stop worrying and use my smartphone

propaganda poster at the International Spy Museum
Darth Vader?

Yesterday I took the train up from Richmond to Washington to visit with Kathryn Greenhill and family. They’re on a whirlwind holiday spanning the globe, and since it’s not often I get to visit with folks from the other side of the world, I snatched the opportunity to spend most of the day with them.

I learned quite a few things on this visit — from vocabulary like rubbish bins and biscuits (trash cans and cookies, respectively) to how to avoid being uncovered as a secret agent. I also learned that a smartphone and a useful mobile web interface can take a lot of stress out of travel.

After visiting a farmer’s market near DuPont Circle and the Gertrude Stein exhibition in the National Portrait Gallery, we toured the International Spy Museum. The museum is enormous, with displays that bleed from one to the next and never seem to end, until suddenly you find yourself at the exit. We had been there for two hours when it occurred to me that my time was running out.

After we made our way back to the Metro stop and said our goodbyes, I had just enough time to get back to Union Station and catch my train home. Or, I would have, if I had made sure I was going the right direction on the Metro. Two stops later I realized I was on the wrong train, and I assessed my options.

By the looks of things, the correct train wasn’t going to be coming by anytime soon, so I decided to hoof it to DuPont Circle (where I landed instead of Union Station) and catch a cab. Union Station was fairly close, and the cab maybe could get me there in time. Luckily, an available cab pulled up soon after I started looking for one. Not so luckily, we ran into too much traffic and I missed the train.

Normally, this would have prompted a huge breakdown with frustration and tears directed at myself for screwing up. However, by the time we were half-way to the station, I already knew that I would miss the train (it was early and left on the dot), and that there were three more trains going to Richmond this evening, so I’d get home one way or another.

Without my smartphone, and the information it provided me, I would have had to sit in worry and self-directed anger for the long minutes it took to get from DuPont to the Amtrak ticket counter at Union Station. Knowing I had plenty of options meant that worry was unnecessary and avoidable.

My smartphone is a lot of things to me (my calendar, my communications, my social connection) and it’s also the antidote to one of my biggest stress triggers — the unknown.

it’s cold here

This morning, I walked past a young man who was wearing shorts and talking on his cell phone. I was bundled up in my winter gear and still feeling the bite of the below-freezing temperature, and walking as fast as I could to get indoors. As I passed him, I heard him say, “yeah, it’s cold here.”

Dude. It’s almost December and you’re at the North 47th parallel. Of course it’s cold here! Put on a pair of pants, fer cryin’ out loud!

movin’ across the country… again

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

As I indicated a while ago, I have a new job. Starting December 10th, I’ll be the Electronic Resources Librarian at the University of Richmond. They already have me in the staff directory, so it must be true. My time at Central Washington University has allowed me to grow and explore both professionally and personally, and it has given me the knowledge and experience I needed in order to make the decision about where I would like for my career to go.

One major thing has been the realization that I do not have any interest in participating in the tenure process, at least as it stands at Central. I am a practitioner first, and a scholar only in the most liberal sense of the word. I do have a desire to share my knowledge with anyone who is interested – I have had a blog for five years, and it’s not always just a bunch of naval-gazing posts about nothing – but the method of dissemination and the content of that knowledge is not what this university expects from its teacher/scholars, and I suspect that may be true elsewhere, as well.

I want to be a librarian. I want to come into my job every day knowing that the work I do will directly benefit my users. I do not want to spend time outside of my 40 hours worrying about whether or not I will have enough publications in journals no one actually reads (seriously – when was the last time you read a peer-reviewed library publication for anything other than a literature search for your own article or book chapter?) just so I can keep my job.

I can be “just” a librarian at the University of Richmond, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’m also excited about moving back to Virginia. When I left to go to grad school, I thought I’d be back soon. When that didn’t pan out, I gave up that dream. Now I’m going back, albeit not to Harrisonburg, but Richmond is close enough. Plus, I am closer to my family and friends, and it won’t cost me a $400 plane ticket to see them whenever I want to.

The moving process has begun, but I’m starting to freak out a little because I haven’t nailed down an apartment yet, nor have the movers responded to my queries. I do, however, have real moving boxes this time, and once I get some packing tape, I’ll be good to go with the daunting task of sorting through my stuff to determine what comes with me and what stays in Washington.

Anyone need a new-to-you car?

ala annual, part two — washington, d.c.

The Blog Salon was definitely the highlight of the social events at ALA. I met a few new interesting folk, as well as got to chat with a few folks I had met previously.

I had an illuminating conversation with an advocate for games in libraries who gave me a different perspective of gamer society, particularly how casual games fit in. My skills with the console and arcade games of the 80s and early 90s were rudimentary at best, and I haven’t tried anything since then. He let me play a basic game on his portable game device that was fairly simple to pick up and learn without instructions. Sure, the first person shooters and “twitch” games, as he called them, are quite popular, but “casual” games have been booming as well.

Come to think of it, thanks to Blogcritics, I’ve had a chance to play with and review a few casual games over the past year, and by his definition, that makes me a gamer. Weird. Anyway, it has me thinking of how we could use games as a way of making the library a friendlier place for our students, and what kinds of games would work with some of the general education curriculum.

Continue reading “ala annual, part two — washington, d.c.”

graduate assistantships available

The James E. Brooks Library faculty announce a graduate assistantship program for individuals who already have an MLS, or equivalent, and who desire a second subject master degree.

Graduate Assistantships Available
The James E. Brooks Library
Central Washington University
2007-2008

The James E. Brooks Library faculty announce a graduate assistantship program for individuals who already have an MLS, or equivalent, and who desire a second subject master degree. This unique two-year program allows an individual to study in any of eighteen graduate programs while gaining valuable professional experience in an academic library. Ideal for new or experienced tenure-seeking librarians, candidates must apply to the graduate school and be accepted into a program prior to being accepted as a paid library graduate assistant.

The assistantship is really two programs; an opportunity to gain valuable professional experience under the tutelage of professional librarians while getting that second, often necessary, advanced degree required at many academic libraries. For experienced librarians this assistantship is also two programs; a chance to advance by studying for an advanced degree while renewing and recharging one’s self during an extended leave of absence. Total benefits include a stipend of $7,120, plus paid tuition, medical insurance and health center fees equaling approximately $13,888 per academic year. Summer study and employment opportunities may also be available.

Opportunities are available for candidates to gain professional experience in reference, instruction, library technology and systems, technical services, outreach, archives and record management, government publications, maps, assessment and research.

Application and queries may be initiated by contacting Dr. Thomas M. Peischl, Dean of Library Services at peischl@cwu.edu, or by telephone at (509) 963-1901, or by mail at The James E. Brooks Library, 400 East University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926.

Central Washington University
The James E. Brooks Library
The Office of Graduate Studies and Research

ala midwinter seattle day one

How much swag is too much swag?

I arrived in Seattle yesterday around noon, thankfully without incident. I opted for taking the shuttle rather than taking my chances that the pass would be okay both going and returning. Plus there’s the whole finding and affording parking in downtown Seattle.

After getting checked into my hotel room, I went up to the convention center and picket up my badge holder and packet. ALA has got this conference thing down to a science, it seems. I haven’t been to an ALA conference since 2002, and I had forgotten how organized it is. The signage is very helpful and well placed.

My first official event was the Innovative Users Group meeting. The first part was all about the upcoming IUG meeting in Chicago, which I’m not attending, so it wasn’t of much interest. I took that time to make use of the free wifi and catch up on email. After that, Dinah Sanders did a presentation about III’s upcoming “discovery services platform” called Encore. It looks really good – lots of Library/Web 2.0 widgets done in a helpful and tasteful way. It’s not meant to be a replacement for the OPAC, just a different layer for delivering resources for basic information needs. Seems like something public and undergraduate libraries would find very useful, if they can afford to purchase the product. Knowing the pricing that tends to come with these things, it may take a while for it to catch on, no matter how cool (and useful) it may be.

After that, I attended the author’s forum. It featured three science fiction and fantasy authors talking about the rise of sf/f since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They all agreed that the premise of the talk is a bit off, since sf/f was already on the rise when that happened, but that world events leading to the attacks and the rise in popularity of sf/f are linked. Two good reasons are that sf/f presents a relatively non-threatening way of discussing current problems and possible solutions, and that readers are able to escape (in a good way) for a little while to a world where at some point there will be a resolution of something. Of course, depending on the series and author (*cough*Robert Jordan*cough*) that resolution may not come at the end of the book.

The grand opening of the vendor hall followed the author’s forum. This was yet another ALA conference — specifically ALA midwinter conference — event that I was not prepared for. Apparently this is a free-for-all get as much swag as you can while chowing down on the finger food event. I now know to leave the laptop in my room along with my heavy winter coat before embarking on that quest. By the time my group was ready to go to dinner, I was dragging from the weight in my bag, and I really didn’t take much of the swag.

behind the lens

I just uploaded my first video to YouTube. It’s is a very shaky video I made with my Canon PowerShot A70. It’s what you see driving I-82 south as you come over the pass into the Selah/Yakima area. You can see the snow-tops of Mt. Adams and Mt. Ranier.

An Interview with Susan Werner

“I believe that we can be a diverse society of extraordinary creativity and innovation and vitality and freedom, and those things are the best things that we can be.”

Susan Werner, PatriotMy introduction to the music of Susan Werner was in the fall of 1999 when a friend who produced a local acoustic music radio show lent me copies of Time Between Trains and Last of the Good Straight Girls. I was instantly enchanted with the sincerity and wit that Werner brings to her music. Her last album was a thematic collection of songs that sound like they are from the 20s and 30s, but are all orginal and new. Recently, Werner made available for download a song she describes as an alternative national anthem. “This is a song that takes the National Anthem and turns it on his head,” says Werner. “It’s Francis Scott Key meets Arlo Guthrie.” I had the pleasure of speaking with Werner about the song a few weeks ago.

Continue reading “An Interview with Susan Werner”

the pen

Music for the literate masses.

John McCutcheon - Mightier Than the SwordBefore I listened to Mightier Than the Sword, my experience with John McCutcheon’s music consisted of one track from his 1987 Step by Step, which featured the hammer dulcimer. The song is “Babylon is Fallen,” which is an old Sacred Harp tune, and one of my favorites to sing. When I bought that CD some years ago, I was singing with a shape note group in Kentucky. Now I’m in Washington, surprised to discover that this hammer dulcimer player is also a guitar-playing contemporary singer/songwriter of repute.

Mightier Than the Sword first attracted my attention because of its theme. McCutcheon has been a voracious reader for most of his life, and the themes from the books he read found their ways into his songs. For this recording, he took that a step further and collaborated with willing authors to write a collection of songs inspired by a particular book or poem of each author. I haven’t read any of the works that inspired this recording, but after having listened to it, I feel like I know the essences of them.

Continue reading “the pen”