Professional Development

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Kaeley at ATLA 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016 3:50 pm

I attended the 2016 American Theological Library Association Conference June 14-19 in Long Beach, CA. The location was great and I enjoyed cool temperatures, ocean breezes, and a water view from my hotel room!

Before the conference began, I attended a pre-conference excursion to the Getty Center. In addition to getting to see the Getty art collections, gardens, and amazing views of the city, we were taken on a behind the scenes tour of the Getty Research Institute Library. The Library supports the work of the curators and staff of the Getty, as well as the many outside researchers and grant recipients who come to use their extensive art resources. Their collections were originally stored in eight vaults on the Getty property, but have grown too large to be accommodated there (though one of the vaults we visited seemed to be larger than our off-site facility). The majority of the book collection has been moved to a storage facility about 30 miles away (along with their annual supply of toilet paper!) and their special collections and scanning operations are moving into the vaults. It was fascinating to see how such a large, but specialized, library operates!

Before discussing a few of the sessions I attended, I want to mention the three really interesting plenary speakers who were invited to present at the conference, and I would encourage you to check out their twitter feeds and projects:

  • Bobby Smiley, previously of Michigan State and currently at Vanderbilt , spoke about Theological Librarianship in the Age of Digital Humanities
  • Rahuldeep Singh Gill, Director of the Center for Equality and Justice and Associate Professor of Religion at California Lutheran University, spoke about Diversity: A Catalyst for Innovation. The soundbite I took away from his presentation was, “Diversity and pluralism is not the ‘why,’ it is the ‘what.’ You have to figure out your own ‘why.'”
  • Jeffrey MacKie-Mason, previously the Dean of the School of Information at the University of Michigan, currently UC Berkeley’s University Librarian and Chief Digital Scholarship Officer, discussed Wasn’t Digitization Supposed to be Easy? And Good For Us? He discussed some of the complex issues relating to the impact of the release of records held by UC Berkeley in their special collections, including politically and personally sensitive undercover documents from the Cold War era, and anthropological records of Native American tribes that some feel are too sacred for the public to see, while other tribal members think are important for their own cultural history.

As the Secretary of the Public Services Interest Group, I attended our panel presentation on “Ideas for Serving Distance Learners and Alumni.” We had four panelists representing differing service models and student populations, with about 50 attendees in the audience. Regarding alumni service, all the panelists mentioned the importance of the ATLAS for Alums program, which gives access to the ATLA database to alumni (ZSR includes this in our alumni offerings as well).

Two other sessions I would like to briefly highlight:

  • Make DIY Look Professional: Technology for Designing, Mapping and Connecting the Dots: Sarah Bogue of Pitts Theological Library at Emory gave examples of several free(ish) programs that can help us with visualizing data and updating our presentations:
    • canva: template based graphics, which you can use for PowerPoint slides and websites
    • voyant: a tool for data visualization and text mining of large files
    • carto: for use with datasets, she demonstrated a torque map of a twitter hashtag to show tweets on a topic over time
    • tiki-toki: allows users to create interactive timelines
  • Investigating the Needs of Scholars (Ithaka S+R): Danielle Cooper, an analyst at Ithaka S+R, described the partnership between ATLA, Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and 18 academic libraries, to study the research needs of religious studies scholars. At the 18 libraries, librarians and graduate students used the same set of questions to interview religious studies faculty members on their methodological/theoretical approaches to their scholarship, how they develop research projects, when and where their research is conducted, and their publishing habits and data storage. Interestingly, they also took photographs of the researchers primary research/work space. Each library will be writing up their own local report, and then a final report will be issued in January. This gives me some time to read the report they did on art history researchers in 2014, which I have printed out but not actually read!

I also attended sessions on the following topics. If you want to know more about any of them, let me know!

  • On Publishing Essay Collections
  • Determining the Value of Theological Journals
  • Relational Librarianship
  • Luke, Luther, Logos, and Libraries: Resources Preachers Use in Weekly Sermon Development
  • Which Should We Buy: Reconsidering Best Practices in the Purchase of Print versus Electronic Resources in Theological Libraries
  • Reframing Plagiarism: Problems of Virtue and Vice for International Students


Kaeley at ATLA 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015 4:48 pm

Last week I attended the American Theological Library Association (ATLA) Conference in Denver. ATLA is always an excellent conference, and this year was no exception. I also had the opportunity to present here for the first time, sharing an expanded version of the presentation Ellen, Leslie, and I previously did on our LIB250 course. It was well received, and since it was scheduled in the first presentation slot of the conference, once it was over I could relax and concentrate on all of the other events!

The two most useful sessions I attended looked at free online resources for seminary students. Matti Myllykoski, from Helsinki University Library, walked us through the resources on New Testament manuscripts he had organized on his LibGuide page (you may need to click on the tab “Digital Archives and other Resources” for the dropdown link). Rather than just a list of links, of which there are many on this subject, his guide is in narrative form and places these works, their contributions, and their influences on each other, into context, which I found particularly helpful. In the second session, Harry Plantinga, a computer science professor from Calvin College, described the creation of a new database/website developed for preparing sermons and worship. Plantinga has already founded two useful websites, Christian Classics Ethereal Library and, and it was interesting to hear him discuss how his team is developing this new site, which should be in beta this Fall. Using actual catalogers, they are writing short descriptions and tagging relevant sites, with the goal of having a database that takes advantage of semantic searching and user preferences. He gave a useful illustration of how this can make a significant difference in search results using a search for Christmas hymns. In a database that displays results via relevance, the top 15 hymn titles and subject headings included the word “Christmas” but were completely unfamiliar songs, while a search that added the popularity of the hymn as a search criteria included many standard Christmas hymns, none of which include “Christmas” in the title. While I’m quite sure I don’t understand all of what he said (my summary likely reflects that!) it was valuable to hear about the construction of the website and the thinking that went into the concept and design.

Other sessions I attended included marketing the ATLA Religion Database to students and faculty, a survey of the design of religious studies LibGuides, using design thinking to teach seminary students information literacy, and the role of the theological librarian in formational theological education, and if you are interested in any of these topics, come see me! I wanted to highlight, however, two sessions that I feel are probably unique to attending ATLA and add to the benefit and knowledge I gain from attending, but aren’t explicitly related to librarianship. On Wednesday I attended a pre-conference tour organized by a librarian from Naropa University in Boulder (check it out, it is a Buddhist university co-founded by Allen Ginsberg!). We visited the Radha Krishna Temple, had lunch at their vegan restaurant, and then moved on to the Tri-State Denver Buddhist Temple. At both temples, we spoke with spiritual leaders who gave us tours, explained aspects of their traditions and their practice in both their “home” countries and the U.S., and answered our questions. I had not had the opportunity to be in the worship spaces of either of these traditions before, so this was a special experience for me, and will be helpful as I learn more about both traditions in the future. On Friday, the morning plenary session was a panel discussion on interfaith initiatives in Denver, with representatives from four faith traditions (Reconstructionist Judaism, Disciples of Christ, Islam, and Jodo Shinshu Buddhism). The panelists spoke about initiatives and programs they are undertaking together, both as institutions and organizations, and on a personal level, as well as areas where more growth and collaboration are needed. The quote most likely to stay with me from this conference was from the moderator of the panel, “Interfaith interest generally comes from two places: curiosity or crisis. If it comes from curiosity, it may stave off the crisis.” With the event in Charleston fresh in everyone’s minds, this was an emotional, impactful, and necessary session. Again, I would be glad to discuss either of these experiences, so let me know if you have questions!

2014 American Theological Library Association Annual Conference

Friday, June 27, 2014 3:52 pm

Last week I headed to New Orleans for the ATLA Annual Conference. I had never been to New Orleans before, so a big “thank you” to Roz, Jeff, Meghan, and Rebecca, who gave me some great recommendations!

“Common Ends: Libraries, Imagination, and the Conflict of Values in the Digital Moment”-Joe Lucia, Temple University

After the opening reception on Wednesday night, the conference started off with the plenary session on Thursday morning. Joe Lucia, dean of the Temple University Libraries (previously at Villanova/vufind, winner of the 2013 Excellence in Academic Libraries Award), spoke on the topic of “Common Ends.” He framed his discussion with the idea that we are currently in an “intertidal” period. Intertidal spaces are in-between places, where both/and is the norm and things are not black or white. While this can be frustrating for decision making or future planning, these intertidal places are also places of great creativity and fertility, and we should be capitalizing on the ideas they produce. This dichotomy is most prominent in the digital/physical transition we are currently experiencing; we all have seen the importance of ZSR as a place grow, especially over the last decade, but so many resources we provide are shifting to being digital.

At Temple, Lucia has been tasked with building a completely new library space, from the ground up (with a $200 million budget!). These are some of the ideas or principles they are using as the conceptualize what this new space will be:

  • library as commons: open space for access, meeting space, also a physical manifestation of the concepts of open access that libraries promote
  • library as catalyst: engages with change and flow, continues our cultural role of inspiration “even as the world of the book gives way to the world of the digital”
  • library as threshold: libraries are transformational spaces, should reflect the shift in what information/knowledge is, from physical to digital
  • library as exploratory space: combine scholars’ knowledge with our own technology/organizational skills to create new products (DPLA, digital humanities)

“Quest for Elusive Teaching Opportunities”-Jane Elder, Southern Methodist University, Elizabeth Leahy, Azusa Pacific University

“Librarian as Co-Teacher: Information Literacy Embedded in Theology Courses”-Martha Adkins and Mark Bilby, University of San Diego

“Preparing Librarians for Changes in Classroom Instruction”-Ken Boyd, Taylor University

I attended three sessions dealing with teaching and information literacy. Here are some of the main points/themes they touched on:

  • Survey faculty to find out what they see as consistent problems with student work, create a handout for students listing these and how to avoid them, create programming to respond to these issues
  • Short, 15-minute sessions on small topics or new products
  • Pointing out to faculty/administration that for the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), student interaction with the library is a criteria for accreditation. Need to create programming that can demonstrate this is happening!
  • Create a checklist/menu of options for what can be covered in an information literacy session, along with how long each would take to present. Offer the list to faculty so they can help create the instruction session that best fits their needs.
  • Frame sessions as timesavers: “Do you want more time to do X? We’ll help you with your citations!”
  • Quick instruction evaluation: “Tell your roommate one thing you learned about research in the class.”

A few resources mentioned:

I also attended an updated session that I attended last year, Teaching Analytical Reading Skills to Seminary Students, lead by Laura Harris from Iliff School of Theology. Here is my write-up of that session from last year. I’m planning on incorporate some of these ideas into some workshops in the Fall.

New and Forthcoming Resources on Dougherty, Baylor University, and Robert Martin, Pennsylvania State University

I encourage you all to explore the data that is presented at! The Association of Research Data Archives began in 1998, and organizes and presents the data collected by researchers who study religion. Beyond the statistical data, ARDA has collected syllabi, assignments, videos, and other classroom resources that can help instructors who are teaching about religion. All of the information on the site has been peer-reviewed (data collected for published studies, syllabi vetted for rigor), and all of the data sets are included, so if you know how to crunch the numbers, you can download them and do so!

A few points that might be of interest to those in other disciplines:

  • National constitutions and religion: From the International tab>national profiles>select country. The last tab for each country has excerpts from their constitution which delineate the religious rights granted in that country. Here’s Botswana.
  • Creating surveys, asking appropriate questions: The Measurement Wizard has 114 categories that are frequently surveyed and includes examples of questions asked in the topic. Here’s School Prayer, Attitude about. The Measurement Wizard is part of the larger Best Practices Center, which also includes useful information on surveys and understanding and interpreting data.
  • Demographic Data: The GIS Maps section allows you to enter the zipcode or city/state for a location and view demographic maps, as well as religious and congregation maps. Here’s 27103. You can select for different categories, including race, income, marital status, employment, etc… For example, when selecting income, you can then narrow to median household income, or average income by race, or households by income type.

“Part of the Furniture”: Family Bibles in Nation, Home, and Library-Bruce Eldevik, Luther Seminary

This session was a fascinating overview of the history of family bibles in the United States. As with the session on the publication history of Luther’s complete works that I attended last year, there was a lot here that I hadn’t considered or thought about. Changes in publication technology, family structure, economics, education and demographics can be traced by looking at family bibles.

The first illustrated bible in the US was published in 1791. It also included the first page dedicated to family info. Previously, this genealogical information was just recorded where there was space, like on the cover page. The illustrations in this bible were mostly of scenes or events in the text. As time went on and printing technology improved, illustrations shifted to be more “academic”, such as symbols of the twelve tribes of Israel or the parts of the tabernacle. These publications were also more academic (but not necessarily scholarly!) in the sense that they began to include concordances, histories (Egypt and Greece), scientific information (animals and plants), and timelines. In 1843, the Harper Brothers published what sounded like the most successful of these bibles, Harper’s Illuminated Bible. This bible was published by subscription and customers could select which sections they wanted to include in their individual bibles (all or portions of the “academic” content, the apocryphal books, etc…). 25,000 copies were printed in the first twelve years, at a profit of $500,000.

After 1900, the popularity of these types of bibles began to wane. Interiors were becoming more informal and these large books and the tables and stands they were usually displayed on were no longer fashionable, and they frequently ended up in closets or trunks. This made them prime fodder to be donated to libraries or special collections! There was some discussion regarding whether these types of books should be accepted as donations and what types of preservation issues they might have (flowers pressed in their pages!).

If anyone wants to talk more about this, I have more notes from the presentation, as well as a handout with a bibliography!

9th Annual Metrolina Library Association Conference

Monday, June 16, 2014 5:55 pm

As Mary mentioned in her post, I’ll be covering the sessions I attended on my own, as well as two sessions that we attended together: the plenary session and the first session.

The plenary session was by Paul Jones, Director of ibiblio and a professor at UNC-Chapel Hill. His presentation was an overview of the many library and information projects that are run or supported by ibiblio and programs at Chapel Hill. Besides the significant fact that he stopped using email in June 2011, here are a few of the projects that stood out to me:

  • WiderNet Project: Affiliated with UNC-Chapel Hill, this project serves schools, clinics, libraries and homes with little to no access to digital forms of communication. This includes the eGranary Digital Library, which delivers resources which can be accessed via intranetwithin an organizationrather than needing to connect to external internet resources. Based on their interactive map, this product is being utilized most significantly in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia.
  • Interactive Information Systems Laboratory (sorry, I couldn’t find a link to this!): The task of this project is to understand how people search and the psychological aspects of searching (i.e., how does getting bad search results impact future searching?). He also mentioned that most users don’t use more than two search terms in a given search.
  • Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative: There are tons of projects linked here, not all from UNC-Chapel Hill, and I encourage you to take a look! I’ve bookmarked a bunch to add to LibGuides! The one project Jones mentioned during his talk was the interactive 1911 Charlotte map. By using city directories and maps, Tom Hanchett was able to map the racial changes to the core of Charlotte during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Really fascinating work!

Personal Librarian: From Resources to Relationships

During this first session, librarians from Johnson and Wales University (and one faculty member) described their implementation of the personal librarian approach, which has been used by many libraries over the last 20 years. In their implementation, the Johnson and Wales librarians divided the introductory English comp courses evenly between them and they were added to each of the Blackboard courses. Students were emailed before they met with the librarians for library instruction sessions, and each faculty member could determine how involved they wanted the librarian to be in their individual courses. Since they first tried the personal librarian approach in Fall 2012, they have had a good response, from both students and faculty. Student grades increased quite dramatically and faculty are open to having the librarians work with them in their classes.

A few tips:

  • Personalization: students like a personal approach, they like to see a face or hear a voice in instructional videos, or see a picture in a LibGuide, which they can connect to their librarian
  • Branding: give your program a name, promote it, and don’t be afraid to update the program as you go from semester to semester
  • From the faculty perspective: need faculty buy-in, highlight that you share the same goal of student success, make sure that faculty have choice in how the librarians are involved in their courses, communicate consistently

Mindful Research Paper: Getting Students to Sloooow Down and Actively Focus

In this session, Joe Eshleman and Fernanda Tate Owens, a librarian and writing instructor, respectively, from Johnson and Wales, described how they have used the concept of mindfulness when teaching students. They explained that being mindful means that you are in the moment, present to what is happening and not thinking about future actions. You are also attentive, aware, and, importantly for the learning process, non-judgemental. These concepts can impact the research and writing projects when they can help students focus and pace themselves, making sure that they don’t jump around or skip steps, but have a deliberate approach and realize that there is a process to what they are working on.

In practice, Joe and Fernanda have created smaller assignments that help students really focus on two of the major roadblocks in research: procrastinating and picking a topic. When it comes time to create a research proposal from their topic, they use the SLOW approach: search, learn, outline, write. The students select a problem, find three sources and annotate them (which must be approved by Joe, the librarian), and then write an outline incorporating their research question, claims, and support. This helps the students to break down each step in the process and see how they fit together, and that they should follow one another. Another added benefit is that because a librarian is grading a portion of their assignment and is working closely with their professor in their course, they view Joe as an authority and are not as reluctant to approach him for assistance in other areas.

“Me” Learning: A Constructivist Approach to Web Evaluation

Four librarians from Radford University (Jennifer Resor Whicker, Craig Arthur, Lisa Vassady, and Alyssa Archer) presented their method for teaching students how to evaluate websites using the Constructivist model. The Constructivist model of learning teaches that students learn by doing and by adding new information to what they’ve learned before. This type of learning tends to be active, but also is learner centered and places the responsibility for learning on the student. Historically, web evaluation exercises consisted of looking at disreputable websites and using a checklist (based on print resources) to decide if they were appropriate for research. This lead to students thinking a website was either right or wrong, not that it could be appropriate or not depending on the circumstances.

The librarians reworked their web evaluation worksheet to incorporate three exercises (ideally this would be in a 60 minute class). In the first exercise, students look at the website Secondhand Smoke: The Big Lie and in groups of two-three, list five reasons why it is not a credible website. Students then share their reasons to the class and the librarians can help address any misconceptions or dualistic thinking (.org is always ok, .com is always bad, etc…). In the next exercise, the students are given a question they need to answer, such as, “is it safe to drink out of water bottles that have been left in the car?” If they had to find the perfect website to answer that question, what criteria would it have to meet, based on “who, what, when, where, why?” For example, who would an appropriate author need to be? A doctor, researcher, concerned parent? How recently would the website need to be? Is 2003 recent enough, or should it be 2014? Once they have decided on their criteria, in exercise three they have to find a website that meets them and present it to the class. They call the presentation “The Smackdown” and other groups are allowed to bring up negative points or point out problems, and then the class votes on which groups’ website was the best.

More information here, in the article they published last year: Teaching Web Evaluation: A Cognitive Development Approach


As always, I enjoyed the Metrolina Conference and learned a lot! It was also great to get to touch base with Mary and hear how things are going in the Schools of Business, as well as see friends from UNCG and High Point! I have handouts and bibliographies from several presentations, so let me know if you have any questions!

2013 ATLA Conference-Days 2 & 3

Thursday, July 11, 2013 3:36 pm

My favorite session from the last two days of the conference spoke to a topic I’ve been thinking about for awhile. We teach students how to find information, but don’t really give them assistance in reading or processing the information they find. Academic reading, like academic writing, is a skill that many of our students probably haven’t developed (well) prior to coming to college.

The session “Teaching Analytic Reading Skills and Reading Strategies to Seminary Students” described a one-credit course created by Laura Harris from Iliff School of Theology in Denver. The course met over a Friday afternoon and all day Saturday (not her ideal!) and students started by working through the same article that they had all read prior to class, completing four assignments. For the first assignment, using a strict set of instructions, students marked up the article, focusing on thesis statements, supporting information, verb use and the article apparatus (headings, footnotes, etc….). Writing a descriptive outline of the article was the second assignment. The third assignment was to create an argument map of the article, which could be in the form of a flow chart or a mind map. This technique particularly helps visual or second language learners. The last assignment was to write a 300 word evaluation of the article, looking at clarity, consistency, logic, assumptions and biases of the author and their writing. After going through one article together, students then completed the same assignments using an (pre-approved) article that they brought in, hopefully one they needed to read already!

Harris found that this technique helped students not only with their reading, but with also with their writing. By seeing the techniques and styles of successful authors, they could use them as models, and use the less successful authors and examples of what to avoid. Harris also gave us a great bibliography (I’m happy to share) and I would like to incorporate this somehow with the Divinity students to start with, and also in my LIB250 course.

My other two favorite sessions were related to book history, one focusing on the history and structure of Christian reference bibles, and the other on the publication history of Luther’s collected works. “Information Structures in the Christian Reference Bible” was presented by John Walsh from Indiana University, and began with a discussion of paratexts, which are devices and conventions inside and outside the book that mediate the book to the reader: titles, subtitles, epigraphs, dedications, notes, afterwords, prefaces, etc… Christian reference bibles have a large number and a wide variety of these types of additions to the main text (which is another discussion itself…) and include things as basic as chapter and verse divisions, as helpful as maps as genealogy charts, and as problematic as section headings and cross-references. These problematic section headings and cross-references can also be helpful, but frequently they have been used to project a specific theological perspective, and they have been codified in such a way to make one interpretation seem to be the only legitimate interpretation (ie, marginal cross-references in the Gospels that refer to passages in the Hebrew Bible to make seem as if they are prophetic fulfillments). I found this session particularly interesting and it brought up some issues that I hadn’t considered before.

Armin Siedlecki from Pitts Theological Library at Emory University presented “From Wittenberg to Weimar: The History of Publication of Martin Luther’s Collected Works.” Collections of Luther’s works began to be published before he had died, as early as 1518 (he died in 1546) so it was quite some time before there would be a complete collection of his letters, speeches, pamphlets, and books. Siedlecki highlighted 12 major editions of Luther’s work, which had varying methods of organization (chronological, topical, format, etc…), were published in both German and Latin, and in varying sizes of different portability. The most recent of these editions, the Weimar Edition, was started in 1883, 400 years after Luther’s birth. It was supposed to take 10 years to finish, but because of several wars, including the Cold War, it was only completed in 2009, with 120 volumes. The American Edition was started in 1955, but was stopped incomplete in 1986. Work began on it again in 2011, and the edition is projected to be 75 volumes when complete.


2013 ATLA Conference-Day 1

Thursday, June 20, 2013 9:53 pm

The 2013 American Theological Library Association Conference is being held in Charlotte, and I have been on the local host committee, helping to prepare events and excursions for those who want some local color while they are here. We kicked things off on Wednesday night with a lovely reception at the Mint Museum, and then started our conference sessions early this morning.

The first session I attended was a conversation group on the topic of “Library Instruction and Advanced Researchers” and asked if there are differences between instruction sessions presented for doctoral students and masters students, and if so, what they might be. While our Divinity School does not offer a doctoral level program, it may in the future, and I thought this session might give me an idea of the support these more advanced students might need. The consensus in the room seemed to be the standard librarian answer of, “it depends!” It depends on whether your institution requires a master’s degree for admissions, or if a master’s is part of the doctoral program. It depends on whether your students are coming straight out of undergrad, or they have been out of academia for 20+ years. It depends on whether you are meeting them at the beginning of their studies, or at the point where they are having to make their dissertation topic proposal. It depends on whether the faculty make library sessions a priority or not. It also depends on the topics/degrees being covered (archaeology, exegesis, theology, church history and pastoral care are all vastly different areas of research and require different tools, D.Min., Ph.D., and Th.D. degrees also cover different areas)

In regards to specific content, these suggestions were made:

  • basic search strategies and religious studies databases
  • primary, secondary, tertiary sources
  • importance of archival sources/collections
  • importance of selecting a bibliographic management system at the start of their research
  • if faculty notice particular problems (lit reviews, bibliographies, level of research) you can adress those issues and possibly get faculty by-in
  • help prepare students for what their dissertation committees will want to see (lists of databases consulted, archival collections to investigate, LC subject headings and call numbers, etc…)

“Theological Libraries & the Theology of Hospitality” was a panel presentation of three reflections on the idea of hospitality in libraries. A few ideas that came up:

  • Definition: “Hospitality involves a space into which people are welcomed, a space into which they normally wouldn’t be allowed.” Do we think our libraries are hospitable because we are used to them ourselves (we have lost the outsider perspective”?
  • We see many of our patrons on a daily basis, or face to face, but what about those who never come into the building? How do we extend hospitality to them? On the website, on chat, email?
  • What do our patrons expect when they enter the library? Do they know what to expect before we show them what is possible (ala Steve Jobs)?
  • Different types of hospitality in a library environment: hospitality of resources (research resources and human resources-knowledge, assistance), hospitality of comfort (food/drinks, quiet space, temperature/light), hospitality of dialogue (library as a third space, interdisciplinary discourse), protective hospitality (safe space)
  • We practice hospitality in the context of our profession of furthering academic pursuits

“Support for Online Bible Studies” covered free and hosted tools to help students who might want to conduct or participate in online Bible studies as part of their course or ministerial work. Some of the tools were already familiar to me (Wabash Center Internet Guide to Religon, Princeton Theological Commons) but there were several that were new (Lectionary Greek, Working Preacher, Narrative Lectionary). There were a few questions suggested for students to think about as they start an online bible study program, especially because of the private and personal nature of the types of topics encountered in these discussions:

  • Will the group be open/public, or private only to members/registrants?
  • How will you create your online presence as a leader?
  • Do you need a covenant agreement between participants?
  • Is it better to meet via skype so there isn’t a record of the discussion?

One new aspect of this conference is that we are meeting in conjunction with annual conference of the Center for the Study of Information and Religion (CSIR). I attended one of their sessions today, “A Study on the Effects of Iranian Religions on Its House Architecture,” presented by Khosro Movahed of Shiraz Islamic Azad University. Movahed’s study compared the traditional house architecture of Islamic and Zoroastrian families by visiting 10 houses, looking at house plans, interviewing inhabitants and reviewing relevant scriptural passages with housing rules for both of the traditions. Traditional Zoroastrian houses were oriented on an east/west axis as sun/light worship was a significant part of their religious practice. They included a guest space that was set aside for visitors that were not of the Zoroastrian faith. The decor of the houses included symbolism taken from their scriptures, the Avesta (such as cedar trees), and construction followed prescriptions from the Vandidad portion of the Avesta. The plans of traditional Islamic houses were centered around the distinction of public and private spaces, who would be allowed to enter the private areas of the home (ie, the areas the women occupied), and signified the importance that Islam placed on hospitality. The entrance area of the house was set aside for guest rooms, and had no sightlines into the private area, and these areas were the most opulent and decorated in the home. The decorations were limited to geometric and floral patterns, as well as Qur’an verses. Muslim homes were oriented towards the southwest and Mecca, as are mosques. In cities and towns with multiple religions, there were specific quarters where each religious group lived, and these architectural types predominated in their respective quarters. In the last few decades, with population growth and socio-economic changes, these architectural patterns have been changing. New highrise apartments are western in style and don’t maintain these religious distinctions. Movahed suggested that it would be good for new construction and urban planning to re-incorporate some of these traditional ideas going forward.

2013 Metrolina Information Literacy Conference

Monday, June 17, 2013 5:26 pm

On Thursday, June 13, 2013, I attended the 8th Annual Metrolina Information Literacy Conference, held at Johnson & Wales University in downtown Charlotte. The day started with a keynote by ACRL President Steven Bell, and then separated into four breakout sessions along four tracks: pedagogy/instruction, assessment, diversity, and collaboration.

Steven Bell, Higher Education Rebooted: Exploring the New Mysteries of Information Literacy

Bell framed his discussion around the concept of mysteries and wicked problems. Mysteries are important because they bring new discoveries and knowledge, and make us tackle problems creatively. Rather than being complacent about the solutions we come up with, we should continue to adapt our solutions, which will lead to more growth. Wicked problems are complex challenges that are characterized by ambiguity and shifting qualities. His examples of current wicked problems in higher education were:

  • what are students learning that will get them jobs?
  • why does higher education cost so much?
  • can we make it less expensive?

Regarding information literacy, his wicked problems were:

  • are we making a difference?
  • do students learn what we say they do?
  • are we/they academically successful?
  • do students really become life-long learners?

Clearly, assessment is an important component of answering these wicked problems. One current solution is the project to update the ACRL Information Literacy Standards, which hasn’t been done since 2000, as well as the Assessment in Action project that just got started.

Session #1: Jennifer Resor Whicker & Lisa Vassady, Radford University, A Novel Approach to Assessment: Using Worksheet Observation Assessment in One-Shot Instruction Classes

Resor Whicker and Vassady presented the observational worksheet approach they developed at Radford University to assess student learning in their information literacy sessions, which are taught in conjunction with General Ed courses. They focused on assessing two sessions: search strategies and databases, and website evaluation. They created worksheets for the students to use in class, and then collected those worksheets at the end of each session. Immediately following each session, the librarian wrote a reflection on how they felt the class went (student engagement, faculty preparation, success of active learning exercises). After the librarian evaluated herself and how the session went, she evaluated the students’ worksheets using an assessment rubric, to see how successful the students were in following and applying the information and techniques the librarian presented. Using the results from the student worksheet assessment, the librarian then wrote another reflection on whether or not the student worksheets matched with their initial impression of student learning, or if they might need to make changes to their presentation or exercises. This evaluation and redevelopment process was continuous during the semester and not limited to the end of the semester.

I liked this idea and am trying to figure out how I might be able to apply it to LIB250. I already use worksheets in the course, but usually let the students keep them so they can use them as they work on their daily assignments. It may be most useful to be more purposeful and formal in my post-class reflection on how the session went and how it could be changed.

One exercise example they used that I really liked was in regards to website evaluation. They initially show the students a website that is unreliable for academic use, and tell them that it is and why. Then they pose a research question to the students, and ask them what qualities the “perfect” website on that topic would have by answering the five w’s: Who would have written/prepared/sponsored it? When would it have been written? Why would it have been made?, etc… Then they have to search for a website they think meets these criteria. I like this idea of the “perfect” website on a topic, as I think students just search for a website that is “good enough” rather than looking for something that really answers their question.

Session #2: Kaetrena Davis, USC-Lancaster, & Deborah Tritt, USC-Aiken, Serving Information Literacy via Digital Humanities

Davis and Tritt mapped the use of various tools to the standards and performance indicators that are shared by those who work in both information literacy and the digital humanities (identifies keywords & concepts, selects and uses appropriate documentation style, etc…). Many of these tools are familiar to most of us (Prezi, Zotero, Evernote) but there were a few that were new to me, so I’ll share those.

  • Text2mindmap: an easy way to create concept maps or outlines, helps students think of key words and how concepts are connected
  • VoiceThread: allows asynchronous discussion on presentations, images, etc…especially useful for online courses
  • Bamboo DiRT: this website is a clearinghouse for digital research tools. Organized by tool type, click on the various categories for a curated list of tools that will help you if you need to: brainstorm, transcribe notes, visualize data, etc…

A few other tools suggested during the discussion:

  • Screencast-O-Matic: a free and easy program that will record video tutorials using screen capture on either Macs or PCs. More flexible and has more features than Jing!
  • bubler & popplet: collaboration & brainstorming software
  • tiki-toki & Timeline JS: software for creating timelines

Session #3: Mae Rodney & Forest Foster, Winston-Salem State University, Moving From Output Measures to Confirming the Value of the Library

Rodney and Foster shared the ways that O’Kelly Library at WSSU has been working to demonstrate the value of the library to the educational mission of the university and its impact on the success of their students. They designed a (IRB approved) study that would look at student interactions with library services (study room reservations, instruction sessions attended, media lab logins) as tracked by the email address used to login on library computers, and correlate that to student success. Being on the dean’s list was decided to be the standard of student success. Students were also asked to take quick surveys, which were administered at the library entrance on iPads, and which collected more subjective information, such as how often the student thought they used the library, how using the library impacted them, etc… Once users were identified by their email logins and all of these various streams of data were collated, they were compared to the dean’s list to see what percentage of overlap there was. WSSU is still in the process of tallying the data, so they don’t know the outcome yet, but they are hoping this will be a strong way to demonstrate that library usage contributes directly to student success.

Session #4: Jenny Dale & Lynda Kellam, UNC-Greensboro, Lost in Emotion: Emotional Intelligence and the Teaching Librarian

Jenny and Lynda always give high-energy presentations, so this session was a lot of fun! Most of us went in to the session thinking of emotional intelligence as limited to empathy and compassion. While those qualities are certainly part of the whole, there are other aspects to consider. Using the work of Alan Mortiboys, Teaching with Emotional Intelligence, and Daniel Goleman’s Working with Emotional Intelligence, they outlined these two concepts:

  • Mortiboy’s three categories for teachers: (1): subject expertise, knowledge, authority, (2): organized, gives feedback, clarity, engaged, (3): affective, positive, empathetic, open: each of these areas contribute to a well-rounded teacher
  • Goleman’s five competencies in the workplace: (1): self-awareness, (2): self-regulation, (3): motivation, (4): empathy, (5): social skills: areas 1-3 are personal competencies, while 4 & 5 are social competencies

Their suggestions for teaching with empathy were to:

  • set ground rules and explain expectations
  • use active listening skills (move on if your students understand a concept)
  • acknowledge individual learners by making eye contact, learning their names and referring to their previous class contributions
  • know your style and play to your strengths
  • know what motivates you as a teacher
  • be aware of verbal and non-verbal communication

As always, I would be happy to talk more with anyone about these presentations! I have more notes and handouts that I would be glad to share, and the slides and prezi’s should be posted to the Metrolina Conference page soon.

Kaeley @ Metrolina 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012 5:16 pm

On Thursday, June 14, Mary Scanlon and I attended the 7th Annual Metrolina Information Literacy Conference in Charlotte. This one-day conference is packed with useful presentations and is a great way to get new ideas for both practical teaching skills and strategies for working with faculty members. There were four sessions, and four tracks (Collaborate, Sharpen, Remodel and Engage) with an option from each of these tracks during every session. The closing session was an entertaining keynote presentation by Jessamyn West, who blogs at Mary and I divided up a few sessions, and attending a few sessions together, so we’ll each talk about three of the sessions we attended.

Session 1: Collaborate: Fostering a Community of Collaboration: Scaffolding the Student Research Process

This session really presented the partnership that has flourished between Amy Burns, a Reference librarian at Central Piedmont Community College, and Jaime Pollard-Smith, an English professor there. They have worked together in both online and face-to-face environments and have done a great job creating assignments and projects that clearly incorporate the use of the library. Jamie started the presentation by assuming her role as teacher and led us through three techniques she uses in her class before the students attend a library research session:

  • looping: students write about their research question for 5-10 minutes. This can include what they “know” about their topic, questions they have, where they think they should look, etc… Then they circle the most interesting thing they wrote, and then write about that for 3-5 minutes, and then circle the most interesting thing they wrote… At the end, they should hopefully have a list of keywords and a more focused idea of what their question is and how they might tackle it.
  • 20 questions: the students write down their research question, and then move around the classroom, finding out what questions the other students would ask regarding their topic. This can help students see their topic from a different perspective.
  • ticket into/out of the library: before the students come to the library session, they must email Jaime: their topic, why they are interested in it, what do they want to learn from their research, their research question and what they learned from their pre-writing exercises. Before they can leave the library, they have to get a ticket out of the library by getting a solid source approved by one of the instructors.

I found these exercises really useful. Frequently, classes are supposed to come to the library with research questions prepared, but often that doesn’t happen. A condensed version of the looping technique could help focus them and give them a place to start their research for the session.

Session 2: Collaborate: LAF: Librarians and Faculty as Teaching Partners

Michael Frye from Winston-Salem State University presented on their program to facilitate librarians and faculty working together on planning courses. The instruction team at O’Kelly Library took advantage of a change in the gen ed requirements to reach out to faculty and help them plan or revamp courses to incorporate information literacy skills. Frye, a life sciences liaison, demonstrated the work he did with Stephanie Dance on a course about infectious diseases. He was embedded in the class, and they created several activities that combined the course content with info lit skills. One example was a bingo game with different columns (geography, gender, etc..) and when someone thought they had a “bingo” they would have to create a search strategy out of their bingo words (male, lymphoma NOT smoker). Frye also shared a great video their department produced that they can use for marketing to other faculty.

Session 3: Remodel: Liberating LibGuides: Designing Guides to Support Student Research

Judy Walker of University of North Carolina-Charlotte started her presentation by saying that she hates LibGuides! She doesn’t like the way LibGuides “boxes” you in with its design and formatting, so her presentation was driven by implementing design strategies within the LibGuides structure to make the guides better. Her Prezi presentation, as well as her documentation, is all on a great LibGuide. A few of the main points she raised:

  • Eye reading patterns have changed: when reading print, our eye moves in a “z” pattern across the page. Online, our eye moves in more of an “f” pattern, with the majority of the focus on items in the top, left 1/3 of the page. Put the most important information in that area.
  • Make sure that your columns are balanced in length, and break-up information into smaller chunks.
  • Be consistent in terminology, headings and placement of information across different guides and individual tabs.
  • Don’t overwhelm your users with information! Present only a few examples, and the most important for the task(s) they have been asked to do.

I plan to use these tips as I clean up my LibGuides. The LibGuide she posted has lots of great information, including useability studies and articles that discuss website usage, so check it out!

Keynote Speaker: Myths and Facts about the Digital Divide

Jessamyn West gave an interesting and entertaining presentation on the state of the digital divide, and why it isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. The website linked above includes West’s presentation, the sources she discussed and the statistics that she presented. The thing I found most interesting was the way that she presented that there are really multiple divides, not just one “digital” divide, and that there are many reasons why people don’t use technology or get online:

  • economic divide: can’t afford the technology or access, or access doesn’t come to where they are located
  • usability divide: physically can’t use, or don’t know how, to use the technology
  • empowerment divide: are intimidated by the technology, or have their introduction to the technology at a stressful time (unemployment, taxes, etc…)

From start to finish, Metrolina had great presentations that made me think about my teaching and relationships with faculty members, as well as different ways of approaching my work with our patrons. I would recommend that others interested in teaching look for it next year!

2011 School of Divinity Orientation

Friday, August 26, 2011 4:09 pm

On August 25 and 26 I participated in two orientation sessions for the incoming class of first year students at the School of Divinity. While I have done a library orientation session every year since the inaugural year of 1999, this was the first year that I was asked to also do a presentation on plagiarism during the first day of orientation.

After asking for advice from Molly and Roz on content, and adopting the Lauren P. method for PowerPoint presentations, I led the first session in Wingate Hall. The students used the clickers to answer questions about plagiarism and the appropriate use of information, and I spread the news about Zotero, The Writing Center and some of the seminary/theology research-and-writing specific resources we have at ZSR. They laughed at my jokes and got most of the questions right, so I considered the presentation a success!

Today I led my usual library orientation from 476 and throughout the building. As usual, I went on too long about Reference sources, but they were an engaged group and asked a lot of questions. Also as usual, this is a diverse group of students with a pretty wide age range and varied backgrounds. I look forward to assisting them with their work at the School of Divinity over the next three years!

ATLA 2011 Days 1 & 2-A Busman’s Holiday

Friday, June 24, 2011 1:12 pm

On June 7th I headed to Chicago for the 2011 American Theological Libraries Association Conference. I went a day early to check out a few of my favorite haunts from my college days in Chicagoland.

Chicago-June 2011

Chicago-June 2011

Chicago-June 2011

After I made it into downtown Chicago and checked in to the conference hotel, I took the train down to Hyde Park and the University of Chicago. As an archaeology student, we visited the Oriental Institute at the U of C on multiple occasions. The OI has significant collections from the various civilizations that inhabited the Mesopotamian and Nile regions over the last 10,000 years. The museum underwent a major renovation right after I graduated, so I hadn’t seen the new museum. There were huge improvements made regarding their climate control and security, allowing for the display of many artifacts for the first time in many years. I located a few of my old favorites in their new exhibit spaces and luxuriated in the air conditioning before moving on to the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and the Robie House.

Chicago-June 2011

On Wednesday I headed out to the suburbs to the town of Wheaton, where I had attended Wheaton College as an undergrad. Other alums you might know, besides me, are our own Nathan Hatch, and Billy and Ruth Bell Graham. One of the main buildings on campus is The Billy Graham Center, which houses the college archival collections, a museum on the history of American evangelism, and many departmental offices and classrooms.

After wandering around campus, my next air-conditioned stop was at the Wade Center, an archival and research center focused on seven Oxford authors. Wheaton has a collection development story similar to Wake Forest’s, in that both had an involved literature professor who visited England, made several important contacts and built up an amazing archival and manuscript collection. In Wheaton’s case, the professor was Clyde Kilby, and he struck up a friendship with C.S. Lewis, as well as his brother, which led to the collection of a variety of items from these seven authors: C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, Dorothy Sayers, George MacDonald, Owen Barfield, G.K. Chesterton and Charles Williams.

Chicago-June 2011

Beyond the manuscripts, letters and books in the collection, the Wade Center holds several larger pieces that spark the imagination, including Tolkein’s desk and the wardrobe that inspired the Narnia series.

Of course, I had to stop by Buswell Library, where I worked as a circulation assistant during my senior year. The library has also had extensive renovations since I was there last in 1997, and it was interesting to wander the building and try to visualize things as they used to be. My favorite study space is now behind the new circulation desk and is someones office!

Stops at Blanchard Hall, at the campus bookstore to purchase a t-shirt, at the soda shop to get some ice cream (did I mention it was 95 degrees!) and at my old dorm and house rounded out this visit to my alma mater. I don’t plan to wait another 15 years before my next one!

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