#NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month)

If it’s April, it’s NaPoWriMo, that is, National Poetry Writing Month, a month when poetry devotees (like me and many of you) commit to writing at least one poem per day.  There are several blogs, sites, etc., that offer daily prompts, and folks are free to go off on their own and write “as the spirit leads them,” as my mother would say.

This year I have been pretty much in the latter category, drawing inspiration from things, events, happenings in the immediate environment.  As it happens, early in the month I attended three events that have had a huge impact on my April writing.  The first one was a writing salon at a local art gallery, a short, three hour “class,” that looked at one piece of art from various perspectives and encouraged attendees to write about the experience. The second was a poetry reading at a local library by three sonnet writers, who read and spoke about the “sonnet” craft.  The third was a lunch time exhibition talk about a single piece of art, which became the basis for my daily poetry submissions.

So, to ease your suspense, I’ll cut right to the chase. I decided to try my hand at a “crown of sonnets,” also called a “corona.” All the sonnet writers I saw at the reading talked about it!  Then, I decided to base each unique sonnet on a piece of art, implementing the tools we used in the writing salon.  Finally, I decided to use as the art work a series of paintings used as illustrations for poetry, and the exhibition talk I attended provided such an example, a series of paintings by the famed Harlem Renaissance painter, Aaron Douglas, used to illustrate James Weldon Johnson’s “God’s Trombones, Seven Negro Sermons in Verse,” one of which was on exhibit.  You can find the original, in electronic edition with illustrations, here.

OK.  Here is the thing about a corona.  The final line of each poem becomes the first line of each succeeding poem, and the first line of the first, the final line of the last.  Additionally, I tried as closely as possible to make each final line align with a line from the actual original poetry that the art work illustrated.  Finally, because the example I saw in exhibition was the illustration for the final poem in the series, I worked my way through the original poems from back to front, giving the whole thing a slightly different twist.

Enough chat.  I have posted the whole crown of sonnets on my poetry blog here (but you have to look for it). Please check it out and let me know what you think.

Resources from today’s #critlib chat

#critlib chats are always so rich with resources.  Today’s was no exception. Below are some of the links, books. slideshows, etc. mentioned in tweets for future reference. (I have been wanting to do this for a long time!).

This list is by no means exhaustive. I just ran out of gas (and the basketball game came on. Go Heels!)


http://incluseum.com/ (Museum critlib)
https://criticalischool.wordpress.com/reading-list  (U of Sheffield ISchool)

Books, papers:

Informed Agitation: Library and Information Skills in Social Justice Movements and Beyond.  Morrone, ed.  Z716.4 .I55 2014

Revolting Librarians redux: radical librarians speak out.  Roberto, K. and West, J. eds.  Z665 .R44 2003

Meanderings, Musings, and Monsters, Too.  Raish, ed.  Z675.U5 R175 2003

Radical Cataloging: Essays at the Front.  Roberto, ed.  Z693 R33 2008

Elmborg, J. (2006). Critical Information Literacy: Implications for Instructional Practice. The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 32(2), 192–199.

Doherty, J. (2007). No Shhing: Giving Voice to the Silenced: An Essay in Support of Critical Information Literacy. Library Philosophy and Practice (e-Journal).

Drabinski, E. (2013). Queering the Catalog: Queer Theory and the Politics of Correction. The Library Quarterly, 83(2), 94–111.

Critical Theory for Library and Information Science http://escholarship.org/uc/item/8dg5b2jr

Paulo Freire’s classic “Pedagogy of the Oppressed.”  LB880 .F731 1992


Public library critlib
More student rates for conferences
Gender identity and LCC/LCSH
Libtech accessibility critlib
#CritLAM thoughts
more #critlib chats hosted by grad students and recent LIS graduates
#critlib student chapters
Critical Theory
Critical Pedagogy



Upcoming events:


Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium


http://sjlseattle.org/ The first-annual Social Justice and Libraries Open Conference

https://www.facebook.com/events/663045767178341/ APR14
April #critlib Baltimore Meetup


lurked #critlib tonight ISO (in search of) #radlibchat

Gotta get these live chats on the calendar so I plan for them, instead of stumbling upon and lurking after the fact, so to speak.

Tuesday’s #critlib chat led me to #CLAPS2016 and David Hudson’s keynote, just as the last #radlibchat led me to Spencer Lilley’s keynote address from Vancouver, which in turn led me to a wide range of background reading at my library, as I suspect the Hudson talk will as I pour through tonight’s tweets.

There is a lot to be said about either, or both. The “critical” path takes me back to critical theory itself, its limitations, and discussions about the need to push original critical theory beyond its “native” boundaries to address current and present concepts and manifestations of power and domination, up to and including LIS discussions of diversity and inclusion.

Before things get too serious, let me share with you all a photograph of my garden plot:

garden week 0

It’s tiny compared to the plots I had last spring in Cullowhee, and I only get the front half of the box. But I have grandiose plans to fill my half box with compost and rock dust, and after the final frost (a lesson I learned from last year’s experience of planting too soon), to plant a row of beets, a row of turnips, a row of okra, and a dandelion perimeter.

Back to the subject.

Again, the chat from two weeks ago drew me to a careful reading of Reiland Rabaka and his coverage of Amilcar Cabral (and of Franz Fanon, but that will be the subject of a subsequent post), one of my favorite thinkers. Cabral’s development of Africana critical theory (as described by Rabaka, particularly in Concepts of Cabralism) is itself a critique of and an evolutionary advance of critical theory, raising it (critical theory) from a Eurocentric philosophical construct with Marxian roots to a trans-disciplinary human science level that we, as librarians, can deeply appreciate and even relate to (at its foundation, library science is a social and hence, a human science, isn’t it?).

That was more than a mouthful.

Tonight’s #critlib live chat, similarly, along with the diversity and inclusion aspects of Hudson’s keynote, drew me back to Amilcar Cabral, especially his speech, National Liberation And Culture, delivered at Syracuse University on February 20, 1970, where he addressed issues of colonial cultural domination and power.  He wrote,

“Culture, the fruit of history, reflects at every moment the material and spiritual reality of society, of man-the-individual and of man-the-social-being, faced with conflicts which set him against nature and the exigencies of common life.  From this we see that all culture is composed of essential and secondary elements , of strengths and weaknesses, of virtues and failings, of positive and negative aspects, of factors of progress and factors of stagnation or regression.  From this we can also see that culture – the creation of society and the synthesis of the balances and the solutions which society engenders to resolve the conflicts which characterize each phase of its history – is a social reality, independent of the will of men, the color of their skin, or the shape of their eyes.”

Hudson alluded in his keynote remarks to the tendency of diversity and inclusion work to result in increases to neither diversity nor inclusion in the library profession.  Perhaps it is sufficient that awareness is raised and transmitted.  The presence or absence of non-white librarians, to paraphrase Cabral above, is a culturally derived social reality.  Having members of the profession flail themselves at conferences may or may not change the numbers. Raising awareness may be a temporary phenomenon, or may have a lasting effect.  Chatting about it on twitter and/or posting about it in blogs, similarly, may make a short-term or a longer-term  difference.

For critical social theory (including #critped and #critlib) to be effective in the 21st century, it has to become trans-disciplinary.  It has to cut across previously siloed disciplines of history, philosophy, sociology, political science, economic, post-colonial studies, gender studies, queer or LGBT studies, racial and ethnic studies, and cultural studies.  It has to reflect the material and spiritual reality of society, in both a descriptive and a normative way (I was so thrilled to hear Hudson mention his participation in a poetry slam!). Finally, and maybe most importantly, critical social theory that underpins both #critped and #critlib must marry theory to practice and to praxis in a harmonious, mutually reinforcing way.


late for #radlibchat today

It’s been a long time since my last blog post. So let’s do a bit of a reverse chronology…

I got the defibrillator inserted in early December. It was half a day in the hospital, followed by a couple of days in bed at home to let the outside wound heal. No more blackouts and no more arrhythmic episodes, hopefully!

A week later we travelled to Lisbon and on to Guinea-Bissau for the holidays. Filomena said the African sun would help the healing process and I think she was right. Good times with the family, good food everywhere, especially the seafood!

I lived in Guinea-Bissau in the 90’s so it was a type of homecoming for me. I have had (and continue to have) a special historical and academic interest in Guinea-Bissau’s two founders, its first African governor, Honorio Barreto Pereira (left, below), and the theoretician of its independence struggle, Amilcar Cabral (right, below).  We will return to these two later, but as a spoiler alert, my father-in-law, Pedro Pinto Pereira, told me lots of stories about his great-grand father on vacation trips to Lisbon, so I was prepped.

The mango trees decided to pollinate in late December and I developed a hay fever reaction that I still haven’t quite shaken, coughs, intermittent fevers. Tropical living. But no malaria. We have that to be thankful for.

We returned home after the holidays. I picked up a few extra hours at the reference desk, and we plowed through the January snow storm that hit the region. The big news of February was a short day trip to Philadelphia for World Information Architecture Day, and a return to the beautiful mountains for a library meeting in Knoxville, Tennessee, The Library Collective. My lightning round talk proposal was rejected for LOEX but I still plan to go in early May.

This week I gave what will hopefully be my final Congressional testimony. Ever.  It wiped me out a bit, as the questions both forced me to open up old wounds and to reconsider events that I’d prefer to be buried in the now distant past.  I was scheduled to attend the WRLC (Washington Regional Library Consortium) annual meeting, but went home instead after the testimony.

Which brings me to #radlibchat.  I hadn’t focussed on the date and quite by accident stumbled across some tweets towards the end of the livechat.  It was ok.  It gave me an opportunity to follow up on some of the tweeted links, the most interesting of which was the presentation by Dr. Spencer Lilley at UBC, “To Decolonize or To Indigenize.” I found it to be an interesting set of infinitives, and I am anxious to check out some of his other writings and sources.  But I’d like, for a moment here, to address a particular aspect of his talk.

I understand “indigenize,” i.e., to allow a formerly colonized people to return to their own cultural standards and norms, their “pre-colonial,” if you will, way of doing and looking at things.  And I understand “decolonize.” i.e., directly from Dr. Lilley, “how hegemonic systems and epistemological violence associated with hegemony can be dissected and restored to its indigenous state.”  That’s all good.  But what happens to the client class the colonizers developed, the locals who were assimilated, by culture and by blood, to carry out the colonizing process in the place of the colonial masters.  What happens to them?  They may be in a place where they can neither decolonize nor indigenize.  What happens to their cultural institutions, their archives, their research institutes, built over several generations to preserve their place and justify their existence in the colonial ecosystem?

Amilcar Cabral wrote that this strata of society should ultimately commit class suicide:

“This situation, characteristic of the majority of colonized intellectuals, is consolidated by increases in the social privileges of the assimilated or alienated group with direct implications for the behavior of individuals in this group in relation to the liberation movement. A reconversion of minds–of mental set–is thus indispensable to the true integration of people into the liberation movement. Such reconversion–re-Africanization, in our case–may take place before the struggle, but it is completed only during the course of the struggle, through daily contact with the popular masses in the communion of sacrifice required by the struggle.”(1)

This may well be beyond the ambit of radical librarianship.  But it may well be right smack in the middle of it. It brings to my mind lots of examples, in collection development, in what I like to call “meta-information,” in various aspects of community outreach, even in scholarly communication.

To be continued.


(1) Cabral, Amilcar.  National Liberation and Culture. February 20, 1970; Eduardo Mondlane Memorial Lecture Series at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York.  Accessed March 8, 2016 at www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/cabralnlac


MOOC MOOC: Instructional Design


Situating Makerspaces in Schools


Week 1 (1/25 – 31): Foundations of Instructional Design

Robert Gagné: The Conditions of Learning
Bloom’s Taxonomy, Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy
B.F. Skinner, Review Lecture: The Technology of Teaching
Audrey Watters, “The Future of Education: Programmed or Programmable”
Colin Angevine and Josh Weisgrau, “Situating Makerspaces in Schools”
Sean Michael Morris and Jesse Stommel, “10 Things the Best Digital Teachers Do”

Guiding questions
Why did instructional design start where it did?
What are the implications that much of instructional design has risen out of behavioral and educational psychology?
How do theories of instructional design make the student the object of the learning process rather than the subject? What is the difference between subject/object in this case?
What is the role, if any, of agency and authenticity in traditional instructional design? How is they reinforced, how are they not?
How does computing affect instructional design (i.e., when the teacher is absent, who does the instructing)?

MOOC MOOC Discussion
Wednesday, January 27 at Noon EST using #moocmooc on Twitter

Re-blog from last January for #whyICritlib (and poetry and lyrics)

[Note: This post is from January 24, 2015 for a course I was taking called #MOOCMOOC.  In it we discussed at length many ideas/concepts in critical pedagogy.  At the same time, I was preparing for my first teaching experiences as a newly hired reference and instruction librarian.  So it all came together in this blog post that addresses, if obliquely, my attraction to #critped, which in turn fed my initial interest in #critlib.  p.s. Enjoy the poetry links and the video!]

OK. Just what is meant by Jasperian-split? (p. 79) What is this consciousness as consciousness of consciousness other than a poetic play on prepositions?

Earlier in the paragraph, Freire makes reference to “intentionality” as the essence of consciousness and how “problem-posing” education “epitomizes the special characteristic of consciousness: being conscious of, not only as intent on objects but as turned in upon itself…”

I mentioned earlier that I teach my first library instruction class next week. Wednesday. Four sections of Freshman English, back-to-back. One hour each, one hour per semester. I have no intention of boring them to tears with a stack of powerpoint slides. We are going to chat for ten minutes, then turn them loose for 50 minutes to “hunt for stuff” in the stacks and on the library website under supervision. My goal for today is to plan those “hunting” tasks in a way that includes achieving the learning goals already established. It brings us back to “intentionality” and “consciousness of consciousness,” or meta-consciousness.

I don’t want to trick the students into learning, because a “trick” makes it a one-way process that might backfire once they learn the truth. I don’t want to be the guy behind the curtain pulling levers. And ultimately, I don’t want to cut off the opportunity to learn something new from the students, an opportunity that requires, no demands two way free exchange.

Now, back to Jasperian-split. Ok, I admit, I had to look it up. Siri didn’t know, so I went to the Oracle. The Oracle pointed me again to Fanon (see part one) (http://www.crvp.org/book/series02/ii-7/chapter_i.htm) and through him, to these Bob Marley lyrics (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tg97JiBn1kE):

We’re sick and tired of your ism and skism game
Die and go to heaven in Jesus’ name, Lord
We know when we understand
Almighty God is a living man
You can fool some people sometimes
But you can’t fool all the people all the time
So now we see the light
We gonna stand up for our right

And this Rilke sonnet (http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/archaic-torso-apollo):

Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

In short, the Oracle told me, the Jasperian split is the gap between form/format and content/context in learning, and the awareness that to close that gap one must be willing to create, to re-create, to change the normally acceptable structure and order and to be conscious of that closing and that change as an evolving process, i.e., (1) we know when we understand, and (2) you must change your life.

Now, to Emily Dickinson. ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry) folks know of my total adoration for Emily Dickinson and have heard me quote that the only way to approach understanding an Emily Dickinson poem is “on your knees,” implying the academic/intellectual humility required. Here are the lines:

From all the jails the boys and girls
Ecstatically leap,—
Beloved, only afternoon
That prison doesn’t keep.

They storm the earth and stun the air, 5
A mob of solid bliss.
Alas! that frowns could lie in wait
For such a foe as this!

“Jails” as a metaphor for banking approach to education? Freedom from constraints (storm the earth and stun the air) the needful to generate in young minds “their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as static reality, but as reality in process, in transformation.” (p. 83)

Mapping the student-centered learning ecosystem

As practitioners, we tend to view interactions with information seekers (not users!) as transactions: monolithic; often one-way; linear; seldom transformational.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 20.16.41

We follow a similar pattern in our assessments. Transactional. One way. Linear. Non-transformational.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 19.58.43

We need a more robust, more agile, more comprehensive way of thinking about (1) all the interactions of our learners (who are information seekers), and (2) the total layout of the learning ecosystem.

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 20.01.54.png

Screen Shot 2015-12-05 at 20.03.24

Please take this 15 second poll to let me know what you think about the model.  Thank you.

Random thoughts on user experience in the university library.

Following up on last week’s post referencing library user experience, I sketched out the areas of interaction where user experience might be “a thing.”  The more I thought about it, the more involved it became.  Here is the first draft:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 19.50.52

See what I mean?

We think about student user experience as an amorphous entity and wonder how to increase student engagement in the library and with library services.  But what is required is to deconstruct or decompose the single overall experience into its constituent activities, then focus on each interaction.

Let’s start with the center and the right side of the above sketch.

A correction emerges:

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 20.25.43

Why should the learning management system (LMS) be of concern to the librarian, you might ask?  Increasingly, Blackboard (or whatever system is being used) is the primary location for the give and take between students and their instructor and between students themselves that results in learning.  If the librarian is missing in action there, not providing and demonstrating library resources, a significant part of the learning opportunity is lost and the resulting user experience is to some extent defective.  If present, the librarian can, in the best case, incorporate research resources, and in the least case, point students to the library website and to the reference desk in response to stated and unstated requests for additional resources and for research instruction.  This is the newest frontier of user experience I will discuss here, but by no stretch of the imagination is it the easiest.  New frontier, new turf, borders to be crossed, walls to be brought down.

The library website.  Yesterday, en route to the reference desk for my final hour on a quiet autumn evening, I took a detour to the snack bar downstairs for a decaf cafe americano. The place was packed. There was a hum, a buzz, like a beehive.  Students were on their laptops and tablets, some social media-ing, but many doing hardcore work, individually and in groups.  And that’s when it hit me.  Students have less need to physically visit the library when the library website is top notch, firing on all cylinders, linking them to the information universe. All they need is a brief but thorough lesson in how to find the library webpage and what to do with it to make it work for them.  Maybe, just maybe we should dispatch reference librarians to places where students already congregate to study, for onsite library website use instruction, and for general fofoca (hearsay, gossip, chit-chat).

The library website is a certain locus for examining and measuring user experience.  Some useful and user-friendly library websites I have come across are here, and here, and here.

The library itself. Every now and then library users come in for books.  For books! Can you believe it? And we have books at our library, on the shelves, thousands of them, just in case.  And we count people who come in, and keep track of what books circulate, and new books get ordered and arrive and are processed in, just like old times.  First in, first out.

Collections still matter.

But books on shelves are increasingly becoming museum-like, interesting relics of a time long past, a moveable feast in an ancient house of curiosity. Books will always matter as long as there are people who can make them, either as writers and scholars, or as bookbinders. Maybe there is a place for each university library to share with the university press (if there is one) in making books, perhaps with one of those machines that produces and reproduces books on demand. Artisanal, like Four Seasons, and just-in-time, like Uber.

Next week we will continue with a discussion of the reference desk. In the meantime, good stuff from #UXLibs here.

Please provide your feedback in the comments section for a conversation, or take a quick survey here:

And for dessert, a full album of Guru, Jazzmatazz…