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Posted April 12, 2015 By Abigail Goben

The longer that one waits to write a blog post, the more it seems that whatever blog post is written must be painfully significant, deeply thought out, and making changes in the library world.

This is not that blog post.

This is giving myself permission to write again, a reminder that I like blogging. I do. I think about the blog often, but usually at the end of a day where I’m squashed on a train and wondering which parts I can actually write about and what parts I need to let slip by. Can I mention that thing? Is that impolitic? Should I be writing my various and sundry thoughts or is it just easier to crawl back into the audio of whatever Terry Pratchett I’m re-listening to.  Recently, the late Sir P has been winning hands down.

But it’s now late spring and things are coming at me very fast whether I’m ready for them or not. The end of the semester is bringing graduation of the class I came in with from the College of Dentistry. A larger project, for better or worse, is about to wrap up and I need to spend time with the other project leads to write up the experience. It will kick off two other projects, of course, but those are not yet actually beating down my door.

Committees, professional service, all these things clamoring at my to do list and inboxes, rendering my weekends into a haze of staring at a computer screen.

Oh, and I’ve reached that point where I need to think about tenure every day again.  Right. That too.

And there, now I’ve written a page, I can recognize that yes, it’s nice to be writing again. But only briefly as the to do lists and everything else awaits.

The 10 Year Mark

Posted January 12, 2015 By Abigail Goben

I graduated from library school ten years ago this month.  Of my cohort of under-30s from when I started library school, two had graduated the semester before and MF and I finished up in December for January degrees. I did not walk that spring, the idea of going back and spending that much money at a time when I was supporting myself with a part-time job in New York seemed ludicrous.

I had a lot of problems with my program, though there were some highlights: the database design course, learning Dialog (blue sheets!), interning at NYPL Lincoln Center. Nearly all of the faculty have changed since I graduated, so I can’t speak to the program these days, though I’m sure it’s improved. Other than asking me for money, I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to engage as an alumni.

Librarianship has changed a lot in those ten years already. It was during graduate school that I got my Gmail account– given out only to those with invites and highly coveted. Much of my communication with peers was via email lists (who else remembers NexGenLib and the various kerfluffles that led to it’s start?). Cell phones were ubiquitous but smart phones weren’t really yet a thing beyond Blackberries, which I perceived as only for email.  Many of the tools I remember learning about or interacting with are gone or seem painfully unusable. Journals were moving towards electronic access but much of it was still heavily print based.

And yet much remains the same. Patrons want seamless access–whether that be print books shuffling around the NYPL system (still the best I’ve run across in terms of moving holds), getting electronic books (I was a very early Overdrive user), finding articles. Libraries are collaborating with their communities in new and innovative ways. Libraries and librarians struggle to find the right messages to demonstrate their value. We’re still working on equality of access to information and advocating for children to have access to librarians in their schools.

My own trajectory in librarianship thus far is not one I could have begun to project then. Work for CPL for 7 months and get a crash course in urban librarianship? Live in La Crosse, WI for 3 years and organize a several hundred person all day knitting event annually? Jump into a medical librarian career and teach dentistry students or write about open access and have regular research meetings with people in other states and countries?

I’ve met and worked with amazing people over that decade as well. Some are friends from those very early days of listservs; others keep showing up all the time. I’ve moved from being the newbie at every table to getting to make introductions. More of my friends are moving into management positions. Twitter and Friendfeed are an everyday habit–while I keep pruning the listservs I am still willing to subscribe to (when 3 in 5 messages is an ILL request that blatantly violates the policies of the listserv).

It’s unclear what librarianship will look like in another ten years. I don’t expect libraries to disappear nor do I think librarians will be unneeded, but I do expect a lot more change. While I assume now that I’ll still be in library-work of some sort, I assumed 10 years ago that I’d still be in New York and we can all see how that worked out.  I have some goals and ideas and am working towards those, and I’m waiting to see what amazing surprises come next.

Ten years down…



Has anyone considered the gift culture of data sharing between academics in terms of it’s effect upon developing a diverse community?

Over break I was working on a literature review. There were several instances where my eyes were crossing from having opened and waded through yet another PDF. The constant supply of tea and having natural  light in my home office helped. But then in conversation with coworkers yesterday, I realized it had sparked the above question.

It’s fairly well known that there are a variety of challenges for women and minorities in academia. A study published in Nature last fall showed that faculty were more likely to respond to requests for mentoring from students who seemed, in email, to be white and male.  Other studies have looked and found disparities with hiring, promotion, salary (both salary dollars and start up funds) offers, mentoring, etc. A new study this morning looks at the web response to those studies, which turned out to be not very surprising.  In libraries, we see a highly disproportionate number of men in management positions, particularly considering that the vast majority of librarians are female, and I know I’m not qualified to address the other diversity challenges in my profession, though I’m very aware of them.

And then from my lit review:

Borgman, Christine L. “The conundrum of sharing research data.” Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 63.6 (2012): 1059-1078.

Borgman gives us a comprehensive look at the various arguments for and the effort that is behind sharing research data, but then turns to the most important motivations, one of which is “To Enable Others to Ask New Questions of Extant Data.” Borgman doesn’t specifically mention a diversity aspect in this section, but focuses on the general public–often not seen as an audience for data. Still, it sparks the question of who are those others.

Wallis, Jillian C., Elizabeth Rolando, and Christine L. Borgman. “If we share data, will anyone use them? Data sharing and reuse in the long tail of science and technology.” PloS one 8.7 (2013): e67332.

Borgman’s article above gives the justifications of why, but then this article by Wallis, Rolando and Borgman asks the question of will anyone reuse the data. Examining a specific group of researchers, even with some required deposit of data, found willingness to share of “some” data, with many of the usual concerns about not losing their own rights to publication, not getting cited, etc–and actual data sharing to be pretty limited. Interestingly, most said they had been contacted and asked to share their data and had done so, though a quote from one researcher suggests that he would be hesitant if it was perceived that he would then have to answer a lot of further questions. A significant statement from the conclusions:
“Investigators share data with colleagues they know and trust, and when asked to do so. This finding reaffirms the gift culture of scholarship.”  (p. 14)
Kriesberg, Adam; Frank, Rebecca D.; Faniel, Ixchel M.; Yakel, Elizabeth (2013). “The role of data reuse in the apprenticeship process.” Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 50(1): 1-10. <http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/106839>
Finally, this Kriesberg article looked at zoology, social scientists and archaeologists and resuse of data. This article was particularly interesting to me because it wasn’t medicine or chemistry.  I forget sometimes how big SCIENCE can be. For these fields, data sharing and reuse norms are emerging or changing (as with most fields).  The authors were primarily focused on the relationship of mentors guiding graduate students through the process of accessing data (either their own or from a repository) and how to reuse it.  Kriesberg, et al talk about trust building between mentors and students and how reusing data can lead to a legitizmation of the new researcher.
So, we have cultures of data reuse to get new researchers started, gift cultures of academics who already know each other, and a lot of researchers wondering about if they should share their research, but this all feels still very much within a known Ivory Tower network.  What happens if you don’t have that particularly strong mentor, does the gift culture change if you’re perceived as being “one who will ask more questions” –and are those perceptions tied to perceived race/gender of the person making the request?

How would you study this?

That’s actually probably a bigger question I have.  Asking my coworkers, we talked about citation analysis–though I would argue that only shows where data sharing has been successful, not where the potential gift culture wasn’t.  One could, perhaps, interview researchers or set up some kind of thing like the Nature paper–> sending a request for data using names that appeared to be of a specific gender or ethnicity and evaluating based upon response. My guess is there would need to be some serious network/systems analysis and probably interviews or focus groups on both sides: data sharers to parse out how they might respond to a request and from those requesting to see if they perceive that they wouldn’t get data or hadn’t gotten data due to a bias.

I think this could be one of the arguments for making your data public. It won’t hold water with a lot of people, but it’s something to consider–> who might need access to your data or have a brilliant idea for reusing your data that might never gain access to it because a) they have to ask or find someone who knows you to ask; b) you may not respond based on personal prejudice against [fill in prejudice here].

If anyone has already sorted this out and I haven’t found the article yet, please put it in the comments.  Also, bravo to the authors of these articles that I could easily find OA options to share! Thank you.

Open Access Tenure: There is Never Enough Time

Posted November 4, 2014 By Abigail Goben

I can always tell when I’m especially tired, my blog drafts all start with some variation of the opening line to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

“It is a truth universally acknowledged….”

Today, that ends with “that a junior tenure track faculty member must be in want of more time.”

Odd, all the research that we do and no one has quite figured out how to add an extra 8 hours to Tuesday or put a pause on the clock.  In a recent meeting, a colleague made a very salient point: From Halloween to the end of December, minutes only have 25 seconds each.  Many days it feels that way.

And fall is a time of new ideas and initiatives, the majority of which seem to require meetings if not committees.  Projects are underway.  My two new coworkers have jumped in wholeheartedly and we’re seeing a lot of expanded engagement in colleges and departments from them. One, LabMouse, has been keeping me on track to make sure that our data consults and workshops are getting more traction. We know there are lots of people out there looking for help and we’ve got a lot of new opportunities. I have an increasing number of items on my calendar that read “Data Mgmt Consult/Workshop w/….” It’s pretty exciting all around. Slightly overwhelming though…

A discussion among my department turned the other day to what we do, or wish we could do, to make home life a little easier.  None of us presently have small children–either high school+ or no children. And so we weren’t trying to add that to the mix, but each of us mentioned different things we did or things we wished for. It reminded me of a presentation for tenure-track female faculty that I heard about a couple of years ago that led with the tenured professor’s best piece of advice in three words: “Get Domestic Help.”  Her argument was that it was better to find the money to pay someone so that you could spend the time with your friends and family or working on your research.

Time versus money, it’s a balance we’re always juggling.  For example: I take the Purple Line rather than the Metra every day because, while it’s a longer trip, it’s far less expensive. Also, I’d still have to take the Pink Line or a CTA bus every day in addition to the Metra–it’s not a one to one switch.  And the Philosopher is not at ease with the idea of someone coming in to clean. I’m not sure I am either. On one hand, it sounds wonderful, but it’s a trust issue and I’m just not sure I could add the guilt of “did I clean up enough before the cleaning person came.” Because I would feel guilty.

The time saver that I shared with my department was getting grocery delivery. As the Philosopher and I were trying to figure out eating more healthy foods, avoiding the call-for-a-pizza syndrome, etc, the prospect of intense grocery shopping lay before me. Now, in addition to figuring out recipes and menus and a grocery list and managing the pantry, I’d need to more frequently add a couple of hours of hitting the grocery, buying things, getting it home, finding parking and then getting it up three flights of stairs.  Enter Peapod. We started almost a year ago. Now, I keep a running order on the website–Philosopher and I both have the app on our phones–and about once a month I hit submit and a very nice man shows up in a designated time window with my groceries. I carry them up the stairs (they would delivery into the apt but I don’t feel like troubling them with the cats), put them away, and it’s done.

This doesn’t work for everyone; when I mentioned it the other day on Twitter a new mom I know pointed out that grocery shopping was her alone time. And it doesn’t fix the need to run by the grocery or farmers market for fresh fruits and veggies or whatever it was we forgot to order. But my time can focus rather than walking aisles to sorting out things I want to cook. I have an Evernote folder of recipes, I’m using my cookbooks more, and I’m not having to find an evening that the Philosopher and I are both home and have 2 hours just to orchestrate a grocery run. While I wait for the order to arrive in a two hour window, I can get a lot of other chores done at home.

Peapod is not available in a lot of places. But I think similar sorts of things are starting to crop up in many markets. A couple of people have asked me about cost comparison. From what I have paid attention to, it’s seemed fairly equivalent to the grocery stores near me. There are a lot of specials and they have a Peapod generic brand that works for canned beans and such–though as with all generic/house brands, there are times I find the other brands more cheaply available on the site.  And often I get coupons for free delivery in my email, so I mostly just need to pay attention and save those for the next round of shopping.

I share this with you to perhaps give you permission/impetus to try online grocery shopping, if it’s available in your area. Peapod’s been cheerfully sending me a “share with your friends and they get $20 off their first order”  ( my bias: I get $ off my next order if you do) so there’s that link if you’d like to take advantage of that.

But I’m curious what your time and sanity saver tips are? What do you do to squeeze out a little more time?


Supporting the Ada Initiative

Posted September 12, 2014 By Abigail Goben

I was incredibly impressed to hear of the #libsforada campaign happening this week, with fund matching from several colleagues and tweeps, including Bess Sadler, Andromeda Yelton, Mark Matienzo, and Chris Bourg (did I miss anyone?).  While the initial matching goal was quickly reached, I have no doubt the organization has more financial needs that the library community can help to meet.

What’s the ADA Initiative?

“The Ada Initiative supports women in open technology and culture through activities such as producing codes of conduct and anti-harassment policies, advocating for gender diversity, teaching ally skills, and hosting conferences for women in open tech/culture. Most of what we create is freely available, reusable, and modifiable under Creative Commons licenses.” —What We Do

Why is it important to me?

I’m by far in the vast majority of the demographics making up librarianship: white, female, adult. I’m also petite and rather conventionally attractive. Though I don’t always identify as a techie, it’s part of everything I do in my career and huge part of my professional service (says the Library and Information Technology Association Education Chair).  And I’m pragmatic enough to believe that one of these days, something is going to happen at a conference that I’ll be attending that is going to be inappropriate and where I will need backup or need to offer it to others. This comes from hearing too many of the experiences of friends and professional colleagues. This comes from being gently but rather obviously protected a few times before something happened. A not-unreasonable fear of having to deal with unwanted sexual attention or blunt dismissal based on my gender is a deterrent when I consider how much I’d like to expand my repertoire as a public speaker.

For these reasons and a host of others, codes of conduct are important.  And the work that the Ada Initiative does to support development of these policies, to advocate for people who are self-selecting out from fear, is essential.  The Ada Initiative helped tremendously when the Code4Lib community was developing a code of conduct just in advance of the C4L national conference that I helped to organize in 2013. I would like to see their work continue. I would like to feel like I can walk into a conference without needing that pragmatism, and that others feel enthusiasm rather than trepidation.

To that end, I have supported the Ada Initiative fundraiser. I hope you will consider doing so as well.

For more information, the excellent writings of some friends:

In FormingThoughts



Feral Librarian

Across Divided Networks