from the Library of Maura

Still in the Game

June 24th, 2010 · 1 Comment

A few weeks ago I was disappointed to have to miss the CUNY Games Network‘s final meeting of the year. Sounds like Frank Crocco’s Gaming Your Syllabus workshop and Andrew Boyarsky’s demo of his game Who Wants to Save the Planet were both fun and useful.

I wasn’t completely ignoring games on June 4th, though. I spent the day at the annual program of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) New England Library Instruction Group (NELIG) up in Connecticut. The NELIG conference was devoted specifically to library instruction and information literacy, and I heard lots of great presentations (I wrote up some of the highlights here). Keynoter John Palfrey (Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources at Harvard Law School and co-author of Born Digital) shared a very interesting piece of game-related info: their research revealed that gaming is one thread that connects and joins teens across socioeconomic statuses.

But the main reason I headed up to the conference is that I was a presenter. I spoke about a low-tech classroom game I’ve been developing and implementing over the past semester called Quality Counts, which is designed to help students learn how to evaluate internet sources. I was tickled to learn afterward that my talk was liveblogged (and my slides are available here).

Of course the inspiration for this game came from a CUNY Games Network meeting, and it was great to have the chance to discuss the group as well as my game. After my presentation I chatted with several folks who wanted to learn more about us (and who seemed a bit envious, to be honest!). One of the things I find most inspiring about Games Network meetings is the opportunity to connect with other faculty and staff across the university to discuss using games in teaching and learning. I never fail to come away from our meetings with fresh ideas for my own teaching.

So while I was sad to miss the meeting, I was pleased to have the opportunity to speak about my game and about the CUNY Games Network. And I’m looking forward to getting back to our meetings again in the fall.

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Big News in Scholarly Publishing

June 11th, 2010 · No Comments

By now everyone’s probably heard about the storm a’brewing in scholarly publishing this week. I don’t want to repeat what’s been very ably said in many other spaces on the internets, but as an open access advocate I couldn’t let the week end without at least collecting together some of the high points of the discussion.

In brief, the University of California system libraries are resisting outrageous price increases for the Nature Publishing Group’s scholarly journals. This situation is, sadly, a familiar one for academic librarians, and this is not the first time that a large consortial group has pushed back. What’s new is the scope of the resistance: unless NPG comes down in price, U Cal faculty are being asked (among other things) to decline to peer review or submit articles to NPG journals.

This is huge, and a huge step in the right direction. As a librarian, a faculty member and a researcher I am absolutely thrilled to see this happening, and I’ll be following the situation closely as it evolves.

Here are some great places to go for more info:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Ed‘s article U. of California Tries Just Saying No to Rising Journal Costs provides a thorough introduction to the boycott.
  • Dorothea Salo, Institutional Repository Librarian at the University of Wisconsin who writes a fantastic blog about scholarly communication and open access (among other things) over at The Book of Trogool, has been covering the story since early in the week. (It was actually a tweet from Salo that first tipped me off to this situation late Tuesday night.)
  • Bethany Nowviskie, Director of Digital Research & Scholarship at the University of Virginia Library, wrote a great post called Fight Club Soap that, among other things, includes a powerful discussion of the relationship between scholarly journal pricing and scholarly monograph publication.

Good stuff, all. Go read it!

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Bad News and Good News

May 3rd, 2010 · 6 Comments

Lately I’ve been thinking about how students, faculty, and librarians use academic libraries. It all started last month after the latest Ithaka Faculty Survey results were released. Many survey responses seem to indicate that faculty use of academic libraries is decreasing. Of course there was much discussion of the report all over the higher ed (the Chronicle and IHE) and library (ACRLog and Library Journal) bloglands.

I read these articles with interest but not surprise. In my past life when I was in graduate school for archaeology I was a heavy library user, but it was while working with my advisor that I learned about the major scholars in my field of specialty. I mined the bibliographies of the articles and books assigned for my courses, searched the library catalog for books, and browsed the stacks in the call number ranges for the subjects I researched. I belonged to the scholarly societies for archaeology and anthropology (and got their journals), and sometimes I browsed the table of contents in other relevant journals in the library’s current periodicals section. To be honest, I don’t think I ever consulted with a librarian at my university’s library the entire time I was in graduate school.

I suspect that my process from many years ago is not all that different from the ways faculty and graduate students do informational research today. It’s so much easier to use online indexes that I’m sure researchers search their specialized databases, but they do so with preexisting knowledge of their field, both the vocabulary of their subject matter and the major players in their discipline. However, as others have noted (e.g., William Badke’s comment on IHE), students approach information-based research for their coursework very differently. They don’t usually have deep knowledge of the disciplines and topics that they’re researching, and they don’t know the prominent scholars or publications. Many students, especially freshmen, are also unfamiliar with library databases and even physical libraries.

Since the faculty research process doesn’t necessarily include librarians, that’s likely one reason why faculty see the library more as an information storehouse and less as a location for academic consultation. But our students really do need help to learn to make sense of the information landscape and do research successfully. It can be difficult for experienced researchers–both faculty and librarians–to put ourselves back into the novice researcher mindset of our students. Information literacy instruction can help students learn to do information-based research for their courses and to begin to evolve into more advanced researchers.

Of course, there’s a huge variety of academic institutions, and variety in their libraries as well. I’m at a college library and coordinate our instruction and information literacy program, so working with students is always on my mind. But there’s also some good news out there as a counterpoint to the Ithaka study. Barbara Fister just published the results of her survey of academic administrators and found that they all value the library for a wide variety of reasons. And while many mentioned that academic libraries will continue to change and evolve in the future, none envisioned them disappearing.

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Interesting Info from the Interwebs

June 19th, 2009 · 1 Comment

I swear that this isn’t going to turn into Maura’s Copyright Blog, but a couple of copyright-ish things have crossed my desk(top) recently and it seemed selfish not to share:

1. A coalition of student groups across the U.S. recently released the Student Statement on The Right to Research. The statement asserts that “scholarly knowledge is part of the common wealth of humanity,” and argues for open access to scholarly research (as opposed to a subscription-based model for journal publishing). It’s great to see students involved in the open access movement. The footnotes on the statement feature lots of great reads, too.

2. I’m sure many have seen this already, but just in case not, here’s marketing guru Seth Godin’s rant against the high prices of college textbooks. A quick, punchy read (just like you’d expect from a marketer), and it’s hard to disagree with him, too. I’d add an admittedly obvious note to the list of impracticalities: when libraries buy textbooks (as we may do since it can be difficult for our students to afford them), we’re left with “expired” content when the next edition is published as well as the need to buy the new edition.

3. This week’s Information Week has an article about a recent paper out of the Harvard Business School that attempts to unpack the complexities of copyright protection and the entertainment industry. The authors suggest that, while sales have fallen over the past decade, the number of new works (music, film, books) being produced has actually risen, as have revenues from ancillary streams like concerts. Thus, they conclude that file-sharing “has not discouraged creative artists from producing new works.”

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