fireworks on the horizon of Marina del Rey

O for a muse of fire that would ascend the brightest heaven of invention.

Henry V, William Shakespeare (1599)

This year, I pledged myself to reading and watching the entire works of Shakespeare. Since January, I’ve been working through his opus in roughly chronological order of production as well as watching recorded performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company. I am just about halfway through, having read the following:

  • 1-3 Henry VI
  • Richard III
  • Venus and Adonis
  • The Comedy of Errors
  • Edward III
  • Sonnets
  • Rape of Lucrece
  • Titus Andronicus
  • Taming of the Shrew
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • King John
  • Richard II
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • The Merchant of Venice
  • 1-2 Henry IV
  • Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Henry V

A few thoughts on the process thus far. Not surprisingly, the more that I read, the easier it gets. I’m picking up the vocabulary (sack, to jar), the cadence and form, and most importantly of all, the style. The more I read, the deeper my enjoyment. As an English major in college, Shakespeare was required (I’m currently reading from the Riverside 2nd edition which I bought as an undergrad) but I did not enjoy it at the time. Perhaps because I didn’t understand it or didn’t grasp the genius of it. Or because I was rushing a fraternity and hadn’t slept in three days. Either way, its beauty was wasted on my youth, but I’m trying to make up for that now. 

What I’m reading 

🤖✍️👨‍🎓 AI and the Death of Student Writing by Lisa Lieberman. “When I used to read good writing like that, my heart would leap with joy. The students are getting it! I’d think. Now my heart sinks because I know those sentences/paragraphs/whole essays are probably computer-generated.

🫏🇺🇸🗳️ This Isn’t All Joe Biden’s Fault by Ezra Klein. “Even if top Democrats believe Biden should be replaced, they face a collective action problem.”

Garden update 

sapling in dirt and straw

This summer, I’m attempting to grow pumpkins for the first time. If the quickness with which these sprouts emerged is any indication, I will have quite a lot of vines on my hands.

Links to the past 

  • 1 year ago: “I would love to see a separate award for excellent marketing, communications, and strategic outreach (and/or programming) for higher ed libraries. The needs of our communities and the best practices for reaching them differ just enough from our colleagues in public libraries to merit our own arena.”
  • 5 years ago: I was taking some time off the grid, off email, and off projects to reflect, reconsider, and reconnect.
  • 10 years ago: I was moving content to this here site!

Overheard online 

I feel like a perfume called The Conservator would just be lanolin (for knitwear) and a whiff of an unknown but clearly toxic solvent. 

@curatedjenny on Mastodon

banner photo: Marina del Rey fireworks seen from the Westchester bluff

Sand, trees, and grass at the Japanese Garden in Portland

I almost didn’t get this post out in time. Earlier this month, my family and I traveled to Portland for a week. I thought I had tied everything up before we left, but turns out I missed closing the loop on a couple key projects. But rejoice! Those are done now. So without any more delay, here’s what happened in academic libraries in June.

News and announcements

The University of Washington Libraries hosted a student video contest. The 2024 edition of their #IHeartUWLibraries contest asked students to create original videos showcasing the libraries through the lens of their experience. The top prize of $1,500 was awarded to the creator of this video (above).

A GIS librarian at UNC Libraries teamed up with an art historian to create an interactive map of local art galleries and exhibit spaces as part of “Loving Your Local Art Scene” summer class. I can’t not love the final paragraph: “We need to hire more librarians, give them better budgets and storage, and support any archival process they think they need to invest in. Librarians are the unacknowledged champions of the research process.” Amen!

At my place of work, we frequently talk about ways we can foster a culture of reading among undergraduate students. To that effect, Loyola University Chicago Libraries is hosting summer reading bingo. Students are encouraged to read in a variety of categories, such as queer romance, poetry, banned books, and books “published the year you were born.”

reading bingo card with rules
Summer Reading bingo card, created by LUC Libraries

Off-site and high-density storage facilities for libraries provide engaging ways to talk with students and faculty about the role of libraries in preserving human knowledge and how to continually grow their collections. UC Berkley Library recently wrote about their tour of the Northern Regional Library Facility for their legacy/estate donors group.

I’m amazed at the complexity of this seemingly all-staff library assessment project (aka “data party”) from Duke Libraries. Every two years, they run a large student satisfaction survey. Small teams of staff code thousands of comments to create dashboards. Then more than 50 staff dig into the results and brainstorm solutions to address the problem areas uncovered by the survey. The recommendations are then presented to library leadership, who then parcel out the next actions.

Speaking of library assessment, what does that have to do with bird watching? Well, Temple University Libraries has an answer for you. 

On social

Every social media manager should have the agency and opportunity to take a social media break. I love how Santa Clara University Library [Instagram] made their announcement. 

photo of black with two toggles, one for Instagram (off) and one for vacation (on).
@scu_library on Instagram

University of Wyoming Libraries [Instagram] created a video offering highly specific book recommendations.

UTA Libraries [Instagram] has a super profresh Reel about how they support experiential learning.

Grand Valley State University Libraries [TikTok] has a Black book exchange in a Little Free Library posted near their building.

If you’ve been on X/Twitter for a while, you might remember 2023 when UK Libraries [X] was photoshopping their building into famous images daily (for 365 days!). This week they posted a throwback in conjunction with Inside Out 2. I am always impressed when library creators commit to the bit. 

Interesting events and exhibits

Michael Flierl, an associate professor and student learning librarian at The Ohio State University Libraries hosted a virtual presentation on future considerations for artificial intelligence and information literacy, including questions about the role of librarians in all of this. 

“Let’s engage in historical capitalism!” The Virginia Tech University Libraries hosted a workshop entitled, “Archival Adventures: Decades of Advertising in Pulp Magazines.” Archivist Anthony Wright de Hernandez explored advertisements in speculative fiction magazines. The event was live streamed on Twitch (cool) and is part of a weekly series.

Penn Libraries hosted their first Death Cafe earlier this month. Distinct from bereavement support, counseling, or therapy, Death Cafes are an opportunity to talk candidly and openly about death and dying. And there’s cake! 

They might be old school, but I love a good book display. Duke University Libraries created a “Read like a Celebrity” display that included titles mentioned by celebrities in interviews or on social media. 

Next week, Yale Library will host its annual public reading of the Declaration of Independence and the oration by Frederick Douglass in which he asked: “What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July?” The event runs 90 minutes and is not live-streamed, but from what I can gather from the website, it’s a popular event!

Notable mentions

Pride and Juneteenth inspired a number of libraries to post about recommended readings, LibGuides, and special collections materials. Here are two quick roundups of some examples from across the field.

That’s it for this month! Do you find this useful? What would you like to see next time? Let me know in the comments! 

sepia toned photo of reading room with ornate bookshelves and soft chairs

The updates from academic libraries are slowing down this month as many colleges and universities transition into the summer sessions, but there are still quite a few updates and events worth highlighting. I’ve shortened the lists to include only my top 5 announcements, social posts, and events, but (I couldn’t help myself) I included a “notable mentions” list at the end. 

While not necessarily represented below, I’m noticing a few trends, including AI, retirements, renovations, and podcasts. Perhaps I’ll dedicate a future post to a news roundup of one of those topics. 

News and announcements

The University of Michigan Libraries is offering free borrowing privileges for Native and Indigenous peoples not already affiliated with the institution.

Interviewers from Berkley Library’s Oral History Center presented their work on the Japanese American Intergenerational Narratives Project at the annual meeting of the National Council on Public History and wrote about the experience of traveling to Topaz (Utah) where some 8,000 Japanese Americans were forcibly incarcerated during World War II.

The University of Arkansas Libraries processed a new photo history collection of photographs by Geleve Grice, depicting daily life in the Black community around Pine Bluff. Notable figures in the photographs include Muhammad Ali, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Dionne Warwick, Maya Angelou, Wiley Branton, Edith Irby Jones, Ida Rowland Bellegard, Raymond Miller, Lawrence A. Davis, Martin Luther King Jr. and Silas Hunt.

The Olin Library at Rollins College is hiring for an Artificial Intelligence Librarian. Couched firmly in the context of information literacy, this position seeks to bring together the ACRL Framework and AI into the classroom.

The University of Virginia Libraries is funding “research sprints”: an intense 1-3 working day collaboration between faculty and librarians to support specific research projects.

Notable mentions

On social

I love what Bass Library (Yale) is doing on Instagram. They are using a balanced mix of popular audios, high quality photo/video, and humor. Someone is obviously having a lot of fun over there.  

The University of Michigan Library has an informative video that explains what a leafcaster does [YouTube]. This informal style of a BTS perspective (talking to the camera vs. voice over), especially in the lab setting, is engaging without begin boring. 

Fondren Library at Rice University announced on Facebook that it is launching a seed library.

RIT Libraries just uploaded a bunch of “Hey Listen” episodes to its YouTube page. The series was created by the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology and featured deaf panelists, audience members, and hosts. 

Northwestern University created a fabulous video [YouTube] to highlight its university archives. The intro graphic and music choice are superb and the pacing is just right. I’m assuming this was produced as a collaboration between the library and the uni’s main marketing arm. 

Notable mentions

Interesting events and exhibits

Bookbinding event at UPenn Libraries

The University of Cincinnati Libraries is hosting a 21-day anti-racism challenge on topics including structural racism in health care, white privilege, and the difference between “not-racist” vs. “anti-racist.” The self-guided work culminated in a synchronous virtual discussion.  

Yale Library currently has an exhibit on the copying sacred texts. In addition to highlighting some notable works, including those of Kyeongho Kim, it aims to encourage the meditative practice of hand-copying texts. 

Drexel University Libraries annually honors members of its campus community who authored publications in the last year. This year, they honored their highest number faculty, staff, and student in the 12 years of the program: 118! 

The University of Michigan Libraries hosted “Dragademia,” a part lecture, part performance on the cultural issues surrounding drag performance. Apparently singing was involved. 

Penn Libraries is hosting a workshop on stab-stitch binding.

That’s it for now! As I was preparing this post, I began to notice many of the Pride Month posts rolling out. So while not included in the list above (which mostly covers late May), I’ll pull those together for the next roundup!

top image credit: SMU Digital Libraries on Flickr

three women working inside the fuselage of an aircraft

Folks often ask if it’s slower at the library during the summer. Yes, there are fewer students and faculty around. Many classes are online and the building is quiet for the first time in months. For the outreach team, however, we keep moving forward! From now through August, my team leans heavily into planning mode: outlining new project workflows, coordinating people and resources, preparing annual reports, and most importantly taking the time to update and fix what we couldn’t to pay attention to during the academic year. 

We have nine summer projects we’re hoping to complete before students return in August:

  1. Universal design for learning and events: Using principles from UDL, my team is looking for ways to improve our programs and events, making them more accessible for a wider range of attendees.
  2. Comms coordinating meeting: Our current way of coordinating external comms usually involves asynchronous messaging on Teams. We are looking at creating a more formal structure and timeline for both ideation and creation of materials.
  3. New event assessment tools: We just wrapped up a year-long pilot test of a new survey tool for library programs. Now, we need to take what we learned to create custom survey instruments for each event.
  4. New library merch: We’ve emptied out our library merch pile! It’s time to design and order new library branded merch for fall. 
  5. Update exhibitions guidelines: There are a number of recurring pain points in our hosted exhibitions program. I’m hoping updated guidelines with clearer expectations for our exhibitors will help.
  6. Improving partnerships protocols: We work with more than 40 partners throughout the year to host events and reach students. I’d like us to “up our game” by examining what makes a good partner, determining best practices, and updating our protocols.
  7. Banned books exhibit: Our banned books exhibit needs a refresher. We’re planning to update how we contextualize and talk about banned books beyond simply highlighting commonly challenged titles and listing annual stats.
  8. Student job descriptions: We’ve used the same job description for our department’s student workers for the past 5+ years, but the nature of the job has changed significantly since 2020. It’s time to rewrite the job description and possibly restructure the program.
  9. Finding the lights: A simple one, but one long overdue. For some of our larger events that happen in the evenings, we oftentimes need to adjust the lighting. Unfortunately, in our large, mostly open area building, it’s not always clear which switches control which lights. So break out the label maker! We’re going to finally figure this out.

There you have it. If you need me this summer, I’ll likely be plugging away at one of these projects above. For my academic librarian friends: what group projects are you and your teams working on this summer?

image credit: The Library of Congress on Flickr

library with high arching ceilings, chandeliers, and alcoves full of books

Last month, I was working on a project to review how other academic libraries structured their donor web pages. During that review I noticed some amazing projects, and this led me down a rabbit hole. I ended up searching through more than 250 library websites to seek out some of the happening at other academic libraries. What follows is a list of my most notable finds, including announcements, social posts, and events. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but if this is the sort of thing you enjoy or find useful, let me know in the comments! 

News and announcements

Librarians at Auburn University worked with faculty to study the effects of open access on citation counts

“To find out whether paying these APCs is worthwhile for authors, Stevison’s interdisciplinary team analyzed five years of bibliographic records totaling 146,415 articles in 152 biology journals offering both open and subscription-access options. […] They found that while paying APCs to make articles open via the “gold” route did yield increased citations, a more economical model of open access provided similar benefits.”

The Drexel University Libraries recently completed a project to digitize more than 6,000 graduate theses and dissertations that were previously available in print format only. 

“Many of the newly digitized theses and dissertations were produced by students enrolled in Drexel’s College of Medicine and its predecessors, including the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania, Medical College of Pennsylvania, Hahnemann Medical College, Hahnemann University, MCP Hahnemann University, and Allegheny University.”

Fordham University Libraries has an article about Adelaide Hasse, creator of the SUDOC classification system.

“Unhappy with the Dewey Decimal System, she set about creating a classification system all her own beginning, sensibly enough, with the Agriculture Department. She developed a system organized not by title or author, but rather by department. A for agriculture, D for defense, T for treasury, etc. It may seem confusing at first, but it has a strict and coherent internal logic.”

The University of Illinois Chicago library gives out awards to faculty members through its “Open Textbook Faculty Incentive Program” to support creation of open educational resources. 

“This award recognizes faculty who demonstrate exemplary use of open educational resources in their classrooms and leadership in using and advocating for open course material. Examples include incorporating free educational materials in courses, including open textbooks, and creating original open educational resources.”

large bound volumes stacked on a shelf
image source: Northwestern University Libraries Blog

Northwestern University Libraries recently completed a project to box up large bound volumes of newspapers: “Step 5: Put on a brave face and open compact shelving again.” I would need a brave face when confronting the above as well!

I love this “Meet Your Librarian” series that University of Oregon Libraries is currently running!

“‘It all starts with the students,’ is Morning Star’s philosophy. With her expertise and knowledge in art research, she is eager to assist anyone seeking help, and does more than offer her services as a subject librarian to help them find what they’re looking for.”

Also at UO, the librarians recently evaluated more than 100,000 volumes in an effort to revitalize and make space in their Northeast campus library. The storytelling here about the process (click on “virtual presentation”) is top-notch:

“Their efforts led to the removal and reuse of more than sixty aisles of book shelving from throughout the building at no cost to the University.”

Maps are definitely cool again (see also: LAPL’s Epic Map Battles of History [TikTok]). So it’s no surprise that ASU Library has a “Map of the Month” series:

“As with all of our Map of the Month features, if you’d like to get a scanned copy of this map, please submit a Map and Geo Service Request and we’ll be sure to get back to you within two business days, but typically sooner.”

Cornell has an exhibition of Vladimir Nabokov’s butterflies

“During his time as professor of Russian literature at Cornell (1948-1959), Nabokov collected hundreds of butterfly specimens from across the United States which he donated to the Cornell University Insect Collection.”

Students at the University of Dayton used the library’s media production studio to create Barbie-themed explorations of feminist theory:

“When teaching inspiration strikes, we all should feel supported. Creativity, innovation and collaboration make library work and education exciting. ‘This project would not have come to fruition without the library’s spaces and people.’”

UT Arlington held its second annual 24-hour Datathon:

“Datathon presented students with realistic data challenges. These challenges involved looking at a question and then collecting, processing, analyzing, and interpreting data to help solve a problem.”

Georgia Tech Library has announced its third artist-in-residence, Bojana Ginn:

“Interested in the microscopic worlds of the body and environment in the age of digital and biotechnologies, Ginn explores human identity, mental health, AI and virtual reality, the techno-sphere, and trans-humanism.”

Related: LeHigh is inviting students to enter a design contest for a new art installation to be on display in their Fairchild-Martindale Library atrium.

Other quick picks:

  • James Madison University Libraries is helping students explore alternative options to expensive learning materials with this helpful info graphic.
  • Congratulations to NC State University Libraries for being awarded their Chancellor’s Creating Community Award at the Office of Institutional Equity and Diversity’s Recognizing Excellence in Diversity Event! 
  • Northeastern University Library has a monthly “reading challenge” award for students (file under: fostering a culture of readers).
  • Hesburgh Library at Notre Dame is celebrating its 60th anniversary. I love how they have identified 60 milestones in the library’s history to honor the occasion.
  • The University of Buffalo Libraries has a story about an item from the Challenger that now resides in its collections.
  • Penn Libraries has a detailed description of their attempts to stabilize and repair a rare Persian codex.
  • Washington University in St. Louis has an article about the illustrated editions of the raven from Edgar Allan Poe’s eponymous poem. 
  • DePaul University Library created this infographic to highlight common reference desk questions.

On social media

  • Texas A&M Libraries has what might be the most charming library orientation video I’ve ever seen (above): YouTube.
  • University of Florida Libraries are asking students what they think is the oldest library on campus: Instagram
  • University of Oregon has a nice use of the campus mascot to promote finals use of the library: Instagram
  • Syracuse University has a well done video on the importance of accessibility and the staff who do that work: Instagram
  • MIT Libraries created this “Circulation: A Day in the Life of Library Books” video: YouTube
  • I love how some libraries are encouraging graduating students to use their spaces as backdrops for their grad photos. Here’s an example from Stony Brook University: Facebook
  • Fairfield Library has a good use of BTS video of a graduation photo shoot: Instagram
  • This Reel from NYU Libraries is a great use of audio to offer quick research tips: Instagram

Interesting events

sets of letterpress stationary
image source: Dartmouth Libraries

Notable themes

API Heritage Month resources:

Mental Health Awareness Month:

Student research awards:

Profiles of student graduates:

That’s it for now! Let me know what I missed. Again, if this is something you find useful, let me know in the comments. Maybe I’ll do it again next month!

Four men in suits and hats are seated in chairs on the front porch

All words are pegs to hang ideas on.

Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit (1887)

A few weeks ago, Meredith Farkas posted on X about her experience as a blogger in 2024. I understand the frustration. Once upon a time, there was a robust community of LIS bloggers. In the years between 2005-2012 in particular, I had to regularly cull my Google Reader (rip) because I would subscribe to more RSS feeds than I had time to reasonably consume. 

I recently when looking for some of those sites and was pleasantly surprised to find that Everybody’s Libraries appears to still going strong. And others have emerged, like Ryan P. Randall. Like Meredith said, most seem to have disappeared or gone silent: Librarian in Black, Pegasus Librarian, Academic Librarian, The Waki Librarian, Pop Goes the Library. 

Of course, it wasn’t just the LIS world. Blogging in any field was at its height in the late aughts. There was a deep and thoughtful conversation happening then that feels lost now, owing in part to the move away from long-form text. The recent rise in email newsletters seems to be bringing this back (have you seen the comment threads on an Anne Helen Petersen post recently!?), but what made it so special then was that the conversations seemed to be happening on people’s own domains, rather than walled communities like Substack’s Notes. Even if those domains were a free Blogger site, when you visited someone’s page, it felt like walking up to their front porch.

I know. “Back in my day.” But what if…

What would it take to bring blogging back, at least in small pockets? Intentionality. Back then, setting up a full WordPress or Typepad site was the simplest way to participate in the conversation. The conversation moved slower, but that’s all we had. Social media drastically lowered the barrier to entry and accelerated the speed, but that came with a cost: the loss of the personal. Yet with a little bit of coordination and purpose, a dedicated group of LIS writers could bring back the blogosphere.

Here’s how it might work:

  1. Gather a group of writers. Each would need to have their own website. The site would need to have commenting and trackbacks functions built in. We can work out the technical bits later (though, I would look to IndieWeb): the key factor is having a space for conversation.
  2. Depending on the size of the group, each writer pledges to write 1-2 posts per month/quarter/year. I think the ideal frequency would be for the group to put out at least 1 post per week. You could go even further and select monthly themes, but it’s probably best to let folks write on what they are most knowledgeable or passionate about.
  3. In addition to regularly posting on their own site, each writer should plan to post at least 1 long-form response post to someone else in the group. This could be planned in advance or not, but the key here is to create [hyper]links among the group.
  4. Each writer should plan to comment on every other writers’ post.

Of course, what I’m describing is what we used to call a “blogring.” This happened organically among communities of writers (we even had site badges for it!). And since it happened on our own domains, it still felt like a community of individuals and less homogeneous than the UX experience of today’s social media. 

I know. “Back in my day.” But what if some things once forgotten could return. Would we welcome them?

What I’m reading

💻🌿💡 We Need to Rewild the Internet by Maria Farrell and Robin Berjon. “Rewilding the internet is more than a metaphor. It’s a framework and plan. It gives us fresh eyes for the wicked problem of extraction and control, and new means and allies to fix it. It recognizes that ending internet monopolies isn’t just an intellectual problem. It’s an emotional one.”

🤪🔗📄 The internet used to be fun. I stumbled across this page after writing the section above, thankfully, because this is a rabbit hole I plan to dive into for a few days! “I’ve been meaning to write some kind of Important Thinkpiece™ on the glory days of the early internet, but every time I sit down to do it, I find another, better piece that someone else has already written.”

⛴️🪝🌏 The invisible seafaring industry that keeps the internet afloat. I’ve seen this article shared repeatedly over the past week. It’s a #LongRead but worth the entire ride. So much of our infrastructure relies on an aging feet and diminishing workforce.

Links to the past

  • 1 year ago: I was reminding myself that projects or initiatives carried on the backs of individuals is not sustainable. Moreover, it’s bad leadership.
  • 3 years ago: Reading about writing, parenting, and wisdom.
  • 10 years ago: They could see into my soul.

photo credit: Missouri State Archives on Flickr

black and white photograph of two archways at the end of a long hall

“Life begins at forty”

at least, according to Walter B. Pitkin, 1932

At some point in the past few years, I crossed a professional threshold. I’m not exactly sure when it happened, but as I look at the field I see myself as from a former era. I’ve been transferred out of the new guard. I am not concerned. Not ashamed. Not anxious about it. I simply notice it. The foundations of my graduate work, my professional experience (especially in the early years), and the ethical lens through which I view my work is distinctly different from what I’m seeing in folks coming out of MLIS programs and who are driving the most impactful work in libraries today.

Don’t misunderstand me: I am here for it. The ability to frequently move between subjects and learn new things was the most attractive aspect of pursuing a career in academic librarianship. It still is to some extent. But the assumption that my colleagues will share like, or at least translatable, perspectives on our work is no longer a given. Not by a long shot. It feels different than it did when I was traveling more in professional conference circles circa the early 2010s. No, I don’t suggest I’m unique in this regard: I acknowledge that anyone in any field of study will reach this place at some point. I only observe that I am reaching it now. 

This realization has me thinking about thresholds. I’ve crossed many in the past decade: parenthood, management, and home ownership. The loss of a pet. Having to leave a job you love. The first (but not the last) major health crisis. I’ve just completed my first full decade as a capital-L librarian making the span of my career, for the first time, more librarian than not. Which prompts the question: what’s next? 

What I’m reading

Maggie Hicks on private colleges and free speech: “Some private colleges are limiting how and where students can protest, put up posters, or hold events on controversial topics. Unlike public universities, private colleges have more leeway when it comes to actions that might limit free speech. This is dangerous, said one faculty member interviewed: ‘Without alternative places to hold events, he said, students lose the opportunity to encounter views outside of their own. People need spaces where they can express their views passionately, through events like demonstrations and in controlled environments like a panel or classroom, he said.'”

Ezra Klein on ditching email: And taking a more intentional approach to email. Personally, I still use gmail but I no longer save any email there. My inbox (and my archive) are completely empty. If I receive information that needs to be saved, I move it to a better storage location (e.g., my calendar, files, reminders, etc.). 

Anne Helen Peterson on Moms for Liberty: “And what [the Moms for Liberty are] doing is undercutting the professionalism of librarians and teachers and people who work with children every single day. And not just your child, but lots of different children.” Moms for Liberty are a scourge. It’s not just their ignorance about how education works, but the hubris that makes them assume they know more about what’s best for children than the people who are actually trained, educated, and have years of experience understanding not just their kids, but all our kids’ needs. 

Ted Gioia on attention and technology: “These addictive and compulsive behaviors are troubling. But even more disturbing is how the largest corporations in the world are investing billions in promoting and accelerating this compulsive use of their tech tools.”

And finally: Further proof that tardigrades are the most metal of all creatures.

Garden update

white daisies in foreground with pink yarrow in background

While my daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths have all since flowered and are working their way towards another 9 months of dormancy, the flowers I planted and cut back last winter are in the fullest bloom. Snapdragons, daisies, corn cockles, yarrow, and pincushion flowers are at their most stunning this month. In starter pots, I have ageratum, cosmos, and white marigolds from seed sprouting. 

Links to the past

  • 2 years ago: While my literature review project never took off, I still maintain that “institutional isomorphic forces” drive most of academic libraries’ use of social media. 
  • 5 years ago: I was with colleagues sharing the results of our survey on librarian-parent stereotypes, and apparently freezing my ass off.
  • 10 years ago: Our worries about discovery tools were so quaint back then. Also, we’re still dealing with it.

Overheard online

Hey if you want to see more composite organisms made of algae and fungi in a symbiotic relationship, know what you have to do? Lichen subscribe. 😎

woodsiegirl on Mastodon

header image credit: Nationaal Archief on flickr

black and white photo of people at table with phone

Last week, I gave a lightning round talk at the 2024 SCELCapalooza annual conference on the utility of email as an outreach tool for academic libraries. “Wait,” you are probably telling yourself, “what year is it? Are we really talking about email marketing again?”

Admittedly, this opportunity to present was a self-challenge: could I build an argument that in today’s social media rich landscape email was the most effective tool in our digital outreach toolkit? Turns out, I could and it might be. Since the arrival of Gen Z in institutions of higher ed, and especially following the pandemic, email seems to be experiencing a renaissance.

The conference limited the lightning round talks to seven minutes, so I had to leave out much of the context and nuance. It’s not quite as simple as I make it out to be, but like any good TED talk, the point is to get you to rethink your assumptions. And what we know about how students use email is changing.

Here is the transcript from my talk. I believe the slides will be available soon at the Sched link above. Enjoy!

You don’t need X: How email marketing triumphs over social in campus communications

Howdy, ya’ll. My name is John Jackson. I am the Head of Outreach and Engagement for the William H. Hannon Library here at Loyola Marymount University. I have almost a decade of experience managing external communications for academic libraries. And I am not here to dump on social media.​

In fact, I want to begin by encouraging you to follow @lmulibrary on Instagram. You can scan that code right there. I think our content is amazing! However, I am here to tell you that…. I probably don’t need it. For when it comes to reaching college students, email is the most powerful tool you have in your digital toolkit. ​

​So today I’ll talk briefly about the rise of email over the past 3 years, especially among Gen Z users. I’ll talk about what we’ve done at LMU and end with a few tips for successful email marketing campaigns. ​

The rise of email

If email is like sending someone a letter, then social media these days is like dropping leaflets from an airplane in the middle of the night. There’s no guarantee you’re going to reach your target and even if you do, most of your target population is asleep. Social media presents two barriers to successful communication: the first is he who shall not be named.​ [at this point, I showed a slide that simply had the words “The Algorithm.”]

​Social media platforms long ago ditched the chronological feed and most have taken the lead of TikTok in featuring For You Pages that prioritize content outside the folks you follow. So even if your library has 10,000 followers on Instagram, there’s no guarantee they will ever see your content. 

The second barrier that social media puts up against successfully reaching our students is their own changing usage. All generations, but younger generations in particular, are moving to smaller, more private online communities. 6 out of every 10 users on Twitter stopped using the platform in 2023 and a quarter of those users have no plans in coming back. Instagram’s growth seems to be slowing down among 18-24 year olds. Services like WhatsApp and SnapChat that prioritize private group interactions are on the rise. And as much as people love the library, we’re not going to be added to the group chat. The time and energy we put into creating content for a platform that is not and will not push that content directly to our users is time and energy that could be used elsewhere. ​

With email, reach is guaranteed. They may not do anything with your email, but they will get it. The same can’t be said of social media content.​

Email and college students

In 2021, 93 percent of 15-24yr olds in the U.S. reported using email. No social media platform, with the exception of YouTube, even comes close to that. According to Statista, 46% of people in the US prefer email for communication. Between 2022 and 2026, email usage is expected to grow globally to almost 400 billion emails per year. ​

This especially holds true among consumers with brand loyalty, like library users. 37% of consumers state it is likely or very likely that their brand’s regular newsletter would influence them to purchase something. In that same study, 57% of responding Gen Zers stated they liked being emailed by brands. ​

And what about email usage in the university context? According to a 2021 study in the journal E-Learning and Digital Media, email is the most common communication channel between students and faculty. And since the pandemic, according to the journal New Media and Society, college students’ use of email has increased in both volume and frequency. A 2021 study of California community colleges found similar results.​

And in one study examining a cross section of almost 2000 college students from public and private institutions across the nation found that email is the preferred mode. We see this pattern repeated over and over again.​

Email at MPOW

Here at LMU Library, we have published a monthly newsletter for the past 14 years that goes out to more than 5000 subscribers. There’s the QR code. I hope you’ll subscribe to it.​

In the education industry, open rates for emails average 24%. But at LMU Library, our open rates average 46% and often reach into the 80% range when we segment for specific audiences. Our main Marketing team at LMU sends out weekly emails to all students, and they are seeing open rates averaging close to 50% of the student body. 50%! The lesson here is that students are reading their emails! ​Which leads me to my final section…

Tips for success

Tip #1: Ask your subscribers what they want and customize accordingly. According to a 2022 study published in the Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing, e-mails customized using volunteered consumer data are 38% more effective than emails that only use observed data or no custom data at all. In one 2023 survey, 69% respondents said they wanted to receive emails that make them feel like a VIP and 70% are willing to share their hobbies with brands they subscribe to. Those numbers are even higher among Gen Z respondents. So ask your subscribers permission to customize based on data they voluntarily give you.​

​Tip #2: Segment your audience. Take that data and divvy up your subscriber list in meaningful ways. In the least, be sure to segment between faculty, staff and students: don’t send the same email to all groups. If you can get the info, divvy up your distribution lists by college major or by on-campus vs. off campus status. I’ve even seen one library divvy up their email list by the patrons’ book genre preferences. Segment based on action: for example, people who subscribed after attending an event. Most email marketing platforms, like MailChimp and Constant Contact, have this function, but you could even do it in Outlook. ​

Tip #3: Always Be A/B Testing. What is A/B testing? This is when you send out two, three or more different versions of the same email with slight differences to a portion of your subscribers. Whichever group responds most favorably based on open rates and clicks, that’s the version you then send to the rest of the group. Start with your subject line: try 2-3 different word variations, try including an emoji. Try two versions of the same email with different images. Keep tweaking until you find what works best.​

Tip #4: Just like designing for the web, optimize your emails for search. Most folks never delete their emails. So there is a huge benefit to creating emails that are designed to be accessed later. By using keywords in subject lines, headers, and the body content, you can increase the likelihood that students will “re” discover your emails at a point of need. ​

​Finally, Tip #5: It’s the little things that matter. Emails that start with an engaging image are more likely to get opened, especially among Gen Z recipients who like to preview their emails. Those call to action buttons? Including an emoji increases the likelihood that someone will click on it. Even selecting the right sender makes a difference. People want to open emails from someone they trust. Maybe it’s an email from “The William H. Hannon Library” if your library’s name has clout. Or maybe it’s an email from the Dean, if you’re just sending it to faculty. Think about who your audience expects to hear from and customize the sender field accordingly.​


In the best of all possible worlds, we’d all have the resources we needed to create a robust, multi-platform digital outreach strategy that balances mobile, email, and social channels to reach all our users wherever they’re at. But we have to choose where to spend our time. Email marketing offers unparalleled advantages above social media through precision targeting and tailored engagement strategies. And it’s where our campus users are at. So before you join the latest social network, love the one you’re with. And make the most of it! Thank you. Please like and subscribe. Here’s how you can contact me on LinkedIn as well as my personal website. Thank you!​


Dunne, N. (2021). Communication Technology Within Community Colleges [Ed.D., Brandman University]. In ProQuest Dissertations and Theses (2572604800). ProQuest One Academic.

Emma. (2019, March 26). 8 Email marketing best practices for higher education. Email Marketing Software That Works For You | Emma Email Marketing & Automation.

Emma. (2020, October 19). 6 tactics for successful higher ed email marketing. Email Marketing Software That Works For You | Emma Email Marketing & Automation.

Faverio, M. (n.d.). Majority of U.S. Twitter users say they’ve taken a break from the platform in the past year. Pew Research Center. Retrieved February 7, 2024, from

Hartemo, M., & Link to external site, this link will open in a new tab. (2022). Conversions on the rise – modernizing e-mail marketing practices by utilizing volunteered data. Journal of Research in Interactive Marketing16(4), 585–600.

Huebner, C. (2019, January 14). Underestimating the Potential of Email

Kaufmann, R., & Vallade, J. I. (2021). Online student perceptions of their communication preparedness. E-Learning and Digital Media18(1), 86–104.

Marigold. (2023). Higher Education Forecast: 2023 Consumer Trends Index.​

Nguyen, M. H., Gruber, J., Marler, W., Hunsaker, A., Fuchs, J., & Hargittai, E. (2022). Staying connected while physically apart: Digital communication when face-to-face interactions are limited. New Media & Society24(9), 2046–2067.

Singh, K. (2023, May 15). Email Marketing for Higher Education: Tips and Best Practices. Modern Campus.

Swanson, J. A., Renes, S. L., & Strange, A. T. (2020). The Communication Preferences of Collegiate Students. In P. Isaias, D. G. Sampson, & D. Ifenthaler (Eds.), Online Teaching and Learning in Higher Education (pp. 65–78). Springer International Publishing.

Tratnik, A., Gak, D., Baggia, A., Jerebic, J., Rajkovič, U., Grbić, T., Duraković, N., Medić, S., & Žnidaršič, A. (2023). Factors influencing student-professor email communication in higher education. Education and Information Technologies

U.S. e-mail usage by age 2021. (2022). Statista.

image credit: remco horbach on flickr (cc-by)​

a daily todo list

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once.

Ray Cummings, The Time Professor (1921)

If you skimmed through my journals over the past 25 years, stopping every five years to take a look, you would likely discover five completely different ways of organizing my to-do lists. I’ve used notecards and notebooks, Remember the Milk and Todoist, plain text files and markdown. I’ve tried most systems under that sun. But regardless of the platform, I’ve usually modeled my process, to varying degrees, on David Allen’s Getting Things Done method. Since the introduction of time blocking, however, I’ve slowly moved away from the GTD workflow, focusing less on context-matching and more on prioritizing for the time I have in front of me. 

My current system is a combination of Cal Newport’s time-blocking system and the format of the Full Focus notebooks. I add the fixed meetings to my schedule and then, examining the time I have open, determine the top 3 things I want to get done. There is a section for “other tasks” as time permits, and the rest of the page is dedicated to daily notes. 

It’s a system that works amazingly well. It’s worth noting though that this is the “bottom of the stack” in my planning process. I make my daily plan each morning, but that’s after having already set my weekly, monthly, and quarterly plans in advance. So I don’t have to look at my full to do list (which I keep in Microsoft 360) and I can stay focused on what matters most. I would say 9 times out of 10, I get at least one thing from my “top 3” done every day, and more often than not, I complete all three. 

What I’m reading

Cory Doctorow on Vice: “This is *not* the moment to be ‘social first.’ This is the moment for POSSE (Post Own Site, Share Everywhere), a strategy that sees social media as a strategy for bringing readers to channels that *you* control.”

Call it spoons, call it energy, or: “If you give your fucks to the unliving—if you plant those fucks in institutions or systems or platforms or, gods forbid, interest rates—you will run out of fucks.”

Adam Kotsko on students’ reading habits: “Large-scale prose writing is the best medium we have for capturing [the world’s] complexity, and the education system should not be in the business of keeping students from learning how to engage effectively with it.”

Benjamin Santos Genta on metaphors: “We owe it to ourselves and others to reflect on the appropriateness of the metaphors we employ to frame the world. These choices – conscious or not – can be constructive or disastrous.”

Garden update

young loquat tree growing among birds of paradise plants

Sneaky little bastard. When we first moved into our house over a decade ago, there was a loquat tree in the backyard. It was one of the first plants I removed because it was growing in and among two other plants. It’s not a fruit I enjoy, but they are all over the neighborhood, so I’m sure this was the result of an errant seed dropped from above.

Links to the past

Overheard online

Occasionally I see posts that look like this: “I’m just starting my MLIS and I don’t know if I should specialize in cataloguing VHS tapes or storytimes for dogs. What do you think I should do?????” Just take courses you think are interesting and take whatever job you can get when you graduate.

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