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Day 11 – Worked 5.5 hours
Total hours thus far: 67.75

Today was a very busy and exciting day!

First thing this morning I attended another Scholarly Resources Meeting which was, as usual, informative and interesting. Sarah was kind enough to provide me with a rough outline of what was going to be covered in the meeting.

Here are the highlights:
In the first meeting I attended a month ago, there was a discussion about the reference collection and how reference items taken out of the reference stacks should be labeled and kept in the collection (circulating vs. non-circulating was the major debate). In that same discussion, there was an interest in learning more about how the offsite storage facility aka “The Annex” worked and if reference books taken off the shelves and stored there could be brought back to the main collection. At the meeting this morning, two people who worked at The Annex came and presented on how the Annex stores and labels the items.

Open since 2005, the Annex is an high density storage facility which houses materials in a warehouse environment where temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. The items located in the Annex are ones which librarians still consider important, but are not being used as frequently as other items in the library collections. With 913,336 items and counting, the Annex is at about 72% capacity.

The manager of the Annex, Paul Magliocco, provided an enlightening presentation on the processes and procedures of the Annex. Open from 8:30am – 5pm requests for an item from the Annex can be placed at any time using a quick online request form. Materials are pulled from the shelves at specific intervals throughout the day, in 2-3 hour increments, every single day Monday-Friday. There is a pick-up/delivery every morning at the Annex to ensure that requested materials reach the user as quickly as possible.

As the facility is a high density storage facility, books are sorted by size and stored that way to maximize space. There are no “browsing” capabilities in the Annex due to the fact that size is the only criteria in which the books (and materials) are sorted and stored. When an item comes in to be stored it goes through a cleaning and processing operation. The item is assigned a barcode only and is stored neatly in the correct size boxes. The book, box and shelf all contain the identifying information so that there will be no confusion. What I think everyone including myself found surprising is that there is no bibliographic information attached to the item when it is entered into the Annex inventory. The only identifying information is the barcode. Paul emphasized that the purpose of the facility is for storage and  inventory control. When asked why there was no bibliographic information attached to the items in the Annex he explained that the software they use does not provide field(s) for that sort of information.

Paul also explained that if an accessioned item is taken out of the Annex for good (as per request of a librarian or Brown faculty member) it leaves a permanent hole in the box where the item was originally stored. Because the items are stored by size in a very rigorous inventory process (so as to not misplace any of the items)  it would be impossible to go back and fill the empty spaces in the boxes which items have been removed from. By taking a large quantity of items out of the Annex, it would create a significant problem and defeat the purpose of a high density storage facility as space will be wasted  by intermittent holes in storage boxes.

At the meeting, there was also a brief discussion about the chat reference service and hours. Chat reference is available from 12pm to 5pm Monday – Friday at Brown and has been an increasingly effective service with more and more users finding the service to be helpful. There was no hard data presented about the chat usage statistics and I think it would be great to see them as I know at URI our IM service statistics have doubled and tripled from previous years.

The topic of basic library training for first year students was another idea discussed at the meeting. One librarian voiced her interest in perhaps hosting a workshop through training.Brown.edu to introduce first year students to the library.

Lastly, the use of Canvas was a topic of interest and how it will be used to promote library services. Currently there are 62 classes using Canvas and the other classes at Brown are still using Blackboard. In the Fall 2012 semester all students and instructors will be using Canvas. One hope for librarians is that in Canvas there will be a general page about the library as part of the default shell of the learning management system. Each student will automatically have that page when logging into Canvas. The page won’t have to be added by the librarian or by the instructor, it will be part of the default settings. Sarah and I have been discussing Canvas and learning management systems in general and I am seeing that it is tough at every academic institution to figure out how to use a LMS in the most productive way. The major issue which Sarah noted is the fact that instructors use an LMS differently or do not even choose to use it at all.

We use Sakai at URI and from teaching and helping students at the Reference Desk I see a mix of uses of Sakai by instructors. Some instructors use it just to host supplemental materials for the course online. Some use it heavily even though the course itself meets face-to-face. Some instructors have the library page linked on the Sakai site, some do not. What I do know is that at URI the instructors own personal preference is what dictates what is on their Sakai site. The instructor has to take the time to add the Library page to their site.

When I attend the ALA Conference in New Orleans this past June I had a great conversation with a librarian from Oklahoma State University named Victor. We were talking about learning management systems and he brought up the fact that at Oklahoma State they have a tab in Blackboard for the library in the student’s Blackboard profile. Essentially this is the same idea as what Brown is hoping for with Canvas – a default tab or component in the shell of the LMS. When talking with Victor I was really excited about the fact that Oklahoma State was able to use their LMS to promote library services. Having an actual tab in a LMS is different than having a page. At URI I find that students remember the library page was in their course tab somewhere, they just have a hard time finding it as it is buried somewhere in the course site. From the three instances this semester where a student logged into their Sakai site to show me the library guide/page linked in their course site, I would say the link was anywhere from 6-8 clicks from the LMS Sakai homepage.

I also thought about this idea as something important to consider when providing library reference and instruction services to students. The librarians at Brown are advocating for course instructors to have their syllabi available online so that the librarians can read about the assignments and better help students. I find that there’s a significant overlap of my experiences as a writing consultant (where I worked at a writing center in a learning commons) and my experiences providing reference services to students. At the Writing Center we were strongly encouraged to ask the student for his/her assignment description or guide before we started working with them. Sometimes students did not understand the assignment or interpreted the assignment in a different way. If we as a writing consultant were able to read the assignment information ourselves we would have a baseline for being able to assist the student in the most productive way possible. I personally would also ask students if the instructor had provided any further instructions or guidelines for the assignment during class (as this was often the case).

Working with students at the Reference Desk I think it’s important that we not forget to ask students for their assignment guide when possible. I’ve found that sometimes students don’t realize the differences between “reputable,” “scholarly” or “peer-reviewed” sources and sometimes the way in which the instructor describes the resources runs the gamut. I think the push by Brown librarians to have access to syllabi is a progressive step to ensure students are receiving the best assistance possible. One librarian did bring up the fact that there are some “privacy” issues as some instructors may be self-conscious about their syllabi and do not want anyone to have access to them.

Today was also a milestone in the module-based tutorial projects as Sarah and I went over my rough outline of the Ethical Use of Information module which can be found here: Responsible_Ethical_Use_of_Information_Module. Here is a highlight of the major considerations we had when thinking about the outline:

* For Friday I am going to start on description captions and keywords for each of the sub-modules and sub-sub-modules (I wish there was a better way to describe these…). Each of the description captions will be one sentence describing the information in the modular component and will be included as an introduction the content. The keywords will be used when creating the database of this tutorial which will enable keyword searching and make it easier for users to locate the specific information he/she needs.

* Should the Plagiarism sub-module be a part of the Citations sub-module or should I keep them separate? Each part is supposed to compliment as well as stand on it’s own, but organization is still important. The goal for this tutorial is to be highly malleable.

* Should I have the instruction assessment first like UCLA’s “Bruin Success with Less Stress” tutorial? Or should I include it at different intervals in the sub-sub-modules? I know that the assessment components need to be interspersed because of the fact that the sub-modules and their parts can be broken apart.

* The framework for this tutorial is that it will be from a user of information perspective and a creator of information perspective.

* When thinking about the copyright and citations sub-modules I should check out Ned Quist’s tutorial videos on YouTube about bibliographic managers and copyright, the MIT citation managers comparison grid and the Brown webpage about citation managers (and distill these resources down). Frank Kellerman who also instructs about citation managers is another great resource.

* I should take a look at Princeton’s plagiarism example which provides variations of use of scholarly quotations about Shakespeare. This highlights the variance of the facets of plagiarism. Check it out: http://www.princeton.edu/pr/pub/integrity/pages/plagiarism/

* The videos, images and links in the tutorial should be “timeless” in the sense that they won’t need to be updated every few months. Since the people who are working on the tutorial (me and Arlando) are only going to be working on this for a few months before we either leave or graduate, we don’t want the content to be too specific or personal to us as the creators. It should be fairly simple for someone else to jump in and add, update or change the content.

* I should check out the Plain English videos when thinking about a model for engaging and informative videos.

* Nicole Hennig, the Head of User Experience Group at MIT Libraries, presented at Simmons os usability. Sarah forwarded me the audio and slides which can also be found at the Simmons’ GSLIS Media Lab website and Hennig’s website. This will be helpful for me when thinking about usability.

* I might consider thinking about media types as a form of perspective into this module.

* I could frame part of the tutorial in the question of “How do I know if I can use this…?”

* From looking at the outline I am going to work on the script for the Creative Commons and Intellectual Property sub-sub-modules in the sub-module “Considering Creation, Use and Reuse of Information.”

Today we also met very briefly with Arlando to show him the outline for the Ethical Use of Information Module. He would need content to actually start working on the tutorial, but at least he was about to start to reflect on the overall abstract conceptualization of the tutorial.