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maura @ 7:07 pm

Feeling a bit fried from this week, ever so slightly crispy ’round the edges. Everyone’s back to school and while I do love the certainty of the schoolyear schedules, since it’s a new school for Gus this year we’re still settling into the newness. Middle school is much more complicated than elementary school, with lots more to remember. Plus lots of deadlines for me this past week.

New for me is a new title: I was promoted to Associate Professor in August. Which is exciting and gratifying! I’m proud of myself, and it’s been lovely to get congratulations from colleagues, family, and friends.

What’s perhaps a smidge unanticipated is that the promotion hasn’t automatically = me chilling out about everything at work that I feel that I need to do. It’s not just that I still have 3 yrs til I come up for tenure, though I’m sure that has something to do with it. Part of it is my tendency to want to do all the things, because there are so many library and academic things that I find interesting. As much as I realize that’s a good problem to have, I still have trouble saying no to stuff that looks neat and fun, whether I’m the asked or the asking. So I pile it on then stress out about not having enough time to get it all done while still having some semblance of a life outside work. This is not good.

The slowerness of summer helped, for sure, and I did and am still making an effort to do all the things I need to do to keep sane: family time, enough sleep, exercise, some leisure reading, near-daily writing. Right now my biggest looming worry is the book: we still have lots to think and write, and it’s difficult to find the mental space with everything up to its normal termtime velocity. I have some research time scheduled for a couple of mornings per week, and trying to combine early-to-work + lunch-hour for the other days. I realized after last year that I really need the weekends to be non-work time, though I will take advantage of the occasional playdate or sleepover to sneak in some work, preferably on the book.

Today’s had brunch + errands + a lovely walk in this delicious weather + reading + buying new music, which means that I should probably go eat dinner so I can take advantage of the sleepover happening in my living room right this very minute!

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and i walk

maura @ 6:12 pm

I’ve been trying to get back in the swing of fiction reading lately but I’m having trouble reading anything other than YA dystopia. Blame the Hunger Games, of course, but also probably my brain-fried-at-the-end-of-the-semester-ness, which seems to have rendered me incapable of reading grown-up books. Is it the slower plotting? I just don’t know — it’s 800 bajillion degrees out today and my brain has melted.

The last grown-up novel I tried to read was Swamplandia!, which I checked out from the public library onto my phone and was unable to finish before it expired. Partly it was the annoyingness of the fact that ebooks expire in the first place, which seems so silly and made me dig in my heels about finishing it, esp. since the pagination on my phone made it 1274 pages long. Also I found it kind of depressing, and I recently decided to shake off my prior self-restriction about finishing books even if I don’t really like them because hey! life’s too short! And there are always other things to read.

I checked out two YA dystopian ebooks onto my phone, too: The Giver and Gathering Blue, both by Lois Lowry. They were pretty good, both set in the same world, I think, though the characters in each didn’t overlap. They share a similar trait that I can’t decide how I feel about: both end right in the middle of some action. The endings are basically upbeat, but it’s just kind of weird to have things break off and not be resumed in the next book. There’s one more book in this loose trilogy so I’m planning to get that from the library, too.

Then I got kind of annoyed that the library has such a craptastic selection of ebooks (which is not our fault! blame the publishers, not the libraries! we WANT to have a better selection, honest, but they won’t sell them to us!) because I had to place a hold on my next two YA books (plus the new Alison Bechdel book) in paper since an ebook version wasn’t available. Not that I mind paper (and in many ways I prefer it, see above re: pagination) but I’ve had a bunch of meetings in Manhattan recently and ebooks are so much easier to schlepp on the subway. Plus the instant gratification thing: if the title is available, that’s kind of crack-tastic.

I’m also reading Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan books (finished the first last week, onto the second now), a steampunk + genetic manipulation of animals World War I trilogy that Gus devoured last year. So one of the books I requested from the library is Uglies, Westerfeld’s YA dystopian book (first of 4, I think?). The other book I requested is The Explosionist, which I found again while trolling my Delicious for things I tagged “to read”.

I’d meant to pick those two up over the weekend, because I got the email that they’re on the hold shelf for me, but the library’s closed for the holiday. Denied!

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you’re only young once

maura @ 3:31 pm

I’m taking some reassigned time this afternoon. I had a presentation to give in the morning and have a meeting at 5pm, both in Manhattan, and it just seemed silly to go back to Brooklyn. So I’m camped out at the library at the CUNY Graduate Center trying to wrangle a couple of things: a conference proposal (or 2), my plans for the summer (putting in for lots of RT so my partner in crime + I can write a book about this), and cleaning up some stuff around said research project (my kingdom for consistent filenames!).

I spend most of my library time in my workplace. We have about 16K students at my college in a space designed for much, much, fewer, and with little in the way of student lounge areas on campus (and no official student center) things can get a tad noisy, to say the least. Realistically, I don’t think this is unusual even for college libraries that are larger than ours.

But here I am at a library which caters specifically to graduate students and faculty, and you know what? While it’s not nearly as loud as MPOW, I’m frankly surprised by the number of folks I’ve encountered chatting to their neighbors or on their cellphones. Really? In the library??? There’s plenty of casual gathering/chatting space in this building, too. Library voices, indeed!

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where i’m from

maura @ 9:57 pm

It’s hilariously cliched but true: when you are a librarian, people sometimes say things to you like: “I bet you love to read” (true), and “You must read all day” (false). I mean, I do read all day, just like you do: I read emails and meeting minutes and other worky stuff.

I have tried and tried to make time for reading, the nonwork kind, the fiction kind. STORIES. I put it on my list of Things I Try To Do Every Day. But it’s so easy to let that one slide. Unlike writing, it doesn’t get harder for me to read the less I read. And unlike exercise, I don’t get all hunched-over and achey if it’s been a couple of days since I’ve picked up a good book.

Reading is so easy to ignore, but it makes me feel mournful when I think about how little I read. I stare at the pile of books on my desk, on my shelf, and wonder when I’ll ever get to them. I could cut out internet reading, but my feed is never really under control anyway so it’s not like I spend lots of time reading on the nets. (I’m also about 4 issues behind in the New Yorker, but who’s counting?)

But, (lest we end on an unhappy note), good news, everyone! In a couple of weeks I’m going to be traveling by bus for a long, long time. Bus travel is no picnic, but I’m actually somewhat gleeful when I think about the time I can spend reading.


on teaching and learning and worthwhile work

maura @ 10:49 pm

It’s been quiet around here, I know. But it seems like the semester’s finally settling in so I hope to be more present here, to write more in general, really.

Anyway, back in late August (which it feels like right now because it’s about 75 humid degrees), I wrote something about school and homework and struggling. But things got busy and I never finished or posted it. It’s weird to reread it now — seems practically like another lifetime ago. But it also seems a shame to waste the words, since writing, even the most self-indulgent bloggy kinds of writing, is hard work. So let’s see what I can make of it. And the bonus, since it’s a month later, is that I can share the end of the story (so far), too!

As summer draws to a close I’m thinking about working and teaching and starting the new school year. Gus’s new year is starting soon, too, which means that I’m racking my brain to think of strategies we can use to get through this year’s homework.

Last year featured some epic homework battles, occasional storms that besmirched an otherwise pretty excellent 4th grade experience. Sometimes the battles were over work that he finds difficult. Other times there were no battles – the homework was just challenging enough, interesting, and, dare I say, even enjoyable.

The biggest battles (and most frustrating, at least for me) were over homework that was a straightforward review of stuff he’d already mastered, esp. if that review came in the form of a worksheet. It wasn’t engaging for him, and that stuck in his craw, hard. We had the same conversation repeatedly, trying to convince him to just sit down and do the homework and get it over with quickly so he could move on to something more fun, rather than raging against it and drawing out the entire process. Some nights we were all miserable.

As much as I find all of the homework theatrics annoying (and angering), I feel for the kid, too. No disrespect at all to the teachers, who perform heroic feats in crowded classrooms (30 kids last year, 1 teacher) over long hours every day. But some of the homework *is* boring. It’s unengaging. It’s busy-work. And I can sympathize with Gus’s inability to see that as worthwhile work (while occasionally feeling like maybe there’s value in learning to just do it and move on).

This knowledge doesn’t bring us any closer to a solution for the upcoming year, though we still have a few weeks to discuss strategies as a family. However, it does make me think about the students I work with in the library. Too many of them seem to treat their research assignments the same way, as boring busy work. Even worse, some seem to have given up on wanting to take advantage of creativity and choice in their assignments. I am admittedly a spazzy nerd, and I hope that my (genuine!) enjoyment of the research process helps make the inevitable boring one-shot library instruction sessions a little bit less dull.

And now I’m not sure how to end this, at least not the library part. I’m not teaching our 3-credit course this semester, in which we have the whole semester to work with students to draw them out and engage them over lots of interesting topics in information and research and libraries. I’m too busy to miss it, but I do.

On the bright side, so far things are okay with homework and Gus. Some is situational — a bus switch has him home a bit earlier each day. But we are also trying to convince him to set an amount of time in which he’ll do his homework, then not hover too much over it. Middle school is coming, so in some ways this is probably our homework for the year. (Poor kid, don’t tell him that homework never ends.)

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nothing’s coming to mind

maura @ 10:11 pm

In the past 2 days I have ridden 4 subway lines (in order: G,* 7,** Q and 5) and traveled to 3 CUNY campuses for 2 great librariany programs (and 2 meetings). Yesterday was a program on information literacy assessment at LaGuardia Community College, and today was a program on critical pedagogy and library instruction at Brooklyn College. (And in between I had 2 meetings at the Graduate Center, where the wifi is not locked down + the cafeteria always has something tasty for lunch.)

* The G used to be Gus’s favorite train when he was wee, for obvious reasons. The logo is a pleasing spring green, so I like it too.

** Gus used to <3 the 7, too, when his favorite color was purple. I love it because it goes elevated in Queens and passes by an incredibly beautifully graffitied building.

It’s so strange the way my brain reacts to new knowledge sometimes. These programs were both incredibly engaging and thought-provoking, and usually afterward I’d be working things out in my head or scribbling (really typing) down some half-baked notes + ideas sparked by all of the good stuff I heard + thought about. But I think that the close proximity of two highly interesting + relevant (both work-relevant and research-interest-relevant) talks has overloaded my brain somewhat. The wheels are spinning a bit, but nothing coherent and no urge to write it down.

I think my brain is temporarily full. Maybe stuff will percolate out tomorrow or later. In the meantime, Sherlock Holmes will help empty it out a bit, right?


after all that whining

maura @ 5:49 pm

last weekend about time to write, I forgot to even mention that I posted on one of my other blogs. I actually ended up getting a fair amount of writing done last weekend, which was nice.


hey, have you been somewhere you’ve never ever been before

maura @ 7:01 pm

The semester started last Thursday, and our library’s course started too! I’ve had a busy month prepping for the course and worrying whether it would run, so it was great to finally get to the first class. All the nervousness that I thought I’d have suddenly vanished the morning of, too, which was a bit of a surprise to me. Ultimately I’m really looking forward to having an entire semester to work on big meaty information literacy* topics with the students, so I think that excitement drove the butterflies right out of my stomach.

* Shhh, we’re not calling it IL to the students, though — too jargony. The official course name is Research & Documentation for the Information Age.

I know what you’re thinking: what about the work? Isn’t it an enormous amount of work to teach a 3-credit course? Well, yes and no. It’s true that course prep expands to fill the time available, and when I was finalizing the syllabus this month I probably let it take more time than it should. But now that the semester’s begun I’m going to have to find ways to be more efficient with course prep, and I think that the syllabus and course outline is detailed enough that I should be able to prepare without deep-ending.** I’ll be responsible for fewer other instruction sessions and reference shifts than last semester, too.

** Overpreparation is an issue for me in lots of workstuff, so I should really use the course to help me practice figuring out when to stop.

It’s also true that I had a few moments this month when I desperately wished for one big giant textbook for the course. I’m using one text (Research Strategies, by William Badke) — it’s got a good overview of the research skills I want to cover, is written in an approachable style, and is under $20. But I also want to talk about things like privacy and access and evaluation and preservation and ethics and copyright and fair use and open access and documentation and non-text media and practical applications of all of this, which is bigger than this book, nice as it is. I’m still as anti-textbook and pro-open access as ever, but I do appreciate how much more time it takes to plan a class without one.

All in all, I’m totally stoked*** to teach this class.

*** A couple of weeks ago a CUNY colleague asked if I was from the West Coast, and referred to me as “mellow but organized.” Which cracked me right up.

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the triumphant end

maura @ 8:05 pm

Today’s the last day of NaBloPoMo, and all I can think of is the stupid song that Dora the Explorer sings when she finishes her quest: “we did it, we did it, we did it, yeah!” Gus hasn’t watched that show in forever, but my nephews are still little so I’m sure that earworm took hold sometime over the long weekend while we were visiting.

So yeah, I probably should have written a few more substantive posts this month. But I think I did a decent job overall. Definitely more library-ish this year than in years past, which I guess is understandable given how much headspace I devote to my job.

And speaking of which, apparently there’s a conversation going on over at Friend Feed re: my post about the plagiarism article that I wrote last night, so I should head over and join in. Bye!

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in which i write 515 words about plagiarism

maura @ 10:16 pm

Right, day 29 here and I am suffering a bit more than usual from the Sunday night gloomies. Maybe it’s a sugar crash (Jonathan made chocolate chip cookies today), or maybe a delayed tryptophan reaction. Most probably it’s the classic post-family event letdown that always hits when the chaos subsides. Silly to have gloomies tonight, anyway, since I have RT tomorrow and thus don’t even need to leave the house for 33-ish more hours.

So anyway, I have been mopey all weekend about writing my next post* for the academic library blog, which is silly, too, because it wasn’t really all that taxing. You know, finding the space + time without children playing video games at high volume, etc., etc. But tonight I finally finished it. Jonathan read it and proclaimed: “it’s dry, and you talk about nuances of academic writing,” which is pretty much spot on for my goal for that piece, so go, me!

* I don’t want the pingback, so if you want to read it click “acrlog” in the sidebar over there on the right.