Skip to content

Nobody “gets” what we do!

April 17, 2015

In two minutes or less get them to “get it” by giving them your elevator speech! Inform them of your value, and your library’s, by telling them how you prepare students to succeed at school and beyond!

Connect & Communicate Series Event!
Friday, April 30, 2015

Literacies_Graphic_RGBJoin Kathy Silks (PA Forward) and Leslie Christianson (Marywood University) for an informative presentation about the value of PA Forward as a resource for your academic library, and the importance of sharing your value, and your library’s, through the creation of an “elevator speech.” An elevator speech is a concise, carefully planned, and well-practiced description of your organization that you can deliver in the time span of an elevator ride.

After this one-hour session, you will be able to

  • Locate the PA Forward toolkit and use its resources to develop programming and support and promote your academic library
  • Develop an elevator speech for yourself and for your library

About the presenters:

Kathy Silks is Project Manager of PA Forward, the Pennsylvania Library Association’s 21st Century Literacies Initiative. Kathy’s advocacy for libraries is bringing attention to the essential role that libraries play in powering Pennsylvania’s progress. Through volunteer work and her service as a Dauphin County Library Trustee, Kathy has been promoting libraries and literacy since the 1990s.

Leslie Worrell Christianson holds a Masters Degree in Library and Information Science from the Catholic University of America.  She is a 2012 graduate of the Pennsylvania Library Associations Academy of Leadership.   As the User Services Librarian and Assistant Professor at Marywood University, she is committed to providing the best possible access to information for students, faculty, and staff.

Register (free!) at

You will receive information about how to join the session via email on April 29th.PaLA ConnectAndCommunicateLogo

  • For this program, participants will need speakers or headphones to hear the presenters and may join the discussion via the meeting room chat box.
  • A recording of the program will be made available to PaLA members.

The Connect & Communicate Series of online programming offered by the PaLA College & Research Division aims to help foster a community of academic librarians in Pennsylvania. Please contact Jill Hallam-Miller at or at 570-577-2550 with questions.

If you would like to be emailed directly about this and other upcoming Connect & Communicate Series events, you may provide us with your name and email address here: . (If you submitted previously, you are still on our list.)

Please continue to share your ideas for programming topics, speakers, or formats with us! We’re getting some great suggestions and themes are starting to emerge, but we could also use some more speaker names. If you or someone you know is doing something great in Pennsylvania’s academic libraries, tell us about it!

MLS scholarships available from PaLA

April 15, 2015

Reposting this on behalf of the Pennsylvania Library Association (PaLA) Scholarship Committee–

PaLA annually awards three scholarships to personal members of the association who are seeking a master’s degree in the library science field that will earn them professional status. The award amount for each scholarship is $1,500.

To qualify for a scholarship, applicants must be–

  • A PaLA personal member
  • A Pennsylvania resident
  • Registered for at least three credits in an ALA-accredited MLS program during the scholarship year

Apply now! The deadline for applications is May 15, 2015.

Applicants are required to submit a personal essay, three letters of recommendation, and a verification of enrollment.

For more information about these scholarships and other funding opportunities for your professional development, please visit the PaLA Get Financial Assistance webpage.

How to archive a digital file: Print it

April 14, 2015

[Note to reader (and I will repeat this in the third paragraph): I am not a techno-phobe. I love computers.]

What’s the best way to archive a digital document? Print it.

Yes, you heard me right. Print it onto paper, put it between two cardboard covers, and send it out to a hundred of your friends. It is my opinion that in one hundred years it will be easier to find a physical copy of your document than it will be to find a digital copy.

And I’m no techno-phobe. I love computers and our “digital environment”. But in the past two years, after participating in discussions concerning the archiving of digital materials, I have come to the conclusion that we are living in a digitally naïve age.

For those of us old enough to remember life in the pre-digital age (let’s just arbitrarily say pre-1985), we can’t help but marvel at how easy it is to create, to disseminate, and to store digital resources. All of that is much easier except for one thing: storage. The ease of digital storage is an illusion.

I know that your IT personnel may look like normal human beings, but they’re actually the Wizards of Oz. They lurk behind the curtain where they create the theater of “easy” digital interplay. They are indirectly and unconsciously responsible for our delusion that digital storage is easy. Their materials are powerful, and they create a nice spectacle. But they’re working hard so that you can read, and re-read a year later, your email every day. When we really think about it, I’m sure that most of us would concede that the IT department works really hard to make our needs for digital storage easy.

So let’s up the ante. Not only do we want to re-read our email next year, we want that email to be readable one hundred years from now. How hard is that?

No one knows. We haven’t experienced a century of digital artifacts yet. As a comparison, we do know that book-making technology (we’re talking physical, “real”, books here, ones that you can hold in your hand and put on a shelf) creates objects that can last millennia. As soon as they are printed and bound by the publisher, “real” books don’t need much help from humans for them to exist and to be read for hundreds of years. Digital files, on the other hand, are not like that.

Digital files are not “final products”. Digital files require an intermediary to be seen. They are like negatives in film photography (I apologize to my younger colleagues for referring, yet again, to the pre-digital age). Film negatives hold all the information of a photograph: Lightness/darkness, colors, lines, etc. But they are not the final product; they are not the photograph that will hang on the wall of a gallery. A photograph must be printed from the negative. A digital file is akin to a film negative. It requires the following components in order to be rendered in its final form:

1- A software application that recognizes the digital file type;

2- An operating system that allows the software application (see #1 above) to run;

3- A machine that the operating system (see #2 above) can recognize through the use of software drivers

4- A monitor in the computer (see #3 above) to display the file;

5- Although we tend to assume it, we should also point out that electricity is needed to make all of the above steps happen. (You don’t need electricity to make, print, and look at photographs and books.)

That is quite a bit of stuff to retain in order to access the information encased in a digital file. In a commentary for American Scientist in 1998, Brian Hayes likened digital files to computer programs:

“When you sit at the keyboard, you may think you’re writing or drawing or balancing the budget, but what you’re doing is creating computer programs, which have to be compiled and run before they yield their output of text or art or spreadsheet. You may think you’re just a content provider, but you’re really a programmer.” (Hayes, 1998, p. 415)

In our digitally naïve state, we don’t think about digital files in this way. We tend to think that digital files are “the thing itself” rather than being a precursor encased in an electronic container that requires keys to be opened.

Recapitulation: When we say that we are archiving “digital files”, we think that we’re saving the final product. Unfortunately, saving the digital file is only one component for archival storage. We also need to archive the digital environment that allows the digital file to live and to be seen. And, of course, you need electricity as well, which may be hard to come by after the zombie apocalypse.

Once you have satisfied all these needs, only then can you assert that you have performed due diligence as a digital archivist. [Except that we still haven’t talked about “bit rot” (yes, digital resources can rot), but I’ll leave that topic for later.]

So if you want to archive the information encased in a digital file for readers a hundred years from now: print it.



Hayes, B. (1998). Computing Science: Bit Rot. American Scientist, 86(5), 410–415.

Why Teach Citation?

April 9, 2015
Stairway to Heathens Photo by Nicolas Raymond

A couple months ago, I encountered Michael Stephens’ Sept. 2014 opinion piece “Citation Fixation” while working reference at HACC Libraries, Lancaster campus. At the time, I embraced his assertion (supported by other scholars and practitioners) that higher education instructors’ focus should be on the content of students’ writing, not on whether or not they can create a technically correct works cited page. It felt right to stand on this pedagogical pedestal.

Then one day last week, at course instructors’ requests, I taught three, practically back-to-back, instruction sessions on MLA style and citation. I have also handled numerous reference questions dealing with both MLA and APA citation. In these circumstances, I feel compelled to be technically/mechanically accurate, which is simultaneously empowering (“Yes, I know this!”) and disheartening (“Am I getting too hung up on this?”). It is an ongoing internal struggle.

As a librarian who doesn’t teach credit-bearing information literacy courses, I appreciate the instances in which course instructors look to me as an expert in using information and welcome me to meet with their classes. Since I have been invited, I feel obliged to do what course instructors ask me to do. A few of my librarian colleagues have heard me complain (not too much, I hope) about spending instructional time on walking students step-by-step through setting up their papers in MLA format, including margins, font style and size, header, etc. I enjoy instruction and will take on most teaching situations, especially when they present opportunities to address weaknesses instructors see in the work their students submit; but these mechanized style instruction sessions are the ones I approach with trepidation.

When I ask students “why” questions during a class, I try to push them past the “because we have to” response, so I will press myself to go beyond saying I teach citation “because I have to” and consider the possible greater impact of doing so. First, because I am a community college librarian, I work with a potentially large percentage of first-generation college students and other students who come from various educational backgrounds. Many of these students have had limited, or perhaps no exposure to academic writing. To them, following a specific document format and citation style is like learning a foreign language or code cyphering. Giving them models to look at and then saying, “Go to it,” isn’t always effective. In addition to talking with them about why writers cite their sources, I also try to address the value of doing this correctly.

During MLA and APA instruction sessions, I have begun telling students that I am giving them an entry point into the scholarly conversations about their topic going on in the discipline. To participate in the discourse requires meeting some basic formatting and work-attributing standards. I argue that meeting the basic technical standards gives them (the students) a better chance of having their ideas seen/read/heard. It is analogous to the reason why, when applying for jobs, it is important to have a resume that applies a consistent format and correct spelling. We have all heard the warning that a sloppy resume will be discarded by a potential employer even if the applicant’s experience fits the position opening. A scholar is less likely to pay close attention to the content of a carelessly prepared paper.

In the community college setting, I think librarians (and course instructors) feel significant pressure to prepare our students for what will be expected of them if they transfer to a four-year school. In my current position on two relatively small campuses, I see advantage in being able to scaffold  skill-based instruction to a greater degree  than I have been afforded in other environments. While tedious at times, I try to keep my mind on the end goals of students’ fuller participation and success in their future educational and professional endeavors. When students are able to demonstrate that they can successfully incorporate in-text citations and generate a correctly-formatted works cited page plus articulate the relationship between the two citation elements, that feels like an accomplishment. I make an effort to praise students who achieve this. Yes, problem solving, quantitative literacy, and creativity are all worthy learning goals, and I don’t intend to discount them; however there are students for whom there are many small steps involved in ascending to learning outcomes in these areas. I believe that some of the more mechanical skills, like citation, do play a role in putting them on the path to success.

Image credit: “Stairway to Heathens” by Nicolas Raymond, July 26, 2011 on Flickr. CC License

Don’t forget to register for the CRD Spring Program!

April 8, 2015

There’s still time to register for the PaLA College & Research Division’s spring 2015 program:

We hope to see you there!

Spinning the Plates: How to Manage Projects, Time, Staff and Promote your Library

April 6, 2015

PaLA Southwest Chapter will host its spring workshop, Spinning the Plates: How to Manage Projects, Time, Staff and Promote your Library, at Community College of Allegheny County South Campus on Friday, May 15, 2015, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m..   The workshop fee, which includes a continental breakfast and full lunch is $25 for PaLA member and $40 for nonmembers.

For more information and to register:

Directions to CCAC – South:

Tweeters welcome: Tweet for @wpwvcacrl

April 5, 2015

Share your social media savviness or add social media skills to your résumé: Come tweet for @wpwvcacrl, the Twitter account of the Western Pennsylvania West Virginia Chapter of the Association of College & Research Libraries (WPWVC/ACRL).

Post content,share news, attend Twitter chats, and connect with others–Tweeting for @wpwvcacrl is a great way to expand your social media experience and converse with academic librarians in Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia.

The chapter is recruiting active Tweeters who can volunteer for 5 hours per week. Contact Jessa Darwin (darwin.jessa at, WPWVC/ACRL social media coordinator, for details.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 185 other followers