Life, Quiet, and Exams Week

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope that your week has gone well and that you have a relaxing weekend planned. I’m looking forward to the weekend after this last week of exams on campus. The end of a school term always seems like a good time to look back and take stock of what I’ve learned and what I want to implement in the coming terms, both in terms of teaching and life, so I have a few articles to share with you today in that vein. Let’s get to it.

One of the things that teaching always reminds me about is that, in order to be a good teacher, you have to a balance of empathy and not caring if your students like you. You need empathy to relate to your students and learn from them and help them grow. But you also really need to have a thick skin and standards that you expect them to achieve in order to be a professional and fair instructor. I have never been a “cool” person and never will be a cool person. I’m a librarian who teaches at a state college and is serious about typography and letterpress and research. I’m so not even near the cool meter and that is totally okay with me. So I don’t need to be the cool professor that everyone likes or the professor who everyone likes because my class is an “easy A.” I can be the empathetic, earnest, awkward, occasionally funny professor who really wants her students to learn and will spend extra time helping outside of class, but also has explicit, clear guidelines on what it takes to pass my class and no, the fact that the computer ate your paper that you had 8 weeks to write is not a valid excuse professor, too. So in that spirit, I share Lifehacker’s article on how to stop giving a f*ck about what people think. Be bold, live your life, be kind, and be who you are, even if it is not in anyway “cool.”

Also, while you’re reading about ways to be okay with living your life on your terms, you might want to click over and read 10 painfully obvious truths everyone forgets too soon. I love break week because work slows down and I have more space to think and plan for the next quarter, both at work and in life and the projects that I want to get done and also the spaces I want for creating outside of work. It’s never too late or too early to start being and living how you want to and remembering that while we are not our jobs, we can become our work so create the work you want to be.

Finally, if all this talk about work is stressing you out, check out the busy person’s guide to reducing stress. Stress is totally a killer to calm, quiet, and peace in all aspects to life, so stress reduction is really important. I’m all for petting a purring cat, having a cup of tea, doing some yoga, and reading a good book. Oh, and dark chocolate. Dark chocolate is good, too.

I hope you 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!

Things I think about on Fridays

Happy Friday, dear readers! Has it seemed like a particularly long week to you? I’ve been, as my momma would say, whooshed all week and am very much looking forward to a relaxing weekend. So let’s just sit, have a cup of tea, and share a few things before getting on with the weekend.

Before getting into the link love, I just thought I’d write a disclaimer to today’s post. Like I said, I’ve been whooshed. I have a huge presentation coming up soon which has taken up most of my brainspace, I’m trying to wrap up two grant projects (and associated reports), and I’ve been trying to keep on top of all the everyday life stuff we all have to deal with. So there really isn’t a theme to this post as it is kind of like the things I think about on Fridays. It’s all very random, although it usually makes sense in my head. I promise that soon I’ll have the brainspace to write some longer, coherent posts on the nature of libraries and archives. And, next week, there will be posts from the Personal Digital Archiving 2012 conference, but until then, take in the links below and then have a wonderful weekend.

First, I wanted to share the link to the Darwin Manuscripts Project (found via InfoDocket). I’m excited to explore this site and it is always wonderful to see well-done digital, archives projects. Plus, this will be another great resource for those teaching the history of science or other history courses, in my opinion.

Next I wanted to share this article from Lifehacker: how to find your creative sweet spot. I enjoy articles about creativity and am hoping to mull over some of this article’s advice more this weekend. If you have any tips that have helped you get the creative juices going, please share them in comments.

Another article I wanted to share is, 25 documents you need before you die from the Wall Street Journal. Since it is time to file my taxes this weekend, it makes me think about updating all the other important documents I have. Take a look at the article, it is helpful (even if the title is a bit on the bleak side).

For a work break, you really must go see the funny/odd/interesting/delightful bunny video over on Hanna’s blog. Really, you owe it to yourself to go watch this video. It is just, well, there aren’t words.

Finally, I leave you with this cute kitten photo (from Beautiful Portals Tumblr) to help you relax and get ready for your weekend:

Kitten on Deck Photo

Kitten on Deck Photo

Have a wonderful rest of your day, a fantastic weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more tech, library, and archives fun. Allons-y!

Thoughts at the end of the term

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely day. It is the end of the term here and that always puts me into a reflective mood. So today, I want to share a few reflections with you about this term as well as some end-of-the-year lists before wishing you a very happy holiday, so let’s get on with it.

This has been an incredibly busy fall term. It has been busier than any of my past terms. I made two trips to Southern California for grant-required workshops (although luckily Collin ended up driving, so I only had to navigate-thanks, Collin!), a trip to Monterey for Internet Librarian (fantastic, techie conference which I highly recommend), and a trip to Laguna Niguel for the Women’s Leadership Institute (also a fabulous conference). Oh, and my sister got married. So it was a little busy and I’m looking forward to the holiday break.

On top of the traveling, I was teaching two classes on information literacy for freshmen along with the other usual assortment of librarian duties. To say that I was a bit overwhelmed at times is an understatement. To say that if I didn’t have a couple of synced Google Calenders to my phone I would have been lost on any given day is not an understatement. But, overall, I’d have to say it was a very good term.

I learned from my students, which is always as it should be, and hopefully my evaluations will reflect that my students learned from me. They created amazing online tutorials showcasing their many talents and expertise in everything from playing the guitar to creating origami hearts. It was a great opportunity to combine what they were learning about information literacy in the classroom to further their knowledge and skills on something they already love. This quarter again underscored for me the importance of making everything relevant to my students’ lives outside of the classroom.

This quarter also re-emphasized for me the importance of building in time for reflection in the learning process. This is the second year that I’ve required my students to write weekly reflections about their learning and how they can apply what they’ve learned to their other classes and to their lives. It has been a great success and I feel that the students are engaging with the materials more fully because of this reflection space.

Finally, this quarter has again reinforced that teaching is about being genuinely interested in one’s students and honestly wanting to help them learn. It is exhausting, fun, time-consuming, interesting, and life-changing work and I can’t imagine not teaching. And, if I do a really good job, my students catch some of this excitement for learning too and use it in their coming terms and throughout their lives.

So now, on to the lists. Lifehacker has been posting numerous “best of” lists in the past few days. I highly suggest you check them out and get to some fun over the holidays. I suggest the following to get you started: Most popular top 10s of 2011, Most popular photograph tips, tricks, and hacks of 2011, and Top 10 ways to create a more focused and productive work environment.

Finally, I leave you with one of my favorite short, holiday videos ever featuring the Doctor, naturally:

I wish you a very happy holiday and wonderful new year, dear readers! I will be taking a rest from blogging until the new year. Until then, relax, read some good books, send friends and family members a handwritten note, and bake something lovely to share with someone you love. I’ll be back in 2012 with more library, archives, and tech news and notes. Allons-y!

Friday Grab Bag

Happy Friday, dear readers. I hope your week has gone well and that you have an enjoyable weekend planned. I have the usual assortment of goodies, tips, and tools for today’s post. So let’s get into how to shrink people who overtweet, recover some of our time, and of course watch a fun video.

I love Twitter. It’s one of the few social media tools that I find incredibly useful for my teaching, my personal life, and my professional life. However, if there’s one thing that I find annoying is the overtweeting by some people. Luckily there’s a tool to help you figure out who’s overtweeting and do something about it. If this is an annoyance to you, too, check out Lifehacker’s article on the tool,

If you find, however, that you are spending too much time on Twitter or something else that is robbing you of your productive work time, you might want to check out Lifehacker’s article on Reclaim your time using RescueTime. I think it is rather telling that I had to bookmark this article to come back to read because I was too busy at the time to stop for 5 minutes and read it. Perhaps I need to rescue some of my time too.

As the school year has now started on most campuses and schools (and is in full swing on semester campuses), I thought this article from CNN is a valuable read: what teachers really want to tell parents. Teachers, at all levels, have incredibly difficult (but usually rewarding) work. We need to support our teachers so we can all learn and improve the system.

Speaking of improvement, or rather instructions for improvement, check out Life’s Instructions. I love lists and this is a great one. Read it and then give someone a hug. It will make you both feel better.

And for those of you who have time to spare, and/or are looking into getting into consulting, check out The Instant Consultant post over The Art of Non-Conformity blog. It’s a nice, simple overview of the process of becoming a consultant.

Finally, while you are being super-productive, don’t forget to take a break and stretch. Perhaps meditate on this lovely image from beautiful portals.

Whimsical Rain Drop Cottage

Whimsical Rain Drop Cottage

And when you need to smile and laugh, check out the wonderful Simon’s Cat video below:

Have a lovely rest of your day and a great weekend full of relaxation and rejuvenation. I’ll be back next week. Allons-y!

Portals and Teaching

Happy Wednesday! I hope you are having a lovely day. Today I just want to talk briefly about portals and teaching. (And apologies to those who immediately thought of Portal 2, I’m not talking about video game.) Plus share some pretty photographs from one of my favorite Tumblr feeds.

I teach information literacy along with my fellow librarian colleagues at my university. I love teaching, but I also love summer when the library is quiet and I get a break from teaching. In addition to catching up on a lot of my own learning, research, and work, I use the summer to revise my information literacy course. I tear apart the class every summer in order to improve it based on student comments and my own observations in order to make it more useful and relevant to my students. So that gets me to the topic of portals.

Some of you may have heard of The Threshold Concept and how it relates to learning. Basically you have to go through a threshold, or portal, in order to learn a new concept. It is a tricky, sometimes annoying and difficult process, but once you cross a threshold your thinking and perception will have been “transformed.” Obviously this got me to thinking about portals and photography (I’ll explain in a minute) and how I could use images of portals to spur discussion in my classes.

So now to one of my favorite Tumblr feeds, Beautiful Portals. There are amazing photographs of portals on this Tumblr, many of which involving staircases and/or books. I’m hopefully that I can use some of the images to get my students discussing learning as a process and the various thresholds/portals we go through as we learn and grow. But I’m not exactly sure what I’ll be doing yet. Luckily I have two more months to figure it out.

For now, enjoy a couple of the wonderful images from Beautiful Portals:

From Beautiful Portals

And this lovely photography, reblogged from craigfinlay

The Abbey Bookshop, Paris, France

The Abbey Bookshop, Paris, France by craigfinlay

Do you use threshold concepts when teaching? How do you integrate images into your teaching? How do you conceptualize learning and teaching? I’d love to hear about it in comments.

Have a fantastic rest of your day and I’ll be back on Friday with some tech news and tools to share with your patrons. Allons-y!

Twitter and Typography

Happy Friday, dear readers! I hope you’ve had a lovely week and have a great weekend planned. As you read this, I will hopefully be on the road driving back to my beloved Bay Area from my research trip in SoCal. Today I thought I’d share a handful of articles about Twitter and some fun pages about typography that should be useful for you and your patrons. Then let’s all agree to relax and get ready for the weekend!

I’ve been collecting links to articles and posts about Twitter over the last couple of months and I’ve rounded them up here so you have a convenient list of links to give out to people who may need some convincing that Twitter can actually be a useful tool. There are also some good ideas for those of you who already use Twitter, but want to use it more effectively.

First, for those who believe the that Twitter is just for narcissists, check out the top 10 uses for Twitter that aren’t self-indulgent. And while you don’t want to be narcissistic, you probably do want to increase the number of followers you have on Twitter, so check out ways to increase your Twitter following too.

If you use Twitter on your Android, you might be interested in Twicca, which is a Twitter client. Only downfall is that it can only be configured for one account. So if you have multiple Twitter accounts, I suggest Seesmic. (And yes, I’m that person with multiple Twitter accounts. I use Twitter for my classes, so I’m not a narcissist, really.) The regular Twitter app is quite good too. Yay for choices of apps (and the mobile web) for getting your Twitter fix while on the go.

Now on to typography, which really has little to do with Twitter other than the fact that I’m rather interested in both. First check out this great post: You Don’t Really Strike Me as an Ariel on font selection and then for some fun, check out the infographic, So you need a typeface. If you really love typography, I can’t recommend I Love Typography enough. It has so much to inspire you, including this post all kinds of type. Maybe if we all work together we can rid the world of poorly used fonts and bad typography. Even if we can’t, we can at least look at some lovely examples of typography.

To end, check out Improv Everywhere’s “Gotta Share! The Musical”

Have a wonderful rest of your day, a lovely weekend, and I’ll be back next week with more library, archives, and tech fun. Allons-y!

Librarians, students, and the Future

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope you are having a lovely day. I can hardly believe we are to the middle of another week and I’m off on another research trip to the archives. So today, I just want to talk a bit about some of the stuff buzzing around the bibliosphere right now and leave you with some tasty recipes for your tea breaks.

So if you have been hanging around the blogosphere at all this week, you’ve probably already read Seth Godin’s, Future of the Library article. And hopefully you’ve also read the very well-written and balanced response by Agnostic, Maybe. I just have a few comments to make about Godin’s article that will hopefully not duplicate everything that’s already been written and why I think it is just as important for academic librarians to pay attention to what Godin wrote as it is for public librarians.

Yes, of course, Godin got some stuff about librarians and libraries wrong (in my opinion). Libraries are still needed, freely accessible resources are definitely needed, and the digital divide is still a real problem. But on the whole, Godin got it correct and some of his misconceptions about libraries can be chalked up to the failure of librarians and the library profession in general in marketing our services and resources.

Now some librarians do an excellent job in outreach and marketing efforts, but on the whole, we obviously don’t do enough. If we did, Godin (along with the majority of people) would realize that libraries subscribe to many online resources and databases that have the ability to blow Wikipedia out of the water and are able to make researching more efficient and effective. It’s not that we don’t have the resources, it’s that we don’t make people aware of them. I see this in my own library and in classes I teach where the instructor will tell me after that s/he had no idea we offered so much or could help in so many ways.

This ties into my last post about caring. We have to demonstrate that we care about our users and market our services, resources, and general awesomeness as librarians in ways that our users, be they a public library user or an undergrad in an academic library, find relevant. We are the awesome teachers, info curators, guides, and sages that Godin says we are and can be, but we need others to “get it.”

So instead of saying how Godin got it wrong, let’s use his post as a call to (more) action. He got some parts wrong, but so do most writers and people. His main message, that we need to use our talents to connect people with information to create value is right on the mark. I think that having people honestly write what they think about the future of the library and librarians is fantastic, especially by people outside of the profession. This makes us take a hard look at what we’re doing right and what we can improve on if we read such articles with an open mind and with an open heart looking towards improving ourselves and services instead of being defensive when obviously our message as librarians is not as clear, or as powerful, as some of us believe it to be. We need to become, in Godin’s words, a purple cow–something remarkable. I’m working everyday to make my work and interactions with people remarkable, are you?

Okay, that’s my two cents.

I just wanted to share one link from Lifehacker today on how clean up your digital life and manage information overload. Great article as always. Share it with your library users. They’ll thank you.

And finally, for some tasty fun, check out Joy the Baker’s post on love and sugar recipes. These are fabulous and, if all else fails in your marketing campaign for the awesomeness of librarians, bake ’em cookies. Everyone is a fan of cookies.

Have a great rest of your day, help someone out, read something lovely, and I’ll be back on Friday with some tech stuff to share with your friends (family, library users, students, etc.). Allons-y!

Students and the Wonders of Archives

Happy Wednesday, dear readers! I hope your day is going well. I can’t believe we are halfway through another week. When did time get so wibbley, wobbly? Anyway, today I just want to discuss brieflythe wonders of archives, students, and why I love physical records in the archives.

While I am a big fan of technology (and shiny stuff in general, if I’m being truthful), I probably love physical archival records even more than digital technologies. I know I’m very old school about this, but bear with me while I explain. I love digital archives, I love having finding aids online, and I love all the work archivists are doing to make their archives more accessible and user-friendly. All of this makes my own work and research as both an archivist and an historian easier. But there is nothing like actually seeing the records in person to make me *squee* with joy.

I won’t try to describe my rather unprofessional happy dance when we found a signed, manuscript copy of Henley’s famous poem, “Invictus” (yes, the one used in the movie). Or my reaction to finding a beautifully preserved illuminated manuscript in the archives. Or my joy at receiving a small grant to do preservation work on a collection of letters and other family documents that date from the late 1700s to the 1900s from a local immigrant family. There is something beautiful and engaging about documents. If you don’t believe me, check out James M. O’Toole’s amazing article, The Symbolic Significance of Archives. While digital surrogates are wonderful for preliminary research, there is nothing like seeing the original documents to make me (and I think many others) fall in love with our work as archivists, researchers, historians, teachers, and students all over again.

And these physical records also help me when I’m teaching, which brings me to my second point of this blog post. I could show students digital surrogates of archival records along with the databases for their secondary research, but that’s not what gets them to engage during the instruction sessions–that would be the actual documents. I taught two history seminar classes last week, which was a bunch of fun (and a lot of work, I have to give props to Collin for helping set up the very temperamental laptops for the sessions). The students were wonderful throughout the sessions, but really came alive when I started showing examples of old college scrapbooks, photos from Homecoming Parades in the 1960s, watercolor paintings from the mid-1800s, and especially the amazing 3D images produced by an old stereoscope.

These students, some of whom will become historians, were excited about the documents in ways that I just don’t think they’d get excited about if I had only shown them images on the screen. While it is fantastic, and does open up access, to have the Book of Kells available online, it’s a completely different experience to see it in person.

Using these records also allowed me to discuss archival research in general and the proper behavior in archives. It also generated my absolute favorite question of the academic year: “How do we keep from pissing off the archivist?” This came after I told the students that the archivist is their best friend for finding obscure records and collections they might not have discovered on their own as often the archivist is the only one who really understands what is held in the archives.

So, I just wanted to say I love archives. I love teaching about the archives and archival research and I love sharing archives with others. I’ll end this love letter to archives now, but if you haven’t said hi to the archivist at your institution, make a point to do it this week. You never know when you might need some archival materials for your own research or a library exhibit.

To end, another fun Simon’s Cat video, “Snow Business”:

Have a great rest of your day and I’ll be back on Friday with some tech and library news. Oh, and Happy National Library Week! Allons-y!