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: 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.

Why I Bike

ImageRiding your bike is fun, slightly dangerous sometimes, and good for the environment. In about a month, I’m going to take my first trip abroad to Amsterdam. From there, I’ll be participating in Cycling for Libraries where we’ll be riding bikes from Amsterdam to Brussels, stopping at libraries along the way. I am beyond stoked. We’ll also be stopping in Brugge for a day!


Ha! I couldn’t resist.

Cycling, seeing libraries, talking about libraries, and hanging out with 99 other library people sounds like a great vacation to me. In order to prepare, I’ve been riding my bike to work. I find it’s a lot easier to incorporate physical activity into my everyday life because I am lazy and wouldn’t do it otherwise.

As I commute to work on my bike, I’ve been reflecting on what I really enjoy about it. First, I value the quiet time that I get on the way to work. It’s just me and the road (and a bunch of cars), I get to think my thoughts and just be outside for awhile. The fresh air is nice before sitting in a freezing cold library all day. Is it the golden rule of all libraries to be freezing? Seems that way. Second, I get to work a lot faster on bike than on bus. Hard to beat that. Third, it’s just good for me physically and mentally. I feel a lot better by the end of the day. I’m sure the endorphins help.

It took me a while to acclimate to cycling in Chicago. I grew up in a mid-sized town in CA, where people really like cycling a lot. There are lots of bike lanes and not so many buses and cars. Chicago is a big city, I never saw myself as an urban cyclist, still don’t really. I rode my bike downtown once and was terrified of being run over by a double-decker tour bus. However, I just had to practice being on the road and remember that the same road rules apply here as they did in that mid-sized town. I’m doing okay! Now to practice riding with a large group…

I hope to have more updates as I venture on my trip. If anyone has tips on touring, riding in large groups, or places to check out in Amsterdam, I’m all ears.

The LIS Queen was so kind and asked to interview me for her blog. I’m reblogging her post here.

The LIS Queen

What appeals to you most about being a librarian?
Many folks say that telling interviewers that you want to be a librarian because you love books is basically an interview suicide. Although I do love books, I actually wanted to become a librarian because I wanted to help people with their research. The most appealing to me about being a librarian is helping people and connecting them to the information that they seek.

I’m also glad to have found a profession where it is perfectly acceptable to love cats.

What program are you in? What’s your favorite and least favorite thing about your program?

I’m currently going to school at Indiana University – Indianapolis. I wrote a Hack Your Program Post on it if you want the full scoop. My favorite part of the program is all the opportunities within the city of Indianapolis to get hands on experience…

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Funny Library Love Notes

Post-It Notes

Just a note can brighten your day!

Last February, my library had a great campaign called I <3 the UL (university library). They had set up a poster board with a prompt that asked students and other patrons to write on post-it notes about what they loved about the UL and what changes they wanted to see. The latest project that I have been working on is cleaning up some of those post it notes. Some are totally hilarious and crack me up and some are genuinely very nice. I think this campaign did a good job of reaching out to the students and getting a good understanding of what they want and what they love about the library.

Here’s a sampling of what some people said they loved about the UL:

  • Single and ready to mingle (phone number)
  • Itchy eyes? Itchy eyes.
  • Library, I think you are sexy.
  • I <3 the UL
  • Free Stuff!
  • Any type of book of course! Yay intellectual freedom. ←(probably a SLIS student)
  • It’s cozy in there and it looks like there are enough comps. I love couches? <3<3<3
  • I come to you when I have no one else.
  • It’s my part-time house (UL)
  • The library is awesome! More people should use it.
  • Library, I am continually impressed with your generous helping attitude. I do wish to continue our mutual relationship. -Student

I hope that they do this campaign again next year, because I am getting a kick out of reading all these notes. I also want to add that many people wrote that they LOVE BOOKS (the paper kind!). Old habits die hard.

What do you love about your library? Anyone else have a similar marketing campaign?


New Cards!

So in my preparation for going to the ALA conference in New Orleans, I decided it was time for me to get some business cards. I’m not really a “business person”, but I know it’s important to network at conferences. I really had no clue what to put on my card, so I tried to keep it simple. Here it is:

Annie's Business CardI ordered them from Moo but I’m sure there are a ton of places to order cards.