Monthly Tidings, March 2018

Ahh daylight savings time! When as a society we go “wait, how is it spring already?” and scramble to either catch up on our New Year’s resolutions or hide all evidence that they ever existed.

(Note: I was going to call this “monthly tidbits” but when drafting this on my phone my spellchecker decided “tidings” was better; I can’t say I disagree.)

What I’m Reading

Dan Rothstein and Luz Santana, Make Just One Change: Teach Students to Ask Their Own Questions (Harvard Education Press, 2011)

I participated in a dynamite session led by Lori Donovan and Lynne Bland at last year’s American Association of School Librarians conference that showcased this book’s teaching technique, which aims to get students to ask their own questions about a topic instead of just responding to teacher questions. It’s a fairly short book, but is really rich with examples and explanations of why and how this technique works and can tie in to more traditional research methods and information literacy.

Dana Thomas, Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster

This book had been recommended to me a number of times, and when I finally found a secondhand copy in my local indie bookstore I grabbed it. Deluxe came out in August 2007, just before the beginning of the Great Recession, and is a weirdly dated snapshot of the particular excesses of the early 2000s. It has already answered a number of burning questions I have had, like “why do they expect me to pay $400 for this bag when the stitching looks like that?” and “do my sunglasses really need a giant designer logo cutout, even though it makes the glasses less effective at their blocking the sun?”

What I’m Working On

I just started compiling the bibliography for a new for-fun project on data history which I’m pretty pumped about.

What I’m Listening To

Janelle Monae’s glorious new singles (be forwarned: neither of those links is particularly safe for work)

What I Learned Recently

How deeply bizarre and openly corrupt Russian professional hockey is.


New year, new semester, new ideas

Just a quick note to start the semester off right. Last night was adjunct faculty orientation here at St. Louis Community College at Forest Park, and it was fantastic. I attended an overview session given by one of the full-time English faculty members, Hilary Wilson, who was engaging, funny, and full of helpful information, and one given by the math department’s Debbie Char. Prof. Char’s presentation on classroom games and keeping student attention was top-notch, and I’ll be spreading these ideas to as many of my academic friends as I can.

I’m pumped to teach library sessions this semester, to work more closely with faculty to help their students succeed, and to take advantage of the great classes offered and get familiar with some more subject areas.

May you all have a productive, exciting, and low-stress Spring 2013!

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?