Deepening the Conversation

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


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LOEX 2008 de-brief: The Overview

So, in my long absence, I went to LOEX. This was my first LOEX, and I really enjoyed it. As with Computers in Libraries, I avoided sessions (a) where I knew the presenter, because I could get slides and notes later (b) that might make me want to change things outside my own self. Of course, once I got back, my Director asked me to share what I learned that the rest of the library might benefit from. I thought I had finally figured out the way to moderate my frustration by focusing only on my own improvement, and now she asks. Note point 3, and watch me bite my tongue. right off.

These are my general impressions, I promise to post some specific details on what was best, worst, most useful later today. And, in the future, I solemnly swear to debrief conferences while at the conferences, because it is very very painful to do it this way!

Sessions I attended:

  • preconference at Elmhurst College
  • Plenary: Creative Collaboration: Setting the Course for the Future of Library Instruction
  • Assessing One-Shot Instruction: Using Post-Assignment Evaluations to Build Better Assignments (handout)
  • We’re out of time! Extending the One-Shot Session Virtually (slides)
  • New Learning, New Scholarship, New Spaces: Creating Dynamic Physical Environments
  • Improving Teaching and Learning through Instructional Partnerships: Building Librarian Relationships with One-on-One, In-depth Conversations (slides)
  • We Built It, They Came, Now What? Lessons Learned From Creating a Successful Course Integrated Information Literacy Program (slides)
  • Plenary: The Future of Libraries in Higher Education (which was inspiring and amazing and worth the cost of admission!)

General themes and overall impressions:

  1. I had been told that LOEX really concentrated on the hands-on and practical, but most of the sessions were the usual sort of info lit presentation – what we did well and interesting. Nothing wrong with that, just that I was expecting something a bit different. Perhaps the little bit different was that these were all high quality!
  2. Keywords: Collaboration, Assessment, innovation
  3. I know this was an information literacy conference, but what i was keying in to most was leadership for innovation. So much of what folks were talking about circled around how good administration, good leadership, involved innovative thinking and creating spaces for creativity. Lots of discussion of not only how to foster innovation, but how to avoiding squelching it. Really, very inspiring, but also a little frustrating. One of the morning plenaries took this on head on, and still managed to sidestep two audience questions directly about how to bring some of this into being when your administration isn’t taking the role of keeping out of the way.
  4. UIUC GSLIS represents! I know a lot more folks in library land than I thought I did (and I though I knew plenty!) Between ACRL-IS involvement for 5 years, attending lots of ALA conferences, the twitterverse and library-land lists in general, I have some pretty deep networks! Throw UIUC into the mix, and I rarely sat down at a table without having a connection to someone. It was really very nice. I spent some quality time a couple of friends, had some good chats with some folks who i wanted to catch up with, was surprised to see some unexpected faces, and met some good folks and possibly made some new friends too. I do feel like I am a part of the ‘LOEX family!
  5. I’m a little freaked out there was a session at LOEX with the exact same title as the session I proposed for Internet Librarian!
  6. Learning Commons. Library as learning space. Ok. I got it. Why are there so many sessions on what is essentially not so complex? Or, what am I missing (and you better tell me, because after 4 sessions at two conferences I really get that movable space, collaborative space, comfy seating, and productivity software coupled with librarians, tech support and other support services is a Learning Commons. Throw in books, and hey! It’s just good library practice! isn’t it?)? Maybe I’m just sad that making our spaces comfortable and useful to students and researchers is cutting edge thinking instead of common sense.
  7. There were a lot of great sessions to choose from! The less positive way to frame this: why did the conference “start” a full day before the conference started? May 1st was a total waste of potentially useful time (the pre-conference trip to Elmhurst College Library was great, but seemed to have been a last minute addition), time that might have helped cut down from 6 concurrent tracks to 5, and thus help eliminate clone-wishing?? Especially given that folks were pretty much stuck at the hotel. Luckily other folks blogged, debriefed, and otherwise made their LOEX experiences avialable, allowing all of us to be in many places at the same time:
  8. Deciding to put together a panel for ACRL and put the proposal together in the interstices at LOEX may have been staggeringly stupid! But we pulled it off, so fingers crossed that it gets accepted.


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Did somebody ask for focus??

Hello world!

I have been a very bad blogger lately, and I apologize for that. What’s my excuse? Getting ready for a two week trip, taking the two week trip, and now having a couple days to get my office tidied up and figure out what I need to pack home for the summer. Yes indeed, for the third (of the last 4) summers my building will be closed this summer for renovation/repair work (and we’re hosting two library conferences this summer, what horrible timing!). Nothing too sexy, but a new HVAC system and new windows. Word is it will be accessible to us all summer, but I’m planning as if they will find asbestos in the HVAC.

So, why did I leave for two weeks? A marvelous conflation of events had my nephews being born a week before LOEX, and my sister’s wedding a week after LOEX, all in Chicago. So I took myself off to Chicago to be inspired about information literacy and leading for innovation, coo at adorable babies, and to get all gussied up and cry at my baby sister’s wedding to a fantastic guy with a great family. Oh, and to dance like a mad woman. (as an aside, there are may reasons I love my sister. Including the fact that we did not hear a) Celebration, b) the Macarena, or c) the Hokey Pokey at her wedding)

This weekend I’ll debrief LOEX for y’all (and for myself– it’s good to do!), and from there I will be immersed in thinking about assessment (not that immersion, as much as it would be a great idea!); I have three panel sessions at SUNYLA on assessment. Two are informaiton literacy assessment panels, and one is an assessment of the organization itself. I will also be strategizing the best way to re-energize my SUNY library instruction committee by way of the open meeting I am holding for it at that conference.

I am also writing an article this summer with a prof I do a lot of collaborating with (I can never get rid of dangling participles in this type of sentence! any tips for that???). I expect that the collaborative act of writing will see some ink here, as well as cross-disciplinary writing. I expect that my very strong feelings about how information literacy has stalled out in academe may get vented here to blow them out before making them polite enough to play their role in the article.

Oh, and, budget cuts loom. Big scary ones. So I expect I will be spending some mental blood, sweat and tears on pondering about how one can call oneself a college while having an already woefully inadequate budget sliced by 6-12%.

Which is all to say, I’m back, and better than ever! All rested up and over-scheduled and veering off into what I hope will be an extraordinarily productive summer.

Unless I get side-tracked. In a good kind of way…


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Is ten minutes of teaching enough?

So, Colleen’s to do list (which I am mighty impressed by) reminded me of the call for papers for the Library Instruction Cookbook. Which seems like a great idea, tons of active learning ideas! Also, something I would love to contribute to.

The ‘ingredient list’ kind of got under my skin though. Especially this part:

The lesson plan for the activity cannot involve more than 10 minutes of librarian talk. (Our second assumption is that you like to hear yourself talk more than students do. We’ll give you 10 minutes to introduce the activity.)

I do active learning (after all, I went to Immersion. We learn lots about active learning at Immersion!) And I’ll be the first to admit I struggle with content coverage and integrating active learning. But this criteria just rules me out completely! I was thinking this would be a great place for my call & response web page evaluation exercise, taking a completely different approach to teaching evaluating. It’s an exciting activity, and my favorite class to teach. It is very active, and the students are always more engaged here than any other session. They are so engaged that this semester I found I ran out of time due to student participation. Kind of awesome, but also worrisome — I don’t get to cover the rest ‘tomorrow’!

But I talk for more than 10 minutes. And I talk for more than just the very beginning of class. We interact. The whole hour.

Does that mean this isn’t good active learning? Is active learning defined only as introducing something and then turning students loose to do their thang, and then letting them debrief (because if I debriefed,  that would certainly exceed that magical mystery minute mark).

Plus, I have this concern. Am I really misunderstanding the whole nature of teaching, and information literacy, and the course-related one-shot in a non-integrated curriculum? Is it even possible for the students to get enough useful library information with 10 minutes of instruction?

I’m open to being shown how this can work, I really am. I’m also very curious if any of us has been so bold to take just 10 minutes for active teaching and leave the rest of the precious class time to active learning?  Convince me, cajole me,mock me, support me — where do you fall? what do you think?


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My own personal ER episode….

If it were Grey’s Anatomy there would at least be some McSteamy and some hanky panky, right?

I have so much work I’m supposed to be plowing through right now, but the medical situations going on around me (well, around my life. Most are going on 1000 miles away, which is an added stress!) have been extraordinarily distracting.

  • A friend is being treated hyperbarically for Necrotizing fasciitis. Really.
  • A family member has been fighting a combination of lung diseases and may be on oxygen for the foreseeable future; her son has been seeking many opinions and has decided to return home from his commitments in Africa (and this is good, despite what his mother says!)
  • Another family member is now out of ICU after developing pneumonia after surgery to repair his esophagus after it was torn being given the Heimlich maneuver. Because he was choking.
  • Grandma, very happily, does not have a blood clot
  • I am an aunt! Yesterday my sister-in-law gave birth to my nephewsMax at 13 hoursMax and Gabe (7 lb 11 oz & 6 lb 9 oz) after an exhausting and long day in hospital (that’s Max in the pic). It’s very exciting, and I can’t wait to see the pictures! However, poor sweet Gabe is having some blood sugar issues, and has an infection, and is in the NICU. It’s hard to be an aunt from far away when this is going on! Luckily I will be heading to the old homestead in less than 2 weeks.

How crazy is it that work goes on in the middle of such distracting events?? That deadlines and time-frames remain in place and not subject to the whims and whirls of my life?? Seriously!

Thanks for indulging this I-promise-very-rare non-work/library related post. I also promise that pictures of my boys will go up when I get them.

Now, off to find McSteamy and McDreamy and shake things up!


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Can twitter do it all?

My good friend from library school called me out this morning for not including his blog in my blog roll. And I was stunned that not only had I had never added OpenStacks to the sidebar, I hadn’t noticed the absence! I’ve been reading it since Greg started the blog (and he was an early innovator! I don’t know if his stand-up early attempt at a photoblog is still available on the site. I hope not…)

And then I realized: I rarely read blogs anymore (other than posts announced from twitter). Since I started twittering (and then blogging myself) I spend very little time in my other social and professional online networks. I even commented to Tim S. about this at Computers in Libraries, that my twitter time has eaten into my LibraryThing time…

Which raises the question of quality: am I getting more quality out of a sense of community and a hive mind I tap regularly to resolve tough and easy questions, recommend readings, and otherwise support my work and fun than out of the biblioblogosphere in general? Is twitter robust enough to replace all the rest of the digital library ‘verse? Am I depending too much on 140 character missives??

How about you? Have your social networking habits been changed lately, and if so by what force? Am I part of a trend? Or am I just so thrilled to be following zappos shoes (not to mention the House and Senate floor!) that none of the rest of it really matters?


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Computers in Libraries: Day 1, the morning

It’s funny how long ago last week feels today!

If you’re just looking for the overview, here it is: Computers in Libraries is an amazing and inspiring conference, with lots of folks talking about innovating, in reality. What they’re doing, and how they’re doing it, and more than the usual complement of why they’re doing it. The name is only sort of fitting, as the conference really only covered a narrow slice of the possibilities inherent in the title. But it’s a great slice!

Also, for now it is a nice smaller conference, about 2200 attendees, plus exhibitors and others. It’s growing rapidly, and with some few growing pains. I expect the flavor to change pretty soon.


Lee Rainie gave a keynote that many previous attendees of CiL passed on (and next year I will probably do the same). He was inspiring and all, but I felt like I was in an ad venue somehow — too slick and shiny, and I honestly expected more substance and depth from the folks at Pew.

Interesting tidbits? (my comments are in green)

In the Information Age, Information is: abundant, cheap, and personally oriented.

If you include uploading pics to Facebook, 39% of online teens share creative content online. Personally, I think a distinction needs to be made between sharing content and creating content, but I get a little lost in the semantics. Basically, if my users just want to upload from the camera or their word processor, I can help them in certain ways. However, if they want to create online content (and I know I’m not pulling the right words here) then I the librarian need to have other abilities ad tools at hand: video editing software, graphic design tools, HTML editors, I don’t even know what else. Not making that distinction is unhelpful for telling me about the skill and engagement level of content creation behavior of teenagers.

Thirty-three percent of college students keep blogs and regularly read posts, although the distinction between blogs and the Web for students is growing increasingly fuzzy. This has important ramifications for instruction librarians. I ask students all the time if they read blogs, and most have never heard of them. It’s one thing to not know you’re reading a blog in Facebook or MySpace, but it’s a more difficult distinction out on the free web. Does it matter (and if so, how?) if you are reading a New York Times reporter’s work in the newspaper, the newspaper’s blog, or on Huffington Post? How about a professor, say an anthropology prof keeping in touch with her friends from far away places? how should we be talking about the distinctions?

Another nice tidbit, 19% of online young adults have created an avatar that interacts with others. That’s a very specifically worded stat, and the number is so much higher than I would have guessed! I’m curious if MORPG characters are considered avatars? If they are not avatars, then this marks a large gap in my knowledge of my users!

The other primary bit from the keynote was Rainie’s discussion of the latest report, of how users want to access government informaiton. This was very specifically chartered research, the government was trying to determine the best way to provide information to users of the information. My largest frustration is the distinction in categories: users had several choices, among which were “internet” and “library”. When you put those in a list of other choices, what do they mean? What if you used the internet at the library? Do you only track Library when user speaks to a librarian? uses print source from gov docs collection? It feels frustratingly useless without that granularity, and the Library Research Center ought to know better (and I can say that, because I worked there for a semester!)

Web 2.0 Services for Smaller and Underfunded Libraries

Library Web Presence: Engaging the Audience

These were both very engaging sessions, with lots of information about cool new (and not so new) tools to try out. The one thing they all lacked, however, was any engagement or understanding of how the free tools managed users information, and this has become a real point of concern for me. LibGuides appears to keep no information, but the various widgets being created at Penn State and other places using WidgetBox? No one had really looked into that. Which is unfortunate, because WidgetBox seems to be wicked cool,and i would love to talk about it with my colleagues. And the clean usability of the Penn State research quick links page? fantastic! But I feel too strongly that anything I put on my campus’ Library website carries the Librarian Stamp of Approval, and that we are responsible for teaching our students about their digital footprint, and how to protect their digital privacy. So, le sigh, it was wonderful, but I’ll have to do a lot of that legwork myself before passing the excitement along to my colleagues and our users.

I do want us to start looking at LibGuides, though!

tomorrow I’ll post more responses to the conference. I will, I promise!


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Day one and thriving

I am so pleased that the Collection Development discussion group has taken off! In just one day the group is up to 88 members and there are a handful of active discussion threads going on, mostly about weeding/deselecting and collection analysis.

I have so many things I want to talk about there, but I’m holding back. Maybe I’ll use my GCal to space out topics I want to talk about. Maybe set discussion topics up as specific reminders every Monday morning?

More than anything, though, I am pleased that i stopped wishing this forum existed, and created it. It took very little time (mostly in describing and advertising) and I am getting the impression it will be well-used!

I also think it’s interesting how I defined my community of users. The first place I announced the group was on LIBREF-L, the source of the conversation that was the immediate inspiration to just do it. But I immediately then announced over twitter, my consortial discussion list, and my library school cohort discussion list. Only later did I take it to the traditional discussion lists. I’m still getting a-ha moments reminding me of X listserv and Y discussion group where I should announce.


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New Collection Development discussion list

This was not on today’s to-do list, but a discussion on LIBREF-L inspired me to stop thinking about it, and make the Collection Development discussion list I’ve been wanting to create for ages now.

For a long time now I have been wishing there was an excellent discussion list for talking about collection development, an urge which was furthered by moves my institution is making towards collaborative CD, and the fact that I spend so much of my time thinking about how to do it better/easier/more efficiently. (I have 12 half written blog posts on collection development topics!) And I’ve had no place to listen, learn, share, discuss.

So, I created a new discussion for the topic. If Collection Development is something you think about, and you are looking for a venue for sharing and learning, please consider joining the new Collection Development google group (aimed at academic librarians specifically) at http://groups.google.com/group/collectiondevelopment

Possible Topics:

  • selecting materials outside of expertise
  • allocating resources
  • evaluating resources
  • collaborative collection development
  • the role of materials in 21st century libraries
  • weeding
  • collaborating with professors

Please feel free to share this information widely.


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post temporarily pulled into editing mode….

In my haste and eagerness to try liveblogging at Computers in Libraries, I published a very very stream of consciousness note taking post of a session. I have pulled that baby down! because, you know, I finally had a chance to look at it! (let’s just say that connectivity at the most digitally able conference I have ever attended was a sore spot)

I’m sure the content is wonderful, but the typos and grammatical shorthand I use when taking notes really isn’t something to show the world ;)  This weekend, I’ll make it all shiny and thoughtful and post it back, along with its compatriots.

And the typing? I have to admit that my shoddy typing was a conscious choice, a proto-feminist decision, made when I was in 6th grade.  My school required a trimester of typing and I declared that I was never ever going to be a secretary and flat-out refused to learn how to type as a defense mechanism. The world, she has changed since then and while I struggle to type accurately (I do in fact type very very quickly) I don’t think I can regret the willfulness of that 11 year old to defensively plan a career path, but I will always regret that it involved taking a stand on a skill that has become as de rigeur as breathing.  please forgive.

So, check back Monday! There’ll be lots to see (but very few typos!)


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Batgirl in pleather?

For the record: this past week I submitted two conference proposals, collaborated on three others, and am organizing one open meeting and participating in another at a local conference. All of the above? For two separate conferences, a local one and Internet Librarian (Monterey, how I miss you!)

All of which were driven by group mobilization, work needs, and presenting results of previous work. None of which were actually driven by my own research interests.

I feel a bit like a superhero for getting it all proposed and collaborated and organized and blurbed. But kind of a downscale Batgirl in fake leather, maybe a suburban superhero? Because I don’t get time to do the research I want to do, the stuff that whirls around in these blog posts. But, I am being a good professional, talking on interesting topics, and proactively taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves. And doing my darndest to infuse some energy into the committee I chair which perennially teeters on the verge of collapse (and feels frighteningly close to going over this year!).

But it feels a bit like vinyl siding. It may be practical, and it certainly gets the job done. But it isn’t as pleasing as natural brick, stone, or wood. And it won’t hold up as well over the long run.

Not to mention, if I keep doing this, I will *never* get to claim my focus!


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Dancing the dance and avoiding the dancers

wow- it’s been too long since I’ve posted! There’s been a lot going on on the work front, closing out the budget year, finishing my reappointment dossier, working on conference proposals (2 for Internet Librarian, 4 for a local conference — well, organizing 2 panels, and an open meeting, plus one session proposal), writing cover letters, workshops, and dealing with with the fall-out of a situation that was… ignored…before my time.

I can’t discuss particulars, but the situation has gotten me thinking a lot about how young librarianship is a profession, especially as academic librarians with faculty status and expertise and expectations. Seriously — it was not so long ago that the retired History profs manned the libraries, keeping the riff raff away from the books, except in limited and controlled interactions.

A colleague and I were discussing this incident, and she feels strongly that the timidity of librarians in claiming our expertise and authority is a passing generational moment. And I truly hope that’s so. Because for me, and other newer librarians, it is increasingly difficult to understand and interact with the complexities of our job and try to dance around the toes of professors who think our toes are theirs for walking on. And some days, it is only basic human courtesy and my desire to keep my job that prevents me from exerting — as loudly, rudely & aggressively as it can be claimed away from me — my own authority over my work. The real problem (institutionally, that is) is that I am less and less confident that going along to get along is the best thing to do professionally. As a professional. As a profession.

For the most part, the professors I deal with are really fantastic folk. They are without a doubt my favorite part of my job — open, curious, willing to engage, and learn, and teach, and be taught. They are open to collaboration in ways large and small. I will really miss them when I leave this still-frozen over, isolated edge of the planet.

But there are some professors, professors who have been long ignored and worked around, who are so intransigent and potentially hostile and entrenched that we don’t even realize we have integrated not-provoking them into our daily dance. And allowed them to fester in their corners with their own aging perceptions of the role of the library and library policies and services. This is generally fine, because the passive avoidance goes both ways. But every now and then, and intransigent professor ( or department) decides it wants something from the library. It’s way. Old School. And instead of understanding that things have changed — or that if they had read their email or come to liaison meetings or listened to their liaisons they would have known– lash out. With all the wrath of righteousness that a bone deep sense of entitlement can muster.

They’re the professors, right? So: do we let that override our own understandings of who we are and what we know and why we do what we do? Do we let their status override ours? Or are we still so tenuously trying on faculty status that don’t quite believe we deserve it? Of course, if we don’t claim it and exercise it, we don’t deserve it, right?


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What Students Want, revisited

I just looked over my blog post from November on giving students what they want, and am laughing at my vehemence, a little bit. I was all sorts of wrought up, and somehow managed to miss some important points in my rush to post. Can we blame it on being a new blogger, and allow a small redux? (and yes, I’ll think bout what this says about blogging as a form of scholarship…)

There’s a sentence in the last paragraph that I don’t really stand behind:

Which is all to say that I will never be persuaded by the argument that “it’s what the students want” when it comes to research and research tools in the domain of the library.

What I should have said is that the sentiment alone will never be compelling to me, as regards library information resource changes. And it certainly doesn’t carry much weight if a tiny number of students were carefully led to the statement.

But: if students (in any number, really) want more outlets, longer hours, more comfortable seating, a vending machine for USB drives and pens, I’m right there — they know what they need in terms of study space and study tools, and I’m happy to seriously investigate the feasibility of filling those needs. However, if my training and experience as a librarian doesn’t carry more weight than student wants in terms of complex information resources, then I’m not sure where I stand as a professional.

One thing I do stand for as a professional, though, is a willingness to take students seriously. And I was being too reactive about a meeting I had just come from to address the part of the equation. If the students say they want something (like, say, the ability to search all our resources at one time, or a customizable library portal) I am willing to look at that desire, with the eyes of a librarian, and try to see if it’s either possible or desirable. Is it pedagogically appropriate for a college library? Will it help users do effective research? Will it be at least as effective as out current methods? What will it cost? Does it solve any problems we’re already looking to solve?

I do think that gutting the effective parts of effective search tools to give students what they want so they won’t have to think or learn is a form of pandering. And I don’t think that’s going to change.


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Writing the next phase of thinking

Sorry to have been so neglectful of late, but for a change I’ve had some chunks of solid thinking/writing time at work and have been focusing there. Of course, these chunks of time are being spent writing up my reappointment file, which is a significant piece of writing in and of itself.

Two of the issues I am struggling with for the dossier have been aired in this space, but expect to see more of them! Both pieces will find their homes here when they reach a happier form.

The first is the issue of ‘focus’, and specifically the friction between pressure from my higher ups to get more of it and the realities of my daily interests and actual job. I’m trying to articulate that my attention to multiple aspects of library user experience constitutes a form of focus, but I’m not sure I’ve convinced myself of that yet — especially because I think the external desire for my developing focus relates to some future potential desirability for me to define myself as a particular sort of professional. And I won’t be happy with any rationalization of who I am until I finish thinking that one through. And if the convolutions pretending to be the above sentence made any sense to you, you have my deepest respect!

The second bit I’m working on has to do with scholarship, and specifically this blog as a form of soft scholarship. I launched this blog from twitter, where I hung out with a number of librarians I had no other relationship with, and have been very pleasantly surprised at developing a readership. Developing the readership came to define this space for me, and once the blog was no longer strictly a “practice writing” space, I also linked it from my name-affiliated places (facebook, and from my university profile), claiming it in a more official way as part of my professional identity.

Part of what makes this blog as a sort of scholarship into a viable statement has to do with my reappointment expectations; we are not a Research 1, and poster sessions and local conference sessions count heavily towards our scholarship criteria. And I think it’s a very small jump from that to this blog. But that also begs a more substantive question about the nature of scholarship, and if it’s really as flexible as that would imply.

Since it looks like I will be pondering the matter for a while, and possibly into more accepted scholarly formats, I’ve started to collect materials related to the question in de.licio.us. (If you see anything I’ve missed or think would be of interest for the project for:rudyleon me the links if that works for you)

Expect more posts for the near now about:

  • librarianship as constantly partial attention
  • blogs as scholarship
  • the sense of having a wide-lens library view
  • Is a focus on undergraduates enough of a focus?
  • given where I am in my career and th potential for branching paths very soon ahead, do I really want a focus?
  • What all of this has to do with the future of Rudy, of librarianship, and of scholarship


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Librarianship in under 140 characters!

Or, why twitter counts as working! (Names have been changed to protect the innocent ;) )

In under 16 minutes, four librarians with subject expertise in an area I liaise with but am less than perfectly comfortable with responded to a blanket plea and provided consistent and useful advice, as well as tips for finding new resources. Solid backgrounds, support when I needed it, and tips for the future. Sure, I could somehow make the time to crack open Understanding capitalism : critical analysis from Karl Marx to Amartya Sen to learn more and back up my gut (and I will, one day I will) but I can’t do it right now, and I can’t do it in under 16 minutes! (inspiration has hit: I’ve started an OpenWC list for Overviews of Major Economists and started reading Lost Prophets: An Insider’s History of the Modern Economists)

Rudibrarian : are any of y’all econ liaisons?

B: @Rudibrarian yo econ here

Rudibrarian: @B Am I standing on sand when I think we should stop buying books w/ John Maynard Keynes in title??? we have shelves and shelves…

E:@rudibrarian: I’m econ liaison – just saw tweet. Did get info you needed?

W: @Rudibrarian – & what do you have against Keynes?? (asks former econ major…)

B: @Rudibrarian LOL I think you’re pretty solid there. :)

S: @Rudibrarian I am an econ liaison

Rudibrarian: @E am questioning another several books abt Keynes. Is it stoopid to cry uncle and stop Keynes buying?? S’all they/dept seems 2 want

Rudibrarian: @W: just the volume. Thee *are* other economists who are relevant, yes? (this is so outside my area!)

E: @rudibrarian: if they’re new or notable, sure, I’d buy a couple, but deselect some others. But yeah, are many other significant economists

B: @Rudibrarian that and super expensive Elsevier journals I bet. Take a look at Berkeley Electronic Press if you don’t already have

B:@Rudibrarian econ was my fave liaison subj, I did some econ at uni so at least I was slightly familiar :) Also make sure to link SSRN, Repec


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Late admission of techno-faux-bia

I’m finding the tech-NOT meme going around to be oddly comforting. I think what I like about it is knowing that I stand pretty firmly in the middle of the pack of folks who stand pretty far ahead of the pack in thinking about new technologies in the workplace. And I’m really ok with that!

So, my tech-NOTs?

  • Database construction. Access is one of two software programs that have thrown me to the mat without breaking a sweat. And I can understand database construction only by glancing at it slyly with my peripheral vision.
    • Photoshop also handed me my a$s.
  • Programming languages. I have the basic HTML and CSS to handcode pages, and to borrow and gut stuff I like from others. But I’m kinda stuck there. No flash or java, or even the ability to make DreamWeaver do the things I don’t know how to do. (I also have no idea how to customize the CSS in templated services like this blog or my LJ)
  • I couldn’t install my wifi router. In fact, I mangled it so badly I had to call the cable company to get my internet service working again after I gave up. (I want wifi!)
  • I don’t get SecondLife (and I think virtual worlds are going to have significant impact on how we do librarianship and education in the next decade)
  • My stereo is an JBL Soundstage/iPod dock (much to the chagrin of my former soundguy — looks like a previously unknown theme of soundguys and librarians is emerging…)
  • I’ve never tried Skype, altho now that I have people overseas (it’s expensive to call Namibia!0I’m thinking about it
  • I am so intimidated by VOIP stuff that I have never done the Uncontrolled Vocabulary call-in show, and am so embarrassed about it I’ve never listened to the podcast.
  • I have no idea how trackback works, and was worried that I was somehow having bad nettiquette by not using it. And was relieved as all hell when it worked invisibly.
  • I don’t like working on a laptop. I mean, they’re handy and portable and all, but ugh! I really dislike them!
  • I am apparently the only person in the world who has ever had a bad Mac experience. My iMac crashed constantly, I lost half a workday every day for two months on it. I really dislike Macs.
  • I want my phone to make phone calls and store addresses. That is all. Texting is nice at conferences, but it just isn’t my killer app. Plus, I’m afraid it would expensive like crack!

What I think is important and makes me technically able is that I am generally willing. I’m not sure that my desire to learn PHP/SQL would ever make me any good at it, but if there was a task I needed to do with it and the time to learn it, I could apply myself. And, like Rochelle, my interest in technology has more to do with serving (and understanding and hoping to get ahead of the future)my patrons than techno- or gadget-lust. (nothing wrong with those, they’re just not my inspirations).

So, are you techno-faux? What are your tech-NOTs?


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Blogging and workplace ethics 2.0

So here’s today’s question to the blogoverse:

What would you do if you discovered a colleague’s blog is sprinkled with unprofessional rants about people at your workplace? In this particular scenario, the people talked about are nameless but the the blogger is not so anonymous that others can’t identify who’s who.

This blogger never approaches people in the real world with complaints or concerns, but sees fit to attack them with spleeny, self-involved rants – which of course cannot be substantiated or defended against. Defaming unknowing people in such a (semi)public manner is beyond unprofessional. In addition, the unquestioned construct runs the risk of becoming the blogger’s reality, because the blogger never opens the construct up to the light of day and external questioning.

I’ve been noticing that passive aggressive behavior breeds passive aggressive behavior, and am not sure that following the lead set by such a tone is a good idea. Avoidance may seem like keeping the peace, but a situation like this lead one to ask: at what cost? and is it really a peace at all?

Librarianship is markedly more “office-like” than other academic professions, and we encounter an odd hybrid of approaches and philosophies in the workplace. And personality issues take a high level of importance, especially given team-based organization, the vast number of committees we each work on, and the fraught addition of the tenuring process.

So I add this dilemma to Management 2.0, a new shade to library politics: what do you do about the self-involved office blogger and the impact of said blogger in the library workplace environment? Do you ignore? practice visualizing horrific scifi-esque accidents in your head? Explore new breathing techniques? Anonymously comment in the bloggers’ blog? Confront in the real world?

I turn to you: what course of action would you — actual you, not your higher angels you — pursue in this case study? And, is there an emerging set of rules about bloggers who keep personal blogs that mingle with their professional lives? I think there are clear standards for professional blogs, but blurred lines between personal blogs discussing work are decidedly fuzzy.


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My Philosophy of (academic) Librarianship

I was tasked with writing my personal philosophy statement. I started with some very bold assertions, and then buried them in a fair amount of explanation, and I’m no longer certain that my philosophy reads as radical…. Libraries work best with open communication and collaboration, within the library and across campus. Librarians are educators. Information literacy is the way to make self-sufficient users. I’m not sure if that remains visible in the statement. What do you think?

I believe the library is the beating heart of campus, by which I mean that at its most perfect, the library is the nexus of student learning and research, of faculty research for scholarship and teaching. The library is also at its most perfect when professors and other units on campus work with the library – and allow the library to work with them – to support student learning and research through communication and collaboration. First-year programs, senior seminars, learning communities, and the first research-level class in the major are all improved when librarians can work with other members of the campus community to create library resources that meet community needs and create community resources that help meet library goals. Outreach, programming, collection development, reference services, information literacy instruction and technological innovations work best when librarians are part of the campus intellectual and service community.

As a librarian I am an educator, and I have areas of subject expertise to share with the campus community. While librarianship is a service profession, the service being supported by an academic librarian is education, and I fulfill my service role through assisting the entire campus community to fulfill our communal educational goals. My subject expertise lies in the organization of information and when I work to make library tools more sensical, teach information literacy sessions, explore new technologies and their potential applications in relation to my unique community of users, and when I work with professors to create research guides and select appropriate items for purchase I am acting as a Librarian and as an Educator both.

Information Literacy education is the external culmination of the internal work of the library. The online catalog, classifications schemes, thesauri, reference tools, circulation and collection development policies (to name a few elements) are all important pieces of the functioning of the library, but in information literacy instruction, librarians take our internal processes and jargon and expertise and convert them into expressions and explorations of the concerns of our users. We have sophisticated systems that allow the library to function and to thrive, but these processes are highly internal and translucent. Information literacy education allows information seekers to make their own way through the complex environment in which librarians are inordinately comfortable.

I believe that my ability to act on philosophies of librarianship is dependent upon the context in which I am placed. I can only achieve my philosophical goals when the campus and library goals support similar or complementary philosophies. The elements of the philosophy espoused above may read as abstract but I feel them personally. My colleagues, my community, and my campus play intrinsic roles in manifesting my philosophy of librarianship.

I should mention that this is a very specifically located philosophy, and I think it would be very difficult to translate this approach from smaller teaching-centered colleges to Research 1 or other institutional types.


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Information Whirlwind

Last night I had a really incredible instruction session! What made it so successful? I can’t discount the virtue of 100 minute instruction sessions, for one thing. I tried a new active learning exercise. And I took an unusual tactic — I overwhelmed them. And it worked, it really did! I don’t think it will work every time, but in this case, a rousing success

It was a senior seminar, with an unusually surly bunch of students, and one student laid down the gauntlet in the first five minutes of class, asking about why they always have to come to library sessions and stating that he never learns anything new and always zones out. I explained each session is customized to the level and needs of each course, and other than some basic orienting stuff, different things should be covered in every class he attends. And I challenged him back, stating he was going to learn new things from me.

I had a handout/outline, and I planned on showing them advanced techniques in searching WorldCat and planned on making sure they knew their way to all the hidden places of great delight on the webpage (subject pages, Periodical title search, online encyclopedias…). I was also planning to introduce them to Google Scholar by way of having them read an article in The Nation and having them identify the four books, articles, and government sources obliquely referred to in the first four paragraphs and then talking about how to extract that information and locate the reports etc. using Google Scholar.

I did all of those things. But I did it as a sort of a whirlwind, covering why Google wastes their time, using (online) encyclopedias, bibliographic mining, reading citations, finding known sources, not limiting to full text, article linking from database to database to ILL, extracting information from their casual reading to library resources, using Google Scholar, citing forward.. It was really exciting, I could see the importance and the excitement of this breaking through their ennui. They were madly taking notes, which almost never happens, and making connections and asking questions. Every time we landed back on the Serials Solutions linking page I could see the cycle coming back to them. Because, this whirlwind repeated the same information over and over a few times, and the second time they perked up and the third time they energized. They got it! It’s hard. It’s complicated. It’s going to take time. But research can actually be exciting.

I think my favorite part, though, is the way that 2.0 technologies* came into play in this session. The article I used? Crossed my path from a Twitter friend explaining ‘super delegates’. The prof wanted me to cover citation management techniques, which is hard because we don’t support EndNote or RefWorks. So, I asked the students about Firefox use (75% used it), and explained plugins and Zotero. I asked if any of them use social bookmarking, and only one had heard of it, so I explained how del.icio.us and Furl work, and work differently, and explained tagging. I explained how to use email as a citation management system. And they got it, they got why they needed to care about citation management, because they had a vision of how overwhelming the various search tools could be. But they weren’t overwhelmed so much as jazzed, and they had an exciting time in the library and left thinking that librarians may be allies in their quest for the right resources.

Now I just have to figure out why such a clearly wrong approach worked so darn well. Because I would really like to inspire that kind of energy every time I set foot in the classroom!

* our students (and our faculty) are generally not as Net Savvy as the millennials buzz might lead one to believe. That new report about how the Google Generation isn’t really all that aware or excellent online? We knew that at my library. We are constantly humbled by how few of our students are participating online beyond IM and Facebook. Which makes this victory that much the sweeter.


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Why am I a librarian?

Barbara Fister at Free Exchange on Campus tagged me to participate in the meme sparked by Dr. Crazy’s fantastic Why I Teach Literature post. She did this a long time ago, as the blogoverse counts time, but I hope not too long ago to participate.

I see two different questions in this meme, why I am a librarian, and why I became a librarian. First, why I became a librarian.

I started my path studying religion, and while studying for my doctoral exams and teaching I realized that the subject matter inspired passion in me, but the subject matter wasn’t what I wanted to impart to my students. For them, I wanted to use the study of the ways that people shaped their lives (and ours) through the beliefs and practices as a vector for critical thinking. And the critical thinking, the ability to see from multiple perspectives, to avoid judgment until different perspectives had been identified and thought through, this was my Course Objective. I also realized that the professorate was a long shot, and settling down was several years down the road, and would entail adding a zero or so to my student loan balance. I reconsidered my options, saw that librarianship was a path where I could play my strengths and sidestep my weaknesses (the Real World with cubicles and “Office” politics are my kryptonite. A dozen years on college campuses has ruined me for that kind of life).

As a librarian, I could pursue my academic interests as a generalist, and that generalist bent would be an asset. I could stay on a college campus. I could surround myself with intelligent academic colleagues and their conversation. And books — I would still be surrounded by books and get to buy them (with someone else’s money!)and read them. And I could continue to be an educator.

There was very little about my preconceptions about librarianship that remained true in the end. Librarianship engages more office politics than I would ever have imagined possible (and I suspect more than other tracks in academic outside of administration). Continuing the ‘life of the mind’ has escaped my grasp so far, and I suspect for always (but a girl can hope, eh?).  I rarely handle books, more often just scanning their reviews on Choice, Amazon, H-Net or JSTOR. But I am an educator, and I have avenues for teaching that I had not truly grasped Before.

And being an Educator is central to my identity as a person and as a librarian. My passion, my career path, my intellectual pursuits, my approach to collection development, reference desk staffing, outreach to and interactions with students -one on one and institutionally- the arrangement of the catalog and the web page and to the implementation of new tools is all undergirded by the fact that I am an Educator.

It has been a learning experience for me, and accepting and acknowledging this unbreakable and unshakable center of my professional identity will be the star by which I will steer my career.

So, I tag Iris at Pegasus Librarian, Ms. Molly at Shelf-ish  and  Sarah at The Sheck-Spot. Why are you librarians? What inspired you?


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FRBRize me! (or, I’m not scattered, I’m just multi-faceted)

Dear readers, don’t fear, I have not forgotten you! In the past two weeks I have started four blog posts on at least three different topics, and have written at least that many more in my head while drifting off to sleep at night… Alas, the semester has begun and with it the fracturing of my time and attention.

One of the things I have been thinking about is the passing comment my director made about needing me to focus and stop going in so many directions. I snorted and put the thought aside (it was an emailed comment…). But i do struggle with this. I was hired to have no focus — to select materials in six diverse and complex subject areas (and build relationships with those units) and to provide instruction without regard to my specialties or my collection development areas. As such, I was hired to be a big picture thinker, and I bring that. To wit:

I am passionate about information literacy, and wish I could spend more time learning about pedagogy and applying it, refining assessment techniques, developing more and better relationships with my regular profs and new profs and profs who don’t use instruction but would benefit.

I am fascinated with collection development in a small undergraduate institution. What does it mean to have a collection that solely supports student learning at this level? How do balance and bias come into the criteria? How do you support interdisciplinary topics on a tiny budget when they have no designated line? How to build the relationships with other selectors when our areas overlap (and maybe they don’t perceive the overlap)? How to manage areas that aren’t taught but need to be int he library collection? How to use collections information to leverage library usefulness and expand information literacy where it is most needed, and let departments know that their collection use tells us something about their students they might not know?

Electronic resources are an issue too — the concerns about owning or licensing materials, about the role of selecting what we want versus selecting aggregators who select is still an issue, and it is now moving into the reference collection, and perhaps soon into the monograph collection. How can we come to peace with these trends given our budget, staffing, and consortial situation?

The digital frontiers also raise concerns about moving selection and instruction into digital realms, educating our students and colleagues about the information tools they need to be familiar with, and the digital footprint issues they should be aware of or concerned about — and all this means educating myself as well.

And then there are the issues of being a member of the college community and all that brings to bear.

So, am I intellectually scattered? Yeah, I’ve got a lot of balls in the air at work. Is it possible for me to do the job I have and be focused? I’m having a hard time seeing it…. I can put it all under a large umbrella (“user-centered holistic librarianship” is my term du jour; “undergraduate education and The Library” works most days too) and say it’s all one thing, but that’s just gilding the lily. Is there another way to do my job, do it well, and find intellectual focus? I can’t be the only one in this position — what say you? How have you managed the conflict between engaging in a job that demands multiple personalities and focusing on becoming expert in a single thing?

Curious minds want to know ;)


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InfoLit success stories

Yesterday afternoon, Winter Break (and all my attempts to get My Own Work done) officially ended. My research afternoon time was lost under a sea of returning faculty requests for the status of their books and some lovely-but-time-consuming library instruction consultations.

My new class websites (example), started on a whim and used only when paper seems unwieldy (I cling to giving them a piece of paper, to take notes on and follow along with, and to have my contact info. I think it makes a difference, I know others disagree….) led to bringing a second year prof on board for library instruction. She was so enthused about my making her class their own website with information on primary sources and hand-selected resources from the free web and the library, she finally agreed to bring her class in . Hoo-rah for me! I don’t know why some profs are so resistant, and I don’t understand why this was so persuasive, but I’m really so happy it was in my bag of tricks! Of course, now I have to identify primary sources on Modern African history from the perspective of Africa (and ‘Africa looks back at Europe’) to populate the page with, but a challenge is good, yes?

My favorite prof (henceforth MFP) and I finally sat down at the syllabus polishing stage and restructured his assignments and slotted in six (six, I get six!) library instruction sessions. We used to do four, but I have talked him up to six (seven would be ideal –we’ll get there!). After almost three years of working together, we have a great rapport and he’s very amenable to my ideas.

So, what have we done?

  1. Because this is a class within a class, I get to do some real assessment, with pre- and post-tests. And this year, I’m going to revamp them
  2. This year, we got on the ball and talked through all of the assignments for the semester- and changed almost all of them to fit information literacy development! And I will be first-draft writing two of them.
  3. We’ve added a session just on introducing library research (and I’ve offered to make him a scavenger hunt for them to do before the session. I think of it as opening them up to what they don’t know they don’t know- one of our biggest stumbling blocks, imo.)
  4. We also have a session just on background research and format. Why use newspapers, when the free web is the right place, why you really truly do need to read books. I’m so pleased to have a whole session on just this.
  5. MFP has come to my side on my scholarly article and first year students bug bear (there will be a post on this, very soon!). We are doing a session on books, and a session on evaluating websites, and then a session on Articles. The article session (no longer first but last) will be on finding appropriate Reliable Sources (as opposed to peer reviewed articles)
  6. We’re also doing a wrap up session, which I pulled together very last minute last semester and am looking forward to thinking through this year.
  7. We’re going to see if we can make an article out of all this work we’ve done together.

Now I just have to figure out how to make this much work and effort and success take up a significant amount of space in my reappointment review folio!

And, figure out how bring more profs into the fold.


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What does “Faculty” mean? (your opinions, please!)

Steven Bell’s ACRLlog post What it Really Means to be A Faculty Member has gotten me thinking, particularly about what it means to be a member of the faculty. I posted a comment there about how I might define faculty status, and have spent a few hours searching Google, GoogleScholar, The Policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees, and EBSCO Education databases for a definition (my facultystatus del.icio.us tag and faculty status on Furl will be very dynamic over the next few days…). While I have found an overwhelming number of articles about librarians and faculty status (just search for faculty status — 85% of what turns up is about librarians!) I have seen nothing that effectively defines faculty — including in my own university’s governing documents.

Right now, I’m planning on turning this quest into an opinion piece on what it means to be faculty and the ways that the being an academic librarian fits that meaning (because for me, this is true). I have a score or so of articles to look through to see if faculty si defined there (most seem to be very concerned with tenure and tenure requirements and protections, and not with how librarians do the work of Faculty Members, whatever that is)

I’m pasting a bulleted form of my ACRLlog comment below, and I’m very interested in your opinions — what does “faculty” imply to you? Remember, “teaching faculty” isn’t the only faculty! There are plenty of research faculty who spend as little time in the classroom as they can can get away with it! Am I completely off the mark? Have I missed vital aspects? Am I thinking too closely about my own work and not broadly enough?

  • actively involved in faculty governance,
  • actively involved in setting general education requirements
  • actively involved in being expert in my field
  • actively involved in using that expertise to maximize possibilities for student excellence
  • research and publications within areas of expertise for practical advancement of the pursuit of student excellence
  • research and publications within areas of expertise on theoretical implications for the sake of furthering knowledge.

Summed up,

  • actively involved in student learning
  • perform university service
  • participate in shared governance
  • have a defined area of subject specialization
  • perform research and publication within that area
  • formal and informal teaching
  • well-trained in teaching and pedagogy.


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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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