Category Archives: Academic

Alternatives to CRAAP


If you’re a teaching librarian, you’re probably familiar with the CRAAP Test. In fact, “familiar” is probably a major understatement. I’ve peddled it for years. For those of you who are uninitiated, the CRAAP Test was created by the good folks at the Meriam Library at CSU, Chico; it’s a quick(ish) test for evaluating information that you find, oh, anywhere, but predominantly on the Open Web.

While I have taught CRAAP to students, it’s definitely not ideal. No disrespect, Meriam Librarians. But in my experience, it’s a pretty tough sell–even when points are attached to completing it–and, generally, students don’t retain much in spite of the catchy acronym. So, I decided to go a different route and make the learning experience more active and less rote. One of my colleagues suggested taking a constructivist approach based on cognitive development, which assumes that some of the methods we use to teach information evaluation, like the CRAAP Test, are developmentally beyond undergraduates’ abilities. Most freshman (if they’re part of the typical demographic) believe in right answers and wrong answers; their analytical skills aren’t so nuanced that they can easily determine if information is relevant to their research needs. They’re simply looking for “good” information, whatever that means–especially if it’s on the first page of Google results. (I say that with all the compassion I can muster, no judgment.)

Benjes-Small (et al) wrote a great piece last year for Communications in Information Literacy called “Teaching Web Evaluation: A Cognitive Development Approach.” I totally recommend looking it up (citation below). I’ll give you the nutshell version:

1. Put students on teams, show them a site that isn’t credible, ask them to come up with five reasons why it’s not.
2. Give students a topic, ask them to brainstorm what a gold standard site for that topic would look like/include. Who’d write the content? How current would the site be? What about the URL extension? And so on.

In both activities, you can categorize their responses according to the 5 Ws (who, what, when, where, why).

3. Ask the students to apply their gold standard criteria and find a credible website about their topic. You can do this piece as a competition. They kiiiiiiiind of love it.

Needless to say, because you give them a safe place to start by saying, “Hey, this is what BAD information looks like” and also give them autonomy to identify what’s “good,” they tend to be more nuanced in their evaluations. They’re also more invested because they’re actively participating in discussion and brainstorming, rather than having to reply to a lengthy list of questions. And if you’re like me, you fire them off, auctioneer-style to make it more high action. (I kid, I kid.) I’ve used this approach for one-shot and multiple-shot visits, and it’s been wildly successful. You actually get the students to talk to you!

Okay, so, now it’s your turn: What do you folks do to teach information evaluation?


Benjes-Small, C., Archer, A., Tucker, K., Vassady, L., & Resor, J. (2013). Web evaluation: A cognitive development approach. Communications in Information Literacy, 7(1), 39-49.

By: Adriana Parker, University of Utah J. Willard Marriott Library 

Episode #065–Job Hunt: Searching, Applying, Preparing, and Interviewing


Today, Tegan and Dustin are talking about searching for work and the hiring process. Both Tegan and Dustin are in a transition period and they discuss insights they have gained recently while searching for jobs, preparing resumes, interviewing, and the many other facets of the JOB HUNT! Tegan and Dustin also discuss their exciting new positions.

Evil Librarians Podcast 065

Triple Threat: Teaching, Research, and Technology in Higher Education

logo_808707_printThis week, I’m going to take advantage of you, my favorite captive audience, and shamelessly plug an upcoming innovation-centric event. Sleazy, I know, but I swear it’s worth your while to keep reading.

On February 27, 2015, the J. Willard Marriott Library is hosting our first ever Symposium on Emerging Technology Trends in Higher Education. Taking a cue from the New Media Consortium’s 2014 Horizon Report, the symposium will explore the intersection of teaching, research, and technology and higher education.

And this is where you come into the picture, dear readers: We’re inviting presenters to talk about their perspectives on that intersection, focusing on challenges, trends, and future developments. You can check out the call for papers for presentation ideas, but you’re certainly not limited to those suggestions. The proceedings will be published as an open access journal following the symposium.

And here’s the real kicker. The symposium is a free (FREE!) day-long event, and we will provide a coffee service and a light lunch.

To register to attend or to submit a proposal, please visit our site.

By: Adriana Parker, J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

Episode #061–Meredith Farkas, Faculty Librarian for Portland Community College, Researcher, Writer, Blogger, and Openness Advocate

evillibrarianslogoToday we have Meredith Farkas on the podcast. Meredith is a librarian at Portland Community College, a well-known blogger, writes a technology column for American Libraries, skeptic of tenure, and advocate of openness. Meredith has a great perspective on librarianship and how to help the people!

Evil Librarians Podcast 061

Resources we discuss:

Information Wants To Be Free

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

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

Look Out, Honey, Cause I’m Usin’ Technology

There’s nothing like a good Iggy and the Stooges reference to get you pumped about geographic information systems (or GIS) in libraries. According to the clever folks at Wikipedia, GIS “is a computer system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyze, manage, and present all types of geographical data.” Intimidating, right? Not so, says Anne Morrow, the Digital Initiatives Librarian at the Marriott Library; instead, she describes it as “easy.”

Anne partners with Justin Sorensen, a GIS Specialist, to develop projects like the Historical GIS of Salt Lake City, which takes diverse sources of data, such as base maps, photographs, census data, chemical data, and survey data about surface water in the Salt Lake Valley and inserts that information into Google Earth in order to allow users to explore and evaluate (among other things) the historical, environmental, and health impacts of, say, chemical exposure to specific locations around SLC.

Homeowners, according to the group’s Salt Lake City Geoportal site, “can also view demographics for their neighborhood to learn more about the history of the community they live in.  For some homeowners, there will be much interest in examining EPA graphics for chemical contamination.  Learning the nature and proximity of the chemical contamination, what it means to them and their community.” And that’s just one of the many potential uses for these data sets and primary source materials in a GIS environment.

Justin is also in the process of developing an interactive 3D reconstruction of Salt Lake City, referring to a collection of 1950s Sanborn Fire Insurance maps for information on building names, addresses, composition, and height.

The good news, you guys, is that this is only a tiny preview. You can expect to hear more about these and other GIS projects that are in the works at the Marriott Library in the very near future. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming interview with Anne for the Evil Librarians Podcast. Not only will she reassure you about the ease of use of GIS technologies, she’ll also tell you some great stories. Because, really, that’s what GIS is all about–taking data and turning it into narrative.

Digital Public Library of America

Have you heard of DPLA? If you haven’t, you’re in for a nice surprise! DPLA is an all-digital, national library that pulls together the metadata of digital objects (books, films, images, photographs, etc.) hosted by libraries, archives, and special collections around the country and amasses them in a single portal with a single, powerful search engine.

There’s tons of cool stuff to be discovered; and don’t worry if you don’t have time at work to peek around…DPLA has a library of apps to help you discover its content on your mobile device when you’re waiting for the train to arrive, sitting in a doctor’s office, or simply have a free moment to browse the possibilities. Interested in using DPLA for research? Try the guide I created!






Here is a link to one of the best cultural and archival projects that I have seen in a long time. This archive is relevant to Utah culture and history, Western culture and history, and just about anyone who loves to get in a car and drive. This archive focuses on US Highway 89 that spanned from Canada to Mexico and cut right through the state of Utah. If you have any collections or information relevant to this collection please contact the people at We are in the process of creating a permanent links page and will be included.


Copyright: The Highway 89 promotional flyer is not released under public domain. Copyright for Highway to Grandeur by John Clark is shared between John Clark and Utah State University.

Lesson Plans and Instructional Tools from the Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University


Here are some great Lesson Plans from the Merrill-Cazier Library at Utah State University. They focus on first and second year English classes and how librarians can help instructors to teach research skills. These are being published with some rights reserved. Merrill-Cazier Library should be attributed when using these documents!

English 1010_Model_Writing_Prompt-1

English 1010-library visit 1

English 1010-library visit 2

sequence-English 2010

A big thanks to Pamela Martin, a Reference and Instruction Librarian at the Merrill-Cazier Library

This entry was posted in Academic and tagged English, Research Guides on by .