Monthly Archives: August 2014

Episode #054–Jail Librarianship, Dustin Fife San Juan County Library Director and ULA President-Elect

evillibrarianslogoToday Tegan interviews Dustin Fife, her usual co-host, about the newly founded library services at the San Juan County Jail. They talk about outreach, service diversification, and the amazing Kim Fong who inspired it all. Tegan and Dustin also discuss a new feature on the Creative Libraries Utah website called Innovation Action News.

Evil Librarians Podcast 054

Resources we discuss:

Kim Fong’s Podcast

This entry was posted in Podcast on by .

On Creativity in Library Instruction

logo_808707_printAs the new school year begins (it started on Monday at the University of Utah), I think about my own education and the drudgery that I experienced as a student. Every class was set up the same, no matter the topic: a full slate of readings, in class lectures followed by stilted discussions, the same old timeline of quizzes, mid-terms, and final research papers. After cramming for the final and staying up all night writing the final paper, I mostly forgot everything I had memorized within two weeks.

The classes that I still remember as truly transformational were the ones that strayed from these norms. They may not have strayed too far, but just enough to jog my brain out of the ruts it had fallen into. In these classes, I had professors who asked us to draw material from our own lives and apply it to the material; we watched football games and horror movies, and made connections between current events and our coursework. In these classes, we were encouraged to say whatever we were thinking during class, regardless of the perspicacity of the comment.

Now…library instruction can’t be all that can it? Perhaps not.

But it can be more lively, engaging, and truly educational than the same-old same-old.

Most librarians only have brief opportunities to reach students; perhaps five instruction sessions or maybe even just one. Which is truly not enough, but we have to work with what we get, cooperate with professors, and show our willingness to help out so that maybe next semester we get longer periods of time to work with students.

As I sat down to write this blog post, I reflected both on my experiences as a student and as an instructor. What follows are a few things that I have learned from teaching instruction sessions, providing reference at the main undergraduate reference desk, and from being a student, both as an undergraduate and as a graduate.

  • Most students that I have encountered have never been in a library, or if they have been in one, they have never really used it. This means they have no idea how the catalog works, what call numbers and subject headings are, or how to locate an item on the shelf. For the instructor, this means: SLOW DOWN. The students truly have no idea what you’re talking about!
  • Slowing down often means scaling back; you won’t be able to cover as much material as you intended. But you can make the material you cover more meaningful and helpful to the students.
  • The best advice I ever received when wrestling with learning a difficult subject matter: PLAY! Set up games where students can play and learn at the same time. This might be Reference Sources Jeopardy, library terminology Wheel of Fortune, setting up a library geocaching hunt to locate resources, anything! But inserting a little friendly competition always gets juices going, especially if there are some sweet treats involved!
  • Heed a phrase I heard often when I worked in social services: Meet the client where they’re at. That is, where is the student starting from? Do you know? Can you find out? Know your audience! What kind of technology do they use on a daily basis? Can you create a class Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, or Instagram account that they can use for discussions, status updates on research projects, library treasure hunt finds, sharing links, etc.? From social media, can you move them beyond to other useful technologies like digital storytelling or developing their own altmetrics sites?
  • Another branch off of that idea: do your students need to go in the library to find you? What if you went to them, not just for instruction, but for weekly research help in their department? What if you could use that time to help them research, ask them what they need (a book for class? a book for pleasure? there’s so much you can help with!) and just generally be available! And why not have a small book display and candy while you’re at it…I’m not above a little bribery to engage with students!
  • Alternate activities! I don’t want to sit and listen to anyone, much less myself, drag on for an hour straight. Alternate games with quizzes with research and database exploration and you will find that your students are better able to pay attention and remember your takeaways.
  • Speaking of, what are your takeaways for students? What is the most useful thing you can teach them? In my opinion, it’s letting the student know where they can get help. Test them on the location of the general reference desk, their subject liaison, what the library can help them with and where (tech help, the reserve desk, writing center, security, etc.).
  • Help the students engage with each other about ideas. Give them room and time to think through their research topics with each other, brainstorm key words and concepts, unravel the nitty-gritty of developing an idea and deciding whether it will be a good one for a final paper. That is, help them help each other develop the research skills they will need throughout their lives.

Need ideas? We all need a jumpstart once in a while! Here are some sites I visit for mumblings and musings about innovation and instruction.


And especially the 7 Things You Should Know About series

A great presentation by Meredith Farkas

Some great mobile learning apps

I follow blogs to get new ideas!

Designer Librarian

Meredith Farkas

By: Jessica Breiman, University of Utah Marriott Library

Let’s make personalized local maps!

A local resident residing in Orangeville, Utah decided to make his own map for Orangeville City in an effort to guide fellow climbers towards the notorious undocumented bouldering area, Joe’s Valley, Utah.

This map now resides at the Orangeville Library in Emery County. Free copies are available for tourists travelling through. This map has proven useful to mountain climbing enthusiasts looking for guides to bouldering areas nearby.

The point of this story is that there are many climbing areas that are difficult to find. One area that comes to mind is Blue John’s Canyon, where Aron Ralston was stuck “Between a Rock and a Hard Place” for days alone without much food and water.

There are maps and directions to Blue John’s canyon, however, they are not as user-friendly as the aforementioned Orangeville map. Also, Google Maps is not able to generate directions to Blue John’s canyon from many major highways that house the area from the North and East. Prove me wrong if you can.

Therefore, I would encourage libraries to work together with local patrons on building collections of maps that are more user-friendly. There are plenty of reference books, digital maps, and great minds that can customize maps to fit the needs of local patrons on the hunt for one or many of the myriad trails in the great state of Utah.

Imagine the opportunity to build customized collections of local hotspots. Rather than digging through a pile of books for directions to one place, why not have maps on hand to expedite the process.

Just something to think about.

Download pdf map : Orangeville:Castle Dale Map

By Kristen Stehel, Utah State Library


logo_808707_printI just want everyone to know, though I may have already made this abundantly clear through past podcasts and blog posts, that I AM A HUGE SUPPORTER OF ILEAD USA Utah! The deadline for applications is only two weeks away and I encourage everyone to get involved. Creative Libraries Utah is a product of ILEAD USA Utah 2013. This program and our project have been an important success in my career. I had the opportunity to work with colleagues and mentors from across the state and country. I was taught skills that helped develop a participatory technology, but more importantly, that helped develop me professionally.

A great example of what ILEAD USA Utah can do is Librarians from several universities and the Utah State Archives built a beautiful and still growing digital collection about historical Highway 89. ILEAD projects are not constrained by your walls or your communities, but by your ideas and willingness to explore.

This program allows you to take chances with new ideas in a safe environment. The primary role of each ILEAD Team is to create an innovative program directly addressing an identified user need. Individual participants will join together in diverse teams, including public, school, and academic librarians, as well as specialized library staff members.” This is an amazing opportunity to work on one of the many innovations that are stuck in your brain or in the pipeline. Success will not be measured with a year-end review, but by how much you take away from the program. 

If you are a library manager or in charge of an institution, find ways to get your people involved. There are great ideas among your staff and they are waiting for a forum and opportunity to blossom. You can help your staff develop professionally and be more fulfilled (and that is never a bad thing.) Encourage them to apply. Encourage them to grow.

Creative Libraries Utah’s own Kristen Stehel is the Program Director for ILEAD USA Utah for the Utah State Library. If you have any questions please contact her! [email protected]


By: Dustin Fife, San Juan County Library Director and ULA President-Elect


Working with Statistics

By: Kristen Stehel, Utah State Library

Here is an excellent observation of statistics. Enjoy and share ideas with this thought-provoking presentation by Annie Smith, Utah Librarian. I viewed this presentation live and it was awesome!

This presentation was part of: “From Statistics to Story: Making Your Numbers Meaningful”


Friday, August 15th, 2014   or


Screen Shot 2014-08-17 at 7.21.50 AM



Episode #052–John Spears, Executive Director of the Salt Lake City Public Library (with a special guest visit from Kristen Stehel)

evillibrarianslogoToday John Spears visits the podcast to discuss his first year as Executive Director of the Salt Lake City Public Library. John came to Salt Lake after serving as a library director in two different suburban Chicago library systems and has been doing fabulous work. We discuss the amazing staff John inherited, the great outreach that SLCPL does, and the two new branch libraries that are currently under construction. John brings great experience and perspective to the podcast and the Utah library community.

Evil Librarians Podcast 052

Time to do the dirty work!

logo_808707_print“Leadership is the process by which one individual influences the behaviors, attitudes and thoughts of others.  Leaders set the direction by helping others see what lies ahead and rising to the challenges.  They see everyone’s potential and encourage and inspire those around them.  Leading by example is a trait of a true leader.  A group of individuals with poor leadership will quickly degenerate into conflict, because everyone sees things differently and will naturally lean toward different solutions.”


This is much more a reminder than an innovation; but it seems just as important to me as any new gadget or idea. Our colleagues and employees must see us working! If you are a library manager or supervisor it is essential that you do not endlessly retreat to your office (regardless of how much work you are getting done). If you are an employee with no supervisory role whatsoever, you cannot spend your day on Facebook or shelving one cart of books. If you are somewhere in between, you can’t do either. We all see each other’s work and we form opinions and preferences. More often than not, we lead by our example, not our words or memos.

Colleagues and employees need to see that we understand protocols and procedures. They need to see that we are able to work with patrons and other staff members just as they are expected to. They need to see our investment in our jobs, institutions, and them. At the same time, I am not imploring you to flaunt your accomplishments or CV fillers. Leading by example is humility personified. I expressed concerns about ever leaving my current position to my wife the other day. I told her that I would be scared to leave my little library corner, that it would be hard to go to a new library and not know what I was doing. I think we often feel incompetent when we are in a new situation. My wife reminded me that it was normal and that I would just need to be humble, recognize what I do not know or understand, and ask for help. We can all ask for help and we should all lend a hand.

Libraries are only as good as the employees, so engagement and fulfillment for the staff are essential. These are a few of the things that I have been thinking about:

Managers and supervisors, open your literal and figurative doors. Give your employees an opportunity to grow and invest in their work by incorporating their ideas.

Managers and supervisors, work with your employees every week. Work on the reference desk. Work at circulation. Help with programming. You cannot lead if you are not involved. You cannot serve your community without this knowledge and you cannot help your employees reach their potential.

Everyone, ask new employees, whether they are new to the profession or just new to your library, for ideas. They will have a fresh perspective. It will also encourage their investment in the institution.

Everyone, communicate and try not to get discouraged. Be open and vulnerable.

Everyone, most importantly, WORK! I have a lot of respect for people who work hard, even when I disagree with their ideas.

By: Dustin Fife, San Juan County Library Director and ULA President-Elect



Episode #051–Joseph Anderson, Logan Public Library, Cache Valley Library Association President, and Utah Library Association Historian

evillibrarianslogoToday Joseph Anderson is on the podcast and he is a librarian that wears many different hats. Joseph is the Adult Nonfiction and Reference Services Librarian at the Logan Public Library; he is also the President of the Cache Valley Library Association and the Historian of the Utah Library Association. Joseph shares his experience with each of these organizations and we have a great conversation about collaboration, programming, and how events at the library for all ages models life-long learning for children and young adults.

Evil Librarians Podcast 051

Assessment on the Fly (Sorta)


Assessment is the bane of my existence as an instruction librarian.  No need to be coy about it. Before each semester, I revisit, re-evaluate, and rework all of my assessment tools. Are they giving me the information I need? What are my students getting/not getting? Is the format appropriate? How time-consuming is it for me to review and respond to each student’s quiz, for example? And are they reading my replies? Needless to say, it’s clear that there’s a lot of energy, time, and trial and error involved when it comes to developing and using assessments.

My style of instruction runs on the quick-and-dirty side: A little bit of lecture, a little bit of demonstration, and a little bit of hands-on time. In the past, I’ve asked students (much to their chagrin) to take a quiz after each library visit outside of classroom time via Canvas. We’re talking multiple choice, ten or so questions, and the occasional short answer. Time and again, their scores tell me that they’re either not retaining what they’ve learned and practiced in my class, OR they suck at taking quizzes. And, yeah, they do vocally lament how much time it takes to complete a quiz.

So, my interest was piqued when one of my colleagues at the Marriott Library, Dr. Donna Ziegenfuss, suggested that I try using Poll Everywhere as an alternative to the traditional-format quiz.  Here’s how it works, according to the folks at P.E.:

1. Ask your audience a question with the Poll Everywhere app.
2. Audience answers in real time using mobile phones, Twitter, or web browsers.
3. See your response live on the web or in a PowerPoint presentation.

So, the major selling points here are ease-of use, instant gratification, and an engaging interface for students. This method of instruction is referred to as “adaptive learning” because of the interactive technology component, and students (anecdotally–I haven’t done my research here) seem to respond well to it.

Give it a shot and reply back to me your thoughts/questions/outcomes. Poll Everywhere is taking a minor role in my classrooms this fall.

By: Adriana Parker, University of Utah Marriott Library