why I #critlib

This post is my #critlib homework assignment as part of the chat moderated by Kevin Seeber on feelings and why we do what we do. He had us reflect on three questions:

  • Why are you a critical librarian?
  • Why do you identify with these ideas?
  • Why do you participate in these chats?

While I find writing to be really, really hard, I’m really grateful for this opportunity to really think about why I do what I do. My thoughts are below.

When I was in library school, I thought I was supposed to separate my own personal opinions/personality from my professional presence. That seemed to be the overwhelming advice that I got; but after some time in the profession I realized how ridiculous that is, considering there are plenty of things that I can’t hide or change about myself. As others have articulated in their homework, some aspects of our personal identities (race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, class, ability, etc.) impact how we approach our work as librarians and as people. This is definitely true for me, a woman of color, a first generation American, and a feminist. This informs my approach and my interests, and is why I #critlib. For me, #critlib is more than just the Twitter chats. It’s the reason why I help out with the LIS Microaggressions project, and why I am researching intersectional feminism in LIS for the upcoming Feminist Reference Desk book edited by Maria Accardi. I love being a librarian, and I want to work towards making this profession better. 

My first professional position was at a community college located in an urban setting and my job was to help students from an incredibly diverse array of backgrounds. That helped show me the important work that a librarian can do, to help people get to where they want to be. But really, I learned more about critical/radical librarianship and what it meant to be a #critlib-er once I moved to Chicago to work at UIC. Chicago is a wonderful city, it’s diverse, it’s dynamic, but it is not without its flaws. This city has plenty of problems related to inequality, but there are a lot of people who are working to make it better. Social justice activists, organizers. People who are doers, not just complainers.  I also see the university as a place to educate people, and as a place for them to try and come up with solutions to societal problems. At my university, social justice is a core aspect curriculum in many of the disciplines here and it’s great to see critical pedagogy in action. UIC is also an incredibly diverse campus. When I see where the priorities lie for students here, I feel like I also don’t have a choice not to be #critlib, it’s part of my job. Students here have rallied behind the #BlackLivesMatter movement, organized and protested faculty cuts to the ethnic studies program, and they stood in solidarity with the faculty union when we went on strike. If they stand with us, then I want to stand with them and support them. These are just some of the reasons why I am a critical librarian.

I don’t see #critlib as a unified ideology, but rather a gathering place for people with similar goals to meet and talk. We really do not all come from the same educational backgrounds and it’s totally cool that we don’t all agree on everything. My hope is that through dialogue, we can at least learn and grow from each other. That’s what is so awesome about the #critlib chats, the unconferences, the meetups, and relationships that develop through this community.

I was really honored when Nicole came up with the idea to have a Twitter chat centered around critical pedagogy. I thought, this is an awesome idea and something I want to learn more about. How can we make this happen? And from there, I’ve seen #critlib grow and become so much more than that. I’m not an expert in critical theory, but as Nicole says in her post, the connection between theory and practice is why I find #critlib to be valuable. This is why I do a little extra work behind the scenes and sometimes even email pics of my cats to Nicole, Jenna, Kelly, Emily, and Violet.

Moving forward, I want to see more new faces in #critlib. I know there is this idea that one needs to be an academic or an “expert” in theory in order to participate and I want to stress that this isn’t true. I’m open to any suggestions that people have to make #critlib more inclusive. I want to see more people of color on here, I want to see more projects happen that grow out of the #critlib community, and I want to hopefully meet more #critlib community members IRL in 2016.

Major thanks to Kevin for moderating tonight’s chat!


IDEALA: Final Post

This semester has really picked up this month, and as a result, my final post for the IDEALA Instructional Design course is very late. But I want to finish what I started so here goes!

The session I was prepping for in this course was for an in-person, first year writing class. Ultimately, my end goal for them was to introduce them to the library and its services, as well as assist them in finding various source types for their assignments. Again, they don’t have a research assignment for this course, but they have been asked to find some scholarly sources for an argumentative paper.

My main learning goals for the students in the session was for them to understand the differences between various information types, like popular sources and academic journal articles and also be able to identify where to begin searching for materials in the library.

My original plan for assessment was to have students complete a worksheet that had them looking for various materials using the library catalog and database, then having a brief class discussion at the end. I actually taught this session a couple of weeks ago, and I was very disappointed in how everything went. I thought the class material (horror films) would be really interesting for students, and finding various articles, books, and movies in the library catalog/discovery tool would actually be fun. Most students were looking for the “easiest” examples so they could just get their assignment over with. Despite my best efforts, only a few finished the worksheet, and generally, the students did not want to talk about their experience.

I had wanted to use a constructivist approach to my session, but I do not think it was as effective. Because this was a one-shot session I just didn’t have as much time with the students to really try to connect what they were learning my session to what they would need to do. I also had kept in mind the Expectancy-Value theory, so everything the students did in their activity was tied to their assignment. I feel like this was perhaps too cut and dry, thus ended up not motivating the students.

For my session, I kept it old-school by using a piece of paper for my worksheet. I could also see using other tools like Google forms perhaps, or Padlet to encourage students to share their results with each other and myself.

Although this post is so late in the course, I want to say that I did learn quite a bit. I have no background in instructional design. In particular, week 3’s materials on learning theory was very helpful for me to understand how we can better approach library instruction. I do still struggle with assessment, but I’m glad we focused on assessment in this course. The concept of backwards-design was also new to me, which will change how I approach instruction from now on. For my sessions, I will always try to be thoughtful in determining what it is that I want my students to walk away with, before I start planning anything.

Critical Pedagogy

I was very happy to see that there were critical pedagogy prompts in this course. I began reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed and find many of the concepts very important for librarians who teach. In some ways, the things we encourage in our classrooms like active learning and student participation parallel some of the concepts I read in Freire’s book. I was not explicitly able to incorporate critical pedagogy in the class I used for this course. The closest thing I did was using the example of “feminism” AND “horror films” as a way to show different types of scholarship in horror film genre. It’s not just ghosts, witches, and slasher films, I wanted students to see that people have a critical lens and examined the same things they are researching. Critical pedagogy will continue to be something I will want to continue to learn about on my own, but again I was happy to see it here in an ALA course.

IDEALA Week 3: Theories and Motivation

I found the videos and reading for this week to be very interesting, as I have no background in any learning theories at all. Also, my game plan for my example session has shifted just a little bit since I have contacted the instructor and have a better sense of what the class is working on. They’re actually working on writing about horror films, which is pretty cool. The teacher has actually employed constructivist activities in her class. One of the essays that the students have to write is a hypothetical situation where they are students in a film class, and must debate with their professor about the cultural value and significance of three different monsters. I was thinking that I could also employ a constructivist approach, by creating real life situations where students will need to find various information types like editorials, newspaper articles, movie reviews, and scholarly articles.

That isn’t to say that the theories of behaviorism and cognitivism do not have a place in library instruction, although some are not well suited for critical pedagogy. In my wireframe, I added in a teaching activity where I demo how to find books and articles in our discovery tool and our catalog, so that students can recall how to do it when they are set off on their own. That seems to be more in line with cognitivism, but in the hour that I have I don’t have as much freedom to experiment with a complete constructivist lesson.

Here is my wireframe for the session:

IDEALA Wireframe for ENG 160

IDEALA Wireframe for ENG 160


It is my hope that by tying the session’s outcomes to the learning outcomes of the ENG 160 course, students will be motivated to learn about how to do library research. In Small’s article, the Expectancy-Value Theory jumped out at me as something that I think I would use to motivate the students in this session. The classroom activity has students applying tasks that they will reflect on and have to use in order to successfully do their homework assignments in the ENG 160 course later in the semester. When Small discusses Burdick’s study on information search styles and gender, the finding that “more than one-half of the students in her study, regardless of gender, ranged from mildly to highly detached, disinterested, or bored with the information search process…” (Small p. 5) I cringed because I remembered all my library instruction sessions when I first started teaching. I am hopeful that by working closely with the topic matter and assignments of the ENG 160 course, the students will stay motivated and be interested to learn.

IDEALA Week 3: Critical Pedagogy

I have become very interested in critical pedagogy ever since I attended an ACRL conference panel on Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction. This is why I’m excited that the IDEALA course has a critical pedagogy component to it. I know that I am still developing as a teacher and moving forward I want to make critical pedagogy important in my own practice. For this particular example session, I feel that a constructivist approach, with reflection and self-discovery will align itself with the main concepts of critical pedagogy. However, I believe that critical pedagogy is more than just equalizing the power dynamics of the teacher and student. The subject matter of the course should address inequalities in our society and highlight social justice. I’m fortunate that a lot of the curriculum at my university aims to do this since I work at an urban university with a very diverse population. I’ll have to think about how to work that in on a library instruction session with the topical focus of horror films. I don’t think it will be too difficult.

In learning about behaviorism and cognitivism, I thought about how some of those theories are important in the classroom. For example, incentivising learning may not be a great way to teach students, but for classroom control you do need to model what acceptable behavior is. In gamification, we sometimes motivate students to achieve certain activities through incentivization. I don’t believe behaviorism is all bad, but it doesn’t seem to be very popular in library literature. Cognitivism was a little confusing to me, but from what I understood, it is focused on the organization, storage, and retrieval of information. Perhaps this is akin to “teaching to the test” where students will be tested on their knowledge through a quiz. In library instruction, some might try pre and post tests for their instruction sessions, but what is being tested might speak more to the students ability to remember than their actual skill.

For critical pedagogy to be effective, I don’t see how either of these theories would work well. Students must reflect and engage with their education, and go beyond just memorization or completing tasks for external incentives. But for true deep reflection, we’re going to need way more than just 50 minutes. Our role as educators in the classroom is really constrained by the lack of time we actually have. Those who teach for-credit classes definitely have more freedom to implement these theories, mostly because they have the time and can build those relationships with students.

I did read an interesting article this week about called “No Place For Introverts In the Academy?” and how our preferences for active learning might ignore the needs of those who need to think alone. Most teachers want to create an inclusive classroom that cater to all learning styles. I do think some personal reflection time is important too. The article made some good points, especially as we learned about learning theories this week.


This week in the IDEALA Course, we focused on outcomes & assessment, an area of instructional design that I definitely need to learn more about. I have my responses to this week’s prompts below.

First post:
1. Forward-Looking Assessment

As a result of the ENG 160 library instruction session, students will be able to distinguish different information types. Students will discover what types of information they can access through the library. Since there isn’t a research component to their particular class, this session will be more focused on introductory concepts that are related to the library. In the next semester, they will need to know how to find scholarly articles and know why they need to cite those types of sources in their research papers. I often find that in those classes, students have a harder time understanding how to read scholarly research, and also a hard time integrating them into their papers.

2. Criteria & Standards

My main learning goal for the students in the session is for them to understand the differences between various information types, like popular sources and academic journal articles. For a student to meet my expectations, they should be able to clearly identify a scholarly article, a newspaper article, and a blog post, and articulate why they would want to use it in a research paper. For students to go above and beyond expectations, they should be able to also understand the importance of “popular” sources like blog posts and newspaper articles. If the students do not reflect on the sources, then they will not meet my expectation. To help them distinguish a scholarly paper, I might have them refer to this nice online tutorial from NCSU on the anatomy of a scholarly paper.
3. Self-Assessment What opportunities can you create for students to engage in self-assessment of their performance?
Because my outcome is a lower level skill, assessments for this session might be something as simple as filling out a worksheet and having a brief class discussion, having them reflect on the different resources they looked at and talk about what they thought of them.

4. “FIDeLity” Feedback
The constraint of the one-shot model doesn’t allow for me to give as much feedback as I’d like. Being upfront about my expectations of the students would be helpful for them to know what to strive for. Walking around the room as students evaluate and distinguish resources would allow for immediate feedback, and for them to ask me questions. I would hope that students would follow up with me after the class so I could provide more feedback, especially if they find that the skills they learned in class are applicable to other classes they are taking.

Second post:

The session that I am preparing for is a very basic introductory session to the library. I just see it as an opportunity to work with students on skills that don’t get acknowledged or glossed over in later library instruction sessions, like differentiating between source types, and understanding what scholarly articles are. In order for it to be meaningful for students though, I do believe that it’s important for them to reflect on the various sources they will be reading throughout school and in regular life.

As I was reading Fink’s approach to teaching/learning activities, I was really inspired by his holistic view of active learning. I think this diagram is a great illustration of how the information we teach, the students doing hands-on activity, and reflecting on what they’ve learned works together. For my session, I think a brief overview of different resources, and showing students the anatomy of a scholarly article would be a good start. Then perhaps breaking them up into groups to work together on dissecting different types of articles, and asking them to discuss with each other about why they’d want to read or cite certain articles and how they would use those sources. For example, a blog post might have a mix of links to other blog posts, or newspaper article. Then after the activity, we could discuss as a group what everyone found. This is a rough, typing out loud of how I could incorporate my learning outcomes, and Fink’s concept of active learning. I’d be interested to hear what other’s may do for this kind of one-shot session.

Critical Pedagogy

What could we do to improve assessment techniques using critical pedagogy?
This week, I thought I’d focus on the question of assessment techniques and critical pedagogy. When we think about assessment in library instruction, we know that there are several approaches. For some, pre and post tests might be a way for the department to assess student learning. However, part of what critical pedagogy encourages is personal reflection, and growth through dialog. To me, it seems like formative assessment could work well in the classroom, as it encourages students to actively reflect and determine what they need to learn. Multiple choice tests do not always give students the feedback they need to learn and grow as individuals, and it doesn’t really prove what value we have as teachers. It just shows what students can remember from our session. As I read from Pedagogy of the Oppressed, recollection and memorization= the banking model and doesn’t produce critical thinkers.

This semester I have a student who is working for me as a research assistant. She was hired under a grant project to work on campus projects that highlight the Asian American experience, and is also a career mentoring program. I asked her to create a blog for the work she is doing this semester as a way for me to assess her work and progress on her projects. Having her actively reflect on her work falls into the realm of critical pedagogy. Also, she is working on projects to highlight voices that have been historically marginalized, including working on a Queer Asian American Archive. So both having her reflect on her work, and having her work on projects that are not focused on the dominant narrative are examples of how I have tried to incorporate critical pedagogy into assessment.

IDEALA Course: Week 1

I’m currently taking an instructional design course through an ALA e-course, taught by Nicole Pagowsky and Erica DeFrain. As part of the coursework, I will be doing some of the class exercises and posting them to my blog. When I was in library school, I took one class on information literacy but I don’t feel it truly prepared me for what I would be doing in my job, which is why I am taking this course!

Blog Post 1

Answers to worksheet on page 7:

1. Specific Context of the Teaching/Learning Situation

For the English 160 Course that I have a library instruction session for, there will be around 23 students in the class. This is a lower division course, that helps students understand different forms of writing. There is actually no research component to this course, which makes their session in the library more unique, because there isn’t quite a point of need just yet. They meet for 75 minutes twice a week, although their session with me in the library is just for a single class. It is delivered in person, and they will be coming into the library classroom for their session.

2. General Context of the Learning Situation

This English 160 course is one of 2 first-year writing courses. Typically, the next level course is when the students come into the library for instruction. The learning expectation from this class is to help prepare them for college level writing in the rest of their classes at the university. For the library session, the learning expectation is generally that the students are introduced to the library as a place to do research. For the specific session, the writing instructor requested “Basic research skills, instruction on how to use the library resources, how to identify a reliable source.” The research and writing skills developed in this semester can be the foundation for the students ability to read and write for the rest of their lives.

3. Nature of the Subject Is this subject primarily theoretical, practical, or a combination?

The nature of library instruction for this particular session will be primarily practical for the students, but I hope that my own approach to teaching them will be informed by my own understanding of instructional design and critical pedagogy.

4. Characteristics of the Learners

For many, this is their first semester here at the university. They are just being introduced to college level writing, and becoming familiar with library resources. They are not being required to search for scholarly sources in the English 160 course, but will need to in the next semester. Honestly, it’s hard for the librarians to really know their learning style preferences because we only see them in one or two sessions. We also do not do pre-course assessments currently.

5. Characteristics of the Teacher
My characteristics are currently changing, especially as I learn more about ID and critical pedagogy. I will say that I believe that I am learning along with the students that are in my classroom. I want to foster conversations in the classroom, and not just be the “sage on the stage”. I hope to incorporate active learning, and promote critical thinking in navigating information resources.

Answers to worksheet on pages 11-12:

Foundational Knowledge

  • Applying information literacy into their academic and every day lives.
  • Differentiating between different information types, and knowing what information source is appropriate for the student’s information need.

Application Goals

  • Critical thinking would be most helpful for students who are begining to learn how to write, read, and research at a college level.

Integration Goals

  • Being able to connect the evaluation of resource types not only for writing research papers, but also in their everyday lives, i.e. not just believing everything that is published online as gospel.

Human Dimensions Goals

  • That they are in an exciting time in their life which can set the stage for lifelong learning and that they have a community of people on campus who can help them succeed.

Caring Goals

  • I hope that students mostly feel comfortable coming into the library to study, research, socialize, or ask for assistance.

“Learning-How-to-Learn” Goals

  • At this point in their academic journey, students should learn about how to be good students in the rest of their courses and to build the skill set they need to be able to achieve that.


Critical Pedagogy

I am also in the process of slowly reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire, while also taking this course. In chapter 2, Freire begins to discuss what he calls the “banking model” of education, where the teacher is seen at the authoritative figure in the classroom, and deposits knowledge into the students. He argues that this model of education creates citizens who will be more easily oppressed because they are not critically thinking, and more easily accept what is being told and asked of them. For library instruction, I do not see how the banking model would assist our students in being successful scholars or citizens.

In my previous exercise, I tried to express my hope that students would learn about differentiating different information types and knowing when to use what, so that later on in life, they’ll be able to critically think about the information they read. I’m not so convinced that objective information really exists, so it’s important for all of us to be able to examine the information we read and determine what biases the author might have, or what biases we might have. In the past, I have had students who believe that all information that is “available online” is not okay to use in their paper because their teacher told them so. They need “scholarly” articles. When I went to the library website to show them how to find those articles, the student said, “wait, but this is a website so I don’t know if I can use this.” This is an example of how dangerous the banking model can be. Students need to be taught to think, not to just repeat what they think they learned. This is why I believe critical pedagogy is important for library instruction. The skills I want students to learn has less to do with where to click on the library catalog, and more to do with critically thinking about the information they consume.

Cycling For Libraries 2014

Photo Credit: Flickr User Cycling For Libraries - https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclingforlibraries/

Photo Credit: Flickr User Cycling For Libraries – https://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclingforlibraries/

I’m excited to say that I have signed up to participate in Cycling For Libraries this year! It’s really the best library conference I have ever attended because it combines all the things I love in life: libraries, advocacy, friends, and cycling. This year’s route is from Montpellier to Lyon, which is 470km ( or about 292 miles). I’ll be joined by about 100 other international librarians and we’ll be stopping at libraries along the way. This event serves two purposes, it’s a great learning opportunity and it also is an advocacy project.

Each participant is asked to focus on a theme or an issue and to get inspiration from others, or from some of the library visits along the trip. I’m focusing on library outreach because in the next year or so, this is going to be a large part of my job duties. I hope to learn more about creative outreach and see what others do. You can read my profile  and the others on the cyc4lib website.

People often ask how far we cycle in a day, and how you get a bike over there. For this trip, the longest distance in a day is 90km which is about 56 miles. We don’t go too fast but training before you go is probably a good idea. If you don’t want to bring your bike for the tour, there’s usually a bike rental option, which is what I am doing this year. It saves me the hassle of trying to deal with bringing my bike overseas. Some day I’d like to bring my own bike for a tour, it’s really made for it, but it just didn’t work out this year.

Anyway, I’ll be trying to post pictures on my Instagram account and tweet my random thoughts on Twitter if you happen to want to follow along. Or just check the #cyc4lib hashtag!

Au revoir!




Writing your ALA Emerging Leaders Application

This past year, I participated in the ALA Emerging Leaders Program. I was on Team C(at) with my super awesome teammates Daniel Ransom, Kyle Denlinger, and Mari Martinez. We worked on a social media project for ALCTS, and wrote a white paper of best practices for their social media. It was a wonderful experience, and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to work with. We went through the IRB process together, designed a survey, and took the most epic cat photo ever.

For those who are unfamiliar, the Emerging Leader’s Program is geared towards LIS professionals and students who have less than 5 years of experience in the field. It’s meant to jumpstart involvement in ALA and give people the chance to work on a project for various divisions. It also gives you the chance to meet other ambitious, early career librarians. If this sounds like something you’d want to do, I highly recommend it! I’ve been getting quite a few emails and questions about the application process so I thought I would take a moment to just say what I thought worked for my application. I can’t say that there is a one-size fits all recipe for a successful application; I really don’t know what the selection committee is looking for except that you need to be in the first 5 years of your career. These tips are just what I thought worked for me, and also what I learned from asking other past Emerged Leaders.

Be succinct in your responses but eloquent. This is so hard to do, but if you can get to the point but also effectively illustrate your point, that’s probably the best route. I’m assuming the selection committee doesn’t want to read through a bunch of text just to get an answer that could be one paragraph. Just to give you an idea, I responded to some of the essay questions with just one paragraph; the longest answer I gave was 3 paragraphs.

Don’t just tell them, show them. Do you have a project at work where you demonstrated leadership? Did you work on a volunteer project that was led by you? If you can refer to a tangible project or effort that you have done either in school, in a volunteer position, or at work, that helps show people what you’re capable of. Sort of the same principle for cover letters. I tried to also make my answers personal and have a narrative too, so my responses wouldn’t be cookie-cutter or incredibly dry.

Reflect on your lifetime experiences. For questions about your own leadership philosophy, you might want to think about what inspires you to be a leader. I have very limited leadership experience in the workplace. I’ve never been a manager or a supervisor, so I had to really reflect on my past experiences to craft my own philosophy of leadership. Prompts that helped me were: what did I think was inspiring in my favorite bosses? what did they do that I would want to emulate in my own leadership? what inspires me to work harder for someone? If you’re not sure of what your philosophy is, reflect on what you think a good leader is and hopefully that’ll get you on the right track on crafting your own philosophy.

Ask good people to be your references. I would not skimp on who you ask to be your reference. I asked someone who has worked with me at my workplace on many projects to be a reference. I also asked a librarian who was a chair of a NMRT committee that I was on, who also was a past Emerging Leader to write me a letter. Both of them are people that I also look up to, so it meant a lot to me that they were willing to recommend me for the program. Consider asking people who can really speak to your leadership potential.

Highlight unique skills. Are you a programmer? Are you a kick-ass project manager? Are you really good at throwing parties? Whatever your unique skills may be, you should absolutely highlight them. This program is about group work (whether you like it or not), so if you can make a point of what great things you can bring to the table, you should!

Get a cheerleader! Bryce wrote a really great blog post on writing an Emerging Leader application and one of her tips was get someone to cheer you on throughout the process. Bryce was my cheerleader! She emailed me a lot of GIFs when the announcements came out. Related to this, reaching out to others who have done the EL program is a good way to figure out if this is something you want to do, and get advice.

For those who are applying to the EL Program, I wish you all the best application writing. You can consider me your cheerleader.

Additional articles/interviews that might yield more information and advice: