Archive | Bits and Pieces RSS feed for this section

Rabbit Rabbit!

1 Sep

Wild_Rabbits_at_Edinburgh_ZooHappy September, everyone! Cooler temperatures and warmer colors are on their way. Fall is my favorite season of the year and the arrival of the “-ber” months makes me happy. I know many are sad to see summer ending, but it’ll be back again soon enough.

I’ve stumbled across a few cool sites and tools and such to share. No better day than the first of the month to do so. I hope you find some of them as interesting and/or helpful as I have.

First off, The Pudding: A Weekly Journal of Visual EssaysWhat an amazing find! This is a fascinating (and growing) collection of articles about topics ranging from culture to politics to sports to music, each enhanced by some terrific graphs and tables. It’s a great way to see how data visualization can be used to make essays more readable, understandable, and fun. Check it out!

If you want to get cracking on your own data visualizations to accompany your writing, you can find all the inspiration and quick start you need at Stephanie Evergreen’s new collection of step-by-step guides to a whole host of charts. You will bookmark it and visit often. Guaranteed.

ChartsBin is a useful site for finding and creating data visualizations. If making dynamic/interactive visuals for the web isn’t your forte (it’s not mine), a site like ChartsBin can come in very handy.

Helping professionals write and speak without using the jargon of their field is a challenge. For scientists, the new De-Jargonizer tool can help. It’s a quick way to check how well a written piece translates to different levels of the general public. I’ve popped a few abstracts from articles into it and the results have been pretty good. It’s helpful to see which words/phrases might be edited for a lay audience. 

Lastly for today, my next big learning adventure in life is to launch a podcast. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, but I struggled to come up with the right bent for it. I finally did and am now in the process of learning all about the ins and outs of creating podcasts. If you’re interested, I hope you’ll stay tuned for updates and tune in, once I take off. I can’t wait!

Podcast-Art-1

For those celebrating the long weekend ahead, Happy Labor Day! 

 

A Rose by Any Other Name…

9 Aug

Yesterday, I posed a question on my Facebook page:

question

I found the responses really fascinating and they got me to thinking a good bit about language, the words we choose, why we choose them, and the like. This is hardly a new fascination. I became a librarian, in part, because of my interest in cultural studies and linguistics; specifically, why research that involved females as subjects always stated such in publication titles, whereas the same involving males did not. Why were males the norm? Why could findings for men be generalized to the entire population, but the same never (or very, very rarely) be said for women? I was curious and it sent me down a path – and an independent study – that led me to discover that there are people within the field of library and information science who study this kind of thing. Who knew? And so I finished up my degree in exercise physiology and headed off to library school. Or something like that.

I asked the question about reading/listening to audiobooks because I was on the Audible website, trying to decide what audiobook to spend my monthly credit on and while reading the reviews, noticed that lots of reviewers referred to the experience of listening to an audiobook as “reading.”  A good number of my friends agreed, pointing out everything from the history of storytelling as a verbal act to the limitations of people with visual impairments. My friend and librarian colleague, Rachel, argued that it’s a “content/container issue,” that if we limit “reading” to absorbing a book through the eyes, then people with limited sight could never say that they “read” a book. It’s a valid point, though it also made me wonder if a person who’s hearing impaired would ever read a book and then say that they listened to it. Do people who are visually impaired recognize a difference between reading Braille and listening? And I also wonder about the neural pathways that form in the brains of individuals who have visual and/or hearing impairments, though that’s a topic that requires a lot more research on my part. It’s too much for discussion here.

People shared that they’re busy and/or have long commutes and if they didn’t listen to audiobooks, they’d never have the time to read anything. But still I wondered, why would you say, “I’d never read anything” when you admit that you listened? My friend, Matt, asked, “So what would be the right verb to cover either?” to which I replied, “How about just saying you listened when you listened and you read when you read?” Or something along those lines. Why do we need another word? Listening is listening and reading is reading. One is no better than the other, they’re simply different.

But do we really believe that? Do we believe that they’re the same? I did sense a slight tone of defensiveness about reading versus listening in some of the comments. I wondered if I didn’t unknowingly imply it when I posed the question in the first place. And I admit that I argued that we do place a lot of value in literacy, that we teach children to read for a reason. (For LOTS of reasons, actually.) So do I believe, deep down, that people who read books are just a little better than people who listen to them?

I wonder if I don’t think of reading as something that’s active, something we do, something we put some effort into, while countering it with a belief that listening is passive, somehow a little bit lazy? I think of the NFL Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders, who I once heard comment that he never quite understood the enthusiasm of fans; the exuberance of simply watching people play a game. “Playing is what’s fun,” he said, with a kind of, “Get up off the couch, lazy bones!” hint to it. I try to imagine everyone at work on Monday morning saying that they played for the Patriots the day before, instead of that they watched them. How nutty is that? Who would say that?

Maybe it’s some of this. Or … maybe I just prefer that people use the right word.

And it’s that last statement that’s stuck with me the most. A few friends commented that to say you’ve read a book when you’ve listened to it is lying. I find that a little harsh, though it’s exactly what White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said about the president when people said he lied about the Boy Scouts calling him on the phone. “I wouldn’t say it was a lie. That’s a pretty bold accusation. The conversations took place, they just simply didn’t take place over a phone call. … He had them in person.” It’s harsh. It’s “pretty bold.” And does it really matter, anyway?

One can argue that there’s a pretty huge difference between the President of the United States lying and people lying when they say that they read something when they, in fact, listened to it. I’ll go along with that. But maybe it’s the times that we’re living in that made me ruminate on this topic for a good 24 hours. There’s an awful lot of excusing people for poor word choice nowadays. And some pretty big consequences in doing so.

Thanks for reading this post. When I turn it into a podcast, you can listen. 🙂

Summertime … and lazing about

21 Jul

The summer months at work are often filled with projects; nothing that needs to be done yesterday (too often, the pace of the rest of the year), but things that allow one to plan and process and maybe implement a newly-learned thing along the way. It’s the last part that often leads me to stumble across lots of interesting – even if unrelated – things. Looking for one thing, I find another and another and another. Serendipity. The best. So here are a few of late. Maybe you’ll enjoy them, too.

Showing off at the SLA NE booth in Phoenix.

A couple weeks back, I wrote a piece for SLA New England’s blog on different perspectives gained from stretching one’s self in different situations. You can read it here

*****

Being on a journey, stretching, growing – be it in one’s career or one’s life – anyone who reads my blog and/or knows me knows that this is the subject that intrigues me the most. I’m fascinated by the idea that life is a journey. I’m inspired by anyone who lives his/her life in such a way. I love the ideas of life-long learning, of following new interests, of seeking new paths. Ann Telnaes, the Pulitzer Prize winning editorial cartoonist for The Washington Post is a favorite of mine. In an interview with CTNexpo she says, “Have a plan, but be open because sometimes that’s not your destiny. Sometimes it’s something else.”  Yup! That’s it in a nutshell.

***** 

As an evaluator and a sports fan, I absolutely loved the article “Analyze This” by Sue Bird, a future Hall of Famer for the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. It’s just a perfect piece on the importance of data collection, data storytelling, and … the never-ending gender gap in everything sports-related.

Data helps drive conversations, strategy, decision making. But data on its own isn’t terribly interesting. It needs context. It needs a storyteller. Data helps tell the story of a player, a team, an entire career.

There’s a need to value data in the WNBA because there’s a need to value the stories of our league. Think about baseball, for example, or men’s basketball. Fans, players, executives and media value stats and information because it helps to tell a story that many are already invested in. And if they’re not already invested, then it gives them a reason to be. It helps GMs make decisions. It informs contract negotiations. It enables player development.

*****

Just for fun, here’s the Definitive Guide to Typography and Fonts – in one, handy infographic! Who doesn’t need this?

*****

LFL

My Little Free Library

Finally, let’s do a quick summer reading list. We’ll call it, Sally’s Summer Reading List, since that’s what it is. Here are the books I’ve read and/or am reading of late:

Hope-in-the-Dark-solnit-300-400
Early in the summer, I read both Hope in the Dark and Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit. I came across her via an article she penned for The Guardian and am now a devoted fan. Both are examples of brilliant, thought-provoking, and sometimes humorous writing. 

Hornaday-Talking Pictures

Last month, Washington Post film critic, Ann Hornaday, published a wonderful guide to watching movies entitled, Talking Pictures. Not only does Ann provide a rich understanding of the different aspects of movie-making, but she teaches the reader how to enjoy movies with a critical eye. What makes a scene work? Why do you remember some movies forever and others are forgotten before you’ve left the theater parking lot? How do all of the pieces fit together – or not? It’s a terrific guide complete with suggestions, at the end of each chapter, of films to watch to accompany the lessons learned. It’s perfect preparation for the chilly months that will be here soon enough, those that find us in front of the fireplace, seeking a good movie for a Saturday evening.

 small-great-things-hc-400wIf you’re looking for a page-turner with a point, you might want to read Jodi Picoult’s latest, Small Great Things. An unexpected death and the story that follows examine the issues of race relations, prejudice, and justice from the differing perspectives of the characters involved. I picked it as the book for an Action Book Club that I’m trying to get started in my community. It’s a good choice for that, as well as an excellent read.

 strangeresFinally, I’m sure it’s no surprise to any of my regular readers that I pre-ordered Amy Dickinson’s latest memoir, Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things, about a year before it came out. It arrived in my mailbox on publishing day and I read it cover-to-cover in one sitting. True enough, that was in the spring and thus not a summer read, BUT I did purchase the Audible version this summer, just so that Amy could read it to me again. It’s Amy as good as ever (true, despite any bias I may have). Read it and enjoy.

 

Sally and Amy

We need a new photo.

SaveSave

Miller’s Crossing (SLA 2017)

27 Jun

I SURVIVED

Hot on the heels (pun intended) of my post about the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association yesterday, I offer up some thoughts and sketchnotes on my time at the annual meeting of the Special Libraries Association that took place last week in Phoenix. Did you see the news from Phoenix last week? If not, well, it was hot. Really hot. But the conference was fantastic! Here’s why…

This was my very first time attending SLA and I have to say that I was impressed beyond impressed! The keynote speakers were inspiring, the sessions chocked full of useful takeaways, the colleagues that I met interesting and nice, the schedule (and the program, overall) was really creative, and my own presentation … it went pretty darned well, if I do say so myself. Kudos to the conference planning committee, the SLA staff, and the organization’s leadership for putting together a stellar event.

I took more notes than I’m going to share here, but I want to highlight a couple of sessions that kicked off the event for me and really set the tone for what I could and would expect over the few days. The very first session that I attended was a talk by the local author, Susan Cummins Miller, titled “The Curious Case of a Geologist-Turned-Crime Writer.” It was Sunday morning and my internal clock was still several hours off after traveling cross-country the day before, so honestly, it was that title that drew me to the lecture. It was just too interesting to pass up. What I received from attending was an incredibly personable – and to me, incredibly relatable – story about a person with many interests and the winding career path that often accompanies such. “The Life History of a Writer,” is the framework Miller used to tell her story, offering up a lot of tips and inspiration along the way. It was the perfect start to the morning.

Slide1

Slide2

Slide3

Following Susan Cummins Miller’s talk, I made my way to the first general session and the keynote presentation by Lulu Miller, a journalist and writer and the co-host of the NPR podcast, Invisibilia. [Tangent: I titled this post, “Miller’s Crossing” because of the shared surname of the two speakers and because that reminded me of the title of an excellent movie. An early Coen brothers’ film. Seek it out.] I will share at the get-go that I have attended LOTS of professional conferences in my years as a librarian and I have heard a number of great speakers over this time, but Lulu Miller’s talk may well be the BEST that I’ve heard to date. It also serves as the perfect model for anyone outside of the library profession who gets invited to deliver one of these talks. Why? Because she prepared it entirely for us, the audience. It was obvious from the very beginning. It wasn’t a talk that she had tucked away to be tailored to any audience. Nope. It was, start-to-finish, a message put together with no other group but a group of special librarians in mind.

For me, the key to the talk hinged upon the question, “What if you (meaning a bunch of research librarians) did your job worse?” Put another way, in our rush to answer a patron’s request, is it possible that what we end up doing is confirm their biases? We point them to what they are looking for, not necessarily what they need to find. What would happen if we perhaps sent them down a path that they didn’t expect to go? What might they find then? What unexpected discoveries might be uncovered?

To illustrate the point of these questions, Miller told an engaging story of how just such an experience led her to some discoveries, some history, and an amazing mystery that she’d never have encountered had she not been led astray from her own biases. She talked about how many people and how many sources and how much dumb luck (the latter being a bit of me editorializing) it generally takes to get to the truth and how at every turn in the process of truth-seeking, our biases can get in the way. Our task, then, as information professionals, is to help people overcome their biases and we do so, first, by changing some of our own behaviors. (You can see her instructions in my notes below.)

“Disobey!” was her commandment to the crowd. Disobey those “tried and true” information professional rules of searching and seeking and delivering, and see what happens.  You never know where it may lead and the discoveries perhaps uncovered.

I’ve not stopped thinking about this talk since I heard it – a sure sign that it was worth hearing the first time!

Slide4

Slide5

Slide6

 

Be Ye Kind …

26 Jun

[The following post was written originally to appear on the blog of the North Atlantic Health Sciences Libraries chapter of the Medical Library Association.]

… and other lessons from the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association.

MLA17_LOGO_500X500I want to thank the members of NAHSL’s Professional Development Committee, as well as all of the membership of NAHSL, for the award that I received to cover the cost of registration to attend the annual meeting of the Medical Library Association that took place in Seattle, WA last month. As always, it was a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends and colleagues, meet lots of new people, network with those who do similar work, learn some nuggets of gold to put into practice back home, and of course, to see and to share the work that we all do as medical and health sciences librarians – or in my case, a Research Evaluation Analyst, aka a “Librarian by Any Other Name.”

I experienced a few highlights of the meeting including participating on a panel discussion with colleagues from several other institutions to talk about our work measuring and tracking the impact of research. I also really enjoyed Julie Sollenberger’s Janet Doe lecture. I have the honor of knowing Julie a little bit, so her choice of topic – kindness and how practicing it shapes not only our work, but our very beings – was spot on. She is a wonderfully kind person – one who lives what she preaches. It was a special plenary.

For this post, though, I want to reflect on another plenary session, i.e. the McGovern Lecture, given this year by Julie Angus, a scientist, bestselling author, and winner of the National Geographic Adventurer of the Year Award for her accomplishment as the first woman to row across the Atlantic Ocean, mainland to mainland. When I first saw that she was one of the keynote speakers this year and I saw the title of her talk, “Rowing Across the Atlantic: Strategies to Reach Your Goals,” I admit that I said to myself, “What in the world does this have to do with medical librarians and/or libraries?” And in truth, much of her talk came across as canned, meaning it struck me as likely the same talk that she gives to any audience. Yes, she threw in a few library references, but it was pretty general in nature – your typical motivational talk by a motivating person. Don’t read this as negative criticism. I enjoyed the talk and I’ll likely borrow a copy of her book from my local library and read it. It’s a great story – and she told it well. And I did take away two important things from it – two points that made it into my notes:

First, was the importance Angus placed on baby steps. In her talk she said, “When people ask, ‘What’s the most important thing that you’ve brought out of this journey?’, undoubtedly, it’s the importance of baby steps. Eventually all of those baby steps added up and as a result, we achieved our dream.” This point reminded me of the words of another adventurer, the climber, Joe Simpson. (If you like adventure and you’ve never seen the dramatized documentary, “Touching the Void,” seek it out!) Stuck in a life-or-death situation during a climb, he says, “You have to make decisions. You have to keep making decisions, even if they’re wrong decisions. If you don’t make decisions, you’re stuffed.” (He’s British, in case you wonder the “stuffed” reference.) Baby steps and continuous decision-making are crucial not only in big adventures, but in day-to-day life. It’s how we get from Point A to Point B, how we continue to be relevant in a changing work environment, how we continue to find fulfilment in our work. Complacency, apathy, dullness in the daily work is a career killer – not only for an individual, but for an entire organization. THAT is a message I found quite relevant – a great take-away from the talk.

The second thing I noted was the discussion that I followed during the Lecture; the back-channel, if you will. Following the #MLANET17 Twitter stream, I discovered that while I was thinking Angus’ talk was a bit predictable, LOTS of my colleagues did not. She would say something and someone would immediately apply the thought or the message to something in his/her career or workplace. It was wonderful to see all of the connections people were making between the Lecture and their lives. I love following the Twitter stream throughout the conference, generally to see what others are learning in concurrent sessions that I’m not attending, but it was also a real treat to see a motivational speaker truly motivating an awful lot of the audience with her talk. It’s hard to argue that this isn’t just what the planning committee wanted when they signed her up and I credit them for the good pick.

I’m off to the Special Library Association’s annual meeting in Phoenix this coming week. I had a paper selected for presentation. It’s going to be interesting as I don’t know many people in SLA. It will be like going to my first MLA meeting many years ago now. I’m a little nervous, but the one thing that that eases my nerves is that I do know that it’s pretty hard to find a librarian conference that doesn’t leave me wanting for good stuff. I look forward to that – and again thank NAHSL for helping me get to Seattle. It’s a terrific benefit of belonging to and serving the organization.

 

Librarians in Cars Driving Places

29 Mar

Have you ever watched the web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee? It’s a funny show created by the very funny comedian, Jerry Seinfeld. Much like his classic television show, it’s kind of about nothing – just Jerry and some talented and funny comedians riding around in vintage cars, having coffee, and talking about whatever. I like it.

I also like The Late Late Show’s host, James Corden’s, carpool karaoke bits where he picks up famous folks and they ride around singing to songs on the radio. (My all-time favorite is the one with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Honestly … LAUGH OUT LOUD funny! I had to watch it again while writing this. Excuse the snickers.) 

And then there’s the sportswriter, Tony Kornheiser’s daily podcast, This Show Stinks. I started listening to it early this year during my afternoon walks. For many years, Kornheiser wrote a column in the Washington Post. Whenever it was about the Washington Redskins, my grandmother clipped it out and sent it to me. I’ve been a fan ever since. I love the podcast because it centers on discussions around sports, politics, culture, odd news stories. A regular, rotating crew of columnists, politicos, sports people, movie critics, and more join in for what’s always an entertaining hour or so. 

I think the common thread of interest for me is that each of these venues allows me to be something of a voyeur, a fly on the wall of the room (or car) with people I wouldn’t mind hanging out with. They’re always smart and funny and they create these shows that allow me to feel like I’m part of the group. Even when I’m clearly not. Not in that league. Not by a long shot.

ozarkland

Fish hat. Ozarkland. Yes!!

I was thinking about Comedians in Cars this morning while walking my dog. I got to thinking about a few times when I’ve been riding in cars with other librarians and how those drives turned out to be as interesting and fun as any of these shows or podcasts. I remembered the time that Kristi Holmes, Director of the Galter Health Sciences Library at Northwestern University, and I rode all the way across Missouri together. At the time, Kristi was working at the Becker Medical Library at Washington University in St. Louis. We were both attending a conference in Kansas City, so I flew into St. Louis, Kristi picked me up at the airport, and we drove across the state together. On the way to Kansas City, we stopped off at the fantastically awesome, Ozarkland, and laughed ourselves silly at all of the kitchy souvenirs. On the way back, we stopped off at a for-real western wear store where I bought my very first pair of boots. Kristi grew up on a ranch. She was the perfect guide for this shopping adventure. And in between, we talked and talked. And we became friends.

Another time, early in my stint at the Lamar Soutter Library, I was invited to give a talk at  Cape Cod Community College. Donna Berryman, Senior Associate Director at the Edward G. Miner Library, University of Rochester, was the Outreach Coordinator for the New England Regional Medical Library (NN/LM, NER) at the time, thus we were co-workers. Donna also had to attend this event at CCCC, so we rode along together. We talked about libraries, librarianship, books, movies, our lives, our families, where we were from, how we grew up… in other words, in those hours in her car, we also became friends. Life-long friends.

I guess that I was thinking about these experiences this morning because I recently engaged in an online discussion about the importance of professional organizations. They’re dwindling, in case you were unaware. Membership is down at every level – national organizations, regional organizations, state and local organizations – and for a variety of reasons. If you, like me, have long been involved in a professional organization, particularly in leadership roles, you’ve likely felt the pressure that comes with trying to maintain an organization with fewer and fewer resources, as well as struggling with the emotional feeling of “we’re failing.” 

But we’re not failing. We’re changing, but not failing. The trick is to get in front of (or ride) the change in such a way as to prevent failure, i.e. change in ways to remain relevant, important, worth the investment of people’s scarce time and money. That’s the challenge.

My adventures riding in cars with librarians strikes at the heart of what professional networks and professional organizations are all about – relationships. Though I don’t work in a medical or health sciences library anymore, I maintain the professional relationships that I developed through car rides, meetings, shared office space, virtual spaces, and social media because they are invaluable. They provide every opportunity for support, professional growth, sounding boards, collegial spirit, and yes … friendship.

I think it’s really difficult to translate to anyone new to a profession (or even one who’s been at it awhile and sees the retirement door ahead) the value of the relationships that come from sharing a profession – from sharing rides in cars, both literally and figuratively. But I believe maybe it’s something that those of us invested in organizations need to work on, if we want to hang around awhile longer. Going it alone is hard and it’s also not the best thing for the overall health of a profession. People together makes a profession.

Like that Dam in California… Overflow!

14 Feb

oroville_dam_spillover_2017-02-11Not to make light of the scary news out of California this week regarding the eroding of Oroville Dam, but some of the images did make me think of my overflowing bookmark list of things to share with with my readers. So many! So here goes:

There’s much about Fake News in the real news lately, including the role that librarians can play (see the PBS NewsHour story, Why These Librarians are Protesting Trump’s Executive Orders, by Elizabeth Flock) and can’t play (see Information Literacy Won’t Save Us; or, Fight Fascism, Don’t Create a LibGuide, by IJClark) when it comes to media literacy. I find there to be interesting and credible arguments on both sides, but more than anything, I’m heartened by the rekindled notion of the importance of our profession in the discussion.

Somewhat related is Mattie Quinn’s story for the website, Governing; For the Poorest and Sickest, Librarians Often Play Doctor. As a medical librarian, I found this story of particular interest.

A few useful resources:

  • Think Outside The Slide has a nice list of free resources to make PowerPoint presentations more effective. 
  • MapBox provides a platform for adding maps to your mobile apps. While it’s a paid service, there is a level available for free that you can try.
  • Back in October, I attended a terrific workshop on bibliometrics and research assessment, co-hosted by the NIH Library and the Maryland Chapter of the Special Libraries Association. The materials are now available online. You’ll find a couple of really good keynote talks, plus a whole bunch of interesting posters by colleagues in the field. Great stuff!
  • ProPublica the independent, nonprofit, investigative journalism outfit has created a number of applets using IFTTT, that work with different media tools (Evernote, Pocket, mail, calendars, etc.) to keep you up-to-date on different aspects of U.S. politics, including when the President signs a new law, when Congress schedules a vote, and a weekly/daily Congressional digest. These are great for staying informed and, if one is so inclined, for activism.
  •  The International Consortium for Health Outcomes Measurement (ICHOM) is a non-profit organization devoted to bettering health care systems worldwide by “measuring and reporting patient outcomes in a standardized way.” On their website, you can find a lengthy, growing list of Standard Sets for a variety of medical conditions, along with literature on how to read, interpret and use the findings.
  • Finally, WordCounter.net needs no explanation. It’s a handy online tool. 

I really enjoy following the website, StatNews. I find it to be a thoughtful, credible source for current news on health and medicine. If you’ve yet to discover Stat, here are a couple of stories that I recently read to introduce you to their work:

Another interesting health care-related story is Martha Bebinger’s story (WBUR), What if We Really Knew Where to Get the Best Cancer Care: The Prostate as Case Study. It gets one to thinking about what we know, what we don’t know, what we can know, and what we might not want to know when it comes to health data and medical treatments. 

If you’re fascinated with space and all things astronaut related, as I am, you likely know about the really cool “Twin Study” that’s been ongoing at NASA using the identical twins, Mark and Scott Kelly, as subjects to study the longterm effects of space travel – findings that also inform down-to-earth subjects like aging, muscle growth, and other aspects related to gene expression. The first findings were published on the NASA website in late January and they contained both some expected and unexpected results.

And finally, if you missed the best story of 2017 so far, I share it with you here now:

Four-year-old Daliyah Marie Arana’s being “Librarian for the Day” for the Library of Congress.

As I said, best story of the year so far.