Monday, November 28, 2011

Road Trip: From Blog to Conference

I’ll be presenting at two conferences in early 2012 on topics that began as blog posts in 2011. Prior to those posts, each was an attempt, successful, I’d say, to improve the library where I work. Also, it’s not a real road trip. These conferences are in Washington, DC, so they won’t require any travel. In fact, both are on the same Metro line, and the first conference is about half a mile down the street from where I work.

At Catholic University of America’s School of Library Science Bridging the Spectrum 2012 Symposium I’m presenting on using QR codes to link digital holdings to print. More details are here.

I’ll be exploring QR codes a bit more in depth at the 2012 meeting of Computers in Libraries as part of a panel. At that conference I’ll also be presenting on transforming library spaces, the subject of this post.

In both cases, the blog posts served as rough formats for abstracts that were accepted at these conferences. I used more academic language, of course, but the content and structure are otherwise unchanged. My staff and I identified problems, then thought of solutions. QR codes can be tracked, numerical data on building and space usage collected, so defining success was relatively easy for each project. What makes for a good read here makes for a good one on a conference submission form as well. I think these experiences are applicable elsewhere, and I’m eager to be part of the conversation on these topics.

Standby for witty and irreverent slide decks closer to each of the conferences.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Elsewhere: A Guest Post on Research Methods in Libraries and Library Science

I wish Jessica Olin's blog, Letters to a Young Librarian, was around when I was in library school. Both she and guests post on things you weren't told in library school, but should have been, and when she asked if I was interested in writing something, I jumped at the chance.
Those who know me know that a pet peeve of mine is a lack of rigor, of scientific methodologies, in libraries and library science. I've written about it here as well. Please go read it.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

The #StoutDay Post: Anatomy of a Beer Stakeout, or, The Canadian Breakfast Stout Post

Beer is for drinking, not for fetishizing, and yet last month I found myself in line waiting to buy a bottle of Founders Brewing Canadian Breakfast Stout, probably my least favorite of their Breakfast Stouts (and yes, it felt ridiculous to type that; if you must know, regular, and then Kentucky, then CBS). Why did I spend my lunch break in line for this beer? Because I could. Because I really did get an adrenaline rush from this experience. Because I’m curious to see what CBS tastes like after being cellared, something I’ve been able to do already with Kentucky Breakfast Stout.

There’s a certain, seemingly-illicit thrill in leaving work to buy alcohol, especially in the middle of the day, and especially if the alcohol in question is scarce. But it's a slow day, and we've got more than enough front desk coverage, so away I go. Against my better judgement, I take the advice of Google Maps, which states that the trip will take 23 minutes. It takes twice that. Goodbye lunch break. I get to the store, hoping that CBS hasn’t arrived yet, and it hasn’t. So I wait, and wait, and wait. I’m the second person in the store anticipating CBS’s arrival. Clearly he’s also a beer geek, and just as clearly, it’s a he. The only female who enters the store buys cheese and leaves. I introduce myself to the person in charge of beer at the store. We’ve actually “talked” via twitter many times, but this is our first meeting in real life. We pick up the conversation where it left off online: beer and 1990s rap. Just like us, he’s waiting for the shipment of CBS, all the while fielding phone calls from other beer geeks.

The other guy in line is wearing a Cigar City shirt. We talk shop. Did I hear that a keg of CBS at Churchkey was kicked in under 15 minutes? I had not. We shake our heads, and the talk naturally turns to Hopslam, the other sought-after Michigan beer. A few more people enter the store, and join the conversation. We all scan the wall of beer: what have we had, not had, liked, not liked? And we wait some more.

The wine people stare at us. Apologetically, I tell one of the wine people that I like wine as well, just not enough to wait in line for it. He laughs and says “sure you do.” I scan the wine, getting hungry since this is technically still my lunch break, yet I’ve brought no lunch. More waiting.

Cheese samples! An excellent Gruyere, and a well-aged Gouda. It’s something. The cheese monger and I chat for a bit and he brings me a few more samples. But then it’s more waiting, back to scanning the walls of wine.

I approach the same wine person, inquiring about a bottle the shop doesn’t have from a producer the shop carries. This is a mix of boredom, curiosity, and defensiveness. I must show him I know what I’m talking about. I’m disappointed that he’s not caught off guard, but says he’ll look into it. More waiting.

I fill out a form for that bottle of wine to get a sense of its price and availability. Someone else is at the cheese counter discussing cured meats. I sidle up so I can leech a sample off this conversation. It works, I get a fantastic domestic chorizo, pimenton is dominant, yet more cheese appears, and I’m happy.

Finally, the distributor shows up. We form a surprisingly orderly queue based on who arrived first, which means I’m second in line. The Founders boxes don’t come off at first, though, so there’s more waiting. I’m getting irrationally giddy about this. It’s a 750mL bottle. I can’t drink that much imperial stout, I probably only want 6 ounces of it, at the most. I resolve to cellar it and then show up to a DC Homebrewers meeting with the bottle, arriving every bit the hero.

I purchase the bottle of CBS, along with a 4-pack of Founder’s wet-hopped Harvest Ale. I take my route back to work, not Google’s. It takes 22 minutes. It’s been 2.5 hours since I left work. Would I do it again? Of course. But first, I have some hours to make up at work.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

On Digital and More Traditional Literacy

My 10th grade social studies teacher, Mr. Schweidel, is my favorite teacher ever. He mocked, prodded, and harassed us into learning in a variety of inventive ways, some of which I try to use when I'm in the classroom, though I doubt I have the same results. When I read this article, a takedown of digital literacy, I thought back to Mr. Schweidel's class. One day, in an attempt to get us to not be mindless drones writing down whatever he said, Mr. Schweidel told us a story about how Hannibal invaded Italy with elephants, using snow chutes to transport the elephants through the Alps. While he was telling this obviously tall tale, I looked left and right, watching dumbfounded while my classmates wrote it all down. At the end, Mr. Schweidel asked the class what was the most amazing thing about what he had just said. When he was greeted with blank stares, he began to yell. "The most amazing thing is that this never happened!," he roared, and then lit into us for being so gullible. The message was clear: I am an authority figure, but I am not perfect. There is truth out there. Seek it. Find it out. Don't believe everything you hear, no matter who it's from.

And that brings us to the internet.
Annie Murphy Paul, the author of the article that got me thinking, notes that the Internet, which is an authority in the eyes of many, allows people to manipulate and misrepresent. But as the above example from my youth shows, you don't need Internet access to do that. Is there a more permissive environment for such hijinks online? Perhaps. On a listserv I belong to that discusses information literacy, someone asked a question about using websites that are patently false to teach website evaluation. A lively discussion ensued; there are a lot of purposely inaccurate websites out there. But I'm not worried about those. Anyone can do a little digging and debunk those for themselves. I'm more concerned with innocuous websites that have bad information. Ones written by self-proclaimed experts that are anything but. Ones that a library patron might actually use.

Overall, Paul draws a false dichotomy between digital and more traditional literacies, when really they are mutually constitutive. You can't have one without the other in 2011. The Internet is not going away, and people need to know how to use it, how to evaluate online sources just as they would print or oral ones. Below is a brief discussion I had with the author via twitter. Here's a link to it, and here's a good blog post from 2009 that touches on some of the same things.