Schedule for ALA 2016

ALA is getting close! In just a few short weeks, I’ll be at Orlando enjoying the Wizarding World of Harry Potter the company of thousands of fellow librarians. (Well, maybe a little bit of both!) ALA Editions is graciously hosting an event for my book, and I’ll also be co-presenting a couple of career workshops and giving a poster on assessment. Here’s where and when you can find me!

Career Development Workshop
Preparing for Today’s Job Market I: The Job Search
Saturday, 9:30 – 10:30am
ALA JobLIST Career Center

The number one goal for many of us is finding a job. And not just any job — a job that we like, a job that we can grow in and learn from and feel proud of, a job that will enhance our skill sets and propel our careers.  This hands-on workshop will help you feel more confident in your job search by giving you the tools to organize a search, analyze job listings, and write effective, compelling cover letters and resumes. We will also discuss the importance of creating, and maintaining, a professional online presence and look at examples of online portfolios and profiles.

Author Event for Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries
Saturday, 2:30 – 3:15pm
ALA Store (near shuttle bus entrance)

Come visit with me to chat about providing research support for your faculty and students! The ALA Store will also have copies of the book for purchase. 

Career Development Workshop:
Preparing for Today’s Job Market II: The Interview

Sunday, 1:30 – 2:30pm
ALA JobLIST Career Center

Congratulations, you got an interview… now what?! During this workshop we’ll look at what to expect when interviewing at different types of libraries: academic, special, and public.We’ll discuss both remote and in-person interviews, and talk about the importance of doing your research, preparing questions for your interviewers, and showing confidence and personality during your interview. Throughout, we’ll emphasize how to go beyond the qualifications listed on your resume in order to show a potential employer that you are the right candidate for the job.

Poster: Utilizing a Tool to Build a Culture of Assessment: The Data Framework
Sunday, 2:30 – 4:30
Exhibits Hall, Posters 2 (Infrastructure)

The University of Nevada, Las Vegas Libraries first developed a Data Framework over a decade ago to track what library data was collected and reported. Since data use has grown exponentially, a major revision and reconfiguration was necessary. The revised Data Framework is a Tableau-based tracking tool and a data management map. This poster will be valuable for librarians desiring better data control throughout their organization and increasing staff interest in data collection and use.

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Shameless Book Plug

In March 2016, my book Dynamic Research Support for Academic Libraries was released in the UK by Facet Publishing, and will also be available in the US from the ALA Store and through Amazon.com. It’s a contributed volume full of accounts from amazing librarians about how they support faculty and student research at academic libraries across the globe!

What does “research support” mean? It’s any method by which a librarian (or a related information maven) supports how faculty and students contribute to knowledge in their discipline. This includes some services traditionally in the library wheelhouse (reference or research consultations), but is rapidly expanding to include support for GIS projects, better metadata, and more. For more about this topic, see the video below.

Who should read this book?

  • Librarians, administrators, and other library staff interested in re-thinking their approach to research support.
  • Librarians looking for an international approach to this topic.
  • Library school students interested in emerging forms of academic librarianship.

For more about the book’s content and structure, see the following video.

If you enjoy the video’s spiffy “research lifecycle” graphic, you can also download it as a PDF to print and enjoy as a nerdy decoration for your office, or proudly affix to the front of your home refrigerator.

Seattle Public Library

The Future of Academic Libraries

The two library-related questions I hear most are:

1) Will ebooks replace print books in the near future?

2) How is the digital revolution changing the mission of libraries; what will academic libraries become in the future?

The first question frustrates me on a number of levels, primarily because I hear it so often. The question is asked either in a tone of horror at the thought that the Era of No More Print Books is imminent, or with a bit skeptical cynicism, wondering who would choose to be a librarian in an age when you might soon become “irrelevant” (sigh). My pat responses are: this shift isn’t happening as fast as originally anticipated, print books continue to have lasting power beyond device lifetime and software upgrades, and ultimately the ebook format isn’t killing literature, it’s simply another format in which to digest the content of books. Cultures originally related stories and information orally before turning to stone and scrolls, then becoming books. Books have remained in essentially the same form for centuries because they are cheap, portable, and when printed on quality materials can be preserved for eons. However, stories and information will last beyond the medium of the print book. This is simply a change in format: like VHS to DVD to Blu-ray. Yes, there are other issues inherent in this conversation (for instance, the relative cheapness of a paperback to buying an ereader), but that’s as far as I want to get into that issue now.

Mosaic of Libraries

The second question, what will academic libraries become in the future, is more interesting to me. This question is built on an assumption that libraries are currently defined by providing access to print books, that this mission is dying (see above), and that they must redefine themselves or risk losing cultural relevance.

I believe the issue comes down to: academic libraries have always supported the parent mission of their academic institutions. They will continue to do this. But there is no predictable all-encompassing “future of academic libraries” because there is no predictable “future of all higher education institutions.”

Let’s take this in stages. First is the misconception that there is broad commonality to institutions of higher education in the United States. The truth is that American higher education from colonial times onward has drawn from multiple models, including the German research university model, the liberal arts model (preparing “well-rounded” citizens), and the (more modern) home-grown U.S. model of community colleges with open access to all, regardless of academic preparedness. Aside from those and other broad models there are a multiplicity of institutional missions serving different student populations. Some institutions are supported by (continually dwindling) public funds, some are private. Some are backed and shaped by religious organizations. Some cater to young students living on-campus, while others primarily serve commuting professionals or “non-traditional” students returning to school after a long absence. Some were designed to serve specific ethnic or cultural groups. Some institutions focus on teaching undergraduates while others are havens of research that improves medical, technological, and other advances. Some institutions prepare individuals for specific careers by teaching practical professional or vocational skills, while others focus on broad concepts like critical thinking. This great variety is a strength of American higher education, providing an education as rich and varied as the needs of our diverse population. With all of this diversity of mission and execution of education, why would we expect that all academic libraries would evolve into similar organizations?

Second, higher education is shifting in unpredictable ways. The digital revolution isn’t just affecting academic libraries, it’s affecting educational practice. Online education is exploding as institutions continue to migrate or replicate face-to-face courses in online sections and as a variety of organizations and individuals offer MOOCs. Even traditional face-to-face courses often have technological components such as class websites for resources or discussion and technology-dependent assignments. And higher education is changing rapidly beyond technological considerations. Public institutions are scrambling for ways to keep tuition affordable even as state support for education crumbles, leaving them a far cry from the truly public-funded model upon which they were founded. Institutions and their academic libraries seek to supplement deflated budgets by increasing efforts in fund-raising, grant-writing, and seeking alternate methods of gaining revenue. Students and the public are up in arms about increased tuition costs and unsustainable student debt, demanding change. Companies argue that higher education must adapt to meet community employment needs, spurring arguments about the nature and purpose of undergraduate education in the U.S. Institutions react to these situations in a variety of ways, thus it stands to reason that their supporting libraries will similarly shift in different ways.

Third, academic libraries already exhibit different philosophies of service and purpose. If you walk into several different academic libraries across the nation right now, you will find that they can look very different from each other. Some libraries thrive in a traditional book-driven model, with formal reading rooms. They continue to see high student use of the physical building and high circulation of physical volumes. For the faculty and students at those institutions, this is an important and relevant way to interact with the information they need. Other libraries are minimizing or eliminating print collections and using their physical space for multimedia development and group study space, utilizing the “information commons” model or becoming a student union-like space. Public service librarians may continue to perform traditional reference activities at a reference desk, may use the “roving/roaming” model of seeking out patrons in need of help, or may only perform reference interviews upon individual appointment. Some librarians have become fulltime instructors or work on instruction teams with faculty members, spending their time teaching students how to use information. Some are highly trained to help students use advanced technologically saturated spaces to craft complex media presentations. Some librarians continue to provide traditional reference services, but completely via email, online chat, social media platforms, or text message. And some public services librarians have migrated to completely new kinds of positions at institutions, perhaps digitizing collections or working in assessment.

So the question of what academic libraries will become, what will be their new mission and services in an ever-evolving digital environment, doesn’t have a blanket answer. I do not believe we are facing the imminent death of academic libraries any more than I believe we are facing the imminent death of the book (print or otherwise). Yes, many libraries are under increased pressure to defend their relevancy to maintain their shrinking budgets. The real problem isn’t finding the magic answer of what all academic libraries should become, but discovering how each individual library can best meet the needs of its parent institution. That is the key to maintaining relevance, and always has been. It may be a more difficult problem than in the past, in the face of so many varied directions and potential services—but it is, as ever, a process of discovering what the libraries’ mission should be, and how to best align limited resources and services to serve it.

Under pressure from administration or peer institutions, too many libraries try to do everything and fail miserably. They try to juggle traditional reference, increase information literacy instruction, create new digital collections, engage with students on multiple social media platforms, develop rich print and electronic resources, renovate space for student use, and any number of other activities. This results in a budget and a staff stretched too thin over competing missions. It’s difficult to succeed when your energy, attention, and resources are running in multiple directions. In my opinion, the mantra “do more with less” is far too common in academic libraries, and instead of being a rallying cry; this can feel like a giant fist pounding staff into the ground. A realistic look at budget and resources that is carefully allocated over targeted strategies and limited to a clear mission will help a library evolve in a way that is meaningful and relevant to its parent institution.

So what will academic libraries become in the future? Academic libraries will evolve as an even more varied rainbow of organizations varied in physical space, collections, services, and staff, serving their institutions in increasingly creative and unique ways.

The Next Big Thing: My Work in Progress

My lovely friend/family/ninja-librarian-author Claire tagged me in “The Next Big Thing” meme about my NaNoWriMo WIP (Work In Progress). I’ll blog more about my AcWriMo goals (one academic book chapter, one article) a little later.

1) What is the working title of your book?

Scarlet and the Beast.

2) Where did the idea for the book come from?

My bookshelves and e-readers are stuffed to the gills with fairy tales… and fantasy almanacs… and literary criticism of fairy tale and folklore development. This is an interest that started in childhood and followed me into nerdy academia-land. I read articles about the symbolism of thread and spindles for fun. I kid you not.

About thirteen years ago, I started writing the Beast’s side of the Beauty and the Beast story. I wanted to explore the psychological effect of trying to keep your humanity when your biological instincts were screaming to be an animal. But there were a few problems: 1) Donna Jo Napoli did a similar thing in Beast, 2) this leaves Beauty’s part in the story really small and unsatisfying, and 3) it’s really depressing. And (gasp!) a little boring.

So early last year, I was thinking about Little Red Riding Hood and its narrative potential. Hashing it out with Claire, I realized it would dovetail well with what I’d conceptualized about the Beast story. And there you have it: enter Scarlet into the Beast narrative!

3) What genre does your book fall under? 

YA fantasy.

4) Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Whew, this takes some thought! Here goes…

Emma Watson as Scarlet

James McAvoy as Beast / the Baron’s son

Maisie Williams as Mouse, Scarlet’s little sister  (fierce and adorable!)

Liam Neeson as Scarlet’s Grandfather (a master hunter and a wee bit scary)

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

When her merchant father dies in bankruptcy, Scarlet must partner with a Beast to protect her little sister Mouse as they cross a western landscape of warring baronies to find her Grandfather.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’ll be seeking an agent.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

I’ve just finished outlining the plot and have started the first draft. Planning to get the majority of this draft done during NaNoWriMo.

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Robin McKinley’s Deerskin is a similarly serious exploration of the human consequences of a twisted fairy tale plot. McKinley’s work in general is successful at making fairy tale characters real, accessible, plausible. The setting is reminiscent of Kazu Kibuishi’s western graphic novel Daisy Kutter, though with a medieval feudalistic flavor in place of Daisy’s Kutter‘s steampunky robot flavor.

 9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I always wanted to know what happened before Beauty showed up. Did the Beast give in to his animal nature for a while? What did he eat? Why did he decide to act like a human, even though he didn’t look like one? Did hunters try to track him down?

Then when the trailers for the 2011 Red Riding Hood film came out, I started imagining the movie I’d actually like to see about that story. Something in a different setting than your usual beautiful-but-hum-drum European fairytale forest. I thought about how growing up in the Texas hill country, that landscape was very different than what I read in fairy tales… and then the story kind of exploded from there.

10) What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

The story is set in a society that’s a blend of the American Old West and the medieval European system of feudalistic baronies. There are rifles, but no trains (sorry, steampunk fans!). There are knights on horseback, but their armor is leather and they carry spears and rifles in place of swords. There’s no central system of government–regions are ruled by barons who employ vassals to serve as counselors, physics, guards, or knights, and who have serf-like peasants raise their livestock and farm their land. These baronies are fiercely competitive over land and scarce water sources. It’s through this treacherous landscape that Scarlet, a merchant’s daughter from a more civilized coastal town, must make her way to find her Grandfather. When she reaches her Grandfather’s hunting cabin, however, she finds Beast there instead… My, what big teeth you have! 

And now back to writing, with my bluegrass-plus-Firefly-soundtrack playlist on!

2012 NaNoWriMo and AcWriMo Goals

While I wait on copy edits for my dissertation, I’m going to participate in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) for the first time! I’ve always wanted to–we had support groups and coffee for participants at the UNT Libraries each year–but work plus school never left me with the will to add a novel to the mix. This year, I’m planning to split my writing goals between NaNo (typical goal is 50,000 words by the end of the month) and AcWriMo–Academic Writing Month. Here’s how I’m splitting it up:

  • NaNoWriMo: 40,000 words
  • AcWriMo: 10,000 words (1 book chapter, 1 article)
  • dissertation copy-edits (when I get the draft back): no word count, just counting it as productive related-to-writing time!

Since I was traveling, I didn’t actually start until yesterday, and I’m going to play by my own rules (a NaNo rebel! I’m in good company…) and give myself until December 12th to meet these goals. That gives me until two days before my commencement to get it all done, which seems like a decent amount of time.

The chapter is for an upcoming book on leadership in academic libraries–my chapter is on recommendations for education and mentoring of future library leaders. It will draw on my dissertation research, specifically my last chapter that discusses results and implications. I’ve got several articles percolating in my brain that are based on my dissertation research… I’m narrowing it down to either focusing on my results related to education of library deans, or an article that reports an overview of all my results. I’d like to publish the educational one first, but that one will require some additional stats crunching beyond what I already calculated for my dissertation. So we’ll see how that goes, crammed in with all the other writing.

I’ve got a teeny tiny plush Chewie (as in, the Wookie) who’s going to be my writing mascot. He’s tiny enough to take along in my purse, and hopefully he’ll keep me amused and encouraged about the process. I’m going to meet awesome-framily-and-author Claire tonight for a writing date, so Chewie may meet some sparkly unicorn pals to keep him company… Nothing like some unicorns and a large furry alien to get you excited about writing a book chapter on academic library leadership!