On 10(ish) years of info lit instruction

At my institution, there’s a one-credit information literacy course taught through the library called UNL 205. Most everyone in my department has taught this course at one time or another but as the information literacy requirement here on campus moved into the majors, there has been less and less demand for it. I’m wrapping up a section of the course now, the only one being offered this semester, and this will likely be the last time I’ll be teaching UNL 205.

That’s not to say that I won’t be teaching a credit-bearing IL course at all or that UNL 205 won’t be taught anymore. Due to some shuffling of department responsibilities, I’ll be teaching a different information literacy course geared toward students in the humanities and particularly philosophy majors. UNL 205 may still get taught every now when then, but most likely it won’t be by me.

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On scholarly vs narrative voice in LIS literature

Once upon a time, I wrote a book chapter about a lesson that I teach students in my first-year seminar about being wrong. The lesson involves having them listen to the song “If I Had a Million Dollars” by The Barenaked Ladies and then telling them a vaguely embarrassing story about a time that I claimed, very confidently, that an emu and a llama were the same thing. If you know the song, you’ll understand. Or maybe not since emus and llamas are very much not the same thing.

In the chapter I originally submitted, I described this lesson and the story it involves in a relatively casual tone, similar to the one I use for this blog. This was different from the more scholarly voice I’d used in my previous professional writings. The reason I chose this more casual, narrative voice was twofold. First, the story was meant to be at least a little funny and it’s hard to tell a funny story in a scholarly voice. Second, I figured that rules about tone and voice are less strict for book chapters than they are for scholarly articles. The opportunity to throw off the constraints of scholarly writing and talk about my work in a voice and tone I personally prefer to use was one of the main attractions of getting to write a book chapter for me in the first place.

What I didn’t account for was the book editors’ preferences or expectations around the level of scholarliness they wanted for their book. Their feedback on that original submission was one of…polite alarm. The kind you might express when someone you know and like has made a particularly embarrassing faux pas. Like if I’d worn a bunny costume to a black tie party.

And I was embarrassed, not least because these editors were people I knew well and whose work I greatly respected. Because I had worked with them on previous projects, I should have known and understood the value they place on scholarliness and written my chapter accordingly. As it was, I ended up frantically rewriting the whole thing and adding a ton more research to my literature review. I don’t know if anyone was super happy with what I ended up with, but it did get published, so I guess it turned out okay in the end, more or less.

Still. I can’t help but wish I’d been able to keep the original narrative tone.

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On going back to the office, part 2

So a few weeks ago, I wrote a post on my feelings about returning to the office after nearly a year and half of working from home. At the time, I felt pretty good about it. Obviously, it was going to be a big change but I was tired of feeling so isolated. I wanted to be among people again and this felt like a good opportunity for a fresh start. Plus, I was grateful that, unlike many of my colleagues who have been working in-person this whole time, I got to wait to go back until things felt more safe again.

As Lin-Manuel Miranda might say, time has made a fool of that last point.

Which I kind of expected. I knew there were going to be variants and that things could get bad again, but like most people, I had no idea how bad they were going to get or how quickly. Now we’re at the start of a new semester and honestly I’m a lot more anxious and scared about what’s going to happen than I expected to be.

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Thinking about Hamilton and creative license

For the Fourth of July this year, I finally sat down and watched Hamilton on Disney Plus, the version that was filmed live with the original cast back in 2016. As someone who, even in normal times, doesn’t get to the theater as much as I would like to due in no small part to ticket prices, I generally appreciate these special, filmed performances that get released to movie theaters and sometimes streaming (see also: Newsies). But unlike a lot of the shows I watch on screen, I’ve actually seen the touring version of Hamilton live. It was a pretty thrilling experience, so I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this filmed version.

Generally speaking, I liked it a lot. It was a lot of fun to see the original cast, many of whom I know from other projects, in their breakout roles, especially after having just seen some of them in the movie version of In the Heights. Like a lot of people, I do wish they had been able to capture more of the amazing choreography in the film, but I guess the trade-off was getting to see the actors’ faces up close in a way that you wouldn’t if you were actually seeing the show in the theater. Anyway, it was a lot of fun.

I also watched the tie-in special that ABC/Disney made to go with the release of the film, which is called “Hamilton: History Has Its Eyes on You.” The setup is a kind of group Zoom interview between Robin Roberts, members of the cast, and Harvard Professor Annette Gordon-Reed. I expected it mostly to be a fluff piece about how great Hamilton is and mostly it is but it also considers how Hamilton as a show feels a bit different in 2020 (when the special was filmed) than it might have when it was filmed back in 2016. And there are also questions about the show’s historical accuracy.

In my upcoming book project, I have a chapter on the ethical use of information that considers some of the differences between “ethical use for academic/scholarly research,” where citation is required and creative license is anathema, and “ethical use for creative research,” where creative license is assumed. I used both Hamilton and The Social Network as examples of popular creative works that take liberties with the histories they purport to tell. So I was very interested to see how Lin-Manuel Miranda and Dr. Gordon-Reed answered questions about creative license and historical accuracy in the special.

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On “The Timing of the Research Question” by Jennifer E. Nutefall and Phyllis Mentzell Ryder

So I’ve been spending some time lately working on a new article idea intended to examine which research contexts tend to get the most attention in the library and information science literature on information-seeking. In the course of this study, I’ve stumbled upon some older articles in core journals that seem interesting and worth a deeper look. Some of these are related to information-seeking and some aren’t.

One such article is “The Timing of the Research Question” by  Jennifer E. Nutefall and Phyllis Mentzell Ryder, which was published in portal in 2010.

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Gone fishing: Summer edition

I’m on vacation this week so I won’t be posting any new content, but below is a list of some favorite posts from this year so far in case you’d like to check out any you might have missed. Enjoy and see you in a few weeks!

Guest post: Jesi Buell on how to use research in creative writing

Dear students: Citing your sources incorrectly is not plagiarism

Research in fiction writing: What problem is this investigation trying to solve (for librarians)?

Reference desk interactions: Helping “library users” versus helping “information creators”

Research in fiction writing: What problems is this investigation trying to solve (for writers)?

Reflecting on Being a (Former) First Generation Student

My Online Teaching Persona is a Major Introvert

Why I Start My Freshman Seminar with a Game Called “Category Die”

Dear AWP: Research is Not Just for Nonfiction

In Search of Borders Between Research Contexts

The True Bummer of Teaching

That Time I Tried Using a Tom Lehrer Song to Teach Plagiarism



Library faculty and the myth of protected time

A few weeks back, a survey went out to all the librarians in my state university system asking us about “protected time.” Did we have adequate time to produce the research and publications that, for many of us, are a required part of our job? Also: did we want such time written into the librarian-specific portion of our revised union contract?

I don’t know how other librarians in my state felt about this survey but my reaction was basically: ugh.

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On going back to the office

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

Like a lot of people, I’ve spent the last year or so working from home but now, starting next week, that time is coming to an end. Everyone on my campus (or, well, the people who are actually there during the summer) is being called back as of July 6 and, as you can, imagine some people are happier about it than others.

Personally, I’m a lot less unhappy about it than I expected to be.

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What I’m reading: June 2021

Some bite-sized thoughts and reflections on the items I’ve been reading, listening to, or watching this month.

Also: Did you read, watch, listen to, play something this month that you particularly enjoyed? Feel free to share in the comments! I’m always looking for recommendations.

Note: The following post contains mostly vague/light spoilers for Shadow and Bone (the Netflix series), Six of Crows (the book), Days Gone (the PS4 game), The Nanny, The Magicians, and Superman & Lois.

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