Money Matters: Financial Literacy Tools Webinar

Want to know more about the government’s personal finance tools? Have patrons who need assistance in financial matters? Check out this Help! webinar on the federal government’s financial literacy tools.

I am moving all of the “Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian” webinars to our YouTube channel and want to highlight a few of the most popular. This is a great one to start with because it was an excellent presentation and a timely topic. Hope you find it helpful!

And big thanks to NewsBank, Readex, and GODORT for providing funding to purchase software to convert and clean these recordings through the NewsBank/Readex/GODORT/ALA Catharine J. Reynolds Research Grant

The Help! Gov Info Webinar series is going for the big time! #alaac15

Summer projects are a great thing. This summer a big focus of my time will be converting our webinar series to accessible, embeddable YouTube videos. The series is called “Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian” and is organized by the North Carolina Library Association’s Government Resources Section. The series has been ongoing since April 2011 and we have 48 webinars available on a variety of topics, from government data to genealogy to congressional history. The series was geared originally to librarians who were asked to take on government information duties without training, but anyone is welcome to attend and there are lots of topics of wider interest.

The webinars take place live in UNCG’s Blackboard Collaborate software, which has worked great, but the recordings are not very accessible. They require Java and are not easily embeddable in LibGuides, etc. This is a major problem for a lot of our clientele like public librarians and even the public to be honest. So, rather than hiding this excellent resource we decided to figure out a solution.

Enter out Help! YouTube channel. This is definitely a work in progress, so if you have suggestions, please get in touch. We have been asked to archive them through Internet Archive as well.  For each webinar I am downloading as MPEG-4 and then cleaning up the recording.  To do this I needed a solid video tutorial software. I have an older version of Camtasia at work that has a mind of its own (and doesn’t work). So rather than offering up my first born for a new version (I kinda like my cats), I decided to apply for an award that would pay for it. Luckily, I won the NewsBank/Readex/GODORT/ALA Catharine J. Reynolds Research Award from the ALA Government Documents Round Table. It will help pay for Camtasia on my personal computers, a copy that I can give to NCLA in case there are other sections that would like to use it, and some will be leftover for travel to promote the series at conferences.

I will be adding webinars throughout the summer. The cleaning process can take a while so I am asking people to give me suggestions for priority webinars. If you have a favorite from our list, let me know. My goal is for this to be a FREE and accessible resource for all information specialists/librarians/reference gurus out there. Because after all, government information should be free!

NC LITe keeps on, keepin’ on

NC LITe is the NC Library Instruction Technology group. We meet twice a year to talk about all things library instruction/tech related. It is fun. This year was at NCSU. Below are some really rough notes (I was late because like always I got lost driving in Raleigh). I’ll post access to the slides when they are available.

Katy Webb @ ECU talked about using the youcanbookme website to replace a previously cumbersome process for students to schedule a consultation with a librarian. The new service is branded as “Book A Librarian”, and students can choose time to meet with a librarian with a 24-hour turn around. They made it look similar to the room reservation system, and the students are actually booking a consultation room and a librarian shows up. After the room is booked, the department will decide which librarian takes the appointment by using google cal. I was excited to hear about this site because I had been using Jiffle and then ScheduleOnce and then those sites got greedy and went subscription only. This one is free.

Kerri Brown-Parker @ NCSU school of education talked about her efforts to train teachers in developing the information literacy skills of high school students. She mostly focused on the types of assignments the teachers could develop in senior year to prepare students for college level work.

Jennie Goforth @ UNC Chapel Hill discussed the rebranding of the design lab in the undergraduate library.  The old branding was a bit dated, and the library wanted new tagline. The smartest part was that they based the design of the logo on design of a separator screen in the lab. Instead of coming up with something that doesn’t integrate with the space, they matched the design with the decor. SO SMART.

Hannah Rozear @ Duke talked about a really cool project to teach critical digital literacy as an embedded librarian in a writing class called “Hacking Knowledge”. Her goal was to honor the diversity of voices through their assignments and the library instruction session. To accomplish this, Hannah and the instructor co-designed assignments, relocated the library sessions to a regular classroom, increased the number of “library” sessions to six, and modified the content to focus on nontraditional sources and critical thinking about traditional sources. She had a lot more in her slides including learning outcomes (nerd out with me!), so I hope she will share those soon.

Finally, the awesome Kyle Denlinger @ Wake Forest and Rebecca Hyman @ State Library of NC talked about the crazy successful rootsMOOCa MOOC focused on genealogy. They apparently had 4018 people sign up for it. The coolest part is that the MOOC inspired a grassroots Facebook learner group. In addition, their materials are CC licensed, and Kyle can give access if you are interested. Their slides are available.

We also had three short round-table discussions on various topics: supporting technology; supporting research assignments; and creating sustainable online instructional modules. These again are rough notes.
Tech Table
  • Wake Forest created a process for proposing projects that might require new technology. If the library doesn’t have the capacity currently, they can prepare for it.
  • Also we discussed teaching/supporting people who lack basic computer skills in the academic library. We haven’t talked much about this, but at some schools with adult populations this is an issue to consider. Honestly, even some digital natives worry me at times (e.g., number of students who can successfully start a PowerPoint presentation is strangely low).
Supporting real research assignments
  • At Davidson College the library is part of the Center for Teaching and Learning. To do outreach with faculty, they have invited faculty individually for informal lunch conversations.
  • NCSU & UNC both have lots of issues with first time teachers creating impossible assignments. To deal with this they got invited into the first year writing program to do training.
  • Someone mentioned the need to create collaborative place to put rubrics and assignment examples. Someone always mentions this, but follow through is difficult. What are the barriers to doing this?
Online instructional module
  • High Point University created a module for graduate students to take them through entire scholarly process from the basics to much more advanced needs.
  • We also talked about the role of the library in teaching students about plagiarism. Some have decided it isn’t the library’s role; others like UNCG are so embedded in that process it would be difficult to not support. Interesting conversation.

Finally we had a tour of the new NCSU Maker Space. Pretty cool operation. This is just one view of it. I want one of those hanging power cord things in my office. Just for the heck of it.

NCSU Maker Space in D.H. Hill

NCSU Maker Space in D.H. Hill



Data deluge: IASSIST conference wrap up

I attended the IASSIST annual conference last week in Minneapolis, Minnesota. IASSIST is an international data professional conference and a great forum for data specialists to get together and chat. I am very happy to say it went well because I was the Program Co-Chair and if it hadn’t gone well, well … These are my brief notes from the sessions I was able to attend and take notes (a few times I was unable to stay in a session because of questions elsewhere). I would suggest looking at the twitter feed if you are interested. We had a new member taking sketch notes during the conference, which were quite popular. Also Laurence Horton from LSE took very detailed Google Doc notes.



Day 1 kicked off with a fantastic plenary by Steve Ruggles from the conference host, Minnesota Population Center (MPC). His talk focused on the development of the Census over time. His main argument was that the Census Bureau (CB) played a tremendous role in developing innovative technology and data collection methods during the early years through the mid-twentieth century, but that the more recent Census years have seen stagnation and a loss in the CB’s leadership. While depressing at points, Ruggles highlighted a few collaborations between the CB and the MPC that are promising such as the Census Longitudinal Infrastructure Project (CLIP).

I chaired a session entitled Training Data Users. King-Hele discussed training efforts at the UK Data Archive. Primarily they have concentrated on in-person workshops, but they have also started creating webinars and training guides/videos. I’m looking forward to checking some of these out during my summer! Katharin Peter at the Univ of Southern California talked about supporting data-related assignments. Her univ had a competitive grant program for faculty to encourage the creation of these assignments in conjunction with instructional designers and Katharin as the data librarian. Although USC was able to offer significant grant amounts, I think faculty could be encouraged with much lower amounts at other schools. Another incentive could be the creation of communities of practice where faculty can share and learn. They will eventually create a repository of data assignments but that is in the early stages. Finally Kristin Eschenfelder and her team from Univ of Wisconsin (Go Badgers!) closed out our session.  They used the IASSIST journal, IQ, to analyze connections between Social Science Data Archives over time. Using historical network analysis they were able to track the interactions between the different archives and funding agencies. It is a really interesting project and I can’t wait to see where they go with more data. They were also part of our new paper track and were required to submit a paper in advance, which anyone can access. They also won the first paper award prize.

The plenary for day 2 was a bit controversial, but we meant it that way. We had Curtiss Cobb, head of the Population and Survey Sciences Team at Facebook, talk about Facebook’s interest in the digital divide in the developing world and its initiative They have also been acquiring third party data to inform their research, so Curtiss discussed his evaluative framework for acquiring data. Again, Laurence has more notes on the specifics of the talk. While there were questions about Facebook’s “altruistic” intentions, I enjoyed having an outside perspective on social science data and its use.

I also attended a fabulous session with the Minnesota Population Center on their various data programs. So much goodness in this one. They talked about their products from the old standbys like IPUMS-USA and IPUMS-International to newer products like Terra Populus, which integrates environmental and population data. The one I am really excited about for my history graduate work and haven’t used much is the North Atlantic Population Project. With our Atlantic World focus at UNCG, it seems that this could be popular.

One of my favorite sessions brought together geospatial data and qualitative data specialists, two areas that are increasingly popular in libraries. Andy Rutkowski formerly of USC talked about combining GIS methods with qualitative data especially archival information. It was a really nice discussion of the more theoretical aspects of these techniques. In addition, Mandy Swygart-Hobaugh talked about her analysis of job postings related to qualitative data support in libraries. She found that it is an under-supported area. You can read more about her project soon in the edited volume Databrarianship: The Academic Data Librarian In Theory And Practice, coming to a library near you in Fall(ish) 2015.

The last session I could attend was Training Data Users II David Fearon and Jennifer Darragh from Johns Hopkins talked about training for de-identifying human subjects in data sets. This is a really cool and extremely specialized service, but one that I am sure lots of faculty would welcome with the new sharing requirements. They developed their workshop information from a training session offered by ICPSR. They have some handouts, but I couldn’t get the URL down in time. I will add when it is available.

Finally, we closed out with a plenary talk by Andrew Johnson (no, not that Andrew Johnson) on Politics of Open Data. He is a city council ward representative for Minneapolis and was one of the creators of What We Pay For, a website that tracks federal government spending and connects your salary to actual government expenditures. He talked about his interest in providing open data access and the political roadblocks he encountered along the way. Great way to end a conference all about data!

The presentation, poster, and pecha kucha PowerPoints are being collected now. We will make them available as possible, but unfortunately there may be a delay. If you are interested in any particular presentation, get in touch with me and I can send you more information. Overall it was definitely the best IASSIST ever.

IASSIST is all around

marytylermooreOh yes, the Mary Tyler Moore jokes start now because IASSIST is headed to Minneapolis for the 41st annual conference. IASSIST is all about data and is an excellent conference if you want to meet data professionals from all over the world. Even though my job is only part-time data support, I keep going back because of the network.

This year is special because I was co-chair for the program. The biggest benefit of being a program planner for a conference is learning patience. I was never good with that, but hey, who says you can’t teach an old girl new tricks. But the program is (mostly) set and is looking good. Just like Mary’s hat. I’ve already promised someone I will post notes, so come back for more data if you are interested.

Admittedly in addition to the learning and networking, I attend conferences because I like to eat in all of the wonderful places. I’ve been reading and researching Minneapolis food and put it all on my handy IASSIST/Minneapolis google map. Let me know if you have any suggestions for eating, relaxing, drinking, etc. I haven’t gotten to St. Paul yet, but soon soon.

PS: Ever listen to the sexist second verse of the MTM theme song: “You have the looks and charm and girl, you know that’s all you need.” Sheesh.


End of the semester wrap up: Teaching Genocide

Good timing is a funny thing. This semester I developed and taught a class called “Politics of Genocide”. I didn’t plan for it to coincide with the Armenian genocide’s 100th anniversary, but today’s Remembrance Day may help to reinforce what they have learned. I haven’t reflected much on the class because it has been a whirlwind semester for many reasons. But I thought it would be good to write out my thoughts.

To give you a bit of background, this class was based in the political science department, but it had an international and global studies marker to encourage students from IGS to take it. Most were political science majors, but I had a few English, history and psychology majors too. Because it was a higher-level class, most were juniors and seniors. Many of them were also former students from my introduction to international relations class. It was supposed to be a smaller group, but I ended up with 38 students in the end. A bit larger than I would have liked.

My goal was an interdisciplinary experience with a good amount of history and political science, but then a smattering of psychology and anthropology. I had guest lecturers for some parts, mostly from history.  I decided to use a case study approach borrowed from Scott Straus for my structure, which meant there was A LOT of history. At some points the amount caused frustration for my political science majors, especially when we discussed Yugoslavia, but they persevered. I don’t usually say this, but it was definitely good for them.

Why did I develop this course? My background in Yugoslavia was the starting point. I also knew that there would be quite a few professors around campus who specialize in different areas (Rwanda, Nuremberg, the Holocaust, Cambodia, etc) and that I could potentially draw on their expertise. Ultimately, we don’t have a course like this at UNCG. We each teach in our own little areas, but no one is doing a broad cross-country comparison of genocide. Plus I thought it would be fun. Because I’m insane like that.

Why a librarian teaching a course? Um, why not is my sarcastic answer. I have the qualifications, I have the interest, and I am willing to spend my time grading. But seriously, teaching this course as a librarian has helped me have a deeper understanding of what resources we have and what holes are in our collections. One of those holes was early scholarship on the Armenian genocide. I don’t think this was an intentional oversight, but came from a lack of awareness and assumptions about research interests on our campus. Teaching a course in my subject area and being a librarian are complementary roles and I am a better librarian and instructor because of it.

What have been the major outcomes? The most interesting one is the awareness factor. Most of my students had never heard of the Armenian genocide. As they read the news today about the Armenian genocide, they can approach the topic and the debate with more awareness and knowledge. Most of them hadn’t understood the limitations of the Genocide Convention or the lack of US response to most of the major atrocities (Rwanda, Cambodia, etc). Many of them understand better that gaining a position of power means you have “interests” that interfere (you can hide behind) with ideals (President Obama and Ambassador Power). In short, they’ve learned some depressing realities. But they’ve also learned the world is more complex than our media portrays and our politicians acknowledge. My goal is that they will stand up the next time a Clinton claims ignorance of genocide and say NO. STOP. LYING.

How does it end? Here is what I plan to tell them next week when we say good bye:

By Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Jones, Ph.D. (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

If you think that nothing can be done and all is hopeless, then you haven’t been paying attention. I hope you’ve learned that the world is complex and you can’t take for granted the official stories or myths. You need to approach what we are told with a critical eye, especially regarding the U.S.’s engagement with the world.
Also there is lots to be done. These are some activist organizations you can work with. Letter writing for Darfur is ongoing.  The local public library works closely with refugee communities and others fleeing atrocities. You can teach English, you can provide child care, you can help them apply for jobs.
Finally you can spread awareness of our history and the history  of the world around you. Tell people these stories. Let them know the definition of genocide. Keep educating yourselves and help educate others.
I think that is a good way to end it. I can’t wait to watch their research presentations. Hopefully I can remember to jot down some notes and blog a bit on them. So, more to come next week …

New NCLA GRS Help! Webinar

The NCLA Government Resources Section runs a webinar series on government-related topics, and all the recordings are free and available on our website. Our next webinar is in March. Just in time for Sunshine Week, we will have the National Institute on Money in State Politics with us! Join us!

Help! I’m an Accidental Government Information Librarian presents … National Institute on Money in State Politics

The Government Resources Section of the North Carolina Library Association welcomes you to a series of webinars designed to help us all do better reference work by increasing our familiarity with government information resources, and by discovering the best strategies for navigating them.

Edwin Bender, executive director of the National Institute on Money in State Politics, has been connecting the dots between campaign finance and public policy for more than a decade. He promotes the free use of the Institute’s comprehensive, highly credentialed political donor information by investigative journalists, scholars examining state elections and public-policy processes, and attorneys involved in campaign-finance litigation—and is now focused on empowering librarians across the country.

What could YOU do with $2 billion? That’s the amount contributed to candidates and committees for 2014 state races. And why would there be so much monetary interest in these races? Sometimes legislators vote in obvious ways—and sometimes constituents wonder what may have prompted a certain vote. Ditto for governors and, now more than ever, our elected judiciary. Join Ed to learn how to research a state candidate’s donor base, the top-giving industries, and possible connections between contributors, proposed legislation, and lobbyists.

We will meet together for Session #45, online on March 18 from 12:00 – 1:00 p.m. (Eastern). Please RSVP for the Session by March 18 using this link:

Technical requirements: We will be using collaborative software called Blackboard Collaborate. It requires that you be able to download Java onto your computer, but you do not need any special software. After you RSVP, we will send you a link that you can use to test the software. If you have any questions, please contact Lynda Kellam ( You do not need a microphone as a chat system is available in the software, but you do need speakers or headphones.

The session will be recorded and made available after the live session, linked from the NCLA GRS web page (