Have You Read? … The New Jim Crow

Cover art from The New Jim Crow

In the wake of tragic shootings across the country (most recently Alton Sterling and Philando Castile), you may find yourself searching for answers as to why this kind of violence keeps happening. The library may not have all of the answers for such a complex tragedy, but we have some resources to help you start the conversations if you aren’t having them already. Which brings us to a first in what we hope will become a regular series: Have You Read? where we highlight books in our collection that can help you start the conversations that matter.

Today we encourage you to pick up the critically acclaimed work by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

From the author’s website about the book,

The New Jim Crow is a stunning account of the rebirth of a caste-like system in the United States, one that has resulted in millions of African Americans locked behind bars and then relegated to a permanent second-class status—denied the very rights supposedly won in the Civil Rights Movement. Since its publication in 2010, the book has appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for more than a year; been dubbed the “secular bible of a new social movement” by numerous commentators, including Cornel West; and has led to consciousness-raising efforts in universities, churches, community centers, re-entry centers, and prisons nationwide. The New Jim Crow tells a truth our nation has been reluctant to face.

The Schewe Library holds copies of both the 2010 and 2012 editions of the book, which can be found here for the 2010 and here for the 2012.


The Textbook Kerfuffle

This week, Illinois College administration outlined a plan to radically change the way students purchase their textbooks and course materials.  Up until this announcement, things were done pretty traditionally at IC: professors prepared a list of the books their classes would be using for the coming year; the campus bookstore purchased said books; and students went to the bookstore and bought (some of) their books.  On the fringes of this equation were third-party retailers (, eBay, etc.), and Schewe Library, who often purchased a select number of textbooks to supplement their course reserve materials.  In theory, this arrangement worked, save for one caveat: the students weren’t getting their books!  Many wouldn’t purchase a portion of their books, a few wouldn’t purchase any, and with the Library having only incomplete textbook coverage (with short loan periods), the Library could only provide so much support to those who hadn’t made a purchase.

Textbooks 3





This scenario was not unique to IC, however.  Students all over the nation are purchasing textbooks at a sharply declining rate.  The reasons for this are multivariate, but uncontrolled price inflation, piracy, availability of alternatives, and good old fashioned sharing seem to be the primary drivers.  Fed up with students arriving unprepared to class, and perhaps more cynically, seeking to bolster its student retention rates by obliging unfettered access to course materials, IC has contracted the campus’ textbook-and-course-materials contract to a course materials management firm, Rafter.  For a set price, Rafter provides all students rented access to their course texts and readings, either in physical or electronic form.  Should the student wish to subsequently keep the text, they may do so at additional cost.  As best I am aware, there is no opt-out for the program.

Textbooks 2






Predictably, students were outraged by the program.  Putting aside the “mommy knows best” dimensions of the initiative, the most common student refrains addressed the allegedly-high-costs of the program, the lack of an opt-out, and the fact that the program did not cost-differentiate between classes of student (i.e. fourth-year versus first-year, science versus humanities, etc.).  Valid concerns, all, but also voiced too late in the process to impact the (at least initial) implementation of the program.

From a professorial and/or administrative view, this program is a win.  It relieves students of their purchasing responsibility, and also disincentivizes the students from engaging in illegal and/or time-consuming behaviour to game the system for a few bucks.  Under this arrangement, the Library also benefits as well, as we’re no longer expected to outlay scarce resources on textbooks which will not meaningfully bolster our collections.  The students, however, are resentful of the program’s mandated costs, and also feel patronized by the implication that they can’t manage their own education.  Where this goes from here is anyone’s guess, but I think we can all agree we’re entering a new era at IC.  Comments?

Teaching Citation

As a point of philosophy, I’ve never seen much value in creating note-perfect bibliographic citations.  What learning objectives are we hoping to achieve through the production of such lists?  By way of background, I co-teach two sections of a first-year English composition course, and I recently delivered a “citation and referencing” session for each of those two sections.  I have conflicted feelings about devoting class time to citation, and I’m not alone in that sentiment, either — the librarian fellowship has been trying to shake off bibliographic instruction for many years now, and while the profession has had a degree of success, the popular mind still conceives of librarians and library workers as the go-to citationists.

The genesis of this librarian-citation association is, I’m sure, an interesting one, but I wonder if the business of citation shouldn’t just be handed over to writing centers, campus tutors, and automated modules.  That the handover hasn’t occured is, I assume, resultant from the fact that many faculty still expect their students to produce a formally pristine reference, and that librarians are seen as the only sufficiently pedantic party to offer instruction on the matter.  I won’t deny our profession has its share of pedants and obsessives, but even that element can’t seem to muster much energy for citation instruction anymore.  So where do we go from here?

At Schewe Library, I’d say nowhere.  An “anything-other-than-citation” culture hasn’t really developed here, and my guess is we’re probably 5-years away from it evolving naturally.  During one of my “citation and referencing” sessions, one of the students rightfully noted that we might just as well reference using a URL/hyperlink and call it a day.  I couldn’t agree more, and given that the “big 3” citation styles — APA, MLA, and Chicago — were developed decades, and in some cases, generations, before commercial Internet service, it seems preposterous that we would still be referencing with them.  But such is life, I suppose.

WILU 2014

It’s been 10 days since I returned from the WILU 2014 conference, and I’ve had a lot to think about in the interim.  The Workshop for Instruction in Library Use (WILU) is one of Canada’s premier academic library conferences, and has been held annually since 1972.  WILU enjoys a reputation as a grassroots, progressive conference, and exists in contrast to the more establishment conferences held by the Canadian Library Association (CLA) and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries (CARL).  WILU 2014 continued to occupy a more ‘alternative’ space in the Canadian library conference sphere, with the theme of this year’s conference being E-magine The Possibilities.

WILU 2014 Program Cover

I attended the following sessions:

Wednesday, May 21st

  • Planning & Implementing Library E-Learning Projects – Qinqin Zhang & Maren Goodman (Western University)
  • Opening Keynote [dealing with the ACRL’s soon-to-be-updated Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education guidelines] – Craig Gibson (Ohio State University) & Trudy Jacobson (SUNY Albany)
  • Head Over Heels: Approaches to Flipped Teaching – Carolyn Doi & Tasha Maddison (University of Saskatchewan)
  • Take Your Phone Off the Hook: Going Live With Online Library Instruction at the University of Toronto ­– Monique Flaccavento & Jenaya Webb (University of Toronto)

Thursday, May 22nd

  • Developing Online Learning Tools: Strategies for Creating a Set of Best Practices for Your Library – Liz Johns (Virginia Commonwealth University)
  • E-magine a New Way of Thinking: Design Thinking for Students-Centered Instructional Design – Rebecca Peacock & Jill Wurm (Wayne State University)
  • Good Things Come in Small Packages: Reimagining IL Instruction in the First Year Seminar – Lindsay McNiff (Dalhousie University)
  • What Do You See? Image Searching for Research Topic Selection & Development – Beth Fuchs (University of Kentucky)
  • Roundtable Discussions, Ignite Talks & Poster Sessions – Various

Friday, May 23rd

  • Library on Demand: Now Delivering Fresh Services to Your Online Course – Debbie Feisst & Kim Frail (University of Alberta)
  • The Proof is in the Pudding: A Mixed-Methods Approach to Assessing Instructional Design and Planning – Steven Hoover (Syracuse University)
  • Closing Keynote [dealing with the need for sophisticated library assessment using vendor, online, and website data] – Meagan Oakleaf (Syracuse University)

I picked up a lot of great material from these sessions, and look forward to bringing some of this international flavour (sic) to IC’s Library instruction and online presence.  The conference website and archives can be found here:

Conference Website:

Conference Archives:

Congratulations to Connie Lee

Working in an academic library isn’t without its troubles — unceasing tech issues, avaricious content providers, too many hands on our time, etc. — but when we see a student flourish, it makes it all worthwhile.  Furthermore, seeing a student’s learning, experience, and development ratified in the form of a degree is the pinnacle in a series of proud moments for the library.

And so it is with great pleasure that we congratulate one of our own, Connie Lee (Acquisitions & System Administrator), for earning her Masters degree in Management and Organizational Behavior from Benedictine University at Springfield.  Connie plans to use her newfound expertise across many areas of library operation, but as the MOB specializes in the study of human behavior in organizational settings, we’ll be looking to Connie to straighten us out when our human foibles get the best of us!

Again, congratulations Connie!

Connie at Graduation