What do you fear most about research?

IMG_0019I tried a new thing this year in my one-shot information lit classes. I began each session passing out 3 x 5 cards and asked each student to list what they feared most about research.

It’s nice to design the session around what the students actually need rather than what I think they should learn.

I read them outloud during class. The students are pleased to learn they are not alone in their fears as the answers are all quite similar.

Here’s a sampling of the results:

“That I won’t find what I’m look for even after hours of research.”

“Don’t know where to begin or what I’m looking for.”

“Citing sources correctly.”

“I don’t like going into a new place where I don’t know how or where to find things.”

“Having to go through massive amounts of material to get a few choice nuggets of information.”

“I fear that I don’t know where to begin.”

“The immense number of resources available that look like they are all going to fall on me and bury me alive”

and my personal favorite:
“Having to do it.”

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Fine Fandango

2899343224_336197d9d9_mLibrary Fines. Love ’em or hate ’em. Just read a very interesting article from a university in British Columbia about dismantling their fine system. Often considered a necessary deterrent to make sure library items actually return to the library, this study proved the opposite to be true. Actual checkouts of physical items had been declining for a decade which accompanied a similar decrease in fine revenue. The thought was if the fine system went away, maybe circulation numbers would increase. Replacement charges remained for lost items, but those pesky overdue fines disappeared. The result of their experiment showed no change in circulation numbers of the collection which was disappointing; however, the collection “was not pillaged” and remained in good order. While fine income was eliminated, exceedingly glowing reports of the library’s good will spread among students, faculty and staff.

One of my favorite comments from the paper came from a library staff member:

“It makes the library a less punitive idea, a less restrictive idea, the gate- keeper idea—all that, and that’s really great to see us moving forward.”

Interesting stuff. In all honesty, I currently have $5.50 in overdue fines to my local public library. It is a little niggling thing in the back of my head that I need to take care of, but it is annoying. Yes, the fine system is part of being a member of a larger community, but honestly, the books came back when they did regardless of the fine system.

CIM has a very generous loan policy that extends the entire semester with fines kicking in at that point. Replacement fees are levied for items that do not make their way back.

Still, this nags the question, do overdue fines scare away potential users? Or are they a necessary measure to ensure the continued existence of the collection?


Reed, Kathleen, Jean Blackburn, and Daniel Sifton. “Putting a Sacred Cow Out to Pasture: Assessing the Removal of Fines and Reduction of Barriers at a Small Academic Library.” Journal of Academic Librarianship 40 (2014): 275-280. (you’ll need to be logged onto Case’s network in order to access this OhioLink article)

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Welcome, students!


Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums

It’s been a long summer here in the 216 and we’re super excited to have the students back, both new and returning!

I’ve been reflecting on my first college days back in the waning days of the Civil War, when I was so excited to be starting on this new adventure, but beyond nervous about being thrown together with a bunch of strangers who were soon to become some of my best friends. In fact, the two people I’m still in touch with from those hallowed days I met the very first day I set foot on campus. Be open and enjoy your time here.

Your RML staff wishes you a safe journey and extends its best wishes for the upcoming school year. Consider us one of your primary helpers with your studies. Please stop in and say hello when you get here!

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Democratization of Information

I’ve been reading Too Big to Know by Harvard professor, David Weinberger. His whole premise is that we are richer for the vast expanse of knowledge available on the internet. Book learning is static with a beginning, middle, and an end with no room for further discussion on any topic. Yes, there is validity to “long form” knowledge with vast uninterrupted periods of reflection afforded the author. However, the internet disallows the authority of the publisher as the filter for what gets printed and what doesn’t. Just because one doesn’t have the hallowed credentials of PhD or upper management, does not automatically make one the single authority on a specific topic. It’s the “network of experts” that can hold the key to greater knowledge.

Research is messy, much unlike the clean, tidy parameters presented in a final product or book. Blogs and list-servs allow for a give and take creating an organic form of knowledge which is always shape-shifting. Weinberger refers to a “distribution of decision-making” with various crowd-sourced activities like creating a street map in Port-au-Prince immediately following a Haitian earthquake or the individual inspection of thousands of miles of ocean in an effort to find pieces of a downed Malaysian airliner.

Yes, there is a lot more stuff out there in the digital realm and yes, we have to filter through the good and bad. However, the community of knowledge created by such a democratic platform far outweighs a singular published authority, according to Mr. Weinberger.

Weinberger’s premise has me thinking about the presentation of resources the library provides. Are we misrepresenting the possibilities of learning by sticking to our book and article formats? Libraries are the definition of authority control, but attempt to make a number of viewpoints available within their collection. Is Wikipedia a pernicious evil or an amazing demonstration of crowd-sourced knowledge where the sum of its parts far exceeds the individual entity? The answer lies within each of us and our own internal filters not those imposed by publishers and elite peer review committees.

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Goodbye and Hello!

Departing Mark and Arriving Alejandra

Departing Mark and Arriving Alejandra

Today your RML staffers had a little goodbye pizza party for departing Media Center Assistant, Mark Wanich. Mark has served the library in many capacities over his time here, from shelver to reference assistant to his current gig downstairs in the Media Center. Mark will be leaving us soon to begin DMA studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. Make sure you stop by sometime over the next week to say goodbye.

Your Media Center Team!

Your Media Center Team!

Carrying on in Mark’s place is Alejandra Martinez, a recent recipient of a vocal certificate from CIM. Alejandra is not new to the library having served at the circulation desk during her two years as a student here. She will begin training soon and can be found in the Media Center ready and eager to help by the end of August.

Alejandra will join continuing Media Center Assistant, CIM grad and horn player extraordinaire, Ben Reidhead.

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