Castle Librarian

Archive for the ‘Musing’ Category

IB Curriculum and Libraries

In Librarianship, Musing on March 16, 2014 at 9:06 pm

In my job hunt, I’m finding that lack of experience working at an International Baccalaureate institution trumps a Master’s degree, 20 years of experience, and international teaching experience, resulting in my early elimination from the candidate pool. This leads me to ask how is library service to the IB curriculum uniquely different from library service to any other school curriculum?

Here’s what I understand about IB curriculum.

“The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect.” IBO mission

The curriculum focuses on guiding students to be well rounded global citizens, mindful of other people, other cultures, and planetary concerns. The curriculum emphasizes critical thinking skills, a variety of intelligences (ways of knowing), areas of knowledge, and ways of interacting.

Here’s how I would describe library services in a nutshell:
Gather, organize and disseminate information. Teach others to access and utilize information ethically.

How does IB curriculum impact or change library services?

1. Selection of library materials (print and electronic) – everything must relate to the curriculum and support it. Even fiction is related to the curriculum. This isn’t unique to IB schools. Every school library collection should be built to support the school’s curriculum.

2. Information literacy instruction – IB curriculum is probably the best example of information literacy being integrated into the curriculum. The key to successful information literacy instruction is delivery at point of need. Close collaboration with teachers to bring students to the library and make sure they receive instruction on how to access and use information related to an actual information need project is vital.

3. Library environment – Libraries used to be places that people had to go to obtain information. That is no longer true because we have powerful information devices in our pockets. Libraries need to be welcoming, social spaces. Students will come for a place to be alone and for a place to be with others. The library should have a variety of spaces for a variety of activities. Events and programs should be provided to bring students into the library space. Book clubs, board gaming, video book review production, poetry readings, guest authors, quiet times, etc. The timing of these activities should correlate to the curriculum.

The impact of the curriculum on library services lies in the finer details – selecting the right resources, timing the teaching, and planning supportive activities. The heart of librarianship is the same.

I hope that after reading this, if you are weighing a Master’s degree, 20 years of librarianship and international teaching experience against no previous IB experience, the scales will tip in my favor.

Dear Prospective Employer

In Librarianship, Musing on February 8, 2014 at 7:04 pm

Dear Prospective Employer:

When conducting a video conference job interview, please practice ahead of time, especially if you have never done it before. If there are several interviewers, please choose a room and camera placement where all can be seen by the interviewee. Please check the display on the screen to see how you appear, not just how the interviewee appears. Also, remember to ask if the interviewee has any questions. You are also being interviewed and you represent your institution.


As you might deduce, I am job hunting. I’ve been on both sides of the hiring process. I have written resumés, CVs, and cover letters. I’ve received and read resumés, CVs, and cover letters. I’ve participated in job interviews on both sides of the table. One good thing about all this experience is that I have become fairly cool and collected during the interview. I am prepared. I come up with answers to the typical questions. I list questions that I have, as well, because I am interviewing the prospective employer while they are interviewing me.

I’ve learned from good and bad situations. I was once on a hiring committee and heard the applicant tell us everything we wanted to hear. When this person actually came to work, we discovered a whole different person. The results were disastrous for everyone, even the applicant. What I learned from this is how important it is for me to be honest with myself and aware of my genuine strengths and weaknesses, and to present myself accurately. If I am not what they are looking for, it is stupid to pretend to be, out of desperation for a job. Neither side will be happy in the end.

I’ve learned to apply for jobs based on “do I want to do it” not “can I do it.” There are lots of jobs I could perform quite well, but would not enjoy or find fulfilling. When I am reading job descriptions and come across a duty or phrase that makes me cringe, I move on. That one is not for me.

I’ve learned to watch for non-verbal clues from interviewers to help deduce if the work environment will be pleasant or stressful. If I’m being interviewed by a group of people who are potential co-workers, I ask them straight out what the work environment is like. If they are uncomfortable or have difficulty answering that question, I know not all is well.

I am also watching for signs of professionalism or lack thereof. Poor communication before an interview, poor communication during an interview, and poor communication after an interview are all interest killers. I will be clear in my communications. I will be on time. I will tell you the truth. I will follow up after an interview with a thank you note. Please be clear in your communications. Please be on time. Please notify me of your decision in a timely manner, even if it is “no.” There’s nothing quite like an interview followed by complete silence.

Probably the worst thing I can hear during the hiring process is the “ability to deal with change” or like phrases. This is a red flag, because I have worked in institutions that stressed this in the hiring process and even after. In my experience, it means dealing with the consequences of administrations that are blown about on any wind that comes along resulting in an unstable institution. The onus is pushed off onto the employees at the lower rungs of the hierarchy. They just aren’t being team players if they don’t quietly accept constantly changing directives. I’d rather not work there. I’m all for change and progress when it is managed sensibly.

When reading job advertisements that are very specific, I often wonder if they were written with the previous employee in mind. Did those writing the ad start by saying “we don’t want a person like THAT again!”

There you have it. My thoughts on job hunting, for what it is worth.

Educators as Copyright Violators

In Musing, Web 2.0 on October 4, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Clicking on a tweet link lead me to this post including a cool graphic about 21st century learner’s skills. I liked the graphic and soon found myself wondering who created it. The above post links to another blog which contains the graphic. There is a logo in the corner of the picture, but it is too blurry to read due to the quality of the image. I got a bit bent out of shape and decided that I would post about what chronic violators of copyright educators are.

three panel comic

So, I turned to Google image search to try to track down the origin of this image. Three pages of results did not provide a better quality picture or earlier version.

three panel comic

Apparently, the graphic had been made with by the owner of the blog referenced by Edudemic. So, I spent all this time fussing around about this for nothing, although a credit statement or citation on the original blog would have been helpful. I should learn from this and make sure I credit or cite my own images.

I made the two images in this post using October 3, 2013.

The Stupidity of Government Shutdown

In Librarianship, Musing on October 3, 2013 at 5:00 pm


I encountered this today while attempting to use the Library of Congress. I use the Library of Congress catalog and authorities database fairly regularly. I never need to go into the library to access books or interact with the staff. All I need is access to the existing databases. Now, I get that the government shut down results in the closing of the library doors and the leave with out pay for the staff, but I fail to understand why the computer database has to be blocked. Did they really shut down the servers to save electricity? Doubtful. They probably just routed all traffic to the above message to say “neener neener” to anyone wanting to use it.

Meanwhile, Congress get your act together and stop causing everyone grief.

Much Ado About What?

In Musing, Reading on June 18, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Much ado was made about Christopher Hitchens’s book recommendations to an eight year old girl, Mason Crumpacker. (click here and here for more) Unfortunately, none of the books are appropriate for an eight year old, no matter how precocious she is.

Here are my recommendations for eight year olds who want to be free thinkers.

1. Make sure you read the originals of children’s classics like Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-glass by Lewis Carroll, The Wizard of OZ by Frank L. Baum, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming. Do not watch the movies and think that you know what these books are about or mean. Do not read adapted or Disney-fied versions. READ THE ORIGINALS.

2. Read a variety of genres. Read fantasy, folklore, historical fiction, science fiction, chic lit, biography, etc. With regards to food, my mother told me I didn’t have to eat something if I didn’t like it, but I did have to try it. Try it all. Read what sparks your imagination and makes you think.

3. Excellent authors I can recommend by name, in no particular order: Tamora Pierce, Derek Landy, Jane Yolen, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle, and Dav Pilkey.

4. Avoid series books that use a standard plot formula – like Goosebumps or The Babysitters Club. There is no intellectual stimulation in reading the same pattern over and over again. [I’ve changed my opinion about this. Series at this level with 20+ volumes have a purpose for the child who is learning to read. Once they catch the “bug” they need to read voraciously and having a favorite series can fill that need.]

5. Read books for adults as they become interesting to you. If it is a struggle to read and understand, then maybe the time isn’t right, yet.

6. Read books that have been “banned” or at least complained about. If a book makes people uncomfortable, it is probably because it challenges their comfortable worldview. Stretch your worldview. Open your eyes to possibilities.

7. Specific titles I recommend in no particular order:A Series of Unfortunate Events v.1-9 (do not bother with v.10-13 they are poor quality and I suspect written by a different Lemony Snicket than the first 9), Protector of the Small series by Tamora Pierce, The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell, and Wonder by R. J. Palacio.

Writing is to book as …

In Musing, Web 2.0 on March 16, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Last year I witnessed a group of students attempting to define what a blog is. There was a great deal of confusion and lack of definition.

There was less confusion of format and content in the good old days when we had just books and magazines as textual information sources. A few formats could contain a wider variety of content types. A short story might be in a newspaper, a magazine or a book. Some formats were more appropriate for certain content types than others. Novels are too long for anything other than a book. The internet muddied the water by greatly increasing the number of “formats.” Now we have web pages, forums, blogs, wikis, databases, etc. Now there is a plethora of formats and a plethora of content types that can be mixed and matched. To make it even more complicated some are disguised and difficult to identify. It may not be important to identify a format. Some online magazines are using a blog format, but it is modified in such a way as to be transparent and the blog aspect isn’t really important. Format no longer tells us what kind of content to expect.

Helping students understand and navigate information sources is no longer simple, because the nature of formats is hazy. The physical formats have obvious features. E-formats are somewhere in the invisible world. When teaching visual or kinetic learners, it can be challenging to teach about the invisible/intangible. Add limited time for instruction and important foundational concepts get skipped. We go straight to “here is how to search this database” without explaining what a database is, what one might find inside, and how it works. I’ve seen this result in students searching a database, looking for research reports, but selecting letters to the editor instead. Finding and evaluating information is not instinctive. The 50 minute one shot instruction session is a tiny drop in the bucket, insufficient to the task.

Faulty Library Foundations

In Librarianship, Musing on October 15, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Most libraries are teetering on faulty foundations and librarians have only themselves to blame. Decades of budget cutting have led to repeated reduction in the quality of technical services, i.e. cataloging. Few libraries have catalogers who are producing complete catalog records that accurately reflect the description of the book, accurate classification, thorough subject headings, and authorized names/series titles. Catalog records are copied from other libraries without checking more than the ISBN or title to make a match. Classification is assumed to be correct. Cutter numbers are not checked against the existing collection to make sure the book is placed where it should be.

In fact, most librarians couldn’t even identify what is wrong with the existing, low quality catalog records. Reference librarians seem to be surprised when they do a catalog search, but do not get the results they expect. Why don’t the right books appear in the results? Because when you put garbage in, you get garbage out.

Non-cataloging librarians view cataloging as a boring occupation for anal-retentive introverts who love rules for the sake of rules, completely missing how foundational and vital it is. Librarianship is about gathering, organizing, and disseminating information. When I catalog, I am not just thinking about the rules, but I am thinking about how a reader will be able to find this book. The sole purpose of the rules is consistency and accuracy in order to provide access. I have trouble understanding why this should not be understood and valued by all librarians, but it is not. The advent of keyword searching led people to think that the cataloging rules are no longer important, but if the keywords are not in the record, what use is a keyword search?

What gets attention and is valued is flash and glitter. An image of the book cover in the catalog display is more important than the inclusion of a contents note or plot summary. Apparently, people are to choose a book by its cover. More importance is placed on consumer ratings and reviews than on professional evaluation.

Unfortunately, administrators who hold the purse strings when faced with budget cutting decisions decided, all too often, that public services could not be cut, but technical services, out of sight in the back room, could be cut without damaging repercussions. They were wrong.

Technical services has been reduced to slapping labels on a book as fast as possible and getting it onto the shelf, any shelf. (I even worked at a library where the director stubbornly insisted that books hit the shelves within 24 hours of receipt. Yet, she wanted high quality catalog records. Let’s just say I left that job.) Time is not spent considering the accuracy of the classification, headings, or subjects. Don’t even get me started on inputting the table of contents in a note field for keyword searching purposes. The catalog is the central finding tool and it is a mess. The status is not quo and we just need to catalog better.

Way Beyond Web

In Musing, Web 2.0 on April 8, 2011 at 3:34 pm

I wrote previously – Predictions of Future Past – about Internet predictions and what actually developed. I’m going to prattle on about this some more from a slightly different tack.

I’m amazed by the paradoxical ease and complexity of accessing information these days. We can google most anything, although the answers we find might raise more questions than certainties. (Notice how Google has become a verb?) The recent 50th anniversary of The Flintstones resulted in a discussion (via Facebook) about exactly when was Pebbles born. Googling led to conflicting answers and questions of which source could be believed. (If my students had any idea what The Flintstones was, I would use this as an example for how to evaluate sources. Unfortunately, it is not culturally relevant.) Anyway, I’m going with Feb 22, 1963.

I live abroad (not in my home country) and Twitter has been important for us in making friendships with a wide variety of people. For example, recently we had a dinner with 13 people (including us) in which 6 of those people were expats (foreigners like us) and 7 were locals (citizens). You will have to take my word on just how extraordinary that is. However, Twitter is also a major source of information about what is going on locally and in the world. Tweeps (people who twitter) read an interesting article on a news website or a blog and tweet a link to the article. I, being lazy or harried, rely on this referral system and use these links to go to articles that pique my interest. Yes, I could use RSS feeds to collect articles in an automated way, but I kinda like the added social aspect that the person who shared the link also read the article (I know there’s a bit of assumption there) and if I have a strong reaction or opinion about the content, I can “talk” with them about it.

Now, back in the “real” world, students are flocking into the library during their breaks to grab newspapers (in physical format), find an article and scan a copy of it on a daily basis. I have concluded that there is at least one professor who is convinced that the students must “learn to read newspapers” and is requiring the students to produce an article each day. There are teachers who are scandalized that these students have never touched a physical newspaper. But, let’s face it, newspapers are dead, they just don’t know it, yet. Most newspapers have websites where they post all their articles and possibly additional content. These websites have become quite sophisticated, well organized, searchable, and incorporate social media functions so that you can comment on what you read. The tradition of the leisurely breakfast with the morning newspaper is a luxury only the retired have. These students are not sitting down with the paper, reading it through, and coming away fully informed about what is happening locally and globally. Let go of format! Paper is dead, long live the web (until the next thing comes along). Content is where it is at. It doesn’t matter if it is carved in stone, painted on papyrus or sheep skin, inked on wood pulp, or displayed on screen.

Ironically, there are some “services” that are designed to take your Twitter feed and turn it into your very own personalized “newspaper.” At least one application for iPad combines your Facebook and Twitter to make a personalized “magazine” for you. Just how many interfaces do we need to filter our information through?

I don’t think that the word “web” describes the Internet accurately anymore. Maybe “fractal” would be more appropriate.

Predictions of Future Past

In Musing, Web 2.0 on November 30, 2010 at 8:48 am

A long time ago (1992) when I was in graduate school learning to become a librarian, we were shown a short video that predicted the future of information.First let me set the scene:

  • This was pre-graphical Internet browsers. (Mosaic was another amazing demonstration at the time, but there was no Internet Explorer, Firefox, or whatever.)
  • We were using Pine for email.
  • We were posting things to “bulletin boards” and usenet. (I remember spending hours reading the leaked script to the Star Trek Next Generation movie and being disappointed.)
  • There were no images, no videos, no animations, no search engines.

The video we were presented with showed a business man getting up in the morning and having a relaxing cup of coffee while his computer generated “information butler” (my terminology) told him verbally about news reports he might find relevant, gave him the stock report on his investments, told him his schedule for the day, and responded to the man’s verbal feedback. All those things that personal assistants do for the rich and powerful. The message for us apparently was that we had just signed up for a profession that would soon cease to exist. I looked on YouTube for this video, but that is like looking for a needle in a very big haystack with my eyes closed.

Happily, 18 years later, the death of the librarian profession has not been realized. We still don’t have artificial intelligence and we still need people to organize, channel and disseminate information. (We still need people to figure out why the computer system isn’t giving us what we want when we want it.)
There are things like RSS feeds that we are supposed to use to glean information we want from the overwhelming mess called the internet, but only a few use them (the info savvy). Even I haven’t taken the time to set this up for myself (mainly because I expect to be deluged with more info than I can possibly handle). I’m a secondary consumer, I suppose. I rely on my Twitter friends who are using their RSS feeds to find out what is happening in the world. They then share the link via Twitter and if their comments catch my eye and I think I might be interested in the information, I follow the link and read for myself. I’ve found some really important information that way.

In a way, the Internet is seriously inbred. For example, someone out there writes something interesting. Someone reads it and channels it in my direction. I find it interesting and useful for others, so I put it in a wiki or a blog for further distribution. Search engines index my wiki enabling others to find it and before long my wiki is linked to someone else’s wiki or website. Etc., etc., etc.
In the spirit of inbred Internet, here is a link I think you might find interesting. The Internet in 1969 via the Huffington Post

[Previously published on my other blog.]