David Brooks always makes me think…today’s column American Power Act is no exception.

When you read that history, you’re reminded that large efforts are generally plagued by stupidity, error and corruption. But by the sheer act of stumbling forward, it’s possible, sometimes, to achieve important things.

This whole academic year has been me “stumbling forward.”  I will need to reflect more on whether or not anything has been achieved.


April’s big question

I think April’s big question is…will this semester ever end? But, others think April’s big question is:

Isn’t this an ever-expanding universe of tech goodies? Will we be forced to chase hot tools and social platforms to stay competitive? How the heck are we supposed to stay up to speed on all the latest stuff and be successful using it personally and professionally?

How do we keep up?

I like new technology tools. I love getting my “news feeds” from twitter. Have you seen Neil deGrasse Tyson’s tweets on aliens? They makes me smile! So, we all learn and use technology tools to “keep up.”  My newest tool is  Prezi – I learned it works better in Firefox than in IE; and, if you put in graphics, they need to be very high quality to project well. I also learned about QR codes, but am still figuring out which is the best software to use on my phone to read all QR codes. All QR creator sites are not created equally good.  So, yes, I use technology tools to keep up.

But, as it is the end of the semester here at the Catholic University of America, and the end of my first academic year on the job. I need to find time to reflect about what worked this year…and what didn’t. To learn my new job I’ve read management books, built LibGuides, “selected” for subject areas, kept track of seven subject budgets and two  staff budgets, all the while, still learning how to commute. And I’m thinking, maybe – every now and then – I need to step back to keep up.

It was kismet then today when I read a lecture [delivered to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October of last year reprinted in Spring 2010] by William Deresiewicz (essayist and critic) on Solitude and Leadership: If you want others to follow, learn to be alone with your thoughts .

So it’s perfectly natural to have doubts, or questions, or even just difficulties. The question is, what do you do with them? Do you suppress them, do you distract yourself from them, do you pretend they don’t exist? Or do you confront them directly, honestly, courageously? If you decide to do so, you will find that the answers to these dilemmas are not to be found on Twitter or Comedy Central or even in The New York Times. They can only be found within—without distractions, without peer pressure, in solitude.

It reminded me of the Thomas Merton quote that I have always loved and think of often:

“It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love my brothers. The more solitary I am the more affection I have for them…. Solitude and silence teach me to love my brothers for what they are, not for what they say.”

Deresiewicz talks about the new technology tools – and why reading books is better than reading tweets. [Though I love the heavenly irony that I found this lecture through a tweet.] When  he rhapsodizes about the importance of solitude and friendship… well, I am still reflecting about why this speaks to me…but it does!  Read the whole essay…and then reflect about it for a while.

On tweets and books…

So why is reading books any better than reading tweets or wall posts? Well, sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes, you need to put down your book, if only to think about what you’re reading, what you think about what you’re reading. But a book has two advantages over a tweet. First, the person who wrote it thought about it a lot more carefully. The book is the result of his solitude, his attempt to think for himself.

Second, most books are old. This is not a disadvantage: this is precisely what makes them valuable. They stand against the conventional wisdom of today simply because they’re not from today. Even if they merely reflect the conventional wisdom of their own day, they say something different from what you hear all the time. But the great books, the ones you find on a syllabus, the ones people have continued to read, don’t reflect the conventional wisdom of their day. They say things that have the permanent power to disrupt our habits of thought. They were revolutionary in their own time, and they are still revolutionary today. And when I say “revolutionary,” I am deliberately evoking the American Revolution, because it was a result of precisely this kind of independent thinking. Without solitude—the solitude of Adams and Jefferson and Hamilton and Madison and Thomas Paine—there would be no America.

On solitude and friendship…

So solitude can mean introspection, it can mean the concentration of focused work, and it can mean sustained reading. All of these help you to know yourself better. But there’s one more thing I’m going to include as a form of solitude, and it will seem counterintuitive: friendship. Of course friendship is the opposite of solitude; it means being with other people. But I’m talking about one kind of friendship in particular, the deep friendship of intimate conversation. Long, uninterrupted talk with one other person. Not Skyping with three people and texting with two others at the same time while you hang out in a friend’s room listening to music and studying. That’s what Emerson meant when he said that “the soul environs itself with friends, that it may enter into a grander self-acquaintance or solitude.”

And, in this reflective mode I have checked out the book Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton and will leave you with his prayer [because I often have no idea where I am going] as I reflect and hope, as my friend Adele says, that the big guy/gal is indeed pleased.

I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. - from “Thoughts in Solitude” by Thomas Merton

Conference and craziness

End of semester craziness back here on the job …great conference, lots of good stuff to go back and use, following lots of new folk on Twitter and Blogs and how cool is it that we will all be in the Library of Congress as they collect our tweets…or will we?!  See David Ferriero’s take in AOTUS: Collector in Chief weighs in on why Twitter archives.

This will be a short post, but I don’t want to lose valuable information from CIL2010 Day 3.

Ken Haycock in his keynote address on Wednesday says “public good is dead” …SAY IT ISN’T SO!

The next thing… After the 23 Things see what Nebraska is doing for the 24 thing and beyond.

Lori Reed says the next thing is scary and bad news for libraries. Help !

Productivity Tools

And presenting right from his blog LibraryStuff on What’s Hot in RSS was Steven Cohen.

E-Books Landscape: Brian Hulsey ; Bobbi Newman [] ; Jason Griffey

Saved the Day: Megan K. Fox on  Mobile Practices & Search: What’s Hot! In Mobile Technologies.

Hey, did you learn about QR codes? I did – here is the QR code for this blog.

CiL2010 day 2

I’m now following David Ferriero [dferriero] on Twitter. I’ll add his blog AOTUS: Collector in Chief to my RSS feeds. Dr. Ferriero, Archivist of the US, was interviewed by Paul Holdengraber [no lightwieght, himself - Director of Public Programs at the New York Public Library(known as "LIVE from the NYPL"] as the keynote activity at today’s CiL2010 Conference. Holdengraber teased Ferriero, describing him as the “most powerful librarian.”

Dr. Ferriero noted, “It’s nice having a boss down the street, but not in your face.” But Dr. Ferriero has his orders – as in  Executive Orders signed by his boss, Barack Obama – the Open Government Initiative where every Feredal Agency will demonstrate transparency, collaboration and participation; and the Classified National Security Information which will attempt to de-classify over 400 million documents. “You can’t have open government if you don’t have good records.”

Dr. Ferriero outlined  two main goals of his job. 1) To improve the quality of workplace for employees of the National Archives (I think he mentioned in 42 locations around the US); and 2) To “open up the archives” with robust education programs, content rich web sites for K-12 education and new exhibits to encourage kids (of all ages) to be excited about records and encourage all Americans to be “Citizen Archivists.”

I applaud his passion for records and the freedom implied in open information. He lives the  National Archives mantra “Democracy Starts Here.” I was also impressed by his managerial vision which “recognizes the value in every piece of the job employees do that bring value to the agency.”

Best interview question this morning – what keeps Dr. Ferriero up at night – electronic records management  which is the largest, messiest and most expensive challenge. And to be fair , his greatest joy is working with the staff of the National Archives and “great records.” Dr. Ferriero charmed the audience this morning when he shared his current reading, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith and Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War by Robert Roper. We should ask every presenter what they are currently reading!

See this interview streamed live at  CiLlive on USTREAM.

You can listen to a Dr. Ferriero lecture Are We Losing Our Memory? The View from the National Archives presented at Duke University Provost Lecture Series. [Hear Audio of Dr. Ferriero’s Presentation Here.]

Other ideas from today…

Critical Thinking for Decision Making with Rebecca Jones and Deb Wallace (HBS)

WOW (not WoW)! See this very huge project  presented as Reference for a Digital World, but was realy VoIP and SKYPE Reference Service. Talk about vision! Thanks, Jan Dawson.

Lori Reed and eLearning tools.

Crafting Online Personas with Craig J. Anderson, Reference Librarian, Kean University and JP Porcaro, Virtual Services Librarian, New Jersey City University – Can library staff create a professional online persona without adopting a new, secret identity? Jury is still out – but these guys suggest branding yourself, controlling the message and, oh yeah, filter! But, maybe, being a responsible librarian means showing up and being where your users are. See their blog.

Great April 13 blog post on WoW [World of Warcraft] session later in the day. Thanks libraryguy!

Libraries and Transliteracy at Computers in Libraries #cil2010

I’m still thinking about  Chad Mairn’s presentation on Information Fluency Strategies – very cool use of twitter posts in powerpoint presentation. I need to learn how to do that.

I missed this one yesterday  Gen X Librarians: Leading From the Middle.

For those of you not at Computers in Libraries 2010 see John Kennerly’s post  “Going to the Conference without being there.”

And just for fun… Free Lookups.

Conference conundrum

I’m attending the Computers in Libraries 2010 Conference in Arlington, VA this week. [They are streaming, see it here.]  Many thanks to the library adminstrators who sent me! I’m in a muddle, though. I have tech envy as I watch my seat mates thumb their phones with one hand and type furiously on their netbooks or laptops with the other as the presentation goes on. Are they really listening? How many tasks make multitasking undo one? My Blackberry (carrier unspecified) doesn’t have access in the meeting rooms. I need to climb two levels in the Hyatt Regenccy to add my two cents (KMH_nowinVA) to the collective wisdom on Twitter (#CiL2010). So, my apologies to the presenters who want Twitter feedback, alas, mine won’t be immediate. I’m the one taking notes …with pen and blogging after the fact.

Lee Rainie, Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project coined himself an internet archeologist. He noted that GenX are the predominant Tweeters, students are “life-logging” by picture, and 20% of online creators are in health content. He led us to  New Literacies by Henry Jenkins  (read his blog). As Rainie explained that “links are social currency” I am linking here so as not to lose this information and to share information with my library colleagues.

Other things I don’t want to lose…

E101: Information Fluency Strategies & Practices by Chad Mairn

Possible use for IM Reference: see our screens (no logins – just a link)

C102: Achieving Org 2.0 by Meredith G. Farkas

A103: New & Hot: The Best of Resource Shelf by Gary Price

  • Did you know you could find your neighbors in White Pages?

A104: Innovative Applications of Federated Search Technology

  • Best line of the day …Jeff Wisniewski, University of Pittsburgh, on federated search…”one box to search them all” – we’re not there yet!

E105: LibGuides: Web Tools to Enhance Information Fluency? Diane L. Schrecker, Ashland University LibGuides

I’m liking those Ohio connections and now resting up for tomorrow and more conference fun.

Pinball Brain

Creative Commons

Is it spring? [90 degrees for two days now – I think we went straight to summer here in the DC area!] Is that why students, faculty and librarians are all stressed? You’d think the cherry blossoms and flip flops would help, wouldn’t you?  No – stress is running high and so that makes it hard to think or write coherently. So, rather incoherently, here are just a few things I’ve been meaning to blog about.

I’ve been reading, thinking and writing about communicating science. Lots of new books on the problematical topic. [Link to reviews - coming soon here!]

I DO NOT AGREE (in part) with this book review by  Pagan Kennedy. She reviewed This Book is Overdue: How Librarians and Cybrarians Can Save Us All By Marilyn Johnson in the New York Times in March 2010. She says of Johnson  – “It is a testament to her skill as a writer that she remains fascinating, even in the throes of A.D.D.” I’m not sure about the  A.D.D. allusion – but being a Librarian these days is a lot like your brain on a pinball machine. I careen from subject to subject – much like Johnson did in her book. Ping…Budgets, student worker schedules, vendor meetings, reference questions on cost estimating and heat pipes, web casts on data visualization!  Ping! Ping! Ping! (Not to mention careening physically, building to building – Ping…Engineering Library, Nursing Library, Physics Library, and Main Library.) I loved this book. It affirmed the chaotic nature of being a Librarian today. Reading this book made me dance off the train in jubilation (OK – I hate commuting – and I usually can’t read on the train because I miss my stops, but really, I wanted to dance!) Someone understood just what my day to day job was like and wrote about it with passion and compassion. Johnson waxes poetic about the saving grace of reading – I sing hallelujah. I am a Librarian and my life and career in its many forms is as chaotic as Johnson’s book, but with great meaning and purpose. Kennedy concedes at the end of her review in Johnson’s own words that librarians are “waging the holy battle to resurrect the entire world, over and over again, in its entirety — keeping every last tidbit safe and acid free.”

I’ve been all tied up in mind knots about … Informatics, Bioinformatics, Biomedical Informatics – yes, all different, but part of what is coming in this chaotic world of Biomedical Engineering, Nursing and Library Science. Is it Biology? Is it Computer Science? Is it Health Care? All of the above! Is it information and do Librarians need to be part of the conversation – YES! It is Computational Biology (according to the  National Library of Medicine) and will, in the end, dictate and inform EHR [Electronic Health Records), yours and mine.

In the meantime – while careening -  I was reminded today of the very best part about being a Librarian – helping people find stuff. I worked the reference desk tonight and I did find stuff – electronically and physically in the layers of stacks. I answered a call from an alumni Physicist in CA and helped him find an article; Heidegger on Nietzsche in German and English – found it; Opera lyrics – done! Books on terrorism – to the stacks!

I’m a Librarian and I help people find stuff .