After being away for the holiday weekend – and being computer/internetless – I was pleasantly surprised to find that my “R” grade for my summer class had been replaced by the real grade. While the professor had sent a nice email about the grade mixup and had included the real grade, it took a while for the paperwork to be processed and the right grade added to the school’s system. The summer class saga has finally come to a close. Yeah!
I have mentioned several times that one of the classes that I am taking in the fall (ILS530 – Information Systems Analysis & Design) hasn’t had an instructor assigned to it. I, of course, have been checking the registration pages daily to see if a professor has been assigned. Classes start on September 6th – and it takes a while to get books. I’m not entirely sure why, but I had this bizarre sense that, with my luck, the professor that taught my summer class would be assigned my ILS530 section. Lo and behold, isn’t that the case? As of this morning, he is listed as the professor. Anyone who has read of my trials and tribulations with my summer class might recall that I have adamantly stated that I would not take a class with him again. And yet, here I am in one of his fall classes.
Now, that most of the angst from the summer class has passed, I am seriously thinking about taking this class. Am I nuts?? Part of me thinks so. But, I’m also a person that believes in second chances. Beyond that, there aren’t too many open classes left that I can register for in place of ILS530 – and only one that I would consider. What to do, what to do, what to do????? I kind of feel like my journey through graduate school is turning into a soap opera.
However it finally happened, my summer session professor finally got wind of the fact that our class grades did not get posted to the school’s online system – and that all of his students (two classes) received Rs. I think it was probably a mixture of listserv emails from students who were (and may still be still) a bit dazed and confused by the whole situation and of direct emails to the professor from students asking for clarification. As such at 8:58AM today, I received an email from the professor with my grade. I did fine – all of that worrying about the final was for naught (when will I learn???). Of course, it would be nice to know specifically how I did on the final in order to know how my cataloging skills improved from the first assignment (and how I did on the second paper). But, I will make myself be happy that I have a grade. I can put this class behind me and move on. Ultimately, I am happy to know that the professor did indeed submit the grades on time, but that there was some problem. He won’t be able to resubmit the grades to the school until he returns from the IFLA World Conference, but I can live with that.
Now, I feel like the class is done.
It seems as if those of us in my ILS506 section are not the only ones who received grades of R. There were several emails on the school’s ILS listserv last night from others who also received Rs. One student wrote that she spoke to someone in the ILS department who said that there had been a problem and that they were in the process of rectifying the situation. One of the professors wrote that this is a serious situation that needs us to followup with our instructors immediately in order to make sure the situation is rectified. Overall, I’m more confused after reading these emails. My professor is currently out of the country at the IFLA World Conference and is out of contact. What to do? What to do? What to do? I sent an email to the ILS department chair asking for some clarification – and hopefully that helps. I have never, ever had so much trouble with one class before.
Can you sense my frustration?????????????
I received a very nice and extremely thoughtful reply from the ILS department chair last night to my email complaint about my summer class. She seemed genuinely concerned and interested in following up with the professor in order to try and prevent the same type of situation from happening in the future. However, she did tell me that the professor is currently in Seoul at the IFLA World Conference (which is technically taking place from August 20-24). To me, this means that we will not be getting our grades for this class until after he returns. Will this whole experience ever be just a bad memory????????
So, I feel much better that I got a good response to my complaint. I feel as if the school (or the ILS department) is taking it very seriously. Yet, I still feel as if the professor is prolonging the agony. There does not seem to be any stated policies about being given an R. Is the professor required to submit the real grade within a certain amount of time? Is this an accepted practice? Is there any recourse available to the students in this situation? Wouldn’t it have been nice to have been informed about the lack of grade? I might have understood if the professor had a good reason and let us know in advance. I will go on record to say that I fervently hope that this is the worst experience that I have in graduate school.
Grades for summer session are officially available tomorrow. In the past, grades have been released early. As such, I felt compelled to check today. Grades did seem to be available for summer session. Imagine my irritation/frustration/confusion when I went to view my grade and was greeted with an “R.” I have never seen such a thing, but was certainly unhappy since it was apparent that an R did not equal successful completion of the class. In order to try and minimize any additional stress, I tried to figure out what an R could possibly mean. Fortunately after a great deal of searching on SCSU’s web site, I discovered that an R means that the instructor did not submit a grade. This made me feel better for a moment – this didn’t mean that I flunked or that I had to repeat the class (a sentiment that a fellow student in the class admitted was her first thought). After that moment of relief, however, a feeling of rage over took me. I was really looking forward to getting my grade (hoping that I passed) and moving on – being able to put this semester behind me and never thinking of it again (ok, unlikely). Now, it seems as if the class will never really end. It was a bad semester and this situation with the grade only makes it worse.
I had been planning to make a complaint about the class to the ILS department chair at SCSU and the lack of grade prompted me to sit down and send her an email. The outpouring of my angst did make me feel better. Rant over for now . . .
Notes on my experiences searching North Carolina State University’s Library Catalog:
- I did a search in the “search for words:” box leaving the default limiter to Anywhere for computer juvenile. There 106 results matching my search criteria.
- On results display page, my first reaction is “where do I look?” “where do I go?” There is SO much (too much) information on this page. It took me a bit to be able to process this page and figure out what everything was.
- From results page, I can limit my search to available items. This option is in small wording at the top of the results – very hard to see, but a nice feature.
- Results are sorted by relevance. The user can change the sort order to Pub Date, Title A-Z, Author A-Z, Call Number and Most Popular. The most popular is a neat feature that I like.
- The ability to do new searches is available on all pages – at the top of the screen in the top navigation area. Patrons can send their search to a variety of places – UNC-CH Libraries, Duke Libraries, NCCU Libraries, OpenWorldCat, Google Scholar or a Quick Article Search.
- In results display, results default to full view – can be changed to brief view. In the full view, the Title, Author, Published, Format and Availability information is displayed. Local information is displayed – the library, location and call number. There is no availability information for online resources, but there is a link to the resource.
- Above the results display, there is an area where patrons can browse their results by subject category (by call number).
- Under the subject category on the left-hand portion of the screen, there is a box where patrons can narrow their results by several categories including, Subject: Topic, Subject: Genre, Format, Library, Subject: Region, Language or Author.
- In the item display, there is additional bibliographic information and item information. On the right-hand portion of the screen, there is a link to browse the shelf (at NCSU or several other libraries). This is a cool feature which allows one to browse items shelved close by.
- There is an option to use subjects to find similar titles – and 3 similar titles are displayed. There are also links to “more titles like this,” “more by the same author,” “save record,” and “marc record.”
- I did a “search as words:” search limited to author index for “mark twain.” There were 307 results. A search for “Twain, Mark” retrieved the same number of hits.
- Using the “Search begins with:” search box in the author (last name, first name) index is akin to traditional catalog author searches – where the search needs to be inputed as “Twain, Mark.” This brings the user to an “Index Hitlist Display” of authority-type records. This is just as confusing as in most library catalogs. Technically, it returns the same number of hits as using the “Search as words:” search. NCSU has two authority records for Mark Twain: Twain, Mark and Twain, Mark 1835-1910.
- The advanced search allows for searches in words anywhere, words in title, words in author, words in subject headings or ISBN, ISSN. There are limiting options: Library, Language, Format, Published from and limit by format (government documents, reference materials, or all others). These searches restrict a search to the indexes indicated. They are fairly straightforward search options (if one is familar with OPACs). There is also an area to do boolean searches.
- The browse tab allows users to browse the collection by subject. There is an option to browse new titles within the last week.
- From the home page, there is a drop down box with the Most Used library resources: Catalog, Reserves, Find Articles, Journal List, Citation Builder, Tripsave and then the Top 10 Databases. This is a nice feature.
- Overall, the keyword searching capability of NCSU is superior to most library catalogs. I would use this search above any of the others (except when looking for something specific in one of the other indexes). The other great part of this catalog is that it seems to be a seemless part of the NCSU library’s web site. You do not feel as if you have left the library web site and ventured into a different system. I think this is the number one strength of the design and something other libraries should try to emulate. The biggest problem with this catalog is the overabundance of information and text that is displayed in the primary search results screen. There is way too much information for most people to be able to digest quickly by scanning the page. It takes definite thought and careful reading in order to familiarize oneself with everything that is offered.
Notes on my experiences searching for information in Arkasnas State University – Beebe’s library catalog:
Traditional catalog – Library.Solution 2.0 from The Library Corporation:
- Using Search button from home page: I did a search using any fields containing the words computer and juvenile. There were 124 results. Many of the results were juvenile books in [computer file] format – which were not relevant to my search.
- From the browse results screen, results can be sorted by Title, Author, Publication Date, Availability and Material Type.
- The browse display has title, location and call number included and all are links.
- Items are sorted by title.
- Results can be saved. Can save checked items to a list or save all items to a list and can uncheck all selections.
- There is a button to place a hold prominently to the right of every record listed in the browse results list. This is a nice feature. It is easy to see and fairly self explanatory.
- On the left-hand portion of the screen, there seems to be the status highlighted in bright green: non-checkout, available, etc. Computer files have a status of non checkout. This is an odd wording. Computer files can’t really be checked out. This makes it seem as if one cannot use the item.
- There is a nice feature in this catalog. Above the status, there is information that reads “Found as . ..” – can be “subject, title,” “author,title,” etc. This information tells the user where the keywords were found (in what indexes). I found this to be very helpful. I wish other catalogs had this feature.
- Search box to allow user to perform another search (or the same search) are on every page – at the bottom.
- In item display, user can return to the results list via a button. There are next and previous links to broswse through the items in the results set.
- In the item record display, the Title, Author, Annotations Link, Excerpt Links, Imprint, Physical Descript., Subject, Index, and Electronic Resources link are displayed. Author, Subject and Index items are hyperlinked to allow for browsing these indexes.
- The Annotations, Excerpts, and Character Information links (buttons) are to enhanced content provided by Syndetic Solutions. This information displays in a pop up window. The Annotations link brings up a pop up window with a short description of the work. How is this an annotation? This wording is confusing. These buttons are also displayed in the initial browse results screen.
- Of note: There is information about item availability “This item has been checked out 0 times and currently has 0 hold requests.” This print is very small and note terribly noticeable under the bibliographic information. I have never seen checked out information in the record, but could be useful to users.
- There is a button on the top of the screen which allows users to see the history of their searches. Users can click on these searches to perform them again.
- There are also buttons in the top navigation bar to see MARC display, to download MARC record and to save item citation to list.
- I did an author search for “Mark Twain” using the contains option. There were 61 results – there were 61 results when I did the same search as “Twain, Mark.” I think this is a very important feature. There are no confusing see also references when the author search is performed first name last name.
- Browse option from the home page – links to more traditional library catalog search options – here author searches must be performed last name, first name. A search for “Mark Twain” will bring up see also references pointing the user to “Twain, Mark.”
- User can browse through several indexes including Title, Author, Subject, Notes, Publisher, Series, Local Call Number, Dewey, GPO, ISBN, ISSN, LC Call, LCCN, or LCCN2004.
- The Combination option from the home page allows users to use Boolean operators in their searches. This is a complicated search option with three different terms and different options for putting the terms together.
Searching via Medialab Solutions’ Aquabrowser:
- Main page has one search box – labeled “Enter your query.” Search can be restricted to all locations, ASU – Beebe or ASU – Searcy.
- There is very little on this home page. The letters ASU do appear in the discover area on the left-hand portion of the screen. Otherwise, there is little branding for the school or library. Also, there is no link back to the library web site.
- I did a search for computer juvenile and retrieved 14 results that were ranked by relevance.
- There is a tag or word cloud on the left-hand portion of the screen in the “discovery” area. Users can click on the words in order to broaden their search for related items.
- The browse display lists the Title, Series Title, Author, a short description, and the subject information. No local information about the item (call number, location or availability) is given on this page. This is disappointing. Users are forced to click on the item to see the item display to get availability information.
- Clicking on the item, brings up more of the bibliographic information along with call number, location and availability. There is a link to return quickly to the hit list (original browse display of results).
- On the right-hand portion of the screen, are several options to refine the search. The results are broken down into format, author, subject or series. Users can choose to see the results in book or movie format, see results by a particular author, subject or series. This feature is wonderful. It allows the user to see how many items are in the collection by author, subject, series or in book, movie, serial, or computer file format.
- In the discovery pane (word cloud), words offered are offered from associations, translations, discovery trail, spelling variants and thesaurus terms.
- Aquabrowser is very easy to user. I was very happy with my search experience. I do wish that there was better branding on the page – and wish that local item information appeared in the original browse display. The items retrieved in my search were much more helpful than in the search I performed in the traditional catalog.
The final exam for my summer class consisted of a fake title page and verso from which we had to write a full bibliographic, MARC record. In addition to the descriptive cataloging fields, we were instructed to use the SCSU library catalog in order to assign a LC classification number and LC subject headings. I was able to finish most of the descriptive cataloging last night, but had to wait until this morning to work on the classification number and subject headings. Violent thunderstorms ono Wednesday evening caused tremendous damage in the surrounding towns taking down telephone polls and trees. As a result, our power was shut off yesterday around 2PM – and did not come on until 9PM. I admit to being a bit worried about the possibility of not being able to complete the final. As a result, I was up bright and early this morning to make sure that I would be able to finish. So, I think I will go eat some lunch, then review my bibliographic record and email it to the professor. Can it be true??? Am I really almost done for this semester??? Can I start to celebrate???
I have the final exam in hand – and approximately 30 hours to complete it. I am taking a half of vacation day today and all of tomorrow off to work on it (This is assuming that I can get out of work today. We had major thunderstorms last night which led to power outages on campus – and power outages lead to all sorts of problems for computers and networks). Fortunately, I feel a bit better about it having seen the exam. It makes sense – and although, I think it will be difficult, I feel prepared.