It’s tomorrow, at 2 p.m.:

American Libraries columnist Meredith Farkas is distance learning librarian at Norwich University in Vermont. On December 7 at 2 p.m. Eastern time she will be participating in an OPAL Casual Conversation online program.


Here’s a call for authors that cites distance ed as a recent topic for this column. Have a new perspective you could provide?  Particularly good for those who work with health/medical libraries and distance learners/services.


Write an article for the MLA News Technology column in 2008! Writing provides a great opportunity to either share expertise you already have or delve into a topic you’ve been wanting to learn about.

Your column can be a topic review, a case study, or a report on the state of a technology. Recent topics: distance education applications, data mining, Web-based reference management tools, and library podcasts.

Some of the topics we’re interested in for 2008:

– GIS for health information
– Responsible disposal or reuse of equipment
– The InfoButton
– Anatomy of a query URL: If I run it again tomorrow, will it still work?
– Productivity software: alternatives to Office

Your own topic suggestions are, of course, welcome as well. Maximum length: 700 words.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Pat Weiss
Lynne Fox
Technology Co-Editors, MLA News
Patricia M. Weiss, MLIS
Reference & Information Technology Librarian
Technology Editor, MLA News

Falk Library – Health Sciences Library System – 200 Scaife Hall – University of Pittsburgh
3550 Terrace Street – Pittsburgh, PA 15261 – Phone 412.648.2040 – Fax 412.648.8819

Health Sciences Library System:

The dividing line…

November 14, 2007

I started to respond to Lauren’s post on teaching technologies and her question of “Where is the dividing line between distance and traditional learning?” My response got so long, though, I thought I’d add it up here to see about continuing this conversation.

I don’t think there is much of a difference anymore. In my experiences, the main differences came from the library itself–my last job would let me ship materials to distance students, but not “local” ones, and when my position was created that meant that the students had a name–a personal connection to someone in the library who could help. That turned out to often mean I would be helping them with things beyond just the library, i.e., letting them know who to reach for other university needs. But is that really outside our “domain”? Do we stop just at library topics? I think, in some ways, I became an ambassador of sorts for the university as a whole, someone they felt they could just pick up the phone or send an IM/e-mail and get help.

Of course, the other main difference is with those students who study at off-campus locations, or in a distance program that never meets on campus. They often, in my experience, felt disconnected from the university and unaware of the amount of support they could get. Often, I found that until I did an on-site visit with them at their location (when possible), they didn’t really work with any thought to the library or the university. After that, though, I’d hear from them regularly.

I found that it was key to get the faculty aware of our support to be able to share that early on, particularly for those times I wouldn’t be able to meet students in person. I had several departments who invited me to come and present on our services at orientations for online programs that began with a one-week stay on campus before the program began. And others who made sure to include my contact info in their online courses, often referring their students to me.

Probably one of the biggest issues, though, was that after I began, many of our library staff stopped helping distance students and would just refer them to me. So even if the divide is getting blurred, at least for our users, do our non-distance-librarian colleagues feel that same way? Or by naming it, do we become more divisive with our support?

The Sloan Consortium released a new report this month by I. Elaine Allen, Ph.D. and Jeff Seaman, Ph.D. on distance education.   The report is named Online Nation: Five Years of Growth in Online Learning, and is the fifth annual report on the state of online learning in U.S. higher education, based on responses from over 2,500 colleges and universities.  If you’d like to read the report, the PDF is here.

teaching technologies

October 8, 2007

Once I received my MLIS, I was promoted at my library.  My new job title is “Instructional Design Librarian.”  Right now we are still evolving this position, but largely the focus appears to be finding new technologies and creating plans and pilots where we can integrate these technologies into our services and workflow.  So, I’m working on developing a number of blogs (subject specific, announcing good resources, screencast instruction, etc), a modular tutorials project (which is still evolving, but I’ll let you know more once we have it figured out), and even creating little thinks like a twitter feed of interesting facts.

In the context of this blog and interest group, this work is interesting to me because we’re a very traditional liberal arts campus.   Most of our students between 18 and 22.  Most live on campus.  There’s no entirely online course that I know of.  Some professors use Blackboard, but there isn’t the widespread use of technology that you see at some of the larger technical schools.  Yet, we know students like to learn things at the point in time when they need them.  We realize students like to be able to have quick access to the information they are interested in following.  We know that our students spend a lot of time on their computers.

So while we’re not a campus with any kind of emphasis on “distance learning,” I’m playing with using the tools of distance learning librarians to help our on-campus population.  Where is the dividing line between distance and traditional learning?  Is there a line anymore?  Do you all have examples of this type of situation from your own place of work?