Congrats to my esteemed co-blogger, Dani Brecher Cook, on her recent acceptance of a position as the Director of Teaching and Learning at the University of California, Riverside’s library. It’s extremely well-deserved, as is this really nice write-up on Dani that I encourage you to read!
Category Archives: The Library Game
My awesome colleague George Thompson passed this along to me. I think it summarizes nicely what, to me, is probably the most fundamental thing to keep in mind as a librarian, educator, or human being more generally: that genuine connection with other human beings is at the core of everything we do.
Happy to announce that an article Dani and I wrote that was published by Reference and User Services Quarterly last year – “How Do Our Students Learn: an Outline of a Cognitive Psychological Model for Information Literacy Instruction” – was recently named a “Top Twenty” Article of 2015 by LIRT – ALA’s Library Instruction Roundtable. So I thought this might be a good time to toot our own horn again, and promote the piece for those who may not have had a chance to check it out. I’ve heard now from several people that the article helped them engage in discussions with their colleagues about implementing empirically informed, learner-centered teaching in their own libraries, which is really awesome.
Here’s the abstract:
Effective pedagogy requires understanding how students learn and tailoring our instruction accordingly. One key element of student-centered pedagogy involves understanding the cognitive psychological processes according to which students learn, and to structure our teaching with these processes in mind. This paper fills in a gap in the current literature, by applying empirically grounded lessons drawn from the cognitive science of learning, and discussing specific applications of these lessons for information literacy instruction. The paper outlines a framework for information literacy instruction, grounded in the educational and cognitive psychology literature, for facilitating student retention and transfer of information literacy skills, two classic measures of student learning. Five specific principles and several strategies for promoting retention and transfer within information literacy instruction are outlined.
And you can check out the whole thing via RUSQ. If you’re having trouble locating the article, drop me a line (kevin dot michael dot klipfel at gmail dot com) and I’ll help you out.
In the not-too-distant past, my library adopted a new discovery system for our catalog access. Right away, my colleagues and I noticed weirdness: some keyword searches would pull up seemingly unrelated items (where a search through the bib record revealed no clues) or an exact title search would display the title we were looking for several items down. I’ve been stumped for why this is happening, and got no good answers from the vendor.
Which is why I’m super grateful for Matthew Reidsma’s recent, very excellent blog post, “Algorithmic Bias in Library Discovery Systems.” It’s long, but worth reading the whole thing. In fact, I’d say it’s a necessity for all librarians—go read it, I’ll wait.
Welcome back! So, to summarize: Reidsma tested Summon’s Topic Explorer function and discovered some odd, leading things, which are the function of how the tool’s algorithm works. For example, a search for “muslim terrorist in the United States” led to a Wikipedia result about “Islam in the United States”—a distressing conflation.
This is why it’s really *not good* for us to present the whole “Internet=bad, Library=good” dichotomy that is so easy to fall into. In many cases, the library search isn’t great either: the algorithms that run it are created by people, and are certainly not perfect, and may reflect the biases or simple not-thinking of the creator. So no matter what the tool is that we use to find information, that question of evaluation is critical: is this actually a reflection of what I was looking for, or does it take a leap (e.g., terrorists –> Islam)? And even if all of the results do seem related, we need to interrogate how they are being displayed: most people are only going to look at (maybe) the first ten results: do they represent a certain viewpoint? These problematic issues exist in ALL library discovery systems, not just open web products like Google.
When I go back to teaching in the fall, I’m going to be sure to teach evaluation outside of the context of a specific search engine—I want students to feel comfortable questioning all information they see, and not to elide that skillset because they implicitly trust that a certain search (i.e., the library search) is more reliable. If our job is to teach students to be critical consumers and creators of information, I’d say that it’s incumbent upon us not to take the easier path, but to surface the way these systems are constructed and the potential for bias and leading that such systems create. Many thanks again to Matthew Reidsma for his excellent article, that highlights the problematic nature of discovery systems.
How will you approach this in your teaching?
For more related research on algorithms, you should check out Safiya Noble’s work on how commercial search engines represent gender and racial identity. It’ll make you stop in your tracks and rethink how you approach teaching searching. Promise.
I like people who have a sense of individuality. I love expression and anything awkward and imperfect, because that’s natural and that’s real.
I’ve often noticed when interacting with people who believe struggle with feelings of self-judgment -when producing something, when trying to create something, or, hell, even just trying to be – that they’re hampered by perfectionism, and that what drives their perfectionism is their belief that if they don’t think they have to strive for perfection, they won’t accomplish anything or be successful.
In my own case, I’ve found pretty much the exact opposite to be true, and it seems that Brene Brown things so, too:
In the research there’s a significant difference between perfectionism and healthy striving or striving for excellence. Perfectionism is the belief that if we do things perfectly and look perfect, we can minimize or avoid the pain of blame, judgment, and shame. Perfectionism is a twenty-ton shield that we lug around, thinking it will protect us, when in fact it’s the thing that’s really preventing us from being seen.
Perfectionism is also very different than self-improvement. Perfectionism is, at its core, about trying to earn approval. Most perfectionists grew up being praised for achievement and performance (grades, manners, rule following, people pleasing, appearance, sports). Somewhere along the way, they adopted this dangerous and debilitating belief system: “I am what I accomplish and how well I accomplish it. Please. Perform. Perfect.” Healthy striving is self- focused: How can I improve? Perfectionism is other-focused: What will they think? Perfectionism is a hustle.
Last, perfectionism is not the key to success. In fact, research shows that perfectionism hampers achievement. Perfectionism is correlated with depression, anxiety, addiction, and life paralysis or missed opportunities. The fear of failing, making mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized keeps us outside of the arena where healthy competition and striving unfolds.
I like that phrasing, that perfectionism is a “hustle: – a little scam our ego (parental and societal super-ego?) runs on our authentic selves to prevent us from actually being happy, creative, and productive – and totally agree with Brown’s assessment that perfectionism is largely about trying to impress other people, rather than doing what makes us happy.
Dani and I will once again be teaching a course on Learner-Centered Reference & Instruction, with a focus on the science & psychology of learning, via RUSA/ALA. You can now register for the course that begins on 2/15/2016 and ends on 3/27/2016.
Here is a bit of info on the course:
This course will introduce library practitioners to empirically sound approaches to learner-centered teaching that can be applied to creating effective reference and instruction services that maximally facilitate student learning. The first part of the course will be devoted to understanding the current science of how students learn from the perspective of cognitive and educational psychology, and concrete ways that library practitioners can apply this learning to the library context. The second part of course will deal with motivational aspects of learning: What does the psychological research say about what makes students want to learn, and how can we use this research to motivate information literacy learning? The final part of the course will cover issues of diversity and inclusive pedagogy from within the framework of culturally responsive pedagogy: In a diverse educational landscape, how can we construct our teaching so that it includes, rather than alienates, as many students as possible?
The aim of this course is to give librarians the tools to feel more confident in their instructional strategies and ability to support student-centered learning. Not only will the course introduce participants to scientifically grounded pedagogies, but will lead them through exercises to concretely apply these theories to their own library contexts. This course will be of interest to any librarian who engages in reference or teaching, and is unique in providing a current overview of the current educational literature alongside practical strategies.
We’re excited to teach it again; please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
For questions about the logistics of registration you can contact: registration at ala dot org
For questions about the course itself you can contact me at kevin dot michael dot klipfel at gmail dot com (Dani is on leave for a little bit right now so it’ll be easiest to get in touch with me at the moment)
I’ve always loved to bake. When I was in high school, I would make a dozen kinds of Christmas cookies every year, pack them up in colorful Tupperware and ribbons, and give them to friends, family, and teachers. In college, I’d bake drop cookies or cupcakes for the weekly newspaper copy editors meetings. I was always the friend who baked something for a party. At my first job in NYC, I’d bake sweets at home, tote them to Manhattan on the Q train, and set them out in the staff break room. I loved it so much, I started a blog. Baking was the way that I showed people that I appreciated them.
When I got to library school, I continued on my baking streak. Oatmeal raisin cookies to trivia night, chocolate chip cookie bars to my job, cupcakes for student ALA meetings. But then, one evening, I was attending a networking mixer (so: already terrible), and a classmate went around the group of library school students, introducing us to…someone I don’t even remember, but it seemed important at the time. But I *do* remember how the introductions went:
“This is X, she works in Special Collections and is going to be an archivist.”
“This is Y, he’s going to be an awesome instruction librarian.”
“This is Z, he’s a great storyteller and is going to be a children’s librarian.”
“This is Dani. She bakes cookies.”
…And that was the last time I baked cookies for anybody in a remotely work-related context.
Here’s the thing: I don’t think the person meant anything by it, and nobody seemed to notice the incongruity in the introductions. But I did, and what it told me that I was being read as less serious than the other people I stood in that circle with. It felt lousy, and distinctly gendered.
In the 2.5 years that I’ve been at my job now, I have never baked anything to take into work. When I want to show my appreciation for my co-workers through food, I stop and pick up donuts, cookies from Trader Joe’s, chocolates. But nothing that comes from my kitchen. And I don’t bring in food very often—more likely now, I’ll just tell someone that they’ve been awesome. I’ve been afraid that people will stop seeing me for my work, and start seeing me as…library mom?
One day, I picked up Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office, and, flipping through, something caught my eye. “Don’t feed people,” Frankel said. And especially, don’t bake cookies yourself. It will “sabotage” you in the workplace, and people will see you as Betty Crocker.
Here’s Ask a Manager on the issue. tl;dr: she presents other “masculine” traits in the office, so baking isn’t going to undermine that. UM WHAT. So if I’m “blunt, assertive, kind of a hard-ass, and not a sugar-coater,” then I can make all the brownies I want; if not, not? And if I’m not a manager, can I bake without potentially sacrificing my climb up the library ladder?
All of which is to say: I’ve bought into this for a long time now. But I’ve been thinking a lot about librarianship and management and gender recently, and I think I’m about ready to call BS.
Baking is just one example, but what other parts of ourselves do we have to deny in order to be taken seriously in the workplace? Is it worth it? What does it mean to elide parts of yourself so that you aren’t just described as “the girl who bakes”? At what point does my work speak for itself and I don’t have to worry about this anymore?
It seems like it probably never ends, and giving into this way of thinking is letting traditional gender perceptions control us, even while we are explicitly trying to buck them.
So: can you be a kickass instruction librarian and respected by your colleagues and bring in the occasional pecan bar? Or whatever other traditionally gendered personality trait (some other fun ones from Frankel: needing to be liked, not needing to be liked, holding your tongue, decorating your office, HELPING) makes you feel like you, a human being? It’s not about the cookies, yo. And I’m over it, and it seems like the way to change this is not by giving into it.
Have you experienced this? How do you deal with it? I hope you’ll share in the comments!
EDIT: Many thanks to Keri Cascio, who let me know about the #libleadgender conversation going on–started by an excellent article by Jessica Olin and Michelle Millet at In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Looking forward to joining in future conversations!
We’re thankful for all of the awesome librarians and library practitioners who read this blog. Hope you have a happy and restful Thanksgiving, and may you also find joy in the small delights of our profession (like book turkeys).