This Charming Manbrarian

For any Smiths or Morrissey fans out there, I wrote a short piece published today by Ethos Review about how Morrissey’s lyrics capture the inherent pain of the human condition. An excerpt:

What Morrissey captures is not the pain of being a teenager; he captures—with constant wit and humor that is often overlooked—the underlying struggle of human life, which existential psychology summarizes in four “givens of existence”: (i) our coming to terms with the fact that we must die; (ii) the difficulty of taking responsibility for our ultimate freedom to lead authentic lives; (iii) our isolation from others; and (iv) the search for meaning in a world where none is antecedently given. Morrissey knows how hard these things are to do and has made that his subject matter. In this sense, Morrissey is a classic existential hero—he knows what nothing means and keeps on playing—and, in a Nietzschean spirit, his art brings us back from our difficulties to a fuller acceptance of life. As J.D. Salinger once said, “God have mercy on the lonely bastard.”

You can read the rest courtesy of the fine folks at Ethos.

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Filed under On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel

Interesting New Curiosity Research

NPR reports a really interesting new study on curiosity that should be of interest to reference and instruction librarians. An excerpt:

Ranganath was curious to know why we retain some information and forget other things.

So he and his colleagues rounded up 19 volunteers and asked them to review more than 100 trivia questions. Questions such as, “What does the term ‘dinosaur’ actually mean?” and “What Beatles single lasted longest on the charts, at 19 weeks?”

Participants rated each question in terms of how curious they were about the answer.

Next, everyone reviewed the questions — and their answers — while the researchers monitored their brain activity using an MRI machine. When the participants’ curiosity was piqued, the parts of their brains that regulate pleasure and reward lit up. Curious minds also showed increased activity in the hippocampus, which is involved in the creation of memories.


There was one more twist in Ranganath’s study: Throughout the experiment, the researchers flashedhed photos of random faces, without giving the participants any explanation as to why.

Those whose curiosity was already piqued were also the best at remembering these faces.

The researchers were surprised to learn that curious brains are better at learning not only about the subject at hand but also other stuff — even incidental, boring information.

“Say you’re watching the Breaking Bad finale,” Ranganath explains. If you’re a huge fan of the show, you’re certainly really curious to know what happens to its main character, Walter White.

“You’ll undoubtedly remember what happens in the finale,” he says, but you might also remember what you ate before watching the episode, and what you did right after.

This is a phenomenon teachers can use to their advantage in the classroom, says Evie Malaia, an assistant professor at the Southwest Center for Mind, Brain and Education at the University of Texas, Arlington.

“Say a kid wants to be an astronaut,” she says. “Well, how do you link that goal with learning multiplication tables?” A teacher may choose to ask her class an interesting word problem that involves space exploration, Malaia says.

At the end of the class, students may remember the answer to the word problem, but they’ll also remember how they found the answer through multiplication.

“This way kids basically get into the driver’s seat,” Malaia says. “They feel especially good if they discover something, if they construct knowledge themselves.”

Teachers have been using this technique instinctively for years, she adds, and now the science is backing that up. “Curiosity really is one of the very intense and very basic impulses in humans. We should base education on this behavior.”

Figure out what your students are interested in and help them look it up; it’ll improve their information literacy!

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Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel

New Name, Same Game

Some news from your SoCal contributor to this blog: I got married last weekend to my library school sweetheart, so I’ve changed my name to Dani Brecher Cook—you’ll see this reflected on this blog, social media (@danibcook), and at upcoming conferences. The name change process is long and tedious, but I’m excited to embark on this new adventure with a shiny new name!

Here’s some pictorial evidence from the event, featuring your two blog contributors and two other fabulous librarians:


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Filed under On Being Human, Posts by Dani Brecher

Friday Quote

I imagine that you’d like to become a success or something equally vile.

-John Kennedy Toole, A Confederacy of Dunces

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Filed under On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, Quotes

Reliability Tutorial

Bill Marino (Eastern Michigan) has given me permission to post a tutorial he and his team put together on reliability and evaluating information. Bill and I met at last year’s LOEX, and he asked permission to use and adapt a “reliability continuum” I made up and use in my classes to get students to think critically about sources. Interestingly, the tutorial combines the CRAAP test with my work, so the tutorial is very Cal State-centric, as the CRAAP test was created by our library dean here at the Meriam Library, Sarah Blakelee.  Sarah is, of course, aware that I don’t have much love for the CRAAP test, and seems to like me anyway.

Here’s the tutorial for anyone interested. I’ve put together a few similar information literacy modules but they don’t look nearly as nice.

reliability tutorial

I’d also like to point out that Bill was an exemplar of being a good professional colleague with all of this: he requested my permission to use and adapt my ideas for this purpose, properly cited the work in the tutorial, said he’d follow up with me when the tutorial was finished, and actually did!


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Filed under Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel

Friday Quote

If something comes into my life that’s making me feel like I have to think one thing and say another, I’m getting rid of it, I’m walking away from it, or I’m talking about it.

-Dan Harmon

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Filed under Education, On Being Human, Posts by Kevin Michael Klipfel, The Library Game

In Defense of Research Guides

Yesterday, Kevin wrote a very well-reasoned post expressing his skepticism about LibGuides. I am less skeptical and more hopeful–when I think about research guides, I think:

Courtesy of</a?

Courtesy of

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Filed under Bibliographic Instruction is Dead, Education, Library Instruction, Posts by Dani Brecher