My Middle Name Should be Calendar: YouCanBook.me

The semester is upon us!

My liaison team at Mount Holyoke had a semester ramp-up/psych up meeting a few weeks ago, in which we shared strategies for managing the start-of-term craziness. I demonstrated some of the curriculum and collection mapping I’ve been doing this summer in Coggle to learn about my new departments, and another colleague shared her favorite calendar management tool, YouCanBook.me. My struggles to manage email and calendar appointments is documented on this blog here. While I had some luck with lizibot last year, I also found that there were some bugs that gave me pause over the summer. As my colleague demoed YouCanBook.me, I realized it was time to make another switch for these reasons:

  1. It just works with Google Calendar without any muss or fuss.
  2. Customizable settings. It was easy to set my time zone and block off times for lunch and anticipate meeting heavy days that don’t make open hours optimal.
  3. Minimal steps for users to make an appointment. Lizibot had too many cumbersome steps.

The school year is always a time management battle; new projects occupy precious brain bandwidth; revision of my teaching materials is continual; meeting with as many students one-on-one is a perpetual goal; and back up on service points like the Research Help Desk can derail my best intentions to multitask. I am always looking for new ways to simply routine tasks like setting up meetings, responding to email, and managing my time. Resources like ProfHacker and Life Hacker inspire me to tweak my habits and workflows so I can spend my time wisely and not get lost in the roundabouts of administrivia. Here’s to a great semester!

Via The Library of Congress on Flickr Commons

Via The Library of Congress on Flickr Commons

Reflections on the Common Read

Summer is coming to a close. Target is filled with bedding, shelving, and everything else incoming students will need to make their dorm rooms theirs. The weather is turning cooler at night, and my calendar is filled with meetings to ready our library for incoming students. If you’ve been following Mount Holyoke College social media outlets, you’ve seen our hashtags: #jorgeknows and #marysbag. I’ll have more to say on those in a few weeks as we roll out our programming. For now, I want to comment on one of my favorite start-of-term activities for incoming students: the common read.

Some might say: the common read, who cares? Well, I believe the common read is an essential component of orientation, especially at selective liberal arts college like Mount Holyoke and my alma mater, Smith College. In many cases, the book is one of the only commonalities students may share; no matter if they arrived to campus from New Jersey or Beijing, they read the same book. If nothing else, newly arrived students can reliably make chit chat about the book, whether they enjoyed it, whether it was too long, whether it was enthralling or pedantic. It is an immediate and common bond.

During my last semester at Hampshire College, I served on the college-wide common read committee, a group tasked with selecting next year’s book for incoming students to read. I knew going into the experience that I had warm, pleasant feelings about common read programs; I had such fond memories of my own experiences reading My Year of Meats / Ruth Ozeki before my first year at Smith in 2000. I loved reading the book that summer between my cashier shifts at Blockbuster Video. Reading the book as I readied myself to leave home help ease my anxieties about fitting into a new community; was I academically prepared enough? Would I have anything worthwhile to say? Would the students of Smith realize that I was an inferior interloper (IMPOSTOR SYNDROME!)? The book became my outlet. I think it read it twice that summer.

When I arrived on campus, the freedom to be out of the closet, to no longer be the person that hid underneath heaps of hair and quiet dourness in high school, was overwhelming. I was not accustomed to being honest about who I was or how I really felt. I almost did not know what to say or where to start, so I started with the common read. It was a low threshold to talk about a book most everyone read. It helped eased my transition. Finally, as orientation week came to a close, Ruth Ozeki herself come to John M. Greene Hall to give a talk about her book. It was a wonderful talk; Ozeki touched on her own experiences at Smith, and gave us first years a spirited go get ’em! Ruth Ozeki’s talk was the first time I ever heard an author speak about his or her work publicly; a direct connection between a published work and the person who wrote it. It was powerful and inspiring.

Afterwards, first year students were invited to follow Ozeki to the Alumnae House to get copies of her book signed. Many of us went; I remember waiting in a long line. Most of my cohort enjoyed the talk and we chatted amongst ourselves as we waited to meet the author herself. I made some friends, felt a sense of school community I had never felt before, and finally, when my turn came, I met Ozeki. She was friendly and warm and took my book, asked my name, and wrote an inscription on the cover page: “For Caroline-Have a great time at Smith! Ruth L. Ozeki.” This interaction gave me inspiration to try my best, to take big risks, and learn as much as I could at Smith. My dog eared copy of My Year of Meats moved with me to every room I lived in at Smith, every apartment I inhabited in Florence, New Haven, Somerville, and Northampton. It psyched me up; I can do this.

My Year of Meats / Ruth Ozeki

My Year of Meats / Ruth Ozeki

Of course, Smith was a challenge; my classes, classmates, and experiences in athletics, music, and college radio pushed me in all the right ways, but my years at Smith were not without their dark days. During those periods when I questioned everything, my direction, my intelligence, my ability on the crew team to pass a 2K test, or land gainful employment after graduation, I turned to My Year of Meats as a reminder of what brought me to the College. I thought about the opportunity to learn, grow, and evolve as a critical thinker, but also to have a great time, watch the sun rise on the Connecticut River, to find love, and come to terms with myself.

Caroline Pinto entered Smith College in 2000, but Caro Pinto graduated in 2004. Did the common read ensure my success? No, but it gave me inspiration and a sense of belonging at a moment when everything felt up for grabs. As the chips fell during my college career, the book remained on my shelf and in my heart. I hope this year’s Mount Holyoke students have the same positive experience with their common read.

DPLA for you & me

Recently, there has been a slew of articles announcing and introducing the Digital Public Library, and its own outreach team has been tweeting out a roundup of the press coverage each week. I’ve been excited to learn more about DPLA and begin a conversation about how the archives and library community can begin to integrate into our work. This post is not meant to cover the ground others have done so well already. Below are links to the three (in my opinion) best pieces providing overviews to the DPLA:

  1. Micah Vandegrift’s article from In the Library in the Lead Pipe where he “concludes that librarians want four things from DPLA: Advocacy, Inclusion, Investment and Clarity.”
  2. DPLA Screencast Overview/Tour Linda Braun for the School Library Journal covers “how [DPLA] works, both good and bad.”

3.Lincoln Mullen’s Introduction to the DPLA on ProfHacker Mullen points to the range of overview pieces about the DPLA from the blogosphere and the mainstream media.

Over the last few months, I’ve spent some time playing with the DPLA by watching the hashtag #dplafinds that the Digital Public Library of America introduced in late April for viewers at home to share their finds. Additionally, one can browse the DPLA and share items of interest to Facebook, Google Plus, and Twitter, but alas, no love for Tumblr and Pinterest, two excellent means of archival outreach (Please see Mount Holyoke Archives & Special Collections Tumblr & Pinterest sites as reference.) I would love for there to be a no-nonsense way for folks to get stuff onto Pinterest and Tumblr so bloggers scrolling through these image focused sites can discover dp.la’s treasures.

Outreach has been on my mind lately I prepared to give a presentation about manuscripts, digital tools, and research tools to support a digitization grant in the Five Colleges. In the session, we talked about best practices for description, who we aim to reach with our description, what kind of tone to strike in our writing, and one of the students talked about the struggles undergraduates face when they encounter ‘stiff’ library descriptions, unfamiliar vocabularies not yet accessible to them; why can’t we write for everyone, she asked?
It’s a reasonable question; when describing primary sources we need to serve many masters for provide ready access to the trove of materials in our repositories; the novice undergraduate, the harried graduate student, the experienced scholar, and the enthusiastic hobbyist. How do we serve this spectrum?

In our digital age, we have so many tools at our disposal to welcome a range of users into our materials, especially in terms of social media. In my presentation, I talked about those possibilities, making a joke that one way of building engagement around illuminated manuscripts might be a Tumblr called ‘Thug Manuscripts’ in the spirit of Thug Kitchen

HOW DO YOU LIKE THOSE 100 LEAVES OF SEMI HUMANSTIC SCRIPT, YO?

IS THAT PALIMPSEST VELLUM MAKING SENDING YOU INTO A SEIZURE OF AWESOME?

(c) Thug Kitchen

(c) Thug Kitchen

It’s not the simply the tone of Thug Kitchen’s annotated photographs that make it such an effective outreach tool for fresh, healthy cooking, it’s the explanatory paragraphs with recipes and health facts that are accessible to the foodie (Saveur Magazine gave it props!) and the shorter attention span of someone who might not be inclined to cook at all (ahem, me). There are multiple ways into the world of food just as there multiple ways into the world of special collections.

The DPLA coverage points out that this library is as much a platform for transformative uses as it is a portal to many rich cultural resources. To me, outreach, social media, and even fun memes need to factor into that conversation as much as scholarly literature if we truly want to generate interest and build community to a wider cohort of participants. It’s our history, it’s our future, let’s engage with it together.

Edith Irvine, photographer, Lee Library, Brigham Young University

Summer Learning: #dhpoco summer school

For some, summer might be about beach trips and milk shakes, but for me, summer is about learning (well, and a little about milkshakes and other delicious rituals). I love using the slower pace of college campuses during the summer to develop myself, make a work plan for the year, and learn something new. I am really excited to participate in [#dhpoco summer school, "an informal, month-long collaborative online course exploring issues related to Postcolonial Digital Humanities."] (http://dhpoco.org/blog/2013/05/20/coming-soon-dhpoco-summer-school/) Let me break down why:

  1. Broadening Digital Humanities Practice/Theory One of the most important outcomes from teaching Intro to DH last semester at Hampshire was the realization that there are significant structural inequalities in DH in terms of who practices DH and what types of cultural heritages materials get digitized, case in point, this tweet from Barnard Libraries:

    In my new role at Mount Holyoke College, I continue to support both western and non-western disciplines and always want to find new points of engagement.

  2. Online Learning MOOCS, blended classrooms, flipped classrooms, digital learning. I spend plenty of time reading about these new classroom experiences and learning opportunities, but haven’t found the right opportunity to participate yet. This will be a good foray into the world of online learning and perhaps inspire me to enroll in a MOOC or, better yet, find new ways of engaging with online tools and spaces to do my own teaching.
  3. Learning for ME At the end of last term, I attended a dinner party with colleagues from Hampshire and one of my friends mentioned that she was going to be attending a short term course in North Carolina this summer, where she would be a student as opposed to the instructor. That definitely resonates with me; last term I spent a Friday afternoon in February in a seminar with other Digital Humanities interested folks as part of the a short-term Kahn Institute for Liberal Arts Project called “From Hypercities to Big Data and #Alt-Ac: Debates in the Digital Humanities” It was luxurious to talk through ideas in a seminar setting with other engaged people. I am excited to see what this type of engagement will look like online.

I voted for readings and look forward to seeing how the course will develop. I’ll be writing about it here.

#5CDH13: Building a Community of Practice

Digital Humanities is a team sport. As libraries/information technology units develop programs and initiatives to promote and partner with faculty in digital humanities, it’s clear that our community hungers for best practices and inspiration to create and sustain a community of practice. What’s a group of librarians, technologists, and digital humanists to do?

In the Five Colleges, we will explore these issues in a day long event that will include a moderated panel and facilitated discussion that will will help our consortium build and sustain a community of practice around digital humanities. To that end, tomorrow we will welcome speakers from Colgate University, Haverford College, and Washington and Lee University to talk about their work in digital humanities in a moderated panel. During the afternoon, we will work small breakout groups to address the central question – what does it take to become an effective digital humanities community of practice?

The Five College Libraries Committee DEDCC (Digital Environment Development & Coordinating Committee) encourages participants to chronicle on social media using the hashtag: #5CDH13.

See you all tomorrow!

I won an iPad mini

I never win prizes after taking surveys, but there is a first time for everything, right?

Towards the end of my time at Hampshire College, I took a survey about sexual harassment and entered a contest to win an iPad mini. To my surprise, I won!

I’ve documented my love of the iPad on the blog earlier this year, so I figured I would revisit an iPad review in light of the new addition to my gadget arsenal. Spoiler alert: I love it, but not without reservations.

Size: The third generation iPad is light and thin, but the iPad mini is miraculously light and thin. It’s a noticeable difference. I can hold the mini in one hand while reading in bed or on the couch. It’s a breeze to cart around during the day and I hardly noticed its weight in my bag shuffling between work and home. Typing on it is also a welcome change. No stranger to live-tweeting conferences on my iPhone (too small) or iPad (okay), the iPad mini is just right, as my live-tweeting of the Five College All-Staff Round-Up proved.

Performance: The mini is just as fast and responsive as its third generation cousin. Apps download quickly, webpages open quickly, and I am very pleased.

Display:  :( The retina display on the third generation iPad is awesome, and I definitely miss it on the mini. However, I keep myself reaching for the mini because the size is so perfect for my needs, which include writing, editing, email, note taking, web browsing, and heavy reading. As much as I love the mini, I still find myself saying, “CURSES, THERE ISN’T RETINA DISPLAY.”

Conclusion: Had I not won the mini, I would not have purchased one of my own. I have an iPad that I love already. and the lack of retina display makes me sad. However, if/when Apple releases an iPad mini with retina display, I would definitely buy one. The smaller tablet size is fantastic; I love the flat back of the mini, the light weight, and ease of use.

The iPad mini, shown here next to a book for scale.

Reflections on THATCamp

THATCamp: ACRL

When I started working at Hampshire, I had a reasonable idea of what anthropology was as a discipline; however, I was not aware of how it could be practiced locally, a misconception I quickly corrected through my engagement with Nancy Foster Fried’s and Susan Gibbons’ work at the University of Rochester. The biggest take away for me is that trends about user behaviors can be both local and universal; students are checking out fewer books more generally, the reasons for which have local reasons and implications.

At Hampshire, I began experimenting with ethnographies in small ways to learn about my student population, to understand their context for learning and living and how I could frame my outreach efforts to match their needs. For instance, I learned that many students live off campus. Many of those students in Northampton, and therefore have to rely on the bus to get to Hampshire. Instead of assuming that students would seek me out in my office, I decided to try my hand at outreach by taking the bus to campus at the times they frequently did. As one student exclaimed when we had a chance encounter, “I’ve been meaning to email you and you’re just HERE when I need YOU.”

Ethnography and anthropology helped me think about technology, too. Through happenstance, I read a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education about a book written about the culture of the free software movement. Reading this book helped me better contextualize and ground my perceptions about technology, culture, gender, and normative behaviors.

In combination with the Debates in the Digital Humanities chapter about “Why Are the Digital Humanities so White?” and a recent First Monday piece about gender imbalances in software development, it became clear to me that ideas about how to create and practice technology are still primarily male and white. This was again reinforced in another recent article about Feminist Hackerspaces “that is based on discussions and interviews conducted mostly with women and queers involved in hackerspaces and in the free/libre/open source movement in North America. Moreover, it draws from my own experience with FouFem, a feminist hackerspace in Montreal that aims at being a safer space for (self-identified) women and queers to demystify technologies, learn from peers, and create a core group of local women interested in technologies and hacking. FouFem grew from the desire to have more women and queers in the hacker/hacktivist movement in Montreal while evolving in an environment where feminist principles would be explicitly foregrounded. FouFem also stems from the desire to imagine feminist hacker projects to expand the hacker/hacktivist movement and make it even more inclusive.That entry into this world is about knowing the skills right away and practicing technology with ease rather than coming to the community with questions and learning as one goes along.”

Enter THATCamp ACRL.

I was really excited to attend a THATCamp in conjunction with a librarian conference, where I could road test ideas and programs discussed in traditional conference formats through more intimate discussions with THATCamp participants. Having attended a THATCamp in the past, I had some idea of what to expect. Moreover, my work in the digital humanities gave me confidence that I ‘belonged.’ While I am not an expert in DH, I still felt empowered to be in that makerspace. Unfortunately, other ACRL participants did not share my feelings of inclusion. Some confided in me that they did not feel comfortable. Some assumed that they needed some level of technology competencies or robust knowledge of digital humanities to properly participate. Moreover, the DH ethos of ‘hack’ over ‘yack’ can also alienate. Not everyone comes to a THATCamp ready to make, nor are all DH conversations necessarily about making; #dhpoco reinforces the necessity of ‘hacking’ about structural inequalities within DH and the academy.

I would argue that THATCamps can be valuable experience for the novice, the expert, and the full range of people in between. The experience of ‘yaking’ about digital humanities to orient a novice can introduce new sets of questions to the expert, and the intermediate can give back by engaging with the novice. For me, THATCamps allow us to grow together, build a community together, and part of that is creating spaces for multiple points of entry to include both the novice and the expert.

I owe a lot to THATCamp. In 2010, I applied to THATCamp New England on a whim and a hope that I could become part of digital humanities, and the experience of attending with a Bootcamp fellowship completely altered the way I think about my work as a librarian. With limited skills and endless desire to learn about ‘doing technology,’ I really grew after my experience there and now I am proud to say that ‘instructional technology’ is part of my new job title. I co-taught a digital humanities course at Hampshire this semester and am active in dh + lib,. I was excited to be able to give back at THATCamp ACRL by facilitating a ‘DH 101′ session. THATCamp gave me inspiration, tools, and human capital to begin working in DH. And I am so grateful for that. My experience in 2010 paved the way for me to work on digital liberal arts at some of the most exciting college campuses in the United States with some extraordinary people.

And I know that I can still grow, give back, and help figure out how digital liberal arts, digital humanities, and the humanities large will evolve. I want that process to be inclusive to many voices, not just the usual suspects, the talking heads, or the early adopters, but the skeptics, the critics, the people just finding their voices, and the librarians asking new questions and learning new skills. DH, libraries, the humanities, and higher education will all benefit from a more perfect union of participants.

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!

Automate Me

If 2012 was my year of the iPad, then 2013 is my year of automation. I credit ProfHacker for many things in my development as a technologist, and I am going to add automation to the list.

I started my automation journey slowly. Last year, I began using an online calendar tool called Lizibot to cut down on the number of emails I passed back and forth with students about arranging appointments. It changed my life in a small but measurable way. I wrote fewer emails, students knew right away when they could meet with me, and now – for the class I co-teach – I have a link right to my calendar, so there’s no more messing around with weekly, mercurial schedules for me. Following my foray into Lizibot, I began experimenting with text expansion tools, specifically by downloading TextExpander for iOS. Again, It’s a pleasure to be able to write drafts of emails without having to type my phone number, email address, or standard closing salutations for email.

The next automation wave crested after reading a Profhacker post about IFFT. IFFT is essentially “if this, then that” moderated by a third party. It’s dead easy. The Profhacker post breaks it down well. Since that’s been published, many more time-saving “recipes” have been added to the voluminous library. I especially like the “if I change my profile photo on Facebook, then it changes on Twitter, too,” recipe. But the recipe with the most impact on my working life is the once which states: “if @en appears on my Google calendar appointment, then a meeting note template in Evernote is created.” Thanks to this blog post, I now have a powerful tool to take meeting minutes easily.

Automation might make me sound like a robot, but it allows me work smarter. The meeting notes template is a great example of that. I realized that having a template for taking meeting notes wouldn’t just make me more organized, it forced me to take more effective notes, making the task of acting as minute taker less tiresome. By having predetermined fields like ‘attendees’ to fill in immediately and ‘action items’ to fill in throughout the meeting, I could listen more actively and my notes ultimately would make more sense. And I added a section called ‘to do’ that allows me to remember complementary activities long after the meeting is done. Gone were the panic moments when I didn’t know what was talked about or remember action items I needed to add to a list. Awesome.

Here’s my take on Rubin’s original recipe that I referenced in the first paragraph.

Automation saves me time, but it also gives me something else: headspace. By automating parts of my working life, I have the headspace to think; I have a few extra minutes to daydream, an ability to carve out an outlet to think about my work in new ways. By having those few moments to take a step back and reflect, I can actually think about what’s next, what’s coming, where I want to go, where we need to go. Automation allows me to sit back like the West Wing‘s president Josiah Bartlett and ask: what’s next?

What’s in a Name? DH vs. DLA

Since February, I’ve been wrestling with William Pannapacker’s Chronicle piece about digital humanities, in which he suggests we should call it digital liberal arts.

On the one hand, I am all for inclusivity: if we want to thoughtfully integrate technology and digital projects into liberal arts classrooms, we need to think across disciplines, between disciplines: all over the curriculum. On smaller campuses, with smaller staffs, it makes sense for all teaching librarians/instructional technologists to be fluent in the digital.

On the other hand, digital humanities is a THING, a discipline, a frame of reference. For students who want to move onto graduate school, understanding this THING, this discipline becomes more important to participate in the conversations underway at centers like CHNM and Scholars’ Lab. Digital humanities as a THING has particular grant opportunities; it’s a discipline in its own right. It is also has a history we can trace back to the 1980s and to humanities computing; this history, this heritage impacts how conversations happen, who gets included in these conversations, and shapes important debates like #transformdh to trace back structural decisions that impact what has been digitized, what gets recognized, and how the current debates get framed. That context, that backstory is equally value, and extremely important. As a [recovering] historian, this backstory matters; to understand where we are, we need to know where we’ve been.

I work at a liberal arts college. I graduated from a liberal arts college. I need a button that reads ‘I <3 liberal arts colleges’; they are high touch educational experiences for the lucky students who attend them. In our current age of pronounced market segmentation within higher education, it’s important to realize that the context in which we practice librarianship is important and impacts what’s possible, what we can do, and what we should do. Many liberal arts colleges represent the best of higher education; small, interactive classes, summer research opportunities, diverse student bodies, generous financial aid, and dynamic communities. And given the particular organizational strengths and values that liberal arts colleges possess that Pannpacker points to in the piece, "…DH is not a "disruption"—it is an enhancement of the core methods of an ideal liberal-arts education."

I agree that liberal arts colleges need not create smaller, ‘scaled-down’ versions of a digital humanities centers found at places like UCLA; liberal arts colleges have an opportunity to build on their successful educational experiences of small classes and close collaborations with faculty to produce original research. Keep doing more of that, I say, just in the digital context.

Liberal arts colleges struggle to find ways to sustainably support these digital initiatives, but I am confident that we will forge new paths leveraging collaborations with faculty, technologists, and librarians While pushing scholarship towards the digital, I also hope that these collaborative teams can consider the history and the context what makes these ventures so exciting, and participate in the conversations that are happening in the digital humanities at research institutions to broaden the field/discipline’s horizons towards the next phase after ‘digital humanities,’ just as practicionters pushed humanities computing into new realms. Who knows what how ‘dh’ as we know it will be identified in five, ten years, but I do think ‘digital liberal arts’ can and will inform the path towards the next horizon.

Either way, in my practice, I will toggle between ‘dh’ and ‘dla’ with equal enthusiasm and care, as the terms of digital scholarship change and evolve into the next big thing.