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On our tour through the library collections and facilities, Mr. Escobar drew my attention to features such as designated safe areas for wheelchair-bound customers in the event of a fire, and the location of safe areas in the event of a tornado.  On the second floor, stepstools are provided to help customers to reach books on top shelves, and we took time to move these stools to locations where customers were less likely to trip over them.  As students learn in LIS 5023, attention to these aspects of the physical library facility facilitates customer comfort and accessibility.

One particularly ingenious resource location feature involved the use of inflatables in the children’s nonfiction collection.  By suspending an inflatable dinosaur from the ceiling above the dinosaur books, a rocketship over the space books, etc., children’s reference staff can help children locate books on popular subjects even when they are swamped and cannot leave the desk.  The librarian can simply point to the appropriate inflatable and tell the child that the books they want are located under it.  Of course, when few customers are present, the librarian can walk the child to the appropriate shelf, but as the Hardesty Library is one of the busiest libraries, and the children’s department is especially swamped in the summer, this feature is very helpful for staff and customers.

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Mr. Escobar also illustrated the challenge of catering to the needs and desires of various interested parties, including customers, donors, staff, volunteers, administrators and board members.  The literary criticism collection had been located directly behind the reference desk on the second floor, but has since been relocated.  A Tulsa City-County Library executive said that the placement of these bookshelves spoiled the view of the large arched window which faces northwest.  Moving these shelves was not particularly detrimental to customer access, thus in the interest of aesthetics and accomodating the powers that be, this collection was relocated.

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My final project in LIS 5053: Information Users in the Knowledge Society involved the preparation of a detailed critique of the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) web site as an information resource and recommendations for improvement.  By analyzing characteristics of the target audience and the web site’s application of information behavior models, cognitive and learning styles, design principles and environmental factors, I evaluated the ICDL web site’s success in meeting user needs.  This blog represents a summary of my findings.

Audience:

The ICDL is designed primarily for children approximately ages 3 to 13, but also serves the parents, teachers and librarians who seek to provide reading material for these children.  Individuals of any age who are conducting research in the area of children’s literature or are learning a new language may also benefit from the ICDL’s multilingual resources.  Launched in November 2002, this information product provides an online forum for users to browse, search, read and write reviews for children’s books.  The ICDL web site provides access to 3,887 children’s books in 53 different languages (ICDL Fast Facts).  Over one million unique visitors have viewed the web site since its debut, including users from 166 different countries (ICDL Fast Facts).  The variety of the ICDL collection fosters appreciation for cultural diversity and development of a global perspective.  The multitude of languages and cultures represented in the ICDL collection allows readers of almost any cultural or ethnic background to feel a sense of membership and of sharing a common world (Trace 2008, 1542) with other users of this resource.

Information Behavior Models:

The ICDL web site particularly appeals to users whose information behavior maps to the models described by Marcia Bates, David Ellis, Robert Taylor and Sanda Erdelez.  Berrypicking; Starting, Chaining, Browsing, Differentiating, Monitoring and Extracting; Information Retrieval Filters; and Information Encountering are all evident within the ICDL design.

Learning, Thinking and Cognitive Styles Best Served:

The ICDL makes an exemplary effort of accommodating the variety of its users’ learning and cognitive styles.  The concept of cognitive style refers to “a person’s typical or habitual mode of problem solving, thinking, perceiving and remembering” (Riding and Cheema 1991).  The ICDL best serves visualizers, verbalizers, reflective and impulsive users, convergent and divergent thinkers, holist and serialist thinkers, analytics, abstract sequential learners, abstract random learners, concrete sequential learners, concrete random learners, field dependent and independent users, and all types of thinkers identified by Li-fang Zhang and Robert Sternberg.

Recommendations:

The ICDL web site is a fun, vibrant information resource for children and the adults who work with them.  The content, organization and design of the ICDL web site exhibit a remarkable amount of consideration for the needs of diverse users with a wide variety of cognitive and physical preferences and abilities.  Nonetheless, a few improvements could significantly enhance the accessibility and utility of this resource.

1. Provide Audio Format for All Books in the ICDL Collection

Offering an audio version of each book in the ICDL collection would enhance accessibility for users with auditory perceptual modality preferences (Keefe 1987, 8 ) or with visual disabilities.  An audio format for content would reinforce the experience for linguistic learners who learn best by saying, seeing and hearing words (Learning Disabilities Resource Community 2002) and verbal learners who absorb information more easily when it is presented in written and spoken format (Felder and Soloman n.d.).  Users who are learning to read a given language can access information in that language by having it read to them, even when no fluent speakers of that language are physically present to assist them.  An audio component would also assist users with disabilities like dyslexia and aphasia, who often have difficulty reading.  Users could choose to have the book read aloud in its entirety or page by page by clicking an audio button located either on the About This Book page or on the book page-viewing screen.  Including a pictorial representation of an ear or speaker on the button would express the purpose of this feature to visualizers (Riding and Cheema 1991), and listing the words “hear it” beneath would clarify the purpose for users with limited literacy skills.  The ICDL currently offers audio content for only five books.  This burgeoning effort is applauded and should be expanded to include the entire collection.

2. Provide Video Format for All Books in the ICDL Collection

A video component would enhance accessibility for users with visual and interpersonal preferences as well as users with both literacy and auditory limitations.  Making a video recording of a child reading the selected book aloud while another child or adult interprets the words in sign language would allow deaf users with low literacy skills to enjoy the books in the ICDL collection.  The visual stimulus of seeing other people engaged in reading books from the collection will also appeal to users with external or interpersonal learning styles, who are only minimally served through this resource at present.  If the user clicks the video icon, a small video window would appear in the bottom corner of the screen while the remainder of the screen would display the page currently being read.  Additionally, highlighting each word as it is read or signed would help children identify the sound of or sign for the word with its textual representation.  Currently the web site only provides four video clips about the creation and design of the ICDL.   

Of course, audio and video enhancements may be cost prohibitive.  Perhaps students working towards a degree in deaf education or an interpreter’s license could be recruited for video production with the incentive of receiving credit towards their degrees.  Audio and video applications should not be designed to play automatically as this would slow the time required for pages to load.  Users should be able to select these features by clicking a button or opt to not use these applications.  ICDL could utilize plug-ins such as RealPlayer or Windows Media Player to provide these features.

3. Provide Textual Content for All Books in More Languages

While the ICDL makes an exemplary effort to provide some information services in a wide array of languages, many books in the ICDL collection are only available in one language.  The ICDL’s presence on the Internet makes it internationally accessible to users, most of which only speak one or two languages fluently.  Offering all ICDL books in multiple languages would expand access to users not comfortable or fluent in a book’s original language of publication.  However, translating each book would require ICDL staff to secure permission from each author and/or publisher, which may be difficult if not impossible in some instances.  The ICDL currently has several books with text available in more than one language, although the majority of books are only available in one language.  While current progress is commendable, efforts should be continued to provide all web site and collection content in as many languages as possible.

4. Provide Search Box in Consistent Location on All Web Site Pages

The ICDL does not provide a search box on all web site pages.  The search box tool is very familiar to users with even a basic level of Internet experience.  Keyword searching will appeal to verbalizers and help to orient them within an exceedingly image-rich web site.  Providing access to this tool on every page within the ICDL web site will enhance site navigation and searching capabilities.  The search box provides another means by which users can recover from navigational errors and allows users to locate desired content regardless of memorability issues.  Placing the search box in one consistent location on each page will enhance the learnability of the web site.

Bibliography:

Bates, Marcia J. 1989. The design of browsing and berrypicking techniques for the online search interface. Online Review 13 (5): 407-24.

Ellis, David. 1989. A behavioural approach to information retrieval system design. Journal of Documentation 45 (September): 171-212.

——. 2005. Ellis’s model of information-seeking behavior. In Theories of information behavior, ed. Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez, and Lynne McKechnie, 138-42. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Erdelez, Sanda. 2005. Information encountering. In Theories of information behavior, ed. Karen E. Fisher, Sanda Erdelez, and Lynne McKechnie, 179-84. Medford, NJ: Information Today.

Felder, Richard M. and Barbara A. Soloman. (n.d.). Learning styles and strategies. http://www.4.ncsu.edu/unity/lockers/users/f/felder/public/ILSdir/styles.htm.

Keefe, James W. 1987. Learning style: An overview.  In Learning style: Theory and practice, 3-15. Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Krug, Steve. 2006. Don’t make me think: A common sense approach to Web usability. 2nd ed. Berkeley: New Riders Publishing.

Learning Disabilities Resource Community. 2002. Multiple intelligence inventory. http://www.ldrc.ca/projects/miinventory/miinventory.php?eightstyles=1.

Nielsen, Jakob. 2003a. Homepage real estate allocation. Alertbox 10 February.

——. 2003b. Usability 101: Introduction to usability. Alertbox 25 August.

North Carolina State University. College of Design. Center for Universal Design. 2008. About UD: Universal design principles. http://www.design.ncsu.edu/cud/about_ud/udprincipleshtmlformat.html#top

Rayner, Stephen and Richard Riding. 1997. Toward a categorization of cognitive styles and learning styles. Educational Psychology 17 (1/2): 1-24.

Riding, Richard and Indra Cheema. 1991. Cognitive styles- An overview and integration. Educational Psychology 11 (3/4): 193-215.

Sadler-Smith, Eugene. 1997. Learning style: Frameworks and instruments. Educational Psychology 17 (1/2): 51-63.

Taylor, Robert S. 1968. Question-negotiation and information seeking in libraries. College and Research Libraries 29 (May): 178-94.

Trace, Ciaran B. 2008. Resistance and the underlife: Informal written literacies and their relationship to human information behavior. Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 59 (August): 1540-54.

Wooldridge, Blue. 1995. Increasing the effectiveness of university/college instruction: Integrating the results of learning style research into course design and delivery. In The importance of learning styles, ed. Ronald R. Sims and Sebrenia J. Sims, 49-67. Westport, CT: Greenwood.

Zhang, Li-fang and Robert J. Sternberg. 2005. A threefold model of intellectual styles. Educational Psychology Review 17 (March): 1-53.

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Literacy 2025

Does it make me a literary elitist if I find this disturbing?

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Whew!  This semester has been like being tied by the ankle to a runaway llama so far…  Which is why I’m so woefully behind on updating this blog.  So here’s an essay I wrote about my aspirations for the profession:

My long-term career goal is to serve as a public librarian, specifically in the areas of reference, readers’ services and children’s librarianship.  As the field of library and information services continues to expand at an exponential rate, it is clear that serving as a librarian means being a perpetual student.  Through my career, I aspire to be knowledgable of the unique and changing needs of child library users and to sythesize theories of child and adolescent learning as I develop library services for this population.  I will strive to stay informed about current practices, trends, and standards in the field by reading journals, attending professional meetings and conferences, and discussing current issues with colleagues.  Following listservs and the blogs of colleagues will also assist to expand my awareness of new developments in the field.  My duty as a public librarian is to be aware of new resources available in all formats so that I can quickly guide customers to the information and resources most likely to meet their needs.

Librarians are called to serve not only as stewards, but also as advocates.  I intend to advocate for customers’ right to read and access materials and to provide for diverse information needs through ethical collection development.  It is vitally important to foster a welcoming and comfortable library environment by ensuring that collection organization and arrangement facilitates access for all potential customers, including those with special needs.  I will make every effort to connect children with the resources they need by encouraging browsing and questions, and enabling them to use the library effectively.  Perhaps one of the best ways to engage children in the library is to consider the children’s opinions and requests in the development and evaluation of library services.  I will promote library resources by providing bibliographies, book talks, displays, electronic documents, and other tools.  I will promote children’s services through storytelling, book discussions, puppet shows and a variety of other programming.  By networking with other local agencies, I will provide outreach to underserved populations to promote literacy and reduce the digital divide.

I have some experience working in library settings as well as experience with research and records management through my work as grants coordinator for The Salvation Army.  My grant experience taught me how to locate funding opportunities for varied services and manage multiple deadlines.  Working as a shelver and circulation clerk for the Tulsa City-County Library between 1998 and 2003 allowed me to become familiar with the library OPAC and the Dewey Decimal System of organizing resources.  The majority of my time was spent ordering and shelving returned library resources, checking library resources in and out for customers, creating and updating customer records, issuing library cards, processing fines for late items, and placing hold requests for customers.  Yet these activities taught me the importance of customer service in every role in order to cultivate a welcoming and accessible library environment.

Libraries are forums for information and ideas provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people.  It is the mission of the library to challenge censorship and provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues.  Libraries should promote free expression and free access to ideas in order to enhance learning and ensure access to information for all.  I feel strongly protective of our first amendment rights and the freedom to share information.  In my opinion, education and the stewardship of information are among the noblest of professions.  Through my career as a public librarian, I will endeavor to perpetuate knowledge and education by promoting the accessibility of information for all people and encouraging and assisting others in their information quests.

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Surprise Inside

For those of us with fond memories of Richard Scarry‘s Lowly Worm.

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The Story Place is children’s collection I came across recently with some good resources for children and their parents.  The Story Place pre-school library offers 15 subjects for children’s activities, each with an animated story, animated activity, take-home activity, suggested reading list and parent activity.  This is a nice resource for parents and children’s librarians to reinforce concepts for children beyond story-time.  The activities supplement and reinforce the vocabulary learned during story-time, and the parent-child interaction promotes bonding and information retention.  Toddlers pay very close attention to their primary care-givers, learning speech and behavior from their example, so they are more likely to absorb information from primary care-givers than from a librarian they only see once a week.  Parents and librarians working together will be doubly effective in locating appropriate resources and facilitating effective learning techniques.

The Internet Archive Children’s Library has a very nice interactive feature that gives the user the impression of turning pages in a book.  I know it’s just a trick of animation and it shouldn’t make such a big difference, but I find this so appealing, so much more satisfying than just viewing static pages!  This collection is more for older children and individuals with archival interests, I think.  It includes children’s books that have passed out of copyright, into the public domain.

In other news, after class today, I went to the computer lab to try out the Greenstone digital collection building software.  I skimmed the introductory info and browsed the sample collections.  I can’t say I feel that it’s any better or worse than Omeka, but I’ll have a better feel for it when I can start building my collection.  Greenstone is not currently set up in the lab for students to upload objects and practice building, because I’m sure the IT department doesn’t want the lab computers to become a free dumping zone.  Still, I will feel more comfortable when I can practice uploading and manipulating information.  Omeka will be available for building soon enough—I’ve got plenty to read while I wait.

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This morning I went to the Martin Regional Library to observe the children’s librarian doing story time.  My mom takes my two-year-old nephew to My First Storytime every Tuesday, so I tagged along with my new digital camera to see what I could learn.

I asked permission from Ms. Suzanne, the Children’s Librarian, and the other parents in story time to take pictures, because I didn’t want to post pictures of other people’s children on the Internet if they were opposed to that.  My background with Domestic Violence Intervention Services has taught me to be careful—you never know if a mother and child have fled an abuser and are in hiding.  I guess people have limited expectations of privacy when it comes to pictures taken in public places, but I want to ask permission before I post a person’s face and location on the Internet.  No one objected to my photography, but I will still try to avoid posting face-on photos of other people’s children on my blog, as a courtesy.

My First Storytime is for newborns to 2-year-olds.  Ms. Suzanne started out with a “welcome to storytime” song, read about five easy picture books, introduced some animal finger puppets, led the children in making animal sounds, and closed with a goodbye song. 

I thought it was worth noting that Ms. Suzanne was very laid back; even when the children got up and tottered around in front of her instead of sitting and listening quietly, she just kept reading and periodically making eye contact with each child.  One little girl even got up and tried strumming Ms. Suzanne’s guitar during a story, but Ms. Suzanne didn’t let it distract her.  Clearly patience and a relaxed, flexible attitude is key.

The library also had a special program after storytime today.  The Music Together program, presented by the Barthelmes Conservatory, is for ages 5 and under and encourages children to sing, keep a beat and participate in music.  The presenter sang songs while playing guitar, and sang songs with motions, like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and “Trot Old Joe.”

Giddyup, Giddyup, Giddyup, WHOA!

She encouraged the children to march, dance and turn in circles while singing, and she handed out plastic eggs filled with rice for the kids to shake and keep time. 

She also encouraged the parents to sing, clap hands and interact with their children, which kept the children interested and engaged.  The kids loved it!

Mom and my nephew

Mom and my nephew

"Jack jumped high, Jack jumped low, Jack jumped down and stubbed his toe!"

"Jack jumped high, Jack jumped low..."

One especially interesting bit, the presenter had the children sing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” while doing the motions, then had them do the motions without singing the song.  She said this promotes audiation, “the process of mentally hearing and comprehending music, even when no physical sound is present,” according to Wikipedia.  She also encouraged the children to play with their voices by singing songs that involved shouting “Whee!” or “Whoa!” or making sounds like horse hooves clopping.  Since most of the children present were under age three, she said such vocal play is beneficial to their vocal development.

It’s surprising what you can learn from a room full of toddlers giggling and wiggling.  Thanks so much to Ms. Suzanne, the Martin Regional Library and the Barthelmes Conservatory for this learning experience!

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