Four librarians from the OWHL traveled to Hotchkiss last week to attend the annual conference of the New England Association of Independent School Libraries. More than 100 independent school librarians from across New England were treated to keynote remarks by Steven Bell, Associate University Librarian for Research and Instructional Services at Temple University, who spoke on “Designing the Future-Proof Library.” Concurrent sessions throughout the day focused on topics from assessing instruction to running an Archive. OWHL Associate Director Jeffrey Marzluft and Instructional Librarian Sara Ciaburri engaged with Hotchkiss colleagues Eric Styles, Instruction Librarian, and Tom Drake, Instructor in History, in considering “Student Collaborative Learning and Information Literacy.” OWHL Archivist Tim Sprattler attended a round table discussion for independent school Archivists. OWHL Director Elisabeth Tully attended an extended session for Directors of the Libraries of the Eight Schools, centering on topics of current interest, including mobile computing and electronic books.
We are currently in the midst of the Academy’s annual staff performance appraisal process, and so I have been thinking about the things (besides money) that motivate the OWHL staff. I have always believed that people work more enthusiastically and productively when they understand, and believe in, the purpose of their organization. It also helps if they have had a hand in defining what that purpose is. The OWHL is in the third year of a five year strategic plan, so this summer we will be creating an action plan for year 4. When we commenced this planning cycle, we revisited, and reconfirmed, our mission.
The Oliver Wendell Holmes Library helps to prepare students for creative and independent lifelong learning by providing a place where they can read, think, and interact with a rich array of resources under the guidance of talented and knowledgeable information professionals.
But we haven’t talked about our purpose since we went through the original exercise. We have hired a couple of new staff members since then, and there have been profound changes in the library environment. So it seemed a good time for us, as a team, to revisit our purpose. We only have a full staff meetings once a month, and at the last one I gave everyone an index card, and asked them to write down one or two sentences capturing the purpose of the OWHL. After I collected the cards, I decided to try using Survey Monkey, a free, online survey tool to share the answers anonymously and begin the process of gaining consensus. I typed all of the responses in a survey, and asked everyone to identify their top five. The didn’t have to rank them, just select them. In the second round, the five top vote-getters were listed, and responders were asked to pick three. In the final round, I asked people to rank those three.
This exercise has been interesting, and I think that the results will be very useful. Each person was given the opportunity to think about, and put into words, their idea of our purpose. Then they had the chance to compare their ideas with those of their peers (without attribution) and to indicate their preferences. The process has been easy (I emailed a link to each version of the survey to our staff email distribution list.) The tool is free and easy to use. We have had full participation in the exercise, and no complaints. In fact, people seem very interested in the results, and been positive about the process. There is probably no actual substitute for face-to-face brainstorming, but it is unlikely, given the frenetic pace of spring term that we would have been able to do this exercise in that way.
If you were playing word association, and the word was “Librarian,” would “books” be the first word that occurs to you?” That wouldn’t be surprising. However, the word that the OWH librarians would like you to think of is “Teacher.” The seven members of the Instructional Team at the OWHL (all with Master’s degrees) are, first and foremost, teachers. We have developed a fully articulated curriculum in the area of information fluency – an essential skill set for 20th century life-long learning and effective global citizenship.
Despite their prior experiences with technology, students do not arrive at Andover with these skills. Worse, they arrive not knowing what they don’t know. They are not scheduled for classes devoted to the acquisition of the skills—rather, we partner with faculty members in many academic departments to teach students how to identify a rich array of resources beyond the Internet, and how to effectively and ethically use those resources. If we are not yet working with your classes, we’d like to invite you to explore with us how we might reinforce your curricular objectives while supporting our students in building an information skills toolkit.
We can work with you whether or not your kids are engaged in a formal research project. Information is almost always needed to support critical thinking in life and in scholarship. We have some self-contained sessions in which we can teach your kids a useful skill (like how to become a Google power-searcher) or give them supported time to explore an excellent resource (like our new collection of 48,000 electronic books.) While we prefer that you attend the class with your students, we can often accommodate a class on short notice in your absence. We can provide a value-added alternative to a “free-cut.” So think of the OWHL when you are putting together a list of topics to engage your students after the AP test. Think of us when you need a back-up plan. And especially, think of us when your curriculum requires the students to engage in critical thinking about unfamiliar material. We are teachers, and we’d love to be your partners.
The World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day is celebrated on the last Saturday of April around the world. This year, OWH librarian and Tai Chi teacher Sharon Pei will participate in the event, and invites members of the PA community to join her. You can learn more about the organization sponsoring this event and view video clips showing people around the world celebrating World Tai Chi and Qi Gong Day at this website: According to Pei, “We truly believe the world would become a better place if we think positively and act harmoniously.” Contact Sharon at email@example.com for information about the celebration planned for April 24th.
On behalf of the OWHL staff, I am delighted to congratulate you on having been selected for School Year Abroad. We know that you will make the most of this extraordinary opportunity. Though you will be gone from our campus next year, you will not be forgotten. In particular, I want to remind you that many of the services and resources provided by the OWHL are available to you electronically. If you need help on a research assignment, we’d be happy to assist you over email or Skype. In addition, nearly one third (48,000+ titles) of our collection of academic materials is now in ebook format, making it possible for you to continue to use many of the rich resources of the OWHL in support of your academic work on the other side of the globe. Your PA ID card is your library card number, and will authenticate you as a member of our community no matter where in the world you log in. If you have any questions about using our “virtual” collections and services, please stop by the OWHL sometime this term to speak with us about it.
An in the meantime, please accept our sincere congratulations on your accomplishment. Adventures await, and we’d like to help you make the most of them.
The following resources by Proquest are free during National Library Week — just in time to be helpful for History 310 projects. Try these resources and then let us know which ones you think that we should purchase.
ProQuest® African American Heritage (try it now | learn more is a groundbreaking resource that brings together records critical to African American family history research and connects users to a community of research experts.
ProQuest Historical Newspapers™ – Black Newspapers (learn more) for eye-witness accounts of history being made, start here. Search and browse continuous runs of the following full-image Historical Newspapers:
* The Baltimore Afro-American (try it now | 1893-1988)
* Chicago Defender (try it now | 1910-1975)
* Los Angeles Sentinel (try it now | 1934-2005)
* New York Amsterdam News (try it now | 1922-1993)
It’s National Library Week. Help us celebrate by exploring one of these excellent resources from Gale. Just use the drop-down menu below to select the resource you’d like to explore, and then go!
The resources include:
Archives Unbound — a vast new resource of topically-focused, cross-searchable digital collections of historical documents
Career Transitions — a new electronic resource offering a comprehensive guide to career change
Global Issues in Context — this online resource offers global news and perspectives on issues and events of international importance
GREENR (Global Reference on the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources) — a new electronic resource offering authoritative reference content on the environment, energy, economic development and natural resources
Grzimek’s Animal Life — an interactive, media-rich online resource, with information on more than 4,000 species