Exploring Video Editing

The final project in the Sawyer Digital Proficiency Initiative Summer intensive was to create a video. I was familiar with screencasting but this was a first for me.

I decided to create a video that I hope to use to explain the unintended consequence of the NIH mandatory open access law that has unfortunately resulted in predatory journal articles being indexed in PubMed. These unethical publishers then brag about inclusion in PubMed (note, not Medline!) in order to further mislead readers.

Creation of this video included directing and acting in some action shots in my garden, creating an audio file with sound effects, and combining those with still images and screenshots to explain this unintended consequence through the analogy of weedkiller use on bee populations.

The final video for this intensive week will not be the final video for this instruction project. In my initial video, the audio was too loud and drowned out my voice in one spot. Upon fixing the audio issue, I realized that the timing of my graphics was about a second early and so I need to fix that before sharing in an instruction session.

Overall I was pleased with the product and enjoyed learning these technologies in a fun way. I’m looking forward to applying what I’ve learned to more interactive information literacy tutorials in the future!

Grab some popcorn and enjoy!

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Exploring a Podcast

This coming year I am a fellow in the Sawyer Digital Proficiency Initiative. During the initial intensive “bootcamp” our cohort explores several types of technology to determine an appropriate application. It’s basically summer camp for technophile (and technonovice) educators!

The most recent project was to explore the world of podcasting. The purpose of the exercise was to learn how to record, layer, and edit audio files.

I decided to create the first episode of a hypothetical but potential podcast series, Librarian onthe Street. The focus of this series would be to explore the impact of information literacy and research skills on real-world scenarios, outside of the academic research paper.

My first foray into podcasting explored the role that information literacy skills play in the COVID pandemic, highlighting the librarians using their skills to become conact tracers.

Take a listen!

Tell me what you think! Would this be an interesting podcast series? What topics would you like to see explored – about the role of information literacy and research skills benefitting real-world situations.

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Having a little fun evaluating research methodology

I laughed while reading this NPR story about an article from the Christmas edition in BMJ. It highlighted research about the efficacy of parachutes. This randomized controlled trial concluded that parachutes are no more effective than empty backpacks for safety when jumping out of an aircraft. Yes, you read that correctly!

The devil is in the details. This article was meant to highlight why it is important to read through the laborious details of research methodology rather than skipping to the conclusions, which we are all wont to do (yours truly included!).

I’ll leave it to you to read through the research methodology to find out the simple reason for the alarming conclusions to this research study. Suffice it to say…. I will still grab a parachute in a flight emergency… and skip the empty backpack!

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Selecting citation software

A libguide that I developed last year was about selecting citation management software. There are many factors to consider, and faculty and students can benefits from a concise review of those factors when deciding on software that meets their needs.

Factors that I reviewed:

  • Accuracy
  • ADA compliance
  • Availability after graduation
  • Citation styles supported
  • Collaboration tools
  • Commercial vendor/Open Source
  • Customer support available
  • Datasets
  • Extraction tools
  • Full-text PDF capture
  • Installation
  • Library databases that work well with software
  • Notes
  • Organization
  • PDF annotation
  • Platform
  • Price
  • Procedure to add citations
  • Search features
  • Storage limits
  • Word processing integration

So far, I’ve been able to present about citation management software, demonstrating this libguide, to several classes and faculty groups. Students, even techno-phile students, are often unaware of this type of software, or simply haven’t taken the time to explore, setup and use this software, even when it benefits their academic research projects.

In the past year, this libguide was accessed approximately 300 times, hopefully to good use!

So….. how do you encourage education about and use of citation management software?


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The academic library is “Open”-ing Up

Our library, like many academic libraries, has traditionally been resistant to assisting students with obtaining required course texts. Students obtain those through the college store, Amazon, or other bookstores. Logistics often prevent the academic library from venturing into this arena, especially when most course texts are print. We simply don’t have the space, personnel nor budget to purchase, catalog, maintain and deacquisition texts for hundreds of courses every semester.

Concerns about inflation rates and costs of textbooks, student retention, ebook formats, and open educational resources have started to change our minds, even at small colleges like mine.

Our library recently presented a workshop for faculty about open educational resources and faculty are very interested in exploring this further, specifically in regards to lowering costs for students.

Consider these statistics: Since 2003, the cost of a textbook has increased 73%, more than four times the rate of inflation. (Senack & Donoghue, 2016), The average textbook cost is $80 (National Association of College Stores, 2017) and the average amount a student spends on textbooks per year is $1,298 (College Board, 2017).

Unaffordable textbook costs impact student learning and retention. Sixty-five percent of students skipped purchasing or renting at least some required textbooks, even though 94% realized that it would affect a course grade (Senack & Donoghue, 2016). Almost half of students say textbook costs impact what courses and/or how many courses they take in a semester (Senack, 2014). Researchers found that OER vs traditional textbooks had a small but significant positive effect on course grade for new students (Winitzky-Stephens & Pickavance, 2017). A survey conducted by Williams showed that 14% of students knew at least one student who had dropped out because of textbook costs (2013). Withdrawal rates were cut in half (yes, half!) at a large community college after transitioning to an open psychology course text over all sections of an introductory course. (Hilton & Laman, 2012). In a survey of more than 20,000 students in FL, 11% took fewer courses, 8% dropped or withdrew from a course, 8.1% earned a poor grade or failed a course because they couldn’t afford to purchase a course textbook (Donaldson, Nelson, & Thomas, 2010).

Quite simply, “The cost of college textbooks has become a major affordability issue for low and middle income students, adding to the potential that these students will either drop out, take on additional loan debt to pay for textbooks, or undercut their own learning by forgoing the purchase of textbooks.” (Frederick, 2008, p. 2)


We clearly have a major problem with textbook costs in academia. What are some solutions?

Your academic library can be a major source of materials that students have already paid for through their tuition dollars. Encourage use of these quality educational resources through requiring them in your courses. Make the most of these resources, and remember that your library has ebooks, journal articles and streaming video formats. Create custom course packs through links to online library resources. Place print texts that the library may already have on course reserve.

A few reminders when using library resources:

  1. Don’t forget to include these access options in your syllabus, so that students know about them, and can decide for themselves whether to purchase required texts or access them through the library.
  2. When creating links to library resources, make sure that your links are stable and will work from off-campus.
  3. When linking to library resources, check availability and/or let your librarian know! Many library collections (including ebook, journals and streaming video) are not stable; think of them as Netflix collections where videos come and go. We don’t want you to assign an ebook, only to discover it was removed! Your librarian can keep an eye on things to assure access when needed.

There are many open educational resources that are high-quality and peer-reviewed. Explore resource repositories and assign open course materials as primary course texts when appropriate. In some cases, students may opt to purchase these items at a low cost if they prefer print format. While open educational resources may not be appropriate for all courses, consider exploring them for just one or two courses; a lower-level introductory course is a great place to start.

Talk to YOUR academic librarian and see what they can do to help you bring quality open (or library) resources into your classroom. Lower costs for students, and improve their ability to access resources and succeed in your classroom.


William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. (n.d.). Open Educational Resources. Retrieved  from https://www.hewlett.org/strategy/open-educational-resources/

College Board. (2017). Understanding college costs. Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/pay-for-college/college-costs/quick-guide-college-costs

Donaldson, R. L., Nelson, D. W., & Thomas, E. (2010). 2010 Florida Student Textbook Survey (p. 46). Florida Virtual Campus.

Frederick, L. (2008). Retention and the cost of college textbooks. Retrieved from http://www.pacific.edu/Documents/oit/TextbookCost.pdf

Hilton, J., johnhiltoniii@byu. ed., & Laman, C. (2012). One college’s use of an open psychology textbook. Open Learning, 27(3), 265–272. https://doi.org/10.1080/02680513.2012.716657

National Association of College Stores. (2017). Higher Ed Retail Market Facts & Figures. Retrieved May 4, 2018, from https://www.nacs.org/research/HigherEdRetailMarketFactsFigures.aspx

Senack, E. (2014). Fixing the broken textbook market: How students respond to high textbook costs and demand alternatives. Student Public Interest Research Groups. Retrieved from https://uspirg.org/reports/usp/fixing-broken-textbook-market

Senack, E., & Donoghue, R. (2016). Covering the cost: Why we can  no longer afford to ignore high textbook prices (p. 24). Student Public Interest Research Groups.

Williams, L. (2013). Textbooks on Reserve. University Business, 16(4), 14–14.

Winitzky-Stephens, J., & Pickavance, J. (2017). Open Educational Resources and Student Course Outcomes: A Multilevel Analysis. International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning, 18(4), 35–49.

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Farewell to an Important Resource

I continue to be amazed at the shortsightedness of funding for evidence-based medicine. Health-care providers, government agencies, and even the general public agree that evidence-based medicine is important to improve health care. Yet funding to enable providers to provide this type of care continues to dissapate.

For the past several years, hospitals and medical systems across the country have made deep cuts to medical libraries, at times even closing them down, in the mistaken belief that all medical information is on the internet and easily accessible. Even when medical information is available through free online sources, it often requires the skills of a medical librarian to navigate and find the best evidence to provide to health care providers to improve patient outcomes.

The latest funding cut hits at the heart of evidence-based care. The government has eliminated funding for the National Guidelines Clearinghouse, which will cease to exist this coming July 16.


The NCG has been the premier location for finding national and international guidelines issued by professional organizations. When looking for best practices, it often helps to search guidelines from expert organizations.

While some guidelines will be available through PubMed searches with the Guidelines Article Types filter, this will not capture the broad content of guidelines as well as the Clearinghouse.

Another blow to evidence-based practice.

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I don’t read because I have too much to read

This article from MedPageToday demonstrates the difficulty that healthcare professionals face in keeping up with medical research during the information explosion. In a time when increasing numbers of people understand the critical nature of evidence-based practice, health care providers themselves are monitoring the evidence less and less. The author discovered that out of 200 health care professionals polled at a conference, zero respondents routinely read an issue of a journal important in their field.

When overwhelmed with the sheer amount of information available, a sense of paralysis can often develop. Providers don’t read anything, because there is simply too much to read.

Librarians can help with this deluge of information. We have the information literacy skillsets to help identify, prioritize, evaluate, and manage  information so that a health care provider can stay on top of important trends while not drowning in the sea of articles.

A presentation I provided to a local nurses association several years ago may offer a way to frame this for health care providers facing information overload. Combining information literacy with Connectivism learning theory (Seimans, 2004) and a Networked Student Learning Model (Drexler, 2010), I proposed a way forward for nurses to monitor, access and prioritize information.

In this model that I coined The Connected Nurse,  the nurse utilizes networks from four domains: information management, contacts, synchronous communication, and RSS. The nurse learns how to harness technology to manage information effectively. The nurse identifies experts who may have information she needs. The nurse communicates with contacts synchronously to address urgent information needs. Finally, the nurse prioritizes and monitors RSS and social media information to identify medical trends, using information management tools to manage and prevent information overload.

Diagram of the Connected Nurse model with four domains

The Connected Nurse model recognizes that information comes from more than just journal articles; we are surrounded by information from many formats. It is important to identify those sources, prioritize the materials, rigorously evaluate claims, and manage the content harvested from journals, people, synchronous and asynchronous communication and social media.

The librarian has a critical role to play in helping health care professionals become Connected in ways that do not overwhelm, but instead empower. Only empowered, connected health care professionals can truly practice evidence-based medicine, confident in their ability to identify, prioritize, access, evaluate, and implement evidence to improve patient care.


Drexler, W. (2010). The networked student model for construction of personal learning environments: Balancing teacher control and student autonomy. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(3), 369–385. Retrieved from http://ajet.org.au/index.php/AJET

Seimens, G. (2004). Connectivism: a learning theory for the digital age. Retrieved from http://www.elearnspace.org/Articles/connectivism.htm

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Supporting School Librarians – not just a luxury

I’m back! At least I hope so!

I came across this recent article explaining how librarians in many types of libraries can and should support school libraries and even more importantly school librarians. Unfortunately many school libraries are disappearing or at the very least losing their librarians. In my own state of Pennsylvania, this is most egregious in the city of Philadelphia, where eight librarians are somehow expected to serve 220 schools and 134,000 students – impossible, I say!

Perhaps school boards and parents think that because ‘everything is online’, there is no need for librarians. They do no realize that librarians teach students how to effectively search for, locate, access, and evaluate information that they find in all formats – print and online. In a day and age where fake news is rampant, this evaluation skillset is even more critical. For school districts that keep libraries “open” with a few non-certified volunteers, rather than librarians- yes it is good that students still have access to some print books, but they also need access to a professional librarian and those information literacy instruction sessions!

Academic librarians witness the impact of the loss of school librarians every day, where we need to engage in remedial information literacy before we can even begin to address college-level information literacy research skills. From the Without Foundations article:

“Academic librarians find themselves unable to cover the higher-level concepts without covering the basic concepts from K-12. Many college courses have prerequisites, however there are no prerequisites for library instruction or research. For example: a popular assignment in college is for students to find sources, many times scholarly peer-reviewed journal articles. Librarians can focus their information literacy session on how to distinguish a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article from a trade publication. However, without learning what a periodical is- something that should have been learned at K-12 level, the concept of what a scholarly peer-reviewed journal article is becomes impossible.”

Academic librarians, what are some practical ways that we can advocate for school librarians? In my case, whenever I am approached by a high school wanting an information literacy session, I always include the school librarian in those discussions. The teacher needs to know the value that their school librarian brings to the table. I am fortunate in that the local schools I work with seem to already know that!

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Information Literacy in Politics

I’ve been thinking alot these days about people’s use, or non-use, of information literacy skills in the real world. Information literacy is simply the idea of being able to realize you need information, and then the ability to search for, find, access, evaluate and ethically use that information. As we struggle to stay afloat in a sea of online information, these skills become even more crucial.

I came across a letter to the editor which praises the need for general education. While it is written for the high school setting, it could easily be adapted for college and for general education, including information literacy education. The writer argues that these intangible skills that students don’t understand why they need them, and think are boring, are actually critical to living and working as an adult in the future. It’s the age old struggle of getting students to realize and appreciate what they don’t yet understand is important!

I was shocked when my own federal Representative displayed poor information literacy skills in a radio interview. He stated “….when I hear that the president has hosted more fundraisers than any other president in history. Look, I don’t know what the facts are….”. Now I realize cynically that he probably does NOT want to know the facts because then he may not be able to say this statement. However, what a poor job of representing information literacy skills and appreciating the importance of factual information, to his constituency. He realizes he has a need for information and yet does nothing about that need. In addition to using his own research skills, he has the entire Library of Congress and Congressional Research Service reference librarians at his disposal. One simple message to them and he could “know the facts”!

And for the record, he was wrong in his statement. President Clinton hosted 61% more fundraisers than Obama at this point in his presidency, so his statement was not even close to being factual. How sad that politicians won’t take the time to learn the facts and to state them correctly. And sadder still when politicians and lay people alike cannot or will not use information literacy skills when discussing controversial and political issues.

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Not Just Another Assignment: Prepping for PaLA Annual Conference – poster session

The annual conference of the PA Library Association is coming up fast. It is always a great time of learning from and connecting with other librarians from around Pennsylvania, many of whom have become good friends.

This year I will be presenting a poster about a very successful pilot project with my great Nursing Department faculty. Over the past few years we realized that while the information literacy instruction was adequate, we were still frustrated with lower levels of information literacy in students than we would like to see. This led to sitting around the table and redesigning the information literacy curriculum.

Originally I met with nursing students in a 200 level course and again at a 400 level course. We realized that even though I met with students for an instruction session and a subsequent hands-on session, we were simply throwing too much new information and skills at them in the 200 level course, and they were not retaining nor using advanced research skills in later assignments. We redesigned the curricula to be just a basic session in the 200 level course and added an advanced research skills session in a 300 level course that ran concurrent with a large research paper.

Further discussions led to development of an information literacy assignment in the form of two worksheets that students had to complete as they began a literature search on their topic for the paper. The paper was turned in through the learning management system. I graded the two worksheets on a three point scale and provided the grades and individualized feedback to students and faculty.

The objectives of this added instruction session and assignment were to increase student information literacy skills, access and cite articles from the library collection, reflect on how these skills could improve current and future research projects, and increase student consultation with the librarian. I believe we were successful in three of the four objectives, which is pretty good for a pilot project! Students realized better research strategies as indicated on the worksheets. Consultations increased for this research paper from just a few emails to 36 individualized consultation sessions. Due to time constraints, we did not include a reflection assessment.

Feedback from students indicated that they were pleased with learning new skills to help them more efficiently and effectively access articles. While I taught these skills before, many students never utilized them because they were not required to do so. Feedback from faculty indicated that the literature reviews were much more focused and articles were much more relevant to the topics.

I look forward to sharing this at the poster session (Monday lunch poster session). Stop by to see me if you are there!

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