March 2011 Archives

An Interview with Robert Darnton on the Digital Public Library of America 

A podcast I listen to, Digital Campus, recently talked about another meeting of a group working on the idea of the Digital Public Library of America. It sounds like some version of this is going to be moving into development possibly in 2011. Potential game changer? Pipe Dream? What do you think? Here is some more information: 

 Part 1:

Part 2:

Considering Angry Birds

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angrybirds.jpgI will confess an addiction (at times) with the game Angry Birds which is why I was interested to read Why Angry Birds is so successful and popular: a cognitive teardown of the user experience. Here are a few things I found interesting:

"The total number of hours consumed by Angry Birds players world-wide is roughly 200 million minutes a DAY, which translates into 1.2 billion hours a year. To compare, all person-hours spent creating and updating Wikipedia totals about 100 million hours over the entire life span of Wikipedia (Neiman Journalism Lab)."

"This seems an obvious point, but few realize that a simple interaction model need not be, and rarely is, procedurally simple. Simplification means once users have a relatively brief period of experience with the software, their mental model of how the interface behaves is well formed and fully embedded."

This led me to think about students mental models about libraries and what sort of "thing" we could create to try to help student's make sense of libraries/how information is organized/how scholarly information is developed/organized. More to consider...
I think that the language of the article "Information Literacy as a Human Right" is very useful for making arguments about the broader importance for information literacy, even if the teaching outcomes for most of our instruction sessions actually only address limited aspects of them.  

In an hour long session, it is important to be very practical and succinct with our teaching objectives - but I think talking about some of these broader ideas in introductions, transitions and discussions with students can help make these connections in small ways.  

For me, the best takeaways from articles like these are ideas and words that I can use to help explain the "whys" of information literacy.  Even in a short instruction session it is important to address the reasons for the learning, if only in the introduction to the goals and agenda of the session.

For example, having a short discussion about authority and the scholarly review process contributes (in a small way, but it at least raises some understanding) to the development of students critical response to information.  At the same time, it is a good introduction and transition to a practical session on finding scholarly articles.

In what other ways can broader and more theoretical aspects of information literacy have a place in workshops that are designed to be very practical?
I just sped through this was a lot more engaging than I was expecting.  (In my initial scan I saw mention of Habermas and that instantly brought up a red flag and with it fears that this article might be a dense theoretical slog).  Instead it proves to be a provocative read that  really gets you thinking about libraries' approaches to Information Literacy.

I was especially intrigued by their assertion that libraries have a tendency to look at information literacy as synonymous with "User Education" which they define as

An emphasis on teaching about the structures and facilities already created by librarians for their users, with a concentration on using the OPAC, how to search in databases, and how to find books in the library seldom set out to promote a vision that was bigger than creating 'good' library users. (196)


And that's not all--here's their take on on the 1989 ALA definition of Information Literacy:

This is a rather dated and a typically narrow 'librarianship' definition, differing very little from the ways in which User Education was defined, although it will continue to be quoted because of the authority of the organization from which it comes. (197)

The authors instead advocate from shifting the foundational paradigm of Information Literacy that "start with a concept of information access as a human right, that leads us into the broad area of literacies and the programmes that support them." (199)  They believe that this new foundation will result in

The conclusion...that individuals need a broad and self-selected set of skills across the range of formats and media to support their human right to information. (200).

Question:  What do you think of their criticism of the library profession's definition and practice of Information Literacy?  Is it way off base or are there hints of accuracy?  What can we take away from this "outsider" perspective on the profession?  

UNESCO's Information for All Programme (IFAP) has published a  paper providing a basic conceptual framework for measuring information literacy. Entitled Towards information literacy indicators, the publication includes a definition of information literacy; a model that links information literacy with other adult competences, such as ICT skills; and a description of information literacy standards in education.

The development of indicators of information literacy is a priority at both national and international levels. Information literacy underpins many of the Millennium Development Goals, for instance, combating diseases and enhancing employment opportunities.

The Millennium Development Goals have 8 broad areas targeted for achievement by 2015:

  • Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Poverty and Hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
  • Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women
  • Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and Other Diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

I normally think of Information Literacy as an activity in education, but this report states its importance in progress toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals, a much broader framework. Could organizations export information literacy training in the way they deliver humanitarian aid for other needs?

When: Wednesday, March 23 in Wilson S30A, 3:30-4:30 

 Reading: Moving away from practical we head towards the theoretical with: Sturges, Paul, and Almuth Gastinger. "Information Literacy as a Human Right." Libri 60.3 (2010): 195-202. 

 I enjoyed some of the definitions for Information Literacy highlighted in the article beyond the ALA definition from 1989--"To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information."

Like this... 

"A set of competencies that an informed citizen of an information society ought to possess to participate intelligently and actively." 

 and this...

 "Information Literacy is a basic condition for: learning for life; the creation of new knowledge; acquisition of skills; personal, vocational, corporate and organisational empowerment; social inclusion; participative citizenship; and innovation and enterprise." 

 I like this conclusion from the article: "what we in definitions such as this, is the writers striving to work out a strong rationale for an instructional activity that commons sense tells them is obviously worthwhile." 

 Question: How does how we frame IL effect what we focus on and how others see the importance/value of IL?

Is information literacy a human right? We will be discussing this at the Current Issues Coffee Club on March 23rd.

Article 19 of The Universal Declaration of Human Right, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948 states "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions with interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers "  

FAIFE, or Committee of Freedom of Access to Information and Freedom of Expression was created within IFLA to defend and promote the basic human rights defined in Article 19. FAIFE monitors the state of intellectual freedom within the library community world-wide, supports IFLA policy development and co-operation with other international human rights organizations, and responds to violations of free access to information and freedom of expression.

FAIFE supports and co-operates with relevant international bodies, organizations or campaigns such as UNESCO, PEN International, Article XIX, Index on Censorship, IFEX and Amnesty International

What part did Article 19 play in recent uprisings in Arab countries, if any? Is social media an organizing and information dissemination tool only, or part of the new frontier in realizing Article 19 of the UDHR?

Last month the Twitterverse declared February 23rd to be Bart Simpson's birthday. Being a lifelong Simpsons fan I thought it was odd that I had never celebrated my yellow friends entry into the world before. The website SplitSider tracked down this erroneous birthday in a very interesting post on their site. ( I will leave the details to their original post but effectively what happened was a global game of telephone. Ultimately the Chicago Tribune, Nexflix, Rolling Stone, and Columbia College Chicago added an air of credibility to this idea. 

I was reading the article for the upcoming Current Issues Coffee Club - March, 23rd - and wondered if a society grounded in information literacy would spontaneously grant birthday's to our fictional friends?

I heart Michael Wesch

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"This new media environment can be enormously disruptive to our current teaching methods and philosophies. As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able." from here

Amongst the courses I have had the honor to work with this semester is Associate Professor Sehoya Cotner's Zoology class (BIOLOGY 2012).  In this class, students are producing vodcasts that describe a recent study in the field.  This assignment is part of Sehoya's work through the OIT Fellows program to redesign Zoology curriculum, and the student support piece came as a referral to us from Lauren Marsh (OIT) - thanks Lauren!

This collaboration is notable for Library Media Services on multiple levels:
  • it represents our first foray into the natural sciences
  • it is completely based on scholarly research (students have to select a recent article in the field and communicate the content through video with grading criteria on producing content that is accessible and engaging to non-Biologists)
  • it is an innovative pedagogical approach (students asking each other questions)
  • it is content born open (anyone can view)
  • it is large scale (at least 25 groups of 3-4), but structured in a way so as not to overwhelm support resources (2-3 group vodcasts due a week throughout the semester)

What students are learning beyond Zoology..
  • that they can demonstrate the ability to effectively communicate complex issues such as animal research in an accessible manner to multiple audiences...
  • that they can demonstrate this communication through video production (multimedia) and within a social media context (Posterous) assists in the development of digital media literacy skill sets on multiple levels...
  • that they can also demonstrate the ability to work in groups collaboratively, ability to diversify responsibilities, and meet project deadlines in order to deliver a quality product in a limited time frame. 

Aside from the subject knowledge acquisition, I think most folks would agree that all of these are skill sets that are invaluable (and frankly, marketable in this competitive job environment), further reasons why these opportunities should be encouraged in undergraduate education.

Why other faculty should consider student vodcasts...
This kind of project is easily applicable across disciplines, has a low barrier for students without extensive media production experience, and moderately easy to support from a campus resource perspective.  As such, I would encourage more faculty to consider integrating this type of assignment into their courses.  Media use in the type of presentation genre is also slowly taking shape in academic scholarship as well.   I look forward to seeing all the student projects as the semester progresses and continuing our dialogue with Sehoya!

Check out the project site!!

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Library of the Early Mind

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Reposting this item from MetroBriefs (vol 2., no. 5):

Join in a grownup conversation about children's books. Two special screenings of Library of the Early Mind a documentary about children's literaturewith director Edward J. Delaney followed by panel discussion with local children's book experts.

About the movie

Library of the Early Mind is an exploration of the art and impact of children's literature on our kids, our culture, and ourselves. From the first stories we hear told to us to those childhood heroes that stay with us a lifetime, the impact on our culture runs deeper than what we might expect. "No one suspects the children's writer," says author and illustrator Mo Willems, a former 'Sesame Street' writer. The film features nearly 40 prominent authors and illustrators talking about their work, its genesis and its impact. The number of books in print by the authors in Library of the Early Mind exceeds 240 million.

Showtimes and Panel Info

Sunday, March 27, 2:00-4:30 pm

Minneapolis Central Library in Pohlad Hall, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis, 55401

Panel Participants: David LaRochelle, Julie Reimer, John Coy, and Catherine Thimmesh

Monday, March 28, 6:00-8:00 pm

Galaxie Library, 14955 Galaxie Ave, Apple Valley, 55124

Panel Participants: John Coy, Catherine Thimmesh, and Marsha Wilson Chall

Open to the public; no registration required.


Opportunities for both on and off site are available: 

With 13 regional contests, they need of more than 700 judges!  The website and paper categories, with their mail-in participation, is growing leaps and bounds calling for dozens of "at home" evaluators.  And the State Contest on SUNDAY, May 1 will require another 200 committed volunteers.  For more information about the judging process or our events, please visit our website at   
Since I walk passed this I thought I would share way SciEng promotes the workshops.


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