Interview with Maria Accardi

Maria T. Accardi is Associate Librarian and Coordinator of Instruction and Reference at Indiana University Southeast. She served as a co-editor of and contributor to Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (Library Juice Press, 2010), and is the author of Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction (Library Juice Press, 2013), for which she received the ACRL Women and Gender Studies Section Award for Significant Achievement in Women and Gender Studies Librarianship. Maria’s research and practical interests include critical pedagogy, feminist pedagogy, the relationships between storytelling and teaching and learning, and combating library instruction burnout. She has taught two classes for Library Juice Academy thus far. They are: Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy; and Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction. She is preparing to teach a new course for us, which will be titled, Transforming Your Teaching Toolkit. Maria has agreed to do an interview here about her course and her experience teaching for Library Juice Academy.

Hi Maria, and thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Thanks, Rory, for the opportunity.

I’d like to start by asking you to say just a few words about the courses you’ve taught for us previously and what it was like teaching them.

I’ve previously taught two courses multiple times: Changing Lives, Changing the World: Information Literacy and Critical Pedagogy, and Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction. Both courses were inspired by Library Juice Press book projects I’ve been involved with. I co-edited Critical Library Instruction: Theories and Methods (2010) with Emily Drabinski and Alana Kumbier, and then I wrote Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction, published in 2013. Those texts provided the general structural backbone for each course. Both courses were primarily concerned with the burgeoning critical information literacy/critical library instruction movement in academic librarianship. The Changing Lives course looks at critical pedagogy more broadly, while the feminist pedagogy course looks at approaches to library instruction more specifically through a feminist lens. Teaching these courses with Library Juice Academy has been incredibly rewarding and enriching, not just as a teacher, but as a librarian interacting with peers on topics that matter a lot to me.

Great to hear. Thank you for continuing to teach for us. The new class is different than the others, not being based on a book and being more of a workshop. Could you talk about the new course?

The new course was inspired by an activity that I’ve done in both of my previous courses. This activity involves participants submitting a lesson plan, along with any materials like worksheets or assessment ideas, for a library instruction session taught from a critical or feminist perspective. The lesson plan is discussed and critiqued on the discussion forum and I provide feedback and ideas as well. This activity always seems to go over very well, based on comments I’ve received from previous participants. In addition, I really enjoy this particular activity and I feel like my years of experience in library instruction, both as a teaching librarian and as the coordinator of an instruction program, provides me with an informed perspective on what has the potential to be successful in the classroom. I also think that instruction librarians don’t often have the chance to discuss their teaching materials with their peers in a constructive and supportive way. So, since I seem to have a knack for helping librarians think through their teaching plans and materials, and since people seem to really get a lot out of the experience, why not base a whole workshop-style course on that idea? That’s where I’m coming from with this new course.

I think it is a great idea and will be very useful to people. I think bringing in what you’ve learned from your prior teaching experience with LJA will be very helpful. Would you tell us a bit about how it has been teaching for LJA previously? What are some things that really worked and what are some things that were surprising?

Teaching for Library Juice Academy has been a sincerely delightful experience. LJA participants are interesting, hard-working, and smart people, and I love working with them. I’ve found that facilitating a safe space for productive and critical inquiry and exploration is a challenge that requires constant tweaking and reflection, but it is a genuine pleasure, because the payoffs are so rewarding. I work to create a environment that is supportive and flexible, and it has resulted in immensely enriching online discussion forums that I truly believe advance the knowledge of the participants, and, in turn, the knowledge of the profession in general.

Based on my prior teaching, I’ve learned that it helps to have a transparent structure and organization and a schedule, so that people know what to post on the discussion boards and when, but it also helps to allow a bit of creative ambiguity. In my feminist pedagogy class, I’ve been experimenting with the activities for the final week of the class, and I’ve tried providing options but ultimately leaving things open-ended. I think that open-endedness can feel a little anxiety-producing, but it also has immense potential for interesting things to happen.

I’ve been surprised and moved by how candidly participants engage with the readings and online conversations and activities. I’ve witnessed students allowing themselves to be vulnerable in the midst of a bunch of strangers, which is amazing and a privilege to observe.

That’s great! I am glad it has been such a positive experience for you and the participants. Thanks very much for the interview. Anything else you’d like to say?

I think that about covers it. Thanks for the chance to chat about teaching, and I look forward to interacting with LJA learners this summer!

Interview with Mandy Henk

Mandy Henk is a librarian at DePauw University, and was a law librarian at Vanderbilt before that. She specializes in access to physical materials, resource sharing, and personnel management. Her interests include social class and librarian/staff relationships, the development of international resource sharing systems, and copyright in the academy and the library. She recently published her first book, Ecology, Economy, Equity: Building the Carbon Neutral Library, with ALAEditions, which we interviewed her about in April. Mandy has a couple of classes with Library Juice Academy this summer. She recently taught Trends in Library Automation, and next month will be teaching Access Services – Keeping the Common. She agreed to do an interview with us about these classes.

Mandy, thanks for doing another interview.

Thanks for talking to me, I am always happy to have a chance to talk about Access Services.

I want to start by asking you to talk briefly about the class that’s coming up next month. Would you summarize it?

So the course is really a combination of a broad look at what Access Services Departments do and how they do them. So we will look closely at a number of libraries’ Access Services websites to get a sense of what different places include in Access Services and who this department serves. There is some variation across universities and I have tried to choose places for us to look at that reflect that variation. Beyond that, we will look at what it means to develop a workflow, how to sort out a best practice, what resources exist to help Access Services Librarians develop professionally, and, finally, some of the management challenges and ethical dilemmas that Access Services departments deal with on a daily basis.

Sounds boring. Kidding! It doesn’t sound boring, but I was a reference librarian, and people on the reference team where I worked were happy to let people on other teams do their thing, and we didn’t have much interest in learning about what they were doing. I always thought it would pay for people in different positions in a library to know about what is going on elsewhere, in order to better understand our own work in the larger context. But beyond that, why should people be interested in access services?

Because Access Services transactions (think circulation, reserves, interlibrary loan) represent the primary contact most patrons have with the library most of the time. Reference is great, I love doing reference and we certainly have a busy desk here. But when you look at transaction volume, for most patrons, Access Services is their most frequent and primary point of contact with the library. Getting that right, and that means everything from customer service skills to good workflows to good software choices, will have a far greater impact than almost anything else a library can do to ensure that patrons are well served.

It is important to understand. Do you agree that there is a lot of practical benefit in understanding what different units are doing? That is, do you think that learning about access services can help a reference librarian or a technical services librarian or a systems librarian understand their own job better? And if so, how? Maybe you can think of some examples.

Absolutely. Knowing how each unit functions is really important for each librarian to understand the larger picture. As a general rule, understanding the big picture is important and Access Services is a huge part of the big picture in any circulating library.

But, it is also important on a day to day level. For example, reference librarians need to have a very detailed understanding of the policies of the Access Services department so that they can help patrons navigate though them effectively. How long do holds last? How do you put something on reserve? What are the overdue policies? Can you a given patron recall a book and what is the process for initiating that recall? Beyond that though there is also a need to know basic Access Services workflows to understand what various catalog/discovery layer statuses mean, what kinds of material can be accessed via interlibrary loan, and how long the material takes to arrive.

For the systems and technical services librarians, they should understand things like how to best coordinate with Access Services on new book workflows, including holds, how to handle it when a portion of the collection needs recataloging, whether or not their method of recording price is working for the folks who have to collect payment from patrons for lost books.

Systems librarians and Access Services librarians probably have to work together more closely than any other two librarians in a given library because these days Access Services are almost completely automated. So, working together on managing updates, designing workflows that don’t create either software or service problems, and most of all, making sure that Access Services software is working properly. Even with cloud-based systems, sometimes things go wrong and having a systems librarian working closely with the access services librarian can be invaluable in troubleshooting and getting things fixed. Oh, and roles and permissions in the ILS also tend to fall in the systems librarian category. And that can be a huge issue for access services departments that rely on a large student labor pool.

Thanks for that. I think that shows some of the range of topics that you will get into in class discussion. I’d like to turn now to the other course, the one that you are in the middle of teaching now, Trends in Library Automation. Would you like to say a bit about that course?

Of course! I really like this one because it focuses on what I think is one of the most important transitions that libraries are currently undergoing–the move from traditional client-server ILS’s to web scale cloud based systems. It’s a change that is smaller than the initial automation process, but probably the next biggest change after the change to GUI that libraries and their patrons have had to adapt to so far. I also believe that, for working librarians, especially those not in reference, the ILS/Library Services Platform is by far the most important software product we work with. We need to know how they work and how they differ from our current product. At the same time, understanding the market for ILS/Library Services Platforms and the range of products available–along with the ethical issues surrounding them, can only help librarians as they walk through this transition in their own libraries.

I will say too that part of the class involves students looking very closely at their relationship with their current ILS. What do they love about it? What do they hate? What have they never been able to actually implement etc. So that part should help librarians to really think deeply about what their library needs from one of these products. For most of us outside of reference, knowing our ILS and being able to get what we need from it is a huge patron service issue and also a huge quality of worklife issue. Migration is not only an enormous expense, it is also blood sweat and tears. Going into it informed and knowledgeable about what your library needs is important to the success of the migration.

That sounds like a very timely course, and it sounds like it’s going well. How do you like teaching for Library Juice Academy?

I enjoy it, but I will say getting used to the asynchronous nature of online courses is hard. It requires lots of working without feedback and that can be a bit stressful. I also miss seeing my students’ faces. I think at the end of the day courses like this do require more trust between students and between instructor and students. Since we can’t see each other, I have to do more to encourage feedback than I would in person. I have gone out of my way to ensure that students will feel comfortable asking if they have a question or don’t understand something. I can’t rely on just looking at them to sense confusion like I can in the classroom.

I will say that I really like Moodle. As an LMS/CMS I have been working with it for years, but mostly from a manager or librarian role. I find it is easy to use, but complex enough that it can do everything I need it to do. I have been experimenting a bit with using lessons, labels, and assignments to try and create a visually engaging course that gives students interesting material to work with.

Oh, and I also tried my hand at making videos for the first time ever with the Trends in Library Automation course. Part of learning about library automation is understanding where we came from. I was not able to find any freely available readings on that subject that I liked, so I did an interview with the most senior librarian in my library. He has 31 years of experience working closely with ILS’s and now a Library Services Platform and I think his perspective is good to hear for those of us who don’t quite have his depth of experience. Perspective is invaluable and he did a great job providing it.

Overall, I am enjoying the mix of pushing myself in new directions and sharing content and conversation that I think is very important and certainly close to my day to day work experience.

I’m glad it’s going well. This is quite a different interview than the one we did about your book, much more nuts-and-bolts librarian skills oriented, like our courses in general. I wonder, thinking about both, do you have any fantasy courses that you would want to teach if you could teach anything for Library Juice Academy?

You know, honestly, it would be a circulation focused class. And a “Making Your Reserves Collection Popular” class. Oh, and a class on managing staff with a social justice focus, which is a huge part of doing Access Services well. I know that ILL and Reference and pretty much everything else in the library world is considered cooler and sexier than circ and reserves, but, as I said before, these are the services your patrons have the most contact with–make them good and you help to ensure that your library will be well loved and strong. And strong libraries is what we all want for ourselves and for each other.

Thanks. I think that’s a good way to conclude the interview. Thanks for doing it. It’s been great talking to you.

Oh thank you! I enjoyed it as well.

Library Juice Academy Makes $1,000 EveryLibrary Fundraising Challenge

Post on March 5, 2015 by John Chrastka

EveryLibrary today announces a new “Monthly Donor Challenge” from Library Juice Academy, a noted provider of professional development workshops and training for librarians. Library Juice Academy is pledging a $1,000 donation to EveryLibrary when 25 personal donors contribute at least $10 each month as reoccurring donors before March 16th. Donations can be made at http://rally.org/everylibrary to support our work with library Vote YES committees across the country in 2015.

Library Juice Academy is donating to help EveryLibrary expand its voter support for libraries. “Libraries exist today because of progressive tax policies that fund the common good”, says Rory Litwin, founder of Library Juice Academy. “We are donating to EveryLibrary because it is uniquely focused on supporting libraries when their basic tax revenue is on the line. We’re challenging personal donors to make a commitment and help fund this work.”

Since early 2013, EveryLibrary has worked with 25 libraries on the ballot, winning 19 campaigns and securing over $46 million in bond, levy, parcel tax, and other referendum campaigns. John Chrastka, EveryLibrary executive director, says, “This Challenge is a great way to work cooperatively to reach our funding goals. For every donor dollar we have invested in campaigns, we’ve returned $1600 to local communities in stable library funding. We appreciate Mr. Litwin’s this call-to-action about our pro-bono work across the country.”

The Library Juice Academy Challenge runs March 9 – 16, 2015. Personal donors are asked to make reoccurring contributions of at least $10/month through http://rally.org/everylibrary to help EveryLibrary meet this Challenge.

About Library Juice Academy:

Library Juice Academy offers a range of online professional development workshops for librarians and other library staff, focusing on practical topics to build the skills that librarians need as their jobs evolve. http://libraryjuiceacademy.com/

About EveryLibrary:

EveryLibrary is a politically active organization that is supported by contributions from individuals, corporations, and unions nationwide who believe that libraries matter in our society. You can learn more about EveryLibrary and its work building voter support for libraries at www.everylibrary.org.

Library Juice Academy Makes $1,000 EveryLibrary Fundraising Challenge

Contact:John Chrastka
Executive Director
312-574-0316
john.chrastka@everylibrary.org

4 March 2015

Interview with Andrea Baer

Andrea Baer is the Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington. She holds a Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of Washington and a Masters in Information Sciences from the University of Tennessee. Andrea’s work in libraries and education is deeply informed by her teaching background in writing and literature and by her interests in critical pedagogy and critical inquiry.

Andrea has designed and taught three different courses for Library Juice Academy thus far. They are: Information Literacy, Composition Studies and Higher Order Thinking; New Directions in Information Literacy: Growing Our Teaching Practices; and Backward Design for Information Literacy Instruction. We interviewed her about her background and about a couple of these classes last summer.

Right now Andrea is getting ready to teach a new class, Threshold Concepts in the Information Literacy Classroom: Translating the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy into Our Teaching Practices. If you’re an instruction librarian in the U.S., you know that this class is very timely. Andrea agreed to be interviewed about this class to give you an idea of what it covers and what you could expect to get out of it.

Andrea, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I’d like to start by asking you say a few words about the new Framework in order to lay out the context for the class. Most readers have probably followed this development to some degree, but I feel we should cover it briefly here.

Thanks for the interview, Rory. The new ACRL Framework has been a significant topic of discussion in each of the Library Juice classes I teach, and it’s been very clear from those classes that many librarians are thinking a great deal about what the Framework means for their own teaching practices and that many would like more opportunities to reflect more on the practical applications of the Framework.

In short, the Framework has been in development since 2013 and was just approved by the ACRL Board at the 2015 ACRL Midwinter Meeting. Though the task force that developed the Framework initially recommended that it replace the ACRL Information Literacy Standards, the Board ultimately ruled that for the time being the two documents will co-exist and that the Framework will be a “living” document open for revision. This decision comes after a great deal of heated discussion about the Framework and the Standards.

The development of the Framework came as a response to arguments that the ACRL Standards (adopted in 2000), while having been instrumental in establishing information literacy as essential to higher education, had become outdated. In June 2012 the ACRL board approved the recommendation that the Standards be revised, and a Task Force was formed to create the new Framework. The Task Force developed and solicited feedback on three versions of the Framework. Unsurprising, there were strong reactions to the Task Force’s plan to sunset the Standards, which have been key to many academic libraries instruction programs and which have helped many to gain support for information literacy education as an institutional priority.

Common critiques of the older Standards have been that they focus heavily on skills while giving too little attention to conceptual understandings, the social and recursive nature of research, and students as producers of information. Many have also argued that changes in digital technologies, knowledge production, and scholarly communication have led to a need for re-envisioning how our profession conceives of information literacy. The Framework, in contrast, centers on “threshold concepts” (conceptual understandings that are considered to be initially difficult to grasp but essential to engaging critically in a discipline). Each of these threshold concepts is associated in the Framework with specific “knowledge practices” and “dispositions.”

While many librarians have welcomed the Framework’s emphasis on information literacy as a complex range of integrated skills, most have understandably struggled with how to translate this into our teaching practices (particularly when most library instruction still takes place through the traditional “one-shot” session). Another common concern has been the challenges the Framework presents to assessing student learning. This class is intended as an opportunity for participants to grapple with such concerns while also developing at least one concrete instruction plan that relates to the Framework. Participants are invited to think critically about the Framework in light of the specific contexts in which they work while they share ideas and feedback on their instructional approaches.

Thanks for that explanation. The course runs for six weeks. How is it structured?

Throughout the course participants will reflect on their understandings of and potential applications of the Framework. At the same time each person will develop and receive peer feedback on an instruction plan that relates to some aspect of the Framework. Like the other Library Juice classes I’ve taught, the course draws heavily on principles of backward instructional design (considering learning outcomes and potential evidence of student learning before planning instruction). Within this broader course structure, we’ll engage with themes and issues that emerge from our conversations.

Each week is focused on a particular course theme and on related course readings, discussions, and assignments. First we’ll discuss our understandings of and questions and concerns about the Framework. Participants will then identify a teaching scenario they’d like to work with over the coming weeks and will incrementally build and get feedback on their related instruction plan.

That sounds good. I think of you as one of the strongest teachers we have. I wonder if you could say a few words about your experiences in teaching your other courses for us?

Thank you. To me the most exciting part of these classes is the sense of community that develops as people draw connections between pedagogical theories and their actual teaching. In our everyday work we generally don’t get enough time to come together and to think deliberately about our instruction. These courses hopefully create more of those opportunities.

Most class participants come from different institutions. This seems to help everyone gain new perspectives on how we approach both our individual and our collective work. At the same time, sometimes several librarians from the same institution take a course together. In those cases, it’s been fun to see how these groups work together on larger departmental goals.

I think there’s a creativity and a playfulness that often comes with these kinds of interactions among colleagues. Those experiences open the possibilities for our teaching and our profession.

That’s good to hear. I am glad the courses have been working well. Thanks again for teaching them and thanks for the interview.

Thanks for the conversation, Rory. It’s been a pleasure.

Interview with Melissa Robinson

Melissa S. Robinson is the Senior Branch Librarian at the Peabody Institute Library’s West Branch in Peabody, Massachusetts. She is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy in April, titled Library Makerspaces: From Dream to Reality. Melissa agreed to do an interview here to tell us about her course on this hot topic.

Melissa, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I’d like to start by asking you to say a little bit about yourself and what your experience with makerspaces is.

Thanks, Rory! I’ve been fascinated by digital media spaces and makerspaces since I first came across the Chicago Public Library’s YouMedia program for teens. At the time, I was a teen librarian and loved the possibilities spaces like these have for teens. I spent over two years researching media labs and makerspaces and writing grants and planning a makerspace at the Peabody Institute Library in Peabody, Massachusetts. The more I learned, the more I became convinced that makerspaces have enormous potential for libraries and communities and they can offer benefits to people of all ages, not just teens. The makerspace that came out of my research and grant writing is the Creativity Lab at the Peabody Institute Library, which opened in February of 2014. It’s a 1,500 square foot space that provides tools and learning opportunities for children, teens and adults in making digital and physical projects such as 3D printing, computer programming, woodworking, sewing, sound recording, electronics and more.

That sounds cool. So now you are going to share what you’ve learned. Can you outline the course for us? It’s a four-week class. What will you cover and what activities will you do?

I love talking about makerspaces with other librarians, so this is a great opportunity for me to do that.

The course will lead students through the process of creating a “plan” for a makerspace or maker activities for their library. This plan will include a mission statement for the makerspace/program, a justification for why maker activities are needed in the community, a list of partners, funding sources, space requirements, tools, programs and workshops and a budget. This plan can be used to convince administrators, community partners and funders of the need for a makerspace in the library.

Students will participate in course discussions, research existing makerspaces in libraries and other organizations, brainstorm programs, learn about the most popular makerspace tools and use this information to tailor their makerspace plan to their community.

Sounds like a good way to do it. So what are some of the more interesting things that have come from your library’s makerspace? Any surprises? How has it worked out?

People have made some really great stuff! Beautiful baby quilts and really fun original music, but some of my favorites are the items people have created on the 3D printers. They’ve done everything from birdhouses to planters to cell phone covers. One of my favorites was done by a teenage boy who “printed” a pink rose with a green stem for his mom for Mother’s Day. I’m always impressed, but not surprised, by our community members’ creativity. We’re getting great feedback from people who are excited and impressed at this new type of library service that’s fun, different and really valuable. So I think it’s worked out great! It was totally worth all the work it took to get it started!

And your bosses and funders are pleased?

Absolutely. Our library director has been a big fan of the project all along and she has loved seeing it come to life. Our funders are impressed with our program statistics and the feedback we’re getting from our makers. We received an Library Services and Technology Act grant from the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to fund part of the Creativity Lab, and they are excited about the potential it has to serve as a model for other libraries. I think one of the exciting potential benefits of library makerspaces is that it can show a different side of libraries that can attract new partners and open new funding opportunities up to use.

Well that’s really cool. Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience with us. I hope it turns out to be very useful for the people who participate in the class and that it helps a lot of makerspace projects get started. Anything else you’d like to say to people?

And thanks for taking the time to interview me, Rory! Makerspaces can be a daunting project to take on, but when you see the results and the excitement it can create in your community, you’ll be glad you did it! I hope that the lessons I’ve learned through the process of starting the Creativity Lab can help other librarians discover all the possibilities makerspaces have.

Server upgraded

Our users may be pleased to know that we’ve just done a server upgrade. We’ve been challenged recently to accommodate increased traffic, but now we should be good. In case you’re curious, here is what we are now running:

Intel Xeon processors, two of them
Both running at 3.1 GHz
4GB memory
8MB cache
300GB disk space
Running linux and apache

This should hold us over for a while…