Tag Archives: NPR

A Lamentation for a Bird

21 Apr

NPR recently announced it would no longer post new content to Twitter. WBUR, on of my local NPR affiliates recently followed the same path. I understand, in part. Without climbing on a soapbox and ranting on with the particulars of the demise of my favorite social media platform, I’ll simply say that since its sale to Elon Musk, it is a (dark) shadow of its former self. And it makes me very sad.

My Twitter profile tells me that I joined the platform in 2009. That was back when people scoffed at it, claiming it was nothing more than a place where people shared pictures of kittens. I vividly remember a researcher at my institution say, in response to a presentation that I’d given on the role of social media and science, that Twitter represented nothing more than a bunch of people with too much time on their hands, posting pictures of baby animals and stupid cat memes. It was no place for anything substantive, certainly not science.

He was wrong then and wrong now – well, the now of just a few months ago. Twitter was a vital source for legitimate news, a way for people to discuss and connect. Through #medlibs (an interest group of medical and health sciences librarians on Twitter), I met colleagues, made friends, learned about new resources, had great discussions about issues in our field. The monthly get-togethers unknowingly prepared us for virtual happy hours and Zoom meetings that would become the norm of 2020 and beyond. It was novel – and fun – to connect virtually then.

What made me most sad about the announcement from NPR is that Twitter was the one social media platform that gave one the chance to actually reach a reporter, the host of a show, without any walls. If Scott Simon caught something I tweeted to him about a story he covered, he could tweet back. Ari Shapiro tweeted back to me when I swooned over Stevie Nicks saying to him at the end of their interview, “Bye, bye, honey.” He was swooning, too.

Twitter was a way to let writers know that you appreciated their work, it gave you a means to ask them questions directly, it made it possible to reach people you’d never been able to connect with so easily before. It allowed users to follow musicians, artists, actors as they shared real aspects of their lives – picking up kids from school, making lunches, binge-watching Netflix. For me, Twitter made the people that I admired from afar, real. Not really real, of course. Following someone on Twitter isn’t the same as knowing someone, but it offered a better sense of understanding of those folks.

I met Matt Shipman (@shiplives) on Twitter. Matt’s a science writer and media person for NC State University. Over Twitter, we discovered that we’d grown up in the same small-ish town of Petersburg, VA, spending many hours at the same branch library in the same neighborhood.

I met Tom Garrett (@TheAxisOfEgo) on Twitter. Tom and I are on different sides of many things politically, but we had some good discussions – civil discussions – arguments that weren’t heated, but ones that allowed us to share our differing opinions. We didn’t yell or swear or call one another names. We didn’t have to agree (though we DID almost always agree on the doom and gloom of the Washington Football Team).

I met countless others like Matt and Tom, people who shared funny stories, raised serious issues, opened themselves up for debate. People organized over Twitter, shared conference proceedings over Twitter, practically overthrew governments on Twitter (I speak of Arab Spring, NOT January 6).

One night back in 2011, I was watching “Jeopardy!” and following along with something on Twitter. Rosanne Cash posted something funny and I simply tweeted back a reply as if I was sitting in the room with her. And she answered me. Then I answered. Then she answered. And for a couple minutes, we had a brief little chat. Me and Rosanne Cash! Then Roseanne, an early Twitter celebrity, started following me. And we tweet-chatted every now and then. And since that night, I’ve met Rosanne, backstage and on-stage and walking down the streets of Brattleboro, VT together. She recorded a blurb for my radio show that makes me smile every single time that I play it. Twitter made that happen.

And I met Amy Dickinson on Twitter. Amy and I became friends, thanks to Twitter. Amy’s given me advice, as a friend, not via her syndicated column. We met in person at the small public library in Lenox, MA one summer when she was giving a book talk and she introduced me as her first friend of Twitter. Amy invited me to sit with some of her family at a taping of “Wait, Wait … Don’t Tell Me” in Providence, RI. She sends me Christmas cards. I write letters to her home address. Amy Dickinson agreed to be a keynote speaker at an annual meeting of NAHSL one year. She made me shine as the program chair that time, for sure. I’ll never forget it. Twitter made that happen.

When Jack Dorsey led the fledgling Twitter, I remember his claim that it was a simple way to bring people together. It did that. For a while. I’ve not left it yet (these blog posts still get shared there), but I also don’t keep it open daily as I once did. The things trending are of little to no interest, the tone has changed, and now legitimate news sources are leaving. I do subscribe to The NY Times and the Washington Post, and I listen to NPR almost daily. But I trusted their posts on Twitter to keep me up-to-speed during the day. When I couldn’t read the paper or listen to the radio, I could pop over to my Twitter feed and catch a quick glimpse of what was happening in the world. With those sources gone, I fear the void left behind and the frightening vacuum that will fill it.

A man bought Twitter for a joke. And he’s turned it into just that.

Makes me sad.

Doctors and Dog Walks and Opening Day!

31 Mar

Happy (belated) Doctor’s Day to all of those who give the years to learn and train, all to care for us. There are LOTS of things broken in America’s healthcare system, but the individual physicians usually aren’t part of that mess.

I had an appointment with my cardiologist this week. I just love her. She’s such a kind and caring physician. The first time I saw her, several years ago now, she told me that she remembered me as one of her librarians during med school. During our visit this week, we talked about book clubs and work and families and my health. We were both very happy with my blood pressure (the reason that I see her). I told her that after a really difficult year that included losing my beloved dog, Eliza, I got a new pup in December. Now I’m back to walking with a four-legged friend twice daily. I know that our morning walk through the park is such a welcomed treat for my physical, mental, and emotional health. And I didn’t do it during those months alone. I’m grateful for Bayer, for Eliza, and for Dr. Carlson. Here’s to good health!

And for more being outdoors, it’s Opening Day for the Worcester Red Sox! I’ve got my ticket and am looking forward to cheering on the hometown team. I’ve never been to an opening day before. Being New England, you’re taking a chance on a baseball game in March, but it looks like we may luck out and have a little sun and temps near 50. Play Ball!!

A few good resources that I came across this week include the IMLS-funded project, Data Quality Evaluation, a national forum to build and promote competencies in academic librarians around quantitative data, data quality problems, and evaluating data quality. I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of the resources available. It also reminded me of the IMLS-funded project, Visualizing the Future, that my colleague Tess and I were a part of. More great resources can be found there on the topic of data visualization.

The Librarian Parlor is a project aimed at building a community to strengthen original research among librarians. My colleague, Regina, shared it with us this week after learning about it at ACRL’s recent annual meeting. You can find recommended readings, online learning, and classifieds – calls and opportunities to engage in research projects.

And lastly for fun finds, I read an interesting paper, Publish, Don’t Perish: Recommendations for Mitigating Impacts of the New Federal Open Access Policy” in The Journal of Science Policy and Government. It offers lots to think about regarding the recently released Nelson Memo and how the benefits of open access weigh against some of the burdens it brings to authors, publishers (particularly smaller ones), universities, and libraries.

Speaking of sharing freely, do people in your workplace have their own personal libraries of work-related books in their offices – ones that they’d gladly lend in-house to colleagues, if asked? Well, we do here and I want to give a shout-out to Kayla, our library school intern from the University of Rhode Island who’s helping us solve this problem. One project that she’s tackled is cataloging these personal collections to create a means where staff can now find the items in our regular catalog to borrow between one another. This is such a useful project and one that’s provided the opportunity for Kayla to learn several new skills. I know the staff will be really appreciative of her work.

Other stuff:

I finished “Daisy Jones and the Six” this week. Based on the novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid, it’s a 10-part limited series on Amazon Prime that follows the rapid rise and fall of a rock band in the 1970s. I liked it a lot, particularly in part because all of the actors are singing and playing their own instruments. I appreciate that a lot. I’m also very ready for the new season of “Ted Lasso”. I’ll start that soon. Can’t wait!

Nickel Creek’s long-awaited new album, Celebrants, dropped this week. It’s super! Here’s a review from the good peeps at Folk Alley.

And finally, I read a great piece in The New Yorker on Audie Cornish, the former NPR host, now on CNN. She has a new podcast for the latter called, “The Assignment.” I’ve listened to a couple of episodes and find it thoughtful and refreshing; a highly effective way to bring important stories in the news to listeners. I recommend it.

That’s a wrap for this week. Until next time, be well and be kind.

Miller’s Crossing (SLA 2017)

27 Jun


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.




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!