A trip down memory lane…

Here’s my blog post from November, 2013

Library Student Day in the Life

Home studying most of the day. Short trip to the Instruction Manual Factory retirement processing office to drop off old divorce papers. Reviewed notes from 555, including Access practice. Reviewed notes from 551, including thesaurus construction project. Gathered some thoughts for tomorrow’s meeting with the oral history folks at ADST. Mostly dithered with 644. Had a brief Baghdad flashback, nothing to be too concerned about, though. They come and go. Here is a link to a review of the play we saw Sunday, The Iceman Cometh. Highly recommended.



And from 2015

The agile librarian recuperates after a fall

I haven’t written anything in over a month, two months, because I haven’t had too much to say, just very busy with life and living. Oh, and there is the blackout walking home for lunch, and the breaking of the wrist in the resulting fall, and the lengthy recovery and the therapy to learn to use my wrist again. More detail here. Do y’all know how versatile a joint the wrist is?

But back to librarying. During my recovery, I have been maintaining a part-time schedule at the reference desk of a nearby university library. It’s been a distraction from pain, but it has also been an instructive period of the semester when students are cranking out research projects and leaning heavily on the librarian at the desk. And I have learned a thing or two, about research design theory, about ethnography and user experience (which necessarily includes librarian experience), and about using QuickTime, ScreenFlow and Youtube, all of which has informed my agile practices in the library. So it has carried me off in a different direction, in several different directions. For starters:

1. Digitization/electronification of information has liquidified the learning resources/assets that used to be part of our domain. We used to be “administrators” of learning assets. No more. Now information is being accessed everywhere and all the time. The definition of “the library” has changed.

2. As librarians, we were pretty much content with getting students started with developing their research question and initial search terms, then setting them free to conduct the iterative research process. No more. Now students have an expectation that we will provide them information support throughout the research process, and we have an obligation to do so. The identity crisis is over. The librarian, like information, is and has to be everywhere and all the time. The definition of “librarian” has changed.

3. User experience has necessarily become ethnographic. Correspondingly, ethnography emcompasses both the learner and the teacher/librarian, the interaction, the form and structure of the interface, and how both sets work together to accomplish the learning goal/objective.

4. The learners are not just the students, and faculty/staff/librarians are not exclusively the teachers. We are all learning entrepreneurs, putting together various combinations of factors of learning production, some that succeed, others that fail, but all that expand the boundaries of previous static thought. There are no traditional monopolies. And the sage on the stage is no more. Both the classroom and the library are “flipped” in unique and fascinating ways.

5. Learning is rhizomatic, decentralized, and resistant to regulation. It exists everywhere and all the time.

A student came to the reference desk with some questions about research design models. I told her that was not my area of expertise, but I would help her with her research if she would teach me the models. After about 20 minutes of conversation (it was a slow Saturday) she said, “Thank you, this has been very helpful.” I was floored, because I learned a lot more in that 20 minutes than she did.

This is the journey.


And of course, 2016 was all about the election!

An old friend asked me how was I going to spend Tuesday night, out on the town or at home with friends. I affirmed the latter, that we plan to hunker down and shelter in place, with hot buttered popcorn and our favorite adult beverage, as the states report their totals. And on C-SPAN, not MSNBC (which we only have via radio), ABC, CBS, PBS, or Fox.

Let’s travel back in time.

I remember the ’68 elections, not so much for the candidates, but for the tempestuousness of the primaries and the conventions.  A leading candidate had been assassinated, another had been shot on the campaign trail, and the eventual winner, a former vice president, was running against the incumbent vice president. And it was 1968. And I was all of twelve years old.

’72 was memorable. I was taking a social studies one-semester course, The U.S. Today, and we had regular heated discussions about politics. Dudley Sr. High had just integrated the year before, and the racial polarization of the ’72 campaign tended to inflame many of our class discussions. Watergate had happened, and it was absolutely clear that Nixon was guilty as heck. The voters elected him anyway. And we know how that all ended.

The first national election I participated in as a voter was in 1976. Bicentennial. Saw the play in ’73 (1776) and the movie that summer in Chicago, All the President’s Men. It was so easy to pull that lever and vote for the Sunday School teacher. A no-brainer. It was my sophomore year, and I voted in Curtis Hall on A&T’s campus where I was a student.

I voted for Jimmie Carter again in 1980, this time by absentee ballot from the Sub Base in Groton, CT. When you don’t actually go to the polls to vote, it all seems a bit abstract. 1984 was also abstract, and again I voted by absentee ballot, this time deployed on the USS Michigan. I think I may have even voted for a third party candidate, maybe a fourth party candidate.  It was THAT abstract. And the off years don’t really count, right?

By 1988, I was a naval officer and a declared Republican. It was issued in my seabag.  I voted for Bush and the dream of a 600-ship navy.

Bush washed out, but I wasn’t about to vote for a draft dodger. In ’92, I had just joined State,  where it seemed EVERYBODY was a Democrat. The draft dodger won.

’96 memories are hazy. I was at the London Embassy, and a full time student at SOAS, and dizzy as a sprayed cockroach.  I think the draft dodger won again, but don’t quote me on it.

2000. The election of the hanging chad. We had just departed Angola and arrived in Ghana. The Ghanaians were also having elections that fall and part of my job was organizing motorpool trips for embassy election observers all over the country. The whole Bush v Gore thing was a bit of a disappointment for me as it seemed Gore gave up too soon.  People underestimate the strength of the ship of state sometimes, I think.

Something screwy happened to the votes in Ohio in 2004. I supported Kerry. He lost after being swift-boated.

I got onboard with the winner early in 2008. From Baghdad I sent checks to the Obama folks to defeat the draft dodger’s wife. Once he got the nomination, it wasn’t even a contest against the admiral’s son and the crazy lady from Alaska.

And 2012 was an off-election. They don’t really count, do they?


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