Class this week was rather short so we could have time to work on our webinars. We talked some more about Twitter and the pros and cons of it. I really enjoyed hearing all the perspectives on it from people who’d been on before and used it in a new way or brand new users. Twitter is a good tool because its so adaptable, which is why I think its going to be around for a while longer.
Elluminate is rather strange, it works but I’m still not sure how I feel about it. My group did our webinar last night and it went quite well. We created a presentation about how libraries can help the unemployed called From Let-Go to In-the-Know, Michigan Libraries Helping the Unemployed. There’s a link to the archived record on my links column. Since we didn’t have any reading and don’t have class this week, I’m going to use this space to write about the experience of a webinar. I was in charge of the chat and so worked to create a discussion that added to the presentation being done by the rest of my group. This was challenging but one thing that helped was we created questions that were in the presentation to engage the chat. Also since we’re one of the first groups presenting people were patient with us, I think we were the second group. Another webinar was done at 6 pm and ours was at 7 pm. We had a small audience of about four people who asked wonderful questions and seemed quite engaged. I think the balance of not just presenting and not just focusing on the chat is the real trick of webinars. I’m not sure if its something that I would rely on too much, it feels like a great way to open a conference up to people who can’t get to it. I’ll be curious to see how the other webinars go.
I want to share something about my work with America Reads that makes me incredibly happy. I’ve been working there since June of this past year and in that time, I’ve inventoried and cataloged the books. Now things are at the point where tutors are going into those records and adding particular searchable references for the literacy objectives that they work with. In the next few weeks, I’m going to be polishing things and putting together a manual and more screencasts to teach when I’m not there.
At first it was strange to realize that other people were doing what I thought of as my responsibility, but now I see how good it is. I picked a system and set things up in such a way that America Reads has a functioning library and doesn’t need a librarian anymore. Instead they can make the changes that they know are best while knowing I’m reachable to help.
Class this week started with a wonderful talk by Paul Courant, who helps to run the Michigan Library. His talk about how complicated the world of ebooks is was really good to hear and understand all the different players. I know as a librarian that many times people get disappointed because they can only see parts of a book, which seems strange when they’re all digitized. My take is that ebooks and digital books are going to keep changing. We haven’t found a good balance between copyright, orphan works and those who wish to profit from books yet. I don’t know where the solution is going to come from, but I’m pretty sure that libraries are going to play a big part.
We then spoke about embedded librarians and what that means in large and small groups. It seems to be one of those phrases that means something different depending on the person and the situation. What I took from it is that an embedded librarian needs to know how to balance the needs of the community they’re in and the library community. This is something that any librarian should know how to do and that its just more obvious for embedded librarians as they don’t spend their time only with librarians. I liked thinking about how their are different ways to be an embedded librarian from on the webpage to in the classroom and that sometimes a balance is the best way to do your job.
Class ended as we found groups to start to plan our webinars. My group is going to be looking at programs for the unemployed and we went from three to four people in our group. At this point, I’m not really sure how its going to end up as the webinar feels much newer and more complicated than the other projects.
My first thought about this class was I really wish we’d had more time. Twenty minutes even with the time planned out just feels far too rushed. The five groups covered an array of great topics, two takes on copyright policy from the point of view of K-12 teachers and academic librarians, balancing the library culture and then talk of the Code of Ethics. Kayla and I presented on the issue of accessibility in libraries, which was a great topic since it really got everyone thinking.
All of the workshops were run in really different ways, a few of us had powerpoint presentations as the hear of our workshops while some of them focused on just discussion. I think a combination of the two along with handouts seems to work the best in terms of keeping the audience involved and make sure they’re getting the most from the experience. Since too much of the one or the other can be either boring or end up rather chaotic since discussions can get out of control and take over while slide presentations can veer into the lecture format. I think after this I would be able to run a workshop since it left me feeling confident about connecting with an audience in this format and I learned some new ideas of how to present information.
I meant to write this earlier this week, because I enjoyed this class so much. When I was an undergrad and also in my graduate work in New Zealand, I studied literature and so thinking about text is one of my favorite things. Book clubs seem such a wonderful way to take a love of reading good things and take all those thoughtful things we’re taught in English class into the rest of our life. I was in Hearts and there were four groups presenting. We began by talking about Hansel and Gretel and the presenting group gave us an ice breaker question of if we were such and such character what would we do differently? This was a good question because the Grimm version we read had many details that many of us didn’t remember and so we ended up talking about why some choices were made and what would change if this story were brought into the present.
The second group talked about two poems The Tiger by William Blake and Design by Robert Frost, each poem is looking at the beauty of predators and wondering who or what created them. Most of the discussion was around this idea of how do we talk about evil and just destruction in the world. Looking back on that talk after the horrible earthquake and tsunami, I find it even more relevant since the power of nature can be hard to comprehend.
The next group looked at a series of poem from the Card Catalog Poetry Archive by someone named Robin Harris. This discussion ended up being about the whys of the poems and what do card catalogs mean to us as librarians. We talked about how sometimes we can nostalgic for things that we haven’t even experienced but that nostalgia is still a key part of how people think about librarians. I want to go back and look over more of these poems since the medium of an old card seems to carry so much with it.
Last I presented Penelope to Ulysses, Heroide I with Kayla and I found where the discussion went interesting and unexpected. I don’t want to discuss too much here because the meat of it will go in our analysis, but I enjoyed all the connections we found to our world and the past. That really carried through all of the book clubs, how do we take what we read and move it beyond the page. I think this is the power of book clubs, they can find ways to connect reading to the lives of people who might not think about it. I know I read all the time and can’t imagine not reading, so for me knowing about something like this is a good way to show that talking about what you read isn’t something to be left behind in school.
The focus of this class was talking about the expectations for our book club assignment and hearing what libraries do for book clubs and lots of discussion about Socratic seminars. The guest speaker from the Ann Arbor District Library talked about two rather different worlds of book clubs, the book kits and sponsored book clubs of the AADL and a private librarian only book club that works more with themes and what’s going on in YA and teen literature. It cemented for me what makes a book club really work is having something that gets people talking and that the job of the facilitator is knowing how to keep things moving.
All of the discussion about Socratic seminars was fascinating because a lot of it focused on how Metzger’s article didn’t seem realistic and how many factors would need to be in play for what she talked about to happen. It was a nice reminder of how many different environments everyone in that class came from and how we all found the idea of a Socratic seminar interesting but were wary of it in practice. Only one or two people mentioned experiencing one and that was in selective classes where there was a lot of trust between teacher and class. I think that’s also important for book groups, because in a good discussion everyone needs to feel safe to say what they’re thinking. Since if everyone is agreeing about everything, there won’t actually be a real discussion but instead just an echo chamber. So its key for whoever is organizing things to set up a place where all the members are willing to say what they really think. I think this requires really knowing who’s going to be there and the kind of things that make them feel comfortable. So the books about recipes and setting the right atmosphere can help as that might be the right thing for one gathering but not for another. In terms of finding the best balance of questions, I think that too depends on having an idea of where your audience will be approaching the material and getting appropriate material. It seems like that could be one of the greatest challenges, because in a small group, there will be a huge range of reading preferences and levels of education and prior knowledge. Though depending on where the seminar or book club is happening, its possible to have far more control. I’m curious to see how my book club with Kayla goes since we chose something that requires some prior knowledge though we chose one that needed less than others.
We ended by doing a mini Socratic seminar about the article Three Jeremiads and I was struck by how everyone seemed away of being watched. It kind of felt like a perfect illustration of how when you observe something it changes. I wonder what would have happened if that discussion had happened without anyone watching. Would things have got more heated? Would the same ideas have come out? That’s rather speculative, but it still was going through my head as I watched it.
Overall I found this a great class and look forward to a time when I might be participating and organizing book clubs.