Author Archives: Brian Mathews

March 31, 2015, 3:37 pm

TOOLS FOR LEADERS: 5 Tables To Expand Your Thinking

I have an assortment of tables, graphs, and charts that I have been collecting related to leadership and problem solving. Here are a few that I have found particularly useful:

1. An organizational hierarchy of IT needs

Table1_needs

This comes from John Borwick, Director of IT Services at the Virginia Tech Libraries. He adapted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs into an IT context. The gist is that if you want to get involved with strategic conversations then you must ensure that basic needs are met first. “If IT cannot deliver a reliable production environment, no one is going to want to talk with IT about anything else.”

This applies elsewhere. If I want to talk with faculty about new services or their pedagogical practices, I need to ensure that their basic library needs are covered. If an instructor is upset because of something we are doing (or not doing) then she will be less open to…

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March 25, 2015, 8:52 pm

IMPROVING THE STUDENT EXPERIENCE (scaling the commons beyond the library)

I wrote earlier about serving on a Student Experience Task Force. This was a yearlong project that brought together students and faculty with people from the budget office, facilities, student affairs, the Provost’s Office, and other units. It was an eclectic mix resulting in many diverse conversations. Personally, it was a perception-shifting experience and I learned to appreciate different challenges across campus.

Here is the final report.

The most glaring aspect we encouraged was a spectrum of disparity. Students in a living learning community had different encounters than those in older residential halls. Students attending classes in upgraded facilities had completely different experiences than those in older rooms. It was interesting to witness how a sense of place directly impacted emotional connections and output. Our charge was to consider ways to reduce the existing…

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March 17, 2015, 6:39 pm

TALKING ACROSS THE GLOBE: Tinder as a prototype for intercontinental serendipity

I’ve been experiencing the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon lately. This is when you discover a new word, concept, song, book, product or whatever and then it seemingly appears everywhere. In my case this has been related to maps and global communications.

After reading The Victorian Internet and it opened my eyes to just how transformative the telegraph was. Pre-telegraph, it took a full day on horseback to deliver a message one hundred miles. The telegraph reduced that to a matter of seconds.

When Samuel Morse and others began building the network (around 1844) it took ten weeks to send a letter and a response between London to Bombay. Thirty years later, with over 650,000 miles of wire, messages could be exchanged between those two cities in less than four minutes.

There was much enthusiasm and a great optimism.

poem_tech via…

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March 4, 2015, 4:13 am

Confronting the Unexpected: Pink Time & Intrinsic Learning

Tim_Headshot

@tbaird007

A few weeks ago I met up with Tim Baird (Geography, Virginia Tech) to tour the library and talk about pedagogy. We discussed a handful of topics and I tried to capture the spirit of our conversation in this post. Tim has received a lot of attention across campus (here and here) for his Pink Time concept. Let’s start with that.

The short version: he encourages students to skip class three times a semester and to invest that time learning whatever they want. Students then report on what they did and assign themselves a grade based on the experience. The impetus for this approach was inspired by Daniel Pink, hence the name—Pink Time.

Here is a table outlining the students’ Pink Time activities: (from Journal of Geography, 2015)

PinkTime_Table

 The Element of…

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February 10, 2015, 2:45 pm

Are We Teaching Spatial Agency? The subliminal message of flexible furniture

Does space matter? Does the selection and arrangement of furniture and technology impact behavior? I think so. The tools around us impact what we can build. So if we follow this line of thought: can we design spaces that enable students to be more creative, more collaborative, or more innovative? Can we offer environments that encourage concentration, curiosity, or confidence?

I’ve been chasing these questions for the past ten years. It started at Georgia Tech where we experimented with atmospheric elements like sound, shape, and lighting. We could quickly recalibrate a room and completely change its mood and functionality. This is where I began thinking about the psychology of place.

lec

Georgia Tech Library, courtesy of Dottie Hunt

My thoughts were recently augmented by Frank Shushok, Senior Associate Vice…

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January 27, 2015, 4:48 pm

Learning Commons as Symbol: the new heart of our communities?

Last month I saw a presentation by Robert Sumichrast, Dean of the Pamplin College of Business here at Virginia Tech. He shared his vision for a series of new buildings that would comprise the Business Learning Community. The concept is still coming together but it includes several interconnected structures: offices, classrooms, and residential spaces. The centerpiece is an experiential learning commons.

Business_Learning_Community_VT

Early concept of the Business Learning Community at Virginia Tech.

 

Several aspects are informing the design. First is Innovate, a residential living learning community that fosters the startup spirit. It brings together students from different disciplines and surrounds them with a curriculum and mentorship that encourages entrepreneurship.

Second is a recent renovation. The atrium in the current business…

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January 20, 2015, 4:21 pm

Sheep Rot & Rogue Publishers: advertising in early scientific journals

I’ve been watching a great talk by Jason Priem on altmetrics.

During the presentation he mentions the history of scientific journals and how they evolved from handwritten letters describing observations into aggregated print volumes for a larger audience. Philosophical Transactions was the first one. I was curious about the composition of science articles in 1665 so I clicked around. Here is a partial listing from the inaugural issue:

journal1What grabbed your attention? For me it was the calf. A very odd monstrous calf!

journal2_cafe
I thought it was  quaint but then I saw the front page of the Wall Street Journal last week and we’re still admiring livestock 350 years later.

journal3_bull_wallst

It is interesting to observe how journals evolved from short blurbs into longer articles. You can also trace the slow adoption of scholarly writing conventions and…

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January 12, 2015, 3:29 pm

Millions of Sources: the disruption of history and the humanities?

Last week I mentioned a tweet on critical pedagogy that stuck with me. Here is another item from 2014 that really got me thinking.

Mandel_Tweets

This was from an ARL meeting on the future of scholarly monographs. I blogged about it back in October 2014 but I wanted to go deeper. I spoke with Laura Mandell (Professor of English & Director of the Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture at Texas A&M) just before winter break. Here are some highlights from that conversation:

Print Humanities
The humanities as we know them should be called the print humanities. They began with the rise of print materials and the practices and methodologies associated with them are bound to that format. Right now we have print humanities and digital humanities but eventually all humanities will be digital humanities. We’re in an evolutionary stage.

While many people feel an emotional attachment…

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January 6, 2015, 3:50 pm

Diving into critical pedagogy: an alterative view of information literacy

A few months ago this PowerPoint slide appeared in my Twitter stream:

IL_slide

 It lingered with me for weeks.

I had never considered a library instruction program taking on matters such as dehumanization, colonizing media, or the economic contradictions in our environment. In all the libraries I’ve worked we struggled to have enough people to cover the core instructional load and I could not have imagined a program focused instead on a social agenda.

My view of information literacy has always been pragmatic and conservative: find, access, evaluate, and use a variety of materials. When I was an instruction librarian at George Washington and Georgia Tech my emphasis was on serving engineering disciplines where the focus was on journals, patents, industry standards, and handbooks.

alloysTypical reference questions were about identifying suitable alloys for high temperatures. The type of…

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January 3, 2015, 5:53 pm

Three Central Themes for 2015: critical pedagogy, lean libraries, & creative disruption

This is my ninth year blogging. When I started The Ubiquitous Librarian my intention was to explore engagement techniques—new ways of connecting with the community I served. The blog helped document some of these efforts and provided a conversation channel with others doing similar work.

I tend to be all over the map: technology, scholarly communication, marketing, assessment, learning commons, classroomshackathons, embedded librarians, and so on. As I’ve moved into library administration my tone and content as changed. And when I eventually switched over to the Chronicle of Higher Education that altered my voice as well.

Every so often I contemplate walking away from the blog. Sometimes it feels more like a chore rather than a creative outlet. The Chronicle doesn’t pay me, but they do amplify my message. When I hear from software developers, architects, faculty, CIOs, or…

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