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A Fast 15 Years

In January I reached 15 years post-graduation from my MLS program in New York. It was an interesting time then, I was living with friends in a house in Queens; hauling all over Manhattan working for Gymboree Play and Music; volunteering at NYPL Lincoln Center up in the music library.

Now, I’m just through my ninth year at UIC. Some days I am stunned how much has changed; other days how little. Amusingly, I think Ruth Kneale’s early profile of me (“You Don’t Look Like a Librarian”) is probably one of my constants. Then it was because the stereotype was of someone much older than me, these days it’s often because my job responsibilities have evolved tremendously, even from what I was hired to do.

But I am what a librarian looks like, because that is who I am and what I do. These days, my time is divided into a myriad slices:

  • I’m a researcher who publishes and presents regularly; I’m a co-investigator on the Data Doubles grant and I have a slate of colleagues with whom I write regularly across research data topics. I have an undergraduate student finishing up a research project this spring built entirely on one of my projects. I have so many more projects I want to explore and just need a few more days per day.
  • I’m the Data Management Coordinator for the Library. The definition I look to for coordinating here draws from the scaffold that Megan Sapp Nelson and I built for the ACRL Data Management Road Show (detailed and explained here). My work often has to be beyond the immediate challenges that draw many researchers’ focus and instead looking at the bigger picture, the longer term need for plans, policy, and infrastructure, and the education of the next generation.
  • I’m the liaison to the College of Dentistry and the Institute for Juvenile Research. This means an oddly in-depth knowledge of current trends in dental implants as well as usage of various psychiatric therapies in the pediatric population.
  • I teach full courses. Sure, there are times I still do one off instruction and I do quite a lot of consultations with a single individual/small group — but my formal instruction is mostly classes; either in Dentistry or teaching our library’s first for-credit graduate course: LIB 573: An Introduction to Research Data Management.
  • I am an Associate Professor with the accompanying service load. I’m a formal mentor to several colleagues who are navigating the tenure process. I assist other colleagues with the preparation of their retention, promotion, &/or tenure documents. I chair and serve on Master’s thesis committees. I still sit on an inordinate number of committees, several now at the campus level. I do external tenure evals.

And of course some things haven’t changed. I remain a passionate advocate for Open Access publishing and for *not* constantly harping on JIF / Certain Titles as the only value of our research. I’m well aware that keeping a bowl of chocolate continues to prompt visitors who might not otherwise swing by for a chat or ask for help. I adore reading aloud a good picture book. I still see job ads that are asking for, as ever, 3-5 more years of experience that I can’t get until I get the job that they are hiring for. Libraries still provide critical resources and expertise to their communities — including people, space, collections and the organization, access, and preservation of information and knowledge.

Where I will be and how much more will have changed another fifteen years from now is almost unimaginable. Had you described where I am now to Me in 2005 it would have seemed so utterly unreal. Exciting, but unreal. And so I am curious where I will be standing in 15 years, looking back on today and thinking “ah yes, there was probably no way to have seen that major change coming.” In the interim I will make plans, work with incredibly colleagues and students, attempt to get the to-do lists and inboxes under control, and God will likely laugh.

Book Review: Ambition Decisions

Schank and Wallace interviewed a cross-section of women who attended Northwestern/were in the same sorority, all described as highly ambitious women during their college years, to see what has happened 20 years later. I struggled to get through this book, ultimately finding it more irritating than useful or validating with a few points that just seemed entirely out of touch with realities many women face.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the book’s focus is almost entirely on motherhood and parenting and how the derails/disrupts women’s professional ambition or how that gets redirected. There was very little acknowledgement of women who chose not to have children and no one seemed to be single parenting –whether from divorce, widowhood, etc. There is a select nod to women who are in same sex relationships but none of the featured stories seemed to be those. While they acknowledge the limited pool from which they were drawing, these two major gaps made the book feel far less relevant to the general population.

One of the points they keep looping back to is this “reality” that women can’t expect their male partners to step up and actually participate at home equally. While they acknowledge how emotional labor and the majority of domestic duties and responsibilities falls on women, they kept giving examples of “she’d get home and he’d have done nothing and she had to get used that and/or they had to hire that out.” This wasn’t a difference of loading the dishwasher, but abdication of actually meeting responsibilities. It was striking and infuriating how the authors and the interviewees gave men a consistent pass to not meet their partners expectations or needs. If this were a work setting, one would assume these also often ambitious men would be doing everything to succeed — but not at home. One recommendation section even flatly announced that “A super-egalitarian husband is likely to help your career but he probably isn’t going to do domestic chores or child-related tasks the way you think they should be done. Learn to be okay with that.” (p 134).

The book ultimately felt homogeneous and flat and rather than sparking a sense of validation or hope for the future and changing one’s ambition or seeing it evolve, instead ended weakly after a chapter about breaking away from one’s parent’s childhood expectations and then concluding with a general statement on the need for women to have a community. The book as a whole rang like shallow platitudes, heard and nice in a moment but in no way long lasting and meaningful.

I finished the majority of the book a few weeks ago and I’m struck how none of the stories really resonated with me. I don’t remember any of them, nor did I see myself reflected in them — potentially because I am 5-10 years younger than the authors and either Gen Y / Millenial/ X-enial depending on which list you read. Neither did I see my friends who are actively trying to support younger siblings, parents, or other extended family.

Rather than spend time on reading this, I’d suggest following what was interesting–which was the idea of reconnecting with women for your past and asking them how THEY are.

(this book was borrowed from my public library)

Navigating Privacy with Michigan Librarians

The question of privacy is looming every more regularly these days. Is there any privacy left? What do business owe us in terms of data security and privacy? What obligations when data is breached? What about video and images? And how does this impact the library — that bastion that claims in it’s Code of Ethics that we value, nay FIGHT for, patron privacy?

With these questions floating about, I was invited to give a three hour workshop on academic libraries, the data we capture, and our responsibilities for the Michigan Library Association Academic Libraries Conference in March.

This was a new workshop for me and there wasn’t a whole lot of time in three hours, but I was delighted to put it together for them.

My learning objectives were:

  1. Participants will document data created or gathered by their libraries and associated vendors
  2. Participants will evaluate data use cases in order to understand potential benefits and harm.
  3. Participants will begin data management plans to address data access, retention, privacy, and other best practices.  
  4. Participants will design ways to engage campus stakeholders about data practices

And yes, this quite easily filled three hours. The data documentation itself could have easily filled a morning, if I’d had a single library. With multiple libraries I defined each table as a department and gave them an inventory to start.

My data use cases were drawn from current and recent headlines. For better or worse, data breaches, reuse of data maliciously, governments intruding into private data– there was no potential shortage of topics to address.

The attendees were engaged and enthusiastic. They asked excellent questions and we identified opportunities for them to follow up at their institutions and to bring up these issues with their students –the people most affected by all of this data capture.

This aligns with some of the research I’m doing with the Data Doubles Team — we’re asking students about what their feelings are regarding all of this data capture and mining. It’s not part of the grant, though, it’s a separate focus of mine. It was the opportunity to talk not only about data management, one of my major research loves, but also about the current work I’m seeing in the student data privacy world.

I’d welcome the opportunity to give this workshop again for more academic librarians — either an individual institution or a consortium or conference. If you’re interested, please do reach out and we can discuss terms.


A professional colleague and I were discussing a new initiative they were seeking funding for and, in the course of the conversation, I asked if they were including another department in that colleague’s library. The answer I got boiled down to “they’d never be interested in X” –which surprised me, because I know people in that department and that seemed distinctly untrue.

It’s a fallacy I’ve run into before, particularly in the data librarian / data management community. Nearly three years have passed since I gave a rather controversial presentation at RDAP, calling out peers who scoffed at “regular” library work and whose approach to working with non-data librarians was to march in and demand introductions, time, effort, and enthusiasm. I continue to see it in other “new initiative” things in libraries, where someone may be hired in as a solo unicorn.

My response to that colleague was essentially that they didn’t know which thing they were dealing with: a lack of interest, a lack of willingness, or a lack of opportunity. I deeply suspected the latter. While I may not have been able to change that colleague’s mind for that particular initiative or library, it did begin to shape what would become my planned approach for myself.

BTW…I’ve recently become the Data Management Coordinator at UIC. It’s a 2 year, half time position that I’m undertaking to determine our capacity, our opportunities for education and research collaborations, and to identify where the Library can lead.

So in my presentation when I was doing the full day internal interview for this, I had the chance to tell my current coworkers about how I saw the need to build engagement and what I needed to determine from them. That broke out into Interest/Willingness/Opportunities — and potentially the most important one: Support.

Interest: How interested is someone in a topic or new initiative or “added duty” like data management? Is it something they’ve been told they have to learn because of their discipline? Is it something they are actually curious about. This is the individual’s interest, not a department level or administrator level. What this doesn’t measure it someone’s activity level or the time they’ll spend on it. We all have “interests” that always get pushed to the bottom of the pile.

Willingness: This suggests someone’s time and it’s frequently on the individual. What is someone willing to do? They may not be particularly interested in something, but see the importance and are willing to learn enough to meet 101 needs and to refer to someone else. They may be wholly unwilling to engage, and that too tells one much. Asking an individual how much time they could commit can indicate a level of willingness. Maybe they are willing during the Spring but not the Fall. Maybe they can give you a block of time in June. Perhaps they want to do something every week.

Opportunity: Here I think is where many initiatives fall down. One person is given the opportunity and whether others are interested or willing doesn’t matter. There may be territory issues by the person with the title or someone may feel slighted– why should they engage when interesting opportunities will never be given to them (see above re: “they aren’t interested”)? Providing opportunities is something I see as my role as the DM person. If someone is at all interested or willing, I need to help them identify the correct opportunities for them. This could be a liaison who wants to do a deep dive into disciplinary data resources; it could be building educational capacity. Fortunately, Megan and I wrote that Data Engagement Opportunities poster and I can use that to start these conversations.

Support: This may come in many ways– time, money, resources, but here I’m focusing more on the managerial support to engage in these efforts. Hearkening back to that presentation three years ago, I told a room of data librarians that if my manage says X is not a priority, it is infinitely harder for me to spend time on it. I have 1249 other things to do and emails dinging constantly. My role as the Data Management Coordinator is to sort out whether or not the managers are on board, gain their support and use that to help facilitate opportunities — turning interest and willingness into tangible outcomes. This also means that if there is managerial support, if someone is not meeting expectations, I have someone to loop back to for support for me.

As you can see, each of these could exist on a wide spectrum throughout the library on any given area– including Information Literacy, Systematic Reviews, Collection Development, and all the other traditional and new things coming along.

How this will play out is slow going yet, but the coworkers I spoke to about it seemed encouraged by this framework. If it would serve your library or initiative, I hope you’ll use it too. And I hope, next time there’s a grant opportunity or new shininess, it may prompt a question of who else might be interested or willing to be involved and how do we give these opportunities and support beyond the usual suspects.

Onwards to 2019 …

Happy 2019! We’re back to the office after a nice long break away from each other and as I dig out from Mt. Email, I wanted to make sure to look ahead.

Looking back on 2018 it was an incredibly productive year for me — I published 3 new articles (1)(2)(3) and a SPEC Kit(4); we landed the IMLS Grant and my new Data Doubles (DD) team; my research was presented nationally and internationally;* I personally gave a half dozen presentations, a Road Show, and couple of webinars; and I successfully launched LIB 573 — Intro to Research Data Management here at my university.

That’s a long list when I compile it. It’s so easy to get lost in the everyday weeds and there’s the joy of academia and attempting to stall/feed/hide from/satisfy the Never-Enough-Monster.

There’s a lot of new work to tackle this year –both the Spring academic semester and the calendar year. I’m working with my department head** to sort out manageable goals for work — the words “maintain” and “revise” rather than “invent from whole cloth” are strongly in the current refrain. And of course, I’ve got some travel coming up.

If you’d like to see me or catch up on my research, here’s where I’ll be so far:

I may have a late breaking announcement. Stand by.

I’ll be giving a workshop at the Michigan ALA Academic Librarians Conference! On Friday, March 15, I’ll be launching: Navigating Data Capture and Use in Academic Libraries
This is a new workshop that I’m building and I’m so delighted.

  My DD colleagues will be presenting some of our year 1 findings at ACRL. I can’t be there but it’ll be very interesting.

  The Best Nursing Liaison Ever will be speaking about our research project on RDM/Nursing programs at the Medical Library Association. I may pop in just for the session since it’s local.
I’m planning to be at RDAP in Miami, just attending.

ACRL Research Data Management Road Show at ALA Annual! Come be at our pre-conference! Send your liaison colleagues who are interested in getting into data. (Remember it’s an *intro* program, not necessarily for the data librarian wonks among you)
Data Doubles Research at ALA Annual — Come see my PI and I chat (probably on Monday) about what we learned in year one from our student privacy and learning analytics research. We will have *very* interesting themes from our interviews. Promise.

Midwest Data Librarians Symposium — Tina and I are hosting here in Chicago! Details to come and I’m sure I’ll be running like a headless chicken. It’ll be great.

*Thank you again, Evviva, for being Reader Extraordinaire at IFLA Kuala Lumpur for Megan and I!

**She really needs a blog name, let me ponder on that.

  1. Mittal M, Wang CH, Goben A, Boyd A. Proprietary management and higher readmission rates: a correlation. PLOS One. 2018 September:
  2. Goben A, Doubleday AF. Copyright in the Health Sciences Literature: A Narrative Review. Journal of Copyright in Education and Librarianship. 2018 June.
  3. Goben A, Sapp Nelson M. The Data Engagement Opportunities Scaffold: Development and Implementation. Journal of eScience Librarianship 2018 March:7(2): e1128.
  4. Perry MR, Briney K, Goben A, Asher A, Jones KML, Robertshaw MB, Salo D.  Learning Analytics. SPEC Kit 360. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries. 2018 September.