by Prof. Cailean Cooney
High textbook prices present a massive financial burden. Many City Tech students choose to forego a purchase, while others must wait several weeks into a course in order to buy the book with financial aid funds and thus risk falling behind. This lack of access to essential course materials can deeply jeopardize student academic achievement.
In response to the surmounting cost of textbooks, City Tech Library has launched an Open Educational Resources (OER) initiative this spring. Three faculty have been selected to participate. The initiative provides funding to support faculty in the development of alternative course materials to replace a traditionally required textbook. The course materials will be free to students and publicly available on an OpenLab site this fall.
OER may not be a familiar term to all, but most faculty will already be familiar with and have used open resources in some capacity. Perhaps it has been by linking out to a speech or short story in the public domain, or creating a course assignment that is shared with and adopted by other colleagues. Others may be familiar with the terrific work of Prof. Thomas Tradler and Prof. Holly Carley on their precalculus textbook, and Prof. Johannah Rodgers’ English 1101 digital reader.
“OER are free and openly licensed educational materials that can be used for teaching, learning, research, and other purposes.” –Creative Commons
What really sets OER apart from other learning materials is the ability for students to access them throughout and beyond their academic careers.
For the pilot, faculty are selecting high quality, curriculum specific content from a number of open educational resource collections such as the Open Textbook Library (University of Minnesota), the OER Commons, and MERLOT II. Open resources are not restricted to textual materials and often may incorporate interactivity through a variety of media formats, and can offer more diverse learning approaches than a textbook might. Faculty are also encouraged to incorporate online library resources that could include journal articles, discipline specific handbooks, and multimedia.
For more on this first cycle of the OER initiative, visit the OER Project Overview and Application and if you’re interested in doing some OER work yourself, this checklist of criteria may be worth looking at.
We are preparing to launch our second funding cycle and will send a call for applicants this Fall. Stay tuned!
Interviewed by Prof. Monica Berger
The Ursula C. Schwerin Library is pleased to introduce its newest faculty member, Prof. Kimberley Bugg.
What is your academic and library background?
I have an undergraduate degree in Communication and a second masters degree in Liberal Arts. I have worked at a variety of university and college libraries including the Atlanta University Center and Villanova.
What made you want to become a librarian? Was there any event or person that influenced you?
I decided to become a librarian after I realized that practicing law wasn’t for me. I was working on an internship for the Fulton County (GA) court system and I just wasn’t that interested in the trial aspect of it but I enjoyed the trial prep, researching, etc. And the attorney I was working with suggested that I try librarianship. She said she thought I might enjoy it.
What will you be doing at City Tech Library?
At City Tech I will teach the LIB1201 course, provide library instruction, and general reference.
What were your first impressions of life at City Tech? Were there any surprises?
My first impression of City Tech, was, wow, they fit a lot of people in one place. I was surprised how vibrant the library is. It’s a really active campus hub.
What are your goals for the next few years as a librarian?
My goals for the next few years are to really immerse myself into the City Tech culture and try to make meaningful contributions to student social and academic success.
Do you have a favorite subject of study or a favorite author (or both)?
My interests are vary interdisciplinary, so I tend to like all subjects except for math. With the exception of accounting, I can’t really find deep engagement for mathematics. My favorite author is Pearl Cleage–I have always found her to be radical, futuristic, and feminist.
What book (or other source) would you recommend to others from City Tech Library’s collection, and why?
I would recommend reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It is one of the most profound books I have read in my lifetime. Its takes you on a time travel of cancer explaining the nuances in great detail but simple enough for anyone to understand. It really does a good job of putting the disease in a perspective that you can handle.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work, I really enjoy visiting the latest museum exhibit, finding new spots to eat, and going to yoga. Mind. Body. Soul.
by Prof. Keith Muchowski
If you think you have seen a few new faces at the library’s Reference Desk this semester, it is not your imagination. These are the Ursula C. Schwerin Library’s five new adjunct librarians. All of our new library faculty come to the library with a broad range of experiences in librarianship and beyond. They have used their experience to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to the library and the patrons it serves. Our new Starting Five all began in late January and early February, hitting the ground running with the start of the Spring semester. Over the months they have all mentioned how energizing and exciting it is to be working with students in such a diverse setting as City Tech. The next time you are in the library, please do stop by the Reference Desk and say hello to one of the library’s new team members.
by Prof. Junior Tidal
The Ursula C. Schwerin Library launched a major redesign during April 2015. Using the results of on-going and previous usability studies, the library website is easier to use, accessible, and most importantly, user-centered. Some of these features include incorporating responsive design practices and an upgraded content management system (CMS).
Responsive design is a technique that promotes the unification of a singular user experience across a multitude of devices. In other words, using the library’s new website should be similar if viewed on a desktop workstation, tablet, or Smartphone. This redesign is a response to the increase of phones and tablets connecting to the library website. According to the library’s analytics data, visits from mobile devices has doubled since the previous academic year.
The library website is powered by the Drupal 7 content management system. Popular among libraries, this open-source CMS is supported by a highly active community of users and developers. The system uses the Bootstrap web front-end framework, which is inherently accessible and responsive. Notable changes include integration with Google’s calendar API, the library’s blog LibraryBuzz, and social media networks including Twitter and Instagram.
Most importantly, the library’s new website will provide easier access to our resources. Electronic resources, the new OneSearch discovery layer, and access to library news and events are a click or a touchscreen tap away.
Interviewed by Prof. Anne Leonard
For our Spring 2015 issue, Prof. Anne Leonard, coordinator of library instruction and information literacy, interviews Prof. Suzanne Miller of the English department. For the past several semesters, Suzanne has worked with instruction librarians to bring her ENG 1101 students to the library for one additional research workshop, which is led by a librarian. Students prepare for this session by selecting a research topic. During the workshop, they search and evaluate articles, books, and other sources that fulfil the research requirement of their writing assignment. The extra session affords time for consultation about search strategies and keywords with a librarian as well as feedback about their topics from Professor Miller.
AL: Please tell us a little about yourself. How long have you been teaching at City Tech? Can you tell us a little about what you did before coming here?
SM: This is my sixth year at City Tech. I was an adjunct for two years before moving to a substitute line in the English Department. I joined the department as a full-time faculty member in the Fall of 2013. Before City Tech, I worked in the New York public schools as an artist-in-residence, teaching playwriting to fifth graders. If we want to go way back, I did this sort of work in Seattle and in Providence, while I was a graduate student at Brown (I received my MFA in playwriting in 1998.) While in Providence, I taught writing and theater courses at Brown and at the Rhode Island School of Design. All along, I’ve been working as a playwright. I live in the Prospect Lefferts neighborhood of Brooklyn with my husband, two daughters (Margaret, 10 and Eloise, 9), and our labradoodle, Teddy.
AL: Why is the library important to your teaching? What does the library offer to you and your students?
SM: The students are savvy in many ways when it comes to gathering information, but they are not so savvy when it comes to distinguishing between good and bad sources. The librarians and the library instruction sessions give the students a basic understanding of what sources (both electronic and print) are out there, and how to recognize the credible ones. The library is essential to my teaching, especially when it comes to the research component of the writing courses. Without the librarians and the library instruction sessions, most students would rely solely on Internet search engines without knowing how to distinguish between good and bad sources.
AL: What abilities do your students come away with from their library instruction sessions?
SM: I think the students gain an awareness of what’s available beyond the Internet. Even if they are not convinced about actually using the library databases or print materials, the students leave the library sessions with a sense that there’s life beyond Google! Also, just being physically in the library is important. Sometimes the students do not know where the library is—and often they don’t know what the library has to offer beyond being a place to study and check out books. It’s great to make them aware of the reference librarians, for example.
AL: Can you describe the value that these abilities have for you students beyond the classroom, and beyond their course of study at City Tech?
SM: One of the most important life skills that students will hopefully take away from the library is learning to question the sources that they find online or anywhere— to develop a “don’t believe everything you read” mindset. Although the students may have this mindset regarding what they read on social media, they sometimes think that whatever information they find online with regard to research is fine and true. If we can teach students to approach their information sources with a healthy dose of skepticism, this will help them in their studies and in their lives.
AL: Is there anything more you’d like to see in City Tech Library?
I had occasion to use one of the small, private study rooms recently (to conduct a short rehearsal for a play reading), and I found it very helpful to have this space available. I think encouraging students to form study groups in the library (and to use these private rooms) would be a great way to help them improve their study habits and academic performance.
AL: What would you tell a colleague from another department to encourage them to bring their class to the library for an instruction session?
Many of the students are unaware of the resources available to them—especially the library databases. And even if the students are aware of the library resources, they may be intimidated by them. The instruction sessions give students a sense of how to navigate the databases; in addition, these sessions give the students a personal introduction to the library. I hope this personal touch makes it more likely that students will visit the library either in person or online. In addition, I would say that while these sessions are, of course, focused on the students’ needs, I’ve also learned a lot about the library databases from the librarians, and I’ve used this knowledge to help me design my courses and in my own research.
by Prof. Monica Berger
Research shows that there is a relationship between recreational reading and the success of college students as undergraduates and in the workplace. Students who read for pleasure have better overall reading comprehension, increased verbal fluency, and develop greater critical thinking skills. The problem is that leisure reading of literary works has declined as the Internet and online culture has risen.
To address this issue, libraries create dedicated leisure reading collections for browsing. These collections help get books into students’ hands and ultimately stimulate student reading for enrichment and pleasure. At City Tech, we’ve have two longstanding, chiefly literary, collections: books in English and books in other languages including Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. These books are located under the main stairwell in the library that connects the library’s two floors.
A few years ago, we decided to develop a graphic novels collection. The books we bought were located in different parts of the library. Observing that City Tech students like to browse books and knowing that our library is fairly large with over 200,000 print volumes, we recognized that it might be challenging for our students to locate and browse our graphic novels. The solution was to arrange our over 250 graphic novels in one place.
Our graphic novels are now found under the stairwell, on the left side of the staircase when facing the plasma screen. Arranged by call number in their new location display, they can still be searched in the library’s catalog. Our collection features a wide variety of graphic novels and cartoon-related books including manga, underground comics, superhero comics, graphic novelizations of literary works, and covers subjects including science and history.
Highly-regarded literary works are also mixed into our collection. In order to highlight some of the best poetry, fiction, and plays in the library, we created a new book display of award-winning books. This display greets students as they enter the library. We swap in a few new, different books every week as books get borrowed. These prize-winning books will stay on the display for the indefinite future. These examples of excellent writing will, we hope, inspire and excite our students and encourage them to explore further reading.
by Prof. Anne Leonard
A national discussion on critical librarianship has been taking place in libraries, on social media, and at professional conferences. Inspired by critical pedagogy, critical librarianship questions and contests traditional, oppressive power structures in libraries and institutions and strives to make library practice more just, equitable, and inclusive. City Tech librarians helped create an opportunity for an intensive set of discussions around issues related to this effort. Organized in part by Maura Smale, Ian Beilin, and Anne Leonard, the critlib unconference took place at Portland State University on March 25, in conjunction with the ACRL Conference at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
Unlike a traditional conference, an unconference is a meeting during which all discussion is determined by participants, and formal panels and presentations are rejected in favor of unscripted discussions. More information about the critlib unconference can be found on the website . A summary of social media posts can be found on Storify.
by Prof. Junior Tidal
Prof. Junior Tidal, Multimedia & Web Services Librarian, recently published a book entitled “Usability and the Mobile Web: A LITA Guide” published under the American Libraries Association TechSource imprint. Usability is the measurement of how well a website functions to support users in efficiently finding and retrieving information. The guide uses several examples that have driven the Ursula C. Schwerin Library website’s usability testing. The Library Information Technology Association (LITA) Guides provide information on emerging technologies applicable to libraries.
The book examines various aspects of mobile web usability. This includes a survey of devices, the concept of the mobile context, defining and differentiating mobile apps, websites, and hybrids, and the programming languages and frameworks to create these systems. The guide also provides sample usability tests, including scripts, consent forms, and analysis matrices. Readers will also learn how to apply usability testing data to make more effective user-centered designed websites.
The book is available at the Ursula C. Schwerin Library.
With the end of another school year fast approaching we thought we would look back at City Tech’s beginnings. You may recognize a few names here. This is the cover letter of Benjamin Namm’s first annual report way back in 1947. Look closely and you’ll note that he gives kudos to Otto Klitgord. Yes, Namm Hall and the old Klitgord Auditorium were named after these City Tech Founding Fathers.
A few other things worth noting are the school’s name and address. It was then 300 Pearl Street. Also, the school was originally known as the New York State Institute of Applied Arts and Sciences. These were the origins of City Tech nearly seventy years ago.
Click here for a PDF version of the letter.
During the final exam period at NYU-Poly, the Dibner Library will be closed to people other than NYU-Poly students and faculty.
City Tech Library’s membership in ALB (Academic Libraries of Brooklyn) permits access to participating member libraries around Brooklyn, and any current City Tech student, faculty or staff member may obtain an ALB card at our library’s circulation desk. Have more questions about ALB? Post a comment here, or ask a reference librarian!