Tag Archives: COVID19

How I Flipped During the Pandemic

From the Association of Architecture School Librarians column on the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture website.

By David Eifler, Environmental Design Librarian, University of California, Berkeley.

As of mid-September, UC Berkeley’s Environmental Design Library will have been closed for six months and it’s unlikely we’ll be able to welcome back faculty and students before mid-spring. As librarians, we are very accustomed to “pivoting”, doing more with less, and adapting our work and services in the face of uncertainty. However, as architecture librarians, we rely on physical spaces to foster pedagogy and intellectual exchange among our diverse community. We design our libraries to reflect contemporary practice, to inspire creativity, to embody warmth, and to create engaging environments outside the studio. The COVID pandemic has separated us from the foundational physical elements of our libraries including print collections, casual office visits, and event programming of exhibits, lectures, and book talks. Worst of all, we’ve lost face-to face-instruction and reference interactions with our patrons. Although we have Zoom to engage remotely, in reality, it is a simulacrum for in-person instruction.

In-person meetings with students in classrooms, small groups, or one-on-one provide opportunities to gauge research needs and communicate the breadth and utility of resources without succumbing to the temptation to overwhelm with too much information. Establishing rapport in the physical classroom and gauging the mood of participants helps ensure pedagogical strategies successfully engage students. We might be relaxed and jocular with undergraduates, more serious and contemplative with graduates, and reassuring with panicked transfer students. With Zoom, however, our ability to assess students’ emotional state is severely limited. Are those Zoom tiles listening, multi-tasking, bored, overwhelmed, or dealing with rambunctious siblings or pets? We’ve lost the ability to set the instructional stage and adapt teaching to “meet them where they are.” They are literally all over the place. It only took only a few Zoom sessions to understand that traditional in-class teaching approaches do not translate well in the virtual world. When I realized this, I flipped.

I mean that I changed my teaching modality to a flipped instruction model. Previously piloted in select classes, this model allows students to do the bulk of hands-on learning prior to attending a session. For introductory classes I now create a “library worksheet” that is assigned by the professor to coincide with an initial research assignment. This prescriptive worksheet — which includes links to short videos — allows students to progress at their own pace, exploring critical learning objectives such as how to avoid plagiarism, accessing resources from off campus, employing search strategies in various databases, and refining a research topic. Using examples relevant to the course content, the worksheet explains, step-by-step, how to access e-books, identify databases by discipline or function, and allows students to explore select databases in greater depth to better understand their unique features. The principle learning objectives are to expose students to the wealth of available resources in ways that are relevant to their needs, and to impress upon them my willingness to provide support. When a paper is required for the course, the worksheet is tailored to have students first identify their research topic, write a thesis statement, perform searches on that topic, collect citations, and then revise their thesis statement based on these initial searches. In this way, students are encouraged early on to create a focused thesis and develop a list of relevant scholarly citations from quality databases. Critical to the success of this approach is the follow-up Zoom session where students can ask well-informed questions and I can share additional resources and search strategies.

Flipped instruction allows students to get a productive start on their research, while teaching them how to access topically relevant library resources. Students engage with information literacy concepts and make headway on what can be an intimidating project, particularly for those who have little research experience. Students for whom English is not their first language no longer flounder through my fast-talking, “fit it all into 50 minutes” style and while developing the worksheet I’m forced to clearly describe the databases. The assignment also allows students with learning accommodations to take as long as they need to digest the material and complete the exercise. Perhaps most important, using the worksheet encourages students to “get lost” in the databases they find useful, exploring interfaces as diverse as Avery Index, Artstor, Art & Architecture Source, and JSTOR with their topic in mind. Instead of a boring didactic march through a slew of databases, students learn by doing and they arrive to class with a common understanding of the resources.

Recognizing I no longer control the library’s space or teaching environment, I’ve pivoted. My instructional performance is less central to the students’ learning experience. Instead, it’s been replaced with an engaged learning worksheet and reinforced with a “guide by the side” style Zoom instructional session. I long to return to our library to again create community in the space designed for it. But when I do, I plan to continue having flipped “pre-assignments” prior to in-person instruction.


They Stepped Up: Vendors During the Coronavirus

From the Association of Architecture School Librarians column on the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture website.

By Barbara Opar, Architectural Librarian, Syracuse University.

It is a changed world out there. We in academia have had to adjust very quickly—faculty to preparing lectures with the resources on hand and then recording them online using newly prescribed software; librarians to dealing with reference queries that were once easy to answer in the print world but now with limited online content. And what about our students? They can no longer presume that they can consult older periodical issues or study structural systems on actual drawings. Many are unaware of what they cannot access. All of us have had to make quick adjustments to different resources and content.

But we have had support. Many vendors have stepped up and offered free content for the duration of the pandemic without the expectation of purchase. Examples are numerous and often surprising. By March 25, RedShelf and VitalSource opened access to hundreds of textbooks for free to faculty and staff at qualifying colleges and universities impacted by this crisis. Proquest is offering access to 150,000 titles. Sage Knowledge and Project Muse are on board as well as presses like Duke University and the University of MichiganBrepolis and DeGruyter are among more commercial vendors expanding their access to nonsubscribers. Want to keep current with periodical literature? Then you can turn to Flipster or RBDigital. Streaming video content is being offered up by ArtFilms DigitalKanopy, and Swank. The list goes on. Academic libraries with such access have often listed it right on their home pages. Your architecture librarians have taken this one step further and tailored this information for your own institution.

But there are two other important sources of content that I wish to bring to your attention. The first is Hathi Trust which was initially designed as a collaboration of the Big Ten Academic Alliance, the University of California system and the University of Virginia to establish a repository for archiving and sharing digital collections. Many other libraries have joined. As a repository, Hathi Trust contains both public domain as well as copyrighted material. By request, member libraries now have temporary digital access to over 50 percent of copyrighted print holdings. Libraries must meet standards such as no physical access to print collections and adhere to the Trust’s copyright guidelines. Check your libraries’ database menu. There are also ways to access some content as a guest at the organization’s site.

Everyone has also heard about the Internet Archive. But you may not know much about its latest initiative which some consider very controversial. The Internet Archive is a 501c 3 non-profit organization based in San Francisco and founded in 1996 by Brewster Kahle. To date, it has captured 20 petabytes of data. It partners with libraries to preserve and make accessible 20th-century resources in a broad array of topics and formats. The mission of its Open Library is “universal access to all knowledge”. In early March as the United States was beginning to understand the pandemic, the Internet Archive launched the National Emergency Library. Instead of controlling the number of copies of a title circulating at a time, the Library decided to remove limits. Traditionally, the number of copies available for circulation was based on the number of print copies in its own collection, and a waitlist was created for additional borrowers. That feature has been removed, allowing for unlimited access. The Internet Archive does not claim to include everything, but a quick search of the late Michael Sorkin’s writings shows some interesting content. One of two titles available here, but not commercially through any vendors, is the popular Variations on a Theme Park, making the Internet Archive another valuable source of online content. Initially well received and endorsed by a significant number of libraries including MIT, the Archive is now facing lawsuits and backlash from groups including the Authors Guild.

Life as we knew it has changed overnight. We are all proceeding as best as we can and making use of what is at hand and easily obtainable. What is certain is that each of these initiatives has helped in some way. Library suppliers have been offering deferred payments and cost reductions. The free albeit temporary content has made a tremendous difference in the past month and a half and will continue to do so as we all work to provide the services for which we are responsible.