InfoSavvy Archive

My 2014 professional reading picks (InfoSavvy)

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With 2014 nearing its close I’ll give my annual salute to my favorite professional reading of the year. These five are only a sampling of 2014′s fine articles:

Best free reference websites. (2014). Reference & User Services Quarterly, 54(1), 50–52. doi:10.5860/rusq.54n1.50

I am saluting my favorite articles of the year: I didn’t specify scholarly articles.  Quality reference sources always come in handy.  When they’re free, they’re even handier.

Lundstrom, K., Fagerheim, B. A., & Benson, E. (2014). Librarians and instructors developing student learning outcomes. Reference Services Review, 42(3), 484–498. doi:10.1108/RSR-04-2014-0007

We librarians are happy to work with faculty on learning outcomes.  This article illustrates one way for doing so.

Murphy, J. A. (2014). Library learning: Undergraduate students’ informal, self-directed, and information sharing strategies. Partnership: The Canadian Journal of Library and Information Practice and Research, 9(1). Retrieved from

Let’s not underestimate the power of informal learning.  How can library instruction account for it?

Stewart-Mailhiot, A. E. (2014). Same song, different verse: Developing research skills with low stakes assignments. Communications in Information Literacy, 8(1), 32–42. doi:10.7548/cil.v8i1.233

I liked this article so much that I gave it its own post (10/30).  It combines theory (low-stakes writing) with sample assignments.  Why can’t something be both theoretical and practical?

Walden, G. (2014). Informing library research with focus groups: The potential of seven alternative strategies to enhance participant interaction. Library Management, 35(8/9), 558–564.

Focus groups themselves can yield powerful insights.  Imagine augmenting the focus groups with such techniques as storytelling or even drawing.  Each technique comes with examples–from inside and from outside the library.

Indeed it has been a banner year for library reading.  I close by saluting the authors, named here or not, who helped make it so.




Posted by on December 18th, 2014 Comments Off

Connected concepts (InfoSavvy)


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ACRL (2014) has just released a third draft of its Information Literacy Framework.  I’m still studying it.  Overall, though, I like the emphasis on connected habits of mind (p. 1) over isolated skills.

Let’s take the frame Information Creation as a Process, for instance.  There we read about the value placed on information formats depending upon the context (p. 6).  One of the other frames happens to be Information has Value (p. 8).  Yet another frame notes that Authority is Constructed and Contextual (p. 4).  In short the frames inform each other.

I plan to write more about the Framework in the coming semester.  In the meantime we librarians are here for you as this semester winds down.


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

Posted by on December 11th, 2014 Comments Off

Tips for the time strapped (InfoSavvy)

Clock nearing twelve

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In an ideal world we’d allow ample time for our research.  In the real world life intervenes, and even the well-prepared find themselves working close to deadlines.  As the semester nears its end, I’ll remind everyone of the following library resources and services:

Full text limiters

Most databases allow you to limit your search to full text articles.  Some databases, such as JSTOR, contain a large amount of full text content.  In other words you can get additional articles right away.

Citation managers

The libraries subscribe to RefWorks.  If you use an EBSCO database (for ex. Academic Search Complete), you can also store and organize your citations via My EBSCOhost.  Such tools will save you time when it comes to the reference list.

Requestor and  ILL

Interlibrary loan is faster than ever.   When you request books via the URSUS catalog, the turnaround time is fast as well .


Let’s not forget chat technology.  Let’s not forget the human librarians ready to help you.

Extended hours

Hours vary for each campus.  For details check the finals hours on the library website.


Please share these tips with students and colleagues.  Aren’t we all time-strapped, after all?



Posted by on December 4th, 2014 Comments Off

Abundance of thanks (InfoSavvy)


By Pearson Scott Foresman [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

I trust you had a safe and pleasant Thanksgiving.  Of course you have my ongoing thanks for reading these posts.



Posted by on November 29th, 2014 Comments Off

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)

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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