Speak Out with your Geek Out

If you Google me, you find a number of websites and social media posts outlining my involvement with the games publishing industry. I’m open about my dorkier pastimes, but not everyone is or feels they can be. So when Monica Valentinelli, an author and game designer, responded to a recent online gamer-shaming kerfluffle with the idea of having a “geek pride” blogging week, I leapt at the chance to get involved. Though my plans went awry due to a cross-country move, I thought the subject worth pursuing.

We in the library field are pretty geeky ourselves (or nerdy, or dorky) and we have the luxury of being able to be open about our off-the-beaten-track passions without much fuss from our colleagues or patrons. Whether we’re knititng enthusiasts, balletomanes, comic book fans or even just diehard Twitterers, most if not all of us are geeks of some kind. We live in a world of information that offers us a universe of possibilities. We are smart and dedicated, and channel our passions in a myriad of ways.

In my first month as a reference intern during library school, I was approached by an undergraduate student doing work for a 200-level class on Slavic history. The assignment was a fairly simple book review, but she was having trouble translating the assignment into a set of criteria she could use to find something in the library. Fortunately or unfortunately, she got me at the reference desk. My last course as an undergraduate was an absolutely outstanding advanced history course on Byzantine history gave me a serious geek love of Slavic and Byzantine history. I’m pretty sure I overwhelmed her a bit with my suggestions (though my supervisor assured me that most new librarians do that at some point), but I was excited not only by the chance to share what I knew but also to introduce her to a field she’d barely been aware of before.

As a librarian, I am immensely lucky to be able to pursue that feeling of wonder and excitement in the world around me. Whether it’s the challenges of arts metadata, the intricacies of digital mapping projects, the vast promise of the semantic web or just the simple joy of learning something during a reference interview, the information universe is forever showing new vistas to me.

If that makes me a geek (and I’ve been assured it does), then so be it. I’m a geek.

And I’m proud of it.

ACRL’s Instruction Section Mentoring Committee is recruiting mentors!

Hear ye, hear ye!

Do you want to lead? Do you want to share your professional library experience? Feel a need for some professional mentoring? Then consider becoming an ACRL/IS Mentor or Mentee for 2010-2011!

The ACRL Instructional Section Mentoring Program’s purpose is to contribute to the professional development of academic librarians interested in information literacy instruction and improving their teaching skills by pairing librarians experienced in teaching with librarians new to instruction or to the Instruction Section.

The program creates a forum for learning opportunities, networking, and the exchange of ideas between paired mentors and mentees. Conference attendance is not required. In fact, much of the mentoring takes place outside of scheduled conferences.

ACRL/IS Mentoring committee is seeking experience librarians to become mentors and new librarians to become mentees.

If you are interested please fill out an application on the IS Mentoring Program web site http://www.ala.org/ala/mgrps/divs/acrl/about/sections/is/projpubs/mentoring/index.cfm

Applications are accepted year-round. Priority will be given to applications received by October 15 for matches to be made in time for Midwinter. If you are thinking about registering for ALA Midwinter and Annual Conference, please consider applying for the mentoring program at the same time.

If you have questions about the ACRL Instruction Section Mentoring Program, please contact the Committee Chair Wendy Holiday at wendy.holliday@usu.edu.

My Pratt classmates know I’m passionate about mentoring. If you know anyone that would be a good mentor, send them our way! We have plenty of resources to help you ease into mentoring if you’re new to it and members of the mentoring committee will be personally assigned to help guide you through the process.

Pass it on!

Edit: Please note that if you’re not interested in mentoring or don’t have significant experience you can still recommend our efforts to someone you know that WOULD be a great mentor. Word of mouth does wonders!

The Writing Center and the Library

At the institution where I work, the writing center is a kind of strange appendage to the library. To get to it, you have to go into the library and through the stacks, yet the center is administratively and practically separated from the actual library. (The center’s entrance is a former fire exit.) Library staff have only the writing center’s flyers to rely on for staffing hours, and are sometimes forced to merely grimace sympathetically when a frantic student can’t find writing help and the ref desk is swamped.

A dear friend of mine is a graduate student in English and works part-time in the writing center at her institution. She and I have had discussions trying to find the boundary between the library and the writing center. When one of her students has a paper that is grammatically solid but lacks good references, does she shoo him onto the library? She’s trained in composition but not library structure and information literacy. When a student comes to the reference desk with a request for resources that don’t match the assignment he’s working on (or his other sources), do I recommend contacting the writing center? Why are these entities separate? Is it primarily an administrative issue? (Writing center staff is often composed of graduate students in English or Composition.) Is it a territory issue? It is a space issue?

LIS literature has shown that undergraduates tend to research and write to the assignment, in a model unlike that of advanced graduate students, faculty, or librarians. (See Fister 1992, Leckie 1996 and others for more on this.) To put it simplistically, our students want to write effective and well-researched papers because they want to get good grades. Our faculty want our students to write good papers because they want to pass on the standards that shape their professional worlds.

I as a librarian and my friend as writing instructor want the same things from and for our students. Physical location of the writing center into the library is a great first step. One-desk service models that include writing center staffing are even better. I’d like to see cross-training of writing center and library reference/instruction staff. Make it clear what resources are available. Develop relationships among writing instructors and librarians. Academic libraries are moving to a model that’s more enmeshed with coursework and teaching. Shouldn’t strengthening our relationships with the academic service whose mission is arguably closest to ours be a top priority?