What Goes Around, Comes Around…

13 Oct

At this time last year, meaning the month of October, I was feeling like a real world traveler, spanning the globe from Massachusetts to DC to Edinburgh and Stirling, Scotland, taking in a trio of really thought-provoking meetings in some wonderful venues. It was something and I vowed to myself that I would do my best to do the same, i.e. travel to an international conference, every year for the rest of my professional days. Taking part in conferences and meetings with people from other parts of the world opened my eyes – and my mind – to a whole host of new perspectives. I was inspired.

Well, here we are, a year later – surely one of the strangest years I could imagine – and the same conferences are all taking place. They’re still international in scope and the content is terrific, but alas, like everything else these days, I’m attending them via a screen; zooming in from my home or my office. And like everything else these days, it’s just missing something for me.

All that said, I’m grateful to be well, grateful to be working, and grateful that I have the means to keep on going. I know that too many people all over the world lack this good fortune right now.

But back to conferencing, one thing I enjoy most about attending a conference is feeling that charge of excitement and enthusiasm that comes with hearing intellectually stimulating stuff. I find myself writing down a dozen ideas for research studies. I come away with a stack of readings. I think, “Why the heck didn’t I get that PhD?”

Well, I didn’t because I thought that, at 39, I was too old to pursue such. I talked myself out of it. And let’s just say that coming up on 20 years hence, I’m not talking myself into it now. BUT, reflecting on a number of the talks and and research presentations that I’ve taken in over last week (NIH Bibliometrics and Assessment Symposium) and this (Transforming Research 2020), I realized something fascinating. At least to me. I realized that way back in 2002, when I had a question about a certain pattern that I observed in exercise physiology research and publications, and I followed it up with an independent study … by golly, I was doing bibliometric analysis!

I’ve always tied this experience to ending up earning a library science degree and pursuing my current career, but only within the past couple of weeks have I put together the pieces and seen (1) how much they truly were aligned and (2) how research continues on in the area. So here’s what happened:

As a grad student at Ithaca College, working on my MS in exercise physiology, I attended a regional meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. At the meeting, a grad student (female) presented her research that observed the affect of a particular supplement on a group of subjects performing a particular physical training task. After she finished, an established faculty member (older, white, male) asked her about the subjects of her study. In short, her subject pool had consisted of only females. He questioned her on the legitimacy of generalizing any findings of a study that had not included males and said any study using women needed to specifically state that it was a study on women.

Next up, a grad student (male) presented his research that observed the affect of a particular supplement on a group of subjects performing a particular physical training task. His subject pool contained only males. I bet you’re ahead of me in guessing that, well, he didn’t get the same question regarding the generalization of his findings, nor how he titled his research.

And this happened again. And again. I looked through the program and took note of this oddity, and first chance I got, I asked my mentor, “What the hell is up with that?!” Thus was the seed for my independent study, “Current trends in exercise science research: A feminist cultural studies analysis.” I went to the library, went to the stacks, pulled 20 years worth of volumes of several prominent exercise science journals off the shelves, and began taking note of every title of every study looking at the affects of some intervention on training outcomes. (No Scopus or Web of Science, friends. I’m talking bound journals, paper, and pencil. This took awhile!)

[As an aside, my thesis topic also looked at sex differences, but related to factors of muscle fatigue, not words.]

Fast forward 20 years and I’m sitting in conferences attended by biomedical researchers, publishers, bibliometrics and research assessment practitioners, and librarians and here are some of the titles of studies authored and/or cited by the speakers so far:

Plus, the topic of the affects on COVID-19 on the female workforce in research and medicine, well that’s already targeted for study. Stay tuned for the many studies that will surely be published on this.

So what does all of this mean? Well, personally, I find it really interesting that a little spark that I noticed so long ago, didn’t just find only me. I think had I followed it up with that doctorate, I’d likely be doing this very research today with some of these same people. And honestly, I had no idea that was a possibility. It’s nice to know people are still studying and writing about the topic. It’s also frustrating and infuriating that it goes on, but… that’s another post.

All in all, the topic of diversity, equity, and inclusion is being discussed an awful lot today (rightly so), but it’s been a topic for a long, long time. As one speaker said, “We know a lot about what we know. But where is the change?” That’s the real question, isn’t it? And it’s where the real work is. Time to get busy.

Back in the Saddle (kinda)

18 Aug

Like lots of libraries – and many other kinds of businesses and work – my library closed to the students, faculty, staff, and public back in the cold days of March. We worked remotely beginning March 16 and stayed that way all the way up to … August 3. Just shy of 5 months. Even living through it, it seems surreal. Our doors reopened with limited hours, a skeleton crew, and a whole lot of new rules (we wait to see how well people will comply) to hopefully keep us safe and free from exchanging the COVID virus that’s ravaged our societies.

I got through the months at home by doing a lot of streaks – songs, doodles, walks, the NYTimes crossword puzzle. I kept busy with things for work, but honestly struggled with the routine of working remotely. I’m not really made for it. I like the connection aspects of my job. I like coming into work. I like separating work from home. That whole work-life balance idea? It’s hard enough to balance it in our usual, virtually-connected world. Add remote working to it and … MALARKEY!

I have a lot of thoughts about these things – a lot of concerns for the future of work, i.e. how it will happen and some of the new norms we’ll accept, thanks to COVID. But that’s for another post. I also have several posts gestating about some of the really terrific professional development opportunities I’ve taken advantage of over the past months, including the vConference of the Medical Library Association and FORCE 11’s Scholarly Communications Institute (FSCI). I look forward to sharing them here, too (sketchnotes included).

For now, I’m just a couple hours away from a mini-staycation, getting ready to monitor the LibChat service at the end of the day, and taking advantage of a quiet office space. I’m enjoying doing exercises in my new copy of “Observe, Collect, Draw!” by Georgia Lupi and Stefanie Posavec, based on their wonderful book, “Dear Data” that came out a few years back. I loved their book and wondered how to ever come up with my own style for doing what they did. Fortunately, this visual journal is filled with exercises to help me do just that. I plan to have it accompany me on part of my staycation, for sure.

Longing for Home

2 Jun

I was in a supervisors meeting this morning and as has become the norm, we had some discussion about how and when we might return to the library after being away from there since mid-March. This is our new normal, to use a phrase that makes me just a bit sick to my stomach. Masks and tests and cleaning and spaced seating – all things to accept, get used to, plan for. At one point, my director said that we need to figure out who benefits from the library being open, as a physical space (because we’ve not missed a beat, in terms of working in this virtual environment). We think about our patrons – students, faculty, staff, clinicians. When and how do they benefit by reopening the library?

Upon hearing this question, I found myself saying, “What about me? I benefit from the library being open.” I don’t mean this selfishly. I’m not storming any gates or marching in the streets to protest the measures we’ve taken to control this pandemic, but that said, I’m tired of this virtual working world. The library – the physical place with my desk and my computer, surrounded by my colleagues, the cafeteria down the hall, the lawn outside, people milling about – I benefit from all of this. When you think about it, I’ve spent an awful lot of my life there. And it’s a life that I’ve enjoyed.

I can easily do the work that I do from home. I’m so very proud of the staff in my department, of all of my colleagues in the library, for how quickly and seamlessly we moved into this means of working. We have addressed every question, every issue. We’ve solved problems, taught classes, zoomed a thousand hours. We can do it.

I love my home, I love the slower pace of my mornings, I love starting my days with the NY Times crossword puzzle and my coffee. I appreciate doing my laundry whenever I feel like it. I like not taking a shower until the middle of the day, if I want. I enjoy taking a mid-afternoon break to walk my dog in the park. I’ve relished watching spring arrive – all of the baby birds, the baby bunnies, the plants blooming. I’ve been astounded by all of the neighbors I’ve met and spoken to. I’ve found a dozen different ways to nurture my creativity, to devote some time to it that I don’t always do when I’m in the routine of work. And I know how absolutely fortunate I am for my situation and I am most grateful for it.

All of this.

And yet.

I want to go back to work. I want to get up, walk my dog, iron my clothes, take a shower, pack my lunch, and head out the door. I want to sit at my desk, see the people that I work with, see the faculty and staff and students that I work for. I’m tired of emailing. I’m tired of zooming.

I want to walk out of work at the end of the day, drive down Shrewsbury Street, stop at one of my neighborhood pubs I enjoy, see friends that I know. I want to go to my guitar lesson on Friday afternoons. I want to play trivia on Wednesday nights. I want to enjoy being home on the weekend, because I’ve not been in my home all week. I want the boring, mundane, 9-5 work week back. I do! I miss it.

Typing this, I feel pretty petty, whining about all of this as my country seems to be coming apart at the seams. But I also cannot help but believe that there’s a connection to all of this. Whatever our “libraries” are – our work, our schools, our routines, our lives – they’ve all been disrupted. For months. Toss into the equation the horrible fact of systemic racism and a feckless, impotent, pathologically insane person in the White House and an evil-to-the-core leader of the Senate and of course we’re going to blow up. For every good and every wrong reason, we are going to explode.

So, yes. I want my library to reopen. For me. And I want yours to reopen for you, too. I honestly believe that we all need it. Now.