End of the Quarter Thoughts and Some Design Fun

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have something wonderful planned for this weekend. Hard to believe we are already through more than a week of June. The time really does fly, though I know I’m hoping for it to slow down a bit as we head into summer. It is almost the end of the quarter here, grades are due next week, and commencements are happening this weekend. So I wanted to share a few thoughts on the end of the quarter and, of course, some design fun.

The end of this term marks nine years of teaching at my university, which also means I’ve taught first-year freshmen for nine years. The years have flown by, yet at the same time it seems like I’ve been teaching forever. Many of you can empathize with the conflicting feeling about how time feels, especially with regards to work. I’m in no way an expert, yet, in teaching and I find myself questioning more every year as I research, practice, and reflect to become better. But even as I continue to learn and grow, which we all should do as teachers (and I’d argue all librarians and archivists are teachers), I have a few thoughts to share that have helped me through the wonderful highs and inevitable lows of teaching, especially with this past quarter.

This past quarter was a rough one for most of the instructors I talked with, both inside and outside my department, for a multitude of reasons. But even when it seems like the world is tilting the wrong way and there are a dozen other things competing for my time and attention, when I’m in the classroom I’m there 100%. It doesn’t mean we don’t acknowledge what else is happening–it is crucial, especially in a class on information literacy–but it can’t overwhelm so that I’m not there, present (really present) for my students. Creating a place of calm, of discussion, of learning, of sanity was vital this quarter.

By spring quarter, many of my first-year students were already overwhelmed and ready to check-out for summer. But creating an orderly space, creating trust, and setting expectations gave my students who made use of the class a place where they could take ownership over their learning and create some control over what is often an uncontrollable total experience in life (and in the academy). Getting students to engage is always the hardest hurdle to jump, but once they do, once they feel like it is important, then the rest is so much easier.

One constant from all my classes is that reflection is one of the most effective and powerful tools for teaching that I’ve found. When I first had students start writing weekly reflections years ago, I had a number of colleagues who told me it was a waste of time. Students would just parrot whatever I said in class and wouldn’t take it seriously. They would write whatever they thought I wanted to read, I was told. None of that turned out to be true. While some students don’t complete their reflections (you can’t make anyone do anything they don’t want to do, even if points are attached), most diligently complete them each week and are honest (sometimes brutally) about what they learned, how they’ve found it useful (or not), and what concerns they have moving forward. It has been one of the best ways I’ve found to get my students to review what they’ve learned and to find sticky points to improve in future classes.

Finally, I’ve had to accept that there is no perfect lesson, no perfect assignment, no perfect thing I can say that will reach all my students to get them to engage and succeed in my class. I can try a dozen different ways to explain, to connect, to help, but if a student doesn’t want to come to class or do the work, in the end I have little to no control over that. We can’t make anyone do anything; we can only guide and support. So I’ve had to let go of taking it personally when students don’t hand in assignments or answer my emails. I’ve had to learn not to take it as a personal failing when a student doesn’t pass my class. If I’ve done everything I can to support a student and they haven’t accepted my support, there is nothing else I can do. This continues to be the most frustrating and disappointing aspect of teaching, but I’m learning to live with it and focus on the vast majority of students that do see the value in the course and want to learn.

Those are just a few of my jumbled thoughts through the haze of grading. Perhaps there will be more later, perhaps not. But now, let’s get into some design fun before we head out for the weekend.

A new month means new desktop wallpapers and Smashing Magazine doesn’t disappoint with June Desktop Wallpapers.

Also, there’s another lovely, free icon set available for your summer designing needs: Geometric UI Icons

Plus, a longer read from Smashing Magazine, Make ‘Em Shine: How to Use Illustrations to Elicit Emotions

I hope you have a wonderful day and weekend filled with good reads, good friends, and some good food. I hope you have something fantastic to design or to make that makes your heart lighter. And I hope that you have some lovely summer plans. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes.

Not Teaching Cynicism

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had another lovely week. It is hard to believe we are almost halfway through May. While I am looking forward to the summer, I’m not sure that I’m ready for so much of the year to be over. My list of things I want to do this year is long and it would be nice to have a pause button so I could make some more progress (and have time to nap!). Be that as it may, today I want to share something that is a bit different than my usual design inspiration (though there is some of that as well at the end), but something important and at the fore of my mind this term–not teaching cynicism.

So as many know, while I love graphic design and apply what I know to helping my library visually communicate whenever I have the chance, I wasn’t hired by my library as a graphic design librarian. I was hired, like my colleagues, as a liaison librarian who has responsibilities for teaching our required, freshmen, information literacy class (among many other duties). Because of this, I spend a lot of time thinking, creating, facilitating, helping, and reflecting on the teaching and learning of information literacy. This year, more than most, has been a struggle to model and teach skepticism versus cynicism. But it is more important than ever for my students and myself.

As I’ve been teaching now for almost nine years, I’ve of course changed a lot of how I teach as is natural. And two things that I focus on much more now than when I was so very new to teaching are: reflection and evaluation. Reflection comes easily for my students and, in contradiction to some colleagues who thought it would be otherwise, students are very–sometimes surprisingly–honest in their reflections. Their reflections on their learning, which I have them complete weekly, help them to review what they’ve learned and how they can apply it and help me figure out what needs review, refinement, and revision in our time together.

Reflection is too often overlooked, in our hurry-hurry world, but it helps in teaching & learning and graphic design. And it keeps me from falling into being cynical about the world. And cynicism helps neither teaching nor learning.

Another counter to cynicism is remaining skeptical and knowing how to evaluate claims, sources, and well, really anything. Evaluation of sources has been one of the most difficult concepts for my students over the years. It is a new way of thinking and interacting with information for them, but it is an empowering way of interacting with information. I challenge them to question and critique, but also to stay away from the pit of cynicism. This is hard because every day the news brings something that hits home for us: rising tuition, questions of employment, concerns about housing, whether their voice matters, and everything else that keeps a lot of us up at night or in the early hours of the morning wondering what happened to kindness and empathy and caring.

So we talk about how hard it is to stay positive and willing to engage with school and life. We read research on what we can do that has a positive impact on our lives as students and as engaged humans. And we support each other when it is difficult because I have to model skepticism for them if I expect them to live it, too. And that balance of skepticism and do something in the face of cynicism is a hard thing for any of us to do, but it’s important.

What does any of this have to do with graphic design? I don’t know about you, but trying to communicate from a place of cynicism doesn’t work for me. There is no joy there, no creativity, no ability to connect and communicate visually. So I walk back from that edge and continue creating and teaching because for me that is the only way through. By caring, I can create. And by creating, I can connect. And by connecting, I can overcome cynicism and remain skeptical, but engaged. I and my students can’t ignore the problems and challenges in the world, but we can come together and ensure we don’t add to the cynicism that does nothing to change it.

Whether at the reference desk, in the classroom, or in your designs, I ask you choose skepticism over cynicism. And I hope you find inspiration to connect and create because we all need you to.

Now, as promised, the design inspiration. New-ish month means new May Inspiration and May Desktop Wallpapers from Smashing Magazine. Hope they inspire some new work for you, too.

I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Allons-y!

Teaching at the End of Summer

Happy Friday, dear readers! I know the blog has been quiet this last month. This is mainly due to my co-teaching in our Summer Bridge Program. Next week is the last week of the program, which is bittersweet. It has been a blast teaching, but also exhausting. After the program is over, there is less than 3 weeks before we begin our fall quarter. So today, I just want to reflect a bit about this busier than I expected summer and some ideas that may be of use to you in your teaching.

So What is Summer Bridge?
For those who are not familiar with the program, Summer Bridge is part of EOP (Educational Opportunity Program) designed to help first-generation, low income, and/or historically disadvantaged students successfully make the transition to the university. At my university, Summer Bridge is an intensive five-week program with classes in math, information literacy, foundations, and ethnic studies or biological sciences (depending on student interest). The students are in class from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm five days a week. Although we all know that five weeks can’t completely prepare students for fall quarter, it can help them feel more comfortable at the university, make friends, learn how to interact with faculty and staff members, and get a leg up when it comes to navigating classwork in the fall.

So What’s the Library’s Role?
My colleague, Gr Keer, and I designed and currently teach the library’s class in Summer Bridge. We have 40 students twice a week for two hours at a time. The course is designed as a pre-LIBY 1210 course, which is the information literacy course required of all first-year, undergraduate students. We’ve covered searching the library catalog, finding textbooks, introduction to databases, identifying information sources, reading citations, evaluating information, information privacy, copyright, and more. I see our role as getting the students more comfortable with accessing and using library resources, understanding that the librarians are here to help them with their research, and reversing any negative reactions they have to libraries and librarians.

So Why Am I a Part of Summer Bridge? (Or, Why Be Exhausted for 5 weeks When I Could Be Catching Up on Research and Writing?)
I’m a part of Summer Bridge because I believe it is the most important thing I could be doing with my time in the summer. I believe that these students, my students, deserve support in transitioning to college and that librarians are some of the best people to help them with this transition. We’re all about helping and supporting students. That’s what libraries and librarians do! Plus, it is a fantastic way to connect more deeply with our fantastic EOP leaders and promote the library as the go-to help point for students when they are researching during the upcoming hear. Plus, I love teaching and teaching in Summer Bridge is one of the places that I feel I can make the most positive impact on our students. Working with upper-division and graduate students can be loads of fun, but I don’t feel like I can make as great an impact on them as with the students in Summer Bridge or in the freshmen classes I teach during the academic year.

Having an impact makes the exhaustion worth it. Makes the hours I could have used to write up my research papers and finish analyzing more data worth it. Seeing and hearing students become passionate about information privacy, understand how to find a book for their class, or find the courage to answer a question in a class discussion for the first time makes it worth it.

So my summer will be over soon and the craziness of the academic year will start up. Could I have gotten more research done on graphic design in libraries if I didn’t devote hours to prepping and teaching Summer Bridge? Sure, but I still managed to get research done anyway this summer. Could I have finished processing another collection in the archives if I hadn’t been expending energy getting students excited about using Boolean Operators? Sure, but the collections aren’t going anywhere.

Everything we do in our work and our lives is a trade-off and goodness knows I’ve made choices that definitely weren’t worth the trade-off. But I can 100% say that teaching in Summer Bridge was and is totally worth any opportunity costs this summer. And I hope to see some of my students in my information literacy classes in the coming year.

I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have a lovely weekend planned, dear readers. I’m hoping to be back soon with more news, thoughts, and notes. Allons-y!

Thoughts on Getting Class Ready for Fall

Happy Friday, dear readers! Can you believe we are already at the start of August? I can’t. This means that I have a month and some change until Fall Quarter starts, which means I really need to get my class ready. I always revamp my class quite a lot during the summer based on feedback and observations from the previous year’s teaching. This coming year, I’m teaching in a new first-year experience cluster, Taking Charge of Your Life: Balance, which I’m very excited about and today I wanted to share a few thoughts about getting my class ready for fall.

First, I love revamping my classes. It is what allows me to integrate new, relevant content and examples for my students and, equally importantly, it keeps me from being bored teaching introduction to information literacy classes every year. I also love teaching, so that helps, too. While I tweak my classes between quarters, there isn’t enough time to do huge overhauls so those have to wait until summer. Then I have the headspace and the time to map out my ten-week class and figure out what to keep and what to change.

I’ve been teaching in the flipped classroom model for the past two years and it has been really a good change. Having lecture material as homework, mainly in the form of video tutorials, has freed up classroom time for activities and discussion. Students, overall, really like being able to review the videos to help them with their work. But not everything has gone perfectly. This year, I’m adding back in a few more traditional homework assignments as I’ve found students need more practice with certain concepts and this practice needs to be graded so the majority of my students will complete the work.

I’m also excited that I get to teach the information literacy class within the larger cluster focused on balance and making conscious decisions about your life. I’m looking forward to learning a lot from my students and being able to share some of the things that allow me to have a fulfilling and balanced (to the best of my ability) life. I’m also super-excited because it means I get to share a lot of TED Talks. So excited. I’m hoping to use the TED Talks as introductory discussion topics with my students for each class. I’ll let you know.

So what gets you excited about teaching or presenting or sharing what you know with others? If you teach, how do you go about revamping your classes or orientation sessions? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Finally I want to leave you with a TED Talk that I’m planning on sharing with my class in fall quarter. Hopefully it will inspire some of them.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

Teaching Digital History: Or, Out of My Comfort Zone

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope your week went well and you have a lovely weekend planned. Today I want to share some of my experiences from the last quarter, especially about being outside of my comfort zone in my teaching duties. This spring quarter I taught a digital history class that I had created for the history department for the first time and it was both completely fun and completely terrifying at the same time. Let me explain.

I was asked last year by the chair of our history department if I would like to create a digital history methods course. Of course, I said yes! After checking out as many digital history course syllabi as I could find online and digging through lots of literature I began to draw up a syllabus with input from the history chair. We wanted the course to combine theory and practice so the students would get an opportunity for hands-on work as well as getting a grounding in the theory of digital history and current discussions surrounding digital history. After a few iterations of the syllabus, we had a course that we thought would be good so we were able to put it forward to be approved for the next academic year. Happily, the approval process was fairly straightforward and we were on our way for having it taught this spring quarter.

I’ve taught for six years on campus, but I was totally terrified (and excited) to be teaching for the history department a brand new course with non-first year students. But after a bit of shuffling of students in the first few weeks of the course, we settled into the groove of the course and got into the discussions and work of the digital history project. After reviewing the students’ course evaluations, which were overwhelmingly positive, I can’t wait to see where the history department takes their digital history courses next. I just wanted to share a few thoughts about my experience and how it helps in all my work.

First Thought: Just because you are talking with someone in an allied field doesn’t mean they know or understand your field.

This was one idea that has really stuck with me after teaching a digital history course. I really wanted the course to be cross-disciplinary, so I challenged my students to read outside of their comfort zone of history articles and texts. We read articles in Science on using big data for research, library science articles, articles written by archivists studying historians, and more. Some of the students talked in class and wrote about how it really pushed them and was hard at first to understand these other fields. Many of the history majors talked about how they weren’t aware of what archivists did or that anyone was studying how historians used archives. It was really interesting for me to figure out how to translate research from different fields and get students excited to learn about things outside of the history field and see the interconnections that they could use as they go out and become teachers, public historians, etc.

Second Thought: Digital History is always changing so it’s okay to experiment, too

As anyone who works with me knows, I like to have plans and to be prepared for class before the quarter starts. I’m happy improvising up to a point, but winging an entire class doesn’t work for me. Happily, I found a middle ground with this class. While the main bones of the course were all settled before the term started so the students knew overall what to expect, we were able to experiment and improvise with parts of the course so that we could focus on issues that were of interest to the students. It was great to be able to pull in new online videos and articles into the class discussions and readings that would make our learning richer. Some sites didn’t work when we tried to use them in class, other sites seemingly disappeared. Sometimes things that looked easy from the help tutorials turned out to be crazy hard and other times things that looked hard turned out to be easy. Being open to experimentation is key, which leads me to my next thought.

Third Thought: Being uncomfortable is a part of learning and having a supportive environment allows us to work through it

Many of my students talked to me about their difficulties working through some of the new theory presented, some of the technical specifications we talked about, and trying to create online projects instead of writing a research paper. There were definitely moments of discomfort and stretching in class, but that is what learning is about. We have to challenge ourselves to keep learning, to find new ways to communicate history, and to find new ways of engaging with others. While learning may be uncomfortable at times, it was my job as the instructor to maintain a supportive environment for learning, for making mistakes, and for ultimately creating some awesome digital history projects.

My time teaching this course was an amazing experience. I learned a lot that I want to incorporate into my other courses and I hope that I have a chance to collaborate with our awesome history department and students some more in the future. So, I guess what I’m saying is that while the students may have been challenged, I was challenged, too, and learned so much. It was a tiring, fun, terrifying, and invigorating class and term. I can’t wait to see what the next academic year brings.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back soon with some more news and notes. Allons-y!

Paper and Thought

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are well and had a lovely week. We have finished up final exam week here on campus and it is just about time for quarter break and summer session. I love summer as it is a time to reflect, catch up, and generally get things done without being pulled a million different ways. Today I wanted to share some interesting articles on paper and thought, which may sound a bit odd since this is a blog, but I love paper and handwriting, as well as interesting studies, so I thought it may be of interest to some of you, too.

I thought this was an interesting summary on Lifehacker of some research about how we might consider taking notes by hand to remember information longer. This is something to keep in mind as people keep lugging laptops, phones, and tablets along to meetings to take notes instead of a notepad and pen. I seem to remember things I’ve handwritten better than those I’ve typed, so this works for me. I wonder what your experience is with paper versus digital notetaking.

In a similar vein, Wired has an article on reading on screen versus paper. This is especially relevant to teachers and librarians as many of us have mandates to buy more ebooks and etextbooks at our libraries, which may be a boon for some students, but not for others. I think it will be very interesting to see where we go with paper books versus digital books in the coming years. Do you have a preference for reading on screen versus on paper? I love the convenience of ebooks, especially when traveling, but prefer paper when I’m using a book for research or am curled up reading at home.

Finally, for fun, check out this lovely flowchart by Derangement and Description, “Will Digitization Solve My Problem?”. I think all archivists, librarians, and others involved in digitization projects can relate to this. I think about this a lot when I’m trying to explain the true scope of digitization projects to people on campus.

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers! I’ll be back soon with more news and notes. Allons-y!

A Day in the Life of an Academic Librarian

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well. It has been another busy week here on campus, but I’m excited because we are finally getting some rain and I also get to read my students’ rough drafts today so hopefully that will be fun. Today I just thought I’d write a bit about life as an academic librarian as it may be useful for LIS graduates considering academic librarianship. So here we go!

In July of this year I will have been working as an academic librarian for six years. I can hardly believe that it has been that long already and am excited for the next six years. Along the way I have learned a thing or two about being an academic librarian and as I love sharing information I thought I’d share a bit in the form of “a day in the life” that seems popular in library land. While there is no typical day in the life of an academic librarian, I’m going to share a few different types of days that I have working as an academic librarian.

But first, a bit of context. I work on a campus where librarians are faculty members and we have instructional, research/professional development, university service, and community service requirements for retention, tenure, and promotion. Many academic librarian environments are like this and many are not. So all of talk about what I do during the day is within the context of spending most of my time, thus far, as an untenured library faculty member, and spending the last year as a tenured library faculty member. Just fair warning.

So I think, if I were to divide up the main categories or types of days I have as a librarian, there would be three main types of days. First: days when I have a lot of teaching and reference duties. Second: days when I have a lot of meetings. Third: days when I have time for research and writing, along with other project work.

The first two categories, teaching/reference and meetings, take up most of my days as a library faculty member or rather meetings take up a lot of time if I’m not careful about it. I love teaching and public service, so I don’t mind days when I have a lot of classes and reference or research appointments. These days usually fly by and I might teach a course-integrated instruction session, have some hours on the reference desk or be teaching a credit-level course for information literacy. Of course, prep time for instruction takes up some more of my time as a librarian, but happily in the summer there is always time to completely revamp my classes to make them more effective for the coming year.

Days where I have six to eight hours of meetings can be killer. Meetings are important for dissemination of information and for checking in, but back-to-back meetings are something I do not like and always try to avoid. Also, for those contemplating academic librarianship, meetings mean that work gets piled up, especially emails, especially at the end of the term, which still have to be dealt with after meetings are over. My suggestion: become an email guru and figure out a system to get through your inbox quickly and efficiently so you aren’t drowning in emails. I personally like logging out of my email and only checking it a few times a day so I can get through a bunch of email at once.

Also, with meetings, don’t be afraid to delegate work, you are a team or committee after all. Also, if at all possible, never go to a meeting without an agenda and never end a meeting without some action items. Make your meetings efficient, too.

One of my favorite types of days are days when I’m not scheduled in any meetings and can take the morning to work on my research and writing. I love research and I love sharing my research. Having a large block of time makes it much easier to write, for me, and make good progress on manuscripts. That being said, I’ve gotten much better (as I should after six years) of fitting in quick bursts of writing and research whenever I can, but having a block of time is the best. Also, days without meetings allow time for other projects, whether that be in the archives, figuring out analytics, completing collection development projects, or writing assessment reports.

Also, remember, although days as an academic librarian can be really, really busy (especially during the main academic terms), it is really important to take time to relax, breath, and step away in order to come back to things with clear eyes. Plus, being a calm colleague will make you a valuable colleague. Also, some of the most important activities you can do, especially as a new academic librarian, is to talk with your colleagues, hear what they are working on, and figure out how you can collaborate. One of the great joys is being able to collaborate with colleagues on projects and research.

I hope that gives you a helpful overview of a few days in the life of an academic librarian. It really is a great job.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more news, notes, and thoughts. Allons-y!

Thoughts at the End of the Quarter

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you had a good week and a lovely, relaxing weekend planned. I can hardly believe we are to the end of another quarter here. The fall term has gone incredibly quickly this year, although I think it always seems that way. So I just wanted to share a few thoughts at the end of the quarter with you today.

At the end of a quarter, I feel the end to step back and reflect on my work for the last ten weeks to see what I can learn and what I can do better for the next quarter. For me, reflection is key to improving my practice as a library faculty member and keeping energized about teaching, research, and service. So I thought I’d share just a few things from these reflections today that may help with your work.

1. Keen focus on one task at a time is key to accomplishing more in less time, with better outcomes and less stress. I love being productive, not getting busywork done, but being productive and helping students, doing research, and completing projects. The key to getting a lot of things done, within the same time period and with tight deadlines, is to focus intensely on one task at a time and then move to the next task. Multitasking doesn’t work for me, and I suspect doesn’t work for anyone else either, and is just a recipe for getting too stressed and not accomplishing anything by the end of the day. By really focusing on the tasks at hand, I’ve been able to get a lot of projects finished this quarter and have been able to keep my stress level to a minimum, even with unplanned tasks popping up as they often do.

2. The partner to intense focus on one task at a time is being organized and having a plan for the day. I create a to-do list for each day and an overall plan for my week and quarter, since my life at work revolves around the academic term. I always get more done if I have a plan for the day, but I also leave wiggle room in the day for unexpected tasks and meetings or students that need help in special collections right now instead of being able to make an appointment. By being both organized and flexible, I’m in control of my time and energy and am able to get through all those important and urgent tasks, as well as make progress on my longer term projects. Project management skills are so essential and I’m definitely on team daily planner.

3. Cultivate positivity and share that positive spirit with others. I totally know horrible things happen in life and at work. Some things just can’t be made better, no matter what perspective you have, but luckily these are few and far between for most of us. I’m a generally positive person; I’m lucky that I have that innate leaning, personally, but I believe everyone through meditation, reflection, whatever works for you, can cultivate positivity and it makes such a difference. A smile is really disarming and can make an anxious student more comfortable asking a question of a reference librarian. Thanking committee members for a job well done is just good manners and makes everyone more amenable to tackling the next problem on the agenda. And being positive just helps your health and your stress levels. We all have bad days, and I’m not saying I’m always perfectly positive, but I truly believe positivity makes a huge difference in our daily work and helps me get through long days and lots of report writing.

4. Really listening is one of the most powerful talents and gifts we can give each other. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it when someone gives me their full attention when I’m talking with them instead of trying to type an email at the same time. It makes me feel heard and also makes it more likely that the conversation will actually be productive. So I always make it a point to fully listen and try to empathize with the person who is speaking with me. And if I catch myself trying to do another task, I stop and refocus on the person because I know how much it means to be heard. Really listening also makes it easier to cultivate positivity in the workplace, which is also a very good thing.

I know none of the points above are new points, but I think it is important to remember them and reflect on them as we continue to do work that has the possibility of truly, positively impacting people.

And, in honor of The Hobbit, check out the news that you can 3D print your very own Key of Erebor. This almost makes me want a 3D printer.

Have a wonderful day and weekend. I’ll be back next week. Allons-y!

Thoughts about My Doctoral Experience

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that you have a relaxing weekend planned and that your Friday is going well. Today, I just want to write a short post about some thoughts on my recently completed doctoral experience. I felt the need to write this post because I’ve been getting a steady flow of questions from students who are interested in the program that I completed and I’m hoping that this post may help anyone thinking about applying to the Gateway PhD Program.

First, I have to say that the website about the Gateway PhD Program is a wealth of information and I highly recommend combing through it if you are thinking about the program. But I know that it can be useful to talk to someone who has gone through the program so I’m going to give my personal thoughts here about the program and what I think you need to succeed.

The program was a great fit for me. I wanted to go through a doctoral program, but I needed to keep working full-time in order to support myself and right after I was hired at my current position, this program opened up literally down the road from my house. I applied, got accepted, and really never looked back. I think that there are many reasons that the program worked so well, the two main reasons being the supervisors and the cohort model.

My supervisors, both from San José and from Queensland University of Technology (QUT), were absolutely fabulous. They pushed me to be more precise, more informed, and better able to defend my research and conclusions. They made me such a better scholar and communicator than I was at the beginning of the program. They were also so supportive and helpful. The residencies, when I could meet in person with my supervisors, were energizing. The monthly online meetings were also useful in checking in and keeping in contact so I never felt on my own.

My cohort, along with the other students in the program, was and is an incredible group of people and a wonderful support group. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such amazing colleagues and friends in my cohort. We are still in touch and I’m sure will remain so. Isolation was not a problem, which I know can be a worry to some who are thinking about this mainly online program.

Another reason why I’m so thankful for my doctoral experience is that the QUT model, which is used in this collaborative program, is based on research and reading, not classes. I had no desire to sit through more classes and appreciated this model where I was expected to know my field, the literature, and start thinking deeply about my potential area of research on day one. And for those who might be wondering if the program provides breadth since there are no classes, it completely does because it behooves you to read widely on theories, methodologies, methods, and current research in order to understand and to help your fellow students with their research when they bring it to the group. I now know more about grounded theory, case studies, public funding of libraries in Canada, social networks, etc. than I ever thought I’d know. It has been wonderful and helps me so much in one of my current roles as a member of EBLIP’s Evidence Summary Team.

So what do I think you need to succeed in this program or a similar one? I think you need to be self-motivated, independent, willing to listen and learn from others, and deeply passionate about research. Since there are fewer hard deadlines for deliverables, since there are no classes, self-motivation and discipline is key to staying on track. Being independent helps in not feeling lonely when you are staring at your computer screen for 8 hours by yourself with piles of notes and books sitting around you. On the flip side, being willing and able to listen and learn from others is so important. I saved so much time on paperwork and forms by listening to the experiences of others. I learned how to avoid pitfalls in research and figure out time-saving tricks by listening. Be a sponge and soak it all in and then discern what will be useful for you. Being deeply passionate about research and your chosen subject is essential. Without this passion, the process would be unbearable. With this passion, the stumbling blocks are only temporary setbacks and there is the joy of discovery in the midst of a lot of hard work.

So that concludes my thoughts this Friday on my doctoral experience. I’m always happy to answer questions about the program for those who are interested, just contact me in comments or via email.

Also, I’ll be speaking with two of my doctoral program colleagues at the Library 2.012 Conference going on online next week. You can see the full schedule here. We’ll be speaking on October 3 at 9am PDT if anyone is interested in hearing about turning your thesis and dissertation research into conference presentations and articles. The sessions are going to be recorded so you can listen to them later, too.

Now, to leave you with something fun to get you ready for the weekend, I give you this kitty wandering out in the wide world because I hope you’ll take some time to explore this weekend, too, dear readers.

photo of kitten walking down a road by herself

“Exploring This Big World” by Piccsy via Beautiful Portals Tumblr

Have a wonderful weekend full of exploring, relaxing, and reading, dear readers. I’ll be back next week with more. Allons-y!

Tips and Tools on Security, Brainstorming, and Citing to Share

Happy Friday, dear readers! I suppose at my campus we can no longer live in denial that the craziness of fall quarter is almost upon us. Yesterday we had our annual on campus conference to start the new school year on a good foot and classes start on Wednesday. So in honor of going back to school, I have some links to share that may be useful to your students (and yourself) this coming year.

I think about online security a lot, especially as we move to integrate more and more online applications and social media into our teaching at my university. I want students to be fluent in using these new technologies and also be aware of security and privacy issues. That’s where Lifehacker comes to the rescue. First, check out the How Secure Are You Online?: The Checklist, then increase your security by checking out the tips and also using a password manager. Personally, I love KeePass (and you can load it on a thumbdrive for easier access).

If you are teaching students, patrons, family, and friends this fall anything having to do with tech, you might want to check out 10 simple things every computer users should know how to do. Plus the fun list of 10 more Google shortcuts to improve your searching.

Also, because back-to-school time seems to signal an increase in meetings, no matter whether you are in the educational field or not, check out the great list of 25 reasons why nothing happens after a brainstorming session posted by Stephen Abram. Then, after you are done reading, figure out how you and your team can actually make brainstorming sessions useful. Not to go to far into jargon-land, but having concrete, actionable items with responsible parties clearly listed always seems to help whenever I’ve been in brainstorming sessions.

Also, finally, I love this infographic by Kate Hart on A Magical Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism. An absolutely fantastic use of Harry Potter and great for information literacy classes!

Have a great weekend full of relaxation, good reads, and good company. I’ll be back next week with more on tech, libraries, and archives. Allons-y!