Category Archives: recommended reading

Market this

You guys, marketing is not something that comes naturally to me. It really doesn’t. We have an OverDrive subscription as part of a consortium purchase that has been very underused because, um, people didn’t know about it, which is probably my fault. It could also be underused for a few other reasons. For instance:

  1. This isn’t a campus of fiction readers.
  2. Kindles, iPads, and other portable reading devices (including smartphones) are fairly rare here.

It’s my job to try and figure out if the service is useful to us, so basically, I need to figure out if people will actually use it if they know about it. That means I need a strategy.

MtgAcademic(L)

I read Marketing Today’s Academic Library: A Bold New Approach to Communicating with Students by Brian Mathews not long after I started working. I found his no-nonsense approach to students to be very refreshing and directly in line with my own experience working with students. I appreciated his tell-it-like-it-is approach to libraries in general, too. No BS here, thank you very much, just solid well-reasoned strategy with fully actionable suggestions.

So when it came time to formulate a marketing strategy, I pulled the book down from my shelf and thumbed through the post-it flags I’d left in there from last time. For this particular project, I found Chapter 8 Promotional Building Blocks to be the most helpful. I already had ideas of where I wanted to spread my message, and this chapter helped me identify a few more. From there it was just a matter of sitting down with a piece of paper and deciding how to roll out the message in an organic way.

Once I got into it and thought about it systematically, it wasn’t nearly as intimidating to design a marketing strategy as I thought it would be. A solid list, a time table, some strategic reminders in Outlook, and the handy marketing and outreach materials from OverDrive and I’m in business.

In other news, I’m thinking about adding a “recommended reading” tab on the blog. I really try to keep a professional book going at all times and spend a bit of time each week chipping away at it. A lot of times, the books aren’t all that great, or a kind of obvious. Usually when I read a great one I blog about it. They are all tagged “recommended reading” but it might be useful to have them all listed somewhere. What do you think?

This is what I don’t know

ross_200x300

In spite of a stellar classes, excellent internships, and loads of time spent thinking and questioning while in my MSI degree, a few topic areas slipped through the wide net I attempted to cast over my educational experience. It is not possible to predict all the things we might need to know on any possible job we might ever have. We make the choices that seem right at the time and hope that we have learned methods to teach ourselves later. In my case, I made choices according to the life I thought I wanted to live once I graduated – a life as a music subject specialist. That life never materialized, and I am happy for it. It does mean, however, that I have a few significant holes in my knowledge base that I couldn’t have predicted.

In my current job, a stronger background in GIS, government documents, and business research would be much appreciated. Luckily, my education has provided me with the tools to identify what I don’t know, figure out how to get it, and learn on my own. This is the point of education, after all.

I just finished reading Making Sense of Business Reference by Celia Ross, and I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s full personality and great tips. While reading it, I made a cheat sheet (in my Evernote, naturally) according to the resources we have on hand in our library for myself and also for my colleagues. Most of my business reference questions come from the business faculty, actually. They are some of the library’s biggest supporters, and as such I would like to avoid looking like a noob as much as possible in front of them, thankyouverymuch.

The category breakdowns into general areas like industry research and business statistics are extremely helpful. A large chunk of the book is dedicated to “stumpers” or questions that have stumped less experienced librarians. These answers help to break questions down into smaller parts, and they help provide an understanding of what answers you can or cannot expect to find. I especially like the tips for starting larger than the question and drilling down and for asking “who cares about this information.” These are tips I’ve been using unconsciously for a while and they are extremely helpful. And I don’t just say this because I talked to Celia once at a conference and she was just a lovely then as she is in this book. Seriously, Celia, thanks. You’re a lifesaver. I’m well on my way, now.

Gov Docs, not so much.

Recommended Reading

Can You See Me Now? by a4gpa, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by  a4gpa 

This morning I took advantage of the last-day-of-class-before-Spring-Break quiet to read “How College Graduates Solve Information Problems Once They Join the Workplace,” a Project Information Literacy Research Report by Alison J. Head. The report was excellent. I highly recommend it for librarians and anyone in higher education with a particular interest in preparing students for the workplace.

I won’t give a complete summary here (because you’re going to go read it, right?) but I was struck by a couple of the findings:

  1. The most difficult challenge that graduates said they faced was a “setting that radiated urgency and pulsed with unrelenting deadlines.” This makes me question how students viewed deadlines in college, if workplace deadlines are so noticeably different. Are college deadlines soft?
  2. Students found the lack of instructions and directions for finding information to be “disorienting” and “scary.” They crave a right answer. Ambiguity in both the process and the result unsettles them. Our desire to provide students with the tools (instructions and rubrics) to be successful (perform to the parameters of the assignment) does not serve them well in the workplace. I really liked an assignment described by one the participants: In an upper level chemistry lab, the professor gave an assignment which left out the procedure necessary to solve the problem. The assignment was to solve the problem, not follow the steps. I’d love to do something like this someday.
  3. Students do not recognize that the world of information available to them extends far beyond the boundaries of Google. This goes past the “two journal articles and a book” research paper  prescriptions. They do not believe that there is important, worthwhile information that is not online. Their lack of understanding of how the internet works, and the motivations of the people and organizations who put stuff online fundamentally blinds them to the realities of the information landscape. I talked about this very briefly a while back on the blog, and it is also something that I have noticed among our students. This report specifically emphasizes “team communication strategies,” in other words, consulting co-workers, but I see this problem extending further. I work with many students on Capstone research, and they almost universally balk when I suggest that a particular piece of information is found best by talking to an expert in the field rather than fruitlessly combing endlessly unhelpful scholarly articles.

On a positive note, the graduates credit their college experiences for turning them into “critical evaluators of information.” Also, although the employers interviewed identified several areas of weakness in the information seeking behavior of recent graduates, they were not dissatisfied with their hires. They recognized that these new employees will grow into their positions.

The particular issue of understanding that all information has strengths and weaknesses – that there are reasons why it is nearly impossible to find examples of hotel crisis management plans in the scholarly literature – is one that I’m hoping to partially tackle as I redesign our English 101 library instruction.