Monthly Archives: August 2009

Who’s running Wikipedia?

From a Twitter message on my TweetDeck to an eContent blog to CNet, I stumbled across an article debating the current state of Wikipedia.  At the community college level, Wikipedia has been the bane of many librarians’ existences.  While I think Wikipedia is a useful tool for students to get familiar with a topic or argument, develop a vocabulary for searching other resources like databases and library catalogs, and often provide links to credible resources, the general teaching philosophy remains to ignore and/or preach against Wikipedia as a research tool for students since “everyone” can edit an entry.  Or so we think…

According to Augmented Cognition Research Group at the Palo Alto Research Center, a hierarchy of editors seems to be developing amongst Wikipedia editors while a plateau also seems to be occurring among the number of editors participating in the site.  For the frequent contributors (1,000+/month group), new entries seem to be accepted willingly while occasional users face significantly higher reversion rates for content they’ve provided.  While the information provided thus far appears to be creating a stratified structure between groups, I have to still wonder who are these frequent providers and should we be trusting their judgment.  Unlike in other open source communities, Wikipedia’s filter appears to be based on frequency of postings, not any educational or professional background or skills.

Moving away from the open source concept, what will the future of Wikipedia have if an active group controls the participation of others?  Who are these people?  How are the edits affecting the quality of postings? With more questions than answers at this point, I’ll be curious to see what other research the group can provide on the topic at their presentation at WikiSym2009.

Ack, the budget!

Okay, so after 2 hours of running around and learning circ a la trial by fire method, I sit down to read about the terrible state of community college databases. As previously noted, I am well aware of the financial shortfall and how much that shortfall is for the community college budget in California. However, the most recent notice, regarding databases, shocked me by stating that, in short, we may not have ANY!!!! As is the norm in librariana, another association, the Council of Chief Librarians, discusses the issues and problems facing librarians, albeit those of the community college variety in California. Luckily, I seem to meet all of those criteria (ok, maybe not a chief, but someday…) so its latest notice about the database funding applies. Unlike the UCs or the Cal States, the community colleges aren’t working with more than a handful or two of databases for our very varied population. Now, we are talking about none, nada, zip, zilch, niente, and any other word indicating a complete absence. How are we supposed to serve online students? Telecourse students? Regular, everyday students that cringe at the thought of looking for a book on the shelf, let alone dusting off some microform? Given hidden budget pockets here and there, we may still have one database available, but what about the Nursing students who need medical articles or the general population needing information on a variety of topics from scholarly sources?  Given my own, limited realm of power in adjusting the budget one way or another, I’m wondering what ideas you may have that could help us better assist our students in this period of info scarcity.  Thoughts? *Free* web content recommendations?

Twitter-riffic

Although I started using Twitter almost a year ago now (wow, has time flown by), this week seems the universe seems to want me to move beyond my current, occasional playing with the social media resource to learn more about the power that has led this VC-run idea to become the phenomenon that it is.  As part of a new routine, I’m making more time to walk, and hence, I need more audiobooks to consume as part of the needed distraction away from such said exercise.  In Joel Comm’s Twitter Power, I’ve been able to have a well-crafted review of the various other social media sites, hear how they compare and contrast with Twitter, and look forward to hearing more about his advice and techniques for making Twitter work for me.  While the some of the advice thus far (I’m about 1.5 hours out of an almost 6.5 hour audiobook) is a bit of the tediously obvious (make sure you choose the right username so people can find you; make sure to link your website to your Twitter profile, etc.), his additional advice as to how to add multiple websites to your profile gives me hope that I’ll actually learn something from the book.  The book does have a sales/advertising bent, but I figure the methods will still apply to the general outreach my library may need to promote programs, events, and new resources.

On another note, my ProjectMuse Twitter feed helped me stumble upon a Society for Scholarly Publishing blog entry regarding the relationship between Twitter and scholarly communication. For the academics among us, Clarke’s concise discussion does an excellent job providing the short hand notes to the Twitter discussion as well as indicating Twitter’s value as a general social media tool apart from others like Facebook.  Furthermore, he ties the topic back into the idea of scholarly communication today.  To say the least, I highly recommend perusing this entry for even the avid librarian Twitter user.

Now, in relation to all of these, what have you, in the nebulous fog of the blogosphere, discovered in your Twitter-riffic adventures?

Fun with Statistics!

So, according to the NY Times, today’s graduates ought to be statisticians…Hmmm, well, libraries already seem to place a large focus on statistics as metrics to evaluate the utility and value of libraries in our communities; some of the common sets of stats range from usage stats, return on investment figures, and program attendance.  Admittedly, statistics aren’t that much fun, but I wanted to learn more about my patron community and figured some government system must have some information on the web about it.  California’s Community College Data Mart is one prime source for basic info on gender, race, and enrollment types.  Expanding on Data Mart’s basic information, RAND California provides a more user-friendly, content rich set of statistics, including percentages and figures of students based on the number of units taken, but at a cost.  For a brief, pre-digested overview, you can also look at the Community College League’s Fast Facts. Taking a general look at community college statistics on the web, I came across a few surprises:

  1. Women in the 50+ crowd, regardless of ethnicity, were almost double the amount of men from the same age range and ethnic group enrolled.  This trend also appeared to be consistent across the other colleges I surveyed in Santa Barbara, Compton, and San Francisco.
  2. As of Spring 2009, the hardest hit areas by the recession did not see the greatest enrollment increases, as Cuesta College presents as both a graphic and a spreadsheet.
  3. The University of Phoenix, online campus had a total enrollment of 165,373 students, making it the largest degree granting university of college in the entire US.
  4. According to the American Association of Community Colleges, in 2003,  state appropriations make up approximately 38% and tutition and fees 20% of the average community college’s revenue.  In California, I found that the current appropriation of $3.114 billion is actual lower than the 2002-2003 amount of $3.685 billion and a significant decrease from the 2007-2008 amount of $5.135 billion.  No wonder everyone is in a state of shock.  I’m almost afraid to look at the impact on individual campuses.

While I still keep the thought in the back of my mind that 60% of statistics are made up on the spot, these sources of information provide some interesting starting points to develop queries and analyses about the who, the what, and the revenue source for our library and education centers and how things like budget cuts, economic recessions, and my patron base will impact our future careers.

We ain’t in Kansas anymore…

With a new year, comes new gadgets to learn, to play, and, eventually, with which to get frustrated. At my location, PCTrak, the computer login software started last year, helping limit computer usage to only students via student ID login and limit the amount of time each person spent on the computer. Or, so we thought. Over the last several months, I’ve seen students log out of it incorrectly, blocking the computer from network printing, causing the next student to login indefinitely, or even hack around the system altogether. Even now, I’m befuddled by the fact that, in this interim period between semesters, the computers now register people for unlimited periods of time.

Starting in 2009, we’ll now get to work with the tool LanSchool. While a general teaching tool that allows screen shares, messaging, voting, and testing all through a main computer to a classroom setting, the library intends to use it to help monitor the computer terminal usage. Depending on your viewing choice, you can see a thumbnail set of images that match the layout of the physical computers themselves or just the numerical order assigned to the areas. Having worked the public library side of computer terminals, I have a knee-jerk feeling to say “what about their privacy?” And, again, I remember, I’m in an academic library where the mission is education, not public access. The other features in the software also tend to reflect the same concepts, as you can wipe out someone’s screen if they aren’t cooperating, limit sites, limit printing, limit USB, and limit apps. Even before the semester has begun, our tech staff has found some of the systems limitations, such as the site limitations only apply to Internet Explorer, so you have to limit the Firefox application to really enforce any restricted web surfing. Other issues present to the software relate to the confusion regarding how the system interprets certain commands. For example, some of the commands assume that if you have selected none of the screens you intend to have nothing happen while other commands assume you want ALL the computers to have such said action occur. We have no guideline as of yet on which item matches which working preference.

For my own curiosity, I decided to research a little more about the software. I was a bit dismayed to find “lanschool hack” as one of the top suggested search phrases. Torrets, YouTube videos, and wikis, oh my. The number of suggestions, ranging from how to overtake your teacher’s computer for a few seconds, disconnecting the network cable as a reset option, and how to rewrite the free demo into a full working copy (the details of this one are generally present but I had to give up reading after the 50th spelling error). Aware of the potential dangers in mind, I’m curious to see what my population will bring to me as a challenge.

Library ethics and Tourette’s Syndrome

With words too profane to express here, I found myself facing a person with potential Tourette’s syndrome in my academic library today.  While I was stunned at being called a racist while I walked by in passing, I had no idea what else was in store.  Unsure what to do but comfortable with searching for my answer, I took to the internet and my databases to research what other individuals have encountered related to this problem.  As for library journals, no one seemed to have faced this issue.  The internet did provide one result but of little use to my situation.

To  make sure the issue wasn’t just unfiltered frustration, I spoke with the patron about checking his language.  The patron’s reply of not having said anything left me wondering, how do I even know if a person has Tourette’s or is just abusing the situation?  The National Tourette’s Syndrome Association provides a great set of resources to provide more information about the overall disease and dispel myths, such as the common cursing associated with Tourette’s is actually only present in about 15% of individuals with the disease.  Other elements that relate to the disease are ADHD and OCD  behaviors.  Knowing how to identify the disease is definitely key to prevent unnecessary discrimination and to help establish the issue at hand.

Alright, so with an idea of what TS is, how do we develop an idea of how to maintain the standards of the library while not preventing student access to public computer terminals?  What are the issues a post-secondary environment creates for both staff and students?

As a first step, reviewing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) provides information regarding the educational standards for students ages 3-21, including the issues of setting individual educational programs (IEP), eventual transition to adulthood issues, and how students with disabilities tie in to the other educational regulations such as No Child Left Behind.  If you have a few weeks to lose, you can probably stumble across some useful information, but the casual reader will be easily frustrated by the dense nature of the materials.

As my patrons’ patiences were wearing thin, I decided to ditch the government site and pursue ERIC, the educationally focused database, and found some great resources on how teachers are learning to manage student behavior.  Turton and Rayner provide a good, accessible article on the issue of Tourette’s in the academic sphere and some great, innovative ideas on how to positively create harmony instead of simply expelling or punishing a student without any explanation of what was wrong.  One idea in particular is the reverse mentoring where a peer group meets with a student to help teach him or her about social etiquette while the student mentors or tutors the students in math, science, English, or any other subject of his expertise. Having a session to also train a student on library etiquette with other student staff or librarians could be highly beneficial to both groups. While a temporary patron would not result in such an effort, the community college setting with return users that potentially stay at the same institution for more than a semester may be ideal for developing a library component along with the IEP.