Posts Tagged ‘library’

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Celebrate National Poetry Month!

posted: 4.7.10 by archived

It’s April.

This means that not only is it the cruellest month, but that it’s time to celebrate National Poetry Month in America.

As in many things poetry related, the American Academy of Poets sets the gold standard: here, on their Web site, you can find information about everything National Poetry Month.

They host a detailed FAQ about poetry month and its origins, a national map showing events that are occurring across the U.S., a poetry app for the iPhone, an overview of new poetry books, and resources for teachers, booksellers, and librarians. Sign up to receive a poem every day for the month of April.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, famed publisher of numerous esteemed poets, has a yearly blog for poetry month, Best Words in Their Best Order, which should feature some neat pieces, especially on younger and international poets. FSG publisher Jonathan Galassi, who is also a poet and translator, kicks off the month with a discussion of poetry in translation. They are also running a poem-a-day e-mail, which you can sign up for here.

Probably the best way to get involved with National Poetry Month, though, is to check out what your local library has planned for April–many libraries across the country have poetry events over the next four weeks.

In New York City, for instance, the New York Public Library is running a poetry film series and sponsoring a reading. (If you are in Chicago, the Poetry Foundation has a list of events for the coming month.)  Check your local library’s Web site for what’s going on near you.

In the Classroom:

Poetry month can be a good reason to dig deeper into the standard curriculum. Here are three ideas for taking advantage of April’s offerings:

1. Have students research a particular poet (one you assign, or one they pick) and present their findings.

2. Give credit for attending a local reading and sharing their impressions with the class.

3. Host your own reading and invite family and/or the community: you could use student work or have the class memorize favorite poems.


Andrew Flynn is an editorial assistant at Bedford/St. Martin’s. He graduated from Columbia in 2008, with a BA in history and philosophy. Before working at Bedford he interned at the Paris Review.

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Categories: Creative Writing, Joelle Hann (moderator), Literature, Teaching Advice
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Purging Your Library

posted: 6.8.09 by archived

I love my books, and I love to buy books.  I buy new books. I buy used books, but I cannot read every book I buy.  Sometimes, I do not even read a single page.  Instead, I see a paragraph or two that interest me, I pick the book up, and then I never look at it again.  But at least I have that book on my shelf.

Many composition instructors I know have similar approaches.  Some are extreme and others are controlled, but generally speaking, we all have a lot of books.  Few fully use and deploy all of the books they own.  Instead, they have a few core texts to employ and the rest are there just in case they need them.  Which they rarely do.

For many years, I told myself that I would actually use those books.  Yeah, right.  Instructors’ Editions sat uncracked for two years.  What was the point? Why did I order them?  Because I thought they might be of use.  Might.  At this point in time, I rarely order IE’s because I know that, in almost all cases, I won’t use them.  I know I won’t because I know my working and teaching habits.

When I walk through hallways at school and see texts other professors are throwing out, I stop and look at them.  If I see something of potential interest, I pick it up and scan it.  Sure, someone else has tossed it, but I can recycle their trash and avoid postage, money, or printing/paper costs.  In about three to five minutes I will know whether or not I want the new edition: if I can scalp enough useful material from that used text in my hand or if it is a waste of time.  Thus, rather than waste time, space and resources attempting to assemble a potential library full of unused texts, I am interested in building a small library of texts, used or new, that I can actually use.

In spite of my efforts to limit my library, books get past my guard—my half-hearted guard, that is.  Every three to six months, I reap my shelves and cut the dead weight so I can have shelf space.  Papers with article ideas and outlines for class plans fall on the floor every time I cull my books.  If I have not used a book in three months and if I can’t use it in my current class, I cull it.  If I can’t sell it for at least $15 online, I donate or dump it (depending on the condition).

Culling my library saves me from suffocating under a landslide of potential texts and forces me to make use of a limited number of texts that I know well enough to use and apply in class.  While the joy of potential, of I could use this or I could do this, is an exciting and a wonderful feeling, it does not last.  And it fills up my shelves.  There is little doubt in my mind that I am not alone.  There is little doubt that there are many books on your shelves that have not been used–and probably won’t ever be used–in the past six months or year.

All of these books take up shelf space, they require visual attention, and they are resources frozen in space and time.  No matter if they tie up attention, money, or space, they are freezing rather than facilitating flow.  Getting rid of dead weight frees attention and flow, and these things allow you to center your attention on more interesting things like students, classes, professional development, and eventually location of a full- or part-time job.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Gregory Zobel
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Springing Forward

posted: 3.9.09 by Traci Gardner

It’s Spring Break where I am. Clocks have just sprung forward to Daylight Savings Time. It was a balmy 75 degrees outside this past weekend. I haven’t seen a robin or a tulip yet, but I’m sure they’re out there somewhere.

I’m taking advantage of these symbolic new starts to spring into my role as a Bits blogger. I’ll be posting teaching ideas, sharing cool new Web sites that you can use in your classroom, and suggesting ways that you can connect with colleagues.

To get started, why not spring forward with a new Web site: The Librarian’s Guide to Gaming, from the American Library Association. Profiled on the YALSA blog, the Guide to Gaming focuses on the resources that librarians need to build and maintain gaming collections, but it includes materials useful to college teachers who want to include gaming in the classroom as well.

Take, for instance, the advocacy materials, which suggest how to explain the use of gaming and how to respond to challenges. Literacy 101 explores the connections between literacy skills and gaming. Check out the Current Gaming News and Research section for pointers to reference materials, industry research, and scholarly articles on gaming and its influence on the 21st century literacy skills students need to succeed.

It would be great for CCCC to come up with a similar “Classroom Teacher’s Guide to Gaming.” 21st century literacy is certainly on the mind of the association, but there are no ready resources available yet. Until there are, the ALA’s Librarian’s Guide to Gaming offers some great materials teachers can adapt and use as they teach 21st century readers and writers.

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Categories: Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology
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Post-Apocalyptic Research

posted: 3.10.08 by Barclay Barrios

Most university libraries now have extensive electronic resources, but what other research tools are still in use and how can students use them?  Ask your students to imagine that a disaster has occurred (something as simple as the computers being down on campus).  How can they continue their research?  Does your library still have a card catalog?  How is it used?  At my institution, it turns out that no research can be done any more without computers, which provides an opportunity to discuss the role of technology in research.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Research, Teaching with Technology
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Library Allies

posted: 8.28.07 by archived

Where I work, several members of the library staff are invaluable allies. They, as staff, and I, as an adjunct, have similar places in our professional food chains. Not only are we in similar positions, we have similar interests. Few of them spend days and weeks a year in meetings; it is not a part of their job description. I spend a handful of hours each month in meetings, and those meetings directly relate to the status of adjuncts on campus. Instead of being responsible for, or distracted by, the institutional and political needs of our college, instead of being lost in the maze of politics and structure, instead of grappling with institution-wide issues, we focus on serving the students and developing ourselves professionally.

One of the best ways I have found to improve my teaching is to understand the facilities at my institution. Having allies in the library has familiarized me with technology, rooms, resources, and schedules which I knew little to nothing about. Additionally, I can share the knowledge with my peers just as my library colleagues shared their resources with me. Alone, none of these resources will make for a better class, teaching handout, or learning environment. Together with my other efforts and work, I know I am a better and more prepared instructor. Additionally, I know I can refer my students to reliable and professional colleagues.

One of the best results of having allies outside of my department is that they have a different perspective on our school, my program, and my students. Their insights, anecdotes, and experiences bring me up to speed on campus-related issues, help me better understand the student population, and give me a sense of the school’s work culture. On top of all this, it is simply nice to know other people around campus who are not a part of my department. I am able to live and work in a world that includes, but is not limited to, composition. During busy points of the term, this helps me stay sane.

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Categories: Adjunct Advice, Gregory Zobel, Professional Development & Service
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Never-Ending Search

posted: 1.16.07 by Barclay Barrios

Have students review the section of the handbook on research and on research terms in particular. Using your library’s book catalog database, have students put in a broad research term. Tell them to select a book and look for the subject headings that the library lists to describe the book. These are usually in the full entry for a book and are usually hyperlinked. Have students write down and then click on one of the subject heading links. They should select a book under that heading and then repeat the process. They should repeat these steps until they have around twenty subject headings. Have them draw a map that suggests how their research topic relates to several different larger topic areas.

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Finding Sources, Learning Styles, Teaching with Technology
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Student Advises: Don't Cite Wikipedia

posted: 8.19.06 by Nick Carbone

Soumya Srinagesh, a student intern at C|Net News, advises her peers not to rely on Wikipedia as a primary source.

This advice comes to the same end conclusion as that given by Wikipedia co-founder Jim Wales’s own advice not to use Wikipedia–or any encyclopedia–as a sole or primary source.

The usual back and forth in this debate is that Wikipedia can be edited by anyone, and that you might use an entry before it’s been vetted and re-edited by other Wikipedians for accuracy (or something closer to it). That’s the tack Srinagesh takes, and it’s legitimate enough. But Wales makes a larger point about the role encyclopedias should have in research. They’re meant to be starting places, not end places. If you take Wales’s point to heart, then the argument over Wikipedia’s accuracy is less important (though it still matters). Diligent students should in fact use it as a start and then seek out richer sources on the subjects they’re writing about. And they should reconcile any discrepancies they find in their further research. Was Wikipedia accurate, or is the other source accurate when facts are not in agreement? How will they know? What does the difference mean? What does a third source say? If they determine Wikipedia is wrong, should they go back and edit Wikipedia?

The process of leaving Wikipedia instead of ending there opens up a new view of the research process and the social negotiations that go on to determine what is fact and what isn’t.

But what’s really intriguing about Srinagesh’s piece is not the part about Wiki’s communal editing practices, but these two observations:

1. “Unlike search engines, Wikipedia searches do not bombard you with thousands of sites that have little or no relation to the subject you are researching.”
2. “Unlike traditional textbooks, Wikipedia articles do not require a trip to the library, but are available from the comfort of your home or dorm.”

On the first: Wikipedia as a search engine substitute, a guide entry into a topic instead of relying on search engines makes a lot of sense. I never thought of Wikipedia as a search engine before, but of course it is. It’s entries are a communal version of what tries to do. So guiding students to start at Wikipedia in much the same way they might start research with Google or Yahoo might be a good way to lead them to a wiser use of Wikipedia.

On the second: There’s a lot of comfort to be found in a library. Heck, on college campuses these days kids even wear pajamas to the library, how much more comfortable can you get? But the real comfort is having the library’s collection at hand. When researching, students will often come across sources that are only in the library. So why not go to the library and use a computer there and call up Wikipedia to get started if that’s what works, but then use its content to cull keyword ideas and subject search terms that can be used in the library’s online card catalog or databased journals collections?

The purpose of good textbooks is to guide students into their libraries, not to make it easier for them to avoid them. Besides, today’s libraries are more and more hives of communal learning, with technology centers, places for students to get coffee and to talk, collaborative workstations and group study rooms, and most important and useful of all, people you can talk to if you’re stuck: reference librarians. Who wouldn’t want to go to a library to do research? It beats sitting alone in your home or dorm. Grab some friends and go to the library, find a big table, spread out your stuff, and have both the whole Internet and the whole collection in the library at your disposal. Why have so little –a lone computer with an Internet connection by yourself in your dorm– when you can have so much to help you do research?

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Categories: Citing Sources, Finding Sources, Research, Working with Sources
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