Reference and Social Justice conversation at the LILAC Spring Event

As part of the Lilac Spring Training event, Kate Adler, Ian Beilin, and Eamon Tewell led a very interesting conversation on the connection between reference work and social justice. This is a conversational format, which was very helpful in terms of hearing not just from the presenters, but from the community.
Among the topics that were discussed were  space issues (including eliminating the reference desk, on-call reference etc.) and  the real importance of finding venues for substantial conversations with students. We discussed the power dynamics that are behind many of the academic structures that we take for granted. We also debated whether standard librarian best practices are social justice oriented already. We discussed the difference between reference as passive knowledge transfer, and reference as a conversation.
This was a very worthwhile and interesting event.
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Hosting an IDNYC Pop-Up On Your Campus: A Checklist

Bronx Community College hosted a pop-up location for IDNYC from February 17th through March 9th 2016.  Overall, it was a great success with over 560 IDNYC cards handed out.  Here is a checklist of items to consider if you are thinking of hosting the program in your library.

Step One: Contacts at IDNYC

The main contact I worked with was Larry Siegel.  He is the Pop-Up Coordinator. I found him to be very responsive and an excellent resource who is very invested in making sure everything came off without a hitch and was a tremendous support throughout the duration of the pop-up.

Step Two: Reach out to all of your internal stakeholders

Your internal stakeholders will vary but, at minimum, you will need full cooperation from:

CUNY Public Safety: Your Chief of Public Safety or equivalent Head of Security will need to be brought into the loop at the very beginning of the process in order to ensure viability of the pop-up.  IDNYC has a policy of advertising all of its pop-ups on their website and they will want assurances that members of the NYC community beyond CUNY members will have access to the pop-up.  In particular, the Human Resources Administration of the Mayor’s Office, under whose jurisdiction the IDNYC program falls for coordination and staffing, had a high sensitivity to members of the public being forced to show ID to CUNY Public Safety Peace Officers to gain campus access.  The sensitivity being that some applicants would self-select out of going to the pop-up because of interactions with uniformed Peace Officers, fears regarding information sharing among CUNY Public Safety and various immigration agencies and also fear of tracking due to having a history of domestic violence and or stalking.  These are all valid concerns that we should have sympathy towards while also balancing those concerns with that of CUNY Public Safety’s charge.

In my experience with the pop-up, this ultimately led to no problems at all, but was originally a “sore spot” that almost led to the pop-up not happening at all.  The approach taken by Public Safety was one of monitoring the day-to-day entries on campus and reserving the right to shut down the pop-up should any security incidents arise related to unmonitored/unrecorded guests from the wider community.  So while I do not want to magnify these concerns beyond what actually happened (which was no reported incidents), it is wise to keep this contingency on your radar as you put together your program.

Office of Communications and Marketing & Your Office of Strategic Initiatives: These Offices may not uniformly exist on your respective campuses, but the chances are high that you have equivalent personnel whose roles entail communications with outside stakeholders such as the Mayor’s Office, IDNYC, and the like.  They may have policies that entail at minimum contacting them as a courtesy or may involve more coordinated efforts between the Library Department and those offices.  Further, they will be able to provide increased exposure for advertising purposes that would be mutually beneficial for both a high number of enrollments and public relations opportunities for the school.  Generally it is under this umbrella of offices is where you find the person in charge of Government Relations on your campus who can coordinate communication with your local Community Board, local elected officials and can coordinate a press release or press conference along with further press coverage of your pop-up.  Admittedly, this was a missed opportunity on my part and I would advise those Libraries who plan to go ahead with a pop-up to push for news coverage, photo ops, and the like in order to help raise the profile of the school, your Library and to get as many people into your pop-up as possible.

Your Administration: Securing buy-in from your President or Provost is key to a successful program.  At the risk of being trite, “all the doors open up” once you have buy-in from your college leadership.

Your Student Government Association: They are powerful advocates who can spread word of the program to the student body.  Also, this is an excellent opportunity to fortify liaison relationships with your SGA.  It is also a good time to go to an SGA meeting and promote the program to SGA directly.  Also, if you plan on housing the program in the Library in one of the study rooms—such as what we did at Bronx CC—you will want to inform the SGA to preempt concerns about the loss of a study room during a peak season such as midterms or finals.

 Your Office of Student Life: The mix of professional and student staff are also an excellent “ear to the ground” who will help you ensure a successful program.

Physical Plant: They can provide logistical support for whatever chairs, tables, storage and other unique concerns arise from the existence of the pop-up.

Office of Room Scheduling: This may be moot if you plan on housing the program in your Library, but it is always good to keep them on your radar.

Step Three: Consider Anticipated Physical Plant Needs

Room size: We were able to house the pop-up comfortably in a 16’ x 14’ room.  You will need a study table with seating for 6 for the required workspace to accommodate their materials.  They will also need some space to set up a makeshift picture booth, so make sure the lighting in the room is normal.  Note that they will have their own secured hotspot so coordinating with your Information Technology Department should not be necessary unless they want wifi for their personal devices.

Staff Needs: In our experience, they supplied three full time employees from the Human Resources Administration who were excellent. The employees will need access either to food by way of a local café or vending area and, if possible, space in a staff refrigerator for food.  Relatedly, try to be sure the staff has a lounge or place to eat during their breaks.  This rest area can be the student café as long as it is a reasonable distance from their location.

Storage: Also, the room in which their materials are stored needs to be secured under a lock and key.  When they set up their equipment on day 1, they have some storage boxes and the like that should optimally be stored in a location close to their pop-up for ease of breakdown on the last day.

Seating: Another point to keep in mind is the area right outside of the pop-up should have a small seating area for people to wait while applicants ahead of them are being processed.On day 1, it is helpful to coordinate with Public Safety to ensure that they can bring the moving van on site as close as possible to the Library to facilitate ease of shipping.

Parking: Also, if you have on-site parking, try to facilitate parking for their staff through the duration of pop-up.  In our case, this involved getting a make, model, color and plate number to Public Safety.  These are all little details that make the pop-up run smoothly.  Finally, on closing day, be sure to coordinate with Public Safety to ensure the van can gain similar access to Day 1 for ease of transfer and that the saved storage containers are available for packing.

At bottom, while it looks like a great deal of coordination, almost all of the heavy lifting on the part of the Library is on the front end.  It really involves staying on top of the external relationships and making sure everything is ready for Day 1.  After Day 1, the program essentially runs itself until closing day.  I made it a point to drop by twice a day to check up on the staff and I gave them my personal information in case they needed a contact on site.  Ultimately, I wanted to make them feel at home.  If you have any follow up questions, please feel free to contact me.

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LILAC Meeting April 12, 2-4pm

Hello to LILAC members new and old! This post is to remind you that we have a committee meeting on April 12, 2016, from 2-4pm at CUNY Central, 205 E. 42nd St., Room 962.

We have a lot going on this spring, so we’ll be using this meeting to discuss all of our initiatives. Expect an agenda a few days before the meeting!

Please RSVP to Diane if you are attending for the first time! And if you can’t make it, why not send a sub?

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New scholarship on Guide on the Side

Guide on the Side is a tutorial-building tool developed by the libraries at the University of Arizona.  What sets Guide on the Side (GOTS) apart, is that it puts the instructional material in a frame around the database (or other website) that you are teaching, so that students have their instruction side-by-side with what they are doing.  In “Student See Versus Student Do: A Comparative Study of Two Online Tutorials,” Ilana Stonebraker, M. Brooke Robertshaw and Jennifer D. Moss (Tech Trends pre-print Feb 2016) compare the effectiveness of GOTS with that of a traditional tutorial.  DOI: 10.1007/s11528-016-0026-7

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LILAC Meeting February 11, 2016, 2-4pm

Hello team LILAC! At the last meeting, there was a request to post meeting announcements to our blog. So this post is just a reminder to all LILAC members that we’ll be having a meeting on February 11, 2016, from 2-4pm, at 205 E. 42nd St, Room 962. We hope to bring in a guest speaker from CUNY Central, plan for this year’s spring event, and more.

Don’t forget to RSVP and remember that if you can’t make it, feel free to send a sub. We love hearing new perspectives from fellow CUNY Librarians!

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Dr. Russell’s talk @Rutgers

A follow up for those interested, a video recording of the said talk is available now:


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The evolution of literacy

Daniel Russell of Google had a talk at School of Communication and Information of Rutgers yesterday. The topic sounds rather interesting. Obviously, being literate today is far different from being literate in the 18th century. The process of becoming literate has evolved. How do we accomplish our mission as educators? This is an ongoing issue which we ought to think about it constantly.
Here is brief info about the talk.

Title: “The Evolution of Literacy: How search changes our understanding of reading, writing, and knowledge”
Abstract: What does it mean to be literate at a time when you can search billions of texts in less than 300 milliseconds? Although you might think that “literacy” is one of the great constants that transcends the ages, the skills of a literate person have changed substantially over time as texts and technology allow for new kinds of reading and understanding. Knowing how to read is just the beginning of it — knowing how to frame a question, pose a query, how to interpret the texts you find, how to organize and use the information you discover, how to understand your metacognition — these are all critical parts of being literate as well. In this talk I’ll review what literacy is in the age of Google, and show how some very surprising and unexpected skills will turn out to be critical in the years ahead.

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OneSearch Implementations: A Roundup

OneSearch, CUNY’s new discovery tool, is a a frequent subject of discussion at LILAC meetings. We thought we’d do a roundup of how the various colleges have incorporated OneSearch into their library websites. It’s important to remember, however, that just because a school is trying a certain implementation doesn’t mean it’s a permanent decision, or that it’s working for them! Think of this as a snapshot of CUNY OneSearch, as it’s currently being promoted on CUNY library websites as of November 2015. See below the jump for screenshots galore.

NOTE: Click on any of the screenshots below to be taken to that library website.

Continue reading

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Instruction Librarians Talk about Teaching and Learning: Hunter College Libraries’ 2015 Library Instruction Day

Instruction day icebreaker

Icebreaker: Would you rather be able to fly, or be invisible?

At Hunter College Libraries, we often complain that there is rarely time available for us (those who teach) to talk about our teaching and share ideas, both best practices and biggest challenges. This spring, Sarah Ward and I began considering a time and space for such a conversation. In an attempt to be as inclusive and democratic as possible, we (the organizers) invited interested library faculty and staff to complete a Doodle poll to choose the best date and then, following an “unconference” model, to nominate topics via a Padlet “wall.” Expenses for the event were minimal: adjunct coverage at the reference desks.  We invited folks to bring brown bag lunches, and we organizers contributed some cookies.

Library Instruction Day became a reality on Tuesday, June 23 from 10-1, with approximately 14 of us attending, representing all four of Hunter’s libraries; members of the technical services team, as well as reference and instruction. We began the day with an icebreaker: Which super-power would you rather have, flight or invisibility, and why? Participants, fairly evenly divided, shared their answers on a white board.

Hunter's library instruction day

Take-aways from Hunter College’s Library Instruction Day

We then spent about an hour gaining context in an interactive workshop lead by Meredith Reitman, Hunter’s Director of Assessment, titled “What are your students really learning?” The remaining two hours were spent in informal discussion of ideas from the participant-generated list (seeded with a few additional items by the organizers).  Attempting to practice what we preach, we closed by asking each participant to generate a three-item “to do” list, based on ideas generated by the event. Each person then shared his/her top item on the white board.

Our discussion was great and the feedback was generally positive, with interest in making the event annual. What do you do in your library to meet this need?

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Instant expert

In my student years I was often amazed by reference librarians who helped me find relevant information even the subject was remote to his/her specialty (I was told so). They are knowledgeable in general and quick learners for sure. But more importantly, they know the strategy and logic when encountering unfamiliar subjects on their daily job. This ability is seen as one of the prominent characteristics of librarianship. It makes the reference librarian as a walking-encyclopedia, so to speak.

In a recent blog post <>, Daniel Russell of Google asks “What do you do when you need to learn about a topic area very quickly?” His take is to “look for groups of people interested in your topic.” Other people suggested sources and tools like Wikipedia, good keywords, professional associations, authoritative guides, blogs, and of course, Google search. I like to check Wikipedia for known subjects, e.g. classical music, and to search Google for just about everything. In most cases, the latter will include the former in search results. Dr. Russell will have a related talk “How to become an instant expert on a topic through Google” at the Investigative Reporters and Editors conference in Philadelphia. <>

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