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Removing parts from the yak shaving machine

One of the goals I’ve been working on this year has been to gradually reduce the number of systems (read: networks, apps, channels, things-which-need-checking) in which I take an active role. Since my first foray into cobbling together tools like rss and bookmark managers circa 2006, I’ve long been fascinated by productivity-tech hacks. The result is that over the past decade I’ve built and habituated a number of workflows. I’m now beginning to think many of these are no longer necessary. I’m using technology less and less of late, preferring paper and pen to tools like Evernote or Dropbox. I don’t check feeds daily anymore and most of the time simply hit the “mark all as read” button in my rss reader.

With all that in mind, the latest two episodes of Back to Work have been a calming breath to my troubled mind which, despite my best efforts, still gets frequent bouts of fomo.

The danger of academic elitism in libraries

One of the benefits of working for a Jesuit institution is having the opportunity, encouragement, and strategically-justified resources to engage in social justice work, both within the library, within the university, and in my community. However, having also worked within an institution where neoliberal ideals ran rampant, I understand Nisha Mody’s fear:

“But now that I am fully immersed in this deep dive, I also see the danger of academic elitism, an elitism which underpays adjunct professors and reflects neoliberal ideals. Will being an academic librarian make it difficult for me to effect change in the “real world” because I am so entrenched in academic lingo? Will lengthening my CV remove myself from applying the principles I promote? I often question if being a part of the academy will distance myself from those that are marginalized. So…do I still want to do this?”

The rest of the post on HackLibSchool is a worthwhile read and a good reminder for us old folks about the passions that drove us to library science in the first place.

Truth with a capital “t”

So long as we rely on code and algorithms to locate information, there will always be the hurdle of implicit bias. The same can be said of relying on humans.

“As long as Google has a commercial interest in appearing omniscient, it probably won’t work to improve knowledge panel transparency. That burden will fall instead to people like Taraborelli and nonprofits like the Wikimedia Foundation, which is working on an open-license, machine-readable knowledge base that will both source all of its statements and accommodate conflicting sources.”

The burden also falls to librarians and educators to teach the skills necessary for being a critical reader-researcher.

Overinvesting and “being busy”

Over the past couple months, I’ve tried to limit the amount of work I bring home. I’ve stopped staying up late every evening after the kids go to bed. I’ve stopped getting up insanely early to get a head start on email. Amazingly, I am still managing to get stuff done.

Like the author of a recent New York Times opinion piece, I could also be accused of lying to myself about how busy I am. I tend to only remember the busiest parts of the academic year–mid-semester and Finals–and forget about all the slow moments in between. I remember the days when I left the office with 20 unopened emails but forget the ones when I remained at inbox zero all afternoon.

A year ago, I would have answered “yes” to everyone of the questions in this Dear Kerry Ann article. The number of affirmative responses is down to four now.

I am growing.

Writing for the programming librarian

I’ve started writing for the ALA’s Programming Librarian website. My first two posts are up.

Collaborating with Galleries: A Blessed Match

“One of my first planning meetings as the new outreach and communications librarian for the William H. Hannon Library was with the director and curator of the Laband Art Gallery, an on-campus exhibition space in the College of Fine Arts at Loyola Marymount University. Over the past few years, the Hannon Library and the Laband Gallery have developed a synergistic relationship built on shared vision and trust, a relationship that has increased the impact we could achieve as single institutions.” Read more.

When Library Student Workers Take Over Instagram

“Since I began managing Instagram accounts for academic libraries three years ago, I’ve discovered there are two types of posts that attract the most engagement from students: idyllic photos of the library and pictures of other students. We are privileged in that our building’s unique architecture and proximity to a near-ocean bluff provides endless opportunities for the former. So, to leverage the successful nature of the latter, this year the William H. Hannon Library at Loyola Marymount University invited our student employees to “take over” the library’s Instagram account for a day and use the platform to tell our followers about their work and what they find useful about the library.” Read more.

You need to let it breathe

I wanted to enjoy this documentary about wine sommeliers, but I couldn’t get over how unlikable most of the subjects were. Plus, the whole “Master’s exam” has an unpleasant fraternal odor to it. Then again, maybe I’m just jealous that I don’t get to spend every waking moment consumed by (and consuming) wine history and culture.

I love libraries. I plan to live in one someday.

I recently started following Tressie McMillan Cottom, Professor of Sociology at Virginia Commonwealth University, on Twitter and then quickly added her to my “do not miss!” list. Her recent interview with WordPress has some great quotes about writing, teaching, and libraries. 

On blogging:

“[A]s my mother always told me, “If the lease isn’t in your name, you’re homeless.” You have to have a place of your own to take the kind of risks necessary for intellectual development.”

On libraries:

“Oh! I just love libraries. Love them. I plan to live in one someday.”

On learning:

“We can come to know alone, but to learn we have to be social. If I cannot translate my research into praxis and my praxis into research then I don’t really know what I’m talking about.”

Read more on her blog.

We’re eating ourselves alive

“Our current version of the internet lives and breathes off a currency of human attention. With the success and failure of many internet companies predicated on how much of a person’s time they can capture.” Jesse Weaver, Instagram and the cult of the attention web.

After stepping away from Facebook and Twitter for a month and subsisting on a diet of chronologically, self-customized feeds instead of algorithmily-defined ones, I realized how empty much of that content is. Also, I miss Google Reader.