Tag: Philosopher

Open Access Tenure: My Horn, I Honk It

We’re a little thin on the ground at the Hedgehog Place of Work. (H-POW–it looks like an exclamation from a comic book) One coworker is off for a highly anticipated two week vacation, one had a couple vacation days, and one called out sick. All very valid reasons but that leaves just Madame Department Chair and yours truly getting to handle all of the printer kerfluffles that decided to happen.

It’s annual review time–Madame Department Chair is writing them up before her retirement on May 1. (I will need a new department head in the future but there is currently discussion of what role and capabilites that new future department head should take and have to best move us forward. I’ll let you know when it’s posted). I’ve met with Madame Department Head quarterly, so I have documents that help me pull together what I’ve been accomplishing for the past few months.  Rereading them with the perspective of all that I’ve done in a year is a bit surprising–the day to day doesn’t feel like much has been done but since last June, I’ve:

  • Taken on teaching Evidence Based Practice to the first year Dentistry students. This is expanding to our International Students and I expect to move up the years with my D1s.
  • Started embedded office hours with Dentistry.
  • Been appointed/assigned 6 new committees. (Volunteered for a 7th-it’s not a heavy time burden)
  • Organized Code4Lib-MW with the Beerophile Sysadmin. We’re hosts for Code4Lib 2013, apparently we did well.
  • Written two book chapters–one with colleagues from Shipps University and one on my own.
  • Given my first national library presentation at Computers in Libraries.
  • Survived most of the way through my first year as Chair of LITA-PPC.
  • Figured out my research topic for the next couple of years.
  • Started actively working with four different collaborators for papers and presentations that I hope will be out within the next 6-24 months.
  • Moved department statistics from entirely paper based to entirely electronic.
  • Joined the Journal of Collaborative Librarianship as a Review Editor.

It’s not everything I wanted to do in the first year, but it’s a healthy starting place. A lot of what I’ve been doing has been establishing a base, finding what it was that I wanted to do and with whom I wanted to do it. A year ago I hadn’t really planned on OA Tenure but obviously that’s come up too.

Astute readers will notice that there’s not any peer reviewed research on that list. Yes, I know.  I would plead time poverty, which is always true, but mostly it goes back to being more focused on foundational things. I’ve been flailing around trying to find a niche for myself over the past twelve months. That flailing included continuing education, pestering professional colleagues, going to a couple of sessions at conferences, and a number of long discussions with the Philosopher. Having better identified what directions I’m heading, having discussed those with my Assistant University Librarian, my tenure mentor, said previous professional colleagues, Pyewacket, and Gypsy, I’m better able to hone in on projects, figure out where to consider publishing, and actually getting research on paper.

One of the things my tenure mentor asked for was a relatively clear research statement, something on which I could build an agenda.  I struggled mightily with this but finally one morning it clicked.  My research interests  lie in examining use by librarians of early 21st century technological developments, specifically as the use relates to professional development and scholarly communication.

Does this sound of interest to you? Great, I’ll probably have a survey for you at some point. :-p  Seriously though, if this is something you’d like to explore too, shoot me an email. Let’s research something.


Year the First….

And in the blink of an eye I’ve been at UIC a year already.  It seems much longer ago that I was packing up my apartment in La Crosse and then working through the boxes on the other end as I moved into my apartment here in Chicago.

From a library perspective

  • I’m thinking about data a lot more now. I was feeling really bad in March (and occasionally still get pangs) that I was so unaware of something that was obviously really affecting libraries. Then I have to remind myself that I’ve been in an academic library where data is a prominent focus and concern for just about a year.
  • I’m thinking a lot less about story time.  Oh, the programming skills (read–teaching skills) are still going strong, but it’s definitely different when one doesn’t have storytime every Wednesday.
  • We’re still on semesters and thinking about breaks.  I just don’t have to worry about summer reading programs.
  • I’m a little more fearless.  A year ago there were a lot of things I was afraid to volunteer for: writing book chapters or throwing out conference proposals.  Now, I’m doing both and chairing a national committee. It takes a shift in self confidence and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I think things are more easily accepted from Tenure-Track Librarian at Research 1 Institution than Children’s Librarian from Small Midwest Public Library. I am trying to keep that in perspective.
  • I’m on committees. I was on a couple of those while a public librarian. Usually they were specific task oriented and then went away.  Now I’m blocking chunks of time on my calendar so I have at least one afternoon per week without multiple meetings.

From a personal perspective

  • I’m so much busier than I thought I’d be. Sure, I knew having a lot of local friends would mean busier evenings, and a 50 minute commute eats a chunk of time, but I’m still amazed how fast time has gone.
  • It feels like I’ve been here forever. Granted, much of that is settling back into a place I have already lived, but it feels like it has been much longer than a year.
  • Added the Philosopher and Pyewacket to the people and felines in my life.  Welcome additions, both.
  • I’m still working on the apartment.  Yesterday I drug the Philosopher to Home Depot and purchased shelves and pretty brackets and coat hooks and those went in my entryway.  They were immediately covered with coats and hats and scarves, it’s nice to have things the way they should be.
  • The yarn stash is still out of control.  I assume that doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone.  I did do better this year about how much yarn I bought–which considering my apartment is half the size of my apt in La Crosse (yes, truly, we measured), is probably a good thing.
I’m very grateful to be closer to my family, living near major airports, and able to take public transportation to work every day.  My coworkers have been very welcoming.  I’m still figuring out what I’d like to do research on–more from there being so many options as opposed to not enough. And I’m looking for a spare few hours more a day to read, knit, and write….

In My Teacup, I Will Read

There are few things more constant in my life than my morning cup of tea. I wake up, roll out of bed, stumble out to feed Gypsy, and turn on the tea kettle.* Twinings Lady Grey, Teavana’s Jasmine Pearls, and Celestial Seasoning’s Imperial White Peach are my top three choices, though I have strong feelings for a number of other flavors.  Rooibos nauseates me, which is unfortunate because a lot of smaller tea blenders that I’ve discovered have a strong fondness for it.

I trace my own tea history to early childhood, where giving up chocolate for Lent included giving up hot chocolate. While I liked the smell of percolated coffee on the stove, I wasn’t interested in drinking it.  Hot sweet tea on the other hand, that was appealing.  These days I’ve mostly eliminated sugar from my tea cup, reserving it for an occasional lump when I’m really tired or I realize I’ve forgotten dinner again.  I do keep lumps of sugar on hand though, they’re much easier to handle and to control how much sugar I’m adding.

Of late I’ve noticed that my reading has been trending towards my teacup:

It started when I got How Sugar Changed the World (Aronson/Budhos) and For All the Tea in China (Rose) in as holds at the same time.  The former is a children’s non-fiction book that got a lot of press last year; the latter is a narrative nonfiction that I can’t remember where I encountered. To my surprise and amusement I found myself approaching my favorite drink from two different sides of the globe.

How Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom and Science (Aronson/Budhos) takes a harsh look at the history of the sweet stuff that surrounds us. While giving a little bit of the extended history, most of the book focuses on the cultivation of sugar through a particularly brutal form of slavery.  It’s intended for a middle school/high school audience but that shouldn’t deter adult readers. One of the best/fastest ways to get up to speed on a topic or at least give yourself a good starting place is a children’s non fiction book and this is an excellent example of that.  The research behind this is dense and the images are provoking.

For All the Tea in China:How England Stole the World’s Favorite Drink and Changed History (Rose) gives the history of Robert Fortune, a man who would steal into China, exploring the horticulture and learning the secrets behind China’s most valuable export at the time. She points out the involvement of the East India Company, whose goal was primarily to make money off of tea, and demonstrates what would today seem to be a shocking amount of patience (several years of funded travel, albeit not that highly paid) for Fortune to commit international horticulture espionage. You get some English and Chinese and Indian history all rolled into the book and while I would have really liked to see her full bibliography, I found the book very readable. So much so that I’ve suggested it to M and the Incredibly-Patient-Mother, both of whom read and enjoyed it.

What slammed these two books together was the Industrial Revolution.  Both books talked about the need for workers in English factories to be focused and able to work long hours. Factory owners/managers realized they could give the workers sweetened tea, combining the tea plants that Robert Fortune was stealing from China, and the sugar that was being imported from slave labor in the Americas, in substitute for meal breaks.  Sweet tea (not the good Southern kind, but close I imagine) was found to be a substitute for ale, one that promoted health and kept the workers focused, rather than perhaps just a bit tipsy from the midday drink.

The health benefits of tea for English workers really surprised me. Of course, I know tea has lots of antioxidants and there are studies coming out all the time about why we should all be drinking tea. A quick PubMed search shows 45 new articles in 2011 alone that have tea as a Subject Heading, many of which are focused on the health benefits. And while when they mentioned water quality, I knew it wasn’t up to our current water treatment standards, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that switching one’s beverage intake to one where you were primarily consuming recently boiled water would so greatly lengthen life expectancy, lessen any number of gastrointestinal issues, decrease child mortality, etc etc etc.

And there’s apparently more to it. I’ve just started reading, at the Philosopher’s recommendation, The Ghost Map (Johnson), which is about a deadly outbreak of cholera in London. While I haven’t gotten to the specific mentions of tea yet, I’m told they are there and I’ll be looking for them (tea only gets two mentions in the index).

Finally, Gail Carriger’s fourth book in the Parasol Protectorate just came out. My copies of the first three books have been lent around a circle and while I’m pretty sure I know who has them, I enjoyed the books enough to grab a second set of copies which will hopefully hang around a little longer. I was rereading Book 1, Souless, to get back in the mood for Heartless and was enjoying her writing of tea, Battenburg, ordering tea from a butler, and immersing myself in a society that believed in the afternoon pause for a hot cup and a biscuit.

What’s in your teacup?

*Yes, the cat really does get fed before anything else in my day happens. Life is much easier this way and so  long as she only occasionally tries for a 5 a.m. breakfast, I’m okay with it.

Simplicity Sofas

Somewhere on the internet, probably the better part of two and a half years ago, I read a story about a guy getting a sofa. He talked about the hassles of trying to find a sofa that would fit into his apartment, which was in a major metropolitan, up a couple of flights of stairs, and not designed for the oversized, overstuffed furniture we find in stores today.

He mentioned a small sofa company that shipped sofas in easy to put together pieces and which was designed to fit through the more narrow apartment doors that many of us have. Considering my vivid memories of several friends hauling a sleeper sofa down five flights of stairs and then up two only to find out it that there was no possible way to turn it into the apartment, this had definite potential and appeal.

I sent away for a brochure.

I wasn’t really in the market for a sofa at the time. Company in La Crosse was rare and generally it was ladies who were happy to sit on their own chair. I had an air mattress for overnight guests and all was well. But then, then I moved back to Chicago. One of the things that came with me was the two year old brochure and after unpacking, settling a few things in, and having a few people over, it was confirmed: I needed a sofa.

Enter Simplicity Sofas.  They make chairs and sofas that will fit into apartments. They have a few different styles and a variety of lengths, depending on if you want curved arms or not. You can add a sleeper bed if you’ll be having overnight guests frequently. And you can choose your fabric rather than having it inflicted upon you by a furniture store, current trends, and celebrity designers.

I chose an Ashton Apartment Sofa in the Rebel Tanner (Set 2 of Fabric swatches) fabric. Because I do have that air mattress, I opted against the sleeper sofa.

Within 24 hours of sending my order I got an extremely nice email from the head of the company, welcoming me and thanking me for my purchase. I emailed back and mentioned that I’d held onto the brochure and we had a nice back and forth about the goals of the company–of which customer service is really high on the list.

When it was time for delivery (there is a little delay only because they have to build it rather than get it out of the warehouse), I was contacted by their shipping people as well as UPS to ensure that delivery was scheduled and that the time would work for me. The Philosopher agreed to be the second body on hand to help me haul things about–the UPS guy could bring it to the door but no further.  And of course, it was raining and miserably cold that night and he showed up at the very end of the delivery window.  Still, this had given us time to rearrange the living room again to make room, vacuum, and wait with nervous anticipation.

The delivery came in two boxes: a flat one for the bed of the sofa and then the pillows and cushions in a wonderfully huge box that Gypsy immediately claimed as her own.  (It’s still sitting on the enclosed back under-the-stairs space so she can go play in it. My cat isn’t at all spoiled.) While a little bit awkward, these were easily moved by two people.  Putting everything together took less than ten minutes.

The sofa has been deemed highly acceptable and I and a couple of friends can vouch for it’s comfort as a place to snooze overnight. It’s a little bit shorter than I was expecting–the bed/deck of the sofa is right about 64 inches. Not perfect for friends who are over 6′ but manageable should someone need to stay over for a night. This was probably my one quibble–I couldn’t find on the website the length of the bed of the sofa.  All of the measurements told me how long the entire sofa was, including the arms. It would be helpful to know that you’re dealing with a 5’4″ bed and it’s just the arms that are a variety of sizes***. It’s a minor detail but one I think could be easily updated.

Shortly after getting the sofa, I received a follow up email from the company to ensure everything was satisfactory. The company went far above and beyond to ensure that this was an excellent customer service experience for me.

I’m exceptionally pleased with Simplicity Sofas, with their customer service and with the sofa. I would say that I would order again soon, but as I think this sofa will be very sufficient for some time, the best I can do is recommend it to others.  If you are sofa shopping, please do check them out.  If you email me, I have a gift certificate/coupon that the owner sent me during our emails back and forth that I can share with anyone who is interested in purchasing.**

**I am not being compensated in any way for this.  I was not asked to blog about this. I’m just happy to share. Librarians, we can’t stop sharing.

***added June 30, I heard from Jeff at Simplicity. Here are their measurements for the bed/deck of the sofa

  • All full-size sofas              – 66″.
  • All mid-size sofas            – 60″  (This is the size sofa you have.)
  • All apartment-size sofas – 54″
  • All love seats                    – 44″
  • All chair and a halfs         – 30″
  • All chairs                           – 22″

Let us then evoke Anathem

When Stephenson’s Anathem came out a couple of years ago, I was extremely excited. Sibling-the-Elder bought me a copy and just as soon as I had a few minutes, I was going to charge into it.

It is now 2011 and I’ve just finally finished it. This was the first book that I’d read start to finish on a Kindle, a DX that I borrowed from work. My ringing pronouncement on the e-ink format? It was okay. I really disliked not having page numbers, missed being able to flip back and forth easily, and just didn’t feel like I was making progress. I didn’t realize there were fully explained calca at the end nor a collected version of the dictionary terms that are scattered through the book until I got there. I would have preferred to read the calca in context and several times I wanted to bounce back to the beginning for a look at the calendar but wasn’t at ease with it.  The text would go from vertical to horizontal if it didn’t like the angle I was sitting at, which I found annoying, and ultimately, it still felt like screen time.  It does weigh less than the hardcover though and I haven’t had to charge it.

Despite its physical weight (the hardcover is nearly 3 lbs) and length (960 pages), Anathem is one of Stephenson’s more accessible texts.  Creating an alternate world, he poses questions about religion, math as a different kind of religion, monastic living, secular versus religious power (though he poses it as secular vs math–so, secular vs science), youth succeeding to responsibility, nuclear weapons, and how we as humans would deal with an alien presence.

At the most basic level, Stephenson presents you with a coming of age tale: beginning to question one’s abilities, losing trusted mentors, first love, learning to rely on friends and recognize that they too are coming of age and skill.  But his world building goes far beyond that, poking not so gentle fun at the general populace and fixation on entertainment and a drug that keeps on always happy and distracted. Only those who raise their own food are immune from the “All’s Well” permeating the regular diet and keeping one distracted. Combined with the recent dietary lectures I heard at AAAS*, it was one of those things that make you think about going home and throwing out everything in the pantry and trying again.

Though at some point I’m sure I read a summary or cover flap, I went into the story without any clear memory of those, which let me read without expectation. I really had no particular idea where Stephenson was headed and I can’t say I was anticipating a number of the things that happened.  While there was the somewhat standard Stephenson “let me world build for you for a while before we really get rolling”–it wasn’t to the same depth as it was in the Baroque Cycle, where I slogged through 300 pages, hoping and praying that eventually he’d get to something resembling the adventures I was hoping to find. But with that trilogy, I was dealing with an introduction to a 2700 page epic–instead of this mere 1000 pages.

But Stephenson continues to capture my attention and transport me to his world. Leisure reading time is at a premium right now and I saved Anathem for the morning and evening commute. As this is at most hour of reading per day, it took me a lot longer than it might have otherwise.  But once settled into a seat on the train, I crawled right back into Arbre and the world of the avout. There were multiple trips where I got off at my place of work and looked around, wondering where the maths of our time were–for they were more than our mere universities, though there was a component of that as well.

Stephenson chose to create some of his own vocabulary for this world and I’ve already found it creeping into everyday use. Coming back a cluster of coworkers, I brightly inquired if they were having a convox–not realizing until about five minutes later that I’d used a word that doesn’t exist in everyday American English. And over dinner with the Philosopher**, who has also recently finished Anathem, I took exception to something he said and led off with “Let us assume for the sake of argument…” and began a traditional Dialog. Though I can’t say I planed him, that I managed to pull an avout conversation into a discussion of the use of the word “on” probably has forever labeled me a Stephenson FanGirl in his eyes***.

By the end of the book I was exhausted. While accessible and an interesting adventure, one can only take so much quantum mechanics before breakfast or at the end of a long day. And I was starting to feel bad about myself, here it was taking me weeks to get through this book. I’m a fast reader! What was wrong with me? (Note that I had to keep reminding myself I was reading this tome for usually no more than an hour a day.) Now that I’m finished, I’m amazed how much faster “regular” books seem to go.

Of course, I’m also eying Mongoliad again, remembering that I’m 20 chapters or so behind….

*Pay no attention to the AAAS blog posts sitting in draft….
**Who needs to start writing his Master’s Dissertation
***Not that being a FanGirl is a bad thing at all.