Officially, my title is Electronic Resources Librarian, but lately I’ve been spending more of my time and energy on gathering and crunching data about our eresources than on anything else. It’s starting to bleed over into the print world, as well. Since we don’t have someone dedicated to managing our print journals, I’ve taken on the responsibility of directing discussions about their future, as well as gathering and providing e-only options to the selectors.
I like this work, but I’ve also been feeling a bit like my role is evolving and changing in ways I’m not entirely cognizant of, and that worries me. I came into this job without clear direction and made it my own, and even though I have a department head now, I still often feel like I’m the driver. This has both positives and negatives, and lately I’ve been wishing I could have more outside direction, in part so I don’t feel so much like I’m doing things that may not have much value to the people for whom I am doing them.
However, on Monday, something clicked. A simple comment about using SAS to analyze the print book collection use over time set all sorts of things firing away in my head. About all I know with SAS is that it’s some sort of data analysis tool, but I realized that I had come up with several of my professional goals for the next year in that moment.
For one, I want to explore whether or not I can learn and use SAS (or SPSS) effectively to analyze our collections (not just print books, as in the example above). For another, I want to explore whether or not I can learn R to more effectively visualize the data I gather.
Maybe some day down the road my title won’t be Electronic Resources Librarian anymore. Maybe some day it will be Data-Crunching Librarian.
Sounds good to me.
Lukas Mathis wrote recently on his blog Ignore the Code about multitasking and what that means for humans versus computers. He made one point that resonated with me:
“The fact that the iPad only lets me see one app at a time often does not help me focus. Instead, it forces me to switch between apps constantly, thus preventing me from focusing on my task. Every time I have to deal with the iPad’s task switching, I’m interrupted.”
I noticed this when I was using the iPad at the last two conferences I attended. It was great for focusing my attention on the speaker and content, because I had to leave the note-taking app and open the Twitter app if I wanted to check on the back channel chatter. However, it was frustrating for that same reason, as it also meant that if I wanted to toss out a pithy quote from the presentation, it meant taking a chance on missing something important while I switched programs.
When I’ve had a laptop or netbook with me for note-taking, switching between programs was a simple keystroke that took a fraction of a second and barely any of my mental focus, and more often than not I could have Twitter and my note-taking program open side-by-side. While I was using only one resource at a time, by being able to switch between them quickly, I could “multi-task” efficiently.
Thankfully, I don’t often have need to do this on a mobile device like the iPad or my Android phone, so right now this isn’t a problem for me. However, if these types of interfaces become the new standard for computing, someone will need to find a way to allow for multiple screens running multiple programs that can be moved between with the flick of a finger. Otherwise, we will have even more problems focusing on the task at hand.
I can’t help feeling disappointed in how quickly folks jumped ship and stayed on the raft even when it became clear that it was just a leaky faucet and not a hole in the hull.
I’ve been seeing many of my friends and peers jump ship and move their social/online bookmarks to other services (both free and paid) since the Yahoo leak about Delicious being in the sun-setting category of products. Given the volume of outcry over this, I was pretty confident that either Yahoo would change their minds or someone would buy Delicious or someone would replicate Delicious. So, I didn’t worry. I didn’t freak out. I haven’t even made a backup of my bookmarks, although I plan to do that soon just because it’s good to have backups of data.
Now the word is that Delicious will be sold, which is probably for the best. Yahoo certainly didn’t do much with it after they acquired it some years ago. But, honestly, I’m pretty happy with the features Delicious has now, so really don’t care that it hasn’t changed much. However, I do want it to go to someone who will take care of it and continue to provide it to users, whether it remains free or becomes a paid service.
I looked at the other bookmark services out there, and in particular those recommended by Lifehacker. Frankly, I was unimpressed. I’m not going to pay for a service that isn’t as good as Delicious, and I’m not going to use a bookmarking service that isn’t integrated into my browser. I didn’t have much use for Delicious until the Firefox extension, and now it’s so easy to bookmark and tag things on the fly that I use it quite frequently as a universal capture tool for websites and gift/diy ideas.
The technorati are a fickle bunch. I get that. But I can’t help feeling disappointed in how quickly they jumped ship and stayed on the raft even when it became clear that it was just a leaky faucet and not a hole in the hull.
I’m currently on a train heading towards Philadelphia. An Acela business class car, no less, and all I’d purchased was a coach class ticket on a regular train. See, there was a problem at Union Station in DC, preventing my train from Richmond from getting there. So, in Alexandria, they recommended we get off at the station, take the metro to Union Station, and board a different train there that was heading in the direction of our destinations. Our tickets would be honored, and all we had to do was pay for the metro ticket.
Here’s where Amtrak did it right. As soon as the folks on my train found out about the delay, they let us know. As soon as they knew it would be longer than the original 45 min estimate, they came through the cars again with the transfer information. Communication was excellent and timely. Then, when we all arrived at Union Station, the information desk was able to quickly route us to the right train.
That was when we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we’d be on an Acela train. Well, at least, I was pleased, because that meant free wifi for the rest of my trip. w00t!
The train is packed to the gills, but the Amtrak employees are unfazed and courteous as ever. Looking at this in contrast to the frazzled and disorganized management of my SFO-MRY canceled United flight last week, I am once again finding myself wishing for an extensive network of high-speed rail for regional transportation in the US. If a company like Amtrak, which everyone seems to expect to fail any day, can provide such excellent customer service compared to most airlines, then imagine how well they would do if they expanded into every major market.
I know I’d be taking the train more often!
I’m sitting on an airplane, headed off on a vacation that I have been looking forward to for months followed by Internet Librarian (IL). The past few days have been a whir of travel preparations and finalizing my presentation.
The process of creating this presentation has been an interesting one for me. I’m a consummate procrastinator, working best under the pressure of a deadline, but with two co-presenters, I felt a sense of guilt over not finishing up sooner. But, it’s done now, and except for a few tweaks based on recommendations from people I respect, all I have left to do is deliver it next Wednesday.
What am I going to be talking about, you ask? Workflow tips and tricks for electronic resources in a small library. Sounds impressive, right?
I must admit, it seemed like a much better idea back when we proposed it six months ago. Not many people have been talking about this at IL/CIL in recent years, so I thought we could bring a fresher topic than ebooks and mobile reference services. And, maybe it will give the non-ER librarians at Internet Librarian an glimpse at what we do, much like the reference and instruction related sessions that I’ve attended in the past have given me a better understanding of that aspect of librarianship.
I have a tendency to learn a new process or workflow and then incorporate it so fully that I forget others may not be familiar with it. It seems so obvious to me now that breaking it out and highlighting the things that create efficiencies is a challenge. I went through several versions of notes and outlines before finally settling on a few broad strokes and listing out some of the successes and failures I’ve had in creating efficiencies within them.
In the process of creating this presentation, I also managed to squash the bug of “but I’m not an expert!” that plagues me every time I think about presenting to my colleagues at the more electronic resources focused conferences like ER&L and NASIG. It made me see that we’re all swimming through this together and learning from each other as we go. Some process that I’ve taken and modified might trigger a colleague to take it and tweak it even more. If I didn’t share that with them, they may never have even realized it was possible.
So, it’s not that I or anyone else who presents or writes on a topic are the “experts” so much as we’re just the ones willing to step out there and share what we know. Honestly, I’m hoping that the feedback or questions I get from the presentation will help generate the projects I’ll be taking on in the next few years.
I have been geocaching off and on for almost seven years now. To be honest, it’s more off than on over the past few. On Saturday, I found cache number 401, which happened to be a nighttime cache. As in, you can only find it after dark.
My friend and fellow cacher tiabih talked me into going by her enthusiasm alone, so with plans made, we met up early in the evening and set off to the Powhatan Wildlife Management Area to find the Powhatan Witch Project cache, about 30 miles west of Richmond. Flashlights in hand, and thankful for the three-quarter moon, we set off down the path.
Tiabih had found a nighttime cache before, so she had an idea of what to look for. On the other hand, I had only heard of them, so I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect. We arrived in a clearing at the first waypoint and began looking for something reflective in the trees. Once we found the marker, it took us a bit to figure out where to go next, as it wasn’t quite what tiabih was expecting. But, soon we headed off in the right direction down the path.
About a half a mile or so of markers led us to a decon box with copies of the instructions for the next stages. Tiabih plugged them into her GPS and off we went. A few turns and coordinates later, we rounded a bend and spotted a tent next to a small fire not 50′ away from the cache location. I think the campers were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. Once we established that neither were serial killers, we found the cache, signed the log and headed back to the car.
The fall night air was cool and crisp, and it wasn’t long into our hike that I took off my fleece jacket and wrapped it around my waist. Although we were under the trees most of the way, we came across a few grassy clearings that opened up a sky full of stars. It was so peaceful and calm in the woods that night – makes me want to get out and do more nighttime hiking!
n. a strong aversion to endless news reporting about friggatriskaidekaphobia on Friday the 13th.
First, some definitions:
triskaidekaphobia n. fear or a phobia concerning the number 13. [source]
friggatriskaidekaphobia n. morbid, irrational fear of Friday the 13th. [source]
friggatriskaidekaphobiarelatusphobia n. a strong aversion to endless news reporting about friggatriskaidekaphobia on Friday the 13th. [source]
Yes, I made up that one.
From CBS to the Huffington Post to National Geographic, it seems that everyone in the news reporting world must drag out the same old tired stories about people that have an irrational fear of the number 13 and how Friday the 13th is an even more fearful day than Friday the 7th or Tuesday the 13th. Personally, I wish they’d just shut up about it already.
Friday the 13th is going to occur anywhere from once to three times a year. It’s frequent enough that it’s no longer news, so stop pretending that it is. Tell me something important that’s happening in the world today, rather than wasting my time and yours.
Article first published as Friggatriskaidekaphobiarelatusphobia, Or “Not Another Friday the 13th Story!” on Blogcritics.
As I was sitting in a CIL2009 session that was essentially something that could have easily been a blog post with a bunch of annotated links, I wondered to myself why this was chosen to be a session over something else, and why I had chosen to attend it rather than something else. I concluded that sometimes I need to have something whack me upside the head to “get it,” and a good presentation is often the best tool to do it.
Kathryn Greenhill writes, “I suspect it’s not that I *know* it all, but that I know how to find out at point of need and that I am more likely to use my human networks than to look back at conference notes or handouts to find out.” I rely heavily on my human networks, both in person and online, to keep me informed of the things I need to know — much more so than professional literature and formal presentations. However, sometimes even those things can spark an idea or clarify something that was previously muddy in my mind. I’m happy to reap the benefits of shared information, regardless of what format is used to deliver it.
That’s all fine and good for me, someone who is only moderately on the side of information creator and more on the side of information consumer, but what about those “shovers and makers” out there who are generating new ideas and, well, shoving and making in libraryland? Greenhill notes that she has “found much, much more value hanging about talking to other presenters than in attending the formal sessions,” and she suggests that rather than cheesy speakers’ gifts, they could instead be given “something to stimulate the presenters’ brains and challenge them.”
I like the idea of this, but I also worry that it has the potential to widen the gap between creators and consumers. I benefit greatly from being able to listen in on the discussions between the speakers in LobbyCon/CarpetCon settings. And, even when I am in sessions that challenge my skill set, I am motivated to expand that skill set, or at the very least, I know more about what I don’t know. I’d rather have that than continue in ignorance.
Greenhill, along with Cindi Trainor and John Blyberg, spent many hours during Computers in Libraries secluded away while crafting The Darien Statements on the Library and Librarians manifesto. The end result is available to us, but I wonder how much more we consumers would have learned by being able to listen in on the process of its creation? Isn’t that part of what the unconference movement is about?
Recently, I went digging through the archives of this blog to locate something I knew had to be there. I didn’t find it, and I suspect that has to do with things getting lost in the conversion from MovableType to WordPress. *sigh*
Anyway, I ended up reading some of the old link round-up posts I made back in the infancy of this blog, and it got me thinking about how much my approach has changed over time. For link blogging, I’ve started using a mix of Delicious bookmarks and Google Reader shared items, and for general “look at this crazy stuff” kinds of things, I use Twitter, FriendFeed, or Facebook.
What’s left for the blog? Well, short reflective pieces like this, for one. And, of course, there’s the conference session summaries and the “what I wrote for Blogcritics” round-ups. Other than that, I am finding that I have things that I want to write about, but I don’t have the time or energy to form them into anything worthy of public consumption.
Honestly, though, the main reason is that I’ve become rather lazy about the care and feeding of this blog. So, for the rest of this month, I’m going to try to write something here at least a few times each week.
This was the first conference I have attended in many years where I did not know hardly any of the other attendees. Aside from my two colleagues and three other attendees, I had little more than a passing conversation with no one else at the conference prior to my arrival in Cincinnati. So, the professional network re-connection aspect was not as prominent for me as it has been at other events. Unfortunately, my shyness also kicked in, which meant I was not as effective in building new connections as I could have been.
The hotel was impressive. The Hilton Netherland Plaza is a historic building in downtown Cincinnati. It opened in 1931 and is a National Historic Landmark, which means that despite the renovations, they have attempted to preserve as much of the original features as possible, including the impressive French Art Deco architecture and art in the main meeting rooms and restaurants. I somehow ended up in a room on the top floor (29th), and it even had a lovely view of the city rather than the typical office building exterior wall view that is most common in downtown hotels.
The sessions I attended were mostly informative, and I particularly liked the Five-minute Madness format — eliminated a lot of the stuff that irritates me in most presentations. However, in general, I was not as impressed with the sessions nor did I take away as much from them as I have from LITA sessions at ALA Annual & Midwinter. I’m not sure if it was the mix of people involved or the presentation topics, but it was a little disappointing. Unfortunately, my cold had kicked into high gear by Sunday, so I ended up skipping the last concurrent session and closing keynote in favor of walking around downtown Cincinnati for some fresh air and sunlight.
I’m glad I attended LITA Forum, because I have been wanting to go for several years now. However, I think that in the future my presence there will be only an occasional thing, most likely when it occurs in locations within driving distance. The technical and interactive side of librarianship that interests me is mostly covered by the sessions at Computers in Libraries, so I think I should expand my horizons to other aspects of librarianship with my valuable and precious conference attendance time and resources.