Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Digital Literacy Corps--A Call to Action

I am answering the call of my colleagues!  FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposes spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a digital literacy corps.  Read the full New York Times article here.  In response, Fran Bullington put forward a Call to Action.  You can find her reasons for this, and the correct contact information here in Joyce Valenza's article, "Aren't we already the "digital literacy corps?"

The answer to this question is: YES!

I responded to Ms. Bullington's plea by sending an email to Chairman Genachowski.  If you would like to add your own email to Genachowski's inbox, I give my full permission to use any part of my email to be used as a guide, or even fully copied.  His email address is

Dear Chairman Genachowski:

I just read the NY Times May 30, 2012 article entitled “Wasting Time is New Digital Divide in Digital Era.”  As an educator, I realize the importance of information and digital literacy.  As a librarian of 8 years' experience, I have been trained to teach information literacy skills to people of all backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses and levels of education.  I collaborate with classroom teachers, instructors and professors to teach lessons in which I incorporate these skills.  It is called Literacy Instruction, or sometimes Library Instruction.  In these sessions, students are taught about information resources that are available, where to find them, and how to use them.  They are also taught how to do research and evaluate sources so that the information they gather is valid. These skills apply to all sources, digital or otherwise.  For the digital sources, librarians teach more: how to successfully search in databases and online, how to access digital information through different portals and formats, and computer skills that will help students be more proficient in gaining the information they need.  They are even taught how to use basic computer programs like the Microsoft Office Suite.  Additionally, they are taught about plagiarism and how to avoid it by proper citation.  These are just a few of the things librarians do to teach, promote and support information literacy.

However, the recession has had an enormous impact on all libraries.  Many programs have been completely cut; others are being run by volunteers rather than a certified or properly educated librarian; and other programs have lost their assistants, whose job of handling routine procedures freed the librarian to plan with teachers.

I noticed that the FCC is considering “a proposal to spend $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. This group of hundreds, even thousands, of trainers would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers.”
Although I applaud the intent of teaching digital literacy skills to our students, I question the expenditure of these funds.  Why not instead funnel these funds into library programs to allow trained, certified professionals to teach the skills?  We have what is needed, we just need the support to make it happen.  Will you provide that support?

I look forward to hearing from you on this vital issue.

Many thanks and all best,

Laura Faatz, MA MLIS

There is also this post in "The Unquiet Librarian" discussing this topic.  We need to be vocal and be heard.  It appears that not even the ALA is fighting for this one.

Library Journal: Webcasts, Newsletters, Tech and More

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Lady Macbeth by Susan Fraser King

I LOVED this book. However much I love Shakespeare--and I DO LOVE SHAKESPEARE--the man was writing for the good graces and on the good will of the Tudors and the Stuarts. To do that, he often had to write Tudor-supporting propaganda (which is why Richard III is evil in his book, when actually he was quite an amicable man). Susan Fraser King wrote a novel more in line with historical fact. Her characters are flawed, they are human, but they have hearts and are pushed and prodded by circumstance more than by ambition. In this realm, Macbeth and his wife are loved by their people and their country; he actually holds the knife when he would have done them all more good by "plunging it in!" He is not the pitiable murderer we have all come to know and does not live under/behind his lady-wife's skirts; he is actually a king who has his country's best interests at heart. The writing is magnificent as well. King pulls you in with her first line and keeps you hooked until the last. I felt an aching loss when I finished this book. Like the play however, Macbeth dies at the end, so there won't be a sequel, unless Lady Macbeth's fate ties in with that of some other clan. It may, but I doubt she'll be the central character again.

A Great Site for Information Professionals-Infopeople

Archived Webinars from Infopeople: Moving Libraries Forward. Do you need to be in the know about new trends in librarianship?  Infopeople has a number of resources for people interested in the library realm. This is a link to past webinars, but the site also has information about training, resources and search tools.  This is a must-use site for any information professional who wants to stay relevant in today's current market.

Upcoming webinars include:

  • When Webinars Attack: Getting from Tedious to Terrific

  • Tell Me Something I Don't Know: Meaningful Community Engagement

  • Operation Health: Resources for Veterans and Their Families

My favorite archived webinar was one entitled "The Hopeful Workplace" but there are many more to choose from, depending on what your interests and needs are. Take a look and learn more.

I have included this link on the Resources page.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ideas for Innovation, Marketing, and Adding Value to the Community

The following was posted to WebJunction Group's LinkedIn page, and it definitely inspires thoughts about how libraries can market themselves to the community.  Here, the library became a center of the community by demonstrating their value as a place to find needed resources, aid in career networking and become a leading voice in community affairs.  Posted by Donna Olson, Information Specialist at Howell Carnegie District Library.

We recently launched our Business Resource Center, followed with Ask the Expert  event @Howell where we invited 10 local businesspeople (marketing, social media, legal, financial, Chamber, SCORE, SBTDC and the library!) Each had a table. The public was invited to speed-date. Tremendous success on many levels.. The public had questions answered; they hooked up with local resources (experts and library resources), some found jobs, yes, it's true, and others picked up business referrals. An amazing networking night where everyone won. Did I mention that the library had a table? Demo'ing electronic resources (RefUSA was the hot one) and processing library cards for attendees. Now our local experts will be flashing a Howell card when demo'ing the resources for their clients.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

New Links on the Articles Page

As with every subject in today's world, librarianship can suffer from information overload.  Here are some great articles I've evaluated and chosen to share.  They've also been added to the LIS Articles page.

Infidelity in the Library by Michael English at Inside HigherEd.  This article discusses how new trends in librarianship are leading librarians away from books.

Update: Google Search Education by George Williams at the Chronicle of Higher Education. Google’s search engine is a powerful and impressive tool for locating information online. Unfortunately for many students, the simplicity of the default search interface can lead to some pretty poor search habits and results. 

Archive Watch: Building a National Cooperative for Archival Standards by Jennifer Howard at the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Just For Fun: Kansas City Public Library Parking Garage catches the eye!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Games for Word Nerds

Some interesting games have been brought to my attention.  These are not video/computer games, but good old-fashioned board games.  I think these have potential for building social interaction, story-telling, imagination and word usage.  At the moment I'm thinking these would be for public and middle school libraries, but I'm sure that image could be expanded.

The first is called Quiddler.  It's a short word game, ages 8 to adult and it can have up to 8 players.  I meant to play it with my niece and nephews while in Denver but they were busy and I completely forgot about it.  Here's the official site:  It does seem to have potential.  Basically, you combine all the letters in your hand into words, and longer words get more points.  There can be rules added to make the game more involved and challenging.  I imagine it as a more fast-paced, basic "Scrabble."

Another game I've heard about (at the Utah Library Association conference last year) is called Faux*cabulary. I have never had the chance to play this but it looked like so much fun. With all that's going on, I have yet to buy it.  It seemed very versatile and funny, and I think it could help students gain an appreciation for precise word choices.  That makes it sound boring, doesn't it?  It certainly doesn't look boring (at least not to a "word nerd" like me!).  Actually, Out of the Box Publishing produces a lot of interesting games, and I'd suggest taking a look at their other offerings as well.  The age range is thirteen to adult, and it takes about 30 minutes to play--so it's good for lunch breaks. Official Site:

A third game is called "Letterhead."  I won this at the same conference I mentioned above.  I have yet to play it as well, because it's packed up in a storage unit somewhere until I can  relocate, but it looks . . . engaging and interesting.  I found a document that gives suggestions for how to use this game in the classroom:  These cards actually allow players to play several different games with them.  I don't have an official site for this one, but this site seems to have some good information:

I've heard a lot of talk lately about molding the library to be a center-of-the-community, and game challenge nights are one way librarians are drawing families in.  These might be some good options if you're interested in pursuing this.

Play away!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Librarians and Public Service

In an ALA LinkedIn Discussion on Disappearing Jobs, Ed Mertz posted the following:

Have personally had a lot of different types of jobs in my life. Those experiences have taught me that it helps to have good people skills. Some people are simply blessed in that regard. Unfortunately just because someone is intelligent doesn’t mean they have those skills. Yet one thing I believe is that librarians of the past were general speaking a rather mild mannered helpful bunch. Sure there have been exceptions as there are in everything in life. But I think that most people who have worked in libraries in whatever capacity have done it with a certain amount of dignity and sense of purpose. In other words it wasn’t just a money thing. Such an attitude has helped most library patrons feel like they could trust libraries and librarians. Especially because the mission of both public and college libraries have been connected with the promotion of literacy, education and knowledge.

In addition anybody that knows much about the history of libraries realizes how much libraries have changed and how innovated they’ve been throughout the years. However now libraries are finding themselves under attack for not having more of everything! Good librarians know that they can’t be experts in every topic but they can help lead people to reliable sources of information for even the most obscure subjects. Such skill requires a certain amount of humility. It’s that kind of humility and the ability to constructively communicate with others that helps set good library standards.

Whatever direction the libraries of the future take I certainly hope that librarians don’t lose that ability to humanize the collection and decimation of knowledge. Otherwise who knows where the epic journey of librarianship might lead. Simply put like their predecessors, good librarians of the future need to be good public servants who know how present themselves well to both the public as well as their colleagues. But if you don’t believe in the mission of public service then by all means get in the private sector. The private sector really does make very valuable contributions to society. Although I certainly believe that the public sector does as well. However if you think that the public sector should simply disappear, well that opens up a whole new can of worms. Good luck to all you job seekers out there and don’t give up!!!
Posted by Ed Mertz 
I agree with Mr. Mertz.  Librarians have always had the goal of public service.  We talk constantly about re-inventing ourselves for the changing world.  We do need to do this if we want to stay relevant, but is the private sector the only way to go?  I think not.  Libraries--not just librarians--need to be re-imagined in ways that will serve the public and the greater good.  Three cheers for this reference librarian!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why Reading Matters

Check out this excerpt from a new BBC series (Part 1 of 6).

Why Reading Matters.

The Book People Project's Facebook post states: "If you've ever wondered whether you've wasted thousands and thousands of hours of your life reading wonderful books, look no further. In the following BBC documentary, Rita Carter tells us that reading, which does not come naturally to the human brain, forces our brains to adapt, to build connections which previously did not exist, to engage in a "cerebral workout," thus producing a more powerful brain..."

Wonderful, isn't it?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Book Review: The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomon

Confession:  I was in one of my favorite bookstores, Denver’s The Tattered Cover (AKA: A piece of heaven!).  One of the things that I like about the Tattered Cover is that it always has interesting displays that pique my interest—even if the display is on a subject that is not usually of interest to me.  So, when I saw the display of books that said, “If you loved Downton Abbey, you’ll love these” (or something like that), I was there.  I loved Downton Abbey, despite the fact that my brother and sister-in-law accuse it of being boring.  That doesn’t hurt me.  My brother rarely likes what he calls “good books”.  His denigration actually makes me want to read or watch something more than I otherwise would have.  Maybe I’m just contrary.  Probably.
Anyway, I was ready to devour Natasha Solomon’s novel about a Jewish girl from the Austrian bourgeoisie set who takes a job as a maid in 1938.  She makes her way across the sea to a remote part of England and tries to make herself at home in the “downstairs” section of an English country manor.  She finds this difficult, having ordered around servants herself at one time.  I don’t want to give away too many details, but I did enjoy this world.  It literally portrays the fall of the minor English aristocracy.  The book is full of dark shadows, juxtaposed with the last pulse of light from an era that has been slowly expiring for the last three decades. 
I love Solomon’s characters.  Elise is likable, even when she pouts.  Kit is intense in his boyish playfulness, but has an unwavering dedication to duty.  The Landaus were the most interesting couple of the story; she an opera singer, he a novelist.  I would have liked to have spent more time with them in Austria.  I liked the novel very much, but for me it was not like “Downton Abbey”.  If I were to compare this to a novel, I would say that in some ways, it reminded me of Daphne DuMaurier’s “Rebecca”, but only nominally.  This is not a mystery, but it is a memoir; both books open with a dream of a grand old manor.
There is not that strict delineation between aristocracy and the house that is usually seen.  Not because of the way they relate to each other, but because of the way Solomon tells her story.  This is a grand house, but even in the beginning, the staff seems very small.  The story focuses on just three people, and the thing that I liked about Downton Abbey is the nature of it ensemble cast.  That said, I would recommend this story to anyone interested in the beginning of WWII and the plight of the Jewish refugees at that time.  The story took me in and wrapped around me.  The families surrounded me and I became a part of them.  Solomon’s talent in doing that is tremendous indeed.