Category Archives: Instructors

Interview with Shaundra Walker

Shaundra Walker is the Associate Director for Instruction and Research Services at Georgia College. She holds a B.A. in History from Spelman College, a Masters in Library and Information Studies from Clark Atlanta University and Ph.D. in educational leadership with a concentration in higher education administration from Mercer University. Her work and research in libraries and education is deeply influenced by her experience attending and working in minority serving institutions. Her research interests include the recruitment and retention of diverse librarians and organizational development within the library. Dr. Walker is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy next month, titled, Cultural Competence for the Academic Librarian. She has agreed to be interviewed about this course and her background for teaching it.

Hi Shaundra. Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.

Thanks for the interview. I’m very excited to be teaching this course.

I want to start by asking you about your research and professional experience in relation to this course. What are some of the experiences that you will bring to it as the instructor?

One of the most valuable experiences that I hope to bring to this course is my experience and familiarity with organizational development and diversity. For my dissertation, I used Peter Senge’s systems thinking as a theoretical framework to explore the role of a leadership development program in developing future librarians of color. Systems thinking suggests that organizations learn when their employees learn. I’m a firm believer that if libraries want to prepare for the impending diversification of higher education, developing cultural competence among our employees will help us to remain relevant. Since earning my PhD, I’ve continued to conduct research in this area. Most recently, I completed a book chapter that dealt with the recruitment, retention and promotion of librarians of color and I’m currently working on another chapter that delves into a bit of the history of our profession and some previous attempts at diversity.

In terms of my experience, as a librarian of color, I’ve worked in higher education for over 15 years, in all types of libraries. I’ve worked in a predominately White institution and I’ve also worked as a person of color in an HBCU. I think those two very different experiences have given me a unique perspective to engage in a conversation about what it means to be a culturally competent librarian.

Thank you, I agree that your unique perspective and your experiences make you the ideal person to teach this class. Turning to the class – would you outline it for readers?

We’re going to start with an overview of cultural competence, what it means within the academic library context and why it’s important. Next, we will engage in some self-reflection activities designed to help us understand our personal identities, followed by some activities designed to aid us in comparing and contrasting our identities with those of others. Finally, we’ll practice developing culturally relevant library programs, services, and resources.

I am wondering, how is your approach different from related diversity training programs that people may have been exposed to?

This approach is different from other training in that it is focused on the development of the individual, recognizing that we are all different people, with diverse backgrounds and experiences. Whether we realize it or not, we bring those identities into our work. One or more policies has driven a lot of diversity training that I have attended. Very often this training is designed to make sure that employees maintain compliance with policies and to prevent them from creating any legal risk to the organization. An individual policy is not guiding this course; it is not designed to help any person comply with a policy in the workplace. What it will do is put individuals on the path to being more conscious about who they are, help them to recognize that others may share different identities and experiences and hopefully bring that kind of sensitivity to the services and resources that they provide to the libraries where they are employed.

Thinking about what you’re saying, I can imagine that it might be scary at times for some people to explore their identities and those of others in the context of diversity. Do you agree with that? Is it sometimes scary?

Yes. I definitely agree. Discussing one’s identity can be very challenging work. And for that reason, I want to emphasize that the course will be a very non-judgemental space. This course is not about defending who you are. Also, there are no right or wrong answers. Your identity is…your identity. It’s a very personal reflection on how you see yourself. Engaging in this type of exercise can be very helpful in the sense that it helps people to see that others are much more than what they appear to be. Also, when we talk about diversity, it’s important to recognize that diversity is very complex. When we hear the word “diversity,” we often think in very binary terms (ex. black or white). There are many dimensions to diversity. The very word diversity has become a loaded term. A lot of people automatically think race when they here diversity. Certainly, race is important, but there are other aspects of one’s identity and what that looks like varies greatly from person to person. For some, it might be their gender, for others it might be their family status, for someone else it might be their faith. Again, there are no right or wrong answers here!

That is really nice to hear. I think with that sense of safety people will be relaxed and eager to learn from the class. And I imagine people will learn a lot from each other. Related to the non-judgmental aspect, I am wondering how you will handle the important diversity-related wrongs that are being discussed a lot in the culture right now – microaggressions, structural racism, and other forms of identity-based oppression. A lot of people want to talk about these issues, and a lot of other people seem threatened by them. How will you handle that?

Luckily, there are some great LIS-related resources out there that delve into these topics, such as In the Library With the Lead Pipe, the LIS Microaggressions Tumblr and many others. As much as possible, these resources will be worked into the course or provided as supplemental resources. There are a lot of voices out there right now that can help us to see and hopefully appreciate the lived experiences of individuals who have identities that are different from our own. I agree with you, when you bring up topics like microaggressions, structural racism, and others, things can get tense. In my work, I have tried to help people to understand that engaging in these sometimes difficult conversations is helpful if we keep in mind that it’s not always possible to comprehend another person’s lived experience, but it is possible to understand that others have lived experiences that are different from our own. When we respect those differences, it makes this work much easier. I hope to bring that spirit into the course.

That sounds great. I’m kind of out of questions, so I’ll just close by asking, is there anything you’d like to add?

I’m looking forward to guiding this course and learning from the students, as well.

I’m very glad you’re going to be teaching it. Thanks for teaching and for agreeing to the interview.

Interview with Angela Pashia

Angela Pashia is an Assistant Professor and the Instructional Services Outreach Librarian at the University of West Georgia, where she regularly teaches a credit bearing information literacy course. She has a Masters in Information Science & Learning Technologies, with an emphasis in library science, from the University of Missouri, and a Masters in Anthropology from the University of Virginia. She is currently focusing on practicing critical pedagogies, incorporating social justice issues into “the library course”, and the scholarship of teaching and learning. Angela is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy in January, titled Developing a Credit-Bearing Information Literacy Course. She has agreed to do an interview here to tell interested people a bit about her course.

Hi, Angela. Thanks for agreeing to do the interview.

Thanks for inviting me to be interviewed!

I’d like to start by asking you to briefly describe the class you’ll be teaching for us.

The class I will be teaching is targeted to instruction librarians who have experience teaching one-shots, but have not been responsible for a semester-long course before. There are a lot of perks and challenges involved in teaching a credit-bearing information literacy course. On one hand, I love that I get to spend a full semester getting to know a set of students. I also have the opportunity to teach concepts that don’t often get covered in one-shots. For example, it’s one thing to teach students to evaluate sources using a tool like the CRAP test, or even coming up with a list of criteria students think should be considered. But how often do we get to then take that further to discuss the ways ideology affects information, or spend a whole lesson examining the use of various logical fallacies in arguments as another facet to consider when evaluating a source? On the other hand, if you’ve only taught one-shots, how do you then arrange everything you want to teach into a coherent syllabus? Deciding how to plan assessments that you will actually grade is another challenge. And classroom management is another issue – we do a certain amount of that in teaching one-shots, but in that model, we don’t have to deal with the student who is chronically 15 minutes late to a 50-minute class or reach out to the student who did great for 8 weeks then disappeared. So my class will address some strategies related to these aspects of teaching a semester-long course.

I got the idea for this class after talking to people at conferences and on twitter, who either want to or had signed up to teach credit-bearing courses, and had questions about planning syllabi and whatnot. The title refers to teaching an information literacy course, because that was what I was thinking of when I proposed the class, but the content will focus on class design and management, so that it will be useful whether students are planning to teach an information literacy course, a semester-long first year orientation course, or whatever.

That sounds really great. Can you give us an outline of what the course will cover, week-to-week?

My thought is to start with developing a syllabus, which will take a couple of the weeks, since that entails linking the course learning outcomes to more granular daily learning outcomes, and then deciding how to assess those learning outcomes. That naturally segues into actually grading that student work. And then we’ll wrap up with a discussion of classroom management strategies. Writing that out now, it feels like LOT to cover in four weeks! This course will really be an overview, with discussion and resources to save and refer back to later.

This is a new course, so I’m open to being flexible – if we get into it and everyone really wants to spend the fourth week talking more about grading rubrics instead of classroom management, I’m willing to shift gears as needed, and adjust the description or length for future offerings of the course!

So I surmise that a lot of what you teach in this class comes from your own studies in preparing to teach a credit-bearing course, and your experience teaching it. Can you talk about that? What did you study, and how did the opportunity to teach a “library class” come about?

My background is in Anthropology. I earned a Masters and started a PhD program before switching to library school. I had some experience as a TA in my first grad program, leading 20-person discussion sections connected to a large lecture course. Then, in the first year of my PhD program, I was a TA for General Anthropology, an introductory survey course with 180-225 students each semester. That meant that I attended lectures, helped the Graduate Instructor select test questions from a test bank, and lectured a couple of times when the Instructor was unable to be in class. The following year, I got to be the Graduate Instructor for that class – which meant I was the instructor of record and responsible for all of the planning of the course. In many ways, I had less training in pedagogy than I got in my first year at my current job, but the grad students had a folder (back then it was burned on a CD!) of past materials – syllabi, powerpoint presentations, tests, etc. We also used an introductory text, so it was easy to just structure the course to follow the organization of the textbook. Those materials helped a lot, though I’d admit my instruction was just a bunch of boring lectures and scantron tests!

Flashing forward a couple of years, I graduated in 2011 and landed a job at some small regional university that I had never heard of (it’s not really that small, except in comparison to the large state flagship universities I attended). I was willing to move cross-country because I specifically wanted to focus on library instruction. I lucked into a place that had an established course. It’s 2 credit hours and is one of the options that will meet a core curriculum requirement.

Another librarian who some readers may recognize, Jessica Critten, started the same month as I did, so we went through some of the challenges of starting to teach this class together. Colleagues shared their syllabi, assignments, and other resources to help us get started, which was a great help. As we’ve each developed in our positions, we’ve gone different directions with our course designs, but continue to share ideas and talk through challenges.

Since then, our department has had several new people start teaching the course. In summer 2012, at what felt like the last minute, we were granted funding for two one-year limited-term positions with no guarantee of continued funding. We hired two new grads, who had something like a week to prepare to start teaching! One was here for one year, and the other was here for two years, but both left for great permanent positions elsewhere. In the next budget cycle, we got funding for two new tenure-track faculty positions to start summer 2013. Of course, the whole department contributed to helping all of the new hires get their feet under them. And then this fall semester, I worked with one of our staff members who earned a MLIS while working here, but had no teaching experience. We taught the class together in a sort of student/mentor teacher relationship – we met weekly to talk about the reasoning behind each week’s lessons, grading, etc., and she taught some lessons and helped with the grading. She’ll be teaching the course on her own this coming spring semester!

I talk a lot about my experiences, because I feel more comfortable critiquing my own missteps than picking on others! But the topics I plan to focus on for the LJA course are things that have come up in discussions with several of the people who started teaching the class after I did. Those conversations helped me internalize that most people struggle with these things, it’s not just me! I feel like it’s easy to say that, and to know it on an intellectual level, but still feel like an impostor on an emotional level. But really, everyone I’ve talked to who really cares about their students has struggled with these things, and many still do after several years of teaching.

And I hope I didn’t write too much for this question!

No, not at all. That is all very helpful in thinking about this. I wonder if you can say a couple of things about what was most interesting or surprising about teaching the credit-bearing course?

It’s really rewarding to see students develop over the course of a semester. I don’t always get to see much change, because we’re talking about just a few months, at a time when, developmentally, their brains may not yet be wired to be able to handle a lot of grey areas, like picking apart the ways authority is constructed and contextual. So I sometimes envy friends who teach in disciplines with majors, where they get to see students grow over the course of several semesters. On really challenging days, I remind myself that I am planting seeds, and even if I don’t see growth now, it could be germinating and sprout next semester or next year. Sometimes a student will email a year or two after having taken my class to tell me that they didn’t really get the importance of the lessons when they were in my class, but now that they have to do more serious research in other classes, they’re so glad to have taken my class.

But it is amazing when I do get to see that growth. A couple of years ago, I had this one student. For the first month or so of the semester, they seemed like a total slacker. They would do the homework assignments, but would write really short answers that kind of skimmed the surface near what I was looking for. After getting low grades on a few assignments, this person asked me why, what they needed to do to get better grades. I explained my grading, and what I’m looking for – make sure you answer all of the questions, and say enough to show that you are actually applying what we’ve talked about, not just reciting the terms you think I want to hear. For the next few assignments, I didn’t see much change, so I wondered, did they even really listen or did they just want an easier answer? But then, when it came time to grade the final projects, this student knocked it out of the park. At that time, the final project included a paper, an annotated bibliography, and a presentation. On the annotated bibliography, the annotation had to include an evaluation of the source’s credibility. This student did the best job of applying our evaluation criteria out of everyone in the class! I don’t remember much about their paper, except that overall, they had more minor grammatical errors on both the paper and annotated bibliography than most, but the content was really good.

A week after finals week was over that semester, I went out for drinks with a friend. Assuming the students had all left town, we just grabbed seats at the bar (instead of looking for a less visible seat somewhere). We were wrong. That student walked by and saw me, and came over to give me a hug. They said that was the first time they had ever gotten an A, and told me about how proud their mom was when they showed her the paper for my class. This student earned it – like I said, despite lackluster work on lower value homework assignments, they did a great job on the final project. That also kind of validated my approach to homework assignments – lots of feedback on lower value assignments early, so that they know how I grade before they turn in a high value assignment!

Oh, and it’s also interesting to see how former students react to you during reference shifts – will they avoid eye contact or come over to say hi or ??? Being the one who is responsible for assessing their learning means that I have to be the one to hold them accountable – which means recording an F for some students for the semester. And nobody likes that (myself included)! Some students in that boat will avoid eye contact at all costs, while others will acknowledge that they dropped the ball that semester but have gotten things together since then.

That is great. I hope people taking your class with up will end up having similar experiences. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me about your class and your experiences. And best of luck with the class next month.

Thanks for interviewing me! I also hope they have similar experiences!

I know you recently developed a Library Juice Certificate in Library Instruction – I would definitely encourage people to check that out. My course will cover the logistics of managing a semester-long course, but I would not have had as many great experiences without training in how to teach well. I got that from a range of sources, including Maria Accardi’s Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction course. My course will just fill the gap for those of us trying to translate pedagogical training for librarians, which mostly focuses on one-shots, into a coherent semester-long plan. We’ll examine issues that don’t come up much for those teaching only one-shots, but not address skills that are also relevant to one-shots, like how to develop an engaging lesson plan. I really enjoyed Maria’s course, and have heard great things about Andrea Baer’s classes, too!

Thanks for the plug! And thanks again for the interview.

Interview with Lauren Hays

Lauren Hays is the Instructional and Research Librarian and the Co-Director of the Center for Games and Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University. She holds an undergraduate degree in education, a masters in library science, a masters in educational technology, and a graduate certificate in online teaching and learning. She is co-teaching two classes for Library Juice Academy that she has agreed to talk to us about: Games in Academic Libraries and Informal Learning in Academic Libraries.

Hi Lauren! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Hi Rory! Thank you for the opportunity to talk about the courses I will be co-teaching with Teresa Slobuski.

I’d like to start by asking you what the Center for Games and Learning is. Want to tell us about that?

Sure! The Center for Games & Learning at MidAmerica Nazarene University’s Mabee Library sponsors game design and game research for use in educational settings. It is an initiative that was funded by the Institute of Museum and Library Services. I was the principal investigator on a 2014 Sparks! IMLS Grant that created this library-based Center for Games and Learning.

Your two classes are on games and informal learning in academic libraries. Would you care describe those classes?

Games in Academic Libraries is going to be an introduction to thinking about ways to use games in an academic library setting. They can be for recreation, student development, curriculum support, or games can be used to teach information literacy. Games for learning is a huge push in the K-12 setting and this is a way to start thinking about them in higher education.

Informal learning is a big topic. It can encompass a lot of different things. Libraries hold a lot of physical real estate on campuses and this space should be used strategically to promote learning in a myriad of ways. Learning informally is one of those ways.

I’d like to ask you a little more about the games class first, and then move on to discussing informal learning. The games class, what will it cover exactly? Is it based on existing projects that can be adapted into other settings?

Games in Academic Libraries is divided into four main topics–one a week. The topics are Introduction to Game Studies and Games in Libraries, Educational Integration of Games, Games and Libraries, and Advanced Topics. Teresa and I will share our own projects and highlight other projects we know that are happening. The class also happens to be happening over International Games Day @ Your Library, sponsored by the ALA, so we will highlight that and encourage course participants to find a library that is part of IGD.

We hope the class will be an opportunity to learn and network with others who are interested in this topics. I have found making connections to be very important in my career, and I love the opportunity to connect with others around common interests.

It sounds like it will be a very stimulating class for people. One thing I hope it will do will be to give good practical preparation for people who are planning to implement a game project in their library. Do you expect to present solutions to common problems and issues that people may encounter?

Yes, one of the first questions we plan to ask is if the course participants have any concerns about incorporating games into their libraries. We will respond to these concerns from our experiences. During the last week of the course, we want participants to conduct a brief community analysis where they will consider the best type of games for their library, their community needs, and to identify any supporters they can leverage to build a community of practice.

I imagine that between your prior experience and what the students will contribute to the class, there will be a lot of good ideas for people to use. So, about informal learning… What is informal learning, in the context of that class?

In the context of this class, informal learning is learning that takes place outside a formal learning setting. It includes the creation of new knowledge through group and solo activities.

So what are some examples?

Gameplay, makerspaces, space design, furniture selection, and technology are examples of ways librarians can foster informal learning in their libraries.

Okay, so would you describe the class on informal learning in academic libraries? What is the content of the course? What can people expect to learn by the end of it?

Informal Learning in Academic Libraries will be broken into four main topics: What is Informal Learning?, How have libraries promoted informal learning?, How CAN libraries promote informal learning?, and Local studies of informal learning at your library. Teresa and I want to look at informal learning broadly and then bring it to the local context. Context is very important when thinking about how to promote learning. Informal learning helps build life skills such as critical thinking, flexibility, collaboration, and creativity. We want to help academic librarians think about how to foster these skills in their spaces.

Okay, one thing I think I should have asked earlier… What is the Center for Games and Learning at your library? What kinds of things is it doing? Do you think it’s something that other institutions can use as a model?

The Center for Games and Learning is a library-based center. I co-direct it with the director of the university’s honors program. The Center supports professors wanting to use gameplay in their courses through a collection of games and consulting services. With professors we will walk through how games can best be facilitated, adapted, and debriefed. We also provide resources for the broader education community. Local teachers often use the Center for their k-12 instruction.

The Center is replicable, though it does take a lot of support from faculty and administration. I have talked with other librarians who have started incorporating games into their academic library for recreation and curricular support. They each start at different places and chose to focus on certain things based on their community.

That sounds great. Okay, I have a harder question for you. Can you tell me what it is about games and informal learning that has captured your interest and inspired you to pursue it in your library?

For me, the interest in games was sparked by my desire to collaborate with faculty. I learned about the the honors director’s interest in games and I invited him to discuss the possibility of applying for a grant where we would collaborate in this area.

In regards to informal learning, this interest grew a bit more organically. My library has served as the de facto student union on my campus for a few years. As we’ve adjusted to the increase in traffic, rearrangement of collections, and repurposing of space, we have worked hard to be intentional about the learning that can occur in those spaces.

What do you think is the most important thing you’ve learned working with games and informal learning?

That experiences are so important for learning. I know there is a lot of research on experiential learning, but it wasn’t until games and informal learning started to be part of my everyday work that I started to dig into this literature.

Well, thanks for this interview. It’s been very interesting hearing about your classes. I hope it goes very well.

Thank you, Rory. I appreciate the opportunity to share.

Interview with John Russell

John Russell is Scholarly Communications Librarian at the University of Oregon Libraries, which involves open access advocacy and scholarly publishing as well as digital scholarship services. He has been actively involved in digital humanities projects, primarily related to text encoding, and teaches a digital scholarship methods course as part of UO’s New Media and Culture graduate certificate program. John is teaching a course for us next month called Introduction to Digital Humanities for Librarians, and he agreed to do an interview to give people a better sense of what DH is in a library context, and what they can learn from his course.

Hi, John. Thanks for agreeing to do this interview.

Thank you, Rory, for letting me be a part of Library Juice Academy.

I’d like to start by asking the question that is on a lot of people’s minds, which is, what is digital humanities, exactly? I have learned a bit about it from a certain perspective, but I’d like to hear your take as someone who has been very involved in it.

Digital humanities (DH) is such a nebulous thing, to the point that for many people simply doing the humanities with computers in any fashion constitutes DH. I typically define the digital humanities as using computers to analyze humanistic objects, making humanistic objects machine readable, or using computers to make humanistic objects. However, a lot of DH people, whether they admit it or not, do public humanities, so even though I see digital humanities and public humanities as entangled but separate things, I’ll often include the latter as an important aspect of DH.

Could you elaborate a bit? Maybe you could describe a couple of exemplary DH projects that have been done?

I’m being a little vague because the first week of the course revolves around this very question and I don’t want to prejudice student responses too much. But a good example of what I’m talking about is Lev Manovich’s Selfiecity project – well, he’s the project coordinator, it’s the work of a number of people. Selfiecity is a sizeable sampling of selfies taken by people in different cities (Bangkok, Berlin, New York, Sao Paolo, and Moscow). The images were analyzed by software that estimated the position of the eyes, emotional expressions, and a few other things. By analyzing a large number of selfies, the group was able to identify patterns in the data (for example, Bangkok selfies are far more likely to involve smiling than selfies from Moscow). All of this would be hard for a researcher to do without the aid of a computer; certainly not impossible, but very time consuming. You can go to the site and read their conclusions, but you can also play around with their data. The project is designed to engage people, not just report out to them.

Is it generally true that DH projects are done by teams, with humanities scholars and technologists working together?

Digital humanities does involve a lot of collaborative work, to the point that one could say that collaboration is a core value for DH. Because DH work can involve a lot of different skills – web design, programming, project management, data management – working with others who possess different areas of expertise is essential for large projects. Take a project like the Walt Whitman Archive, which I see as a pretty exemplary project. The list of people who have worked on this project is so long because it’s been in process for a long time (since the late 1990s) and the whole enterprise depends on things like digitization, text encoding, web programming, and maintaining the server. All of that in addition to the intellectual labor involved in scholarly editing and putting all of this material in some kind of context. As many people will tell you, the data work (getting, cleaning, organizing) that is part of doing digital humanities is very time consuming and anything ambitious is going to require more than one person. Of course, there are any number of small scale/individual DH projects, especially graduate students working on their dissertations, so collaboration is not essential. However, even in the case of small projects, you often have less-formal collaborations because something isn’t working the way you need it to or you need someone to give you a push in the right direction.

The class you’re teaching for us is going to be a lot about how librarians can have a role in DH projects at their institutions, is that right? What are the roles for librarians on these project teams?

Librarians play a lot of roles in DH projects; at UO, the unit I’m in does digitization, metadata, web programming, and project management. Librarians also create digital humanities projects, so it’s not just about being partners – librarians are leaders, too. However, that’s not the sole focus of this class. The library literature on digital humanities tends to over-emphasize projects, but academic libraries are partners in the research *and* teaching mission of their respective institutions. Personally, I’m much more interested in how librarians can partner with teaching faculty to integrate DH into the classroom or how we can be involved in training faculty and students in DH tools and methods. Also, libraries have the data! What does it mean to think about our special collections as humanities data? How can libraries improve access to humanities resources that can support this kind of computer-heavy research? Librarians who may never work directly on a digital project or do DH-related instruction have a role to play and I’ve tried to set up the course to facilitate thinking about DH throughout the library.

That’s very exciting. I hadn’t thought about the teaching aspect. So, would you outline the class? What will it cover, and what can people expect to come away with?

The first week covers the question this interview started with: what are the digital humanities? That’s such a huge question, so I select a few readings that illustrate a broad range of approaches and just try to give students a taste of what kind of work is being done. That’s followed by a section where students learn to do basic text analysis, mapping, and text encoding, so that there’s some exposure to DH tools and methods. The second half of the course switches to focusing on libraries: what kinds of engagement with digital humanities has been going on in libraries? What’s missing from that engagement? We finish with the students working on a brief project that allows them to create something applicable to their library: a digital project, a collections policy, a research guide, an instruction session, planning for needs assessment, really anything they can come up with. My hope is that students aren’t just learning about digital humanities for the sake of knowing more about it, but are leaving the course with a real sense of how they and their libraries can participate in DH.

That sounds great. Now, next month is going to be the second time you’ve taught this class for us. What was your experience like the first time around and what did you learn from it?

Much of what I’ve said above about the relationship between DH and libraries comes from comments students made. I’ve long been uneasy about the narrative of “doing DH” in libraries, but hadn’t really put all of the pieces together. The way students pushed back against the readings helped me see how the story of DH and libraries has been constructed in our profession and what’s been missing from that story. But also how this narrative – very research and tech focused – makes some librarians feel excluded, or at least gives folks the sense that all of this digital stuff isn’t relevant to their career or their situation. So I learned a lot and, given the really great projects I saw, I think I was successful in getting students excited about how they can be involved in the digital humanities, too.

It sounds like you’ve taken an open-minded approach, and that has paid off. It sounds to me like what digital humanities is is something that is in flux, and that perhaps librarians can actually take part in shaping it as it changes, by taking part in ways that are new. Would you agree with that?

Yes, digital humanities is very much an open field and there are so many ways to contribute.

Well, I’m very glad that you’re teaching this course, to get people started.

You’re teaching this class because you were recommended by more than one person when I put a call out out to find someone to teach a class in DH. But I am wondering, if you could teach any other class that you wanted to, what would it be (or what would they be)?

Well, I’ve done a bunch of work to put together a Twitter Research Methods course that, because of work commitments, I won’t be able to teach this year, but I would like to offer it at some point. My start in libraries was in special collections and I still have a great interest in old books, so I’d love to teach a book history course again. I’ve actually thought about writing a book history textbook because there really aren’t good survey options. Media history or data history would also be fun. My history graduate work focused on French intellectuals and (even though I’d need to get back up to speed) I’d enjoy teaching something focused on Michel Foucault. I like teaching, so I’m always happy to do more of it.

Those sounds like great ideas. I hope to hear more from you about some of them at some point.

Thanks for doing this interview, and good luck with the course next month.

Thanks, Rory. I’m excited to be doing the course again!

Interview with Joe J. Marquez

Joe J. Marquez is the Web Services Librarian at Reed College in Portland, OR. He has presented and written on topics related to service design, website usability, IT implementation, and marketing of the library. His current research involves implementing a service design methodology in the library environment. He is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy in September, titled, Service Design: Towards a Holistic Assessment of Library Services. Joe kindly agreed to do an interview here, to give people a better idea of what they might learn in his course.

Hi Joe. Thanks for agreeing to this interview.

Hi Rory. Thanks for the opportunity.

I’d like to start by asking you to tell readers about the service design methodology. What is it?

Service design is a user-centered, holistic, and co-creative method for assessing services. In our case, we are looking at services offered and provided by libraries, but this methodology is used in the private sector as well. It is user-centered because we look at services from the user’s perspective. It is holistic because we focus on the context in which services occur, but also all the various elements that make up a service experience. It is co-creative because the research team works closely with actual users to understand and refine or create services. By working closely with actual users, we get a clearer insight into what works and what doesn’t work for users.

And while the title says “service” we don’t strictly look at person-to-person interactions or exchanges. We look at everything a library has to offer as a service. This could mean traditional services like reference or circulation, but also the library as place. The key to service design is to get a better understanding of user expectation and see where we can meet, exceed, or close the gap between current delivery of service and user expectation. By taking the user perspective, we really see the library as it is viewed and used by them.

So you’ve been implementing a service design methodology in your library. Can you tell people a bit about that experience?

Working with service design has been an eye-opening experience. If approached with an open mind, it allows us to get at student motivations and better understand user expectations and how they might refine or recreate services.

Our study has evolved over a two-year period. In our first year, we assembled and worked closely with a student working group (SWG). The SWG was comprised of seven students from different years and different majors. The reason behind this was to get a diverse group of user feedback. As students progress through Reed College, their demands on library resources changes, and we wanted to capture how different students use the library and its services. That first year was also a lot about planning as we, the Library User Experience Team (LUX), were still really learning and adapting the methodology to our environment. A strong point of service design is that it can be adapted to any environment.

That first year we held four meetings with the SWG. During those meetings, we had the students go through a few exercises that revealed how they use the library and its resources. We would also give them some “homework,” but the majority of that year’s meetings were focused on discussion around various topics. The discussion lead to deep insights into how students use the library, but also allowed the LUX team to better understand student motivations and got at the underlying culture of what it means to be a student at Reed College. Context plays an important role in the service design methodology because services don’t happen in a vacuum, but rather in tandem with other established resources and within service ecologies. As we understand the user in a specific context, we can then better understand how to refine or create new services that are suited for the user and a given environment or ecology.

During our second year we turned the tables a bit. Rather than going back to the SWG for additional feedback, we integrated them into the LUX team. We now wanted them to help us learn more about the insights we gathered that first year by having SWG members lead focus groups with other Reed students. The SWG members created an outline for focus groups as well as a list of questions and then ran focus groups. Due to time constraints, we were only able to hold two focus group meetings in year two. As we enter year three, we will hold additional focus group meetings and really begin the synthesis of feedback to formulate a recommendation for our College Librarian.

I was recently asked why the process takes so long. It is not that service design takes three years, but we have drawn it out since we are not working on this one project full time. I estimate that with the ability to focus more on the project, we would have been able to hold the various discussion meetings and focus groups in an 8-9 month time period or a single academic year. Again, service design is a very flexible methodology can be adapted for any environment and allow the research team to go as deep into gaining insights as they choose. To me, service design is more of a toolbox or framework and less about a step-by-step process.

So what will students come away with if they take your class? What does it cover?

We’ll cover foundational concepts (What is a service? How do users perceive services? What is systems thinking? What is service design?, etc) review service design activities, define the various phases of service design, learn tips for creating internal and external teams, and create a draft plan that could be used in the student’s own library.

There are hands-on activities to get students to be both a researcher and a participant. By performing the activities, students will be able to feel comfortable introducing them in their own library service design plan. The final project will be to create a draft plan for use in the student’s own library or work environment. One of the key parts to service design is asking the right question. By understanding what we want to learn more about, we can formulate a research question and work at getting feedback from users. As a group, we will help each other refine our research question and draft plan. I will also work with students to help them choose the right tool for a particular job. Students will come away with an understanding of service design and be more comfortable with using some of the tools (exercises) often used in service design. It may sound like a lot to cover in four weeks, but the content will get the students engaged and thinking differently about their own library.

So who would benefit from this course? Just library managers or others?

Library managers and others that hold decision making roles, definitely. But, it will also benefit those who are involved with any form of usability or user experience in their library, be they UX team members or chairing the usability team. I would even think that a traditional reference librarian or someone working in public or access services looking to improve their service point(s) might find very useful tips on how to improve their services and come away from the class with a different perspective on what a service is, how users perceive services, and how to improve to meet or exceed user expectation(s). The course does not require a background in understanding user experience or usability training. What I do ask is for students to have an open mind when approaching the material.

That sounds good. I want to thank you for sharing this info about your course. I hope it will be very successful, this first time and in future sessions.

Thank you. I am looking forward to this experience and sharing service design with others. I also look forward to learning as much from the students as I hope they learn from me.

Interview with Catelynne Sahadath

Catelynne Sahadath is the Head of Metadata Development at the University of Calgary, where she manages the cataloging section, where she was responsible for leading their transition from AACR2 to RDA in 2013. Catelynne has previously worked on cataloging and digitization projects for the Government of Canada, and her research focuses on change management in technical services and the impacts of cataloguing changes on public services. Catelynn is teaching a class for us next month, on AACR2 Legacy Practices, and a class in September titled, Introduction to Library Classification in Dewey and LC. She agreed to do an interview about these here.

Hi Catelynne… Thanks for doing this interview.

Hi Rory, thanks for having me!

I’d like to start by jumping right in to talk about the AACR2 Legacy Practices class. Could you summarize it?

Certainly. I’ve noticed that since the switch from AACR2 to RDA in libraries there’s been a kind of disconnect between those who have taken AACR2 in school and are now working in RDA, and those who only ever learned RDA. That second group of people tends to be folks who have learned to catalogue since 2013. It can be frustrating for them because AACR2 records still exist in large numbers, as well as hybrid AACR2+RDA records.

What this course is designed to do is to bridge that gap for anyone who has learned RDA in school or on the job, but who is still working in an environment where AACR2 and hybrid records are all around. By the end of it, students will be able to work more comfortably in that hybrid environment, and will be able to identify and upgrade records from AACR2 to RDA. They will also learn in which scenarios they should not upgrade AACR2 records to RDA, and how to add information to AACR2 records while maintaining standards properly.

Sounds like it fills a definite need. What are the kinds of things people in the situation you describe need to know about AACR2?

In a MARC environment, they will need to know which fixed fields to use in AACR2 and in hybrid records, as well as which ones to change when upgrading a record from AACR2. There are a lot of abbreviations and Latin terms in AACR2, which are not very intuitive. People in these situations will need to be able to translate those old terms and abbreviations into the more explicit language of RDA. Some MARC fields have changed between AACR2 and RDA, and it is important to know which fields these translate into.

Finally, there are certain elements of the work, expression, manifestation and item level data that folks in these situations will have to parse out. It is more intellectual and judgement based than simply translating and following standards, and that is where students of this course will have an edge. For example, learning to parse out entry points from data that would have previously been hidden away in a free text field, or optimizing physical item level data for non-standard formats that could otherwise remain unseen by most users. Library users certainly have a lot to gain from the proper treatment of these records.

That sounds very interesting and useful. I think it is clear from your description what kind of background knowledge is needed to benefit from the course. I’d like to switch gears a little to ask a more personal kind of question. How do you personally feel about RDA?

My opinion on this is simple: RDA is better for users, therefore it is better for libraries.

It makes room for the rich description of alternate formats that was never available in AACR2. It creates relationships between works, their creators, and their content that allows for serendipitous digital discovery, which is important in environments where physical browsing only offers a small slice of what is contained in an entire collection. It’s flexible enough to allow for the addition of formats that we can’t anticipate in the present.

There’s an uncomfortable learning curve for cataloguers with regard to the transition to RDA, but whenever I think about how awesome RDA records are for users in comparison to AACR2 records, it’s completely worth it.

I’d like to turn to the class in classification at this point. Will you describe that class?

Students who complete this class will be the go-to experts on call numbers in their places of work.

The classification class is going to get into the nitty gritty of creating call numbers. A well crafted call number is actually very tough to create, and if it’s done incorrectly it has a huge impact on users. On a practical level, this course is going to teach students how to create Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal Classification numbers using some open and some proprietary online tools. Most cataloguing courses go over the basics of how to create classification numbers, but this course will make students experts in it. It will go over how to create call numbers for traditional print books, as well as online resources, alternate formats, and other library oddities. At the end of the course, students will be able to catalogue the food in their fridges or the shampoo in their showers, if they feel so inclined. Students who complete this course will have the skills and confidence to serve as experts in call number creation in their library circles or places of work.

That sounds great. I’ve been wanting to add a course in classification for some time and I’m very glad you’re going to be doing it.

To kind of cap off this interview, I wonder if you could tell me, if you could teach any class for us that you could dream up, what would it be?

I would teach Radical Metadata! I don’t think people realize how controversial or political metadata and cataloguing can be, but it really is. It’s not just non-cataloguers who are unaware of this; I think there are a lot of folks working in metadata who don’t realize how much impact their work has on the representation of information for diverse and marginalized groups. I’d love to teach a course that presents metadata as a vehicle of social justice.

That sounds really cool! We should talk about that idea.

Thanks for doing this interview and telling us about your courses.

Thanks to you as well!

Interview with Megan Wacha

Megan Wacha is the Scholarly Communications Librarian at the City University of New York. Driven by the statement that Wikipedia is “the encyclopedia that anyone can edit,” she utilizes this open resource to teach information literacy skills and to make underrepresented groups more visible on Wikipedia. She has presented this work at conferences such as the LITA Forum, ALA Annual, WikiConference USA and Wikimania, the global Wikipedia conference. Megan is teaching a class for Library Juice Academy next month, titled, Wikipedia: Library Initiatives and Expert Editing. She agreed to do an interview here to give people a better idea of what they will learn from her class and a bit about her background for teaching it.

Hi Megan! Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed.

Hello! Thanks so much taking the time to talk with me.

I’d like to start by asking you to talk a bit about your experience working on Wikipedia and your motivation for doing so.

Of course! I started working with Wikipedia because I was interested in addressing the Wikipedia gender gap. a finding that between 84% and 91% of editors are men. At the time, I was a newly appointed research and instruction librarian at Barnard College, a small liberal arts college for women, so addressing issues related to women’s history and representation was central to the mission of the Library and the College. This was back in March 2012, a time when women’s access to health care was part of the conversations on campus, so a library colleague and I worked with the Barnard Center for Research on Women to organize a Wikipedia edit-a-thon about these issues. Once the date was set, we taught ourselves to edit, and to teach others to edit (yes, we really did it in that order!). The event was such a low-cost, high-impact way of working with our community, that I began organizing edit-a-thons each semester. Eventually, I also began to use Wikipedia as a site for instruction, partnering with faculty to develop course assignments in which students write Wikipedia articles rather than a traditional term paper.

Wikipedia is an incredible information resource, and the possibilities for libraries are endless!

So you have significant experience editing and teaching people to edit. I think you’re just the right person to teach a class on Wikipedia, which we’ve been wanting to offer for some time. The course you planned – why don’t you tell us about it?

My primary goal for this course is to empower librarians to lead a Wikipedia initiative at their institution, whether it’s a public library or private special collection. It can be intimidating to make that first edit, so this course will support students as they learn the basics of editing and the ins and outs of the Wikipedia community. We’ll also discuss a range of library initiatives that use Wikipedia, identifying what it might look like at our own institution or what we might do differently. There is a lot to cover, but we’ll build that knowledge together over the course of six weeks.

I strive to teach to who is in the room, virtual or otherwise. I’m eager to meet the students and to tackle their questions and interests together!

Sounds good. The course is six weeks in length. How is it structured over that time period?

Each week will address both the technical and social components to Wikipedia so that students will learn how libraries and librarians are engaging with Wikipedia while simultaneously learning how to edit. So, for instance, one week we’ll learn how to upload images to Wikimedia Commons while discussing how cultural heritage institutions are using Wikipedia to make their collections more discoverable. Another week we’ll learn about citations in Wikipedia while exploring how academic libraries use Wikipedia to teach information literacy skills. Content will come in the form of readings, class discussion, and brief videos.

So what will participants end up knowing or able to do at the end of the course?

Participants will leave the course empowered to edit Wikipedia, to engage with Wikipedians, and to articulate how the principles of Wikipedia (collaboration and openness being key) relate to the core values of librarianship. Participants are not required to publish in the main space of Wikipedia, but they will conduct edits in a Wikipedia sandbox as well as develop a plan for a Wikipedia initiative at their own institution. I see myself as a facilitator, and really look forward to meeting the participants and to supporting their goals for the course!

That sounds great. Thanks very much for doing this interview.

Thank you – It was a pleasure.

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.

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.

Interview with Jessica Moyer

Jessica E. Moyer is an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota in Literacy Education and MS and CAS degrees from the University of Illinois, Graduate School of Library and Information Science. Moyer has taught reference and readers’ advisory courses for the LIS programs at the University of St. Catherine, San Jose State, and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee as well and continuing education courses for the American Library Association. She is scheduled to teach some courses in Readers’ Advisory with Library Juice Academy coming up. Jessica agreed to do an interview here to give people an idea of what they will get out of her courses, and a bit about her in general.

Jessica, thanks for agreeing to the interview. I’m happy to expand our course offerings to cover readers’ advisory topics, and you are one of the best-qualified people out there to teach on the topic. I’d like to start by asking you what librarians need to know about readers’ advisory that they may not know before taking a class in it?

Probably the most important thing to know is that readers’ advisory is an active and growing part of information services in school and public libraries and is a service that meets the needs of all age groups, from babies to seniors.

After that I’d say, the excuse of “I don’t read much” isn’t a professional or valid excuse for not providing RA. Today there are so many great tools and resources that librarians who read only a few books a year, can and do provide great RA services. It’s far more important to understand the role and value of reading, and how to talk to readers than it is to know lots of books.

So, other than knowing lots of books, what knowledge is involved in RA? Is it a case where “There’s knowing books and there’s knowing books?” I would imagine you can learn a little bit about many books, for RA purposes, in the time it takes to read one book deeply, if you have the right techniques. How much is RA a matter of knowing about books and what are some of the other skills involved?

There are four areas that I think are important for providing good RA. I cover the first three in the Intro to RA class, and the fourth is the subject of my next two classes for Library Juice

First, know your tools and resources. There are so many great resources out there for busy librarians, from subscription databases like Novelist to free websites like my favorite, “What’s Next” from the Kent District Library.

Second, understand the basics of how readers connect with and talk about books. The two most common models are the Doorways approach by Nancy Pearl and the appeal factors approach by Joyce Saricks.

Third, learn how to do a good readers’ advisory interview. So many techniques can be translated from the reference interview that this should be easy for any librarian to get started on, but I know it can be very intimidating. Above all, stay professional and treat RA queries with the same level of service and seriousness that a reference query gets.

Finally you do need to know something about the most popular types of books. A genre study is a great way to do this, whether through a class like mine, through a work based group, or even on your own. It’s very eye opening to expose yourself to new genres and areas of popular reading, especially if you keep in mind that you are reading these to try and understand just what makes them so popular with library patrons.

So right now you’re teaching your Introduction to Readers’ Advisory course, which I gather would cover the above topics. What classes are coming next?

Next are two genre studies classes, on romance and fantasy. I’m starting with these since they are two of the most popular and can also provide some challenges to librarians who haven’t read or kept up with the changes.

For each genre study participants will learn about the genre through lectures, readings about the genre, and experiencing the genre by reading two books that are representative of the genre as it is today.

Sounds very good. I’m glad you’re teaching these classes. We haven’t done as much for a public library audience, but we want to do more, and I think this is a good way to move in that direction. As a final question I’d like to ask what other classes you would want to teach for Library Juice Academy, given total freedom. What would you want to teach?

I’d love to teach more genre studies classes – science fiction, crime, young adult and nonfiction are just a few of the many possibilities. I especially like teaching librarians about science fiction so I’m hoping that’s in my near future.

I’m working on a book project this fall about crossover readers’ advisory: adult genre fiction for teen readers, and teen fiction for adult genre readers. I’d love to teach a workshop or even a series of workshops in this area. I think it has a lot of potential as an under-recognized area of readers’ advisory.

Outside of readers’ advisory topics I’m a dedicated reference librarian and always enjoy teaching classes about reference interviews, selecting and evaluating sources, and reviewing reference material.

That sounds great. Thanks very much for agreeing to be interviewed.

My pleasure, I’m pleased to have the opportunity to teach classes for Library Juice and I’m excited about our continued work together.

Interview with Jason Bengtson

Jason Bengtson is the Head of Library Computing and Information Systems at the University of Oklahoma’s Robert M. Bird Health Sciences Library. A co-editor of the Technology column of the Journal of Hospital Librarianship, he is also a member of the NN/LM South Central Region Technology Advisory Committee and ASIS&T. Jason’s work can be seen in publications ranging from Library Hi Tech to the Journal of Library Administration. His list of accomplishments goes on, and now he is adding to it by teaching a number of courses for Library Juice Academy. He agreed to do an interview here to tell people about his classes and what they can expect to learn from them, as well as a bit about himself.

Jason, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’d like to start by asking a little about your background. What got you into computing and libraries? And I know that you have an MA as well. What is that in?

Hi Rory, it’s my pleasure! I’ve been interested in libraries from as early on as I can remember. Growing up in a bit of a run down neighborhood, going to the library was like opening a door to everywhere I wanted to be. As far as computing, I was playing with Commodores and Apple IIEs as a child, writing programs in BASIC (I’m really dating myself with that statement!). I didn’t really get back into writing computer code again until college, when I took a couple of computing courses. Things started to take off more for me in Library school, where I got my first real introduction to web code on both the server and the client side. But it wasn’t until I moved to New Mexico, and became the Emerging Technologies Librarian at the Health Sciences Library there, that I began to have both the latitude and the drive to develop more expansive web coding skills. These skills aren’t just useful for building web sites. I’ve also built apps and games, XML and database driven apps, search tools, revamped the interface to an academic research database, and built data wrangling scripts to reshape data so that systems not designed to talk to each other could exchange information. To me, this kind of work is the essence of Information Science.

My second MA (which I completed just last year) is in English. This has led to a significant interest on my part in Digital Humanities. I’ve also been accepted into the University of North Texas’ Information Science PhD program, which I’m currently scheduled to start next year.

Ah, congrats on beginning your doctoral studies. I hope it doesn’t mean we will lose you as an instructor. Shifting gears a little bit, would you say something about the classes you’ll be teaching for us? Last month was your class in HTML and CSS, which I hope you will teach again. Coming up you have courses that are essentially about Javascript, right?

Yes. The first course will be an introduction to Javascript’s basic concepts (many of which are portable to other programming languages). This will include an introduction to jQuery and a discussion of what it is in relation to Javascript and how it can make client-side scripting easier. Students will learn how to create loops, store information in variables, make decisions using javascript, and create interactive web pages and apps. The next course covers some more advanced topics, including things like javascript objects and AJAX.

The courses really are a logical progression, designed to link the various languages and their application together meaningfully within the framework of the Document Object Model. Of course, a month long course isn’t going to create an expert, but these courses will give students a solid set of fundamentals including a grounding in some of the most useful Javascript tools.

In case someone is interested in these courses but missed this month’s class on HTML, how much background knowledge is required for the Javascript classes?

Not that much. There will be more discussion of the Document Object Model in the Javascript courses. Anyone with the ability to build a basic website with HTML and CSS should have the foundation they need to start adding Javascript to the recipe. Hopefully, besides teaching people useful skills, these courses will help people look at web code in a new way. I’m hoping they help cement the conceptual foundations of client side web coding, so that building upon the skill set learned is easier to do and more intuitive.

Sounds great. Could you say some more about what you will cover in each class?

The Introduction to Client Side Web Scripting course will be all about the fundamental elements of programming in Javascript and how to wire that programming into the structure of a webpage. These fundamentals include performing repetitive tasks using loops, managing user input and changing information via variables, breaking programs up logically using functions, things like that. Of course, writing Javascript is only so useful by itself. You need to be able to use it to make changes to a web document if you want the Javascript to accomplish something useful. Javascript is a bit like the brains and nervous system of a web app. Without healthy interaction with a body, provided by the HTML and CSS of a web document, it’s pretty ugly, and can only do so much.

In the advanced topics course we will discuss other features of Javascript that aren’t commonly used by novices, but which can be very useful. Using AJAX, a web app can read data files, for instance. However, there are restrictions to this ability. If you don’t understand things like Single Origin Policy, using AJAX becomes very frustrating. Similarly, object-oriented Javascript isn’t used that much; mostly Javascript is written with an imperative or declarative syntax. However, there are times when using objects is a much more useful approach than trying to juggle a constellation of variables. Those are the kinds of topics that, while more challenging, will give the Advanced Topics students the grounding to help them take their Javascript to the next level.

That is mostly over my head, but I trust that if I were to take the class I would be brought up to speed without any trouble. I’d like to ask you something that some readers might be wondering. In your experience in libraries, what are some of the library applications for these programming skills?

These skills give us the chance to reimagine what we do and how we do it. A couple of years ago, when I was at the University of New Mexico, we were discussing free NLM resources in a faculty meeting. One of our faculty, Dr, Gale Hannigan, made an observation that many people would probably make more use of the many great NLM database resources if they knew about them. She discussed building a site with links to those databases. I took her idea and built upon it, creating the La Puerta app, which UNM Health Sciences Library and Informatics Center (HSLIC) is now leveraging. La Puerta provides a dynamic user interface that allows people to find a database that works for them and initiate a search right from the app.

At the same institution, we had a home grown database: The Native Health Database. This was an amazing resource, built by HSLIC’s terrific web team. However, it had an interface that was not only showing its age, but one that lacked many of the features needed in a research tool. The search capabilities were limited, lacking even a full boolean search. Users had no way to save the results of their searches. When queries failed users faced a terrifying looking error message. I was given the opportunity to rebuild parts of it as part of an upgrade of ColdFusion at HSLIC. I rebuilt the search, adding capabilities for boolean operators, nesting, and fuzzy logic, all afforded by ColdFusion’s upgrade to the Solr search engine. I added the capability to export references to reference managers and changed the error message (after making the search a little more error-resistant). Some of that was accomplished via ColdFusion, of course, but a lot of the interface improvements were built with good old client-side web code. And an Information Science perspective is what drove the project.

Here at the Robert M Bird library, one of my recent projects was an attempt to apply a strategy of gamification to outreach. My game, Zombie Emergency!, is built entirely on the client side, and is designed to be an engaging way to teach visitors to our booth at health fairs or other venues about the value of higher quality health information sources.

Those are only a few examples. These skills open the door for librarians and informationists to build tutorials, games, search apps, and dynamic web sites capable of drawing people in and showing them what we have to offer.

That sounds great. I think this sounds like a really useful series of classes. I know people are enjoying the one currently in session. Thanks for the interview. I think it is helpful.

Thanks, Rory! I’m certainly enjoying this opportunity to teach for Library Juice Academy. Our discipline and our profession are both changing rapidly and those in Information Science are having to become the epitome of nimble in our skill sets. Together we can, and we will, build the future.

Interview with Tony Castelletto

Tony Castelletto has been programming computers on one platform or another since the late 1980s, and received his MLIS in 2008 from Drexel. He has worked on unusual information projects throughout his career, starting as a technician on small NASA missions, managing the information pipelines that carried data from satellite to ground. Tony received his introduction to Library Science working as a programmer on Digital Library projects for the University of Michigan’s Digital Library Initiative. Following his library science education, Tony curated data collections for the Linguistic Data Consortium where he also helped produced electronic dictionaries in Yoruba, Mawukakan, and Tamil. Now he is scheduled to teach a series of classes for Library Juice Academy on computer programming, using Python. Tony agreed to be interviewed here, so people can learn a bit about his classes and find out if they would be right for them.

Tony, thanks for agreeing to this interview. I’ve already gone through your bio a little bit, so I’d like to get right to the classes you’ll be teaching. What are they and who are they for?

I’ll be teaching a series of short courses in programming. The first one is called Preparing to Program and it presents some of the intellectual foundations of programming that never get taught in typical programming courses or books. These often assume the student has an understanding of Computer Science or assume the student does not need know that sort of thing in order to start writing software. In many cases this assumption is warranted as a great many students come to courses after spending time educating themselves. Preparing to Program is intended to close the gap between between the interested bystander and the novice student. Preparing to Program will prepare students to make the most of any programming curriculum. I start by describing what computing is and how programming languages work. From there, the course develops skills in modeling data and processes. It wraps up by teaching students to write simple program statements; one line programs. The next two courses, Beginning Programming in Python, Parts 1 and 2, pick up from there and teach the standard set of programming skills; data structures, statements, and program structure. These courses are for the student who wants to develop fundamental programming skills and a knowledge of fundamental computer science concepts. These concepts underlie most of the programming that’s done in practice, and knowing things like how to code a sort, order a list or navigate tree structures will provide a student a good footing for more serious work. Again, over the years, I’ve noticed that programming books tend to leave these subjects alone assuming that the student has already picked up this knowledge or, worse, that it doesn’t matter. The second introductory course will deal more in object oriented design and programming and will include a section on interface design. The final course in the series, Applied Programming in Python will cover practical subjects like processing XML, databases, and provide an overview of the Django web programming framework.

Sounds like these courses comprise a very good start for a librarian who wants to program some applications for their library. Clearly they would be the best fit for a librarian who is taking on a new role on the systems side, or wants to make themselves more employable as a systems librarian. I think many of us have a basketful of ideas at the ready for how they could apply computer programming skills in their work setting, but for those who don’t, maybe you could give some examples?

I think the first motivation for a librarian to learn at least some programming or computer science is the necessity of communicating with programmers and IT professionals. I entered the library field through the digital library discipline, though it wasn’t very disciplined back at the turn of the century. A lot of growth happened very, very fast and the digital collections I worked with were fairly disorganized. My experience back then as a programmer was that there was a significant vocabulary gap even within a digital library department between the systems staff and the librarians. This communication problem threatened to derail projects and certainly slowed work down. So learning these concepts helps librarians understand the systems they work with. Going further, I’ve found that academic departments often want to do complex bibliometric analyses on citation databases and they often want to conduct this work in bulk. This often requires working with the APIs of these databases and the retrieval and parsing of large XML documents. Knowing how to write a good Perl or Python script is often what makes this sort of work feasible. This is also part of my motivation or teaching things like sorts and search trees in the introduction course. These concepts lie at the heart of almost any sort of information retrieval problem. Now lastly, during and following my library degree, I have found that many of us in the field work with purely digital objects. In my case, I worked for an organization which published sets of data. Curating this collection required me to constantly write simple scripts and, sometimes, quite complex programs. There is, I think, something of an analogy that can be made between traditional preservation and digital preservation. digital objects just like physical books do wear out and need to be repaired. Degradation happens for different reasons in each case. In the case of digital objects, the big issue is the obsolescence of formats. The data in such objects can be transformed such that an object in a disused data format can be changed to a more current form. In some cases this is a simple transformation which can be accomplished using tools that someone else designed. At other times, it’s a custom job. Many times, it’s a big job. And it’s not always an obvious job. An example here is the Tamil dictionary I helped publish many years ago. Dictionaries are huge projects which take decades to compile. In this case, the rules for latinization (how the Tamil language is represented in our alphabet) had changed and changed drastically during the thirty years it took the author to compile the data used the book and its electronic version. There existed no tool for updating this representation, so I had to create one. I do not know Tamil, however, knowing how to code up some pattern matching algorithms allowed me to rescue this work. Knowing how to program lets you create just the right tool or it lets you coordinate many tools and employ them on a large scale. And, many of the repository systems out there are open source, which means installing and operating them is not as a simple as inserting an CD and running an installer. If you’re operating something like Islandora or Fedora or Dspace, you’re going to wind up programming whether you want to or not. These are incredibly complex systems which require constant administration.

Thanks for that. I think that provides a clear idea of why librarians might want to learn programming. I’m enthusiastic about these classes and looking forward to supporting them. A question I like to close with in these interviews is, what other courses would you like to teach for LJA, if you could make up any courses you wanted to?

Well, an obvious one would be Databases since I have done a lot of work in the area, and, most importantly, Databases are the underlying information management system in almost every larger system which manages and presents information. Beyond that, I’d love to teach a course in practical Digital Preservation. I’m probably not extremely well qualified for that since my work in that area has been for a very odd organization. I suspect my experience would be well outside the mainstream. I’d also like to reprise a workshop I ran back in 2002. This workshop was entitled “What does open source have to do with libraries?” Actually, that was the conference title. I presented my work with library portals at the conference. I was roped into teaching a workshop on the Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP stack by the conference organizers the night before the last day of the conference. So I’m not sure the workshop even had a name. The conference itself made a pretty good case for the use of open source platforms in libraries and my workshop was an overview of how this all worked. It was partly a course in practical system administration, partly an overview of some of the commonly used platforms and a lecture on how they worked together. The workshop was mad, mad, mad, I tell you. It was a four hour hands on lab. Since I had the cds with me, we installed Slackware Linux on the classroom computers (Weslayan U. is still mad at me for that I think), installed Apache web servers and almost got PHP up working. The participants, Librarians without a great deal of technology experience, were overwhelmed, but everyone got a lot out of the workshop and learned a lot of good systems skills. I’d love to come back, take this basic idea, and do it up right. With Virtual Machines, it’s now possible to teach a hands on system administration course completely online. So there are lot of possibilities for teaching technology skills that Librarians would not otherwise have an opportunity to learn.

Those sound like some good classes! I hope that we will run some of them at some point.

Thanks again for doing this interview.

Thanks for having me on the radio, Terry. Oh, wait, wrong show. Seriously, thanks for interviewing me here. I’m excited to be teaching these courses. I’ll be trying to teach coding in a fairly new way using an innovative platform called Ipython. This system allows students to get down to programming without the having to worry about installing a computer language or navigating a command line environment which can be very intimidating for novices. This is all a tad experimental so it will be an adventure.

Interview with Jennifer Sweeney

Jennifer Sweeney teaches at the College of Computing and Informatics at Drexel University and in the Department of Information Studies at UCLA, and is a program evaluation consultant for libraries and other public agencies and nonprofits. Prior to joining Drexel, Dr. Sweeney developed measurement instruments for K-16 educational interventions for the University of California, Davis School of Education, and provided evaluation services for the California Center for the Book, the California Library Association, and Smith & Lehmann Consulting. She is scheduled to teach a series of classes for Library Juice Academy, which we are calling the “Painless Research” series. We describe the series as follows:

The Painless Research Series provides an overview of basic research techniques needed by library managers and other staff in different workplace sectors, such as service quality, customer satisfaction, and operational metrics, or in specific tools such as surveys and focus groups. Participants develop skills in formulating typical research questions and strategies, making use of existing studies and data, collecting and analyzing data, and tailoring presentations for different audiences.

Jennifer Sweeney agreed to do an interview here, to help give people a better sense of what will be covered in these classes, what needs they address, and a little bit about herself as the instructor.

Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to do this interview. I’d like to start out by asking a little bit about your background, how you came to be qualified to teach this series of classes.

I started out as a reference librarian in a small technical consulting firm and then later in a couple of college and university libraries, but I was always interested in the research side of just about every question that came across the desk. After a while I realized I wanted to focus more on research in my work, so I left reference and found a great job as an analyst in the library at University of California Davis, handling all sorts of data collection and research projects related to running a large ARL library. It was the best job ever–I was totally bitten by the research bug.

The next step for me was a PhD in information studies, where I started to notice something a little disturbing about the quality of the research in our field: it’s not that great. Plenty of great research ideas, far too many actual studies with problems in the research methods in one way or another. Faulty assumptions, inappropriate strategies, flawed analysis, you name it. Our field of library science/information studies/information science—whatever you want to call it—is a fascinating and multi-faceted discipline, with a weak research foundation.

So I figured I could help students and practitioners by presenting basic research methods in a clear and understandable way…so that when they go out to do research, they won’t make the same mistakes. That’s the basis for the series I’m doing for LJA.

Just so it’s clear to readers: While some people who take your classes might be interested in doing research for publication, the focus is on research that would be done within an institution to better manage services. But the basic principles are the same. It seems to me that one thing that is special about this series of courses is that your background gives you the ability to apply high methodological standards to concrete situations. But I wonder, are the methodological issues easier to deal with when you’re just looking to improve decision-making versus forming the kind of general claims that are made in academic research?

The methodological issues are not necessarily any easier to deal with in applied research settings. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that in the real world, there are always other things going on that influence the research environment—you cannot conduct a true controlled experiment the same way you would in a laboratory. The problem in LIS is that when we do conduct our “quasi-experiments”–which we do all the time-—we don’t take the time to explore and account for those other variables that could be affecting our results. When we fail to explain these factors, we run a greater risk of coming to false conclusions.

The other reason is that “action research” that is done in work settings for decision making often involves some kind of evaluation, which creates another set of complexities because we are now bringing value judgments into the mix. The stakeholders have to agree on what’s important, and how (or whether) the results will be used. These questions directly affect the way the research is conducted. And stakeholders don’t always agree on things!

That is a helpful bit of orientation to “action research” as you call it. I wonder if you could outline the four classes for readers. What are they about and what will participants take away?

The course series “Painless Research” is designed to provide a basic set of skills for library administration or public services staff who need to evaluate their services but have no research or evaluation experience. The idea is to get you started with some knowledge and hands-on activities, explained in plain English. Evaluation research is not hard to do, but you need to know the techniques so you don’t make expensive mistakes or waste your time on useless measures.

A lot of research texts are hard to digest, so I try to present concepts in everyday language.

We start out with the course on “Evaluating Service Quality,” which focuses on how to gather and analyze information about how library users feel about services, what they want, etc. We target just a couple of key areas: what is service quality, why measuring quality is different than measuring other things, the techniques you should use, and how to use results to customize staff training and help the library improve.

The second course in the series, “Easy Patron Surveys,” gets into the details of survey design and implementation. Surveys are kind of mysterious to a lot of us, but they are really a lot of fun. Question design, sampling, and basic advice on how to get a survey out there and collect good data are the highlights of this course.

Getting to Know Your Users Through Interviews and Focus Groups” covers the in-depth qualitative data gathering that you can’t do with surveys. Talking to people and capturing what is said entails a totally different skill set. I do a lot of interviewing and focus groups, and it can be pretty intense while also immensely satisfying and fun. But you need the tools and skills to be able to get the information you need, because it is a much more labor-intensive activity than a survey.

We wind up the series with “Everyday Statistics for Librarians.” I’ve been working with library students and working professionals for years now, and the feedback I get is that it’s not that the math is difficult-—it’s not—-it’s just never been explained very well. We focus on just a few of the most useful functions, and it’s really fascinating to get to use math to describe and explain what is happening with trends, do some forecasting. This is how you generate data to base decisions on, to make a case for a grant project, and so on. Mistakes can be expensive, and in our state of constant evolution, we need all the solid information we can get our hands on.

I think it’s a great group of courses, and I want to thank you for designing them, and I look forward to some good interaction. I think we can close the interview here, but I will just add for readers that if you have any questions about these courses, feel free to contact Jennifer Sweeney at

Thank you for the opportunity Rory. I am looking forward to working with everyone this summer and fall!