LAUW Journal Club

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July Journal Club Meeting – Recap

August 4th, 2011 · No Comments

Might as well be wingdings!

The LAUW Journal Club met over chocolate-covered strawberries¹ in July to discuss the article “Student preferences in library website vocabulary” by former uWaterloo Librarian Mark Aaron Polger.

Polger’s article appeared in the recently-published Library Philosophy and Practice 2011 and reports on a study that he conducted to explore student preferences on library website vocabulary in comparison to actual vocabulary used on library websites, as reported by librarians. Polger gathered student feedback by surveying students at his library (the College Staten Island branch of the City University of New York Libraries) and librarian feedback by distributing his questionnaire on six listservs (CACUL, CANMEDLIB, MEDLIB-L, LIBREF, academicpr , and ili-l).

Polger’s findings confirmed what most of us expected – that students prefer natural language and that most library websites don’t use it. We addressed each of the questionnaire findings and discussed more broadly our own experiences of library jargon (which led to some interesting tangents on “citations” vs. “references” and the ambiguity of the word “research”). We soon arrived at some larger questions:

  • Is there a place for library jargon in some cases? A few of us wondered if it’s actually possible (or even desirable) to completely do away with all library jargon.
  • Is it more important to get rid of all library jargon or to get consistent with our use of it?
  • How do other libraries determine what vocabulary to use? We brainstormed how we might get a handle of it at Waterloo – what approach would make sense, who would be involved/consulted, etc.
  • Where do personal preferences fit in? Or do they? Some of us questioned whether or not librarians should be able to choose their own vocabulary on certain pages like on their subject guides. This came up after someone pointed out that librarians refer to themselves inconsistently in the profile pages of our Library’s subject guides (variations include, but are not limited to, “Librarian,” “Liaison Librarian,” “Your Librarian,” “Librarian Profile,” “Your Waterloo Librarian”).

The timing of this journal club meeting was fortunate, as we are in the midst of a project to review the vocabulary and use of jargon on our website in preparation for our upcoming website redesign.

Thanks to everyone who made it out to this meeting. Hope to see you out next month as well!


¹If you haven’t attended a meeting yet, perhaps you should consider it.

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June Journal Club Meeting – Recap!

June 13th, 2011 · No Comments


QR codes. What are they and how can we use them to improve our service to students and faculty?  This was the focus of LAUW’s June journal club meeting.

The group selected the article QR codes and academic librairies: Reaching mobile users by Robin Ashford, which appeared in the November 2010 issue of C&RL News. Using this article as a starting point, we discussed the various applications of QR codes in libraries. Examples included using QR codes in catalogue records, on promotional materials, and in various physical and virtual locations to direct users to library services and resources.

During our discussion, we brainstormed uses for QR codes that we’d like to see implemented in our library specifically. Ideas included using QR codes …

  • to direct students to our ask a librarian service
  • in our book stacks, to connect people with the subject guides that correspond to the call number ranges they’re standing in
  • outside of study rooms, to link people to the study room booking system
  • within catalogue records
  • to link to online equivalents of popular handouts, like our Library’s “Top 5 Tips” sheet
  • to bring people to our workshop registration page
  • to provide more information about physical displays / artwork in the Library
  • to link to the mobile version of Primo (our library’s search)

Of this list, some ideas might take a bit of work to get going, but most are things that we can easily implement. We agreed that the ability to do things quickly and easily is one of the main appeals of QR codes. Even though they are, as one individual in our meeting put it, most likely transient and “just where we happen to be in the history of computing,” they are agile and can provide people with value-added information without requiring a huge investment.

One concern raised was that QR codes could create or reinforce a digital divide. The group admitted that this is a possibility, since not everyone has a mobile device that allows them to take advantage of QR codes. For this reason, when it comes to our potential use of QR codes, we agreed that it could be worthwhile to offer the text URLs alongside QR codes to ensure equal access.

Thanks to everyone who attended this month’s meeting!  For anyone interested in learning more about QR codes in an academic context, one attendee suggested the QR codes at Bath blog, as well as the University of Bath’s study on their student population’s level of engagement and knowledge of QR codes. Of more local interest, Waterloo Librarian Kathy Szigeti will also be presenting on QR codes at a spotlight session this Friday!  Here are the details:

Please join us for a Spotlight on Friday June 17 at 9:30 am in the Davis 1568.

Topic: QR Codes

Presenter: Kathy Szigeti

Description: What are QR codes? Come to this Spotlight to learn what they are and how they are being used in Libraryland and in the wide world.

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One More Take on McMastergate: The LAUW Journal Club – April Meeting Recap

May 27th, 2011 · 1 Comment

The LAUW journal club met at the end April with the highest attendance of any of our meetings yet. A large group of us discussed – what else? – the situation at McMaster University and University Librarian Jeff Trzeciak’s recent presentation at Penn State. Instead of focusing on an article like we usually do in our “journal” club, we used John Dupuis’ blog post McMastergate in chronological order, or, Do libraries need librarians? as a starting point for discussion. The idea was to review Trzeciak’s presentation and read whichever blog posts were of interest.

Many of us had already discussed the events well before the meeting. However, this provided an opportunity for us to collectively share ideas and viewpoints, as many of us work at different locations within our library’s system.

Trzeciak and his notorious "new hires" presentation slide

Like many others, the thing that alarmed us the most was Trzeciak’s idea of replacing librarians with post-docs. We agreed that this decision lacked foresight on many levels. Not only would post-docs lack the essential professional training required, but they hearts wouldn’t be in it. How many post-docs do you know whose goal it is to work in an academic library? They might like libraries – or probably even love them – but a position in an academic library would not be the end-goal for most. It would be a stepping stone. Then what kind of investment or strategy is it to hire post-docs to replace librarians? The only answer we could think of is short-term financial gain.

Which brings us to…

If this is all about saving money, what’s with Second Life, the gaming librarian, and deciding to flip the heads of public and technical services? Maybe it’s about being innovative and “shaking things up” then, as a way of best-serving students and faculty? But that’s funny…

Because rarely in his talk did Trzeciak mention how all of the changes he has implemented at McMaster have improved student success or satisfaction. Do McMaster students like their library? Beyond turnstile counts and shiny new spaces, how have the changes benefitted them? Who knows!  And with an “instruction program in decline,” we can only guess at what faculty members think.

After a fruitful discussion, perhaps the biggest question that arose for all of us was, how did Jeff achieve such latitude in his position? What is going on McMaster, really?

To end, here is a more formal statement of support from Waterloo librarians, written and posted on the CAUT list recently by the President of the Librarians Association of the University of Waterloo, Jane Forgay:

Good afternoon Colleagues,

Executive members of the Librarians Association of the University of Waterloo join other library associations to voice our support for librarians at McMaster University. We are deeply concerned by the stated intensions of McMaster’s chief librarian to stop hiring ALA-accredited librarians. We question the wisdom behind a decision that will result in reducing or eliminating the inclusion of trained, dedicated professionals in this setting. We feel that this will not only have an immediate negative impact on the morale within the McMaster library system, but it will also lead to an erosion of sound stewardship practices over time, threatening the welfare of a collection on which scholars and students depend.


Jane Forgay, MA, MLIS

LAUW President 2011/2012

University of Waterloo Library

Waterloo, Ontario

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March Journal Club Meeting – Recap!

April 25th, 2011 · No Comments

The LAUW journal club met at the end of March to discuss “College Students on the Web,” a report summary that appeared in Jakob Nielson’s Alertbox on December 15, 2010. This summary is based on a 259-page report by Nielson Norman Group which examines how university-level students use websites designed for students as well as how they use mainstream websites.

Picture of a student using a computer

University of Waterloo students on the web. Photo: Neil Trotter, Studio 66

The report draws on a study of 43 students in 4 countries ranging in age from 18 to 25 years. It included a total of 18 men and 25 women from 12 educational institutions.

After acknowledging that generalizations are impossible to make from such a limited statistical sample, we happily considered how this study refutes many “myths about student internet use” in relation to our experience and observations.

Our findings?

We tended to agree with most of the study’s claims. For example, Nielson refutes the myth that students are technology experts, indicating that there is a big difference between being comfortable with technology (as many students are) and being an expert. His study suggests that students don’t like to waste time online and will therefore stick to what’s comfortable or the easiest. This statement echoed our experience of how students use our library’s website – especially when looking for articles!

Another claim that resonated with us was that students “don’t go for fancy visuals and they definitely gravitate toward one very plain user interface: the search engine.” We all recognized students as search-dominant users, which then led us to consider the importance of indexing and relevancy ranking on our own website.

Since we’re currently in the midst of conducting a user assessment in preparation for a website redesign, we were also able to compare some the article’s claims with our own user assessment findings. One example – although the report claims that college students “like interactivity only when it serves a purpose and serves their current tasks” one group member indicated that students have mentioned in focus groups that they really enjoy our website’s Quick Poll which doesn’t necessarily always “serve a purpose” or “serve their current tasks.”

Overall, the report’s claims resonated with many of the things our group has observed about student internet use in the academic library context. It was a fun read and fun meeting!

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Let’s Talk About Web-scale!

February 24th, 2011 · No Comments

LAUW’s recently-expanded journal club met at the end of January to discuss the month’s selected article, “The Impact of Web-scale Discovery on the Use of a Library Collection,” written by Doug Way from Grand Valley State University Libraries (GVSU).

Image reads "web-scale"

The article appeared in the most recent issue of Serials Review (Vol. 36, No. 4) and explores how the GVSU Libraries’ implementation of the web-scale index Summon has impacted the use of their databases.

The group agreed that this article was “wonderfully topical” for us to review at Waterloo, as we’ll be moving forward with a trial of the web-scale index Primo Central in the near future. It raised a lot of questions about what a web-scale search will mean in our context and offered us a glimpse into the potential impacts that it could have on the use of our resources.

Topics discussed included…

  • How our database usage is currently being tracked and how this may change during the Primo Central trial. We were impressed with the approach that the author took to track statistics, but wondered if something simpler could be possible for us.
  • How a web-scale index will change library instruction. Someone mentioned how significantly the implementation of Primo alone changed library instruction at Waterloo. Everyone agreed that Primo Central will change things much more drastically.
  • How web-scale compares to Google. The group discussed whether or not web-scale searches like Summon or Primo Central are intended to compete with or complement Google. There was general agreement that implementing a web-scale search would be a good way to bring students back to the Library’s website as a starting point for research.
  • How subject-specific database usage might be affected by a web-scale search. The author noted that subject-specific database usage declined with GVSU’s implementation of Summon. Based on his analysis and discussion, it seems likely that Waterloo could experience the same trend with the Primo Central implementation. We wondered to what extent a web-scale index might affect the usage of these important resources.
  • What’s included in Primo Central and what’s not. Connected to the above point, we wondered if there is a way to find out exactly what’s indexed in Primo Central.

After following up on these questions, it appears that many of them are unanswerable at this time. What exactly Primo Central contains, for example, is information that we’re still hoping to find out from the vendor ExLibris in the near future.

Thanks to everyone who attended this meeting. Stay tuned for information about our next journal club meeting scheduled for March.

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The LAUW journal club in 2011

January 10th, 2011 · No Comments

Happy New Year! The LAUW journal club will be starting again at the end of January. New this year, LAUW is opening the journal club up to all Library staff with the hope of encouraging more ideas, perspectives, and opportunities for learning from one another!

We look forward to a year of great discussions on articles of current interest within the field of librarianship. Stay tuned for meeting recaps throughout the year. If you have any questions, please contact the LAUW Programs Committee Chair, Nancy Collins, at ncollins at uwaterloo dot ca or 519-888-4567 ext. 32446.

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November meeting – recap!

December 14th, 2010 · No Comments

Everyone at the last LAUW journal club meeting will back me up on this: there was indeed a November meeting. From what I remember, it included eating snacks and watching a handful of videos on YouTube. Good thing I took notes!

The selected journal article was “A School Mascot Walks Into the Library: Tapping School Spirit for Library Instruction Videos.” This was a pre-print article by Kristin J Henrich and Diane M. Prorak appearing in a recent issue of  Reference Services Review (vol. 38, no. 4).

Screenshot of one of the YouTube videos showing school mascot Joe Vandal

As summarized in the article’s abstract, the article “describes the University of Idaho Library’s efforts to develop instructional videos starring the school mascot, Joe Vandal, and integrate these videos into the curriculum using the university’s course management system.” For the meeting’s eight attendees, it offered an interesting glimpse into another academic library’s video-making and course support activities.

In discussing the article, the group agreed that:

  • the literature review was well done
  • the authors’ experience was interesting to read about
  • the authors’ parameters for creating videos based on skill development could be useful for us to follow at Waterloo

The group watched the videos described in the article during the meeting. These included Discover Your Library, Joe Vandal Finds a Book and Joe Vandal Learns About Microfilm.

Generally, the group found these videos entertaining and useful. We liked that they told a story and we appreciated many of the topics covered. We especially liked the call number instructions given in the “Joe Vandal Finds a Book” video. Some criticisms included that the videos were too long and perhaps not contemporary enough (music / narration -wise). Although we enjoyed the mascot idea, we also agreed that this approach probably wouldn’t work as well at Waterloo.

After reviewing these videos, the group watched and discussed other library videos that we have viewed and enjoyed lately. These included Penn Libraries’ student-created video to promote its Weigle information commons and the University of Alberta Libraries’ new video series.

Some of the attendees touched on the current plans for creating instructional and outreach videos at the uWaterloo Library and everyone brainstormed approaches and topics. Some prominent discussion points included to create videos on these topics:

  • An introduction to the Library
  • Primo’s functionality and have the videos embedded within the Primo catalogue at the point of need
  • An overview of the TUG locations / borrowing process
  • Our interactive floor plans
  • How to create a search strategy

The meeting ended with an idea to get students’ feedback on the different library videos currently available, to see what types they prefer.

Thanks to everyone who attended this meeting!

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October meeting – recap!

October 19th, 2010 · 1 Comment

For the second time in three months, LAUW members selected a report as the article of choice for our journal club. (Aren’t we an exciting bunch?)  The October selection was the executive summary for the recently released “Value of Academic Libraries: A Comprehensive Research Review and Report” prepared by Dr. Megan Oakleaf from Syracuse University.


A small group of us met last week in the Davis Centre conference room to discuss this executive summary. One thing we agreed upon early on is that it’s difficult to assess the potential value of the full report from only reading the  summary. Naturally, we found ourselves qualifying our comments with things like, “I’d really need to check the full report to be sure.” How librarian!

That said, there were a few things that we could confidently agree on that are worth noting:

  • This is an important report. We all felt that it is essential for academic librarians to consider the suggestions for communicating academic libraries’ value through evidence/data.
  • There were some stated “facts” that didn’t resonate with our experience. (The library being a factor in student and faculty recruitment, for one.)
  • The summary does not stand alone very well. Style wise, it was a bit difficult to follow. Content-wise, we all felt like we lacked a clear sense of the full report’s scope and depth.

The group’s most lengthily conversation centered on whether or not proving the library’s value through evidence/date is doable or desirable for librarians. The underlying message in the document seems to be that the main aim of implementing retention strategies is to increase the university’s bottom line and secure/increase future alumni dollars by keeping students and keeping them happy. We wondered how comfortable many librarians are with this mind set, since our main concern is typically that first and foremost students’ education should be enriched by the materials/services we provide them. Any “by-product” (in the form of alumni support/transfer payments, etc.) is the bonus, not the other way around.

We concluded that this report is perhaps most directly relevant to library administrators, although it is useful for all librarians to understand and integrate wherever possible. Many of us will be consulting the full report and we’re looking forward to any supporting ACRL materials that will stem from it.

Thanks to everyone who made it out to discuss this document. Stay tuned for details on our November meeting!

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September meeting – recap!

September 7th, 2010 · No Comments

Thanks to everyone who made it out to LAUW’s second journal club meeting last week. Eight of us attended this time (that’s up three from last month) and we enjoyed some inspiring discussion on a topic that we’re hearing a lot about these days — student retention.

The selected journal club article was “Shhh! No Talking About Retention in the Library!” an article written by Heidi Blackburn, a Reference and Instruction Librarian at K-State University at Salina.

This article appeared in the latest issue of Education Libraries (pdf) and is a chatty exploration of some strategies academic librarians can use to help improve student retention at their institutions.

The group’s discussion touched on many topics over the hour, both directly related to the article and more generally about the library’s role in student retention.

Discussion highlights included:

  • Agreement that retention isn’t something librarians are afraid to talk about (in our experience), but is an issue that that many of us have been unaware of until recently.
  • Discussion of the author’s ideas for networking with students. We generally agreed that it’s important for librarians to be visible and involved in student life to truly understand students’ needs, but we raised some concerns over how this could be successfully accomplished in light of time constraints, other priorities, and varying degrees of cooperation/interest from academic departments and student groups.
  • An excellent conversation that focused on librarians’ role as educators. We agreed that one of our most valuable contributions to student success is helping students to gain information literacy (IL) skills. We brainstormed ways that we could increase students’ exposure to and interest in the IL instruction we offer. A popular suggestion was to consider creating a certificate program for students based on a selection of the workshops we currently offer.
  • Agreement that librarians are already supporting student retention through many of our services, activities, and library spaces. The challenge facing librarians could be more a matter of repositioning our contributions for university administrators and on-campus partners so they can recognize what we can offer to student retention initiatives.

As you can tell, we covered a lot in this meeting. If you missed it but have something else to add, please leave a comment.

We look forward to seeing everyone out again in early October!

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August meeting – recap!

August 5th, 2010 · 2 Comments

Thanks to everyone who came out to LAUW’s first journal club meeting. It was a small group to start (a grand total of five), but we’re confident that our numbers will increase as the vacation season dwindles. It’s hard to believe that people would want to take vacation though when they could be discussing important publications, like…

Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025,” an ACRL report prepared by Dr. David J. Stanley and Kara J. Malenfant.


This was the report selected and discussed by librarians at today’s meeting. As the title suggests, it’s a report to get librarians thinking about possible “futures” that could affect higher education and academic libraries over the next 15 years. It includes 26 scenarios created by forecasting current trends in a wide range of areas (distance ed, technology, publishing, to name a few).

Discussion focused primarily on the first 8 scenarios (an hour goes by too quickly), with the most enthusiasm expressed for the scenario “Everyone is a ‘non-traditional’ student” and what possibilities this could create for redefining students’ learning paths.

The group also considered which of the scenarios seemed most probable for the University of Waterloo. We agreed that we’re already seeing evidence of several scenarios (“Breaking the textbook monopoly,” “Design for disability,” “Bridging the scholar / practitioner divide”) and that others would be improbable for Waterloo (“Creative conscription” – as if!).

In the last five minutes of the meeting, we realized that we still had 18 scenarios to get through, so we quickly scanned the remainder and enjoyed a brief mention of the “Woven learning” scenario where “Learning spaces are transformed so that students can smell census data in an olfactory economics classroom or hear a symphony of health statistics in a medical auditorium.” Isn’t the future looking [fantastic OR weird]?

Overall, it was a great first meeting. We hope to see everyone out next time!

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