Deepening the Conversation

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


Librarian as juggler?

I often wonder if my… umm. … multifocused approach to work (or, ‘all the things on my plate at a given moment’) is a feature of the profession, or a feature of me.  Today is one of those days.

Instructional peak is over for the semester, and the consultations haven’t peaked yet. So, all the projects are at front burner

The following is a list of things I am thinking about today, while booting up the computer (I know, it’s late. Yesterday was fine, but today Daylight Savings kicked me to the curb!). These are just the work things. Tell me – am I crazy? Or is my normal something like your normal too?

  • Grading. I am so far behind
  • Cold calling bank managers on the CA side of the Lake to see if any of them want to talk about how they are dealing with medical marijuana businesses, for a panel I’m coordinating for  Constitution Day
  • Who amongst the folks I know might be willing to speak on a panel at ALA for the Leadership Discussion group (topic:  moving from leadership to management: how to apply successfully, and transition gracefully and effectively)
  • My meeting in two hours about adding a library research lab component to a brand new research methods class in one of my departments
  • A blog post about the death of authority and the state of scholarly publishing
  • A colloquium I’ve been asked to co-coordinate (Burning Man!)20140311-101623.jpg
  • My desk. It’s really really bad.
  •  Finishing up a libguide for the debate team, so thinking a lot about good resources about humanitarian and military interventions in several African countries
  • My ULS hot topic submission regarding liaison roles in the current staffing environment

There are things I should be thinking about that I’m holding off on until after break – a survey (almost ready to go to IRB, an article, the logistics of a shift I’m coordinating, launching our brand new graphic novels collection, and scaffolding information literacy objectives over one of my department’s scaffolded learning objectives.

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Two years. Nine years. It’s odd when my professional anniversaries line up.  Today marks two years in my current position, in Reno, at UNR. Sometime in the past two weeks marked 9 years since I began my first out-of-the-nest post-MLS professional position.

When I think back over those years, I’m surprised to see how much I’ve changed. I feel the same, I feel like I have the same energy and eagerness and sense of urgency and vision. But I have learned so many things, things which have allowed me to come into my strengths and influence in library land (and there are still plenty of areas where let’s just say my strengths have not yet been realized, due to growth yet to come)

I think the two skills learned over the years that have helped me accomplish goals are patience (so much more to learn here!) and strategic thinking.  I think it’s these two skillsets that established librarians wish fresh new librarians had? Or at least, I think it’s the absence of these two that I see when I feel myself growing a bun and clutching my pearls in the presence of new, amazing, exciting, energy.

I think back to my first position – a one semester visiting position at a very small liberal arts college — with a little awe. I was full of curiosity and opinions and eagerness. I had spent two and a half years doing professional level work in libraries, and felt comfortable that with my perceived role as a librarian. I hadn’t realized all the politics and administration that I had been shielded from.  It’s safe to say I was pretty naive. I was in truth absent any sense of history, or workplace politics. I have been in grad school for my entire adult life — and in grad school, hurt feelings or political treachery only have to be survived for the rest of the semester. After that, a new dynamic, every time. The realities of working with other people, for years and even decades, were opaque to me. I similarly lacked the vision to see more than 2 or 3 months away; all projects needed to be done now! I was hard-wired to semester-length time frames. It was unthinkable that most major projects might take that long to just line up the ducks!

And it wasn’t until deep into my second professional position, at a small public liberal arts college in New York, that I began to see. There were two major influences on my understanding of workplace dynamics, patience, and strategic thinking:

  1. The first was that I worked with a staff that had primarily worked together for close to two decades or more — and who also lived in this very tiny town togetherwith kids in schools, opinions on local politics, and ancient histories amongst them. Understanding the detente that they all lived within was my biggest challenge there. When everything in your life is tied into everything else in one way or another, patience, civility and distance are the most important traits a person can bring to the table. Even more important then any other qualities of work effectiveness. Very hard for this gal from massive suburbia to take in — small town living taught me a lot about how people make allowances for each other.
  2. The second was having a colleague who regularly spoke with me about how the decisions she was making were part of long term strategies. I really owe any strategic planning skills I possess at the project and desire level to Jenica Rogers.  She showed me the context I needed to grasp how things happened and changed in libraries. 

So I sit here now, nine years or 13 years in, I know have so much further to go, more to learn, more things I want to see happen. But I am also seeing groundwork come to fruition, I am seeing why planning backwards and implementing forwards works. And why history matters (you gotta know to change it or move around — or know who to avoid!). I am seeing seeds I planted 6 months in start to bear, and seeing things I wrote off but dropped thoughts about start to seem possible.

To go back to the pearl-clutcher in me, I want to get conscious on that. That’s a new and big goal for me.  I’ve been here two years — and we have 7 librarians who have been here less than that, and at least two openings coming fast down the pike. Some of the folks here less than two years are as established as I am, or more, in the profession. But a lot have all that amazing new energy and ideas and I want to find ways to nurture, support sustain, that — without becoming a brick  in the wall of “oh, that hasn’t worked before”

I hope I get to report successes on this front when I ponder 3 years here. 




11 issues facing academic libraries right now.

A friend asked me if I had any thoughts on the top issues facing academic libraries right now, for a class she’s teaching for first year LIS students. It turns out — no surprise — I do have thoughts about that! I sat down and built a list off the top of my head. With some fleshed out explanation, here’s my list.

A couple of notes:

  • I tried to think ‘whole library’. I did not include on this list “The impact of the new ACRL Information Literacy standards/ integration of threshold concepts”. I know that will have a huge impact, but only on a specific sector of academic librarianship, and I felt the teaching pressures were already represented.
  • Context: I am an instruction and outreach librarian, with liaison responsibilities in the social sciences. I am tech & geek friendly, but probably wouldn’t be called techy or geeky. I’ve never worked anywhere but public services. I’ve been in academic libraries for over 10 years, and have worked (always in a tenure track position) in four academic libraries.

Also, I bet this a really idiosyncratic list. So I really want to know: What’s on your list? What are the big challenges you see coming at academic libraries? Please share!

In no particular order, 11 issues and challenges facing academic libraries right now:
  1. MOOCs and the rise of online education.  In particular, there are a swarm of licensing issues in relation to MOOCs, and issues related to preparedness of librarians to be effective with online pedagogy in relation to online education. Some universities have staffed effectively for embedding librarians in course-integrated online ed, but I don’t think that’s the norm. Also, Online Ed tends to be designed to accommodate students who work, so bankers hours aren’t useful for online students; librarians tend not to be available when students enrolled in online degree courses do their work, so how to accommodate that? This is both a philosophical as well as a logistical question.
  2. Class size/ budget cuts on universities leading to very high faculty::student ratios. This translates directly to fewer research assignments, which raises questions of the necessity for better liaison skills, more confidence organizationally and individually in being willing and able to talk effectively to profs about creating information literate assignments that maximize professorial time. In short — if students don’t do research papers, who needs to spend money on research librarians? How do we tell our stories/make our cases for the importance of UG programs which integrate these skills?
  3. We have not as a profession moved the professorate or ourselves away from the ineffective one-shot info lit session. Lots of ramifications and opportunities — how to do curriculum mapping and info lit scaffolding (politically, personally, professionally — hordes of skills not necessarily addressed in LIS programs)? Relationship building with faculty, lots of liaison skills needed here. Which LIS programs do not teach (if you were taught how to be a liaison on library school, please let me know. I want to know!) . This item, like others, ties in to #10: Leadership Issues. Given for how long this has been a known issue and concern, and with so much data to back it up, I question the structure, nature, training, abilities etc. of library leadership in individual libraries, as well as the organizations that lead us. How have libraries utterly failed to position themselves, universally, as educators with greater things to offer than the one shot?? This is leadership, because this is funding, and advocacy, and institutional influence. Addressing this issue would change the shape of university libraries– imagine what a library would look like if it was staffed adequately to teach credit classes in every major, as well as introductory library research classes.
  4. Big Deal comes home to roost. Money is tight. We’ve invested in too many journal packages/aggregator access to back away, we allow the vendors to select our materials and the cost, and we’ve invested enormous staff time and org money into Discovery services which allow use to find the content we’ve bought in journal packages. We are no longer even in a position to cut to save money anymore, we can only amputate. Not a good situation. “Vendors set too many terms and we don’t have the skills to combat them” is perhaps a better umbrella for this one.
  5. The rise of data-based Social Sciences & Humanities-based research. Libraries are completely unprepared for supporting this. We don’t even have the language to talk about it, and lack a framework for understanding what our role is in supporting data-oriented social scientists and their students.  This is cresting (will crest? I suspect it will break unmistakably on my campus by Fall 2015) at a time when the Sciences are more privileged than ever and social sciences underfunded because they don’t shake the grant trees. The consumption and analysis of social sciences research data raises issues of IRs; of statistical literacy in library staff; of funding the purchasing (or not) whole new categories of things in these very tight times; of access issues and our philosophical commitment to them, since data sets and data set collections are not shareable. Big data, digital humanities, are we anywhere near able to support these areas as librarians/libraries?
  6. Budgets. They suck. And states continue to back away from supporting campuses, so the situation isn’t likely to improve soon. How to do less with less and not lose what you’ve got is a terrible place to be
  7.  Ebooks. I see huge issues wrapped up in ebooks: we are at the mercy of largely and fundamentally non-negotiable licenses; how do we address patron privacy when ebook downloads and access log ins involve any number of vendors and we aren’t actually in license with all but the ebook vendor? There are huge issues across the digital divide: when ebooks can;t be downloaded, users need to have both internet access and appropriate devices in order to read them. (remember when you were in college and split the landline with the roommates, and there was no $100 internet bill? These are significant expenses for college students). In addition, ebooks introduce huge and ignored implications for library’s abilities to share collections with each other — licenses won’t allow for it. Additionally, we know, pedagogically, students don’t read ebooks. They search and snag — so what are the implications for development of long term sustained thinking? Perhaps not a library issue, but ours insofar as we do shape life in the academy to some degree in this area.
  8. Patron privacy. We give it away left and right (this comes back to vendor control, but not solely).  Do we even read the licenses for privacy? Are we at all prepared to understand the privacy implications of an app-based world? When every app on the device has access to everything a user does on their mobile device, are we able to protect patron privacy any more? Beyond the (in)ability to code it into place, we as an aggregate of people lack the awareness of who is in our digital foodchains, and thus who might have in-the-moment access to patron library-search data. I won’t even address the issues around interest in that chain.
  9. Reliance upon ineffectual and/or over-priced vendor products that approximate our needs but never fill them. This challenge is significantly amplified when paired with lack of web applications developers on library staffs.  We spend a lot of money on poor products, and we can’t afford the folks who could improve the user experience, all around. Libraries cannot afford the high cost of code monkeys in the modern market, but they are essential — and would ideally also have a library -borne understanding of the work.
  10. Libraries need strong leadership, and need to develop it across the whole bench, from the newest librarians onward. Instead we still see folks promoted to management for being good librarians, without necessarily being good administrators, managers, or leaders. Harvard Leadership Institute can’t do it all, it must be internalized.
  11. Change aversion/change management. I call any library group of more than 5 folks who have worked together for over 15 years “a wall”.  Often excellent and innovative colleagues individually, put in a room together, they magically become an impenetrable object of “why we do things this way”.  Young librarians and new librarians (2 often distinct groups) are seen as not having paid their dues until they lose their shiny new eyes and toe the company line — even though they are almost always hired to bring new ideas in. Libraries need the energy, the perspective, and the forward motion. LIS programs aren’t teaching “how to influence entrenched colleagues” and new librarians break under the disillusionment and pain. And Management isn’t prepared/trained/able to punch through those walls.
I did not include issues surrounding tenure on this list. I feel strongly that public services librarians are educators and should be tenure stream faculty members. I feel they should also be tenure stream faculty members– with all the teaching and research and service obligations and support, just as the rest of campus will recognize and respect. Being faculty on a campus where no other faculty knows or groks that librarians are faculty isn’t doing it right. That said, I’ve noted that on small campuses librarians are able to do much of the important educative work without being faculty. It seems to be a big campus issue?
Please — what’s on your list? What did you think was missing?


Social Media best practices

A few months ago (time sure gets funny around the end of Fall semester, with all those holidays!) I started drafting a social media policy for MPOW. We’ve never had one, but some questions arose around best practices for starting YouTube channels, and I was asked to draft some. The week I was starting to dig into drafting this, a query went out over the ILI-L email list asking about social media policies, and I mentioned I was starting to write one. The response was overwhelming — I had over 100 personal requests for a copy of the policy once it was written. And if anyone else mentioned their library’s policy over that list, I missed it.  Given that demand, I decided to share my draft policy — and the thought processes that went into it — broadly.  There are few Library social media policies publicly available, and the peculiarities of each institution drives the shape of any policy of this type. So, here are the things I considered when drafting my best practices. 

  • My university has no social media policies. Therefore, I don’t have to match theirs in tone or content, or ensure that the Library policies follow any thing other than the law.
  • Social media is a tiny part of my job, and it was a tiny part of the job of the person who managed it before me.  
  • I inherited Knowledge Center accounts  on Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, Pinterest, and Flickr. I have begun posting on Facebook, have a mess to sort out on Flickr, do not have time to keep Twitter active, and Pinterest is a playground for us. I have also created sites for us on Instagram and YouTube.  I manage the Knowledge Center accounts, and only those accounts. Special Collections, the Basque Library, the Engineering Library, Digital Media, and a handful of other units in the Libraries have their own accounts on many of these same sites, and more.  This document comes after we started using social media and not before.
  • Every institution has history. Mine is no exception. There was a kerfuffle a couple of years ago about a posting by an individual on one of their own social media accounts. There were some bruised feelings, and some suspicion about motives. Not large, but still lingering and I thought it was important to not antagonize those feelings.
  • We don’t have many policies.
  • I have no authority to develop, declare, or enforce policy
  • We have an increasingly transient librarian population. And I spent the better part of a year at a previous job working with Yahoo to reclaim Flickr login credentials set up by a graduate student but never shared.
  • I know we need a section about defunct accounts (when to declare an account defunct, how to take them down, etc.) But I haven’t figured that one out myself yet (please don’t look at how long it’s been since anything posted to work Twitter!)

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. I already suspect I will be creating sub-documents/tipsheets for each media platform.

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Requiring social media content engagement?

I’m sitting this morning with a number of folks from campus integrated marketing, taking in the Higher Ed Social Media Conference. (I think I’m the only non-marketing professional in the room…)

So far, the conference has been interesting, if not very applicable to running a unit’s social media on a campus with no centralized social media body.

One takeaway so far has me excited: requiring team members to contribute, and adding that expectation to annual reports, expectations, and goals.

I’m thinking of asking the faculty to require the following of themselves (and I’m curious if any of you have tried anything similar)
Annually, but delivered 2x a year

  • 2 blog posts, on a topic of their choosing
  • 5 Facebook posts, about events, upgrades, anything they choose
  • 5 tips or neat tricks to searching or using the library
  • a write-up ahead of time of every event, with a graphic
  • 2-3 photos for every event hosted
  • 1 blog post profile/7 question interview, with a photo

The impetus behind this (for both me and the presenter) is the challenge of trying to pull content out of the folks who are producing it in other formats all the time.  At the same time, I would use this to engage a conversation across the library about the value we put on social media, and the desired level engagement of the library as a whole in the project.

I’m a little excited. And very skeptical. And curious about your experiences with things like this with your social media services?

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Today in the life….

This semester is looking to be a doozy. I’ve taken on a few programs that happen in the next couple of weeks, launched a student advisory committee, and taken on social media for the Knowledge Center. All in addition to my liaison and instruction duties to my (growing) departments and a severe need to get my research agendaJuggling kicked into high gear (there’s a data survey that needs to be finalized and IRB’ed, and an article about outreach that needs to get out of my head and onto paper, and submitted somewhere before Dec. 31). In addition, I go to ICPSR bootcamp in a few weeks, and have two programs at Internet Librarian to prepare (end of October).

Yesterday was a whirlwind of 5 hours of back-to-back-to-back meetings and workshops and insane reference desk hours. Today has been, so far, about keeping a thousand tiny balls in the air.

Here’s how it’s unfurled today:

  • Call dad to wish him a happy 75th birthday on the way in to work
  • Arrive at word at 9:40
  • Get coffee
  • Talk to supervisor of our onsite robotic storage about the student committee’s hopes for making a music video in that area; agree to have a meeting later in the week to work out what needs to worked out
  • In office, boot computer while handing in sign-in sheets for yesterday’s workshops and making paper to-do list off of memory
  • Listen to three voice mails, one by one, stopping between each to return the call
    •  My cell phone number to visiting author next week
    •  Problem solve IRB needs with a secure ICPSR data set
    •  Proof sheets ready to sign off on for Burning Inquiry lecture and exhibit.
  • Request some changes to digital display signs for Constitution Day digital monitor slides
  • Publish Burning Inquiry site; make notes about what needs to be updated before the marketing goes out (i.e. this year’s event!). Make notes to self about pulling an article together about Burning Inquiry and community outreach
  • Block off 3 hours tomorrow to work on Internet Librarian community engagement preconference

Without looking at the rest of my email, set off to do a few tasks

  • Return the PCard I had used to pay for the student committee lunch on Friday (5th floor)
  • Sign off on postcards for Burning Inquiry (1st floor)  Make sushi plans for lunch tomorrow. Talk tips for poster design – I have a Poli Sci class doing posters this year, will be doing a session for them on effective posters
  • Head into secure stacks in Special Collections (3rd floor) to measure and count mats and frames for the artist whose work I’ll be displaying in Burning Inquiry. Answer: way too many sizes, way too few of each if you want mats….

Back in office

  •  Ponder the issue of non-traditional students and the effect of computer illiteracy on my teaching style (this came up int he two classes I’ve taught this week). This will be in the back of my head for a while, until I can resolve how to address it.
  • Nuke (and eat) breakfast biscuit
  • Write this list so far (10:48)

Next up: read through email and rejigger today’s plan to accommodate

  • Email the first: request blank graphic for Burning Inquiry. Add to to-do list: make it poster size, compose Burning Inquiry blurb. Also, get head shot of artist and bio, plan a poster around that info for the lecture & exhibit as well; make sure I have the marketing plan ready to execute
  • Recall that I was told this weekend about another prof on campus research Burning Man, to-do that I should contact him about Burning Inquiry and possibly presenting his research as our lecture next fall
  • 11:40 – email is all caught up and responded to. Display images are signed off on for announcing NVivo, and for Constitution Day.
  •  add to to-do list: launch NVivo PR, list channels to get the word out

My to do list for the afternoon:

  • Check-up on using Mendeley with Word before my workshop this afternoon (I’m a Zotero gal. But it’s important to be able to use of each of the tools we support, and I freshened up my EndNote skills yesterday…)
  • Teach workshop on reference manager tools
  • Follow up with student committee about kicking their ideas into actions
  • Look over syllabus for proposed course and get approval back to prof
  • Contact new prof about meeting for coffee tomorrow morning
  • Check another prof’s list of book requests against holdings and submit for ordering
  • Craft 10 Facebook posts; schedule them
  • Schedule my training (from the student library committee) on Instagram and Vine
  • Determine if I really am not doing anything techy enough to say yes to invitation to do a tech talk radio call-in show?
  • Try to get NVivo announcement out
  • Reference desk 5-7
  • Head to Trader Joe’s for some staples and a kale salad for dinner. And mango gummy drops.

So, that’s today!  I’m going to warm up lunch and play with Mendeley before my workshop. What’s your day like today?

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Iris Jastram posted something a few days ago about her approach to summer projects, and I am filled with envy.

She said:

I’ve posted my list of big summer projects on my wall in big letters. Each day, I have to touch at least two of them, no matter how minor the touch. There will be other things that crop up (there always are) so this leaves me plenty of wiggle room, but at least I’ll be making progress for sure.

At the start of summer (mine started in May…) I took some time to clear off the whiteboard from the year’s projects and put each of my 3 big projects on it, plus one spillover from the semester. And added an article I wanted to write. And another I ought to write.

ImageAnd then I was notified about a half-day workshop for October (on the topic of one of the articles, so double duty, but still a new project). And I accepted a task force. And then I said yes to teaching a class in the Fall (an asynchronous class. requiring that I learn all the things about asynchronous pedagogy, a format I have none-too-much respect for and never imagined myself taking on. But i said yes, so I will master it!).  And so when I said yes to the Masterclass in New Librarianship, I was also excited to learn about good asynchronous pedagogy! (I didn’t make it through the first week. 1700+ students. 600+ discussion board posts. No.)

And then — with my projects ballooned from 3 to 10 — I learned that summer life here includes an awful lot of priorities, often other folk’s, unexpected, and on short deadline. Assessment planning. An excruciating approach (due to specific circumstances) to cancellations (lengthy lists requiring attention drop into my mailbox unexpectedly and want immediate attention…). Candidates on campus. We’re extraordinarily short staffed this summer, so covering reference desk shifts for folk’s vacations becomes a time sink. Orientation happens 17 times over summer, and covering tours with the smaller staff is more of a commitment than last year. We have active summer classes, so unanticipated instruction requests arrive from time to time. And three weeks ago, the library’s social media organs were given in to my care (I wanted them. I asked for them in March. I’m glad to have them. They just weren’t part of the plan).

I come to work every day. I work all day, long days. And I have barely touched my original Big Summer Projects list. My original goals and hopes for the summer. We are halfway through summer, and my articles are in no better shape than they were in April. My ALA obligations are being taken care of (including post-ALA work). But I would sing praise to the universe if I could have a summer that allowed me to work on my projects and make good progress on them. I don’t even know what I would do in gratitude if the summer was such that I could do that and make good use of the copious vacation time and furlough I’m accruing and can’t get ahead of.

Next summer, I may set no priorities. But that’s not OK with me. I have big projects that need big time to get worked on! How do you all handle these conflicting demands for your time in the summer months? Have you given up? Or developed a strategy that works? I’m in need of advice for managing this! 10 years, three libraries, and I fail at this every summer!

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On ownership of content

During my very exciting talk at Computers In Libraries last week, I made a statement specific to the conversation we were having, that certainly has the potential to be taken and misunderstood in other contexts. The conversation was about what will libraries be if the books go away? if the physical, shelved content that is often perceived to be “library” goes away.

In that context, I said it doesn’t matter if we own the content or not, we will continue to do what we have always done, which is to facilitate access to content. Libraries have relied upon networks to share resources not locally owned for ages, and we can happily continue to do so. None of us needs to own it all.

Within this context, our ownership or not of the content does not matter.

In other contexts, it matters a great deal

The future of libraries is of course a complicated thing, a Hope diamond of facets of possibility. And, as Margret Mead said, we shape that future with the decisions we make today. I was looking at one set of decisions –are we a library if there aren’t physical artifacts? (and I say, yes. Hell yes. Of course. And went on in detail as to why i believe that to be a self-evident truth

Can we be a library if we don’t own content, but only lease and license?

That’s a very different question.

And the answer is no. I want to go on the record. If the question is to own vs. license or lease, we must own. We must stop licensing and leasing. And if we feel compelled and declare we must keep leasing and licensing, we must stop sacrificing our budgets on half-hearted ill-suited mission-destructive licenses as if we were buying.

In the context of perpetuity, and in the context of first sale: We. Must. Own.

In the context of my ownership or yours, in the context of interlibrary lending and loaning agreements, my ownership does not define me as a a library, not does yours. We can happily library in a shared collection environment. A shared collection of content we as libraries own.


One year later

It’s become evident to me that it’s time to start blogging again! The first year at my new job is behind me, and in that year my social media presence has gotten away from talking about library things. Which is unfortunate, since I still do and think library things all the time.

So, yay! I’m back!  

As I mentioned, it’s been a year since I started at UNR. Exactly, to the day! It’s been great. I mean, the folks I work with actually support each other! They don’t always like each other, no place is such a heaven as that. But they are kind and supportive and generous in their understandings of each other (this has been my hardest adjustment. My readings of people’s motivations was badly & dangerously skewed.).  It’s s something I am still adjusting to, honestly. I hope I never take it for granted.

We are a land grant, with a medical school. We’re the state flagship (yes. we are. Us. UNR.) And we are a very leanly staffed Carnegie Intensive Research 1. 18K undergrads, hugely productive research faculty, the full slate of graduate programs. 22 librarians, including the admin suite and all our adjunct/contract library faculty. And we do amazing and cutting edge stuff. We think outside the box on the topic of “library”. Most of the time. We are the future of the academic library — in both the most positive and kinda frightening ways. I love being here. Not every day is nirvana, there are always ups and downs and aggravations and wishing I got my way when I didn’t. But it is such a very good place. 

In terms of daily work, I’m an instruction librarian. I liaise to Political Science, Communications Studies, and our Gender, Race and Identity program  I am also liaising to our student senate (and creating a student library committee). And I’m doing a really neat project with Burning Man; we are the place to come to study Burning Man, and have a complete research collection on the festival. close to a dozen faculty on campus do research around Burning Man, as well as a large cohort of graduate and undergraduate students. But it’s all rather secret. Not anymore! 

I love being a liaison . I missed it terribly while at Illinois, and am thrilled to be back in to it. Teaching is one of my favorite things, a close match with faculty outreach. And I get to do a good amount of both. We have plenty of the freshman comp classes here (which I do not love. I have whole soapbox on that I might be inspired to polish up and pull out at some point…), but I have the pleasure of having a lot of faculty who have not seen a lot of use for library instruction in the past. I say “pleasure” because it’s a downright thrill to see that change. Anyone who knows me knows this is a challenge I am more than eager to rise to, and I have made significant impact. 

The Thing That Will Eat My Life has turned out to be data. I hate data. I don’t understand data. I’m a religious studies scholar, and a librarian! I do words, not numbers. But, my faculty do data. So I’m learning a lot about it. Mostly, I’ve learned that we don’t have much support for it, and that such a situation is shockingly common. I spend far too much of my waking time thinking about where a library like mine, and a librarian like me, fits into supporting the data cycle. I’ve got workflows I’m struggling with, work projects underway, and the next research project will probably be related to how libraries handle data sets. 

There’s more happening — work related to applying the ACRL Value of Academic Libraries project here; changing up our popular reading space & collection; end of year budget issues; research projects about the future of libraries, about liaison relationships and faculty outreach; my ACRL Leadership discussion group and IFRT stuff; me grappling with leadership, management, making change and jousting at various windmills.

A happy, busy worklife.

So, what will I probably be writing about? the importance of faculty outreach (and the joys therein); why I hate the freshman comp class as the recipient of such a disproportionate amount of librarian time and energy; information literacy and research instruction successes and failures  zotero; the changing nature of our own perceptions of libraries; technology in education; Burning Man; librarians and digital workflows/digital workflows as research literacy. And anything that crosses my mind as I read teh interwebs and get to thinking about the world around me.

I’m happy to be writing again. I just hope it’s a pleasure to read!

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Thursday afternoon food for thought

I’m rereading John Seely Brown in preparation for a talk this weekend at ALA, thinking about how the library as a workplace fits into the learning environments he describes. Knowledge workers must be information fluent, and poised to dive into always changing interfaces and the steady flow of new, world-changing gadgets and tools. The same 21st century skills we talk about infusing into our students must also be infused into these workers who are not in school, perhaps not terribly engaged with or passionate about the work they do (or more tragically, would like to be engaged and passionate but are thwarted by 20th century understandings of knowledge work)

these quotes are discussing the play and learning modes of MMOGs, but i believe the content should be equally applicable to the world of library work.

Play amounts to assembling and combining whatever tools and resources [available] will best help,the learn. The reward is converting new knowledge into action and recognizing that current successes as well as failures are resources for solving future problems

Can you imagine the strength of a knowledge-based workforce allowed to engage their jobs in this way?

Game worlds are meritocracies–leaders and players are subject to the same kinds of assessment–and after-action reviews are meaningful only as ways of enhancing performance

I especially love this one. Past happenings are only relevant to the degree that they allow us to improve and move forward. Punishment is not the goal, only learning from the past in order to keep creating a better future. And all employees would be subject to the same feedback processes, and all employees would be equally accountable to their teams.

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Spring talks

Things are super busy in The Life of Rudy right now. A lot of important paperwork has been signed, my house is on the market and has to be packed and lived in while still looking “staged”, and I have about 5 weeks to tie up all the loose ends at work and make the move west.

While that’s going on, I have a few projects coming up that I’m pretty excited about.  Next week, the ACRL InfoCommons Discussion Group (I’m co-chair) will be holding it’s first virtual meeting (info on joining the virtual session is at the end of this post). Donald Beagle will be talking about his recent ECAR paper “From Learning Commons to Learning Outcomes” (subscription required). I’ve worked hard on trying to take advantage of the opportunities virtual offers for interaction. Despite a great program, great speaker, and a great group of usual attendees, I’m nervous. The physical meetings are well attended, and have great discussion, and I really want to  capture that same energy. I’ve also long wanted to carry that energy through the time-between ALA meetings, and this virtual meeting offers a chance to see how we might make that work (and will provide some pointers for midwinter meetings for the new ACRL Leadership Discussion Group, which I hope I can arrange to meet virtually in Spring).

I hadn’t planned on attending MidWinter this year, but Elsevier invited me to be on a panel at their Digital Libraries Symposium (Beyond the Database: Digital Services Enabling Patron Success). I’m on a panel with Jason Casden and Steven Smith , but I’ve got 25 minutes all to myself (that’s a light year at ALA!), and will be speaking about staff skill development and training to support effective development & use of digital services, as well as the importance of staff skills in supporting researcher needs. Expect lots of discussion of play, of creating affordances and mentoring dispositions, constructivism and John Seeley Brown

I start at UNReno March 1, but I’ll be heading MidWest almost as soon as I’m unpacked, for the Minneapolis-St. Paul-based Library Technology Conference. I love this conference (not just because it’s on my birthday and gives me an excuse to visit some of my favorite people). Smaller conferences always make me happy. This one has great people, good organizers, and could use another day or so! I’ll be speaking on Breaking Down the Silos: Technology, Socialization, and Culture Change.

That’s all that’s currently scheduled :) I hope I’ll be speaking in May at the Canadian Learning Commons Conference in Calgary, and am planning something to present on Outreach and relationship building at Anaheim in June (in addition to chairing two discussion groups and doing some program planning….). I guess the call for Internet Librarian in October will be out some time soon, too…

It’s good that I consider work a close relation to play, right?It’s the only way around the truth behind “all work and no play….” :)

InfoCommons Discussion Group Meeting Details:
Add this meeting to your calendar:
Title: ACRL Info Lit Commons Virtual Midwinter Meeting
Date & Time: 01/11/2012 at 11:00 AM Central Time
Duration: 3 hour(s) and 30 minutes
Leader: Rudy Leon

Join this meeting:
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Westward! Oh!

I am so excited to finally announce that I will be joining the great folks at the University of Nevada Reno’s  Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center in March.

I will be joining this team as a Reference & Instruction Librarian, and am really looking forward to working with this innovative, collegial, and generous group of folks.

My interview with the folks at UNR was so wonderful (it felt like a 14 hour brainstorming session!) I know I’m going to love working with such and engaged, curious, probing, kind, generous, and collegial team. I don’t know my departments yet, but I do know that I’ll be spending time on instruction, reference, and collection development (I miss instruction and collection development!), as well as on strengthening liaison relationships to departments and student groups.

The Knowledge Center is an exciting place. The space was built three years ago, with a goal of being “at the intersection of knowledge and innovation” (I know right? It’s a dream come true for me!). It’s a gorgeous space (exterior shots here, interior ones here), technologically rich, heavily used, and completely student-centered. Their @1 technology floor is amazing, supporting data services, visualization, poster printing, media production, and with an integrated gaming space. I love that the building was built with robotic storage attached, and even more that there’s a video loop playing near the request desk  about the robotic storage. They take their students seriously, and they visibly assume intelligence, curiosity and creativity all across the building.

Have I mentioned they have all the cool toys too? How can I not be looking forward to working with a group of folks who built a building like that, have a Surface, have a Kinect going at all times, and also painted the walls of the science library whiteboard? And are seriously engaging with the possibilities having a couple of 3D printers will afford? They have a button maker, and made the news for their holiday tree made from weeded bound periodicals.  While still remaining completely engaged with the academic processes of research and information literacy? In a beautiful space where students can feel like serious people or playful people, as they choose?

In addition to all the wonderful things I know about the folks I’ll ge to work with at the Knowledge Center, I’m also really looking forward to living in Reno. It turns out to be a surprisingly exciting place — and I don’t meant he casinos! Although, they definitely help the economy, and will ensure that I’ll finally get to see Cirque De Soliel. But Reno has mountains. MOUNTAINS! Oh, how I miss the mountains! On three sides no less! It’s 40 minutes from Tahoe, 4 hours from SF. Reno has a pretty strong arts community (the whole month of July is an arts festival) and some really nice independent restaurants. Including several vegetarian and vegan places, as well as a place owned by someone who used to chef at the French laundry. They also have the important things: a robust co-op, a bunch of farmer’s markets. a Trader Joes, and a Whole Foods. Ethiopian, Thai, and Indian restaurants.  The cost of living is comparable to Urbana and yet it’s right on the California border. It’s climate is great, high desert, no  humidity, the Truckee River runs through town, and did I mention the mountains?? Plus, it’s The West. Big West. Open West. A state I know almost nothing about but am already developing a romantic attachment to — gold mines, great history, Burning Man, legal prostitution is just so strange, and wide open spaces! I may finally take up horseback riding. And alpaca farming and weaving :)

Things may be a little quiet here the next few weeks, as I put my house on the market and pack and clean all the things and head West. I’ll pop in later this week with details about some exciting speaking engagements and programs on my travel horizon, but other than that, I’ll be busily packing, sorting, tossing, and dreaming of mountains.

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LibGuides as outreach – Penn State

I was just looking over the Penn State Library’s LibGuide on the “Sandusky scandal”. It’s a fantastic example of how libraries can curate current event sources for researchers, and I’m so glad to see the trend is catching on (I initiated libguides of this kind when I was the Learning Commons librarian at UIUC. I always love to learn about other current event libguides). It’s a way libraries can be supremely helpful to early researchers, and help students learn about events in their life.

I can only imagine the challenges around putting together a guide like this on a campus undergoing the trauma Penn State is currently dealing with. It maintains a complete neutrality and evenhandedness, just collecting the sources.Emily Rimland did a fantastic job.

I keep struggling with my impulse to add a tab for library resources, for context for the topics of pedophilia, football politics, ethical conundrums*, and abuse of power. I can’t decide if their inclusion would be of even greater assistance to young researchers grappling with the story? Or would including the context, and thus explicitly naming the issues, politicize the guide? I like that current events guides can put the library in the path of a student’s curiosity, bridging news to subscribed content. But I’ve never taken on the creation of a guide like this in fraught times (I’ll admit I ducked creating one when the UIUC high level administration was felled one by one by the admissions scandal.)

I’ll add Emily to my list of brave librarians. And keep this guide bookmarked as a great example of a library resource as outreach.

* for lack of a better phrase. I’m thinking here about the psychological phenomena around making difficult decisions, and knowing what ‘the right thing’ is in any given situation.

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Technology, socialization, learning, and culture change

I’ll be presenting this week at the Library 2.011 conference. I’m pretty excited, I’ve got a great topic and the conference itself looks to be great. I also really like the idea of an international virtual conference. Two days of fantastic learning opportunities, without the costs and hassles of travel.


Also, I’m so excited that Christine Bruce will be keynoting! Even more excited that the conference will be recorded, since she’s speaking at 5am my time!

Here’s my program entry (Thursday, noon central time):

Creating a Learning Organization: Technology, socialization, learning, and culture change

Developing a learning environment is as much about culture change as it is about teaching and training. An effective learning organization can’t depend on the time of one trainer, but must be a community that learns from each other. Creating that sort of organizational change takes patience and a multi-pronged approach. Creating high and low tech opportunities for socialization and interaction must be interwoven with exposure to new tools, opportunities to implement new ideas and nuts and bolts training.

In this talk, I will discuss the various platforms I developed and implemented for creating a culture of learning, including redesigning the popular 23 Things program for ongoing learning, launching brownbags, retreats, and a community blog and learning objects archive.

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Brief pondering on the leadership/management divide

I just came across this quote, and it’s got me wondering –does it treat the Manager fairly? Is it a description of a good or a weak manager? And if it’s description of both Manager and Leader are accurate, how can those chasms be bridged for the goal of developing managers who lead? Are they completely contradictory?

The manager administers; the leader innovates. The manager is a copy; the leader is an original. The manager maintains; the leader develops. The manager focuses on systems and structure; the leader focuses on people. The manager relies on control; the leader inspires trust; The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective. The managers asks how and when; the leader asks what and why. Managers have their eyes on the bottom line; leaders have their eyes on the horizon; The manager imitates; the leader originates. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it. The manager is the classic good soldier; the leader is his own person. The manager does things right; the leader does the right thing.

- Warren Bennis, On Becoming a Leader, quoted in Leadership, June 9, 1992


Desperately seeking a re-entry strategy!

First day back after a week out, and I’m spinning madly trying to figure where to start. Usually when I’m out this long, so is everybody else (I’m usually gone this long for ALA or int he dead of summer). This time, I was at Internet Librarian, and in addition to be going gone a week int he heart of the semester, I am ridiculously inspired and motivated in 6 different directions (there are 4 blog posts trying to write themselves in my brain right now, not including this one!), I am doing an IL wrap up next week, and giving a paper at Library 2.011 the following week. I made an18 point to-do list while waiting for my computer to boot, and and writing this post in hopes that it will help me figure out where to begin. Alas, no luck.

Do you have a re-entry strategy? I really want to harvest the energy I’ve got swirling and inspiring me, but I feel like the most important things to knock off are the administrative details which by nature will kill all that marvelous energy.

I feel a bit like the White Rabbit, running mad. Advice?


Internet librarian, arriv’e!

I’m sitting on the couch at one of my favorite hotels, in one of my favorite seaside towns, at one of my favorite conferences. I’m in Monterey, at Internet Librarian, and even though I know I love this conference, it was really nice this evening to be reminded why.

First, it’s a smallish conference. I don’t know the numbers offhand, but somewhere between LOEX and ACRL, and like those it’s focused, but with reach. Technology and Public Services, talking together. And learning from each other.

One of the things I love most about the conference is the people. These are smart, funny, engaged, innovative folks. And the conversations outside of sessions are unbelievably valuable. Today, i attended the Gaming and Te enology Zoo, where I played a fascinating cooperative board game, but I learned so much outside of that one conference event! I played with a Motorola Bionic webtop computer/ phone with its owner, and we miraculously resolved a full screen issue–while sitting on a bench enjoying the sun. I went to dinner with a former SUNY colleague and she convinced me that I really can build yahoo pipes to do what I want, and turned me on to a resource for finding the answer to my need for a platform agnostic PDF annotation tool. And, who knew? Evernote has competitors! I shared some info about Google Bundles, we talked about a tutorial tool I’ve been investigating, and joked about turning that conversation in to a web series (wouldn’t you want to watch two geeky library gals discuss their favorite collaborative web tools!?!?)

Tomorrow, the conference starts in earnest, and I’m really looking forward to my chosen sessions. I’ll blog some about them, but I’ll also be reporting out at the free ACRL-ULS post-Internet Librarian webinar on October 24. Most likely this week, the blog will be full of insights and new tools to explore that come up in out-of-conference conversations.

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IL2011 Cybertour: Web 2.0 Resources andTools #IL2011

I am pleased to announce that I will be presenting on the Cybertour at Internet Librarian next month. It’s a fantastic conference, with the best location (I really miss the ocean!). If you’ve never been, I’d recommend adding it to your list of must-do conferences.  Really. How often do the tech experimenters and the public service folks get to sit down together and drive the conversation?  It’s not just me, either — here’s a list of reasons to attend.

I’ll be talking about:

Web 2.0 Resources & Tools

Hear about one tech librarian’s cool tool picks as she shares her experimentation and thoughts on their possible use in libraries.  She has been playing with tools for easily creating tutorials, with “mother blogs” using Posterious, and getting deep into sharing and bundling features for info dissemination on Google Reader.  Hear her tips and opinions!

I’d love to hear your suggestions and ideas — are they easy tutorial tools you love, or want to know more about? Have you played with a new tool for information dissemination but want to get me to dig deeper into it? Leave a comment, let me know; I’ll be working on this presentation next week.


Help me create an ACRL Leadership Discussion group?

I have put together a petition (with assistance from the always awesome Beth DuPuis!) for the creation of a Leadership Discussion group within ACRL.

I envision this group having 2 sessions at each ALA, one discussion group and one program.

Creating a Discussion Group requires 10 signatures from ACRL personal members, so, if you meet those qualifications, please sign the petition!

The text of the petition is as follows:

The Leadership Discussion Group provides a forum for conversation, communication and collaboration about leadership and management issues important to academic librarians. Leadership and management challenges in the higher education environment are unique in many ways from other non-profits or corporate arenas. Developing a platform for sharing our experiences, insights and challenges is important for enhancing librarians’ skills and developing future leaders and managers. This group embraces leadership in the broadest sense including topics such as leading from the middle, leading project teams and informal groups, leading within professional organizations, career paths for leaders.


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Julian Treasure on Listening

I just watched Julian Treasure’s TED talk on listening, and found it fascinating.  I have so deep in thinking about listening as a part of communication between people, as a key element in team work and collaboration, as a feature of varying strength in the various DISC personas, I forgot about listening as an active action. Attention, attending, being present are all such important behaviors, and I am so glad I took the time to let Julian Treasure remind me of them

On a  disappointing note, though, he spoke about his book on listening, and I wanted to check that out. It looks like the book is about the ways businesses can use sound to improve their business, which to me is not the same thing as listening at all! Have you read the book? Is it worth the time, if what I’m interested in is listening as a social act, about communication, not sound applications for profitability?

Here’s the talk.

5 ways to listen better

pretty cool

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An infographic of me

My friend Courtney just posted her cool infographic and I decided to see how I came out. Pretty interesting (if you don’t get me started about the Disney-esque parody of the female form in the infographic). Except for the tiny fact that I am apparently not very interesting on my twitter stream! Consider the gauntlet thrown, and the challenge accepted twitterverse! Time to get freaking interesting!

(if you make yourself one, let me know in the comments)

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ALA. New Orleans. Crazy town

ALA is coming up fast, and I really need to get my schedule in order. Actually, I think this is a desperate plea for ALA to extend back to a full 5 day conference. Why do I think that’s the way to go? Um, well, see for yourself (for best effect, scroll to 6/25):

Um, pretty please? An extra night or two in the hotel would make me so much happier than spending all this money and not getting to participate in fully 2/3 of the programs I want to attend. ALA is a great conference,  and I for one would rather spend more time there than have a schedule and set of choices like the one above.

If anyone is interested in coordinating sessions and notes for any of my quadruple booked sessions, let me know. Training, transliteracy, technology & learning, and Commons development & evolution are the general topics in conflict. Well, that and amazing speakers, great film opportunities, and Guy Gavriel Kay!!!

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Outreach Technology

One of the things that carries through from developing the Learning Commons connections to being a Staff Technology trainer is the outreach, and the exploration of the most fit tool for the job. Any tool. Any job.

It’s really all about knowing your audience, your clientele, your users. How do they use information resources? How do they manage their information workflow? And what tools best match those uses, as well as their interests and your goals?

In the Learning Commons, the answer for many things was Twitter, with minor side forays into Facebook and blogging. For Training, I’ve decided the answer was a blog, and specifically a blog instead of the campus hosted and inflexible install of Moveable Type.

Why? Some of those answers are in my latest post there. Go check it out! And if you’re a trainer, come back and talk to em some — are you using technology for outreach and training with your users? what are you using? How are you assessing?



The Technology Trainer is in

Today marks the start of my 2nd week as Technology Trainer.  Although I still have no furniture (beyond the desk) and it took 3 days to get a working computer, last week was just out-of-the-park productive. I facilitated 6 hours of Excel training (this week is Access, which may well cause my brain to melt!) and set (and made progress on) a few priorities.

I now chair the Technology Training subcommittee, and I hope those poor souls won’t revolt when they see the agenda in their inbox this morning! In the past, this group has been advisory to the Coordinator of Staff Training, and responsible primarily for putting on our 23 Things program. That’s a lot of work, in a compressed time. But since Tech Training is now a full time gig for someone (me! me!) obviously there’s going to be more going on. Part of that is deciding the role of the committee.

Essentially, last week I set my priorities for the next 3 months. These include:

  1. Outreach. Creating (and then maintaining) a blog to gather training opportunities, in-house and from outside, and raise awareness of the training resources we already provide. Weekly news blasts. Office hours-on-the-go (your office, not mine)
  2. Clarifying (and then updating) our in-house experts list
  3. Planning & implementing staff management and training for 4 major software updates this summer
  4. Creating an eBooks task force to bring public services and technical services into closer communication and improving the finadability of ebooks on our campus
  5. Developing Technology Proficiency baselines
  6. Determining essential trainings, currently only password management (with all the changes this summer, I’m afraid to push much more)
  7. Start more conversations among staff and librarians around technology via social media brownbags  and a tech toy petting zoo
  8. Investigate options for incentivizing training
  9. Work with IT to compile a list of approved and forbidden software license click-throughs (this is a huge problem here. We aren’t supposed to ever click OK on a download, because that constitutes signing a license for the state. But someone somewhere must know whether or not it’s OK to click through on Dropbox, iTunes, Evernote, Mendeley, Firefox & Chrome extensions….)
  10. Including as many webinar platforms as possible on the above list
One of my ongoing problems is never knowing what “enough” looks like. What do you think? Is this insanely optimistic for three months? Or is this just the first half of my summer?
Have you done any of these things? Do you have any tips to offer, or documents or websites to recommend (especially for points 5, 7, and 8)?



Finally indeed! After many many weeks in process, I am finally able to announce that I am now UIUC’s Technology Training Librarian, in Staff Training and Development, working for the marvelous Beth Woodard.

I enjoyed my work in the Learning Commons, and hope to have the opportunity to do more in the future. I love the Commons movement, and think it is truly the future of Library.

The Undergraduate Library Learning Commons has now been operationalized into the daily flow of the Undergraduate Library, under the direct administration of the UGL Head. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish in that position (even though I still have a growing wish list of things to develop and implement there!), and happy that most of it has been refined to the point that it no longer requires my hand on the till.

We have big big changes coming the technology pike this summer, and I am looking forward to helping it all unroll as smoothly as possible. I’ve spent the last 4-6 weeks preparing for this move, and have been immersing myself in leadership, facilitation, and change management literature (as much new software as we’re expecting this summer, I see myself doing as much or more anxiety management as skill training). Beth and I have been brainstorming and I have just been chomping at the bit to get started.

In additional to meeting the immediate operational needs (we’re moving to Lync, Win7, Exchange 2010, and Office 2010 this summer, all at once, yikes!), I’m especially looking forward to some specific things:

  • Working more closely with staff, getting to know their needs, and the ways that technology impacts their work. I’m also oddly looking forward to studying the civil service rules, and identifying  room in them to incentivize training for civil service staff.
  • Working in explicit and defined partnership with IT, in some sense becoming an outreach member of the IT team
  • Trying to implement emerging technology, developing digital branch tools, and trying to make sure we remain relevant and useful are still core goals for me.

This last point is especially important to me.  I’ve become very aware that we (the Library)  can’t evolve and grow into robust providers of the digital infrastructure and outreach environment incoming students will increasingly expect unless all members of the library staff are comfortable in a technologically changeable environment. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this work, but one of my strongest hopes is that I will be able to work out a way to train for change. Really, I’m just talking information literacy here, or transliteracy, or 21st century skills (whatever you want to call it!). Aimed at adult learners who may see little in it for them, but that’s just a node on the digital divide, and I am so excited to see what I can spin from it!

I’m new to training, and both excited and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities moving ahead. there will be much more in this space as I move into it!


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