Integrating Feminist Pedagogy into Library Instruction

“What was your first feminist experience?” This question was first posed to me as an ACRL conference session attendee, where I saw Maria Accardi, Emily Drabinski and Alana Kumbier present Imagining the Future of Library Instruction: How Feminist Pedagogy Can Transform the Way You Teach and How Students Learn. Going in, I did not know much about what feminist pedagogy was but as I learned about it, I saw very practical ways in which I could incorporate this approach to my own instruction sessions. Currently, I am enrolled in a Feminist Pedagogy class taught by Maria Accardi and really enjoying it so far.  The class has been reading her book Feminist Pedagogy For Library Instruction, where Accardi weaves in personal narrative, theory, and practical examples.

Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction by Maria Accardi

Feminist Pedagogy for Library Instruction by Maria Accardi

For those who want a definition of what feminist pedagogy is, Accardi discusses in her book that there is no clear definition. However, there are several themes that run through the feminist pedagogy literature, like “classroom as a collaborative, democratic, transformative site; consciousness raising about sexism and oppression; and the value of personal testimony and lived experience as valid ways of knowing.” (pg. 35) Tying it into library instruction, she gives examples of using active learning, group work, and the example of using search examples that highlight social injustices to students. For example, using the search terms “women in engineering” will show results that include articles that discuss the difficulties women face in those fields (p. 37).

Reading through the book, I was reminded of a time when a student approached the reference desk and asked me to help her find books about homosexuality. She said she didn’t know how she “felt about it” and wanted some information that would perhaps sway her to think that it was either right or wrong. As an LGBT ally, I found her objective information about the LGBT community and encouraged her to base her opinions on the research, not just what an authority figure would tell her to think. Accardi mentions that feminism is concerned with not just sexism, but other social justice issues as well. I think many people can relate to being in a situation like the one I described. I was taught in my reference class that the reference librarian is supposed to be neutral, and not interject my own personal beliefs in my transactions, but from reading Accardi’s book, I am beginning to think that it’s more important to encourage students to be critical thinkers. While I can’t outright tell a student, I don’t agree with their opinion, I can help them find information and encourage them to consider all of the viewpoints.

Last week, I incorporated feminist pedagogy into a few of my library instruction sessions. The classes were for a first year english composition course, where their research focus was on sanitation and sewage. I had taken for granted that people even did research on sewage. I was wondering how I would approach this class at all, and how would I make it feminist? In a one-shot session, there’s always pressure to impart all everything you can to make sure the students leave with solid research skills. Realistically, they are overwhelmed and can’t absorb everything you tell them. As discussed earlier, feminist pedagogy values collaboration and active learning; which helps to engage the students so that they will hopefully remember more. With that in mind, I started off the session with having the class brainstorm keywords related to a research question. My example question was “how does gender impact bathroom designs?” This question was trying to get students to consider how gender does change bathroom design.

Then, I had the students break up into groups to work on a topic development exercise. My department has been experimenting with Google Forms for assessment. In the past, students have tended to fill out these forms individually; but in these sessions I asked that the groups designate one person to be the typist, and the others to help brainstorm and research. I noticed that the students were really engaged right away. I think getting them to talk to each other about the topic, helped them brainstorm, and also explore library resources to help them build on their vocabulary. After they finished up, I showed them the backend of the form, and used some of their examples to demonstrate looking for articles on their research topics.

Screen Shot 2013-10-19 at 1.12.45 PM

An example of what these Google Forms look like.

What exactly about this activity is feminist? In Accardi’s book, she details how feminist library classroom use activities that encourage collaboration and group work, use examples that highlight social injustice, talk about synonyms can show how certain terms fail to describe marginalized groups. I think many people may find that they already do these things in their own instruction, which makes it much easier for librarians to incorporate feminist pedagogy into the classroom. I could probably ramble on and on about this, so I just highly recommend reading the book. It’s not too long, has tons of information, practical examples, and has transformed the way that I approach my own instruction. Accardi really makes the best argument for feminist pedagogy when she says:

…the marginal status of librarians gives us more freedom to experiment with our pedagogy than regular teaching faculty have, especially if we are not bound by the strictures of the credit-bearing information literacy course. While the one-shot class has its own set of challenges, it also has more flexibility that progressive librarians can take advantage of and subvert for progressive purposes. (p.69)

You can buy her book on Amazon, read Nicole Pagowsky’s post, and find out more about feminist pedagogy here.

[Semi-formally citing: Accardi, M. T. (2013). Feminist pedagogy for library instruction. Sacramento, CA: Library Juice Press.]

Gamification and Digital Badges

ALA Annual is almost here. I’m happy to report that I will be presenting on a panel titled What you need to know about gamifying your library with a lot of talented people. I will also be co-moderating a session on digital badges called Achievement unlocked: Motivating and assessing user learning with digital badges with Nicole Pagowsky and Young Lee. As a big fan of playing video games and having fun, I’m really happy to see so much interest in the idea of game-based learning in the library world, and also in the world of education.

Many people have been throwing the word “gamification” around which basically is defined as using game design elements or game based mechanics in a non-game context. The term itself elicits a variety of responses in people, from excitement and curiosity to confusion or eye-rolling at “just another fad”–you get the point. Additionally, some game developers have ambivalence towards this term. It’s not enough to just assign badges or points to some mindless activity, you must make your engagement with the user meaningful for gamification to be effective. Also, some people make games for a living and find the term gamification to be a sleazy, shallow marketing term to sell products that aren’t necessarily well designed.  For further reading, check out Gabe Zichermann’s article, Gamification has issues, but they aren’t the ones everyone focuses on, for a thoughtful break down of the arguments against gamification.

The reason why I’m even mentioning all this is because a few of the panelists on the gamification panel will also be talking about digital badges. Mozilla sums up badges as “an online representation of a skill you’ve earned.” People can earn badges by completing tasks online or in person, and display them in a social space so others can see what they’ve earned. Digital badges tend to get thrown into the mix of gamifying stuff, but that can be misleading because it doesn’t automatically turn your activities into a game. It’s just a small piece of the larger part of the engagement process that you are undertaking with your target audience. For example, Mozilla recently rolled out their Open Badges project, with plans to incorporate them into a web literacy standard which aims to teach people how to create web content. People can earn badges as they complete projects that teach them html and css. Pretty neat right?

If you are interested in the nitty gritty details of how libraries are using digital badges, the instructional design, how to get the tech set up, or have a project you want to share, you should come to the digital badge session on Sunday, June 30, 2013 – 9:15am to 10:00am in Room S102d. We’re looking forward to hearing from others who are working on digital badge systems or just want to learn more about it.

As a proponent of active learning, I highly suggest you check out the Open Badges tutorial on Earning Your First Badge, and set up an account on the Mozilla Backpack which serves as the display board for all the digital badges you will end up earning. Hint: you could earn a badge at the session, come and find out how! If you can’t make it to ALA or to the digital badge session, you can follow the conversation on twitter with the hashtag #ALABadge.

Want to learn more about libraries and games? Check out:

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.

Eating Gluten Free in Indy


It’s the Hoosier state! What’s a Hoosier? No one knows.

I went to grad school and lived in Indianapolis for a couple of years. I’m actually excited to be going back next week for ACRL 2013. I’ve made many friends in the area, and of course I am looking forward to seeing many of my librarian colleagues from around the country. There’s no shortage of guides of things to do or see in Indy. For a quick peek check out Meagan’s guide to Circle City Eats, Willie and Rhonda’s guide to shops, and John’s guide to walking and bike trails.

I’m going to put myself in the shoes of a conference attendee who probably won’t have access to a car, needs to find places to eat near the conference center, and wants gluten free options. Just so you know, there are a lot of chain restaurants in downtown Indy. For more unique and local fare, you’d probably have to leave the downtown area. However, if you’re starving and without a car, you can’t be picky. You just eat where you can that’s close enough and has options for your needs. I feel you, and I’m here to help. I also highly recommend following the Indy Food Truck Twitter, especially their list of all the food trucks in Indy. You can see who’s going to be downtown and where. It’s a great resource. On to the list:


India Garden – Meagan mentions this place in her guide. I just called them to ask about their gluten free options and they said that they did have them, then promptly hung up on me. Lots of vegetarian options too! It’s a buffet, the service is okay, and I’m totally going to eat there at least once. In general, I just avoid naan and deep fried stuff there. They do list ingredients on the dishes which is helpful.

Yat’s – If you are up for a little walk, this place has quick, good food. The gluten free options are the white chili chicken, and some bean and sausage dish. You can always ask, and make sure to tell them to leave the bread off your plate.

Scotty’s Brewpub – It’s a local chain, with burgers, beers, and a gluten free menu. Pretty good, I would recommend this place to anyone who is thirsty and wants something filling to eat. They’re really accommodating with the gf stuff.

Ram Brewery – They also have a gluten-free menu. The HackLibSchool meet-up is here on Friday April 12 from 7pm-? The food is okay, but it’s a big place that can hold large groups. Good for group dinners and meet ups.

PF Changs – Chinese-ish food that has gluten free options.

Chick-fil-a (in the Circle Center Mall) – Okay, I know, controversial; but they have gluten free choices. Generally speaking, the mall food court has a lot of fast food options. Not saying I recommend that everyone eat at the mall, or at a corporation that supports hate groups, but it is an option. Do what you will, I’m not judging.

Weber Grill – I’ve never eaten here, but here’s a gluten free menu.

Duo’s Food Truck – Vegan and gluten free options! The cafeteria is not so close to the convention center (it’s a short drive away), but they have a food truck that does come downtown. Follow their twitter feed to see where they’ll be.

ImageCaveman Food Truck – For you paleo and gluten free folks, I present this meat truck. From their site, “Caveman Truck  is one of the first paleo / primal food truck concepts in the nation.” Ron Swanson approved (probably). Follow them on twitter too!


How about a drink with egg whites?

You guys don’t need help with where to drink, but I’m also going to give a shout out to The Libertine. Good, strong drinks. The cure for what ails you. Plus, all the bartenders look like the cast of Newsies, minus Christian Bale. Not bad right?

Visiting Indiana is not about being hungry. I hope this helps those who are gluten free, or just want to know what’s available to them. If anyone is going to be at ACRL next Tuesday (4/9) and is going to be at the convention center, I’ll be at the info desk, ready to provide tips on places to go. Stop by and say hi!

Voting on ALA’s Dues Increase Proposal: Yes or No?

There’s been plenty of buzz around libraryland about the ALA elections in the past couple of months. Yesterday, I finally got my ballot and have given much thought as to who I wanted to vote for, for ALA President (Go Courtney!) and also ALA Councillors At Large (another debate on the number of At-Large Councillors rages somewhere on Facebook). When I opened up the ballot to vote, the first proposal made me pause. It says:


Should ALA establish a five-year personal dues adjustment mechanism not to exceed the percentage change in the national average Consumer Price Index (CPI) beginning in September 2013 running through September 2017?”

After doing some close reading, I believe this is a vote on the process of how the ALA  executive board reviews membership dues. If the amount were to be above the CPI average, then Council would vote on it, as well as membership. Increase in dues is inevitable, so right now we are voting on the process of how it’s done (correct me if I read this wrong).

I tweeted my question to get input from the public and got a huge variety of responses about this potential “personal dues adjustment”. Typically, the knee-jerk reaction to anything that talks about a dues increase is to vote no, but I wanted to hear from others on how they felt. I’ll try my best to sum up the different points that people made.

How would that money be used?

Someone had commented that as much as ALA has tried to do for the profession, it was the staff that bore the brunt of the burden. The ALA staff are pretty great, and the people I’ve worked with directly from ALA have been so supportive of the work that we do as librarians. I really value that and an increase might allow them to do more. To help justify this, the proposal states “This dues adjustment mechanism will allow ALA to augment valuable work on its many ALA 2015 strategic initiatives including library advocacy, federal legislation, intellectual freedom, diversity, digital content, community engagement, online continuing education, and member engagement..”

Can the average librarian afford that?

My initial concern of tying due increases to CPI, is that the CPI may not accurately reflect increases in a librarian’s salary. I had a lively discussion with fellow librarians about the benefits and disadvantages of this. One benefit is that the increases would be fairly low amounts, maybe a few dollars a year over the next five years, instead of a large jump all at once. The dues are also tied to CPI, vs. an arbitrary number which makes the amount in increase tied to a realistic standard of living.

But I also heard anecdotes about how rare it was for a librarian to get a raise, or even find an entry-level job; which makes it harder for people to vote yes on something like this. Eric Phetteplace found some statistics from the Current Population Survey which he put in a google doc. Why the sudden 13% increase in salary from 2011-2012? No one could really tell. Is that accurate? The data says one thing, but people are saying they haven’t gotten raises in a long time. The cost of ALA currently is already a strain on some people, so an increase of any kind causes more financial stress.

Increasing dues would turn away new and current members

ALA needs membership to function. We make up many of the committees through ALA, we pay for conferences, workshops, classes, and membership. If there weren’t people, ALA wouldn’t exist. An increase could turn new members and current members away. Many questioned if they get enough in return for what they pay.

Why even be a member of ALA?

Several people mentioned to me that they have dropped membership completely because they felt that they didn’t get enough in return. Some are working outside of the field, and so they don’t see how being a member would help them. Others are questioning their own involvement in the organization. How much is participating in committee work really going to benefit their home institution or even ALA? Can someone benefit from the networking aspects of conferences without actually being an ALA member? These are all valid questions, some I have even asked myself as a newer librarian.

The question of why someone should belong to ALA, really translates to the value ALA has for our profession. ALA will continue its work as long as it has members. Abby Johnson wrote a great post called “ALA is Not Your Mom” a couple years ago and I think it’s still relevant as discussions around this ballot proposal arise. Getting involved helps the organization to change, but I think it’s hard to even see what difference one committee member can make sometimes. ALA is a big organization, any change that one person can try to make can take a long time. Sometimes, we just don’t have that time.

My Thoughts

I do see value in the work that ALA does for librarianship. They represent our issues on a national level and hopefully stand up for our work. I know that I’ve had a few opportunities that have helped to advance my career, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the help of ALA. For example, last year I was able to propose and moderate a Conversation Starter at the ALA Annual Conference. Having any opportunity to present your work on a national level is pretty great for your career in my book. Also, Jenny Levine and Tina Coleman at ALA has been very supportive of the Hack Library School blog, and has worked with us on hosting events at conferences, and helping us promote things. Seriously, that means a lot to have people who care about your projects and want to help you spread the word.

The reason why I ask these questions is because not everyone has an employer who provides financial support for professional development. I’m actually very, very lucky that my work does support this, so voting yes wouldn’t hurt my pocket as much personally, but I empathize with those who pay for membership themselves. It’s not cheap once you start adding in other divisions and round tables. We all come from different libraries with different working environments. Being involved is going to mean different things to people.

I’m obviously flip flopping between this issue, although after doing much thinking, I’m going to vote yes. However, I’d be interested to hear what others think of this ballot proposal. Did you vote on it? Are you even a member?

Further reading:

ALA Council approves dues adjustment proposal



Avery and Noby

A picture which isn’t related to the topic of this post AT ALL.

It’s almost the end of January. Most good bloggers would have made several reflective posts by now, right? One around Thanksgiving about what they are thankful for (I meant to do that), one around the end of the year to reflect on all the things that have happened (many things happened last year), and probably one at the beginning of this month to set up some new goals (like update my blog more often). The truth is, I am not at the point in my life where I can really commit to updating this blog as much as I did when I first started out. I teeter between wanting to delete the whole thing, and then wishing I had more of a posting schedule. I still think this online space has value and writing is good for you. So I’m not giving up just yet!

Anyway, on to the important things. For those who are going to ALA Midwinter, I want to invite you to the HackLibSchool Meet Up this Friday, January 25 at Whisky Bar. It’ll be fun! I’m a sucker for anything with the word whiskey/whisky in it. Also, the beverage known as whiskey. It should be a fun time and a chance to meet good people.

I will also be participating in a discussion on Sunday, January 27, 2013 – 10:30 am to 11:30 am about public speaking and hopefully will facilitate some interesting conversation about that. The presentation that I will be part of is called Speak Up: Developing Effective Public Speaking Skills. I’ll admit, I’m a little nervous but only a robot wouldn’t get nervous. Last year, I made it a goal to do things that scared me. This presentation is an extension of that goal.

I hope to see some folks around this weekend!

Updates Updates Updates

How about a pretty picture for a change?

I have not been able to keep up here on the blog lately, but things have been really crazy! These past two months have been full of change and opportunity. This is one of those boring, this is what’s happening with me types of posts. Hopefully, I’ll have more time to blog in the next few weeks. Okay, first I want to mention that I will be moving to Chicago at the beginning of next month. I will be working at the UIC Library as a resident librarian in their IDEA Commons. I am really excited to be joining their team. In my interview, one of the search committee members did a shout out to the ALA Think Tank. He mentioned that he knew I was a member, and that is the type of thinking they want to see happen there. Hurray for new ideas!

Last month, I also presented at my first webinar! It was a great pleasure to speak with Dr. Lanke and Tamara Capper. You can access the archived webinar here. I was really nervous about it, but it’s kind of like presenting at a conference without the people. In some ways, it makes it a lot easier. I was just talking into a phone and clicking on the computer. My general advice to anyone who in interested in presenting at a webinar: make notes, but don’t read off a paper. Actually, that advice works pretty much anytime you do any public speaking. I make notes to myself to mentally prepare and have something to refer to if I need, but I try not to just read my notes like a script. It sounds more dynamic that way in my opinion.

Last week, I submitted my first book review for publication. The Chronicle had a really interesting article call The Endangered Scholarly Book Review a few months ago. One of the major takeaway points was that writing book reviews is a good way for new grads and faculty to practice scholarly writing. Hopefully, the review will be published in Library Quarterly sometime in the future. I like keeping an eye out for calls for proposals. For a future post, I’d like to compile links to places for people to check for writing opportunities. If you are interested in academic librarianship, book reviews might be a good start to beef up your publications. I’m glad that I had to write book reviews and abstracts for a few of my classes in grad school. I found that really helped me prepare for this type of writing. I’m so used to writing for blogs, so writing a book review was a nice switch.

I also stepped away from HackLibSchool last month, and I’m having withdrawals, but I am happy that the blog is in good hands. Alright, I think that’s enough updates for now. Hopefully, I will have more time to write. It’s like exercise, the more you write, the better you are at it.

Making Buttons

Marketing the library is so important, especially at the beginning of the year when students are coming onto campus for the first time. I say it’s good to recruit the newbies and convert them into library regulars. The latest buzz on the ILI-L is about beginning of the year activities like library open houses, scavenger hunts, and more. Someone asked about catchy slogans for buttons which got me thinking about the types of fun library marketing materials we can create for ourselves. I’ve been toying with the idea of making buttons but wasn’t sure how to go about figuring out what to put on them. The list generated some great catch phrases like:

  • Do it in the library (use this one at your own discretion)
  • human search engine
  • the original Google

Today I went ahead and played around with my own designs. I’m known at work as the “Keep Calm and _______” person so I had to throw in a Keep Calm button. My student group has a button maker so I have yet to test out creating them but here are my Library Marketing Buttons. I made them in Publisher and they are for a 1 ¼” button. When I get a chance to actually test them out I will update with some pictures. Char Booth has some awesome templates and a post on how to incorporate button making in the library, which I hope to try out some day. This is why I need a button maker!

ALA Annual 2012 Announcements

I’m gearing up and getting ready for #ALA12! This past week, we’ve had a bunch of posts over at HackLibSchool dedicated to prepping for Annual in case you missed it. Lots of fun events and chances to meet new people. I have a couple of fun announcements too in regards to this year’s conference.

First, I will be moderating the HackLibSchool Conversation Starter. This is the first year that ALA’s done this series so let’s see how that goes. I do hope that library school students, n00brarians, and veteran professionals can come together and do what librarians do best: share information! Also, this is the first library conference presentation that I’ve ever moderate/participated in. I hope it goes ok! Generally, conference presentations make me nervous but it always turns out fine in the end.

Second announcement: I have been asked by the ALA Basecamp group to help report out events and going-ons at the conference. I’ll be blogging about what I’ve seen, and give ALA the low down on all the cool stuff that’s happening. I’ve been asked to take pictures and interview folks too, so if I see you, don’t be surprised if I ask to talk to you for a brief moment.

Third: I volunteered to be a greeter for the NMRT Resume Review Service. I’ll be at the Placement Center from 11am-1pm. They’re also having an Open House from 10:30am-12:00pm, so you can come on down, have someone look at your resume and talk to potential employers.

In addition to all that – I will also be a photographer for Librarian Wardrobe! Please don’t be shy about me taking a picture of you and your awesome outfit. While I don’t proclaim to have awesome style, I do have a good eye for folks who know how to wear their threads and wear them well. With that, I leave you with this Felix da Housecat dance song, “Ready 2 Wear”: 

I’m really excited about going to Annual this year! If you are going and see me, please don’t run away from my camera. Say hi!

How do I sound less like a robot? Cover letters with impact.

Anyone else out there on the job market? If you have ever tried to find a full-time library job, you probably understand how difficult and emotional it can be. Sometimes I wonder how helpful it is when you’re obsessively trying to find a job to read all the career articles that talk about everything you’re doing wrong. So, this post isn’t going to focus on what NOT to do, there are plenty of those. Here’s a list of some useful/constructive ones:

I’m not sure what a very terrible cover letter looks like, but judging from what many people say, don’t do the copy and paste thing. Also tailor your cover letter! Yes, that’s all and good – I think most of us should know that by now. What I personally struggle with is addressing all the key points of the job ad, but NOT sounding like a robot. I’ve gotten good at saying “You want a,b, and c, here’s how I have a,b,and c.” but maybe that’s not good enough. It doesn’t necessarily show my actual excitement about the job, or any glimpse into my personality. I found that this example of a great cover letter highlights both her qualifications, and her personality. I have read this cover letter and gone back to re-read it many times. The writer is so smooth and confident! How can I be like her? Well, everyone’s personality is different so I’ve tried to find something that works for me.

I still struggle with adding who I am to the cover letter because I feel like there’s a lot at stake, and maybe they won’t like my sense of humor. On the other hand, you don’t get much of a chance to show employers who you are and why they should talk to you. By making it at least interesting for them, perhaps they will continue to read on.

I also wanted to share this list of Juicy, Proactive, Kick Ass CV keywords. I found it somewhere, but can’t find the original article. Feel free to use these!

Juicy, Proactive, Kick Ass CV keywords