On Messing Up

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks.

I owe a colleague some cookies. CC Image courtesy of flickr user jamieanne

Over the past two weeks, I have messed up big time, twice. Both times for similar reasons – I forgot to talk to someone important at the right time in a process. In one case it involved a project that I working on with a student and a faculty member, and I didn’t talk to our systems administrators early enough in the process. In another, I forgot to pass on some important information related to a search committee I’m on.

In both cases, I owned up to my mistakes, and begged forgiveness. I owe one person some cookies. In both cases, I was pleasantly reminded of how wonderful my colleagues are. Both accepted my apologies and said that things would work out fine, and both put in some additional work to help fix my mistake.

So here is a public mea culpa and a public acknowledgment that my colleagues are wonderful!  Let’s hope I can get through some of my next projects without any big missteps.


Books I read in 2011

Stereotypically, librarians have a lot of time to read at work.  In reality, any reading we do (even for professional purposes) is typically done in our “free” time.  With the birth of my second daughter this year, that free time was almost non existent, and as a result, I read considerably fewer books this year.  You can view the complete list at Worldcat.org to find each book in a library near you.

Some great non fiction:

Some fiction I really liked:

Some stuff to fill in the time at 3am when you are awake holding a baby and need something to read on your iPhone that you don’t need to think too much about:

And then there is this:

See also: Books I read in 2010 and Books I read in 2009

“Amazon has never been just a river in South America”

"This sandstone is made of quite well rounded grains of quartz, cemented together by calcium carbonate. Cambrian, NW Scotland. Field of view 3.5 mm, polarising filters."
Sandstone in thin section, one of the topics of my Sedimentary Petrology class

It was early 1997 in an 8:30am Sedimentary Petrology course at St. Lawrence University.  With only 7 students in the class, we often got side tracked at the beginning and I distinctly remember my professor talking about some books he had just ordered on “Amazon.com”.

As a lover of bookstores I felt a bit underwhelmed by the offerings in New York’s North Country and my ears perked up.  An online bookstore?  They have everything?  I was very excited.

After class I went to the basement computer lab and fired up Netscape to check it out.  What wonders to behold!  With a clean design and access to all the books I could think of, I was in love.

Our entering first year students never had the moment of discovery for Amazon.com.  As the 2015 Beloit College Mindset List indicates:

12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.

For these students born in 1993, the internet was ubiquitous by the time they were old enough to be aware of their surroundings.

And for the first time, I’m feeling a little old after reading the list.

And I’m back

I started back at work today after a three month maternity leave to take care of this little angel and her older sister:

Baby Emma
Baby Emma

What will be keeping me busy this summer?

  • Weeding a significant portion of our Computer Science collection.  How many books do you need about Fortran?  Do we need a 1977 guide to using minicalculators in the classroom?
  • Working with the committee composing our campus’ HHMI grant application
  • Chairing a search committee
  • Working on our campus’ Middle States Report
  • Learning about the new CMS for our library website
  • Figuring out what our new library assessment committee will be doing
  • Talking with more faculty for a project I wrote about earlier
  • Trying to remember why I put a note on my calendar to contact a certain faculty member next week.  Perhaps I should have added an explanatory note!?

Luckily for me, summer time in my academic library is time to get the big projects done without worrying as much about reference desk hours and library instruction classes.  It’s a good time to come back to work.

What keeps you busy during the summer?

Blogging Hiatus and Maternity Leave

A stork from southern spain
A stork from southern spain. CC Image courtesy of flickr user mettamatt

I was recently honored to be listed among some very outstanding company on LISNews’ Blogs to Read in 2011, and my blog statistics suggest that many of you are new readers.  Welcome!

As a result, the announcement of a blogging hiatus seems ill-timed.  I will be largely missing from the blogosphere and twitterverse for the next three months as I take some time off to welcome my second daughter, due any day now.

I hope you will stay tuned when I return in June and continue to chronicle the issues and events that affect an undergraduate’s search for scientific information.

Miscellaneous things I’ve learned lately

  • Genetics researchers at undergraduate institutions can have a hard time finding projects that are interesting enough to get funding, but not so interesting that a larger lab swoops in to do the work.
  • Our students got more books through ILL last year than they checked out from our own collection. (Special thanks to the IDS project for getting these books to students in 5 days on average)
  • Two of the undergraduates I’ve taught in information literacy sessions are interested in science librarianship.
  • This quote: “Facts are not science – as the dictionary is not literature.” -Martin Fisher, Fischerisms
  • My two year old will eat cucumbers, just not the skin
  • My organization is switching from Oracle calendar to Google calendar (Yay!) but we will have to run two systems simultaneously for a little while.

Tools of the trade – How I get stuff done

For Christmas this year, I received a leather cover for the notebook I use at work, so I thought I’d share a little bit about the tools I use to get things done.

First, the analog stuff.

The Notabilia notebook with the leather cover I got for Christmas
The Notabilia notebook with the leather cover I got for Christmas
  • I use a Notabilia composition book from Levenger to keep all of my meeting notes and general ideas.  I’ve tried various online and software solutions to keeping notes, but I like having everything in one place, and the ability to (occasionally) go without a computer.  I like the fact that the pages in a composition book are bound, and the paper quality in this one is excellent.  I received a beautiful leather cover for this notebook for Christmas (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
  • I get pretty picky about my pens.  I use black uniball vision elite pens for all of my note taking.

  • I keep a small moleskine notebook to help me organize my day.  Now, all of my meetings and classes are recorded in my online schedule, but I need some way to structure my “unscheduled” time (when I have some).  So in my small notebook I  just jot down which projects I will spend my time on that day.  Low tech, but useful.

Then, the digital stuff.

  • Oracle Calendar.  This is perhaps my least favorite online calendar, but it is the one my organization uses, so I live with it.  My colleagues can add meetings to my schedule and easily see if I’m busy (and I can do likewise).  Through some clunky third party software I can get this on my iPhone, but I really can’t wait until my organization drops this in favor of Google Calendar, or just about anything else.
  • TaskPaper.  My to-do list.  Lots of folks swear by the more complex personal project management software, but I really like the simplicity of this project, and I like the fact that I can sync it with my iPhone.
  • Google Docs.  Essential for working on documents on multiple computers and sharing stuff with other folks.  I get really annoyed now when folks just want to send .doc files back and forth via email.
  • Microsoft Word.  Having said that, I still use MS Word for a lot of my lesson planning.  I like the “Notebook” template that allows me to keep my library instruction lesson plans
  • Coda.  Great program for editing code.  I don’t do this as much as I used to, but it is a great program.
  • Adium.  Useful for getting stuff done with colleagues and students.  Also useful to avoid getting stuff done.
  • Tweetdeck.  Best way to keep up with folks on twitter.

What analog and digital tools allow you to get your work done?

Books I read in 2010

I read 31 books in 2010, just one more than last year.  As usual, the list is a mix of lighthearted fiction and some (slightly) more serious non-fiction.  I tend to prefer humorous books of all sorts, and the lovely combination of science, technology, personality and humor made Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars : the curious science of life in the void my favorite book this year.

The year started out rather juvenile with a quick read of the popular Twilight series.  I was feeding my daughter in a chair in my 12 year old niece’s room, and the only books within reach were Junie B Jones, Kindergartner, or Twilight.  I’m not convinced I made the right choice.  However, my knowledge of the books has allowed me to engage in some interesting conversations with my niece, which have been fun.

My final book of the year was the new ‘biography’ of cancer Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee.  The book was very engaging and thought provoking.  As a book that discusses some history of science, I appreciated the focus on scientific methodologies and the important role personality plays in scientific discovery.

As usual, I wish some of my favorite authors could write more – I eagerly await the next books by Christopher Moore, Jasper Fforde and Bill Bryson.

Here is the list.  Items marked by an asterisk (*) were read on the Kindle app for iPhone.