Meet Amanda Belantara, Adjunct Reference and Instruction Librarian

Amanda Belantara is one of our adjunct reference and instruction librarians here at City Tech. We asked her a few questions about her background, what she does here at the Library, and promoting our Pacifica Radio Archives collection.
What is your academic and library background?
My academic background is in visual anthropology and ethnographic documentary.  Research throughout my graduate studies focused on exploring how sounds shape everyday interactions, expectations of place and patterns of behavior.  In thinking about the role of sound in public spaces, I thought the library would make an interesting subject, so I created a short documentary about a public library in the UK.  While doing fieldwork in the library I became fascinated by the socio-historic construction of library collections and library practices.  After creating the documentary, I continued collaborating with libraries and creating audiovisual projects that explored these themes and offered new ways of presenting audio collections.
What made you want to become a librarian? Was there any event or person that influenced you?
Collaborating with libraries on various creative and community projects sparked my interest in joining the field. I felt that my skillset could compliment library outreach, education and research initiatives, especially as libraries continue to evolve.  My family also has a long history in the field. My great grandfather, grandfather and uncle were all librarians and I have always been inspired by their dedication to making information and educational resources available to all.
What will you be doing at City Tech Library?
At City Tech I provide reference and instruction services; helping students cultivate research and critical inquiry skills while raising awareness for all the great resources our library has to offer.
What were your first impressions of life at City Tech?
My first impressions of life at City Tech were positive thanks to friendly colleagues and students.  It’s a busy campus with a lot going on.  I’m glad to be part of this vibrant community.
What are your goals for the next few years as a librarian?
My goals are to help create new forms of library instruction and innovative library exhibitions. I would also like to further develop audiovisual research projects that explore library practices and the history of the Library and Information Science field.
Do you have a favorite subject of study?
I am fascinated by many things. I suppose that’s why I studied anthropology since you can choose to make a study out of almost any topic.
 Who’s your favorite author?
I have too many favorite authors, I’m always stumped by this question.  Some of my favorite works are the Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard, Myth and Meaning by Claude-Levi Strauss and A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman.
What would you recommend to others from City Tech Library’s collection, and why?
I highly recommend the library’s wonderful collection of radio documentaries.  The library is fortunate to have a number of compilations from the Pacifica Radio Archives that feature speeches, talks and music from activists, authors, artists and historians.  These recordings are very powerful and document important social movements in the United States.
What do you like to do outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy visiting museums, walking in the forest, watching films, taking photographs and making sound recordings.

Scaling up with OER at City Tech

Let’s take a look at some recent activity surrounding OER (Open Educational Resources) here at City Tech.
CityTech is participating in the $4 million CUNY-wide OER Grant funded by New York State – we received the second highest award across CUNY! This program supports faculty in building their own OER-based curriculum: over this academic year, 24 courses are being converted to OER on a variety of topics – Africana Folklore, General Biology Lecture and Labs, Macro/Microeconomics, and more. Faculty participating in the initiative represent 15 departments across all three schools. We anticipate at least 7,000 students will be impacted by this move to zero-cost course materials. That’s nearly half of the CityTech’s FTE enrollment – now able to continue their studies without worrying about textbook costs for these classes.
The grant has provided us with the resources to continue the Library’s OER Fellowship program – now running in both the Spring and Fall terms – funding faculty to create custom OER courses. We’re also providing funding incentives for part-time and full-time faculty to adopt existing zero-cost course / OER materials vetted and in use across the country. We’ve also amplified our programming around best practices for universal design: check out this quick guide to accessibility on the OpenLab by our instructional design specialist, Bree Zuckerman, and this introductory usability module by Prof. Junior Tidal.
Browse the list of OER courses created through the Fellowship program and view OERs contributed by City Tech faculty in Academic Works, our institutional repository. To learn more about zero-cost course materials available in your discipline, check out the OER Resource Guide. And if you’re interested in creating a new OER, check out the OER Fellowship website.
Want to get involved? Reach out to Prof. Cailean Cooney, OER Librarian at
–Profs. Bakaitis & Cooney

City Tech Library Faculty Scholarship and Research

Junior Tidal and I presented at Emerging Learning Design a presentation entitled “What’s Mine is YOURLS.”  In addition, we also published an article by the same title in the proceedings issue of The Emerging Learning Design Journal.  The presentation and article examine the way a short link manager can act as an electronic resource management tool. We are also working on an article that utilizes short links as a means to track library resource promotion.
My recent research concerns critical librarianship, communities of practice, and instructional technology. A new book chapter titled “Interrogating the Collective: #Critlib and the Problem of Community” is forthcoming in the book The Politics of Theory and the Practice of Critical Librarianship, edited by Karen P. Nicholson and Maura Seale. I presented on community and “living archives” at the 2017 Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene Colloquium with Brooklyn Public Library archivist, Jen Hoyer. I also completed a usability study to assess Library Research Guides with City Tech Librarian Junior Tidal. We presented our study findings at the 2017 Evidence Based Librarianship in Practice conference and our co-authored paper, Mixed Methods, Not Mixed Messages: Improving Libguides with Student Usability Data was published in the December 2017 issue of the Journal of Evidence Based Librarianship in Practice. Additionally, an article I co-authored with Julia Pollack, a Librarian and Instructional Technologist, on embedded librarianship at CUNY was published in the journal Communications in Information Literacy.
This year I also published several creative nonfiction essays including “The Size of Rhode Island in the literary journal Ghost Proposal and “The Blackout” in The Offing. 
My scholarly focus continues to be on scholarly communications and specifically on predatory publishing.  I gave a paper on predatory publishing at the Association of Research and College Libraries Conference in March 2017 that was published as part of the conferences proceedings. This fall, I gave an invited talk at York College on this topic as well.
I presented with John Carey (Hunter College) at Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene, a colloquium held at New York University in May 2017. Our presentation, “Open Scholarship and Climate Change: The Imperative for a New Information Ecosystem for the Anthropocene,” drew connections between challenges in responding to climate change and the commodification of scholarship and research.  Working on predatory publishing, I found strong commonalities to plagiarism and academic integrity.  I gave a paper at the CUNY-Wide Conference on Academic Integrity held at Eugenio María de Hostos Community College  in September 2017. I took a deep dive into the topic, considering research on student and scholarly plagiarism in its many forms and the discourse on this topic. Questions related to intentionality, pedagogy, information literacy, and the Global South connect the two topics.
I published an article in the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, entitled “What Impacts do OER Have on Students? Students Share Their Experiences with a Health Psychology OER at New York City College of Technology.” I presented and co-facilitated a workshop at the Northeast OER Summit, UMASS Amherst, and presented with CUNY colleagues on my research at the CUNY IT Conference.
During 2016 I took a one-year sabbatical leave. After being a part of the Living Lab for several years, my curiosity about place-based learning had deepened. I researched place-based learning through intentional, observant, reflective walking, culminating in a 500-mile journey. Upon my return, I wrote and presented on the integration of the information literacy frame searching as strategic exploration into place-based experiential learning. Once back at City Tech in January 2017, I took on the role of interim chief librarian and department chair for one semester – an intense learning experience I value.
In 2017 I executive produced the documentary film New Yorkers in Uniform: From World War One to Today. The film discusses the life and time of Thomas Michael Tobin, a first lieutenant in the Quartermaster Corps during the First World War. Lieutenant Tobin was stationed in St. Nazaire France, where he helped run the port. Mr. Tobin had been a port warden in New York City prior to the war and had a long civic career in Yonkers, New York from the early 1900s until his death in 1966. For our film, we also interviewed student veterans at New York City College of Technology (CUNY). Our objective was to explore the similarities and differences veterans of different generations have faced over the past century from the time of the First World War until today.
This year I am continuing to analyze and write up the results of my sabbatical research from Spring 2017, a qualitative study of CUNY students’ attitudes and practices around their required course reading. With my longtime research partner Mariana Regalado of Brooklyn College I have an edited volume in press (American Library Association) on serving commuter students in academic libraries, and we look forward to its publication later this year. While on sabbatical I also completed our visual website to accompany Mariana’s and my work on the scholarly habits of CUNY students: Finding Places, Making Spaces (
During the 2016 calendar year, I published and presented a few pieces of research. I published a chapter called “The Promise and Perils of Open-Source” for The LITA Leadership Guide: The Librarian as Entrepreneur, Leader, and Technologist, edited by Dr. Carl Antonucci and Sharon Clapp. I have also written another book chapter titled “Case: Study Developing An Academic Library’s Mobile Website,” for Robin Canuel’s and Chad Crichton’s Mobile Technology and Academic Libraries: Innovative Services for Research and Learning. I gave an invited teleconference presentation on the open-source analytics program called Piwik to the University System of Maryland and Affiliated Institutions Google Analytics Forum. For the 16th Annual CUNY IT Conference, I participated in a panel presentation called “Accessibility in the Time of Limited Resources,” with several CUNY librarians.
For works in progress, I am writing two encyclopedia articles for the Encyclopedia of Racial Violence. Edited by Prof. Douglas Flowe of Washington University in St. Louis, this encyclopedia will be published by ABC-CLIO. I am writing about an entry on the DC Snipers and Snow Riot of 1835. I will also present on the library’s Banned Book display for the SLS Banned Books Symposium at Mount Saint Mary College later this spring.
Based on experimental results and existing resources, Yi Chen (our library’s IT Associate) and I explored and identified a variety of major contributing factors to the email notice issue. We elaborated the troubleshooting process, and how to find the solution to the issue. We also suggested recommendations based the lessons learned from the project experience. Our work should be instructive for libraries solving the similar problems. Our article can be found here: Investigation of the Email Notice Issue in Aleph.
Recently, a book inventory project was done at Ursula C. Schwerin Library. Based on the best practice, I elaborated the cost-effective inventory process, proper hand-held inventory device choosing, and inventory exception handling regarding a variety of related issues, including missing, mis-shelving, on-going shelf reading, and varied inventory exceptions. Inventory could greatly reduce user frustration by providing more accurate information regarding the library collection for users. I suggested useful recommendations based on the lessons learned from the project experience at the 2017 ELUNA Conference.  Xu, G. (2017), “A Cost-Effective Book Inventory: Hand-Held Inventory Device Choosing and Statistical Analysis”, in ELUNA 2017 Conference, Schaumburg, IL, May 9–12, Ex Libris.

Writing Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Education: An Interview with Maura Smale

Maura Smale, Chief Librarian and Professor at City Tech and Mariana Regalado, Head of Reference and Instruction and Associate Professor at Brooklyn College recently published Digital Technology as Affordance and Barrier in Higher Education.  The book examines the way in which technology impacts commuter student experiences in higher education. 
How did you determine who would be the publisher for the book?
We had written up our results into a different book that we sent around to several university presses, but we didn’t get any bites, so we repurposed several chapters into individual articles. After presenting at ACRL with a colleague from the UK who had been contacted by Palgrave about her work with digital technology and higher education she gave them my and Mariana’s names.  We have another book in press this year is published by ALA for which the editor contacted us and asked if we would be interested (he had seen our articles).
How long ago did you start conceptualizing this idea?  What was the process of bringing this concept it to fruition?
We’ve been working on this research since 2009, which now seems to me like a very long time! We’ve always written and presented our work along the way, but I think Mariana and I both were interested in the longer argument and additional detail that a book allows over articles.
What is your work schedule like when you’re researching and writing?
It varies.  Along the way I’ve had junior faculty reassigned time, some professional research leave for library faculty, and sabbatical.  More recently, I have taken annual leave.  I try to write every day if only for a half hour, usually in the morning before work.  When a deadline was imminent, Mariana and I holed up together and wrote about 80% of a draft of the book in 5 days (we were fortunate that it was during the summer!).  Mariana and I have worked together a long time and we complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses, which helps tremendously.
What are next steps for research in this area of study?
Currently, I am examining student attitudes and practices in using course texts and conducting research. Mariana and I are also looking more at researching in community colleges — while they’re somewhat understudied, that will probably change as the recent free tuition movements focus on the first two years of college.
What are your favorite and least favorite parts of the research, writing, and publishing process?
My favorite part of the research and writing process is when it is finished!  Waiting to hear from publishers or editors is hard, and once a book is in process there are sometimes sudden deadlines with short turnarounds required.  The research part of my scholarship is typically lots of fun; writing can be hard.  Transcribing interviews also takes a lot of time — over my sabbatical it took me about a month to transcribe all the data.
Are there other researchers at the intersection of anthropology and information studies whose work you admire, or who you recommend to your readers?
Donna Lanclos at UNC Charlotte and Andrew Asher at Indiana University both have backgrounds in anthropology and do similar work to Mariana’s and mine. I think we all share a focus on students as people, not just as students.
If you could magically implement one of your recommendations at City Tech, which would it be?
I would level the playing field technologically by providing a low cost and high quality laptop for every student and ensuring that the WiFi is robust enough to handle this usage. Technology problems waste students’ time and this impacts their efficiency in their work as students and outside of school, too. I also think that more space in the library would be beneficial for our students (though everyone on campus wants more space, I know!).

The City Tech Library Remembers WWI

This year marks the end of the First World War. In its time called the Great War because of the death and devastation it cause on such a large scale, the conflict took the lives of over nine million people around the world. The war began in 1914 and lasted four long years. With its great ports and proximity to the sea lanes to Europe and elsewhere, the Greater New York City area was integral to the war effort even before America joined the fight because so much materiel left from the docks of Brooklyn, Manhattan, Hoboken, New Jersey and elsewhere. Greater New York only became that much more important after the United States entered the conflict in April 1917.

In Summer 2016 the Ursula C. Schwerin Library applied for a grant co-sponsored by The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Library of America, and The National Endowment for the Humanities to mark the centennial of World War One. The library also reached out to City Tech’s Office of Veterans Support Services as a partner to join the dialogue.

Library faculty spent much of 2017 producing a twenty-two minute documentary called New Yorkers in Uniform: From World War One to Today.

The film discusses the life and times of Thomas Michael Tobin, a Great War veteran born in Yonkers, just north of Manhattan, in the 1880s. Orphaned by the age of fourteen, Tobin was a grade school dropout who successfully made his way in the world before putting on a uniform and going off to France in 1917. After the war he picked up with his business and political affairs and raised his five sons, together with his wife, in Yonkers. For the film we also interviewed two contemporary veterans, both of them current City Tech students. Fostering conversation between the families of World War One doughboys (as American troops in that war were called) with contemporary veterans was one of the purposes of the grant. City Tech vets were also a good fit because of the college’s history dating back to 1946 in the aftermath of the Second World War. The college was created for returning World War Two veterans eager to get an education and get on with their lives. Then and now, what we now call City Tech had a large number of students who served in the military.
The film had its premiere in the Ursula C. Schwerin library in November 2017. Approximately thirty people attended and enjoyed a catered lunch, the film screening, and panel discussion with many of the documentary’s subjects.

Looking back on the fall semester – Instructional Design Intern

This semester as the Instructional Design Intern, I worked on developing educational material for students on the City Tech Library website. In particular, I focused on two major projects. The first was a research guide, built on Springshare’s LibGuide software, that provides students with basic information on how to conduct research in an academic setting. The guide was broken down into six parts: developing a research question; types of sources; finding books; finding articles; evaluating sources; and citations. These pages accommodate multiple learning styles, with text, visuals, search functions, quizzes, and games.

The second major project of this semester was a set of tutorials for the  library website. These tutorials focused on three topics: developing a research question; reading citations, and finding databases. The research question tutorial was fairly simple, consisting of a slideshow of the steps to take in order to develop a research question with a cartoon alongside of it. The cartoon depicted a knight following the steps being outlined to create a research question about dragons.
The second tutorial I developed was the Quest for the Citation Grail. This tutorial was built using Twine, a free non-linear storytelling platform, which allowed for multiple lines of inquiry for students that are all connected in one file. Students have the option from the beginning to start their quest for the grail or to learn more about citation styles. They have the option to explore MLA or APA, with a print book, online academic journal article, and a print newspaper article featured for each of them. Each type of citation is broken down step-by-step, including a highlighted real source example at the top of each page, a description of how each section is formatted, and an example of the section using descriptors rather than a real source. At the end of each citation type, students have the option to learn more about other types of citations or to go back to the quest.

The database tutorial is still a work in progress for next semester, but it will be a series of swiping games which will show students a short profile on each database that can help them make decisions about choosing one. This tutorial is based off of the idea of Tinder and other apps, where users can make rapid choices based on the brief information presented to them
Next semester I will be focusing on wrapping up the finding a database tutorial and on a user experience test of our tutorials. Updates on these projects will be available on the Library Buzz blog.