Archive for September, 2009

I Love a Good List!

I love reading and exploring a good list almost as much as I enjoy making a list and one of my favorite annual lists has just been released: Best Free Reference Web Sites 2009

I have just spent a very fun hour or so perusing the picks for this year and am pleased to see some of my standard favorites listed and also to discover a few new good finds for future use.

Some new discoveries I am sure to find use for are Business & Human Rights Resource Centre as well as Local Harvest and LocalHikes.

Some of my favorites that I am happy to see included this year are ePodunk and Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL).

This annual list has been published for 11 years by the Machine-Assisted Reference Section (MARS) of the Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association — say that five times fast!  Visit this link to access the combined index of the selections from the last five years of this valuable project.

submitted by: Janie L. Hermann


September 30, 2009 at 10:59 am 1 comment

At what point do we stop investing in a format?

By Tyler Rousseau

My wife and I just bought an HDTV as a spoil-ourselves gift for our five year anniversary.  Of course, being a type-A compulsive who needs to take things about one step further than necessary, I started looking for ways to extend our viewing pleasures.

While a Blu-ray player would seem to be the next logical step for most, I was a little wary.

I decided to head to the local electronics store and ask their opinions on the matter.

The employee recommended I buy the PS3, which comes with a Blu-ray.  When I asked for any other suggestions, he was ‘hesitant.”  While he clarified that there was nothing wrong with Blue-ray players (quality of video and sound was definitely superior to other options) he wasn’t positive that this format was the way to go when upgrading your media.

It was an interesting lecture (I hesitate to call it a conversation). Since his answer took well over 10 minutes, I am just going to try to highlight his argument in bullet points.

  • If Blu-ray were to take off it probably would have done so by now. It took audio CDs less than ten years to overtake audio cassettes. One of Samsung’s Executives made a statement that he thinks Blu-ray will be gone in another five years.  Not a very optimistic outlook.
  • Netflix has taken off in a seriously big way and that is not really a good thing for DVDs or Blu-rays.  It means people may be watching Blue-rays but they are actually buying less.  In fact current economic conditions have led more people to renting nowadays.
  • On the topic of increasing rentals, Redbox isn’t helping the situation.
  • Blu-ray is already in a new format war…
  • Downloadable movies are looking more and more like the next big format.  Whether through your cable provider or the Internet, the instant gratification of streaming movies, in HD no less, is a tough thing to compete against for the casual viewer.
  • While not quite ready, many TV manufacturers are looking to include wi-fi connections to their products.
  • There was one other point; something about not having to buy things, possessions being fleeting and sticking it to the man or whatever, but I’ll just skip over that one.

While this did nothing in terms of getting a sale from me it was definitely food for thought.

The lecture got me thinking about the difficulties of introducing new medias into a library collection.  It then got me thinking about old collections; more specifically, when to stop funding the collection.

Obviously, changes in formats are nothing new.  Even in the relatively short time I have been in the profession, I’ve seen libraries stop buying audio-cassettes, CD-Roms and videotapes.  More so, I’ve seen them stop purchasing the paper copies of publications in order to invest in the cheaper online versions.

And while I definitely applaud libraries who have decided to invest in Blu-rays I do wonder about how long this media has.  While 5 years seems a little short to me, I would not be surprised to see it obsolete within 10.

By all means, let me hear it; at what point do we back out from a format?

By Tyler Rousseau

September 30, 2009 at 12:00 am 4 comments

Access denied

by April Bunn

Most of us have no control over it.
It gets people really upset when they run up against it.

The Internet Filter

access deniedHopefully you aren’t trying to read this at a school computer because you’d probably have  your “access denied” with most of my links below.

As a School Library Media Specialist, I am all too familiar with a great teaching moment being ruined by a blocked website. Linda Underwood’s School Library Monthly article “21st-Century Learning Blocked: What is a School Librarian to Do?” (September’s issue-not available online yet) inspired me to think more about this topic. This past week one of my colleagues was blocked from using National Geographic and another was blocked from downloading her Promethean Board software, so I knew it was time to get this done.  The technology teacher and I just convinced many of these teachers to branch out and use new technology and this filter is discouraging them rapidly.  Just to give you an idea of what it’s like with these filters:

  • We can’t use any image or video sites at all (so long to those Google Images on our web pages and for student projects and no-can-do on that great video you found on Abraham Lincoln on YouTube).
  • Also, no access to sites that have a shopping cart feature, like Barnes and Noble, making it a serious challenge to place orders when we are registering for conferences, ordering books and supplies.
  • No technical or business forums (see below)

Ironically, as I try to finalize this post, sitting at my desk after school dismisses, I am blocked from previewing the post on WordPress with the response screen below:


filter blockedblocked

You cannot access the following Web address:
The site you requested is blocked under the following categories: Technical/Business Forums
You can:
Temporarily override filtering on this computer if you have an override name and password. (Note that your administrator may be notified that you’ve bypassed filtering.)
Use your browser’s Back button or enter a different Web address to continue.


Surveying other Libraries

After suffering from blocks preventing her from using pieces of Web 2.0 in her teaching, National Board Certified Teacher and Instructional Technology Integrator  Sharon Elin used her blog at, to conduct a survey about which popular sites were blocked and find out what other schools were allowing. Her results, displayed in colorful graphs, represent the more controversial of sites, but even simple sites that include questionable images are blocked from most students.

As Media Specialists, we are responsible, along with our Technology colleagues, for teaching about safe internet searching and strategies for effective information retrieval. As one of Elin’s responders wrote, “Teaching students about internet safety in a highly filtered environment is like teaching kids to swim in a pool without water.”

edutwist quote

So why do we have to have them?

In 2000, Congress enacted the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA). As a result of that Act, many schools and libraries got grants for technology or joined the E-Rate program, a discounted pricing system set up by the FCC for telecommunication services, Internet access, and internal connections. One requirement of these programs was to certify that you are using computer filtering software programs to prevent the “on-screen depiction of obscenity, child pornography or material that is harmful to minors”.  Nobody is really arguing that schools against schools being a safe place, away from highly offensive material. As librarians, our collection development is monitored by administration and the purchasing has to be supported with some curricular connection.  What we as educators are saying is that the filters that are in place in schools are blocking educational information that could be inspiring to a child. Parents must understand that their children are losing out on dynamic learning communities created by Web 2.0 developments.

We’re being forced to bypass the filter

In most cases, educators are waiting for technical administrators to release the block after explaining how they are going to be using it in they teaching. By the way, these tech administrators are NOT teachers or librarians; they are IT people and network security experts that are now responsible for evaluating things like 5th grade students’ research on endangered species. Are we even speaking the same language? I don’t think so. In my school, those requests are only read once a week.

As a result, we’ve (older students and teachers) resorted to bypassing and unblocking the filter on our own. My Google search returned over 1 million hits when using the search terms “how to bypass school internet filters” and the responses included videos and instructions galore. A large portion of these requests could be from students as well.

A few examples are:

eHoweHow (

is just one of the many sites giving step by step directions how to bypass the filter. They call it a “circumvention” of the block and don’t make any attempt to discuss the issue: “Whether or not these blocks are justified or a waste of time, whether they are a form of censorship or a method of managing resources, are topics that can be debated another time.”  They give 3 sets of directions depending on what you’d like to use: a translation service, URL redirection service, or web proxy.

Quick tips graphic Quick Online Tips ( has a page called “Top 10 Ways to Unblock Websites”

We know about it but won’t widely risk it

Most of the school librarians that I spoke to knew that these methods existed, but many had only used it once or twice, or were scared to be caught. The law specifically states, “An administrator, supervisor, or person authorized by the responsible authority [i.e. school, school board, local educational agency, or other authority with responsibility for administration of such school] may disable the technology protection measure concerned to enable access for bona fide research or other lawful purposes.”

Can’t we just block the students’ computers?

No. The FCC’s E-Rate program is specific that every computer have the filter engaged, “The FCC is imposing the requirements on ALL Internet-accessible computers used by the schools and libraries, including public, student, staff and administrative workstations on the Internet because the law made no distinction between school and library computers that are used only by adult staff, and those used by children or the public.” If we’re hoping schools will allow us to have more access than our students, it looks like we’ll be waiting awhile. If you refer to Elin’s survey, the communication service Skype is almost the only site that was allowed on more teacher computers than student ones. That wasn’t true in my school this month when a teacher was blocked from Skype or Google Video Chat to demonstrate communication across the world with her son who is teaching English in Korea.

SKype Chart

Skype Chart

What can we hope for in the future?

I’m trying to be optimistic in how I think filters will be used in schools of the future. Otherwise I’d feel like my degree in Library and Information Science may not be best suited for a school library career. My dreams are for:

  • Trust from our Administration that we are professionals and will use the internet wisely in our teaching
  • Filtering programs that are created by educators and parents
  • Websites designing “school-safe” versions for filter approval
  • Open access to dynamic information online without lurking viruses and predators
  • Faith from the parents whose children we inspire on a daily basis that we are working to create better global citizens

by April Bunn, School Library Media Specialist in a PreK-6th Grade School

September 28, 2009 at 2:23 pm 15 comments

How to Reach Gen M(illennials) in the Library and Classroom–A Panel Discussion

Co-editors (Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic & Robert J. Lackie) of the book Teaching Generation M: A Handbook for Librarians and Educators (Neal-Schuman Publishers, Inc., 2009) and three of the chapter authors (Katie Elson Anderson, Patricia H. Dawson, and Diane K. Campbell) participated in a panel discussion last night. The event, sponsored by the Rutgers University–Camden’s Cappuccino Academy (a series of free public lectures delivered by Rutgers–Camden faculty members) was held at the Barnes & Noble in Marlton, NJ. All five panelists–library faculty members at Rutgers University and Rider University–briefly discussed their findings on this new generational cohort and how technology can and has been enriching the library and classroom experience for them.

Lead editor and chapter author Vibiana Bowman Cvetkovic (Rutgers University) began the discussion by welcoming the audience, introducing the panelists, and talking about why she was so interested in co-editing and writing sections of the book, not to mention having her own personal cohort of Gen M students at home. Vibiana also provided some background on the book, which offers advice on everything from teachers joining Facebook to the pitfalls of Google searches. She mentioned that one of the most significant aspects about Gen M is that they are the first generation raised in an era of personal and real-time information sharing and provided some examples. Last but not least, she made available a discount order form for those who might be interested in purchasing a personal copy, or one for their library or school.

Co-editor and chapter author Robert J. Lackie (Rider University) spoke next, emphasizing that we need to remember, as library faculty members, to strive to satisfy all of our “customers,” and that includes Gen M students, faculty, and staff–those born in the early 1980’s to the mid-to-late 1990’s. He shared research from the book and on the Web about Millennials (aka Gen M), including a few points via presentations by Richard Sweeney, University Librarian at NJIT, to help us all better understand this unique cohort. Richard has stated that Gen M:

  • Expect/demand more choices
  • Want more personalization/customization
  • Want instant gratification
  • Like multitasking, IMing, text messaging, and collaborating online
  • Are experiential learners
  • Are open to change

Note: Library Garden bloggers interviewed Richard Sweeney, who is a recognized expert on understanding and engaging the Millennial Generation, almost three years ago and this post is still available.

Robert finished by sharing some of the witty “cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college” found again in this year’s Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2013, such as, “Text has always been hyper” and “Everyone has always known what the evening news was before the Evening News came on,” two of the 75 comments on this year’s list.

Patricia H. Dawson and Diane K. Campbell (Rider University), who co-authored Chapter 2 in the book, entitled, “Driving Fast to Nowhere on the Information Highway: A Look at Shifting Paradigms of Literacy in the Twenty-First Century,” spoke about emergent issues and challenges we face as librarians and educators while working with Gen M. They provided information comparing different types of literacy (i.e., literacy, computer literacy, and information literacy) and provided a handout/table to the audience members explaining this. They discussed how Gen M struggles with judging information for reliability, validity, accuracy, authority, timeliness, and point of view or bias because so much of the information that Gen M students find online, especially the validity of that information, is much more difficult to assess than within most print sources. They noted that there, unfortunately, are fewer “quality cues” with a lot of online information on the free Web.

Katie Elson Anderson (Rutgers University), who authored “Chapter 8: YouTube and YouTube-iness: Educating Gen M Through the Use of Online Video,” may have spoken last, but she definitely caught the attention of the audience as she discussed the extreme popularity and the educational uses of YouTube (including YouTube EDU) and several other video sites for teaching and working with Gen M. Video sites she highlighted during her talk at Barnes & Noble were the following:

As I have recently mentioned to many others, I was especially happy to announce the publication of our book on a Library Garden blog post back in July when it first became available in bookstores online (e.g., Amazon and B&N) because several Library Garden (LG) bloggers wrote chapters for the book, including a very recent new team member of LG, John LeMasney of Rider University, who co-wrote our book’s “Introduction: The Myths, Realities, and Practicalities of Working with Gen M.” OK, I know…, this is such shameless self-promotion, but I really am so proud of the LG contributors, in addition to other experts from around North America, whose hard work and diligence shine throughout our book.

By the way, here is a free PDF of the table of contents now available, listing all contributors and their chapters. We hope you enjoy reading about the above panel discussion/book talk, as well as the book itself, and we welcome your comments.



September 11, 2009 at 8:15 am 5 comments

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