zoot suits, wonder woman, and abortion: what i learned at nwsa

In early November I attended the National Women’s Studies Association’s annual conference in Cincinnati. As the new liaison librarian to Women’s Studies and Queer Studies, attending the conference allowed me to learn more about the current scholarship in both disciplines. I also met many librarians who are now part of my professional network (and enjoy Indian food as much as I do).

As an art librarian, I attended sessions that focused on the visual and performing arts.

In Plain Sight: The (In)Visibility of Political Discourse in the Embodied Practices of Vernacular Dance Forms – Sonja Thomas described how her teaching of tap dance in higher education was considered unprofessional by colleagues. Even within dance, tap is not studied in postmodern curriculums. Thomas argued that tap has one of the most intersectional histories, including art, race, gender, and class. Kendra Unruh and Anais Lei Sekine both gave papers on the Lindy Hop. Unruh discussed the zoot suit as a means of resistance. Sekine compared the historical dance to the new trend of swing dancing and how an African American, low class tradition has transferred to a middle class, white (and heterosexual) phenomenon.

Body Politics in Mainstream Culture – Doctoral students from Texas Women’s University provided a very interesting session on the body in new media. Sheila Bustillos-Reynolds addressed ESPN’s magazine The Body Issue. In the annual issue, men and women athletes pose nude and are artfully photographed. The women athletes who participate are often battered by the media and sport culture for exposing themselves. Michelle Slaughter discussed the onslaught of criticism gymnast Gabby Douglas faced as she became an Olympic star. Douglas’  hair became the focus on social media, rather than her athleticism and grace. Audrey Lundahl examined rockabilly culture and the craze for fifties fashion that rose from the popularity of the television show Mad Men. She focuses on women wearing retro clothing while covered in tattoos, concluding that the liberation of male (power) association with tattoos counters the traditional gendering of the clothing.

 Beyond Betty and Veronica: Gender, Politics, and Comic Books – Mauricio Fernando Castro and Kara Kvaran both read papers about DC Comics’ Wonder Woman. Castro examined a single issue for instances of militarization in both the narrative and advertising. Kvaran gave highlights of the comic’s history and how the character’s change through time represents a new understanding of feminism. Samantha Meier discussed two all-women underground comics from the 1970s and addressed the larger comic culture’s discrimination of women.

Feminist Archival Sensibility – This entire panel session was about the new Judy Chicago Art Education Collection at Penn State University. As a feminist artist and teacher, Chicago donated her teaching project materials in 2011. The materials are beginning to be digitized and there has been a tremendous amount of interest and use of the in-house collection. Chicago’s work can be the catalyst for new scholarship on feminist pedagogy, historical art movements, and art activism.

Guerilla Girls waiting to present
Guerilla Girls waiting to present

Abortion, Art, and Activism: Visual Artists on the Reproductive Justice Landscape – Artist Heather Ault talked about her work 4000 Years for Choice. She uses graphic design and printmaking to create a new, positive campaign for pro-choice activists. Meg Roberts is a potter and founder of Plants for Patients (P4P). At an abortion clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, P4P provides each patient with a plant in a hand-made pottery piece to take home with her. Included with the plant is a handwritten note from a member of the community offering support for the patient as she begins the healing process. Guerrilla Girls Broadband is a brand of the Guerrilla Girls currently working on an interactive map that explores the political, legal, and anecdotal histories of abortion in the United States.

I also attended the librarian’s task force business meeting and their sponsored roundtable Transformative Collaborations for Research and Action. We discussed outreach to student groups, office hours, and zine collections.

Attending the NWSA meeting as an artist and librarian was an excellent opportunity for me to gain an understanding of how other disciplines view the arts.

transforming liaison roles in research libraries

I attended the ARL webinar Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries. The discussion stemmed from a recent publication, New Roles for New Times: Transforming Liaison Roles in Research Libraries by Janice M. Jaguszewski and Karen Williams.

During the webinar Jaguszewski and Williams highlighted the findings of their research about the new responsibilities and skill sets expected of liaisons. They reported on six trends:

Develop user-centered library skills

  • new approaches to collection development – methods include approval plans, patron-driven acquisitions, and consortial collaboration
  • merged service points for reference and circulation – patrons shouldn’t have to know how library staffing is organized in order to get help; a singular service point would also free up liaisons for more skilled work (who would still be available through a referral system)
  • library instruction – moving away from the one-shot session toward e-learning and working with faculty to develop better assignments that will address life-long information literacy
  • staff supervision – let others supervise library staff and manage daily operations (again, freeing liaisons for specialist work)

A hybrid model of liaison and functional specialist is emerging

Jaguszewski and Williams refer to “superliaisons” who aren’t linked to academic departments but rather work with the entire campus (and the subject liaisons). The functional specialist areas of expertise mentioned include copyright, GIS, media production, and data management.

This trend was most troubling to me as a newer librarian. My library school classes still referred to the seemingly outdated model of liaison duties as reference, instruction, and collection development. These duties are also still core responsibilities of my current position. I will need to be learning these other skill sets on my own and on the job. I wonder how many liaisons are both subject specialists and functional specialists.

Organizational flexibility must meet changing user needs

  • new roles in research services – focus on interdisciplinary research assistance, creating faculty profiles, and other workshops or consultations to assist faculty with research management
  • digital humanities
  • expanding roles in support of teaching and learning – goes back to e-learning opportunities mentioned in user-centered library skills (more scalable than one-shot); as more content becomes digitally accessible, teaching online makes sense
  • support for digital scholarship
  • user experience – new types of librarian positions focused on UX
  • copyright, intellectual property, and scholarly communication

No liaison is an island

I was happy to read about “renovated and repurposed spaces” which was reiterated during the webinar. New roles mean new use of space. We can’t support digital scholarship, media production, collaboration, and other methods of scholarly communication in environments designed for print access and individual study spaces. This is particularly important if libraries are to support interdisciplinary research practices.

Collaboration is key (enough said!)

Create and sustain a flexible workforce

Even with so much talk about emerging technologies and supporting digital scholarship, soft skills are still in demand. Mentioned in the paper is also a trend toward “non-permanent hires.” Given the current conversation in higher education about adjunct faculty, this is somewhat unsettling.

At first glance the findings seem redundant to what we already know and experience in academic libraries. However, I wonder how quickly libraries, particularly smaller ones at institutions still embracing more traditional learning practices, are enacting changes and transforming roles. There seems to be a widening gap between how library staff and academic administration view 21st century research and scholarship practices. Perhaps this is why much of the webinar discussion revolved around bettering library marketing and outreach.

forecasting next generation libraries – scenario planning

I’m participating in the online course-ference Forecasting Next Generation Libraries. We are already in week four but I wanted to back up and share what I learned in week one during a lecture by Joshua Morrill. He talked about the Four Futures Framework and how it can be applied to scenario planning for libraries. Here are my notes from his presentation.

“The library is a disrupted organization inside an institution – the university – that is being reconfigured.” ~ Jim Michalko, OCLC Research

~ why our attempts to predict the future often fail
systems are complex
we are bad at predicting the long-range future because we get fixated on one specific element or goal and miss the bigger picture

~what is scenario planning
“The task is not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think about what nobody has yet thought about that which everyone sees.” ~ Schopenhauer

Scenario planning is a tool for strategy, building stories and ideas around a framework to prompt an ongoing conversation. It’s about what could happen, not what will happen. There are two building blocks for scenario planning: funding climate and adaptability.

~scenarios for library future
This is about growth and reinvention. Funding is favorable and the environment (staff) is agile and innovative. Partnerships keep this library moving forward. The risk is that chasing after new technologies and partnerships do not always pan out.

great expectations
This scenario is about missed opportunities. Morrill described it as “swirling discontent.” The library is doing well financially but is slow to change because of inflexibility, whether internally or externally. Because of this, the campus community support may be starting to erode. The library may be receiving favorable reviews from the community but there has been a decrease in use of services. Lack of innovation may be caused by a lack of leadership or historically focusing on policy and staff preferences over the users’ needs. Complaints about not meeting student or faculty needs go largely ignored. While there is a good change this library can get out of its rut and become more utopian, it does risk having the bottom drop out as perceived value decreases.

origin of species
This is about innovation under stress. Financially, this library may be experiencing cuts or flat budgets but adaptability and promise are strong. There is vision, resolve and creativity within the library staff. The library is beginning to seek valuable partners on campus to help move them forward and maintain the campus perception that it’s a valuable resource. The staff are willing to change they way they have thought about work flow, space, and policies.

To me, Origin of Species is similar to Great Expectations but chooses a more positive perspective. I can see an Origin of Species library that doesn’t make changes quickly enough becoming a Great Expectations. If change is slow, the adaptability of staff will weaken.

Inferno is about stagnation and decline. Morrill calls it a “self feeding firestorm.” Fortunately, most libraries have enough of either finances or adaptability to keep them in less troublesome waters.

Weeks two and three of the course-ference were robust panel discussions about changes in student culture and higher education. Week four moved away from the university to look specifically at the future of libraries. In the coming weeks we’ll be discussing changes in technology and the future of publishing.

ala 2013 notes from one-shot instruction sessions

Lessons for the Librarian: 10 Tips for Teaching the One-Shot Instruction Session was held on Sunday, June 30th. There were eight speakers: Beth Woodard, Staff Development and Training Librarian, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Debra Gilchrist, Vice President for Learning and Student Success, Pierce College; Jennifer Corbin, Head, Center for Library User Education, Tulane University; Megan Oakleaf, Associate Professor, Syracuse University; Michelle Millet, Library Director, John Carroll University; Patricia Iannuzzi, Dean of Libraries, University of Nevada – Las Vegas; Randy Hensley, Head of Information Services, Baruch College – CUNY; and Steven Hoover, Senior Assistant Librarian, Syracuse University.

You can view the slides from the presentation and read the article from which the presentation was based. Here are some key tips and references:

~ Some must reads: Understanding By Design by Wiggins and McTighe (2005, 2nd edition) and “Writing Information Literacy Assessment Plans” by Megan Oakleaf in Communications in Information Literacy (2009)

~ You can cover about three concepts well in a one shot. Remember, some students learn like you but most don’t – the Kolb Learning Cycle helps explain this.

~ Consider what activities will help the students learn and, at the same time, give you some assessment data. Assessment happens during teaching, not after! Go with evidence, not your gut: by assessing prior knowledge you demonstrate respect for students and their previous experience.

~ Some ideas to try: the one minute paper (have the students write what they want to learn in class today); “think, pair, share;” brainstorm session (will mean wait time); worksheets; teach using case studies.

~ “Enthusiasm is contagious. Not having enthusiasm is also contagious.” But, be authentic about it. It can be quiet enthusiasm.

~ Don’t be afraid to team teach. Faculty do have good intentions. Ask the faculty about the personality of their classroom. Working with faculty means you should be an asset, be a colleague, and don’t judge. Make the instruction integrated into their course, not a separate “library session.”

~ Document your impact and value and own your role as an educator!

ala 2013 notes from reference research forum

The 19th Annual Reference Research Forum was held Saturday, June 29th.

Research Guides Usability Study by Andrew Walsh, Information Literacy Fellow and Angela Pashia, Instructional Services Outreach Librarian, both at the University of West Georgia

Walsh and Pashia studied usability of their research LibGuides with focused testing and other user feedback methods. Common issues they discovered were:
~ students using the LibGuides search box to find articles (they’ve removed it);
~ confusion about the role of the guides in research process; and
~ ability to navigate to a specific guide from the LibGuides homepage.

Students commented on some aspects of the guides they did like, including:
~ the drop-down options on tabbed menu;
~ embedded search boxes (the catalog or specific databases); and
~ Virginia Commonwealth University’s subject guide home page (which they will now use as a model for their own).

Two Birds, One Stone: Using a Mixed Methods Approach to Measure Service Process and Identify Usability Pain Points in Virtual Reference by Christine Tobias, User Experience and Reference Librarian at the Michigan State University Libraries

Tobias examined virtual reference using an evidence-based model with both quantitative and qualitative assessment tools. She wanted to know what type of questions are asked during virtual reference and if it is a valid service point. Using the transcript for each reference question, Tobias applied up to three general codes about user need/confusion such as library resources, library services, tech help, local resources, etc. She found a dominance in questions asking about library resources. The top questions were in her assigned categories of research question, article known citation, and e-resources.

Tobias used transcripts to find common users’ pain points. She ran the transcript through Dedoose for text analysis. Her prominent findings were that users had issues with the library website’s presentation of access to resources and services and that navigation of the website is difficult. She can now work on fixing these non-reference problems and reduce user confusion.

new librarian’s guide to publishing

I attended the ALA NMRT webinar New Librarian’s Guide to Publishing. Since I’m hoping to publish my first peer-reviewed article in the spring of next year, I am open to all advice and shared experiences on the subject! Three librarians talked about their publishing experiences and tips:

Beth Evans from Brooklyn College gave us the four P’s of publishing:

Persistence. Beth submitted her first article to three publications before getting it accepted. Yet, that article led to a review and an interview in The Chronicle!

Partnership. She recommends working with colleagues to publish. In her case, she worked with interns. Don’t be shy or limit your connection opportunities!

Promotion. Like it or not you will have to assert and promote yourself. For example, she contacted The Chronicle when she had a great project happening in her library.

Preference. Write what you prefer to write about, even if it isn’t your speciality. We are all so much more than librarians – perhaps gender, ethnicity, subject interests, or happenstance will lead you to write outside the traditional scholarship.

Maura A Smale is at the New York City College of Technology and talked about publishing in open access venues. She pointed out that academic research libraries have increased expenditure on serials by over 400% since the mid-1980s! Some advantages of open access include ease of linking and sharing (download stats on OA articles are greater) and there are more opportunities for involvement in peer reviewing and editorial board participation.

Maura mentioned the DOAJ and SHERPA/RoMEO, which lets you search by publisher or journal to find summaries of copyright and self-archiving policies. She also talked about the SPARC Author Addendum which gives authors additional rights to their articles. You can add it to your non-OA contract – never hurts to try!

Brian Mathews of Virginia Tech rounded out the presenters and discussed writing as a personal pursuit that is less about traditional scholarship (peer review) and more about starting a conversation. He has chosen not to focus on academic works and instead writes white papers and blog posts.

As a rather accomplished librarian and writer, it was interesting to hear this approach. The more you write, he said (and it doesn’t matter the venue), the more you are invited to write. Also, blogging not only builds an audience but builds your confidence. Blogging can also be important as a writing venue for newer librarians. He emphasized that we write for where we are in our careers with a hint toward where we want to be.

making noise in the library – ALAO workshop

Yesterday I participated in Making Noise in the Library: Advocating for Our Students and Our Libraries, an ALAO workshop hosted by the Distance Learning Interest Group and the Instruction Interest Group.

While the day was packed with great information and conversation, it was simply enjoyable to be out of the office and “thinking big” with other librarians. The keynote was by Buffy Hamilton and she’s sharing the slides from Moving from Nice to Necessary: Academic Libraries and Communities Collaboratively Composing Participatory Practices of Learning. What was really terrific about this talk was Buffy continually referring to other scholars, helping me expand my own research and learning network. Some key references she made:

Buffy mentioned Brian Mathews‘ notion that we must give ourselves permission to pick a starting point and then let that point be flexible.

David R. Lankes is at the forefront of participatory librarianship and says that “learning is a collaborative conversation.”

She recommended the work of Dr. Henry Jenkins, particularly his paper Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century.

Buffy stresses that it is important for teachers to become comfortable in being the novice and learning from the learners. There are a few ways librarians can ease the vulnerability teachers may feel and one of them is taking time to simply listen “even if it flies against everything that we hold sacred as librarians.” She extends this to listening not only to our patrons but to each other and moving beyond our silos to learn from others.

Thankfully, Buffy didn’t “think big” and leave us to wonder how we could implement collaborative communities and participatory librarianship. She finished with action steps that we can take today:

Be a trust agent. Buffy returned to Brian Mathews’ work, particularly his paper The Art of Problem Discovery. She also introduced us to Chris Brogan, social media marketing and branding master.

Use academic and information literacy standards to go deeper in inquiry. In other words, become authentic thinking partners with our students and faculty. Here she refers to the work of Lauren Pressley and char booth.  Buffy also focused on Barbara Stripling‘s Model of Inquiry and many practical examples of how to engage students in this model.

Let student passions and needs drive the story of the library. This is where knowledge sharing can be important. Buffy mentioned the work of Ellen Hampton Filgo, aka the Hashtag Librarian, and Alison Hicks. Makerspaces made an appearance in this category too.

While the late morning and afternoon sessions were great, it was the keynote that both expanded my librarian learning network and addressed my current dilemma of wondering how to go from “nice” to “necessary.” Thanks to a rather simple day of learning and talking with other librarians, I now have a lot of new ideas for my instruction – my primary goal for this summer!

i did a research project & it was good (aka show me the awesome)

Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com
Artwork by John LeMasney, lemasney.com

 This post is part of Show Me the Awesome. Find out more from sophiebiblio and Stacked.

In July 2012 I spent two weeks in Cairo, Egypt interviewing young, Egyptian artists about their information needs. It was my first romp into the world of information science research. As a student, I thought I would do more academic library-related research (instruction, assessment) but my limited world travel just kept asking to be a part of my professional research.

Thus, Egypt and guessing my way through the research and publication process as I go. Here’s an brief (and truncated) overview of my research. At ARLIS/NA 2013, I presented a fuller report.

Cairo (This is me just saying, "Yeah, I did this. Booyah!")
(This is me just saying, “Yeah, I did this. Booyah!”)

I interviewed eight Egyptian artists living in Cairo – a photographer, a playwright, a fashion makeup stylist turned videographer, a graphic/textile designer, an author, a mixed media artist, and two painters. I talked with 5 men and 3 women; the median age of the artists is 33 years; the oldest is 38 and the youngest, 25.

The eight artists I interviewed had college degrees in: French literature & history (makeup & video artist); psychology (painter); business administration (two artists: author and photographer); management & information systems (mixed media artist); commerce & accounting (playwright); Faculty of Fine Arts (painter); and College of Applied Arts (fashion & graphic designer).

I framed the interview questions from Susie Cobbledick’s 1996 investigation into the information needs of artists:

sources of inspiration and specific elements of work
books (8 artists) – includes fiction, science, history, and Sufism. Fashion, philosophy, plays, and art; read in Arabic and English; prefer print

images (7) – Google Image, visually strong websites/blogs, taking personal photos as sources

personal life experience (5) – The author said, “What I write is inspired by this country, by me living here.” This category includes Arab Spring (5). A painter who splits his time between Cairo and New York City said, “New York used to be very stimulating as opposed to Cairo, but then, for the first time, when I was throwing rocks at the pigs and they were shooting at me and there were explosions…you were actually, literally doing the struggle of art in the streets against what’s holding you back.”

other – film (4), magazines (3), travel (3), television (2), and music (2)

sources of information about materials and technical issues
Finding sources of information to solve technical issues or getting feedback on work in progress varied for each of these artists. Most commonly, the artist speaks with other artists working in a similar media. Usually these conversations happen in person, however these conversations are moving into the digital realm. The graphic designer mentioned using Facebook and Skype to hold conversations with other artists. The photographer uses an online community of photographers where he posts for feedback on his work and to get technical questions answered.

graffiti in Cairo

sources of information about exhibition, production and sale
It’s rare to have an open call for visual or performing arts in Egypt. This means that artists must network in order to know curators, publishers, directors, and government-sponsored artists. These connections not only lead to more offers for showing work, but also residency and grant opportunities.

In the words of the makeup artist, “You have to know the right people to know the other right people.”

One outlet for marketing and publicity was dominant: Facebook. Six of the eight artists mentioned Facebook, and in particular Facebook’s Events application, as an important source for promoting their work. Additionally, all of the artists said they do most of their publicity in English. “If I didn’t speak English I would have lost at least three or four chances to work in the last few years,” the playwright told me. The other artists echoed this sentiment.

sources for keeping up with the contemporary, global art community
Facebook and email subscriptions to various art and cultural centers are the preferred choices for finding about new events and opportunities. Two of the artists mentioned a popular website, Cairo 360, for discovering what’s new in the arts. But the main source of information on the global art community is Google. All of the artists use Google in English because of the quality of the websites available in English.

use of libraries
Uh, there isn’t any. In brief:
“The libraries here are not good enough,” said the photographer, “because a lot of the books are outdated.” Every artist I spoke with echoed this comment. The makeup artist said she used to go to the public library for books on fashion but when she couldn’t find any, she stopped going.

Perhaps most telling about why libraries are underused in Egypt comes from understanding the educational and cultural systems. In their study of Middle Eastern information literacy challenges, Fahmy and Rifaat state “students in Arab countries are used to being ‘on the receiving end of information’ and that they are usually told exactly what to read, exactly what to study, and exactly how to do homework.”

One of the painters told me, “We as artists and students, we didn’t really get the chance to study or research the right way. Like when you go to the library and you read, read, read…but we don’t have this here in Egypt. Studying by going to the library, that doesn’t really exist. Which is really bad.”

Of course, I have so much more to share about my research and what I learned. That’s why I’m hoping to find an outlet for publishing this work as an article. As I’m again rushing in blindly and full of enthusiasm, wish me luck!

graffiti in Cairo
graffiti in Cairo

works cited & other reading
Cobbledick, Susie. (1996). The information-seeking behavior of artists: Exploratory interviews. The    Library Quarterly, 66(4): 343-372.

Mendelsohn, Henry. (March 2011). Civil unrest affects libraries in Cairo, Egypt. International Leads, 25(1): 1-4.

Rifaat, Fahmy & Nermine M. Rifaat. (2010). Middle East information literacy awareness and indigenous Arabic content challenges. The International Information & Library Review, 42(2): 111-123.

Steiner, Rochelle. (2006). Nilehilism: Is Egyptian art cutting edge or cut off? Modern Painters, 19(3): 104-5.

Thompson, Seth. (2008). Cairo’s Avant-Garde. Afterimage, 36(2): 2-6.

Winegar, Jessica. (2006). Creative Reckonings: The Politics of Art and Culture in Contemporary Egypt. Stanford: Stanford University Press.