“Reading” by Stefano Corso
I’ve had lot more time on my hands over the past few days than I usually do. The University is closed, and I’ve been on a paid holiday since last week. I returned from visiting family on Saturday, and since then my time has pretty much been my own. This has involved mid-day naps, lounging in pajamas, and reading.
Normally, I don’t have much in the way of true leisure time, in part because I don’t allow it. On the occasions when I have found myself with “nothing to do,” I quickly get stir-crazy and regret not planning something in advance. I worried that might happen this week, but I had plenty of house projects if I felt inclined to tackle them, so I knew I’d be okay. What has surprised me, however, is how I was able to slip into a mode of relaxation I haven’t be in for a long time.
A big part of that has been trying desperately to at least get to half my 2013 reading goal before midnight last night. 2012 was a good year for me and books — I read 27 that year, starting at a goal of 25, so I figured I could make the goal of 30 this year. I didn’t anticipate eventually taking on music director responsibilities at WRIR in late spring, a job that consumes most of what remained of my downtime. As of last week, I had read only 11 books in 2013. The time off over the past few days coupled with a road trip (yay audiobooks!) helped me cover the ground and hit 15 in time. You can see what a motley crew they were on my GoodReads page.
I prefer to read my fiction cover to cover in one sitting, unless it takes more than four hours. I’m a pretty fast reader, doing about a hundred pages an hour of your typical mass market paperback, so four hours or more makes for a long book. I prefer to read my non-fiction in audiobook format, where stops and starts don’t interrupt the narrative too much, and having someone talk at me makes me pay better attention to the words. Given those conditions, and the types of nonfiction and fiction I prefer, it’s not always very easy for me to find something I’m interested in at the moment, and far too easy to choose a podcast or a project instead of reading. I’m not making excuses — I’m just working to understand myself better so I know how I can “trick” myself into making the time and space for books.
But why? What’s so important about reading? Funny thing for a librarian to ask, don’t you think?
Reading books was a huge part of my identity as a kid. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my bed, propped up on my elbows, mind far away in the story in front of me. Relations with my younger sister were tense after years of yelling at her to leave me alone when she would come in my room, looking for a playmate. Even then, I didn’t like to interrupt the story. We’re friends now, and ironically, she’s more of a reader than I these days (she read 80 in 2013, with an original goal of 75).
I distinctly remember when I stopped craving books and reading regularly. It was the year I went to graduate school for my MLIS. The coursework demanded so much reading, and I was taking four classes a semester instead of the usual three course full load, that after a while, I took more pleasure in not reading a book, using my time for other leisure activities. I recognized this shift a long time ago, but the new hobbies and interests didn’t go away, either, so I’ve struggled to make time for both.
I’ve winnowed down my book collection regularly over the years. I still acquire new ones, particularly hardcovers I plan to keep forever, but the discount books and mass market paperbacks I picked up over the years because they looked interesting have had to survive several severe weeding projects to remain on my shelves. And so many of them remain unread. At times it feels like a weight around my neck, dragging me down. At other times, it’s so overwhelming that I can’t choose what to read from among them, so I keep whittling it down, becoming more selective, and also having fewer to pack with each house move.
Books still remain important to me. Stories rattle around in my mind long after I have finished reading them. I don’t need their escape as much as I did as a kid, thankfully. But, I do appreciate the mind-expanding properties they offer.
So, I continue to set annual reading goals, striving to meet them, and struggling to not feel like I’ve failed when I don’t. The last thing I want to do is to turn this into a chore or assignment, which is what turned me off from reading all the time in the first place.
One of my pet peeves with Excel is how it will reformat (or try to reformat) data in cells based on what it thinks it should be. For example, if you save a file as csv with a date in the format of mmm-yy, the next time you open it the dates will become d-mmm, where the year was transposed to the day of the month. Drives me crazy, because the only way I’ve found to prevent it is to make sure that the dates are mmm-yyyy before I save the file again, which means a lot of repetitive editing when I’m normalizing a large number of reports.
I haven’t been working much with COUNTER book reports for assessment of ebook use until recently, when it seems we’ve started to tip towards increasing ebook use (and purchasing) at my library, so now I’m looking at them and ingesting them into my use assessment tool.
ISBN is too long
I tended to avoid the COUNTER book reports before because if I needed to edit the file, it was a hassle to get it to open in Excel without converting the ISBNs to display (and subsequently save) as 978E+12 if they didn’t contain dashes or something else to indicate to Excel that it should be treated as text and not a long integer. (Don’t get me started on the publishers who remove the dash in the ISSN, screwing up all the numbers that begin with 0 when opened in Excel.)
One way to deal with this is to select the column and choose Text to Columns in the Data tab. Click on through the menu until you get to the end where you can select the format as text. Miraculously, the full numbers display in the column (regardless of column size) and won’t save as 978E+12 if you hadn’t done that.
Alternatively, I’ve started opening the files in a text editor first, then finding and replacing all “978″ with “978-”. This forces Excel to automatically treat the data as text instead of a long integer, and doesn’t need to be corrected every subsequent time the file is opened and edited.
How do you handle this?
“The law of two feet” by Deb Schultz
This is going to be long and not my usual style of conference notetaking. Because this was an unconference, there really wasn’t much in the way of prepared presentations, except for the lightening talks in the morning. What follows below the jump is what I captured from the conversations, often simply questions posed that were left open for anyone to answer, or at least consider.
Some of the good aspects of the unconference style was the free-form nature of the discussions. We generally stayed on topic, but even when we didn’t, it was about a relevant or important thing that lead to the tangents, so there were still plenty of things to take away. However, this format also requires someone present who is prepared to seed the conversation if it lulls or dies and no one steps in to start a new topic.
Also, if a session is designed to be a conversation around a topic, it will fall flat if it becomes all about one person or the quirks of their own institution. I had to work pretty hard on that one during the session I led, particularly when it seemed that the problem I was hoping to discuss wasn’t an issue for several of the folks present because of how they handle the workflow.
Some of the best conversations I had were during the gathering/breakfast time as well as lunch, lending even more to the unconference ethos of learning from each other as peers.
Anyway, here are my notes.
Continue reading #ERcamp13 at George Washington University
my favorite sign in the library
Not long after I started working at the University of Richmond, a coworker told me that most people stay at the University for five years or forever. At the time, five years seemed like a really long time to be anywhere, and I wasn’t sure if I’d ever stay in one place for the rest of my career.
I’d had two professional, post-graduate jobs at that point, neither of which lasted more than three years, for various reasons. I took this one because I liked what I saw when I interviewed, and because it was in the part of the country where I wanted to live. And, as much as I enjoyed the work environment and collegiality (particularly compared to the previous job), I was not going to commit to anything more than my three years.
The first year is the honeymoon. The second is when things get real. The third is when I decide if I want to keep going or try something new.
The path to what has now been five and a half years was… interesting, to say the least. And not without a good helping of uncertainty. Just as I would be getting comfortable with the organizational structure and my job expectations, someone would come by and upset the book truck, so to speak.
I’ve just completed a long period of uncertainty, and while things are not yet entirely settled, it’s finally dawned on me that I have the power to determine, or at least guide, the outcome of this uncertainty, which I’ve never been in (or realized I was in) the position to do before. It also helps that there are some clear dates for when change will have to happen. I always function better with a schedule.
As I enter into the second half of my sixth year here, I don’t want to go anywhere else, and that’s a good feeling to have. Sure, there are still unknowns that could change things. Something could happen to my boss and his replacement could be horrible. My coworkers could leave and be replaced with difficult people. I might fall in love with someone on the other side of the world and decide to move there. It’s all possible, albeit unlikely.
It’s not the best job in the world, or the most perfect library, and I certainly could do with less humidity in the summer, but it’s better (for me) than any place I’ve ever been, and better than most of the horror stories I hear from colleagues elsewhere. Sometimes, when you know how bad bad can be, good enough is good enough. Sometimes good enough is all you need to make it awesome.
“soccer practice” by woodleywonderworks
Speaker: Daryl Yang
Despite how popular Apple products are today, they almost went bankrupt in the 90s. Experts believe that despite their innovation, their lack of collaboration led to this near-downfall. iTunes, iPod, iPad — these all require working with many developers, and is a big part of why they came back.
Microsoft started off as very open to collaboration and innovation from outside of the company, but that is not the case now. In order to get back into the groove, they have partnered with Nokia to enter the mobile phone market.
Collaboration can create commercial success, innovation, synergies, and efficiencies.
The amount of information generated now is vastly more than has ever been collected in the past. It is beyond our imagination.
How has library work changed? We still manage collections and access to information, but the way we do so has evolved with the ways information is delivered. We have had to increase our negotiation skills as every transaction is uniquely based on our customer profile. We have also needed to reorganize our structures and workflows to meet changing needs of our institutions and the information environment.
Deloitte identified ten key challenges faced by higher education: funding (public, endowment, and tuition), rivalry (competing globally for the best students), setting priorities (appropriate use of resources), technology (infrastructure & training), infrastructure (classroom design, offices), links to outcomes (graduation to employment), attracting talent (and retaining them), sustainability (practicing what we preach), widening access (MOOC, open access), and regulation (under increasing pressure to show how public funding is being used, but also maintaining student data privacy).
Libraries say they have too much stuff on shelves, more of it is available electronically, and it keeps coming. Do we really need to keep both print and digital when there is a growing pressure on space for users?
The British Library Document Supply Centre plays an essential role in delivering physical content on demand, but the demand is falling as more information is available online. And, their IT infrastructure needs modernization.
These concerns sparked conversations that created UK Research Reserve, and the evaluation of print journal usage. Users prefer print for in-depth reading, and HSS still have a high usage of print materials compared to the sciences. At least, that was the case 5-6 years ago when UKRR was created.
Ithaka S+R, JISC, and RLUK sent out a survey to faculty about print journal use, and they found that this is still fairly true. They also discovered that even those who are comfortable with electronic journal collections, they would not be happy to see print collections discarded. There was clearly a demand that some library, if not their own, maintain a collection of hard copies of journals. Libraries don’t have to keep them, but SOMEONE has to.
It is hard to predict research needs in the future, so it is important to preserve content for that future demand, and make sure that you still own it.
UKRR’s initial objectives were to de-duplicate low-use journals and allow their members to release space and realize savings/efficiency, and to preserve research material and provide access for researchers. They also want to achieve cultural change — librarians/academics don’t like to throw away things.
So far, they have examined 60,700 holdings, and of that, only 16% has been retained. They intend to keep at least 3 copies among the membership, so there was a significant amount of overlap in holdings across all of the schools.