Don’t Miss Thursdays with CLA! Special Guest Justin Hoenke on 5/14 at 12/Noon

Is reference dead? Is it something that we still do but now has a new name? Join CLA President Robert Karatsu in a conversation with Justin Hoenke, a co-author of the recent ALA publication Reinventing Reference: How Libraries Delivery Value in the Age of Google as they discuss what reference looks like in today’s public library. Prior to his conversation with Justin, Robert will talk a little about the Reference Service Press Fellowship, a scholarship that thanks to Dr. Gail Schlachter and the Reference Service Press has been awarded annually by CLA since 1993

Go to http://clareimagine.com/ on Thursday, the 14th at 12/Noon.

And in case you missed them, previous Thursdays with CLA editions are worth watching:

Enjoy!

Fact checking checkup

Ferreting out fact from rumor, uninformed opinion, and outright falsehood underpins the work of all types of libraries. As we continue to work in an information ecosystem undergoing explosive growth and publishing access by authorities of every degree of sophistication, taking time for regular fact checking awareness improves our capacity to distinguish what is from what might be. 

Among the most compelling information literacy exercises of which I’m aware was developed more than a decade ago by the school library media teacher (degreed!) in a small and relatively isolated K-5 school. Each year there, each grade level received information learning scaffolded developmentally and occurring through the full term. For the kindergarteners, the teaching was presented by every adult on campus, whenever he or she was audience to any kindergartener’s declaration of any information: the prescriptive adult response, “How do you know that?” provided the pause we all need to reflect on whether a declaration is supportable by fact.

Of course, when it comes to a five-year-old, a typical response might be that she saw it happen or that her older sister told her so. Additional questions might be placed, depending on the matter at hand, to uncover the accuracy of her witnessing position or her sister’s motivation. Across time, the student could begin to notice she couldn’t really claim to have seen an event that had occured while she was in another room, or that her sister had a penchant for pulling her leg about school-related matters but not family ones. 

What we can take away from this simple exercise, regardless of our age, is the benefit of taking a moment to reflect on whether what we are repeating is worthy of that repetition. If we din’t take that moment, how do we recognize when a visit to Snopes.com might be better than forwarding the “news” we’ve just received?

With increasing access to both big data and resources of open government data, our tools for fact checking also gain power and reach. Along with the utility of tools to ferret out the facts, we also need to notice when we are missing facts, or operating with assumptions. That’s when a fact checking check up can uncover a need to boost our assumption immunity.

The regime for fact checking health isn’t new-fangled at all. We can start with that same question posed to the kindergarteners–along with the other four every journalist in training learns:

  • How do I know that?
  • Who said it?
  • Why was it said?
  • When was that?
  • Where was it occurring?

Such fact checking breaks can position how we move forward, and whether we can.

Teaching privacy?

With the word “privacy” appearing in both online and offline discussions of how we live in 2014, how do we make time to analyze and consider, and then put into use, the very best practices we can in libraryland? Here are a few signposts from recent weeks that limn the current thinking:

Back in May, Barbara Fister wrote a “Peer to Peer” opinion piece at Library Journal taking up that issue; to date, the online piece has received a total of four comments, including one from Ms. Fister acknowledging the points made to her original post and summing up for the next question. 

At the OCLC Symposium held at ALA’s Annual Conference, in June, several audience members pushed back against Daniel Obodovski’s suggestions that data collected as libraries do business might prove useful to harvest to support the expansion of knowledge afforded by the Internet of Things. Expanding local library awareness of user needs, wants, and satisfaction levels, done anonymously, was agreeable; suggesting that libraries become purveyors of data collected from our communities drew a resoundingly negative reaction.

The day before Independence Day, Cory Doctorow published a summary of findings that indicate NSA surveillance seems to be keyed to those online who actively seek privacy information there. That would suggest that as librarians, with a duty to explore as well as maintain privacy standards, we stand to put ourselves in the path of having ours exploited.

So, how do we approach a topic that is getting hotter in the public mind even while we become increasingly aware of how slippery the “it” of privacy is? In essence, how do we teach good online privacy hygiene without introducing the kind of damage hand washing efficacy has suffered with the overuse of antibacterial scrubs for frequent use? 

How are you broaching privacy with your staff? With kids in your community? With adults seeking technical assistance? What tools might be useful for digging our way to daylight? Let us all hear!

National Archives and Wikipedia

The continuing development of the US Open Government Plan, first promoted in 2010, and leading, in 2011, to the naming of a Wikipedian in Residence at the National Archives (NARA), is set to go the next step. All of NARA’s digitized content will be loaded into Wikipedia. Already 100,000 images from NARA are available freely and readily via Wikimedia Commons.

This is another alert to us in the library world that we need to take Wikipedia as a serious reference source, help develop our community members’ understanding of how to evaluate its content, and use it ourselves for some serious research.

This new open data reality can save us time and collection money. It furthers our capacity to bring vetted, primary sources to local users. It doesn’t mean that Wikipedia is close to perfect. But it is a strong indication that we need to move our professional discussion of best practices beyond the yes/no evaluation of resources to discover, learn and teach the how and why of discovering the best resource available to respond to the user need.

 

Librarians going beyond Google

In a continuing series of engaging panel discussions hosted by American Libraries, AL Live, the episode presented last Thursday offered a rich mix of observations, insights, and big questions about how library staff–most particularly reference staff–out-Google Google’s popular reputation as the resource par excellance. Going Beyond Google  worked through such concerns as utilizing Google web crawling to reveal library contents for user discovery; recognizing reference staff’s shift from fact-finders to evaluation guides; teaching students the difference between the wisdom of crowds and authentic data; and, most especially, the seemingly irreplaceable role human interaction–conversational communication–plays in getting the person with the question to infomation that best responds to addressing it.

The live webcast itself epitomized the very values being named and addressed throughout it. Panelists engaged each other, through Dan Freeman’s fast paced hosting, rather than announcing positions held individually outside the influence of the ongoing conversation. Virtual participants added meaty remarks, with Dan turning to these text chatters frequently enough to keep the preset discussion questions fluid and evolved under the comments added extemporaneously.

Among the takeaways from this model reference engagement process was the citing of an ACRL document authored by Megan Oakleaf,  The Value of Academic Libraries, which provides–and importantly for public and other libraries beyond academic ones–replicable charting methods for displaying how libraries, and librarian-provided services, provide institutional value.

Other takeaways included the restatement of reference (and other library provisions) in a “Google world” as being one of fruitful addition, wayfinding, mentorship, and authoritative balance rather than an unfruitful competition between librarian and search engine. The incomparable worth of communication–between librarian and information seeker–was highlighted as the epitome of library added value to any knowledge search beyond the identification of simple fact. And to that end, the webcast itself was a model of communication among librarians about where and how to get beyond Google.