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as it unfolds

maura @ 7:04 pm

It’s been quiet around here because I’ve been busy outside of this blag. In July I started a new job leading the library at the CUNY Graduate Center. I’m enjoying the new role and working with colleagues I’ve long respected, while still missing my former colleagues at City Tech who are also terrific.

I wrapped things up at my old job near the beginning of the summer and then had a whole month between jobs which was really incredible and necessary. We took a trip, I read a bunch of books while snuggling the cat, and I did some walking around and touristing in NYC. Starting the new job in the summer turned out to be a good plan — the relative quiet gave me more time to settle in and to meet with each of my new colleagues. In the 8 years since my last job change I’d sort of forgotten how tiring it is to learn the ins and outs of a new position/institution. So much new info is coming into my brain, though I’m grateful that my CUNY knowledge has made settling in easier.

With the new job also comes a new commute — the GC is in midtown, so I’m back to a subway commute to Manhattan for the first time in 15 (or so) years. I like the subway, and truly I have nothing to complain about: the commute is about 45 minutes at the longest, often more like 35, and my trains go over the Manhattan Bridge which is a view I will never ever get tired of. The only downside is that I’m missing my 90 minutes/day of walking, which I’d gotten used to as a gym-substitute since the pandemic finally convinced me to walk both ways to City Tech.

Working in midtown has been different, too. The excessive heat this summer has kept me inside more than I’d like, but once the weather cools off a bit I’m looking forward to taking a break to walk around and explore the neighborhood, and to eating lunch in the nearish parks. Definitely I need to find ways to make up for my steep decline in walking — some days I’ve walked up the 8 (though really 16, because each floor is double-height) flights of stairs to the dining hall to get some (literal) steps in.

The GC is in the western portion of an old department store that takes up an entire city block, and the library has some beautiful architectural details, including a fancy staircase I get to walk up every morning. Weirdly enough, I have worked in the building before. Roughly 10 million years ago in 1997 I worked for Disney Online, which at that time ran the website out of NYC (and everything else from California). The office was in the same building as the GC, in the office spaces in the middle section of the building (the eastern section was and is still Oxford University Press, and the former home of the Science, Business, and Industry branch of the NY Public Library).

It’s just wild to me to be working in this building again, seems like it’s pulling together so many threads from my work life in archaeology, publishing, the internet, academia, and libraries, and from the 31 years that we’ve lived in NYC. I feel very lucky.

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the feeling describes itself

maura @ 9:09 pm

It’s been quiet around here lately, though there’ve been some changes in non-virtual maurawebland. I bought not one, but two (2!) new pairs of fancyish/workish shoes, and got new glasses, too. The latter is not quite a complete change yet — they’re a bit loose so I haven’t been wearing them, but tomorrow I get them fitted and we’ll be good to go.

And I have a new job, too, which is a rather more biggish change. The former Chief Librarian at the college where I work has retired, and I’m now the new Chief Librarian.

It’s been a fast and slow change, sometimes simultaneously. Securing all of the proper university approvals took some time, mostly during the slowish summer months. It was nice to have that time to settle in a bit and start wrapping my head around my new responsibilities. There was lots of physical movement in the library, too — several folks changed offices (myself included), walls were painted, and we did a general cleanup and removal of furniture and other stuff that had outlived its usefulness. Another colleague retired and we secured permission to hire additional tech staff, so I worked on getting those jobs posted and thinking toward the search process. The college does offer courses over the summer, though not nearly as many as during the academic year, and the smaller number of students in the library was helpful as the moving and maintenance was going on. I never lacked for things to do, but the pace wasn’t appreciably different from what I was used to in my former position as Instruction Coordinator.

Since the semester began it’s been fast fast fast. My new responsibilities include a new suite of meetings, both at the college and at the university. I’m learning about our budget and facilities, and getting acclimated to my role of Department Chair too (the library is an academic department at the college, and we go through the same tenure and promotion process as other departments do). Our job searches are progressing. I’m wearing my fancy shoes more often.

Of course there are things I miss about my old job. Teaching has started, both our three-credit course and our individual instruction sessions. When one of my favorite collaborators from the English Department emailed me to schedule her class for research instruction, I was sad to have to say no (though our new Instruction Coordinator is terrific, so she’s in good hands). I haven’t yet been able to figure out how to carve out time for my research, though my research partner and I have 2 articles under review and one that was just published this week, so it’s maybe not the worst time for a breather. It’s been strange to step down from commitments, to ask others to take them on, to say no to new things.

But the truth is that I really *don’t* have as much time. In the past I’d said yes to opportunities that I felt like I couldn’t pass up probably much more often than I should have (I’m retroactively a bit terrified by how many conference presentations I ended up doing last year). But now my time is completely filled, all of it, always. It’s been a while since I’ve had a new job, and I forgot how much learning and thinking about new things all day is actually reflected physically. Even on the days when I’ve spent most of my time sitting in meetings, I’m exhausted by the evening. It’s been hard to turn off my brain, to stop thinking about what’s on my list for tomorrow, next week, this semester.

I’m super honored to have taken on this new position, and excited to have this opportunity to work to support our students alongside my excellent colleagues. But whew, learning and doing new things, it’s tiring. Time to stop this blagging and hit the hay.

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button button who’s got the button

maura @ 9:20 pm

Last week we took a field trip at work to visit Interference Archive in Gowanus. It’s a neat space and project focused on collecting print and other artifacts from social and activist movements (and fully run by volunteers!). It was interesting to hear about the origins and mission of the archive — it began with the collections of two activists — and their goals to preserve the past via use. They collect multiple copies whenever possible, but they don’t focus on conservation of materials and everything can be taken out and examined. My colleagues and I noted some interesting parallels between their mission and our own, since we’re a teaching rather than a research library.

One of the things I found most fascinating about our visit is the sheer variety of materials in the archive. Books, flyers, pamphlets, zines, posters, banners, and other paper items, but also records, videos, t-shirts, buttons, etc. I’m much less familiar with the content in Interference Archive (and it’s on my radar to become moreso), but the buttons grabbed my attention right away. I love buttons (what the British call badges). While I’ve thinned my collection over the years I still have a fair number of indiepop and other music buttons. And my librarian self has a couple of open access buttons, a librarians against DRM button, and a set of 6 library buttons from the University of Chicago. I even have an old hippie button promoting breastfeeding that was my mom’s when I was little.

Not all of the buttons at Interference Archive have been cataloged, but the ones that have are stored in long boxes that look a bit like individual card catalog drawers. Inside each button is pinned to an index card and they’re arranged alphabetically. The effect is really neat, sort of like a 3D card catalog.

I’ve found myself thinking of the buttons a lot since our visit, wondering about those buttons specifically and my buttons specifically and buttons themselves more generally. When were buttons invented? Has there ever been a history of buttons in general written, or buttons for particular uses — activism, politics, music, etc.? If not, someone should write one. And maybe when I’m finished with all of the projects I’ve currently got on my plate, that person will be me.


spring break index

maura @ 10:23 pm

Days Gus had off school for Spring Break: 7 weekdays
Days I had off work for Spring Break: 2 vacation days taken

States or state-like entities visited: 3 (Delaware, Washington DC, and New York)
States driven through in transit: 2 (New Jersey, Maryland)

Cousins who were sick during our visit: 1.5 (out of 5)
Immediate family who got sick: 0 (incroyable!)

Plastic eggs filled by me and Jonathan playing the role of the Easter Bunny: 40
Peeps microwaved: 0 (they were chocolate-dipped, too messy)

People sleeping in my mom’s extra bedroom the one night we allowed a sleepover: 4
Times Gus and his cousin woke up (and woke us up): too many to count

Inches of snow predicted for the day we drove from DE to DC: 6
Inches achieved: 4ish in DE, less as we got there, just raining in DC

Days I attended the US Dept of Education’s Institutional Services grants Project Directors’ Conference: 2.5
Times I walked through Dupont Circle: 7
Times the Dupont Circles’ “Everywhere Girl” was in my head as I walked through Dupont Circle: 7

Museums visited by Gus and Jonathan: 4 (Postal Museum, Museum of Natural History, Spy Museum, National Zoo)
Museums visited by me: 2 (Postal Museum, National Zoo)

Sleepy pandas spotted at the zoo: 1, snoozing mostly behind a log
Spazzy Asian short-clawed otters spotted at the zoo: about 12 (OMG so cute and funny!)

Books read by a 6th grader during the break: 2 (Ender’s Game and Animal Farm)
Hours of 6th grade homework that awaited us upon return from parts south: approximately 8
Days until the standardized tests are over: 19

Most surprising (in a nice way) part of the break: watching Adventure Time *live* in the hotel in DC! Very fun.


time travel

maura @ 10:27 am

It’s hard for me to fathom that the fall semester ended yesterday. Ended? Hadn’t it just started? (Tho I’m of course pleased that the world didn’t end, no thanks to you, ancient Mayans). This semester has been strange and odd and speedy in so many ways; even before the hurricane it seemed like everyone I ran into was just a tad crazed, a little more stressed than usual. For us it was settling into the new middle school schedule in September, the usual collision of lots of work stuff in October (getting into the busiest time for instruction, plus Open Access Week), then the hurricane, which knocked me for a loop in more ways than I expected. The week off for Gus and almost-week for City Tech made the rest of the semester run slightly off the rails: it seemed like homework was just piled on for Gus, and plans at work slightly skew and thus more difficult. There was travel — to an old pal’s wedding in October, to a conference upstate in November, to Delaware for Thanksgiving — and there were visitors — another old pal for the weekend and my brother the following weekend, both in December. The terrible tragedy in Newtown, about which I still don’t know what to say (and there’s plenty already being said so I’ll leave it at that). The holidays approach(ed) ever more rapidly with their associated planning and preparations.

All of this has left me feeling a bit more… not even sure of the right word here…blurgh? than usual for this time of year. Perhaps tired (well, certainly tired), but also quiet and reflective. I didn’t blog much this semester, either here or on the other spaces where I write. Part of the reason for that is the book, which continues to chug along at a semi-respectable pace. AcWriMo ended in a similar place to its midpoint: while I did achieve my overall time goal, I feel like I could have written more. But not to beat myself up too much: Chapters 1 and 3 (of 10, we think) are completely finished, Chapter 2 is a complete shitty first draft, and by the time I go to sleep on xmas eve Chapter 4 will be too (she typed confidently). Which is nothing to sneeze at, for sure.

Still, I feel the ghosts of unwritten blog posts hovering over me a bit. I started something on the train up to Saratoga Springs for the conference in November that I haven’t had a chance to finish. I have a photo of a game that I’ve intended to blog about, and brief notes on a handful of other more academic-y posts. Giving all of my writing energy to the book means that our project website has been dormant. I wrote and rewrote a post in my head about music several times this fall, starting with a love letter to Heavenly, one of my favorite bands, and Tender Trap, whose record I bought right away after reading my friend Steve’s review in the Guardian and which made me listen to Heavenly (and Tender Trap, though sometimes their kids singing at the end of “Love is Hard Enough” makes me tear up a bit) nearly nonstop this semester (when I wasn’t writing to Orbital), and ending earlier this month with a complete Talulah Gosh immersion because of the Guardian article that refers to them as overachievers. I must’ve listened to Rock Legends: Volume 69 about a hundred times this month, and every time it still surprises me that “My Best Friend” isn’t followed by Felt’s “The Day the Rain Came Down” (which it was on an old mixtape I made in the early ’90s).

Now I’ve got ten (10!) days off in a row, which seems slightly unreal, how is that even possible? And not that there’s nothing to do in those 10 days, there sure is (especially the next 3). But I’m giving myself a whole week off from the book, so I hope that things get a little more active in these non-book writing spaces, too.

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day 6: eating, dogs, redux

maura @ 9:58 pm

During NaBloPoMo years past it took 20 days to get to this point, but this year only 6, sigh. I’ve been chugging along with my AcWriMo goal of 2 hrs of work per day on the book and doing pretty well, if I do say so myself. Chapters 1 and 3 are in great shape, and the book proposal is almost finished, too.

But today I hit the wall. There were extenuating circumstances, of course: I had 2 classes today (one started at 8:30) and 4 meetings and stupidly did not leverage my early morning wakeup-style insomnia to vote early so waited an hour to vote after work (which was totally worth it, and not just because of the bake sale cookie!). But still, I’m a bit bummed.

Tomorrow will be better: I only owe myself 75 minutes, and I can totally add that to tomorrow’s 2 hr chunk, no problem.

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stick stack stuck stock

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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like leaves in the wind

maura @ 10:50 pm

I’m jumping from task to task right now, having a hard time focusing on getting done what needs to happen: blagging, packing, tech prep, last minute email answering, figuring out where to get poutine.

Tomorrow I’m off to Montreal for the American Anthropological Association meetings. My research partner and I are presenting about one small part of our huge honking research project on Friday morning, yay! It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a really academicy conference. Yes, we wrote a paper, and yes, we will probably read it. But our slides are good, and I think it’s okay to read a paper sometimes (she reassures herself).

Once again I’ll be traveling without my laptop, with just my ipad. I flirted with bringing the laptop for a long long time, because we will be on a bus for a long long time. But it’s just not practical to schlepp it around with me. So we’ll see how much I can get done on the bus with the pad, yo. (Fingers crossed for wifi!)

I’m looking forward to visiting Montreal again, even though it’s only really for one day. Maybe we’ll go to the archaeology museum! And the rad library, too. Right this very minute Jonathan’s verifying the quality of the poutine and tart sucre place we’re eyeballing, yum. Considering bringing an extra suitcase to stuff with coffee crisps.

Ah, go away, I have to pack!


once more, with feeling

maura @ 10:00 pm

Yeah, I know I did the self evaluation as a word cloud thing before. But I turned in my application for promotion today and I thought it would be interesting to see the differences between what I wrote last spring (which covered just last year) and now (which covers the entire time I’ve been at my job). Nice to see the words “collaboration,” “open,” “scholarly,” and “course” so close together.


I’m utterly exhausted — catch you tomorrow.

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here’s the thing of it

maura @ 9:57 pm

Just so you know, this is going to be a short, boring, bragging post.

I’ve got lots of balls in the air right now, and one of the things I’m doing is looking to see where my scholarship has been cited. It’s just the best kind of nerd high to see that one of my articles has been cited once, another 3 (!) times. And the one that’s been cited 3 times has been viewed over 1,400 times, according to the journal’s website!

I’m jonesing to see how often the article that was published last week has been viewed, but that journal doesn’t make those #s visible in the author interface. Plus it’s probably too soon for anything real. Although, when I tweeted about it (see, told you it’d be braggy), someone who has 1900+ followers retweeted me, so that’s something.

I’ve got other stuff to finish tonight, but tomorrow night I’ll be looking to find my top commented-on posts at the library blog I contribute to.

And I leave you with this: go, open access publishing, GO!