LSC 553

Ray’s Introduction

Hello All:
This summer marks my start in the Library and Information Science program at Catholic University. My undergraduate degree is in Economics from Florida A&M University and I have a masters from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. I have many interests, including information literacy, knowledge management, information policy, and public librarianship. These summer classes are fun but intense. I look forward to studying and learning with you all this last summer session.

3 thoughts on “LSC 553

  1. Assignment 1: Field Study (July 11, 2013)

    West End Branch, DC Public Library
    I visited West End Library on Friday, July 5 to pick up a book I had requested. While there, I spoke with the librarian at the reference desk and asked if I could return the following week to conduct a field study. We arranged to meet again on July 9 at 10am. On July 9, I conducted separate interviews with Adult Services Librarian Bill Turner and Children’s Services Librarian Colleen Semitekol and spent two hours with Mrs. Semitekol on her reference desk rotation.

    Library has a staff of ten, including a branch chief, an adult services librarian, a children’s services librarian, a technical services librarian, a librarian associate, two library technicians, and three circulation technicians. I also met three library volunteers performing assorted tasks.
    The primary tasks of all the staff include: 1) being a policeman and a social worker; 2) working closely with library patrons to help them satisfy their information needs; and 3) insuring that the Library Bill of Rights is carried out and enforced for all library users.
    Services provided include: reference; collection development management; neighborhood outreach (particularly with two homeless centers in the neighborhood, one in Georgetown and one in Foggy Bottom); programming of various types; and children services.
    According to Turner, the changing demographics of the neighborhood is having an effect on the library, the population that uses the library, and the services they are provided. For example, the neighborhood is transforming from a working class cross-generational black neighborhood to a professional class mostly white neighborhood of 20-30 year olds with small children. And the location of two very large homeless centers has resulted in a ballooning population of homeless citizens in the neighborhood with specific and special needs. The neighborhood is increasing populated by university students, internationals and especially Spanish speakers. These three demographic changes are exerting pressures on the library to provide more services for children; like story time and other children’s programming, more services for library patrons who are homeless and seeking information, and more resources for Spanish speakers.
    Collection development at the branch libraries is handled centrally, and based on census data. So individual libraries do not have systematic say in collection development. E-book uses is growing by leaps and bounds.
    There is a general transformation underway in the DC Public Library System. Due to a recurring budget surplus, the library system is planning additional branches, planning to hire over 100 new librarians and over 50 new library associates, and libraries will be open longer hours and more days of the week.
    New developments at the West End Branch: reference books will now circulate (two days only); there is a surge of interest in Spanish language books; audio-visual items “float,” i.e., items returned to the West End remain the holdings of the West End, even if they were ordered from a different branch; playaways, small audio players in a compact kit with earphones containing a single book, are being discontinued as patrons become more acclimated to e-books and other media downloadable directly from the Library website.
    The library has both circulation and reference desks on the same floor, the ground level, serving both children, youth and adult populations. The library has two meeting rooms that are used extensively by neighborhood groups. On the day that I visited, a local Baha’i group was holding a Holy Day gathering for the local congregation. Federal agencies also use the meeting rooms for interviews and meetings.
    The library has eight internet accessible computers for public use, four for “15 minute” unscheduled use, and wifi throughout the reading room for patrons with their own laptops or tablets. I noticed ample receptacles for charging personal equipment.
    The branch library works closely with the mobile crisis unit particularly on especially hot or cold days with respect to its homeless patrons. The library also plays a significant community role in making referrals for a range of social and assistance programs. There are 26 branches in the DC public library system.

    Subjects of reference calls included the following:
    1. use of online research databases
    2. downloadable materials
    3. use of kindles/IPads
    4. language learning, English and foreign language

    Subjects of walk-in reference inquiries included:
    1. directional questions
    2. restaurant and café recommendations
    3. post office locations
    4. availability of wifi
    5. nannies and service providers asking questions about books and library resources
    6. use of computers for internet research

    The reference desk is arranged so that you see it immediately upon entering the library. The desk is oval-shaped, which is more inviting that a rectangular or square-shaped desk. The patron reading area seats 96 comfortably, without counting the eight computer workstations. I passed the children’s area on the other side of the library during story hour on a separate, follow-up visit and counted 30 children, all standing and actively engaged in the story-telling activity. There were at least twelve adults in the rear of the space, and many of the children wore the same color t-shirt, indicating they came as a large group or perhaps a kindergarten class.
    We discussed at length in class the Ferrell article on problem patrons, “Who Says There’s a Problem?” Having visited the West End Library before as a patron, I was well aware of the number of homeless citizens who are also library patrons there. So I approached with a curiosity about how patrons behaved and how they were treated by library staff. I was pleased to hear the adult services librarian’s emphasis on fulfilling the obligations of the Library Bill of Rights for all patrons. Additionally, he showed me a list of five “focus” areas of Library activity, which included service to children, youth and teens, the library as a community place, books and other materials, technology and adult learning/literacy. Then, in conversation with the reference desk librarian, she made mention of the need to “address the information needs of all our patrons.” Of course, homeless citizens are not monolithic: some are quite well-educated, others are not. Some have varying degrees of mental illness, and some, not at al. Some come to the library to get out of the heat, but others at least appear to be doing legitimate work, demonstrating genuine information seeking behavior. A guide to patron behavior is posted prominently at the online catalog terminal and the behavior guidelines policy and response matrix is available at the reference desk. Interestingly, the combined policy guideline and response matrix represents just the type of interactionist paradigm that Ferrell describes.
    Many homeless citizens at the library during my observation period were content to study at their computer or at a table. But the ones who actually can to the reference desk had very specific, detailed questions about the information they were seeking as well as about the information-searching process itself. One complained that other patrons were overstaying on the 15-minute-only computer terminal. One had very concrete questions about borrowing privileges. The reference desk librarian handled their inquiries with care, courtesy and respect. She displayed a mastery of Ferrell’s levels of analysis concept for dealing with “problem” cases, or more specifically, heading off potential problem cases through acknowledgement of the various levels of patron information seeking behavior within the homeless population. All this borders, perhaps, more on sociology than on library and information science, but the latter gives us a cross-cutting vehicle as well as a unique aperture through which we can better understand the former.
    Not meaning to beat a dead horse, but homeless library patrons present a special test case for Mooers’ Law. That is to say, do some homeless citizens prefer to be homeless, and reject information that might “improve” their housing situation, because having the information in hand is more “costly” than rejecting the same information?
    Completely aside from the library visit analysis (or perhaps somewhere in the hidden substrate of trying to understand the information seeking behavior of this particular population), I was struck by the similarity of the expansion of Mooers’ Law that Austin offers to something I studied 27 years ago as an undergraduate economics major, demand theory and the saga of the kinked demand curve. There is a demand for information that follows a certain downward slope, with an inverse relationship between the quantity/quality of information demanded and the cost of retrieving that information, i.e., the higher the price (or the more difficult the process) of retrieval, the less desired. This would be Mooers’ Law #1. Then a kink, represented by a vertical line of infinite elasticity, where information needs are critical, regardless of the price or the design of the information retrieval system). Mooers’ Law #2. Finally, a horizontal line of zero elasticity, where indifference exists between the cost of having information and the cost of not having it. Mooers’ Law #3.
    I had never really thought about, but the homeless population, in Washington and throughout the country, presents an interesting case for the study of information behavior considerations.


  2. Assignment 5: Information Literacy Instruction
    Assigned: July 18, 2013
    Due: July 31, 3:30 p.m.

    For this assignment, I selected two tutorials, Tutorial 1, the General Research Tutorial, Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania, and Tutorial 3, Information Tutorial, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee.

    Bloomsburg University Tutorial (Unless otherwise noted, all information below can be sourced at the website )

    Summary and introduction. Starting off, I clicked on “About,” strategically placed as the very first tab on a row of clickable tabs. But I was already there as the home page for the tutorial site is the “About” page. Very thoughtfully arranged. It included an amazingly rich page of information, including how to start, a step-by-step guide for using the tutorial as a tool for learning (learning objectives), ideas for evaluating its usefulness, a link to a survey on the helpfulness of the site, links to contacts (email addresses) for questions, and credits for the site. The tutorial consists of a comprehensive list of eight modules, starting with an orientation of the library and covering the top concepts of conducting research in a library.

    Learning objectives. The tutorial clearly lists the overall learning objectives. Each module lists its individual learning objectives. Objectives are stated in terms consistent with Bloom’s Taxonomy, i.e., knowledge, comprehension, application, analysis, synthesis, and evaluation.
    Materials, delivery methods and activities. The tutorial is basically a series of networked slides, chocked full of information, but with no interactivity or animation. From the perspective of the Kolb model, the tutorial focuses primarily on reflective observation, with trace elements of abstract conceptualization and active experimentation (surveys, module quizzes, final quiz).

    Evaluation mechanisms and link between learning objectives and evaluation. The “About” page includes a survey on the helpfulness of the page and additional comments. Each module has a “Self Check,” a quiz testing mastery of the concepts it provided. The tutorial experience overall has a “Final Quiz,” and the About page includes instructions for getting official credit for reporting the quiz grade for credit. There is a direct correspondence between the learning objectives listed, the self-check quiz at the end of each module, and the final quiz culminating the tutorial experience. It is all very thoughtfully composed and arranged.

    Strengths and weaknesses. The overall comprehensiveness of the tutorial is certainly one of its strengths. Key concepts are included in the modules and the list of modules is very comprehensive in its scope. Another strength is the design and layout of the tutorial: clean, crisp, dense with layered information, but not too dense. A weakness, perhaps, is the lack of variety in terms of delivery methods. No animation like we have seen in other tutorial tools, no videos or links to videos, a few drawing and sketches to break the monotony.

    University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Tutorial (unless otherwise noted, all information below can be sourced at )
    Summary and introduction. Overall the tutorial site is very basic, streamlined, fundamental.
    Six multi-colored boxes provide links to six modules for help conducting library research. The site does not have a prominent “About” tab or link. Not having an “About” tab puts the student/reader at a distinct disadvantage in terms of understanding what the site is all about. There is an “About” information block, but it is hidden away at the bottom of the “Faculty Instructions” page where students are not likely to go.

    Learning objectives. The tab “Faculty Instructions” includes learning outcomes and a discussion for each module. The faculty page also includes a feedback survey. Learning outcomes are rather sparse and could come closer to being fully consistent with Bloom’s Taxonomy.

    Materials, delivery methods and activities. Six colored blocks link to modules covering aspects of information literacy. Each module page includes a skills portal detailing discrete skills for that section, a theory portal which in most cases is a pdf document of information pertinent to the particular concept, a glossary of terms, and a portal of instructional videos. The videos are short, two to three minutes, focused and directed, with examples and informative instructions for the subject being covered. From the Kolb learning model perspective, I think the videos provide reflective observation and perhaps invite one to concrete experience, provided watching results in an actual trip to the library to try the information out. Once one dives into the modules, one discovers a comprehensiveness that might not have been expected.

    Evaluation mechanisms and link between learning objectives and evaluation. The learning objectives, once found, are streamlined and sparse. The faculty page has a feedback evaluation, but there is no mechanism for students to measure what they have learned or how well the learning objectives have been met.

    Strengths and weaknesses. The strength of the Tutorial, in my opinion, is the video portal in each module that contains short, choppy 2-3 minute videos that hold the student’s attention (hopefully). The weakness is in design and layout, especially in the placing of key information in strategic locations on the site and the homepage. Another weakness is the absence of an evaluation mechanism for students and users of the modules.

    Overall conclusion/analysis/synthesis. The two tutorials are obviously different. Bloomburg wins big points on layout and design, on comprehensiveness, on learning objectives and on evaluative mechanisms. Bloomburg falls short on variety of delivery methods. Wisconsin-Milwaukee is surprisingly strong on comprehensiveness (I say surprisingly because it is not readily apparent, but it is there) and use of short videos to drive home the learning concept or objective. But Wisconsin-Milwaukee falls short on design and layout, on making the learning objectives available to students as well as faculty, and on providing a useful evaluative mechanism. Both include important concepts, but in different ways. There may be a relationship between the differences in presenting information that is related to each university’s image of itself and of the target audience being addressed. And if so, I think that may be unfortunate because it means that different students walk away with different and very much unequal information literacy learning experiences just by virtue of the university they attended. It should be included here that while both are public universities, Wisconsin-Milwaukee is an urban school with a very, very diverse student body, while Bloomburg is less urban, with quite possibly a less diverse student body. I think Bloomburg gets higher marks in terms of the Kolb model, covering more of the learning aspects, and certainly in terms of learning objectives being more consistent with Bloom’s Taxonomy (in addition to being prominently displayed). Both cover equally the information literacy concepts that need to be conveyed, though Bloomburg does a much better job of evaluating the extent to which those learning objectives have been met as well as providing opportunities for student feedback. Bloomburg’s deficiency on variety of learning methods is possibly Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s greatest strength, while Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s deficiencies in design/layout and evaluative mechanisms may be Bloomburg’s greatest strength, all other things being reasonably equal.


  3. Final Exam LSC 553

    Take Home Exam: LSC-553

    Section 1. Question 1.
    Special collections librarian Jill conducts a computer search and the researcher cannot see her screen or the search. She loses an opportunity to treat the user as a collaborator and partner IAW the RUSA personal competencies and RUSA guideline 4.3, i.e., to explain the search strategy and sequence to patrons, as well as the sources to be used. It would have been more professional to have shared the screen and the process with the patron because it would have better enabled him to continue the research from his computer at home. Then she mentions the results she has found, listing a few, without checking with the patron to narrow or broaden the topic per RUSA guideline 4.6. Here she lost the opportunity to help the patron narrow (or broaden) his research focus. After the initial search, Jill fails to ask the patron if additional information is needed per RUSA guideline 4.7. This simple follow-up step would have provided Jill with insight as to where the patron needed to go next in the research process. Her casual dismissal of the patron (catalog on the public network…come back when you are ready to begin) presupposes that the patron is not ready to begin today, right now, when perhaps he is. She make no effort to provide follow-up, she doesn’t ask the patron if his questions have been fully answered, and she fails to make the patron aware of other reference services (See RUSA guidelines under 5.0).
    Section 2. Question 3.
    Vaishali has too many unrelated terms in her first block, and her second and third block are, in effect, synonyms of each other (only economists and very alert consumers care about the difference between price and cost). This search as it is will turn up unrelated and irrelevant results about costs and prices, and a mishmash of results about oil, petroleum, gold, etc. A mishmash will result from Concept 1 because oil, gold, and gold mining are not synonyms. As the convention is OR vertically and AND horizontally, the various terms in Concept 1 will all cancel each other out. Precision will be very low. We know from the searcher’s toolkit discussed in class that in choosing search terms we need to account for word position/proximity (placing the terms in parentheses will take care of that in most searches), alternate spellings, truncation of word roots, fielded searching and range searching. Cassell cites sources for relevant search terms as natural language, database thesauri, subject headings and descriptors, and terms from encyclopedias textbooks and coursework.
    Revised Concept Block
    Concept 1
    AND Concept 2
    AND Concept 3

    (gold prices)
    (crude oil prices)
    (historical relationship)

    Search strategy: (gold prices) AND (crude oil prices) AND (historical relationships)
    Section 3. Question 5.
    The colleague is confusing scope with content/features. It is content that describes the aspects she is discussing, i.e., length of articles, amount and extent of detail, etc. Scope deals with breadth or boundaries of coverage, whether topical, geographical, or chronological boundaries. We know from our class notes that content includes such features as the length of articles, the type of media utilized, i.e., photos, video, audio files, and inclusion of other features such as timelines, tables and charts. I use a little word play to differentiate scope from content. Scope suggests a telescope, looking at something far away, in space or time or even in topical breadth. Content is everything under the “tent,” all the details that are close at hand and nearby.
    In a work of this type, attributes related to Scope I might look for are the geographic range of the countries covered, the breadth of related information covered that might not fit under traditional ideas of geography, such as economic production resulting from accessibility to inland waters, highway systems for physical distribution of goods, amount of land devoted to agriculture versus industrial production, etc. I might also look for developments over a range of time, and whether a narrow or broad range. These aspects all speak to scope.
    Section 4. Question 8.
    Theories being articulated: Librarian Amina is a positivist. She believes that all the teacher has to do is show up and present the information, and that the role of the teacher is to “pour” the knowledge into the student. Librarian Zinaida is a constructivist. She focuses on the student out of the belief that each student engages with knowledge and constructs his /her own unique version of it, influenced by individual factors.
    Implications: Where the positivist theory of learning prevails, emphasis is on the lecturer, the teacher and delivery skills, and the better the delivery, the more information, it is assumed, will be absorbed. Example: lots of lecture bells and whistles, videos, with goals each lecture-day for the amount of material that is to be provided, almost like Marshall’s one-shot model described in the Bean and Thomas article we read, “too long on content, too short on practical application.” Where the constructivist theory rules, instructional design must allow for a great deal of student feedback, of classroom and blackboard participation. Student needs should be assessed up front, then progress toward learning goals should be frequently checked and evaluated. Example: Also from the Bean and Thomas article, the Digital Learning Team initiative aims to build closer relationships between librarians and individual researchers, and to forge stronger ties between each student and his/her information seeking objectives and goals.
    Section 5. Question 9.
    The three types of measures we should consider are input/activity/output metrics, outcome metrics, and impact metrics.
    Input/activity/output metrics provide a quantitative measure, as in how many, how much time, or how much money it will cost. It give a number, but it does not explain how well, and whether or not a goal was achieved or an objective accomplished. For example, the number of hours the library is open, or the number of visitors to library website.
    Outcome provides a measure in terms of a response to outputs or what was done. Outcome, for example would include answers to the following questions: Did our services get used as we intended? Did our customers respond? Were their needs met and satisfied? Did we achieve our stated objectives? Outcome is a qualitative measure, but does not provide a judgment-type response. An example of outcomes may include such measures as patron responses to a customer service satisfaction survey.
    Impact metrics provide a judgmental measure. Impact measures would address the long term benefit of an outcome, whether or not we sought the right objectives, and whether or not we made the right strategic decisions. Impact measures the result of achieving the outcomes listed above. An example of impact might include the comparison of standardized test scores of students who took part in our information literacy enrichment program, versus those at a different school who, all other things being equal, were not exposed to a similar information literacy program.


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