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.
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.
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 (Image: Wikipedia Commons)
Good visualization tells a story, clearly, forever!
My takeaway from this session: Kim Vassiliadis noted that from 1999 – 2011 Librarians at UNC had created 350 guides using HTML and assorted programming tools. When they made the move to LibGuides in 2012 they used a management plan. Each LibGuide had a defined purpose; consistent style; planned life cycle; and long term commitment. They analyze their LibGuides on a yearly basis from a yearly usage report and they have a mathematical formula for a workflow of how long each LibGuide may take to update. They have separate Courseguides which live only during the life of a course. They do have a library of material to use for quickly building a Courseguide.
This seems a systematic approach and works for them because they started it as they developed LibGuides. It may be harder for others to implement this (especially the consistent design principle) with a collection of LibGuides already created.
Thank goodness, it’s Spring! I know this because we officially lost that hour last weekend to Daylight Savings Time and I’m still groggy.
To take the drudgery out of the day-to-day academic activities, (and yes, I think moving a library – packing boxes of books for the 4th time in 4 years – will include all kinds of drudge!) this is the season for professional development. It’s not just me feeling the stress of change! According to Michael Kelley’s article Research Librarians Discuss New Ways to Support Scholars:
“The 21st-century’s user-centric networked world and the concomitant Sturm und Drang of cyber scholarship have caught research libraries in a seemingly unending flux. Traditional practices and services are no longer adequate to support scholars, but how best to reassess and redefine services, how best to reposition the library within the scholarly enterprise, how best to add new value, remains an ongoing, critical challenge.”
Sturm und Drang, redefine services, add new value, ongoing challenges…professional development save me! I need a wider lens view of my job in an academic library, and I will get that talking with professionals around DC and around the country in the next few weeks.
Yesterday, DCAHSL (DC Area Health Science Librarians) met and the topics were all about research.
Topic: Big Data
Speaker: Matthew Clark,Director, Professional Services at BioFortis
Presentation – Qiagram: A Novel Interface for Scientists to Mine and Understand Large Datasets with Natural Language Queries.
Speaker: James King, Information Architect, NIH Library, National Institutes of Health
Presentation – Impact and Productivity Measurements in Changing Research Environments
Where did I ever come up with the idea that there might just be a day at my job where I was comfortable? It is never going to happen.
Almost four years ago, we moved to the DC area. A new environment, a new commute, a new job will add stress. But, I assumed the stress would lessen as time went on. Not so!
I made mistakes. I hope I learned from them. I continue to make mistakes – new ones I hope. I was reminded of this reading a Maria Shine Stewart blog post If You’re Perfect, Don’t Read This.
“I suspect that if one is not making a few mistakes on campus or off, a learning curve may not be steep enough or one is staying within a comfort zone, avoiding risk.”
Universities and Libraries are also in NO COMFORT zones these days. Changes in library collections, services, and the increasingly accelerating rate-of-change … of data, of technology, and of information make for most uncomfortable working situations.
“It is only by ongoing practice, with all the trial and error that entails, that a wider field of vision on campus might be attained.”
I couldn’t find my comfort zone these days if it reached out and bopped me on the head!
Gene Kranz ’51-sporting his white vest – entering assembly in Sullivan Center at CCHS 11/28/2012
I had the pleasure of spending the day with Gene Kranz ’51 – Central Catholic High School graduate, NASA Flight Director and Apollo 13 Tiger Team leader. As he spoke in classrooms and to student groups and met students in the hallways, I often felt he was speaking to me.
Gene Kranz visited the CCHS Space Room that is home to his NASA Ambassador of Excellence award – a moon rock. But, as I listened to Gene Kranz speak throughout the day, his words are what I carry back home with me.
Aren’t we all so blessed to have people like Tom Clark and his company, SFC Graphics; the Hafner family; Habitec; and Tom and Lou Ann Kress and their family – all so generous in providing the “Moon Room” as inspiration to our Irish family?
Mr. Kranz is part of our Central Catholic Irish family and he inspires me every day. He inspires with his heroic adventures as part of NASA and space history. He inspires with his life’s faith and his life’s work. He often signs copies of his book Failure is Not an Option with the phrase Aim High!
I encourage the administration and staff of CCHS to Aim High! when the day to day duties seem small and contentious. Remember great days at CCHS, as when Gene Kranz visits.
In a science classroom, a student asked Gene Kranz how he felt when the Apollo program ended. He replied, “I felt like I was kicked in the gut. I had to suck it up and go on to the next thing, because life changes and that’s how progress is made.”
I encourage the hardest working, dedicated and inspiring teachers at CCHS to Aim High! Expect great things from each and every student. You inspire students every day.
I encourage all of the students at Central Catholic – today’s students and all alumni – to Aim High! Look beyond this week’s homework and next week’s test and during all of life’s days with their blessings and challenges.
Gene Kranz was asked, “Who was the most influential person in your life?” He told the story of meeting his wife, Marta. He said, while his work was important and time consuming, the team he and his wife Marta built – his family – was the most important team in his life.
This very busy Fall semester, I barely keep up reading my daily email alerts from ASEE First Bell, Inside Higher Ed, Wired Campus and Scholarly Kitchen. I become increasingly anxious every day as I scan the headlines – the death of higher ed; eBooks are the end of the book; MOOCs; keeping up with gadgets; teaching digital millennials – and then skim the articles that I think have some resonance in my daily life as a multi-branch science librarian. My brain is truly a giant cloud of tags and nebulous half-formed ideas.
Luckily, I was rescued this morning by my RSS feeds. I had concentrated time to read and am a better person for reading from the important (to me) RSS feeds:
From more than 10 years of reading Library blogs, I always check in with two school librarians that transcend their day jobs and continue to speak to information trends and educational management issues:
Doug Johnson at the Blue Skunk blog and yes, I do bring my own devices to work, it makes me more efficient as I travel between building to have my own technology – laptop and tablet – with me. (No, work did not pay for these, it took me three years to get efficient!) BYOD – to work
Joyce Valenza from the School Library Journal and NeverEnding Search blog reminded me to get back to this great online conference that I paid for and just haven’t had time to watch all the session – yet! Library 2.012 archive posted
YES! Someone has written about my nebulous ideas that have been niggling at me just beneath the surface of my consciousness:
I have been trying to write this post about reinvention for a few weeks. Every time I write it I get depressed. How many times, in one lifetime, does one person have to reinvent themselves? It can be rejuvenating, but it often is exhausting and stressful.
This makes me laugh…every time! If my very prosaic Dad had believed in witchcraft – which he never ever would – his familiar would have been a duck. When he left so suddenly, I was a high school Librarian in Toledo, Ohio. So, Dad, what would you say about my reinvented life here working in Washington DC at the Catholic University of America and living amongst Engineers once again?
Our lives were upended in 2008 by a lost job – as were so many! During the next 6 months, we reinvented our life – new jobs, new location, new house, new modes of travel and new challenges. I haven’t recovered yet, can you tell?
When I took the test – for myself and then again for my husband – our scores were well over 300
OVER 300 POINTS: This score indicates a major life crisis and is highly predictive (80%) of serious physical illness within the next 2 years
Adapted from Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, (1967). Vol. 11, pp. 213-218
Yet, during that stressful time in 2008, we had the opportunity to work on a national campaign. We walked neighborhoods in Ohio and felt like it was important to make a stand and make a difference. On election night 2008, fellow campaign workers came by our house after 11PM, just to enjoy a sense of new possibilities with us. That was an unexpected moment possibility for a better future. My husband began his new job in the DC environs the same week President Obama did. I followed by March 2009.
The past three years have been a struggle – I’m sure President Obama feels the same. You try something to make things better, and then you re-evaluate. Then you try again. Along the way you have big and small successes – and lots of times that are not successful. You lose people, you lose faith, and sometimes you lose perspective. But, you persevere, because that’s what you learned from your Dad and Mom.
You try to recognize the great gifts of grace and unexpected pleasure when they happen. I do feel that grace when the bells of the Basilica ring and echo with my Dad’s laughter. I feel that grace when I am surprised to hear the haunting melody and words of Somewhere from West Side Story – at a concert at the Kennedy Center celebrating JFK’s 50th Inaugural Anniversary or on a hot summer night concert encore by Idina Menzel at Wolf Trap.
I feel that grace whenever we travel to see beloved faces of friends and family – and even better – when they visit us. I feel that grace every time I see the faces of my children.
What’s the difference between reinvention and change?
I believe in working hard and always trying to make things better. But, when do you just give up?
You don’t. You find new ways to go forward even if faith is weak.
At this point in my meanderings I can hear my sister-in-law Mary Lou yelling at me ….BRUCE… dreams will not be thwarted…faith will be rewarded…
Well, Big Wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams
Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls
I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing
Music and lyrics by Bruce Springsteen, LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS is the tenth track on his 2012 album, Wrecking Ball.
LAND OF HOPE AND DREAMS was written in 1998 or early 1999,
and debuted live with the E Street Band on 18 Mar 1999 in Asbury Park, NJ.
Sometimes, Bruce – though very good! – is not enough. I need a new focus.
There is a quote attributed to the futurist Alvin Toffler that captures this new reality: In the future “illiteracy will not be defined by those who cannot read and write, but by those who cannot learn and relearn.” Any form of standing still is deadly. Friedman
Friedman’s final phrase – investments in our people […] are more important than ever – speaks to me.
Maybe I will never get my ducks in a row. But, I will remember that any form of standing still is deadly, I will invest in people, I will teach. I will recognize and value the unexpected pleasure and laugh whenever possible.
There’s a place for us
Somewhere a place for us
Peace and quiet and open air
Wait for us
There’s a time for us
Some day a time for us
With time to spare
Time to learn
Time to care
We’ll find a new way of living
We’ll find a way of forgiving
There’s a place for us
A time and place for us
Hold my hand
And we’re halfway there
Hold my hand
And I’ll take you there