Participant Experiences of MOOC Noncompletion and Librarianship Recruitment

Researchers are seeking participants aged 18 or over, who have enrolled in at least one MOOC, for which they did not complete all course requirements. The MOOC(s) must have ended.

You would be asked to participate in one interview session, either by phone or Skype, lasting between 30 minutes and 1 hour. Participants will be asked about their experiences with taking MOOC(s).


Interest from volunteers and questions about the research can be directed to

Janice Winkler-Callighen, MLIS candidate

jwinkle3 at

Principal Investigator

Dr. Lynne McKechnie

emckech1 at

Faculty of Information and Media Studies, Western University


Children in Academic Libraries

This past week I was lucky enough to attend my first OLA Superconference, and I walked away with more than just 17ish ACRs and assorted conference swag. While I don’t have time to explore everything, I wanted to share one of the more fun ideas I brought home.

One of the sessions I attended was the OCULA Lightning Strikes talk, to hear about a friend’s work implementing a Twitter presence for Weldon Library here at Western; she did amazingly as I knew she would.

Another presenter discussed an idea that has been bumping around in my mind: children in the academic library. For context, the library I work at is in a small university college with a very community-like feel, and I work almost exclusively evenings and weekends; both of these may factor into my experiences.

But I am seeing kids in the library all of the time. And I think it’s great! Their parents are getting work done, and the kids are becoming acclimatized to higher ed and academic libraries in particular. I often see the kids reading, playing videogames, or doing homework. And I do sometimes wonder, could we better accommodate these unlikely users? Should we bother?

One of the presenters – apologies for not writing down her name! – took this a step further and suggested offering storytime for preschoolers. She listed a number of potential pros and cons. It sounded like a fun idea and I enjoyed hearing her explore it.

I do think that a storytime program for preschoolers might be overkill; I’m not sure there is enough demand to justify the costs in time and resources. But I do think that there’s room for, at minimum, acknowledging that children are sometimes users of academic library space. As always, user needs should be the driver; some libraries may find demand for a small resource shelf or even a small physical space with passive programming, while others who scarcely see children’s faces pass through their doors would probably be confused by the whole idea.I do think though that, given the right approach, this could be a boon for community engagement, student experience, and even, as the presenter pointed out, potential long term recruitment.

I was also reminded of a visit that a friend took to Yellowhead Tribal College Library, which is an academic library that offers space and programming for children of students. I enjoyed reading her blog post about it, which includes more information and pictures of the space.

As always, let me know what you think in the comments!

Citation Management 101 – Mendeley

I’d intended to continue the Citation Management 101 Series with a post on RefWorks, and I will, but I’ve decided to focus first on Mendeley and return to RefWorks later. This is purely for pragmatic reasons; I’ve taken an RA position over the summer with someone who uses Mendeley, so it’s become important for me to learn to use the program quickly. I’m now in the beginning stages of the position so I’m still teaching myself to use it, and I may return and tweak this blog post later with any new insights I gain from using Mendeley more heavily over the summer. For now, I’ll share with you the insights I’ve gained from my research and basic use of the program so far.


I am impressed with how user-friendly Mendeley is – it was easy to sign up and install the program, and the bookmarklet is a very quick install as well. The layout is intuitive and this makes it quite easy to navigate. Additionally, their video tutorials are very clear and comprehensive, and contain all the information needed to get started. This initial ease of use is a major asset for less confident computer users, or those who are strapped for time.


Mendeley is free up to 2GB of storage; for further storage there are charges that vary by plan from $65-$155 per year, and many university libraries, including Western’s, have institutional plans that grant you extra storage space, so check out your library’s offerings. What this means is that if you use the free version your usage needn’t be tied to a particular school, whereas if you need to use the extra storage afforded by your school’s library it may be.


Having reviewed Zotero first, it’s difficult for me not to write this as a comparison of the two, and indeed they have many features in common. They both store and organize your information, retrieve metadata, and generate citations and references. In both cases new users begin by installing a desktop application in a similar fashion and can choose to download additional plug-ins for word processors and web browsers that make the service even more efficient. They are both among the most popular and well reviewed citation management tools.


I wanted to highlight a couple of major differences though. Mendeley stores your data on their servers rather than on your computer; this means they have access to all of your information. It also has many social media features that Zotero doesn’t have. Both of these are potential privacy concerns, though it’s admittedly likely that the average user wouldn’t mind either. I want to emphasize though that, as with all social media, it’s important to check your privacy settings and decide what you’re comfortable with sharing – I wasn’t comfortable with some of the default settings and was able to edit my profile and privacy settings to something I am more comfortable with.


I think I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Mendeley is owned by Elsevier. Elsevier is an academic publishing company that is well-known among librarians and academics because of controversial business practices. In theory this may not affect the average user, but I raise this as a point here for two reasons: firstly, because Mendeley data is stored on their servers, meaning that Elsevier has access to that information; and second, because by using the program one supports it by contributing to the social media component of the service. Consequently, if you are concerned about ethical business practices – particularly of those who have access to your data – I suggest you look further into the issue and decide your own level of comfort. (I’d recommend starting here. And as always, please don’t hesitate to contact me for help with finding additional resources.) Personally, for these reasons I’m more comfortable using Zotero, but as I’ve said the project I’m working on uses Mendeley, and I’ve been happy to learn to use it in order to teach those who choose it. As I think it’s important to help users find relevant information and let them make decisions for themselves, so I will leave this one up to you, reader!


As always, if you have any thoughts or opinions to share, please do so!

Citation Management 101 – Zotero

Welcome to the first discussion of a resource for my Citation Management 101 series. You can read the introduction to the series here.


I’m kicking off with a discussion of Zotero, because it was the first program I tried. Why? Because a techy, smart professor of mine recommended it. (“Recommended” might not actually be a strong enough word, actually; by the end of her pitch I was almost convinced it was actually magic.)

Zotero is open source, and there seem to be a lot of ways for users to participate in its development. The cool factor here is admittedly high.

A big selling point for librarians is that it is free. In a world where librarians are increasingly asked to do more with less, the fact that they can recommend a good quality resource to users at no cost to their users or to their library is a pretty big win.


Zotero works through a browser extension, a word processer extension, and standalone program. It’s not necessary to download all three of them, but I did, and I recommend it for optimal functioning. Still, though I found them quite simple and fast to install, this initial effort may be enough to dissuade some potential users.

I’ll attempt a brief overview. Zotero allows users to develop a personal library, to which they can save sources – and files – usually with only one click. Once saved, a file can later be accessed offline for reading. These files can then be organized as needed. The handiest part is that Zotero retrieves the metadata (for the uninitiated, this usually includes author, name, and so on – basically everything you need to reference something) from the source. You can do the same for OPAC (library catalogue) entries, extracting information needed to reference books with just one click, and for other websites you might occasionally need to use. Then, from your word processor, you can easily add in text citations or references in an impressive variety of formats.

(You can read about the scads of other more advanced features on their about page. )


This doesn’t always work as seamlessly as it might. A frustrating experience of mine involved discovering that many of the files I was using lacked appropriate metadata, so there was nothing for Zotero to retrieve. Furthermore, there is no way to add metadata to a PDF file on Zotero. This means that you have to create a new entry and then attach your file to it. After I learned how to do this found it to be a fast and easy process, but I had to Google for instructions, and this certainly added to the learning curve and took away from the ease of use and one-click feel to the process. (I really don’t understand why Zotero wouldn’t allow users to add metadata to files – any ideas on this one?)


I think this resource is best suited for users who are inspired enough by its many benefits to push through the learning curve. I suspect most university students fit into this category. It may be less well suited for users who are more easily discouraged (for example, my experience is that users who are less confident in their technological skills are often dissuaded by encountering longer learning curves), impatient, or just short on time in the immediate future.

For librarians and other LIS workers, I suggest warning students about the learning curve when recommending the resource so students are prepared to meet a few roadblocks on their way to Zotero success. And of course experienced help at the reference desk for new users is always valuable.


Zotero’s Quick Start Guide is a valuable resource for instructions for new users. Scroll through the topics and click on each for more information and instructions with pictures.

For those who prefer video tutorials, the Video Tour offered in the above site doesn’t offer straightforward beginner instructions, but rather demonstrates what Zotero can do. Instead absolute Zotero beginners might prefer this video tutorial.


Have you used Zotero? Would you try it? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


And please stay tuned for my next post in this series, on RefWorks.

Citation Management 101 Series

Because I’ve found that writing helps me learn more about things than I might otherwise, and because I’m interested in learning more about citation management tools, I’ve decided to write a short series of posts presenting an introduction to some of the most popular tools. I initially thought I’d only write one post, but it became quite long so quickly that I realized I’d need to divide it up.

As I post new entries, I’ll edit this post to add links here.

(Edit – Here is the first entry, stay tuned for more! Citation Management 101 – Zotero)


I’ll write these posts from two perspectives: first, as a student myself; second, as someone in the LIS field. I aim to synthesize these perspectives into something that will be useful for both my fellow students and LIS peers. Readers may want to skip or skim parts that are less relevant to their interests – I promise not to be offended!

This series will attempt to tackle each resource in an introductory, 101 capacity. As such I will primarily discuss features for basic rather than advanced users. I’ve chosen to do this for two reasons.

Firstly, I am new to each of these tools, and this essentially makes me a basic user of each. I do hope to use each of these programs in a more in-depth way with my assignments in the upcoming semester in order to get a better feel for them, at which time I will be able to provide more in-depth discussion, but at this time I don’t think I can offer a fair or objective in-depth assessment.

And second, I expect that realistically most users are likely to only use basic features. My suspicion is that most students will prefer something that is easy to learn in the beginning, and may be willing to learn more advanced aspects of their chosen tools later in the game. If I’m correct, ease of use of basic features may be more important than functionality of the more advanced features.

I also won’t attempt instructions or tutorials due to space limitations; instead I will link to ones already online that I’ve found useful.


I want to start with a simple question – why use citation management tools?

This is a question I asked myself when I first learned of RefWorks during my undergraduate education. A librarian teaching research skills to my class explained that many students found RefWorks very useful and seemed to think highly of it, but she also admitted that some students had difficulty using it. After class, a few of my classmates told me that they had tried it and found that it hadn’t worked for them. By that point in my academic career I’d already learned to write out my own citations, and had developed techniques for organizing them. I didn’t see the point in taking the time to learn to use a tool which might not actually work when I could continue to write out citations accurately myself.

Fast forward to present day – I am now a busy graduate student, and the amount of writing I’ve needed to produce has greatly exceeded that which I needed to at the time. Furthermore, I often need to refer back to the same important works for multiple assignments and classes. Suddenly, citation management is seeming more and more like a good idea. For those working on a thesis or a dissertation, I imagine citation tools would be invaluable.
Additionally, my experience is that most students find citations to be one of the less interesting parts of essay writing, and for some they are particularly challenging; these students could certainly benefit from a good citation management tool regardless of what level of education they are pursuing.


So what’s out there?

Some basic research uncovers mountains of tools. (Just for fun, I challenge you to check out this Wikipedia article and not become overwhelmed.) I plan to discuss those that are most popularly used in my neck of the woods, and welcome comments with suggestions.

Stay tuned for my first post about Zotero.


Do you use a citation management tool? Why or why not? Leave a comment and tell me about it.

I Heart Poultry, or: The Importance of the Reference Interview

Sharing a post I enjoyed – a funny anecdote about the importance of open-ended questions in the reference interview.

Mr. Library Dude

With Valentine’s Day coming up, this reference interaction popped into my head.

Now I normally don’t blog about specific patron encounters, but this one was years ago… circa 2003 when I was a newbie librarian.

A man approached the reference desk and asked a simple question:

Do you have any books on poultry?

With my newly minted MLS, I thought I better do a good reference interview:

Well, are you looking for books on any specific type of poultry: like chickens or turkeys? About farming, urban chickens, or feral? We have a fairly large agriculture collection. 

Wow, how self-important I sounded! It resulted in a quizzical look from the man. He said:

No! No! I’m looking for romance stuff.

At this point I’m confused. Chickens? Romance?

Then it dawned on me. He wasn’t looking for books about poultry. He was looking for books about POETRY. He wanted romantic poems…

View original post 48 more words

Now and Then

I’m very tempted to write up another blog post starting with “Another busy week of LIS!” But let’s be honest, every week is busy and that will get repetitive. So instead, let’s make a deal. If you agree to take that as a given, I’ll agree not to start every post the same way. Deal?

Highlights of my week so far:

I was lucky enough to see a thought provoking talk by Dr. John Buschman during his visit to FIMS. There were a few points that stood out to me that I will probably be thinking about for awhile, so expect to see some references back to this in subsequent posts.

I also interviewed for an internship with the askON virtual reference service and am very excited to be starting next month.

What else is happening in the FIMS MLIS world? Well, my fellow classmates and I have been having a bit of fun watching an old vocational training video. Check it out:

Oh boy. It’s kind of fun, right? Far enough off from our experience to be amusing, close enough to be endearing.

And before I proceed, I should point out that we should be cautious before deciding to take it too seriously: it seems to be produced by a Your Life Work Vocational Guidance Films Inc, rather than librarians themselves, so I don’t know that we can assume that it very accurately reflects library work even at the time.

It’s definitely accurate about gender roles, with women working front lines and men in managerial roles. The interaction between the effortlessly knowledgeable doctor and the hospital librarian at the 8:15 mark made me cringe a little.

It’s definitely accurate with regards to ethnic and racial diversity. (What diversity?)

And some themes in the video are not too far off of librarianship today.

Librarians really do need good interpersonal skills, for interacting with both coworkers and users, though I’m not sure that I would go so far as to say that “love of people” is one of only two qualifications. I’m not even sure that a love of people is very closely related to interpersonal skills. LIS is notoriously introvert-heavy, but introverts often develop great people skills, while I’m sure we all have friends or acquaintances who are very extroverted and not at all good with people.

Staying up to date with new technologies is something that remains important. I like the part where he explains that “Specially trained librarians are always developing new resources and educational uses of microfilm, motion picture film, and other visual materials…” Here he’s describing visual resources rather than technologies, but it’s hard not to notice his emphasis on technologies which may seem a bit rudimentary to us now, but were pretty cutting edge at the time. What new technologies the future will bring is anyone’s guess, but we can be sure that whatever comes, librarians will be there, thinking about how it can (or can’t, or shouldn’t) be of use to the library.

And then we have the old “love of books” as qualification for librarianship line. I know it can be considered kind of gauche to say one is drawn to librarianship because of a love of books now, and I wonder if that was always the case? Did librarians watching this video cringe, or did they smile and nod? Thinking it through, probably most tasks at the time really did make heavy use of books, certainly more than other media, which just weren’t as practical for regular use at the time. Of course for work involving reader’s advisory and shelving, books will probably always remain prominent. But for things like reference, books are now but one medium among many, while they would probably have been librarians’ only sources at the time.

If a young person, say of 16, watched this video when it was produced in 1947, they would now be 83. It’s probably fair to say that the vast majority of those who went into the field after watching this video are now retired. But the libraries we work in (and use!) today were shaped by these women’s and men’s careers. I can only imagine that in my career I will watch much change occur over the decades as well, and I hope that over the course of my career I will be involved in helping to shape these changes positively into something of value socially.


Earlier today I attended a workshop on bookbinding hosted by the FIMS GRC.

I had no idea that bookbinding was a thing that people did until maybe a year or so ago, when I started seeing mentions of it here and there on craft blogs and social media. I am a person who likes to make things, so it’s no surprise that I was drawn to it. It went on the long list of things I would like to learn to do.

This is an actual picture of me with that list.


Just kidding – I’m not a sponge. But the list part is accurate.

What is it about bookbinding that’s so captivating, I wonder? I think part of it is that it’s so versatile and creative. And then there is the fact that many of us have special relationships with books, and the idea of making one come together ourselves is pretty magical.

Books are easily taken for granted. But learning about their development reminds us that they are a technology, developed slowly, in spurts and starts. I shouldn’t be surprised that people are so resourceful and creative in developing ways to store information, I guess.

The workshop was conducted by MLIS’ very own knowledgeable and helpful Erin Clupp. You can see pictures of one of Erin’s many bookbinding endeavours here. She was kind enough to bring in some of her own books for us to look at, and we even got to take a look at some very old books, and touch papyrus paper and parchment.

Of course the most fun part was the hands on component, where we got to make our very own pamphlets. Here’s mine.

My little DIY pamphlet

I’m sure it doesn’t look very impressive, but I’m proud of my little pamphlet!

Now I am thinking about how I can adapt this into a craft to do with my children.


Just another week in LIS!

Another busy week!

This week readings and coursework focused on reader’s advisory, the public sphere, and the job market. I did a reference interview with a classmate. I am working on several assignments.

This Thursday I attended a workshop on Copyright At Western. This was the second of the GRC Presents workshops I have attended; the first was on presentation skills and I found it very helpful. This one was a little different in the sense that it wasn’t meant to help students improve upon a particular practical skill; instead speaker Tom Adam walked us through some of the basics of the work that he has been doing as project manager and special advisor to the provost on copyright. He is also a librarian, and when not working on this project, works in information literacy here at Western. One of his key points was that copyright is really about responsible use of information, which is part of information literacy. I had never thought to frame copyright this way. I know that copyright is addressed later this semester in one of my courses and is a popular topic among students, so I’m looking forward to learning more about it. We also went through the website they are working on, which is a great resource. I’m glad I went, it was good learning experience.

The next day was the first Friday night I’d had to myself in awhile, and Valentine’s Day too! So of course it was only natural that I found myself visiting with a good friend who is in the law school here at Western, looking up legal decisions on copyright. Then I helped her manage her online presence (read: we played around with twitter for an hour), which will hopefully help her land one of the summer jobs she is applying for.

Next week is research/reading week, and it will be nice to have some time to get a break from classes; I will need the time to get my five assignments all due the following week finished! Wish me luck!


Hello to you!

I’m a new MLIS student at Western, with a background in sociology. I’ve found this to be a big leap; by my honours year in undergrad I felt fairly familiar with a wide range of theory, and when encountering new material I felt confident that I had enough background and context in the subject matter to know how to approach it. Starting this program has been humbling, as I’ve had to immerse myself in a whole new environment and academic subject. Luckily, my professors are exceptional, the material is interesting, relevant, and important to me, and I am enjoying it tremendously. I have not as of yet encountered a topic that I was not interested in.

Just over a month in, I feel like I am starting to get a handle on things. That being said, I am still new to this world, and that is the perspective from which I write.

Unfortunately this gives you, as a reader, very little idea of what to expect from this blog. What I can tell you is that for now my interests mostly relate to public libraries. I approach LIS from a sociological perspective and take a particular interest in issues of  social justice. If pressed I would probably say that my favourite class is Reference, and I can often be found poking around in one database or another.

I intend to blog about new ideas and discussions that interest me as I encounter them.

I hope to use this blog to develop my ideas, and to learn from discussion with others in the LIS world.

Thanks for reading. Welcome. I hope you stick around.