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.





Review: Scandalous Sister

Posted March 8, 2016 By Abigail Goben

Scandalous Sister
Aidan Ladsow 

I was contacted by the author of this short story a while back for a review. I received an electronic review copy.

The story is generally set in the Regency period, the love story for an older sister (Darcey) of a girl (Lilian) who ran off with her lover but has now returned to raise more scandal in London.

There is some history between the hero and the sister; his mother had applied to her for money but been ignored. Apparently not knowing the family, the hero assumes Darcey, the older ‘boring’ sister, rejected the mother and sets out to seduce her and leave her in order to avenge his honor.

Seduction/emotional manipulation as an appropriate response to “you didn’t answer my mom’s letter asking for money and I can’t be bothered to actually ask you about it” was disturbing. I don’t find anything romantic in the actions of a man who is trying to find ways to destroy a woman.

The story continues with them having heated scenes quoting Shakespeare at each other, mostly Romeo and Juliet, set during said hero’s extremely impoverished family’s annual theatrical ball (the juxtaposition of “he’s wearing old clothes/working for a living” with “they hold an annual ball” didn’t work for me either). And things resolve with a revelation of who everyone is and the quest for revenge brushed off as an issue of unread mail.

Several other things were jarring:  people bouncing between “Miss/Mr” and “Lord/Lady” in their address; I was never never quite clear which title Darcey is supposed to have. Also, if her sister is now a widow–shouldn’t her last name not be the same as her unmarried sister? Further, if Darcey was 21 when this scandal occurred, her “coming out” wouldn’t have been pushed off–she would have been on her third season and likely married/engaged. Parents or chaperones for the women are oddly never mentioned.

The best scene was their meeting at the beginning of the book, before he sorts out who he believes she is. I was optimistic at that point, but ultimately disappointed and troubled by the intentions of the hero.

This would benefit from more editing and perhaps not having the hero spend the entire story thinking about how he plans to hurt the heroine.



Open Access Tenure: 5Y Briefly

Posted February 19, 2016 By Abigail Goben

I spoke with my Dean last week about the outcome of the January 5Y vote on my tenure process. I passed!  Woohoo! So now it’s back to the grind of trying to get more papers out the door, more, more, more and a side of paperwork.  Can you tell I’m a hint worn down by the process?

For those following along, this was vote 3.  A quick recap of the votes I go through:

1Y — internal — A check in during your first year. PASSED

3Y — internal — First full review by library faculty. Paperwork, forms, all the things. PASSED

5Y — internal — Second full review by library faculty. Paperwork, forms, all the things. PASSED

5.9Y — internal — Final vote by the library faculty after letters from external reviewers have been received. (Late Fall 2016)

6Y — external — Vote by Campus Promotion and Tenure Committee. (Spring 2017)

For the moment, my primarily focus is papers. Anything with an “accepted” stamp on it will be included in what goes to my external reviewers, along with my CV and I think my research statement. My paperwork person will be working on getting all of my stuff into the 2016-2017 campus forms later this spring, I expect she and I will be going back to meetings every other week in the not too distant future.

There wasn’t much feedback at this particular stage. I got a couple of suggestions about formatting from one colleague, but nothing especially substantive. It’s not clear if I’ll get anything else back and if so from whom and on what timeline.

Fortunately, my to do list will keep me from thinking about that too much.



Note: This last week has been *highly* entertaining as I’ve been watching reactions and interactions surrounding a new proposal for sharing of clinical trial data.  I’ve sent this as a briefing around interested parties at my library and thought it might be useful if you’re trying to find the thread. My goal is to hit some of the major highlights. If there’s a particularly salient response I’m missing, please let me know! (As far as I know, all of these articles are available openly.)


Last week the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors proposed new rules on data sharing for clinical trials. The statement that first caught my eye was a proposal for patient-level de-identified data to be shared within 6 months post-publication. There’s much more to it, of course, but that one was particularly of interest.

Full Text from Annals of Internal Medicine: http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2482115&resultClick=3

“Sharing Clinical Trial Data: A Proposal From the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors”

This, rather promptly sparked a response from the EIC and an AE of NEJM which includes a description of those who reuse data as “research parasites”

As you can imagine, the editorial got a lot of attention– a couple of interesting blog posts on that front:

Which then meant by Monday there was a further editorial from the EIC at NEJM that sort of clarifies but also is broadsweepingly negative about data scientists

Again, there was response:

And on a more public side, this piece in NPR:


Now then, to start sorting what infrastructure and policy we’re going to need to meet these new requirements… get your comment in to ICMJE by April!


Midwinter in Boston…

Posted January 3, 2016 By Abigail Goben

I’ve started seeing the panic of everyone realizing that while they are starting to wind back up after the holidays and the new year that suddenly Midwinter, oddly early this year, is upon us.

Count me in for the slightly panicked group. While it looks like we won’t have the crazy snow of last year, with it’s many cancelled flights and hours upon hours of snow shoveling, these’s still weather to worry about and the joy of flying between Chicago and Boston in January.

I’m flying in on Thursday and out on Tuesday.  Major foci this year are being Madame Chairwoman for LITA Education (committee meeting, all chairs, and presenting to the Board again); ACRL RDM Roadshow (we have our “official” kick off on Friday); talking to RefWorks (I’m being sent to ask questions–that should be entertaining).

And of course I’ll be at LITA Happy Hour on Sunday. It’s always an excellent time. You should come too.

LITA Happy Hour
6:00-8:00pm, MIJA Cantina & Tequila Bar, Quincy Market, 1 Faneuil Hall Marketplace

I still have to figure out what knitting I am taking, I am planning for a minimum of three projects. One large one for hotel and plane knitting (and endless airport knitting if the weather doesn’t cooperate on one end or the other) and two small ones for going between meetings and balancing a snack or beverage.  I have endless faith in my ability to knit three times my usual capacity while I’m traveling.

Safe travels to those of you also headed towards Boston, I’ll look forward to seeing you there!