Posts Tagged ‘ fear ’

ER&L Conference Summary #erl13

I recently attended the 2013 Electronic Resources & Libraries (ER&L) conference in Austin, TX. As before, the conference reinforced and solidified ideas among my fellow electronic resources librarians (ERLs), re-energized my research agenda, and reminded me that I am not alone in making wider connections out from my work as an ERL.

In fact, the “we don’t usually have a theme” theme of the conference was bridging communities and cross pollinating ideas — which led me to ask myself, Self: How do I communicate and bridge ideas across the world of ERL and the larger library mission in practice? But another subtler theme that I picked up on throughout the conference turns out to be a very reality-based response to my own question.

The keynote opening and closing speakers, as well as many presenters throughout the conference, challenged all of us to move beyond research results or the identification of problems in our communities (content) and become involved in myriad ways with solving problems and building bridges (service). Even more than my little parenthetical emphasis on service over content — this was a call to individual action.

“What are you going to do with what you now know about Google Generation users?” asked Michael Eisenbert (session notes) — Opening keynote: Listening to Users: What the “Google Generation” Says About Using Library & Information Collections, Services, and Systems in the Digital Age

You are the Digital Library Federation” chided Rachel Frick — Closing keynote: The Courage of our Connections: Thoughts on Professional Identities, Organizational Affiliations and Common Communities)

“Are you disgruntled? Support these start-ups, your fellow Disgrunterati who are making things happen!” coined Jason Price — Lightening Talks

I attended sessions mostly focused on my passion areas, the places where I am most action-oriented — workflow and communication. I felt particularly energized by presentations from early adopters of webscale systems like Intota (session notes) and Alma (session notes). Unlike years past when new ERM systems were adopted and met with fairly wide-scale disappointment, these adopters spoke specifically to how these new ILS systems are helping them manage the complex nature of our work across the library (e and p, content and service) And they seemed so happy! They clearly demonstrated how the ability of these systems to centralize and structure key data and to bridge that data across all library service workflows enabled them to more quickly take action to address internal and external users needs.

I was also very pleased with the Project Management in Libraries (session notes) post conference workshop led by the most excellent Jennifer Vinopal (NYU). To energize my research agenda there was a welcomed talk on the importance of both Internal and External Customer Service (session notes) , especially as it relates to various organizational restructuring. Timely! These sessions helped me see where I can act by both confirming current thinking and offering new ideas to help me move forward.

Some others included Jill Emery’s and Graham Stone’s TERMS (session notes) project. I would love to become involved in extending areas of TERMS that relate to communication and information mangement, as well as key troubleshooting best practices. Another was Extreme E-resources Endeavors…(seesion notes), which included a mix of things we have already acted on (PDA, E-reserves) and things we are hoping to (renewal calendars, POOF!). Feeding one of my passions (and past professions), Instructing Future ERLs (session notes) was another inspiring call to act, although maybe further down the road with this one.

Now, strangely, and despite all Dan Tonkery’s advice to the keep emotion out of it (Improving Communication & Relationships Between Librarians & Publishers session notes), my initial overall response to the conference (after a great closing keynote) was not resolve and energy, but reservedness, fear, frustration, and believe it or not – tears! I reasoned that it was frustration with wanting to act, but not being able to due to lack of resources or, possibly, as Frick suggests, the “courage of my connections”. But I also think changes going on back at my organization may have played some subconscious role in that perhaps too — the sense of uncertainty about where these idea and action bridges will be built.

You should also probably know that I was reading Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking during the trip. I claim to be an ambivert, but I was operating strongly with my “I” throughout the conference. I didn’t do a lot of networking, even though I had many opportunities, and it has taken me much longer to recover my energy post-conference (also classic introvert behavior). Thankfully, some of my first tasks back were sharing project management approaches, discussing ideas for development programs, and spending most of today cleaning up my notes and summarizing my experience.

And look what I found on facebook!

And look what I found on facebook!

Reflecting now upon these bold calls to action and individual responsibility, I’m reminded that I begin acting within my circle of concern. My strengths in learning, strategy, analysis, and taking action with others are what help me be effective in my circle. These same strengths also enable me to see and act beyond this area by sharing ideas and bridging communities. I have always thought of myself as a bridge-builder of both ideas and communities. This conference is always great reminder of how I do that as an ERL prepares me in all sorts of ways to be a greater and broader leader in librarianship as a whole.


#2012resolutions in review — the YA novels

While crying through reading my third YA novel of the year, and trying not to  be ashamed of this fact, I thought, the reasons why a non-YA seeks out YA lit might at least be kind of like the reason she seeks out TV — except better.  And I really shouldn’t be too ashamed about it, right?  Let’s face it, I’m probably not alone in trying to relive a little adolescence in mid-life.  But more importantly, I know there are pleasure reading levels and there are challenge reading levels. And what I’m seeking in this resolution-to-read experiment is to know what both feel like, jump right in, and eventually become a voracious and diverse reader.   But, I’m stubborn and impatient and insecure — just like a teenager.  So you have to deal with a little rant now and then until reading begins to civilize me.

I decided to bring for the short Christmas vacation  The Perks of Being a Wallflower as 10th of the 12 books I committed to reading for my  2012 resolutions.  I brought it along because of husband’s repeated suggestion of it, and because, logically, it is among the stacks on my night stand (that is starting to resemble husband’s, actually), the one that is due back at the  library soonest, but mostly because I knew I would speed through it and be able to relax and enjoy passing my time with it.  All these things I might say about TV, but — and, yes I know how uppity this sounds — reading, even YA, even Children’s Lit, is a better way to pass the time.  Reading it in the quiet of the Christmas house, while everyone else who might need my attention was napping, had a certain quality weight to it.  It made me feel full rather than drained in the way losing myself in visual media usually does.

As I mentioned, this was the third YA novel to really strike some chords, and since I’ve not written in much detail at all about any of my reads this year, I thought I’d dig deeper into what I’ve found special about these. Disclaimer — I am not a book reviewer.  This will be a brief personal reflection and commentary on my own learning process through reading, and absolutely not a full and proper commentary on the merits of these books. So, read on, or not as you wish.

First, there were definitely aspects of  The Perks… that I related to from my adolescence  — mixed tapes, panicky feelings, and observing life  more than the drug use and a solid family unit.   But, as dear hubs pointed out, what’s great about these books is how they explore and often times beautifully articulate a period of our lives we probably experienced in a very inarticulate way. It was common, and intense, and forming, but unless we were gifted writers (or readers!), we lacked the words to express it to ourselves or others meaningfully.   One point when Charlie is getting panicky, for example, he finds comfort in covering his head with a pillow “until the quiet slowly put the pieces back in place” (or something along those lines — dammit for letting hubs return the book before I finished this post!).  While I never did that literally as an adolescent,  having felt like that before, I thought as I read it:

Yes!  Why didn’t I just put a damn pillow over my head every once in a while?

Interestingly, though, I more often related to the novel and the characters’ experiences as a parent. This was especially true toward the middle-end when no terrible childhood trauma and adolescent experimental consequence was left unexplored.  And this is probably what’s put me in a panicky, worried mom mood since finishing the book.

I had entirely different experiences reading A Wrinkle in Time and The Fault in our Stars.  I began rereading L’Engle’s sci-fi novel when my oldest was in the hospital and so, it was nice to get completely lost in a fantasy during that time.  Yet,  still I found articulate words of comfort here as well:

Happiness at their concern was so strong in her that panic fled, and she followed Charles Wallace into the dark recesses of the house without fear.

But as much as I hold that novel dear, my favorite of the year, even competing with the adult novels I read, was John Green’s The Fault in our Stars.  Here too, I related as both a kid and a parent of a (sick) kid.   I can’t remember the articulate words as much as the fullness of what I learned from that book — how to treat people.  This was important to me since, remarkably, I’ve only had one chance in my life so far to experience someone close to me get sick and die.  And I was a miserable failure at it. This book allowed me to get close to that again, think through it, cry through it, and learn from it.  I also caught myself slowing down my reading towards the end of the book because I didn’t want to stop reading it — just like those annoying catchy quotes about bookworms say. - The awkward moment when Ted realized he couldn't text with his library book.

So, while I said I wasn’t reviewing and commenting on the merits, I will just say that I think everyone should read The Fault in our Stars.  Not sure what of my other 2012 reads I’ll process through next, if any. I may be just looking to finish by January, which means 2 more books in 5 days.  Possible? Maybe.  I’m starting on Dan Roam’s The Back of a Napkin and may well finish one I’ve been picking up in bits and pieces throughout the year.  Stay tuned.

confessions of a truthbrarian

To all the kind friends who have shared nonamerah’s A Girl You Should Date on my fb wall or spread it across the interwebs for the promotion of reading and librarianship, to those who may be reading my blog or following this truthbrarian in hopes of literary comradery, I confess.  I can relate to nonamerah’s post perhaps only in its painful description of my own young dating failures.  I think I was nerdy and pretty enough to attract suitably interesting and intellectual boys, only to disappoint them with a lack of disciplined bookishness.  You see, I am one of those librarians who doesn’t really read a lot of books — mostly nowadays, I claim, because I’m too busy.  But the whole thing has got me thinking about my entire literary past and inspired me to take stock.

Past elementary school, I couldn’t tell you my librarians’ names, and I don’t recall story times or visits to the public library that involved anything more than a place to do homework and have fries at the Hardees next door.  I actually did. not. believe. my college voice professor who told me the library had books with the full English translations for the various language arias I was working on.  “It can’t be that easy!”, I thought.  And since I never recall seeing what might have been a librarian anywhere in that college library, I never followed up to verify this outrageous claim.

What?!  I know!

As a truthbrarian, I’m obviously not proud of this.  And it’s not even that I have trouble reading or that I don’t enjoy it as a pastime. I do!  In fact I boast at home that among the larger tomes in our recently reestablished home library,  I’ve read the largest of them in their entirety. My husband, the main collector for the library, has read some or all of more of the books and is certainly the more read in our family.  Our eldest daughter is not far behind. But I am a late (or perhaps, interrupted) bloomer.

Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus and José Aruego

While I don’t remember my parents reading to me at home, I do have fond memories of my elementary school librarian and that library. I can still picture the reading bathtub, where the Judy Blume books were located, and what a big deal it was to have visits by author/illustrator, Tommy de Paola, and also Jose Aruego, who showed us step-by-step how he illustrates animals. Fascinating!  I can also recall my mom supporting our local bookstore and my particularly intense preteen reading spree of the entire Sweet Valley Twins series and Garfield comic books – don’t judge.  I also  loved my church library, but only have 3 solid book memories:

  1. The Giving Tree (and other Silverstein poetry)
  2. Joni, an autobiography of diving accident victim turned artist
  3.  a crazy cartoon book about a boy who got bit by a dog with rabies.

My current reading choices retain this pattern for creative humor, biographies, and a touch of morbidity.  But what I remember having an even greater fascination for in these libraries was the organizational system of the books, the act of checking out books, and wanting very badly to stamp and sort.

Many librarians, of course, share this organizational proclivity. But, I’ve always felt that every other librarian must have always loved books in a way that I never fully grasped.  I now know,  that truthbraries give you more than books.  They give you the ability to seek, discover new things, be curious,  and seek even more.  This has always made me a good problem solver and information organizer/seeker.  But that seeking within books and stories in the traditional sense has been late to bloom in my life.

The problem with lackluster seeking (as opposed to desperate seeking)  in books is not just less reading, but that my bibliography relied almost solely on the recommendations of others.  This, for better or worse, boils down to the company you keep.   My first recommendation I count as a plus. My big sister gave me Catcher in the Rye, which led me to inquire and read the entire Salinger bibliography,  articles about him, and his daughter’s biography of him.  However, in my high school naivety, I once settled on a recommended Danielle Steele novel  for a book report, making me reading adverse for quite some time!  However terrible that reading experience was, though, I see now the silver lining was a new-found appreciation for its opposite —  good writing, and the skill to critically evaluate for it. Today, I love to edit and to write.

I recall one more remarkable recommendation through a senior English reading essay (not really recommended as much as part of the reading requirement of the class).   It was a timed essay exam where I nailed a comparison of themes in the Red Badge of Courage.  I remember being super energized by a  feeling of discovery and impressed with how quickly I organized my ideas on paper.  This probably speaks again for my analytical skill and enjoyment of writing than it does for my love of reading.  But it is certainly connected, and I can see, through nonamerah’s A Girl You Should Date,  how those who have immersed themselves more fully and regularly into reading would develop a self-perpetuating love of it.   I am also totally into the concept there that exposure (through reading) to a variety of both creative and factual stories will only make one a better and more creative thinker, conversationalist,  writer, and even lover.  This truthbrarian seeks all of these  adding mother, friend, and leader. A tall order!

While I’ve got a late start to it (overall and in this late 2012 new year’s post), I have recommitted to the avid reading side of my dear profession.  This new year, I  firmly resolve to a reading regimen and welcome suggestions for its  structure and content.  You can keep up with my #2012resolutions progress by following me (@atruthbrarian ) on twitter.


Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain

I have been filling up on the big picture these past few days.  Last Thursday and Friday I traveled with my colleagues down to Oklahoma for the, well…Oklahoma Conference.   And yesterday I spent the day attending and room hosting a  Digital Humanities Summit.   Great stuff! I’m hoping my inability to get focused on the practical details of the daily grind this afternoon will be aided by taking the opportunity to debrief  some big ideas from these two experiences.

Part of  describing ‘What exactly is the Oklahoma Conference?’ is obvious–  a library conference hosted in Oklahoma by the University of Oklahoma Libraries.  What’s not so obvious is how to describe how it got to be so awesome.  I mean how did those Okies get so lucky? The presenters over those two days attribute it to the OU Libraries Dean, Sul Lee and his unique ability to attract great presenters and presentation topics.  I’ve only been to this conference twice but can attest to the unusually unique way that it brings the big picture into very tangible takeaways.  Nevermind the people that took away worry about their future in the profession.  Yes, there were some — ok a lot —  of bleak presents and futures laid out for us.  But more often it was pitched as a great catalyst for change.  Good change. Right? We hope so.

My biggest take away (and validation if I may say) was a concept of allocating for innovation.  Jay Jordan of OCLC talked about the ‘cloud‘ and its ability, should we allow it, to reduce our redundant tasks devoted to infrastructure and free that up for innovation.  He referenced a  statistic of 70% commonly spent on infrastructure and 30% on innovation. He name dropped Google, which might have been a reference to  Google’s 70/20/10 receipe.  But Jordan posited that cloud computing has the potential to flip that ratio.  I think this is the part where people began to worry about their jobs.

I should have been worried because the redundant infrastructure he was talking about in a broad sense was in my area — technical services.  A part of me was worried, actually.  I mean 70% freed up time is a fundamentally scary concept in this economy.  One’s first instinct is to realize that as cost savings rather than allow it to be realized as the luxury of innovation.  The reason I was not worried however is because I have put this very concept into practice in my work.

Admittedly it was a more gradual process to make such a flip.  The first step I took was to prove I could innovate on the redundant infrastructure that we have always done.  I did that for a year. After a year of this innovation and the still persistent inability to make gains in what both I (and my libraries’ strategic plan) wanted done,  I figured something had to give.   I argued on more than one occasion that in order for me to innovate on better solutions for this stuff we want to advance, I’d have to just stop doing this other thing that we have always done.  I had to do the flip.  Luckily, I had data that I’d been tracking to back me up and, perhaps more importantly, strong personnel support in my work environment.  We’re also talking here about a small unit on which such flip produced just minor people impact.  How will such a concept scale is the larger question.

And the whole point of the ‘cloud’ is to scale such a concept.   So I thought about another group of folks trying this out on a larger scale. In collection development the goal was trying to rethink the concept of every librarian doing everything (instruction, liaison, selection). There was a proposal to build on each person’s strengths and for example, have those that are good at instruction not have to do selection and various other flips of this sort.  But it didn’t it fly when it was proposed.  Why?  Are people scared of losing their jobs?  Or  being seen as not having enough to do?  Or maybe it’s being seen as not being good at something.  I don’t know.

I do think the key is to keep at these ideas, though.  As I’ve experienced, it’s not something you can just propose and get to happen the next week, or month or even year, sometimes.  As a wise woman once said,

Take ‘No’ as the start of the negotiation, not the end.

– Theresa Peters, Partner, United Talent Agency

You have to be able to handle rejection in a way where you accept the resistance, pull it into your data, tweak the argument and keep persisting with new proposals over time.   This kind of thinking drives my husband nuts, btw, when it comes to suggestions for home decorating, throwing a party, or going on a family vacation.

Ultimately it’s just another take on another catchy phrase — the whole notion of perpetual beta.  Continue to present opportunities for people to experiment on the small scale, in their comfort zone, based on their strengths with the hope that you can then challenge them to scale that down the road.

Well I’ve blabbed on a lot about Oklahoma here. Maybe all these big ideas need a few posts to sort out.   The Digital Humanities Summit had similar validation for librarians.  I saw many ways in which libraries have always supported the new and big concepts that were being presented here.  And ways in which we can scale these to new levels.   Stay tuned.

Journal 09-23-03

I talked to a friend of mine tonight about my school and got on the topic of what a massive undertaking our product is and can become.  I have found myself quite overwhelmed at times, especially reading Kurzweil, wondering how I will get my head around the entirety of information science.  So many aspects, thoughts, ideologies, issues, concerns, answers!  And how, when/if I do get my head around it, will I be able to help others with it all?

I went back to the article from the Utne Reader and found another interesting aspect of this whirlwind of information. Karen Olsen, the author of the first article Are We Overwhelmed by Too Many Choices? reflects on the fact that abundance of choice is a defining feature of our country and generation, which is linked tightly to our individual self-image as well. She writes:

Our choices seem especially fraught with anxiety now as [our selections] are more than ever declarations of who we are…with each decision you are constructing an identity for all the world to see and judge you by.

**and this was pre-social networking!**

Then she goes on to make the point that the anxiety come from the lack of time to make that decision.  This is similar to what we talked about in class about the need for reflection time.  The dread rate of change has got us so wrapped up in that it nearly doesn’t allow for a moments wait.  Think about searching the internet. We are constantly searching for a faster response.  It is clear that when we don’t have an outlet or learn to incorporate reflection into a major part of our lives, we will translate that impatience with a machine response times on to people, our interactions with patrons, our personal relationships, to new ideas, and to new technologies.

It is also similar to the modern (or maybe its mostly Western) movement in social (per this article) and religious thought that everything begins to be OK, whatever feels right to you is best.  Such freedom of choice, it might be said, begins to corrupt the moral fiber when considering very sensitive social issues (e.g. abortion, pornography). Maybe that’s a sweeping statement and might reflect some bias.  But, I wonder if this isn’t a message in what the author is also saying, that we can’t be afraid of making these statements  that reflect one of our many sides or ways of seeing things. I guess I’m not afraid of these statements because I expect to reflect of them further, refine them, and edit them if needed.

Journal 09-02-03

I posted on the discussion list for the first time tonight.  While at first I felt shy, by the end I was confident and comfortable.  I still think and wonder, though, about that quote and putting my ignorance out there for everyone to hit.

I got on a big “fear” kick, which had brought me then to this question:  When (or) is fear healthy or necessary, or of any value?  Is it ever?  What about what said of the positive side of the Patriot Act?  What it of value in response to September 11th?  Has it made our plane travel safer in a positive and free way?  Can freedom and fear co-exist?

I think it all depends on your definition of fear and likewise, your definition of weakness. I believe the two are inextricably mixed.  I was reading a book called Beginning to Pray by Anthony Bloom.  In it he provides a reminder of St. Paul’s words: “My power is manifest in my weakness.”  and continues by making clear his own definition of weakness. I think, while the context Bloom uses is prayer and connection with God, the definition is relevant.    He says it is not the weakness we show by sinning and forgetting God, or even as the OED’s definition of weak-minded: mentally deficient, or weakness: self-indulgent thinking.  Rather, Bloom affirms Paul’s statement to refer to weakness which means completely supply, completely transparent, completely abandoned in the hands of God.  This is not unlike how we should be when learning something new.   If we bring out own biases, or will to be right, or ego into a new situation, we will undoubtedly run into frustration — if not externally in relation to others, at least within ourselves.  And new situations, lack of knowledge, or experience, or control can be scary.  This is a very small statement considering the effect September 11th had on people and I don’t mean to sum it up as merely a new situation, as it is so much more.  But I guess what I think Anthony Bloom is defining is that freedom and fear do co-exist.  But is freedom self-indulgence? Is fear weakness?  These are hard thoughts to practice, especially when American’s freedom these days seems to be the definition of sin (forgetting God) whether the world believes it or not.

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