Deepening the Conversation

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


October in Monterey!

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

And this, this is my burden.

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

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

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

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

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

Will I see you there?

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long time gone

Hello readers!

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

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

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


Whew! Conference over! What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Thought for the day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Pecha Kucha, not so mucha

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Adobe AIR?

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

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

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

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Wiki’ing and blogging aho!

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

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

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

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

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

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Rudy’s Random Ramblings!

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

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

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

If that sounds interesting, check it out!


Perfect conference collaborative tool?

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

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

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

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

Does anyone know of a tool that

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

Does my tool exist yet in cyberworld?

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

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My Full Plate Club membership application

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

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

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LOEX 2008 de-brief: The Overview

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

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

Sessions I attended:

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

General themes and overall impressions:

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

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Did somebody ask for focus??

Hello world!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Is ten minutes of teaching enough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


My own personal ER episode….

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

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

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

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

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

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


Can twitter do it all?

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

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

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

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

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Day one and thriving

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

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

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

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

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New Collection Development discussion list

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

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

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

Possible Topics:

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

Please feel free to share this information widely.

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post temporarily pulled into editing mode….

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

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

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

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

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Batgirl in pleather?

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

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

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

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

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


Dancing the dance and avoiding the dancers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Students Want, revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Writing the next phase of thinking

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

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

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

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

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

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

Expect more posts for the near now about:

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

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Librarianship in under 140 characters!

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

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

Rudibrarian : are any of y’all econ liaisons?

B: @Rudibrarian yo econ here

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

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

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

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

S: @Rudibrarian I am an econ liaison

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

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

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

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

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


Late admission of techno-faux-bia

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

So, my tech-NOTs?

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

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

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


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