New online library tutorials @ Berkeley.

My colleague Jesse Silva and I are very happy to unveil a project we’ve been working on for several months:  a spanking-new set of Congressional Research Tutorials!

The tutorials are Captivate screencasts, housed in a wiki structure that offers some neat functionality.  Users can hide or show the sidebars to expand the “canvas” of the middle column, where the tutorials play.  For most tutorials, users can scroll down the page to practice what they’re learning in a live database window just below.  (Licensed databases, such as Lexis-Nexis Congressional, require proxy setup to display.)

We think this is a great leap forward in screencast tutorials for library research, because the instruction is paired with immediate, focused, extremely relevant practice in the live database.  The user can pause the tutorial at any point, scroll down, and do his/her own search in the database below.

Take a look and see what you think–we’ve thrown in a few added features such as RSS feeds of Congressional news and a Google CSE for Congressional information.  We’ll be working on more tutorials in the near future, and would be very happy to hear your feedback and suggestions.

You can comment here, or feel free to email me at kmunro at library dot berkeley dot edu.

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Why I am a librarian. (An academic librarian, in particular.)

Anne-Marie Dietering tagged me in her excellent post on this meme, here.  I’m going to try to do it justice, though I’m sure I won’t give half as coherent a response as she did.  Caveat lector!  (And these responses are in no particular order, I hasten to add.)

I’m a librarian because…

  • I love libraries.  And I love what they stand for–a thoughtful, civilized society that extends intellectual opportunities to all of its members.
  • I love the serendipity that library work brings into my life.  In what other job can you take a little walk from your desk at lunch, browse a reshelving cart, and come back with three or five or seven new things that pique your curiosity?  Libraries are good for the dendrites.
  • I love teaching.  I love working with students.  I love being a part of the educational enterprise, as flawed as it may be, because I believe that education should be one of our top priorities as a species.  See above, re: civilized society.
  • Elizabeth McCracken told me to be a librarian.  Really!  I took a novel-writing class with her at Iowa, and she told me that being a librarian was a good job for a writer, because see above, re: curiosity.
  • I love walking through the collections.  It’s old-school, but I love books.
  • I love seeing people actually using the collections.  Seeing a guy stagger past me to the checkout desk with a stack of fifteen books on Roman civilization in his arms?  Priceless.
  • I love fiddling with new bits of technology, fitting them into the massive enterprise we’re already engaged in.  I love that it’s part of my job to figure out how to use Zotero and del.icio.us and Captivate and Ajax in teaching and research…that it’s my job to know about these things at all.  Every so often I remember that not everyone’s job is like that, and it’s sort of startling.
  • I really, really like not being tied to a corporate agenda.  The university has its own agendas, and so does the library, but overall they’re agendas I can get behind.  As a friend in library school once said, librarianship is an honorable way to make a living.
  • I love being connected to the academic enterprise.  I love having the opportunity to attend lectures and readings, bone up on research that’s happening around the institution, read people’s books, have opinions, talk with intelligent, educated people, and generally use my brain.  I love that.
  • I like how books smell.  Better than e-readers!  (Note:  this is not a wholesale refusal on the e-reader front.)
  • I like university campuses.  On the whole they’re good places to work.  Usually green, often peaceful, occasionally with beautiful buildings.  Nice places to go for a walk at lunch (if you can ever get away from your desk…)
  • I like the routines of librarianship.  Not all the time, but in general I really like the pace and rhythm of library work.  I like the ways it brings me into contact with faculty, students, and other folks on campus.  I like the structure of it.  Sometimes it gets hectic and crazy, but when it’s a little calmer (not too calm), I really like it.
  • I like my colleagues.  I’ve met some wonderful people, lifelong friends, through libraries and library work.  I’ve worked with some incredibly talented, compassionate, wise, wonderful people.  Librarians are some of the best people in the world.  When we’re happy and well-treated, that is.  😉

On the whole, I’d say I’m a librarian because it’s a hopeful, optimistic profession.  Librarians build a solid public good.  We build storehouses of knowledge, and then we open the doors to other people who have other jobs.

I sometimes think of it this way:  we all live in a house together, and we want it to be a good, solid, decent house, with a minimum of chaos and a maximum of happy community.  Librarians have a particular job to do in making that house run right.  So do firefighters and nurses and teachers and veterinarians and possibly even ad execs.  (??)  They do their jobs, we do ours.  I’m pleased and proud to be doing this job.

Carleton College’s Wikipedia page

ACRL just announced this year’s winners for the Excellence in Academic Libraries award.  And the winners are…(drumroll):  Shatford Library at Pasadena City College, Pasadena, California; the Laurence McKinley Gould Library at Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota; and the McMaster University Libraries, Hamilton, Ontario.

Setting aside for a moment how pleased I am to see a Canadian library in the mix (go, McMaster!), I wanted to point to one particular page on the Gould Library’s site at Carleton College.  It’s their page on using Wikipedia, designed for teaching faculty.  It’s a little text-heavy, but the design is appealing enough to make up for that, I think.  More importantly, someone at Carleton is really paying attention to Wikipedia, and their Further Information section is up-to-date and comprehensive.  If I were an instructor wondering how to deal with Wikipedia, I’d love this resource.  There’s a lot to be said for gathering together a representative selection (not an exhaustive one!) of readings on a current topic, and making them easily available.  It’s a handle people can easily grab onto, on their way to doing other things.  It’s added value, which is one big part of what I think libraries should be doing.

Which reminds me, I need to do another “Focus on…” post sometime soon.  Suggestions for topics?

Horizon Report 2008

Aaaaaand it’s 2008 already!  You can ring in the new year with the annual Horizon Report (early edition) here.

By the way, for Ginny and anyone else who wanted a visible RSS feed button, it’s now on the right-hand sidebar.  (If you use Firefox you can always grab the RSS for any page from the URL field–yet another recommendation for Firefox!)

Cape Town Open Education Declaration

Wikipedia and Connexions (the open-access digital content repository built and maintained by Rice University) have draft a declaration on open access to educational resources.

Executive summary:  more and more educational content is appearing for free online.   Everyone can participate in this new open education model.  Signatories to the declaration commit to keep making educational materials and technologies free and open to all comers.

You too can become a signatory, by clicking here.