Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Jolly Librarian Considers e-Textbooks

On Monday night, I had dinner with two friends when the topic of eBooks came up. We all had mobile devices; we all had books downloaded on them. But our experiences were very different. One friend no longer read “Paper” books; she read everything online. On the other hand, I found that I only read my eBooks when I’m waiting somewhere. At home, for leisure, I read paperbacks.

This conversation came to mind this morning when an online discussion took place about eTextbooks. Our online learning director noted that many students didn’t like them. Others pointed out that, once the learning curve was overcome, many found them preferable.

The Jolly Librarian argues for all things in moderation (except for ice cream and Snow Patrol concerts). So I come down in the middle. eTextbooks and regular textbooks are wonderful except when they’re not. And both versions should be offered for student use.

Here, in my humble opinion, are the pros and cons of eTextooks:

  1. Convenience: Anyone who has had to buy a rolling suitcase to carry their books around knows that downloading five books on a tablet is a blessing. The books are always accessible, so if a student decides to drop in the Learning Center on a day when he/she doesn’t have a math class, the math book is available. Students waiting in line for coffee can peruse a chapter while they wait. I guess you really can’t argue against convenience, so I think there may be no cons here.
  2. Extras:  Most eTextbooks come loaded with hot links that define words, show background information, and provide films of concepts in action.                                                                                     There are interactive quizzes that allow students to check their progress.   However, there can be some drawbacks. Many faculty do not use those extras; neither do students. There is, obviously, a finite amount of time that students can spend on any given course, and simply loading up a book with these features does not equal an enhanced learning experience.
  3. Ease of Use: For those of us with the iBook or Kindle apps, obtaining a book is easy-peasy. But that’s not universally true. Yesterday, three of us in the library tried to help a student load his keycode so that he could get access to his online learning materials. A hour later, two keycodes later, we told him he would simply have to email his instructor. And on my own iPad, when I try to highlight a section, there’s an even chance that the highlight tool will appear or the page will turn. And I’m not a novice.
  4. Distractions: In one survey I read, students preferred physical books for one simple reason. There were fewer distractions. And I have to agree. At night, when I study my French app, it’s rare that I don’t also end up checking email and Facebook “just one more time” and playing just one more round of Words with Friends.

In twenty years, we may have a generation of college students who have never owned a physical book. But we’re not there now. So I think that best answer is to provide both eBook and physical book options.

For those of you interested, here is the survey on college ebook use.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: When Stuff Becomes Clutter

Our task for this week was to declutter our environments. In the library, we seem to fall into two equal groups: those who collect stuff until it piles up over their heads and threatens to crash down upon them and those who keep so little stuff that if they quit the library, they could leave with only their pockets a bit stuffed.

I can deal with clutter for a while. At the moment, for example, my desk is covered with books, contracts, water bottles, and the Diet Coke that I was supposed to give up today. But it’s beginning to get to me, and, at some point in the next two days, I’ll not be able to continue until all the stuff is in its right spot.

While some work well with a cluttered space, for most of us, it is a productivity killer. If you need help decluttering your space, here are some hints from Forbes.com.

To help control clutter, I take the “one-in, one-out” approach to stuff. If I buy a book, a book must be given away. The same for clothes. However, at the moment, I am having a small dilemma: I unexpectedly bought two fall purses, and, so far, I have only given away one old one. But, in general, this process works for me.

Here are the reports for the week:

Emily: ” I decluttered about two weeks ago, but have probably recluttered since then.”

Pam:  “I got an A this week!!! Make that an A+! I have been in a whirlwind of spit and shine! Just this morning my knees got sore from standing locked in place as I gracefully separated 100 pieces of jewelry which was knotted in a clump from me whirling it into a gallon size bag a month or so back when I was trying to pack and get out the door. I have actual sets of earrings! I have strands of necklaces I’d forgotten about! I can actually coordinate my outfits! “This is ridiculous” I find myself blathering to myself. Now let’s talk about my car! My landlord asked me the other week when that fellow was gonna move out that was living in the back! Good grief. I now no longer have a tenant! I am free of debris! That shall be my new motto…Free of Debris! Not to mention, lastly, the LIBRARY is soooo organized. I am a cleaning queen..American Maid you rock!”

Jolly Librarian: This was also a good week for me. I took four bags of books to McKays for cash. I gave some old dishes and a suitcase to Goodwill. Plus, I gave away some clothes, a purse, a chair, and a framed poster. Now I just need to get  to work on my desk.

Our grades:

Emily:       C

Pam:          A+

Jolly Librarian:   A

If You Make Fun of Snow Patrol, Then I Will Smack You

In Germany, a social psychologist grabbed students on their way out of the door to Christmas vacation and asked them to be a part of a study. (The lesson here is to keep your distance from social psychologists!) He asked them to write an essay over the holidays. For one group, that was the only direction. For the other, they were given one more rule: to write down exactly where and when they would write this essay.

At the end of the holiday, 32% of the first group had written the essay. 71% of the “where and when” group did. You don’t have to be a statistician to know that is a significant difference.

A British study found that “if-then” plans were also quite successful in helping people lose weight. It made folks think through possible problems in advance:

“If there are cream donuts at the party, I will stand on the other side of  the room.”

“If it’s rainy on my exercise day, I’ll work out to a Rumba DVD.”

For students, it can be something like this:

“If I don’t make a C on my first test, I will go to my instructor’s office hours” OR “If I find that I don’t get my reading assignments done at home this week, I will start doing them in the library.”

Faculty might want to have students make such plans at the beginning of the semester and have them post them somewhere so that they’ll be constant reminders.

Make an “if-then” plan. Research shows it works. It’s fairly easy to implement. What do you have to lose?

 

Monday Motivator: Start at the Right Time

This morning, my alarm did not go off. Rushing to get to work, I felt a little scratch on my throat and realized my tshirt was on backwards.

Finally, I arrived at work. The first day of the semester, students were rushing in not knowing their schedules, not knowing how to print, or needing copies of their textbooks. They were loud. The staff was loud. I could feel myself feeling more and more irritated.

Suddenly, I realized something. Today had not been the day to give up my  Diet Coke habit. Grabbing Emily as she left for lunch, I begged her to bring me back a large drink with ice. (Not that she needed much persuading. At this point, everyone in the library agreed that I needed that Diet Coke.)

Now I am much happier and less likely to take a chair from a toddler (another story). And the point is this: Often we set ourselves up for failure. We blame our lack of willpower for failure when the fault may just be poor timing. It makes more sense to realize that and start another day. For me, that day will be  Wednesday since the first Tuesday is usually harder than the actual start of classes.

For future reference, keep this formula in mind:

A bad morning + the first day of classes = NOT the time to try to give up a vice or start a new habit.

 

 

Faculty/Staff Reading Recommendations: Jessica Rabb

As the first exhibit each year, the Mayfield Library presents reading recommendations from NSCC faculty and staff as a way of humanizing the names that students have seen in catalogs and on forms.

We’ll be sharing some of those on the blog. Our first is Jessica Rabb, Biology Instructor.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Rebecca Skloot

One of the main issues of the book is not biology but race. Henrietta Lacks was black and she and her family did not know that her cells had been taken and used for decades for profitable research. Many of the researchers were white as is the author. This book helped take me out of the science world and into the real world and the real impacts of science, intended or not.

The Self-Improvement Chronicles: Eating In

Our task for this week was to eat our breakfasts at home, prepare our lunches from  home, and dine at home five out of seven days.

I think we can all agree this was a most boring task, the idea being to save money and eat more healthfully. Of course, as Emily pointed out, eating in does not assure that. As a person who can make a meal of cookies, she knows of which she speaks. And I have to agree. I once ate a whole box of raspberry-chocolate popsicles for dinner (The good news is they were Weight Watchers.) Perhaps the author of this book assumed readers would be a little more amenable to self-improvement.

Anyway, here are our reports:

Emily:  “I guess I did it.”

Pam: “would like to confess that I have never eaten out more often than the past week. I totally failed. The world just flung a cravin’ on me for eating out. I just… Well, and now let’s talk about the sweets. I have eaten more sugar since my niece came than I have all month. It’s like an addiction. Wellllll, you KNOW when you eat sweets, you don’t then want to rush home and make dinner….Annnd…I did eat breakfast in the car several mornings…but it was from my Quaker Oats cereal box, annnnd…then there was IHOP down at Nashville West that I discovered, and I got a cravin’ for pancakes EVERYDAY after my niece told me she liked them and we had them several mornings annnnd…. I got an F….BUT I GOT AN A IN BIOLOGY!!!!!”

Jolly Librarian: Like Pamela, the assignment not to eat out made me determined to eat out. I have eaten breakfast and dinner at home, but lunches have been a disaster from both a financial and health perspective. I hope to get back into a better routine once classes start.

Our grades for this week:

Emily:                         A

Pam:                            F

Jolly Librarian       C-

Confessions of a Goal-Setting Junkie

Anyone who has read the Jolly Librarian knows that I have a inclination to set goals, probably more than the average person. Part of the reason is that I have spent all of my life in an academic setting where lives are counted out by semesters, so every fourteen or so weeks, it is time to begin again. When you add in New Year’s Day and the start of the state fiscal year, July 1, there always seems to be a beginning going on around here.

I also like setting goals because they give some structure to my life. And I am a person who badly needs structure. Without it, I become the blob who watches bad televison and eats ice cream out of the carton for hours on end.

This does not mean that I achieve all the goals I set. This summer, I wrote about the summer bucket list; now as summer comes to a close, I have done ten of the fifteen items on the list. Still, without the list, I probably would have done none of them.

Even if your life is not attuned to semesters, you can always define a new beginning for yourself and set goals for it.

Here are some aids if you want to set some goals:

The linked guide has a handout on SMART goals and a goal-setting worksheet.

For those of you who prefer to “app” your goals, I recommend the following apps:

Goal Tracker

Goal Setting and Motivation HD (adds some fun to the process with goals being mountains that you’re climbing)

Goals can not only give structure to your days but also provide a sense of accomplishment when you reach one. And they can give you yet another excuse to have cake and ice cream.

Monday Motivator: Look at All the Facts!

Last week, we received our iPad stand. Excitedly, we started to put it together. Now, at one point, there was a cord that had to go in the top of the stand and be pulled out the bottom. It would not seem that this would be the hardest part of the assembly process.

But, time after time, I’d slip the cord in and start easing it down. It would go for a little while and then stop, and no matter how I’d turn or tease it, it was not going any further.

I was not the only one who tried. We took turns. We discussed getting a coat hanger to force the cord through the path. We even searched online to see if there were a trick to it.

Then Pam came in. “Hold it up,” she said. “I’ll look to see if I can find where it’s getting hung up.” She peered in for a second and then reached in with her fingers, retrieving the plug.

Yep, what had been keeping the cord from going any further was the ground. It was where it was supposed to be, and I didn’t recognize it because of one false clue: the amount of cord left at the top.

There are probably several lessons to be learned from my experience:

  • Look at the problem in a new way (as in picking up the stand and looking in the bottom of it).
  • Don’t trust long cords.
  • Ask for help.
  • The Jolly Librarian should stick to Victorian literature and leave cords to more experienced hands.

Or maybe, most importantly, occasionally, all you need is a different view of a problem to solve it.