MOOC’s Now: Everything You Need to Design, Set-Up and Run a Massive Open Online Course

Book cover  for MOOC's NowI recently read MOOC’s Now by Allman and Jumba and found it a worthwhile read.  This is the first book to cover the phenomenon of MOOCs from the perspective of veteran librarians.

I found the book to be well-organized, and thorough. Allman and Jumba grapple with important and difficult questions including:

  • Do MOOC’s threaten traditional higher education models?
  • How do you determine if a MOOC is an appropriate medium for your course content
  • Who is your audience?
  • Why are you considering a MOOC?
  • What can be done about student retention in an anonymous venue of a MOOC?

Allman and Jumba also address practical issues including

  • Choosing an appropriate platform  for the course to be offered
  • Determining the audience
  • Enrollment  and participation
  • “Grades” badges, course activities and evaluation
  • Instructor feedback and availability
  • Costs, (teachers, developers, licensing, and software) and more
  • How to decide whether you should offer your MOOC for free or require a fee and offer a certificate upon course completion.
  • Copyright issues surrounding materials used in the course and the administration required.

I was very pleased to see the authors explore and explain accessibility options and why it is important to not overlook making the course accessible – and not just for individuals with disabilities. They also point out that with the truly global nature of MOOC’s that time and time zones matter and can impact the types of decisions one needs to make. This guide also explains various options for options for the presentation of audio, video and text content; whether to give assignments or tests.

MOOC’s Now book answers these questions and many more, offering a practical and realistic guide to MOOCs.  Most importantly it is an excellent guide that will help anyone involved in higher education to better understand MOOCs and enable them to make decisions about whether and how to offer MOOCs.

This title was a good read, well-written and informative.

MOOC’s Now: Everything You Need to  Design, Set-Up and Run a Massive Open Online Course.  Susan W. Alman, Jennifer Jumba, Editors (c)2017 ISBN 978-1-4408-4457-7, Libraries Unlimited 117 pages.

About the Authors

Susan W. Alman,  is a lecturer at San Jose State University (SJSU), was formerly director of the online education program at the School of Information Sciences, University of Pittsburgh.

Jennifer Jumba, MLIS, works at Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio, where she specializes in adult reference.


Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals

Earlier this year, I read Information Services to Diverse Populations: Developing Culturally Competent Library Professionals, (© 2016, Libraries Unlimited, paperback, Information Services to Divers Populations book cover166 pages, ISBN-10: 1440834601, ISBN-13: 978-1440834608).

This is the latest work by Nicole A. Cooke.  Cook is an assistant professor at The Graduate School of Library and Information Science at The University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and program director for the MS in Library and Information Science.

Cooke says that she wrote the book that she wanted to use in her classroom for her course, Information Services for Diverse Populations (LIS 547). In it, she addresses perennially important and emerging topics in librarianship, such as diversity, cultural competence, and social responsibility. Cooke’s work also examines research in the areas of diversity and social justice in librarianship. She also explores how social responsibility is fundamental to  librarianship.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction to Diversity, Inclusion and Information Services
  2. Developing Cultural Competence
  3. A Sampling of Diverse Populations
  4. Services to Diverse Populations
  5. Managing Diversity
  6. Becoming New Storytellers: Counter Storytelling in LIS

The appendices include a sample syllabus and sample assignments. Each chapter also includes questions and for reflection or discussion.

Though the book is a textbook, it is a thorough resource that introduces readers to the contexts and situations that encourge the development of empathy and building cultural competence.

As the diversity of the clientele we serve in libraries, continues to increase, developing cultural competency skills and social awareness becomes all the more urgent. Cooke’s work can benefit veteran practitioners, employers and LIS students, and the library profession at large.



Biblio TECH: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google

BibliotechI recently read John Palfrey’s 2015 work, BiblioTech: Why Libraries Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google. (ISBN13: 9780465042999, Basic Books)

Palfrey, an attorney, has served as the vice-dean for library and information services at  Harvard Law School library.   He is a notable authority on the legal aspects of emerging media, and he is an advocate for Internet freedom, including increased online transparency and accountability as well as child safety.  Palfrey was also the founding chairman of the board of directors of  the Digital Public Library of America  (DPLA).

I found Palfrey’s work to be quite readable. His passion for libraries and their place in American society came through in every chapter.  As I read, I often found myself mentally substituting the phrase “higher education” for the word “library,” for  much of what he wrestled with in BiblioTech has parallels in the world of higher education.

That said, with time to think since completing this book,  I began to wonder who Palfrey had intended to be his primary audience.  If he meant the library community, particularly public libraries, he may well be preaching to the choir.

If the audience was  local library funders, philanthropists, or politicians, the people who can actually control the nightmare budget crises that are facing libraries. a bit more attention to the role libraries have played and can play with proper funding would have been beneficial. Criticism of libraries doesn’t hurt, as long as sufficient discussion is given to what can be done to  improve and strengthen libraries.

BiblioTech attempts to answer a question that most librarians and library repeatedly workers face:

“Are libraries are still relevant in an age where any information an average person (or library user) might desire – ostensibly can be found via the internet – in the palm of one’s hand –  via any smartphone?

The subtitle may miss the mark of what Palfrey is attempting to do. It seems to me that Palfrey is really attempting to explain   “How Libraries CAN Matter More Than Ever in the Age of Google”.

Some of what libraries have always done CAN be better done (now) by for-profit entities.  However,  there are things that libraries do that are not done elsewhere, or are not done as well elsewhere. The library community will need to work through this  uncomfortable transition period and figure out how best to communicate this message so that in the end libraries are used, are supported by the presence of users and by funders.

An important mission of libraries is that of  long-term preservation. It is impossible to digitize the entire sum of human knowledge. Still digitization makes remote or unique resources available to a greater audience. The irony, as Palfrey makes very clear, is that it is proving more expensive to preserve the current digital output of information for future researches than it has ever been to preserve paper records.

Museums often have in their holdings, examples of technology no longer usable or too fragile to use.  In our rush to digitize and “go paperless”  we will eventually have to acknowledge that  paper is still readable 50-100 years later, but the computer files of 10-20 years ago may only be readable on a device that no longer exists except in museums.

(It is important to note that copyright law has a profound impact on libraries and on record preservation. His chapter on copyright is cogent  and articulate and is one of the book’s strongest chapters. The author’s description is an informative summary of the current state of affairs and also  provided  new information.)

Also, libraries are not profit-driven in the way that say, Cengage or Google are. Thus libraries  provide information from all sides and in multiple forms, with the primary goal of  making the information available and protecting the privacy of those who access it. The agenda of a for-profit information vendor is to make a profit. Consequently that which is seen as not profitable may be deemed of insignificant and not preserved or made too difficult to find.

Perhaps Palfrey’s intended audience IS the library community and BiblioTech is meant as a prescription rather than a description.   We would agree with Palfrey that libraries have a place in the future.  We would also agree that libraries need to change in order to be a part of that future. We are free however to  differ with the author about how  to adapt.  I have some difficulty with some of his prescriptions. That said, I do think that some of the more valuable ideas here (a call to more consortia and collaboration, advocacy for more digital preservation efforts, etc.) have much merit and deserve discussion.

It’s idealistic to expect that our users will accept  fewer services, especially if the available funding for a library’s services is siphoned away for things not directly benefiting patrons, e.g., to fund capital equipment, professional development  for library staff, and for research and development  into the necessary changes that libraries should make for this bright new future. In truth this future is nebulous and  poorly understood.

Libraries are in the painful position of struggling to keep their budgets from shrinking even future. At the same time they struggle with maintaining  existing services at the current levels in the wake of dissatisfied patrons berating their funding bodies about what they consider poor service.

Perhaps few would disagree with Palfrey’s prescription that if libraries make some significant and necessary changes, they are capable of mattering more in the Google Age. Implementing prescriptions for change, including those offered by Palfrey will prove to be complicated. Honest discussion and yes, some disagreement has a place in determining what those significant changes are. BiblioTech contributes to that discussion.

A thoughtful book worth reading



Book Thing 24: United Breaks Guitars

Though the January “Book Thing” period has passed, I did want to comment on United Breaks Guitars.

Carroll tells his story and discusses his choices in an engaging way that readers can relate to.   Personally, I can relate to his story because my spouse has his own “United Breaks (Wheelchair)” story which happened a few years before Carroll’s guitar misadventure.

We visited Washington D.C. in 2007.  During the return flight through Chicago, Bob’s wheelchair was damaged.  I watched out the plane window as the baggage handlers loaded the chair and wondered if all would be well. When it was unloaded in Omaha, the body was badly banged up, and it was inoperable.  United’s on-site manager was unhelpful, unsympathetic and indifferent to the implications for Bob, who depended on the chair then.  Fast-forward to the end of the story. United was billed for the $3,000 worth of repairs and grudgingly paid.


What did you / what can librarians learn from this book?

A major theme of UBG is that connection, kindness, creativity and individuals matter.  Our patron’s needs are significant to them. Even if we’ve answered the question asked for the thousandth time, or wonder from where in left field, the question came, for the patron the question is important. More to the point, some of our patrons are more likeable than others.  Caring, kindness and patience must guide our interactions with our patrons – who aren’t just another tick mark in our daily stats but people like us who want to be valued.

How might the focus of this book impact library service?

Libraries are, in part, about education and service to others. We won’t be able to achieve 100% success every time we assist a patron but should be the goal. If we can’t help a patron, we should say so but also offer (when possible) other options. If a policy constrains what we are able to do, we should be honest and kind in saying so.

How might the focus of this book impact library users?

  • Social media is a powerful connectional tool. Learning how to use it constructively is essential.
  • One person can make a difference and bring about change.
  • Having a defined goal or objective is key to the journey of making a difference.
  • Ranting raving and being difficult will not get long-term positive results but creativity and a positive attitude will.
  • Using social media puts (and keeps us) on a very public “stage.”  Invest your time and energy in things that matter. Find a way you can make a difference for good.