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Collection Development Survey

Part of the restructuring of librarian responsibilities that’s happened around here in the last two years involves liaison work and collection development. Previously, our (now retired) director did all of the collection development work and I did all of the liaising. These days, both of those responsibilities are distributed into a more formal liaison program with boundaries that are still a bit fuzzy. I coordinate the liaison program but not collection development although collection development is a responsibility of liaisons.

I am liaison to two of the most difficult programs on campus in terms of library-faculty relations, Culinary Management and Business and Hospitality. I don’t know how things run for other places, but here it’s like pulling teeth to get any feedback from the faculty on collection development. Asking for lists generally produces less than 20 recommendations per year. Simply opening the door and saying “let me know how I can help” has a predictable result. And I find that simply opening the floor to feedback generally doesn’t produce anything actionable. So what’s a liaison to do?

I had an idea to sort of prime the opinion pump. Rather than asking for a full blast of all the opinions ever on the library’s collection development, I would be like a magician directing the faculty’s attention where I wanted it to go. First I asked myself what I wanted to know and what action I was hoping the resulting data would indicate. Then I designed a short survey that looks something like this:capture

The full survey contains 5 books purchased for that department in the last few months and asks for directed feedback on those books. It also contains three short questions at the bottom, asking faculty how often they use library resources, how often they recommend students to the library, and if there is anything they would like us to do differently in purchasing resources. It’s meant to be deployed in person, on paper, at the beginning of a department meeting, to be collected at the end. Basically, I’m hoping to entice direction from the faculty without asking them to approve book lists.

By carefully selecting the books to cover a range of topics and interest levels, I hope to have more information on what kinds of books the faculty would like us to purchase. Asking about library usage will hopefully provide jumping off points for future conversations. And, of course, providing room for open response will allow for any opinions that might be lurking under the surface. Deploying in person, on paper, during a set time period will hopefully mean that the surveys will be filled out. And, fingers crossed, we will have data that we can use, however minimally, for this spring’s collection development binge.

I can’t promise that the books will get checked out, but it’s a start.

 

Presentation Season

A quick and dirty short list of the places you’ll find me over the next 6 months.

  • Graphic Design of Maximum Engagement. Webinar for Minitex (statewide system based at University of Minnesota). March 24th.
  • Everything in its Right Place: Effective, Strategic, Differentiated Outreach. Interactive workshop with Amy Pajewski at LOEX. May 6 or 7.
  • ACRL Immersion Program Track. Champlain College. July 24-29.

I’m so thrilled to be presenting an interactive workshop at LOEX. As Amy and I were brainstorming ideas for a presentation, it became very clear that neither of us was excited about presenting on outreach in a traditional format. We certainly wouldn’t turn down the opportunity, but the proposal was a real chore. Once we started thinking about our presentation as a workshop, everything snapped into focus and came together easily. We went from feeling obliged to put in a proposal to truly excited at the possibility of bringing this content to you. Here’s the short description:

Effective outreach is built on the principle that not everyone cares about everything. Simply distributing posters or blasting social media ignores one of the central tenets of marketing: Differentiation. This workshop will begin by introducing participants to the use of personas in the initial outreach process. Groups of participants will use guided inquiry to define the real-world struggles of target audiences and identify real solutions to those problems that can be adapted for any institution. Participants will create a framework for developing outreach initiatives and growing partnerships that can be taken back to their institution and enacted immediately.

And Immersion. Oh, how excited I am for Immersion. Something about this year and that program was just so obviously saying “Meggan needs this.” Thankfully they agreed. Many, many things are shifting and changing on campus, and what I learn from this program will form the cornerstone for how our library operates and integrates from now on. I can’t wait.

Challenge and Change

I like to think that I’m pretty good at change, or, at the very least, not change-averse. I may not be the earliest of technology adopters, but I’m always up for an adventure. Although many changes in the last few years have been overwhelmingly positive in my personal and professional life, it has been a challenge to my ability to wrap my head around the sheer volume of change. Here are few highlights from the last year:

  1. I got married! Admittedly, I found the wedding planning process to be… not the most fun I’ve ever had, but I’m thrilled to proceed with the business of building a life with my new husband. Incidentally, I’m also changing my name, which you will see reflected in this website. Personally, I find the double letters in Meggan Press to be very satisfying.
  2. Speaking of name changes, our college is also pursuing a name change! It’s not official official yet, but it’s certainly created quite the whirlpool among the campus community.
  3. The proposed college name change came on the heels of a tempestuous year, most of which I did not talk about here. In the last year or so, my college has declared financial exigency, laid off 20-ish percent of its already lean faculty and staff, and hired a new president, quickly followed by a new leadership team including provost (whom I am proud to say I had a hand in hiring as a member of the committee), chief marketing officer (a position that, shockingly, has never existed at our institution), vice president of enrollment (position has been largely vacant for the last 2 years), and vice president of business and finance (also vacant for about 2 years). My boss is retiring, which started some reorganization in the library and educational resources, which allowed us to hire a Student Outreach Librarian and also means that I have a “new” job and a “new” boss.
  4. I’m the Teaching and Learning Librarian! I think of it like the Provost of the library. While job duties between librarians are somewhat fluid here – we all pitch in to help where needed – my areas of leadership will be in curriculum, instruction, and faculty liaison-ing. It’s my old job, shifted sideways and deepened. I’m thrilled to be able to largely design my own job and also to shift jobs within my institution, something that I wasn’t sure was possible given the relative size of the college and library.
  5. We added a new person to our team! I’ll introduce our new Student Outreach Librarian when the time is right, but I’d like to report that I’m absolutely over the moon with our new colleague and I cannot wait to get stuck in to making the library even more awesome than it already is.
  6. I’m teaching FYS again this fall! I almost didn’t do it. My experience of last fall was significantly colored by an unusual and upsetting student “event” that came after final grades were posted and lasted into the early weeks of the spring semester. Frankly, in the shadow of that event, I wasn’t feeling great about what I had accomplished or my desire to do it again. Most of my feelings about the class were colored by that final experience. I knew I wanted to teach FYS again, but wasn’t sold on the idea of doing it right away. After a bit of time and some encouragement, I saw the benefit of teaching in consecutive years. It’s easier the second time, they say. You can be sure I’ll report back on that wisdom. I’m keeping my theme of “Cultivating Resilience” but I’m changing things around a bit. It has new texts (featuring readings from Carol Dweck’s Mindset) and a new project (problem-based learning for the win!) and, of course, new students and new personalities to navigate. I’m excited and also nervous. Seems about right.

And, so, you see where my head has been the last months. It seems absurd to say “now that things have settled down a bit” in proximity to the start of fall semester, but truly that is how I feel. Now that things have settled down a bit, I hope to spend more time in this space. I have another post idea lined up, but, well, you know how change can be. While sometimes you can see change coming, you can’t always predict people’s or institutions’ reactions to it. In many ways, I feel a kinship with my FYS students who are asked to consider their resiliency and personal and community responses to challenge and change. Hmmm, how might I incorporate that into class…..?

What’s changed in your life recently?

Brace yourself….

ygritte-meme-snow-already-came

 

This post is brought to you by the fact that I scraped an inch of snow off my car this morning before heading to work. I’m going to have to start remembering to get up early to do weather-related chores before I can leave the house. I’m not bitter about winter. Living in the North Country, you have to embrace it or you go crazy. I am, however, slightly traumatized from last year after waking up for weeks on end to temperature in the -20 to -40 range. Here’s what I do to make working life in the frigid north just a little bit better:

  1. Forced heat is rough on my body. I recently purchased this travel humidifier and set it up in my office. My skin, nose, and office plants are happier for it. Plus I can take it with me when I stay in overly-dry hotel rooms. Humidifiers also can help keep you from getting sick.
  2. Due to office placement right next to the front doors of the library and an overly complicated heating arrangement, it can get really cold in my office. Scarves, shawls, and all things snuggly and wooly are my best friends. I keep an emergency shawl in my office drawer that I can use if I forget a scarf or I can use it as a blanket on my legs if it’s really bad.
  3. One word: Ponaris. If you suffer a chronically bloody nose for 6 months out of the year like I do (TMI? Sorry.), you need to get Ponaris. I have used saline gels in the past and they do make me more comfortable but since Ponaris is an oil it helps to mend the problem and last longer than the gels.
  4. I use coconut oil on my face and body when winter sets in for real. Only a tiny bit alleviates dry skin almost immediately. It soaks in quickly and doesn’t feel greasy or thick at all. Coconut oil is readily available in most grocery stores and is sold with the cooking oils. It’s hard and white but melts readily at skin temperature and also tastes fantastic in peanut butter cookies. Just sayin’. One container will last you many winters (I did say just a tiny bit, right?) or one winter and a few batches of peanut butter cookies.
  5. I’m a little sensitive about getting sick this year. Libraries are surprisingly filthy places filled with lots of people. Germs are inevitable, but after I ended up with both strep throat and mono AT THE SAME TIME last spring, I’ve been really jumpy about working to stay healthy. I usually rely on a combo of Airborne and Cold-Eeze when I’m feeling something coming on. My aunt swears by Buried Treasure Acute Cold and Flu, which she sent when I was sick in the spring. It didn’t work wonders for me at the time because mono, but it did give me a burst of energy after taking it. I’m keeping a bottle around this winter and we’ll see how it does.
  6. And, since I’ve already admitted to putting cooking oil on my face, I may as well fess up to one other out-of-the-ordinary thing I’ve been doing to stay healthy – fermenting foods. Now you know my secret. I may look like your average librarian but underneath I harbor hippie tendencies. Probiotics are a known component in an active immune system and fermented foods give you a boost. Yogurt is a good place to start but has a limited range of bacterial strains. I’ve been making and drinking kombucha for a few months and I love it. Also, fermented dilly beans from the summer. I’m not a huge fan of sauerkraut but I’d like to try my hand at kimchi.

What do you do to take care of yourself at work or home in the winter?

What does “research” mean?

Research is the ultimate gold standard for what academics do. Yet application of the word “research” had become so broad as to be almost meaningless. Think about it like this. Should we describe the process that scientists use to find vaccines for life-threatening diseases or the process that others use to find a cost-efficient and carbon-neutral bio-fuel with the same word as the process people use when they read Zagat reviews to decide where they’re going for dinner?

— Maid, Barry M. and D’Angleo, Barbara J. (2013). Teaching researching in the digital age: An information literacy perspective on the new digital scholar. In Randall McClure and James P. Purdy (Eds.), The new digital scholar: Exploring and enriching the research and writing practices of nextgen students (295-312). Medford, New Jersey: Information Today, Inc.

I have lots more to say about this excellent book, but as I was reading today this quote leaped off the page at me. It distills the argument I made about what we mean when we say “research.”

Dewey facts

Here are some fun facts about Melvil Dewey:

  1. He was born on this day in 1851.
  2. He was the inventor of the Dewey Decimal System, which remains “weirdly out of date, reflecting the small-town sensibility of a student at a tiny Christian college in the mid-1870s.”*
  3. He loved the metric system, hence the decimal part of the Dewey Decimal System.
  4. He also had a thing about spelling and thought that things should be spelled phonetically and without redundant letters. Hence, his given name of “Melville” became “Melvil.”
  5. He was a founder of the Lake Placid Club in Lake Placid, NY, some 20 miles from where I currently am sitting.
  6. The Paul Smith’s College Library is and will continue to be a Dewey library, despite the general trend for Library of Congress classification in higher ed. This is because: 1. Reclassifying a whole library is a giant pain and 2. Melvil Dewey was a “local boy.”
  7. The fact that this is a Dewey library means that the time I spent shelving books in a public library has been unexpectedly useful in my current position.
  8. He was, apparently, not a very nice person.
  9. His penchant for spelling reform is the reason the Adirondack Loj is spelled the way that it is. (Sidenote, the Loj is highly recommended for local hiking and backpacking.) (Side sidenote, I’m not convinced that “loj” is an accurate representation of the phonetics of “lodge.” I hear a D in there, don’t you?)
  10. Later in life he established a Lake Placid Lodge in Florida. Then he was a thorn in the side of Lake Stearns, Florida until they agreed to change the name of the town to Lake Placid just to shut him up. (I’m projecting here, but it doesn’t seem like much of a leap)

I’m currently dipping in and out of Everything is Miscellaneous by David Weinberger. It just so happens that I picked the book back up after a break on today of all days, hence your fun facts for the day.

* Weinberger, David. Everything is Miscellaneous. New York: Holt Paperback, 2007.

The Brain Scoop

You know Emily Graslie, right? Emily has a YouTube channel called The Brain Scoop, which started at the University of Montana Zoological Museum and has since moved to the Field Museum in Chicago. If you don’t already subscribe, I highly recommend that you do. Emily’s job title is Chief Curiosity Correspondent, but really what she does is education and outreach. My favorite videos are the less scripted ones, the ones where the education happens informally. (I tend to like the dissection ones because I’m… gross? I find them really, really interesting. Example: The Wolf series. There are plenty of non-gross ones, too.)

Last year about this time, I was researching educational YouTube videos in preparation for my own video project. I stumbled on the Vlogbrothers channel. This is where The Brain Scoop started, in this video here. Even though I have had absolutely nothing to do with Emily’s success, I feel sort of invested and proud. I’ve been there since the beginning.

But then there’s this video, which makes me even prouder:

Way to go, girl, and keep it going.

I know that YouTube is supposed to be a community, and that the internet supposedly sparks conversations, but I rarely read comments myself for these very reasons. This video dovetails nicely into a conversation I picked up from Andromeda Yelton about women in tech a few weeks back and continued in various places, including Jason Griffey’s blog. I had some strong Feelings about this conversation at the time, but was unable to communicate them accurately. I’m continually turning all of this around in my head, trying to find my way through the gendered expectations of me related to all the different things I do in my life. Unrelated to libraryland I’m in a local band where the singers vs. musicians break down into clear gender lines. I straddle the line, occasionally singing, always playing. The unspoken assumption that as a female in the band I must be only a vocalist is pervasive. People are surprised to find that I mostly hang out in the back with the men, and I take 99.9% of the solos. It’s tricky business, walking the line of gender issues. I’m so glad to see people talking about it publicly.

It’s the end of the semester and you should really go check out The Brain Scoop with a cup of coffee and a cookie or two, just keep an eye on the Grossometer.

You can’t reach me on my cell phone

cabin and wifi

You probably heard. The Pew Internet and American Life Project released the results of its survey on broadband internet adoption in the US. The results are illuminating and lots of people having been saying that the results illustrate how important public libraries are to filling in the gap. I completely agree.

And yet, a lot of discourse on the topic of broadband adoption and cell phone adoption is mired in conversations about income level and education. As an employee of an institution of higher education, in a place where my college library is also a public library, making a good salary and possessing a somewhat absurd level of education, I feel compelled to tell you that getting good internet and cell phone coverage out here is not always a matter of lack of desire. We only got reliable, campus-wide cell phone coverage in the last five years. This was the result of a Verizon executive who took his family on vacation on Upper St. Regis and was flabbergasted to find out that they couldn’t use their cell phones or email up here. A new tower was built which serves some of the surrounding area including campus, but it does not extend far enough to serve the road running right alongside campus where some of our faculty live. While some people would certainly choose to live without cell phone or internet, others would really like to have it but can’t get it. I’d certainly like to get reliable cell coverage in my very nice apartment located in the center of the most densely populated area in the region, but I’m lucky to get through a whole conversation with my family without the call being dropped. True story: I get better cell phone coverage on the top the local mountains than I do in my apartment. Sometimes, it’s not about income level or education. Sometimes is about the specific geography and circumstances of where you live.

Some of us without reliable broadband or cell service know what we’re missing, wish we had it, and, until they invent satellite signals that bend around geographic features, won’t be getting it. More truth: I make decisions on where I want to live here based partially on whether or not I can get internet, and, boy, am I grateful for the local public libraries (including my own) who truly do fill in the gaps.

Hilarity

plane-jwlibrary

It’s that time of year again: Spring time coincides with the end of the semester and Capstone and suddenly people start getting squirrelly – and not just the students. Exhibit A: A masterfully placed paper airplane lodged nose first, high in the beams of the library. I don’t actually know how we’re going to get it down, but it makes me laugh so it can stay a while.

I enjoy a large gluteus

 

Exhibit B: A post-it note poem taped next to the computer at the front of the library, no doubt placed there by workstudy students, entitled “I enjoy a large gluteus maximus and I cannot tell a falsehood.”

Two weeks left in the semester and counting…

The Coding Debate

Last week, I read this post by Wayne Bivens-Tatum on why librarians don’t need to learn how to code, and I got a bit hot under the collar. Yesterday I read this excellent rebuttal by Lane Wilkinson on whether coding is an essential librarian skill. I agree on nearly all points with Lane’s argument, especially this part at the end:

Some librarians need to learn how to code and pick up one or more programming languages, but most librarians don’t. And while most librarians might not need to learn how to code, all librarians should understand the basic principles and foundations of coding, if only so that they can better communicate with those who do learn and apply programming languages.** Heck, even Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s dismissive attitude towards code is only possible because he has a basic understanding of code: the very ability to “steal the code I need to fix any problem I might encounter” requires some understanding of what coding problems look like, what correct code looks like, and so on.***

So, coding is a weakly essential skill in librarianship: all librarians need to know what a programming language is, how to talk about it, and what coding can and can’t do. But, then again, that’s how it is with every other skill in librarianship. The only things that are strongly essential in this profession are our values and principles; our theories and concepts. Show me a skill you think is strongly essential for librarianship, anything from coding to cataloging, and I’ll show you a great librarian who nonetheless lacks that skill. And the next time someone says that “all librarians must have skill X”, ask if they really mean “all libraries need someone with skill X.” I bet you’ll find they actually mean the latter.

** (And, from a pedagogical standpoint, it could be that teaching a programming language is the best way to teach the principles of coding. But, that’s a pedagogical tactic, not a tacit admission of strong essentialism. )

*** (Also, just to be clear, HTML is a markup language, not a Turing-complete programming language. So, strictly speaking, WBT’s position on HTML is irrelevant to the issue of coding in libraries. Still, the same “learn it on the fly” approach to programming languages is popular, so for my purposes it’s a distinction without a difference.)

I have two defined thoughts that go beyond Lane Wilkinson’s comments, which, once again, I think are excellent. The first thought is personal. I learned the very basics of coding in library school, as a person who was emphatically NOT A CODER. As a librarian working in a tiny library (which does employ a coding librarian, thankfully), I do need to be able to talk intelligently about code on a nearly daily basis. It allows me to build relationships with my co-workers, the IT department, and some faculty. And I did use my HTML skills last week when our ILL form broke (which, as Lane notes, is not coding). No, I was not responsible for fixing it, but scouring the code did allow us to talk to the web designer in a way was more intelligent than taking the car to the mechanic and saying, “It just won’t go.” This issue of communicating intelligently with people whose job it is to do the coding is essential, and it is ironically the cornerstone of Wayne Bivens-Tatum’s argument against coding.

The second thought has to do with the desperate need that libraries have for coders. Anyone who has used an ILS or library database can see that we need coders. And what we need is librarian coders. As a librarian who received a degree from an Information School, I was able to see on a daily basis exactly how intertwined our disciplines are. Librarians inform user experience designers who inform archivists. Our worlds overlap. It was incredibly frustrating to see the user experience designers, whose coding ability and frame of reference could make such a difference in modern libraries, take their talents to big information companies like Foresee and Google. I don’t blame them, really, but this exodus is notable.

We don’t all need to be coders. I’m a passable coder who could be better if I needed to be, but, like Lane Wilkinson, my talents and interests are in instruction and technology. The point is, we can’t educate librarians to be non-coders, because libraries need coders. And since traditionally educated coders don’t seem to be flocking to the less-than-Google-rate salaries available in libraries, what we need are librarian coders.

Do all librarians need to code? No. Do libraries need code? Yes. There is an obvious overlap here.