Category Archives: Research

Impact, promotion and press releases

Journal Impact Factor graphic

Summer is Impact Factor (IF) season. Publishers, societies, and journal editors the world over anxiously await the outcome of the latest version of the Thomson Reuters® Journal Citation Reports (JCR). Will their journal IFs have increased or decreased? How will they compare with the competition? Has a new journal made it into the JCR for the first time? Many faculty are equally interested in the JCR rankings – universities and funders use this data to help inform decision-making about tenure, promotion, and appointments, as well as research funding.” From: DORA and the Impact Factor Debate by Iain Craig (July 2013)

The Scholarly Kitchen notes that we are celebrating 50 years of Science Citation Index which lead to the all-powerful Journal Impact Factor.

Making sense of the world often involves making connections between thoughts and ideas. Sometimes those connections are obtuse. This month those connections are hitting me upside the head, let’s call it impact!

These articles had impact! Scholarship, impact measurement, and genre by  Alex Reid (May 1, 2013) is thoughtful from a humanities perspective; and from the library realm Promotional Considerations  by Barbara Fister (May 1, 2014).

“Attention is not the same thing as impact, and impact is not the same thing as insight.” B. Fister

“Nor is knowledge a commodity to be sold or to be used for personal gain. That’s not just a moral harrumph, there are practical reasons to resist the commodification of knowledge. When we insist that it have measurable impact, we tend to work with too short a timeline. Some ideas are depth charges that don’t go off for decades.” B. Fister

While Librarians are good at promoting reading, knowledge and public good – we are not not good at promotion. Librarians are also having some fun (NOT!) trying to measure ROI.

Librarians are happy when they can provide the right resource at the right time and now in multiple formats. My collection development librarian is so very happy that we provide the right title at the right time: case-in-point Capital in the Twenty-First Century.

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century has already sold 80,000 copies in less than two months, and is currently sold out.

Notation from New York Times Book review Thomas Pilketty book at No.  15 on Apr. 27, 2014

How very serendipitous – reputation, promotion, and impact reflected as academics Benjamin Page and co-author Martin Gilens sent a press release about their new academic paper that got them a gig on The Daily Show. They went on to promote an academic journal article about wealth and political influence—not exactly your typical Comedy Central fare. Read about their appearances here:  A Northwestern Political Scientist Does a Star Turn on The Daily Show  by Whet Moser (May 1, 2014); Frightening Policy Research Suggests that America Might Not Be a Democratic Society by: Sarah Jones  (April, 16th, 2014.)

What would a librarian press release look like?



“The substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.” Toby Ziegler West Wing Fourth season “Evidence of Things Not Seen”

This is my favorite definition of faith. In this very chaotic first week of the semester that has seen too many managing challenges and not enough reference questions – I search for meaning in this job. I need to have faith.

Kevin Brown of Lee University is helping me today. I need to have faith that I am doing good work in the lives of the people I work with, teach and help.

However, when I walk into a class full of students whose future I will probably never know, I do so with the faith that something I say or something one of them says will have an effect on at least one student. I believe that students listen to what we say, that they care what we say, that their lives will be better for having taken that class.  In the same way that the craftsmen never saw the finished cathedral, I have no proof of this, of course, but I believe it to be true.  Perhaps one day, someone will see that former student in the same way I saw Wells Cathedral and know that at least one person had the faith to do good work in that student’s life.

Go do good work!

Change and serendipity


I realized this week that I want no part of this change that I have been managing for more than a year. I have been preaching to my staff that closing a library is bad and sad, but maybe also a time for opportunity and growth. “You will be OK!” , that is what I have told my staff. It dawned on me that I am not OK – or anywhere near OK -  with this change.

Then, as often happens, I calm down. Or, better yet, I read something that speaks to me as I did this morning.

Haystacks vs. Algorithms: Is Scanning the Stacks for [Pretty] Books Really the Best Research Strategy? by Brian Mathews (June 25, 2013)

Libraries everywhere are in a constant state of change these days. I am caught up in this chaos. We are closing/moving a branch library. Decisions on collections, services and staff are just the tip of this event that seems never ending – but, I know it will end (maybe late this summer) and we will all have to settle into new roles and places. I can’t picture a place for myself in this maelstrom, but maybe it is yet for me to discover. I should trust in…serendipity.

During this time, I have come to know some new library users – adult learners who have come back to school. These are learners that have found our branch library a good place for group study and technology resources and assistance.  They work pretty independently and have told me that they appreciate my staff and this library space. I am sad to tell them we are closing, but it has forced them to seek other resources on campus. While these users currently use us for group and quiet study – they have found the 24 hour technology labs and a study room at our main library.

I am watching their learning journey – they have “adventured” past their comfort zones in just a few short months and I can learn from them.

Thanks to Brian Mathews for reminding me …”Serendipity is a state of mind.”







Year-end review OR twice in two days…

As we wrap up this academic year, I am evaluating this academic year by ideas, not by closing a library. My choice! It’s been a tough year…but the ideas survive and nourish a tired brain.

One of the biggest trends this year has been “big data.” If you haven’t had time to think about this yet – what it is, what this means for science librarians or why libraries should pay attention – this is a good beginning article.

Data Science, Machine Learning, and Statistics: what is in a name?

The University of Virginia has an interesting site all about data and researchers and their university. A model for universities? Maybe. If nothing else, use this a good model for citing data practices.

University of Virginia data management consulting group – citing data

Data visualization is another big topic in libraries and research. Good visualization is not new. Twice in two days I ran across reference to my favorite visualization – Charles Joseph Minard’s famous graph showing the decreasing size of Napoleon’s Grande Armée as it marches to Moscow; a classic in data visualization.

Charles Joseph Minard
Charles Joseph Minard (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

Good visualization tells a story, clearly, forever!

Stephen Hawking’s advice for twenty-first century grads: Embrace complexity

Service Design (Slideshare) – Slide 119

I have been trend-doing all this academic year. Read more about it in this informal report.

How does your academic year measure up?



Dancing With My Whiteboards

Whiteboard in Physics Library

I’d rather be dancing with my whiteboards than writing my annual report! Good song lyrics, don’t you think? While our students are away we are re-purposing yet another library space (my 3rd such project in 3 years on the job.) This summer we are transferring serials to storage and adding more flexible study space in our Physic s Library while improving online access and resources. We are trying to find the right balance for our campus community between the physical library and the digital library. Because it is Physics – whiteboards (magnetic and movable and useful as space dividers) are a must for all those endless equations. They make me smile.

It seems as if I am not the only one that struggles during this end-of-semester season with performance evaluations and report writing.  Veronica Wells, from the ACRLog post Reflections on Reflecting suggests we ask the following questions – not just once a year, but more often :

  1. What went well?
  2. What did not go well?
  3. What is something that I should think about for next time?

I like thinking about our campus libraries as small embassies that are remote from the main campus library but ambassadorships of resources and services for all of the campus community. In library parlance it is called embedded librarianship. In this time of financial turmoil, and being good stewards, we will be discussing the feasibility of campus branch libraries. Wherever and however  we serve our campus community we can be rich hubs of information and service as noted in Academic Librarians as Campus Hubs by Joshua Kim.

After all my multitude of statistics duly reported – circulation statistics, reference statistics, instruction statistics – I know that the numbers do not tell the whole story. How do we measure our users own heroic journeys, or our service to them on their quests? As a librarian who serves in multiple buildings on a campus, I really should measure my year in steps between libraries. But instead I tend to take the measure of myself in people I meet on those walks across campus.

How do we measure “the treasure kindness” as Maria Shine Stewart writes about in her essay Every Nook and Cranny of all who serve our campus community? Is that in anyone’s annual report?


Look for heroes @Libraries this April!

Library Hero button

Thank you! , Michael Edson – Director, Web and New Media Strategy with the Smithsonian Institution – for reminding me of something I read long ago and need to remember everyday. Our library users are heroes on their own epic journeys and we need to help them – like, can I be Samewise Gamgee to your Frodo Baggins? – help them!

I had the pleasure of hearing Michael Edson preach – Come, Let Us Go boldly Into the Present, My Brothers & Sisters – at CiL2012. In fact, he “saved” the conference for me. I can learn what I need, but I need to feel that what I learn and teach matters…call it big picture, call it inspiration, I know it when I experience it. And, sadly, not every keynote is worthy. But. Michael Edson lit a spark that still glows in me and for that I salute him.

As we celebrate April icons like baseball, poetry, and libraries, remember the everyday heroes we serve – let’s help them on their information quests!

It was a hard conference…ACRL2011

The Association of College & Research Libraries – ACRL 2011 conference was held in Philadelphia, PA March 30- April 2. I attended most sessions with my on-the-cusp Library Administrator hat. There was not much smiling, much less guffawing, in the sessions I attended. If there was a theme – it was assessment. One presenter tried to take the sting out of the word assessment…think of it as “critical consideration,” he said…still, not very smile worthy.

I have pulled the ACRL 2011 papers I want to read from this conference and the list is daunting. I have pages of notes on assessment management systems, from sessions and from vendors. I did learn that embedded librarians are now known as integrated librarians. I want to go back and read everything on IL (Information Literacy) and Reference Services – all the sessions I didn’t attend. And I need to find time to see all of the  ACRL Virtual Conference sessions.

Both keynote speakers, Raj Patel “these are dark times” ; and Jaron Lanier “Google and Facebook are the consumer, we are the product” urged librarians to re-envision libraries to save the world – as one tweet put it – no pressure. I did buy their books:

The Value of Nothing by Raj Patel

You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto by Jaron Lanier


Technology at this conference didn’t “WOW” me – but again this was a serious issues conference – in this serious time – and it looked like the “fun stuff” was on the periphery. I didn’t see many QR codes and only used 2 other session twitter hashtags – #acrl2011 #revorevacrl11 -  @KMH_nowinVA.  Though, I heartily agree that according to  PAscibrarian “Caffeine and sugar [act] as elixirs to scholarship.” #acrl2011 and RT @cclibrarian: If you can use “fun” things in a relevant way, great! But I think worrying so much about being “cool” isn’t always useful. #acrl2011. Good to know, as I am seriously uncool. I am disappointed that I didn’t get to bump anyone’s smartphone! I did pass out lots of cards and received many to contact this week.

The highlight of my conference was lunch on Friday with Holly from Webster University in St. Louis at the Reading Terminal MarketPearl’s Oyster Bar. As Holly and I discussed the friendly midwest and how much I missed it; two ex-Chicago and now Philly residents across the bar from us advised me to embrace East Coast living. That Lobster Bisque I had for lunch was very good – along with the smiles and laughter we shared.

Maybe that was the point. These are serious times and we need to humanize and celebrate the human connections.

I drove to Philly from DC – and got lost in NJ going home. Figure that. Getting from here to there…is hard.



Got Stress?

Information can be stress inducing, don’t you think? There can be too much information, or too little information. It can come at you too fast or, sometimes, too frustratingly slow. It can be good, scholarly, peer reviewed information; or very, very biased information. And, maybe, the  most stress inducing factor of all, is the rate of change of information and how we access that information.

I am in the information business at an academic library and the beginning of the Fall 2010 semester is well underway with lots of stress. I tell my engineering first-year students that they need to be project managers of their own information. I should practice what I preach.

I look for guidance and wisdom from others about how to manage my stress and information. CUA colleague, Bruce Rosenstein, posted on 7 Self-Management Tips for the New School Year.  Well, I have already failed miserably on his first tip – maintain your health – with the “I’m back at school” bout of bronchitis. I do agree profoundly about reading and keeping your mind agile with the flow of ideas. Blogging helps me do that. I am always looking for the sense of meaning (while enjoying the ironic idiocy of human endeavors – personal and public!) I would add to Bruce’s list that I like to develop a short list of broad goals to focus on for the semester, so that during the day to day workload, I can always glimpse the bigger picture in the distance. There is that looking for meaning thing again.

I have noticed that stress is, well, everywhere. The CUA Office of Human Resources sponsored a series of “stress management” workshops this past summer. I was too busy to attend – I need to work on that! Last weekend, my pastor’s weekly letter was all about stress. He notes that you should ” … Always read stuff that will make you look good if you die in the middle of it.”  This week I am lucky to be working with first-year students who aren’t  jaded yet – and they thought it was fun to find journal articles. [Yet, they are stressed after and between classes because dorm space is tight on campus this Fall. It makes for full libraries, though, which is a good thing!]

I barely scratched the surface with all my classes – teaching them about journal access and databases (most with new interfaces and numerous Web 2.0 tools like RSS and TOC alerts.) And, you try explaining the state of scholarly press and open access movements,  to faculty and students  – there’s some stress!

Information – and the tools to access that information – continue to change at a rapid rate. My RSS aggregator of choice  – Bloglines – is closing down October 1; forcing my move to Google Reader. It  is no easy task to keep up with the information I need for my job.  I am surprised  to read that Twitter is now the news channel of choice. I don’t think that reading tweets is deep enough reading to let the ideas flow. Yet, I wonder if that will change with the news that Twitter is revamping the site to  include media links. I use Twitter for “news feed” – science, libraries, authors, schools and universities, sports – during the day. I also use Twitter to feed my users about new and exciting things (well, I think nanotechnology and books about infrastructure are fun!)  in the CUA Science Libraries. But, I still want to read longer articles from blogs and reports and in-depth analysis, which I find from my RSS feeds. Though, I am a little stressed out reading the new ACRL report Value of Academic Libraries.

This begs the question – are blogs dead? Well, read Thomas Friedman today about blogging and China and see if blogs can be the voice of a people?

From my RSS feeds this week, I like Will Richardson’s thoughtful and subversive blog – here he links to a Smithsonian article “Reading in a Whole New Way”; and Stephen  Downes  linked to a useful post about workplaces and generations and stress.

How’s your stress? What are you focusing on this semester?

Read something fun every day and I bet you will feel better.

[Source: Asking Good Questions – article and image from]

By the Numbers?

By the numbers, I don’t think so!

I’ve compiled annual reports and statistics; this week  I am figuring budget cuts and real-life budget woes with a spouse laid-off…is this the measure of my work and my life? I don’t think so.

My annual report at work didn’t really tell the story. The statistics (compiled, configured and calculated every which way!) seem, well, delusional.  I usually find beauty in numbers, formulas and graphs; but, faith in numbers, and much else, eludes me this summer.

I was directed to an article detailing a study on  academic Libraries and their ROI (return on investment.) From the story, “ROI is one tool for measuring and demonstrating the value of the library,” I’m not sure many people know what ROI is and just how would we measure it?  I know that I did not mention ROI in my annual report. But again, the whole report detailed who we serve and how we serve them…with instruction, resources and reference.

What is the return on investment of a day, of a job, of a life? Can numbers even begin to tell the story? I don’t think so.

How do you measure job satisfaction? How do you measure friendship? How do you measure love?  I celebrated a birthday last month and am now obsessed by these bad middle years. I live in the DC area and have been devastated by the heat and the commuting…so many days over 90 degrees, the hottest month in history, the longest and maybe worst summer of my life!

Yet, in this hard summer there have been visits from good friends and family;  I’ve heard beautiful music outdoors; I picnic-ed with nieces and nephews; I spent time with my sons; I was soundly beaten at Boggle by my darling daughter-in-law. I spend lots of time watching the man I love struggle –  I admire his fortitude and good humor. I have lost my fortitude…if you see  it, please return it!

What is the measure? Drops, buckets, or oceans of anxiety? Comments, columns or rants from every media direction on any subject you choose? Giggles, chuckles or guffaws at the plans we make and find thwarted at every turn? All of the above… and more.

This summer doesn’t tell the story of my life. I will continue to just do good work, hold his hand and look for moments of grace. As for measuring…being here, being there, being in the moment is my only measure.

(I can hear you rolling your eyes at me and my too many ellipses, my son!)