34-37. Retrieved from

Posted by on April 9th, 2015 Comments Off

InfoSavvy spring vacation 2015

Purple and white crocus bulbs

I am off for spring break.  Next week I’ll be back with a regular post on my regular day.  Happy spring!

Posted by on April 4th, 2015 Comments Off

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