Wednesday, January 28, 2015

ALA Midwinter Schedule - 2015

This is tentative, and, as always subject to change. Unlike my friend Aaron Dobbs, I did not break the scheduler this year.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Teaching is hard - more reflections

I recently posted on Facebook. Here is what I said:
Teaching is hard. I always knew that, I just did not quite appreciate how hard until (a couple of years ago) I started teaching some classes in our courses for the Library Support Staff Certification Program (LSSC). It requires not just knowledge of the subject, but also creating a way of presenting the information which will make sense to someone else. [Creating well designed "learning objectives" is one key.]
I wish that those who are trying to regulate the education process would teach some courses to begin to understand just how much work it really is.
I guess this is a little bit of "now I get it" for my friends and family members who are teachers and have been doing it for a while.
That post received 60+ likes, 1 share, and 9 significant comments. 

I keep thinking about this. First some background: As a librarian, I am always teaching. Sometimes it is small, short teachable moments (as a parent, also). Other times it is more formal and structured. I have taught as part of Boy Scout adult leader training (Wood Badge, Powder Horn, various other leader training). I have taught one-time presentations. In my current position, the last category has been the most common. A fair amount of the former has been material which was developed by others, and all I had to do was make the presentation, and answer the (inevitable) questions.

Back in 2009, the State Library of Louisiana became one of the pilot agencies for the Library Support Staff Certification Program. (The certification is offered through the American Library Association-Allied Professional Association.) The first course we offered was Supervision and Management.

This is the fourth time we have created a course. Why does it seem so much harder this time? Perhaps because the other courses were specifically skill oriented, and this one is much more philosophical in nature. I guess that is reflected in why my friend Gina said:
The learning objective is the foundation for any learning event (any stage of learning) in my opinion. It becomes a constant beacon by which you determine what content to share. I'm a fan of the "performance objective" personally. Not so much answering what the learner will learn, but what the learner will be able to DO or achieve as a result of the learning.

This course, unlike Reference Services, or even Supervision and Management, does not really have a "DO" aspect to it. It feels mostly like a KNOW class. And that may be why I have been struggling.

Tom (W.), who recently retired noted: 
I feel your pain (and sometimes joy!). I'm happy to be no longer involved in teaching, but I miss the joy of having someone "get it" all of a sudden, especially when it's someone you thought would never get it! Trying to segment learning experiences meaningfully, especially online, so that all the dots are connected by the end of the semester is a challenge, but as a practitioner, you get to weave together the theoretical stuff with the practical stuff, and that is what most students see as the most valuable learning they get.
There is both the joy of seeing someone "get it" as well as the pleasure of building a relationship. Unlike the students Tom was teaching, these courses are specifically aimed at people who are working in libraries, and (for the most part) are not going to go and get the Masters. These are the folks who really make a library run.

One last comment shared (from a Canadian colleague, and I did not change her spelling): 
I taught in both the technicians programme and the masters programme. Students are demanding, prep is critical. I adored teaching -- HATED marking . I send props out to anyone who teaches full time.
That is the part that I dislike the most, the grading, the marking, the judging. I know I am told it is assessing and a way to judge how well I/we communicated the content. That does not mean that I have to enjoy it.

I wrote all of that before starting. It was still a bit of a struggle, but I have now made it through the first two classes, and passed the baton (for a bit, and please pardon the pun) to the other instructor for a couple weeks. However, that does mean that the part I like the least - grading - is up for the one set of homework completed, and the next about to flood me.

I am grateful for the positive feedback from those taking the course, many of whom have taken other courses I have taught. It has been an enlightening growth experience. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

States I have visited

I know I did this once before, but there is a new map generator out there:

Here is my map:

Create Your Own Visited States Map

It is pretty clear that I need to plan a trip north, and swing through those big states in the Northwest. That would just leave the "exotic" ones: Alaska and Hawai'i. Both are on my bucket list. 

Friday, November 07, 2014

Bourbon Street: A History – A book review

Bourbon Street: A History, Richard Campanella, Louisiana State University Press, 2014

I don’t usually do book reviews, but I felt compelled to talk about this one.

I love New Orleans. I lived there for four years, and that has certainly helped both develop my affection for the city and its people, but has also informed my ideas and opinions about the city. Prior to living there, I had visited the city about 8 – 10 times, always for a conference/convention. The areas I visited then were the French Quarter (including Bourbon Street), the CBD/Warehouse District and the Convention Center. Living there, and visiting since, I have seen much of the rest of the city which is different than the Quarter and has its own charms.

In the Preface, Richard Campanella notes: “And yet Bourbon Street has been almost completely ignored by scholars. Not a single book has been written about its history, much less an in-depth scholarly investigation.” This book fills that gap. The book is divided into three parts: Origins, Fame and Infamy, and Bourbon Street as a Social Artifact.

“Origins” sets the stage both in talking about the larger history, and some of the geography of the area. “Fame and Infamy” has a period-by-period history divided into six eras. The last part includes more interesting analyses. The book includes reproductions of maps and photographs, some from very early periods.

Part of the analysis of history and data that he does goes well beyond what I consider “geography” – a concept probably limited by my elementary school classes on the topic. Some of the modern data is based on research and data collected by the author: musical genre performed, volume of pedestrian traffic, numbers of men and women standing on balconies, origins of Bourbon Street pedestrians, and local versus out-of-state ownership of property

It is a fascinating history and discourse about the most famous part of New Orleans. It is a weaving together of tales told by history, and by data, along with anecdotes from the participants.

I had a chance to hear the author speak at the Louisiana Book Festival last weekend, and he was as engaging as his book.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Compassion, Punishment, and the Death Penalty

The recent conversations about the death penalty made me think ... and that is not a bad thing. It all started when one of my IRL (In Real Life) friends posted on Facebook one of the links about the apparently botched execution in Arizona. (Which link he posted is not important to this story.) The person who posted is someone I have known for quite a few years. He is a hard worker for the volunteer organization where we met.

In a prior life, he worked in the prison system. He retired from that position and began running a non-profit which helps to re-integrate people leaving prison into society. In my mind, it is important work.

Mind you, I am opposed to the death penalty on moral grounds. In a truly moral society, how can we justify ever taking another person's life. However, I recognize that not all agree with me on that point, and argue for the use of capital punishment.

My friend made this comment, the last sentence of which went straight to my heart:
"What John Q. Public fails to understand is that this penalty is carried out and witnessed by public servants (correctional personnel) who must deal with the memory for the remainder of their lives. I had a colleague who witnessed an electrocution in 1969 and never fully recovered from that trauma. Execution has devastating and hidden costs to the human soul."
 Execution has devastating and hidden costs to the human soul.

I posted on Facebook, and there were comments from a full range of my friends, family, and acquaintances. Many of them echoing my thoughts and feelings about the death penalty.

Then there were comments from another friend, one who has been on the other side of the bars from my first friend, mentioned above. Below, I have edited and combined two of his comments.

I know first hand what it is like to be in prison for multiple years. I gotta chime in on this one. I [want to] make two points: 1). It costs less to house an inmate for life than it does to go through the lengthy, automatic, mandatory appeals process for a death penalty sentence. 2) A mandatory, natural life sentence, with NO chance of parole, is a far more severe punishment than a quick and painless death. Let 'em rot in prison for all their days and think about what they did.

Death is the easy way out. Do away with the death penalty and institute mandatory life sentences. Save money and mete out a more severe punishment. It's a win/win. (And as an added bonus we do away with all the extraneous nonsense).
There is a perspective I had not considered. Death is the easy way out.

A third friend (who is a nurse by profession) commented:

I also don't believe this is the best answer for all of humanity, but it might be the best of no good options for the family members of the victim.
As a society, we can't afford to finance the multiple appeals and lengthy incarcerations for the worst of worst criminals.
At this point, my intellectual side comes out and it truly more expensive for the appeals than the incarceration assuming no appeals and parole? Will the certainty of a sentence of life without parole, and no appeals, help the families of the victims deal effectively with their loss? More for me to ponder.

A final note....I found the whole conversation most interesting. Every single person who commented on my post is someone who is part of one or another of my real-life circles. They are people who would not necessarily know each other, and I am the only one who knows all of them. It was a respectful and thoughtful conversation. One I am glad I had especially since it is one which may not have happened without the technology of social media.