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…


Book Review: Poison and Protect, Gail Carriger

Posted June 22, 2016 By Abigail Goben
I was invited by the author to review this novella and received an electronic preprint version for the review.
Carriger returns to writing for an audience of adults in the decade or so before Soulless.  For those familiar with her other works, this feels much closer to the Alexia novels than her more recent teen pieces and it’s a comfortable but intriguing return to a well known place.
There are spoilers in this review, if you would not like to be spoiled, please come back another day
In this transition between time periods of her other works, Carriger draws forward a character from the Finishing School novels, Preshea, who is now a fully trained and highly capable assasain. Sent on assignment to a house party in the North, Preshea encounters a Scottish Captain who might get in the way of her assignment and might mean more to her than a target or an irritant.
My first impression of Preshea was that I could see her getting along with Conall, the werewolf from the Soulless books, although undoubtedly he would take issue with her being female. She is presented as chilly and exacting, the type slightly feared at parties by women who mistrust her and men who are easily impressed by her beauty and thrilled at the idea of being around someone dangerous.
Carriger makes an unusual choice in having a more “broken” female character rather than the traditional cold and aloof male characters common in most romances. It’s well done and I appreciated the change in choice. Preshea is aware of her effect on people and has chosen to cultivate it, recognizing that it makes her lonely but uninterested in currying favor.
While the story is intended to be a stand alone, Carriger  — probably rightly– assumes familiarity with her universe. She does not waste time explaining how vampires and werewolves interact, vampire tethers, ghost naming conventions, etc. This will not be an issue for familiar readers but might cause some confusion for someone coming new to the series.
Plot spoilers really start here
Preshea’s assignment is unusually not to serve as an assasin but instead as a romantic disrupter for one couple and, under cover of that, as a bodyguard for another character. Gavin is in a similar bodyguarding position, albeit from a differnet quarter, and along as the friend of a lovelorn jackanapes. One feature that was disappointing  was the abandonment of the attempts on the guarded character’s life after one rather paltry attempt halfway through the book. I kept waiting for a second attempt and it was brushed off as “into the future” which I saw as a missed opportunity for more romantic interplay.
The sexual tension between the leads was nicely done and the sex scenes had an interesting take to them. I tend to read an author’s first round of sex scenes and then skim through the rest, most authors writing more traditional romance don’t tend to put any big revelation of secrets in scenes readers might skim.
There are two interesting side plots– the lovers that Gavin is there to support and Preshea to break up and another pair of young ladies who have their own special connection. The search for scandal as the first pair finally realize they are not the best matched seemed unnecessary– wouldn’t young girls at a house party be up late giggling in each others’ rooms?
A few other familiar characters pop up. Everyone’s favorite vampire returns and I find I must have missed something, being two or three books behind in the Finishing School, as I don’t remember anyone talking about the apprenticeship work mentioned here. Carriger repeats one of the verbal ticks Akeldama has from Soulless in is enteractions with Alexia –not using names– but it feels strained in his conversations with Preshea and, had I not already known Akeldama’s habits and behaviors as head of a spy network, it would have seemed odd and would likely have ruined later books for me. I loved his ridiculousness in Soulless and that is missing here.
Overall it was a nice short trip back to Carriger’s world and I recommend it for Alexia fans. If you are introducing new readers to her work, I would continue to suggest Soulless  as the gateway, however, for best world building.

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.



Open Access Tenure: View From the Six Month Mark

Posted June 8, 2016 By Abigail Goben

Approximately six months from now my Dean will send off my dossier to campus and I will not have any further opportunity to update my case.

There are still a number of big important dates to face down between now and then and considering how fast the first five months of the year have gone, I don’t expect that the rest of 2016 is going to seem particularly long.

Right now I’m working on the packet for my external reviewers, which will go out around the time I leave to attend ALA Annual in about two weeks.

For that I’m preparing:

  • My research statement– updates from things I’ve done in the past six months and where further research is going. This will be the final version of this statement, unedited after it goes to them so it has to be shiny.
  • My interdisciplinary statement — same thing, only including all the dentistry research, and particularly including the paper that I got pulled into after my 5Y dossier went in. I didn’t even know that project existed and now we’re in revisions and hoping for an acceptance in August/September.
  • PDFs of all everything I’ve published (just have to check the folder where I keep all of those)
  • CV — This will be easiest as I update it regularly. One addition: I don’t put “papers under review” on my vita as it’s an openly readable Google doc and I don’t want a reviewer stumbling across it and unblinding themselves accidentally. Because I cannot send those manuscripts to the reviewers, I will put them here in addition to the other stuff so they can see what’s coming next.

Reviewer letters are due back by September 1. I will never see the feedback nor know who those reviewers are, unless they happen to self-identify to me after the process.

We just got the draft calendar for this year, it won’t be finalized until later in the fall but I have three deadlines before then, so I’m working from that.

Other deadlines:

  1. August 19: Draft of my full dossier goes to Library P&T. They get to tell me to change commas, move clauses, etc. I can agree or not agree to their suggestions.
  2. September 12: The Dean emails my co-authors and asks about my contributions to our papers. Which reminds me, I have another set of co-authors I have to warn about that.
  3. September 16: Second draft of dossier goes to Library P&T. Again more revisions that I can accept or not (I have heard rumors of “Move X from Page Y to Page Z”–two weeks later– “Move X from Page Z to Page Y”… ) 
  4. October 14: Dossier goes to the Library P&T again.
  5. November 2: Final Vote by Library P&T
  6. January 2: The Dean sends my dossier to campus P&T

There’s a little bit of space from 11/2-1/2 where, if anything else is accepted or submitted, I can update that but from what I can tell things should be done minus reading 50 more times for typos.

So that’s the current tenure hurdles, let me know if you have process questions!


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.