Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Archive for June, 2011

Curated v Collected

Posted by lpearle on 25 June 2011

Last night I was sitting with some friends and we talked about the difference between the terms “collected” and “curated” (the current, in vogue term here in libraryland).   Then, as I was waking back to the hotel, I saw an art installation that had a “curated by” sign, which them prompted me to think about the terms further.

Someone (and my rapidly aging brain doesn’t remember who) commented that there was some confusion about why we were suddenly curating information, how this was really just another way of saying “collecting”.  Not so. I think there’s a huge difference between the two, and if we can teach the curation part to our students, we’ll be doing them a favor.

Collecting is what hoarders do.  Think of your library collection: yes, there’s an organization to it, but the collection is there to meet multiple needs and doesn’t really have a focus beyond the demands of your community.   But when you purposefully (or, to use more jargon, intentionally) organize resources to tell a story or highlight something, you’re curating – just as curators in museums do with their collection.

I think of my mother, whose love of owl figurines has started to embrace owlania of all kinds (planters, soaps, tea towels, calendars, etc.).  It’s a collection that long ago outgrew the display space on one piece of furniture and now those owls appear everywhere in their home.  At one point, she had them organized into type of material… then she changed that to country of origin (where they were bought, not where the owls depicted were from)… and once she did a chronological display.  But now there are so many, and so many different types of owl-related items, that she just lets them sit where they are.  So she’s gone from curating to mere collecting.

I think of the movie Shooting the Past, where the vast collection of photographs is curated by Marilyn and Oswald  into amazing stories. And that’s the critical difference.  If we can teach our students to curate, rather than merely collect, information, they become better evaluators of resources – and better researchers and writers.

So as much as I hate jargon (and wouldn’t that make a great program for AASL/ALA? “How to talk to outsiders about libraries without using jargon?”  it’d never fly, but a gal can dream, can’t she?) this is one time when I think it’s not an abuse of a perfectly good word, and that there is a difference in meaning between the two.


Posted in Musings, School Libraries | 2 Comments »

College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (part two)

Posted by lpearle on 20 June 2011

After John Palfrey’s keynote, we then had a panel discussion with Beth Rohloff of Tufts, Kwasi Sarkodie-Mensah of Boston College, and Susan Gilroy of Harvard University.  These are three of the people my former students will meet in September, and their insights into what those incoming students will experience and be asked to do was invaluable.

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Posted in Conferences, School Libraries, Student stuff | 1 Comment »

College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (part one)

Posted by lpearle on 20 June 2011

(also known as “what I need to keep my eyes on as I work with students”)

This was an interesting one-off “conference”, organized by the wonderful librarians at BB&N in Boston and presented at my mother’s graduate school alma mater, the Harvard Graduate School of Education (although she wouldn’t recognize the library we met in!).  What attracted me is that while most independent schools do a lot of thinking about what a graduate of [school name] should know in terms of the major academic subjects, and some schools think about the skills needed in addition to the curricular scope and sequence, not as many think about these things from the other side: what do colleges need for our students to know?  What skills do they expect them to have?  This panel was a good opportunity to see what my recently graduated seniors will find in September when they meet their new librarians, professors and expectations.

First up was John Palfrey, author of Born Digital.  He’s the one that coined the phrase “digital natives”, a phrase that has bugged me no end; imagine how pleased I was to hear him recent that, slightly.  But more on that later.  Here are his main points:

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Posted in Conferences, School Libraries, Student stuff | 2 Comments »

A quick fix

Posted by lpearle on 19 June 2011

I’ve been going through my personal library with an eye to – gasp! – weeding out those books I don’t absolutely love/would want to re-read/would want to loan to like-minded readers.  As I’m doing so, I’ve been thinking about a number of the libraries I’ve seen recently and conversations I’ve had with other librarians about displays and reading.

One of those conventional wisdom things is that high school students are too busy to read (they’re worried about their GPA, they’re building their college résumé, there’s no time thanks to sports and afterschool clubs, etc.).  Here’s the thing: that’s nonsense.  This year our non-fiction circulation among grades 9-12 skyrocketed, and you can’t convince me that these students were any less studious, any less interested in getting into a good college or any less involved with sports and other extracurriculars than their peers.  What changed?  We put fiction front and center.

In a number of the libraries I saw this year, fiction was hidden in the back or upstairs.  What greeted the library visitor?  Reference.  Now, perhaps my students are different, but they don’t need to be reminded that the reference books exist (we’ve interfiled them in the collection, which has led to their being used more during research than before).  When they’re working on a project on the Cold War, they’ll look at the relevant shelves and use the books there. Some students use the non-fiction for personal reasons, but the vast majority go there because there’s a grade involved.

But fiction?  That’s something they want to read – and they’re always looking for the next new great thing.  So why hide it?  Why keep it tucked out of the way?  Remember when Brian Jacques died?  We immediately did a display of all the Redwall books, and many students stopped to look and remember how much they’d enjoyed the series.  Some even borrowed a more recent book!

One librarian asked what I’d change in their space and my immediate response was “I’d move the fiction to the front”.  Not just the Middle School fiction, but all of it.  It’s summer now, and if you make the same switch, I’m guessing you’ll also prove conventional wisdom wrong.

Posted in Books, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »

Summertime = Conferences + Presentations

Posted by lpearle on 17 June 2011

I’ve got quite the schedule this summer, and already I’m tired.   The disaster preparation/recovery presentation to ASLA came and went, but if you’re heading to ALA next week, you’ll find me here:

(that’s in addition to the semi-annual ARC hunt, attending several sessions and other professional meetings, of course)

Then in July, it’s off to the Taft Education Centers for a guest appearance at A Whole New Animal? 21st Century Collection Development. Finally, in August, I’m doing a webinar for YALSA, From 140 Characters to 10 Pages: Teens, Social Media and Information Literacy.

Hope to see some of you there!

Posted in Collection Development, Conferences, Professional organizations, School Libraries, Techno Geekiness | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Have I done my job?

Posted by lpearle on 15 June 2011

This past year I’ve worked closely with our History 9 teachers to integrate skills into the curriculum, with a secondary goal of lessening the panic that sets in when a research project is announced.  We broke things up into several short pieces:

When I told people that I was grading the papers, the surprise was evident.  So why was I?  Because the teachers know content, I know process: did the students follow MLA format for their title page?  were the facts cited properly? was the bibliography correct, or was it missing information (or out of order)?  did they proofread, or did they just trust spellcheck?   To make it easier on the students, I strongly recommended that they share their projects with me via Noodletools (I could see – and comment on – their bibliographies and their papers).

Gratifyingly, many students did use Noodletools and I think that their papers were improved as a result.  Those that didn’t?  Well, let’s just say their grades were lower.  Here’s what keeps me up: what of all this will they retain over the summer?  and what could be done better next year?  Maybe there needs to be more on-line tutorials and in-class instruction on the basics of MLA formatting.  It’s clear that many didn’t understand that it’s not just quotes, but ideas that need to be cited.

In April I attended a seminar at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education on College Bound Students and Independent School Libraries (notes to follow).  The librarians there, from prestigious institutions, are asking themselves the same questions I am asking.  Whether or not I’ve done my job will only be evident to them, as my students graduate and head off to college on their own.

Posted in Pedagogy, School Libraries, Student stuff | Leave a Comment »