Transition Time

My dear readers, it’s been an intense few months. I traveled to Indianapolis to attend ACRL, I taught classes, I tweaked my slips plan, and, most notably, I accepted a new position at Mount Holyoke College, where I will begin work as a library & instructional technology liaison on 13 May.

In 2009, I started work as a project archivist at Yale University. It was a
collections-focused job, with some outreach and teaching thrown in, too. That experience inspired me to look for positions that were more student-facing, ultimately bringing me to Hampshire in 2011. While at Hampshire, tThe work that I’ve done in digital humanities inspired me to think about positions where I could have a greater hand in the back -end technologies that fuel digital humanities projects. Working in a merged IT/library organization like LITS at Mount Holyoke College will provide me that opportunity.

I don’t have a dream job; I continually seek out positions that challenge me to grow as a librarian, whatever that will mean as the years go by. For me, stasis isn’t an option, because the goal posts keep changing – the landscape in higher education is evolving to meet new demands, and libraries are moving in new directions. I’ve said this before and I will say it again; the job I want in five years doesn’t exist yet , something that is both terrifying and exciting to me.

I remain committed to working in higher education. I love working with students and faculty. College campuses continue to energize me, especially the ebbs and flows of the academic calendar. And I want to be part of the solution to push higher education in new and exciting directions. I am lucky to have worked in the dynamic environments that I have since 2009, with amazing colleagues who support, inspire, and challenge me. I have no doubt that will continue in my new role in South Hadley.

Happy end of the semester!

Trading Spaces / We Overhauled Print Reference

Sometimes, I love watching home improvement shows on TLC and HGTV. I like thinking about how to make spaces more useful, more beautiful. I think functional spaces inform and inspire good work. My office at Hampshire has been an evolving project towards functionality and beauty, or as much beauty as concrete and Styrofoam walls can offer. And those home shows inspire me to think about low-cost solutions to dysfunctional spaces. Discussions about space informed much of my thinking about my work and teaching during the past year. From decisions about teaching with my iPad rather than my laptop, to visiting our new classrooms in Emily Dickinson Hall, to the ISIS session we recently hosted about classrooms, space remains at the forefront of my thoughts about the library.

At Hampshire, we don’t have a lot of money to make major changes. However, that’s not to say we couldn’t make any changes, something I realized after the ISIS session where Nick Baker from Mount Holyoke College talked about the pop-up media lab he created in the art building. That space was built on the idea of flexible, transient spaces that meet immediate needs as opposed to long term and possibly unknowable needs. With all of this percolating in my mind, a couple of things transpired simultaneously at Hampshire:

  1. It was time to weed print reference. It was clear from the amount of dust on the books in our reference collection that it was time to do some weeding. And those texts took up valuable real estate on the first floor; space that can eventfully be used for student study space.
  2. Our outer office was a mess. Over the course of my first year at Hampshire, I sometimes wondered if the dysfunctional outer office made students less likely to come into our space to ask questions. In addition, the space was dysfunctional for the librarians. We didn’t have a place where the team to could sit together and meet. We didn’t have a functional space to sit with students if they needed advice from more than 1 librarian at a time. And it was sad. We needed to do something with that space.

At some point during the summer – probably while putting books on trucks and coughing up dust – we decided that the core reference books that will help us help more students should live near our offices. When that decision was made, we put in work orders for shelving (wouldn’t you know we had extra ones in the storage closet in the basement?) and to paint the walls. Our director ordered some Eames chairs over the summer to replace old carrel chairs, and we threw in some spare chairs and a table we commandeered from other parts of the library. The Facilities staff removed the door to our suite. Voila! Instant interdisciplinary consultation space! You can check out other images from the transformation here:

Before and After

Who did we miss?

It was the end of the semester and the library was filled with sleepy students stumbling towards project and paper deadlines. For as many students as I’ve emailed and met with this year, I wondered about students who need my help, but who, for whatever reason, don’t know that I’m available to support their research. It made me wonder – who did I miss?

Earlier this winter, I had the opportunity to co-lead an ISIS seminar with my friend and collaborator Carla Martin. Together, we talked about how faculty, librarians, technologists, and administrators can effectively support first generation college students. Cultivating and sustaining diversity in higher education is a passion of mine. As librarians collaborate with various constituencies across campus to foster student success, I am very interested in looking to see how librarians and technologists can act in solidarity with all of our students, not just the ones who know we are there to help them.

The question of how librarians can best help first generation students began to percolate when I heard Susan Gibbons talk about her seminal work with the Rochester Study, her brilliant collaboration with anthropologist Nancy Foster Fried. In it, Gibbons and Fried studied library users at the University of Rochester and then made recommendations on how to improve services and spaces in libraries that better reflect the needs and behaviors of students. One of their findings was that when many students come to a roadblock with their academic work or research, they go to their parents for help. This development was not something librarians at Rochester expected, but was one that made sense given the rise of the ‘helicopter parent’ generation. Librarians at Rochester responded to this shift by holding library orientations at the beginning of the year for *parents* as opposed to orientations for entering students. Their message: “when you kid calls for help, refer him/her to a *librarian*.” For many students at Rochester, this message was effective. Students called parents, who sent them to librarians. Other institutions have followed suit, prioritizing orienting parents at the start of the year rather than entering students.

This strategy works with many students – here at Hampshire, we did a very successful parent orientation in the library this fall. However, it left me wondering about first generation students, many of whom do not go to their parents when they are in academic distress, many of whose parents might not have even attended orientation themselves. Who did we miss? Who do we continue to miss? 

During orientations, libraries can partner with student life programs aimed at underrepresented students who might already be on campus early for their own pre-orientations programs before the general ones for all entering students begins. Maybe that’s an opportunity to do some targeted programming?

I also think that there are ways that we can amend our practices to be more inclusive generally. During our ISIS session, Carla talked about creating inclusive guidelines for her courses that depended less on outside knowledge or cultural capital and primarily on knowledge acquired and gained in the class itself. As librarians, we should not make assumptions about what our students know or don’t know. When we teach research education sessions, we must teach to everyone. When we meet with students one on one, we should try to ask holistic questions that help students move beyond screen issues to get to the heart of their obstacles. It might not be about sources for a paper, but  about something else entirely. We must be able to refer them to support services across campus to address their concerns.

First generation students contribute mightily to their campuses. They bring a unique perspective; some are international students, others at many elite colleges might hail from underrepresented parts of the United States, others might be veterans who served their country prior to enrolling in college. Colleges and universities are rich, dynamic communities that can provide all students with unique learning communities in their dorms, in their classrooms, and over meals. But first generation students sit at many intersections and cross many demographics in colleges and universities. We know they’re there, but we don’t always know how best to reach them. That’s why sessions like the ISIS one Carla and I co-facilitated are important: better serving our first generation students should be a priority in all higher education libraries, at big public universities and small liberal arts colleges. How can we make inclusive policies and procedures that incorporate and include all the students we serve? How can we design programming to reach students who go to their parents – or don’t – or utilize other campus constituencies to help them along during their college years?

Not your Grandma’s Calendar: Lizibot

Email is a burden we all share. Profhacker publishes frequently on quick productivity hacks to enhance management of the daily e-mail deluge, from productivity hacks to text expansionIn the Library with a Lead Pipe has also penned an excellent email management post.

Like many front line Research & Instruction librarians, I’m busy. I am always looking for ways to save time on all tasks from the mundane to the complicated. Scheduling meetings is an example of a mundane time suck. Last year I realized that I could cut down on my number of e-mail exchanges by implementing some way for students to schedule meetings with me without having to EMAIL me. 

One evening, while doing some research on digital curation, I came across a link to, a neat calendaring tool that allows people to make appointments over the internet. AWESOME. At first, I was worried this was a pipe dream in the land of unicorns, but was the real deal. I signed up, added that neat site to a QR code on my door and began saving loads of time by sending links to rather than enduring long electronic negations about Wednesday versus Friday meetings versus Monday meetings.

I was rolling along until I received a sad email from announcing that they were sunsetting this service to turn their attention to other matters at Research in Motion. Dejected, I began investigating other options. I put out a few cries for help on Twitter, and vendors responded with helpful links to a variety of services. Today, I found my new calendar solution: Lizi.

Lizi is my new personal assistant. And below I will break down why I hired Lizi to manage my calendar.

1. I was able to import my account right into Lizi and keep my user name, caropinto.

2. It jives with Google calendar, Twitter, G+, & Facebook to get to know my contacts.

3. It saves locations for possible meetings, including my office at Hampshire College and my favorite off-campus coffee shop.

4. It’s easy to set preferred times that fall outside of the normative 9-5 Monday through Friday window. I love being able to instruct Lizi to not schedule meetings on days when I need additional prep time to teach or do committee work off campus.

5. Lizi also provides users with the option to schedule a call as opposed to setting up a meeting. Often, with off campus collaborators, I won’t necessarily want to schedule an in person conversation, but instead a phone call or virtual meeting. I appreciate that those folks can just go ahead and schedule a call with me.

Using a service like Lizi is more than a timesaver; it’s also a wonderful outreach tool. I love being able to meet my users’ needs by providing them with a direct link to my calendar. It reinforces the message I send when I teach research education sessions that I am available to meet. Lizi provides my students and faculty with an easy and direct connection to my calendar, saving time for everyone involved. It’s a win-win!

Social Media: Inventory & Reflections (Updated)

Last week, I had the pleasure of teaching a research education section on social media for a Division I tutorial class. The class will contribute to a Tumblr that compiles theater reviews from around the Five College consortium. Collectively, the class will write critical reviews that demand the serious effort and rigorous analysis that one expects in scholarly communication in a venue where many of them write for ‘anyone who will read’ or ‘their friends and family.’ It was fun to interrogate ideas of audience in social media and think about norms for different regions of the internet. We did some concept mapping that was quite revealing:

Of course, thinking about social media, audience, and scholarly communication got me thinking about why I write what I write where I do on the internet. Do I write different in different places, do I share different things on different channels? Where am I on the internet?

Hence, I thought I’d offer a social media inventory loosely defined as the social places where I create and share content with people – friends, colleagues, students, family:

Facebook the social media platform we love to hate. This is for my friends, a good cross section of whom are also colleagues. I’ll share photos, wish friends a happy birthday, occasionally throw in an article I really liked from Instapaper. I keep my privacy settings pretty locked down so people not in my immediate network can’t see my activity. It’s strictly personal.

Twitter: the social network some people hate. I love Twitter. It’s professional with some personal stuff thrown in, too. Cat photos, beer reflections, New England sports agita. Again, many of my friends are also colleagues. I live-tweet relevant lectures and conferences I attend. I love participating in robust back channel conversations. I love the second screen experience during elections, sporting events, and cheesy award shows.

Tumblr: the social network of gif aficionados. I used to post there more regularly before I transitioned to this space on WordPress,but I still share photos, occasional musings, and reblogs from different voices I admire. I read my Tumblr stream religiously in Flipboard.

Instagram: The emo, hipster social network. With photos. Sometimes with hastags. I favor individuals who post photos of CATS or other cute animals. But mostly CATS. Some of what I photograph for Instragram will end up on Twitter or Facebook. But nearly everything I photograph comes from my iPhone and Instagram. I really enjoy social photography with my friends. (Note: I deleted my Instagram account in Jan 2013)

Spotify: Music. All the time. I am strangely guarded about what I listen to at work, at the gym, at home when I’m writing or when I’m on the bus to work. Music has been a constant in my life whether it was performing classical music in high school, hosting my own radio show in College (holla 919.9 WOZQ!), or blasting in it in my car. Music is personal, so it’s not open for the world to see and discover. I social network with myself.

Zotero:See my research, comment on my research, share your research. I evangelize about Zotero on the regular. And the group element is powerful. What better, more expedient way to share information with collaborators than in the bibliographic management system I use to do research?

WordPress:The blogging place. I follow some sites on WordPress and I get pretty psyched when I see certain blogs’ freshly pressed content in my inbox. It’s where this site lives and where my professional voice feels strongest.

In all of these channels or contexts, I have an audience in mind. Audience pervades conversations around social media as our concept map in the above image conveys. Where and when you create/consume/comment on the internet matters. And we all have to evaluate what we are doing and what we are saying on the internet so we are not just howling at the moon.
It’s not JUST about GUARDING against our reputations as the conversation so often goes, but social media is also an opportunity to explore our voices, tell our stories, cultivate a room of our own, so others may find us.

On Zotero , Research & the LMS

I love doing research consultations with students. I take pleasure in helping them narrow broad topics that could sustain six dissertations into reasonable research morsels for 10 and 20 page papers or successful Division III independent projects.

How do students go from topics that can sustain six dissertations to topics appropriate for a senior project or 20 page research paper? Often, students can begin to narrow and refine their topics once they do some reading. However, one of the persistent roadblocks students encounter during this phase is how to find the first source they need to address their topic. I find that for many students, finding the first *relevant* source is always the hardest part.

To surmount that obstacle, one of my common recommendations is for students to pick a reading from their course syllabus and look it up in the library catalog – or in an article databases like JStor or Project Muse – to see what the subject headings and/or the keywords are. Then, the student can click on the most relevant word or heading and voila, instant sources!

But locating that interesting reading from the syllabus and remembering which saved pdf it was on the cluttered desktop can be a challenge for many students in the age of the learning management system. When I was in college ten years ago, I read from the trusty course pack, a giant set of readings that I kept in one place and could easily reference. These days, many students download readings to their desktops; some do so with an organizational scheme, others without one. Watching students deal with information overload these past few semesters, I started thinking about how their course readings, research, the LMS, and Zotero could intersect in powerful ways to empower students to successfully manage research over the course of semesters.

This year, I am very excited to be on a Kahn Liberal Arts Institute short project called “From HyperCities to Big Data and #ALT-AC: Debated in the Digital Humanities.” As part of the project, the organizers assigned participants reading that we could download from Smith College’s LMS. Great! I could download the pdfs to Dropbox, open them in iBooks and read. Then I realized that if I did that, these pdfs would just live in the pdf graveyard that is my iBooks library on my iPad. Many of the readings were excerpts, decontextualized for their full citations in the library. How could I connect the citations to the excerpt so I could easily keep track of both?

Answer: Zotero.

So, I saved the citations from Moodle into Zotero, downloaded the pdfs to Dropbox, attached them to the citations in Zotero, read and annotated PDFs on my iPad. Great!

Which got me thinking about students and research. I evangelize about Zotero in my research education classes about using it to collect and manage citations for research projects. But what about using it to manage their coursework, too? That way, when prompted for an example of a class reading that resonated, that could put them on the path towards successful source gathering, they could have it right there in the library?

I know for me, keeping professional reading I do in Zotero, always on the ready to generate bibliographies to share with colleagues has been a boon to productivity and my personal knowledge management. Now, to evangelize about this workflow for managing course assets!

Partners in Retention: Collaborating with Student Affairs

We have reached the end of the summer and thus the end of my summer outreach series. You can check out Parts I, II, III, and  IV for a refresher.

As campus readies itself for the influx of new students, it seems only appropriate that this installment focuses on partnerships with student affairs. Librarians are talking about ways to demonstrate their value, both in terms of  maintaining and growing collections and providing important services to their institutions. In our new higher education landscape, there is a push toward more accountability and I agree that demonstrating value is a part of that. But as Barbara Fisher suggested yesterday in Inside Higher Ed, “Libraries are suddenly obsessed with demonstrating value, but measures of value that become unanchored from philosophical values can be destructive. (This is an issue for all of higher education. In the rush to prove our value, leaders sometimes toss our values overboard.)” Well said, I say. Beyond supporting research and knowledge creation, I also believe that librarians play a role in supporting our students’ success in other areas of their life on campus beyond the classroom. For me, supporting student success across campus in collaboration with student affairs is in line with librarianship’s values around community.

Courtesy of the Hampshire College Archives

Fully supporting students requires different departments and individuals to work together in and out of the classroom. At Hampshire, one great example of this are the partnerships librarians forge with our office of First Year Programs. Last year, an amazing woman took on First Year programming and met with us during the summer to talk about possible collaborations. In exchange for some food budgets and free advertising, we put together programming for research lunches and late night research consultations in the library at peak times.  These programs were great for two reasons:

1. We learned more about how student affairs worked and more on challenges First Years face.

2. Students met us in different contexts, discovered that we are friendly and helpful, and become repeat customers.

3. First Year Programs had successful sessions, we had support to market ourselves, and thus everyone involved came out as winners.

While these collaborations really embody our library’s mission to support student research and development, partnering with student affairs and first year programs allows us to put names with faces in different parts of campus that can guide students through other roadblocks they encounter. So often, a student will come to me with a research question that is actually a screen for another crisis. By making connections with folks across campus that can help with any variety of student distress, I know who to call on to refer a student towards a successful outcome. That’s huge. I am not suggesting that librarians are an extension of student affairs – or that we should be in the business of fixing our students’ problems – but we can and often do play a role in supporting our students’ emotional lives. And often times, one caring adult at college can be the difference between a student staying and leaving. Retention is a huge metric of success in higher education, and I want to suggest that librarians can and do contribute to students staying, thriving, and graduating.

Librarianship is as much about service as it is about collections. Measuring service can be tricky and imperfect, but I believe that we can tie our services into  the actions colleges and universities take retain students. In a landscape where higher education is faced with making tough decisions that force us to confront compromises in our values, librarians can feel secure that working at the intersection of student affairs and academic services  can provide our campus communities with tremendous value, and value we as librarians can be proud of.

Reciprocity: Collaborating with Faculty in the Library

As we near the end of the summer, we are nearing the end of my outreach series. You can check out parts 1, 2, 3 & 4. Today’s edition is about collaborating with faculty on the librarian’s “turf.”

Courtesy of the Hampshire College Archives

In our age of embedded librarianship, librarians are forging collaborative relationships with faculty in their classrooms and in the planning of their syllabi. However, it seems like there is a limited discussion about how librarians can invite faculty to collaborate with them in the library. Rachel Beckwith (the Arts Librarian at Hampshire College) and I explored these issues during our presentation at ACRL-New England this spring some examples of how we at Hampshire aim to invite faculty into library to work with us to develop collections and resources to benefit our students. We encourage faculty to help us build our collections through conversations and through the creation of Amazon Wish Lists, and we invite faculty to collaborate with us on developing LibGuides.

Hampshire College’s Library recently revised its collections statements to affirm that our mission is to support our unique curriculum; we rely on our consortial partners to support faculty research through our borrowing agreements in the Five Colleges. We selectors keep abreast of course developments and buy resources that best support them. Naturally, as faculty revise courses and develop new ones we expect to buy new items as they are needed. I set aside 25% of my budget for faculty driven acquisitions to support their coursework. Some of my other colleagues have set up Amazon Wish Lists to track faculty requests. This is not to say we green light every suggestion, but we do take faculty input seriously as we manage and grow our collection.

By the same token, I am always trying to improve our research guides, adding links to new resources purchase by the library, working towards integrating successful examples of work for students to emulate, and also including links to websites on the open web like successful digital humanities projects, or interesting news sites that students would not ordinarily think about on their own. While I have broad subject knowledge and a master’s degree in history, I realize that my faculty are the subject experts and have a wealth of knowledge about their areas of expertise I will never have. So why not invite faculty to participate in the creation of subject guides? I had a particularly successful experience with my Africana studies LibGuide last spring. A faculty member and I met and discussed his curricular needs and we shared our best resources with each other. He felt empowered in having a a voice in how we shape our resources and market ourselves, and I learned more about African diasporas that will benefit community members in and beyond his class.

Faculty and librarians collaborate together to support student learning. In order to work effectively together, we need to invite each other into our own spheres to be successful. Such collaborations can’t rest on faculty inviting us into their classrooms, but librarians inviting faculty into our libraries, too.

Consortial Change Agents: We’re Better Together

Along with Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, Amherst College, and the University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College is one of five colleges in the Five College Consortium in the Pioneer Valley. Students enrolled in any of the five schools can take courses at the other campuses, and can borrow books from the other colleges. As a Five College graduate, I took advantage of the reciprocal lending agreements frequently during my undergraduate and graduate years in the Valley. Now, as a professional librarian at Hampshire, I work closely with my colleagues across the Valley on a number of different projects, usability questions, and topics in the digital humanities. While these collaborative relationships have nearly a forty year history in the Five Colleges and enjoy institutional support and strength, I want to talk about an informal – and sometimes invisible – consortium of librarians across higher education, a fellowship that exists on Twitter and through relationships forged through programs like Immersion and at national and regional conferences.

As academic librarians tackle difficult the questions of how to support students in online environments, how to promote open access and new forms of scholarly communication, and how to collect for a twenty-first century library, they should not despair; while looking to colleagues at home institutions for support, they should also look towards other librarians across the profession for support, to act as a sounding board, for information, for advice. In the last few months alone, I’ve gone to Twitter for collection development questions, a colleague in New York City about digital directions in science, and joined the Program Committee for ISIS, a decentralized online community of technologists and librarians. Twenty-first century librarians are better together; collectively we can tackle the challenges that lie ahead at our home institutions, during webinars, through crowdsourced conversations on social media, and at conferences. Together, we can.