Category Archives: Library Research

How real people approach the information challenge

Since about 4th grade we’ve all had the sender/message/receiver communications graphic etched in our Big Brain. In thinking about the path between sender and receiver we have focused mainly on the sender and on how to evaluate the content and validity of a message.  Though we’ve parsed the sender and the message, we have paid less attention to the intangible characteristic of the receiver.

In olden times, before the digital engulfed the information environment, we took for granted that the path between source and receiver was marked by guiderails and a variety of filters.   Research about end users focused on user skills rather than on the unique characteristics of the receiver.  Very little attention has been paid to the complexities that surround the conditions – particularly the attitudes of information consumers.

Clearly, social media has totally disrupted the paradigm. The challenge of the digital age is to think about the delivery system that links source with users, to reassess the role of filters, to address the unencumbered flow of disinformation and misinformation (which are not synonymous terms).  Today the spotlight is shifting in subtle ways to focus on the ways in which the receiver perceives and engages with the unfiltered message – and on how the source embraces the power to pre-determine not only the message but the target audience.

The time has come to take a close look at the characteristics of the receiver.

To some extent the library world has taken a lead in highlighting the power of the receiver, the ultimate information filter.  For decades librarians and educators have underscored, identified, and worked diligently to inculcate the skills and attitudes of information users.  >>>

A recent article published by the Pew Research Center suggests that we need to be thinking now not only of the skills but the attitudes of the receiver Though I am not inclined to test out the latest self-examination tool, what got me thinking is a simple test to determine ‘How People Approach Facts and Information.’

To be honest, I had not thought much about the reality that “people deal in varying ways with tensions about what information to trust and how much they want to learn.  Some are interested and engaged with information; others are wary and stressed.”

Pew researchers created what they called an “information engagement typology” that highlights the differing ways in which Americans deal with cross pressures.  The typology identified five broad dimensions of people’s “engagement with information on a scale ranging from “eager and willing” to “wary”. Researchers concluded that identifiable elements stand out when it comes to the enthusiasm of information gatherers – their level of trust in information sources and their interest in learning, particularly about digital skills.”

Noting that, to date the focus has been on critical thinking skills, information literacy, how to assess both the source and content of the information – not so much on “their interest in learning” the Pew researchers observed:

There are times when these factors align – when people trust an information source and they are eager to learn, or when they distrust sources and have less interest in learning.  There are other times when these factors push in opposite directions: people are leery of information sources but enthusiastic about learning.

The typology has five groups that fall along a spectrum ranging from fairly high engagement with information to wariness of it.  Roughly four-in-ten adults (38%) are in groups that have relatively strong interest and trust in information sources and learning.   About half (49%) fall into groups that are relatively disengaged and not very enthusiastic about information…, especially when it comes to navigating digital information.  Another 13% occupy a middle space: They are not particularly trusting of information sources, but they show higher interest in learning than those in the more information-way groups.

Briefly, their conclusions are these:

  • There is no such thing as a ‘typical’ archetypal information consumer – as with any human activity, “one size does not fit all.”
  • Those who focus on digital divide and information literature also face a mighty challenge reflected by the fact that “about half of adults fall into the groups identified by the researchers as Doubtful and Wary.” These are the individuals who have lower interest in getting assistance to help them get to more trustworthy material.
  • There is a need for “trusted institutions helping people gain confidence in their digital and information literacy skills.”  Noting how this relates to libraries and librarians the researchers observe: “Libraries might be relevant here.  Library users stand out in their information engagement.  Overall, about half (52%) of adults have visited a public library or connected with it online in the past year.  Those library users were overrepresented in the two most information-engaged groups.  Some 63% of the Eager and Willing were library users in the past year, while this is true for 59% of the confident.  Additionally, both groups are much more likely than others to say they trust librarians and libraries as information sources.”

Though the researchers are upfront about the limits of their study, their perspective is fresh. My appreciation of their approach increased after I took a very few minutes to study the “information disposition” of the participants.  Needless to say, I found myself firmly planted in two categories!   You might want to take a few minutes to find out where you find yourself in this typology. It’s simple, fun and really does jump-start a new and nuanced analysis of information seekers, a way to move from critical thinking skills to more attention on the deeply-rooted attitudes of information seekers.

Thinking about attitudes adds a powerful human dimension to the challenge of how we as humans engage with information.  (Who knew information literacy could be so complicated….)

Read more here – and check your own information proclivities against the typology suggested by the Pew researchers: http://www.pewinternet.org/2017/09/11/how-people-approach-facts-and-information/

 

 

 

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Fragments and foments for the 4th

That which distinguishes this day from all others is that then both orators and artillerymen shoot blank cartridges. ~John Burroughs

This wry observation on the forthcoming Fourth of July inspires random thoughts and a dip into the scattered notes that don’t quite sum to a cogent theme – or post.  Thinking that some may be of interest – and that the 4th is about more than parades and fireworks I share the some of those notes in hopes they spark some flickers for folks who are enjoying a long holiday weekend… It seems to me a legitimate alibi to share a few of the virtual “pokes” that have yet to make it to the blog. Their time has come….

Since you may be house-bound over the holiday, you might want to think about actually doing some research on the history of your home. Just last week  Greta Kaul, writing in MinnPost offered some basic tips and starting points – find the article here:  https://www.minnpost.com/data/2017/06/what-public-records-can-tell-you-about-history-your-house   What the journalist failed to mention is that the staff of Special Collections at Minneapolis Central Library  has sponsored several excellent workshops on the topic in recent months.  There’s one more Researching the History of Your Minneapolis Home session scheduled for Saturday, August 5, 10:30-11:30 a.m. at Roosevelt Library.

Thinking about starting or joining a book group?  The South Dakota Humanities Commission has a new and very useful guide.  http://sdhumanities.org/media/blog/how-do-you-start-a-book-club.

Feel like learning a bit more about our neighbors to the West?  Renowned North Dakota poet Tom McGrath sets the tone in this video produced some years ago by the Center for International Education (Mike Hazard) (http://www.thecie.org/mcgrath/). The Movie at the End of the World: Thomas McGrath is on YouTube Movie at the End, a lovely introduction – or reminder – of the poet and his North Dakota roots. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABDUGe2kGNs

As long as you’ve let your mind wander a bit, check out The Ephemera Society of America, Inc. (ephemerasociety.org) Located in Cazenovia, New York, the national organization pays attention to all of the little stuff the rest of us don’t even notice.  Though the website is a bit quixotic, ephemera do not categorize easily – and that’s the fun of it!  Relax and wander freely through the world of ephemera!  The local authority on the Ephemera Society of America is author and intrepid researcher Molly (Moira) Harris

For some time I’ve been following the work of Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services (http://www.brycs.org) a project of the Migration and Refugee Services at the US Conference of Bishops.  The BRYCS website and clearinghouse does a great job of sharing elusive information on practices, studies, events, interview with immigrant youth and more.   Try dipping in to learn more about whatever it is you want to know more about.

Earlier this week this timely piece popped up on the email.  Its value lies in the fact that it suggests an inclusive definition of food chain workers while underscores the ways in which women forge essential links in the food chain.  https://foodtank.com/news/2016/01/women-we-love-27-influential-women-in-food-and-agriculture/

In the spirit of the 4th, take time to check out this short read.  It’ll make you think: https://www.reddit.com/r/shutupandwrite/comments/6k2fyn/article_patriot_hasnt_always_been_positive_words/

We need an American with the wisdom of experience. But we must not let America grow old in spirit – Hubert H Humphrey

Learning and Sharing Stories of the Suffrage Movement

The reason for evil in the world is that people are not able to tell their stories.  ~ Carl Jung

The story of the Suffragette Movement is the story of resistance, persistence – and ultimate triumph.  The long struggle to ratify the 19th Amendment that guaranteed women’s right to vote is a uniquely American story worthy of retelling in these times.

The June 2019 centenary of passage of the 19th Amendment offers an opportunity for us to study the story of the Suffragettes in depth, to analyze and emulate the vision and tactics of the Movement.  This is a powerful story of American patriots who shared a vision and marshalled their talents, strength and unstinting hope to pursue a common purpose.

The centenary of their success, June 4, 2019, invites the nation to research the records, remember and retell the story.  There is time to honor the unstinting courage of the Suffragettes by doing a deep dive into the history of the Woman Suffraqe Movement — then sharing the stories with contemporaries and future generations.

Though it may seem like overkill, when tackling an historic issue of national scope a good place to start is with our nation’s repositories of recorded history –the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration.  Not the magnificent buildings in Washington, DC but the very accessible digital libraries that open the historic record to armchair searchers wherever they may be.   In recent times LC and the Archives have created digital repositories that breathe life into the story of the Suffragettes Movement.

Librarians and archivists responsible for preserving the record of the nation have taken a lead to harness digital technology to share the intellectual treasures of the nation.  They are committed to crafting useful tools that guide the remote searcher along the digital path to learning about the country’s legacy.  Their mission is to share the personal stories of real people whose recorded legacy is now accessible through digitized letters, scrapbooks, songs, photos, and diaries –  real life stories that share the thoughts and situations of those individuals and institutions that shaped this nation..

A couple of  starting points will guide the seeker’s path to the Suffragettes’ stories:

Library of Congress:

Though the physical Library of Congress is elegant it is beyond overwhelming; and yet a digital dive into the treasures is manageable. LC resources are even organized by grade/age level to suggest their appropriate audience, even  the youngest learner.  Some basic tips:

  • A good strategy is a dip into the primary documents digitized by LC – – it will inspire even the recalcitrant searcher to press on! Among the treasures are the files of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B Anthony as well as countless photos, letters, diaries that capture the stories, the images and voices of the suffragettes.   All that little stuff gives life to real people who worked for years to resist the human forces that impeded their struggle to reach a mighty goal. https://www.loc.gov/rr/program/bib/ourdocs/19thamendment.html
  • And here’s a great photographic complement to the primary documents collection. https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw.html
  • For a timeline of American women’s road to assuring their voting rights, click here: https://www.loc.gov/rr/print/list/076_vfw_timeline.html

Each of these launch points will lead the searcher to treasure troves of stories waiting to be told.

National Archives:

The resources of the National Archives and the Library of Congress complement each other.   Staffers at the Archives  join  colleagues at LC in their commitment to expand digital access.  Of the many navigational tools here are some useful starting points:

These digital options for understanding the long struggle for passage of the 19th Amendment provide a logical first step on the research path; they offer a door to a world of stories!   The challenge is to realize and document this pivotal era in our nation’s history.  If we are to honor the labor and vision of the Suffragettes we must take to heart the priority for us to learn and tell the stories of the women and men who pressed on for decades to achieve what we now take for granted.  For us, the mission must be to study the true facts that capture the essence and describe the forces that emboldened the Suffragettes to speak truth to power for decades leading up to passage of the 19th Amendment.    The quest to learn, then tell, the stories deserves time, discussion, reflection.

Some other starting points:

For a really quick overview of the Suffragettes’ struggle, click here:

http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/congress-passes-the-19th-amendment

For a broader view of American women’s rights, including but not limited to the Suffragette Movement, this Congressional publication provides a good overview.  http://history.house.gov/Exhibitions-and-Publications/WIC/Historical-Essays/No-Lady/Womens-Rights/

For authoritative information regularly updated, these are major – and very helpful –  sources:

These are simply suggestions; resources and perspectives abound.  Exploring, then telling, the story of the Woman’s Movement offers a focus and a challenge to examine strategies that emboldened the Suffragettes to resist and persist.  We are not the first Americans to face a mighty challenge.  We have much to learn from those who set the pace a century ago:

When you walk with purpose you collide with destiny. Bertice Berry

 

 

Archivists challenged to look ahead for looking back

The sounds of the past enrich our understanding of the nation’s cultural history and our history in general.  Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress

We live in what Harlan Cleveland dubbed a “temperocentric” world, a world that expresses ideas in fewer than 140 characters, and then moves on……

This is digital age, when thoughts expressed in 140 characters start a war, when a signature replaces a thoughtful disquisition, when Facebook and emails can be manipulated and alternative facts thrive, the work of the archivist is ever-more challenging and still more essential.

And then my thoughts rambled:  I wondered future researchers will ever know how decisions were made……. At the core is a deep concern about the implications of those tweets for government transparency and accountability?

More concerning is the degree to which the ephemeral nature of information and communication will relieve them of responsibility – culpability – for the consequences or blur the causes of their actions.]

It is cold comfort to learn that the President’s tweets are safely archived, available for researchers who will bear the burden of explaining this era:  http://www.trumptwitterarchive.com.  Still tweets, even archived tweets are of scant value.

The serious work archiving President’s papers is in the hands of archivists. abby Zimet’s article published just yesterday in Common Dreams, offers a good – actually fun-to-read– overview of one major effort to cope with the Trump archives.  https://www.commondreams.org/further/2017/05/09/lots-copies-make-stuff-safe-saving-trumps-bigly-dumb-words

Clearly, it is a mighty challenge to capture the archival record of this era, much less to assure permanent access to past public documents. In recent months archivists have welcomed the assistance of informed volunteers – archivists, librarians, researchers, historians and others concerned with preservation of real facts have met the challenge.  Though it’s a finger in the dike of information flow our nation’s recorded history is at risk.

Without archives many stories of real people would be lost, and along with those stories, vital clues that allow us to reflect and interpret our lives today. ― Sara Sheridan

August 2017 update  -https://firstamendmentcoalition.org/2017/08/memo-future-historians-trump-presidency-good-luck-youll-need/

https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/05/ex-feds-confident-comeys-devices-and-files-are-safe-even-if-fbi-wont-confirm/ 

 

 

 

 

 

Digital Access to Obama Administration Archives — A priority in progress

Writing about the current President’s tweets prompted me to focus with greater interest on just what’s happening with the archives of the Obama administration.

It did not take long to appreciate that reality exceeds expectations.  With the cooperation of the Obama Administration archivists are committed to assure access to massive amounts of information by and about President Obama’s eight years in the White House.  To give some idea of the massive research possibilities: The Obama administration is providing the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) with more than 250 terabytes of electronic records, including roughly 300 million emails.

NARA will start digitizing the unclassified records using a “new model” for the storage of presidential records. The Obama Presidential Center in Chicago has made a commitment to fund the digitization of all unclassified records of the Obama presidency.

In a May 3rd article in FCW, Chase Gunter describes how NARA is shifting to digital preservation strategies; Gunter writes that “henceforth the unclassified records of the Obama Administration will be archived using a new model for the storage of presidential records.  Instead of building a new site for the records they will be housed in existing NARA facilities and the agency will work on preserving and making them accessible in digital format to the greatest extent possible.” (https://fcw.com/Articles/2017/05/03/obma-records-digital-asps?p=)

Some basics re the Obama Administration archives:

Scholars create digital learning tools on volatile current issues

As the Commander in Chief stresses about the throngs of immigrants, wiser, more temperate scholars have devoted themselves to helping Americans better understand the deep historical roots of today’s immigration debates. Immigration historians, working with the University of Minnesota’s Immigration History Research Center (http://cla.umn.edu/ihrc) and the Immigration and Ethnic History Society (http://iehs.org/online/) have produced another in series of unique and timely resources, #immigration Syllabus. This indispensable tool for teaching, learning and advocacy is available online: http://editions.lib.umn.edu/immigrationsyllabus/

The syllabus “seeks to provide historical context to current debates over immigration reform, integration, and citizenship.” It follows a chronological overview of U.S. immigration history as well as thematic weeks that cover “salient issues in political discourse today, including xenophobia, deportation policy, and border policing.”

Listing essential topics and readings and linking to historical documents and multimedia source #ImmigrationSyllabus provides real facts that answer a broad range of questions including the history, policies, and “what’s ‘new’ about new immigration to the US.”

#ImmigrationSyllabus is actually one in a series of timely resources created by and through the University of Minnesota. Previous syllabi include these:

  • #TrumpSyllabus, designed to hep readers understand Trump’s political success during the presidential campaign,
  • #Fergusonyllabus, intended to inspire conversations about race, violence and activism, and
  • #StandingRockSyllabus, a tool to raise awareness of the Dakota Access Pipeline and to place the #NoDAPL process in context.

Download for #Immigration Syllabus:

PDF version of #ImmigrationSyllabus

Word version of #ImmigrationSyllabus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Building a collection and a community: The John Glanton F Collection

I believe that any people’s story is every people’s story, and that from stories, we can all learn something to enrich our lives.

Harriette Gillem Robinet

Building the library from the outside in comes full circle as the Hennepin County Library Digital Collections staff reaches out to further develop the John F. Glanton Collection of photographs. The 800 photographs in the collection reflect, and capture for posterity, the lives of African Americans who lived in the Twin Cities during the post WWII years.

In brief, John F. Glanton (1923-2004), a civil engineer by profession, was also an accomplished photographer.   With the fervor, without the solipsism, of today’s selfie enthusiasts, he carried his Graflex black and white camera everywhere – to weddings, parties, sports events, musical performances, church functions and family gatherings – wherever members of African American community of St. Paul and Minneapolis gathered during the late 1940’s.

Though Glanton didn’t talk much about his photographic collection, when he died at age 80, his family discovered and recognized the value the permanent record he had created. Fortunately, they realized that the collection deserved to be shared with posterity. The family donated the entire collection of 800 photographic negatives to the Hennepin County Library Special Collections.

Recognizing the value of the visual record, librarians encountered just one challenge:   Glanton was more interested in capturing, than captioning…

The photographer who had recorded all those hundreds of images had not identified his subjects – no doubt because the viewers would easily recognize their friends and family!

The solution: To build the collection from the outside in by engaging the public in the process – and fun – of identifying the subjects of Glanton’s photos.

Thus, on a warm day last July, generous members of the public gathered at Hosmer Library to enhance the resources of the Hennepin County Library by supplying names – and stories — for the subjects that Glanton had photographed.   The story of that project was widely shared in the local press; check these links for an overview of what’s preserved in the Glanton collection:

Members of the public also participated in follow-up sessions again at Hosmer Library and at St Peter Claver Church in St Paul.

Today, the photographs, now digitized, captioned and partially searchable, are an important feature of the Library’s Digital Collections. (See earlier posts on this blog.) And yet, the Glanton Collection remains a work-in-progress. Because many of Glanton’s subjects are not yet identified librarians continue to turn to the public to lend their eyes and memories to the group effort.

One way to contribute is as easy as a click on the collection to view the photos; if you are able to identify an event or subject, simply make a note in the “comments” section at the bottom of the screen for each photo. http://digitalcollections.hclib.org/cdm/search/collection/p17208coll1 Another possibility is to contact the library directly (specialcoll@hclib.org or 612 543 8200) to share the information or to obtain further information.

Or make it a social event by taking part in a gathering similar to the Hosmer and St. Peter Claver events. Staff of Special Collections are now working with staff at Sumner Library to schedule a Glanton Collection event in North Minneapolis, tentatively set for sometime in March. Staff are also working with the family that donated the photographs to plan an event during Black History Month in February.