Picture This

27 Jan

My gosh, it’s still only January and I missed a weekly post already. Argh! But back at it this afternoon.

This past week has been about data (data sharing, data visualizations, data love), sketchbooks, and artificial intelligence. Some things to share:

The beginning of a new calendar year means it’s time to pay association dues. The time to pay association dues also tends to bring out some grumpiness in folks. Why does it cost so much? What do I get for all that money? Why is MLA so much more expensive than ALA? Ahh, yes. Every year. So I got to thinking about the cost and decided to start brushing up (off?) my skills to compete in the upcoming NNLM Data Visualization Challenge. How much does an MLA membership cost this year? $245 or approximately sixteen 4-packs of decent craft beer. For me, put that way, it seems pretty reasonable. My professional home is worth that to me. No complaining here.

And speaking of that Challenge, be sure to check it out! Per the website, the contest is open to “anyone who has taken part in NNLM activities (e.g., training or grant programs), any health sciences library staff, health sciences librarians working in non-library settings, library or information students, or NNLM staff members are eligible to apply.” Find some data from an open data source and have at it! Should be a lot of fun. Thanks to the National Evaluation Center for the NNLM for bringing it to us.

Another thing for your calendars, the National Library of Medicine is hosting daily events during Love Data Week next month, February 13-17. Love Data Week is sponsored by Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR), part of the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

I received a sad email last week. The Sketchbook Project, a wonderful, global, artist-driven effort is ending its run. The physical library in Brooklyn, NY closed last year and during the move of the collection to Florida, a fire broke out in the trailer carrying the books. That was but one set-back that helped founder, Steven Peterman, make the difficult decision to wrap it up.

I participated in several projects of The Sketchbook Project over the years. I had 2 sketchbooks in the Brooklyn Art Library, plus one in a traveling exhibit. I also did themed artist exchanges; wonderful ways to give and receive art with others around the world. With news of the end, I was able to get my sketchbooks back from the Library. One has water damage from the fire, but it’s still readable (and digitally archived – word to the wise). The other was untouched. They arrived back to me this week. It was fun to see them again.

My question of the week is prompted by all the recent news of ChatGPT. What is the purpose of writing a paper or taking an exam? Is is simply to write the paper and pass a test? If so, then what is the purpose of learning?

3 Plus 1 Plus 1

13 Jan

So last week I claimed I was going to reset/restart my writing here with a format of 3 interesting things I discovered during the week, plus a question. I’ve always noticed that if/when I start looking for things, I inevitably find more. That’s what happened this week. I’ve got 5 – 5 fun and interesting things from the week to share. Here goes:

The Noun Project’s Free 2023 Marketing and Social Media Content Calendar

If you’re unfamiliar with the Noun Project, I highly recommend the site. Even more, if you afford it, I recommend an annual subscription (around $40). This gives you not only unlimited downloads of high quality icons and photos to use in presentations, handouts, social media posts, etc., but it also helps support the site and all of the graphic artists who contribute to it. The free calendar suggests icons and images throughout the year, relating to holidays and other observances. I’m one of the social media posters for my library and I’m always looking for ideas of things to post that coincide with whichever days I’m assigned. I’ve bookmarked the calendar site for future reference.

Massachusetts Center for the Book Tour Series, aka Book Trails

Break out your state map (or GPS) and plan some trips to visit places around Massachusetts related to literature. You can use the resource to plan visits to museums like the home of Louisa May Alcott (Concord) or the House of Seven Gables (Salem) or The Mount, Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox. You can also explore the deep and rich history of African American authors in the state, from the Underground Railroad site in New Bedford, where Frederick Douglass settled for awhile, to Malcom X’s Roxbury home, to the home site of W.E.B. DuBois in Great Barrington, as well as his residence on Flagg St in Cambridge. He lived in the latter while attending Harvard, as he was not permitted a dormitory space on campus. While this resource is targeted at sites in Massachusetts, check out your own state’s Center for the Book to see if they have something similar.

Journal Targeter (JOT)

Created by the Townsend Lab at Yale University’s School of Public Health, this is another tool to help authors find the most appropriate journals to submit manuscripts for publication. Users enter the title, abstract, and references for their paper into the service and it generates a list of matches to pursue. This isn’t an uncommon question in my library, so tools like this are always helpful to recommend.

The American Chemical Society’s Guide to Scholarly Communication

This resource from the ACS is filled with great information on scientific communication, scientific writing and publishing, peer review, data management, style conventions, graphics (many towards chemistry, of course), and an important chapter on inclusivity. This most recent chapter presents guidelines on writing and presenting related to age, disabilities and health conditions, gender and sexuality, diversity and inclusion, accessibility, socioeconomic status, and more. Another one I’ve bookmarked for easy reference in the future.

Cookie Monster’s Real Name is Sid

Not that you want to skip any of this, but if you scroll to the 7 minute mark, you’ll see!

A Question

What does anyone ever really get out of denying people the opportunity to read?

Happy 2023 (aka “Reset!”)

6 Jan

Happy New Year, everyone! As we crawl our way into another year, I find myself believing 2023 is going to be a reset year. For one thing, I’m facing a significant birthday. “Get busy living or get busy dying,” as Andy Dufresne said in The Shawshank Redemption. Also, surviving 2020, 2021, and then 2022 kind of feels like Andy, “who crawled through 500 yards of shit and came out clean the other end.” I don’t think I’ll ever be ready for the “post-COVID new normal”, but I’m definitely ready to wash off some of the stink.

So I say hello again to this space. I’ve gotten so far from my regular (usually Friday) writing. I’m out of practice, both in thinking and in writing thoughts about work and life, that I’m going to challenge myself with an easy goal at first: 3 Things and a Question. To give myself some structure, I’m going to share 3 interesting and/or fun things I came across each week, along with one question I’ve been mulling over. Feel free to use the comments section to share your wisdom to the latter.

Here goes for the first week of the year:

Self-Evaluation Tool for Culture of Open Scholarship Service

This is a terrific tool for libraries, scholarly communications departments, data management services, and other working in the open science arena. Developed primarily to address the efforts in Europe towards policies and frameworks in Open Science and Research Coordination, it provides guidance and definitions to help groups and/or institutions measure where they are meeting the goals around open access, open education resources, and data management and sharing. I’ve asked my staff to read it and I plan to lead us through a self-assessment over the coming months. It will be a worthy and worthwhile effort.


Tip of the hat to my friends and colleagues at the University of Maryland Health Sciences and Human Services Library for this one. I was working on a reference question that led me to seeking out how to easily get the XML for a record in PubMed. I googled something like, “how to get XML from PubMed entry” and top o’ the results was a link to the HSHSL’s “Ask Us” page, How do I save a reference from the new PubMed in xml text file format? BINGO! It led me to PubMed2XL, a super easy web application where all you have to do is enter a PMID(s), click “Download XML File”, and VOILA! I’ve bookmarked this site, for sure.

The World’s Largest Beaver Dam

I subscribe to the weekly email from TED-ED and this week I learned all about why beavers build dams. I also learned that the biggest beaver dam in the world is in Alberta, Canada. Road Trip!


How long is something “new”?

P.S. That’s my new pup, Bayer. He came home the week before Christmas – the best present and a great new start!