Book Review: The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors

Posted September 2, 2015 By Abigail Goben

The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors Who Want a Successful Career and a Well-Balanced Life
by Rena Seltzer

Book cover










Seltzer is a consultant and coach whose work is primarily with academics. I stumbled across her book somewhere recently and then had it sitting on my bedside table so I couldn’t ignore it as I am occasionally wont to do with “improving” books.

All told, it’s about a three hour read–so you’re not committing to a long text here. And Seltzer recommends tackling it by whichever chapter you need most right now, rather than reading start to finish, though she acknowledges that many people will and will want to read it that way. Her examples are drawn from her clients and she provides extensive references to further research in this area, which I appreciated.

What I found most powerful about the book were her “Into Action” sections, which summarize what has just been suggested into immediately usable ideas or activities. Some are questions, others are referrals, others are thought provoking.  The best chapter, for me, was the How to Have More Time. Seltzer points out some obvious things (one occasionally needs a clue-by-four, I’m certainly among them) such as the statement Everything Takes Time.  It was something I hadn’t really considered to the forefront–we say “oh that’ll just take five minutes” or “I can do that in an hour, it’s nothing.”  But it isn’t. It’s always more than five minutes and it’s frequently more than the hour we’ve allotted. And that’s still an hour that adds up. It’s rare that I can find an open hour of time on my work calendar and a spare hour at home certainly is few and far between.

Seltzer also point out areas where women are particularly challenged: perceived as not being a faculty member because we’re female; not listened to– where others are; expected to be more nurturing; assumed that we’ll take a higher level of service on.

There are some aspects of the book that don’t quite line up with librarian duties.  I’ve written before about being a faculty member and being a librarian and the challenge of being in a “service profession”  where I’m lumped in with other service professions and therefore not always given the same level of support as those other services might offer a “regular/real/normal” professor.  And I can’t imagine actually skipping department meetings, a time saver recommendation, without there being a lot of questions. Also, Seltzer isn’t worried about running a physical space, which is a primary concern for librarians, nor the same kind of advocacy of role of the library–trying to expand into more professor’s classes to teach, etc etc. That said, librarians aren’t her primary audience so it would be unreasonable to expect that to be fully addressed.

Seltzer spends a great deal of time talking about early or impending motherhood. This is a regular concern in academia.  However, I found her emphasis on it a little too exclusive. While a majority of women will become mothers at some point, not all of them in the tenure track are also dealing with newborns, which seemed to be Seltzer’s overarching expectation. Comparing it with my own current department, it felt a little tone deaf–of the four peers with children in my immediate department undergoing tenure now or over the past five years, all of them had children in high school or above.  The other four women didn’t/don’t have children. I can’t speak for anyone’s immediate child-bearing plans except my own, of course.  We’re an exception, I’m sure, but it struck me as another instance of being told that because I don’t have children, I shouldn’t be having any  problems in terms of finding time to write or produce scholarly work or extra labor or what have you and I found that particularly off-putting.

Seltzer does address varying cultural issues that arise and put other pressure on women, family who do not understand the workload, community norms that don’t align with academia, etc.  She also points out how community can serve as extra support, particularly for minorities who feel isolated in their work environment.

Overall, I found the book useful and a couple of coworkers, spotting the cover, have already asked to borrow it and I do think it’s worth the recommendation.









SPARC PS: Hedgehog LibraryBox

Posted July 8, 2015 By Abigail Goben

I forgot to mention in my write up of my presentation from ALA that I had my LibraryBox in the room and set up. When I was describing myself as a researcher and one whose work was open, it seemed only right that I make my work immediately available to anyone there with a device.  We had power up in the front of the room and so my

I’d preloaded my LibraryBox with my current published papers and chapters, and–for fun–pictures of the two felines whose cat fur lingers no matter how carefully I lint roll on my way out the door and who often appear in my presentations.

Guess what got more downloads?

Next I’ll hear that Gypsy has her own fan club.

It worked beautifully though and if you’ve not purchased or built your own LibraryBox, I encourage you to take a look at Jason Griffey’s project. It’s wonderfully useful for sharing documents, cat photos, and other things when the wifi is tenuous.


I don’t believe the SPARC/ACRL Forum at ALA Annual was recorded this year, but I had several people ask about my presentation so here are my remarks. The slides are available, though they are mostly just images.

Slide Deck


(Slide 1 Intro)

Thank you to Nick for the introduction and it’s exciting to get to wrap up the panel today. I’ve been so inspired by what the other panelists have already described, *of course* we should be talking to students and I can’t wait to get home and see how we can implement this at my institution. I hope you’re excited as well.

As Nick said, I’m a health sciences librarian at the University of Illinois at Chicago and if you’d like to see more about me, my blog is Hedgehog Librarian and you can find me on twitter @hedgielib.

(Slide 2 I’d Like to Change Directions)

I’d like to change directions from what the other panelists have been discussing so far. Up until now we’ve been talking about the library as collaborator or service provider and that’s something that we do a lot. We talk about students or researchers as this “other”, something we hold at arms length or a kind of shiny unicorn. I’d like to look internally at librarains. Many of us here do research and a number of us are early career researchers, whether we’re tenure track or not.

(Slide 3 Me!: An Example)

So, what do I mean when I say I want to talk about librarians as researchers? I’ll give you myself as an example. I’m a tenure-track research librarian at a large public university.  Prior to that I was a children’s librarian. My research umbrella is the impact of early 21st century technology on scholarly communication among librarians. What does that mean? It means I do research about open access, data, and a variety of other things that are impacting us presently. My current work is focused on institutional policies surrounding research data management and research data management self-education for librarians.  I am going into my 5th year of the tenure process, I have two still go, and I am absolutely in a publish-or-perish situation.

(Slide 4 A Personal Open Access Plan)

And then there was a decision I made on February 22, 2012. This was not that long after the NSF had started requiring data management plans and it was in the midst of the Research Works Act and I decided that I would attempt to get tenure publishing my library research only in open access journals.  This is the blog post from that day. I had to do research and publish to keep my job, but I also knew–as a former children’s librarian–exactly what it was like not to have access to the library literature and I decided that wasn’t going to work for me.

(Slide 5 It Helps to Have Support)

Deciding to do this wasn’t something that I really could do without some support and that came from a number of places. Immediately, it came from the library community. After I published my blog post, there were comments on the post and a lot of emails and tweets of support. It was absolutely wonderful to know that my peers throughout the profession were behind me.

I also had support from my institution. My college–the University Library–has an Open Access policy for faculty, as created by and voted in by the faculty. This isn’t university wide, but it does give me something to fall back on internally. And a number of my coworkers are very supportive of what I’m doing. That’s not something that everyone will have in all fields, either support from their profession or their immediate peers.  I am fortunate in that.

Finally, I got support from research colleagues and coauthors. They know about this and they believe in this for the projects that we collaborate on and that’s been a wonderful support as I am working on this over the years.

(Slide 6 We’ve Got Excellent Options)

It also helps that we have a number of excellent journals to publish in.  This is a short list and by no means is comprehensive–it’s what I jotted down when I said “Okay, if I had a new piece that I was thinking about publishing, where would I send it.” These are all well-reputed, peer-reviewed, gold open access journals.

[Journal List: College and Research Libraries; Practical Academic Librarianship; Journal of Librarianship and Scholarly Communication; Journal of the Medical Library Association; Journal of eScience Librarianship; Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults; Issues in Science and Technology Librarianship; Information Technology and Libraries–and, I forgot to include Evidence Based Librarian and Information Practice]

That’s nine places (eight if you take out the YA journal, my research doesn’t fit there) that I’d be perfectly happy to see my work published and these are all good journals. Many of these are sponsored by ALA Divisions and Sections, and I think that’s important as well.  I’ve also included a link to work that Walt Crawford is doing on the open access landscape, that’ll take you to his summary of what library science presently looks like.

(Slide 7 Pros)

Alright, so you know about me and some places to publish, what are the benefits of publishing open access? For starters, it means your work can be found and read by everyone. Almost every researcher I know wants their work to be found, they want to be the one known to be doing research on X and by doing so openly, more people can read and cite their work.

I mentioned my research colleagues before and I can’t stress that enough. My researchers partners are amazing women and I count myself very lucky to have the opportunity to work with them.

And, while this may seem somewhat arbitrary, it can help you pick what opportunities you want to pursue. To be clear, I don’t recommend this as the only mechanism by which you determine what you’re doing, but we all are over-committed and yet constantly want to say yes to three new things. When I’m looking at 2-3 new calls for papers, presentations, etc, one of the ways that I weed out what I’m willing to give my time to is whether or not the work will be openly available. For  me, it’s an important filter and can help me keep a little bit more of my sanity.

(Slide 8 Cons)

I had to think for a while about finding Cons to what I’ve done. Thus far, I haven’t really run into any. One point that was raised was that I don’t get any extra credit either from my library or the University for publishing my work openly. There is a library in Virginia who is doing that, mine isn’t–at least not yet. But that’s not a major concern, they want to see good research published in well-reputed places and I just showed you a list of highly regarded journals. So that’s pretty well taken care of.

The other concern that I hear raised is that of potential librarian research colleagues who don’t want to only publish in an open access venue.  Honestly it hasn’t really been a problem. This is something I’m very open about, obviously, and it’s something that I discuss with people far before we get seriously into a research project. I’m not going to wait until 14 pages into a manuscript to spring this one someone. Also, I’m not requiring it of my co-authors on all of their projects, just on this one that they do with me.

(Slide 9 Promoting as Peers)

So, what can librarians do at their home institutions? We can lead by example. We can publish our work openly and archive that work in our repositories. When we talk to students and researchers who are asking us about this, this gives us the opportunity to discuss it as someone who has gone through it. Everyone is looking for an example and we can be that to them–use me as an example of someone who is on the tenure track if that would be useful to you.  Much of our work is about relationships and when a subject faculty talks to the subject librarian who says “Oh, yes, I’ve already done this” –this idea of it is suddenly less daunting. We can forge the way.

We can also, by dint of experience, advocate for policy on campuses. Whether that be for the students or faculty, we know what needs to be considered and we should be requiring that we have seats at the table where these things are discussed.  And finally, remind them that it will get them more citations/reputation. That’s academic currency and it never hurts.

(Slide 10 Thank You)

Thank you to SPARC and ACRL for inviting me today and again, that’s where you can reach me. I’m happy to answer any questions.







ALA Annual: Spot the Hedgehog

Posted June 25, 2015 By Abigail Goben

I’m flying out to San Francisco tomorrow and I’ll be there until Tuesday morning.  The Philosopher is holding down the fort at Chez Hedgehog and is on feline-feeding-and-spoiling-duty full time until I get home.  I’m sure my side of the bed will be extra full of cat fur by the time I get back.

If you’re looking for me…

Saturday morning– I’ll be at the LITA All Chairs Meeting and then the LITA All Committees Meeting. Look for the hat that I hopefully remembered to shove in my suitcase. (It’s green, trust me, you can’t miss it.)

Saturday afternoon — I’ll be speaking at the SPARC/ ACRL OA Panel. I’m so excited about this! I hope many people come.

Sunday afternoon — I’ll be at the President’s Program and then LITA Happy Hour.  Those are always excellent events, Midwinter in January saw me jumping up and down in a circle with glee.  Cindi Trainor can attest.

Monday morning — STS has a poster session that I want to make a pass through

Monday afternoon– I’m on the STS field trip to PLOS. Registration is closed but it’s going to be SO COOL.

I’m packing a boatload of knitting, so if I’m not running around like a chicken I’ll probably be tucked in a corner with some wool.  Please come and say hello and let me know if you have any tenure questions I can answer–always happy to try and give insight.


Open Access Tenure: Start the Checklists

Posted June 23, 2015 By Abigail Goben

I had a call with my new P&T paperwork mentor today. Depending on how you count, I’m on either my 3rd or 4th one, but one was only assigned to me for about 2 weeks so I think 3 is the number we’ll go with.

What does my P&T paperwork person do? Gives me deadlines mostly. They are assigned by the P&T committee to oversee the dossier preparation process and make sure that the files and forms are all completed and the t’s crossed and i’s dotted. This is in addition to my research mentor, who tries to keep my writing focused and me from losing my mind.

It’s a little easier this time, I’ve done the full dossier once and so I only have about 24 months of material to add on at this point. And I have two annual reviews to add to my 3Y documentation, which will hopefully trigger memories of what I’ve been doing.

So we’re on target to meet every two weeks until my 5Y paperwork goes in. I have my first assignment. The plan, I’m told, is to focus on one major piece at a time. And also she gets to sort out all of the strange questions I have–today’s was “I have had someone offer to write me a letter of recommendation, to whom should they address it (the Dean?) and to whom should they send it and by when?”  Letters aren’t a requirement for our dossiers but I’m told they certainly aren’t a bad thing.

Over the fourth of July weekend I’ll be updating my “list of accomplishments” –a bullet point list of all the major projects I’ve tackled, things I’m most proud of, and the shiniest sequins I’ve sprinkled around the place.  Right now I’ll make it as comprehensive as possible, we can always whittle it down.

I’m pleased to have someone else watching the deadlines for me. It’s just too easy to let my own work go to the bottom of the pile when emails are pouring in, meetings never seem to stop, and the only time I’ve had off recently was a couple of days where something of the sinus/chest persuasion meant I slept and coughed and not much else. Give me a deadline and I might not sleep the night before, but at least a draft will get done and we can work with that.

December 1 is coming awfully fast.