Archive for the 'social media' Category

Librarianing to Transgress: Closing Keynote ACRL OR/WA 2014

Below is the slightly edited version of the closing keynote talk I gave at ACRL OR/WA 2014.

Great conference, really cool people, gorgeous setting.

_________

The theme for ACRLORWA14 is Professional identity and technology: Looking forward, so I figured I would start with a little about my own identity.

When I think about professional identity, the sociologist in me kicks in and I think of identity as part and parcel of our social location and as very much tied up in the kinds of characteristics that are so central to social interaction in our culture: gender, race, social class, sexuality.

Title slide, closing keynote ACRL OR/WA 2014. Librarianing to Transgress

Title slide, closing keynote ACRL OR/WA 2014. Librarianing to Transgress

So to situate myself in terms of my identity and how that affects my perspectives — personally professionally and politically– I am a queer white woman from a working class background with a Latina wife. I am a feminist who’s politics are liberal, bordering on radical. And of particular relevance to my thoughts on the role of academic libraries and librarians, I believe in the possibility of education as the practice of freedom as articulated by bell hooks in her 1994 classic, Teaching to Transgress; which is the source of both the image here and the title of my talk.

You might also notice that I like to use the word librarian as a verb, so the 6 word story library identity version of Who I am is:

Queer butch feminist, librarianing for justice

When I was first asked to give this talk, I was told that folks might be interested in me expanding on some online comments I had made at the time about the responsibilities of large research libraries (like Stanford, I suppose) to lead technological change that is attainable for all institutions. Since many of the folks here are from smaller libraries, it makes sense that you would be interested in a talk that articulates a shared technological future that would be realistic and sustainable across types and sizes of libraries.

But that isn’t what I’m going to talk about.

I’m going to talk about something different, because between the time I was asked to give this talk and now, several things have happened that have convinced me that the need for a future based on shared technology is far less urgent than the need for a future based on empathy and shared humanity.

By shared humanity, I simply mean a sense of and commitment to the idea that all lives matter, that all people are deserving of justice, equity, & dignity, and that all voices need to be heard in the conversations that shape our future.

I want to use this opportunity to talk about the bigger issues and themes around shared humanity, equity, & social justice that I think should be motivating the work of librarians now more than ever; and I’ll try to include some ideas and examples of ways technology can be leveraged to help us create and share resources and facilitate conversations and connections in our communities in ways that might move us all closer to a sense of shared humanity. As a bonus, I’ll even try to relate what I say to the conference theme of professional identity.

Let me go back to the bell hooks allusion from the title of my talk and give you one of my favorite quotes from Teaching to Transgress: 

“To engage in dialogue is one of the simplest ways we can begin as teachers, scholars and critical thinkers to cross boundaries, the barriers that may or may not be erected by race, gender, class, professional standing, and a host of other differences.”

bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom

 

That notion of dialogue as education and the idea that authentic, messy, hard, critical conversations can break down barriers and create spaces for empathy and opportunities for us to experience our shared humanity is what has motivated most of my career in higher education and in libraries, and it is certainly what is motivating my talk this morning.

The key message I want to share in this talk is that librarians – in part because our identities are tied up in a specific set of professional values – are especially well suited to provide the spaces — physical, virtual, and metaphorical spaces — where our communities and our students are equipped, inspired, and supported in having difficult dialogues about hard social issues.

So, as I said, a number of things have happened between the time I agreed to give this talk and now that make it nearly impossible for me to imagine giving any kind of talk that doesn’t foreground issues of social justice and equity.

Let me be explicit about some of the events I am talking about.

#Ferguson happened.

On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, was shot & killed by a police officer in Ferguson MO. In the weeks, now months, since Michael Brown’s death, the residents of Ferguson, and others, have engaged in nearly non-stop vigils, protests, and rallies to call attention to police brutality and to racist policing. The excessively militarized response by police to the mostly black crowds gathered in Ferguson, especially when compared to the far less harsh responses to the mostly white college students who rioted and set fire to vehicles during a pumpkin festival in West Virginia last weekend, have fueled a sense of – a recognition of – the deep & persistent racial divide in this country.

Another key event, closer to home – at least professionally – is the $1.25 lawsuit brought against 2 female librarians for speaking out about sexual harassment and for identifying by name a man who’s repeated creepy behavior towards women at library conferences is so well known that women routinely warn one another not to be alone with him. The lawsuit, and the online discussions, most of which are happening under the twitter hashtag #TeamHarpy, have spurred conversations ranging from sexual harassment, to codes of conduct at library conferences, to the problems with “rock-star librarians”.

Another controversy that has raged on social media this summer is #GamerGate – which has more recently moved from blogs and twitter to mainstream newspapers like the New York Times and The Washington Post. Gamergate refers to a controversy in the gaming industry that theoretically started out as calls for ethical standards in game reviews but that soon warped into some of the sickest sexism and misogyny on the internet, including death & rape threats credible enough that several prominent women in the gaming industry have been essentially forced into hiding to protect themselves and their families when their home addresses were revealed online.

These recent events  have me thinking even more than I usually do about issues of race and gender and power, and other forms of oppression and inequality. In terms of this conference and its theme, I am convinced that when librarians think about identity and communities, we need to pay special attention to gender, race, class, sexuality, and other intersecting axes of difference and inequality – and we need to be prepared to equip our students to understand these issues and to navigate difficult conversations about inequality, sexism and gender bias, institutional racism, and privilege.

Which brings me to the other big event of the summer — the firing of Steven Salaita in August from a tenured faculty position at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For those not familiar with the #Salaita story, Professor Steven Salaita was offered a tenured faculty position at UIUC, only to be terminated from that position (before he even began) because of the “uncivil” nature of tweets he posted regarding the actions of the Israeli government in Gaza. Salaita’s termination has been met with harsh criticism by those, like me, who believe his firing for “uncivil tweeting” violates the principles and values of free speech and intellectual freedom.

Many scholars have joined boycotts of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, refusing to speak there or otherwise engage with the university until Salaita is reinstated, and many of the departments within the University itself have gone public with votes of “no confidence” in the administration and board of trustees. (Note: Those so inclined can add their name to the list of LIS scholars and practitioners who support Salaita. Kudos to Sarah T. Roberts for her work on this.)

On the other hand, a number of university administrators (e.g. University of California at Berkeley) have used the Salaita situation as an excuse to issue campus-wide calls for “civility”, arguing that free speech must always be balanced with an obligation and expectation of courteousness and respect. As you might expect, critics of these top-down “civility codes” note that calls for some subjective measure of courtesy could easily be used to censor academic freedom and stifle debate on some of the very issues that are most pressing and simultaneously most controversial in our society.

So, in the wake of #Ferguson, and #TeamHarpy and #GamerGate, and the Salaita firing; I found myself incapable of writing a talk about shared technology when all I can think about is the need for librarians to leverage our skills and our knowledge and our values and our identities and yes, our technologies to help our students and our communities develop a sense of shared humanity and empathy, in the fragile hope that we might make some progress.

Why librarians? And how would we do it?

For me the answer to “why librarians?” is because of our values – we are one of the few professions that boldly proclaims diversity, democracy, social responsibility, intellectual freedom and privacy as core values.

(As an aside, I always feel like I need to remind us that our values state that we “strive to reflect our nation’s diversity”, but that at 88% white we either aren’t striving very hard, or maybe we kinda suck at it….but that’s a whole other talk).

I very much believe that libraries ought to be the places on campus where community members, students especially, feel the most free to talk about difficult topics, to express the full range of opinions and yes emotions, on the highly charged topics that are part of their social world. College is a time when young adults are forming and reforming their identities, and they need spaces where it is safe to try on opinions and ideas and feelings about the world and their place in it.

I love the fact that libraries are often that place and I think libraries should be that place.

One advantage many of us have as librarians on a college campus is that we are adults with lots of information and expertise and knowledge to share with students, but we mostly don’t have much authority over them, especially in the sense of grading them. That produces a kind of setting, and the possibility of a kind of relationship where students can be intellectually and emotionally vulnerable in front of us and with us. That is a big part of what I mean when I say we are especially well suited for creating spaces for the kinds of dialogues that bell hooks tells us will help us all cross boundaries and establish some sense of shared humanity.

But for me, it isn’t just about creating those spaces & opportunities for transformative learning experiences, but it is also about providing access to the information and the tools to understand current events and to evaluate the many increasingly polarized views on events like #Ferguson or #GamerGate or the conflict in Gaza.

So let me get to the how by sharing some examples of ways librarians and others have leveraged technology to pull together and share information on current events, thus creating not just the space for dialogue but also the context for learning through dialogue:

My first example comes from the Stanford University Libraries – in December of 2012, right after the Sandy Hook school shooting, our geospatial center staff began collecting data on mass shootings in America. They compiled quantitative and descriptive data about mass shooting incidents since 1966, and produced maps and charts and a dataset intended to aid in our collective understanding of mass shootings in America. All of their work, the dataset, the maps, and the charts are available under a creative commons license for all to use. To me, this is a great example of librarians & libraries creating resources to help our patrons make sense of a complicated, tragic and emotional topic.

Ukraine exhibit, Green Library, Stanford University

Ukraine exhibit, Green Library, Stanford University

A less technical example also from the Stanford University Libraries is our commitment to current events displays – like our recent info display about Ukraine. Our Slavic and East European subject specialist put together a set of resources to provide some context to students about Ukraine – these resources included a map of the territorial evolution of Ukraine, the languages of Ukraine, basic demographic and economic data about Ukraine, and a selection of books for students who wanted to explore the topic in more detail. We have addressed other recent current events via blog posts, twitter, and book displays.

In response to events in Ferguson, librarians and archivists at Washington University in St Louis are building a community sourced digital archive of “photos, videos, stories and other content related to protests, unrest in Ferguson”. They are using existing technologies – Omeka and ArchiveIt – to collect and provide access to relevant content; and social media to raise awareness of their work and to solicit contributions to the archive.

It is interesting to me that as far as I know, they are doing this with existing staff and resources. The Sloan Foundation funded two earlier crowdsourced digital archives, the September 11 Digital Archive and the Hurricane (Katrina) Digital Memory Bank.

There is a great piece by Courtney Rivard, about the different responses to the September 11 archive and the Katrina archive in terms of quantity and type of items deposited. Basically, much more content was deposited in the September 11 archive, and much more content from a more distant perspective. In both the materials collected and in the media September 11 was seen as a national event, and victims were quickly anointed as national heroes; while Hurricane Katrina was seen as a more local event, with victims labeled with far less charitable and not so subtly racist, terms.

It will be very interesting to see how response to the Ferguson archive compares, and whether materials deposited will be primarily local and first hand photos, videos and stories; or whether it will generate a broader national response and therefore a larger and more diverse archive. Even crowdsourced archives are not created in some neutral race-blind vacuum; and today’s social biases impact future scholars and the kinds of archives they will have access to.

Data collection isn’t neutral either.

The FBI collects a whole bunch of data on crime – arrest and crime incident reports from every local police force are consolidated at the national level and arrest data is available by age, race & sex of the arrestee for 28 different categories of offenses – including, of course, shooting a police officer. But there is no national database to tell us how many people are shot by police officers, nothing to tell us the age, race, and sex breakdown of who gets shot by police officers; nor anything else about the circumstances.

There are a several interesting civilian attempts to put together data on police shootings. For example, the blog Deadspin has a project where they are asking volunteers to help them populate a google docs spreadsheet by conducting google searches for police shootings for every day from 2011 to 2013.

D. Brian Burghart, a journalist and journalism instructor at University of Reno, Nevada is using Freedom of Information Act requests and crowdsourcing to create a database of all deaths through police interaction in the United States since Jan. 1, 2000. His website fatalencounters.org has maps, spreadsheets, crowd visualizations and lots of info about how he is collecting and verifying the data.

For me the obvious question is could/should librarians be developing these kinds of resources? I think so.

One final example of the kind of crowd-sourced resources that developed in the aftermath of Ferguson was a set of teaching materials and resources, mostly under the hashtag #FergusonSyllabus. There are actually many such resources, but not surprisingly my favorite was developed by group calling themselves Sociologists for Justice. Their syllabus provides a list of “articles and books that will help interested readers understand the social and historical context surrounding the events in Ferguson, Missouri, and allow readers to see how these events fit within larger patterns of racial profilingsystemic racism, and police brutality.”

I wonder how many faculty on our campuses might have been looking for just such a set of resources as they struggled with how to facilitate productive conversations in their classrooms in the aftermath of Ferguson?

I know of a few librarians who created resource guides about Ferguson – Washington University at St. Louis has one, and the law library at SUNY Buffalo has one. There may well be others that I don’t know of, but what I didn’t see was librarians coming together to crowdsource some great research guides for our communities the way other educators came together quickly to create #FergusonSyllabus.

That would be the kind of collective action I mean when I say I am calling on librarians to use simple, existing technologies to produce, uncover, promote, and inspire deep dives into highly charged topics.

OK – I’m going to wrap it up soon, but some concluding thoughts first.

We are librarianing in messy, polarized and yes, still sexist, racist, homophobic times.

Despite tremendous progress up through the 1990s, the gender revolution has stalled – white women still make .78 to every dollar a man makes, and black and brown women make even less than that. #GamerGate, #TeamHarpy and far too many other examples – including a Pew report released yesterday – remind us that women are harassed and threatened and assaulted, online and off, at horrifying rates. And Michael Brown’s death, the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin, and too many similar stories remind us that we are not living in the race-blind world many thought would come after the great civil rights victories of the 60s and 70s. Racism is real, and there are troubling and persistent racial disparities in wealth, income, education, health, and homelessness; as well as often wide racial differences in perceptions and opinions about important events. For example, 71% of African American residents of Ferguson believe Darren Wilson should be arrested and charged w/ a crime for killing Michael Brown. The same percentage of white residents think Wilson should NOT be arrested and charged.

These kinds of polarizing views and perspectives can make it very hard to talk about race. In fact, one alternate title for this talk was going to be “What’s a nice white girl like me have to say about race & librarianship in the wake of Ferguson?”

But/and we as a society have to talk about race and gender and other highly charged topics if we are going to have any hope for progress. And to my mind, the college students we work with just might be the best hope we have for making progress on issues not just of equity and social justice, but on a host of other big challenges we face – things like climate change, energy, global health, and poverty.

I think our focus as librarians ought to be on how to best equip our communities, especially our students, to understand and make progress on addressing these challenges.

I think one of the most effective and the most uniquely librarian-y ways we can do that is by creating spaces (real and virtual) where the free exchange of ideas and thoughts and feelings, with all of the accompanying “uncivil” messiness and anger and passion, is accepted and encouraged. I think we can and should work together, using sharing technologies, to fill those spaces with data and history and context to inform and enrich those conversations. It is through dialogue in safe spaces that barriers are broken down and empathy begins to develop.

Ultimately, I believe that unless and until we as a society develop a greater sense of our shared humanity and greater empathy for the many different kinds of people we share this planet with; the technologies we create and use, regardless of our best intentions, will reflect and then perpetuate the same racist, classist, sexist inequities that continue to persist in society.

Bottom line: worry about humanity first, technology later; and keep on librarianing.

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There are many more examples than the ones I mentioned of librarians and others doing exactly the kind of work I am calling for, and I very much hope folks will share those examples in the comments or elsewhere. One excellent example that I am embarrassed to have left out is the weekly #critlib twitter chats. To learn more, check out the #critlib Chats Cheat Sheet.

Can libraries facilitate transformative experiences?

Tranformers
I had some very good discussions on twitter recently (complete with book recommendations, naturally) about whether higher education is transformative, what that even means, and how you might measure it.

My very, very cursory look at some of the research seems to indicate that the number of college students who show truly transformative increases in moral reasoning, critical thinking, cultural understanding, and the like is fairly small. Moreover, there seems to be some evidence that students (and their parents) are actually not approaching college with any sort of transformative goal in mind — most kids are pursuing a college degree for understandably instrumental reasons.

And yet, despite the fact that it rarely happens, and it may not even be what students are seeking, I still believe in the transformative potential of the college experience. For example, I believe in the possibility that a student might be encouraged by a classroom experience in such a way that ignites a life-long passion for social justice. I believe in the possibility of a student discovering an unknown aptitude for art, for programming, for scientific analysis, or for leadership. I believe these sorts of transformative self-discoveries can happen in the classroom, in the dorm, in extracurricular activities and in the library.

I’m more than willing to admit that the kinds of life-changing transformative college experience I’m talking about may be very rare.  And in spite of that (or perhaps because of that), I want to create libraries and library experiences that facilitate those rare events. I don’t quite know what that looks like, but I think it may be as much an attitude as any specific set of actions or programs.

That’s the argument I couldn’t figure out how to make in 140 characters, but that came into relief for me through those twitter exchanges. Thanks to @lisalibrarian, @NancyDryden, @bfister, @JMarkOckerbloom, @jillian6475, @MerrileeIam, and @olinj for the twitter conversation and the book recommendations.

I would love to know if the idea even makes sense and/or if anyone has ideas about what a library that facilitates transformative experiences looks like.

Cats and books

I predict that with that tweet, Joyce Carol Oates provided the opening presentation slide for at least 50% of ALA presentations this summer. I further predict that 75% of those presentations will use it ironically (librarians are so ironic), and 25% will use it earnestly (we are also a very earnest bunch).

If anyone has a good public domain or CC-licensed photo of Joyce Carol Oates with a cat (and a book) in her lap, let me know. I have a presentation I’m working on.

(Edited to add: Thanks to @joshhonn for alerting me to the Writers and Kitties tumblr)

Joyce Carol Oates & cat

Joyce Carol Oates & cat, from http://writersandkitties.tumblr.com/

Happy Friday.

Stanford is going to the Rose Bowl; Library gets more twitter love

Stanford in 1st Rose Bowl. We're hoping for a much different outcome this year. Photo courtesy of Stanford University Archives.

Stanford in 1st Rose Bowl. We’re hoping for a much diffferent outcome this year. Photo courtesy of Stanford University Archives.

Stanford beat UCLA last night, securing a spot in the Rose Bowl. And, as has become the pattern, the library got plenty of attention on twitter during the game. The big twitter joke last night was that the game’s low attendance must be because all those geeky Stanford students must be in the library (on a Friday night).

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.23.18 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.24.42 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.25.49 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.25.09 AMScreen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.23.54 AM

Screen shot 2012-12-01 at 9.24.18 AM

It amuses me to think so many people thought they were being original by joking that all the Stanford students must be in the library on a Friday night. On the other hand, at a time when other libraries are worried about declining use statistics, our main library still averages over 1600 visitors and 800 check outs per day. Go Cardinal, indeed!

Report from Libraries Rebound

Stanford Rebounds. Credit: flickr user Han Shot First


As with most conferences and events, the best part of the OCLC Libraries Rebound event was meeting new colleagues and reconnecting with others. The event was live-cast and had a surprisingly active twitter stream (#LibRebound).

My official role at the event was as a reactor to the panel on Directly Supporting Researchers. Three others gave prepared presentations, and then three of us reacted. I rather liked the format, and the three of us who reacted agreed a few minutes before we started that we would each try to be interactive and at least mildly controversial in our reactions — with the goal of spurring a conversation with the larger group. I’m pretty pleased with how well that worked. I tried (and mostly succeeded) to stir up some conversation by asserting that subject librarians in research libraries need an advanced degree in the discipline (or a closely related one) that they support. Another comment I made that picked up some traffic on twitter was that we need to stop worrying about saving libraries and focus instead on supporting research (a theme I have surfaced here before).

The other fun debate that sprung up was around the notion that the value of Special Collections rests on their use. While I am sympathetic to the fact that we all face resource constraints and in some cases pressure to justify our very existence, I want more of us to stand our ground on the idea that libraries (especially research libraries) must collect for not just current scholars, but for the future. As I tweeted, if our predecessors collected only stuff that was of interest to scholars of their time, then our archives of women’s history, african american history, queer history, etc. would be even sparser than they are now. If we believe that history remains a relevant discipline, then we owe it to future scholars to collect more widely than current use would dictate.

Once I catch up on my real job, I hope to return to some of these topics more fully here — especially the idea that subject librarians ought to have advanced disciplinary degrees. Until then, let me just say that Libraries Rebound was a great event — well organized, good topics, fantastic discussions. Thanks to the folks at OCLC RLP for pulling it together.

We’re tweeting, now what?

I know we are a bit late to the game, but Stanford Libraries now have an official Twitter account and we are tweeting away. I started the account several weeks ago, and have been single-handedly trying to nurture it to some reasonable level of viability.

How it feels to nurture @StanfordLibs. Photo credit: flickr user basykes

Although I’m not someone who thinks every initiative needs to be evaluated for Return on Investment, I do want us to build up a reasonable following to make it worth the staff time it will take to feed it. I’m not at all sure what number of followers = reasonable, but we are over 100 now and I’m heading out for an actual 5-day vacation, so I’m turning over the care and feeding of @StanfordLibs to some colleagues. I’m also not a fan of strict Social Media policies, but figured they might want some guidelines. Here’s what I told them:

  1. Tweet several times a day.
  2. Tweet any and all library events.
  3. Tweet links to stories from The Stanford Report, Clayman News, other campus news-lists you might be on.
  4. Tweet or re-Tweet any book-related, library-related, higher education-related, academic technology related links and news that you hear about through your own network.
  5. Set up Twitter searches for “stanford library” “stanford Libraries” “green Library”, etc., and retweet and/or respond to anything that is really about us.
  6. Respond to anyone who tweets to us or re-tweets us — Just a simple “Thx for the RT” is fine.
  7. Follow back the real followers — check profiles so you aren’t following back spammers, but generally good idea to follow back. Feel free to send a reply to someone who follows us “Thx for the follow”; but only to “real followers”.
  8. It is OK to tweet something light & humorous once in a while. Keep it tasteful. I would use the “imagine your mother reading it” standard, but my mom’s sense of humor can be pretty raunchy. Imagine Michael Keller‘s mother reading it. (I’ve actually never met Mike Keller’s mother, so have no idea what her standards are — which is the point. And I know picking on “mothers” instead of “parents” is at the very least implicitly sexist, but my father is dead, and I liked the parallelism of my mother and Mike Keller’s mother.)
  9. Tweet links to Stanford Library job openings.
  10. Tweet about cool things we are doing –even if they aren’t new. I have tweeted links to the Special Collections blog and the Digital Forensics Blog. We should definitely tweet links to some of our cool digital collections — especially the publicly available ones.
  11. Try to reflect our personality — part of a great research university, stewards of great collections, leaders in digital library development, smart, serious, and willing to be a bit quirky.

My implicit social media policy for Stanford Libraries is to pick smart people to be in charge of the social media, and trust them to use it well, but it seems everyone likes a bit of guidance. Plus, to be honest, I need something to say to the people who I didn’t pick, but who want to tweet for us anyway. Trying to be inclusive, but I want to make sure we have some kind of relatively recognizable “Stanford Libraries” voice.

So, if @StanfordLibs sounds like someone you want to follow, you know what to do.

What’s happening at Harvard?

The twitterspere (at least my corner of it) was all abuzz today about the Harvard Library Town Hall meetings (hashtag #hlth). Harvard Libraries have been in a “transition” for some time now, and it appears that the meetings today were intended to provide library staff with some updated information on the transition. Judging from the tweets, it was not particularly effective — more questions than answers apparently.

I have absolutely no insider knowledge at all, but as far as I can tell from trying to keep up with the tweets all day:

  • An initial tweet claiming “All of Harvard Library staff have just effectively been fired” was re-tweeted often, as was a Google+ post written by a former Harvard University Library staff member.
  • Later tweets clarified that no staff were laid off … today. Layoffs are imminent, however, and more details will be available next month.
  • The layoffs will be in areas that are “Shared Services” — such as technical services, preservation, and access services; not collection development, research librarians, or special collections.
  • Some jobs will be eliminated, some restructured, some new jobs created.
  • For restructured and new jobs, internal candidates will be solicited first.
  • All library staff are being encouraged to fill out employee profiles (with skills, interests and a CV/resume), which will factor into decisions about restructuring (and presumably who stays and who goes, and where the stayers go …). It looks like the deadline for completing profiles is only 1 month away, and workshops on how to do so are already full.
  • The general sentiment on twitter is that the senior administrators at Harvard Libraries handled this very poorly — that the town hall meetings produced more questions than answers. Rather than serving to keep staff informed, they served primarily to create significant anxiety.
  • Plenty of folks are worried that as Harvard goes, so go other academic libraries – in other words, if massive layoffs can happen at Harvard (with its huge endowments), then no academic library is safe.
  • An official Harvard Library Transition Update was posted publicly on January 17. More official Harvard Library Transition stuff on the Harvard University News site.
  • Excellent first-hand accounts and analyses from @mpeachy8 and @oodja.

I know a least a few folks who actually work at Harvard occasionally read here, so I do hope they will correct anything I have wrong, and chime in with any additional information. I hope they also know that I wish them well in what is obviously a super difficult and stressful time.

My 2011 in Music

Inspired by Ed Sommers post on 2011 Musics, here is my summary of new (to me) music in 2011.

I got 30 new albums in 2011, 22 were digital downloads (direct from iTunes store), and 8 were actual physical CD’s. (I’m not counting CDs burned for me by friends, only CDs I paid money for). All of the physical CDs were uploaded immediately to my iTunes library, and about half of the digital albums were burned to physical CDs (so I can play them at home for all to enjoy). The truth is, I love the listening convenience of digital music, but am clearly not ready to make a wholesale transition to all-digital. One thing that is stopping me is storage — I haven’t yet invested in iCloud or any other cloud-based storage solution — and I don’t have a device with enough memory (other than laptop and back-up hard drive) to hold all my music. The other thing stopping me is an old CD player at home, with no input for an iPod or iPhone — so if I want to listen to music through my half-decent speakers at home, I need actual CDs. These are probably not the only reasons I have not gone all digital though, since my book consumption patterns reveal the same indecisive mix of print and digital. Clearly I have some lingering emotional attachment to physical CDs and physical books. I’m OK with that.

My top 10 CDs, in order based on number of plays, for 2011 are:

  1. Crosby, Stills and Nash: Greatest Hits
    At some point in 2011, I realized I did not have enough CSN in my collection. In less than 5 minutes, iTunes took care of that. I love that digital music means I can get old music easily and quickly. I still keep a running list of old music I want/need, and enjoy hunting through used CD stores for gems; but sometimes you need some CSN right away!
  2. The Decemberists: The King is Dead
    This is one of the physical CDs, and was a birthday present.It is an excellent collection of tunes, and will make you forget the horribleness of their 2009 The Hazards of Love.
  3. Gregg Allman: Low Country Blues
    Another CD I own in physical form — picked this up at a Best Buy because I had a store credit. I love the Allman Brothers Band, so took a chance on this without reading any reviews. This CD is flat out AWESOME. Buy it now! Check out I Can’t be Satisfied.
  4. Andrew Duhon

    Andrew Duhon, photo credit Flickr user dsb nola

  5. Andrew Duhon & the Lonesome Crows: Dreaming When you leave
    While in New Orleans for ALA in June, I heard Andrew Duhon live — he just happened to be playing on the night I decided to go listen to music on Frenchmen Street. I loved his sound, so downloaded 2 of his CDs as soon as I got home. Really good singer/songwriter stuff, with a sorta folksy flavor, and some pretty good harmonica on some of the tunes (I’m a sucker for harmonica). Here he is playing Crosstown Southern Blues (my personal favorite)
  6. Lucinda Williams: Blessed
    I love Lucinda, and will buy everything she puts out. This CD does not disappoint. The title cut is a personal favorite, and I love the accompanying videos on her youtube channel.
  7. Pete Yorn: Music for the Morning After
    I “discovered” Pete Yorn through Pandora – can’t remember what station I created that led me to Pete, but probably The Jayhawks, or Ryan Adams, or maybe Golden Smog.
  8. Andrew Duhon: Songs I wrote before I knew you
    See story for #4 above for example of how live music is supposed to work.
  9. Traveling Wilburys: Volume 3
    I don’t remember how I decided to buy this; but I added Volume 1 to my collection this Christmas. There is no Volume 2.
  10. Big Head Todd & the Monsters: Sister Sweetly
    I distinctly remember buying this one based on responses to my request for new (to me) music recommendations on Facebook. I specifically asked for something in the bluesy rock – rocking blues spectrum, and this definitely hit the spot. Again – title cut is especially good.
  11. Justin Townes Earle: Harlem River Blues
    I was on a bit of a Steve Earle kick for awhile, and someone (I think on Facebook) suggested I give this CD by his son a shot. I love the simple alt-country, bluesy sound of this CD. Christchurch Woman is a favorite. Am still not sure whether Steve and Justin beat out Bob and Jakob (Dylan) as best father-son musicians ever, so I’ll just keep listening to all 4 of them.

Clearly, social media play a big role in alerting me to new music and old music that I want in my collection. In fact, I complained on Facebook that none of my “friends” had ever mentioned Pete Yorn’s music, leaving me to discover him by chance on Pandora.

Some concluding advice:

  1. Buy Gregg Allman’s Low Country Blues, and play it immediately and often.
  2. If you don’t have any Lucinda Williams in your collection, get Car Wheels on a Gravel Road. It is the closest thing I have ever heard to a perfect album – music, lyrics, Lucinda’s amazingly distinct voice. Trust me on this.
  3. If you want to support a very good young musician, and you like Bon Iver or early Ryan Adams, give Andrew Duhon a try.
  4. If you like learning about new (to you) music, share the music you like with your social networks, and ask for recommendations. Things like Spotify that show me what a friend is listening to are OK, but I get more out of actual comments, mini-reviews, etc. I much prefer a “Mike thinks AC/DC is a great way to jumpstart the budget proposal process” over a “Mike is listening to Back in Black on Spotify”.

Research is like Cooking video

A couple of years ago I posted about a Powerpoint slidedeck I had been using in Information Literacy classes comparing the research process to cooking. With the help of some awesome colleagues, I updated the slides, did a voice-over, and turned it into a video called Research is Like Cooking.
Sometimes I use it in workshops, for a little break from me talking. This week, I’m sending it out as homework before the library workshop. I’m hoping the kids will spend the 5 minutes watching it before the workshop, so we have a common metaphor to use throughout the workshop.
I slapped a CC-BY license on it, so use it if you like it.

Mindset of Students in Class of 2015 and Faculty of 2011

Beloit has once again published their Mindset List, with “There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway” leading the list of things describing the Class of 2015. My favorite is “19. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.”; even though it isn’t true (yet) for many young people in many places — especially in my home state of Virginia. The rest of the list is the usual mix of cultural (OJ Simpson, Tickle Me Elmo), political (Jimmy Carter, Kim Jong-il), and technological (dial-up, Facebook break-ups) references.

This year, The Chronicle Review published “an antidote”, called The 2011 Mind-Set of Faculty (Born Before 1980) (subscription required). The faculty list is a strange mix of some amusing culturing tidbits (“We … never used libraries as restaurants or coffee shops. We faced books; we did not facebook.”), with bitter and sarcastic snipes (“Those same faculty members are regarded by many parents, administrators, and state legislators as lazy, inefficient, and unaccountable. If it were not for all the work the faculty members must do, they would have the time to live down to those expectations.”). Yes, it is true that many faculty are “teaching more and larger classes and doing more “service” than ever before at the same pay or less as faculty were three or four years ago”, but I personally like my Mindset lists to be more on the light side. Give me more “Faculty members born before 1980 said “Wii” to express the euphoria they felt as children when sledding down a hill.” and less “Freshmen will encounter some faculty members who used to work at institutions where faculty governance did not require the inclusion of administrators, advisory boards, and regents in academic decisions.” YMMV.


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