Off Balance

My daughter
My daugher, in the fancy party dress from her first birthday party

Occasionally, I read news articles or blog posts about the concept of a “work/life balance”, especially in academia.  Inside HigherEd recently had two interesting posts on the topic, ‘Balance’ is a Woman’s Issue and Balance is a Myth.  Normally I read these with interest, but also with a feeling that I have things pretty well figured out.  I have a wonderful partner who shares equal responsibility for housework and child care, and a library director who understands that 1-year old little girls have no respect for working hours or project deadlines..

The last couple of weeks have tested this perceived balance.  First, my husband became ill, and rapidly got sicker and sicker.  I finally bullied him into seeing a doctor, where we learned he had pneumonia.  His need for rest (and inability to get that rest while taking care of our daughter) piled the majority of household duties on me.  I now have an increased appreciation for those without supportive partners!  Second, a close family friend died unexpectedly.  In order to attend the funeral, I needed to re-arrange some reference desk hours and reschedule an information literacy session (thank goodness for understanding faculty).  At home, I needed to prepare my house for guests since I had family flying in to attend the funeral.

All of this led to a couple of off-balance weeks and more laundry than any sane person should have to do.  The feeling of having things pretty well under control is (at least temporarily) gone.  I am playing catch-up at work after taking a few days off to deal with everything, made even worse by the fact that my schedule has been very full this week.  At home, laundry sits unfolded, dishes tend to pile up, and I have a stack of household paperwork left undone on my desk at home.

So far, my schedule for next week is more open.  If I can make it through one more information literacy session tomorrow, a webinar with our our director of sponsored research and a seminar with the library director and provost, I think I might make it.  Hopefully I will have the time to work on projects that I have left languishing on my desk this week.

But the laundry may still not get done.  I hate laundry.


Books I read in 2009

The only reason I was able to read as much as I did in 2009 is because of the new eBook readers for my iPhone.

Kate was born in February 2009

In February 2009, I gave birth to my first child, a daughter named Kate, and she kept me busy most of the year.  Thanks to the elegantly designed Kindle reader for iPhone, I was able to read one-handed while feeding or rocking my daughter.

I also used the new Barnes and Noble eBook reader for iPhone, but that app wasn’t quite as elegant.  The pages were just a bit harder to turn, and the need to authenticate using my credit card number was a pain.  I will probably give this app another chance in 2010 – hopefully after Barnes and Noble improves it a bit.

Last year I read a lot of fiction – a bit easier and faster to read than the non-fiction I like.  I found a couple of new authors and rapidly read most of what they wrote.

To find these books in a library near you, you can view this list at

Ackerman, Diane. 1990. A natural history of the senses. New York: Random House.

Allen, Sarah Addison. 2008. The sugar queen. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Dell.

Allen, Sarah Addison. 2007. Garden spells. New York: Bantam Books.

Dorfman, Josh. 2009. The lazy environmentalist on a budget: save money, save time, save the planet. New York: Abrams.

Fernyhough, Charles, and Charles Fernyhough. 2009. A thousand days of wonder: a scientist’s chronicle of his daughter’s developing mind. New York: Avery.

Florey, Kitty Burns. 2009. Script and scribble: the rise and fall of handwriting. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Melville House Pub.

Green, Jane. 2009. Dune road. New York: Viking.

Hornby, Nick. 2009. Juliet, naked. New York: Riverhead Books.

Kinsella, Sophie. 2008. Remember me? New York, N.Y.: Dial Press.

Lamb, Cathy. 2007. Julia’s chocolates. New York: Kensington Books.

López, Lorraine. 2008. The gifted Gabaldón sisters. New York: Grand Central Pub.

McInerney, Monica. 2006. Family baggage: a novel. New York: Ballantine Books.

McInerney, Monica. 2009. Greetings from somewhere else: a novel. New York: Ballantine Books Trade Paperbacks.

McInerney, Monica. 2007. The Faraday girls: a novel. New York: Ballantine Books.

McInerney, Monica. 2005. The alphabet sisters: a novel. New York: Ballantine Books.

McInerney, Monica. 2008. Upside down, inside out: a novel. New York: Ballantine Books.

Meacham, Jon. 2008. American lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House.

Moore, Alan, and Dave Gibbons. 1987. Watchmen. New York: DC Comics Inc.

Morton, Kate. 2008. The house at Riverton: a novel. New York: Atria Books.

Morton, Kate. 2009. The forgotten garden: a novel. New York: Atria Books.

Murkoff, Heidi Eisenberg. 2008. What to expect the first year. New York: Workman Pub.

Myron, Vicki, and Bret Witter. 2008. Dewey: a small-town library cat who touched the world. New York: Grand Central Pub.

Nicastro, Nicholas. 2008. Circumference: Eratosthenes and the ancient quest to measure the globe. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Okasha, Samir. 2002. Philosophy of science: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Shaffer, Mary Ann, and Annie Barrows. 2008. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. New York, N.Y.: The Dial Press.

Tomalin, Claire. 1997. Jane Austen: a life. New York: Knopf.

Walker, Kathryn. 2008. A stopover in Venice: a novel. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

Weir, Alison. 2009. Mistress of the monarchy: the life of Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster. New York: Ballantine Books.

Weisberger, Lauren. 2008. Chasing Harry Winston. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Why did I become a librarian? Blame my dad.

I just encountered the “Library Routes Project“, started in October, 2009, to document how librarians came to the profession.  In reading through some of the entries, it strikes me that my story is not unique – many of us came to the profession almost accidentally, at the recommendation of a friend or family member or through a serendipitous discovery of a magazine article about librarianship.

My Dad
My dad provided the push I needed to get my MLS

My short story is that my dad suggested it.

Have you thought about library school?  You should really look into it.

As usual with his pieces of advice, I ignored him for a few years before finally coming to the conclusion that he was absolutely spot-on.

When my dad first mentioned the idea, I was working as a geology lab instructor.  I had finished a graduate degree in geology (from Kent State University) in 2001, and I wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go from there.  I knew I didn’t want to be a lab instructor for the duration – I wanted a career that had opportunities for advancement and the opportunity to try new things.  Neither was a part of my lab instructor position.  I explored a lot of options:  a degree in environmental engineering? a PhD in Geography? a PhD in Geology?

A question from a student in one of my lab courses brought me back to my dad’s advice.

I have this printout here, but I can’t find the rest of the article.

The student had found a citation from GeoRef, but didn’t have the knowledge or skills to connect the citation with the full text of the journal article.  We talked about it, and he seemed surprised to learn that there were bound journals over in the library.

I started researching ways to help my students with their research skills, and came across the concept of “information literacy“.

I realized that, as a librarian, I could help students in this way.

I started library school in 2005 and started working at my current position a few years later.

My job as a science librarian combined my love of research, my massive curiosity and my interest in educating college students.  As a science librarian, I get to be closely connected to scientific research and help students along their path to becoming scientists.

Thanks, Dad.

What a difference a baby makes

My baby
My baby

On a normal conference morning, my alarm would wake me up, I would shower and get dressed, have a quick breakfast and head to the convention center.  Today was not a normal conference morning.

With my baby in tow, I was awakened by her hungry fussing an hour before I would otherwise have awoken.  I fed the baby, changed her, used my breast pump, and played for a little while before my mom woke up.  After getting about we ate breakfast while trying to get the baby to nap at the same time.  Then I left the baby with my mother and headed to the conference.

My presence at this conference is only possible because my mother has graciously agreed to come to DC with me and babysit while I’m at the conference.  Hopefully next year, when I’m not nursing, it will be easier for the baby to stay at home with her Dad.

My mother’s presence is necessary because this conference does not provide a child care center.  This surprises me, especially since other professional conferences (including those in male dominated fields) often provide on site care (for a fee).

The one thing missing from this conference is those chance conversations at dinners and receptions and other informal gatherings – when I’m not in a session, I am heading back to the hotel to feed my little one and take care of her.

As a result, I get to hear about evening receptions and tours via twitter, instead of attending myself.

I am grateful that my mom is retired and excited to help me out for the week: I wouldn’t be here without her.

I wish this conference (and others) would offer more support for mothers with young children.  They are often at a point in their career when they could use all the benefits a national conference has to offer but cannot take advantage due to the challenges of conferencing-with-baby.