Library and Information Studies Student Association at UNCG

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LISSA 2013 Resume Workshop Notes

Hi all. Last December, LISSA held a resume workshop for students. The workshop focused on successful resume-building specifically for library jobs. Our secretary Chanda Green wrote up a summary of the event which was sent out on the LISSA list-serv. For easy access for new students and for archival purposes, the summary is reprinted here on the blog! This is really useful information, and we hope to host another resume workshop this year.


December 9, 2013

LISSA Resume Workshop

Steve Cramer, Business Librarian, UNCG

Jenny Dale, Reference Librarian and First Year Instruction Coordinator, UNCG

Amy Harris Houk, Reference Librarian and Information Literacy Coordinator, UNCG

Lynda Kellam, Data Services and Government Information Librarian, UNCG

Lea Leininger, Health Sciences Librarian, UNCG

Emily Mann, Reference Services Assistant, UNCG

Dr. Rebecca Morris, LIS Professor and LISSA Advisor

Kathy Shields, Head of Reference and Instructional Services, High Point University


Our presenters and advisors have a great deal of experience in successful resume and cover letter best practices between them, having not only been through the process themselves, but also having read many, many resumes and cover letters as members of hiring committees.

Here are some of their tips on resumes, cover letters, and the job search process.

  • Your resume is, first and foremost, where you show that you meet the requirements of the position. Read the listing carefully, and make sure that you’re addressing each of the required qualifications on your resume. Search committees often have a checklist of job requirements that they will use to narrow down a large batch of applicants; any application that doesn’t meet those requirements is likely to be discarded.
  • The resume is a checklist of requirements, the cover letter is a follow-up. This is where you will expand on how your qualifications are a great match for the position. Use your research skills: find out all that you can about the institution and department, their priorities, information about the people you’d be working with, collections — anything that will be useful to presenting yourself as a good match. Distinguish yourself.
  • Tailor both your resume and your cover letter to each position that you apply for. Consider creating a resume template that contains all of your skills and experience, and then remove irrelevant items and reorganize their order to highlight those that best meet the job requirements.
  • Remember that you are applying for a professional position. Focus on experiences directly relevant to the position, less on your educational experiences. You are presenting yourself as a professional, not as a student.
    • A practicum, internship, or assistantship where you gained hands-on experience, or a research project highly relevant to the position are exceptions. If you did thesis work in English Literature and you are applying for a position as a subject specialist or liaison, this can show your familiarity with the subject as well as your research skills. Use your judgement.
    • Several presenters mentioned that they are not fans of seeing a GPA on a resume: your undergraduate GPA was good enough to get into graduate school and your graduate GPA was good enough to get you through it.
    • Some academic and extracurricular events are worth mentioning, such as a nationally-recognized honor society like Phi Beta Kappa, an organization where you were an officer or played an active role, especially a student professional organization (like LISSA!).
    • You do not need to mention your specific coursework. Not only will it be assumed that if you are applying for an academic library position you did coursework in academic libraries, but if you make it further into the hiring process you’ll be providing a graduate school transcript that makes your coursework and your GPA clear anyway.
  • You can omit the “purpose statement” section on your resume: it can be taken as read that your purpose is to get the job you’re applying for.
  • Don’t feel like you need to follow the common piece of advice to keep your resume to one page. You may well need that space to show that you meet all of the qualifications. That said, it should be as concise as possible: anything not specifically relevant to the position can stay on your template. (For example, customer service job experience is relevant to a position that works with the public, like a reference librarian. For a cataloging position it would be less so. If you were a restaurant supervisor and the position involved supervision, if you were a teacher and the job involved instruction, etc.)
  • Also consider clearly breaking your work experience into sections, such as “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience.”
  • Your references are really important. Consider now, while you’re in school, who you will want them to be. If you’ll be asking professors, make sure you’re participating in class and talking to them outside of it. They can’t be a good reference for you if they don’t know you.
  • If at all possible, include a job supervisor as a reference. You’ll want someone who can say that you show up on time, don’t call in sick, and have a good work ethic. These are important qualities in any job, and they’ll want to hear that you have them.
  • Ask ahead of time if you can use someone as a reference, and if they feel as though they’d be able to represent you well. If they decline, don’t be upset. They may well simply be very busy, especially at certain times of the year.
  • Have a list of a number of people who are willing to be references, and again, tailor them to the job. If you’re applying to a liaison or specialist position, a thesis advisor would not only be someone who knows you well, they can confirm your knowledge of the specialty. If you’re applying for a position in instruction, pick a reference who has seen you teach, and so on.
  • Let your references know when you’ve been contacted about an interview. Send them the job listing and the resume that you tailored to it; this gives them the tools necessary to represent you well, and also doesn’t catch them by surprise when they’re contacted.
  • In terms of the language of the resume, obviously proofread. Have others proofread. Make sure your verb tenses match (and are in the past tense for previous positions), and that experiences and skills share common formatting.
  • Use action verbs to begin your experience descriptions: List of resume action verbs from Yale Undergraduate Career Services.
  • Avoid acronyms. Others likely won’t know what you mean. For example, don’t list “the TRC,” say “The Teaching Resources Center.” Even better, describe it: “The Teaching Resources Center, a satellite library geared towards School of Education students.”
  • Consider what a Google search reveals about you. Librarians are certainly going to see what information is freely available about you on the Internet.
  • Remember that librarianship is a fairly small community, and especially if you are applying for jobs in North Carolina, inquiries about you might be informal. As in any other profession, network. Present yourself well.
  • During the hiring process, be patient. It can take months to fill a position, and you’ll probably need to apply to lots of positions. The ability to move helps your chances of success: North Carolina has a lot of library schools, so this is a highly-competitive job market.
  • You can also check out notes from the recent presentation on applying for library jobs given by Kathy Bradshaw, Human Resource Librarian at UNCG. These, and a recording of the session, are posted on LISSA’s blog.

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The Reference Librarian’s Guide to Coping with Emotional Demands of the Job

Imagine the scenario. You are a reference librarian working a five-hour shift. It’s nearing five o’clock. Only three people have approached you in the last hour, two to ask where’s the bathroom and one to ask where he can pick up Interlibrary Loan items. The land of reference is quiet. Perhaps it’s a Tuesday, typically your quietest day.

Then a teenager walks into the library. She approaches the reference desk and asks for help with a school assignment. In the next twenty minutes five other high school students come in, wanting help with the same assignment. It’s due tomorrow. They’re anxious, and you only have so many resources on 16th-century France and the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.

But you must remain friendly, helpful. You want to. But the students are impatient, rude, and you have to hear them out, each one, though you know the answer already.

The emotional demands of reference work are often overlooked. Sometimes the demands are rewarding, other times they’re simply frustrating. How do you cope?

Luckily, that question has been answered. An article in a 2013 issue of The Reference Librarian, “Emotional Labor in the Academic Library: When Being Friendly Feels Like Work,” discussed what 6 interviewed reference librarians had to say about how they cope with feelings of anger, boredom, fear, and frustration on the job. They had strategies they used with patrons, and strategies they used during down time. Here’s a summary of reported coping strategies:

Coping strategy used in dealing with patrons:                   Actions:

Helping someone really hard. Focus on finding the wanted information and not on the patron’s emotional state. Often, finding the info will take care of the patron’s frustration. Remember, you deal in information, not counseling.
Reframing or excusing behavior. Avoid taking a patron’s negative emotions or behavior personally. Instead, imagine to yourself that the patron’s behavior is due to a backache, an argument with a boy/girlfriend, or family issue.
 Empathizing. Try to understand why the patron is upset, especially if the reason library-related. For example, if he/she is confused by a lack of signage in the library, say “Yeah, I would find that confusing too” if you were a first-time visitor to your library. Acknowledge the patron’s frustration.
Using or threatening to use authority. As a last resort, in extreme circumstances, for example with a dangerous or abusive patron, you can say “There’s the door. You can leave, or I can call police.”


Coping strategy used during ‘down time’:                          Actions:

 Venting. Talking with co-workers about on-the-job problems or difficult patrons.
Stepping away. If someone is available to cover the desk for 10 minutes, you can take a walk outside around the building. If you are stuck at the desk, you can take a “break” by searching for something non-work-related to read on the internet.
 Hiding (this is serious, guys). A last-resort technique. You can vacate the desk when a well-known problem patron comes into sight.



Tips for applying to library jobs

Applying for positions in libraries—public, academic, school, special, or other—can be intimidating.

Few MLIS students and recent graduates know how the hiring process works. It’s easy to get anxious wondering if you’ve put too much or too little information, or included all the relevant details, in your application. To help shed light on what makes a good application, LISSA invited a human resources professional from our own University Libraries to speak at our November 6 meeting. Here’s a summary of what our guest speaker, Kathy Bradshaw, Human Resources Librarian at Jackson Library, shared with us:

(Link to recording here Due to technical difficulties, only half the talk was recorded.)

-Different types of libraries have different application requirements. Follow closely all the instructions given in the specific job listing and/or submission guidelines; including whether paper or electronic copies of application materials are preferred (or both); how many copies are wanted; and by what date all application materials must be postmarked or submitted online.

-Note whether the application requires you to give professional references now, with the initial application, or if they want you to provide them later per request.

-Keep your cover letter two pages or less in length.

-Do not reuse the same cover letter for different applications. Tailor each cover letter to the specific job position.

-You may sometimes need to tweak your resume, depending on what you want to emphasize for a certain job position.

-Proofread all application materials several times. Check for typos and grammar—more than one or two typos will greatly reduce your credibility.

-Do not repeat your resume in your cover letter. In the letter, expand briefly on your successes in relevant past positions, but do not list your job history again.

-Include library-related volunteer experience in your resume but list it separately from your professional (paid) experience.

-Many library jobs do not post salaries. If a job offer is made, you will get a salary offer. Before this happens, it is a good idea to know what amount is acceptable to you to live on.

-For academic library jobs, start the job search early! It can take several months from the initial job posting to get to the actual interview process.

-Academic library positions are usually chosen by a search committee, so more than one person will be involved in the decision process.

-At UNCG, once all applications for a library position have been reviewed, a small pool of finalists will receive a phone call. At this point, each finalist goes through a 30-minute phone interview. Be sure you are ready to describe yourself and talk about why you want this job!

-UNCG will generally narrow it down to two candidates in the final stage of the hiring process. Each one will be invited to campus for a two-day in-person interview. All travel and lodging expenses are paid by UNCG.

-Academic library jobs involve presentations, so be sure to practice your public speaking skills! At UNCG, the in-person interview involves you presenting before the hiring committee, so be prepared.

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A Guide to Cataloging Terms for First-Year LIS Students.

Hello readers! In this post I’ll link LISSA followers to resources on the “backbone” of all libraries: cataloging. If you’re driven mad by MARC, enraged by RDA, frustrated with FRBR, or annoyed by overabundant acronyms always appearing, read on. To start with, above all, cataloging is about metadata. It always has been. Even before computers and the World Wide Web were around. What is metadata? Metadata describes data. For example, consider the following: “TITLE: Curious George takes a job.” The words “Curious George takes a job” is a piece of data. The word “TITLE” describes what the piece of data is, i.e. what it indicates or means. Metadata (in the ex., “TITLE”) describes what it is that the data (in ex., “Curious George takes a job”) describes. Confused? Use the links below!

The following links are presented in alphabetical order by topic. Each link is accompanied by a brief definition of the topic.

FRBR – Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records – This set of requirements outlines 21st-century-ready expectations for catalog records and how to conceptualize an item for cataloging purposes. FRBR is a starting point in the creation of a bibliographic record, from which you can then determine the basic elements, or pieces of descriptive information, to put in the catalog record of an item. See Barbara Tillet’s (of the Library of Congress) excellent pamphlet, “What Is FRBR?”, available free as a PDF here:

IFLA – International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions – The international group responsible for formulating FRBR, IFLA calls itself “the global voice of the library and information profession.” Primarily IFLA is concerned with standardization and internationalization of cataloging and bibliographic practices. See

LCSH – Library of Congress Subject Headings – The LC Subject Headings is a standard set of vocabulary terms (a controlled vocabulary), created by LC and adopted internationally, which allow all works relating to a single topic to be categorized under a common term indicating that topic.  Thus, for example, all books about birds are categorized under “Birds”, rather than one book on birds being searchable only under “Fowl”, another under “Winged vertebrates”, and yet a third under the Latin “Aves.” LCSH eliminates the need to search under multiple terms to find all books on birds included in a catalog. See:

MARC21 – Machine-Readable Cataloging Record for the 21st century – MARC21 does the job of coding catalog record fields (“fields”=Title, Statement of Responsibility, Publication Info, Edition, etc.) so that the fields are readable by computers. For MARC basics, see For more detailed info, see these two sites: and

OCLC – Online Computer Library Center – A cooperative formed in 1967 with the mission of connecting libraries the world over in order to promote sharing of resources and increase the availability of information among libraries and related institutions. OCLC has achieved this goal primarily through the website, an online “super-catalog” which links the individual catalogs of a vast number of the world’s libraries. See

RDA – Resource Description and Access – A set of cataloging rules first published in 2010 and adopted by the Library of Congress in March 2013. RDA replaces AACR2, the cataloging rules used by LC from about 1978 to 2013. RDA requires a great deal more information to be included in a catalog record than AACR2 required. Thus, RDA-compliant catalog records are significantly lengthier than AACR2-compliant records. Interestingly, RDA is not compatible with MARC21, which means, strictly speaking, RDA-compliant records cannot adequately be stored in computer catalogs. This is perhaps the biggest challenge facing the world of Library and Information Science at the moment! See these two resources: and

That’s it for this post! Thanks for reading.

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WorldCat gives you properly formatted citations, free!

Hi all,

Quick post here about a great feature of WorldCat you may not be aware of!

Have you ever looked up a library item in WorldCat and  wondered: “What’s an easy way for me to cite this item without my having to type out the citation letter by letter?” If there was a way–and there is, oh there is–surely it would save you time as well as the anxiety of wondering whether you’d gotten the citation format (APA, MLA, Chicago, or other) 100% correct.

Well, your questions, prayers, and anxieties can be set to rest. Because in any record of an item in WorldCat you click into, there is, just above the title at the top of the record, slightly off to the right, the “cite/export” hyperlink. Click that link and a small window pops up. In that window, there are two headings, two sections. Under the heading “Copy a citation,” you can make WorldCat generate a citation for the item in any of the major citation styles. You can then copy and paste the generated citation to MS Word. Alternately, if you’re a user of EndNote (a software installed on all Jackson Library computers), look under the heading “Export a citation,” where you have the option to “Export to EndNote/Reference Manager.” WorldCat will generate and save a citation of the item to any EndNote list you’ve created. Hurrah!

Of course, always double-check to make sure the citations generated by WorldCat follow the specific requirements of your professor or course. Problem solved! Breathe easy.

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Thank goodness for information!: or, Charles Peirce and Michael Buckland meet.

Hi all! This is the first in a series of little musings on issues and ideas that come up as I trek my way through the LIS program here at UNCG. Some entries will be practical, others more philosophical. Enjoy! Sincerely, Robert.


In a letter of October 12, 1904, Charles Sanders Peirce, the American philosopher, wrote to Lady Victoria Welby:

“With the exception of knowledge, in the present instant, of the contents of consciousness in that instance…all our thought and knowledge is by signs.”¹

In Peirce’s philosophy, “a sign is something by knowing which we know something more.” For example, we know by reading a printed letter that we ought to utter (or think) a certain sound, and we know by seeing a footprint in the ground that a person or animal has recently walked by. In these examples, the observer of the sign (the letter, the footprint) does not have direct knowledge of the “something more” (the certain sound to be uttered; the person or animal gone by) because of the sign, but the sign luckily and efficiently acts as evidence of the something more.

So defined by Peirce, the sign thus equates with the concept of “information-as-thing,” information scientist Michael Buckland’s term for something which “is used as evidence in learning,”² such as, in the examples above, a footprint or a printed letter. The learning part is called by Buckland “information-as-process” and the knowledge won through that learning he calls “information-as-knowledge.”

To summarize, Buckland’s “information-as-thing” is equivalent to Peirce’s concept of a sign³; it is a material form, a piece of evidence (i.e. the footprint, the printed letter).

“Information-as-knowledge” is equivalent to what Peirce termed that “something more” that we can know (i.e. the sound we utter; the existence of the passerby), learned by seeing, indeed “reading,” the sign or the “information-as-thing.”

Finally, Buckland’s “information-as-process” is the act of informing or being informed, the learning process by which we move from the “information-as-thing” (the sign) to the “information-as-knowledge” (the “something more”).

I agree with Buckland’s comment, in his article, that information scientists deal strictly with “information-as-thing,” since the material form, the piece of evidence, or the record, to put it simply, is the only thing that can be collected and organized. No one can collect and organize the actual thought that exists in someone’s head, nor the abstract process of learning itself, which is entirely a mental, intangible occurrence! You can’t “collect” somebody’s existence! But you can collect somebody’s footprint easily in a plaster imprint or in ink or paint or by other means.

I, for one, am glad that in the absence of a loved one (a friend, a family member) to me “in the present instant,” I can still have knowledge of him or her through signs/information-as-things, despite the absence of the actual person in my immediate experience. I have records in the form of memories and objects around my desk that remind me of the places and people I hold dear. I have information!!! I have memories and so-called sentimental objects that I collect, because I cannot collect the people and places themselves.

So, thank goodness for information!



¹Peirce, Charles S., 1904, in A.W. Burks, ed., 1958, The Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, vol. VIII, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press

²Buckland, Michael K., 1991, “Information as Thing,” Journal of the American Society for Information Science, 42(5): 351-360

³Equivalent to the sign as Peirce meant the term when he used it in the sign-interpretant-object triad of his semiotics, not sign in the larger, slightly different sense of the entirety of that triad.

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Report on ALA Conference 2013: The Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

The Digital Public Library of America @ ALA

6/30. Late afternoon. 3:30. The ALA President’s Program on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) begins…

If I’d kept a daily journal during the conference, one entry for a Sunday would’ve read as above. Alas, I didn’t keep a journal. But I did take notes and noted mentally the strange appropriateness of the session on the DPLA occurring on the traditional day of the Christian Sabbath. The mastermind behind the DPLA, Mr. Dan Cohen, conceives of his and the DPLA’s mission as no less than “to make the cultural and scientific heritage of humanity available, free of charge, to all.” In other words, to build an über-collection of all of America’s smaller archival and library (unter-(?))collections.

It’s a task of mythic proportions but perhaps not that bold (that is, in a practical sense—it certainly is bold in a psychological sense) a task to undertake in the 2010s. We have, in this decade, Web 2.0, Google, Cray supercomputers, WorldCat, warehouses of servers, mass digitization (and then discarding of) physical historical documents, and a glut of satellites around the earth enough to make our planet look like a twin ringed Saturn from outer space.

The possibility of the interconnectedness of all the country’s major and minor libraries, museums, universities, and other cultural institutions—which is the grand dream of the DPLA—through a central portal (i.e. the DPLA’s website, simply,, seems realistic, if only someone with the initiative, like Cohen, would oversee its enactment.

Well, he’s seen the DPLA into existence after several preliminary meetings in 2010, and the project is still growing, a work-in-progress that aims to be the portal to thousands of national, regional, and local library records across the United States, so that no researcher in the land cannot find a piece of sought information if he or she wants it.

What the DPLA does is bring together voluntarily contributed access to digitized material from archives and libraries—academic, public, special, and other—from across America and then organizes all that contributed info according to the metadata standard created by Europeana, the DPLA’s European counterpart, which was founded earlier, in 2008 (see Thus, says Cohen, as an incidental plus, with this common standard in place, searchers can, in the future, when a partnership between the DPLA and Europeana is formed, be able to simultaneously search the inconceivably large joint database of info hosted by not just one or the other but both aggregator-sites. (gasp!)

The prospect—hypothetical though it is, as yet—of so much of the world’s “cultural and scientific heritage” being primarily accessed by researchers and the general public through a single online archive overseen by Cohen seems disconcerting at first. Does—and will—the DPLA accept any information from any institution? If not, then what is the process by which Cohen and his team pick and choose what to allow into the DPLA? Can one entity handle so much responsibility: technical, ethical, legal, and so on? (Is this desirable?)

To answer that last non-parenthetical question, the answer is a provisional “yes.” For the other questions, one must look at how the DPLA is structured. The DPLA, in its own words, is an aggregator of data. It is also—and at the same time—an aggregator of other aggregators of data.

Here a distinction is made between so-called Content Hubs and Service Hubs. Large individual institutions from which the DPLA aggregates data directly are called Content Hubs. Service Hubs, on the other hand, are “state or regional digital libraries” that gather info from a network of smaller individual institutions, each too small to host their own unique digital libraries.

Here’s more on what this means. Content Hubs are large enough to “provide more than 250,000 unique metadata records,” each record corresponding to digitized item that the DPLA can make available on its website. The DPLA’s current Content Hub partners are ARTstor, the Biodiversity Heritage Library, the David Rumsey Map Collection, the Harvard Library, HathiTrust Digital Library, the National Archives & Records Administration, the Smithsonian, the NY Public Library, and the University Libraries of Virginia, Southern California, and Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Service Hubs are what might be called “umbrella” digital libraries which are not their own unique entity as the above Content Hub partners are, but rather simply aggregate data from, as stated, a network of many small-size unique entities (those entities who have less than 250,000 of their own metadata records). These smaller entities provide their existing records and/or materials to a Service Hub which then digitizes and creates metadata records for each digitized item in accordance with the DPLA’s metadata standard. Then the Service Hub provides this aggregation of data to the DPLA which includes the data on its site. Current Service Hub partners with the DPLA include Digital Commonwealth (Massachusetts Collections Online), Mountain West Digital Library, and the state Digital Libraries of Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, and South Carolina.

Collecting all this data and metadata on one website is, again, a task of mythic proportions but doable, and it seems like, given the complex interweaving of the DPLA, the Content Hubs, and the Service Hubs, the project will remain, at least for the time being, unavoidably egalitarian and truly open to all.

However, as for whether or not such a project will make a positive, negative, or indifferent impact on researchers’ or the public’s lives—given that those who are driven to research are already aware anyway of the online presence of open digital collections of various museums, universities, and libraries, which are all accessible without the DPLA, and that there already exist such encyclopedic portals of information as Wikipedia, the online Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and Google Scholar, just to name a few—is yet to be seen.


Report on ALA Conference 2013: Association of College & Research Libraries @ ALA

Association of College & Research Libraries @ ALA

As in the AASL session, an emphasis on collaboration underlied a session hosted by the Education & Behavioral Services Section (EBSS) of the ACRL. The session title was “Crossing the K-20 Curriculum” and two speakers gave two talks. First, Ken Burhanna of Kent State University highlighted the differences between K-12 school librarianship and college-level academic librarianship. Second, Tasha Bergson-Michelson of Google Search Education discussed the need for students of all ages to be taught how to fully utilize the power of Google Search.

Mr. Burhanna, a university librarian at Kent State who has contributed to a number of scholarly journals and books on academic libraries, called librarians the “educational superglue” who hold an educational institution’s instructional programs together. Central to all curriculums “across the K-20” spectrum are, as you might guess, books. Books are needed for reading, reading comprehension, and research, and it is through librarians that students learn how to access the books they need. Arguably, librarians are even more crucial in a Higher Education environment than in K-12, because post-secondary students, unlike K-12 students, have a very loosely structured semester, have distance from parents’ legal authority under FERPA, and are subjected to no standardized curriculum. This can be confusing to a kid. Burhanna may be biased in playing up academic librarians, being one himself, but he made a good point that just because a student turns 18 doesn’t mean he or she no longer needs guidance or help in the library. On the contrary, he or she needs that assistance just as much as, if not more than, ever.

Also speaking on the subject of how—in both K-12 and Higher Ed—librarians can be influential in students’ academic success, Tasha Bergson-Michelson began by pointing out that research by Google (and everyday experience) shows that a significant number of students and people in general, for that matter, don’t know about all the search options available in Google’s search engine. Using symbols like quotation marks, plus signs, or a colon can yield very precise search results, getting a student to more reliable, appropriate information more quickly. Quotation marks tell Google to search only for the exact words in the exact order they’re written in the search box. A plus sign between two words tells Google to find only web-pages where those two words occur together, excluding sites where they occur apart. Using a colon can specify what kind of sites you want Google to look for. For example, typing “edu:television” (no spaces) yields web-pages about “television” from .edu sites only (i.e. sites curated by Higher Ed institutions, which tend to be more reliable in terms of accurate information than .com and most .org websites). Bergson-Michelson also advocated for teaching students to search more than once during an online search. If the first word or phrase a student types in the search box doesn’t yield desirable results, encourage the student to try synonyms or other keywords related to their topic. This kind of practice should be standard.

Overall, both Burhanna and Bergson-Michelson emphasized the idea of lifelong learning and countered the idea that learners are entirely self-reliant creatures who, after a mere few seconds’ prompting, can be left in isolation to research on their own. As teachers, we need to do more than just show students where a Google search bar is and then leave them to it. Teachers and students alike should not take it for granted that anybody else knows all there is to know about ways of researching or using the internet just because they’ve reached a certain academic level or age.

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Report on ALA Conference 2013: American Association of School Librarians @ ALA

American Association of School Librarians @ ALA 2013

Held on a Saturday morning, the AASL President’s Program saw a modest attendance but the main speaker, Dr. Mark Edwards, was dynamic. A North Carolina superintendent—of all things (go NC!)—for the Mooresville school district since 2007, Dr. Edwards has initiated programs to improve test scores, access to technology, and graduation rates in the Mooresville district—which is immediately north of Charlotte, for those who may not know. His presentation on strategies for K-12 student success in the 21st century reinforced AASL president-elect Gail Dickinson’s prefatory remarks on school librarianship—that it’s “all about COLLABORATION & SERVICE”—in the broader context of education in general.

Central to Dr. Edwards’ philosophy of education is the idea of keeping up with the educational needs of the times, which in the case of the 21st century means the full integration of computers and related technology into the learning process and the school environment. As educators, we “must prepare our children for their future, not our past.”

Many activities, whether social or professional in nature, now require the use of computers in some capacity. However, not every child has consistent access to computers or the internet (except through libraries, which Dr. Edwards applauded), thus leaving some students at a disadvantage. The divide between those students who have regular computer access and those who don’t is known as the Digital Divide. In the Mooresville school district since 2007 a “digital conversion” has started to take place, in which the schools provide laptops for every student. They can even take the laptops home at the end of the day. This attempt to close the Digital Divide is succeeding in the Mooresville area and, according to Dr. Edwards, the laptops in nearly every case are returned in as good a condition as when they are loaned. Students take the privilege of a free laptop seriously.

Such a risk, first paying for computers and then trusting students to treat them well, has proved worthwhile so far, and that such a risk was argued as worth it in the first place by Dr. Edwards illustrates his enthusiasm for his job. The superintendent’s phrase of choice throughout his career has been “Every child, every day.”

What can we, as school librarians, do to foster a forward-looking and all-student-inclusive school environment? Several things. School librarians should engage in continuing professional development programs, such as the ALA and AASL annual conferences. States have their own statewide associations too, membership in which keeps the librarian connected to current best practices and technological innovations. Also, all a school’s staff, librarians included, should seek leadership roles to develop their management and decision-making abilities. Thirdly, keep an open mind and be willing to learn from your colleagues, including the principal, teachers, administrative staff, and other support staff.

Finally, connect your library resources with the future of the students. Connect with their interests, especially those interests that can be developed into skills for particular careers. Paleontology books for the dinosaur lover, programming books for the computer geek, algebra books for the math whiz, novels for the literary reader, music books for the young pianist, and so on. It all ties back to the old adage of librarianship: “Serve the needs of your users.”

That means the current needs of your particular community of users. To repeat an earlier keyword, COLLABORATION is necessary to the task. In other words, you should keep up to date on who you’re serving and what they need through constant connection with your school’s faculty, staff, and students. Simple as that. Following that precept has worked wonders for Dr. Edwards and the Mooresville school district as a whole, not just their library & media centers.

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Report on ALA Conference 2013: Getting There

Getting to Chicago: An introduction

This summer I had the privilege of attending the 2013 American Library Association Conference, held in the ALA’s hometown of Chicago, which was a whirlwind of action: I experienced quirky vegan restaurants, first-class theatre, hallowed historic buildings, famous bookstores, swinging jazz clubs, music in Grant Park, buskers in the subway, panhandlers, tourists, locals, itinerant artists and more.

For the kind of people who loathe a dull moment it’s perfect. A few days in, however, I was praying for one (a dull moment). It never came. But getting to go to ALA and see so many kindred souls, marked either by their dark slacks and narrow ties or cardigans and ankle-length skirts, more than made up for the occasional dizziness.

Held in Chicago’s massive McCormick Conference Center overlooking Lake Michigan just south of the downtown loop, the conference provided a kind of escape, an organized, focused, professionals-oriented haven from the crazy, chaotic busy-ness of the city outside. Besides camping out in the Exhibition Hall in the afternoons (I may be exaggerating… a little), where the vendors and publishers set up house—handing out free catalogues and Advanced Reading Copies of new books—I attended 4 of the conference’s breakout sessions:

·         the American Association of School Librarians’ main program

·         “Crossing the K-20 Curriculum,” hosted by the Association of College & Research Libraries (ACRL)

·         the ALA President’s Program on the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA)

·         and a ceremony welcoming the new president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA), co-presented with a series of poster presentations by YALSA members.

Before getting into those sessions, you’ll of course want to know what Chicago was like. And that’s simple to tell. Chicago’s a metropolis. And what’s a metropolis? Chicago, New York, Los Angeles: the defining feature of these places is density, the density of hundreds of thousands of millions of people concentrated in one area, also the density of commercial, industrial, and residential zones bound like a sweat-beaded chain gang alongside one another.

These are the kinds of density that attract the young and ambitious to work, party, and shop in big cities but which also produce the social phenomenon that sociologist Emile Durkheim labeled anomie (etymologically related to anonymous).

Anomie is the condition of living within shouting distance of hundreds of folks but neither knowing nor being able to engage socially with any of them. One is in the midst of many people but they are all too busy and there are far too many to get to know very well. Consequently, you get to know none of them not at all. Feelings of alienation and loneliness follow. If one is easily overwhelmed or an introvert then it is easy to experience anomie in a place like Chicago. Anomie causes one to feel, and then be, lost psychologically and physically in the midst of people.

When I arrived in Chicago after 22 straight hours on a Greyhound from Greensboro, the first thing that struck me was this feature of density and the hint of anomie; a daunting first impression, sure, but not a defeating one. As the bus glided into the city I looked intently out the window. Not a whole lot of folks out and about this early. I saw modern steel skyscrapers, their glass and clean vertical designs rising high into the 7:45am sky, beside much earlier turn-of-the-century, Italianate commercial buildings that, after about half a dozen stories, terminated in façade-length, decorative stone, metal, or terra cotta cornices.

Cornices are important. They give the eye somewhere to stop. They provide a comforting sense of scale. They don’t make one feel terribly small and unwelcome like the modern, sheer glass towers that go on forever do. The older, less geometric buildings calmed me. And so, psychologically prepared, I made my way into the McCormick Center on a Saturday morning to hear a talk by a much-lauded superintendent from a familiar state.



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