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Well Read Wednesday: The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Isn’t Elizabeth Moon a perfect name for a science fiction writer?  And I am a science fiction fan.  I’ll read fantasy, but give me a good, hard-core scifi novel any day. Even more than good scifi, though, I want a good story.  Something thought provoking with characters and situations that I care about and help me think about other people’s experiences.  The Speed of Dark does all of that beautifully.  Moon develops her main character and supporting cast so well I could say I know these people personally.  Lou Arrendale, described as a high-functioning autistic adult, is faced with a dilemma.  Lou’s employer wants him to undergo a treatment that may fundamentally change who he is as a person.  Although the treatment might “cure” his autism (and Moon is careful to show how Lou’s autism impacts his life on a daily basis) the treatment might also erase Lou’s elemental qualities, his persona.  Not only that, Lou is forced to struggle with inevitable change.  Regardless of his decision his life will change.  The author invites us to consider the nature of contentment.  What is it that defines a person as content versus merely existing or going with the flow? I recently read in another book that “happiness is about taking risks.  If you’re not scared you’re not doing it right.”  Is that true?

Moon walks us through Lou’s life and introduces us to his friends and his passions never straying into preachy lectures or pontification.  Instead the reader comes to know and care about Lou, understand his employer, and relate to Lou’s friends on a level not available in daily, superficial interactions.  Because Moon so carefully crafts her story we are able to struggle through the decision making process with Lou.

So, I said this was a science fiction novel, right?  It’s set in the near future.  Because in this near future world people with autism have been recognized for their talents working with patterns, Lou is able to be employed at a pharmaceutical firm in an environment his employer has worked hard to make comfortable for him and his colleagues.  In all other respects we will recognize the settings and situations as familiar.  Only a small leap of imagination is required to follow the story.  For this reason I believe the novel has broad appeal.  In 2003 The Speed of Dark won the Nebula Award and was an Arthur C. Clarke Award finalist.


Meet Sarah Clark, 2011 unCOILed Presenter!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hello, readers!  Welcome to our 7th and last installment of our Meet-the-Presenter Series here on the COIL Blog!  In the past few weeks we’ve met David Oberhelman, Jessica Moad,Paul Stenis, Ona Britton-Spears, Jason Cimock and Emily Z. Brown.  Today we’ll introduce you to Sarah Clark!

Remember, Preregistration for unCOILed 2011: Get Schooled is now open!  Sign up to see these wonderful speakers in action.

50 Minute Ph.D. or, Assessment for Librarians

Instruction Librarians have a problem. They know that information literacy is the most wonderful thing in the universe, or at least a great skill set for helping students learn how to learn. However, Administrators (and to a lesser degree faculty) don’t necessarily understand the importance of these skills to student learning and/or success. The answer? Assessment! But how do you create an effective assessment program that gets at the information you want and enables you to package it in a way that administrators will easily understand? This presentation presents a simplified version of a research design model taught at OSU’s School of Educational Studies that librarians can use in creating an assessment plan. The presentation will also discuss the benefits and drawbacks of using external assessment tools or programs like SAILS, RAILS, and LibQUAL. By the end of the hour, librarians will have the tools to
·         state their research problem,
·         formulate questions that, when answered, could solve the problem,
·         select effective quantitative or qualitative research method best suited for answering those questions,
·         execute the research, and
·         create a jargon-free document that presents the library’s information literacy efforts in the strongest way possible.

Here’s a little bit about Sarah:

Sarah Clark is Access Services & Distance Learning Librarian at Rogers State University and the immediate past chair of the Community of Oklahoma Instruction Librarians. She thought she knew a fair bit about assessing library instruction efforts until she went back to school and discovered she actually didn’t know the first thing about research. While still pretty ignorant on the subject, she will share a few guiding principles from educational research that will help you explain the value and effectiveness of library instruction to university administrators. When not busy with work or school, Sarah writes about the role of the academic library in higher education at the COIL blog as well as The Infoliterate University.

We asked Sarah a few questions:

1.  What made you want to present at this years unCOILed workshop?

COIL is one of the most enjoyable and practical library organizations in the state! I’ve been involved in COIL in one form or another since 2007, and never turn down a chance to give back.

2.  How long have you been a librarian?

I came to Rogers State University in February, 2005, and was promoted to Access Services & Distance Learning Librarian soon after my graduation from OU-SLIS in May 2006.

3.  What is your favorite thing about instruction?

My favorite things about instruction are the moments when I actually get a roomful of semiconscious freshmen excited about peer-reviewed sources at 8:30 AM. Hopefully I will learn some good tricks at unCOILed to make those moments more common…

Thank you, Sarah!  We’re looking forward to your presentation on July 22nd, at unCOILed 2011: Get Schooled!

Tuesday Two.Oh! A tool for online collaboration

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. :)

Today on Tuesday Two.Oh! we’ll be taking a look at a site built for online collaboration.  Today’s site is very reminiscent of, but in my mind a lot more versatile.  Let’s take a look at Popplet.

Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

This is a really excellent introductory video:

Signing up for a Popplet account was simple- name, email and password and you’re in!

From there you’re brought to your introductory Popplet screen.  One thing I really liked was the initial guided tour.

You double click to create your first thought bubble, and from there you build associations between them.  You can use this as a sort of brainstorming tool, with collaborators using the same screen, or you can use it alone to brainstorm your own ideas.


It’s very easy to share your popplet with someone else, but first the warning:

Here’s the invite screen:

You can easily upload media into your popplet, as I have done with this picture below.

There’s also features that allow you to upload a You Tube video or even draw inside the popplet box.  I decided not to expose you to my terrible art skills.

As illustrated above, you can manipulate the colors of the boxes in Popplet in order to better illustrate your idea to to keep a single participants thoughts in line by color.

In the end, I like this tool and I would use it if I could get my colleagues to use it as well.  I think it’s an interesting way to share ideas, especially in an asynchronous manner. The tool is simple to use and designed well.  I don’t think you need to have any particular knowledge to use this tool, but the best way to see if it would be useful is to log in and check it out.

Meet Emily Z. Brown, 2011 unCOILed Presenter!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hello again, readers!  Welcome to the 6th installment of our Meet-the-Presenter Series here on the COIL Blog.  In the past few weeks we’ve met David Oberhelman, Jessica Moad, Paul Stenis, Ona Britton-Spears and Jason Cimock.  Today we’ll introduce you to Emily Z. Brown!

Remember, Preregistration for unCOILed 2011: Get Schooled is now open!  Sign up to see these wonderful speakers in action.

Welcome to the Database Derby: Beyond Lecture into Bibliographic Pandemonium

Have you ever had a class that just seemed to lose interest with every passing database or website?  Emily Brown and Jason Cimock have devised a devilishly fun game to keep those hum-drum classes on their toes and using their brains.

The Database Derby pits teams of students in a race to the finish, where the winners get chocolate and the losers sometimes also get chocolate.  After Librarians demonstrate the databases, they divide their students into teams and ask them to use what they learned to compete in a relay race. The team that learned the most usually comes out on top.

Emily and Jason will talk about the origins of the Database Derby and teach you how you can keep those students interested, working hard, and having fun!

*Emily will be presenting with Jason Cimock, who we highlighted last week.

A little bit about Emily:

Emily Z. Brown has done a little bit of living in a lot of places.  She is proud to have called several states home (Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma).  Emily completed her BAS in History in 2002 and her MLIS in 2005, receiving both degrees from the University of Pittsburgh.  She has worked in a library in some form or another since 1998 when she got a job as a student worker at Pitt’s Hillman Library.  Emily came to Oklahoma in late 2006 for a position at Northeastern State University, but is now a member of the University of Central Oklahoma’s illustrious Department of Reference and Instruction.  Emily has been active in COIL since 2007 and has acted as Secretary, Chair-Elect and is the 2011 COIL Chair.

We asked Emily a few questions:

1.  What made you want top present at this years unCOILed workshop?

I wanted to present this year because I’m really excited about what’s going on here in the Reference and Instruction Department at UCO.  I am lucky to work with some very creative people in a positive environment and I feel that our presentation might help spice up some instruction sessions!

2.  How long have you been a librarian?

I have been a librarian, officially, since 2006.  Before that I considered going into archaeology and briefly day-dreamed of becoming a tug-boat captain.

3.  What is your favorite thing about instruction?

I used to be a very nervous public speaker, but the more I’ve taught the more chances I’ve had to realize the reward that comes with helping someone find the information they need.  I also appreciate the anecdotes I can amaze my non-library friends with after particularly interesting instruction sessions.

Thank you, Emily!  We’re looking forward to your presentation on July 22nd, at unCOILed 2011: Get Schooled!

Well Read Wednesday: The Big Burn by Timothy Egan

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I love to read.  I imagine most of us in the library profession can say that.  And I like to read all kinds of things.  So before I begin blogging on books for COIL, in the interests of full disclosure, you should know that I will probably write about a lot of different kinds of books.  Did I mention I love suggestions?  Please drop me a comment if you have any recommendations.

The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America is another great slice of American history from the author that brought us The Worst Hard Time, Timothy Egan.  This book chronicles the story of the brand new Forest Service and their efforts to protect Roosevelt’s public lands.  As in all good stories this book presents us with conflict, an historical conflict between the burgeoning conservation movement and massive industrial interests.  Alternating with this story line is the tale of the men who first ventured into the western lands to catalog, study and preserve the forests.

Gifford Pinchot, first Chief of the Forest Service, was Roosevelt’s friend and shared his passion for hunting and the outdoors.  But Roosevelt’s vision was not shared by his gluttonous successor, President William Taft.  Despite Taft’s promises to Roosevelt that he would support the forest service, funding begins to dry up and the industrialists are allowed into protected lands.  Out in the field the young, idealistic rangers purchased their own equipment and tried desperately to continue fulfilling their mission.

But the drama is heightened when fire season becomes a real and intense threat.  Pinchot uses the fear of fire to demand funding from Congress while rangers begin recruiting and try to prepare for the coming fires.  The human side of this story rests in the valorous men who worked to save the west from fire.  Although Egan lacks the benefit of extensive personal accounts that were available for The Worst Hard Time, the individual stories are compelling and dramatic.

I truly enjoyed this book.  And now I have a confession to make.  I listened to this as an audio book.  Not only that, I downloaded it from the Metropolitan Library System.  Read by Robertson Dean, this was a well done performance.

So this summer take some time to read about the summer of 1910.  You’ll be glad you did.

Tuesday Two.Oh! A tool for book lovers.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Tuesday Two.Oh! is not meant as an endorsement, but as an exploration of the tools that are out there. Click at your own risk. 🙂

Today’s Tuesday Two.Oh! goes out to my Mom, who likes to give away books as soon as she finishes reading them. I, on the other hand (and much to my husbands shagrin), am a keeper. I have loads and loads of books that I’ve been keeping since I was a teenager. Hey, what do you expect when you marry a librarian? Let’s take a look at Book Mooch.


From the site: “BookMooch is a community for exchanging used books. BookMooch lets you give away books you no longer need in exchange for books you really want.”

Short and sweet, and in reality that really is a good reflection of the site. The concept is nothing more than what they say it is- upload books you would like to give away, look for books you would like to get in return. All for the price of postage. Keep in mind when signing up for this site to know your limits when sending books. Choose either in your country or worldwide. Shipping internationally can get expensive, so if you’re not willing to spend money on shipping it far, make sure you say so in your preferences.

That said, signing up is very easy.


Once you have filled out this information, Book Mooch asks that you log in. That done, you will see your homepage. It’s very simple.


The first thing I decided to do was browse Book Mooch for title I was interested in. I chose to look for All Quiet on the Western Front, an oldie but a goodie.


The search brings back categorized results, by author and edition. Though I don’t know how they choose their “related searches” as I don’t know what Stephanie Meyer or Chuck Palahniuk have to do with this specific search.


Here, if you would like to take a closer look at the book, you can see a brief synopsis, as well as see reader reviews.


If you would like to upload a book to give to someone else, it’s really easy. Just search for your title and edition. Once you’ve chosen to add it to your list of books you’re willing to give away, you’ll get the following warning.


Your uploaded book will look like this.


A requested book will look similar.


If you’re interested, here’s a snapshot of the most listed (to give away) books on Book Mooch.


As well as the books that are most often borrowed:


In closing, I think this site has a ton of potential. I am looking forward to using it myself once I have my books unpacked. One of the things that I like the most is that I don’t have to give away a book if I don’t want to- I just list books I would like to share and then can keep the books I get in return. It’s an even-stephans swap. I know I did a lot of screen caps, but I think that the best way to check out this site is to sign up for it if you’re interested. Watch those mailing preferences, and get to reading!

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

*This blog originally appeared on October 13th 2009 on the Brownez @ The Library Blog.

Monday Musings: Social Media for Academics

Monday, June 20, 2011

Once upon a time, before facebook and twitter, we all had walls. I’m guessing my online strategy (if you could call it that) circa 2005  was pretty standard. I had a professional website with my resume and such, and used my email address from my school (and later that year when I got my first library gig, my work email) for all professional correspondence, blog replies, etc. Separate from that, often under pseudonyms, was my online life, as I’d had a fairly rich and nerdy one since the early ’90s. Neither contradicted the other, each was just irrelevant to the other. Work was work and life was life and never the twain would meet. But somewhere between being talked onto twitter by my friend Nicole, becoming a librarian in one of Second Life’s better-known Steampunk worlds (and co-presenting on that experience via Skype at Internet Librarian), and buying an iPhone, things got…blurry.  

The work/life binary, like most binaries, is at least partially an artificial construction. We constantly make decisions in each realm due to influences of other. And every time we share something personal woth a “work friend” or check our email on a sunday afternoon, that line blurs. Each of us needs to find a way to navigate that interplay in our online lives. For me, a lot of it goes back to the notion of friendships having ‘levels’, which most of us grasp intuitively but which I’ve seen outlined more succintly here and here. Like most earthlings, there are certain things I only share with certain people in certain contexts, and that’s as it should be. But at the same time, a little personality is helpful in networking, both in the F2F and online realms. Letting your hair down a bit can actually be good for your mental health and your career. It can also help others, in a way I’ll get to at the end of this post.

My new favorite blogger the Thesis Whisperer has been doing a series on using social media for networking, and I probably agree with 90% of what’s been said there. I have a similar approach to my blog, which is probably the most ‘professional’ of my personal online channels. My posts are almost exclusively library or higher ed focused, though they do generally tend more toward the practical than the theoretical (another binary that could use some questioning, but that’s another post that shall be written another time). My Twitter account, while a bit more personal early on, has evolved in a similar manner. This wasn’t any sort of professional decision so much as a simple matter of time: Twitter is possibly THE prime example of information overload, and even with a consciously restricted following list (<200) plus 3 or so hashtags, I struggle even to keep up with work-related content and shamelessly drop out for weeks at a stretch when life gets busy. Facebook, though, is a different animal, and my practices there are changing a bit.

When I first joined, I really just friended my closest online and offline friends, family, and such–not much over 50 people, really. Most of my updates were more along the lines of random musings on this and that from all areas of my life. And then more professional colleagues started sending friend requests. I worried for a bit, then accepted a few of the ones I saw as friends as well as colleagues. It turned out that they were posting the same random crap I was, and nobody cared! In fact, it was kind of neat to hear about their personal lives in much the same manner as we might catch up during lunch before a COIL meeting. Early on in my libblogging days I think I once posted something about social networking along the lines of “Never post anything online under your own name that you don’t want your mom or your boss to read.” Both my mom and my boss are on facebook and read this blog, and I am still both gainfully employed and invited to thanksgiving dinner. That quip still holds, but maybe it’s time we all gave our moms and our bosses a tad more credit and lightened up a little. 

All this, of course, is coming from a straight white middle-class female who deliberately chose a feminine noncompetitive and collaborative profession where the occasional bits of personal sharing aren’t just tolerated, they’re practically de rigeur. I am privileged to be able to make some personal disclosures without professional repercussions, though the rules are a bit different for ladies, as has been noted here and elsewhere recently. Only you know how much of yourself you can and should bring to your professional image. However, based on reading and experiences I’ve had in this summer’s diversity class, I’m going to close with two potential arguments for being more ‘out’ about your personal quirks in a professional space, particularly in the higher ed world.

First, while talking about oneself nonstop gets old fast, most professionals’ problems in this area lie in being too reserved rather than not reserved enough. Being open when you’re with trusted colleagues and when it’s appropriate to the conversation helps you strengthen connections and build an even tighter working and personal friendship. Taking the first step by asking for help or sharing a story pertinent to their own situation can even be a great help to your friend, who may also be interested in deepening your alliance but is timid about taking the risk.  While it’s neither practical or desireable to have too many of these tight connections, they are also the kinds of relationships that can lead to exciting projects and new opportunities.

More importantly, we all are helping to train a diverse population in the best ways to succeed personally and professionally in a diverse world. The best way for each of them to reach their goals is for them to become comfortable in their own differences, and the differences of others. If educators model the reality that they are human beings as well, while retaining appropriate distance and authority, it can have the pleasant side effect of calling the definition of “normality” into question for our students, assuming such a thing even exists. Our students and the society they live in will be the stronger for it, and continue to change in ways that enable more people to lead happier and more productive lives.

An earlier version of this post appeared at The Infoliterate University.