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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Final Student Annotation Day: Plug For Their Blog

I am taking a break from the review-a-polooza today in honor of my last lecture of the semester.

My Fall 2012 RA students in LIS 763 at Dominican University have been one of the best overall groups I have had in awhile.  While normally, at least half of the students are engaged and add positively to the class, there are often a few students each semester who either cause me trouble or really do not give their full effort.  As a teacher that is frustrating, and unfortunately, it taints your view of the group as a whole.

I am so pleased that this semester, that was not the case.  Overall they are a wonderful group who are engaged, they keep improving, and they care about doing their best.  Tonight is my last chance to teach them because next week they turn in their final papers and half of them give a presentation.  Then it is goodbye to the group.  One student, Elizabeth will turn up on the blog next semester as "Intern Elizabeth," filling the shoes of fabulous "Intern Christi" from Spring 2012 and awesome "Intern Bill"who just completed his practicum, and thus his Masters Degree, this past Monday. Congrats Bill.  [P.S., if you have a job out there in the Chicago area, contact me about Bill.]

Back to the current batch of students.  I have not been as annoying about reminding you to check out their Student Blog every single week as I have been in semesters' past.  But today, hours before their final posts go live, I do want to remind you of what a wonderful resource their blog is.

I am not exaggerating when I tell you I consult RA 763's Blog on a regular basis to help my patrons.  The students are given free range to read any 5 books that interest them as long as they each fit a separate category.  The approved categories are genre and format designations which can be seen and accessed in the right gutter of the blog.

So as a first use of this resources, you can pull up a list of titles considered "Gentle Reads" or "Inspirational" as well as more traditional genre designations like "Fantasy" or "Mystery." It just takes one click, and since the students all have different reading tastes and they can pick any book in a given category, the blog has a huge range of annotations available for each category.  Many blogs have a tight focus, but breadth is our mantra here. I want the students to have as wide an experience as possible. If you use the blog to help patrons, you will reap the benefits.

Second, students are required to use the language of appeal in their annotations.  These terms are then converted into tags, but they also appear in the body of each entry.  As a result, you can do a natural language search in the search box at the top of the right gutter for "compelling, character centered and humorous" and get at least 2 pages of results.  You can also choose a sinlge appeal term from the tags cloud by clicking on it-- here is what you get when you click on "character centered."  And, there is still more.  If you read a post and are drawn to a specific appeal term, especially if it is not one of the most popular, so as a result does not appear in the tag cloud, at the end of each annotation, you can simply click on the hyperlinked term to pull up more-- here is what you get when you click on "closely observed characters;" which is a very specific but helpful appeal term.  I really do not know another resource that gives you this many appeal access points for a given title.

Third, the students are required to provide 3 fiction readalikes and 3 nonfiction readalikes with a comment for each as to why the title fits as a similar read.  That is 6 readalikes for every title! And, they are encouraged to give at least one "outside the box" suggestion out of the six, so you won't see only the same old, same old suggestions here.

Fourth, since Joyce and I have been keeping this blog for 3 full years now, the number of titles is huge!  And, as an added bonus, some more popular books have more than one annotation, giving you different perspectives on the same book. And, in reference to the third reason above, it also gives you more readalike options.

Fifth, it would be hard to find a resource where the content is created with more effort and enthusiasm. Look, let's be honest, they are doing this for a grade.  They are library graduate students; these are men and women who want a good grade.  They put a lot of effort into each of their 5 published annotations.  I would argue that there are times that I put in less effort on a review than they do on an annotation. Use their effort to your advantage by using the blog as a resource to help a patron.  The students will make you look like a RA star!

So congrats to the students for being almost done with class.  And to you library workers out there, don't forget to use their hard work to your advantage.  This is an under used resource that I would highly recommend.  I am very proud of their work.  Click here to access RA 763's Blog right now.  For future reference, I always have the link in the right gutter under the heading "Other Sites Featuring Me" listed as "Becky's Student's Blog."

If you are able to help a patron with the student's blog, leave a comment to let me and more importantly, them know.

Reviews back tomorrow.  I have Building Stories, 1Q84, and The Family Fang in the immediate queue.

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