Monday, July 28, 2014

Good Beer on the Vegas Strip

Nobody goes to Las Vegas for craft beer; it's not a destination the way that Portland (both of them), San Diego, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Burlington, Asheville, Grand Rapids, and a handful of other cities are. However, limiting ourselves to the southern end of the Strip, South Las Vegas Boulevard, there's good beer to be had.

Thanks to the magic of in-flight wifi and twitter, a beer crawl was organized around this part of town. And when I landed, Vegas was ready.
Our southern-most bar was our starting point, Pour 24 at the New York, New York Casino. It's right off the lobby, open to some shops and restaurants and there's a good view of the hilariously fake New York City and the casino floor below. They were pouring Ballast Point's hoppy porter, Black Marlin, for $5 per pint, a very good deal.

Two days later I got to Michael Mina's Pub 1842 in the MGM Grand, which served draft beer in frosted mugs (cold masks taste, which is why Coors Light does what it does on the cans), so I opted for a can of Big Sky Moose Drool out of Montana. I wish I had brought a six-pack of this excellent brown ale home. But back to the beer crawl.
That beertail was at The Pub at Monte Carlo, which had well over one-hundred draft lines. One of those lines poured Stone's Enjoy By 4-20-14, an India Pale Ale with the serve-by date right in the name. It was June 29th. When I asked a bartender what was fresh, he just shrugged. In sum, that's too many taps. Take a look at this pdf beer list. They did have Deschutes Black Butte Porter on tap, though.

Our final stop was Todd English P.U.B. (Public Urban Bar) in City Center, near Aria. It was probably the most expensive of the bars we went to, but also had the best deals during its two happy hours, half price drafts, as well as between two and four casks at a time. I'd probably be most likely to return here, especially between 3-6pm or 10-midnight for happy hour, or to Pub 1842.
I'll add that Central in the lobby of Caesar's Palace also had a good selection, and like Pub 1842, had a few barrel-aged cocktails.

In terms of local beer in Vegas, I had a solid cream ale from Pub Dog, and a decent Russian Imperial Stout from Joseph James and an IPA from Tenaya Creek. But again, nobody goes to Vegas for the beer, and given that it was well over one hundred degrees (and I assume that will be the case until October), that's okay. I think the beer I had the most while I was there was Miller Lite, passing up multiple West Coast IPAs for tallboys of macro lager on Saturday night.

When it's 101 degrees at 9:15pm, this happens.
Photo by Daniel Ransom.
Speaking of beer, here's yet another interview with Brian Strumke of Stillwater Ales over at It seems like I do one of these just about once a year. We talked about what it means to remix a beer, and what he's got planned for the rest of the year and beyond. A sample:
DCBeer: How is the Omnipollo beer made? When you remix a song, you can sample it, take snippets of the original and move it to the remix track. With brewing, it's a bit different, right? You're starting from scratch with the same or similar ingredients, but not actually using the beer, correct?
Brian Strumke: When remixing a beer we are not using the other beer (well, not yet) but the elements are obtainable such as types of malt or hops... but it's more of a cerebral breakdown... working off the concept of the beer and the elements that signify it as a unique product. Omnipollo decided to ramp up the body and ABV a bit on Premium and then include a lovely bright fruity hop profile that definitely speaks out the the hop heads out there.
He's an interesting fellow. Do check it out. Cheers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback

Today is the last day to give feedback, in survey form, on the revised draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education, available here.

Here is how I filled out the survey. Note what they are asking for feedback on, and what they are not.

1. How satisfied are you with the overall Framework?

I remain concerned about the use of the term "metaliteracy," indistinguishable from "information literacy," as I see it, and the use of threshold concepts generated by a Delphi study (see Lane Wilkinson's excellent post on this), but otherwise I like the flexibility, the way it encourages collaboration with faculty and administration, and its potential to help make information literacy a more integrated part of academic communities. I like the definition of "information literacy."

2. If you have followed the development of the Framework through the previous draft, please tell us what changes you find most helpful.

The addition of an FAQ and supporting documents further flesh out the Framework. I also find the knowledge practices and dispositions useful.

3. Does the “Suggestions on How to Use the Information Literacy Framework” section, in conjunction with the Frames, help you to engage other campus stakeholders in conversation?

I hoped this part of the Framework would detail some strategies for engaging faculty and campus administration in a variety of college and university settings, but maybe that is better suited for a supporting document, which I look forward to reading. The more granular the task force gets with this, in more settings, the better implementations will be.

4. How might the Framework affect the way you work with students?

This depends in large part on how we in the library work with faculty. Will we be able to transition from one-shot library instruction sessions to something more expansive, across the curricula? That will be key. And because of how we're staffed, a lot of information literacy instruction will fall to faculty. Do they want to do that? Do we librarians and library staff want them to?

5. What one thing do you most want the Task Force members to know about the draft Framework?

Please keep being transparent and open-minded, please do listen to critiques of metaliteracy and the threshold concepts, which I believe make up a plurality of the criticism so far.

6. Please share any additional information that would help us in understanding your perspective on the proposed Framework.

My criticism is constructive, comes from a desire to make us all the best librarians, and educators, we can be.

My thoughts on the Framework thus far:

The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: My Thoughts
Ethics, Copyright, and Information Literacy, Letters to a Young Librarian
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Some Initial Thoughts
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback 

Friday, July 11, 2014

The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: My Thoughts

The Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) has released a revised draft of their Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education. What follows are my thoughts on this second draft. The full text of ACRL's hard work is available here, and I quote, cite, and excerpt it below.

The introduction has changed between drafts, as has the definition of information literacy.

First draft definition:
Information literacy combines a repertoire of abilities, practices, and dispositions focused on expanding one’s understanding of the information ecosystem, with the proficiencies of finding, using and analyzing information, scholarship, and data to answer questions, develop new ones, and create new knowledge, through ethical participation in communities of learning and scholarship. (bold is theirs, 4) 
New definition: lines 62-67
a repertoire of understandings, practices, and dispositions focused on flexible engagement with the information ecosystem, underpinned by critical self-reflection. The repertoire involves finding, evaluating, interpreting, managing, and using information to answer questions and develop new ones; and creating new knowledge through ethical participation in communities of learning, scholarship, and practice. (2)
Fair enough.

What I like:

I. Flexibility: Rather than a rigid set of standards that all ACRL member institutions should strive to meet, the framework allows for a variety of implementations, depending on the communities served and the resources at hand. Page two of the new draft Framework is particularly strong on this.

The authors of this Framework are not trying to build a monument, but rather a scaffolding. The line about the Framework as "a  set of living documents" is already more than words (page 3). A Frequently Asked Questions section was added earlier this month, which addresses the roles of critical theory and social justice, among others. It's this very flexibility that gives me the confidence to write posts like these, knowing that feedback will be heard.

II. The assault on the one-shot library instruction session.
Over the course of a student’s academic program, “one shot” sessions that address a particular need at a particular time, systematically integrated into the curriculum, can play a significant role in an information literacy program. It is important for practitioners to understand that the Framework is not designed to be implemented in one, sole information literacy session in a student’s academic career; it is intended to be developmentally and systematically integrated into the student’s academic program at a variety of levels. This may take considerable time to implement fully in many institutions. (pages 3-4)
While the one-shot has some value in terms of library instruction, "Hi, I'm Jake, this is our website, here's how to do some stuff, ask me questions, see me smiling, aren't I friendly...," it's inefficient at spreading information literacy (IL) when compared to the systematic integration laid out in the Framework. The more people on campus that know this, that care about it, and that do something about it, the better we'll all be.
Some of the sample assignments in the new Framework get at this, too. Many of them are hard to pull off in a one-shot. Libraries that are under-staffed and over-extended can and should initiate conversations on campuses regarding these assignments, but library staff might not be around to see those assignments carried out. Though learning and course management systems may present librarians with asynchronous opportunities, information literacy should be a community-wide responsibility that can happen with or without librarians. Indeed, librarians themselves may bear some responsibility for exiting information literacy, as Nicole Pagoswky and Erica DeFraini argue.

III. The inclusion of the word "Wikipedia" (page 7). There are faculty and administrators on every campus that don't want to hear or read that word. Well, here it is. Let's talk about it.

IV. The Information has Value frame (12). To me, this is the most interesting part of the revised draft, perhaps in large part because it has the ability to be the most contested.
as intellectual property, information sources are affected by economic, sociological, and political influences. The means of production may privilege some voices over others. Some search systems may privilege some sources over others due to economic incentive.
It's pretty cool to see that in writing, with the imprint of the ACRL. There's also some good stuff on paywalled scholarly communication, the digital divide, and online privacy and surveillance.

What I don't:

I. Staying with Information has value, I wrote a guest post for Jessica Olin's Letters to a Young Librarian on the tension between "ethical participation" as part of information literacy and the quote below from the draft Framework:
Experts understand that this value designates information as intellectual property, and therefore, recognizes three important dimensions of value. First, information can act as a commodity, and as such, creators can use their work for financial, reputational, social, or civic gains. These motivations may determine how information sources are shared whether given freely, offered for sale, or leased for temporary access. Information users have responsibilities as both consumers and creators of information based on the work of others. Academic and legal practices such as proper attribution of sources and complying with copyright are a result. (12)
As a response:
Putting information as a commodity front and center and tying it to various "gains?" Consumers listed before creators? Complying with a copyright regime that every information professional should know is broken, at odds with the common good and encouraging innovation? 
In the Knowledge Practices (Abilities) section of this frame, a threshold concept is to "Understand that intellectual property is a social construct that varies by culture," (12) but the above excerpt reifies much of what is wrong with the North American conception of intellectual property, and may be at odds with "ethical participation" mentioned elsewhere in the document. 
There's more, so please head over there, too. I'll wait. Thanks.

II. The Delphi Study (page 1, footnote 1). Though overall I'm impressed with the transparency of the Framework committee and how open they are to feedback, far too much of the heavy lifting of generating threshold concepts in information literacy comes from an ongoing research project that is a black box. There should be more transparency. People more eloquent than I feel similarly.
The threshold concepts put forth by the committee were decided upon by an anonymous group of librarians in a “Delphi study.” The task force was not privy to the names or affiliations of Delphi study participants, nor were we given any justification, evidence, research, or other reasons to accept the concepts we were given. The role of the task force was to rewrite and expand upon the concepts given by the Delphi study, not to ask for justification.
Trivia: the method used to create these concepts was developed by RAND during the Cold War to assess the effects of technology on warfare (Source).

III. Threshold Concepts (TCs). Over at Sense and Reference, Lane Wilkinson has an excellent critique of threshold concepts that every academic librarian, and maybe every educator, should read. He argues, convincingly, that
  • TCs are based off of probable characteristics within disciplines, but probable is not the same as defining. 
  • The authors of the Framework assume that students will be transformed and troubled by similar concepts in similar ways, but students are a diverse bunch.
  • Knowledge of concepts does not imply ability(s).
  • Disciplines are contested spaces, whereas TCs seek to cannonize.
Given these critiques, we could attempt to improve TCs by saying that they are like a family resemblance, per Wittgenstein. In this formulation a series over overlapping similarities could make up a group of threshold concepts for a discipline, but creating boundaries might prove difficult, as it was for Wittgenstein when he analyzed types of games. Or we could talk about a Latakosian "hard core" for each discipline and base TCs off of this, which is also problematic because of Wilkinson's fourth point above.

What if instead of threshold concepts, we used learning outcomes? For example, "An information literate learner should be able to...." or "A metaliterate learner..."? Learning outcomes are less flexible, and as the authors note in their FAQ, less focused on process, but
  • there may be many roads to information literacy, some of which are under-explored and -theorized at present, and 
  • if librarians, faculty, and other members of our communities can't agree on what a metaliterate or information literate learner looks like, then we need more robust definitions of those concepts.
IV. Atheory and Anti-Theory. So long as we're talking theory, there's a lot of un- and under-cited theory in these frames. Too many assumptions, some of them testable, go unexamined. In Scholarship is Conversation (page 5), there is no discussion of scientific progress, be it Kuhn, Popper, or someone else. This frame is a missed opportunity to discuss the role of blogs, zines, and other non-traditional forms of scholarship that are now easier than ever to create and disseminate, Wikipedia excepted. Moreover, that scholarship is a conversation is a tacit admission that threshold concepts are as well, meaning that they are mutable and malleable.
Similarly, MacLuhan's "the medium is the message" is lacking in the Format as a Process frame on page 9, and the same lack of theory is true of the appendixes.

Rather than turn readers into Straussians, looking for hidden meanings in the Framework and related documents, why not show the theoretical work that goes into it?

V. Metaliteracy is back! All the baggage that term has still applies.
Metaliteracy expands the scope of traditional information skills (determine, access, locate, understand, produce, and use information) to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments (collaborate, produce, and share). This approach requires an ongoing adaptation to emerging technologies and an understanding of the critical thinking and reflection required to engage in these spaces as producers, collaborators, and distributors. (Mackey and Jacobson, 2014) (pg 18)
Again, if there are differences between metaliteracy and information literacy, under the umbrella of critical thinking, they don't strike me as being major, so I find its inclusion puzzling.
Metaliteracy expands the scope of traditional information skills…to include the collaborative production and sharing of information in participatory digital environments... (slide 17 of this pdf, same original source as the above offset quote)
Yet adding knowledge creation to the definition of information literacy, above, negates any differences between these terms. One is left wondering about the motivations behind this move.

VI. Information literacy is not a discipline. At least, not in the way we tend to think of disciplines as discrete branches of knowledge in higher education. While one cannot major in it, and there's rarely more than one 3-credit semester-long course with "Information literacy" in the title, IL is an area of scholarship that is necessarily inter- and transdiscplinary.

Jan Meyer and Ray Land (2003, pdf) are explicit that threshold concepts take place within disciplines. It seems as if information literacy not a discipline, not bounded in the ways that other fields of study and programs are, thus there can be no information-literacy specific threshold concepts. Here is how the task force gets around this, emphasis mine:
Threshold concepts originated as faculty pedagogical research within disciplines; because information literacy is both a disciplinary and a transdisciplinary learning agenda, using a threshold concepts framework for information literacy program planning, librarian-faculty collaboration, and student co-curricular projects, should offer great potential for curricular transformation. (First draft Framework, page 6, pdf, second draft page 26, pdf)
In addition, committee member Troy Swanson has both anticipated and reacted to some of these arguments, calling information literacy a "conceptual terrain," noting that it, like other disciplines, is not as bounded as one might think (source). Yet terrains still have borders, and while he wants librarians to "own" information literacy, much of this draft Framework is about us giving it up, or at least sharing it. There is a fascinating discussion around IL as a discipline here.

What's next: 

At present, drafting the Framework is a conversation between and among librarians and information professionals, excepting the non-librarians on the task force. As such, we have seen one side of this document. I assume another side, aimed at how to best present this to faculty, will be a supporting document. I hope this part of the Framework will detail some strategies for engaging faculty and campus administration in a variety of college and university settings. For example,
  • How much might a campus-wide information literacy initiative look like "writing across the curriculum,"  (WAC) and would it do for libraries and librarians what WAC did for composition and rhetoric?
  • How might either phasing out, or re-thinking the role of, the one-shot library instruction session change the relationships between the library staff and faculty, and between library staff and administration? 
  • Using threshold concepts, is there a role for librarians to play in fostering transdisciplinary, a term limited to two mentions in the appendixes of June's draft, connections between and among faculty via information literacy?
I'd also like the task force to address the tension between the stamp of authority and expertise that comes with the ACRL imprint and the flexibility of the Framework in terms of local implementations. Is there such a thing as too much leeway here?

Sources used, but not linked to above:
Mackey, T., and T. Jacobson. (2014). Metaliteracy: Redefining Information Literacies to Empower Learners. ALA Editions/Neal-Schuman.

See also, this interesting conversation on twitter.

Elsewhere on this site:
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Some Initial Thoughts
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback 

Elsewhere elsewhere:
Ethics, Copyright, and Information Literacy, Letters to a Young Librarian

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

More Thoughts on Discovery, Plus a Poster

Last week I presented a poster based on From Here to Discovery at the American Library Association's Annual Meeting in Las Vegas. That poster is below. Zoom in and have a look. Here's a link to the session.

We rolled out discovery during spring break, and it's too early to say what's working and what's not in terms of COUNTER stats and the like, in no small part because traffic to the library website is down, dramatically, from spring of 2013 to 2014. More on that later. Both student and faculty focus groups reacted positively to the website changes, and we're not done yet, that have come with discovery, as well as with the service itself. We've phased out our online public access catalog (OPAC) in favor of EBSCO Discovery Service's (EDS) blended platform, which makes for a prettier looking catalog (third column from the left, above). In addition, some introductory English courses received library instruction sessions featuring EDS, and others did not. We'll track these students over time to see what, if any, effects modes and methods of instruction have on student performance.

The gold standard in articles about discovery services comes from The Chronicle of Higher Education, which provides an excellent overview of the issues surrounding these platforms, including user experience, accuracy, efficiency, licensing, and bias, among others.

Next up, perhaps EBSCO and ProQuest can play nicely. At present, when a member of our community searches for something in EDS that comes from a ProQuest database, there is no mention of that database within the EDS search results. A journal article that we get via ProQuest that comes from Sage, for example, with metadata from Sage, but not from ProQuest. The exact database has been erased from the search. The issue here is not bias, but rather representation, and the branding that comes with it.

Since I wrote and presented From Here to Discovery in January of 2014, EBSCO, the vendor that provides us with discovery, and worked hard to bring us a dedicated open access search tool (see the poster above), has become more open in terms of sharing metadata and adhering to the Open Discovery Initiative's guidelines on fair linking. Though, as Carl Grant points out, more can and should be done. There are hundreds other EBSCO databases not covered by current agreements. We'll keep an eye out, but this is progress.