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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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:
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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

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Westward! Oh!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LibGuides as outreach – Penn State

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

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

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

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

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

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Technology, socialization, learning, and culture change

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


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

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

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

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

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