InfoSavvy Archive

Hot topics for the 4th (InfoSavvy)

Fireworks over the Lincoln Memorial

By J.W.Photography from Annapolis (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

July 4th reminds us of our responsibilities as citizens.  Among these is to remain at least somewhat informed about current issues.  The libraries have a series of Hot Topics guides to help us stay informed.  Topics include  homelessness and vaccination.

You can view the full set via the library homepage.  From the Quick Links choose Subject Guides.   Then choose the subject Hot Topics.

Keep checking the site: your librarians are continually updating the guides and adding new ones.  Meanwhile I wish you a safe and happy 4th.


Posted by on July 2nd, 2015 Comments Off

Conference Conversation (InfoSavvy)

Watrous painting called Discussion

Harry Wilson Watrous [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The ACRL/NEC Conference and the Social Science Librarians Boot Camp were not my only recent workshops.  On May 29 I attended Maine Larger Libraries Staff Development Day.  Interestingly the event echoed themes from the ACRL/NEC event.

In both cases the speakers discussed libraries as space–particularly as space for discovery, exploration, and collaboration.  Both sets of speakers stressed the value of user input in library design.

Why am I highlighting themes rather than doing a more complete overview?  Firstly I admit to a bit of conference fatigue (I remain grateful that I can attend conferences, though.).  Secondly I could not get all of the speakers’ permissions by press time.  Most importantly I can show these conferences as part of an ongoing conversation.  After all, isn’t scholarship a conversation (Association of College & Research Libraries, 2015)?


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

Posted by on June 25th, 2015 Comments Off

The 5th Annual SSL Boot Camp part two (InfoSavvy)


By User:MeekMark based on jpg version by Wikipedia:User:Dysprosia (Prototype) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Lauren Conoscenti (Tufts University) led the afternoon breakout session on survey research.  Though I had learned survey basics in different courses, I felt that I could use a refresher.  Besides, I was bound to learn a few more tips.

I did learn, for example, to coordinate schedules with the office of institutional research.  That way  I don’t send out my survey at a time when people are already inundated with surveys.

This tip demonstrated how best practices are intertwined with better data.  Higher response rates generally give us better–or at least fuller– data.  Sending out a survey at the wrong time, for example, can lead to survey fatigue in our population.  Survey fatigue leads to fewer respondents.

Even aesthetics can impact response rates or completeness of surveys.  An overly long list of options can lead to people checking items at the top of the list and ignoring the choices near the end.  Alternately people could ignore the question entirely.  Either strategy would skew the results.

Most importantly the talk reinforced the need to start with your research question.  Is a survey the best data collection for my particular question?   Answering this question is the first step to better data.


Posted by on June 18th, 2015 Comments Off

The 5th Annual SSL Boot Camp Part one (InfoSavvy)

Tufts University

By Steve McFarland from somerville, ma., usa (light on the hill) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

June 5 marked the 5th annual Social Science Librarians Boot Camp.   Though I am awaiting some permissions, here are the highlights I can relate at press time.

The day started with faculty speakers sharing their research.  Dr. Calvin Gidney (Tufts University) thought about what children learn about themselves and about the world through television.   He and his team examined the content, especially sociolinguistic content, of several top-rated cartoons.   The project will continue with interviews of the shows’ producers and with a study of how children understand the content.   Dr. Jennie Pyers (Wellesley College) discussed her research on language delay and theory of mind.  She looked at how language delay impacts such abilities as inferring intentions and coordinating pretend play.  In the process I also learned about a relatively new language, Nicaraguan Sign Language.  Dr. Ruth Grossman (Emerson College) presented on her work with children who have high-functioning autism.  She researched both how these children express themselves and how their communication is perceived by others.  The findings will be useful to those who help such children.

Then a panel of doctoral candidates spoke about their use of libraries.  Sarah Detzner (Tufts University Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy) spoke as a  writing center director.   She noted some common gaps in student understanding.  She suggested some possible ways to address these gaps: progressive assignments, integrated workshops, models, etc.   William Johnston (Harvard University Graduate School of Education) offered a library user perspective.  He recommended more consistency in online platforms.  He also saw a librarian role in educating students about different publishing opportunities, including alternatives to peer-reviewed journals.

Of course this post doesn’t do justice to any of these presentations.  If you’d like to know more, please let me know.  Next week I’ll discuss the afternoon session.

Posted by on June 11th, 2015 Comments Off

InfoSavvy vacation week

Beach pebbles

Image from

I’m on vacation this week.  Stay tuned for news of conferences and more.


Posted by on June 3rd, 2015 Comments Off

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