Deepening the Conversation

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


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Post-ACRL resolutions

I find conferences invigorating. I’m a true extrovert (and an intellectual), and very little recharges my batteries like a 3 or 4 day stint of seeing old friends, making new friends, and absorbing new ideas and new takes on old ones. Throw in a change of locale, an excuse to indulge my inner foodie, and the escapist novel I allow myself when traveling, and I’m in bliss. Pure bliss I tell you!

It’s like New Year’s Day.

In honor if that feeling, I’m going to make some post-con resolutions

  1. More blogging! I mean it. I miss my blog. I miss the daily writing. I miss the opportunity to speak and be heard.
  2. More blog reading. (Commenting on same may constitute more blogging…). I don’t need to travel to listen to wonderful marvelous brilliant you. I can read your blog. So I’m going to.
  3. More TED talks. I just bought myself a Roku, and it has a TED channel. I’m not just going to bury myself in your brilliant words, but I’m also going to dive deep into the random and magnificent thoughts that stream out of TED. (and blog about it…)
  4. I am going to read more. Not just stuff for my research, but that ginormous list of tangentially-relevant non-fiction? gonna read it. All those books about libraryness that I want to read and never do? gonna read ‘em. Um, and blog about them.

Some things on that list:


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On Eeyores

I just read Gretchen Rubin’s (The Positivity Project) Tigger/Eeyore post, and I think the article, the concept, the insight, is fascinating, but there is one (central) point that rubs me wrong. Rubs me so wrong that I think it may make the whole scenario miss the point, and certainly it gave me enough pause to prevent me from sending it to my colleagues (oh boy are we ever in a Tigger/Eeyore scenario at MPOW! And we could certainly use some help thinking through our dynamics). What do you think? Does this resonate – either my read or Gretchen’s?

There is no doubt in this scenario Gretchen draws that I am an Eeyore. But here’s the thing: I’m not negative. Let me finish please! I’m critical, in the sense of ‘a critic’, performing critiques. When presented with something, I start tugging at it, holding it up to the light. Does it stand up? Where are the weak points? What needs strengthening? How can we tighten it up and make it better?

This is NOT negativity. This is me being invested in the project. If I think your project is irrelevant, unnecessary, or irredeemable, I won’t put my energy into it. This is my being supportive — and I want and expect the same from you. In fact, I find it deeply irritating and uncollegial if, when asked to be a stakeholder, you nod and smile and say it looks great. I need you and your stake, or I wouldn’t have asked. When I’m asked for input, I am showing you respect, support, and enthusiasm by giving feedback and adding my knowledge to your mix. Because you asked me.

I find the absence of this critical approach to be not ‘positive’ but ‘cheerleading’. Are any or all of these three dyads accurate? Tigger/Eeyore, Positive/Negative, Cheerleader/Critic? Do any more accurate phrases occur to you? Am I full of it?


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desperately seeking easy answer to impossible web design wish

My web skills are stuck in 4.01 transitional, so my desire to have a dynamic version of the below as my learning commons homepage graphic is quite frustrating. Do any of you dear readers have any idea how I might be able to make it so? And have the nodes rotate, so the one I select would move to center and throb slightly? and the smallish label that I have not typed into each node would enbiggen and hover out a description of what lies behind that node (ie, the linked to page)?


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A Vision, articulated

In my last post I mentioned that I had written up a version of my Vision for my job, for my Learning Commons. My Dean had asked me for this, and I was thrilled to provide it to her.  I’ve spent a few days on various versions, and ultimately wrote up this quick and dirty, dense, management-ese version. There’s so much in here–each bullet could be a several page section of a larger article (and hopefully will be, but it’s hard to write about something  so dear to the heart).  I’d love feedback on this ; does anything about it inspire you? What parts are unclear, or make you want to call bullshit? What do you think?

Learning Commons Vision

Creating library spaces that evolve to remain relevant to undergraduate student research & study modes, while applying emerging and mature technology as useful, and leveraging the unique role of the library as a non-disciplinary academic space on campus.

Doing this requires not only maintaining and growing student services partners, but developing & strengthening relationships with academic units on campus and with subject librarians

  • Addressing study space needs of undergraduate students – collaborative & single, quiet and dynamic, late night
  • Explicitly acknowledging & supporting the truth that knowledge does not just sit on library shelves, but is actively created in libraries, and providing the software and support required to create students’ chosen final form of knowledge creation
  • Tracking the need for, and implementing as needed, changes in technological support for student coursework & intellectual engagement
  • Engaging the intellectual curiosity of students and growing their awareness of the potential for intellectual engagement of a wide variety of subjects
  • Helping orient students to the overwhelming array of library resources available to them
  • Leveraging the innovative impulses of the Undergraduate Library for technology and other areas to other libraries as suitable for their populations
  • Choosing Commons Partners with potential synergy for intellectual engagement, and supporting these partnerships through programming and collections support.


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An interesting day

Today was an oddly librarianly day. Which is to say, that most of my days don’t look like I’m a librarian, I could be any manager. Like, yesterday I had a meeting about personnel issues, a meeting with my boss, and 3 hours of reference work. And I checked email and managed a to-do list. Could have been any job

  • Today though. today I felt like a librarian, and a manager.  I had a meeting about faculty status and collegial behavior,
  • a meeting wherein the webguy & I may have found a way for me to build the flash-heavy website I (flash skills free…) want while also meeting accessibility needs.
  • I attended a TED Talk my committee hosted at the library school, and had lovely conversation about choices, and the differences between network design and hierarchy in organizational design. The Talk met the committee goals of drawing in students, faculty and staff from a wide range of departments, and was so well attended I thought the room had been double-booked!
  • I worked 1 hour on the reference desk, and answered a whole lot of actual reference questions. Two in particular: a class of 100 Chicago 7th graders wanted to see the library. (They stood in front of me while they asked this. ) And one of our students asked me to pull this month’s issue of Vanity Fair because it included an indecent photo, a nude of Marilyn Monroe.
  • An informatics minor interviewed me for his library school application. His initial contact to me came  over Twitter :)
  • I wrote a very dense version of my vision for the Learning Commons here and sent it off to my Dean.  It’s wonderfully management-ese, but still says what i want it to say. And pulling it out of management-ese would be a fantastic article!
  • Had an IM discussion about my Library’s crime rash, which has finally made the local news. Trust is really an important part of running a library, but you don’t realize that until it’s broken,
  • there was very little email today, but most of it was action oriented — I added 6 meetings to my next week

Is it weird that a day like this makes me feel more like a librarian than yesterday did?

So, do you want to see my Vision?Ii’m gonna give it it’s own post.


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Librarian’s Day in the Life- round 4, day 1

This blog has been super quiet of late, but I’ve decided to resurrect it for Librarian’s Day in the Life

Library Day in the Life 4

Today, I got in at 9:00, whichis technically early (I’m officially  on a 10-6 schedule). I turned on computer, added to the to do list while it was booting up (added: input Haiti LibGuide information, remember to tweet about last day of voter’s registration, check on some feedback from Internet Librarian conference, get SA feedback on OBOC)

Sent out a tweet about the Voter Registration Kiosk in the UGL, and today’s primary deadline.

About 5 minutes after everything opened and I scanned my calendar and my email, windows wanted to reboot. I decided to elt it and went to the ladies. Came back, sent in a facilities request about the broken lights in the Ladies.

Went upstairs to ask a staff member a question, spent several minutes chatting with 6 staff on  my way to and fro.

Put together a poll of the One Book One Campus nominations selections and sent out to our Student Assistant listserv for their input. I’d really their feedback before I pick my three (but I think I’m going to select Logicomix even if none of the SAs go for it, we’ll see). This was my first time using Google Forms.  It’s pretty easy to use, I think I’m happy with it.

Answered an email from my brother who really needs a law librarian at his firm!

Consulted with a couple of colleagues about the text I drafted for the website, defining the Learning Commons. We do Learning Commons a little differently here, so the language is really challenging. Some progress, and agreement about the challenges.

Went through my email, responded to 13 emails (including the looking over the nominating ballot results for Faculty Senate)

Added several events to our UGL Recommends calendar, reprinted and reposted this weeks calendar at the reference desk

Added the Study Abroad partners to permissions for the computer at the Connections desk

This afternoon I have 1 hour on the reference desk, when I hope to start inputting the content my GA gathered for the Haiti Libguide. I then have my weekly meeting with my boss, and a meeting to discuss signage in the library

The to-do list for the week will probably not get much more attention after today — tomorrow is a research day, at least until the Collection Development Committee meeting. Wednesday is solid meetings (Librarian’s meeting, research agenda discussion, and a division meeting) and the reference desk from 10-4. Thursday I am taking a statistics workshop, and then have 2 hours on the reference desk and have scheduled 2 hours to work on my annual report. Friday is 2/3 research day, and at some point this week I have to wrap up my ACRL-IS obligations around Midwinter.

A pretty usual day, and a pretty usual week!


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Collaborative workspace in the digital library?

I’ve spent most of the last two days in an online conference that didn’t really work for me. The whys and wherefores and ponderings I’ve had about online conferences may become fodder for another post, but not this one. This one is about the good thing that came out of attending a conference that didn’t match what I wanted: I put some energy into articulating what I had been hoping to learn.

The conference was about building collaborative learning environments. Much of the conference was billed as happening in their virtual Learning Commons, which is what explicitly led me to sign up for the conference; I wanted to see what a virtual Learning Commons built by Educause would look like, how it would behave (It ended up being a Ning community).

One of my greatest strengths is that I see new ways to solve problems, and new ways to move forward. A long time ago I stopped being surprised that no one else was seeing what I was seeing.  I am generally accustomed to that most frustrating search, for something that doesn’t exist. But I never get used to that feeling of being all alone. I want to lean on work done by other people, I want to move small increments forward. I like being on context, I thrive on being in community. Far too often professionally I’m seeing a way through that no one else has acted upon or written about.

Today? What I wanted from this conference were tools and ideas for creating non-classroom based virtual collaborative spaces. The digital component of the Learning Commons, the online space where students gather to work on classwork, passion work, student organization work. The workspace of the digital library. With collaborative tools in place, access to the library’s resources, IM and document sharing, video conferencing, storage to leave work in a safe space…

Does it sound self-evident as a next step to you? It started to for me. And now, now I’m seeing that this may be huge leaps into the future. I’m trying to see what the baby steps might be, and starting to think about how to flesh out my assumptions about the desirability of such a space, and its applicability. I’m starting to feel a touch overwhelmed at the thought of creating this (I breathe more easily when I think maybe all I need is a particular sort of LMS, like Moodle or Blackboard).  I feel over my head, and am hoping I’m not really a couple laps in front.

Are you working on a project like this? I’d love to see what you’re doing!


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A day in the life …

Wow, today is a completely crazy day to do a Day-in-the-life post. It’s the end of July, and that means three important things:

  1. My new Unit Head has been here long enough to settle in
  2. Most folks are recovered from ALA
  3. The start of semester is suddenly looming large in folks’ heads.

This morning, my day looked like 4 meetings and a video interview with the student paper about @askundergrad. In the end, it was only 3 meetings, and no interview. And I feel (wrongly) like I got very little done, but let me fill you in on the details.

I generally get to work between 9:00 and 9:30, and today was here around 9:00. I checked voicemail while booting up the computer, one vendor call I will have to vet through a friend working on the project the vendor was asking me about. Once the computer was up, I spent about 20 minutes checking in with my emails, twitter, and FriendFeed. I discovered my 10:30 meeting was canceled, and decided to check out some of the Table of Content alerts I get. By 9:45, I have 22 tabs open on my browser. Gmail, FriendFeed, and 5 articles from the TOC alerts, the rest are articles Twitter or FriendFeed tipped me to.

Before submitting more ILL requests for articles from Library review, I sent an email query to our LIS librarian wondering why we don’t have it. The answer was pretty stunning — the journal costs over $10K a year. I submitted my ILL requests.

I checked out an article on twitter in libraries, saw that my library’s twitter stream was mentioned, and misrepresented. Queried the twitterati, and decided to follow up with a letter to the author (or the publisher?); I later worked out (after discussing with a colleague) that the article was written 8 or 10 months ago, and decided not to bother correcting it. And also, that I really need to get my article on the pedagogy, libraries, and Twitter written!

I spent a few minutes catching up with a colleague back from vacation, and we discussed some fun search topics for GA training and/or student sessions for fall

Reality definitely derailed my plan to spend 2 hours writing this morning, and so by 11:00 I was prepping for the three back to back meetings of the afternoon. These are about prioritizing the suggestions gathered by my new Head from the Undergrad faculty & staff for implementation; developing an overall signage strategy, tone, and design; and re-imagining our annual Homecoming week research rally (which will also probably include discussion of our Quad Day plans – the day before classes start. They used to start midweek, but now on Monday, which makes Quad Day a Sunday, which makes it more difficult).

In the process of searching email for the (properly filed) list of suggestions, for my 2:00 meeting, I found the details I need for moving some current books from the Main Stacks to the Undergrad. We have a non-duplication policy, and care deeply about having the right books in this particular library for this audience, so moving current, Undergraduate-appropriate titles on AIDS and HIV from the Stacks to Undergrad would help our students. I spent about 25 minutes removing excess formatting from the WorldCat list of titles (from 54 pages to 11– being an environmentalist sometimes feels like an enormous time cost burden!)

By 11:45, I was sick of my desk, took a long walk to a colleague’s office (outside, even!!) to pay her for the local blueberries she picked up for me at the farmer’s market when I was out of town this weekend. I wish I’d thought to ask for heirloom tomatoes  :(

Got back to my desk, saw a tweet about Star Trek playing at the local opera house this week, invited a few friends, realized that I now have plans for every single night this week, and promptly got exhausted, then removed grocery shopping from my to-do list

Around noon I followed up with another colleague on determining if any of the presentation mice owned by Library IT can click links, or if they are all ppt mice. Turns out they are all PowerPoint mice, and so I began the process of asking IT to buy some that I can use in teaching. Budget details haven’t percolated far enough down yet for IT to be able to let me know, but my request is in the queue.

My phone rang, I answered, it was a vendor call. Created a GMail folder for the emailed vendor stuff. Sigh. I asked for it, specifically, at ALA, but now it feels like junk mail again (some day I’ll get to refurbish my Learning Commons with appropriately sized tables, and create the sort of cool seating vignettes that i want, and I spent time at ALA getting furniture vendors to start sending me catalogs)

Ate a quick lunch at my desk at around 1:00. This was my third meal on this particular restaurant leftover. It was tasty, I’m glad it’s all gone now! I saw my mailbox had a huge package in it, turns out it was a catalog, more vendor mail, which I had indeed asked for. Make note to create physical file space for vendor mail I need to keep

Read a couple news articles about ebook readers (the Apple tablet looks awfully pretty, but I am not enthused that it is being reported to run iPhone as its OS) and make a mental note to move the ebook reader pilot project to the next step, which leads almost automatically to guilt about the dropped state of the Career Services Support working group I’m chairing.

My new boss had asked me for a prioritized wish list, so I spent some time with my Learning Commons wishlist. It’s a pretty unspecific list at present, and I am trying to turn it into a concrete, prioritized, actionable list of items. Like, instead of “materials to display art” I now have three items. They still need a lot more detail and definition, but it’s a start. You wouldn’t believe how many different kinds of challenges have arisen over my desire to display student art work. Not people challenges – everyone likes the idea- but around how to hang it, and how to protect it, and I’m currently leaning towards digital displays, but will need to follow up with several stakeholders, and that will almost certainly lead to more questions than answers. Maybe by Spring we’ll have art?

Finally, 2:00, and the suggestions meeting. When the new Head started, she met with everyone in the Undergrad, and this group was formed to work on implementing the ideas that she pulled out of all of those meetings. We’ve added a few, primarily about facilitating the ongoing sharing of ideas. Hopefully I’ll have some time tomorrow to write up the notes and pull out which we are each responsible for.

My 3:00 meeting was about signs (and also part of having a new sherrif in town), and that went so much better than I had expected! I’m not sure we’ve got a whole lot of action items yet, but we have agreement in principle about style and tone and attitude, and a shared will to change some of the policies that we feel aren’t necessary. Excellent, all around.

My 4:00 meeting was about programming for Research Rally, our Homecoming Week event, which is widely advertised, but could be much more exciting and muscular. My proposal went over well, and I’m really excited about. I’m not sure we can pull it off as I imagine it — a day long series of 15-50 minutes workshops — since it will involve convincing 5-7 more folks to play along and teach a session or two. But it will be great.

This colleague and I agreed to hold off on a proposal I just dropped the timeline on, and we chatted a bit about what we’re going to do for Quad Day, which is held the day before classes start. Classes now start on Monday, so Quad Day is Sunday, and the library isn’t usually open. We’ve decided to be open, and now we have to work out what we should expect.

When I’m done with you all, I will write up the First Day FAQ we brainstormed for Quad Day, I will work my way through the 15 open FireFox tabs, the 7 Word docs, and check my email before heading out the door to meet a friend for pool, beer, and fries, not neccesarily in that order. Tomorrow I plan on wwriting a proposal for an article, meeting a colleague for lunch, taking 90 minutes for a doctor’s appointment, and then fleshing out the suggestions committee’s suggestions. I hope I will also get my Wishlist fleshed out with brands and dollars, but I suspect that’s wishful thinking. Tomorrow will be capped off by an evening of trivia and cocktails, and if we do well, karaoke. Wednesday is blissfully unscheduled (except for lunch) — we’ll see what that brings!

Are you exhausted? I’m definitely ready to start my end-of-day processes!


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Do libraries make people feel like this?

After months of trying to find a new phone that would meet my needs and not overwhelm me with more than I need,  I finally upgraded my phone, my life, my plan, to an LG Xenon. I waited with baited breathe for the UPS man, and after taking the package from his hands, and ripping it open, my excitement started leaking like a 3 day old helium balloon.

Nothing about this is fun.

Nothing about this makes me happy.

N0thing about this is remotely the way it should  be.

The phone arrived uncharged– a major deterrent to immediately diving in and playing around. The directions for authorizing the phone, for changing my phone number, for setting up my voicemail — none worked as described. I mean, the reps I spoke with were great, but I spoke with 4 of them. They were all also mystified about how to proceed with someone who only had the cell phone. Do most people do this from work?? I mean, landlines are scarce amongst the company I keep, are we really that abnormal?

Every step along the way has been ugly and unpleasant. Nothing has worked according to direction, and everything that seemed intuitive has caused a problem somewhere else down the line.

And while I am siting here, seething and pouting, in the back of mind I’m wondering:  is this the library user experience?

  • We  have sexy tools
  • They are far too complicated
  • Our help systems — vendor and librarian –do they meet the challenge? Do they assist with the actual problems our patrons encounter?
  • Are the help tools a poor match to the systems as the currently exist?
  • And, do we put way too much emphasis on assuming (requiring?) the user will come talk to us? Us, lovely, helpful, kind, librarians. But such a hassle to sidetrack from the task at hand to talk to, and too bound in procedures and checking the work to offset the waste of patron time having to ask represents.

Do we make out patrons feel the way AT&T and LG are making me feel right now? If the answer is yes, it’s unacceptable. How do we, how can I, start laying out an agenda towards developing better, more intuitive systems and implementing far better and less intrusive help?


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What am I doing this summer?

There’s a meme gaining steam around teh interwebs and since it matches what’s been on my mind, I thought I’d chime in. What exactly does a librarian do in t he summer time? Well, this academic librarian has a few things on her plate!

  • Working on focus. I’ve gotten much better at limiting the continuous partial attention, but this summer offers a vast panorama of un-meeting-ed time, and I am developing exercises to force myself to focus for ever longer times without distraction
  • Work with my Undergraduate Research Methods Project team to analyze our data and get at least one article written
  • Immerse myself in the literature on learning commons, on the impacts of the interactive web on cognition and learning  styles, and learning spaces. Overly optimistically, on privacy, ethics & libraries too.
  • Frame  out an article, maybe even write one
  • Pull together a pilot personal librarian program with a couple of stakeholders
  • Get to know my new unit head, and start working towards the future
  • implementing the processes and technology pieces that will allow us  to turn our twitter stream interactive; develop the training for all the parts; train staff and GAs on the new processes
  • Figure out how to selectively tweet to our Facebook page. This is much more of a challenge than I ever would have guessed
  • Talk to stakeholders and develop three pilot proposals for e-book readers. This will include working out the pros and cons and capabilities of each of the readers. I’m really excited about this one, have a couple  of great ideas for the pilots projects
  • Read the One Book selection and develop a plan for physical and virtual discussion groups on the book for Fall semester, and on related themes (or books related by themes) for the Spring.
  • Reconnect with some of the Learning Commons partners that have fallen off my radar
  • Make sure that Learning Commons partnerships are on the minds of the new hires replacing the 2 partners who left to follow their bliss elsewhere.
  • Lay the groundwork with a stakeholder for a re-purposing of a particular space in the building
  • Now that the IT reorg has started to settle in, start building the relaitonships I need formore effective partnering with campus IT
  • Work with EdTech to start to resolve some of the technology training issues that have fallen through the cracks on campus
  • Work with stakeholders on integrating (or not) the workshop series I’m launching in the Fall with an existing workshop series aimed at a different audience
  • A handful of web page updates and a couple pf entirely new pages, including one that will involve creating a whole new communication process for a bunch of folks across campus
  • Do a better job at leading my working group, get the next phase rolling and the lib guide up
  • Visit (and photograph) each of the (40some?) libraries on campus to get a sense of the variety of spaces we call “library”
  • Make a point of having coffee or lunch with a librarian I would otherwise not interact much with at least every 2 weeks. These conversations are always rewarding and inspiring.
  • Deal with the logistics of the party a colleague & I are throwing for my friend and soon-to-be-former unit head to celebrate her election to ACRL vice-president/president elect.

Wow. That’s exhausting. I had actually been feeling like I didn’t have enough going on this summer, but maybe now I’ll be a bit more able to cut myself some slack!

How about you? What’s your summer look like?


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Who shapes culture for the future?

One of last year’s LOEX sessions ended with a Q&A that centered on librarians judging their directors harshly and how directors aren’t being very transparent or inspiring of the line librarians reporting to them. That conversation has stayed with me, and I’ve spent a lot of energy and time over the last year pondering  the roles and responsibilities of library directors, Deans, and other high level administrators. I’ve also been looking at a lot of Administrative changes in the past year — a new job (new Unit Head, and anew structure which includes a Library Dean/UL), the Director at my former place of work announcing her retirement, a colleague being raised up in her place, and now an imminent transitioning of my current unit head, — leadership in all its flavors has been on my mind a lot.

If you ice that cupcake cake with the knowing that I’ve been reading strategic plans to analyze for SWOTS identified therein (for my Marketing class…) and filter all that through the byzantine maze that is my inner workings, you find me asking one question:  How does/how should organizational culture fit into the responsibilities and visi0ns of high level administrators?

I’m sure it does fit, but I’m not sure I’m seeing how it is being positively and actively shaped from on high. I’m also left wondering if my own sense of what a healthy, dynamic, vibrant, organizational culture looks like might be very different that the optimal culture as seen from the Administration offices.

That LOEX session urged more transparency and charitable viewing of what directors do, so it’s in that vein that I am posing this question — do you see your Dean, Director, Unit Head, University Librarian, as having a role in creating, developing, changing or sustaining organizational culture? In what ways? Do you see them taking on active roles in shaping it? If so, how? If you are an administrator, how do you deal with this? Help me see it!


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Excuses, excuses…

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Are these images under copyright?

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

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

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


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officially Annoyed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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New Post, new post! Calling Learning Commons Librarians!

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

I am so thrilled to be here.

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

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

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

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


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Communication management.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Googleplex. Horror movie.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Interwebs, am I alone in my fear?


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Revisiting that tenure and public libraries post

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

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

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

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

And welcome.


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would tenure pressures in public libraries make good changes?

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

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

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

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

What do you think? off the mark completely?

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


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It’s all in the details

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


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Usability wishlist

Thinking like a user, not a librarian:

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

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

What do you wish for?


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Is this short enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What say you?

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