Perhaps I should take the initiative.

In researching library anxiety in college students, I seem to have identified a gap in the flow of information. While the problem has been recognized, studied and written about for years, books and peer-reviewed articles on the subject can easily be accessed, studies have been conducted and recommendations made, most everything is directed at the information professional and not at the effected community of users. The abundance of research and writing has not translated into practical, usable, understandable applications for the anxious college students themselves. So, while clear efforts have been made for academic librarians and other information professionals to be made aware that this is a very real issue and that there are obvious ways to combat it, very little effort seems to have been made to give the same courtesy to the individuals it effects.

Look for a lofty academic article on the topic either online or through your library database and dozens will appear at your first search. Look for a magazine article, a blog, a discussion forum, or even a libguide on the topic and the search will yield few if any results. That really will depend on how savvy you are in your searching, how much effort and how many failed searches your willing to put into it. The students who are experiencing the feelings of embarrassment, fear, shame, ignorance, and apprehension are left with few if any information sources. They are left to believe that they really are alone in their anxiety.

The first step to making a change, should be to make the students themselves aware that this is a real thing and they are not alone. All of the information literacy classes and programs and activities in the world can be planned and implemented and studied and written about, but unless the students themselves are made aware and their feelings validated, it will continue to be like beating our heads against the same brick wall expecting it to fall.

Socially anxious – library anxious –  students, by the very definition of the issues they face, can be seen as information non-seekers. They are not the students delving deep into the databases and journal articles we provide. They are the students afraid to look, afraid to ask. They are the individuals who suffer in silence and think no one else is feeling the same way. They are not likely to find out on their own what library anxiety is and how to overcome it. They are not going to form their own groups, or start their own forums. But those things are exactly what they need.

The information professionals who have access to those studies and recommendations, who have been made aware of the problem, should be seeking ways to get the information to those students where they are. There should be magazine articles, blog posts, libguides, discussion forums aimed specifically at the individuals themselves, seeking to both inform and bring together. Libraries should be making efforts to let the students know they are not alone and the problem can be reduced and even eliminated.

Perhaps I should just take the initiative… write an article… start a blog… form a discussion board… propose some of my ice breaking ideas in my own academic library…

Yes, perhaps I should take the initiative. Perhaps I will take the initiative.

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Information-seeking can be complicated

During undergrad I took several American Sign Language (ASL) classes. One thing that was always repeated was that while practice was important and beneficial, it could be made so much more so if we were to actually interact with the d/Deaf. It was about more than knowing a list of vocabulary or being able to sign your English sentences. It was about being able to communicate with someone of a whole different culture in a language with it’s own grammar and syntax – a foreign language. I had the privilege at the time of working with a few d/Deaf individuals in various contexts. In the time since then, I regret to say that I have become rusty and perhaps less than confident in my signing. While I would love to get back to it, I am no longer currently associated with anyone of the Deaf community and have lost that ease that comes with constant use. Unfortunately that fact did not serve me well in the undertaking of this assignment.

I attempted to contact two different members of the Deaf community prominent in the use of online forums. I reached out through messenger and email. While the initial response from one of the contacts was positive, the follow up has proven less than timely. I find myself considering what perhaps the greatest issues could have been. Had I been more confident in the fluency of my signing, I could have attempted video chat or video phone. However, as I was not, I chose to reach out in a textual form. Though I specifically chose to reach out to members prominent in online forums, I have no way of knowing their reading levels. As many ASL users have a difficult time reading and writing in English because of the differences in grammar and syntax,it is possible that, despite my awareness of this and attempt to avoid complexities, there may have been problems with the clarity of the communication. Perhaps I will still hear back from them at some later date.

I have had the fortune to work with two very interesting d/Deaf individuals and to be taught by another. Though I never actually interviewed them, I would like for a moment to draw from my interactions with them.

E was a deaf child that I tutored for a few years. He could become very frustrated, sometimes acting out as a result, with the limitations of trying to communicate with a hearing world. E loved all things technology – video games, computer games, you name it. He loved them because they were visual.

J was a client I worked with during an internship. He was thrilled the first time I showed up to join in on his appointment even with my limited signing. Until then he had been trying to get by communicating through gestures and limited note writing. He was finally able to express his needs and ask for clarification of some things he didn’t understand. J loved to spend time online. He was able to access information that he had no way of asking for and reach out to others of the Deaf community despite living in an area where there was no real Deaf presence.

L was a sign instructor I once knew. L was proactive in getting other d/Deaf individuals in the area together, often encouraging students to join in. L was an avid user of online forums, using Facebook and email as regular means of communication with students. L encouraged students to use online forums to reach out to members of the Deaf community to help practice ASL skills.

Despite my recent difficulties in interaction via online forums, I would still agree with the assessment that “the internet has the potential to become an educational and social leveler for Deaf people” (Karras, 2012, p.203). Karras (2013), though speaking directly to the information-seeking behavior of the Deaf in regards to medical information, makes many salient points. There is a limited amount of research to be found specifically concerning how the Deaf access the internet or the barriers that they face, such as knowledge gaps. Members of Deaf culture often rely on one another for social support and guidance, as well as in identifying viable resources. Karras (2012)explains that “online support provides information through sharing of experiences and behaviors and through exposure to an increased number of opinions and expertise” (p. 194). Despite this point, there are problems and limitations presented to the d/Deaf in the use of online forums. The increasing use of audio media files, while beneficial to the hearing, can present a problem in limiting access to that information to the d/Deaf. Karras (2012) also points out  that reading level can be an issue considering that Deaf students graduate with only a fourth grade reading level.

The information behavior and needs of the d/Deaf community are complex and not without obstacles and barriers. However, overcoming cultural differences and keeping an open mind, as well as fostering an awareness of the need can play a critical part in insuring that the d/Deaf community is able to access the information they seek.

Reference

Karras, E., Rintamaki, L.S. (2012). Examination of online health information-seeking by Deaf people. Health Communication, 27(2), 194-204.

But my comfort zone is comfy!!!!!

There. I said it.

I hate stepping out of my comfort zone. That’s sort of the point of a comfort zone, right? It’s cozy. It’s comfortable. Like an old sweat shirt or a pair of fuzzy slippers… oh, okay… fuzzy toe socks.

I’ve been striving to make myself step out of my comfort zone. But I will be honest, my intentions were more along the lines of poking out a single toe at a time. Rather, I sort of feel like I’ve gone flailing out into the great unknown.

I mean at work I’m serving on committees I could never have pictured myself on. And I’m actually making myself speak up. For school, I have had two Collaborate meetings in the past two days with groups from different classes. Some of these people are on opposite sides of the country. And I am actually putting myself out there to talk to them and work on projects. That is totally new for me.

Then I read the details for the next blog assignment in LIBR 200. Interview? It’s not like I have a whole host of friends in the Deaf community. And my ASL is incredibly rusty at best. Who on earth am I going to interview and how?

Well,I started thinking. (Dangerous!) When I was taking ASL classes we used to get online and watch videos to practice in lab. Some of the videos we watched were from Deafnewspaper.com and there was a lady that did cooking videos that I had friended on Facebook. Before I could talk myself out of it, I had looked her up and sent her a message explaining the assignment and asking for her help. Now I am supposed to interview this lady. Interview!!!

Forget putting a toe out… forget flailing… I feel like I’ve gone hurdling past the confines of my comfy little safe space to find myself on a collision course with Mars!

I’m proud of myself for getting out there. If you knew me, trust me, you would be too.

But, just for a few minutes, before I have to take another leap, I think I will curl up in my old sweat shirt and fuzzy socks and just relax. After all, my comfort zone is comfy!

It’s not easy being green.

Okay, yes, I just quoted Kermit’s infamous line from Sesame Street. There’s a reason I could read when I was three and those adorable muppets had a lot to do with it. But, I digress…

Kermit may have only referred to his actual body color, but there is more than one truth to his lyrical statement. It’s not easy being green. Learning new things and finding your footing in a new situation can be as much or more of a challenge to us as finding himself the same color as the leaves was to Kermit.

I am officially smack dab in the middle of my second week of library classes. While I will not concede to having bitten off more than I can chew, I will grant you that I will have to chew slowly and carefully if I intend to avoid choking. After only a week and a half I think I can already see what my greatest challenge will likely be. One might assume it would be the deadlines, the writing assignments or so many other things… Most who know me would never dream that the greatest challenge I see before me so far is the reading.

That’s right, I said the reading. Oh, not the act of reading itself. I love to read as much now as I did when I was three years old surrounded by my mountain of story books. However, leisurely reading for pleasure is very different from actively reading with purpose. Again, don’t get me wrong, I’ve always loved sitting down with a text or article, highlighters, sticky notes, and a plethora of colored pens. But when I’m reading for pleasure I can curl up in bed with a novel or kindle app on my fire phone. I can relax in the tub or find a sunny spot in the yard. That’s not exactly how you read an article for discussion or chapters from the required text.

So, yes, so far I see the most daunting obstacle before me to be the readings. This week alone there are several chapters I need to finish from a couple different texts as well as a stack of articles I’ve only thus far scratched the surface of, in addition to some lectures and discussions.

It’s certainly a challenge to spend eight hours staring at a computer screen trying to trudge my way through bibliographic records and MARC tags and databases and links. Then to come home to all that reading about more of the same. I’m not complaining. I know very well that I am the one who made my schedule. I am simply observing, reflecting, if you will. My eyes may permanently cross in my head, but I will accomplish this.

It’s just…. well… not easy being green.

I am still a new cataloger (the only one in our library) doing both copy cataloging and some original cataloging and I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m just not quite sure if I will ever wrap my head around everything. Now I’ve started these classes and I listen to these lectures and read these readings… Well I find myself with that same sort of feeling.

I keep reminding myself to take a deep breath and step out there despite my uncertainty and misgivings. What I really would like to do is blend in with the leaves like Kermit. But I also want to accomplish things. So I will just have to keep reminding myself that it’s really not so bad and that it will get better.

Unlike my beloved muppet, I will not always be green.