Deepening the Conversation

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

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On ownership of content

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

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

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

In other contexts, it matters a great deal

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

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

That’s a very different question.

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

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

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



One year later

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

So, yay! I’m back!  

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

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

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

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

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

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

A happy, busy worklife.

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

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

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Reno Update #1

I’m long overdue for a status update!

Brief update: I have moved! And it is good. I am happy. Very happy. Happy has become my default state.

I’m really enjoying Reno. The West suits me, the mountains are breathtaking, the people are kind and generous and sometimes very wonderfully odd. Being new has good points, but I am starting to realize I haven’t been “new” in any substantive ways since 2005. And I’d forgotten how hard it can be, without touchstone people and the complete absence of anything familiar. It’s exciting, and wonderful, in so many ways. But as the shine wears off I suspect I will have to remember all those old strategies for how to be new (reading in coffee shops, picking up hobbies, remembering to leave the apartment…). Luckily, I want to do all these things!

So, gorgeous locale. Good people. Exciting work. Wonderfully friendly and collegial colleagues. Men who look as I believe men should (and even one or two or so who might be dating me…). A happy cat.

Less briefly: I knew coming here that my job wasn’t entirely defined. That’s cool though — it’s the first time ever I’ve take a job that existed before me, so it’s more defined than any other job I started! My title is Reference and Instruction Librarian. This semester there’s some reference work (at a combined service point, so for the first time ever I’m learning Circ stuff!). I won’t likely be doing any actual instruction this semester (due to timing) but am part of a number of groups and committees looking at instruction and I’m really enjoying all of that!

A number of folks have left recently (mostly retirements) and many jobs are being redefined, so the subject librarians will be working together to discuss the spread of departments amongst us, and hopefully what it means to be a subject librarian. I’m really excited about this kind of engaged approach to unit self-management, and am very excited about what I hope is an opportunity for us to build common ground about what we will be doing as liaisons. I’ve been reading widely on this topic, and am excited to dig in. (for what it’s worth, my take on this is relationships. It’s about building relationships.  Everything else flows from that)

There’s also enormous potential right now in Instruction. We do a lot of instruction, but not in structured or scaffolded ways, and we could be doing a lot more. I’ve had a lot of good conversations about what we might be doing in this area in the near future. Most is on hold waiting for the new GenEd plan to be released from the committee. SO MUCH POTENTIAL!! I’m pretty excited!

I do, however, need to start saying no. I’ve said no to a couple of things, and let’s hold off for a moment on a couple of others. But here is what I have said yes to so far (in addition to regular hours on the combined research services service point — which means I am learning a LOT about Circ!):

  • Summon implementation group. I’m a little over my head at this point, but that’s OK. The expectations are for me to have more input when we get Summon and think about how we want to display and teach it.
  • Teaching and learning group. This is the group talking about Instruction. Very exciting!  Below are some of the things we’re discussing and working on
    • first year IL
    • infoLit request form (ridiculous how many ideas I have for this!)
    • Thinking about how we advertise/market/talk about our services
    • We will discuss impact of Summon on. IL and on library/community interfaces
    • Hopefully, please soon, programmatically thinking about IL, about scaffolding, about goals
  • Pinterest. I have started a Pinterest board for the Knowledge Center. It’s not quite ready for prime time yet, but I’m having a good time getting to know our resources (and my colleagues. This is such a highly collaborative project!). The Knowledge Center has so many, and so many kinds of, great visual artifacts. More to follow on this front!
  • Freshman fair. I’m working with a colleague to design a freshman experience that is superior to the tours currently offered. I built something like this at Potsdam, and am excited to see what we can pull off on a larger scale here (more than twice as many students…)
  • Student advisory group. The fantastic Lisa Kurt and I will be working with student government to develop channels of input from students to the libraries. We’re not sure at this point if it will be a formal Advisory Group, or take some other shape. But I’m so excited to work with Lisa on this, and get to know our students!
  • Onsite user experience group I’ve asked to join this committee, and think I can make some valuable contributions. As Learning Commons Librarian I devoted a lot of energy to space use concerns, and Lisa is on the Virtual UX group, so between us we should be able to communicate student concerns & ideas effectively for the entire library environment
  • Library website task force. I just said yes to this. How could I say no??
  • Curiosity committee/subject specialists This is the group working to reformulate how we do liaison work, in relation specifically to faculty, but it’s brand new and has lots of potential. This is my Dean’s brainchild. Have I mentioned how much I love my Dean?
  • Usability group The always awesome Aaron Schmidt was here before I started, and showed off how to do quick and dirty usability testing. Two of my colleagues started this group of 5-6 of us to get the ball rolling, and make usability testing part of our culture. We had our planning meeting, and I am in awe of the speed at which we can make things happen here!

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Thursday afternoon food for thought

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Spring talks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Join this meeting:
Let us see who you are! Upload your picture:

Want to prepare your system ahead of time?

iLinc System Requirements:

Participant Quick Reference Card for joining and attending an iLinc session:

Need assistance? Click here.

Learn More about iLinc Web Conferencing at


Westward! Oh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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moving to virtual

This has been the season of virtual conferencing for me. I’ve given two talks via Elluminate, had training for iLinc, and am organizing my first virtual discussion.  I’ve been trying to think about how best to move presentations and discussion into this new environment, and am pretty excited about the possibilities.

Before I gave my Library 2.011 talk, I attended Debbie Faires fantastic talk “Don’t Just Sit There! Tips for Engaging Participants in Online Sessions” and took advantage of her tips to make my own talk more engaging. Elluminate has some great features, and I found the shared whiteboard features very useful (you’ll see in my slides how I created blackboard moments and asked participants to share on the large white board space. I think it worked really well).

I’ve also just scheduled a virtual meeting for Midwinter for the Info Commons discussion group. We put a lot of thought into how to move our very popular physical discussion into a virtual environment. We’re limited by the capabilities of iLinc, which mostly meant we wouldn’t be able to indulge my first idea of replicating our breakout tables into virtual rooms.

The first thing we did was schedule a great speaker, and a good topic. Instead of introducing and highlighting their Commons,  Don Beagle will kick us off with a presentation about his recent ECAR white paper “From Learning Commons to Learning Outcomes.” We’re also breaking away from our usual time constraints; Don will have time to give a full presentation and build upon more recent publications and also address questions that folks have asked him about his paper since it’s publication. (we have also left more time for discussion than we normally have during the tightly scheduled conference).

I’ve also asked the Discussion Group members to consider putting together 2-3 slide decks about their assessment projects and findings, and get those to me ahead of time (so I can upload them).  This way, we can show and share assessment instruments, graphical and statistical findings, or anything else, in ways we have never taken advantage of  in our physical meetings. And since they will have to come to me ahead of time to be organized and uploaded, I’ll be able to look for common themes in the submissions and draw parallels with the lead presentation, thus allowing me to be a better facilitator.

I’m looking forward to seeing how this works; it definitely has taken more time to organize & imagine than the usual Discussion Group meeting. I have a feeling it’s going to be worth it — and that I’m going to learn a lot doing it too!

And in case you might like to attend, here’s the meeting info:

Information Commons Discussion Group Midwinter meeting (virtual)

For Midwinter this year, the InfoCommons Discussion group will be meeting virtually. We’re very excited to try this out. We’ve reserved an iLinc room via ALA, and will meet January 112012, 1-2:30 pm Central Time. The log-in instructions are below, and on the Connect space.

Our Midwinter discussion will continue the assessment conversation we had at Annual 2011. Don Beagle will kick off our meeting with a 20-minute presentation based on his EDUCAUSE report, “From Learning Commons to Learning Outcomes.” This report was posted on Sept 27 by the EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research (ECAR), and within 6 weeks had become the #1 most-downloaded ECAR research bulletin of 2011. Don’s comments will also go beyond the ECAR report to look in more detail at 1) recent research into cultural impacts on user expectations of service delivery (especially pertinent to “Affect of Service” as measured by LibQUAL+® ,  and 2) recent research by Derek Rodriguez into library impacts on student outcomes in capstone courses, and how this might be adapted for Commons model assessment.

I’d like to extend this invitation to all of you: if you have information about service assessment at your Commons that you would like to share, please feel free to put together a PowerPoint slide or two and send that to Rudy Leon by January 9. Because of the nature of iLinc, I will need to upload slides ahead of time. Slides are not necessary if you want to participate, or contribute! But if you do have something visual you want to share, we have the opportunity to do so.

We’ve scheduled 70 minutes for discussion following Don’s presentation. I’m very excited about this, and hope you are as well.

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

Join this meeting:
Let us see who you are! Upload your picture:

Want to prepare your system ahead of time?

iLinc System Requirements:

Participant Quick Reference Card for joining and attending an iLinc session:

Need assistance? Click here.

Learn More about iLinc Web Conferencing at