Category: Uncategorized

One Project Done; Another Begun — the SPEC Kit

Last summer, I had a random idea on a Tuesday. Rather than jotting it down to return to at a more reasonable later date, I emailed a couple of other librarians and asked “hey, what do you think about this?” To which both said “Yes! Let’s chat” So that Friday, we had a short phone call. After that, we started recruiting other colleagues. Within another week-10 days we had a proposal and then that was accepted and suddenly we were underway.

And yesterday, our SPEC Kit was published.

Perry, Michael R., Kristin A. Briney, Abigail Goben, Andrew Asher, Kyle M. L. Jones, M. Brooke Robertshaw, and Dorothea Salo. Learning Analytics. SPEC Kit 360. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries, September 2018. https://doi.org/10.29242/spec.360

Sponsored by the Association of Research Libraries, SPEC Kits are structured whitepapers which provide a snapshot of current practices on a topic at research libraries. It had been over 10 years since anyone had looked at learning analytics, we were well overdue. The team developed a survey, which ARL distributed and then created an executive summary and pointed out some potentially good privacy policies that might be useful for others to adopt. That’s the short version of the SPEC Kit.

We have the data set and over the course of the next year it is our intent to do further work with it. The publication format didn’t really allow for analysis and synthesis; the majority of what is there is summarization and reporting back. That said, it’s very useful as a starting point and we can certainly build upon and outwards. I hope it will prompt questions and ideas for librarians who are tasked with learning analytics.

What the process really did was become meetings every other week where the team worked very hard. Where we relied on Michael Perry to translate our collective thoughts back to ARL during the editing process and on Kristin Briney to point out best practices for our visualizations. Where new colleagues have quickly become good friends. Where we openly have disagreed and asserted and resolved and dissolved into laughter.

And where, in late July/early August of 2017, when I saw the IMLS call for proposals come out, I asked “what if we asked someone for money?” and Kyle ML Jones stepped up and offered to lead the charge.

Which is how I have had the excellent fortune to become a Co-Investigator and the Project Manager for the IMLS funded Data Doubles grant. More on that in another post but do check out our website. 

I have rarely suffered a paucity of projects, but this team has been already such a joy to work with and given me so many new directions. I look forward to our Monday calls, to wrangling through notifications, and to trying to figure out how we all best draw on each others strengths. We have three years ahead to ask interesting questions and discover (we hope) useful answers.

The SPEC Kit is our first major publication together and I greatly anticipate all that is coming ahead.

Summer Tuesdays Ideas are wonderful.

I Write Things Other Places Too…

I need to do a better job of sharing what I’m working on these days… presentations and papers go by and I know I’ve done them but then they turn into a line on my CV and I’m scrambling to the next thing rather than enjoying what I have done. So… here are the two papers that have come out this spring:

  • Goben A, Sapp Nelson M. The Data Engagement Opportunities Scaffold: Development and Implementation. Journal of eScience Librarianship 2018 March:7(2): e1128. https://doi.org/10.7191/jeslib.2018.1128

When Megan and I built the Road Show, the tool/handout/thing we were arguably most proud of was the Data Engagement Opportunities poster. Now that I’ve recently moved into an office I  feel comfortable decorating, I plan to get a full size poster and frame it!

This short paper describes how we built the poster, how you might use it, and what it isn’t–which is a job ad. It’s always something that fascinates people when we use it at the Road Show. You can take the poster as a liaison, data librarian, or administrator and start to identify concrete tasks that you may want to undertake or build into services. It’s a way to explore what skills you might wish to develop or hire and it even comes with suggested assessment outcomes that go beyond “more”.

And then this just came out! Have I mentioned how much fun it is for Alison and I to write together? This was our charge through the literature to see what existed and you can only imagine the wincing at what we discovered. I know far too many new ways to incorrectly describe how creative commons , the public domain, and open access all work now. And it’s more evidence that we need well written consumer and creator focused copyright literature in health sciences journals across all of the disciplines.

Go find my horror stories, they’re in there.

 

 

Book Review: How to Marry a Werewolf by Gail Carriger

**This review was completed from an e-ARC provided by the author. I have also purchased the e-book and ordered the print copy as well, it’s that good**

Werewolf Cover

There are some books that one races through, delighted to be taken on an authorial romp or determined to find out how the story ends. There are others that are a slog or which must be chewed slowly in order to digest everything within. And then there are those that you string out as long as you possibly can because you’re enjoying it and you don’t want it to end.

By the start of the second chapter section, cleverly set off with werewolf shadow icons, I knew this was that last kind.

Carriger brings her readers back to a post-Alexia world and while it is firmly within the Parasolverse she has so comprehensively created, this book easily stands alone. New readers will intimate there there have been other stories, but this doesn’t prevent the enjoyment of seeing an alpha male (in the romantic story sense, not the werewolf sense) meet his match.

Excepting the paranormal aspect of it, this is a fairly straight-forward historical romance — I’d call it a Regency Romance more for the style than the time period. Boy meets girl; boy and girl are both rather flawed; boy and girl spend the book trying to sort out each other and their romance. There is sexual wordplay but it’s overall chaste until the end.

But Carriger is never quite that simplistic. We are dropped into a story that opens with familial anger at some misbehavior on the heroine Faith’s part. She is banished to England (an amusing reversal) to find a werewolf husband only to encounter on first landing the obnoxious Channing.  There is a sub-plot of missing Sundowner bullets and another of parental abuse towards a child that may be difficult for anyone who knows what it is to walk on eggshells around a parent known to unexpectedly lash out verbally or physically.

Carriger does not excuse the faults of her leads, nor does she indicate that love will perfectly solve everything. That realistic aspect keeps the characters from becoming caricature.

After so many books, it was sorrowful and a relief to learn Channing’s past and to have a happy ending for him. And where Carriger’s last book was a love story to her readers, this felt a little fresher. I was left with anticipation for further books in the “Claw and Courtship” series, ones that may not include characters I already know so well.

This book though I needed to also order in print, so that next time the author is in town I can bring it along, abused, dropped in the tub once, and splattered with hot tea on a few pages, for a signature.

Book Review (ish) Sexism Ed by Kelly Baker

Book Cover Sexism Ed by Kelly Baker

I can’t quite call this a book review, because I ended up having additional thoughts.

I went into this book of essays with hope and a fair number of reservations. What kind of hope I was looking for, I’m not sure. That perhaps we’re starting to make progress? My reservations, however, felt exhaustingly confirmed.

Baker presents a compilation of essays written over the past four years, addressing aspects of academic faculty sexism. Topics include the challenges of interviews and teaching when colleagues and students focus on your appearance, your child, and your spouse, and your voice as opposed to your research or pedagogy. Baker highlights the research on assault during fieldwork, done by a colleague here at my institution. These blog-post sized essays are quick to read through and circle around familiar themes that will come as little surprise, though they may renew or reinforce frustration.

I bought this book the day it came out because I want to see books like it succeed. I think we need books and writers that address this chronic ailment in the academy. But I was also curious to see if she addressed the vast amount of supportive labor done by academic staff and specifically whether or not she addressed librarians and how as a majority female profession we are treated (frequently as a doormats or as checkbooks who also are supposed to turn students into critical researchers in 50 minutes).

Here Baker disappoints. She mentions librarians once, citing the ALA Code of Conduct and Andromeda Yelton’s excellent article about why we need it. It was nice to see that nod, but our banishment beyond that to the shadows was frustrating. And while she writes eloquently about the relegation of women to contingency faculty positions, her focus solely on faculty misses broader sexism that plays out across how staff are treated. As many academic librarians are in staff positions, but still frequently led by men in director or Dean positions, this made the collection feel unfortunately shallow.

Two particular essays did speak to me: one on the motherhood-penalization and one on men “performing” ally work while not actually being allies.

The former raised familiar concerns about why several friends, expert and accomplished researchers in a variety of disciplines, have struggled to get academic interviews. They still face assumption that they will leave for motherhood, for their spouse, that they don’t care as much, that they’ll demand a spousal hire.* Despite CVs that rival or exceed their male peers, they are often not considered for positions beyond adjuncts. Several of them have seen all of this and, despite wanting very much to be educators and academic researchers, have looked elsewhere to find stable employment.

The latter topic is a harder one and addressed here only from the binary gender aspect but was, as always, infuriating. Baker talks about men expecting and getting cookies and kudos for pronouncing how they are amazing allies and are here to show women how ally-ship to other women is done right. Over the past decade, I’ve seen this often in librarianship: men so busy promoting their own names and brands that they never actually assist the women they claim to be raising up. Men whose top-of-the-hierarchy-status is continually reinforced as they escalate into leadership/management positions based on the oft-unfounded expectation that they will be capable and the assertion that they are brilliant [a word Baker points out is almost never applied to women].  It’s hard to call out this behavior — if one does, the response is that it is just sour grapes or jealousy that you didn’t get that position, grant, paid keynote, or invited columnist position. Meanwhile the women doing the interesting work and moving the field forward are smacked down with tall poppy syndrome, given fourth authorship, invited to do more behind the scenes service work, and told to stay in their place.

As I read through the essays I found myself increasingly numb. While individually and with topical context, the essays felt as though they would be impactful additions to a syllabus or as a targeted reading, as a full book it became draining and simply seemed to reinforce that this won’t get better. I also struggled to understand who the audience was for the full text.  I can’t imagine that the various upper administrators or tenured male faculty around me will sit down and read it, less that they might act upon it. The narrative of frustration carried through, but without any sense of actual opportunities to address the issues at an individual, departmental, institutional or disciplinary level.

It is difficult to articulate what I had hoped for by the end of the book: perhaps a larger call to action than what I might see in a series of individual blog-post style essays; perhaps a more ambitious closing essay. Whatever it was, at the end of the text I was just irritated.

Overall, an unsatisfying read.

 

*This one always amuses me as I see male Deans, Provosts, Chancellors, and Presidents regularly require spousal positions in the academy and that’s “how we recruit the best” where best apparently only = men. Why wouldn’t you expect your candidates to potential inquire for help connecting their family with jobs when you’re asking them to completely relocate?

Build It Up; Take It Down — Professional Organizations

My professional organizations all seem to be in the throes of something major. Some are formalizing, taking on a much needed layer of governance as a group realizes we need something more than an email chain. Others are really finding their feet after flailing around. Others are heaving under longstanding bureaucracy and what appears to have been several serious rounds of questionable fiscal management. There are so many spreadsheets.

Being in the midst of all of this is exhausting. Several groups want people to help write governance documents or navigate what necessary infrastructure looks like. Others are looking at major disruption or end of life and need someone to acknowledge when things are done. Still others are just getting started and resisting any of that “formal document” stuff–although increasingly we recognize that this doesn’t work due to historical power, race, gender, etc issues.

I find governance development and maintenance fairly enjoyable, which surprises few as it goes back to that idea of process vs. product that I’ve discussed before. Digging through Bylaws isn’t my favorite pastime but so help me if it means we can edit language and create a checklist so this isn’t a headache for someone else in the future, sign me up.

But it’s exhausting. Having to try and tackle these varying fronts means I have lost a clear sense of what my professional organization home is, where I feel “my people” are, where I go to be inspired. I’ve both taken on more responsibility and given it up — indicating where I can the need for others to step up and keep work going if this is actually of value to the organization. There’s an overwhelming expectation that all the volunteers will want to spend an extra x hours a week on this organization, this new sub-group listserv.

And I am indescribably weary of paid staff members who dump their work onto the volunteers; seem incapable of major portions of their jobs; face no accountability when issues are raised; believe that budgeting is all magic handwaving; or who hand out guilt trips about how I’m letting the profession and the organization down by not doing ^insert time-intensive thing here^.

There are always compounding expectations.

I’m headed into conference season, all of which are tied to various organizations. I am in the midst of preparations to present research — all projects I have worked hard on and which I hope others can use, adopt, and engage with. Yet simultaneously I am running the cost balance and questioning if what I am getting back is enough. And the number of potential conferences I could attend, could pitch my research to…that seems to multiply every day. I could be somewhere every week and in many instances I would *love* to get speak to engage with those peers and learn from them. But (1) my job is my first priority and making sure I’m doing that well has to come first and (2) the cost both financial and of time can be enormous.

V and I were discussing last week why we stay involved. We have different understandings of the primary mission(s) of one of our mutual organizations and they overlap but I can see how that, multiplied times each member, makes things unwieldy. And that particular organization, it’s leadership, it’s staff do not articulate clearly either of the missions she and I see as an actual goal or how the organization is supporting the members. What do the members *get*? The opportunity to pay thousands of dollars to serve on committees, donate volunteer countless hours, and give presentations. Oh, and have our email addresses handed out.

Where does this lead? I don’t know. I have this hope that something this spring will inspire me and I will feel deeply connected again, rather than simply obliged. I’m working on a five year plan (separate post) and trying to determine who gets my energy and who has just become a drain. Donating my time comes with personal and professional costs and right now that feels out of balance. Perhaps I can come up with a checklist and Hedgehog Governance. We shall see.