Alchemical Thoughts

Posts Tagged ‘instruction

Rolling right along in adding books to the ever growing TBR list. Let’s see what we got this week:


Items about books I want to read:

  • This book is probably not one for vegetarians and vegans. The book is In Meat We Trust: an Unexpected History of Carnivore America, and it was featured in San Francisco Book Review. Apparently, according to the book, meat helped make America. I will have to read and see.
  • Staying with the food theme, this one was also featured in San Francisco Book Review. Now this one is more about food choices and sustainability. The book is Food Choice and Sustainability: Why Buying Local, Eating Less Meat, and Taking Baby Steps Won’t Work. This is probably not one for the carnivores who may be reading the previous book, though probably eating a little less meat may be a good thing. I am not quite ready to just stop eating all meat.
  • Let’s look at lack of food now. Marion Nestle has written a foreword to an updated edition of the book Breadlines Knee-Deep in Wheat: Food Assistance in the Great Depression.
  • And now let’s go for a little dessert with Bourbon Desserts. The reviewer at Drinkhacker claims that “novices, experts, and destructive cooks alike can approach this book with confidence knowing that in the end, bourbon makes everything taste better.”
  • The great actor Christopher Lee passed away this year. He did some of his fine horror work for Hammer Films, but did you know Hammer Films made more than just horror films? Apparently, they also did a series of psychological thriller and suspense films too. You can learn about them in the book Hammer Films’ Psychological Thrillers 1950-1972. The book was reviewed in Bookgasm.
  • Also reviewed at Bookgasm, a new collection of short stories by Ed Gorman. I admit, I am not terribly familiar with that author, so there is a possible reason to add the book to my list. “The 14 tales range from straight-up crime to peeks into a bizarre future. ” The book is Scream Queen and Other Tales of Menace.
  • A couple of books in LIS and related to my work as instruction librarian. Both of these reviews come via The Journal of Librarianship and Information Science (the review links lead to PDF pages from the journal).
  • A new to me manga that does look like it may not be easy to get. That is often the case with manga in the U.S.; good stuff may come over, barely gets published, goes out of print before anyone notices let alone the publisher gives it a decent chance, and vanishes. Anyhow, the title this time is Maka-Maka: Sex, Life, and Communication, Vol. 1. There may or not be a volume 2 out (WorldCat found a French edition of the second one), and that may be about it. It was reviewed at Experiments in Manga.
  • This seems to be a case where the movie may be better than the book or vice versa, depending on where your preferences lie. The book is Ring, from which the movie was adapted. The book is translated from Japanese. It was reviewed in Contemporary Japanese Literature. On a side note, my library, Hutchins Library at Berea College, has a copy, so I may get to it sooner.
  • To this day, and likely for some years to come, we are recuperating from the 2008 economic collapse. Matt Taibbi offers a look at those times in his recent book The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap. The book was reviewed at Blogcritics.
  • Via Wink Books, this looks very nice. The book set is Dian Hanson’s History of Pin-Up Magazines. It is one of those nice editions Taschen puts out.
  • On a more serious note, a new book on invisible work, that is important work that is often done behind the scenes, say like U.N. translators. The book is Invisibles: The Power of Anonymous Work in an Age of Relentless Self-Promotion. In some ways, the work of many librarians could well qualify as invisible work by this metric, say catalogers (let’s be honest. If a good cataloger does his or her work well, you never hear of the person, you only see the great work in the catalog they create for us) for example or just good librarians who do  the good work daily without blowing their horns every ten minutes it would seem. You know the ones. Anyhow, the book was reviewed by Joshua Kim in Inside Higher Ed.
  • I am not sure if this book will answer the old joke, but it certainly sounds interesting. The book is Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road? The Epic Saga of the Bird That Powers Civilization. By the way, have you noticed how often these microhistories are all “sagas” and often they are “epic sagas” of however the subject saved or powered civilization? Anyhow, the book was featured at Blogging for a Good Book.
  • Every other librarian seems to be talking about this book, which usually means either the book is a big deal, or it is not that much a deal and folks are just getting on another passing fad. At any rate, I am adding it to my list so I can keep it on my radar, but I am not sure if I will read it right away or not, and books like this tend to need reading right as they come out. This seems another one of those “yea, libraries are great, and they will survive even with Google around” books. I am not sure I need yet another book to tell me that. Although, it seems a lot of librarians do need a book to tell them just that; our profession is amazingly insecure, go figure. So, maybe by the time I get to it, the fad will pass unless it does have a message meant to remain. We shall see. The book is BiblioTech, and it is being reviewed at PhiloBiblos.


Lists and bibliographies:

  • If pegging is among your fetishes, then this list may be of interest for erotica readers who enjoy it. While it is not a big topic of interest for me, I have read a tale or two in the genre I have found to be OK at least. As I have said before, I am always willing to read new things. The list is “Peg This: Six Erotic Pegging Stories You Must Read.” It was published at RT Book Reviews.
  • Do you like stories set in dirigibles and air ships? Bookshelves of Doom has “Airships Ahoy! Thirteen Stories Set on Dirigibles.
  • Like milk? Shelf Talk has “Got Milk?” highlighting two books on the history and uses of milk.


These are my notes from a Teaching and Learning Lunch I attended last October. I jotted these down in my journal, and I am putting them here so I have another place where I can find the notes.

  • So, what is it? It turns lectures into homework. Do your lectures ahead of time, and students can watch them before they come into class. You can then spend the class time on interactive activities.
  • The class dynamic goes from passive to active.
  • This is based on “blended learning.” It is not just “online learning.” The technology supports the classroom.
  • No “one size fits all” when it comes to using technology.
  • You don’t have to be tech savvy, but you may become savvy as you use more things.
  • Avoid being overwhelmed. Start with small steps. Pick and choose, see what works, adapt.
  • To flip your classroom, you don’t have to create all videos or tutorials. You can often find good resources online, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Explore various screencast options. Some are online and free.
  • Check the site of the Flipped Learning Network: . Check out their book Flip Your Classroom.

Remember, you transform your classroom as a teacher. No technology will do it for you. The technology supports the classroom culture.


While I do have a healthy respect for some of the elders in the library profession, once in a while I have to wonder if they have been out of the trenches a bit too long. Steven Bell, who is an acknowledged advocate of minimal library instruction for information literacy, has a new piece out on faculty involvement. It all seems pretty good until he gets to this part:

But I can imagine some information literacy and instruction librarians asking themselves “if faculty do ever fully integrate this into their courses and teach it without me – what will I do for a living?” The possibility of librarians being made obsolete by faculty following the examples described above, I think, is highly unlikely. But even if the majority of faculty did, I think that academic librarians would still be needed to support the development and design of instructional activity and digital-learning materials. Our new opportunity would be back-end support – making sure faculty were up-to-date on the e-resources and well equipped with the tools to integrate them into their courses. This could be a whole new growth area for librarian educators. That’s where I’ve advocated the growing importance of instructional design and technology in the work of librarians. I don’t know exactly where academic librarians will be in the future, but if it wasn’t at the front of the classroom that would be fine with me – as long as we play a role in what happens there.

Just some librarians may ask themselves? You just pretty much said that our new role will be in the back-end support. You know, with the IT people and the others in the backrooms who never see real people? Is that really an area of growth, or are we looking at yet another way to de-professionalize and get rid of a few more librarians in the process? I do ask because, for example, here we have what is called an instructional designer who does, well, instructional technology and design. The person is not a librarian by degree or trade, but she would certainly be the sort of person that Professor Bell seems to have in mind. And why is it that being in the front of a classroom seems to be such a bad thing? Some of the best work we do is working with students and in front of their classes. And while educating faculty on things like e-resources is important, we do have a role as well in helping educate students and in the larger educational mission of the university. And statements like the one above can certainly be used to eliminate, or at the very least, keep librarians from the educational roles we should be engaging. Maybe the back-end is good enough for some people. It is not good enough for me, and I am sure it is not good enough for a few of my colleagues. Our instruction librarian would be a good example. Spent the last two years or so building an information literacy program from the ground up with extensive involvement with faculty in what was then known as the Freshman Seminar program. University decides to scrap the program, for some fairly dubious reasons, and we are back to zero pretty much. And while we could document our successes in reaching students, the university pretty much saw us as "the back-end" support anyhow. I am sure she would have a thing or two to say about taking librarians out of the front of the classroom to let the faculty do it, so to speak. I have seen the faculty do it, and it is not always as ideal as the selected examples Professor Bell cites in his post. At the end of the day, that is much of the problem with the library literature: you only see the positives, which at times are exceptions rather than representations of the rule. But hey, we can all just go work in the back-end.


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Wayne Bivens-Tatum has an interesting little piece on library instruction here. By his own admission, he is in a fairly idealized setting, but the idea of the kairos (the writing moment to put it simply) is an interesting one. He is basically saying a lot of what many of us in instruction already know. And unlike him, I don't see myself as a trainer. I am a teacher. I may not have my own classroom, but I certainly do develop some very good relationships with students. Still, worth a look. 

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I have been thinking for a while about using wikis here in the library for a few things. Pathfinders are actually one of the materials I would love to move over to wikis. However, our choices in terms of wiki tools are severely restricted. Since we lack servers in the library, the option of downloading any wiki software is out of the question. It would probably have to be some hosted option, and even then I am not so sure. It is something I need to investigate. Would something like PBWiki work for us? At this point,  I am thinking about opening an account myself with PBWiki (or any other free solution) and taking it for a spin with one of the library guides I have made. I could see how the system works out, ease of use, so on, then show the others. It's an idea I have been bouncing around for a while.

Seeing Joyce Valenza's post on "Ten Reasons Why Your Next Pathfinder Should Be a Wiki" has definitely added some fuel to my inspiration. Some of the reasons she presents are things I have been saying here for a while: the organic nature, the ability to collaborate with the editing amongst the librarians (and possibly faculty for pathfinders in their areas), and ease of use (no need to know things like HTML). We'll see how it goes.

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July 2020


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