Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Three Quick Notes

Three things worth sharing this afternoon...


We had another baby doctor check-up today (Baby is 23 weeks old, yay!), and all looks good with our little one (thank God!). In addition, our awesome ultrasound technician, as promised, took another looksie at our little one in order to try to confirm that we are, in fact, having a girl.

The verdict?

Yes, Rosebud is definitely a girl.

Her rump was facing up today (such a cute little dupa!) and there was no question that she is a girl.

We are completely stoked.


I posted a Facebook Status Update yesterday after having a wonderful exchange with a student at the Reference Desk in which I assisted her with her research strategy for a 20-page paper. In the comments that followed, I found myself stating the following, about the nature of good research:

"Research becomes ten times more exciting when it is personal. All good research is, in my opinion."

That seemed worth recording for future use and consideration. So there ya go.


And finally, I have fallen in love with a shrub: the forsythia. They are all over the Scranton area--they thrive in our climate--and their yellow flowers, which only last a few short weeks, are just so golden and beautiful. I took a picture of a forsythia hedge on the U's campus. Here it is:

Golden Beauty (click to enlarge and see the flowers up close)

These made me smile big when I saw them. Next year we are definitely going to get a forsythia bush for our yard. 


Time for me to head to work. May your week be as blessed as mine has been so far!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Information Literacy Word Cloud

So, this week went from hard to, well, harder, when midday yesterday I sensed I was coming down with a cold. When I woke up today, it had settled in fully, and now my head and nose are as stuffed as can be. Since I can't take medicine due to being pregnant [To my mommy-readers, any suggestions for pregnancy-safe cold remedies?], I am praying this goes away with rest and fluids over the weekend. (My husband's homemade chicken soup will help too, I'm sure!)

I'm posting, though, to share something I created based on the work of my students. As I've mentioned a few times before, my research partner Teresa and I co-designed a course called Rhetoric & Social Media, which is now running for the second time since its inception. While I co-taught it the first time around (Spring 2011), this time I am less involved on a weekly basis, though I have been coming into the classroom on days when the discussion topic is especially related to information literacy (the thing we librarians teach, and the aspect of the course which is my specialty). Well, this week we designed an assignment deliberately around the concept of information literacy--something I have never done before, if you'd believe it, even though I teach information literacy in every class I instruct! In other words, this is the first time I presented the name of the concept to my students (I just get more and more "meta" in my instruction style as time goes by...) and had them brainstorm about what it means. The brainstorming began even before our class meeting, on the Facebook Group Wall for the private Group Teresa and I created on Facebook for this course. I then led the students to continue brainstorming during the class meeting itself (which met yesterday), and together we parsed out what it means to be "information literate" in both academic and everyday settings (man I love my job).

After the class meeting, a student shared in the Facebook Group an in-Group Doc (i.e., document) he created using the various terms we brainstormed as being related to information literacy. This led Teresa to post a link to Wordle, suggesting someone create a word cloud using our class brainstorming session. So, I went ahead and did just that, and I absolutely love the graphic that resulted, so much so I need to post about it here.

Before I post the graphic, let me explain how I created it. Leading up to my class meeting with the students, I posted the following prompt to the Facebook Group Wall for the course:
To be answered before class on Thursday 3/22: "What is information literacy? and/or What does it mean to be information literate?" Comment on this thread by listing "formal" or "borrowed" definitions of information literacy (attributed in some way), your own understanding based on your experience with the phrase (and an explanation of that understanding), or by responding to a peer's definition.  
As you can see, the students were allowed to go "find" a definition on the web, as long as they included a link to the source. They could also write out in their own words their basic understanding of what the phrase means to them. I then took all the text from the comment thread that was directly related to how they defined the phrase, and inputted it into Wordle, which then created a word cloud weighting all the words in the inputted text--so, the bigger a word is in the resulting word cloud, the more often that word occurred in the text originally inputted. Once the word cloud was generated, I decided to exclude the words "information" and "literacy" (plus a few other extraneous words), because those two words came out way bigger than the rest, making the terms we brainstormed difficult to read. The result? A word cloud depicting my students' understanding of information literacy:

Wordle: Information Literacy
Click on it to see it full-size.

How cool is that? I love my students and I love my job.

And I must say, geekery like this makes hard weeks like this one bearable. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Hard Week

This week is probably the hardest I've had in a while. Last night I took a pretty challenging Old Testament midterm, and I'm honestly not sure how I fared. I am scheduled to teach a total of four information literacy classes between now and Friday. They all require prep, either because it's my first time teaching the lesson, or because I am revamping what I usually do with the class. And then I need to work on a PowerPoint presentation for a workshop that Teresa and I are presenting at on March 30th on our Facebook research, and the only chance I'll have to get any substantial work done on it is during my Friday evening shift later this week--when I am likely to be brain-fried to the utmost degree as a result of the above schedule of work-related activities.

But amidst all of this craziness--oh, and being pregnant ups the exhaustion level of the week just a tad--I get to come home each day to these:

Happy green shoots :)

These are tulips my husband planted last October, which seem to have taken nicely. Seeing these grow taller and taller each day has improved my mood dramatically this week. I can't wait to see them bloom.

Thank God for green.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Many Pinpoints, One Picture

A little "meta" for your afternoon, concerning the name of this here blog (which I promised to share about at some point, and it being Spring Break here at my school, the relative quiet makes now a good time to do so)...

As I mentioned previously, I know that one of the reasons I do my job well as a librarian is because I make my work personal. I've wanted to blog about my work for some time now, but wasn't sure where or how to draw the line between that which is personal in my work, and that which is professional. The conclusion I came to is: I can't, and in fact an attempt to do so would likely be an inauthentic representation of the value I believe I bring to my library work.

As for the blog title, I was looking for just the right phrase that somehow expresses this idea that there are different moments in my life--different stories--some from my home life and some from my work life, that ultimately come together to form the whole person I am. It's that same whole person who is a librarian who brings value to her work, not just the "professional" part of her. And the image I came up with is that of a constellation of stars.

Then, being a librarian, I am in the information profession, and my library research centers around the role of information in our lives, how we interact with it, and its effects on us. Hence the word "information."

And thus, the name of this new blog.

Now, on a less meta, and even more personal note, I've always been enamoured with the stars. In fact, I have a handful of vignettes I wrote during my last stretch of blogging that I never published because other things became a priority in my life for a time. These vignettes chronicle my relationship with the stars, beginning in my childhood through who I am today. I'm going to publish them here over the next few weeks, beginning with the following teaser.

(And besides, I need an excuse to embed some gorgeous images of the night sky I have collected over the years from various corners of the interwebs, so I hope you enjoy these posts if only for the eye candy...)


Ever since I was a kid, I have loved the stars. This is a chronicle of our love affair.

Image courtesy of ESA, NASA and E. Olszewski (U. Arizona)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

"Welcome to Pinterest!": A Case Study

Yesterday afternoon, I decided to join Pinterest. Until this weekend, I did not have a need to add another social media website to the small but manageable set I currently belong to. Without a need to be met, there was no real reason for me to seek an invitation to join the hottest new social media startup of 2012, so I didn't, despite the fact that many of my friends both on and off social media sites are active users of Pinterest and absolutely love it.

But then I started working on our little Rosebud's registry (still a work in progress!) and all that changed.

It turns out that Babies-R-Us only has three "sort" options for displaying the items you've added to your registry: Product Category, Price: Low to High, and Price: High to Low. The latter two are intended for gift-givers, but the first option should be very useful for the parent creating the registry, to take stock of how many different items have been added to any one category. However, Babies-R-Us has a rather arbitrary way of deciding what products belong in which categories, with random categories that have no real meaning to the consumer, such as "Top Baby Registry Items." I think this category refers to popular items which are very often added to baby registries on the site, but it takes items that should be classified under, say, "Diapering" and moves them to this arbitrary category as a result of their popularity. This grouping is less than useful, and the confusion was beginning to drive me nuts, especially since the entire process of registering for our baby was overwhelming to begin with--but that's perhaps a blog post for another day. Confusion and frustration characterized much of my registry experience using the Babies-R-Us interface.

Enter Pinterest.

I realized what I needed was a place to sort through the visuals of each product I added, categorize them in ways that were meaningful to me, see where there was redundancy and also where there were gaps, and work from there. And the main reason Pinterest appealed to me for this functionality is the fact that each image you "pin" on a board on the site is linked back to its source page--meaning, I could organize the visual version of Rosebud's registry on Pinterest while still linking back to the products on the Babies-R-Us website, where my actual registry is housed. Without being a Pinterest user myself, though, this system/solution was only theoretical for me. I was unsure it would work this way in practice. But it was a strong enough reason to seek out an invitation to join the site, and so I did.


I've decided to keep a log of my impressions of Pinterest as I get the hang of using it. More specifically, I plan to describe what I do on the site, analyze why I do it, and articulate the significance of my actions and their causes. This will inevitably include a critical analysis of the site itself, identifying where the functionality succeeds and where it falls short, when considering my specific goals for using the site. This exercise is actually something my research partner, Teresa, and I have our students do in a course we co-designed last year called Rhetoric & Social Media. Our research (and the course) focuses largely on that other popular social media site, Facebook, however our deeper interest is not so much the site itself, but the thought processes of users as they encounter information on the site, and the effects of the site's functionality (much of which is shared across the social web) on how users relate to the information they encounter.

As I started messing around on Pinterest last night, I found myself reflecting analytically on how I was navigating the site to achieve my goals, and I realized it is providing me with the perfect case study to share here on my blog. I think keeping this log will be good practice for me, since we have our students do this work regularly, and having an opportunity to practice the skill of articulating description-analysis-significance for myself will improve how I teach it to my students.

A final question that you may be asking yourself is: what's the point? Why bother describing, analyzing and articulating the significance of my actions in relation to information? What is to be gained by developing and practicing this skill? (In other words, why have Teresa and I decided to focus the bulk of our research energies on this kind of work?)

The answer, in a word, is meta-literacy.

As for what that word means exactly, at least in my research with Teresa...I'm afraid this post is already too long, and I haven't even started sharing about my first impressions of Pinterest yet! I'm hoping its meaning will become clear over time, and since I believe it plays a role not only in my research but also in other parts of my life (for example, it's playing a role right now in my decision to post here on my blog about my Pinterest user experience), I can promise the concept will be fleshed out in future posts.

To start things out, I will say that the narrative I began this post with is what rhetoricians would refer to as my purpose (as well as my context) for choosing to join Pinterest, where my purpose and context are just two parts of what we'd call my rhetorical situation on the site. (Other parts include my attitude, background, audience, and more, all of which will also affect my actions on the site). A person's purpose in relation to participating on a website like Pinterest (or Facebook) can (and almost always does) change and evolve over time as a result of many factors. But at the outset, visually organizing our little Rosebud's registry was (and still is) my primary purpose for joining Pinterest, and helps define my rhetorical situation at the outset.

I'll stop here for tonight. In my next post in this series, I'll share the process of actually creating my Pinterest account--and yes, there were significant rhetorical decisions I had to make even at that early juncture!

Stay tuned.

(And if you managed to read this far, you've just received a fair taste of what my library-related research is like...can you blame me for loving my job?)

Inspiration board (for BYW)
Image courtesy of Flickr user Daily Suze courtesy of a CC license