Deepening the Conversation

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



Finally indeed! After many many weeks in process, I am finally able to announce that I am now UIUC’s Technology Training Librarian, in Staff Training and Development, working for the marvelous Beth Woodard.

I enjoyed my work in the Learning Commons, and hope to have the opportunity to do more in the future. I love the Commons movement, and think it is truly the future of Library.

The Undergraduate Library Learning Commons has now been operationalized into the daily flow of the Undergraduate Library, under the direct administration of the UGL Head. I’m proud of what I was able to accomplish in that position (even though I still have a growing wish list of things to develop and implement there!), and happy that most of it has been refined to the point that it no longer requires my hand on the till.

We have big big changes coming the technology pike this summer, and I am looking forward to helping it all unroll as smoothly as possible. I’ve spent the last 4-6 weeks preparing for this move, and have been immersing myself in leadership, facilitation, and change management literature (as much new software as we’re expecting this summer, I see myself doing as much or more anxiety management as skill training). Beth and I have been brainstorming and I have just been chomping at the bit to get started.

In additional to meeting the immediate operational needs (we’re moving to Lync, Win7, Exchange 2010, and Office 2010 this summer, all at once, yikes!), I’m especially looking forward to some specific things:

  • Working more closely with staff, getting to know their needs, and the ways that technology impacts their work. I’m also oddly looking forward to studying the civil service rules, and identifying  room in them to incentivize training for civil service staff.
  • Working in explicit and defined partnership with IT, in some sense becoming an outreach member of the IT team
  • Trying to implement emerging technology, developing digital branch tools, and trying to make sure we remain relevant and useful are still core goals for me.

This last point is especially important to me.  I’ve become very aware that we (the Library)  can’t evolve and grow into robust providers of the digital infrastructure and outreach environment incoming students will increasingly expect unless all members of the library staff are comfortable in a technologically changeable environment. I don’t know how long I’ll be doing this work, but one of my strongest hopes is that I will be able to work out a way to train for change. Really, I’m just talking information literacy here, or transliteracy, or 21st century skills (whatever you want to call it!). Aimed at adult learners who may see little in it for them, but that’s just a node on the digital divide, and I am so excited to see what I can spin from it!

I’m new to training, and both excited and looking forward to the challenges and opportunities moving ahead. there will be much more in this space as I move into it!


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Post-ACRL resolutions

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

It’s like New Year’s Day.

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

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

Some things on that list:


On Eeyores

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

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

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

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

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desperately seeking easy answer to impossible web design wish

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


A Vision, articulated

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

Learning Commons Vision

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

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

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

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An interesting day

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

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

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

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

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Library Day in the Life, part 5, Monday

Hi! I’m Rudy Leon, Learning Commons Librarian at the University Of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I tweet at rudibrarian, you can get me at that name on AIM as well. I have gotten very sporadic in my blogging, but I’m constantly struck at how different every librarian’s job looks, and am always happy to participate in Library Day in the Life events. For more Library Day in the Life participants, check out the wiki.

Today is my first day back in the office after a week out for research. I’m impressed with how completely I disengaged from the day to day during the past week, but it’s time to dive back in.

I arrive at work a touch after 9, early for my technically 10-6 day. It is now 10:11 and I have sorted through a week’s worth of email (so much easier to do over the summer!), checked over the automated test migration of my calendar (imperfect, but I think I can live with it), cleared time on my calendar for working on my portions of the Undergraduate Library’s Unit Annual report, and made a list of agenda items for my 11:00 meeting with my unit head.

This afternoon I am meeting with our newest staff member to introduce him to our loanable technology cataloging contact and make sure he has all the information he needs for taking on this responsibility. He’s a go-getter, tons of initiative and problem solving, and I am out of my league in understanding the relationships between his solutions and various things Cataloging and I have set up for automated report running and maximizing exposure of the loanable technology items. Cataloging is the area I am least knowledgeable and comfortable with and I wish there was a way I could stay that way and still do my job.

Meeting with Unit Head was productive, some issues around project management and graphic design were resolved, and we strategized how to become a battery recycling point for campus. We also decided to not promote our space as a polling space for the November elections and discussed details surrounding how to set up management of our two large displays, and also agreed on the main points for the inaugural meeting of my Learning Commons Council tomorrow.

Post meeting, I looked over email, dealt with the cataloging (again!) side of my lost DVD replacement workflow, and learned of a hitch in the current year replacement project, which has not yet gotten underway. Sent out an email about that, and then with lunch in hand got back to the computer.

Major emails of the morning included much excitement over the DMCA reinterpretation of Fair Use, finalizing the elections results for two Library committees, setting up a meeting about turning two quiet study rooms into video production booths, selecting protective cases for the iPads.

This afternoon will be the loanable technology cataloging meeting, a meeting to check in with my practicum student about her last two weeks of work, and then 3 blessed hours of work time. I plan to build the agenda for the Learning Commons Council meeting tomorrow, work on my contribution to the Annual report, and deal with some project management details. We’ll see what actually happens…

More later