Graduation!

Graduation has finally come and gone! What an exciting day it was and just as exciting was being able to spend some time with the good friends I’ve made over the last eight semesters! Not all the pix are in the slideshows yet. There are some on Ron’s phone I have to figure out how to get off and he got some videos that I’ll try to get loaded on YouTube.

Reception:

Reception for MLS Graduates

Graduation:

MLS Graduation May 2012

Young Adult Science Fiction

This last semester in grad school has started pretty smoothly. I’ve got things all worked out for my practicum and have a good bit of the YA lit class under my belt.

One of the YA lit requirements is to do a book talk of six books united by a theme. After finding a spot and discussing it with the teacher, she’d like for me to do Sci-Fi / horror as an introduction to Frankenstein.

I’ve been perusing titles, but before I spend too much time looking at the unknown, I was wondering if you had any YA title suggestions that might be off the beaten path.

Saving the Google students

From yet another pink-slipped school employee.

The current generation of kindergartners to 12th graders — those born between 1991 and 2004 — has no memory of a time before Google. But although these students are far more tech savvy than their parents and are perpetually connected to the Internet, they know a lot less than they think. And worse, they don’t know what they don’t know.

As a librarian in the Pasadena Unified School District, I teach students research skills. But I’ve just been pink-slipped, along with five other middle school and high school librarians, and only a parcel tax on the city’s May ballot can save the district’s libraries. Closing libraries is always a bad idea, but for the Google generation, it could be disastrous. In a time when information literacy is increasingly crucial to life and work, not teaching kids how to search for information is like sending them out into the world without knowing how to read.

Read on . . .

More here from the School Library Journal

Transaction Logs and Focus Groups as Data Collection Methods

Research in Library Science is conducted in many areas covering multiple questions, but one thing shared is data collection. Qualitative and quantitative information to support the question at hand are necessary to validate the needs or phenomenon or trends (Wildemuth, 2009). Transaction logs and focus groups are two valuable data collection techniques.

Transaction Logs

Whenever a person logs onto and begins to use a computer in the library, different kinds of information are automatically collected into transaction logs (Jansen, 2006). Sullenger (1997) recommends transaction logs “be examined by librarians to analyze how patrons use the catalog, what features they are using, and to see what areas of searching are problematic” (p. 21).  Data can also be collected on “items viewed, sessions, site penetration; time online, users (trace evidence of, not individual information), navigational information” (Nicholas, Huntington, Jamali & Tenopir, 2006, p. 121).  These data pieces provide useful information on usage patterns (Das & Turkoglu, 2009).

Transaction logs can be generated in two ways. The first is from the server’s side. These logs include data typically already collected in-house. Data can also originate client-side using a specifically-written program to collect from the participants’ computers (Wildemuth, 2009). The former is more often used due to the abundance of data and less-costly features.  Jansen (2006) describes a three step process for using transaction logs: data collection for a given period of time, preparing the data, and data analysis. He further breaks analysis into three parts: term, query, and session.

A major benefit to using transaction logs is that this is data already collected and waiting to be analyzed. This data is also free of biases that humans may interject (Jansen, 2006).  Programs have been developed to help with data analysis, and when information is uniform, data from multiple systems can be compared (Sullenger, 1997).

Quite a few challenges to using transaction logs exist. The first is the extreme amount of data available that must be gone through. The data have to be cleaned to rid the files of extraneous and incomplete information (Das & Turkoglu, 2009; Sullenger, 1997). The data are complex and take a great deal of time and effort to analyze (Jansen, 2006).  Coding has to be developed and applied to see the patterns (Wildemuth, 2009). Due to these complexities, researchers need to carefully define terms and measuring devices (Jansen).

Transaction logs can be used in a variety of ways but some common ones are developing useful web page design (Das & Turkoglu, 2009), search engine usage (Jansen & Spike, 2006; Sullenger, 1997), as well as searching digital libraries and identifying browsing patterns (Nicholas, Huntington, Jarnali & Tenopir). Overall, the researcher is looking for algorithms and patterns that naturally generate from computer or system usage in the library. If a topic involves human interaction with the computer or library system, without knowledge needed of why the interaction occurred, then using transaction logs is a good choice.

Transaction Logs Example

Boter and Wedel (2005) used transaction logs to analyze library collection organization in a section of libraries in the Netherlands. Their specific focus was “fiction books aimed at adults” (p. 192) with the intent that application could be made to other areas like non-fiction at a later time. They chose a region of five public libraries that had transaction log information providing “a customer number; a title number and full title details; date and time of borrowing; and age and gender of borrower” (p. 191). Customer numbers were encrypted so that names and addresses would not be revealed.

In stage one, transaction logs were used to section books by title in hierarchical groupings. Books were then organized into “a limited number of consumer-based categories” (Boter & Wedel, 2005, p. 193) before finally being organized into ultrametric trees. In the second stage, the top 500 titles were used to identify seven categories of books.  The research showed that patrons do look for other attributes in addition to the broad categories assigned. Subgroups such as medical or courtroom thrillers rather than just thrillers were discovered.  Boter and Wedel concluded that library materials are more accessible when books are categorized in ways that match user perceptions.

This study provided a good example of transaction logs. Boter and Wedel used server-side transaction logs from a system of libraries collected over a specific period of time. While they only addressed one category of books, they made note of application to other categories. Ethical issues were addressed in using encrypted data to ensure user privacy. The great amount of data provided in the transaction logs was mentioned, and they summarized ways they cleaned the data to make it usable. In addition to detailed explanation of analysis, they used logs from across a system for a stronger synthesis of information. Statistical analysis was performed and detail was given to explanation of measures.

Focus Groups

Focus groups provide a variation to the group interview and can be conducted face-to-face or online (Chase  & Alveraz, 2000). They have been used with a great deal of success in library science (Morrison, 1997). The goal is frequently customer service related and provides an opportunity to gain deeper understanding (Kruger & Casey, 2008). Focus groups seem to work best when the “participants feel comfortable, respected and free to give their opinion without judgment” (Kruger & Casey, p. 4). Each focus group has three basic parts: preparation, focus group meetings, and analyzing the final report (Shoaf, 2003).

Careful planning precedes successful focus groups.  Five to ten participants are chosen to share their likes and dislikes as well as reasoning information (Kruger & Casey, 2008; Merton, 1987). A moderator is a necessary component and can come from in-house staff, out-of-house staff or a professional organization (Shoaf, 2003). A moderator’s guide is carefully written and provided for the meetings. Shoaf mentions that choosing the right moderator is a key component to the group’s discussion. Groups need to be able to open up honestly but stay on topic since the goal is to “elicit in-depth information” (Chase & Alveraz, 2000). Group information is recorded in some fashion for the writing of a final report that includes impressions and major themes that were presented (Chase & Alveraz). Focus groups are generally used as part of a total data collection package. They are frequently used as follow-up to clarify specific issues arising from another form of data collection (Shoaf, 2003; Wildemuth, 2009), but Chase and Alvarez suggest that focus groups may also be used on the front end of research to help determine information needed for questionnaires (2000).

A major benefit to using focus groups is the discussion that allows for clarifying questions and additional probing that can provide better qualitative data (Kruger & Casey, 2008). Costs for focus groups can be kept low if planned properly, and in-house staff can be used exclusively (Merton, 1987). Several practical guides exist to prepare for focus group research (Shoaf, 2003).

While focus groups can be conducted at a low cost, they can also become quite costly especially when multiple groups meet (Shoaf, 2003). Merton (1987) suggests that rather than providing needed answers, they can also raise more questions. Timing appears to be a contributing factor in whether or not a group has enough participating members for success (Shoaf, 2003).

Focus groups are best used in conjunction with other data collection methods and may be used very well as follow up to previous research that needs to be better understood from a user’s perspective (Morrison, 1997). Service related topics seem particularly inclined to this data-collection method (Chase & Alvarez, 2000), but focus groups could be used with any topic that needed elaboration or clarification.

A Focus Group Example

In 1997, Brown University’s library used a focus group to enhance previous research conducted through surveys (Shoaf, 2003). They formed a User Needs Team (LUNT) of eight professionals. The team used previous surveys from faculty and graduate students to develop the Moderator’s Guide and to choose recruits for the group. The goal was to better understand user satisfaction with the library’s materials and services. LUNT decided to use a professional moderator to conduct the group meetings and write the final report.

Group sizes were between five and twelve participants over a period of three weeks in a private room at the library. Refreshments were contracted through an on-campus source and a book store gift certificate was given to participants. The first two meetings were in the evening, and smaller than expected numbers showed. Subsequent meetings were moved to afternoons for improved participation. All meetings were tape recorded. The final report showed dissatisfaction with the library collection and the physical environment. This information was used in conjunction with other findings to advocate for and receive greater funding for acquisitions and building enhancements.

Brown’s study provides an excellent example of the use of focus groups. A committee of was formed to share the work load, and an experience moderator was hired. LUNT considered the role of the moderator crucial. A Moderator’s Guide was written and used. Participants were purposely chosen from previous surveys, and LUNT worked diligently to retain participants. Meetings were tape-recorded. The findings were used in conjunction with other data collection methods. Multiple meetings were held with the moderator to fully understand the report.

Carefully choosing data collection methods will enhance the validity of the data collected for any research project. Transaction logs provide ways to use data that is already collected in-house to strengthen library structure and programs. Focus groups can provide information explaining how patrons feel and what they think about various services in the library.


References

Boter, J. & Wedel, M. (2005). User categorization of public library collections. Library & Information Science Research, 27 (2), 190-202.

Chase, L. & Alvarez, J. (2000). Internet research: The role of the focus group. Library & Information Science Research, 22 (4), 357-369.

Das, R. & Turkoglu, I. (2009). Creating meaningful data from web logs for improving the impressiveness of a website by using path analysis method. Expert Systems with Applications, 36 (3.2), 6635–6644.

Jansen, B. J. & Spink, A. (2006). How are we searching the World Wide Web? A comparison of nine search engine transaction logs. Information Processing and Management, 42, 248–263 .

Jansen, B. J. (2006). Search log analysis: What it is, what’s been done, how to do it.  Library & Information Science Research, 28, 407–432.

Kruger, R. A. & Casey, M. A. (2009). Focus groups: A practical guide for applied research. Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Merton, R. K. (1987). The focused interview and focus groups: Continuities and discontinuities. The Public Opinion Quarterly, 51 (4), 550-566.

Morrison, H. (1997). Information literacy skills: An exploratory focus group study of student perceptions. Research Strategies, 15 (1), 4-17.

Nicholas, D., Huntington, P., Jamali, H. R.  & Tenopir, C. (2006). Finding information in (very large) digital libraries: A deep log approach to determining differences in use according to method of access. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32 (2), 119-126.

Shoaf, E. C. (2003). Using a professional moderator in library focus group research. Colleges & Research Libraries, 64 (2), 124-132.

Sullenger, P. (1997). A serials transaction log analysis. Serials Review, 23 (3), 21-26.

Wildemuth, B. M.  (2009). Applications of social research methods to questions in information and library science. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Random thoughts from a busy week

Another busy week! They are growing annoying. I’m longing for a bit of relaxation that is not coupled with exhaustion.

We are finished with Saturday Academy, but now into Extended Learning. The school day is 1.5 hours longer on Mondays and Wednesdays. We have staff meetings on Tuesdays. I had a monthly meeting on Thursday that I had to skip out on to get to the allergist for a shot. Friday night we had a dance from 6-8. I signed up to work from 6-7, but that meant spending another afternoon at school. There was of course plenty to do!. The kids tested last week (benchmarks) and that information had to organized for new groupings.

Next week we still have extended learning and Tuesday night there is a parent meeting from 6 to 7. I’m on my second editing assignment which brings in a nice chunk of change, and I’m trying to finish up my current research paper.

I do have a research proposal left. If you have anything you’d like to know more about in Library Science, PLEASE comment and let me see if I can work it into a proposal.

I’ve deleted hundreds and hundreds of items from my feed the last couple of weeks without glancing at any of them (and done nothing more on FB than check in for major happenings). Someone had suggested that feeds be organized into folders. I can’t remember who said that, but I’m so grateful they did. I have a favorites folder that I can check daily. I’ve got a “these are great too” folder that I can check frequently, but don’t feel a burning need to read every title. The other folders, I whittled down today. I had a books folder and a library job folder and an ed tips folder. Those are virtually gone – not completely but nearly. The crafts folder went the way of The DoDo. That one was painful but also the least helpful at this point in my life. I kept the local news.

NC Educators Grade State Lawmakers. Dale Folwell is mentioned here. He earned an F. I laughed when I saw that he’d worn his F as a badge of honor. I like Folwell. He is the only politician that has called the house himself to talk with us. He let me ask him any question and he answered them. I’d love to know what the organization’s criteria was for voting wrong on all the bills . . .

Budget Cuts Mean Fewer NC Teachers. Well education is just in a mess. I do not know where money is supposed to come from, but I do know that 35 kids in a room is a disaster in this day and time. It might have worked when I was a kid, but I don’t ever remember having a class that large. All I know is that the larger the classes, the more time that is spent with discipline and not education. I did not get into education to be a patrol officer. NC is not alone. Detroit plans to close 25% of its schools.  So many more can be found in a search.

Could School Bus Ads Save School Budgets? These are ads on the school buses aimed at children bought by merchants. Is this the answer for classrooms with less than 35 students? Oh, and I might be willing to wear sponsored clothes to school if it would help.

It’s the Classroom, Stupid. Classroom discipline, routine, teaching and learning. Are we giving struggling teachers the help they need? Really need? uhhhh NO. Good article, but I think it will go over like a lead balloon. Help costs money and it seems to be easier just to keep making the classes larger.

Hugs Outlawed at School. This one is just sad, but I can so see it happening! Kids are great manipulators. Hugs made them late for class, hugs disrupted class, hugs were used as a bullying tactic. Yet how awful to say, you can’t give hugs. I’ve read some comments from some of the articles out there. Some parents are upset because all the kids are being punished for the inappropriate behavior of some. Well, I don’t know how to monitor who can and who can’t. Which is an appropriate hug and which one is not. Halls are too crowded, rooms are too crowded. Besides, I’ve worked with kids a long time. What I know without a doubt is that one minute they are ok with something and the next minute, that very same something is not ok. That’s a lot to monitor (while teaching and learning math is supposed to be happening).

The Costs of Cheating Well this is just a big duh! I’ve been telling my students for years if I ask a question, the reason they can’t just blurt out the answer is because they are robbing their classmates of “thinking”!! If I ask one student a question, you can’t just jump in if you think they are too slow in answering because the other student needs that think time to develop his/her brain. Well, here’s the proof! If you don’t do your own thinking, then you just don’t know the material as well.

NC has a digital library if you are interested.

Lierre Keith, former vegan  got a cayenne pie in the face this month. I cannot imagine how much that hurt!

Data Collection

I have to chose two data collection methods for research to write about. I think I’m going to do focus groups and transaction logs. One focuses on gathering information from people, while the other focuses on gathering technical information about how people behave.

I like that they both have limits in differing ways. In focus groups, you have people interpreting what they do and why they do it. They might consider what they’d like to do in new and different ways. But every piece of information you get is filtered through someone else, and they might influence each other in some way – discussion leading to new thoughts, domineering personalities shutting down opinion. Transaction logs are cold and hard. Data won’t be frightened into hiding by the stern way someone looks at it. The problem here is that the researcher can’t go back and probe for reasons and intent.

Now off to find those studies in library science that used those types of data collections.

Do School Libraries Need Books?

This is from the NYTimes. The school mentioned is giving away ALL of it’s books to make the library a digital center. Twenty thousand books are to be distributed.

This article comes on the heels of another I read about getting a Kindle into the hands of every grade-school student. I can’t find the article I read originally, but here is another on the same topic: The Government Should Spend $9 Billion Buying Every Kid A Kindle.

I probably wouldn’t have thought about this before, but now I’m in a Title 1 school and my first thoughts were about the kids – the kids that don’t have the advantages that my kids had. Are they well served at a school without a library? How will children who are 2 or 3 years behind in reading respond to words, story, information that is ALWAYS presented on screen? What will happen when the device is sent home and placed on the kitchen counter of a family that doesn’t have enough money for food? Transient rates are high in many Title 1 schools. What happens when a family moves and the device is not returned? I do not in any way want to sound judgmental but rather contemplative. I want to examine this from all angles, because once the government issues funding for this, we will be knee deep in it.

I’m trying to look at this from the eyes of a novice reader – that’s difficult because I’m not. But if every book to which a child is exposed (because the family can’t or doesn’t buy books) is on a screen, will that book have the same draw as one with paper pages? I don’t know, but I am curious about this phenomenon.

On this subject, one of ECU’s MLS professors summed her view up nicely (via email),

This discussion of the demise of the book came up when the radio appeared, and again, with the television, and again with the computer. Hasn’t happened – there are many more books published today for youth than there were with the first predicted demise of the book. It is not an either/or situation. This is about format, space, and timeliness of information. If the digital format is the best choice, then choose it, but don’t choose it because it is digital.  It is similar to people choosing hardware first and then realizing the software they really want to use doesn’t work with the hardware. Determine the information/leisure reading materials suitable for the community you serve and then determine the most appropriate format, which may well be the book.