Category Archives: Commentary
January 26, 2012, 5:59 pm
I’m fascinated with how memory (experience) influences habits (behaviors) within a particular space.
When I moved to Blacksburg I discovered Firehouse Subs and now I go there every weekend for lunch. During the workweek I typically bring my lunch, but my go-to lunch spot is Jimmy John’s. Besides my obsession with sandwiches there is something else going on here, cognitively speaking.
There are other places with more convenient and aesthetically pleasing locations, larger and more diverse menus, and possibly better prices or deals. So why am I loyal to those restaurants?
It has something to do with the psychology of place and the whole habit-forming mechanism in our brains. We’re comfortable with the known—and so we keep coming back to it. Also, when it comes to food, I’m not very adventurous. When I find something that works I tend to stick with it. I or…
January 17, 2012, 6:59 pm
Wikipedia and several other web services are going dark tomorrow. They are shutting down– largely to make a political statement, but I can’t help but feel they are also trying to make a point about their cultural value. College students everywhere are lucky it’s not during prime paper-writing season or else they might be forced to actually use their library’s website.
The blackout scenario is something that has playfully come up everywhere I’ve ever worked. The conversation (usually at dinner, in bar, or at the end of an outreach planning meeting late in the afternoon) goes something like this:
People (faculty) don’t appreciate the library. I bet if we turned off our proxy (access to all digital content) for a hour then we’d get their attention. Then they’d see just how important the library is to their research.
Inferiority complex, maybe…
December 9, 2011, 4:11 pm
Note: this might be a good time for everyone to dust off their emergency planning protocol.
Yesterday was a wild, scary, sad day. My brother is a police officer in Florida so whenever stories like this happen it hits a sensitive spot. My sympathy to the Crouse family. It’s very quiet on campus this morning, but I’ve seen most students wearing VT clothing (it’s actually like that everyday) —so it’s good to see the school pride on display after what happened.
Reflecting on the events yesterday there were three distinct phases:
- The “Probably A False Alarm” aka Waiting Stage
- The “Oh, It’s Real, People Are Shot, Manhunt Is On” aka Chaos Stage
- The “Now What?” aka Quietly, Waiting, Wondering Stage
The campus buildings went on lockdown shortly after the officer was shot. Our staff responded efficiently and professionally securing the library…
November 29, 2011, 8:36 pm
Stewardship. This is a word that gets thrown around all the time. The concept being—we (library employees) don’t own the spaces, collections, processes, or technologies—we’re just stewards of the institution’s investment.
It wasn’t until this year that I started to get that. (more on that later) Previously I viewed things very personally: my reference desk, my online chat service, my collection, my learning commons, my website, etc. Well, maybe not mine, but ours, as in those of us who worked in the library owned these assets.
And sure there is a user-centered movement—we want to strive to involve users in design or design with users in mind—but ultimately it is library employees who make decisions and who make changes happen. This is our thing.
Along these lines I was struck by a passage in Nickel & Dimed where the author reflects on her…
November 2, 2011, 5:26 pm
Today is my last day at UC Santa Barbara. It has been an interesting few years and I’m grateful for the time I spent here. I learned a lot about administration and project management. If I had to pick one thing I enjoyed the most it would probably be our Three Millionth Volume Celebration. There were a lot of intricate parts and it was rewarding experience putting all the pieces together. I gave a short talk at the reception and I remember saying something like “The University loves to celebrate its athletes, but tonight we’re celebrating its artists.” That played well to the artsy/intellectual community.
I enjoyed working with my team and I wish them the best of luck going forward.
I was also very fortunate to meet Don Lubach who has become a great mentor to me. He taught me a lot about Student Affairs and email inbox management.
Next Up: Virginia Tech
October 13, 2011, 5:20 pm
UCSB's Ole checking out some books
A core theme I see in LibQUAL+ data is that most libraries do pretty well in the service dimension, but when it comes to enabling users to help themselves their perceptions are typically much lower.
When you put all the numbers together the narrative goes something like this:
You’re pretty good at helping me, thanks, but I’d really prefer to do more things by myself—and by the way, you don’t make that very easy for me.
But is this changing? Over the past several months (years?) a common theme seems to popping up everywhere: self-service. A few examples:
September 26, 2011, 5:24 pm
We’re working on round two of our graduate student ethnography project. I plan to release the findings in January as a collection of whitepapers. The batch will include themes such as mentoring, collaboration, criticism, and work process. But my favorite thread is the progression from student to scholar. It has been fascinating to review the self-analysis and see how a scholar is defined.
Two predominate qualities emerged: independence & creation.
Some sample quotes:
1. “As you go through grad school at least in English, you begin to develop more into sort of an independent writer and scholar…. You start thinking more in terms of I’m making a book length argument that has to be interesting vs. I’ve gotta write this short argument that I think is what my professor wants.”
2. “As an undergrad, you were presented with deadlines that were dictated by others. And they we…
July 19, 2011, 8:06 pm
At ALA 2011 Steven Bell turned me on to the book Academically Adrift. He wrote a thoughtful piece on it back in January— I’m a little slow getting a response out.
The gist of it boils down to the notion that students don’t appear to be learning much (academically speaking) during their time away at college—and hence there is some question about the value (and investment) of a college degree.
This is largely based on findings reporting that when students were tested before and after their college years there was little progress in standardized scores, suggesting that the college experience (which of course encompasses more than just courses) does little to advance intellectual development.
Bell points out that there is a lot of finger pointing and I tend to point mine at the K-12 system, which doesn’t prepare people (myself included) for college. However, while watching…
December 16, 2010, 12:02 pm
This is another concept from my whiteboard sessions:
When I talk about outreach and marketing and related promotional matters— people often think that I am working just to drive up business… increase volume. That's not always the case… or rather, that's not the sole purpose. Our reference librarians would probably be upset if I brought in 10,000 more questions a year. Our reserves staff probably couldn't handle a doubling of materials from faculty.
My goal is not to just increase usage, but rather, to see it as a step toward a larger purpose. It's not to help patrons become better users of the library. Nor is it to design a satisfying library experience. Ultimately… my goal… right now… is to build pride in the library. Building a brand.
It's bowl season and there is all this mounting school pride channeled via football teams (UCF upsets UGA, you read it…
December 7, 2010, 10:20 am
So the whole pyramid thing… An Assistant Dean turned me on to them. We were talking in my office and he saw my white board– we chatted about the engagement theory and he mentioned that over in Career Services they explored a similar concept based on services. In a nutshell, they offer a hierarchy of services attempting to match different student needs:
A student might come in and need help with a resume. While she might just need a handout describing formatting, she could be directed to a career planning professional. This might be similar to a patron asking where BF637.T5 A45 2001 is located. Rather than giving him a floor plan or directing him to the BF range, it would be like setting up an appointment with a subject librarian.
The sense I got from the Career Services example is that their model is directly tied to expenses. It costs them a lot in terms of salary and time to sit…