Links of Interest : February 28, 2014

Welcome to another round of commentary and links.

Books: Since my last roundup of links, I have finished all the Phryne Fisher books (excellent and a lovely combo of knowing what I’d get out of them, and still having interesting bits).

Other recent reads include Code Name: Verity by Elizabeth Wein, which I found fascinating both for narrative structure and character voice, and for the time period (which is WWII.) It is not an easy book to read (without giving away plot spoilers, any book in Nazi-occupied France is not precisely going to be cheerful, really) but it has some delightful moments of friendship and brilliance and joy in amongst the horrible. (Also the pleasant realisation when I looked up her bio that I’d read and loved a number of her short stories, previously.)

Likewise, I adored Phoebe North’s Starglass which is about a generational starship about to reach its destination, with a bunch of interesting cultural twists (70% of the original population were Jewish, but a lot of it has shifted over the generations in interesting ways.)

Currently reading Monster of God: The Man-Eating Predator in the Jungles of History and the Mind by David Quammen, which is about – well, apex predators, people, their interactions, and is a fascinating mix of ecology, zoology, and history and therefore exceedingly up my alley.

Watching: As you can guess from my reading, I have now also watched Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and loved them (though also finding it fascinating how they differ from the books: I am mostly fine with the changes, but there are some substantial ones.) I’m looking forward to being able to get the second season here in the US. I then did a detour through Warehouse 13 and am currently part way through Eureka and enjoying them for knitting watching.

Links:

Beautiful things:

Libraries: 

Codes of contact: So, there’s been rather a lot of discussion in the library world about codes of contact for conventions and other things. Various links of relevance.

Other things:

Links of Interest : February 19, 2013

It’s been a while since my last one of these. Sorry!

Continue reading Links of Interest : February 19, 2013

A link roundup

So, yeah. Not doing so well with keeping up with the external blog. Let’s give this another try, and I’ll do a big roundup of links I keep meaning to share. (Which go back quite a few months.)

History and Memory:

  • A fascinating piece from the NYT about the challenges of the 9/11 museum.
  • An amazing take on why Machiavelli was so important to modern political thought.
  • Make your own Bayeux-style tapestry story. (done in HTML and JavaScript)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has released PDF versions of many of their out of print exhibit catalogs. Many many many awesome things. I’d apologise for the hours of productive time you will lose from them, but it’s art. It’s gorgeous. It’s fascinating.
  • Wil Wheaton is generally thought-provoking, but I keep coming back to this recent piece from him about personal history and remembering.

Libraries, search, finding information: 

  • I think I originally bookmarked this piece from Dear Author for the discussion of ebook agreements, but it’s also got a great infographic of how important public libraries are.
  • Some really interesting comments on letting go of Boolean operators and other new approaches to teaching research.
  • Solving impossible research problems has some really interesting advanced tips. (It still does not solve a years-old problem for me, which is identifying a flower from a remembered smell. But.)
  • A nice intro to creating screencasts
  • Get your PhD in Googling. (Well, not really, but it’s fun).
  • The Pew study on libraries, library patrons, and ebooks (bunches of you have probably seen this.)
  • A fascinating article on a professor who set an assignment for his class to fool Wikipedia – and how he got caught.
  • An amusing library intro video, Lord of the Libraries.
  • Librarian in Black takes on the problems of ebooks and libraries. (She’s done it before, but this version is excellent.)

Books:

  • Dear Author takes on the question of authors putting up not-entirely-final copies of books, and the larger question of author/reader interaction.
  • Five Books takes on the History of Reading. (as in, reading books, not the place.)

Technology:

  • Joyce Valenza had an interesting piece on how we approach using technology, including comments and video from Sherry Turkle.
  • Vintage advertisements for modern technology. (You may have seen these already, because they have been all over the Internet. They’re still amusing.)
  • A really interesting look at how one piece of technology leads to a whole new interest and set of connections.
  • The complications of two-step verification (with a nice look at both pros and cons, and a personal story)
  • Doug Johnson has a great reminder of the proportional risk in online interaction (bullying, not predators).
Information:
  • I rather liked this Lifehacker piece on how to determine if controversial statement is scientifically true.
  • Historical notes on some widely-known songs. (Fascinating!)
  • I’ve been reading a lot of articles from Longform, which collects both current and older long-form articles on a huge variety of subjects. I’d handwave at a bunch of them, but really, go dig for yourself.
  • Rip currents are sort of fascinating. And lethal. Here, have a video about them.
  • A good friend did a roundup of links on Scandesotan  (I am moderately fluent in the dialect these days. Twelve years of living in Minnesota does that to you if you hang out with certain crowds. I’m still recalibrating for New England, which has some similarities and some differences.)
  • Turnitin.com has a sort of interesting study on the plagiarism they most often see.
  • Finding the first emigrant processed at Ellis Island.

And because I’ve been eyeing aurora borealis photos recently, have some gorgeous shots. Oregon. Northern Minnesota.

Links of interest: July 1st, 2011

Welcome to a very long links roundup, as it’s been a few weeks. (I expect they’ll be fairly regularly through most of July, and then sporadic, as I get myself moved and settled in Maine.) Since I’ve got a ton of links, let’s do these in some simple categories.

Continue reading Links of interest: July 1st, 2011

Links of interest: May 20, 2011

Welcome back after a hiatus (due to a combination of various things, including not having that many links I wanted to share for a week or two.)

Continue reading Links of interest: May 20, 2011

The power of the ‘Net

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about why it’s so important to figure out how to manage our digital lives more thoughtfully – and it’s been highlighted by two different job applications that came up recently (one for a school that’s very thoughtful about screen time, and another where I was talking in my cover letter about how I tie my love of the library and my love of technology together.)

Now, before we go any further, it’s probably obvious that I’m a passionate reader of books. I can count on the finger of both hands the number of times I’ve gone to sleep without reading for at least a few minutes. I read widely and deeply and broadly, in a rainbow of genres.

And I think, the same way, that there are lots of things that are part of our traditional images of libraries and learning that still matter – doing sustained reading, larger research projects, presentations, all those things. But I don’t think that’s enough.

When I’m talking about technology in either an educational or technology setting, I see books as one tool, but not the only one, and maybe not the major one. The larger question is something different: it’s not about simply how to use the tool, but about what the tool can and can’t do for us.

Which brings us to the Internet:

I’ve been online since 1994, when I first got to college. In that time, I’ve made friends, gotten frustrated, planned projects, taught classes (including teaching music theory in a pure-text environment, which was an interesting trick!), learned leadership skills, taught myself about any number of things. And that’s before we get into any of my actual professional or formal educational work – all those things are just the things I did on my own, self-directed, because they were interesting.

Every major news story in the past 15 years, I learned about online before I heard about it from TV or radio news. (There’s one exception: I learned about the 35W bridge collapse while sitting in the computer lab at grad school working on an assignment, as someone walked in having just heard it on the radio before the online stories were up – but I would have seen an online story through my usual haunts inside of five minutes.)

The Internet has kept me in touch with friends – that’s the thing everyone knows it’s good for, especially in our current Facebook era. But it’s more than that: it’s making new connections.

In a job hunt where I’m being very geographically flexible, I’ve found time and time again that if I say “Hey, looking at a job in [wherever]” someone I’m linked to through my personal online accounts will know useful things about the area, or is glad to put me in touch with someone who’s just as glad to share. Or they’ll know someone who graduated from there. Or something else that lets me dig more deeply into what’d be like to live and work in that place. (And it’s been true even for places where I would have sworn it’d be unlikely.)

As someone who did a major cross-country move in 1999, when these tools weren’t nearly so wide spread, I’m delighted by that every time.

And it’s in making other connections – running into someone in a discussion in a forum about our shared religion, and discovering we’ve got academic and professional interests in common. Learning about someone through their hobby, and finding out they write great and passionate and amazing blog posts about another topic that I happen to be helping someone with. And much more.

But it’s also in my professional life.

One of the stories I tell about the power of the Internet goes like this. In the fall of 2009, a student – someone I knew was a brillant, engaged, amazing student – came to me looking for some reference help.

She was taking AP European History, and she wanted to argue, for one of her papers, that you couldn’t consider an era truly ‘modern’ until it had consideration for the role of women and minorities in the culture. (Not that they’d solved the problems – but that they were part of general public conversation and political discourse.) She needed some sources to support her argument.

I looked at that, went “Hey, great topic.” and she and I sat down to do some digging on it. We tried a lot of different approaches, but we kept not finding the right thing. She had to go to class after about 20 minutes so I promised I’d keep working, and I did about another 25 minutes (and brainstormed with my assistant, and tried a few other things) before deciding I needed a different approach.

I posted a request to my personal journal, basically saying “I know various of you have a particular interest in women’s history and diversity studies – any ideas?” and with a few notes about what was accessible in a useful timeframe.

I posted it at 10:55. By 11:15, I had a response with the perfect essay to solve the source problem. (In an older but classic collection that the library owned, even!) Within another hour, I’d had a couple more suggestions, and another reference to the same title’s usefulness.

Now, I could have spent hours poking at that – and likely have found the book, but only after skimming through other titles that might be relevant first (and not having time to spend on other good and useful things that were good for other students, the library, etc.).

With the shared knowledge of my friends, it was a much faster process, and I could get back to a busy and highly engaged student at lunch, and say “Hey, here’s this great book, and here’s some other suggestions, and now that I’ve got those classic articles, here’s a couple more ideas of things to try in JSTOR and other databases.” She thought it was pretty awesome, too.

This is – again – one of those things we’re not really teaching, as technology education professionals.

It’s not just about the tools, and how to use them.

It’s about how we choose to use them, and what we can do in small pieces, now and going forward, that build those connections and create those interactions, so that ‘news’ is not a thing we listen to at 6pm, but a thing that’s flowing around us throughout the day, or that research is not just something we ask a librarian (though there are lots of times that’s a good thing to do) but where we’ve got connections to friends with a wide range of expertise and knowledge in many places.

That’s not easy. For one thing, learning how to sort out all those different sources of information, and figure out which ones are useful or reliable or meaningful gets pretty complicated. But at the same time, can we afford not to have these skills?

And perhaps most importantly, it’s about how we dance with the technology in our lives, in this time of ‘always on’ access. What happens when we turn off the phone, or take a break from the screen? What happens when we want time for focused work, or extended play? How do we recognise our own personal temptations, and find ways to manage them? There are lots of good conversations about these things out there already – but we can use more.

The more I think about this, the more I think that it’s probably the essential question schools need to answer in the next decade or so – and particularly, how to help students for whom various parts of this (creating healthy, balanced connections with others, having access to technology tools but not living under their control,  being comfortable with complexity and issues that don’t have easy answers, and much more) doesn’t come naturally.

Links of interest: April 29th, 2011

(As you can guess by the gap, travel last week did mean I didn’t get other things done that I would have liked, including the links post. Onward! This week’s links cover a fascinating case study in information literacy, online communication in several directions, and some other interesting resources.)

Continue reading Links of interest: April 29th, 2011

Links of interest: April 15th, 2011

Living online:

Comments to one of the posts I linked to last week (Denise’s post about why LiveJournal has been such a major free speech tool in Russia) brought up a link to another great post, this one from a 2008 speech from Ethan Zuckerman (formerly of Tripod) about how technology use can shift – the Cute Cat Theory of Activism. It’s well worth a read.

The future of libraries:
Several interesting posts this week about the future of libraries.

Other ways to teach:

Michael Stephens posts comments about what’s working and not working for two different MLIS students in online programs, and solicits ideas from others – some interesting stuff!

Gwyneth posts a great series of library orientation exercises using QR codes that were particularly accessible to ESOL students.

And Cat Valente (author and prolific blogger) shares a really great story from her own education, and about how a week of class time had a lifetime impact on her sense of story and narrative.

Copyright resources update:
I’ve added two new links to the copyright video resources page – one from YouTube about copyright (as you might guess, pretty heavily on the side of content creators, not remixers), and one from Rocketboom about how to dispute a takedown challenge (and what kinds of uses might be fair uses.) More on the copyright videos page. I have some more additions planned, but due to other commitments, it may be about two weeks before I get a chance to both watch the new videos and write them up.

There may or may not be links post next week: I have a day-long interview in a totally different city on Thursday, so it’ll depend on things like travel delays and the amount of focus I have after that.

Circles, what we tell ourselves, and schools

I’m spending the weekend at a gathering of my co-religionists, talking about fascinating things.

(Actually, I’m one of the people running the event, which after two years of planning is actually a real thing, and so wonderful: all our glitches have been small and fixable so far, but enough to convince me I am not in fact dreaming). But I’m also an attendee. We’ll come back to this.)

One of today’s talks centered around a couple of things that immediately made me go “Must blog about that on ModernHypatia!”

Stories we tell ourselves:

Cultures tell stories. More than that, we tell stories about how the world works, and those stories then shape how the world actually is. Because people listen to the stories.

I’ve been applying to a lot of jobs this year, and one of the things that has fascinated me about the process (and kept me going through the harder bits) has been looking at the stories places that are hiring tell about themselves. It’s particularly true in the independent school community (where the major part of my experience is), but it’s also true in the public libraries and the colleges and the other positions I’m looking at.

Some people call that a mission statement, or a vision statement. But those things are simply reflections of the story, reflections of the narrative, condensed down. Every time we say “This place welcomes diversity” and then act on that, we’re adding to the story. Every time we select books for a display or to add to the collection, we’re adding to the story. One of my library science professors talked about collection development – the art of deciding what to buy (and what not to buy) – as the relationships between an item, other items in the collection, and the people who use them. I definitely agree with that, but I think it goes further: it’s about the stories that become more obvious, when we put them in the same space.

Anyway, part of the talk tonight focused on the narrative of our culture, which is in large part the narrative of progress. That civilisation begins at some distant, dark, and probably unpleasant beginning, goes on through a bunch of stages, and then ends up with us, moving forward through us into some better, brighter, future.

It’s a story where each day must somehow be better than the last, or we’ve failed. It’s a story more and more people I know are less and less satisfied with. It’s lacking. Some see various points that cannot be sustained.

Circles:

It’s also not actually how the world works. Yes, things progress, but they also decline. We have lived in a world that has seen entire classes of beings rise and fall (dinosaurs, for example, or North American and South American megafauna.) And we’ve lived in a world that has seen empires rise – and fall again. A few of those falls have been rapid and catastrophic, but many many more of them have taken place over months, years, decades, centuries – even millenia.

And the world goes on.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot the last few days, because of some other reading. You see, I’m currently reading a mystery series by Frank Tallis, set in Vienna in the very early 1900s. It’s a time when my grandfather and his brother were infants in that same city, and when their father and mother were running a thriving business. It was also a time when the Austro-Hungarian empire covered a substantial portion of the map.

Times change, and that empire – and the glittering, rich, highly musical and artistic and creative and scientific life of the city has changed. But Mom and I travelled to Vienna and Budapest a few years ago: they are still lovely cities, rich in history and culture and feeling and wonderful things going on. They have not gone away, they have not failed, they have not ceased to exist. They have simply moved into another portion of their lives, as summer moves into fall. Fall will move into winter, which, yes, has some downsides (as anyone living in a city like Minneapolis that has had a high snowfall this year can attest). But winter moves on to spring, as well.

In other words, a circle. Not a line. A different way of being, not a failure.

One question that’s come up in almost every job interview is how I feel about ebooks, and their role in the modern library. My answer is simple: right now, the rights and the practical issues are still complicated. I expect that will get sorted out sooner than later: my bet is that the landscape 18 months from now will be substantially easier, from a user point of view, and from a library point of view. I think there’s wonderful things in these tools, including opening up a wider range of what it means to read, and how we read.

But that doesn’t mean the books are going away, any more than Vienna or Budapest somehow faded from the map when there was no more empire. The books we have will still be on the shelves. Some kinds of books work better than current technology allows, for at least some uses. (And I don’t know about you, but as a committed reader-in-bathtubs, I’d much rather drop even a $30 hardcover in the tub than a device costing many times that much.) Some people prefer them, for all sorts of reasons. I welcome the new tools and options, but I think there’s still a place in the world for the older ones.

Circles. Cycles. Keeping the best of the old, but being open to what new stories, what new narratives, may come along. And asking questions about our old stories, and how well they’re actually serving us.

The question of schools

One thing I got asked this week was “Why schools”. I’ve been thinking about my answer quite a bit, in part because it comes back to this in a weird way: I love the opportunity to watch students grow up, grow into the selves that are most magnificent and glorious and amazing in offering their particular insights to the world.

But at the same time, while that’s a progression, at least in terms of age, I also see it as a circle: it is a chance every year to begin at a (fairly arbitrary, honestly) point, and to try some new things, and to do some old thing that are loved and tried and tested and helpful, and to see what happens this time. I love the sense of self-reflection that can bring.

And yet, having known many bright and wonderful people for whom ‘the best college’ was not the best goal, I desperately want a narrative that encourages these people to find the things they’re brilliant and magnificent at and share it with the world – something I think our society at large desperately needs. If we move from a model of the straight line of progress, to the curves of a cycle, more people can be more brilliant at more things – and maybe the things we don’t know we need yet, as a culture, a community, and a world.

The last thing:

The last thing from this particular round of conversation is that so much of this begins with the individual.

My goal, not just as a librarian, as an educator, as a sharer of nifty things, but as a human, is to help people find information that makes their lives better, that helps connect them to options and possibilities in a way that’s meaningful to them. Sometimes it’s just standing there waiting to be helpful if I’m needed. Sometimes it’s problem solving and answering questions.

But I think a lot of it is really about my willingness and interest in improving the world, one question at a time. I’m not perfect at this: like everyone, I mess up, or get sidetracked, or have a bad day. But I try always to move along a circle that’s about more choice, more information, more options, in a way people can manage to deal with.

Two years ago, I started going “Hey. We could do this thing. I think it’d be cool and useful and meaningful.” to the board of the organisation running this conference. After about six months of that, they finally said “Well, I think we can do it.” Eighteen months later, we’re here, with amazing people, having great conversations. And it’s only Friday night.

This is not all about me: this event would not exist without the work of dozens of people (just the same way that a school, or a workplace, or anywhere else, should never be about just one person.) But right now, I’m really pleased that I started out, those months ago, saying “Hey, could we, I think it’d be awesome if…”

We all have the chance to nudge the stuff along that we care about – whether it’s by taking on a big project, or whether it’s by chiming in, sharing a quick thought, showing up for something, passing along a resource. That’s what I do my best to work towards at work, and in my personal life, and all the times that are neither and both.

What I want, the next place I work, and the places I live, and the places I share my friendships and thoughts, is a chance to be part of a circle, part of a cycle that honors the rise and the fall, that can explore new things without rejecting the older truths that still work, that takes time for reflection and conversation, and choice. And one that offers people different ways of being within the community, of offering the things only they can offer, as well as those things many people can do. That’s hard (there is nothing quite like running a volunteer-run event to remind you of that!). But it’s worthwhile. And I know those places are out there.

Where do you find them?

Links of interest: March 11th, 2011

Hello, welcome to this week’s links-that-intrigue-me.

First: Marianne had some great comments about the copyright videos I linked to last week. One of my other browser windows currently has a bunch of open tabs where I am looking for more varied perspectives (in video form). I hope to get that posted sometime early next week. (I was hoping for this week, but forgot about the part where it takes me more time to watch videos than it does to scan most webpages for the useful bits.)

Changing world:

There continues to be a lot of discussion in various online spaces about ebooks, ebooks and libraries, technology and education, and much more. This fails to surprise me, somehow. This week has brought:

21 things that will be obsolete by 2020 covers.. well, 21 things in the world of education that may not be here. I disagree with a number of points (I’m pretty sure print books will continue to be around, in part because it’s not like the existing print books we have now are suddenly going to vanish in a puff of smoke or anything), but it does raise some interesting issues about the assumptions behind our current educational models, and what could change, what should change, and what might be really amazing to explore.

Banned Library has a post on 5 Reasons Libraries Should Not Use eBooks … Yet. There’s some vociferous disagreement in the comments that makes further interesting points. (Me, I agree that there are some very real technical, practical, and funding challenges there, especially for public libraries, and that it makes sense not to put too much weight on any one solution or option until some things settle more.)

Brian, at Swiss Army Librarian, has a roundup of links and conversation about the current ebook situation and Harper Collins. [ETA: I realised when making another edit I forgot to mention something here: my understanding from folks I know in the publishing industry is that most of the costs in publishing remain for ebooks - it's just the shipping/distribution bits of the cost that disappear, which are not as big a part of an individual book's cost as you might think at first glance. I'll see if I can dig up some useful discussions of this.]

Steve Lawson and Iris Jastram have the beginnings of a plan for libraries and ebooks: it’s articulate, thoughtful, and addresses a number of specific frustrations and issues. It also can continue to grow, so they’re looking for feedback. Jenica and Marianne both also have additional excellent comments on the plan. (I’m still thinking about the questions Marianne raises.)

Interacting online:

The other major theme in my reading this week was some interesting approaches to interacting online.

Mark Thompson, at Poynter, has a great post called “A 5-minute framework for fostering better conversations in comments sections” that looks in particular at the challenges of figuring out a better way to do that for NPR’s comment threads, that includes links to a lot of different examples (both of what works, and what fails).

Library Journal Online had a piece on whether incremental or major website redesigns are better for libraries (and there’s some discussion in comments). My own take is that it depends very much on what you’re using on the back-end: sometimes a big leap into a new scaffolding is the best way to be able to be more flexible and incremental in the future.

Tyler Tevo0ren had an interesting guest post at Zen Habits on creating a mindful digital life. I particularly am mulling over the advice to “Choose the traits you like about yourself, and exemplify them online.” and the idea of a digital home versus embassies.

There have been a series of posts by various people on the concept of a “YA Mafia” – namely, the idea that YA authors are using their power to ruin up and coming authors, and that’s turned into a more general discussion about cliquishness, friends, and social connections in the publishing industry.

Holly Black’s initial post on this summarises the flaw with the first part very simply: as she says

“But even if there was a YA Mafia, I very much doubt that they’d be able to ruin your career because writers are basically lazy and impractical people. We live in our heads a lot and we can barely get it together to do anything. Seriously, it took me until after 3pm yesterday to get myself a sandwich.”

She’s got a further link round up in a later post, and the DearAuthor site has some thoughts, links to past discussions related to the romance community, and links to other notable posts related to the bigger discussion of interactions between readers, authors, and reviewers.

And finally:

Sarah, at Librarian in Black, has a fascinating if distressing post talking about the results of a survey around book challenges. I find it distressing, but not precisely surprising that there are more challenges than get reported, and that many challenges are not handled in accordance with the actual policy.

Hi, I’m Jen

Librarian, infovore, and general geek, likely to write comments about books, link collections, and other thoughts related to how we find, use, and take joy in information.

I'm the Information Technology Librarian at the University of Maine at Farmington, the small liberal arts college model campus in the University of Maine system.

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