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Puttering into the new year

As I putter around the office today in anticipation of the deluge that the next few weeks will bring, I keep thinking about this line from one of Marianne Moore’s poems:

There is a great amount of poetry in unconscious fastidiousness.

“Critics and Connoisseurs” from Selected Poems (1935)
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Driving the narrative

If libraries simply report outputs as we always have, we run the risk of someone else dictating our worth.

Meredith Farkas, “Your Library’s Story

I think about this potential pitfall frequently. Even more so, I worry about how relying on traditional metrics creates eyes-glazed-over reactions from stakeholders who already struggle to remember how libraries’ play a necessary and invaluable role in higher education.

Libraries are essential to the educational mission of the university, but we have become so very efficient at integrating into that mission that we’ve become invisible. While I knee-jerkingly resist worn out tropes about librarians, I sometimes find it valuable to play on these archetypes in my outreach and communications work.

Over the centuries, we’ve gotten pretty good at developing workflows that maximize our ability to support IHEs. Libraries and the work they do are certainly not without problems, but considering all that we do for our students and faculty, especially in the areas of collection development and research support, we are a damn fine and extraordinary machine. That outputs that we’ve traditionally reported to stakeholders were, for decades, the simplest distillation of an extremely complex operation.

But these outputs were predicated on a false ideal of “growth.” Academic libraries today don’t need to show evidence of growth as much as they need to show evidence of enrichment. As Farkas says, we need to showcase “how patrons use the library and its effect on their lives.” And we need to drive that message home.

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Scaffolding outreach broadly

And realize that one person cannot be all outreach, even though they may have the title. It takes a concerted effort on the part of many people at all levels to make outreach a success at any institution, never forget that.

Fontenot, M. (2013). Five “typical” years as an outreach librarian: And five things I have learned. College & Research Libraries News, 74(8), 431–432. https://doi.org/10.5860/crln.74.8.8997

I’ve been meditating on this idea recently. In some respects, almost everything we do as librarians that touches on an outside entity (i.e. users) could be considered an outreach moment. How do we capture that? How do we scaffold it?

Maybe it’s less the responsibility of the outreach librarian to do all the outreach things, but to build skills and support throughout library staff. At MPOW, we expect all librarians to have a basic capacity to talk about information literacy, even if they are not instruction librarians. And every librarian is expected to do some collection liaison work, even if they are not collections librarians. Why not the same for outreach?

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Right speech and speaking rightly

I don’t think I need to read yet another “Buddhist approach to [insert tech]” article. The argument is well-worn and essentially a known entity. Nonetheless, I can’t resist the urge to throw them into my to-read queue.

Social media has the ability to connect us with many people, so we do have a responsibility to post things that are true, kind, beneficial, offered with good intention, and shared at the right time.

Lodro Rinzler, “Buddhism and Social Media

There is a lot wrong with Twitter these days. In my heart, there is still a spark of love for a possibly never-existing but perhaps always-possible inherent good of the internet, but that spark is quickly dying. I don’t expect the systems to correct themselves, but perhaps I can try to correct my own approach.

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There’s more to quiet than decibels

In a recent Library Babel Fish post, the wise and always discerning Barbara Fister asks readers to consider for a brief moment the value of a quiet space in today’s society.

Libraries don’t bill themselves as quiet places these days. We like to think they are social, active, buzzing with energy, because that makes us seem vital and necessary. Besides, they often are noisy — noisy enough that students ask for areas to be set aside for quiet study. We set one of our three floors aside as a quiet floor years ago at the request of students. Some find it intimidatingly “serious,” but others gravitate to it at least for some of their study time. For students who don’t have a lot of quiet places in their lives, those spaces are particularly valuable.

Barbara Fister, Inside Higher Ed

We struggle with the same conflict where I work. The library is one of the busiest, most trafficked places on campus. We’re open late. We have a coffee shop. We host events sometimes daily. And my colleagues are a noisy bunch (proudly so!). And yet… students always ask us to police loud talkers, disruptive events, and other patrons who play music in their headphone too loudly.

We do what we can to address the noise. This continues to be an ongoing negotiation (There are headphones at the info desk!). However, there is one type of “noise” that we have stood firmly against: advertising. As one of the busiest places on campus, we often get requests from other units to “put up fliers in the library.” Sometimes, the flier and table-tents just show up (and are promptly recycled).

We have a policy against this. I like to think of it as a means toward reducing visual noise. When you walk into our library, you are not bombarded with visual stimuli: bright and flashy posters promoting campus events, clubs, scholarship deadlines, athletics, branding, or food options. These things are important (and we have a designated space where this material can go), but not when students are studying. Not in the spaces where they need focus. Not when they are in the library doing what they came to college to do: succeed academically and learn.

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Draw me like one of your French girls

a pug laying on its back waiting for a belly rub
Beatrice the Pug would like nothing more than for you to rub her belly now

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The persistent myth of the digital native

Digital native ≠ digitally competent. Librarians who work with college students in the classroom and at the reference desk are likely to understand this. Unfortunately, the assumption that today’s students naturally take to technology still persists in higher ed.

Today’s traditional-age students are digital natives. Google and Wi-Fi have been available for as long as they can remember; the first iPhone came out when they were in elementary school. But there’s a difference between familiarity and understanding. Quickly finding information online doesn’t mean you know how to evaluate its trustworthiness. Growing up using apps doesn’t mean you know how to build one. Some students are digitally savvy when they begin college. But others are not. How can a college ensure that all of its students graduate with the digital skills they will need to thrive in their careers and beyond?

Beckie Supiano, How One College Helps All Students Gain Digital Skills [paywalled]

For one, colleges can scaffold digital literacy competencies throughout the curriculum, or adapt already existing critical thinking or information literacy competencies to accommodate digital modes of existing and creating. Additionally, academic affairs units could strengthen their support (i.e. $$ and staffing) for academic libraries and the librarians that are doing this work all the time.

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Vacation mode: enabled

West Fork Trail in Sedona

Taking some time off email, off projects, and (mostly) off the grid to reflect, reconsider, and reconnect.

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2014 Westerly Côte Blonde (Santa Ynez Valley)

2014 Côte Blonde

I’ve had this bottle in my cabinet for a few months now and though I’m glad to finally get around to opening it (I mean, what else is wine for?), I wish I had waited just a few more years. The tannins rake the tongue and it feels a bit unbalanced. So it’s a good thing I bought two bottles!

Blood-red, clean and clear with shades of purple in the glass. The nose is strong, hot, well-peppered with notes of blackberry and… Wrigley’s Big Red chewing gum. Light-bodied on the tongue, with more pepper, tart cherry, and something floral I can’t quite place. The finish gets a tad bit sweeter with a hint of unripe strawberry.

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My ACRL 2019 schedule

ACRL 2019 banner image

I made it to Cleveland for the 2019 conference of the Association of College & Research Libraries. I did not expect to see so many people wearing gloves and hats.

Despite not having adequately prepared for lake weather, I am excited to be here. ACRL is perhaps my favorite conference to attend (it’s a close tie with LMCC). Everyone here speaks the language of academic libraries and archives. All the topics feel relevant. It’s an immersive experience that happens once every two years and I am here for it.

I will be alongside Jodie Borgerding, Jennifer Peters, and Joyce Garczynski presenting on “Recasting the Parentative: Seeking Balance Amidst the Busyness.”

Abstract: When you think of academic librarian parents, what comes to mind? Many people stereotype parents and unfortunately university, local, and national leaders make policies impacting them based on these false assumptions. This presentation will extend previous work-life balance conversations by sharing the results of a survey about librarian-parent stereotypes, providing attendees with the opportunity to discuss how these stereotypes have impacted them and work together to develop an agenda to change the policies resulting from these biases.

Thursday, April 10

  • 8:40a: Let’s hear it! Reimagining the library’s teaching and learning program through cross-campus conversations
  • 9:40a: Academic Library Impact: New Research from ACRL Grant Recipients
  • 10:55a: Keynote: Viet Thanh Nguyen
  • 2:00p: Empathetic Marketing in the Library: A Fresh Approach to Outreach
  • 3:10p: Guided Mediation break
  • 4:00p: “Must be comfortable with ambiguity”: How Outreach Librarians are navigating their new roles to better engage with scholars in the 21st century

Friday, April 11

  • 6:30a: Yoga
  • 8:30a: Recasting the Parentative: Seeking Balance Amidst the Busyness
  • 10:30a: Reading Without Walls: Beyond the Common Read
  • 1:00p: Diversity and Inclusion Planning: Fostering Culture and Community in Academic Libraries
  • 3:00p: Reconceptualizing the Conference Experience: Employing Grassroots Efforts in Conference Planning to Promote Inclusivity and Accessibility
  • 4:15p: When Roles Collide: Librarians as Educators and the Question of Learning Analytics

Saturday, April 12

  • 8:30a: Creating an Outreach Story: Assessment Results, Strategic Planning, and Reflection
  • 11:00a: Closing Keynote: Alison Bechdel

I’m looking forward to learning, seeing old friends, and making new ones. Have fun at #acrl2019!