Why is diversity in fiction important? Because diversity in life is important. And when we exclude—intentionally or otherwise—characters of color from our work, we do send a billboard message to readers. We tell them that people of color aren’t there, aren’t important, aren’t worthy of our stories. That they don’t deserve to be part of the conversation of our books. That reading isn’t for them. That they don’t matter. That they don’t even register on our radar.

I adore teenagers. That’s why I write for them. They’re special and magical and full of life; they’re truly the best of us. As young adult authors, our words have power. The power to entertain. The power to inform. The power to inspire. And most importantly, the power to change the lives of teen readers—to really make a difference. If, as Truby believes, stories express the idea that human beings can become better versions of ourselves, then I want to show YA readers that those better versions look like them, too.

All of them.

—  Sarah Ockler talks to white authors about what doesn’t count as diversifying fiction, why certain fears hold some people back, and responsibility (via richincolor)

Pedagogy in Academic Libraries

Teaching information literacy skills is an integral part of an academic librarian’s work. While most librarians would agree that this teaching aspect is invaluable, how to effectively teach students or faculty about information resources can be difficult. In order to work effectively with faculty and help students,  academic librarians have a responsibility to familiarize themselves with lesson planning and theory. This paper will discuss the need for more MLIS programs to incorporate instructional strategies in the courses they offer and discuss some pedagogical approaches that academic librarians can take to more effectively serve their users.

Library collaboration with different groups of the campus community is one initiative that the American Library Association supports because instruction is linked to principles of good service (Hook et al. 2004). The perceived lack of training available to instruction/reference librarians is an issue that library administration and the profession must address. For example, there are hardly any opportunities for MLIS students to be teaching assistants, and there are very few courses on instruction, despite the fact that information literacy is quickly becoming a more function librarians perform on campus (Julien 2005). According to a 2002 study about librarian-specific skill proficiency, most respondents believed they learned their job skills while at work. However, many respondents also mentioned that they seek out workshops and conferences to improve their teaching skills. Hook et al. (2004) point out that the Association for College and Research Libraries (ACRL) encourage librarians to participate in professional development with a focus on education. The Library Instruction Roundtable (LIRT) and the National Forum for Information Literacy are two organisations that encourage librarians to improve their teaching information literacy skills. One of ACRL’s most important contributions to information literacy was creating the Institute for Information Literacy (ILL). This organization aims to help librarians better integrate information literacy skills in their services through workshops on the education process (Hook et al. 2004).

Considering the heavy reliance most undergraduates have on web-based resources, one extremely valuable instructional tool is online tutorials. What the librarian must ask him or herself is what kind of materials do students need to complete their research? Effective online instruction should have tutorial topics clearly listed on the first page of the research instruction page of the library website. (Su & Kuo 2010) Many academic library websites have a set of tutorials that teach students key research skills, such as basic searching skills, how to locate information, how to evaluate resources to determine its academic value, and types of information resources they have at their libraries. There is no singular way to teach students online, and a 2010 study by Su and Kuo, reported several types of programming that were more extensive than others. For example, they cite the Online Advancement of Student Information Skills (OASIS) as one method that is particularly useful when a librarian cannot teach a student research skills in-person. That program emphasizes locating information, Boolean search logic, and how to legally or ethically use information in accordance with copyright laws. Ultimately, web-based pedagogy tends to be for “point of need” answers, which fulfill basic information seeking skills. (Su & Kuo 2010)

Nonetheless, both online and in-person instruction can be effective by using the following three teaching strategies separately or in conjunction with one another: The first is active learning where the student can work on brief “assignments” or complete online quizzes to help master what they have learned. It focuses on some kind of interaction between the tutorial program and/or the librarian via chat or email.  Active learning tends to be the most effective type of instructional tool, when the student is allowed to use a tool during the instruction exercise. One excellent way is to begin the transaction by asking the student what he or she has already done for their research, where their struggles might be, and show where their information-seeking behaviour can be improved (Oakleaf & VanScoy 2009). This strategy tends to work best with an individual student or a very small group. However, this kind of instructional method can help the librarian identify patterns in undergraduate information-seeking needs and/or behaviours so they can adjust their teaching style or adjust online tutorials to make them more effective (Oakleaf & VanScoy 2009). As Oakleaf and VanScoy (2009) put it, “The overriding principle for this strategy is to allow students to make decisions and take actions while librarians serve as guides who create connections, help students see patterns, ask relevant questions, and encourage reflection.”

The next strategy is situation simulation. In this case, the tutorial program provides the student with a particular research question, while simultaneously providing a step-by-step guide on how to complete their task. Finally, question-oriented presents the student with a problem they can solve using the tools provided in the tutorial (Su & Kuo 2010). For digital and in-person reference help, where there is great opportunity to include a teaching component, librarians can use positive reinforcement to encourage their student when they demonstrate positive information-seeking skills. The goal of this type of positive reinforcement is that it will also encourage students to put their new skills to use in the future, ideally without too much struggle (Oakleaf & VanScoy 2009).

One important aspect of pedagogy is having clear goals in mind, and this principle is applicable to both web-based and in-person information literacy transactions. Walker and Engel (2003) propose the following goals for information literacy teaching: Instruction librarians can help students by acknowledging strengths and weaknesses of how the retrieve information already. Interestingly, much information literacy teaching strategies heavily emphasise the importance of teaching the student how to verifying data and evaluate critically the sources of information that they find. So many students trust what the find doing an extremely simple Google search or Wikipedia search that they accept the legitimacy of the information without much question. Additionally, a librarian in a teaching role must establish information-seeking where information literacy is extremely important when researching for their classes.

Their study also points out the value of print resources, which are often forgotten in the sea of instantly available web resources. Information pedagogy offers and excellent opportunity to remedy a highly problematic issue in academic librarianship: Thorough instruction services either in-class or online creates a venue for increased awareness and visibility for reference librarians and also demonstrates their usefulness in the academic setting. (Walker & Engel 2003) Additionally, demonstrating how search skills can help them in more than one course also helps students be more aware of the importance of librarians to their academic careers. In a more formalized setting, information literacy or teaching librarians can approach faculty who make learning about information sources and services part of their coursework or even a part of their classroom or tutorials, which again remedies issues of visibility of library resources and librarians. (Walker & Engel 2003)

Teaching research skills well is not usually a natural talent for most librarians, new or experienced. In order to fulfill core standards of service, MLIS programs and librarians must expose themselves to teaching methodologies. By increasing the visibility of librarians instructing research skills online and in-person, we can solidify our value to the campus community. 

Why it’s Time to Put More Emphasis on Information Literacy in Schools and Libraries!

“Our unprecedented access to information has us caught in a kind of limbo—we’re leaping into a digital age, yet we’re not equipping our students with the research skills and technological access they need to truly take advantage of it. In the meantime, every student at the school where I taught can still access those decade-old encyclopedias.”

The Case for Hard-Bound Reference Books in a Digital Age

Serving Seniors Effectively in the Library

The developed world is currently undergoing a serious demographic shift, in which the bulk of the population is over 50. Those born during the Baby Boom (~1946-1965) have new and increasing needs from their public libraries as their life circumstances change. (Honnold & Mesaros 2004 Indeed, many seniors are living longer than ever before, continue to work longer, and are increasingly visible in their communities. Thus, libraries must be prepared to deal with an increase in demand of services to this unique group. This report will focus on the following: the needs of seniors, how the library can meet those needs, why the library has a responsibility to provide special services to seniors, and how the library can market services to them.

Unique Needs of Seniors in the Library

Defining seniors as a homogenous group is inadequate. For one, differences between age groups in terms of information needs, interests, and experiences. For example, someone who is preparing to retire is experiencing a different period of ageing compared with someone who is in a later stage of ageing and may need assisted living services. Additionally, physical and mental abilities, education levels, life/cultural/socioeconomic experiences, and interests vary as widely among seniors as any other group of patrons. More specifically, seniors have a vested interest in areas of retirement, bereavement, active ageing, learning, managing finances, mental health, general health, and leisure activities. (Honnold & Mesaros 2004) Clearly, there is a calling for librarians to respond to these needs and develop collections accordingly.

While many seniors live relatively healthy and active lives, there are nonetheless many changes that occur in old age that affect the kinds of information they need. By visiting the library and taking advantage of specialised programming, seniors can remain informed, enjoy recreational activities, and make new friends. (Honnold & Mesaros 2004)  Studies have proven that this kind of socialisation can prevent certain types of dementia and depression brought on by isolation. However, if the library does not assess its potential physical barriers, then an entire segment of the senior population is left behind. For example, transportation can be a challenge for older seniors who no longer drive – how will they get to the library? Physical accessibility is surely another potential  barrier – ensuring that wheelchairs and walkers can fit between the stacks, that there are large print materials, and that washroom facilities are safe are all integral aspects of making seniors feel welcome in their public library. (Roberson 2001)

How the Public Library can meet Seniors’ Needs

Sketching out who the seniors are, where they live, and their cultural and educational backgrounds can give a good sense of direction of what types services are needed. Reference service is an excellent place to start when designing a plan to meet seniors’ information needs. In order to maintain the integrity of providing useful information and leisure for the all, the vast needs and interests of the elderly must be effectively studied, without resorting to stereotypical or homogenous treatment. (Van Fleet 1995)

Among the most important projects the library can take on, is networking with local agencies to increase and enhance their services to the elderly. These partnerships can increase referrals for needed services and enhancing community services databases. Providing materials in the collection that are up-to-date, large print, and relevant for the aging community is both useful and necessary to provide services to the elderly. (Van Fleet 1995) Additionally, teaching older people how to use computers and other types of technology can also help them satisfy their need for information. Considering that online health resources continue to grow, helping the elderly become computer and information literate ultimately gives them a sense of control over their lives through being knowledgeable about their health. (Xie & Bugg 2009) Perhaps most importantly is the issue of safety. Since governments are increasingly working towards making public buildings more accessible for the physically handicapped, libraries can work towards making spaces safer, more comfortable, and more easily accessible for seniors as well. (Honnold & Mesaros 2004)

Why the Public Library is Responsible for Providing Special Service to Seniors

As a public institution paid for by tax payers’ money, libraries have responsibility to provide tailored service to their patrons. Since seniors continue to make up a greater percentage of the population, public libraries should provide special services for the ageing in order to fulfil ALA and CLA values of service. Additionally, much library literature suggests a shift towards meeting community needs, instead of providing utilitarian space and materials. (Angell 2009 In order to remain as a public and democratic institution, libraries should be providing specialised service as part of outreach to the underserved, for example, homebound and/or frail seniors. Indeed, if the library is a public good, then it should respond adequately for the greatest number of people it can serve. (Angell 2009)

Interestingly, the ALA places a great deal of responsibility on itself for making contributions that can improve pressing issues that may affect their communities. (ALA 2004, Angell 2009) For example, as described above, many seniors experience isolation and depression as they lose spouses or their families move away. Not only can the library be a place for information, it can be a hub for older seniors to meet, make new friends, and enjoy recreational activities. (Honnold & Mesaros 2004)

Similarly, by reaching out to homebound seniors, the library can provide access to information to a group that tends to be underserved. Library bookmobile service to the elderly in nursing homes again fulfils an ALA core value of fair access to information for all. (ALA 2004, Angell 2009) Without specialised services for seniors, they can become isolated from their library quite easily.  Perhaps most importantly, though, is the emphasis on lifelong learning. Seniors are often eager to learn new skills and are interested in a vast array of topics. Their information needs differ from those of a child or young adult. In order to facilitate lifelong learning for seniors, libraries must adapt the ways in which they teach technologies so that the ageing can independently look for materials that interest them. (Van Fleet 1995)

Marketing Library Services to Seniors

Contacting local agencies that provide services to seniors is an effective way to attract seniors into the library. Places such as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, senior recreation centres, local religious institutions, and the like can all be helpful in attracting seniors to use library services specifically designed for them. Taking out advertising space on bulletin boards or newsletters can be cost-effective and reach a wider audience of older people. (Honnold & Mesaros 2004) Additionally, brochures or bookmarks that seniors can take at the aforementioned places can be an excellent reminder of what their pubic library can provide.


Senior citizens are a growing and vital part of their communities. They are repositories of memories and information of the past. As they continue to age, their information and recreational reading needs change. Public libraries should be prepared to serve this unique population with specialised services. As this report has demonstrated, public libraries have the ability and responsibility to provide high quality services to their ageing patrons as they would any other patron. Reaching out to seniors and bringing them into the library can be a rewarding experience for the librarian and user alike.

Prospects of Open Access Initiatives in Academic Libraries

With the cost of electronic serials and database access steadily rising while library budgets continuing to shrink, more librarians seek to find less expensive ways to provide faculty and students with valuable scholarly information.  Principles of Open Access (OA) appear to fulfil these library needs. This movement has several different trends and approaches that have emerged over time, most notably publishing style. OA literature emphasises the movement’s effects on scholarly communication. Perhaps the most important trend is how OA proliferates the consciousness of academia through local to international celebrations of the movement, which increases awareness among scholars.  At the forefront of OA are librarians, who can proactively channel their autonomy and professional principles to increase the availability of emerging research.

Beginning roughly 10 years ago, the OA movement has gained popularity in academic research libraries particularly in parts of Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America. In stark contrast to restrictive copyright practices of many academic journals, users of OA publications can freely download, save, print, and share materials freely without subscription or login requirements. OA gained more attention at the 2002 Budapest Open Access Initiative, which raised awareness on an international level on the value of scholarly research made freely accessible. The first, and perhaps one of the most important piece evidence of increasingly widespread OA journals occurred in 2003. At this time, the first Public Library of Science (PLoS) was released online for free and available to anyone with Internet access (Falk 2003). Although something of a grassroots movement, OA journals like PLoS have attracted well-known scholars particularly in the scientific and medical communities (Falk 2003).

In  a global sense, OA journals make the research of their authors public through two main channels, the gold model and the green model. In the case of the former, authors have more autonomy in deciding in which OA journal their work will appear. Another trend in the gold model is authors still publishing in subscription journals, while still being able to make their content available in an OA publication by paying a small fee. Interestingly, more subscription journal publishers are allowing authors to choose if their research will be published more openly (Rathe, Chaudhuri, & Highby 2010). One prime benefit of this model is that they are listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). Having more than 5000 journals in the repository, the impact and increasing visibility and value of these publications is better put in perspective (Fernandez et al. 2010). This type of OA publishing also makes adding electronic journal titles to academic libraries’ resources at no cost.

The “green model” is slightly different. Researchers may publish their work in a subscription journal, while having the option to make it available on discipline or institutional pages (Rathe et al. 2010). This publishing model is increasingly geared to a “self-archiving” process of research. In fact, green model OA challenges traditional principles of copyright, in that authors can retain ownership over their work. In the case of John Hopkins University in the United States, for example, faculties encourage that their researchers allow their work to appear on the school’s repository site and freely available. Similarly, authors retain ownership by being able to edit their work at will, and not subject themselves to restrictive publication contracts (Falk 2003). Scholars in North America and Europe are increasingly open to these principles on the wide scale.

Another popular trend that is key when discussing the OA movement is the effect of grassroots planning in academic libraries and its potential to spread into a more global context. Open access advocacy events have the potential to create a high profile in academic libraries. The creation of OA days or weeks have proven to gain global attention. For example, the National Day of Action for Open Access originated in the United States in 2007, in celebration of the Budapest Open Access Initiative five years earlier. From there, the first Open Access Day in 2008 led to the Open Access Week in October 2009. Considering that many different countries celebrated Open Access Week suggests that there is a willingness and excitement from within the scholarly community to share their research with one another (Rathe et al. 2010). This high level of interest ties in well with causing a profound shift in notions of open scholarly communication and encouragement of discovery, particularly in the scientific community, which is arguably more collaborative than other disciplines.

In conjunction with faculties and university administration, libraries can develop their own mandates encouraging making their research freely available in OA journals on an independent or localised university level. Although independently mandated, this type of broad awareness in academic communities stems from events built from the ground up. An emerging trend in the OA literature related to local mandates is the potential impacts it has on scholarly publishing and communication (Emmet, Stratton, Peterson, Church-Duran & Harricombe 2011). Some librarians would argue that OA is not a new concept in academic libraries.  Indeed, it is an excellent alternative in dealing with the serials crisis, or the constantly increasing cost of electronic journal subscriptions (Van Orsdel 2008). More readily available content online poses a direct threat to traditional serial publishers, who aim to make a profit from scholarly literature. The price versus use of bundled journal title packages has plagued many academic librarians. OA appears to resolve these problems, and also challenge the monopolistic tendencies of academic publishing and “big deal” vendors (Van Orsdel 2008). Nonetheless, the generation of research is neither cheap nor free and publishing prices are also very high.   

Librarians are not only best suited for promoting the concept of OA in their academic libraries, they frankly have a responsibility to inform their campuses and faculties. For example, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and other funding agencies have created policies that require their researchers to make their research content through OA principles (Fernandez, Nariani, & Salmon 2010). There can be a myriad of requirements a particular OA publisher requires that can be very difficult to navigate without prior experience. While one funder may require results published within six months, another may expect the research released into a repository through a self- or independent repository (Fernandez et al. 2010). As such, librarians have the tools to ensure that these researchers understand the value and implications of these guidelines through several channels of communication.

Interestingly, not only must these librarians inform and educate their colleagues, they must essentially sell the principles and positive impacts of OA publishing. Workshop environments are ideal for providing not only a teacher-learning experience, but a productive collaborative environment where participants can freely express their concerns. Taking space in a faculty newsletter, maintaining an occasional emailing list, and creating a website with a clear set of guidelines of varying OA practices can help faculty and graduate students be more aware in new and changing publishing requirements (Fernandez et al. 2010). Participating in local or even international OA events also gives librarians opportunities to be more visible and by extension build awareness to their faculties. Additionally, librarians can use OA to demonstrate their faculties’ original research, which can create a positive image of the university as a whole (Emmet et al. 2011). Academic librarians can also work towards integrating more OA materials into their collections, but this must be done with the support of university administration, who ultimately decide how research will be made available (Emmet et al. 2011). This idea ties in quite nearly with changing values of more open scholarly communication between universities worldwide.

The prospects of OA gaining steam in academic libraries are exciting. Not only can libraries save their own budgets, they bolster principles of cooperative scholarship across disciplines and universities. Although not a new concept, OA is still experiencing growth and change especially in publishing models. Another popular trend in OA discourse is its effects on scholarly communication. Ultimately, grassroots movements at the local level will lead to international acceptance and enthusiasm, with librarians assuming a leadership role in the academic community.

Building Social Capital in Public Libraries

A trendy issue in library and information science literature focuses on the relationship between the library and the community it serves. This renewed focus on community is closely related with the principles of social capital and recognizing the value of the library. Considering that most public libraries face increasingly tightened budgets in the current economic downturn, now is the time to carefully assess the opportunities libraries have to serve and strengthen their communities and the individuals that live there. This type of analysis is imperative in order to continue receiving public funding and support (Johnson & Griffis 2009) This report will address issues of social capital but focus on several different types of services public libraries could provide to increase social capital in their communities in the following ways: literacy services, building community partnerships, and including those who lack social capital in library planning

I. Defining Social Capital: There is no singular definition for concepts of social capital. However, the most effective approach is to intertwine definitions to gain a comprehensive framework. In an abstract sense, social capital is created by a network of interactions, facilitated by community engagement and participation. As Putnam describes, this kind of engagement “foster[s] sturdy norms of generalized reciprocity and encourage the emergence of social trust.” (Putnam 2000) In this sense, people create their own social capital by participating in organised groups in their communities such as unions, political groups, or other types of social groups. (Johnson & Griffis 2009) Another way to approach social capital is its absence, which is associated with exclusion or isolation in a community. Those who are included in their communities tend to have more resources (i.e. money) at their disposal, more connections and ultimately more influence. (Johnson & Griffis 2009) The major benefit of producing greater amounts of social capital is that it facilitates economic progress and social cohesion if more people have equitable access to services and opportunities in their communities.
From an LIS perspective, libraries have the capacity to help in the generation of social capital by providing open and equitable access to information, information on other types of community events and services and a space where ideas can be freely exchanged. In this vein, libraries also have the potential to provide opportunities for volunteer work, which contributes to the concepts of reciprocity and trust described above. Determining which groups experience a dearth in social capital are prime targets for the library to reach out and offer inclusion through library programs or providing links to other services. The rest of this report will focus on which factors or skills generate social capital and how the library can facilitate its growth to the broadest population.

II. Literacy Services: A fundamental skill for an individual to confidently engage with and participate in their community, is literacy. The philosophy of public libraries espouses democracy and providing information to community members freely and openly. In order to encourage an informed citizenry, which is arguably a cornerstone of a democracy, patrons must have basic information skills. (Hillenbrand 2005) Libraries are in a position to reach out and facilitate literacy programming to help those who struggle with reading, for example, recent immigrants. Ultimately, libraries and librarians can help this group to become informed on issues in their communities or other types of political issues that affect their lives. The goal of literacy programming is to help those who cannot confidently express themselves, better engage with the wider community, and by extension, increase their social capital/influence. (Hillenbrand 2005) In this vein, the library also has potential to provide space where members of a community can meet, and ultimately include more voices to participate in addressing problems of their neighbourhoods. (Hillenbrand 2005)

III. Building Community Partnerships to Extend Public Services to Patrons: Another effective way public libraries can facilitate the growth of social capital is through researching local organisations. The benefit of this practice is that the library that could provide links for support or services to community members who may need assistance in finding them. (Drueke 2006) Interestingly, as Robert Putnam (2000) writes in his book Bowling Alone, fewer adults are involved in community groups such as social clubs or other organisations. An essential feature of social capital is that members of a community are able to meet with one another in public. The library, therefore, is a logical place for people to meet, and get information on local associations that may interest them. Where as the library formerly maintained these community links in paper records, we can now compile easily searchable databases embedded in library websites. For example, with enough research, libraries can connect their patrons to child care centres, services or activities for seniors, local legal aid offices, and other types of government outlet.
The most important feature is that there is the access to this information, another hallmark of social capital. (Drueke 2006) Taking inventory of these local organisations helps users find groups that may interest them. The value of this practice is that it essentially fulfils Putnam’s goals of connecting people with membership in organised groups, creating a sense of involvement, connectivity, and efficacy within their community; ultimately, these ingredients are necessary to create social capital. (Drueke 2006)

IV: Undertake Community Analysis and Collaborate with Underserved Users to Create Tailored Programming: Interestingly, those who lack social capital are usually socially excluded. Individuals and groups who are socially excluded have many different conditions that impede them from effectively participating in their communities including: poverty, homelessness, unemployment, and being of certain minority backgrounds. (DeFaveri 2008) As a result, those afflicted by social exclusion tend to be suspicious and/or resentful of government-related services (public libraries included), and other social institutions. (Working Together 2008) Thus, formally taking the initiative to analyse segments of a population who may be underserved, and include them in library planning. It then becomes crucial to welcome them into the library, and by extension, increase their social capital by giving them a sense of efficacy and meaning in the larger community. Creating a Community Development Librarian (CDL) position is an effective way for librarians to reach out to the under-served and understand their barriers and/or non-use of the library. (Working Together 2008) This type of collaboration is key in order to design services tailored to bring the underserved into the library and encourage them to use its information resources, thereby generating social capital.

V. Conclusions: Social capital is a complex sociological construct that can be best defined as one’s ability to be involved and participate in his or her community at a civic level. The creation of social capital cannot be without discussing its absence for an individual or group of people. Public libraries should be at the forefront of the movement to draw in community members to be more participatory in their neighbourhoods to have a voice in the direction of political issues that affect them. As a hallmark of democracy, libraries can facilitate the creation of social capital by through literacy services, building community partnerships, and taking the initiative to reach out and collaborate with members of the community who may be under-served. These services and activities will create social capital and make the library a place where all may feel welcome. The ultimate goal is to allow all community members to feel confident in shaping the continuing development and cohesion of their communities.