Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries


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building a bibliography on privacy and librarianship

Time and practicality trumped passion this research break, so I’m working on getting a presentation on information literacy and web evaluation into article form, which means I won’t be able to dig deeply into the privacy and 2.0 librarianship issue until summer at earliest. Until then, I’ll be collecting sources, and reading what I can.

I’ve started a public list at OpenWorldcat — have you read any of these? what do you think? Any of them worth ignoring, or absolute must-reads? others to suggest? (I’ll be annotating the list as I get through it).

I’ve also got a lot being tagged with privacy at de.licio.us.

Please, feel free to point me to other things. And, your opinions are *always* welcome here! It’s supposed to be a conversation, right?


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of voice and tone and an excess of choice

I’ve been working this week on turning a presentation into an article, and keep finding myself in front of two stumbling blocks. The first I have partially gotten past, except for the lingering taste in the back of my mouth.

In my previous career, all journal articles aimed for a scholarly tone and a 20 page length (double spaced, 1.5 inch margins, Times New Roman 12). The only stumbler was finding an appropriate journal based on content and hoping their selectivity took it in.

I have, after a lot of time spent looking over editorial guidelines (del.icio.us tagged editorialguidelines), identified a journal that looks likely. I like them, and hopefully they’ll like what I have to say. Identifying a potential journal allows me to start the writing process — I now know tone, length, style, and can thus begin. The lingering taste? If they don’t accept the manuscript, I will have to gut and reassemble the entire thing because other journals want different lengths, styles, and tones. Quel irritant. But, largely in hand.

The second stumbling block I keep hitting is tone. I am finding it more difficult to get back my scholalry writintg tone than it was to lose it. My breezy educational tone was hard won. When I left my doctoral program and took a position in educational publishing, I was first assigned to work on second grade textbooks. Moving from Kristeva and Foucault to 2nd grade reading level in a single step was…well, let’s just say I asked to be reassigned to 6th grade, the top of the K-6 social studies curriculum we were writing and was able to win that struggle there.

Since then, I have given successful conference presentations, taught hundreds of library sessions and spent countless hours at the reference desk (not to mention all those hours in committee meetings!) and while I think of myself as a dyed-in-the-wool academic, it seems that the in years since I last did academic writing I have lost my voice. The writing is going rocky while I struggle to get it back.

And with apologies to you, dear readers, I suspect that this blog may become the practice ground… please let me know if I lose my breezy and start getting dense. Or, if you have found away to move between multiple voices with ease, how did you do it?

Ad a sidebar, I wonder how much these issues (the difficulties of scholarly voice in librarianship, and the vagaries of style and tone in LIS publishing) relate to the state of the LIS journal, most recently discussed in Stephen Bell’s ACRLblog post “Pay Some Attention to the Research”

What do you think?


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The Academic Librarian’s version of Fight or Flight

I find this time of year psychically difficult — as an academic and a librarian, though, not as Holiday time.

I spent well over 20 years (over 25 if I counted right) in school. and all that Pavlovian training means that now is the time to relax and next and be at home and have fun. Well, and also stress out about those seminar papers I took incompletes in, but generally, an out-of-cycle time, a time to rejuvenate. (perhaps similar to Flight)

Since starting as an academic librarian, I’ve been very confused by the month of December. All around me, students and colleagues are in high stress mode, but my stress time is over (major collection development is a month past, peak instruction time too) In fact , early December is one of my calmest times of year, just scratching off the to do list and making progress.

And then campus empties out, and I’m still here. Energy levels on campus go though the floor, and that wreaks havoc with the conflict between my prior training (time to go home, sleep in, cook lots, and read) and my new training: ah research time! I’m on the tenure track, so I have to claim research time where I can find it.

This is my third professional winter break, and I have finally taken this time for granted as research time. All semester I try to keep track of what I want to read and study and research over Winter break (5-6 weeks long here) .

Which would be great, right? Except, I somehow fail to take into account every single year, that my library treats winter (and summer) break as project time. I have 4-5 hours per week of tedious card pulling. I have 2 hours per week of weeding (year round) and I spent at least 7 hours this week alone in meetings.

And I’m starting to feel depressed. I’m up for reappointment again in April, and really wanted to get an article written over break.  But in the four weeks of break left, I’m starting to accept reality and call that 2 days per week. Can I write and article and get it into submittable form in 8 days??  And can I also tackle all the reading I have set aside and start digging into my next article (grappling with librarian-ly ethics in a 2.0 world), which may well be old news by end of summer? While at the same time fighting my well-honed winter sleep and fantasy novel skills?

Maybe some of you reading this are also on the tenure track in smaller state schools, in libraries where the workload and tenure reality don’t match up as neatly as one might like? How do you manage conflicts between too much work and not enough time for keeping up, research, and writing?


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raindrops on roses and weeding the stacks

note: when I started writing this, I had no idea where it was going. I now think I may be able to tease a rational and supportable plan out of this. But it is still a bit rambly, and I think there are several posts here.

I just spent 25 minutes or so in the stacks, weeding in one of my subject areas. Let’s call it subject O, a subject that is heavily monographic as well as data intensive. A subject that is global and historical and looks into the future. A subject that should be using books, really, I can’t imagine it without books.

Generally speaking, I enjoy weeding, even if I find it to frequently be an emotionally complicated experience, professionally speaking. I like that I actually lay hands on the collection (something I rarely get to do). I like that I can see gaps here that I can’t always ‘see’ in the catalog. I like that weeding completes a circle that also includes reference interactions , materials selection, and library instruction sessions. I think it is interesting that so few of our books circulate much — and how much they used to circulate (this is the first major weed in 40 years, so I don’t think that only the good have been left on the shelves; no one has removed any!) and I think about the nature of a small college library supporting the needs of its undergraduate students (as in, is it even possible?)

The weeding provoked thoughts that I enjoy most are those around how weeding makes me think about the nature of libraries and their role in the educational institution. This often leads to the frustrating conclusion that if librarians were given more respect and status (and if their jobs were better understood) in the academy, everyone would be better off. Because looking at books — individually and in collection — is a very telling view.

Today, oh, today, I weeded in ‘O’. And went through shelf after shelf (in O, OA, OB) handling book after book that had not circulated since the early 1970s, and suddenly realized that even the brand spanking new books– the books I was checking for pullcards but wouldn’t weed — hadn’t circulated. And I started to realize that the last five shelving units had not circulated this century. Maybe a handful had circulated in the past 10 years.

Are we wasting our money? Should we stop buying books for this subject? I am struggling to reject the notion that we should drastically reduce O’s monographic budget line until they begin working with instruction librarians to build better assignments, assignments better able to meet their pedagogical and content goals, and which force students to use library resources.

But maybe I shouldn’t fight it? Maybe I should actually suggest it.

Eighty percent of this department does not request books. The departmental library liaison—a hesitatingly friendly colleague — fights me tooth & claw about removing books, all the while sighing that she can’t get her students to use them, but they’re important and we can’t just pull them because no one has touched them in 40 years. O doesn’t use library instruction (but I do hear that O’s students won’t/can’t/don’t use the library and that their work ain’t what it ought to be). O won’t describe their program to me (or the website) or their areas of specialization, so all I have to go on are book requests. From less than 25% of the department.

So, would it be outside our mission –library and campus — to decide that we are wasting money buying books for this department right now, and stop wasting the money? And support our importance to the handcrafted education we’re always going on and on about by saying the department can have library money back when they are willing to put the effort into getting their students (who are the only ones we support) to use the discipline specific and apparently very important library resources effectively? (which would have the added benefit of leading towards buying “the right books” as opposed to the “who knows what” we’re currently buying)

Would it? really? would it be so bad?

I’m really wishing I could rationalize this into a place that isn’t just wishful thinking. I don’t want to punish the department, or the students, but right now, they aren’t using what we have. And we can keep throwing money into books on the shelves which aren’t going to be used because the department doesn’t seem to know how to make their students use the resources they say they want their students to use.

And we can help them with that. So, since they don’t use us in area IL when they really really need it, are we doing right by them (or their students!) to continue to buy the materials they want when they go entirely unused, and it is within our domain to change all of that?


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Blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind

I have been a little buried in mundanities at work this week — repetitive but necessary tasks — and continuing bits started before, and have been bad about posting.

Which might be better described as being bad about thinking, but I’m going to blame the (lack of a) humidifier for the pillow in my head and let that monkey go!

So, what’s been scrolling through my head this week?

  • gender issues in BSG: R@zor. While stunning in terms of the ‘verse, R@zor may have lost me forever. May have completely undermined all previous complex and marvelous BSG gender stuff in 2 short hours.
  • assessment issues – how to assess my teaching, and how to determine if the time we put into our freshman library fair is worth it (and how to do more with no more resources). Is assessment worth the effort if we are only doing it to appease TPTB?
  • soup. yum!
  • snow tires. May the Goddess bless and keep them
  • Settlers of Catan. I’m starting to hold my own, even have some ability to discern strategy and remember what resources folks have in their hands. Soon, I will get The Longest Road AND the Largest Army!
  • Christine Bruce’s Seven Faces of Information Literacy (summary article) and phenomographic approaches to learning. More will follow, I promise. But, how did I get through 4 years of instruction and info lit work and research and not encounter this 1997 gem?
  • snow.
  • sleep
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