The Impact of Our Work on Ourselves

While interviewing rural librarians and young adults for my dissertation over last summer, I had the most surprising conversation with one high school librarian. We’ll call her Mary to maintain confidentiality. Our interview turned to the topic of how our work with patrons … Continue reading

I learned even more things this year

About a year ago I wrote a post reflecting on my experiences as a first-year doctoral student. I’m keeping the tradition alive by posting about my second-year in the doc program! I’ve grown significantly, both professionally and personally. Maybe even more in my personal life. But I’ll stick to the professional ups and downs in this post (since this is an academically minded blog and all).

This past fall semester marked my first appearance TAing in a face-to-face course, an undergraduate core class called Information Science. One major duty I had a TA involved leading a twice weekly break-out session. I’ve written about my struggles presenting and introversion tendencies in earlier blog posts, so these sessions weren’t easy. Public speaking doesn’t come naturally or calmly to me. But being pushed into teaching on a weekly basis has been incredibly helpful and terrifying. At the end of fall semester, I wrote a post about what I learned from my undergraduates. I’m always learning from my students. For example, last semester I found out that there is a popular song about selfies. Who knew?! Undergrads (and normal people who listen to the radio). This semester, through student blog posts, I read about boxing, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Ramen recipes. Stuff I’ve never had much of an interest in investigating. While teaching, I’ve discovered that each semester can be very different, especially with student engagement. This summer I’ve experienced a disconnect with my students that I haven’t in the past. Maybe it’s because of the shortened summer semester, my own work load, or just sheer exhaustion. I’m not sure how to overcome this feeling of disconnect.

Learning is Fun!

Odd Learning Related Image.

Over the past year, I’ve become a published author. In May, the Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults (JRLYA) published my first article, More Than Just Books: Librarians as a Source of Support for Cyberbullied Young Adults. I have three more articles that will be published within the year. Two as the sole author and one that’s a collaboration with one of my advisors, Dr. Lorraine Mon.I’ve learned just how time-consuming, frustrating, confusing, and spirit crushing the publication process can be. To add even more confusion, there’s publishing agreements to consider. Since the legal language and I aren’t very friendly, I reached out to the FSU’s Office of Scholarly Communication for contract hand holding. A very, very good idea. As harsh as it is to get back peer reviews, I’m still proud of the work I’ve produced; and I don’t want to sign away everything just to get my article published. The contracts I’ve received so far, except for JRLYA, want to take everything. After recently dealing with my third contract, I’m slightly more comfortable asking questions about what I’m signing and what I can argue for. Slightly.

I’m still learning to deal with rejection. Over the past year, I’ve had several rejections for conference submissions. I always take it personally, which I know I shouldn’t do but can’t seem to resist. Like many academics, I struggle with the impostor syndrome, that feeling of never being good enough or smarter enough. These self-defeating thoughts aren’t rational, but they are very powerful. Kate Bahn wrote an excellent article for Vitae about women, academia, and the impostor syndrome. It’s not just rejection and criticism that’s hard to accept, it’s accepting and internalizing praise too. Something to work on over the next year.

For the next year, I’m expecting to make some serious progress in my doctoral program. I’m taking my preliminary exam in September and (please please) defending my prospectus in late fall/early spring. Also, throw in a couple of conferences, potential publications, and a research assistantship and there you have my oh-so-easy third year.

What have you all learned this year? Any suggestions/comments/tips for me? 

Twitter & Librarianship

Recently, I’ve found myself reflecting on how librarians use Twitter as a source for professional development, encouragement, and support. (I’ve discovered that everything become researchable once you begin a doctoral program.) For me, Twitter is a professional tool. I use it to solely as a way to engage with librarians, libraries, researchers, and colleagues. I’ve only been actively engaged with Twitter for just over one year. During this time, I’ve participated in librarian related discussions, such as #libchat, and watched library trends rise and fall. I feel more connected to libraries and librarians through my Twitter use even though I’m not currently working in libraries. Unlike Facebook, which I consider my “personal” social media profile, there’s a strong sense of community among librarians and libraries on Twitter. A similar sense of community exists on Tumblr, FriendFeed, and to a lesser extent, Facebook (at least for me). I’m sure there are more examples of librarian communities on social media, but I can only be engaged so much.

The librarian community looks slightly different on each social media platform depending on the users, capabilities of the platform, and how engaged its users are. I’m addicted (in a professional way) to Twitter. The conversations on Twitter move quickly, are more focused (perhaps because of the character limitations), and encourage participation outside of a narrow set of users. It feels as though users are engaged in real time, dynamic discussions within a group of people. I’ve experienced this in a limited way on Facebook as part of the ALA Think Tank group. Yet, for me, Facebook is more exclusive and geared towards drop-in discussions (I’m thinking of discussion boards). This isn’t a  critique of Facebook, but just an observation and something to reflect on.

I’ve become fascinated with the controversies, uproars, and hypes that can spring up on Twitter. If you are part of a community or network for a decent amount of time, you can watch these events rise and fall from beginning to end. Last Thursday, Rainie (2014) from the Pew Research Center discussed the six types of Twitter conversations. This report inspired me to think about how the trends, hypes, controversies, etc. could be classified in the librarian Twitter community or even if they could fall neatly into one type. I’ve spent some time attempting to figure out where the conversations within this community would fit best. My guess is ‘tight crowds’, especially during conferences and other organized events. But then again, when disagreements occur within the librarian community, could this conversation be considered ‘divided’. Are these conversation categories all or nothing? Can a community shift from one to another or balance between two types? What type of Twitter conversation is missing from this list (if any)?

References

Rainie, L. (2014, March 20). The six types of Twitter conversations. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/02/20/the-six-types-of-twitter-conversations/.

Talking About My Research With Non-Researchers aka How I Bore Friends, Family, and Random Strangers

How do you talk about your research with non-researchers? After spending some time earlier last week talking with other LIS researchers about my work and then spending time talking with non-researchers, this question popped up in my mind (not for the first time). I’d rather not have my work, something I feel quite excited about and proud of, to sound terribly boring and pointless.

When someone asks what I do, I respond that I’m a doctoral student. I’ve learned not to say ‘doctoral student in information studies’ because that generally gets confused or weird looks. This is completely understandable. Information studies is a pretty vague and odd sounding area to study. Library-ish studies or library related stuff, while not completely accurate, is close enough and often how I describe my field. Then, the next question is, “what are your research interests?” or “what are you researching now?”.  Most of the time I say some combination of social media, young adults, and libraries. But sometimes I feels as if the questioner wants a more thought out response. And there is the unexpected moments when I am so excited about what I’m working on that I feel the need to gush.So, how much is too much? How much is boring? How much can I get away with? But mostly, what does this person really want to know? (If anything.)

I’ve come up with a few guidelines for myself in response to these questions. I’m not sure if they make sense to anyone else, but here goes:

  1. Avoid talking about theories/theoretical frameworks/models/paradigms/etc. – Not to suggest that whoever I’m speaking with can’t understand these theories, but who outside of my committee, colleagues, and advisors could possibly be interested in hearing about my particular theory or model? I’m guessing nobody…
  2. Avoid using the word “context” – This word just sounds pretentious and snotty.
  3. Try not to sound like you’re regurgitating a journal article – This probably applies when you’re engaging with researchers too. Journal articles aren’t the most exciting of reading, even if you’re interested in the topic.
  4. If you have another doc student in the group, avoid talking about committees, IBR, the peer-review process, your advisors, colloquiums, etc. –  In any conversation, it’s important that those you are talking with have some working knowledge of whatever is being discussed. These words have little meaning outside of the ivory tower, so why bring them up. It’s just rude. I made this mistake during a conference last week. Silly Abby.
  5. Try to find the fun and interesting parts of whatever you are researching and highlight those – If you are interested in it there must be something that others will find amusing, thoughtful, surprising, vaguely curious, or at the very least not boring. Maybe this could be thought of as the sales pitch for your research.
  6. Ask what he/she/they think about your research – Maybe they know something you don’t. Maybe they have some insightful feedback, first impressions, or confusions. It’s fun to get a fresh perspective from someone outside of your world on what you’re passionate about.

Has anyone else thought about this? How do you talk to “normal” people about research or academia? Any other suggestions? Something to add to my personal checklist? Mistakes I’ve made?

6a00d83452194e69e2017ee81ffd85970d

“Do We Really Need Libraries When We Have the Internet?”

While working as a professional librarian, I would frequently encounter questions like, “Do we need libraries anymore?”, “Is Google putting libraries out of business?”, and “What do librarians do now that you can just go online?” I imagine the majority of people asking these types of questions lack a solid understanding of what librarians do or how libraries operate. In my experience, these people are usually are not regular library users (if at all) or library supporters. But similar questions have been raised in popular media (For examples, see commentary below from The Guardian, NPR, and The Washington Post) so obviously other people are asking the same questions at public libraries across the country.

To the public, libraries often are believed to be only warehouses of books, documents, and other sources of information. More repositories than anything purposeful, create, innovative, or interactive. If libraries are seen as simply public attics where lots of different things can be dumped, organized, and preserved, then I can understand why the death of libraries seems imminent to many. As more and more books, documents, and other random formerly printing items are digitized and placed online, physical locations to collect, store, and retrieve these items doesn’t seem necessary. But libraries are so much more than warehouses and librarians do so much more than check out books.

Anyway, all of this and much more on the survival of libraries, librarians, and print books has been covered in newspaper, magazine, and journal articles, not forgetting  lectures, podcasts, panels, campaigns, etc. The words ‘relevant’, ‘digital age’, innovate’, ‘and ‘change’ appear frequently in the titles of these articles and presentations. I’m curious why these topics has been hyped so much in the press. The way “library survival” is discussed in the media seems almost doomsday-ish. “What will happen?!?! Panic!! Disaster!!” I wonder why. Is it because of the rise of e-Books, smartphones, and other devices? Or it is because of the budget cuts that so many libraries are experiencing across the country? Or something else entirely?

From where do you think this anxiety is comes? How much is based in reality and how much is just misunderstanding of libraries and the librarian profession?

Also, fellow librarians, what do you say when you encounter naysayers of the future of libraries? Have you developed an automatic response after hearing these questions so often?

Library and Librarian Positive Reads:

Who Needs a Librarians When You Have Google?

Neil Gaiman’s Why Our Future Depends on Librarians, Reading, and Daydreaming

The Digital Age is Forcing Libraries to Change. Here’s What That Looks Like.

What Can Libraries Do To Survive in the Digital Age?

Twin Cities Libraries Innovate to Stay Relevant in the Digital Age

Kansas City Public Library Missouri!

Kansas City Public Library Missouri!

Falling In Love With an Article (And Other Strange Experiences)

I feel as if this post is a bit of a nerd confession. I fell in love with a journal article during my spring semester of the doctoral program. In addition to the wonders of this article, I look forward to using  the diary-interview method in my research on young adults one day. Here is the citation for this glorious article:

Zimmerman, D. (1977). The diary: “Diary-interview method.” Urban Life, 5(4), 479–489.

The Zimmerman article for your reading pleasure

Part of me loves Zimmerman’s writing because it reads (at least to me) slightly cheeky. I have a great appreciation for humor in scholarly work. It’s difficult to pull it off and I’m not entirely sure humor is “approved” of in academic writing.  After reading so many well-written but dense and dry during my first year , coming across a piece of writing that studies “the counter-culture” and asks the question, “why had a particular diarist not gotten stoned before going to a Chinese restaurant…” (1977, p. 492). Why not indeed.

Along with this unusual (?) love, I’ve become drawn to a few theories . It has been an interesting experience to find myself fascinated by an area that only a year I found extremely intimidating. Savolainen’s Everyday Life Information Seeking, Dervin’s Sense-Making, and  Siemen’s Connectivism. Maybe lecturing undergrads on IB models inspired me more than it did anyone else….

Other current social media and tech obsessions include infographics, 3D printers, MakerSpaces, and memes (of the cat variety in particular).

In closing, I will leave you with my favorite quote from Zimmerman’s article.

We should note that if the diaries we collected were to be constructed as exhaustive records of the diarists’ activities, we would have to conclude that this group was characterized by extraordinary bladder and bowel capabilities, since no instance of the elemental act of elimination was reported.” (Zimmerman, 1997, p. 487).

Anyone else have a strange love or obsession? Am I all alone in my strangeness?

Learning to Write Without Fear (For the Most Part….)

Since I officially submitted my first manuscript for publication on last week, I feel the need to blog about writing and writing related activities. The knowledge that my poor, sweet little paper is awaiting review by anonymous researchers who may (or may not) tear my writing and research apart is terrifying. For me, the entire writing process is filled with a mixture of excitement, dread, and stress. The stress comes from the blank page on my screen, especially when writing that first paragraph. At that point, everything I writes sounds trite and unimpressive. Usually I push through, writing down whatever comes to mind and returning when I’ve written enough that the pressure to perform is slightly less intense. The dread comes from completing a research paper, article, or blog post and knowing that I have to come up with something else to research and write about. Even with something as simple and informal as a blog post I still feel a slight anxiety about what to write next. Additionally, I worry whether or not what I blog will be interesting to my audience. (Eh. Probably not? Maybe?)

Asking others to proofread my work is a bit of a nail bitter as well. Sometimes it feels physically painful. It’s uncomfortable to give up the work that you stressed and slaved over to the criticisms of a friend, colleague, etc. But it’s a necessary evil. Hopefully, the criticisms are constructive and helpful. After a long period of nervousness about proofreading, I’ve reached the point where I’m asking my (very kind and giving) proofreaders to give my writing a serious ripping apart. It can only benefit me in the end. If they don’t do it, someone else will. (On a side note, getting undergrads to understand the concept and importance of proofreading may be impossible or at least really, really, really, hard and disappointing.)

Generally what I look like while writing.

Generally what I look like while writing.

How did you learn to write without fear? How did you overcome the fear of knowing others will read your work? What does you writing process look like? What do you do that makes you comfortable while writing? Unless I’m the only person who has writing nerves, which is very possible.

I Learned Things This Year

I have now officially completed my first year of doctoral work. Hooray! I am currently staring into the wide abyss of my second year.  This is as good as any time to pause and reflect on all the successes, missteps, and surprises I encountered during my first year. Entering my second year, I feel slightly more confident in my research, public speaking, and general intellectual capabilities. Note the slightly. Perfectionism is a difficult obstacle to overcome.

Successes:

  • I made it through one year’s worth of coursework. This is both a success and surprise!
  • My writing skills are improving, especially after completing the doctoral seminar on Research Methods. The massive amount of writing that this course required will either make or break your writing confidence. It seemed that way for me anyway.
  • I completed my first entirely-written-with-publication-in-mind article as of last Tuesday! I can’t wait to submit it for publication in the very near future (like next month). My future publication track is moving along very smoothly. Two more written articles that need some minor edits, then ready for submission.
  • I’m improving my public speaking abilities. This is another success and surprise! It wasn’t until the beginning of the summer semester that I felt comfortable enough to join in on group discussions and speak up during class. Apparently, it takes 13 years of K-12, 4 years of undergrad, 2 years of grad school, and 1 year of doctoral work for me to speak in class willingly.
  • I have darn good time management skills. The importance of this skill was made very clear to me during Fall semester when the work was so overwhelming. The only way I survived was by carefully designing a work plan for every assignment, TA duty, and meeting.

Missteps:

  • I am not as tech savvy as I thought. After troubleshooting computer problems and other tech issues for six years in the public library, I thought I could do techie stuff. I was wrong. After talking with other doc students about computery stuff (See. That word doesn’t sound very tech savvy), I found out that these people know so much more than I do about the nitty-gritty technical world. They can speak a language that I am very confused by.
  • I need to learn that I am only one person and I can only do so much. Stress management is an area in which I could use additional tutoring or hand holding.
  • Much like stress management, assertiveness is a skill that I lack. At my former workplace, it’s necessary to be assertive, even aggressive. This is especially true when you’re dealing with funding, politics, or public support. It’s also true in academia. I’m not a naturally assertive person. I envy those who are. So this will be my next project: Be more assertive!
  • Initially, I used the word ‘failures’ instead of ‘missteps’ for this section. Probably a misstep in its own way. Obligatory quote on failure: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett

Surprises:

  • Apparently, I’m good at SPSS and statistics. Excelling in this area is more than a surprise to me. Frankly, it is astonishing. I was quite pleased when I walked out with a good grade. There may have been a happy dance involved…..
  • I love to write! I’ve never considered myself a “writer”. I’ve always been a compulsive reader, but writing was never something I’ve had much of an interest in pursuing.  After everything I slaved over this year, I’m looking forward to slaving over some more. (When I stack all my research papers up together, it forms an impressive pile!)
  • I’m surrounded by a group of very supportive and motivating doc students, colleagues, and committee members.  I’m not sure if this is the norm in other doctoral programs, but I’m very grateful that I have it.

What successes, missteps, and/or surprises did you experience last academic year (or normal world year)?

What does the next academic year look like for you?

lots of academic words

lots of academic words

Summertime Blues

Ugh. It’s been almost a month since my last post. The end of the semester was brutal. But now it’s “break” and I can get back to the important things in life – writing, napping, coffee drinking, and reading. I put break in quotation marks because break really means catching up with all the work I couldn’t finish during the summer session. But this work is my fun work! Writing about my real research interests like cyberbullying, doctoral life, and rural libraries. Frantic writing and poster creating and fall semester prep, oh boy!

me sometimes

me sometimes

All the madness and stress of the summer semester made me curious about how other doctoral students and academics deal with stress, especially the overwhelming variety. Since I began the doctoral program, I’ve experienced an intensity of stress that I never have before. I’m not sure how it’s different or why it feels so intense, but it does. It seems as if the internal and external pressure on my time, sanity, and energy has been steadily increasing since last August. I heard a rumor that it only gets worse after becoming a Doctoral Candidate. But I’m willing to accept that challenge.

Yet, stress can be a good thing in moderation. It can motivate us to accomplish great things, take risks, and excel far beyond we thought we could. My coping mechanism for stress has always been exercise and obsessive worrying. Only one of those is healthy. Without exercise I have no idea where I would be right now. I wonder how other doctoral students and academics (and non-academics who read this blog! who are you?) manage stress. How stressed are you? How successful do you feel you are at stress management? Do you believe that the stress you experience is mostly good or bad?

P.S. I have so much fun stuff that I’m working on right now! Publication ahoy!

  • almost finished with my cyberbullying lit review (so close, so close…..)
  • editing a case study on rural libraries and marketing I wrote during my MLIS for publication
  • editing a LIS education and leadership lit review I wrote for the doctoral seminar this summer for publication
  • upcoming guest blog post on the Hack Library School blog (September 3!)
  • TAing my first F2F undergraduate course this Fall

An Overworked Woman? *

Recently, as I’ve been dating more, I received the following comments from men: “You work way too much. Enjoy Life!”, “Wow. I really need to get you out of the house more.”, “You spend a lot of time doing schoolwork.”. I know women working outside of academia hear something similar to this, but I’ve really started noticing it since I began the doctoral program. It’s frustrating because I’m relatively certain that men aren’t getting these types of critiques from other men or women. Why do some men feel they can criticize someone they barely know (on a date no less)? The real questions these men should be asking a woman putting in long(ish) hours is “do you enjoy it?” and “what are you getting out of it?”.

I think there is a difference in working a lot and being overworked. I work quite a but, but I knew I would be. My expectations of the doctoral program when I applied have been pretty close to reality. I don’t feel “overworked”. Well… maybe I do towards the end of the semester when everything is due and public speaking is involved. Yet, I love what I’m doing. It doesn’t always even feel like work. I’m willing to put in the time and effort because my work is meaningful to me. I am enjoying life!

I’m not sure that it is sexism prompting these types of comments from some men. Maybe they aren’t happy in their own jobs and have trouble understanding why anyone would want to work a lot. Maybe it is the difference in education. As a woman, once you reach a certain level of education you realize that dating men with less education is a strong possibility. It can be difficult for some men to accept this difference. I may be encouraging these comments myself. I can a bit blunt sometimes. But I believe I need to be honest to friends, family, and dates about how much of my life the doc program takes up.

Thank you for listening to my blatherings. It’s something I’ve been thinking about and writing always helps me put things into perspective. And I just really love blogging!

* I’m really not generalizing to all men or trying to offend. I know there are plenty of men who wouldn’t think of saying this kind of stuff. My dad and other doc students chief among them! : )

The Educated Woman in book form!

The Educated Woman in book form!