This Week…

24 Mar

Someone referenced my blog in conversation this week, reminding me that – RATS! – I got off track again. But I appreciated the prompt to send me back here.

I’m working on preparing a session for this year’s Massachusetts Library Association’s annual meeting happening in Falmouth, MA in early May. The session, “Getting to ‘AHA!’ Using Creative Freedom to Build Justice through Empathy” is a brand new one for me. I’ve long been interested in the intersection between creativity and other aspects of life, particularly how physical activity and creativity are linked. This topic is helping me discover the depths to which creating things – art, music, writing – can help us develop empathy towards others. I’ll share more as I begin to pull the workshop together, but for now, I’d like to point you to a great resource I discovered. The Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Center for Empathy and the Visual Arts has some excellent on-site programming (for those who live in the area), as well as great things to follow on-line. You can find recommended readings, a white paper, toolkits, and more on their website. Check it out!

I also re-read an interesting blog post from last spring about citational justice. It’s easy to forget some of the inherent biases in current citation practices and worth thinking about how we might aspire to change them for the better.

Both my women’s and men’s NCAA March Madness brackets are in shambles, but my March Mammal Madness bracket is holding strong! I love that we have a friendly MMM competition each year in my library. A little animal trash talking is good for the soul. If you’re unfamiliar with this AMAZING activity, you must educate yourself. Dr. Katie Hinde and her colleagues, including librarians, at Arizona State University do an incredible job of bringing this fun, educational, and downright brilliant tournament to the world each year. MC Marmot’s “Rodent Recaps and the Twitter Play-by-Plays are not to be missed. And LET’S GO, SEA OTTER!!

Mike Baird, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m wishing the Research Data Access & Preservation Association (RDAP) a terrific 2023 Summit next week. One of my roles as the Associate Editor of the Journal of eScience Librarianship (JeSLIB) is to shepherd the special edition of JeSLIB dedicated to RDAP each year. I look forward to seeing what emerges from next week’s meeting!

Finally, I host a radio program on my local, community radio station, WCUW, every other Tuesday evening. This week, I celebrated Women’s History Month with a 2-hour program featuring all women artists. You can listen to the archive of the show through April 3.

Happy Spring, everyone!

Give a Hoot! And a Thanks!

17 Feb

I was the perfect age to appreciate Woodsy Owl when he was introduced in 1971. Along with Smokey the Bear, Woodsy helped reinforce my love for nature and the world around me. He also instilled a deep disdain for littering. I was taught that littering was wrong from a very young age and for my entire life it’s been perhaps my greatest pet peeve. I simply cannot stand litter. I cannot stand people littering. I cannot begin to understand and/or fathom how anyone does it.

In his book, Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, Sebastian Junger writes about littering as a sign of disconnectedness. He quotes Dr. Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience of Trauma at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who says littering is “the perfect example of an everyday symbol of disunity in society.” She says, “It’s a horrible thing to see because it sort of encapsulates this idea that you’re in it alone, that there isn’t a shared ethos of trying to protect something shared. It’s the embodiment of every man for himself. It’s the opposite of the military.”

Junger goes on to add, “In this sense, littering is an exceedingly petty version of claiming a billion-dollar bank bailout or fraudulently claiming disability payments. When you throw trash on the ground, you apparently don’t see yourself as truly belonging to the world that you’re walking around in. And when you fraudulently claim money from the government, you are ultimately stealing from your friends, family, and neighbors – or somebody else’s friends, family, and neighbors. That diminishes you morally far more than it diminishes your country financially.”

When I read this, several years ago now, it was the first time I’d ever read anything that better explained my thoughts and feelings on the subject. I’ve never forgotten it.

Fast forward to this week – this morning, even. I’m taking part in the current Medical Library Association’s “MLA Reads” virtual book club. We’re reading and discussing Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s book, What the Eyes Don’t See. Dr. Mona was a keynote speaker at MLA’s annual meeting last May. She was engaging and inspiring in her talk with us, and reading her book is the perfect opportunity to spend more time being engaged and inspired. In brief, Dr. Mona is the pediatrician who led the research and the fight to bring the Flint, MI water crisis to light. It’s an excellent book. I highly recommend it.

But back to this morning’s discussion, we started with an icebreaker where we each shared a Rose (a little something positive), a Thorn (a frustration or struggle), and a Bud (something to look forward to and/or pursue). When it came my turn, I shared something that happened this week. It was about litter and trash, something I’ve thought about a lot while reading and discussing the book.

Earlier in the week, I was walking my dog through Beaver Brook Park in my neighborhood in Worcester, MA. I like to think of this park as a small gem in the city, complete with ball fields, a street hockey rink, playgrounds, and a dog park. I love to walk there in the mornings. For many years, city workers tended to the park each day, emptying the trash bins, caring for the grounds, keeping things fairly clean for a city park, but those workers retired more than a year ago now and they’ve not been replaced. Slowly, the park is falling into a state that is so disheartening. So much trash, so many examples of people unattached from any sense of our community and this particular shared space. Even as they enjoy using it.

So I took pictures. Pictures of a mattress on the ground, a recliner and end table tossed down the side alley, trash piled high in the dugouts of the off-season Little League fields. And I emailed them all, along with a note, to the mayor, my city council representative, the parks department, and the 311 complaint line. THORN

Later in the day, I received a very thoughtful reply from Councilor Etel Haxhiaj, sharing my frustrations and letting me know some of the efforts she’s backing and/or initiating around the issue. One of these is a Community Clean Up day on April 1, led by the Worcester Clean Corps. I was thrilled to hear of this and plan to be there, to share cleaning up with my community. If you happen to be local, consider joining, too. BUD

Finally, this morning as Bayer and I turned the corner to the park, we noticed straight away that the mattress, after months sitting beside the Youth Center, was GONE! We also noticed the other furniture has been removed and the dugouts cleaned up. There’s still a lot left to do, but this start to my day was one heckuva ROSE.

Along with sending my email, I also groused publicly, via social media, about the state of the park. I tagged the city. It was a low point. So here I want to publicly say, “Thank you!” to those who received my complaint and took action. And made my day.

Thank you!

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?