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Book Review: Romancing the Inventor, Gail Carriger

Posted November 1, 2016 By Abigail Goben

This book was reviewed from an Advanced Reading Copy that I received. This review will have spoilers.

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Carriger returns with another one of her romantic short stories, taking readers familiar with and new to her world on a side path and finding a happy ending along the way.

Romancing the Inventor is set later in the Parasol Protectorate series and brings a love story for the complicated Madame Lefoux, the French inventor. Though not the first lesbian romance to which Carriger has introduced, this is the first time it has been the focus of the story.

The tale is from the perspective of Imogene, a country maid who takes a job at the hive both for much needed wages as well as a goal of perhaps finding others who like herself share a same sex interest. Carriger does carefully frames the challenges a village woman with little power in the Victorian era might have had in finding a lover of her own preference.

Once at the hive, Imogene comes across Genevieve Lefoux and over a number of months their flirtations grow to something far deeper. Class differences are noted by Imogene, who feels overwhelmed at how far apart they are socially and there is a nod to the above/below stairs divide that may appeal to fans of Downton Abbey.

Several aspects worked quite well in this book. Despite the brevity of the story, time passed. This was not a three week romance one often finds in shorter stories, nor was there an unreasonable number of years going by. Instead a few weeks passed here and there, long enough for the heroines to actually get to know each other–not just fall madly into bed.

Imogene was an active heroine. There were aspects that were out of her control and the resplendent Lady Maccon charges in to save the day at one particularly frightening moment but overall, Imogene does her best to hold her own and act on her interests. At the beginning she displayed a combination of heroine worship and puppy love that could have made her unbearably sweet but Carriger develops the character to be more active and complex and therefore more suitable counterpart to Lefoux.

While I’m not much of one for reading sex scenes, the ones in this story were much better than what was in the last story. It was sweeter and consensual desire and affection was apparent. While Genevieve was resisting, it was out of emotional self-protection.

There were a few minor quibbles. Imogene’s family is mentioned several times at the beginning but then dropped rather cavalierly about 60% of the way through the book. Considering she is a primary source of income for them and a potential driving force for her work, this was a loose end flapping.

I also found it a litle odd that in a family with many children and a large amount of poverty, Imogene was only just going to work at age 28? Alexia was odd at 26 being a dedicated spinster in Soulless, it seemed almost impossible that a country girl would be unemployed, unmarried, not in the church, etc by two years older.  Sexual violence is present in the book–though more as threat than activity, and I didn’t care for Imogene later seeming to partially excuse it.

A final delightful aspect was seeing Major Channing a somewhat warmer light. One has the suspicion that Carriger has a romance planned for him and perhaps the relevation of a lost love as well. He was kind to Imogene and their interactions were heartfelt and comfortable.

Carriger is more confident in this second romance offering and returns with ease to Alexia’s world, which will bring longtime readers along easily. Newer readers will notice the allusions to other characters and stories but these do not distract overall.

Overall, this is a charming addition to the canon.

Open Access Tenure: Hurdle In Sight…

Posted October 24, 2016 By Abigail Goben

Thursday is the last Library vote on my tenure dossier. It’s my final College vote where my tenured Library colleagues will recommend to my Dean whether or not my package goes forward to campus in January. They’ve been deliberating all fall, so hopefully it will be a fast meeting? I don’t know when exactly I’ll get the results, probably within a week or two.

My external reviewer letters were back in September* and the fall has seen myriad rounds of edits and not a little process frustration squeezed into the usual chaos that is Fall Semester. Teaching, new students, new research, new projects–and proofreading my papers another time, one more time, tweaking a date here when something comes out, moving two more book chapters from the accepted column to the published column.

At the moment I feel very abstracted from the process. My “final” dossier went to the library a week and a half ago and since then I’ve been through a conference, a personal trip, and a B1G Homecoming Weekend (minus the actual football game itself). I know the vote is coming but it still feels far away. That will probably change Thursday morning.

I am putting together my 6Y-Public-Dossier for those who are following along and I’ll have that up for download after I hear about the vote.

In the interim, I’m not writing enough…but what academic ever is?

*I wish I could read those. Could they strip out the names?

A Decade.

Posted August 31, 2016 By Abigail Goben

I’m late writing this post. I kept waiting for the summer to slow down so I could write with my head clear. That never happened and my students have been back for several weeks, so fall is formally underway.

My blog turned 10 in July. Looking back, it’s fascinating to see how much has changed over the past ten years and how I’ve transitioned between careers. Medical publishing to mostly freelance work to public libraries to academic libraries and presently I’m in my final year of the tenure-track process at my current place, one way or another.

I don’t blog nearly as much as I used to and that comes for a number of reasons: there’s other social media for short quick thoughts; I still haven’t gotten good at drafting things on the train on the way to or from work regularly; writing time is much rarer and if I’m not working on the long research project to do list I feel guilty. I have so much writing that I want to do…

There are a number of pieces also sitting in draft because I need to reread them, go through them once more before I throw them out to the world. But I do still find a lot of value in having this space for myself and my voice. The blog has given me a lot of opportunity to connect with other librarians and academic colleagues.

I don’t know whether it will last me another ten years though at present I don’t see why not. WordPress is still humming along; LisHost is still an excellent host. I can see this outlasting many of the social media sites that I use–it’s a more controllable platform and I get to decide on the comments, which helps. But who knows what ten years will bring–if I’ll still be a librarian in the same sense, if I’ll still want to write this way.

Hopefully, in the next 10 years, my most popular post won’t still be about why Playaways break so often and hopefully a decade-from-now-Abigail will still like my hedgehog identity. It’s distinct, at least.

On to the next decade…

June is for Handoff

Posted June 20, 2016 By Abigail Goben

June is for handoff and that’s what we like to do….
(Cookies, however are more satisfying)

A few things are coming off of my current whiteboard of doom at work. While there is a lot of new stuff on the way to fill it up, it’s been nice to see things wrap up this month.

  • ACRL Research Data Management Road Show Curriculum Development
    • I’ve not talked about this a whole lot but it’s taken up a fair amount of spring. I was delighted to get the contract to develop a Road Show with Megan Sapp Nelson of Purdue. We’ve spent weekly meetings working through exercises, imagining what we can get through in a single day, hashing things out with a fantastic volunteer group of Small(er) Libraries representatives. The curriculum has gone to ACRL for review and Megan and I get a few moments to focus on other things before we take it out for a test drive that I suspect is coming in July/August.
  • External Reviewer Packet for my Tenure Bid
    • Today, I sent my external reviewer packet to my paperwork person and she will send it out to whoever it is that will read it. My interdisciplinary and research statements are fixed and done. This comes, of course, after massive rewrites and an emergency trip to see Madame Mentor.
  • Copyright Paper
    • I’ve been collaborating with the Anthropologist this spring on a Dentistry/Copyright paper. We received word just over a week ago that the paper had been accepted! This was excellent timing as it meant the final manuscript could be included in my external packet.
  • Epidemiology Paper
    • Alllllmost there. I’m working with a dental public health/epidemiology/policy team on this one. We got comments back from the reviewers and the last three weeks has been a little bit of editing  and a lot of chat as we try to work through what they said. I wrangled the paper out of the misery that is RefWorks Beta and over to Zotero and that’s made my life exponentially better. Zotero 4ever. One more co-author has some wrangling to do while I’m at ALA and that’s due back to the editors on July 1. Cross your fingers for acceptance.
  • Search Committee
    • I spent the spring serving on a search committee for Dentistry. We’re looking for a new Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. It’s been a very different process from what I am used to in libraries.
  • LITA Education Committee
    • After four very long years, I will be rotating off of the committee at Annual. My Vice-Chair has already started to step in and take over, which has been fantastic. He has a lot plans for next year and a new VP who knows the history and will have his back. It’s been a hell of a ride and at some point when the bandaid rip off is less raw, I need to write about it more.

That’s the pile that is going away and other than some minor threads to tie up, not coming back. The Anthropologist and I are working on another paper, I’ll probably see the Epi paper at least one more time, the Vice Chair and I will have some hand off conversations. But overall…done. As each piece has been sent off, there has been a little more room to breathe.

Immediately, of course, filled by other things where I am dreadfully behind.

I’m still me.

 

If you follow my twitter feed, you will see that I frequently alert people to job opportunities at my library and I have blathered at length about being on search committees and my recommendations for improving cover letters, resumes, etc. Last year, facing down my 5Y paperwork, I asked for and received a year off from library search committees. Of course, I was then almost immediately tapped for a search committee for Dentistry.

We have a high rate of turnover in the UIC library compared with many academic libraries. I have heard utter shock from colleagues when I talk about a near constant state of being on search committees, as they have only sat on one or two ever.  I keep a running tally of librarians who have moved on and the general reason they left–there have been a lot of retirements in recent years and a solid smattering of people moving on for promotions, family, going back to school, and not worrying about having to buy their own post it notes. That tally is high.

And I am probably about to miss those days and those complaints.

Earlier this week, my University President Tim Killeen sent us a letter telling us that the state legislature has continued not to fund higher education. We are thru an entire year of waiting and hoping they will get budget things sorted. But they haven’t and it is unclear if or when that will be happening. There isn’t much optimism at this point. And President Killeen started using phrases like “layoffs” and “all options on the table.”

UIC has brain drain issues and at least some part of it is financial. Before I got here there were furloughs. The first three years I was here, my paycheck went down each year as health insurance and taxes rose while salaries did not. We eventually did get raises, following the negotiation of our first union contract. But many faculty left during that time and churn tends to be pretty constant across departments. And this doesn’t include the ongoing and equally damaging challenges of staff turnover that has been happening simultaneously due to multiple years without a contract, salary compression, etc.

This announcement will further accelerate people leaving the three University of Illinois institutions. Private universities in the Chicago area are likely looking at UIC and deciding who they might be interested in recruiting. Who has grant money that they could bring over? Who are the top teachers that they could add to their faculty? Who has a national or international reputation that could be leveraged?

From the view of everyone here, it raises a lot of questions. There has been a long year+ now of trying to hold the line. But now we are looking around wondering just who is going to be cut, how deeply the various cuts will be, how fast, and if the cuts will be permanent. Certainly they will be long term.

There are conversations already happening about if one should stay or try to go. Yes, I still have a tenure track line and I am on track to get tenure. I am one of the fortunate. But what will that look like if we lose more people out of my department? If I stay as others leave, what will be the implications for my workload and for how long? The expectations of the subject faculty, students, and administration generally don’t go down and we’ve spent years developing strong relationships and engagement. How will we staff a building if we need to be out teaching or meeting for research projects? Will my research go entirely by the wayside? Will students chose to go elsewhere as course sizes rise rapidly or they are otherwise frustrated by lack of support and opportunities? How do we meet emerging student needs? Will we be able to get grant dollars without the research infrastructure developing at other institutions? What research will slow to a grind or a halt? How do we meet ever increasing demands with constant and ongoing reductions?

Is it a reflection on us professionally if we stay? It’s a horrible thing to ask but it has run through my mind more than once. Are we perceived as not good enough to be recruited elsewhere? Not passionate enough to be jumping to other institutions? Obviously we have many reasons to stay–we deeply enjoy the work we do here, work with excellent students, believe in mission of the institution, love living in Chicago, have had the opportunity to collaborate with great peers, etc etc… and we could be assets wherever we worked. But having watched our institution lose some described as best & brightest, it raises self-doubt. And if a faculty member is having all of those nagging thoughts, or fielding calls from other institutions, how does their work here suffer?

I raise these questions without answers, presently seeking only to exorcise them from running in circles around my brain. I have external reviewer paperwork to think about as I go into my 6Y year, edits for a paper that I wasn’t expecting back just yet, several interesting research projects and so many things I’m excited about. I do not want these worries to take over.

I feel for my President, Chancellor, Provost and Dean. The former three are very new to the institution, the Provost only started a couple of months ago. And my Dean is trying to lead a college in a time of complete lack of financial information. I hope for transparency from them and a lot of communication. And perhaps that Springfield will get its act together soon.