Nudging the 5 year old and the 65 year old

Today I helped a kindergartener and a 65 year old do the same thing: find what they wanted to do on their iPad.


The five year old kindergartener wanted “Big Cat’s” microphone to record his voice (on a child’s app) and it wasn’t working.
The 65 year old wanted to share a Facebook post to specific friends on his iPad FB account.

Both the 5 year old and the 65 year old sat beside me (one during school hours and one after school) with their ipads on a day which was overwhelmingly spent solving iPad issues. Some of the issues I encountered were update needs, restriction issues, apps not working, wifi settings wrong, locked-out passcodes, and numerous emails about iPads. Tech issues with iPads has overtaken my job as a school librarian. But that is not the point here.

I sat beside two individuals today who are 60 years apart in age. I had the same feeling, as I sat with both of them. I felt a sense of “please help” and I felt a sense of “this is so important to me”.

Who am I to judge their information literacy needs?

Well, actually, I am an information literacy specialist. So, I suppose this is the topic I could write on for hours; however, information literacy is rapidly changing as we move into digital culture- whether at age 5 or 65.

Shall we play a game? Share a youtube video? Shall we critically evaluate our information intake with meaningful purpose using best research practices?

Learning….the quest for life.

Caring for the individual….where they are in life.

I shall remember doing what my colleague, Kristin Fontichiaro, would call “nudging toward inquiry.”

Zings, smiles, and frowns: The Circle (a reflective review)

The idea of participation (expressing our own opinions and sharing our perspectives) is highly regarded in global digital culture.  For the past decade, I have felt uneasy about this “over sharing” of personal life and the blurry line that now exists for most of us– the line between our personal and professional lives.  This blog is full of reflection on that personal/professional journey, a journey from the traditional role of a librarian in a “physical world” to an information literacy professional in a virtual world (where we all now live whether we have avatars or not).

Social Media compels you to JOIN and SHARE

It is no secret that I really “dislike” Facebook.  (Note: these views are my own and not the views of my employer which is stated in the fine print of this blog somewhere.) The disadvantages have always outweighed the advantages for me.  Yet, as webmaster/social media person for my school, I am required to maintain the social media sites currently used: both Facebook and Twitter as well as the school website, apps, and many accounts currently popular.  All information professionals surely understand that social media in networked culture must be utilized today because user-generated content and content curation through social media are the main channels of communication.  We all realize that the traditional hierarchy of information has toppled.

The additional responsibility of social media person has been a fascinating, perhaps unsettling experience.  I used the word “uneasy” earlier to express this feeling.  This week, while reading Dave Eggers novel The Circle, that uneasy feeling was expressed through a frightening vision of a future where personal privacy no longer exists and networked community (sharing is caring) becomes more important than anything else.


My professional journey required me to create an online identity.  The role of the “physical librarian in a physical room of physical books” is over.  I saw it coming a decade ago and I moved on ahead.  I consider myself a virtual pioneer and I realize I have created digital footprints.  Now, my students and my grandchild (just a baby) also have digital footprints because they have been born into global participatory digital culture.

This transition from physical to digital culture happened very quickly.  Most people have not considered the consequences.  I recently had a conversation about social media and mentioned some of my concerns with Facebook.  My colleague said, “I just don’t take it that seriously.”  For those who consider social networks simply a fun, light-hearted experience, The Circle may be interpreted as complete fantasy.  For those mandated to use social media for professional reasons, the book is downright scary.

The Circle (a novel by Dave Eggars)

The Circle is a thought provoking novel set in a dystopian future where social media has crossed the line. The word that stood out to me in Eggars novel, is transparency. I chose to be transparent online (never anonymous) because I use the Internet as an information professional.  My personal life has nothing to do with what I post online.  Yet, as an information professional using online communication tools, I saw myself in The Circle.

What do we do when we wake up each day?  We check our smart phones for “zings” and tweets and posts and messages and emails and follows and links and scoops and updates and on and on.  The media constantly tells us “your input is important”.  “We want to hear from you!”  We want your zings, your smiles, your frowns.

My heart tells me to unplug.  I value individual privacy. Yet, I live in global participatory digital culture as an information professional.  My students and my own grandchild are plugged in.


I shall persevere.



How Do We Loathe Thee, Facebook (a sonnet)

(Inspired by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861))

How do we loathe thee, Facebook?

How do we loathe thee? Let us count the ways.
We loathe thy boastfulness disguised as good.
Our souls detest thou’st photos of thy food
And cluttered trivial nonsense hour by hour.
Abhor thy mutilation of our “friends”–
A word whose meaning now no longer lives.
We loathe thy inefficiency at best,
For when we use thee more, we learn the less.
Compelled to scroll then mandated to post,
Against old griefs, and with all childhood lost.
We loathe thy shouts of “Oh World, look at me!”
With whispered gossip, — yet gluttonous glee.
Commodities with no regard for fact–
The “ad” revered more highly than the act.

Embedding Content within Content, Hyperlinked to Content to be Curated

Today is Digital Learning Day and I am whirling through tecnology tools and formats (alongside physical resources) in my school library as I seek best practices for teaching digital literacy in what has become “participatory culture”.

My 4th graders are studying poetry and I am teaching them to share through our library blog. I want them to understand the importance of striving for meaningful content, not just posting and tweeting nonstop. Digital citizenship requires us to be responsible for both our consumption and production of information. I sometimes think that because we are so excited about all the cool “Web 2.0” applications that allow us to produce and share online, we forget to emphasize revision and reflection.

Buried deep beneath the clutter, four or five hyperlinked clicks away, is there some really important meaningful content of high quality or aesthetic appeal? For years, I have empasized process over product in education because all learning, like life, is a process. Now, in the digital age (as content floods my screens nonstop), I am realizing there has to be balance between process and product. At some point, the author or the artist must say “here is what I have done.” The goal is to say something worthwhile.

In Defense of Virtual Worlds

A colleague sent an email expressing concern over posts criticizing librarians for “still being involved in Second Life“.

I replied by email and she suggested I share.

I wrote:

“The ability to “fly” in virtual worlds? That’s nothing! A generation of video gamers now considers gaming a literary genre (and many are cinematic and well-researched). Virtual worlds are not video games- but this evolution of literacy changes everything. The argument that the majority of mainstream culture uses Facebook is ridiculous. The majority of mainstream culture also values convenience over quality, triviality over authority or accuracy, and self-absorbed “packaging” of our personal lives over anything meaningful.

This conversation is not about Second Life, but about virtual worlds….and they are not going away. My physical library is only half of what I do. We all have both physical and virtual lives (after the digital revolution and the toppling of the information hierarchy). The question is whether to spend my virtual life in a flat, narcissistic, space where popular culture and cute photos are streamed nonstop or seek out interesting, intelligent people on a global scale who can help me move toward a better future for this post-physical world. You all understand that…..and that is enough for me.”

Yes, I also read Roy Tennant’s blogpost when ALA closed an island in Second Life. I did not reply, mainly out of respect for this esteemed colleague. I have credited Roy Tennant as the first library professional that I heard state that in our information world today, “convenience trumps quality”. His statement was a turning point for me. I began to see a different kind of information-seeking behavior in my physical library. I began to actively explore digital literacy and changing formats.

I understand that SL is not the “be all end all” of education or libraries. Virtual worlds are just one piece of information literacy. I am humbled by the amazing colleagues I have worked with in virtual worlds and I am proud of the huge amount of effort it took to earn a PhD on the topic (not to boast because I understand I am just one small person contributing one tiny piece of the research on the future of information literacy). I have worked very hard to understand how to separate my “personal” perspective from my professional contribution to my field. My experience includes organizing five virtual world exhibits, numerous presentations, discussions, learning machinima, and networking on a global scale. I could not have accomplished any of those experiences in my physical library- even through using webinars and other distance learning tools (of which I am familiar). Second Life is only one company, which happened to provide a great array of tools for early adopters of virtual worlds. Having explored many other virtual worlds, for many other purposes (business, military, medicine, and so on), I certainly am not attached to one in particular. Slamming Second Life is not offensive to me, but putting down librarians?! Whew…don’t get me started.

For more information on my dissertation topic, I will be presenting an overview on Nov. 18th in Second Life. For information on other virtual worlds, contact me. Meanwhile, I return to my awesome physical library where I struggle to teach critical inquiry to students who want to play apps and interact on mobile devices.

The Value of Your Full Attention – read this between tweets

On the other side of the digital revolution, as we clean up the rubble left from the toppled hierarchy of information, we stand and gaze in awe at where we now live- survivors of some kind of information disaster that we haven’t quite yet realized.  Are we in denial?  Is it similar to awakening after a natural disaster?

The old rules no longer apply.  Interconnectivity was once a quest that we never could achieve.  Now, Joe Grobelny suggests it may be quite the opposite.


Reading his post made me think about how rare it is to give someone my undivided attention.  We message, tweet, post, and cruise our devices simultaneously while communicating with each other.  As physical things become less important than virtuality, I have an idea that giving someone our true focus- completely- may soon be as valuable as gold.


New position in librarianship: Infoculturist

A well-respected colleague recently requested help writing a job decription for a new librarian role: Publisher of Community.  I couldn’t help but think about content creation and user-generated content.  I have been creating content for my school library for 20 years, through producing a weekly edited news show called “EETV” for Ethridge Elementary TV.  The show has evolved from old VHS format to DVD and mp4 (among other file types). So, content creation has been a part of librarianship for decades.  However, user-generated content shared online has been growing like crazy since Youtube launched.

The core values of librarianship promote acquisition of the best content available and much of the user-generated content we find online today hardly qualifies as even watchable.

Our culture is becoming, we all know, a participatory one.  The library stacks are no longer perceived as top dog in information.  What Melvil Dewey called “man’s heroic deeds” in the literature of the 800 section has been pushed back behind Pinterest and Instagram.

I enjoyed the blogpost from Michael Stephens contemplating new roles for librarians. The online name I chose for myself, Valibrarian, is out-dated but (I hope) remains quaint.  We do need new titles that emphasize services we provide with better nomenclature!  One of my favorite metaphors for a library is that of a garden. One of Ranganathan’s 5 laws for library science stated that “a library is a growing organism”. I am remindeed of how the gardener plants and weeds.  So, I thought about the word horticulturist or agriculturist.

Here’s a nomination for a librarian job title:  infoculturist.  Whaddaya think?  Any more ideas?

No ROI for me on social media

ROI (an economics term)

I find very little Return on Investment with the time spent on Facebook.  I have never accomplished much scrolling through the contributions.

Now Pinterest and Instagram are bidding for the attention of those of us uploading photos. Digital archiving is tricky.  Flickr was one of the first to provide a space for our photos. But, I still forget sometimes where I have placed my digital content.  Is it on Flickr, my phone, my flashdrive, my hardrive, my laptop, or ….(add digital device here)?

Maybe we all need librarian skills today!  We have to choose what to archive- what to put on our devices (not just photos but all of our digital files). We decide what to put in file folders or in the cloud.  Someday, it will all be available, so I suppose we need not worry.  If the Dewey Decimal System is dead (but still a great exercise in thinking critically about information systems and cataloging) and everything is available at the touch of a finger…what is important is choosing very wisely.  We must choose what is valuable because what is available will be overwhelming.

Trivial clutter adds nothing to my life- in fact it subtracts from my time.

Then, I must ask myself, what does add value to my life?

The essentials of being human—even though I know I have become a cyborg.

Poetry, Music

and maybe just taking a walk without anything digital at all.

The Way the New Transliteracy Era Works

1. YOU are in charge of your learning.

What does that mean?  In the old hierarchy mode, an authority figure was in charge (the teacher, the press, the library, the institution).  Today, crowd-sourced content is top dog and the media news broadcast is a talk show over coffee.  Which means, you must critically evaluate all the information that is bombarding you on the web each day.

2. You must participate.
This can be problematic. Most of the experts (whom I respect greatly- see my recommended reading list) warn of the “dumbing down” of our youth through convenient internet browsing for answers and through narcissistic social media participation.  Like it or not, however, there is no going back to the old hierarchy where accuracy and authority were more important than popularity and personal interest.  Barlow and Leston end their book, Beyond the Blogsphere (2012), by stating, “When a collective force as ubiquitous as the internet continues to grow at alarming speeds and when most of its energy is wasted, some sketches of understanding need to be made so that we can begin to better understand this growing, pulsing, emerging organism called the internet.”

3. You MUST credit.
Surprise!  Plagiarism still applies! Amazingly, I see both students and teachers who do not understand that you cannot simply take a picture off a website and use it in whatever manner you choose.  The common misconception is that if someone posted it online…it’s mine!  Perhaps the rapid evolution from print to electronic media created confusion about intellectual property. But, in my opinion, the blurry line between professional life and personal life is more likely the culprit.
That’s another topic- one which I imagine others are currently contemplating.  Social media encourages the “fuzzy line” between professional and personal communication.  For the past year or so, I have been thinking that entertainment and triviality make up about 98% of social media, leaving only 2% for educational use.  In other words, you really don’t have to give  credit when the communication is just about the pizza you are eating!  (Why does eveyone love to post pictures of food?  I guess it is just part of being human. And, by the way, you must credit even the pizza picture unless you took it yourself or it is copyright free.) That 98% I mentioned is, metaphorically, a giant pizza.

Photo retrieved from

Extra! Extra!



Have we all become newboys shouting “Extra? Extra? Read all about it!” in reference to our own personal lives through our social media?




Seth Godin says we all now “spout and scout“.  I have been estimating that 98% of this spouting is triviality adding to the clutter that I call “the sea of chaos”– but I certainly may be way off in my calculations.


I failed at my quest to “like” Facebook and I will now openly admit that I do not.  I am trying very hard to embrace content creation with sites like Pinterest.  So far, I am finding my calculations of 98% triviality to be fairly accurate.


What to do about this tsunami of nonsense?


I am reminded of the anti-drug slogan — Just Say No!   I am no longer going to “friend or follow” trivial nonsense.  Please don’t take it personally (my dear nieces, co-workers, long-time chums).  This is not about friendship. It really isn’t. How we communicate defines us as a species.


This is about the future of humankind.