Thursday, March 29, 2018

Improving the quality of your information using Google Scholar

Do you ever get frustrated with web searches? When your students do research do they come back with unimpressive sources? Even when using advanced search strategies the Internet can feel like a barren place as you paw through endless pages of returns. That’s because Google and other current
search engines are only skimming the surface web (Goodman, 2015). The algorithms that direct
web crawlers identify metadata through hyperlinks and then index the site.
They don’t have access to the proprietary content that lives in the deep web which consists of:
  • Results of database queries
  • Subscription-only information and other password-protected data
  • Pages that are not linked to by any other page
  • Technically limited content, such as that requiring CAPTCHA technology
  • Text content that exists outside of conventional http:// or https:// protocols

A commonly cited statistic is that the Internet that we access using search engines is made up of only .03% of overall web content (OEDb, 2015 and Goodman, 2015).  That’s why it is important
to know how to use databases and alternative search engines, like Google Scholar.

Google Scholar web crawlers work differently because they target university repositories,
scholarly publications, academic publishers, professional societies, and other scholarly publications
to find articles, books, abstracts and court opinions (About Google Scholar). It also allows a user
to create a personalized library of scholarly materials. I really like the “library” section
of Google Scholar where you can build a personal collection of articles and create and assign “labels.”

A side-by-side look at a search on “close reading strategies”  on Google and Google Scholar reveals
the following:

Table 1
Comparison of search returns
About 22,100,000 results
First page sites:,,
Scholastic Common Core,,
and an image return.
Google Scholar
About 3,940,000 results
Academic journals: Pergamon (Elsevier),
Journal of Educational Psychology,
Reading Research (Wiley), a number of
scholarly articles indexed by JSTOR

The Google search returns aren’t bad, and there are certainly some good sources from reputable
sites, but everything you can access on Google is part of the free, surface web.
Google Scholar helps us peer into the deep web, and thanks to the BPL we can get access
to material that would otherwise be inaccessible, behind paywalls.

If we analyze a search return from Google Scholar you can see the following:

Table 2
Analysis of a return
1. By clicking the “ icon you can grab the citation to copy/paste into your document,
NoodleTools, or whatever citation platform you are using.
2. You can see how many others have cited this source in academic publishing, providing a
sense of its value/trustworthiness in the field. By clicking the “cited by” option you can access
the articles that cited the one in the search return and investigate the scholarly discussion in
multiple journals from experts in the field.
3. Related articles allow you to drill down deeper into the search and uncover additional
scholarly resources.

If the article is freely available as a PDF you will see the pdf icon to the right of the search return.

If it is JSTOR then you can click and login using the school's credentials.
If it is another organization you can usually get the article, but you may still hit a paywall.
If there is no PDF icon then you don’t have access to the article.

However, I can get it for you!
The Boston Public Library (BPL) is the official library of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,
and I am able to submit requests for articles and books through ILLiad (Inter-library loan).
BPL has access to the scholarly databases that we can’t provide. They also have a vast print
repository and will send a librarian to remote storage areas with a scanner and scan the article.
The turn around is generally 1-2 days although we did have a request that took almost two weeks
because they had to contact a library in India, and they had to scan it from their print repository.
Pretty cool!

Goodman, Marc. “Most of the web is invisible to Google. Here’s what it contains.” Popular Science. Last modified April 1, 2015. Accessed March 29, 2018.

Google Scholar, ed. "About Google Scholar." Google Scholar. Accessed March 29,

Open Education Database, ed. “The ultimate guide to the invisible web.” OEDb. Last modified 2018. Accessed March 29, 2018.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Shoot or Shute

We are busily checking out books for the summer, stamped with a due date of September 8, 2014. I
was gathering a stack of requests for a colleague, and as I went through the stacks I was talking to myself (as I often do). A student, one of our regulars, looked up with concern and asked "Is everything okay, Mrs. Cicchetti?" I smiled, and pulled the book I was looking for off the shelf. He laughed when I pointed to the cover and he saw the author's name.

I was muttering "Shute, Shute, Shute" and he heard  "Shoot, shoot, shoot...".

Even as we are checking out books for the summer, we are still chasing down students with overdue
books from the academic year. We have come up with an inexpensive and fun way to help students remember to bring in their books. We bought a packet of big, chunky, #84 rubber bands, and write OVERDUE BOOKS in red pen. Students are instructed not to remove the rubber band until they return their books. It is all done with a laugh, and it is working! Smiles all around.

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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Marc Aronson and the Common Core State Standards and Nonfiction

Aronson via Weston HS Global Ctr
EDCO Nonfiction and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS)
June 6, 2014
Weston High School Global Center, MA
Twitter hashtag #edcolibrary #msla
Presentation Notes

Marc Aronson, Rutgers University
Mary Ann Cappiello, Lesley University

In addition to their faculty positions and other professional activities, Aronson and Cappiello are members of the writing team that produces the Uncommon Corps blog.

What is the definition of nonfiction? Informational text, factual information, narrative nonfiction - how do we discuss nonfiction in our schools and libraries? The tendency ti to focus on what it isn't (nonfiction), and the implied assumption that reading is a fictional experience.

How do we define nonfiction?

It is NOT about being factual, truthful, or about the informational format v the narrative format. It is a modeling of a process of seeking truth using an agreed upon methodology of ascertaining that which may be true, in distinct ways, and distinct fields (Aronson).

There are many languages of nonfiction: history, math, engineering, sociology, multi-disciplinary areas etc. Instead of seeing of subjects as facts, or as settled pieces of information, consider approaching nonfiction from a different angle. Teach nonfiction as a language of subject specific conventions so students can learn the literacies of the pursuit of truth, using those accepted conventions within the various fields of knowledge. Nonfiction offers students the opportunity to read and to engage in reading as critical thinkers and active participants in assessing knowledge, and not just read as passive receptors of accepted information.

The best CCSS resource for teachers is Major League Baseball because for every game that is played, they provide a report from the point of view of each team. This provides two contrasting narratives of an event that happened yesterday.

The same baseball game can be described in 4 ways:
  1. survey article of all games from yesterday
  2. story of a rookie up at bat first time
  3. box score- raw data
  4. investigative reporting on an aspect of the game
Librarians need to "move away from our Dewey orientation", and move toward the ways various media are treating a topic (Aronson). We need to understand how topics are addressed throughout various genres and sub-genres of various disciplinary topics and rethink the idea of subject v treatment of a topic.

CCSS emphasizes reading like a writer, and writing like a reader. Through nonfiction students can begin to experience writing in authentic ways with a knowledge-base of writer's craft using comparison/contrast, writers choices, and treatment.  Conflicting information between texts is a valuable opportunity for students to witness how knowledge is not static but evolving.

Young people should see books disagreeing or coming to different conclusions (an example is Pluto, and the changing recognition of what constitutes a planet or star). Librarians are there to show the process of knowing, not to provide the answers for students. Demonstrate that experts disagree, and welcome students to participate in the debate by teaching them the basis of how people think, compare/contrast, make and build arguments. "Librarians as referees, not the ones who have all the answers" (Aronson). How do school librarians become support networks for teachers within our schools? How do we reposition as school librarians as agents of change and experts within our buildings.

Consider a new model for school librarians and as the people who support and collaborate with teachers and students who:
  • provide a voice for nonfiction
  • build a sense of community around nonfiction with the library as a central hub for those collaborative discussions
  • facilitate nonfiction discussions within a social context
Mission - Increasing the participation of girls in computer science

Culturally, we do a terrible job of interesting girls in computer science. 99.6% of women entering college do not go into computer science. This is a travesty that must be addressed, and we can leverage nonfiction to engage girls and young women in exploring computer science and other technology related fields. We need to use our book displays to pique interest, and combat the US cultural assumption that computer science is for males. Through exposure, we can expand areas of passion to make sure all students feel math, science, physics, belong to them as an interest, and an area they can explore with creativity and passion. Read Turning the Ship Around for Aronson's response to a New York Times op-ed piece on this topic.


The goal of school to prepare students for life after school. It is better that they struggle and fail during their K-12 education, than when they struggle at the college level. Remediation rates at colleges are very high. Schools must absorb the challenge presented by this transition because this is what will help our students when they leave K-12 education. CCSS and PARCC are for years13+.
The standards are creative, engaging, and open opportunities to broaden curriculum, rather than narrow it. Use CCSS to re-think curriculum and view test results as an analytical tool to evaluate curriculum.

The NYC Lab School is an example of a school the successfully adapted CCSS and has improved test scores as a result. Find schools that have succeeded, and determine how they define success.

Collection Development

A starting point for school library collection development to enhance trade nonfiction.These are books that are driven by the author's passion, not created to teach specific content. Review the 5-7 annual prizes for best nonfiction K-12, make a list of past 5 year winners, publicize and circulate the list. Print out the list and post it in the faculty room, and invite teachers to highlight the titles that meet their curricular needs. Last minute budget money can go towards these purchases.

Nonfiction sections of libraries need to be regularly weeded to learn what is actually on the shelves, make sure it is current, attractive, and easily accessible to students. Assemble course packs using digital collections of chapters. Database articles can be managed in this way. Trade nonfiction is not as well integrated into the ebook world as is fiction. Weed nonfiction! Save some of the outdated books to help teachers and students understand what is happening today in nonfiction, and see the changing representation of difficult topics.

Pre-Internet the library was the place to find authoritative information. Shelf nonfiction should not be about hunting for facts, but about compelling writing. Also, the niche interests of students should drive nonfiction curriculum development. Database needs v print needs are very different, and the format should meet that need. Nonfiction for curriculum means students are under-exposed to the wide range on nonfiction formats and sources. Increased narrative nonfiction exposes them to new formats as well as increased and diverse reading experiences. Narrative nonfiction means that the author has placed emphasis on setting, plot, description, dialog, and evolving plot. Pleasure reading should reflect the diverse interests and passions of students, including the kids who like to read math texts, programming texts, and topics we have not included in our cultural perceptions and definitions of pleasure reading.

Textbooks are often equated with nonfiction in schools. This discussion is about books with voice, point of view, a single author, and narrative nonfiction should now be considered school nonfiction. Librarians should both use and recommend nonfiction as a read-aloud with great voice and narrative quality that promotes critical thinking, and demonstrates that we place value on nonfiction. Focus on pre-service teacher education with a world view that centers nonfiction literacy at the heart of practice, and the seeking out of the library as a central partner in the success of the CC standards.

School librarians need to make themselves visible in this transitional period via self-advocacy based on the importance of our skills at this moment in time. What are we offering our students that will provide reading challenge, and that also build knowledge?

Text Sets

Text sets address this need, and librarians are uniquely skilled in knowing the various formats, sources, genres, primary sources, media sources, video, and diverse digital resources that can be assembled in the form of curated materials (Cappiello). The three types of texts in the texts sets:
  • scaffold texts
  • content texts
  • extension texts
For greater detail, consider purchasing Cappiello's  Teaching with Text Sets.

What is needed as we move ahead? Greater crossover between school library programs with educational programs in order to build realization of the value of the role of school librarians. Advocacy from within gets you so far, but perceptions will begin to transition towards the librarian as  central to curriculum planning and critical support partners for teachers. 

Aronson is eager to hear from the field and invites school librarians to visit his website, email him with comments and questions so that he can continue his learning from authentic voices in the field. Cappiello feels like a teacher who has infiltrated the library world, and is looking for greater collaboration between organizations to build partnerships and greater visions.

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Saturday, January 4, 2014

Going Bookless: Does it Have to be All or Nothing?

School libraries have very different missions from public libraries, and thank goodness our public library colleagues are innovating and launching new service models. The San Antonio BiblioTech Library   offers glimpse of bookless future  which is certainly doing wonders for developing a new user base.

As we were in the planning stages of building a new high school with a state-of-the-art learning commons I was asked how much space we would need for shelving. It was an interesting question because space was at a premium. The state of Massachusetts has set guidelines on space allocation for new school projects, and we needed to decide how much of our space would be for books, and how much for collaborative activities and student workspaces. I remember clearly saying "I don't want to prioritize books over student activities." And I didn't, because two years ago I was all about going bookless. Since then there has been a shift in my thinking.

The biggest shift came from my students, specifically those voracious and brilliant readers who chew through books and bang their fists on the table, and show up in school wearing black because a beloved character was killed. These students read digitally when on vacation because otherwise their suitcases would be filled with books and no clothes. Their fervent preference was to read physical books. Despite all my arguments their firm preference for deep reading was print. (Abigail Reyes in the BiblioTech article states the same preference.)

There were two articles that particularly resonated with me and contributed to my shift.  How Reading Makes Us More Human (The Atlantic, 2013) clearly reinforced the attitudes and behaviors of my students. However, it was The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens (Scientific American, 2013) that really fueled the change in my thinking. The short version is that the mapping/navigation function of the brain occurs in the same area as reading, and contributes to comprehension, specifically in deep reading experiences.

Our new school is scheduled to open in spring of 2015 and our learning commons will embrace a bookless philosophy, but there will still be a place for books on the shelves. Our print collection will focus on high interest print fiction and narrative nonfiction, with room for high interest classics and core reference. We will continue to develop our ebook collection reference holdings and expand the audio collection to reflect high interest fiction and narrative nonfiction.

In the meantime, I have to chuckle and wonder as I reflect on my own preference for reading digitally. The Kindle is light which makes it easier on my wrist, and enlarging the font makes it easier on my eyes. I learned to read print and wonder if this early navigation/mapping contributed to making me the reader I am today? My preference would be to get all my reading material for free digitally, but because of the chaotic state of the industry and limits on availability of titles/licenses to public libraries, this isn't going to occur anytime soon.

Hopefully our learning commons collection will support our developing high school readers across all platforms, and help them build the skills to become passionate readers in the future. Just as long as they continue to read with passion, bang tables, and weep and rejoice over books.

Photo credit: Robin's iPhone, Creative Commons Attribution License

Monday, April 22, 2013

Betwixt and Between

Is anyone else as betwixt and between as I am about e-Books? It is hard to know which way to jump. The figure on the left was just installed in our LC this morning (Thanks, Christopher & Kevin!) and sums up my feelings as I contemplate my summer order. How much will I spend on print, on databases, and on eBooks?

The short version is our print purchases will be for high interest fiction and narrative nonfiction. Everything else will be digital. Two recent articles have helped me clarify my plans for our future.

Joyce Valenza's post about her eBook journey was incredibly helpful, because it reinforced many of the discussions and experiences we are having in our school. Like many, we have been building our e-book collection focusing on reference and nonfiction. (Honestly, the only titles being used are the ones we are embedding into our research LibGuides.) Moving forward we will be prioritizing titles with multi-user licenses, and on-demand options.

The other article that had me thinking was The Reading Brain in the Digital Age: The Science of Paper versus Screens. This is a great read, and provides the science behind the issues between print and digital reading. The human brain is wired to process real-life images, and evolved to adapt to print. Reading occurs in the same region as image processing, and is also tied to mapping, that helps orient the brain. Reading off the print page also involves a mapping that orients the reader, and facilitates building context and retention. When recalling text, this mapping is tied to our progress in the book, which section it was in, what part of the page. There really is a connection between retention and the tactile experience of reading. I am dropping my digital evangelism, and recognize that there remains a vital role for print in deep reading experiences. 
This summer my orders will have high interest print, but for research and inquiry, we are continuing with our book-less philosophy.
Here are a few additional figures in the installation. Aren't they great!

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Line in the Sand

Weeding books is never fun, but it sure is interesting. Pulling book after book after book off the shelf there are lots of check out stamps from the 1980's to 90's, and then they dwindle to nothing after 1998. It was the line in the information sand that marked a tipping point. Internet access to databases and academic web searches became more relevant than book-based resources. This isn't news to librarians, but for me the stark reality confirmed that we are doing the right thing. We are going book-less.

The check out slip in the back of a book tells a story almost as interesting as that contained between the covers. Some books remain virginal, their bindings never cracked. Others have check out slips almost black with due date stamps. And then there are runs of books that have current due date stamps. These are the topics of regular research assignments. I know the teachers and the papers, and that the print resources play a small role in the research activity.

Going book-less does not mean there will be no print and the shelves will be thrown away. It is a philosophy. Until the terrain around publishing e-book contracts and technology devices settles and industry standards emerge, there will still be print versions of high interest fiction and non-fiction. Meanwhile, the bulk of the research and reference collections will go digital.

This is the line in our sand. My goal is to get the nonfiction collection age up from 1986 to the 2000's. Six years ago it was 1936 (!), so we have already made a lot of progress.  Last year we got fiction up to 2001, and this included a lot of replacement of battered but relevant classics.

No hand wringing. Out they go.

(For those interested, we are using the MUSTY protocol for weeding. SUNY Fredonia Reed Library has a very nice MUSTY resource page.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Just for Fun

I have 115 blogs in my RSS feed. (I try very hard to keep the count under 125.) It is filled with blogs from the smartest and most generous colleagues in the world, and it informs my practice each day. It isn't all work, though! There are a couple I love just because they are fun, and because they make my brain fire off different neurons.

Librarian Wardrobe - Not always buns and sensible shoes, librarians at various types of libraries have different styles (and dress codes).

I love this site because every day I get to "meet" funky librarians from all over the country. They are breaking the librarian stereotypes not only in the cutting edge work they do, but also in their sassy, funky sartorial choices. They are inspirational, and I have "upped" my wardrobe game because of this site. (Unfortunately, I am keeping my clogs. The disco era was a lot of fun, but I danced my feet off and ruined them for heels.)

The Library as Incubator Project - Highlights ways libraries and artists can work together.

Every post shows amazing collaboration between all sorts of artists and their libraries. I am always pushed to consider new ways to reach out to groups, clubs and departments for ways to share the learning commons and infuse it with creativity and continue to build our community.

My Daguerreotype Boyfriend - Where early photography meets extreme hotness.
This blog is fun because occassionally they get look-alikes. Take a look at Jake Gyllenhaall past and present! Also a great blog for primary source inspiration.

South Pole Librarian - A year at the bottom of the world.
How cool is this? I mean, seriously?

@shelserkin - This is a webstagram feed from a photographer living in New York. I like this because every day I get a couple of funky, hipster images from an amazing city. The use of hash tags is always interesting, too.  I don't have to read or tag, I just skim over them and enjoy the view.

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