2014 Parsec Awards finalists are announced!

DragonCon 2013 - Parsec Awards
photo by Kyle Nishioka

As some of you may know, I’ve been on the steering committee for the Parsec Awards for several years now. The awards seeks to celebrate the best in speculative fiction podcasting. If you have an interest in audio fiction of the science fiction, fantasy, horror, and steampunk flavors (just to name a few), then I can recommend nothing better than the current and past lists of finalists and winners.

It took a bit longer than usual for us to listen through and evaluate this year’s round of nominee samples, so I’m happy to announce the finalists for 2014! Check out these podcasts for stories, audio dramas, science behind the stories, and geeking out about favorite speculative fiction content.

why I type my notes

her hands
“her hands” by Vyacheslav Bondaruk

When done with pen and paper, that act involves active listening, trying to figure out what information is most important, and putting it down. When done on a laptop, it generally involves robotically taking in spoken words and converting them into typed text. -Joseph Stromberg, Vox Magazine

Many of you long-time readers know that I take notes of presentations at conferences and post them here. I get lots of thank yous from folks for doing it, and that’s the main reason why I keep posting them publicly. It’s probably obvious, but just to be sure, you should know that I don’t handwrite them and then transcribe them later. I type them out on some sort of mobile computing device (laptop or iPad) and publish them after I do a look-see to make sure there aren’t any egregious errors.

What I don’t do with my typed notes is try to capture every word the speaker says, which is I think the digital note-taking that the author of the above linked article is critiquing. Instead, I actively listen to the speaker, and quickly synthesize their point into a sentence or two.

Sometimes I will quote directly if the phrasing or word choice is particularly poignant, but that’s hard if they are a fast speaker, because I end up missing a lot of what they say next in my attempt to capture it accurately. However, if I wait until they pause before their next point, I usually have enough time to quickly type out the point they just made.

This was an active choice on my part some years ago. I used to take notes with lots of bullet points and half-formed phrases, but they were virtually useless to me later on, and certainly not helpful to anyone who wasn’t there. When I take notes, I think about the audience who will read them later, even if it’s myself.

Which is another reason why I type. My handwriting is terrible, and it gets worse the longer and faster I write. If I want to know what I wrote more than a few hours ago, I need to type it.

So yes, students might get distracted by their neighbor’s laptop, but I think certain researchers will always find some classroom thing that distracts students and recommend we go back to the good old days. Instead, I think we need to work on the skills students (and future meeting attendees) will need in order to use their tools effectively and maintain focus.

If I can do it, surely they can, too.

Reaching New Horizons: Gathering the Resources Librarians Need to Make Hard Decisions

Jenica Rogers
“Jenica Rogers” by Cindi Trainor

Speaker: Jenica Rogers, SUNY Potsdam

She is speaking from the perspective of the librarian. Resources are information, relationships, and identity. Money and human resources are outside of the scope of any speaker, but they follow on to successfully building the other three. If we had all that we needed, decisions wouldn’t be hard. It’s the scarcity that makes them challenging. She will talk about mitigating that scarcity.

The big deals gave us the sense that we can have everything, but the bubble is bursting for most of us. Librarians have to find a way to make change in an environment where everyone else likes the status quo.

“I could never do what you did.” She hears that a lot about many things she’s done, from moving away from ACS bundled purchases to demanding clarity in pricing to licensing terms. She doesn’t think they mean they don’t want to do it, but that they aren’t able to do that. “We can’t rock the boat too much.”

This might be true, but it’s unfair to say “I could never do that.” They could if they want to, but they have to lay the groundwork.

When she first started as a librarian, she was the liaison to the sciences. She asked why their journals cost so much and why they needed them, and they were helpful in providing data and reasons. It made sense for that organization, so she didn’t seek change.

She did the same investigation at her current organization. She saw a need to do some hard things, but her role as collection development librarian didn’t give her the mandate to build the relationships needed.

The first thing we need to do to move beyond just doing the tasks to strategic stuff is to build a framework of what we do and why we do it. We need to know the context we exist in, through awareness of the profession and business at large, publishing cycles and trends, faculty tenure, course deliver, institutional goals, etc. Some frameworks to consider: HEPI 2.1% overall and 8.1% for supplies and materials, research data curation mandates, and Ithaka comparison data.

The second piece is personal. You have to know yourself to be someone to make hard decisions and move forward with confidence in the work you do. Do you know your goals, strengths, and weaknesses? Change starts with you. It’s easy to keep doing what we’re doing. It’s satisfying to do your job very well, but do you know why you do it? Do you know where you fit into the bigger picture?

Your personal capital is based on your reputation and identity. You can burn your capital because you have acquired it through personality and what you’ve done. You need to build that capital in order to make changes. It doesn’t matter why you have your reputation, or what it is, because it’s what you do to get by.

Be the expert on your problem. Gather the data and evidence. Building your capital can be easier if you have the data or expertise to back that up. Sometimes the facts can shout when you can only whisper. Consider gathering data because it’s a communication tool.

Make friends. Ask people about themselves. They like it. It’s an icebreaker that works in every social and professional setting to help you connect with people. If you need to know who to go to when you need help/feedback/support.

Start now. There is no such thing as too early, but too late is real. “I couldn’t do that” really is “I couldn’t do that right now.” All the things you need to do to this you have to acquire/develop before the moment of need. Start gathering the resources immediately so when you reach that point of need, you have something to draw on.

Find common ground. Where do your issues touch your allies’ issues? Every scholar has a different need or approach to their work and resources. If you want to talk to a group knowing they have all those different needs, then you need to find the common ground and link that to the things that matter to you. Your network of allies can be connected far more than you think.

Communicate effectively. We librarians are great at many things, but we are not so good about talking about the things we love to people who don’t love it. Sometimes we need to know when to go for a hard sell or just coffee. Spreadsheets with pie charts might work with one person, but a story is better with another. Casual email vs. letterhead. Do it yourself or delegate. Messages can get lost if the medium and message are out of sync. Consider how you are communicating your message — will it resonate with your audience?

The only thing you can control is yourself. That said, sometimes you have to be reactive. Be prepared to be surprised and respond well.

The time has come for us to consider evolving. The information economy is changing, so we have to do that, too. It will be based on local needs/climate, but there will be change. To do this we need a constant network of support. People who supported us in the print world may not want to support us in this new way, but there are others who will. There are new partners and allies if we go looking for them.

Release fear. Fear makes you defensive. Fear does not make strong partnerships. Fear does not make smart decisions. Fear makes safe decisions.

There are no easy choices, but it’s almost always worth it. In a world of scarcity, it’s never going to get easier. Anyone can do whatever they need to do when faced with a hard decision if they have done the work to build that safety net.

Yer Doin it Wrong: How NOT to Interact with Vendors, Publishers, or Librarians

[This was more of an open discussion with folks from the floor asking questions or making comments. The presenters had a long list of rather leading questions about whether certain behaviors from librarians or vendors were acceptable. Frankly, I wish this session had more focus on tactics and was less of a series of complaints.]

This was a timely capture
“This was a timely capture” by Peretz Partensky

Speakers: Jenni Wilson (SAGE), Anne McKee (GWLA), & Katy Ginanni (Western Carolina University)

Ground rules: Keep comments respectful and anonymous (no personal or company or product names).

McKee thinks it is okay for publishers and vendors to make a fair profit. An unfair profit is where the burden is on the backs of libraries to support the publisher/vendor’s members or corporate demands.

Ginanni thinks it’s a balancing act between dealing with the devil and negotiating the best deal for our users.

McKee says we need to form partnerships with our vendors and find a compromise, including when it comes to fair profit.

Sometimes libraries will hang on to invoices for months because the vendor put additional licensing terms on the back. It’s important for the libraries to communicate to the vendor why. Ginanni suggests we also need to educate our accounts payable offices on the reason why the invoices should be paid in a timely fashion.

Ginanni suggest that if your accounts department or other have trouble understanding our business practices, the phrase “industry standard” can be helpful.

Is it ever appropriate for vendor sales people to go over the head of the acquisitions/collections librarian if they say no? Maybe only if they are being an absolute brick wall or “don’t like” you.

McKee says that librarians are too nice about things and we really need to approach our vendor relationships like a business. If it’s not working out with a sales rep, ask for a new one.

What do you do when a new publisher wants to charge hosting fees for content they acquired that has zero hosting fee licenses? Wilson says that is ridiculous. McKee says point to the license.

McKee says she now prefers RFI to RFP because there is no commitment to purchase something, and allows you to write a broader focus to not inadvertently eliminate relevant products/vendors.

McKee suggests that if a sales rep tells you they will lose their job if you don’t buy their product, then there is probably a bigger issue about their performance than you.

random musings from a serialist