Reference on Aisle 3

I was asked an actual reference question in the frozen food aisle of Wal-Mart last Friday night. True story.

Photo Credit: spirobolos via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: spirobolos via Compfight cc

In my previous post I rambled on about our need to ask questions and how that all plays out in the world of reference librarians. One of the things I focused on was that a lot of times students find it difficult to approach the librarian at a reference desk. There are all kinds of hypotheses that have been studied as to why this happens. Summary – it happens. Library anxiety is a real thing. Asking questions about things that you don’t know about can be difficult.

Knowing all of that makes having a student ask you a question in the frozen food aisle very exciting. File this one under #smallvictories.

Working and teaching at a small, faith-based institution has been an eye-opening experience for me. The idea of faculty members interacting with students beyond disseminating information and assessing students had not really been a part of my college experience at two state universities. Honestly, it never occurred to me that my professors might actually want to talk to me or be concerned about me beyond what happened during 50 minutes of classroom lecture. If that didn’t occur to me back then, it certainly never occurred to me that there was a librarian on a college campus who would be researching ways that he or she could help me search for information. As my dad says, “Who would’ve thought it?”

All that to say – I get it.

In some ways I can double as my own research subject. It makes sense to me that students don’t realize that librarians are ready, willing, and capable of helping them with their research. After all, when I was them I didn’t know about me either.

So why in the world would a student feel like he could ask me a question about finding research on teacher turnover in the middle of the frozen food aisle on a Friday night? Simple. He had already met me in one of his classes earlier that week.

In all of our research about the information seeking behaviors of students, we have found something that seems to help – face-to-face library instruction.  A 2003 study showed that classroom library instruction increased the “demand for reference services.” The correlation seems fairly obvious to me – meeting the librarian in your classroom helps to establish a librarian/student rapport. In his research  into student perceptions of their professors caring about them, Steven A. Meyers concluded that “caring is a powerful teaching tool.” And while that’s probably not earth shattering news to you today, I must admit that making sure the students know that I care about them isn’t always the first thing on my mind when I start planning my one-shot library instruction. It’s not that I don’t ever think about it – it’s just that I usually have a limited amount of time with them and it is easy for me to get caught up in all that I want to teach them in the next 45 minutes.

Photo Credit: Austin Kleon via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Austin Kleon via Compfight cc

So how do I work to build that rapport with students? One study found that 51% of students knew they could meet with a librarian because their professor suggested it. Thirty-seven percent knew it because a librarian had talked to them in class about it. The key to librarians establishing rapport with students seems to be partnerships with faculty and classroom library instruction. I’m so grateful for the relationships that I have with our faculty on this campus and their willingness to allow me to teach their students about the information in their disciplines (and hey, if we haven’t worked together before, let this be your gentle nudge). The spring semester is usually jam-packed with library instruction sessions and I love every minute of it.

I’ve jokingly told faculty that even if the only thing that a student gets out of my library instruction is that I have a name and I’m here to help them with their research that I consider myself successful. Of course that’s not all I hope they get – I’ll talk more later about how information literacy is crucial to educating the whole student and creating life-long learners. The truth is that I hope they get much more than just my name – but even if they don’t, it does seem to be a step in the right direction.

What about you? How do you build a rapport with students?

EDP

Asking Questions

Last week my colleague Will Walker sent me a link to a photo essay blog discussing some of the more interesting questions that were asked at the New York Public Library during pre-Google times. NYPL is posting photos on Instagram each Monday from their reference archives of questions they have received over the years. I don’t know about you, but knowing that makes my Mondays a little better.

I did enjoy looking through the questions that they have received along the way and chuckled at some of the questions that reminded me of my own experiences working public and academic reference desks. My personal favorite from the NYPL collection was the card that showed a variety of questions that were asked in a single phone call. This was not unlike my experiences with an elderly gentleman who made a habit of calling the public library reference desk asking me questions about how much I thought a painting might be worth or where he could find a manual for an antique small appliance whilst he rummaged around in his attic. Answering questions or helping others find the answers they seek is a large part of my job. Truth be told, it’s actually one of my favorite parts.

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(Image Courtesy of the New York Public Library)

All of that has me thinking about our ETBU students and how they ask questions and interact with me at the reference desk. How do students go about finding answers to the their questions? In my world, we call this “information seeking behavior” and we study how users engage in the search for information. One thing we have learned about information seeking behavior among college students is that they don’t often think to approach the reference librarian for help.

Librarian Barbara Fister discussed why students don’t ask questions at the reference desk in her appropriately titled Fear of Reference article. She found that students were embarrassed to admit that they didn’t know something that they thought that they should already know. To them, it can appear that their fellow students already have this library thing down pat and here they are just trying to figure out how to find a journal article (when truth be told, many of them couldn’t tell you the difference between a journal and an article).

The reference desk isn’t the only place that this happens. There is something vulnerable about asking a question and admitting that there is a gap in your knowledge. There is some element of trust involved with letting another person know that they know something you don’t know. After all, most of us can recall that annoying, “I know something you don’t know” sing-song taunt that our grade school peers used to tease us on the playground… or was that just me?

In life, we need to be able to ask questions. It starts with curiosity and the humility of admitting that there is something you don’t know. We see examples of people asking questions all throughout scripture. We know that the Bereans searched the scriptures each day after Paul and Silas taught to make sure that they were telling the truth – one assumes they were asking questions to guide them in their research. Proverbs 2 encourages readers to “cry out for insight and ask for understanding.” Jesus was even known for responding to a question by asking another question. Clearly, questions are part of the process of learning and seeking the truth.

We know we should be asking questions, but that still doesn’t change the fact that sometimes asking a question can be down right scary. So how do we help our students become more comfortable voicing their questions? I believe we start by making them feel safe to ask questions.

The first two weeks of the semester generally sound the same at the reference desk. Since we are still a good ways from research due dates, I can usually rely on the questions that I answer to be fairly basic – How do I login? Where’s printer 2? Do you guys have textbooks here? – you get the idea. And while some in my profession would see those types of questions misuse of their expertise – I say bring it on.

Why?

I welcome their questions because I know that if a student can feel comfortable asking me a tech support question during the first week that he or she might be a little less anxious about asking me for research help when the time comes. I hope that maybe if asking the first question isn’t too painful that we can break down that library anxiety barrier (yes, that’s a real thing we’ll talk about more later) that separates us that we can make some real progress in finding the information that they seek.

Last academic year 78% of the 733 user interactions we had in information services occurred in person at the reference desk. The experience those students had when they got up the nerve to ask a question is important to me. Whether I have a student who needs help finding an article involving a certain statistical method, or someone who just needs to know which printer to use, I’ll take that question. After all, I know what it might have taken for you to decide to ask it.

Why the library?

Library CardTo this day I have in my possession (and still in good working order, I might add) the first barcoded library card that was issued to me by Ms. Wendell Ogidi at the Palestine Public Library. Based on my foggy memory and my early rendition of a cursive signature, I’d guess I was entering fifth or sixth grade. Before that I can remember visiting public libraries as a younger child with my parents in Garland, Texas. I still have memories from the Abbett Elementary library where I was taught about the Dewey Decimal System via an overhead projector and transparency sheets. Last semester Will Walker mentioned that ETBU Library Director, Cynthia Peterson, talked about playing “library” as a child. She’s not the only one. I think my sister might still owe me a fine…

I was a proud member of the Bluebonnet Club both at Story Elementary and at Washington Sixth Grade Center (thank you, Ms. Rozman) where we read and discussed the books nominated for the Texas Bluebonnet Award. I can remember researching Y2K (warning: for some this will make me seem terribly young and for others you might need a definition of Y2K) on dial-up internet connection (perhaps even a CD database) from my public library computer on an orange and black screen. And between libraries and Baptist life, I have developed an affectionate appreciation for the usefulness of a golf pencil…

Me and libraries? We go way back.

So in Spring 2011, when Dr. Dub Oliver asked me during my interview why I chose to be a librarian, I should have been able to produce an answer. Right? Well, sort of.

Before coming to ETBU, I had recently completed my Masters of Library Science degree from the University of North Texas. I also was leaving the first library job I had ever had with the library that grew me in my hometown. Prior to that I had spent time trying to help middle school students learn to love reading as a public school teacher in two great districts.

And so why did I choose the library?

At the time I would have told you that I had always sort of kept librarianship in the back of my mind as a career path. [Note to readers: I’ve lost count the number of people who tell me that they always thought about being a librarian if (fill in the blank with first career choice) hadn’t worked out.] A series of life circumstances and situations made it possible for me to step out of my classroom role and work full-time in Adult Services at my hometown library while I worked on my MLS. At the time I could give you the standard “Why are you a librarian?” answer – I loved reading and being around people who loved reading. Even more than that, I loved learning and now I was surrounded by information. Every day I had the chance to feel like I was sharing something with my community and the work that I was doing made it easier for people to get to the information that they needed to make their lives better. Also, I got to help select the books for the collection – who wouldn’t love that? It sounded like a good enough reason to pick a career to me.

Back to Dr. Dub’s interview question. My initial response was something quippy about there not ever having been a librarian track at church camp. Beyond that, I think I did manage to say something about believing that people should have access to information and that being able to use that information to take charge of your own learning can make all of the difference in a person’s life. That statement remains to be one of the true reasons why I love being a librarian.

Since then, though, I’ve thought more and more about where my Christian faith intersects with my career of librarianship and what it means to be a Christian librarian. In hearing the teaching faculty talk about faith and learning in their disciplines, I’ve begun to ask myself where librarians and the role of the library fits into the larger picture.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who asks these kinds of questions. For me, questions about my calling to the library go something like this:

  • Where does the library and its mission fit into what I believe about my faith?
  • How does what I do on a daily basis serve God or those around me?
  • Why should a Christian, or anyone for that matter, care about information and its use?
  • Just what exactly am I supposed to be doing here, anyway?…

These are some of the very questions I hope to address in this semester’s blog. I hope you’ll join me as we look together at how the world of information intersects with our faith, how reading impacts empathy, why I believe Christians are called to be information literate… and many more reflections from a librarian’s point of view.

Why the library? I think the answer to that question is something I get to continue discovering. As the library and my role within it continues to evolve, I am constantly finding a new reason to enjoy this calling to educate, steward, and serve. I hope you are able to do the same in whatever work that God has called you to join him in doing.

Curious about something? I know the feeling. It’s a job hazard for me. Leave a comment below and I’ll try to get to it in a future post. Happy reading and thanks for following.

EDP

Spring 2015 @ The Intersection

It’s hard to believe, but we are entering our fourth semester of The Intersection blog at East Texas Baptist University. For any newcomers, you should know that The Intersection was created in Fall 2013 by the Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship (CECS) to provide an online outlet for ETBU faculty to reflect on what it means to “create and participate in scholarship that embraces a Christian worldview without compromising in the pursuit of scientific truth and intellectual inquiry.” Over the last three semesters, 11 ETBU faculty members have reflected on their teaching experiences, explored how faith intersects with their academic disciplines, and asked us to consider questions and ideas from their unique perspectives.

This semester the CECS is once again excited to announce the three ETBU faculty members who have agreed to take us on another 15 week journey into what it means for them to study, learn, and teach from a Christian worldview. The following faculty members will begin sharing with us next week – Ms. Traci Ledford, Department Chair and Associate Professor of Theatre Arts; Dr. David Splawn, Assistant Professor of English; and myself, Ms. Elizabeth Ponder, Librarian and Manager of Instruction & Information Services for Jarrett Library who also serves as the Program Coordinator for the CECS.

Traci Ledford, David Splawn, & Elizabeth Ponder

Traci Ledford, David Splawn, & Elizabeth Ponder

You will have a chance to get to know these bloggers more in their first posts next week. In keeping with our format, each writer will post once weekly on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. This semester our bloggers will take on topics such as on finding God in the details of art, bringing a Christ-like approach to writing instruction, and exploring how information and faith collide – just to name a few. We hope you’ll stop by three times each week to see what they have to say or subscribe via email by signing up on the right side of the page. Engage with our bloggers by leaving comments and asking questions throughout the semester.

Have an idea that you’d like our bloggers to explore this semester? Leave us a comment below or email cecs@etbu.edu.

We’ll see you at The Intersection!

Fall 2014 Intersection Bloggers

The Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship at East Texas Baptist University is excited to announce our three bloggers for the Fall 2014 semester. Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, and Dr. Will Walker will be sharing their weekly insights the ways that their teaching, disciplines, and faith intersect. This semester will be The Intersection’s third cohort of ETBU faculty bloggers. The Intersection blog originally began as a part of the CECS Intersection of Faith & Reflection Project in which five ETBU faculty members where invited to use the newly created blog to experience reflective practice during Fall 2013. The project was completed in December 2013 and now the blog continues each semester with three ETBU faculty members chosen each session.

Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, & Dr. Will Walker (

Dr. Elijah Brown, Dr. Allyn Lueders, & Dr. Will Walker

Meet Our Bloggers…

Dr. Elijah Brown will be posting on Mondays throughout the Fall 2014 semester beginning on August 25th. Dr. Brown is an Associate Professor of Religion in the School of Christian Studies, and also serves as the Director Freedom Center at ETBU, a newly formed center is working to advance international religious freedom and transformative peace. Brown joined the ETBU faculty in 2009, and is an active member of the ETBU community. In addition to his classroom engagement with students, Dr. Brown and his family have lived on campus as Faculty in Residence since 2011. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Edinburgh, New College. His dissertation focused on the development of north-south Sudanese peace, highlighting issues related to the maturation of indigenous Christianity, missions, church growth, conflict resolution and reconciliation, and religion and politics. Dr. Brown is also an active participant in the Baptist World Alliance.

Dr. Allyn Lueders will be sharing her reflections on Wednesdays beginning August 27th. Dr. Lueders is an Assistant Professor of Communication Studies in ETBU’s School of Humanities, and just recently joined the ETBU faculty in 2012. Dr. Lueders has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Kansas. Her dissertation focused on an analysis of an online support community for anorexia patients. Her courses taught here at ETBU range from Fundamentals of Speech Communication to Research Methods in Communication Studies. In addition to her new blogging responsibilities this fall, Dr. Lueders and her husband have recently moved on to campus as part of the ETBU Faculty in Residence program.

Dr. Will Walker will be blogging his thoughts on Fridays beginning August 29th. Dr. Walker is an Associate Professor of Kinesiology in the School of Education. Originally from East Texas, Dr. Walker first attended and graduated from ETBU with his B.S.E. in Secondary History and Physical Education before joining the ETBU faculty in 2007. He has an earned Ph.D. from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville with a dissertation exploring physical self-efficacy in college weight training students. Dr. Walker also serves as the Faculty Athletic Representative. Teaching in one of the institution’s larger majors and his involvement with ETBU Athletics gives Dr. Walker the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with ETBU students with varying backgrounds, experiences, and aspirations.

From Christian Missions, to God’s people as a medium for communication, to the connection between the health of the body and soul, this semester’s bloggers are sure to shed new light on the topics of faith, learning, and disciplines on The Intersection. Subscribe via email or check back online regularly to follow their stories. Engage with our bloggers by commenting on posts that grab your attention, cause you to ask questions, or impact your faith.

Join us as we spend another semester looking for the intersections of our faith & life.

CECS Announces Spring 2014 Bloggers

As our inaugural blogging semester concluded in December 2013, the Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship issued a call for bloggers to the ETBU faculty members for Spring 2014. This semester we are able to sponsor 3 new faculty bloggers as they endeavor to explore the collisions of faith and academia. Please join us in congratulating our Spring 2014 bloggers – Dr. David Brooks, Associate Professor of Biology & Nursing, Dr. Emily Row Prevost, Director of Leadership Studies, and Dr. Darrell Roe, Associate Professor of Communication Studies. Together they will use their varied vantage points to examine what it means to be a Christian scholar and teacher in today’s world.

Dr. David Brooks, Dr. Emily Row Prevost, and Dr. Darrell Roe

Dr. David Brooks, Dr. Emily Row Prevost, and Dr. Darrell Roe

You will have an opportunity to learn more about our bloggers and their individual journeys next week. Each writer will share a weekly post on Monday, Wednesday, or Friday. Stop by three times a week to see what they have to say or subscribe via email by signing up on the right side of the page. We hope that you will engage with our authors by leaving comments and asking questions throughout the semester.

Have a topic suggestion for our bloggers? Leave a comment below!

Looking forward to another semester @ The Intersection,

Elizabeth Ponder, MSLS
Program Coordinator, Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship

2013 IFR Grant: Meet our writers

Congratulations to the five members of the ETBU faculty who received grant funding through the Intersection for Faith & Reflection Grant offered by the CECS. We look forward to your contributions to this blog in the coming months as we examine the relationship between reflection and our faith.

Read more about the Faith & Reflection Project…

CECS-Scholar-Winners39

Dr. Mark Miller, Dr. Catherine Cone, Dr. Jennifer Bashaw, & Dr. Laci McRee
(also receiving grant funds is Dr. Stan Coppinger – not pictured)

 

The Intersection: Where Faith & Scholarship Collide

Greetings! Welcome to The Intersection — the online space for the Center for Excellence in Christian Scholarship (CECS) and ETBU. In support of the CECS Vision, The Intersection provides an outlet for the ongoing discussion centered around the question of what it means to “create and participate in scholarship that embraces a Christian worldview without compromising in the pursuit of scientific truth and intellectual inquiry” (CECS Vision Statement). Our hope is that this blog will become a place for scholars to reflect and share their ideas on the issues of our day.

The idea for The Intersection came from a series of grants that have been offered by the CECS in recent years. The first, 2012′s The Intersection of Faith & Discpline, explored the connection between faith and academic disciplines by requiring the grant recipients to “design an instructional model for examining the intersection of faith, disciple and application outside the classroom and/or outside the regular limitations of classroom discourse” (IFD Grant 2012). In Spring 2013, 5 grant recipients have been selected to participate in The Intersection of Faith & Reflection. These recipients will be asked to begin posting weekly to this blog as they reflect on their faith, their disciplines, and their classroom experience. To learn more about the IFR Grant and view profiles, go to Faith & Reflection Project. These bloggers will be the trailblazers for our blog and establish a framework for future postings.

We’re glad you’ve found us and hope you’ll make an effort to follow along as we begin our blogging journey. Have questions? comments? suggestions? Write to us at cecs[at]etbu.edu or post a comment below.

With great anticipation for the future,

The Intersection team