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Stay Put!

6 Mar
Sit, Eliza. Stay.  Our puppy on her first day home, Aug 2013.

Sit, Eliza. Stay.
Our puppy on her first day home, Aug 2013.

I read a couple of good blog posts this morning, over on the Medical Library Association’s blog, “Full Speed Ahead.” The first was by MLA President, Linda Walton, called, “The Time for Change is Now.” It offers a nice summary of the organization’s new strategic goals, each of which contains some level of a call for action. Like many professional organizations, MLA is challenged to find its purpose and goals in the ever-changing world of libraries, health care, and information. The second post is by MLA’s new Executive Director, Kevin Baliozian. “Words I Can Do Without” lays the foundation for what became the very strategic plan outlined in Linda’s post. Wondering what Kevin’s “no say” words are? SPOILER ALERT: They are “try” and “continue.” Again, you can see that MLA and it’s leadership are focused on moving forward, shedding the “same old, same old,” and making the organization as relevant and important to health sciences librarians and information professionals as its storied history shows it to be in the past. 

I serve on the Executive Board of my regional chapter of MLA and we are engaged in much the same type of work. What do we continue doing? What do we cast aside? Who do we reach out to? What defines us and makes us different, unique, worthy of a colleague’s membership dues and energy? Important questions, all.

I’ve got nothing against change. I think it’s important to take stock on a regular basis and adjust accordingly. In my new job as an evaluator, that’s one of the main focuses (foci?) of my work. More, it’s one of the main reasons for my work. I evaluate the research cores and programs of the UMCCTS to track their progress and to make corrections; to identify where changes need to happen. 

But all of this said, I do have one cautionary note about change: Change for the sake of change is no change at all.

I once counted the number of times that I moved between the ages of 20 and 30. I don’t remember the exact number today, but it was around 18. Eighteen moves in 10 years. I also had a number of jobs during that time. I changed all of the time, BUT I went nowhere. I never stayed in any one place long enough for it to feel like home and I never stayed in any job long enough to become very good at it. And it’s the latter that I sometimes fear when it comes to the bigger picture of organizational and/or professional change.

The other day, someone called me to ask for some “librarian expertise.” I told him that I no longer worked in the library, but I could still certainly help him because I still have librarian expertise. I have it because I stayed in a job for 10 years. My job in the library did not stay the same for 10 years, but I stayed true to a certain core ideal – to help the students, clinicians, and researchers of the Medical School with their information needs, whatever those needs might be. Whether I was building consumer health websites, answering reference questions, teaching how to better search PubMed, or building data dictionaries for research teams, in each I was staying true to that ideal. 

As we search and investigate and try on new roles as librarians – at the individual, institutional, and professional organization level – I hope that we stay true to our ideals. It’s a big challenge, but not impossible. It doesn’t mean we don’t change, but that we purposefully change. Change is expensive. It costs time to learn new things and time to become an expert. It costs time to raise the awarenesses of the people we serve regarding the things we now do. It costs people jobs, when roles and tasks disappear. It costs people their identity, when they’re tied closely to one in particular. 

In the past 2 months, I have changed jobs, moved offices twice, watched my mother-in-law pass away, and (just about – almost ready to sign the papers) bought a house. I seem to be forgetting another big thing, but that’s probably an innate defense mechanism, because let me tell you … all of this change has been exhausting. It takes a toll on a person physically, mentally, and emotionally. We all know this. So it’s all the more important to make sure that we undertake change that’s worth the expense.

I’m enjoying my new job, though it’s stressful to not be an expert anymore and I’d be lying if I said that I don’t miss the library. I’m going to love our new house, something that I’ve never had before in my life. And I do so love having an office for the first time, even if it’s across the campus from all of my old colleagues. All good changes. All worth it.

In the same way, I think that many of the changes that we’re talking about and making in the world of health sciences libraries and beyond are great – necessary and worth the cost. But I do wonder about some and I question their true connection to our ideals. Are we scrambling to change because we don’t know what else to do? Are we forced to change for reasons that have nothing to do with our work, e.g. budgets, space, etc. All very real forces of change, but I worry that sometimes the changes that they force aren’t necessarily in our best interest.

Change is difficult. Change is inevitable. And perhaps most importantly, change requires good leadership – whether you’re leading an organization or just trying to lead yourself in the right direction. In that respect, I feel pretty good about my professional organization. I paid my dues for another year. :)

 

January 9th – ALREADY?!

9 Jan

It’s a good thing that I didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions related to my personal writing, because I’d have to report a failure already. That said, the CTSA grant proposal that everyone has been working ’round the clock on for weeks now is very close … oh so very close … to being put to bed, which in this case means submitted. And then I’ll be able to start focusing on how to approach doing the new job that I’ve been hired to do. Up until now, I’ve only been writing what I’ll do. Next stop, figure out how to do what I said I’d do. I’ve already joined the American Evaluation Association and signed up for one of their upcoming coffee break webcasts.

An aside… I think the idea of coffee break webcasts – 30-minute weekly sessions that focus on a particular topic, led by different members of the organization – is a TERRIFIC idea. I know that I belong to a few organizations that are struggling to define and/or create the real benefits of membership and such a simple thing as a regular, free, short-and-sweet-yet-interesting webcast is just that sort of thing.

For today, I at least wanted to send up a post with a few fun things I’ve come across over the past couple days/weeks – some delayed candy canes, if you will:

  • The Spudd – it’s The Onion of medical and pharma news. Hilarious. I discovered it just this very morning, thanks to a hilarious post shared on Twitter by my friend, Dean Hendrix. 
  • How Reddit Created the World’s Largest Dialogue between Scientists and the General Public is a very good blog post by Simon Owens. I’m fascinated with scientific communication and, in particular, efforts to bring the scientific community together with the general public. We are a scientifically illiterate culture at our own peril. I love what’s happening on this online community and so I’ve set up a Reddit account and plan to follow along for awhile. 
  • Finally, for anyone curious about public health and/or epidemiology and NOT interested in returning to school ever again <hand raised>, I came across an on-demand course from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I confess that I’ve signed-up and failed at several MOOC’s, mostly because of timing. I’m really happy to find a relevant, on-demand one and hope to work through it soon. I have a feeling that doing a course on my own, at my own pace, and at my own convenience will work well for me, especially now as I juggle all of the new tasks of a new job.

Back to the grindstone here. Happy New Year to all of my readers and followers! You make blogging fun.

My 3 New Year's Resolutions for 2015. No progress yet!

My 3 New Year’s Resolutions for 2015. No progress yet!

Candy Cane 11: Are we leaping (like the lords) to conclusions?

11 Dec

 December 11 – Managing Information and/or Managing Data

I admit that I struggle greatly with how easily we librarians interchangeably use the terms information and data. I believe that there are significant differences between managing information and managing data. I also think that our history, professionally, is in the former more than the latter. That said, as we move more and more into the realm of data management, we’re making the argument that we also have a history of managing data. 

In a recent post on the e-Science Community Blog (a part of the e-Science Portal for New England Librarians), Nancy Glassman, Assistant Director for Informatics at the D. Samuel Gottesman Library, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, argues that Librarians are the Original Data Managers. I’m not sure that I wholeheartedly agree with Nancy, but what I do really like about this post is how she lays out the thesis for a class of students who attended a data management workshop she led. What I like best is that she convinced them that librarians do, in fact, have a role in this area. They understood her explanation and she gained credibility not just for herself, but for other librarians these attendees might encounter in the future. 

That’s a win-win for all!

INFORMATION

Tomorrow is Friday! What will the treat be? Check in to find out.

On the 10th Day of Candy Canes…

10 Dec

 December 10 – Teaching Online

Yesterday was the last official day of classes at the University of Rhode Island, thus it marked the “official” end of my first semester as an adjunct professor. I still have grades to do, of course, but the instruction part is over. It was really a great experience and I so enjoyed putting together materials for each of the topics. And my students were fantastic.

That said, it was a lot of work – perhaps even more than I’d anticipated (and I’d anticipated a lot). Mostly this is because I’d never taught a full class and more, I’d never taught a full class online. Online education is a different animal and many of the techniques I’d come to rely upon in my traditional classroom teaching didn’t translate easily to the online environment. In short, my students learned a lot about health sciences librarianship and I learned a lot about teaching, curriculum development, and the online educational environment. It’s like I took a class, too!

I recently read a good review in the “Advice” column of The Chronicle of Higher Education on Michelle Miller’s new book, Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With TechnologyMiller is a professor at Northern Arizona University, an institution that was early to adopt the online educational environment, in part because of their location. Bad weather is common and rather than cancelling classes, the University took to the Web to provide uninterrupted learning. I haven’t read this book yet, but based on the review will likely check it out. Understanding how people learn in different environments is key to effective teaching. I think this book will offer more insight there.

If you find yourself in the situation of moving course content and/or entire classes online, you might find it of interest, too.

The treats continue tomorrow…  (And in case you’re wondering, I’m still going on my Jingle Bell 5K-a-Day challenge, too! Going for 10 today.)

Candy Cane No. 9!

9 Dec

 December 9 – Go, Libraries, Go!

I love a mobile library, a bookmobile, and biblioburros! Several years ago, my neighbor introduced me to the Mobile Library Mystery Series by the Northern Ireland author, Ian Sansom. The Case of the Missing Books got me hooked! I love the Little Free Library movement and book trading posts. I loved James Whitmore’s character in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption, as he pushed his book cart down the prison rows, stopping at each cell to ask, “Book?” Yes, I love any and all of the creative ways that libraries and librarians and plenty of plain citizens (or fictional convicts) bring books and literacy to their communities. 

Today’s Candy Cane celebrates the beauty of mobile libraries. Ebook Friendly’s list of the 10 Most Extraordinary Mobile Libraries is a real treat. As the website notes:

From donkey-drawn trolleys to huge ships, you’ll see here outstanding vehicles that are designed to carry the most important cargo in the world – wisdom.

Take a moment out of your busy day to marvel at these and celebrate the wonderful gifts of literacy and books.

More tomorrow …

Candy Canes 6, 7, and 8!

8 Dec

 December 6 – Share and Share Alike!

One of the best characteristics of our profession is sharing. Librarians share things freely and openly. Unfortunately, I’m as guilty as anyone in too often forgetting this fact. Libraries, library organizations, and the like are GREAT places to find archives of useful materials. One of these is the archives of webinars and resource materials from the Association of Southeastern Research Libraries. You’ll find lots of good things here related to data, the digital environment, emerging trends in research libraries, and more. 

 

 December 7 – “The future of libraries won’t be created by libraries.”

This is the opening line to a column, Let the Future Go, that David Weinberger, codirector of Harvard’s Library Innovation Lab and a senior researcher at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, wrote last September. I’ve written about Weinberger in past posts and really like the way he pushes us to think about information. It rubs some folks the wrong way (as this column did), but I personally like the challenges he presents. If you’re not afraid to think BIG when it comes to information and the role of libraries and other information services/institutions today, you might enjoy this piece. It will, at the very least, get you thinking.

 

December 8 – Datalibrarians Unite!

Datalibrarians, By Datalibrarians for Datalibrarians is a collaborative blog/website created by Celia Emmelhainz, the social sciences data librarian at Colby College in Maine. It offers up lots and lots of practical posts related to who datalibrarians are, what they do, tools they use, tips and tricks, and more. It’s a terrific resource for those working in and/or interested in this area of librarianship (which might be a bunch of people who follow my blog!). :)

 

Tune in tomorrow for more Candy Canes! 

Candy Cane Countdown: Day 5

5 Dec

 December 5 – If you can’t beat ’em, at least show them how to Google better!

We librarians have our love-hate relationship with Google, for sure, but truth be told, we all know that it actually does provide a valuable service in many situations. No, it’s not the first spot I want to see a medical student, doctoral candidate, clinician or researcher going when they’re searching for the answer to a clinical and/or research question, but I also tell the students in our Clinical Population Health Research degree program (the ones that I work most closely with), that to avoid it altogether is likely to find you missing a pretty valuable piece of information or two. Use it, but use it wisely.

Here’s a really terrific infographic from the website, Visual.ly, called Get More Out of Google (Designer: Bobby Bernethy; Published by Hack College). You can see that it provides a number of tips and tricks for better searching with Google, including a whole bunch of operators that most people either don’t know about and/or don’t use. Like many of the infographics on Visual.ly, it’s professional quality and you can easily share it on all types of sites. I subscribe to their email list and get a daily note containing some of the popular graphics on their site for that day. I’ve found a lot that are useful, including this one about Google. You may, too.

Tomorrow may be Saturday, but there will still be treats! Come back.

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