Thursday, March 15, 2012

Paleobiology - my revolutionary display

 Recently I helped put together a library display oriented on paleobiology.  I know next to nothing about the topic, so I partnered with a faculty member in the Geosciences department.  I was very happy with the final outcome, which featured a number of items we had on the shelves and a few borrowed rocks and informative snippets.  I always enjoy working on projects like this one because it allows me to learn about an area I knew nothing about, and in researching the various items I am constantly amazed at how interdisciplinary science is.  Our study of the Earth goes beyond merely analyzing the physical elements making it up.  Understanding the composition of a rock helps us understand the environment which made it possible and can lead to other conclusions such as how early life came to be, and even gives us a possible glimpse into what is happening on other planets.  

Anecdotally, when I discuss geology with peers it seems to be an area of study which is initially perceived as dry.  Rocks were something we collected as children because they looked pretty, but discussing what made them pretty held little interest.  Perhaps this reflects more on our social values, which appreciates the perfect princess cut diamond on the hand of a bride-to-be, and does not necessarily question how the diamond was mined. There is some recognition that the formation of certain crystals is rare and to be appreciated for its unique nature, but I found when writing out the information cards that the most interesting rocks were the ones which looked unassumingly simple.  For example, I recalled in elementary school appreciating pumice as the rock that floats. But upon further investigation I found that the formation of pumice requires a volcano which contains high viscosity lava.  Lava which cannot flow easily consequently erupts from the volcano and promptly cools so quickly it traps air bubbles inside it, creating pumice.  This struck me because often I do not appreciate how understanding something simple (such as the composition of lava) can provide explanation for something on a larger scale (such as the behavior of a volcano). 

Working with a geosciences faculty member to create the display also provided me an opportunity to network with the department.  Show casing interdepartmental work lays the ground work for future collaborations (hopefully) and I think is indicative of how the library is more than just a resource for the patrons. Library outreach is always important, but maybe even more so now as we are shifting into a digital age and becoming less of a physical presence in our patrons lives.  

In contrast to my academic display, my coworker who is the library liaison to the education department created a display which was much more colorful.  Dinosaurs were prominent.  Archaeology and the study of fossils is an area which could be considered a polar opposite of geology.  With the beloved study of fierce larger than life lizards and the prominent example of Indiana Jones, this is a field of science which is glorified. Upon closer inspection however, one realizes how little we can understand a culture or an organism when all we have are bones or an empty ruin. And that I suppose is the beauty of the human mind as it pieces together an understanding of the world around us. We speculate and imagine, and then test and examine. Occasionally we revolutionize our common understanding, but it is only possible through the various details of our lives adding up. It is a precarious balance and before I meander off into more philosophical thought I'll end with a quote from the display.

·         “Those who would question the present should investigate the past. Those who do not understand what is to come should look at what has gone before.” – The Guanzi (A collection of ancient Chinese writings dated 5th – 1st Century BC)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What "lost information" will be rediscovered 100 years from now?

A recent posting in the Nature News Blog about rediscovering specimen collections of Darwin has me contemplating what "dusty" corners will be found later on when our science becomes history. There are still taxonomist collecting specimen and old tools being left in the corner of a lab today. With everything being digitized, perhaps those much hated National Geographics which are lovingly donated to your library really could be invaluable to someone 100 years from now. This thought has been one which I love discussing with other scientists in the vein of the fabulous "Motel of Mysteries" by David Macalay which explores what assumptions might be made about our society and civilization today if someone a thousand years from now tried to piece it together from finding a buried motel.  My favorite image being the scene which depicts the ceremonial headdress as we praised our porcelain gods.

This also ties into our growing worry about a digital dark age as we consider how much massive information we are creating today, and how impossible it will be to constantly convert old information into the latest and greatest format.  All that junk email left behind could contain the future "gold nuggets" someone discovers when they go back and bother finding out what's on that floppy disc their great grandfather left behind in his old lab desk.  Will future scientist have their old Facebook photos re-found and marveled at for containing the next Einstein and Newton consuming a congratulatory beverage over inventing light speed travel?

Human lives are brief, and it can cause a range of reaction in people who perhaps feel that impending end to their influence on the physical world. In my brief time of observation, and most recently on my mind, two types spring to mind: hoarders and releasers.

Releasers view the world and see needs that should be filled.  Information for information's sake, if you will.  From these people we get: clean water inventions being created, comic books being funded or even an entire female organ finally visualized. All these things you see being discovered or created fairly recently, when we had the ability to do so decades ago. While the politics are more complex than I discuss here, some of the blame for why we do not "release" information focused on some obvious needs can be placed on the hoarders.

Hoarders see everything as valuable. More so than the A&E TV show, hoarders encompasses those people unwilling to let some things go because sharing it does not benefit them in any direct way.  I am tying this to the recent discussions I've seen about SOPA and Public Access Policy.  To those people who view limitations to information access as necessary I say, you are setting us up to one day be rediscovered and completely misunderstood. Rules and restrictions have their place.  The scientific method would not be an invaluable tool for discovery if it did not establish measurable evidence to be constantly compared back on our previous knowledge base.  But hoarding information benefits no one in the long term, it just set us up to disregard what we deem as no longer monetarily valuable.

So, what will you keep around in the hopes your treasure is discovered by some future anthropologist?  Will your treasure be like Mendel's peas, left to be lamented that they were not shared soon enough? Or will it reflect on how large your impact was, that something as everyday as your random collection will be given an invaluable status.

Update: For further information on SOPA/PIPA/OPEN I recommend this resource guide my library created which lists various places to find out more about the bills 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Shopping Guide!

Image from Flickr

Just a quick post directing my numerous readers to the holiday shopping guide I co-wrote with fellow librarian Joyce Garzynski.

Feel free to take a gander and good luck getting your last minute shopping done!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

What is an "emerging leader"?

The ALA Emerging Leaders program has recently announce the class of 2012.  I am happy to be a part of the upcoming cohort.  The program meets officially twice, once at ALA Midwinter and again at ALA Annual (Dallas and Anaheim respectively). We'll be placed into groups to work on a variety of projects, gain some insight to the structure of ALA and hopefully emerge with some leadership skills.

The phrase "emerging leader" and the topic of leadership in general has been on my mind.  Leadership programs are something I have grown up with.  My earliest memories from elementary school revolved around being placed in an advanced program to work on projects focused on building our leadership skills.  I did not think of them that way of course, I was just happy to be learning how to program Lego robots and imagine the inner workings of a space greenhouse.  There were a lot of camps and clubs along the way to where I am now.  But honestly after all the "training" I am not a magical charismatic leader of greatness.  So, what is so important about the various leadership programs we see popping up all over the place now?  The recent flux of them seems to be related to a crashing economy and a general feeling that we need better or more leaders.  

Perhaps because there are less opportunities available now there is a higher demand for adaptable skills, which are frequently what leadership programs are striving to teach.  Leadership is not just about amassing faithful followers; although the importance of social capital is a lesson frequently brought up.   Leadership is also a frame of mind, a commitment to lifelong learning.  Your enthusiasm can carry you far. Personally I was the most inspired working with leaders who reflected how much they loved what they were doing.  And people who love what they are doing know there is always something new and exciting around the corner to learn.

Nurturing lifelong learning also plays double duty as an invitation to create diverse connections.  Growing leaders are needed in all areas, whether it is women in STEM or minorities in academia.  I recently watched a film, Miss Representation, which discusses how female portrayal in the media does little to empower girls and women today and in fact can go to great lengths to dismiss women in positions of power.  Leadership programs can do more than cultivate necessary skills, they can strive to counteract these negative perspectives.  These programs create a space where being curious, successful or smart is celebrated.  And what emerges is someone who is motivated, maybe not necessarily to lead, but to do more, be more, and hopefully thrive.

Further Reading-

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Old wise man versus BFF

The fall is upon us! When did that happen? Somewhere between the earthquake and Hurricane Irene I suppose.  Classes have started and I find myself again getting ready to teach a whole new group of students about the library and proper research within academia.  I've got a bunch of projects that I'll hopefully get around to blogging about.  One of them involves some coworkers and I mentoring 4 students who have become part of a scholarship cohort down at the University of Maryland iSchool, who are focusing their MLS on Information and Diverse Populations.  We had our first meeting a few weeks ago, and from the group dynamic I can tell it's going to be a great cohort.  The camaraderie that I have with my two scholarship cohorts, Spectrum and ARL, has made librarianship a much more welcoming place.  However, despite my love for my groups, I never found a mentor through them.  Or at least, not a mentor that I imagined.

In my mind, a mentor was someone significantly older and wiser than me.  Someone who would offer me sage advice and help guide me through various stages of my career.  I have yet to find this magical guru, partially because I think my expectations are a bit over blown, but also because I have found that I enjoy peer mentoring much more.  Given that I am young in my field both in age and in experience, I am under no illusions that the mentoring role that I will play for this group will be peer based out of necessity.  No one likes being told what to do by someone who is recognized as younger and less experienced.  However, I have seen in almost every librarian I've worked with a willingness to recognize that learning and advice is something which goes in both directions.  I'm not sure how much advice I can give, but I am very willing to be a listening ear and some one to give constructive criticism for any variety of things, projects, papers, proposals and more.  And maybe years from now I'll be a little bit wiser.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Extra! Extra! Advertising your library?

As the fall semester approaches I am bracing myself for a semester of teaching.  However, I am still trying to be sure all my faculty know that I am available to integrate library instruction sessions into their classes.  Luckily for me other librarians are thinking about this too.  On the Information Literacy Instruction Discussion List the "reminder" email was brought up and librarians were sharing what they used to mass notify their faculty about library instruction.  A flyer was sent around, and I was inspired to create my own.  The best part of my week has been all the little projects I've been working on and asking my coworkers for help and getting something amazing in return.  For this flyer my coworker Sara Nixon took my ok content and made it super fabulous.  I am happy with the product and plan to send it out soon to my faculty.  It was surprisingly simple to make using PowerPoint and a built in Flyer Template.

I am not sure how effective this flyer will be.  I plan to email it to faculty. It's also loaded to our library web page.  With the green police on patrol I don't want to print out mass quantities, but I think I may print a few to post on my faculty central office boards.  The nice thing about the flyer is that I've made a PowerPoint version available to the rest of my library, so anyone can go in and alter some of the content to make it more specific to their needs.  Hopefully it's eye catching appeal will draw in some new faculty and serve as a reminder to others that they need to schedule now!

It's interesting seeing all the avenues people are taking to market their libraries.  A recent project we just debuted is our video "Civility: That's Our Policy" which imitates the familiar Liberty Mutual commercials of observing a kind act and feeling inspired to pass it along.  It seems to be well received and will be integrated into some of the first year student orientation tours.

What is your library doing to reach out and advocate itself?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

ALA 2011 - New Orleans - Sessions I am attending

I am not going to show you my entire calendar.  Then you would see how many time slots I have double or triple booked. Instead here are some of the sessions that have high priority for me and why.

 So, as I was going through library school I was a recipient of both a Spectrum and ARL scholarship.  These diversity scholarships were much more valuable than their monetary aid.  They provided me with a wonderful network of people who have created an enormously supportive community.  I always enjoy meeting up with the people from my cohorts and helping in anyway I can with the incoming students.  I'll be helping at the ARL table during this professional options fair which is being held for the Spectrum scholars.  I am also planning to attend the Diversity & Outreach Fair.

Social Media-
I love seeing how social medias are being used by libraries.  It's great to see success and also relevant to form an opinion about what doesn't work.  There are always a bunch of sessions on social medias, emerging technologies and mobile information.  In particular I am looking forward to this one titled "Seriously Social: Leveraging Social Media" because one of the presenters is David Lee King, who has a great blog and twitter presence.

Discovery Tools-
My library has been reviewing various discovery tools to decide which one we want to implement.  After the conference we have a few meetings to take a closer look at ExLibris Primo, EBSCO EDS and ProQuest Summon. I'm hoping I can take some time during ALA to hear from other libraries about their experiences with the variety of discovery tools at this session, "Diving into the Deep End" being hosted by RUSA.

Free meals-
There is an art to scheduling your time so that you can maximize how many free meals you can get out of vendors. I have not mastered this art.  However, I am taking advantage of the free breakfast Alexander Street Press is providing.  I truly do love their video collections and the guest speaker for this event sounds very interesting!

Since I am a science librarian,  a few science related sessions should be justified during my trip.  Two programs that I have my eye on are occurring at the same time.  ACRL - STS is hosting a discussion group titled "Measuring the Value of Our Science Libraries/Collections" and the National Center for Interactive Learning/Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colorado; and the Lunar and Planetary Institute, Houston, Texas have a session titled "Science Programming 101: Presenting Excellent Science Programs in Your Library" which sounds enormously fun.  This is a war between my practical and playful side. We shall see who wins out in the end.

The real reason everyone goes to a conference, to have a good time when all the work is done.  There are always great late night happenings and I'm hoping I can stay awake to attend them.  Since the location is New Orleans, I have high expectations. We'll see if this dance party lives up to them.  In my experience, all the best networking happens outside the official conference.

Safe travels to everyone and see you there!