April Miscellanea from Cambridge and Parts East

It’s been an interesting April thus far, and thought I’d share highlights from events I’ve attended. They include:

Min(d)ing the Gaps: A Library Conversation About Research, Teaching, Learning . . . and Today’s Harvard Students, which was a sold out panel that included Alison Head (Co-Director and Co-Principal Investigator, Project Information Literacy and a Fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society); Stephanie Kenen (Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education and Director of the Program in General Education); R.J. Jenkins (Doctoral candidate in the Department of English, and Head Teaching Fellow for several courses), and Jane Unrue (who teaches “The Voice of Authority” in the Harvard College Writing Program and is a member of the Scholars at Risk Committee). Heard a number of messages here, including the observation from several panel members that students probably know less than half as much as we think about how to do real research. In a conversation with Alison Head before the panel, she mentioned that she’s now working on research about how students perform in their first post-college jobs: what they know — and what they don’t know ‚ about doing research, along with what their new employers expected them to know. I can hardly wait to hear the results of this research!

Local Focus Group on e-reader use: I facilitated a focus group to explore how students use e-content and e-readers. The single most interesting observation I heard was from a student who noted that they don’t retain what they read as well from an e-text as from a print text ‚ that reading something in print fixes the information more in their mind, and they can picture the text on the page and the page in the book, and therefore absorb the material better and retain it longer. They also talked about the sense of accomplishment they derived from turning the pages of a book as they read. If you haven’t talked with your own users about their use of e-text yet, I heartily recommend you do ‚ you may uncover some real surprises about their actual use and attitudes towards it;

Libraries Are Obsolete: An Oxford-Style Debate was an Oxford Union-style debate, similar in format to the British House of Commons. In keeping with the Oxford Union format, the debate revolved around the controversial and timely proposition: MOTION: Libraries are Obsolete. Chairman of the session was Jonathan Zittrain, Professor at the Harvard Law School, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and soon to become Harvard Law School’s Vice-Dean of Library and Information Resources (in July 2012). Speaking in favor of the proposition were Dr. James Tracy (Headmaster, Cushing Academy), and R. David Lankes (Professor and Dean’s Scholar for the New Librarianship, University of Syracuse iSchool and Director of the Information Institute of Syracuse), while speaking in opposition to the proposition were Susan Hildreth (Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services), and John G. Palfrey (Vice Dean for Library and Information Resources, and the Henry N. Ess III Professor of Law at Harvard Law School). This was a compelling, sometimes hilarious debate ‚ I’d like to note that Susan Hildreth was outstanding as an advocate for libraries! Two students from the Harvard Speech & Parliamentary Debate Society closed the program, then we all voted by walking out a Yea or Nay door to show our support or opposition to the proposition (guess which side won?). The results (Libraries are NOT obsolete!) were announced over gin & tonics at a garden reception following the debate. Very civilized, very informative, very G & T; they’ve promised an online video of the proceedings and if it appears I’ll share the link with you all;

And then I wound up that week and a half period by going to the Graveyard Shift at Slater Mill on Saturday night. If you live in the Northeast or ever visit the Providence R.I. area and haven’t ever gone to Slater Mill ‚ go. The history it illustrates so vividly gives you new insights into some of the costs of the industrial revolution in this country, and it all started at Slater Mill. They do new and different programs continually (including ghost tours led by Keith and Carl Johnson). If you’d like an idea of some of the paranormal events many have experienced at the site, take a look at this Youtube video (although the highlight of Saturday’s event was scoring some goblin hats hand-knitted by Jeff Belanger’s mom!). Jeff Belanger is a very cool guy; met him for the first time Saturday ‚ he’s an historian at heart, and the evening’s presentations all concentrated on the historical happenings at the Slater Mill site that set the context for paranormal activity. He’s in the process of doing a pilot for a paranormal series on PBS, and that’s something I’ll watch for.

Coming up this week: A Lesson with Nesson: Poker and Strategic Thinking for Librarians and Friends, our second chance to learn poker and strategy from master strategist, HLS Professor Charles Nesson (for more about the 1st session Charlie gave us, see my March 12th post on it ‚ what a hoot, and informative, too).

I’ll let you know how it goes, after it happens,

Cheryl LaGuardia About Cheryl LaGuardia

Cheryl LaGuardia always wanted to be a librarian, and has been one for more years than she's going to admit. She cracked open her first CPU to install a CD-ROM card in the mid-1980's, pioneered e-resource reviewing for Library Journal in the early 90's (picture calico bonnets and prairie schooners on the web...), won the Louis Shores / Oryx Press Award for Professional Reviewing, and has been working for truth, justice, and better electronic library resources ever since. Reach her at claguard@fas.harvard.edu, where she's a Research Librarian at Harvard University.