Deepening the Conversation

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

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Excuses, excuses…

It’s been such a long time! I expect that unless you read this through a feedreader or other alerting system, you’ve long given up on me! I’m so sorry! The transition from old job to new job took more mental energy than I expected, and I expect I will continue to blog here less, for several reasons.

  1. I started blogging to force myself to write & think whole thoughts through regularly, and fit that practice into my schedule. My new position supports writing and research time, so that outside pressure is no longer active.
  2. In my previous position (small library, with a severely overworked staff juggling far too many balls at a time) I felt cut off from ongoing conversations and had a need to create an intellectual community that might be interested in more big picture synthesis than my community afforded. I am now at a much larger library, and have a larger intellectual community right at hand
  3. I ma still working out how the scholarship and tenure priorities at my new gig intersect with this blog (and being a public intellectual in general…). At the moment, I am feeling somewhat protective/defensive/possessive of my intellectual life. I will need to be publishing through the peer-reviewed process, and there are inherent conflicts between the immediacy of blogging and how ideas spread through intellectual communities online and the distance in time of scholarly publishing. As I negotiate which of my ideas will  integrate into my traditionally-published intellectual footprint and which of my ideas are then available for immediate consumption and conversation, this blog will very likely pick up more steam.
  4. A secondary goal of this blog was to be reciprocal. I had been a passive consumer of other folks’ blogs for a long time, and when I interacted with them on twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed, I felt like I hadn’t put enough of myself out there for them to know why they might want to friend me. This blog was my attempt to make a name for myself in the blogoverse, to put myself out there in an accessible way. As those social networks have evolved and become more established, I feel my identity and credentials are more secure, and that pressure is taken off of this blog
  5. The tertiary goal of this blog was always to engage folks in conversation. It never really succeeded in that front. Some posts received comments, and some folks commented regularly, but by and large conversations never really emerged. I have found a place where I can instigate and participate in energetic and exciting conversations online, and much of the driving energy of this blog has been displaced to the LSW room in FriendFeed. I’m Rudibrarian there, as most places online, and I urge you to join in the conversation there, if that’s something that interests you.

Despite that list, I still have thoughts I’d like to post here, and may from time to time.  I’ve been thinking about a lot things. A *lot* of things! Stick this in a feed reader, and who knows, a post might show up about one of the things that’s been on my mind lately:

  • the Taiga provocative statements
  • leadership, facilitation, vision, management
  • user-centered services, libraries as service
  • seeking truth about digital natives
  • the cognitive distance between creating and using information
  • developing critical thinking skills outside the classroom
  • the tenure process
  • Kindles, and how to circulate them and what would we want on them
  • the role of ALA in academic libraries (lately, this has taken the form of thinking about licensing and how we lost the fight for owning content, and why didn’t ALA take a stand, which has led to a lot of thinking about membership and how membership engages in ALA and what a mess trying to get involved with ALA at that level is and how can ACRL take a more active role on advocating and how can members get more involved in driving ACRL policy and does ACRL set policy and, and, and….)
  • privacy, privacy privacy!
  • the role of librarians in protecting patron privacy
  • effectively using social software as library outreach and branch locations
  • the intersection of those last two
  • changing the conversation about Learning Commons’ and Undergraduate libraries

So, while a lot of pressures have been released, the old brain is still churning away, and still doing it in public.

I really appreciate the readership I’ve had here, and the opportunities you’ve afforded me. I have no doubt this dance will continue, if not here, elsewhere. So, keep an eye out for posts, and look for me on FriendFeed, and in the comments of your favorite blogs! Hopefully we’ll find ways to keep thinking together, and stay in conversation!


The good, the bad, the ugly: the Life archive and copyright.

There are *so* many posts I’ve written in my head in the shower the last month, and you can tell that very few of them have made it to the page. For that, I’m sorry. Let’s blame it on transition issues, and I promise to get everything back in gear after the new year.

I had heard a few weeks ago about the Life photo archive being hosted by Google, and didn’t have much of a chance to look it over until a post on Jezebel sent me there yesterday. I spent some time poking around, and fell in love. It’s an unbelievable resource, with images from all over the world, about every conceivable topic, and dating back to 1750 (looks like photos go back to the 1860s, and lazy librarian just checked Wikipedia, and learned that daguerreotypes came about ~1837, and photographs in 1839, so perhaps Life has photos to the 1840s, who knows…).

So, yes, excellent resource, go play, have fun! But that’s not the point of the post. That’s not what has been eating away at my attention these past hours, distracting me and driving me a little crazy.

Are these images under copyright?

Can I show undergrads the Life archive  in the workshop I’m developing about using online images responsibly?

How can two massive companies put an image archive online in 2008 and have no clear copyright statement? Make no statement about usage of the images? Is ti possible that Life opened up and exposed its archives without knowing their copyright status? Do they not care? Do they violate any copyright they might hold by being so ridiculously stupid as to assume normal mortals are going to spend time determining the legal uses of the images? Can we embrace this last comment as force of law?

I’ve been discussing this with some friends and we have many many opinions, but no definitive solution. (I also posted the question to LibNews, but that is a list moderated by batches, and I am beyond frustrated with that kind of list). So I bring this to you and ask the questions: are these images under copyright? Is it possible that some are and some aren’t? Are users of the images responsible for making that determination themselves? Is there any way to declare this acceptable behavior in this day and age?


officially Annoyed

There are so many things, dear readers, that I have been wanting to find the time to talk with you about. But those will have to wait. Because this week a peer-reviewed journal of librarianship published an entire issue by an anonymous hack blogger with a following. That’s right folks — not a magazine, and not a hoax, but peer reviewed journal. I mean, ISI doesn’t have it’s impact factor, but still. Journal of Access Services 5:4 is made up entirely of ‘articles’ by the Annoyed Librarian.

Why does this make me sputter and fume and contemplate fomenting a university-wide mass-cancellation of all Haworth journals? Well, it’s an affront to scholarly publishing for one. There are lots of reasons to rail against scholarly publishing, and I agree with many fo them, but in a world where words are a primary form of communication, I tend to prefer that my words are used how they are defined, and not as double speak. A peer- reviewed journal is a specific thing, and a set of specific things. To wit, I taught my students to tell a journal article was peer-reviewed when:

  • the article was dense with scholarly conversation, and hard for those not in the field to understand
  • the article was attributed, with contact information
  • part of a conversation between scholars
  • contains footnotes and a bibliography

Scholarly articles are also identified by their reasoned arguments, their attentions to both sides of the issue, and the evidence that is brought to bear to support the argument and refute counter arguments.

Are any of these things true of the so-called articles published in Journal of Access Services this quarter?

Has scholarship in librarianship grown so weak that AL is now the best of what;’s out there? Is this what passes for reasoned argument? Is Access Services so devoid of smart people doing interesting work that this is the best the journal could find to publish? It seems like one of the premier publishing houses in the field of LIS thinks so.

Have I lost my sense of humor? Am I being curmudgeonly and behind the times? Has the purpose of peer-reviewed librarianship grown so pointless that we should be OK with this? I don’t think so.  And I think we should revolt. This journal, publishing this obvious pablum as peer-reviewed scholarship denigrates the work of every person who has ever published in the journal or for the press, and every person who does so in the future.

How do we fight back? Scholarly communication still has a place, but I’m not sure there is a place for this press in the conversation anymore. How do we hold them accountable? What amends will make this OK? What actions can and should we, the consumers of this material on all fronts (consumer and library), take to protect our professional interests both personal and scholarly? It is up to us, as the guardians of scholarly communication (of many many hats we wear, this is certainly one of them)??


New Post, new post! Calling Learning Commons Librarians!

Hello readers! After a long transition, I am finally in place at my new position, Learning Commons Librarian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Undergraduate Library! (wow, that’s a mouthful!). My apartment is full of boxes, my week is full of scheduled meetings, my mind is full of exciting possibilities, and my heart, my heart is full of happiness.

I am so thrilled to be here.

The new position is going to be an interesting ride, mediating my idealistic hopes and plans for the Learning Commons with the institutional realities and prior shape of the Commons. I’m still working on my ‘elevator speech’ but I think I’ve given the super succinct version here before: I’ll be creating collaborations with academic and student services units across campus to maximize the unique opportunities afforded by being one of the few non- or trans- disciplinary educational sites on campus.

It’s a huge change from my very traditional former position as an instruction dn collection development librarian, but I think this position will allow me to explore the reasons I came to librarianship in the first place. I left my doctoral program in Religious studies in large part because I realized that the take away I wanted was much more about enhanced critical thinking and less about content than might be desirable for a disciplinary professor. I entered librarianship because I thought there was enormous potential for enhancing undergraduate critical thinking skills through information literacy. My take on the Learning Commons is that it is a way to focus more on critical thinking and information literacy, although in a non-classroom-based manner.

This seems to be a very different take on Learning Commons’ than what I’m seeing out there in the literature, so I expect you will be hearing a lot from me on Libraries as a locus for learning and knowledge creation as I try to build community and develop like-minded support, and generally change the world.

That said, I have started a small spreadsheet of Learning Commons folks that I know of. Please, leave a comment or drop me a line if this is your work too — I’m eager to see all the different forms this work can take!

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Communication management.

I was just reading a post at Jenica’s and there was a line there that got me thinking

It doesn’t matter how much technology you throw at communication patterns, because until people learn to communicate effectively, the technology just facilitates ineffective communication.

It struck me, because I almost never see technology as the flaw in communication patterns.

And I always find it fascinating to get my perspective shifted. I have a tendency to think I’m right. Maybe I’m alone in that, but I suspect not. When I look at flawed communication at my place of work, my gut says it is a mentality, an intention, an approach to transparency, information sharing, what other people need to know, and what we each know about what each other are doing.

It only rarely occurs to me think of the problem as one of delivery, or technology. Which is a little silly, because one example immediately comes to mind: Reflog. When I started at my current (but not for long) place of work, librarians were supposed to use the paper reference log to track comments to each other. Which is exactly the practice I had been used to as a grad student, and as a grad student I religiously checked the reflog clipboard when I started a shift. (I only ever made notes in it as I left, big messages for next on)

I never worked it into my desk routine at MPOW. And I was not alone in that (non)practice

After a lot of persuading and pushing and pulling and eventually caveat, we started using a wiki for reference notes. And, lo, notes were taken, notes were read. It’s not perfect — some of the will is still bent in ways that don’t facilitate information sharing, but it is so much better than before!

What’s more interesting though is how the failure of communication continues to breed failure of communication. Jenica and I work together, and we both care about this issue. But we’ve never had a conversation about communication that revealed we may have very different understandings of the problem or it’ solutions. The problem got in the way of potentially productive conversations and solutions.

I’m going to try to make an effort to make a note every time I am confident I am right, and try to have a conversation with someone involved about the issue. Because being right isn’t always what matters — everyone else’s perspective is just as important when it comes to making change happen.

And being right doesn’t matter if nobody else agrees, right? :)


Googleplex. Horror movie.

I took a brief break this afternoon from coming up with creative reasons to do things other than pack my kitchen cabinets and fretting about not having an apartment in C-U yet to check in with my online peeps, my twitterati and FriendFeed folks.

I found myself a bit surprised to see how enthusiastically this savvy smart technologically forward thinking group of folks has embraced the beta testing of Chrome. Embraced it despite knowing it is from Google, miner of all data. And also despite the fact that there is general acknowledgment that while it is wicked fast, it lacks most bell & whistle features that folks depend on in Firefox and IE.

For me, Google has swung the pendulum back to paranoia inspiring. In library school, I was on the fence about the goodness of the Google, leaning towards concern. Over the last few years, my conscience has twinged me from time to time, but I have found their tools to be too too useful to give up for mere privacy concerns. But a Google Browser (and the in-the-works Google phone!) have inspired renewed fear. That’s right folks, fear.

Google says their motto is “don’t be evil”. And Google says that they just want to make all the information in the world publicly available. But I can no longer see how their emphasis on gaining access to my personal info, my impossible to get at personal info (like what I say on the phone!) — and everybody else’s personal info– in every possible way can be seen as anything but a force for Evil.

Because if they want to make all info available, pulling the info in is only step one. Aggregating and sending it out into the world is the inevitable outcome of their mission as combined with their current product development.

Based on Frienderati lack of Chrome-aversion (the whole privacy/googleplex thing is enough to ensure I won’t touch it) I am now actively dreading the Google Phone. Because I’ll need to come up with a way to block incoming calls from it, people. Google already gets enough of my private data to play with (and I wish I could wean myself from what google tools I use). But when the Google Phone comes out, I will no longer know when I making the choice to sell out the future for convenience’s sake.

Am I too paranoid? I really don’t think so. Google isn’t Microsoft — they are most explicitly not in the business of creating productivity products for cash income. They are in the business of making information accessible. When they go into the business of giving away productivity tools, you have to ask how that helps them achieve their own goals.

When media literate, digitally literate, technologically literate powers of teh interwebs turn their faces away from the implications, what chances do we stand of teaching our students to protect their own data? Oh, I just deleted a positively apocalyptic sentence comparing erosion of privacy to global warming. ::sigh:: That makes it time to close the post.

Interwebs, am I alone in my fear?


New job!

Some of you may have noticed that this blog has been very quiet (at least, it was quiet until LISNews picked up a post!). But there has been very good reason for that (not just friendfeed!), reason I can now announce: I will be moving back to my alma mater and taking up the position of Learning Commons Coordinator at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (in the famously underground Undergraduate Library affectionately know as UGL).

Over the course of the summer I had three campus interviews, for very different positions. And I had the rare experience of standing at a fork in the road and waiting to see which of two very different paths would be the one I would choose to walk. It was a great experience, and I wish I had been willing to blog about it at the time.

As I have begun the process of transitioning out of my current position I have realized how deeply I will miss Collection Development — not just the actual selecting of books (which I believe will be some small part of my new position) but the big theoretical side, the planning and organizing and thinking about what allocation decisions mean and the role of content in the library.

But I will be trading that for several valuable and exciting career elements:

  • the possibility of focus.
  • getting to think about information literacy in broad trans-disciplinary, non-disciplinary and pre-disciplinary ways. Outside of the classroom
  • Getting to think about and play with ways to cultivate critical thinking, and the library as the intellectual heart of campus in sustained ways — and manifesting that!
  • Getting to spend some quality time doing research — specifically researching the changing role of changing technologies in education and in students’ lives. Digital literacies, privacy implications, the effect of the blending of private/public/work/play on learning and libraries. That kind of thing.

I will also be working with some really amazing people. Which means great colleagues, exciting opportunities and some impressive new challenges. I can’t wait! And I hope you all stick around for the ride!

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Revisiting that tenure and public libraries post

Wow! LISNews picked up one of my blog posts (albeit my least favorite one), so hello new visitors!

I think I will take this opportunity to say a little bit about what I have learned or added into my thinking from the wonderful folks who commented on the public libraries and tenure post

  1. There are far more complex differences between academic and public libraries then I put into my first pondering
  2. Tenure would not be the solution for encouraging more innovation from public libraries (which is not to say that it has not been important in academic libraries. I stand by the value of tenure pressures for creating change and knowledge in academic libraries — despite it’s numerous numerous flaws as a system. That is a separate post, though)
  3. Note the word more in point 3. Public libraries do amazing things. Under unbelievable staffing and funding pressures. I am not, and could never be, a public librarian. (or a cataloger!) But I respect the hell out of them.
  4. I still, as a reader of series genre fiction, would like these things to be cataloged better. I am not alone. And the desire predates me. I still wonder why the problems of subject cataloging and series cataloging for series genre fiction (and fiction in general) have not been solved.
  5. Who does (should do?) the work that a single public library cannot do? Systems? Consortia? OCLC? Profs at library schools (heaven forfend!)?

I ruffled a lot of feathers with that post; please accept that it was well-intentioned, and that I have learned to be more careful since posting it. Be kind, please!

And welcome.


would tenure pressures in public libraries make good changes?

This started out as a response to a comment in the comments (thanks for the inspiration Laura!) but went so far off track from the original post that I decided it deserved it’s own post.

Laura and I were discussing cataloging of genre fiction series, especially burdensome to public libraries. While I am a librarian, when it comes to public libraries, I am a consumer, a patron, a supporter, a friend. Definitely not very familiar with the inner workings and struggles of public libraries

So, as a librarian but not a public librarian, I am often surprised at the ways that public libraries have not apparently grappled effectively with the challenges posed by fiction, series fiction and especially genre fiction. This has often led me to consider that tenure — with it’s emphasis on research and thus innovation — may be better for the profession than I might always otherwise think.  In this case, would tenure pressures in public libraries have led to better grappling with these cataloging issues (and let’s not talk about the role of, say, cataloging professors in LIS programs and the roles they could or whould or ought to take in this kind of process. Let’s just not, and say we’ve washed our hands.)

To make clear my assumption here: since public librarians are not pushed to produce in the same ways that tenure track academic librarians are pushed, little time, space, resources are provided to resolving thorny issues in public librarianship. Or so it seems?

What do you think? off the mark completely?

also, I am a fan of being faculty (and will fight for it if challenged). I will produce and be professionally active whether required to or not, it’s my nature. But I do think, from time to time, about whether tenure track pressures best serve the profession, or do not. This should be no surprise to my readers, who probably have noted that I tend towards philosophizing, and find the oddest things to be sources of contemplation.

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It’s all in the details

I’m traveling today, not for pleasure, and have become newly assured that I am not cut out for North Country living. Also, newly assured that user-centered, service-oriented is a must for libraries. Because if we don;t do it, we’re gonna leave folks feeling like I do today. And if today is enough to make me want to relocate, imagine what we’ll do to lifelong library users if we treat them without consideration? (note about the NorthCountry: it could be defined as having a core disregard for the needs of folks. Frontier thinking, insular to a crippling point, generally concerned about personal impacts of any and all decisions and behaviors. There are exceptions, but that’s the culture in a nutshell. You may be familiar with it politically, in NH and VT politics. But it ain’t just writ large, it’s business hours, types of stores, zoning,you name it) I’m talking little things, but so many of them, with accumulated resentment. Like the fact that not one single thing I have tried to buy today — including ferry tickets or lunch at a major regional airport — was able to be purchased on credit card. Seriously, I’m doing reimbursable travel here, and I am expected to pay cash for every step along the way? I suppose I’m just supposed to be glad that lunch was for sale at the airport, and that that bagel shop was open (it was after all the second bagel store I tried to shop at this morning). Which is all supposed to make me forget that nobody is feeding me on my noon flight, which I was originally thrilled to have as a direct flight (seriously! when was the last time I had a direct flight??), only to discover that I will be spending three hours smashed into a 44 seater. Life is inconvenient enough these days. Travel is a disaster, from cost to comfort. Add in poor signage, ridiculous stretches of time, and then inconsideration of the details ( um, a carry out only bagel shop on an island between the ferry dock and anywhere else which only spreads half the bagel and doesn’t cut anything through — could they not forsee that their food was gonna be eaten while driving?) So, what can we already tell about patrons lives, and what can we assume about the frustrations they already live with? At minimum, that they already are frustrated, for sure. What details can we come up with to smooth over, to make easier? Because the irritants have longer staying power, and even override the good things (like, for example, the excellent free wifi at the airport I’m currently using)? I’ve got more to say abotu this, but may just be in too foul a mood to think them through right now. And I have to go get chipper for today’s later events…. More on service later, you can be sure.


Usability wishlist

Thinking like a user, not a librarian:

  • I wish that library catalogs would link together fiction series. This is part of a larger wish for better fiction subject headings, but I want this more.
  • Closely followed by: public libraries (as least PL systems!) buy entire series instead of random titles within series
  • Publishers publish order of series in each book in the series
  • Stepping away from fiction, I don’t understand why publishers do not automatically and without exception list out chapters in edited volumes on the web pages where they advertise and sell those titles.
  • A less imperative wish, but those chapters in edited volumes? list the abstracts on your webpages too! You’ve got ‘em, why are you hiding them? Just makes me think you don’t have any faith in the material, and I can look elsewhere for my information needs
  • All those sites in constant beta? Beta means you want feedback for improvement, right? so where are all the impossible to miss feedback buttons? (If you aren’t looking for feedback, don’t call it beta. just call it under-supported)

That’s all for now. But this will probably become a continuing series. Because I always have “why don’t they just…?!?” responses to things.

What do you wish for?


Is this short enough?

random thought: does attention span scale to size of screen?

I was just teased for the length of an email I sent. I do tend to send long emails, as I generally think they are less irritating than several short ones. (I do also worry that some points will get lost in longer emails, but for now I’m still favoring 1 over many)

But, as I was sassing back at the GenY fellow who razzed me, I realized he may have been reading my email on his smart phone.

I also realized that I read differently on my office computer (largest screen) than my home computer (a formerly respectably sized monitor, now sufferering from an inferiority complex). And I avoid reading some things altogether on my stylish but teensy eee laptop.

But does the probable rapid adoption of mobile small screen devices mean we will all have to communicate in a length easily readable on a single iPhone screen?? Scholarly communication reduced to twitter posts?

Less apocalyptically apoplectic, I’m going to have to spend some time thinking about the impact of tiny screens on length of discourse. And I suspect I’ll land on the curnudgeon side, the scholalry side, the side that says life and learning and scholarship are complex, and deserve some attention and some time, and some space.

What say you?


October in Monterey!

Is one of the most beautiful things I can imagine! But for an instruction librarian, an impossible dream. Unless.. unless… Unless Internet Librarian accepts both a pre-conference workshop and a conference session from you. In which case, you better show up!

And this, this is my burden.

I will be putting together a pre-conference entitled “Dance Dance Library Evolution” with seven other twitter friends: Laura Carscaddon (U of Arizona), Colleen Harris (UT Chattanooga), Kenley Neufeld (Santa Barbara City College), Kate Sheehan (Darien Library), Courtney Stephens (Belmont University), Cindi Trainor (Eastern Kentucky University), Jezmynne Westcott (The Claremont Colleges). If I were a better blogger, I would link to all their blogs, but, alas, not tonight!

Today’s librarian must be nimble and fast-moving.  Nine librarians from different parts of the country and different areas of librarianship will demonstrate what is emerging in their libraries and in their lives today:  hot technologies, social networking and services and tools for users. You will enjoy this fast-paced and engaging lightning-round session from nine Twitter friends who are using these technologies to move themselves and their libraries beyond 2.0 and ahead of the curve.

Colleen Harris and I will also be presenting in the Learning track: 2.0 Learning & 1.8 Users: Bridging the Gap

For many instruction librarians, the challenge of Library 2.0 isn’t the technology, it’s the users. Despite the extreme 2.0 savvy attributed to the Millennials in the buzz that dominated early 2.0 reports, the media is finally catching up to what many instruction librarians have known all along: The Google Generation may need some help moving from passive consumer to active participant in the read/write web. Join two academic library instruction librarians for a discussion of challenges in and suggestions for bringing students, professors, librarians, and IT staff onto page 2.0 and why doing so is an important first step in bringing about Library 2.0 services and technologies our communities can embrace.

This will be my first Internet Librarian, but by all accounts this is a great conference, one of the ones where every session is just great. It’s also one of those wonderful opportunities for tech folks to get together with public services folks and talk to each other about the magic we can make happen when we work together.  If it’s anything like Computers in Libraries was, the out-of-session conversations were so great they deserved a program track all to themselves!

Will I see you there?

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long time gone

Hello readers!

Sorry to have been away for so long! I took some time for myself after the conference and have had a most lovely explosion of chaos break out that will probably keep me blog-quiet through midsummer.

But never fear, there is still hope!I have a post buzzing around back of my head about customer service (no thanks to freshpair, who I am now boycotting, and with thanks to TimeWarner, who came through big time), and I’m working on articulating my focus. I’ve been thinking about budgets and what they say about libraries and how we value education. And the value of expert-created taxonomy tagging on top of LCSH for improved searchability… Not to mention my vacation to Nashville will surely inspire some cross cultural thinking, because this midwestern gal has never spent any free time south of Mason-Dixon, and I’m sure it will be interesting!

So you might hear from me before July ends. Add me to your feed reader but please don’t forget about me! Oh, and keep your fingers crossed!


Whew! Conference over! What’s next?

Well, SUNYLA 2008 at Potsdam has been put to rest, and so have I! I no longer have the ability to just keep functioning on 5 hours of sleep a night over time. Two nights of recovery sleep and one science fiction romance later, I am feeling like a human again!

The conference was great, the flicker stream is here. I promise you, you’ve never seen a library conference like this before! In addition to sessions, we also had a drum circle, a talent night, a karaoke dance party, game night, a barbecue at the riverside, and the discovery of a pool table on campus (hello roving reference!). SUNY librarians lay to rest any myths about boring, timid, shy, withdrawing tendencies in the profession! And I really enjoy these people! SUNY is a deeply overburdened, underfunded system, but it attracts some great people that I enjoy getting to see once or twice a year.

While the gale force winds that swept through the area the day before made getting here a bit difficult, they cleared out the humidity and the rain and we had beautiful weather for the event. Turnout was good, (although the classrooms dwarfed the number attendees, making presenting a little intimidating! so many empty seats!). I learned that my library is far better equipped for the electronic age than anywhere else on campus — we may have fewer outlets than students want or need, but campus has several 200 seat lecture halls with only TWO outlets in the entire room! Data ports have been run along the tabletops, but not power. How can we move into the digital age if we can’t support student computing in the classroom? What good are the data lines when the students can’t plug into them?

I had a lot on my plate at the conference, including giving my own talk about my assessment of teaching and learning as a speaker on a set of panels I put together. I facilitated an activity in our member survey that went very well (‘wouldn’t it be nice if SUNYLA…’, borrowed from LOEX), and facilitated the resuscitation of the SUNYLA Library instruction committee. The membership expressed a commitment to keeping it alive, albeit in a different form, and we will be making some big changes. I haven’t reported back to the organization yet, so that’s really all I can say about it here, but I am happily surprised that the group decided to stay alive, and made a commitment to doing the work. In many ways the value of a group is shown in how many folks pitch in; I’m glad I came up with a forum for folks to feel comfortable and empowered to make the changes they want and need to make.

Yesterday I also went to a meeting of the local AAUW chapter, and am trying to figure out if AAUW is an organization I should get involved with. They do good stuff. I wonder if I could just donate the membership amount and that might be put to better use, since I’m not sure I can put anything else on my plate right now. They also would fulfill that “community involvement” space on my annual report for promotion and tenure, which only holds my Co-op committee right now. (is that too mercenary?) I’ll hold off on making that decision until the end of summer, because big changes may be afoot in my life between now and then!

So, all that’s left to do now for the summer is:

  • Deal with the budget. It’s bad, quite possibly very very bad. By all appearances it will be the worst case scenario (state level), but we still don’t know if it will be the worst case worst case scenario; that depends on how SUNY and the campus deal with the situation. I just wonder how long we can hold off on renewals; I’d like the decision to take all the cuts out of the monograph budget to be something we discuss and make a decision about, not just be the only money that hasn’t been committed yet, and so the fall guy for the deficit. Not sure that will be possible, though.
  • Work with the Women’s Studies program to lay my hands on their departmental library. It has been promised to the Library, I just haven’t taken action on that yet. There are also several boxes of books from the former Chair that I need to look over and take into our collection. The WGS library liaison and I also need to formalize some stuff for next year. Things will be very different next year, and I feel the need to move more of the selection to the program faculty and have less of it depend on me.
  • Leadership. I’d like to finish some of the facilitation stuff I’ve been scanning in prep for the conference, and I’ve got the Fifth Discipline sitting on my shelf demanding some attention
  • My article. My collaborative article. Writing with another person, in another discipline, will be an interesting challenge. It helps, though, when that collaborator has a gorgeous home on the Lake for us to meet at for two day collaboration sessions!
  • Make real the changes my LIC decided upon. I almost forgot that part!
  • Read and Review Our New Public, A Changing Clientèle
  • Take a vacation in Nashville!

There’s more (there will be discussion here about the greasemonkey plugin project, I promise!), but I just got really stressed out! I’m going to head out to my favorite farm stand and buy the fixings to make some delicious food for the week — I’m thinking something with barley or wheat berries maybe? –and start looking into fun things to do in Nashville the week after next! After going flat out since early April, I deserve a leisurely Sunday, don’t I?

Happy Sunday, happy summer, and happy Father’s Day all!

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SUNYLA: We’re all in this together – Consortial vending

So, I’m now trying to live blog and not kill myself with trying to blog post-conference. I’m at SUNYLA, being hosted on my home campus.

Julia Gammon Someone from OHIOLink is discussing Cooperative Collective Development (this is the second part of this morning’s resource sharing pre-conference).

Focusing on using a consortial vendor. in this case YBP.

  • force consortial agenda
  • clout – get what you want 9Not bought in Ohio lists…(like that worked fro SUNY with Ex Libris’ universal lending module. Not!)
  • Favorable discounts

But, what about used materials? Small vendors? Can YBP really get you everything you need? Wouldn’t this serious vanilla-ize the state collections?

Clearly, cooperative CD depends on having a tool that indicates what everyone has bought. But does that tool have to be the vendor profile? I’d think it wold be better to allow campuses to purchase from whomever they wanted and have the comparative data live in an ILS of some sort. Is this the failure of the ILS system (or, is this correlate to the Universal borrowing module we had asked Ex Libris to build for us?)? Can we (SUNY) require all our purchases to go through YBP? and doesn’t that seem to violate any principle of competition??

I have somuch hope for cooprative collection development, bt the conversatiosn e are having today seem to be hitting more of my anxieties than my excitements… more on that later.

Also, OCLC is beta-ing some great consortia-wide circ and ILL data to help with purchasing optimal number of books, and also to help determine what isn’t circulating and should/could be archived. Still determining optimal number of a title to archive.



Thought for the day:

Facilitators lead groups by providing tools and methods to help group members work productively together

Facilitators do not determine a group’s vision and purpose; that is the leader’s role

Leaders seek to inspire action and commitment so that a vision will be realized, or at least progress will be made

(from Fran Rees, The Facilitator Excellence Handbook, (1998) p. 17)

This is where my head will be for the next two days.

I can definitely see that above statement as true (and I am very clear that  will be facilitating my committee towards a purpose, not leading them there), but what I’m spinning over and inside out about are these questions:

Are the two never needed in the same place, the same person? Is there not a time and a place for a person to have both skill sets?

Which encompasses the more desirable skill set for a successful career doing what I love to do? I don’t want to be a Director/Dean/University Librarian, but I want to inspire folks to works towards goals and visions that I am passionate about! And I also want to help folks get there and not be standing firm and immobile on my perspective.

what does that quote do for you? do you facilitate or lead? which do you aspire towards? which garners more of your respect?


Pecha Kucha, not so mucha

I may be getting myself in trouble with my twitterstream here, or possibly get my acceptance to speak at Internet Librarian revoked, but I will out myself anyway:  I am not a fan of pecha kucha.

For those who have not yet been exposed to this little wave taking over library land, it’s a presentation, or series of presentations. Speakers go 20 by 20, twenty slides twenty seconds each. The slides are supposed to be artistic and metaphorical, and the content is supposed to hit the high notes. (Computers in Libraries 2008 pecha kucha video is available over at Open Stacks)

I get that bad powerpoint is painful. I get that speakers reading their presentation, word for word, is enervating. And I also get that pecha kucha is really entertaining to sit through.

But I think, at it’s core, pecha kucha is anti-intellectual.  It’s ideas without content, all in broad strokes and generalizations. It feels more about the pretty slides than the meat of the matter. And while I like big ideas, and I like being entertained, I also really like the stuff of the stuff. I’m a details gal. I want the details. Conferences without the details? are twinkies. and ho hos. I like my conference sessions to be … a little more. Heirloom tomatoes sliced over fresh buffalo mozzarella and drizzled with EVOO, balsamic vinegar and chiffonade of basil, with just a touch of grey salt. Simple ingredients simple presented, savory, worth sitting down and taking your time with. The details have been lovingly chosen and carefully crafted into the whole dish, and good people have been invited to sit down around the table and luxuriate in the bounty before them.

Doesn’t that sound like a conference session worth attending?

Pecha kucha supporters — what am I missing? I’ve watched two, I’ve made one, and I just don’t get it. Is it more than an entertaining trend? tell me what you love about the rapid chatter, either as speaker or audience.

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Adobe AIR?

note to self: Adobe AIR. What’s going on? What’s Adobe getting for giving this away for nothing? Privacy implications? Why have I installed it on two of my four computers when I am worrying about this? Am I some sort of anti open source curmudgeon for worrying about this?

thoughts? links? comment them below, or you can for:rudyleon them to me at

After June 15, expect some more developed thoughts on this front.

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Wiki’ing and blogging aho!

Yesterday I built a new blog and a conference wiki. Neither were particularly difficult (although there was a bit of a challenge in finding the right tool for the job in regards to the conference wiki) and the conference wiki, at least, seems like a natural part of my job. But I’m trying to remind myself that a lot of the things I do are not regular parts of librarianship, at least as practiced, and I think making the conference wiki is one of them (I also think they are part of my job as practiced, and my title is Instruction & Collection Development librarian, not Emerging Technology Librarian!).

The wiki had an interesting birth: I was looking for a tool to allow my panel to do a specific thing during our presentation. Mostly, I wanted a way to avoid having to do a lot of data entry after the fact without disrupting the plan we already had in place. A 1.0 PBWiki solves the problem. While I was creating that space, however, it occurred to me that other folks might also want some sort of collaborative space during their sessions, or some other space for tracking stuff about the conference. So, I opened it up to the membership of the organization, and seeded it with pages for our bloggers and tweeters to identify themselves and set it loose.

Now, the conference is in two weeks. We could have done a lot more with the wiki if we’d been thinking about it. But no one thought about it. How strange is that? I didn’t even think about it, except as an afterthought.

And there’s something else I did a little differently than perhaps is usual. I didn’t ask permission first. I made a tool, opened it up for collaboration, and set it on its way.

The real question is, how are these tendencies described, in resumes, and job descriptions? in annual reports
for P&T? For essential skills out of library school? What do you call this kind of stuff when you try to talk about it? (and when and how do you try to talk about it?)

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Rudy’s Random Ramblings!

If that title interests you, wander over to my new blog. It will be a bit unprofessional, a place where I can put my thoughts about the world outside libraries and technology.  (yes, there is one!)

I watch a  lot of media, and pay attention to pop culture, and think a lot about society and the erosion thereof. Genderstuff, politics, chick flicks,  speculative fiction, religious studies, and pictures of my gorgeous twin nephews will all show up there from time to time.

As a bit of tease, if you need one, later this evening I will post my thoughts about the romance of friendships as displayed in chick flicks and chick lit. (yes, I saw Sex and the City last week, but also watched Jane Austen Book Club and Muriel’s Wedding recently, and Oh! the thoughts!) Also ponderings on what HRC knows about Obama. And my struggle to read a male spec fic author for the first time in a few years. who knows what else!

If that sounds interesting, check it out!


Perfect conference collaborative tool?

This morning I hit a wall with PBWiki 2.0. and a perfect storm of terrible/outsourced customer service, customization, lack of information, and knowing exactly what I needed. [update: the folks at PBWiki responded very nicely & very quickly to my email once I figured out how to send one directly to them. They deserve kudos for being so responsive]

At a conference next week, we will breaking out session attendees into small groups and having them brainstorm a bit. I want a collaborative tool that will allow multiple synchronous editors, but that will not require me to invite each individual person. A wiki with a single password, or a completely open google doc were my first choices, but none of those appears to exist.

We have some time issues during the session, so collecting email addresses and sending the invites isn’t ideal. We would also like the tool to be available after the session for continued contribution.

Worse case scenario is index cards gathered and data entered after the fact, but it would be great to avoid having to do that.

Does anyone know of a tool that

  • can be guarded by a single password?
  • can have multiple folks editing at the same time
  • does not require email based logins (or being invited in general)

Does my tool exist yet in cyberworld?

[further update: PBWiki original flavor does exactly what I need. But since PBWiki 2.0 doesn't I'm still actively interested in suggestions!]

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My Full Plate Club membership application

This month has been a whirlwind! In fact, I can’t believe May is actually ending, I feel like it barely began. So, what have I been up to while I have been neglecting you?

  1. My library building is closed for the summer for renovations, which has been an interesting challenge. As in the Chinese curse, may you live in interesting times. I’ve been trying to treat the absurdities of the communication non-process as an object lesson on university structures, and am trying to figure out something productive to do with my newly honed awareness that colleges should never be considered single entities, and wondering if I can/should make a career out of my need to facilitate communication. When not scratching my head and wondering why it is is just so hard to share necessary and non-secret information.
  2. Paperwork from my office is in 5 canvas bags in my home office, waiting for late June to get organized and filed. I hope. The destruction of my sedimentary filing system means that I have no idea what’s in any of these bags, and if I need to get into them it will look like a tornado went through my spare bedroom.
  3. Not that I ever doubted, but I am in love all over again with Web 2.0 (and other collaborative/ non-located, web-based ) tools! Given my inability to get into my papers in any organized way, I would have been basically paralyzed this week without google docs and spreadsheets, my personal and work wikis, twitter, and IM. Especially given that one of my presentations is with folks at three other SUNY campuses, and we are still analyzing our data!
  4. I’m making progress on the two presentations I am giving at SUNYLA in two weeks. Next week I will focus on the open committee meeting I am facilitating. This has some real consequences, as we need to decide if there is enough will to keep the committee alive, or if it should be disbanded. I have a few books on facilitating decision-making that I’ll spend some time with this weekend. I’ll check in with the two panels I organized and am introducing a week from Monday and then hammer that piece out too. And I owe many thanks, apologies, and at least one drink to the conference organizers who almost certainly had to structure the conference around where I needed to be when!
  5. I am polishing up my Library Instruction Cookbook proposal
  6. I have been hip-hip-hurra ing the fact that Internet Librarian not only accepted our presentation proposal, they asked us to turn it into a pre-conference! We’ve got work to do to take better advantage of that format, but I am really excited! It will be my first time presenting at a national conference (and, my first proposal to one as well, so make that another 3 cheers for me!), and Monterey in October is spectacular! And there’s no way this instruction librarian could rationalize sneaking away from campus that time of year without a speaking commitment!
  7. And if all that isn’t enough, periodical and database decisions for next year have to get made PDQ and with nothing but dire prognostications to guide us into next year’s budget. I wish I could keep blaming Spitzer’s zipper for our budget woes, but I think other sources have taken the forefront…
  8. I’m also trying to make a decision if my anthropology prof collaborator and I should publish our article in a pedagogy journal or an LIS journal. And I’m not entirely sure how to make that decision. A. also thinks I should take first author, and I want to invent a way for us both to be first author, because we are working on this together, entirely. Poor man is up to his eyebrows in lit review now, too.
  9. And, to ice the cake, my director and I have been having lots of conversations about leadership. I’ve been thinking a lot about organizational culture, and then saw the article (needs ALA password for ACRL member access) in this month’s CR&L, and now I’ve got leadership books and facilitation books piled on the sofa and almost wish I could just bury myself in reading them this summer. Or clone myself, and have my clone read and process them and come back to me in October to share the knowledge!

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