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Reflections on Libraries – Pierina (Perri) Parise

Photo of Perri Parise

Perri Parise, Director, Emporia State University Library and Information Management, Portland Program

When people find out I am retiring after almost 50 years in the library profession, they often remark that I must have seen a lot of changes over the years. But as I reflect back, I have to admit that although on the surface libraries today indeed appear very different, I think that the foundation I was lucky enough to have received has supported me through the seeming changes.

The formats of the materials we provide have certainly evolved, although newer formats do not necessarily replace older formats. The challenge of access is an enormous issue as technologies change, but I think that access was also an issue when libraries were buildings fixed in place and not necessarily available to all segments of a community, or they housed materials that were not relevant or accessible to the needs of all in a community.

I entered the profession at a time when most libraries probably functioned in the traditional, stereotypical sense of libraries – quiet places, full of books, usually supporting a white middle-class American value system. However, I was very fortunate to have been part of a federally funded program in library school that was called, “Cross-cultural Training in Librarianship: The Librarian in a Pluralistic Society,” which focused on underserved populations.

Through that library school program and a stint in the Peace Corps in Fiji where their public library system was *the* center of the community and an integral part of everything that went on in that town, I began my career understanding what a dynamic library can mean to a community. I took those experiences with me as a core value, no matter where I worked or what type of position I held.

Now more than ever, we need to justify our existence everyday by the proactive work we do to make sure there is no doubt how important we are to those we serve.  What I appreciate so much today is the call for advocacy and social action within the profession.  But I do worry about how polarized our society has become, and I see this sometimes within the library field, also.  How can we advocate without alienating the “other side?”  How do encourage engagement and empathy?  How do we assert our ideals, but at the same time truly listen?

A Critical Summer Service for Students and Community Patrons

This weekend I faced a difficult decision; one which I will likely face repeatedly for the next couple months: should I go to work? The question wasn’t really about my work obligation – I typically work during the day, Monday thru Friday. The underlying issue causing me to question a trip to work on my days off has been this heat, and how inescapable it feels. I live in the central Willamette Valley in a medium-sized apartment and, like many others with similar living arrangements throughout the state, my unit has no air conditioning. For the first day of the weekend I was able to escape the brunt of the heat, winding around breezy Newport for most of the day.

But today was Sunday, and I had writing responsibilities to take care of. All the windows were closed by 9 am and the electrical fans were on full power – it was all futile. By noon, my energy was sapped and the thought of a warm laptop anywhere near me was a sickening idea. It was already ninety degrees outside and predicted to reach a high of one-hundred. The future forecast looked just a dreary and there would be no respite any time soon. Needless to say, I lost a lot of willpower that day. I still completed my tasks, but I wasn’t able to focus in earnest until late into the evening. When I finally went to bed well past midnight, I was dismayed at how hot it still was.

As I trudged through the front doors of the library this morning, I was awash in a relieving sensation. The building’s air conditioning was already churning out cold air and it acted as a salve for my lingering temperament. Even as I sit at my desk now, the low hum of air from the ceiling vents is comforting. I know of at least one coworker who purposely works in their office space long into the night hours during the summer as a means of refuge from their own hot, non-A/C apartment, and I’m beginning to consider the same.

In all walks of librarianship, we think about the library as “place”, but in an increasingly turbulent world, libraries are increasingly seen as a place of refuge for patrons. When it comes to extreme heat or cold, our public libraries take center stage, and rightfully so. In the past couple month, there have been news articles from across the country (1, 2, 3) directing people to specific locations, many of them public libraries, as a designated places to stay cool. When an HVAC unit goes out, it becomes imperative to fix the problem so that patrons can once again utilize library services and space (4, 5).

For those of us in academia, library buildings are also a place for refuge, not just for our students, but for our communities as well. When I come to work in the morning, staff aren’t the only individuals there – typically a dozen or so students are already in the library printing off materials before their morning classes or settling in for study time. Many of those students live near campus in units without air conditioning, or even in on-campus dorms, which certainly do not have AC. Every day I see members of our community in the library as well, using computer resources, reading, or meeting. A few of our regulars will even comment on how hot it is outside, and remain in our building for as long as possible.

For all the benefits our patrons derive from academic libraries, I’ve always, incorrectly, associated the idea of refuge with public libraries – even though I was personally involved in a discussion on keeping our own library open longer hours during a heatwave last year. Upon critical reflection, refuge from the weather isn’t something we’ve advertised in the past, and I’d like to change that. This is also a call out to the academic community –Today, I plan on getting in contact with the housing division in order to distribute leaflets advertising our hours and location for refuge from the heat for all students living on campus this term. Some flyers and sandwich boards around campus should help as well.

Finally, I’d like to pose a question to our readership:

Have you ever explicitly advertised your library in a physical way (i.e. poster, leaflet, or image-based announcement) to draw in patrons to take advantage of free air conditioning (or heating)?

If so, please submit them to Christopher Mansayon with the subject line: ‘summer refuge’, and we’ll highlight/share the submissions on the ACRL-OR blog at a later date.

ACRL-OR report from 2017 Joint Conference

ACRL-OR was well represented at the ACRL Joint Conference for Washington and Oregon at Pack Forest in mid-October. The conference theme “Tried and True or Shiny and New” gave the attendees from both Oregon and Washington an opportunity to explore such topics as just in time assessment and how OER is being integrated and implemented at Tacoma Community College.

A huge hit was the short talks of epic fails!  Presenters shared their library moments, programs and classes that were duds or even huge mistakes. Each of the “failed” librarians learned something from their experience and bravely and nobly, shared their lessons learned with the conference attendees.

ACRL-OR was able to meet in the evening to discuss the upcoming scholarships for professional development with enhanced funding from LSTA monies and kick around ideas for next Fall’s joint OR/WA ACRL conference at Menucha where the Oregon group will host and provide programming. Lots of great ideas were brought up by the attending group. Two themes, “Collaborating for Greater Impact” and “Reimagining Advocacy” were seriously discussed but neither was chosen as a final theme at the time.

Since the conference, the ACRL Board has decided on the theme of “Reimagining Advocacy: Personal, Professional, Political.” If you have any ideas for conference speakers, the board would love to hear them! Contact Steve Silver at acrlor@olaweb.org.

The Benefits of ACRL-OR Involvement: A Board Member’s Personal Perspective

The following post is written by Garrett Trott, ACRL-OR Member at Large (2015-2017)


I am in the middle of my second term on the ACRL-OR board. My first term was from 2007-2010 as VP/President-Elect, President, and Past President. In the spring of 2015, I was voted in as a member-at-large. I started in September of 2015, and my term will end in August of 2017. I have found involvement with ACRL-OR very valuable, and I would like to encourage others, if you are not already, to be involved to some degree in ACRL-OR.

What makes it valuable? I work at Corban University library. We are a small institution (about 1100 FTE), and we have a small library staff (3.5 FTE) – this includes both professional and paraprofessional staff. One of the reasons I originally pursued involvement with ACRL-OR was because I wanted to be able to serve my institution better by learning about what other libraries are doing, having a little more interaction with colleagues, and learning from them how they are dealing with issues impacting libraries throughout the state of Oregon.

My first term proved incredibly beneficial. What did I learn? The first thing I learned was the power of association. I am certain that many are familiar with this concept, but to be honest, after having worked in a fairly small institution for some time, that concept is easy to forget. The power of association simply implies that groups and organizations are much more powerful and can accomplish more than a single individual.

A second aspect that has made the ACRL-OR board valuable is how they work. I have served on a handful of differing boards, some have been driven by certain agendas, and some have had a very narrow singular focus. While I do not want to say that ACRL-OR does not have a focus nor do I want to suggest that it lacks any agenda, one remarkable element that I found immensely valuable in my terms on the board is the fact that the board was willing to listen, offer feedback, and often times accept and even embrace new ideas. They serve as a wonderful sounding board for not only what works in their libraries, but what can work to impact academic libraries throughout the state of Oregon. If you want to see change take place in Oregon academic libraries, ACRL-OR is a very viable venue to speak your voice.

As academic librarians, we work in education. Although I realize that this is not true in all scenarios, I do find it a bit ironic (and I hope many would agree) that there are educational institutions that are lacking support for education (AKA professional development) for their own faculty and staff. I do understand the warrant for fiscal restraints in this area, but at least in principle, all academic institutions should support professional development. We are also aware that individuals have differing learning styles. One of the ways that I learn best is through dialog with my colleagues, learning how they handle certain situations, and empathizing with their frustrations. My involvement with ACRL-OR granted me these opportunities in my first term, and I have found them available abundantly in my second as well.

If you are looking for opportunities to grow and develop as an Oregon academic librarian, I would encourage you to pursue looking at ACRL-OR as a venue through which this can happen. For my particular context, working in a small library, involvement with the ACRL-OR board has been an incredibly worthwhile investment of my time and effort. The rewards of being on the board have far outweighed the time and effort invested.

Garrett Trott
Corban University

College Readiness and Library Research Skills: Observations from Oregon

Photo of student frustration

Source from Catholic Online; click image to view source

A recent article in Library Journal, “First Year College Readiness,” highlights some of research skills academic librarians have observed first year students struggling with when they reach college. Over-reliance on Google, superficial knowledge of plagiarism, and lack of experience with researching and writing analytical papers were just a few of the themes touched on in the article. It got me wondering if Oregon academic librarians had similar observations, given the decrease in licensed school librarians in the state.

In a very informal survey, I asked ACRL-OR members and other academic librarians involved in library instruction to relay their thoughts about first year college students’ skills. Below are highlights from the responses I received. Based on this small sample, it seems that Oregon students struggle with similar issues outlined in the article. I was encouraged by optimism and strategies for addressing those issues also expressed in some of the responses.

“Far too many of them think that the first 20 returns on a Google search are sufficient ‘research.’”

“My experience is pretty consistent with the Library Journal article, but maybe a bit more extreme. There are no credentialed school librarians in this part of the state, and over time we have seen a decrease in skills by the time students get to college. They come from rural areas with very small schools, where they don’t receive IL instruction, and where, in some cases, they don’t even have access to computers. This is one reason we have IL credit courses at EOU, and students do learn how to do all of these things. We just wish there was more of a foundation that we could build on at the college level rather than starting from scratch. 

  • Students often think they understand plagiarism, but we find they don’t know how to cite correctly, and they don’t know that they need to cite when they paraphrase. They only know that you need to cite a quote.
  • Students don’t know what databases are, or even what journals are. I have had students write in an assignment, “books won’t have the information I need,” because they think all books are fiction. This is rare (happened twice).
  • They don’t understand the vocabulary of information. Not jargon, but even basic things like the difference between print and digital, subscription, periodical, credentials. These are all words students have asked me to define.
  • They don’t understand the way search engines and the Internet work, and how that has an impact on their searching.
  • They want to find information quickly, and are hesitant to use print materials or to wait for interlibrary loan. 
  • They don’t know how to synthesize information from multiple sources, and they seek that one perfect source that will exactly answer their research question.
  • They don’t know what makes an appropriate research question for college-level research.
  • They do know they should not use Wikipedia as a source, but they don’t always know why.”

“I always stress how important it is to have passion for the topic they are researching. Often the students are not fully prepared with their topics and so much of the process is making sure they have a topic that they can work with and have formulated a relevant question. Students are quick to walk away from a topic when they can’t find anything. Often, a library instruction session is more about selling myself as a mentor than anything else.”

“I think ‘kids today’ actually know a lot more than we give them credit for. They’ve learned to search google by typing in phrases. You’d be surprised how often just typing your thesis statement into EBSCO or Gale (without quotes) is an excellent search strategy!”

“I talk to freshman about how using library resources online is their invitation into a part of the invisible web that they now have access to for the first time. … this is their chance to learn more and go to the next level as researchers, which intrigues them, especially when I emphasize that they have paid-for access to these resources with their tuition and fees.” [and research is a job skill valued by potential employers!]

It is clear that librarians are key in helping students learn the research skills they need for college. When that is not an option, at least Oregon does have a tool to help. If you haven’t done so, make sure to check out the great research process guidance offered by the Oregon School Library Information System (OSLIS).

OSLIS logo

Thanks to Steve Silver, Sarah Ralston, Dotty Ormes, Michael Grutchfield, and Kimberly Willson-St Clair for their responses to my questions.

Thanks also to Robert Schroeder for pointing me to the survey he conducted with Oregon librarians in 2007:

Schroeder, R. (2009). Both sides now: Librarians looking at information literacy from high school and college. Tips. Educators’ Spotlight Digest, 4(1).

Arlene Weible
ACRL-OR Board, State Library Representative
Oregon State Library

Request for personal perspectives: What do first year college students know (or not know) about research?


I am collecting stories for an upcoming ACRL-OR blog post about first-year college students and their knowledge of library research. Inspired by a recent article in Library Journal (http://lj.libraryjournal.com/2016/05/academic-libraries/the-first-year-college-readiness/), I would like to highlight any trends or gaps in knowledge that academic librarians notice about Oregon’s first-year college student’s ability to conduct research for an assignment or use the library. Are the issues highlighted in the LJ article consistent with what you are seeing or are their other trends you notice?

Please email me your comments, observations, and opinions by June 20. (See contact info below.) The blog post will appear in July on the ACRL-OR blog, https://acrloregon.org/.

Photo of college students

“College Students” by CollegeDegrees360 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Thanks for your assistance!


Arlene Weible
Electronic Services Consultant
Oregon Federal Regional Depository Coordinator
Library Support and Development Services
Oregon State Library
250 Winter St NE
Salem OR, 97301

Make Your Academic Voice Heard: OLA Request for Academic Librarian Strategic Planning Priorities

Last summer, the OLA Board decided to embark on strategic planning. OLA wants to be the library association that you want and would be proud to be a participant in. After much deliberation, the OLA Board voted to hire a strategic planning consultant.

With Coraggio Group‘s help, the planning committee (Michele Burke, Robin Rolfe, Hannnah Rempel, Berenice Creecy, Elsa Loftis, and myself) has put together a survey.

Please help us achieve the best results possible for all of us in the Oregon library community by filling it out. The last date is April 15.

 OLA Strategic Plan Survey

If you have any questions, just ask me or one of the other planning committee members. Also, if you’d be interested in participating in a focus group, I’d love to hear that, too.

~Jane Corry
OLA President 2015-16

Breaking through the Debate: Understanding, Critiquing, and Applying the Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education

by Annie Downey, PhD, MLS,
ACRL-Oregon Private Colleges Representative (2014 – 2016)

Academic librarians have been grappling with ACRL’s Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education for over a year now. The very fact that we need so much scholarly work and effort spent trying to understand the framework is fantastic for a theory lover like me, but can fall somewhere between unsettling and terrifying for librarians who are not interested in theoretical work. I’ve heard librarians grumble that if others are not willing to engage in the theory, then they are lesser in some way. What I find most interesting is that the theory-pushers are often librarians who are invested in social justice and the ideas of fairness and democracy that most of us believe lie at the heart of librarianship.

IL Framework screenshot

I suggest we take that grumbling on both sides of the debate and think about it through the lens of social justice and consider what librarianship is as opposed to what it should or could be. As much as we may not like it, librarianship as it stands is an underpaid, largely misunderstood and under respected, female dominated profession. These things matter because when you ask someone who is overworked, feels under appreciated, and struggles to get by on a librarian salary to invest the kind of time and intellectual energy that it takes to truly transform their teaching practice without giving them more time to engage with and think about the ideas, you are discounting the real struggles they may be going through. This played out in a thought provoking and by turns frustrating and heartening discussion on the acrlframe discussion list over the last couple of weeks. If you are not a list member, I encourage you to sign up for the good stuff the list offers and to read the archives.

While many librarians are pro-Framework based on its expansion of what information literacy instruction should look and feel like and its attempt to create more of a theoretical underpinning for information literacy, most librarians (even those known for their vocal support for critical information literacy) struggle with time and organizational constraints that can make developing a broader, more theoretically-informed practice difficult at best and impossible at worst.

I am also sympathetic to those that ache for librarianship to be more than what it currently is. I want us to do a better job of pulling from and being a part of educational theory. As educators, we should understand the basics of teaching and learning theory and not rely only on our own scholarly and practical literature. (If you are not sure where to get started, I recommend Eamon Tewell’s A Decade of Critical Information Literacy: A Review of the Literature.) I think librarianship needs to be more reflective and based in praxis so I find myself somewhere in the middle of the Framework debate.

Though I think the Framework still needs work, I believe it is a huge improvement over the Standards. However, I also acknowledge that I am one of those lucky librarians who does have the time to think about and engage with theory because of where I work and because I have a stay-at-home husband whose work provides me with the time and freedom to spend my evening hours thinking and writing when I am involved with a project that requires it. The other side of this coin though is that I am the primary breadwinner for my family and that is a real challenge even on a good librarian salary. There are months when I go to work and come home and think I cannot possibly give any more because I need to figure out how we are going to pay for everything our three growing daughters need. In the spirit of straddling the middle of the line, I am sharing some of my favorite pieces that have come from the debate in the realm of understanding and critiquing the Framework and then because so many librarians are struggling with putting it into practice, I am also sharing some resources for applying the framework.




What are your thoughts on this debate? Have you applied the new IL Framework at your institution? Please leave a comment about your experiences thus far with the new IL Framework.


New Intellectual Freedom email list

Breaking news from the Libs-Or list-serv about a new Intellectual Freedom email list!

Library staff as well as scholars, academics, debate coaches and others with a professional interest in intellectual freedom are invited to join a new email news list: ola-ifc email list

This list will provide a forum to share news, information, and resources related to intellectual freedom. For example, the OLA Intellectual Freedom Committee and the Oregon State Library maintain a database of news articles about book challenges and other intellectual freedom issues in Oregon: Intellectual Freedom Issues in Oregon News Database. New content is added to this resource twice a year, which may be of interest to instructors who assign writing topics related to banned books, as well as others in the library community.

Intellectual Freedom Issues in Oregon News Database graphic

This ola-ifc email list is maintained by the OLA Intellectual Freedom Committee in cooperation with the Oregon State Library. To send an email on this list, address it to ola-ifc@listsmart.osl.state.or.us.

Please extend this invitation to teachers, scholars, writers or others in your community who may be interested in receiving intellectual freedom news. Here is the link to subscribe: ola-ifc email list

Feel free to contact us with questions or comments.

Thanks and best wishes,
Roberta Richards and Garnetta Wilker, OLA IFC co-chairs

Roberta Richards
Faculty Reference Librarian

Share Your Great ACRL-OR/WA Conference Ideas!

Academic librarians of the Pacific Northwest, we need our input! ACRL-OR is launching planning for the 2016 Joint Fall Conference at Menucha.

Please share your thoughts about what the conference theme should address or who our keynote speaker(s) should be:  http://goo.gl/forms/Y7F9uZdWq5

Thanks to ACRL-WA for the successful 2015 ACLR-WA/OR Fall Conference at Pack Forest!

~ Uta Hussong-Christian, ACRL-OR President, 2015-2016