Buzzfeed & Facebook in Infolit Sessions: Connecting What Students Use to Library Research

I try to do all the right information literacy “stuff”: active learning, hands-on work, positive attitude, etc… I also make sure I’m prepped for class at least a day before. Yesterday, I decided to throw my lesson plan in the garbage.

The professor emailed me late: Students have been gathering sources from Facebook and blogs and not evaluating what they find. Probably not a big shock to most librarians, but the professor was concerned.

The assignment:
Two sections of an introductory 100-level psychology course work in groups to gather five scholarly, empirical research articles on a topic. The group writes a review of the articles and posts it on a course website.

A new lesson plan:
Why go right to the databases? Instead, start where students are most comfortable and then transition them to more authoritative sources. I can talk until I’m blue in the face about databases, but most of our students (at this point) don’t see the connection between everyday life and academic research.

I decide to comb Facebook, Buzzfeed, and Huffington Post to find articles that had a psychological theme–something students might come across while using social media. I jokingly tweeted:

Luckily, awesome Twitter library folks like @SJLeeman and @dupuisj chimed in with some examples they had:

Now I had a plan!

Dividing the class in to groups, I gave each group a popular topic relating to psychology:

1. Huffington Post article:
Hungry? Maybe Don’t Go Shopping: Academic research shows that people who are hungry purchase both food and non-food items at a higher rate than people who are not hungry.

2. Buzzfeed article:
Watch Six Pairs Stare in to Each Others’ Eyes as Love Experiment (also had a cute video which I showed a portion of in class): Academic research shows that staring into your partner’s eyes can increase intimacy levels.

3. A post that was popular on Facebook, shared by @SJLeeman:
Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025: research by a MIT scientist.

Sharing the links with the class, I asked each group to read over the articles to become acquainted with the topic. Then I told them to see if they could locate the original research, starting with Google–something they are all familiar with. I stopped by each group to ask them questions and point them in the right direction. We concluded by having each group share what they found with the rest of the class.

For the Huffington Post article:
Students found that names of the original researchers mentioned, but they did not have a title of the original study or a link to it. An initial Google search didn’t find anything useful. Good segue into library databases.

For the Buzzfeed article:
Students found that it mentioned a replication of the academic study in The New York Times. The NYT article had the original researcher’s name, plus a link to the scholarly article. Clicking on the link to the article showed the students that access to it was provided by our library.

For the Facebook post on autism:
Students reported that the headline sounded shocking. They also said they were likely to trust an “expert” at an academic institution. Students found the original researcher’s name and Googled the person only to find that she’s controversial in the scientific community and not trained in the biological/medical field. Students also questioned if the organization that had the post about autism might be biased. They noticed other things on the website, including that vaccines may be “ineffective” or unsafe.

The Takeaways
1. Every day we read, see, or hear about things that involve academic research–on almost any topic imaginable. We just have to do a little digging to get to that research.

2. Google and the general web is great as a starting point, but it shouldn’t be your ending point.

3. The blog posts and websites you find generally won’t be considered “academic” by your professors. You’re going to need to track down the original psychological studies.

4. You need to carefully evaluate the information you find on these sites. I mentioned the “CRAAP” test (currency, relevance, authority, accuracy, point of view).

5. The library has databases to locate the original studies (e.g., PsycINFO). You can search by keyword, by article title, or by a particular author, etc… if you have that bit of info. In addition, only a couple of students in each section reported using Google Scholar before–so I made sure to mention that as an alternative tool to keep in your research “wheelhouse.”

6. We were able to look at the original empirical research article from the Buzzfeed example. Students were able to identify the basic set-up (e.g., abstract, methods, results, references, etc…). This was important as this is the type of scholarly article that students need to find for their project.

From there, we transitioned to the library’s resources: A quick demo of PsycINFO (and some of the other psychology resources) and how to formulate a search strategy: An active learning whiteboard activity where students take a psychology research question (such as from the examples above) and identity the keywords and brainstorm synonyms.

Following that, there was plenty of time for students to do searching in PsycINFO and other relevant sources to gather citations for their group project.

Further Reading:


Can I Quote You On That? Social Media Guidelines & Library Patrons

I’m taking the HyperlibMOOC class this fall. It’s been a fun experience: far exceeding my expectations with stimulating discussions, lectures, activities, and side conversations.

Currently, I’m working on a social media guidelines assignment for class. Browsing around the web for examples of other library social media policies, I stumbled on to one which I won’t call out by name. Their policy states:

“We reserve the right to use your comments in promotional materials, to use your stories to show others what makes [insert library name] unique and extraordinary.”

Is this standard boiler plate language? If so, what exactly does it mean?

  • Would retweeting a comment such as: Got my assignment done! This library rocks! count as part of this?

I do that at my library without really thinking about it. To me, it’s part of the ethos of Twitter.

Or, might I see your Twitter post or Facebook comment incorporated into promotional materials for the library? Like an advertisement or poster. That I have a problem with. I’m not part of tin-foil hate brigade when it comes to privacy, but I do expect a certain base amount of protection and I bristle at things that come across as pure advertising.

Let’s say I posted something on the library’s Facebook page and then saw it captured and featured on large plasma displays in the library:

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 3.00.58 PM

THAT would bug me. Without my permission? No.

I’m not exactly sure I have an answer for what IS the dividing line in terms of social media and privacy. It often seems rather fluid.

As a librarian and as a professional, I’ve always felt it was just the “right” thing to do to ASK people for their permission to use comments in advertisements and promotions. We’re inviting people to “friend” and “follow” us, I’d rather not risk that friendship just for an advertisement.

What do you think…Am I way off-base here? Is the library a business like anything else? Should we be mining our patrons’ comments and posts for our benefit without asking? Let me know!

Big Data is Watching (or single women who are librarians and like cats)

As Facebook rolled out its Graph Search to users’ accounts, stories in the news media have been popping up about the outrageous things you can find (e.g, “married people who like prostitutes“) and–more importantly–how you can (try to) lock down your privacy settings. Gizmodo has a good overview on how to do this.

So is Facebook’s Graph Search a warm, fuzzy place to find out about other co-workers who might like bicycling and hiking, like I do? Or is it a stalker-ish search engine that uses your precious personal data and likes? Well, it’s a bit of both.

TechNewsDaily points out:

You can run. You can hide. But you still won’t be safe from Facebook’s Graph Search.

Librarians, school media specialists, and information professionals should play a role in educating their users on social media and privacy. But we all need to pay attention to what we post. Case in point, I did an off-the-wall “stereotypical” librarian search for: Single women who are librarians and like cats.

To my surprise, there were actual search results [note: I’m not saying it’s wrong to be a single librarian that likes cats. It’s just amazing to see how narrow I can make the data]:

Facebook Graph Search: single women who are librarians and like cats

I don’t know about you, but I find the search results creepy. I also wonder about some of the negative connotations people might draw from these search results. As an example, I picked my area: Green Bay, Wisconsin. Here’s a search for: People who live in Green Bay, Wisconsin and that like getting drunk.

Facebook Graph Search: people who live in Green Bay, Wisconsin and that like getting drunk

So much of the information that people think is private, is actually not. Now, I’m not part of the tin foil hat brigade, nor am I advocating for a Puritan-ization of social media–but I do think everyone needs to take a second look at the information they share, educate themselves on privacy issues, and keep vigilant in an ever changing information landscape.

50 Shades of Tweets

Fifty Shades of Grey: Whether you love it or hate it, think it’s over-hyped “mommy porn,” or the death of literature, the book sparks strong reactions.

I’ve used Storify to collect social media postings on Fifty Shades of Grey. I’ve divided it into the following topics: libraries, e-readers, Twilight comparisons, feminism, user reviews. Check it out:

[View the story “Fifty Shades of Grey” on Storify]

The library had how many requests for Fifty Shades of Grey?! From Kayla P. on Twitter.

Books, Food & Fun: Hosting an Edible Book Festival

Yesterday, my library hosted its first Edible Book Festival. With minimal planning and volunteers, we pulled it off. Traditionally, libraries hold an Edible Book Festival on or around April 1, to honor Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, author of Physiologie du gout (The Physiology of Taste), who is generally regarded as an early “foodie”. My library held its event today to honor our 40th anniversary.

If you’ve never planned an Edible Book Festival before, it’s easy to do and it’s a great way to get your community, school, or university involved. Here are a few pointers if you are interested in planning such an event.

  • Look around online for some examples and inspiration: Start with the International Edible Book Festival website. Here are a few libraries and organizations that have hosted an edible book event:
  • Determine categories for the event such as: Best Individual Entry, Best Group Entry, Best in Show, “Punniest,” Most Likely to Be Eaten
  • Help answer the question, What is an Edible Book? by providing an explanation:
    • “Edible books can look like a book in form and shape, be inspired by a book or author, can be a pun of a book title, can refer to a book character, reproduce a book cover, or just have something to do with books in general.”
    • Help people visualize what an edible book can be made from: “Entries may be made from anything that is edible (cake, bread, crackers, Jell-o, fruit, vegetables, candy, etc.) as long as it can sit out for an hour or two without melting, turning bad, or getting scary.”
  • Promotion: Use Facebook, Twitter, and other social media to promote the event. We also created a campus flyer and got a story in our university’s daily email announcement.
  • Reach out to local groups that might be interested in the event (elementary, middle & high schools, restaurants, culinary schools, libraries).
  • We created a Libguide that displayed information for people that might be interested in the event.
  • Some libraries collect an entry fee (e.g., $2.00 for individual entries, $5.00 for group entries) and donate the proceeds to a local soup kitchen, food pantry, or charity.
  • Some institutions may have to seek a waiver from their parent organization for serving food.
  • Create an entry form (paper or electronic). Ask for: entry type (individual or group), contact info, title of entry, book/title/author that inspired the entry, special needs (like space, electricity, etc…), and whether or not the entrant plans to bring along a copy of the book that inspired the creation (otherwise the library should plan to get a copy).
  • On the entry form, emphasize the need for safe food handling practices and that the entrants should bring a utensil to cut/carve their creation.
  • Create placards for each of the entrants with the book title, name, etc…
  • Have utensils, cups, and plates for the day of the event.
  • On the day of the event: have entrants bring their creations at least 30 minutes to 1 hour beforehand, to allow for set-up.
  • Leave some time for judging. We had ballots printed up and used a popular vote methods. Other libraries use guest “judges.”
  • Arrange for certificates and prizes (if funding allows).
  • Announce the winners and “eat” the books.
  • We even got a shout-out on the local news.
Our Iceberg is Melting Punch

Our Iceberg is Melting Punch – my entry for our Edible Book Festival

Why I Killed My Facebook Account

Many Facebook users are in an uproar over new changes, while bigger ones are about to be unveiled. I’ve had a Facebook account since 2005. Today, I killed it. Didn’t just deactivate it, but deleted it. The whole kit-and-kaboodle. Why?

It’s Not User-Friendly
I never complained much about the constant design changes. That’s the nature of technology and the Internet. In the beginning, the reason I loved Facebook over Myspace was its clean design. No glaring graphics, no ugly text. Now Facebook looks like a flashing Las Vegas neon sign.

Personal vs. Professional
Who are my “friends”? A lot of my co-workers are both friends and Facebook friends. Professional colleagues are Facebook friends. Family members are Facebook friends. Classmates from high school are Facebook friends–but many are not “real” friends–you know, these are the people who would never talk to you in high school, but for some reason want to be your Facebook friend! I just got tired of all of the different dividing lines. What to post and to whom? I know I could create different groups/lists. But really, it’s just a hassle. For the people I really do like: my co-workers, family members, and friends – I don’t need Facebook to stay in touch.

This is the real stinker for me. Facebook had way too many privacy settings that seemed to change every month. And you always had to “opt out.” Sharing was automatic. No thank you. And now there are creepy things like this [update: Facebook has changed the timeline to avoid outing “unfrienders” – well at least that’s one good thing!]. This is what it all comes down to: Facebook is NOT about me or my friends. It’s about my data and how advertisers can market to me.

Do I think Facebook is important to libraries. Absolutely! Again, there’s that marketing aspect. But I’ll be using a “dummy” account to manage my library’s Facebook page.

Ultimately, I decided that I don’t want to live my life on Facebook. I want to live it in real life. That’s my call. I decide when and to whom I communicate with. I control the information. Facebook does not.

If you haven’t read these articles, check them out:

Not Sharing is Caring: Facebook’s Terrible Plan to Get Us to Share Everything We Do on the Web – Slate

Is Facebook Trying to Kill Privacy – Mashable

I Deleted My Facebook Account – Maxistentialism


Excellent post from ReadWriteWeb – The New Facebook: 3 Major Implications

Game On: Social Media Ideas & Prizes for Libraries

Businesses have adapted to the social media landscape by offering up prizes and promotions through Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and other applications. Libraries, too, have joined in the mix. Last month, I posted on the COLLIB-L and PUBLIB-L discussion lists looking for ideas that libraries are using with social media. Specifically, I wanted to know what types of promotions, contests, or prizes that libraries do for such activities as:

  • Friending the library on Facebook
  • Following the library on Twitter
  • Checking-in at the library on Foursquare (or becoming “mayor”), or similar check-in apps, etc.

What follows are suggestions and ideas from libraries (and thank you to those that responded!):

  • McCain Library at Agnes Scott College in Georgia holds regular “Tuesday Trivia” contests. Trivia questions are posted to the library’s blog, and also promoted through its Facebook page. The library director told me, “Questions are posted on Tuesdays and the first person with the correct answer wins prizes such as donated theatre tickets, coffee shop gift cards, flash drives/similar swag collected at conferences, etc.”
  • A public library in California is also thinking of doing a trivia contest. For example, a monthly trivia contest might ask patrons to search the library’s online databases for the answer, and post it to the library’s Facebook page. Winners would receive a prize, or be entered in a raffle.
  • Mudd Library at Lawrence University in Wisconsin has experimented with posing questions on its Facebook page and sending prizes via campus mail to those who answer (prizes such as carabineers, mugs, and notebooks). On Foursquare, the library runs a check-in promotion with users: anyone checking in three times at the library on Foursquare wins a mini-notebook and pen.
  • The Kansas City Public Library (another one my fave public library’s on Twitter) held a Twitter Trivia Contest relating to famous catchphrases and slogans that complimented a lecture at the library by an author who writes on the same topic. Winners received a copy of the author’s book. Also, check out their promotion/contest via Facebook and Twitter to meet LeVar Burton. Great ideas!
  • McMaster University Library in Canada attracted new followers to its Twitter account by sponsoring a contest where users tweet how they use the library. Winner received an external hard drive as a prize.
  • Provo City Library in Utah sponsored a Facebook contest relating to an author that was speaking at the library. Users were asked to post a Facebook comment about the author & why they liked the book. Winner received tickets to the author’s lecture and a collection of books.
  • As for prizes, I was contacted by In My Book, which makes bookmarks. Worth a look!

Does your library offer any promotions or specials with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, or other social media applications? What kinds of of prizes or “freebies” do you pass out? Post it to the comments section below!