Friday, August 16, 2019

CalRBS 2019 Takeaways

Better Teaching (Pedagogy) with Rare Materials

I attended the CalRBS course Better Teaching with Rare Materials August 5-9, 2019 at UCLA. It was expertly taught by Michaela Ullmann and Rob Montoya. With the expert guidance from the instructors and wonderful group of librarians and other instructors as coursemates, it was a totally enriching experience that left me with many great ideas for the year to come. (Coincidentally we discovered 5 of us in the group had MFAs!)

Key Takeaways

Open up with an Ice-Breaker
Do one of these before lecture or prepared remarks

What is the oldest thing in Special Collections?
gets at notions of age = rarity; age = value 
Cuneiform tablet; papyrus fragment; medieval manuscript leaves
What do these signify? The value we place on our proto-tools that signals the birth of evidence of our intellectual superiority?

What is the most expensive thing in Special Collections?
gets at notions of expense = rarity; information = value
The most valuable things by far are the Mission Manuscripts because they are so vital to the provenance of SCU, to the history of California, and to complement the other Mission Mss collections held at the Santa Barbara archive and other places; expense is of practical concern only, as in how much is needed to fund-raise from a donor. The Saint John's Bible is the best example of this: we needed the donor to give $150,000.

Trash vs Treasure
Pictures of 2 different items, one that looks like trash but is part of the collection for whatever reason (e.g. empty wine bottle from the Jesuits' winery in Los Gatos in the artifact collection) and another that looks like a legit archival item, but is "trash" because it doesn't fit collecting focus (USC analogy to this is a Bruins football program... drums up rivalry but also shows that only USC sports memorabilia is within collecting focus).

Simple Active Learning Lesson Plans
to Replace Lectures and the Need to be a Subject Expert

Groupings of 4-5 documents or artifacts from a discrete collection
-> Student activity: evaluate the documents and distill down to a story, a narrative or theme
Share narratives or themes to larger group at end. I can fill in details that are important during this part. This replaces the need to be a subject expert and prepare a lecture.

A spread of items emphasizing pre-meditated traits
-> Students arrange in chronological order. Discussion follows

Exhibit Interactive Cards
-> Relies on having a current exhibit in the art gallery. Can take place of other types of instruction. Passive from library staff point of view, yet potentially high impact with students

Basic worksheet
-> Create a basic worksheet that can be the go-to for most classes, or that can be easily adapted. In combination with instructor-curated material list, it makes for a quick and easy lesson plan.

Boxes containing artifacts (or facsimiles of artifacts) à la Museum of Tolerance
-> Select a handful of different types of items, have students compare and categorize (primary/secondary; mss vs printed; archival vs bibliographic; etc...)

Other Student Activities (based on class) 

Student assignment to create enough metadata from an item in the cataloging backlog to "catalog" the item (hand off metadata to rare book cataloger). This would work well in the classes that focus on Dublin Core and other metadata. Interesting to think about metadata creation for this vs. metadata creation for a DH project. Which is more useful? Can we do both?

Sample Lesson Plan

Try creating a universal lesson plan for all CTW visits, especially early quarter visits when there is no assignment. Start with an ice breaker and a go-to worksheet. Select enough items so there is one for each student, grouped into 4 or 5 themes. One theme for each team.

Learning Outcomes:
- Students will appropriately handle archival and rare materials
- Students will analyze primary sources for research significance
- Students will distinguish primary sources from secondary sources

Example worksheet questions:
- What is your item? Describe its physical characteristics
- Who created it and why?
- What does this tell you about its significance to history and what does it tell you about the life of its creator?
As team:
- Working together, figure out what all the items on this table say collectively
- What are the differences between this and a book about this topic? [Distill primary sources down to a story]

Things to try

Curriculum mapping
-> Simple to start with the English Department (including CTW), then expand to all of humanities
(has Leanna experimented with curriculum mapping?)
Example of curriculum mapping at USC.

End of Quarter and End of Year A&SC Instruction Report and all staff meeting
-> Infographic fun??
-> How many sessions, students, topics, etc...
-> Goals, key findings, and ways to improve

-> What's worth measuring and how do we accurately measure it?
-> How can I use surveys in my class visits?
-> Questions to ask to probe sense of belonging: Is A&SC a place for people like me? Do I see myself in the collections shared?

Important Basics from Square One

- Start class visit planning by identifying learning outcomes (and how to word learning outcomes so they are specific and measurable)... you cannot leave this up to faculty, as they are not trained to target instruction by identifying learning outcomes the way librarians are

- Experiment with pulling less stuff. More complex and interesting items, less in total.

- Rare material instruction is a collaboration... Insist that faculty do more to curate/select the materials they would like their classes to use

- My lectures can be flipped by turning my claims into questions. Form it as a discussion and fill in the blanks

- If low on time, pull interesting archival boxes on the topic. Assign students task of figuring out story of box and thru discussion, discover if it was a good box for the class. This mimicks reading room experience of doing research.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Women/Gender Minorities in Print/Publishing in the Long 20th Century

Last month on July 17, 2019 I went to a one-day conference at Stanford:

Women/Gender Minorities in Print/Publishing in the Long 20th Century 

It was my first time at Stanford, and my first time taking CalTrain. The group of individuals I met at the conference were welcoming, friendly, funny, interesting, and magnetic! In fact, they sort of made me want to do a PhD in literature, they were that fun.

The plenary started off the day by introducing and discussing the Modernist Archives Publishing Project (MAPP), a new repository for harvested scans from works having to do with Hogarth Press. The project also incorporates biographies and people connections that are unearthed from consulting archival sources... linked data! This made me realize the importance of archival stakeholders doing useful work to make collections visible and usable. Move over digital collections librarians! Some English PhDs are doing some interesting work here! (Love the cross over in these worlds demonstrated here.)

The panel presentations and discussions were less like a printing/archival workshop and more like English Literature scholars telling us about engaging with texts intellectually and physically through their archival experiences (either digitally or in person). Yet I found the conference to be great for networking and seeing how scholars utilize the work us archivists and librarians do, while simultaneously connecting my two "identities" of writer and librarian. I found the panel that investigated literary representation of the library to be a great mental exercise (finally, someone I could talk about Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore with!) and I mulled over one scholar's ideas of the serif as phallus as he analyzed Vanessa Bell's feminist calligraphy. In addition to the Stanford English Department faculty and doctoral students at the conference, there was an MFA student from SJSU, a cataloger from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a publisher from Spain, and other scholars from the Bay Area. It was truly a group of relatable academics interested in feminist issues in printing, publishing, and activism, and we all experienced at least a little bit of archive porn/archive mania!

As a librarian, archives worker, poet, and artist, I was able to personally apply the food for thought the conference presented me, and I share my notes here:

I'm rebelling (--> reclaiming my own agency) against established power structures by writing on my own website, keeping my own archive, etc. 

The space in which a person reads/encounters a book affects their experience with a book --> why it is so important that I create a warm, welcoming environment in the RR [reading room] free of bias as much as possible.

Above all this conference has cemented for me the power & importance of books (almost eternal) and that there is a place for me here, in various niches, and that I have been doing important work and have so much more I could do --> keep creative & don't get depressed/complacent. Goal: to make as much of an interesting CV/biography for myself as possible. Don't limit myself to traditional librarian trajectory -- so many ways my SCU A&SC [experience] can be interesting, a spring board/groundwork/background to future interesting work. 

Monday, June 25, 2018

CCLI 2018


On Friday, June 1, I attended the California Conference on Library Instruction, which was held at USF in Fromm Hall. The theme of this year's 1-day conference was Library Instruction by Design: Using Design Thinking to Meet Evolving Needs. This theme was inclusive and applicable to all the sorts of library instruction we do, conceptually flexible, and easily approachable. My main takeaway of the conference was to just try something new; in the process of design thinking, there are built-in pockets of time to reflect on how the new thing went and to adjust the application of the new thing to continually improve it. On the other hand, it is also important to remember the beauty of pilots: if it doesn't work, it is OK to cancel the new thing and try something else instead! The most important mindset to maintain is that improvement is incremental, and the stakes are rarely high enough to stop one completely from trying to improve the design of instruction sessions, assessment approaches, vehicles for outreach relationships, etc.: we can evolve towards something better with the luxury of making mistakes

Picture of Lauren Pressley
during opening keynote


I found the opening keynote address, delivered by Lauren Pressley, to be accessible and inspirational, sending me reaching for my notebook to take notes. She spoke of key moments in her career trajectory in where she used elements of design thinking, often emphasizing that a period that appears on the outside as inactive is many times the analyzing phase of design thinking, where one is taking everything in and gathering information sufficient to beginning the subsequent design phase.

The ADDIE model by grafispaten [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to the ADDIE model charted above, there are other models such as the SAM modelPlan, Think, Do/PDCA model, and Kotter's Cycle of Change; they all can be equally useful in the design process so one shouldn't spend too much energy defining or comparing the different models for adoption.

Or, we can put it this way:


  • talking with peeps
  • taking it in, marinating 
  • put self in position of users when approaching design (e.g. use library's public space for your own work) - walk through other areas of campus to see what peeps are doing 


  • divergent thinking
  • generate ideas
  • consider fringe cases
  • prototyping (e.g. post-it note on cell phone screen for rough UX design)


  • take to public before investing in doing it (they might not think it's as great as you do)
  • what other problems are arising
  • exploring what could come out of doing the thing

Pressley also called out a great resource: the Design Thinking for Libraries Toolkit and flashed a flagship quote for design thinking: Perfect is the enemy of good. If it's good, do it! And it's OK to say, "I need more time on this phase," whatever phase may be tripping you up, as you ask yourself, "What role can I play in my community, for what can I be a resource?"

Morning Session 

The next session I attended was called Every Citation Tells a Story: Framing a Collaborative Assessment Design of Information Literacy Skills, presented by Dale Vidmar. This was an interactive session where we got to apply the methods Vidmar used in assessing student information literacy skills by evaluating the introduction and references of a sample student paper. It turns out one rarely needs to read the whole paper to evaluate info lit skills, and that the citations -- from what types of works are cited to how well the citations are formatted -- indicates a student's mastery over info lit.

I can see this being applicable to archival research in addition to traditional reference and research services; this past spring quarter I taught a couple of classes in where the students used archival materials as a main component of their research for specific assignment topics; by evaluating and comparing the citations of archival sources with the citations of the secondary and tertiary sources, I would be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the incorporation of archival sources into the research process. This is another great example of checking in on students' final research outputs as a mode for assessment.

Note: Vidmar's slides and interactive exercise handouts are available on the CCLI 2018 website.

Afternoon Sessions 

Directly after lunch I attended the lightning talks, which I like because they offer a wide overview of the projects and initiatives my colleagues at other institutions have been up to, but for whatever reason I did not find any particular talk extremely useful or applicable. I also often feel like 10 minutes is not enough time to get into everything necessary for total audience engagement. Although folks in the audience had some great follow-up questions for all participants!

The last session of the day that I attended was Chasing Outcomes: An Exploration of Barriers to Progress in Designing and Assessing Library Instruction Program Learning Outcomes, presented by Caitlin Plovnick. Above all I found this session to be therapeutic for audience and presenter: Plovnick exposed the demoralizing factors she herself faced in her organization when trying to implement an instruction assessment program and by extension allowed us to vicariously give catharsis to any organizational or position-specific issues we ourselves may face. Yes, it is true: dysfunction is normal. As she eventually came round to the positive outcomes, which were sometimes made possible by things out of her control (e.g. a new library director being hired, one who came to her instruction assessment meetings and thus drummed up participation from other librarians), Plovnick's talk kept sight of hope and change. Her session often made me laugh and engage with the other participants at my table, creating camaraderie and a group zeitgeist to close out the day.

The Over Professionalization of Library Work 

It was also during this session that I had a major epiphany regarding a problem I had long felt resided within all aspects of library work. The over professionalization of librarianship is a product of us (academic librarians and library administrators) attempting to legitimize what we do to the rest of academia, which so often rewards research-conducting PhDs with sabbaticals and higher pay. We want a seat at that table; we want the benefits of working hard in academia just as our faculty colleagues do. The over-professionalization of librarianship has not been developed to make it more difficult for us and our colleagues but actually to help us make a case of our services and position us as integral to the academic enterprise. This epiphany gave me space to readjust my attitude towards trends that are indicators in the wider field of academia, like assessment, the need to publish and present, and promote our own rigor in what we do.

 Photo by edulabsde - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

I definitely look forward to applying design thinking to the instruction I will begin planning for fall quarter, as well as reference desk and research inquiry workflow improvements that have been brewing in my mind. Lastly, of course I look forward to next year's CCLI, which will be held at USF on Friday, May 3, 2019! 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Soul Hunter

On Monday, March 12, I started my new job in Archives & Special Collections at Santa Clara University. I can now give authenticity and credence to the handle "bibliobebe."

Yesterday, while shifting the flats in the vault (the section of special collections monographs that are too large to safely shelve in folio), I discovered this thin pamphlet-stitched ditty devoted to Fr. Gleeson, the namesake of my old library at the University of San Francisco, on the occasion of the celebration of his 60 year anniversary of joining the Society of Jesus. It contains a poem written by Edward F. O'Day that was included in the program for the honorary evening.

Furthermore, we have the papers of Fr. Gleeson in the archives; he was the 13th president of SCU. In the last folder of his personal papers, there is a letter in which he discussed the building of the namesake library at USF. I will take a look at that next week and post a follow-up.

Connections are everywhere! Which is to be expected of 2 Jesuit universities located within 45 miles from each other. Yet maybe in a little way, Fr. Gleeson is watching over me at SCU :)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

NorCal IUG November 2017

This past Friday I carpooled down to Santa Clara to attend the 2017 NorCal IUG meeting. Two of my coworkers were presenting on their recent project of updating the public catalog, our WebPAC, so I wanted to support, as well as learn some new things about managing library systems.

The NorCal IUG agenda covered diverse topics and the presentations were informative and inspiring. From Bill Schickling, rep from Innovative, I learned that Innovative is looking to release automatic renewals in Q2 of 2018 probably, and he summarized Innovative's development strategy as a choice between
Build it?
Buy it?
which can be parlayed across most industries. Bill gave the group updates about Innovative's future as a company and the PPORs (product plan of record) for Sierra and Polaris.

The individual presentations were great. From Gem Stone-Logan I got pumped up to try scripting in Python. She herself has only been using Python for about a year and is self taught, and encouraged the use of the active listserv and Google in general. Her presentation, which is available on her website, gave a basic roadmap on how to get started. I really feel encouraged to try!

View out of a window near the large conference room on the 3rd floor of the SCU library. 

Next up was John Boggs, who mostly talked about automating tasks using MySQL as a way of saying "if I can do it, you can do it." I don't have experience with MySQL but my take away with Boggs's presentation, as well as Stone-Logan's, is that a lot of the work of systems librarians is repetitive--report pulling every month, for example--so the smart thing is to automate these tasks. And there is "more than one way to skin a cat" when it comes to automating.

Rounding out the presentations were Justine Withers and Anders Lyon, my colleagues from Gleeson. They gave the attendees an overview of our funky system of running Encore and WebPAC from the same interface (keyword goes to Encore, and every other type of search goes to our WebPAC, which we call Ignacio). They gave an overview of the aims of their project refreshing the interface, the function audit they performed, and how they are building buy-in and communicating with stakeholders. Although I already knew a bit about their project, I learned a lot--I thought it was especially wild that they discovered a pretty nice looking beta WebPAC sitting in the sandbox, already branded with USF logos and refreshed! I look forward to the day they give a similar presentation to library staff.

After lunch we got a chance to tour the SCU Automated Retrieval System (ARS). This system occupies where the old library once stood, and the current library is a new construction.

In the afternoon I attended the Circulation and resource sharing break out session. I learned of a lot of new types of collections public libraries are lending (hot spots, gardening tools, Chromebooks...), as well as new patron policies and types (forgiving fines, teacher p-types, etc.). That type of discussion was a refreshing nuts and bolts view of what libraries do that have a direct impact on the lives of their patrons, which is a far cry from the higher level topics at some academic library conferences. We also discussed the loss of the CSUs from Link+, and how the loss of the Claremont colleges may have been even a bigger blow. The conversation flowed freely, was respectful, and was well facilitated. I took special delight in the fact this session was held in SCU's bibliographic instruction lab (the equivalent to our Electronic Classroom) so I got to see what type of technology they use, how the room is configured, and how the room is secured. I was surprised to learn someone stole all the memory out of the iMacs in that lab at some point!

Picture of one group table of iMacs gathered around a wall-mounted screen. 

Picture of SCU's electronic classroom, with empty wired tables in middle, podium at front, projector screen at front, and one group table of iMacs gathered around a wall-mounted screen. 

Another picture of SCU's electronic classroom, with multiple group tables with iMacs and wall-mounted screens. iMacs sit down in a recessed area to create a better line-of-sight to instructor. 

All in all, I spent a wonderful day in the Santa Clara Library meeting with colleagues in the field and coworkers from back home. The campus is gorgeous and spread out, while the library--only about 10 years old--is spacious and well conceived. It is a model example of the learning commons framework.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Thoughts on HR Workshop: Avoiding Bias in the Hiring Process

Last Friday (September 15) I attended a workshop put on by the HR department called Avoiding Bias in the Hiring Process. Mikael Villalobos gave the presentation, which was totally interactive, thought-provoking, and informative. My main motivation for attending this workshop was to increase my awareness of diversity issues and to help me recruit student assistants in the most equitable method possible.

I learned that bias happens because each of us is a product of our experiences, which have conditioned us to hold certain beliefs. We cannot rid ourself of bias completely. Accepting the fact we all are biased allows each one of us to have an authentic conversation about it, and can only help us work to mitigate bias.

We did an exercise where Mikael flashed photos of different people on the projection screen, and we jotted down the first thoughts that came to mind. I was embarrassed of the adjectives I wrote down, words such as woman, happy, black, old, white, sly, demure, professional. I learned that, you know what though? Those thoughts are natural. They are my observations.

Observations are fine. However, I can probe my thought process to determine if I am creating a story in my head around those observations based on my socialized values. If so, that story is bias. If I make a hiring decision based on that story I've created, I am enforcing my bias.

On the other hand, by exercising awareness I can go through the process of interrupting the circuit between observation, story, and action which results in enforcing bias. This can cause me to experience dissonance, which happens if I take a step back and acknowledge the system of inequalities/marginalization that clashes with my socialized values. Dissonance can be disorienting and uncomfortable, but it is also my learning edge, and is very valuable!

To apply the theory to the hiring process, I can employ interviewing approaches that mitigate bias. For example, I can ask interview questions that challenge or confirm the "dilettante/renaissance" persona of a candidate; I can conduct reference checks to ask questions about qualifications rather than creating my own story about qualifications; I can set up role playing exercises to allow the candidate to actively demonstrate whether or not they are able to perform a certain job duty.

In total, it feels liberating to recognize the bias we all carry, and I am already able to put new thought processes in action that short-circuit those stories I tell based on my observations. I feel less guilt while also feel more capable of encountering people from different backgrounds than myself with an open mind.

By Dietmar Rabich - Self-photographed, CC BY-SA 4.0

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Ebsco Study on Usability for Students with Print Disabilities

Yesterday a group of us at work got together to participate in the webinar EBSCO Accessibility Study on User Experience, presented by Jill Power, Ebsco technical product manager.

This webinar was not only enlightening regarding the ways in which students with print disabilities use Ebsco products, but in general how they do research, navigate graphic user interfaces, and what tools they use to do so. 

Here is a brief digest of the findings:

WCAG compliance ≠ accessibility 
• Accessibility ≠ WCAG compliance 
(For example, strident use of alt tags with images can impede the use of a webpage if they do not bring value to the visually impaired user. Ask yourself the question, what value do these alt tags bring, or are they repetitive?)
• No vision users use screen readers
• Low vision users use magnification and text to speech 
• Accessibility a journey, not a destination--there is always room for continue improvement 
• Ebsco Discovery Service (Fusion at my library) provided a positive experience for the participants in the study. The ease of doing some tasks should be improved, but overall, users could get what they needed and trusted the academic scope of the content. 
• Manual testing should still be employed, regardless of advances in automated testing. Each user drew on different tools and techniques and insight into those behaviors was enlightening. 

One visually impaired student said she really likes Google because the result display is high contrast and very well organized. I think as librarians we tend to think of reasons to use or not use Google for different reasons (mostly related to the content of the search results, questions of credibility of results, and mercenary driving forces like Google ad revenue). However, the Google result page still displays dark blue, dark green, or dark grey text on a white background (high contrast), unlike many sites that have switched to light grey text; furthermore, the Google result page is not muddied with floating ads or pop-ups urging viewers to sign up for an email list or another call to action, which often confuses the screen readers that visually impaired users employ.  

Screenshot of Google result page from August 3, 2017

The takeaways:
• Focus on accessibility rather than compliance
• Take a hands-on approach
• Remember the student's goal (write the paper)
• Consider the overall experience 

Some free tools:
• Accessibility tools that come in Mac OS 
NAVD screen reader -- free alternative to JAWS

After the webinar, a few of us discussed the webinar's takeaways in context of our workplace, and our role vs. that of the office of Student Disability Services. Sounds like there is interest in hosting the SDS folks for a library presentation to find out more! 

My own personal takeaway is to look into changing the text color on my blogs and website to improve the contrast--I am guilty of using grey text for both!