Category Archives: Instruction

Creating Challenges

When I worked in the Hawaii State Public Library System as manager of the Molokai Branch, the community “newspaper” was a wall of 3×5 cards on the outside of the Post Office. There was no home mail delivery (nor business delivery, either,) so everyone had to make the trip into Kaunakakai at some point in order to buy groceries and pick up their mail. The Post Office was the perfect place to post news of births, birthday parties, softball league schedules, yard sales, babysitting requests and offers, reminders to vote, library programs … and deaths.

Reading the Post Office wall was how I learned that Maui Community College sent instructors over during the spring and fall semesters to teach continuing-ed courses. Over several years, I took IBM BASIC, Human Relations in Business, Personal Income Tax Preparation, Beginning Accounting, and Introduction to Economics. Nowhere else I have worked has there been such affordable classes for working people.

California also has rich continuing-ed opportunities for library employees via Info People, and I have taken my share of their courses. They have helped me keep up to date with new library technology, new ideas in e-reader support, new ways of looking at a reference collection and measuring its use. I’ve taken many of their how-to classes as well: how to design public computer classes, how to create screencasts, how to negotiate vendor contracts, how to catalog software.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken a course that I know will challenge me because it’s in an area I DON’T deal with every day. That’s why I jumped at the chance to take a series of courses made available by Sacramento City College that will lead to certification in online instruction. I can’t wait till the March 31st starting date!

As I sit up late, grading assignments …

… I am impressed with the resourcefulness of my students. I unintentionally gave them a hard assignment, last week, and they all gave it a pretty good shot. They used several techniques to locate the answers to hypothetical reference questions, including collaboration, asking a practicing reference librarian for guidance, searching archival collections, and asking me for clarification of the results – or non-results – they were finding. 

So while I feel bad that the assignment was harder than it needed to be, I am actually elated that the students were able to meet the challenge and produce mostly credible sources and answers. 

Stump the Librarian

Last Thursday’s SacLib Facebook post invited readers to mention the last three books they enjoyed, and librarians would recommend titles for them to read next. The first time we did this was in Fall of 2011, and 24 people posted – we thought that was a fabulous response rate. On Thursday, there were well over 100 posts, and many comments that the librarians’ suggestions were “right on target.” It’s obvious that our readers love to talk about what they’re reading, and i’m happy that our staff was able to make relevant recommendations.

This success makes me think this might make a good assignment for my Reference students. If they could do something like that on the LIBT or City College Facebook page, this would give them a fun way to put into practice the lesson on Reader’s Advisory. If we can’t use the school’s Facebook page, we could do something like that on the discussion board for that week. The more I think about it, the more I like it!

Professor Owens

I discovered I really love teaching! So I’m happy to say that I’ve been invited back to teach the Reference Services class again this fall! I received the letter from SCC the other day, and I should be able to access my e-mail and D2L, the course management software, soon.

My school e-mail and D2L blackout this spring has made me think more seriously about an alternate place to put my lessons and exercises. The director of the program has created a Google Site for the class she teaches, and I’m more than half-inclined to try that, too.

I have the updated textbook, and now I have to revise my lessons to accommodate the new information. Fortunately, I saved all my work in Dropbox, so I can begin the revisions right away, and just upload them to D2L when my access is restored.

Some of the lessons I learned last year:

  • Check local libraries for copies of titles mentioned in the text and used in the assignments. Just because they’re basic and standard doesn’t mean libraries have purchased them.
  • Simply posting a response after the assignment, as is done in InfoPeople classes, is a waste of time at this level. It would be better for me to post a question requiring analysis based on the exercises of the week, and invite the other students to contribute to the discussion.
  • I need to hold a couple of quizzes during the semester to get a better handle on student progress.
  • I need to create a long-term project to make the class more challenging.
  • Last year, I made the final exam open-book, and it was still a challenge for about half of the students. I actually liked the open-book exam, because this was a reference class, and the questions gave the students more practice in deciding which books to use to find the answers.

So … until my D2L access is restored and I can log in and fight with the program updates … I’m enjoying the Independence Day holiday and weekend. After next week, it’s going to be insane!