Posts Tagged 'social media'

Can libraries facilitate transformative experiences?

I had some very good discussions on twitter recently (complete with book recommendations, naturally) about whether higher education is transformative, what that even means, and how you might measure it.

My very, very cursory look at some of the research seems to indicate that the number of college students who show truly transformative increases in moral reasoning, critical thinking, cultural understanding, and the like is fairly small. Moreover, there seems to be some evidence that students (and their parents) are actually not approaching college with any sort of transformative goal in mind — most kids are pursuing a college degree for understandably instrumental reasons.

And yet, despite the fact that it rarely happens, and it may not even be what students are seeking, I still believe in the transformative potential of the college experience. For example, I believe in the possibility that a student might be encouraged by a classroom experience in such a way that ignites a life-long passion for social justice. I believe in the possibility of a student discovering an unknown aptitude for art, for programming, for scientific analysis, or for leadership. I believe these sorts of transformative self-discoveries can happen in the classroom, in the dorm, in extracurricular activities and in the library.

I’m more than willing to admit that the kinds of life-changing transformative college experience I’m talking about may be very rare.  And in spite of that (or perhaps because of that), I want to create libraries and library experiences that facilitate those rare events. I don’t quite know what that looks like, but I think it may be as much an attitude as any specific set of actions or programs.

That’s the argument I couldn’t figure out how to make in 140 characters, but that came into relief for me through those twitter exchanges. Thanks to @lisalibrarian, @NancyDryden, @bfister, @JMarkOckerbloom, @jillian6475, @MerrileeIam, and @olinj for the twitter conversation and the book recommendations.

I would love to know if the idea even makes sense and/or if anyone has ideas about what a library that facilitates transformative experiences looks like.

In defense of professional anonymity

That may seem a strange title for someone whose blog is neither anonymous nor entirely professional (see playlists, baseball, or LGBT). But there is something about the slew of recent online conversations* about silencing, about gender, about race, about all sorts of inequalities and biases that affect the profession and affect us as individuals within the profession, that have me wanting to publicly proclaim my unqualified support for those who choose to join these conversations anonymously, via pseudonyms, and/or in private communications.  I get it, I support it, and I dare say that anyone who has a problem with it just might want to check their privilege.

Speaking of privilege, one of the reasons I am not anonymous is because I do benefit from certain kinds of privilege and am trying (clumsily and imperfectly, to be sure) to exercise that privilege in ways that promote a more inclusive profession that is welcoming and safe for all. The other big reason I eschew anonymity for myself is that I lived many (too many) years denying big important parts of myself, and not being my true self in public. That kind of secrecy very nearly destroyed me. So for me, the healthiest choice is openness. But it is a choice, and it is mine to make. And I have mad respect for others who make different choices. Of course I long for the day we live in a world that is so completely safe and equal and kind-hearted that no one ever needs to fear repercussions of any kind for speaking their mind. But anyone who is paying attention knows we ain’t anywhere in the vicinity of there yet. So I for one, welcome all the voices, even (especially) those who elect to speak anonymously.


* If this were a perfect blog post, there would be lots of links here. This is a quick and dirty blog post.

Library as icon: Hoops edition

Signed photo of Johnny Dawkins

Signed photo of Johnny Dawkins, hanging in my office

Stanford beat Oregon last night and in addition to giving mad props to my fellow Dukie Johnny Dawkins, I have to update the Library as Icon series:

Stanford is going to the Rose Bowl; Library gets more twitter love

Stanford in 1st Rose Bowl. We're hoping for a much different outcome this year. Photo courtesy of Stanford University Archives.

Stanford in 1st Rose Bowl. We’re hoping for a much diffferent outcome this year. Photo courtesy of Stanford University Archives.

Stanford beat UCLA last night, securing a spot in the Rose Bowl. And, as has become the pattern, the library got plenty of attention on twitter during the game. The big twitter joke last night was that the game’s low attendance must be because all those geeky Stanford students must be in the library (on a Friday night).

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.23.18 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.24.42 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.25.49 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.25.09 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.23.54 AM

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.24.18 AM

It amuses me to think so many people thought they were being original by joking that all the Stanford students must be in the library on a Friday night. On the other hand, at a time when other libraries are worried about declining use statistics, our main library still averages over 1600 visitors and 800 check outs per day. Go Cardinal, indeed!

Stanford beats Oregon, Library gets twitter attention

The Stanford football team beat then #2 ranked Oregon this weekend, and once again the library got plenty of attention on twitter:

Tweet from @JasonKleinman

Tweet from @JasonKleinman

Tweet from @WatchThisTrick

Tweet from @WatchThisTrick

Tweet from @fidoz

Tweet from @fidoz

The library tweets during Stanford football games are becoming so ubiquitious that I may need to make this into a weekly blog post during football season. Wonder if it will continue during hoops season, or if there is something special about the seeming juxtaposition of football and libraries/academic excellence?

Report from Libraries Rebound

Stanford Rebounds. Credit: flickr user Han Shot First

As with most conferences and events, the best part of the OCLC Libraries Rebound event was meeting new colleagues and reconnecting with others. The event was live-cast and had a surprisingly active twitter stream (#LibRebound).

My official role at the event was as a reactor to the panel on Directly Supporting Researchers. Three others gave prepared presentations, and then three of us reacted. I rather liked the format, and the three of us who reacted agreed a few minutes before we started that we would each try to be interactive and at least mildly controversial in our reactions — with the goal of spurring a conversation with the larger group. I’m pretty pleased with how well that worked. I tried (and mostly succeeded) to stir up some conversation by asserting that subject librarians in research libraries need an advanced degree in the discipline (or a closely related one) that they support. Another comment I made that picked up some traffic on twitter was that we need to stop worrying about saving libraries and focus instead on supporting research (a theme I have surfaced here before).

The other fun debate that sprung up was around the notion that the value of Special Collections rests on their use. While I am sympathetic to the fact that we all face resource constraints and in some cases pressure to justify our very existence, I want more of us to stand our ground on the idea that libraries (especially research libraries) must collect for not just current scholars, but for the future. As I tweeted, if our predecessors collected only stuff that was of interest to scholars of their time, then our archives of women’s history, african american history, queer history, etc. would be even sparser than they are now. If we believe that history remains a relevant discipline, then we owe it to future scholars to collect more widely than current use would dictate.

Once I catch up on my real job, I hope to return to some of these topics more fully here — especially the idea that subject librarians ought to have advanced disciplinary degrees. Until then, let me just say that Libraries Rebound was a great event — well organized, good topics, fantastic discussions. Thanks to the folks at OCLC RLP for pulling it together.

We’re tweeting, now what?

I know we are a bit late to the game, but Stanford Libraries now have an official Twitter account and we are tweeting away. I started the account several weeks ago, and have been single-handedly trying to nurture it to some reasonable level of viability.

How it feels to nurture @StanfordLibs. Photo credit: flickr user basykes

Although I’m not someone who thinks every initiative needs to be evaluated for Return on Investment, I do want us to build up a reasonable following to make it worth the staff time it will take to feed it. I’m not at all sure what number of followers = reasonable, but we are over 100 now and I’m heading out for an actual 5-day vacation, so I’m turning over the care and feeding of @StanfordLibs to some colleagues. I’m also not a fan of strict Social Media policies, but figured they might want some guidelines. Here’s what I told them:

  1. Tweet several times a day.
  2. Tweet any and all library events.
  3. Tweet links to stories from The Stanford Report, Clayman News, other campus news-lists you might be on.
  4. Tweet or re-Tweet any book-related, library-related, higher education-related, academic technology related links and news that you hear about through your own network.
  5. Set up Twitter searches for “stanford library” “stanford Libraries” “green Library”, etc., and retweet and/or respond to anything that is really about us.
  6. Respond to anyone who tweets to us or re-tweets us — Just a simple “Thx for the RT” is fine.
  7. Follow back the real followers — check profiles so you aren’t following back spammers, but generally good idea to follow back. Feel free to send a reply to someone who follows us “Thx for the follow”; but only to “real followers”.
  8. It is OK to tweet something light & humorous once in a while. Keep it tasteful. I would use the “imagine your mother reading it” standard, but my mom’s sense of humor can be pretty raunchy. Imagine Michael Keller‘s mother reading it. (I’ve actually never met Mike Keller’s mother, so have no idea what her standards are — which is the point. And I know picking on “mothers” instead of “parents” is at the very least implicitly sexist, but my father is dead, and I liked the parallelism of my mother and Mike Keller’s mother.)
  9. Tweet links to Stanford Library job openings.
  10. Tweet about cool things we are doing –even if they aren’t new. I have tweeted links to the Special Collections blog and the Digital Forensics Blog. We should definitely tweet links to some of our cool digital collections — especially the publicly available ones.
  11. Try to reflect our personality — part of a great research university, stewards of great collections, leaders in digital library development, smart, serious, and willing to be a bit quirky.

My implicit social media policy for Stanford Libraries is to pick smart people to be in charge of the social media, and trust them to use it well, but it seems everyone likes a bit of guidance. Plus, to be honest, I need something to say to the people who I didn’t pick, but who want to tweet for us anyway. Trying to be inclusive, but I want to make sure we have some kind of relatively recognizable “Stanford Libraries” voice.

So, if @StanfordLibs sounds like someone you want to follow, you know what to do.

On Harvard, being quoted out of context, and a fleeting 15 minutes

My summary of the situation at Harvard continues to get some press, including an out of context quote in the Boston Globe story Harvard plans to consolidate library, reshuffle employees . The original version of the story concluded with:

A blogger named Chris Bourg, an assistant university librarian at Stanford University,” wrote that as Harvard goes, so might other universities: “If massive layoffs can happen at Harvard [with its huge endowments], then no academic library is safe.”

The actual full quote from my blog post is:

Plenty of folks are worried that as Harvard goes, so go other academic libraries – in other words, if massive layoffs can happen at Harvard (with its huge endowments), then no academic library is safe.

The part about “Plenty of folks are worried” seems to be key to the actual meaning of what I said. I’m not too happy about the fact that the Globe article makes made it sound as if I believe that what is happening at Harvard is a harbinger of things to come for the rest of us, when I actually think quite the opposite. In my subsequent Update on What’s happening at Harvard, I note that:

My sense is actually that what Harvard is doing now (in terms of downsizing and centralizing) is actually what many of us have already done. I think this is a case of Harvard emulating its peers, rather than a case of the rest of us eventually following in Harvard’s footsteps.

Just to be very, very clear — I am not (nor was not) saying that I think the restructuring and downsizing that is happening at Harvard is necessarily good, or necessary, or inevitable. I am in no position to know what the best organizational structure is for the Harvard Libraries. I do know, however, that the Stanford Libraries faced some very painful restructuring, streamlining and centralizing in 2009. We are not looking at Harvard’s situation as a harbinger of things to come for us, nor as a model to be followed. Colleagues at other large research libraries tell me they are likewise not looking to follow in Harvard’s footsteps. If anything, I suspect the folks who produced the Task Force Report (PDF) for Harvard may have looked to us and our peer institutions for benchmarking.

At any rate, I was unhappy enough about the out of context quote that I tweeted: “Really unhappy about being quoted out-of-context in the @mary_carmichael Globe story about Harvard #hlth” To her credit, @mary_carmichael (Higher Education reporter for the Globe) responded immediately and graciously; and the entire paragraph was removed from the online version of the story. Ah, the fleeting nature of digital text!

So, my 15 minutes of fame is over, but I do now have a Twitter follower at the Boston Globe, so one never knows …

Research is like Cooking video

A couple of years ago I posted about a Powerpoint slidedeck I had been using in Information Literacy classes comparing the research process to cooking. With the help of some awesome colleagues, I updated the slides, did a voice-over, and turned it into a video called Research is Like Cooking.
Sometimes I use it in workshops, for a little break from me talking. This week, I’m sending it out as homework before the library workshop. I’m hoping the kids will spend the 5 minutes watching it before the workshop, so we have a common metaphor to use throughout the workshop.
I slapped a CC-BY license on it, so use it if you like it.

Smart colleagues. I haz ‘em.

A partial list of awesome stuff my colleagues have been doing/writing lately:

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