MOOC, MOOC and more MOOC

So we are in Week Two of ModPo, coming down slightly from the extreme high I always get from the Week One massive dose of Emily Dickinson (ED) and Walt Whitman (WW). This snippet from ED #788, Publication is the Auction, has so much meaning to me these days:

Thought belong to Him who gave it –
Then – to Him Who bear
It’s Corporeal illustration – sell
The Royal Air –

In the Parcel – Be the Merchant
Of the Heavenly Grace –
But reduce no Human Spirit
To Disgrace of Price –

Along those lines (no pun intended – Ha!), I was reading WW’s “Give me the splendid silent sun” on my way to work and when I got to the line “Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers, where I can walk undisturb’d,” I must have stepped on one of those spiritual tesseracts, a wormhole that transported me to a different place than where I was on the subway train. Anyway, when I returned to myself, I was three stops beyond my destination! Ah! The power of Poetry! To cite another ED poem, “There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us to Lands away.”

Next week starts Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation, a MOOC with the UK FutureLearn.  Two of my librarian friends (at least) are signed up for it.  Part of the appeal to me is stuff I have come across in poetry, but a bigger part is the interdisciplinary nature of the course and how it might inform my librarianship.

Somewhere in the future, we will be starting #Rhizo16, a MOOC that has arisen among a bunch of like-minded thinkers that is not tied to any of the big MOOC platforms.  In fact, we are more or less just a facebook group and a google docs site.  But then again, that is how the rhizome rolls.  It is timely for me as I prepare briefing presentation proposals for two or three upcoming conferences, all of which I hope to base on the rhizomatic approach.

(And I thought this was going to be a short, short post!)

Finally, work is going great.  I am moving from 10 to fifteen hours per week. And my side hobby at the Library of Congress is opening all kinds of new vistas for me. I had a nice chat with one of the exhibition directors today about the possibility of LAM (library-archive-museum) convergence inside cultural heritage institutions. Earlier in the week I learned about the Veteran’s History Project and spread the gospel to about 15 veteran groups I am affiliated with. And today, I delivered my first presentation (to a very small group) in Portuguese (I hope to be a bilingual docent when it is all done). More of this at my Docent Training Fieldnotes blog.

long time since my last post

When you wait so long between blog posts, there’s too much to try to catch up on. So you try to hit the top spots but then context is lost. That’s life. Let’s attempt a catch up.

Met with an old friend, colleague, former boss yesterday for coffee. She’s basically working on the same career transition that I am. We compared notes and talked about the old times in crazy places where we’d been assigned. And the crazy people we often worked for. It’s a wonder we don’t all suffer from PTSD.

I recalled reading in a retirement transition blog that the transition takes at least two years and related that blogger’s comment to me that because I went from retirement to grad school to a new job, my two year time clock had been effectively delayed. Perhaps. But I have only worked part-time for the past year, so maybe that counts and my clock is actually ticking now. Tick tock.

Gardening forced the summer to fly by. We ate garden greens until we grew sick of them. By then, the okra started bearing and I was bringing home a big bag of okra every three days. The okra is reaching its end, but I am leaving the okra stalks in place to support fava beans I just planted, though not sure how they will do in the fall. And finally, my malagueta plants are starting to bear fruit, enfim, so we will have hot peppers for every dish for the next few months. Early indications are that there will be LOTS of peppers!

Just started a docent training program at the Library of Congress. I have been trying to work it in since 2013, but had to withdraw each year at the last minute because of other commitments. 2016 is the year and I will let you know when you can come for my course graduation tour. I am excited about the course and about the prospect of conducting tours when the course is completed.

I have toyed with the idea of expanding my work participation to full time and have even applied for full time positions at the library where I am presently working part-time. Each day I have different thoughts about it. But despite my wavering on that front, I am focused on a new project that I hope to complete in draft before the end of the year (and writing about it here helps to sharpen my focus!): a rhizomatic approach to using the new ACRL Information Literacy Framework. It is coming together and I will post it to this blog soon. Every day I get great ideas from my #clmooc and #rhizo15 buddies. There will even be a dose of #critlib tossed in for good measure!

The asbestos abatement project in out building tier starts next week. Ughh! We will be pilgrims for about a month, wayfarers, vagabonds. And ModPo starts next week! Sales of Trombones: A Sonnet Crown, my first foray into self-published poetry, have slowed. My second volume, Sonnets That Survived the Flood, is underway, though I think it won’t be ready until late November, after the elections, which have devolved into what my friend and colleague calls “a real shit show.”

Giant steps, quantum steps, and IL Framework: some ideas to save space for

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First collection of poems available!


Order through Amazon here:  CreateSpace

Or email me at to get it directly from me (it’ll save you a buck and a half on postage!)



#CLMOOC – Introduction, pt. 2. A posse ad esse

I tried, but it didn’t suit me and generated too many emails for an already too full inbox. I tried building a Marvel superhero avatar but it was a bit clunky and I kept having to start again. So I decided to rely exclusively on my faithful friend, plain words.

Again, by way of introduction.

I live in Washington, DC, the capital of the United States of America. We are not a state, so I have no representation in the legislative bodies that govern my country. Nevertheless, I pay state and federal taxes. I have no political party, so my vote doesn’t count in our two-party system.

I am married to a loving wife. We have been together for 20 years. I have dragged her around to the various hellholes and arm pits where I have worked and she has always been a trooper, a very present help, and a trusted companion.

I’ve had formal instruction in four languages: French; Spanish; Portuguese; and Arabic. I have more books than bookcases to house them. Along the way I learned how to do stainless steel welding, diesel maintenance, warehouse management, government procurement and contracting, beekeeping, and weather forecasting.

Deep secrets. Poetry. I love reading it. A spirit that comes and goes forces me to write it on occasion. Shelley, Dickinson, Whitman, McKay and Knight are my favorites. I kept my love of poetry in the closet for many years. During my late teenage years I experimented with the Baha’i faith and with a black nationalistic brand of Islam. I am not ashamed of either. Also, as a Boy Scout I earned every merit badge related to nature, conservation, and electronics.

My high school motto was “A posse ad esse,” that is, “from the possible to the actual.”

I retired year before last with 34 years of government service. I work part-time at a local university as a reference librarian.

p.s. How did I leave out music? Perhaps because I haven’t been doing any serious listening lately. Wow, is that ever a metaphor!? Anyway, I played viola as a child and began to internalize the overall majestic feeling of “making one’s own sound.” A local percussionist, Hubert Long, introduced an 8th grade me to jazz, classical jazz, mainstream jazz, modern jazz, free-form and improvisational jazz, and that mere introduction pretty much changed the way I’d view the world from that point on.

Check this out: a project from a sound design class I took 

#CLMOOC – Make Cycle #1: Make with Me: Who Are We?

Who am I this month?

Same as last month, I suppose. My day
starts with a glass of lemon juice I squeeze,
and water, with a bit of bitter zest
thrown in for good measure. I turn on the radio
and the internet router to catch up
on the morning news – the good, the bad.
We make the bed together – the master
and her disciple. I have oatmeal with raisins
and cinnamon. On Sundays & Tuesdays
I go to the community garden – okra, collards
and peppers are waiting to be watered
and weeded. On Wednesdays & Saturdays
I work at the library. And in between, I tweet
more than I Facebook status update, I suppose.

my first library job

Today’s Hack Library School blog post, Sweat the Small Stuff, stirred up fond memories of my first library job at Southeast branch, Greensboro Public Library.  I was a high school junior working 20 hours a week as a library page for $1.25 per hour (it was the early 70’s, and the library system got a special dispensation from the city to pay less than the minimum wage of $1.65 per hour because, well, it was library work).

Monday thru Thursday evenings, I came in and shelved books and read card catalogs and shelves.  But on Saturdays, I worked a full 8-hour shift doing “other things,” cleaning the parking lot (teenagers “hung out” in the parking lot in Friday nights and left trash), washing glass doors and windows (the librarians called it “windexing”), and using hot soapy water to clean dust off of shelves.  Amazing how much dust accumulates underneath those books!  I’d start in the 000’s, and over several weeks make my way to 999, fiction, the reference section, children and juvenile collection, and back to the 000’s.  Without doubt, I learned the Dewey Decimal System, but actually physically cleaning each section also conveyed to our patrons the idea that somebody cared about the place, about the books, and about keeping it presentable for library users, or so the librarians assured me.

It has been many moons since I visited that library, now known as the Vance H. Chavis Lifelong Learning Branch Library (Vance Chavis taught my father at Dudley Sr. High and was my principal at Lincoln Street Jr. High (now known as The Academy at Lincoln). Somebody should do a wikipedia page on him). I always thought the building should have been named for Helen Walden, the head librarian who transferred along with the original collection from the Carnegie Negro Library on the Bennett College campus.  But Mr. Chavis was on the City Council after his years as a noted educator and I’m certain he worked hard to get and keep the funding for the Southeast branch. Anyway, that’s the way it goes down south. Several years later I visited with Mrs. Walden at her home and she lamented about the books in the original collection that were ultimately destroyed in the consolidation. She smiled when I told her I was planning to retire early and go back into librarianship.

I swiped this photo from the branch website:



p.s.  The motto for the branch is “The library in the community and the community in the library.” Sounds rather Ranganathian, doesn’t it?  The “first branch” is also home to Greensboro Public Library’s first computer lab and houses what remains of an extensive African-American collection of both fiction and nonfiction.



Reflections on #LOEX2016

I was lucky three times.  First, a colleague from my former career, who is now also a reference and instruction librarian, told me in a Facebook message, “Ray, you must go to LOEX!” Thank you Meridith! Second, several of the librarians I work with were planning to carpool to LOEX2016 in Pittsburgh, and I got plugged into their network.  Third, they convinced me to apply for conference/travel funding, even though I was/am only part-time.  And I got funding! Here is a photo of the AU delegation:

au delegation.jpg

We arrived in time for the Thursday First-Time Attendee Orientation.  Brad Sietz, LOEX director, gave a talk that was simultaneously the history of LOEX, the history of library instruction, and the latest in current trends and developments in librarianship. It was a warm and enthusiastic crowd. I tweeted:

Thursday night I joined a group for dinner at the Original Oyster House in Market Square.

Friday opened with breakfast and the keynote address by Dr. Sheila Corrall from Pitt.  Lots of material and lots of references but she kept my interest.  Her comments on “reflective practices” and “blended librarianship” in library instruction really caught my ear. Will be reviewing her slides as soon as they are posted.

The sessions I attended Friday were all interesting and informative.  Lots of tweets, lots of good sources.  So cool to finally meet face-to-face with people I’ve only “known” through twitter chats, esp. the #critlib folks.  Speaking of #critlib, a colleague mentioned that LOEX is the whitest library conference she’s attended.  If true, I don’t think that is the fault of the LOEX conference folks: applications to attend are not racially screened.  So are librarians of color self-selecting out by not applying?  Perhaps an economic decision gets made to go to ALA or another of the big conferences, and no funding is left?  Maybe library instruction is considered less important ( I am still amazed that Information Literacy and Instructional Design was just an elective at my LIS program, and offered only once a year, but glad I took it as an elective).  Should it even be interesting that a largely white profession (librarianship) has even whiter sub-professions (library instruction) offering essential skills and competencies for success in the overall profession?

Also, speaking of #critlib, shouldn’t information literacy/library instruction/instructional design occupy a more prominent place in critical librarianship discussions?  I would think that the way we teach, and the extent to which our teaching is successful/effective is a very significant part of our identity as information professionals.

Favorite sessions. A toss-up between Rhetorical Reinventions, Everything We Do is Pedagogy, and Concept Inventories: Teaching IL Like a Physicist. (Hyperlinks to follow, I promise!)

OK.  Friday night dine around was so much fun.  I got on the list for Nicky’s Thai Kitchen with the #critlib folks.  Seating was tight but the food was delicious! Here is a pic from a tweet:

Saturday morning we had pancakes for breakfast.  And the lightning round of presentations has some fascinating ideas (even though my own didn’t make the cut). Favorite lightning round talk: The Human Library (gotta get one at my institution!). We skipped the afternoon sessions and got an early start on the road back to DC.

Hoping soon to pull together the live tweets (Kelly has a good one here, and there may be interest in building a bibliography of greatest hit sources from the excellent presentations.


#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!)

Links: (Museum critlib)  (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

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 The first-annual Social Justice and Libraries Open Conference APR14
April #critlib Baltimore Meetup