Deepening the Conversation

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


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Batgirl in pleather?

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Summed up,

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


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building a bibliography on privacy and librarianship

Time and practicality trumped passion this research break, so I’m working on getting a presentation on information literacy and web evaluation into article form, which means I won’t be able to dig deeply into the privacy and 2.0 librarianship issue until summer at earliest. Until then, I’ll be collecting sources, and reading what I can.

I’ve started a public list at OpenWorldcat — have you read any of these? what do you think? Any of them worth ignoring, or absolute must-reads? others to suggest? (I’ll be annotating the list as I get through it).

I’ve also got a lot being tagged with privacy at de.licio.us.

Please, feel free to point me to other things. And, your opinions are *always* welcome here! It’s supposed to be a conversation, right?


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The Academic Librarian’s version of Fight or Flight

I find this time of year psychically difficult — as an academic and a librarian, though, not as Holiday time.

I spent well over 20 years (over 25 if I counted right) in school. and all that Pavlovian training means that now is the time to relax and next and be at home and have fun. Well, and also stress out about those seminar papers I took incompletes in, but generally, an out-of-cycle time, a time to rejuvenate. (perhaps similar to Flight)

Since starting as an academic librarian, I’ve been very confused by the month of December. All around me, students and colleagues are in high stress mode, but my stress time is over (major collection development is a month past, peak instruction time too) In fact , early December is one of my calmest times of year, just scratching off the to do list and making progress.

And then campus empties out, and I’m still here. Energy levels on campus go though the floor, and that wreaks havoc with the conflict between my prior training (time to go home, sleep in, cook lots, and read) and my new training: ah research time! I’m on the tenure track, so I have to claim research time where I can find it.

This is my third professional winter break, and I have finally taken this time for granted as research time. All semester I try to keep track of what I want to read and study and research over Winter break (5-6 weeks long here) .

Which would be great, right? Except, I somehow fail to take into account every single year, that my library treats winter (and summer) break as project time. I have 4-5 hours per week of tedious card pulling. I have 2 hours per week of weeding (year round) and I spent at least 7 hours this week alone in meetings.

And I’m starting to feel depressed. I’m up for reappointment again in April, and really wanted to get an article written over break.  But in the four weeks of break left, I’m starting to accept reality and call that 2 days per week. Can I write and article and get it into submittable form in 8 days??  And can I also tackle all the reading I have set aside and start digging into my next article (grappling with librarian-ly ethics in a 2.0 world), which may well be old news by end of summer? While at the same time fighting my well-honed winter sleep and fantasy novel skills?

Maybe some of you reading this are also on the tenure track in smaller state schools, in libraries where the workload and tenure reality don’t match up as neatly as one might like? How do you manage conflicts between too much work and not enough time for keeping up, research, and writing?


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finding the knots: confidentiality, 2.0, library responsibility

We had a brown bag debrief on Internet Librarian from our colleagues who attended, and the thing spun off in many directions, one of which (at least!) was my fault and led into something I keep forgetting I really want to write about. This is meant mainly to remind me of that fact, but I fear it will digress into more.

Something I think about whenever I see a list of Cool 2.0 Free Tools You Can Implement At Your Library is privacy (or more accurately, confidentiality). Why are they free? Who’s getting what? Does the user retain ownership of their information? Is the library facilitating the sale or use of users’ information when offering this tool?

I *only* think about this when I see others’ implementations or lists of tools. I almost never think about it when I myself am doing something where I ought to think about it. Like, perhaps, when adding applications to my facebook….

I used to think about it as regards GMail, but I forget to worry about that now that I use it a lot — and that’s the poison pill, right? Gateway drug, whatever. Google knows my searches. Knows my email (work and personal and retail) . Has access to some of my work (docs and spreadsheets). Knows what some friends and I talk about (GTalk). It wants to make a cell phone, which will give it all my friends cell phone numbers and email addresses, and has built in 911 GPS location markers. And now, it wants to marry DoubleClick and sell what it knows for lots and lots of money which will primarily annoy me and not make me any money at all! And I worry about it less than I ought to because they made my life easier in some ways.

Users ought to worry about this stuff but the information world has gone completely mad and out of control and is being monetized and ramified in all sorts of ways they can’t even begin to understand when they take their first gateway drug (which might be a DisneyPhone designed to allow their parents to track their every movement and thus desensitize them further!)

So, librarians used to have this bill of rights to guide library services which states

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

Which I read to mean that libraries and librarians work to support the statement that all individuals are free to read whatever they choose and that such reading is nobody’s business but their own. Essentially, that libraries and librarians are (or should be) committed to protecting patron privacy and confidentiality (two similar but not identical goals).

So, questions to ponder for later parsing:

  1. Are libraries still committed to this?
  2. Should we care that our patrons (especially academic library patrons, since that’s my ball of string) don’t care about their own privacy or confidentiality? Should their naiveté trump our responsibilities?
  3. Does our desire to do more for our patrons hold hands with their naiveté to further sexy goals, or is it OK to not let them know what we’re doing (or that we don’t know!)?
  4. Does anyone know how much info we’re giving away though Facebook? or other username/password identity sites?
  5. Is it still within our power to prevent Minority Report from becoming reality?

Obviously, still is still a big knotty thing in my head. Hopefully, by the end of break I can work this into some articulate positions and statements.

Until then, what are your thoughts? Do user wants for customized interfaces and mashable bits trump library responsibility for protecting privacy and freedom to read? Is that an outdated responsibility? Other thoughts?


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research agenda, or potsherds?

This week, although short, is almost completely devoted to research time. I have a meeting and 6 hours on the reference desk, but other than that i have set aside this time to work out a plan for research over winter break, and see if there’s anything I can get done in the next few days.

The biggest challenge? Work has been a whirlwind of tasks for so long that I’m not entirely sure what I wanted to research any more…

There’s the presentation I did in May that could be turned into an article, about moving web evaluation from BI (where it lives but was born after) into IL (where is was born but also never lived).

And then there’s the big project — about pedagogy and cognitive levels and the appropriateness of scholarly journals for lower division undergraduates and librarian’s roles in faculty uses of scholarly journals in their classes (which also rubs against the question of what an undergraduate collection looks like and what a library “Is”)– and one of my hopes is to see if I can break that giant squid of a project out into smaller agendas that have publishable parts. (this project may be my great white whale. I am certain there is something here, valuable and important and should change they way we think about undergraduate libraries and their place in the educational institution. but short of a sabbatical, or a return to school for a PhD, I’m afraid I will never get to dive in)

But over the past year I have made research and inspiration notes in at least two wikis and a GoogleDoc, an annual report or two and possibly a word file and maybe also in one of my two idea notebooks… sigh.

So today, I am a textual archaeologist, sorting through the potsherds of my life to gather together the thoughts and ideas I have had into a manageable, maintainable and centralized list.

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