Empowering Librarians: Building Reflective Instruction Communities

Yesterday marked our annual instruction retreat here at Duke University Libraries. We gathered with colleagues from NC Central, North Carolina State University, and UNC Chapel Hill to focus on reflective teaching. David Carr opened the day by encouraging us all to think about how reflective teaching can empower users. David posed the question “at what point does the tool control the user, or shape the experience?” He advocates for restoring control to the user. This concept is especially useful for those of us interested in user centered design. As we think about how to restructure webpage content and as we select tools (reference books, citation managers) for use by students it is important to ask ourselves, “does this tool and my approach to teaching the tool empower the user?” David provided a list of several books that have inspired him:
A Paradise Built in Hell: Rebecca Solnit
To Think: Frank Smith
Blackout: Connie Willis

Rachael Clemens then led attendees in quick writing exercises designed to help us consider our motivations for teaching. As a starting point for reflective teaching you may want to consider some of the below prompts that Rachael provided during our session:

  1. What motivates me to be an instruction librarian?
  2. What do I expect to be the outcomes of my teaching?
  3. What standards or code of ethics guide me?
  4. What themes pervade my teaching?
  5. How do I know when I have taught successfully?

She then posed a second set of questions focused on actionable items and measurable deliverables:

  1. What are my objectives as an instruction librarian?
  2. What methods should I use to achieve those objectives?
  3. How shall I measure my effectiveness?
  4. How do I justify my value?

Following our writing exercises we were provided with tools for on the ground reflection by Sarah Bankston and Hannah Rozear. This session emphasized post-class reflection and was a good reminder of the value of immediate reflection for those of us who may not be naturally inclined to record our classroom experiences on a daily basis. You can access their handout here.

We wrapped up the day with sessions by Hugh Crumley and Doug James. Hugh and Doug discussed preparing future faculty to be reflective teachers, the support you as a librarian can offer those students while they are in graduate school, as well as the power of peer observation and teaching triangles in strengthening classroom delivery.

Doug suggested several titles, including:
Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher: Stephen Brookfield
The Courage to Teach: Parker Palmer
To Know as we are Known: Parker Palmer

Several of our colleagues expressed a desire to incorporate teaching triangles methodology into their workflow over the next year. Here in Instruction & Outreach we will help them begin that process by re-articulating the methodologies proposed by Doug and Hugh to distill them into library-centric exercises. We have recently been creating case studies to profile the way our librarians are working with new technologies in the classroom. By triangulating our case studies (often tool and technology focused) with teaching triangles, peer observation, and reflective teaching methodology we will certainly challenge ourselves to continue to incorporate reflection into our library instruction sessions and consider the role of reflective teaching in the academic library environment.

I know I left the day feeling rejuvenated by the small group exercises, and challenged to think about my own presence in the classroom. I think the most enjoyable part of the annual retreat is reconnecting with our instruction colleagues from area TRLN institutions. We are so fortunate to have such a thoughtful group of librarians that make the trip to Duke each year for the instruction retreat. I’ll look forward to seeing many of these faces again soon at the TRLN Annual Meeting on July 13!

Wrapping Up

via flickr user asenat29

This is my last post to the Instruction & Outreach blog, and I have decided to spend this one reflecting upon my experience with Duke Libraries and a few of my projects.  Getting the chance to learn from Diane, Emily, Amber, and Erin has been a gift, and I am thankful to have been a part of this great department this semester.

I really appreciate that I was able to pursue individual projects as well as team projects. Throughout the semester I investigated possible uses of technology in instruction, and I reported some of what I found about collaborative learning spaces in an earlier blog post.

Another project involved surveying the landscape of library instruction spaces. A lot of places have library classrooms very similar to those at Duke: desktop computers for the students, an instructor’s station up front, a projector and screen(s). However, I was excited to see some of the spaces at Penn State University Libraries’ new Knowledge Commons. One classroom in particular was based on the Steelcase LearnLab concept which has the instructor’s station in the center of the room with student desks and chairs radiating out from it and screens on the surrounding walls to allow for more student-centric, collaborative work.  This emphasis on designing spaces to accommodate collaborative work and active learning seems to be growing, and it is encouraging to see architects taking notes from what is actually happening in the classroom in order to inform design.

One of the creative projects that I got to work on was a photo study pilot that took a look at the way spaces are used on the first floor of Bostock.  I was fortunate to join Erin and Brian, the Research Services Intern at the helm of the project, on this venture.  It was a great experience to puzzle through the logistics of taking photos in such a busy and varied space in order to capture furniture and technology use. Likewise, I learned a lot through the process of deciding how to categorize and analyze the data we gathered. One of the surprising revelations, to me at least, was that students at the time we ran our pilot seemed to prefer the hard seating and tables rather than the soft seating. It will be interesting to follow up once the project is out of the pilot stage to see if this preference changes throughout the day.

As my final act within the department, I have the pleasure of co-leading a session with Hannah Rozear from the Divinity School Library at the upcoming Instruction Retreat. The theme of the retreat is reflection, and Hannah and I will present strategies and tools for “reflection on the run.” In an earlier post I wrote about reflection, so it is nice to bring this experience full circle by getting the chance to talk about reflection once again and hear how others incorporate reflection into their practice.

It was a real treat to work at Duke Libraries and with the Duke community—thank you all for making this such a wonderful experience!

A second look at LibGuides

This spring, Emily Daly and I conducted a usability study of subject and course guides using the LibGuides interface at Duke. Emily and Alice Whiteside had completed a usability study in 2010 and made recommendations for guide design.  We were interested in evaluating the guides again and seeing whether the guidelines needed updating.

How we did it

For this round of testing, I selected four subject guides and four course guides, attempting to cover a broad range of subject areas and guide design.  Subjects completed two tasks for each guide, then were asked to rate the ease of use of the guide, as well as elaborate on features that made the guide difficult to use and easy to use, and make suggestions to improve usability of the guide.

We used two different methods of data collection.  First, we went to the Bryan Center and randomly asked people to participate in the study.  Emily facilitated while I observed and took notes.  Subjects were asked to think aloud as they completed the tasks.  The screen capture and audio were also recorded in Morae for later analysis.  Only subject guides were tested in this way.

Next, we adapted the subject guide and course guide test instruments into worksheets.  Emily took them to meetings of the Undergraduate Advisory Board and asked students to go through the tasks and answer the questions, writing their processes and thoughts on the worksheets.

In total, 20 students participated in the testing; 13 tested subject guides and 7 tested course guides.  We had each student look at two guides, so each subject guide was tested by at least six different people, and each course guide was tested by at least three people.


  1. Users prefer short, targeted lists of resources and few tabs, though they expressed appreciation for having the guide organized into several tabs, rather than listing all resources on one page
  2. Users find succinct descriptions of resources helpful, but do not seem to use descriptions that appear upon mouseover
  3. Most users found the tabbed navigation easy, but were confused by ambiguous or unclear tab naming
  4. Users appreciated the organization of resources into boxes, but were again confused by unclear box naming
  5. Users will focus on the top center of the first page and generally will not scroll all the way down a long page
  6. Users who are unfamiliar with the LibGuides interface want some sort of guidance or orientation
  7. Users found RSS feeds of recent books from the library catalog confusing or not useful and expressed a preference for a link to a catalog search on a topic


  1. Limit the number of resources, or highlight a few to give students a starting point
  2. Provide short in-line descriptions of resources indicating what information can be found using a particular resource
  3. Provide an introduction to the purpose and organization of the guide on the first page (this can be a table of contents with a short blurb about the contents of each page)
  4. Take care when naming tabs and boxes, making sure they clearly describe content they contain in language users can understand (i.e. avoid library jargon)
  5. Rather than creating an RSS feed for recent library materials on a topic, provide a list of suggested books or search terms, or link to a catalog search on a topic

I presented the study and findings to Duke librarians last week.  They had great questions, and even did some brainstorming on how to implement some of the recommendations.  If you’re interested in learning more, Emily or I can provide you with the full report, including the script and worksheets.

It’s that time of year…

It’s hard to believe that the end of the spring semester is upon us already, but LDOC (Duke-speak for “last day of classes”) is Wednesday, and exams end May 5, which means that it won’t be long before the results of students’ hard work begin streaming into my inbox.  That’s right:  May 15th is the submission deadline for the 2012 Durden Prize and Middlesworth Award, prizes given by Duke University Libraries each year to reward outstanding efforts of our student researchers.

Undergraduates who make exceptional use of library services and collections (and yes, students, articles you get online through the Libraries website count!) are eligible for the Durden Prize, a relatively new prize, established in 2009 and named in honor of Robert F. Durden, professor emeritus of history.

Applicants for this year’s Durden Prize should submit papers written for classes taken in Summer 2011, Fall 2011 or Spring 2012, along with a cover sheetfaculty statement of support and a short essay detailing their research process.  A committee of three librarians will review all submissions and select approximately 10 finalists, which will then be reviewed by an additional two faculty members.  The full selection committee will then name finalists and three winners — one first/second-year student, one in third/fourth-year student and one honors thesis student — by the end of August.  Students or faculty with additional questions are welcome to contact me.

Undergraduates OR graduate students who incorporate materials from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Books & Manuscript Library into their research are invited to submit papers, along with a nomination form from a faculty member they worked with on their project, for consideration for the Middlesworth Award.  A selection committee of librarians and faculty members will review papers and name winners and honorable mentions by the end of September.  For more information about the Middlesworth Award, contact David Pavelich.

All winners will be recognized at a reception held the Friday afternoon of Parents and Family Weekend 2012, where they will receive certificates and $1000.

Again, submissions for both awards are due to the Libraries by 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 15 — send Durden applications to me and Middlesworth submissions to David.  We look forward to reading students’ innovative papers and thoughtful research essays and being inspired by Duke’s budding scholars again this year!

What it takes

It seems I often use the now hackneyed phrase from Hilary Clinton, “It takes a village to…” (Note to self: retire the overused metaphors). Today I’m thinking about it in the context of mentoring. As our two terrific field experience students, Sarah Bankston and Erin Carrillo, finish up their hours, and as our amazing intern, Amber Welch, nears the end of her time with I&O, I am pondering the mentoring that Emily and I have done over the past three years. While we take a hiatus from hosting field experience students (none this summer or fall), I can look back on what we’ve learned:

Mentoring takes time: Emily does the lion’s share of getting students on board and trained, and I thank her a million times over for her well-organized “onboarding” (as they say in the management biz). To be a good mentor, you need to be there for the students – not just throwing tasks at them, but checking in, teaching and revising plans. Perhaps the most important job is listening. What do they want to accomplish in their experience? What skills and abilities can they contribute? What’s hard, and what is confusing? I’ve had to slow down and listen (and I probably didn’t listen enough).

You can’t know what will stick: When I think of all of the things that Emily and I have tried to impart – not only skills, but professional attitudes and habits of mind – I realize that we have no good idea of what stuck with our students. It would be great to go back and query all of our former students and interns, to see what lessons they carried with them out into the world of work.

You learn as well as teach: I am grateful to our students for the things they teach me every day. If I’m more tech-savvy in any way, it is because they take the time to investigate new tools and bring back explanations that I can understand. I will remember fondly the times that they’ve patiently sat with me at my computer, walking me through a task that I’m sure was simple to them, but not to me. They are excellent teachers, one and all.

It takes a village: When field experience students or interns come to work in Instruction & Outreach, we throw them into the larger world of Duke Libraries. We connect them with our colleagues for projects, and mentoring happens at many different times and places. I think of the bond that Amber formed with Linda Daniel, who taught Amber ways of working as a subject librarian that perhaps are different from how Emily and I work. I’m grateful to my library colleagues for welcoming our students as colleagues and friends.

I had smart, patient and inspiring mentors when I was a library school student working at Rutgers, back in the day. They made me want to do the same kind of mentoring. I am grateful for the opportunity to work with such extraordinary students.

Tools For Your Next Collaboration

via flickr user Erica Reid

As someone who went to middle school in the late 80s/early 90s, I can’t hear the word “collaborate” without thinking of a certain song imploring listeners to “stop, collaborate, and listen.” Since I’ve been thinking about collaborative learning and collaborative environments a lot lately, it seems I can’t get away from that catchy bass line borrowed from Queen.

Collaborative learning, as this EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative workshop guide points out, “is commonly illustrated when groups of students work together to search for understanding, meaning, or solutions or to create an artifact or product of their learning.” Certainly these sorts of collaborations aren’t limited to students: think of the committees, task forces, groups, subgroups, etc. and so on to which you belong. These tend to be highly collaborative endeavors!

The concept of collaborative environments first caught my eye when I was reviewing the Horizon Report wiki before the 2012 Horizon Report was released earlier this year. According to the wiki, “Collaborative environments are online spaces — often cloud-based — where the focus is making it easy to collaborate and working in groups.” The following is an exploration of a few free collaborative environments.

Content Creation
PBworks – Formerly known as PBwiki, PBworks allows users to easily create wikis and share them with their group or a wider audience.
WordPress – You can use WordPress to create blogs or websites. Many classes employ a blog as a space for students to respond to readings and interact with each other’s ideas. Duke students, faculty, and staff can use Duke WordPress for their collaborative activities.
Google Docs – GoogleDocs have a host of document types that groups can use, from spreadsheets (similar to Excel) to documents (like Word) to presentations (akin to PowerPoint). A few of the great features are simultaneously editing, the ability to view revision history, and an instant messaging feature within the document.

Video Environments
Skype – Skype is an online video and phone conferencing program that allows collaborators to communicate even if they are in different locations. Skype requires a (free) software download, and if you want to use the video feature you must have a webcam.
Google Hangout – The Hangout feature is similar to Skype—groups can get together online via webcam. While a lot of the marketing seems to focus on Hangout as a social meet-up space, it can definitely be used as a more intentional working space as well. To use Hangout, users must have a Google+ account.

Other Tools
Bubbl.us – A brainstorming product, bubble.us allows users to create mind maps and share them among a group of people.
Dropbox – This handy tool can be used to share and organize files used by a group. Dropbox will store your files ‘in the cloud,’ but it can sync with folders on your computer and even your phone.
Remember the Milk – Remember the Milk is a task management product, and can be used to create lists. You can associate time frames and priorities with each task, and you can share lists with your collaborators.

These are just a few tools that are out there. Just Google “free collaborative tools” and you’ll see that options abound. Which collaborative environments have worked best for you? With what sorts of new tools have you been experimenting?

Learning to Teach

Approaching graduation and interviewing for jobs has caused me to reflect on what I’ve learned in the past two years and how it’s shaped my instruction philosophy.  This is something I’ve had to articulate repeatedly in interviews, and I am happy to say that the experiences I’ve had at Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill have prepared me well.

…Timing: Library instruction is more effective when it’s delivered at the point of need.  At UNC and Duke, librarians visit classes when students are beginning their research and teach them skills that they will need immediately in order to successfully complete their assignments.  Emily has also discussed being strategic in distributing instruction across the curriculum.
Learning outcomes: Diane, my supervisor and mentor at Duke for the past two semesters, has instilled in me the importance of  developing learning outcomes for each instruction session.  This approach removes the focus from the content (what am I going to teach?) and redirects it toward measurable outcomes (what are students going to learn?).
Active learning: At the Undergraduate Library at UNC-CH, we are encouraged to incorporate learning activities into each session.  I’ve written about student engagement in a previous post, and Emily and I have both shared how we use Google Docs for learning activities in our instruction sessions.
Assessment: It’s imperative to assess whether your students are achieving the learning outcomes you’ve developed.  Assessment can be as informal and low tech as soliciting verbal feedback or conducting a class discussion.  At the Undergraduate Library (UL), we typically use end of class narratives (e.g. minute papers).  When I started teaching at the UL these forms were on paper, but we’ve recently begun using Google Forms for this purpose.  My colleagues at Duke have used polls and surveys, and I have used Qualtrics to administer quizzes at the end of my instruction sessions at Duke.   Email evidence (e.g. having students email RefWorks citations) is another simple assessment method we use at Duke and UNC.  A more labor intensive method used by some Duke librarians is analyzing final products of students who have had library instruction.
Analysis: The benefit of using tools such as Qualtrics or Google Forms is that you can easily analyze your data to see what they tell you about your instruction across time or between classes.
Reflection: In addition to conducting assessment, it’s important to take the time to jot down your impressions of what worked and what didn’t.  Sarah wrote a great post about incorporating reflection into your instruction.

I’ve been fortunate as a student to work in places where staff are encouraged to share our ideas, experiences, and reflections with our colleagues.  I’ve learned so much from other students and librarians, and it’s been rewarding to share what I’ve been doing, too.  A recent blog post by Char Booth (shared by Diane, regarded by her colleagues as a personal RSS feed) discussed the concept of collaborative instruction portfolios as a way to assess instruction programs.  Based on my experiences at UNC and Duke, it really resonated with me.  Instructors share syllabi and assignment prompts received from faculty, and instructional materials created for instruction sessions, as well as collectively develop and administer student and faculty surveys and complete reflective surveys.  At the end of the semester, instructors “reflect on [their] experience and evaluations in order to assess the project and inform future iterations.”  At the Undergraduate Library at UNC-Chapel Hill, we have a Sakai page for instructors where we share syllabi and assignment prompts we receive from teaching fellows, and lesson plans, handouts, and assessment tools that we create for our instruction sessions.  At Duke, the subject librarians meet twice a semester for Instructors’ Forum to reflect on and share what we’re doing with library instruction.  At the last Instructors’ Forum, for example, we shared methods and tools we were using to assess Writing 20 learning outcomes.

Finally, as a contributor to this blog, I’ve developed the ability to reflect upon and articulate my experiences and what I’ve learned from them.  I’ve gotten some positive feedback from my colleagues and I hope that my contribution has been valuable to others.  Though this sounds like a farewell post, next month I’ll be sharing the results of a study I’ve been conducting this semester on LibGuides here at Duke.  I hope it will be useful for librarians at Duke and beyond, so keep an eye out!

Clarifying research jargon #267: Primary, secondary, tertiary, what?!

As I’ve mentioned before, one of the clear perks of working on a college campus is having the opportunity to discuss research, teaching, writing and academia with colleagues who are as deeply invested in these issues (if not more so…) as we are here in the Libraries.  Such an opportunity presented itself this past Friday, when I participated in the Thompson Writing Program’s (TWP) first journal club meeting, facilitated by Director of Writing in the Disciplines Cary Moskovitz.  Cary chose Joseph Bizup’s “BEAM: A Rhetorical Vocabulary for Teaching Research-Based Writing” for us to read, which is highly relevant to the work both the TWP faculty and we librarians do with first-year students.

In a nutshell, Bizup proposes that it is the context of a source that should matter most to a writer and that describing sources as “primary,” “secondary” or “tertiary” is virtually meaningless, considering how widely the meaning of these terms varies depending on the associated discipline.  On Friday, we easily came up with a litany of examples for when using these seemingly concrete terms becomes problematic, and I certainly had my own library-related instances to share.  One instructor (a scientist) even commented that the definitions for these terms she uses in her WR20 teaching are different than the catch-all terms we use in library instruction sessions, further confusing the issue.  I know I often gloss over the meanings of these terms, aware that I’ll never have enough time in just 75 minutes to describe fully how primary and secondary sources differ and, more importantly, when a student might make use each for his or her research and how that use may vary depending on the discipline.  That, coupled with the fact that I am fully aware that my definitions may indeed differ from those the faculty member has spent the previous weeks teaching often leaves me feeling uneasy about the whole topic.

Bizup offers some much-needed guidance:  He introduces to his students an alternative vocabulary that helps them understand the roles these primary and secondary materials play, as “background,” “exhibits,” “arguments” or “methods.”  Further, he and his students discuss how writers may, for instance, offer these types of sources as facts or use them for interpretation or affirmation or to describe a particular procedure or model of representation.  Bizup’s students coined this model “BEAM” and refer to it frequently to identify how sources are used in texts they read and then to develop project plans for their own research papers.

After discussing the BEAM model and its place in the writing classroom and library instruction, we journal club members opened up our discussion via Skype to Joe Bizup himself and to Phil Troutman, who extended Bizup’s heuristic to I-BEAM, appending an “I” for “instancing” (or “interest” or “import”).  Phil has co-written with Mark Mullen a forthcoming article, “I-BEAM:  Instancing Argument and the Pedagogy of Research-Based Composition,” to describe further the fifth major type of source writers use to “establish a specific set of contexts in which the writer is situating the argument.”

Both Joe and Phil refer to Joe Harris’s rhetorical “moves,” which Harris details in Rewriting: How To Do Things With Texts, a text that is used by many TWP instructors.  The instructors present on Friday grappled with how they might use the BEAM and I-BEAM models in conjunction with Harris’s descriptions of writers’ “moves” and ultimately decided the frameworks are complementary and, in fact, useful for different purposes — Joe’s and Phil’s models describe sources in terms of their functions or uses, helping writers see how or why they might use a particular kind of source, while Harris describes what writers actually do with their materials (e.g. come to terms, forward, counter, take an approach).

Of course, we also discussed the potential importance of at least acknowledging the widely used terms “primary” and “secondary,” knowing that students will undoubtedly encounter these terms again later in their academic careers.  Both Phil and Joe reassured us that, at least in their experiences, students do not have trouble make the mental transition from the concepts of “primary” and “secondary” to the more functionally descriptive terms “background,” “exhibit,” “argument” and “method.”  Similarly, students did not seem to have trouble translating the meanings of these terms across disciplines — Joe mentioned working with a student in a writing class who was excited to be able to identify “exhibits” and “methods” he used in his chemistry research and who was able to make meaningful connections between the BEAM model and the research in what would likely become his primary discipline.

So, while no model is perfect or complete, Bizup’s BEAM and Troutman’s I-BEAM seem to get closer to the mark than the often empty and confusing “primary” and “secondary” labels.  I’m not sure yet how all of this will play out in the library instruction sessions I lead, but I do know that Friday’s discussion helped me see that I’m not the only one who struggles to teach these fuzzy concepts clearly or completely, and I certainly won’t gloss over their meanings without a second thought in classes I teach in the future.


Traveling Skeptics

In some of our previous posts Diane has encouraged the use of metaphor in library instruction sessions. I have often found it  difficult to come up with creative metaphors for research, in light of this I decided to make it a priority to more fully integrate metaphor into my instruction this semester. This is something I have touched on in previous library instruction sessions, where I might ask students to consider Summon the Google of the library website. Students understand the similarities between the tools and the amount of information being searched and we move on.

During my last library instruction session I wanted to begin class with a metaphor and utilize it throughout the entire class to both challenge myself as an instructor and to see if I could encourage students to articulate their current research strategies in a way that would lead to metacognitive reflection. Because my instruction session was before spring break I decided to use travel planning as a starting point for a discussion of gathering, evaluation, and management of resources. I began class by asking students how they would go about researching and organizing a trip to a new city. Many said they would use the internet and friends as resources, as well as mention it during casual conversations with acquaintances.

  • The importance of using  multiple resources for research in order to ensure the broadest possible information landscape from which to make informed decisions, check.

At that point in the session I asked students to consider a scenario in which they share with a new acquaintance their travel plans, to then have that acquaintance suggest an airline. I then asked if their opinion of the suggestion and the resource (in this example the new acquaintance) would change if later in that same conversation the acquaintance mentioned having a relative that works for the airline. They all responded that their opinion would change, and that they may be less inclined to use the suggested airline, or continue to research airlines.

  • Vetting of resources and critical inquiry, check.

I then asked students what they would do with all of the information they were finding online. Most said they would organize it in some fashion-on the desktop, a folder created on the desktop, or by using a tool like Evernote. This is the point when many of the students failed to follow through with a strong strategy for not only organizing, but also curating their information so that it would be readily available to them for future use. I explained that strategic organization would lead to increased use of resources that may be relevant across many classes. I encouraged them to build on their research when possible, rather than duplicating efforts. Additionally, personal learning goals should enter the discourse-an  honors thesis can come together in a much more cohesive way if the research has been done incrementally. They also all agreed that saving time by using a tool to generate their bibliographies was wise.

  • Information curation and utilization of tools that facilitate appropriate attribution, check.

By this point in the class we were searching for resources, and had successfully used the processes that many people engage in while planning a trip as a starting point for a conversation about research throughout the session, leading to increased student engagement. Certainly there is always room for improvement, but I plan to utilize the same travel research analogy in a class next week with a colleague, and suspect it will go even better than the first!

A pacifist at boot camp

Photo:  http://www.reversestreetads.com/blog/2011/12/16/mysterious-war-is-over-holiday-billboards-pop-up-in-wichita/



What is someone of the Friendly Persuasion doing at boot camp?  If it’s about ebooks, I’m there regardless of my philosophy.  To coin a profound phrase, “Ebooks are hard!”   Okay, not if you’re talking about going to Amazon.com and buying the latest bestseller for your Kindle.  But, if you’re trying to use an ebook that the library has acquired, think again.

At Duke we’ve purchased ebooks that run on almost 50 different platforms — those are just vendor-based platforms, not particular devices!  When a user finds a ebook in our catalog, the fun has just begun.  In many cases, the user has to create an account with the vendor, download Adobe Digital Editions, and then figure out what can be done with this ebook:  Can it be downloaded to a device like a Kindle?  Can you print out pages?  How long can you keep it to read?

So, our Ebook Boot Camp was time well spent.  We heard from a panel of Associate University Librarians from Duke, NC State and UNC who gave us an overview of where they think we are in moving toward an ebook world.  According to the Gartner Group’s analysis using their well-known “hype cycle,”  ebooks are coming down off the peak of “inflated user expectations” and sliding toward the “trough of disillusionment.”  Hmmm.

The next part of Boot Camp was an introduction to finding and using ebook use statistics.  Nancy Gibbs, our intrepid head of acquisitions, helped us understand what use statistics can and cannot tell us.  The last part of Boot Camp was a hands-on exercise where participants worked in groups to access an ebook from one of six major vendor platforms.  They then had to use the ebook to discover features and foibles — like whether printing  or check-out was allowed.  We then shared observations, particularly about how to explain ebooks to our users.

Kudos to the Ebook Strategy Committee for creating and facilitating Ebook Boot Camp.  I’m still in favor of nonviolence, but I’d attend more “basic training” if it was offered.