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Feminist Reference Desk panel discussion now available

July 10, 2018

The Connect and Communicate session, Feminist Reference Desk panel discussion, recorded yesterday afternoon, is now available. This post will be updated with the slides and chapter copies when available. Thank you to our fabulous presenters, Maura Seale, Celia Emmelhainz, Erin Pappas, and Nina Clements.

Special thanks to Diane Porterfield for doing our closed captioning.

Link to session is here:

Evaluation of session here.

If you would like to present something for the Connect and Communicate series, our form is located on the C&CS page of this blog,

As always, thank you to PaLA and CRD for making this program possible.


Helping To Wrap Minds Around Billion-Dollar Natural Disasters

July 9, 2018

It almost seems mundane to hear daily about the brave battles being fought against sweeping catastrophic forest fires in the wilderness and rural areas of California, Colorado and other western states; but do we know the extent of them? July 6, 2018 Nicole Rojas reported for Newsweek “More than 60 large wildfires are burning throughout the United States, particularly in the West.”

Wildfires summer 2018

“The County Fire in California and the Spring Creek Fire in Colorado are the largest fires currently
burning in the western United States. INCIWEB.”…

As eyebrow raising as this may be, libraries ought to inform patrons about the bigger picture by engaging our communities in public awareness about how the United States increasingly confronts billion-dollar natural disasters. For example, it was reported last month that the financial cost of California’s PG & E wildfire last fall, “will probably exceed $2.5 billion” (Dale Kasler, “Biggest disaster ever?” June 21, 2018, The Sacramento Bee,

In fact, at the beginning of 2018 it was already estimated that the previous year was one of the costliest on record, exceeding $300 billion in direct damages. See: Adam B. Smith, “2017 U.S. billion-dollar weather and climate disasters: a historic year in context,” January 8, 2018, Beyond the Data,, NOAA.

2017 disasters

“This map depicts the general location of the sixteen weather and climate disasters assessed to cause
at least one billion dollars in direct damages during 2017.”…

Although 2017 was a particularly devastating year due to natural disasters in the U. S. it was not a singularity as demonstrated by a suite of easy to use Web tools made available by the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), including mapping, summary stats and more which cover the period of 1980-2018. Explore: Billion-Dollar Weather and Climate Disasters,

Tips for presenting at a digital poster session

July 8, 2018

More and more conferences are incorporating digital poster sessions, and some libraries are even building spaces to accommodate them. Here I share some tips for designing and presenting a digital poster based on my recent first-time experience co-presenting one.

My co-presenter, professor Todd Thompson of Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and I designed a digital poster about a Hawaiian newspaper from the 1850s for a symposium about historical newspapers hosted by the American Antiquarian Society (AAS) in Worcester, MA. While I had presented print posters at conferences in the past, neither my co-presenter nor I had ever presented a digital poster before. The process of designing and presenting this digital poster, as well as conversations with other poster presenters, taught me the following lessons.

Designing the digital poster

  • Static or dynamic? One of the advantages of a digital poster is that you are not limited to a fixed format. At the AAS symposium, the conference organizers encouraged presenters to be creative (some conferences still want presenters to adhere to traditional poster formats even if they are digital). My colleague and I discussed whether we wanted our poster to be static or dynamic, and based on the subject matter and our presentation style, we decided to make a dynamic poster. We discussed whether we wanted to use a PowerPoint slideshow consisting of three looping slides or a similar set-up using Google Slides or Prezi. Ultimately, we built a simple website with WordPress that had one main page with three subpages.
  • Color or black-and-white? Printing a color poster measuring 3 feet by 4 feet can be very expensive. Depending upon the support your institution offers for printing large format posters, you could end up paying out of pocket costs which might lead you to print in cheaper black-and-white instead. With a digital poster, you do not have to worry about printing costs, giving you freedom to experiment with color schemes to draw attention to your project. In our case, the AAS had made available high quality color scans of the Hawaiian newspapers, and we were able to incorporate many of these color images into our digital poster. If you use color, consider checking to make sure it is accessible for visitors who are colorblind.
  • Multimedia elements? Creating a digital poster gives you the option of adding multimedia elements such as audio or video. For example, one of the other digital posters at the AAS symposium included an interactive map of newspapers that helped visitors to visualize the paper’s publishing distribution.
  • Screen format? When designing a digital poster, you may want to check with organizers beforehand to find out the dimensions of the display monitors. Then you can design the poster keeping in mind whether a 16:9 or 4:3 aspect ratio will be a better fit, or whether your images will appear crisp if they are blown up on a huge HD screen.
  • Responsive design? Consider whether you will design your digital poster so that its layout can adapt to being viewed on desktop versus mobile devices. For instance, we brought two iPads to our digital poster session to allow individual visitors interested in subject-specific deep dives to browse our website at their leisure while we used the big screen to talk with a larger group, so we had to make sure our design was responsive.

Presenting the digital poster

  • Supplement your presentation with physical props. Consider passing out bookmarks, handouts, magnets, pins, or other items to give visitors a physical reminder of your digital project.
  • Share your presentation with an outside audience. Digital posters make it easy to share your research with others who are not able to attend the conference. Consider making a website, publishing your slide deck, and using the conference hashtag on social media to expand the reach of your digital poster.
  • Some things stay the same. Whether you are presenting a print poster or a digital one, bring along a bottle of water and a notebook for recording questions. Also, take time to circulate and check out other researchers’ posters; one of the advantages of co-presenting is that it allows you to take turns manning the table so you do not miss out on the other presentations!

Jessica Showalter is an Information Resources and Services Support Specialist at Penn State Altoona’s Eiche Library. Say hello on Twitter @libraryjms

Open Access 2020: Looking at the Future

July 5, 2018

On Friday, June 8th of this year, the American Libraries Live held a webinar entitled “Open Access 2020: Looking at the Future,” which examines the global initiative (and obstacles) of unlocking scholarly periodicals and publications from the current and traditional approach of subscriptions to an alternative model which allows for new, open access (OA) publishing models. The presenters include Colleen Campbell of the OA2020 Partner Development with the Max Planck Digital Library in Munich, Germany, Rich Schneider, Associate Professor at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and Curtis Brundy, Associate University Librarian for Scholarly Communications and Collections with Iowa State University Library. Together, the three of them present a very convincing webinar about the necessity for open access and the advantages of moving away from the current subscription (paywall) system for scholarly journals and publications.

Open access enables communities to have unrestricted use and re-use of scholarly publications. The bottom line is that the current subscription system for scholarly journals and publications is just downright too expensive for most colleges and universities to afford. I witnessed this first-hand when I was interning last year at DeSales University’s Trexler Library and was assisting one of the public services librarians with interlibrary loans. My first task would be to check the Internet to see if a requested article was already available in its entirety. I would do a little happy dance whenever I would find a requested publication in its entirety through this very accommodating publisher known as Springer, and I would get ready to download the article as a pdf, and… what? Wait, I have to pay to access this article? Ah, there’s the rub! After a few times of coming up against this Goliath, I realized there was no slingshot which could bring it to its knees and allow me free access. This valuable research and information were in a chokehold by the publishers.

Campbell notes that more than 80% of new research and scholarly articles are locked behind paywall. Institutions pay $5,000 per research paper via subscriptions,* with publishers reaping the benefits with profit margins at 30-40%! For example, the real cost of publishing an article in a traditional, subscription-based scholarly journal is around $1,600; articles in hybrid journals can cost as much as $2,900 to publish. It is no surprise then that the global revenue of subscription-based scholarly journals tops at a mind-blowing $10 billion. To bring down the Goliath, Campbell makes a bold assertion: “It is only by removing our financial support of the paywall system that we will finally achieve open access on a large scale.”

Enter OA2020 and its guiding principles of supporting new and improved forms of OA publishing. OA2020 aims “to transform a majority of today’s scholarly journals from subscription to OA publishing in accordance with community-specific publication preferences.” This approach considers the current subscription model as unsustainable for most colleges, universities, and other institutions. Through a global alliance, OA2020 is committed to quickening the transition of today’s scholarly journals to open access.


Associate Professor Rich Schneider critiques the needs and wants of researchers when it comes to publishing their scholarly articles. Researchers love their journals and want to publish in their favorites. Unfortunately, most researchers and professors are not aware of the astronomical cost of subscription-based scholarly journals. They normally have no bias as to who the publisher is unless they are embarrassed to be associated with a particular publisher. Schneider reiterates that most researches are connected to their journals, and not to their publishers. Researchers desire their work to be readily available, to be widely read, and to be highly cited. Having the rights to re-use and share their work is also something researchers want. In fact, it frustrates them to have restrictions imposed on them by publishers who demand copyright transfer agreements or require permission (and sometimes even payment) for the researchers to re-use and share their own work! Maintaining existing workflows is also expected by researchers. They do not want to change the way they submit their manuscripts unless it is easier and quicker. Additionally, researchers generally do not want to change the peer review process, unless it is more fair and consistent. Schneider also states that researchers want to access all the content in existing journals and have that content readily available. Lastly, researchers want to make sure there are no publication barriers for anyone, and consideration must be maintained to ensure that an existing economic barrier is not simply being replaced by another.

From a researcher’s perspective, it is a no-brainer that OA2020 has the support of the research community. OA2020 maintains the cannon of existing journals, which Schneider points out may be a problem with libraries and some researcher communities. It can be viewed skeptically as “creating another system which perpetuates the dominance of certain publishers,” Schneider warns, but he reminds us again of the connection and allegiance between researchers and their journals, regardless of the publisher. Open access is the default state, increasing visibility, and shareability. OA2020 supports the rights of authors, researchers, readers, and taxpayers. It enables existing processes and workflow to remain intact and promotes a global transition from journal subscriptions. One of the biggest advantages of OA2020 is that it allows subscription savings (up to $5 billion) to support publication costs. To iterate Campbell’s point, the publication of subscription-based journals generates a revenue of $8-10 billion a year. However, it costs about $5 billion per year to publish two and half million scholarly and research articles. Schneider asks us, “Could we reinvest this?”


So why should libraries get involved with OA2020? Curtis Brundy, Associate University Librarian with Iowa State University, offers three motivating factors as to why OA2020 should be supported by libraries. First, there is this growing sense that the subscription model is both financially unsustainable and doing little to advance open access. According to Diane Bruxvoort, the Dean of Libraries at the University of North Texas, the cost of subscriptions to journals increases by an average of 6% per year. “Libraries can no longer afford to continue absorbing the cost of subscribing to so many subscription-based journals,” she notes. Secondly, open access is the right thing to do. OA2020 offers libraries a viable path towards increasing open access. Donald Barclay, Deputy University Librarian with University of California, Merced remarks, “Open access to scholarly information is good for scholars, good for the average person, and good for human progress.” Thirdly, OA2020 is proving to be powerful and successful in uniting libraries for the purpose of collective action in trying to accomplish this transformation. Universities, institutes, and organizations all across the globe are uniting to express interest in OA2020.


How can you and your library get involved with OA2020? Are any of you currently involved in implementing open access in your libraries? Visit for more information. You may access the slides and the recording of the webinar here.

*Schimmer, R., Geschuhn, K. K., & Vogler, A. (2015). Disrupting the subscription journals’ business model for the necessary large-scale transformation to open access. doi: 10.17617/1.3.

Thinking About Deficit Thinking and First-Year Seminar

June 28, 2018

I was able to attend the LOEX Conference in Houston in May and I saw a lot of great presentations. The one that has stayed with me was Eamon Tewell’s lecture, “The Problem with Grit: Dismantling Deficit Models in Information Literacy Instruction”. You can view the slides & handouts from his presentation here.

After listening to the talk, my interpretation of deficit thinking is the idea that a student is lacking something and if they just try hard enough they can overcome that deficit. We see this type of thinking in the library when we assume that students are empty vessels just waiting for us to fill them up with the skills they need to succeed. Eamon gave the example of one of the traditional one-shot requests for database demonstrations as an example of deficit thinking. In this situation we think that when the session goes well it’s because we were great but when it doesn’t it’s because the students weren’t prepared enough.

Using my new understanding of deficit thinking I started to review how our library has interacted with First Year Seminar (FYS) in the three years that I’ve worked there. The first two years we definitely approached these interactions with a deficit mindset, assuming that students were empty vessels and we could tell them everything they needed in a 90 minute session. We knew these sessions were not resonating with students so last year we created a new session on source identification & evaluation. We showed two short videos and gave a mini-lecture but the majority of class time was spent on a source evaluation activity. We gave groups of students different types of sources and asked them to sort them into one of three categories using a provided set of criteria. Each group then shared their decision with the class. We felt like this activity worked much better for the students than our previous attempts and looking at it through my lens of deficit thinking I think it had something to do with the fact that we allowed students to use skills they already had. I can also see how we could have eliminated even more of our deficit thinking if we had not given them criteria for evaluation but let the students show us the criteria they use for source evaluation. 

In addition to Eamon’s talk at LOEX another presentation that has influenced my approach to FYS is a Credo webinar I watched in the fall, “Predictable Misunderstandings in Information Literacy: Research Findings”, by Lisa Janicke Hinchliffe. In this webinar, Lisa presents the results of a survey of academic librarians she completed asking them to identify first-year students’ misconceptions about research. She identified 11 misconceptions about research that students bring with them to college. These misconceptions reinforce that students are not empty vessels, they are come to college with ideas and strategies for research that have been successful for them to this point. Thinking about how to identify and overcome these misconceptions in our first-year students has been great food for thought. 

Thinking about deficit thinking and predictable misunderstandings and the way that FYS is structured at our school made the librarians realize that there isn’t a way to create a one-size-fits-all session that we can deploy in each FYS section. So this year we decided to share Lisa’s list of misconceptions with the FYS faculty to get them thinking about areas where we can team up with them to try to help our students be more successful. I’m looking forward to seeing how this approach works in the fall.  Have any of you tried something like this or reflected on your teaching practices through the lens of deficit thinking? If so I’d love to hear about it.

C&CS Transparency in the Tenure Process Available

June 23, 2018

Greetings from ALA!

We did want to make sure that everyone knows: Heidi, Rachel and Elizabeth did an awesome job Thursday on afternoon, for their Transparency in the Tenure Process session. While focused on some of the issues that archivists specifically face, many others may want to watch it to get an understanding of the different types of tenure processes for librarians across institutions.

Kudos to both Amy Snyder for moderating and Sara Pike for doing our live closed captioning.

Video of the session for those not able to attend is available via this YouTube link.

Their slides are available here: link to slides

Please feel free to contact the C&CS team at this link if you have a proposal for a session.

C&CS Presents: The Feminist Reference Desk, July 9th at 1pm

June 19, 2018

C&CS Presents

The Feminist Reference Desk: A Discussion on the “Mommy Librarian”

and Neutral Library Spaces

with Maura Seale, Celia Emmelhainz, Erin Pappas, and Nina Clements

July 9, 2018: 1 pm Eastern (10 am Pacific)

~Register here for the Zoom link!~

The recent book, The Feminist Reference Desk, has brought together several pieces of librarian and feminist theory including intersections of emotional labor and reference transactions, the feminist ethic of care, what neutrality means in our current library spaces, intersectionality at the reference desk, feminist disability studies and the reference desk, and other aspects of feminist pedagogy. 

Celia, Erin, and Maura will provide a brief overview of their chapter, “Behavioral Expectations for the Mommy Librarian: The Successful Reference Transaction as Emotional Labor.” In it, they argue that RUSA’s Guidelines for Behavioral Performance of Reference and Information Service Providers rely on and reproduce expectations for gendered emotional labor in reference work, while undermining professional authority. They further challenge the idea that, on the librarian side, reference transactions occur in neutral sites divorced from social contexts. They will then open it up to a broader discussion about emotional labor in libraries, including how it is/is not valued and assessed.

Nina will also provide a brief overview of her chapter, ““Nothing More than a Gear in your Car:” Neutrality and Feminist Reference in the Academic Library.” Like the chapter above, she challenges the idea that the library, specifically the academic library, is a neutral space. Instead, it is a politicized space. The thrust of the chapter challenges that the notion of neutrality is a means of reproducing the dominant ideologies of a group, such as patriarchy. Hopefully, this overview will lead to an interesting discussion of the notion of neutrality in our society.

Maura Seale is History Librarian at the University of Michigan and was previously a Collections, Research, and Instruction Librarian at Georgetown University. She edited, with Karen P. Nicholson, The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship, which was published by Library Juice Press in March 2018. She has also written about critical library pedagogy, race and gender in librarianship, and the political economy of libraries. She welcomes comments @mauraseale on Twitter.

Celia Emmelhainz is the Anthropology and Qualitative Research Librarian at the University of California, Berkeley. She has led workshops internationally on ethnographic assessment in libraries, and publishes on critical librarianship and on qualitative research studies in academic libraries. Comments welcome @celiemme on Twitter.

Erin Pappas is Research Librarian for the Humanities at the University of Virginia. She has presented and written on international digital libraries and DH projects, early-career mentoring, and occasionally conducts improv workshops for librarians, with Kate Dohe. You can find her on Twitter @erin_pappas, but usually only during conferences.

Nina Clements is Librarian & Information Literacy Coordinator at California State University Channel Islands. She is interested in information literacy as well as the intersection of the arts and librarianship. You can find her on Twitter @biblioscribbler.