victory for me!

So for the last few weeks, there has been a cockroach living in the bathroom attached to our office.  I’ve never lived anywhere that’s had a cockroach problem; most of the cities I live in have other things, like earthquakes or mice.  I wasn’t really any more freaked out by it than I would be by anything else that moves across the floor very quickly making a scuttering sound, or might be in my shoe when I try to put it on.  Which is to say, it would be worse if it were spiders, but my imagination still runs a little wild.

It’s been okay though, because it’s mostly been confined to the little crack between the toilet and the bathroom floor, where it would run when you made loud noise or sprayed it with something you have on-hand (Lysol disinfectant, Windex, lemon-scented computer cleaner from the 80’s).   I would stomp when going in there, giving it time to hide, and my officemate and I would make jokes about bringing bagpipes or a tambourine into the office.  We were even brainstorming names for it.

But my officemate is out this week, which means there’s no one to make jokes with and I’ve developed some pretty serious paranoia.  Going to use the mouse?  Is that the mouse as you know it, or is there a cockroach on it?  Going to take a drink of water?  Is that your orange Nalgene or a cockroach swimming pool?  Where have his feet been?  On the keys you’re touching?  On this handkerchief you just got out of your bag?  On your lip balm!?!?

It also means she’s not eating at her desk, which means she’s not dropping crumbs for the cockroach over on her side of the room, which means I found him scuttering around on my desk looking for crumbs when I came in this morning.

Thinking quickly, I grabbed the hole punch and the lemon-scented computer cleaner, planning to stun him with the cleaner and then smack him with the hole punch.  For some reason I have this weird feeling that if I stepped on him – even in my clogs, which have a one-inch wooden sole – the feeling of crushing the life out of him will remain with me forever, burned into my sense memory, like that time I stepped on a mouse Zeppelin killed in my bare foot.  I can’t unfeel that.  So the hole punch was a good solution, until it opened, like it always does, and scattered hole punches all over the floor, creating a confetti distraction and giving him time to get away.

I chased him for a while, crawling under the desks and spraying computer cleaner, but he was too fast, it got in my eyes a little and I had a meeting to go to.  I hunted for him again when I got back, and then off and on throughout the morning – I caught up with him a few times and sprayed him with computer cleaner until he found another dark crack somewhere, but it didn’t even seem to be slowing him down, and I never got another hole punch opportunity.

Until I braved the bathroom a few minutes ago.  I figured that since he’d now had a taste of freedom and sampled the dark cracks in other areas of the office, he wouldn’t be caught dead trapping himself in the bathroom again. So I walked in with only minimal stomping to find him just chilling next to the toilet brush.  I backed out, slowly and quietly, grabbed the computer cleaner and rushed back in to spray the HECK out of him.  I don’t know what changed this time – the lemon scent created a lack of oxygen maybe, or I sprayed so much that everything was too slippery to climb on – but he was looking dazed, and started to run back to his little home.  I quoted some Samuel L. Jackson and kept spraying, when suddenly he turned sharply and disappeared behind the door.  I looked behind it, thinking he had just gone around instead of under the toilet, but he wasn’t there – and that’s when I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, scuttering STRAIGHT AT ME.  I sprayed CONTINUOUSLY, DIRECTLY on him until he turned white, but he never veered off-course; he ran directly underneath my one-inch wooden-soled shoe, and I CRUSHED him.

It felt AWESOME.  Now I have to go clean his corpse and approx. half a can of computer cleaner off the bathroom floor.

Update: Just flushed him down the toilet.  His body was SOAKED in computer cleaner.

Libraries: ULTIMATE just-in-time scenarios

So what library nerd could NOT pick up on the pivotal role a library resource (The Secret History of Giants, FYI) plays in Thor?  There’s even a BOOK CART!  Why is nobody talking about this!?!?  There’s not even an image on the internet!!!

Apparently, Stan Lee’s cameo in the new Spider-Man is actually AS a librarian.  Maybe people will want to talk about it then!

In the meantime, chew on this:

libraries in the search engine game

I was lucky enough to see another John Palfrey keynote at MLA 2011: Join Forces today, and while the idea that stuck last time was the promise and potential of the Digital Public Library of America, this time there’s two:

1. Children and teens need to be educated about information literacy.  They need to learn what their rights are and how to be responsible in terms of their digital identity, as well as how to explore the deeper resources of the web rather than just cutting and pasting Wikipedia articles.  While not all of this can fit into one curriculum, building something alongside, say, Health Ed, where they learn about other grey areas of maturity and responsibility like sexual health and drug use, might be a useful way to introduce these ideas.  (Amelia Peloquin is really the germinator of this idea, but I think it bloomed for both of us during the keynote.)

2. Libraries need to get into the search engine game.  It doesn’t even need to be said, but the resource of first resort when it comes to nearly any user question is Google.  How can libraries maneuver back into that position, or at least get in the running?  Palfrey seems to imply that they can somehow build a competitor, which I think is a. reinventing the wheel and b. totally impossible without Google’s budget.  BUT, what if we could make library resources available in Google’s search results?

I’m not talking SEO; again, there’s just not cash in the budget to hire the resources required to play that game.  Also, it’s basically hoodoo; you could spend years trying to figure out the elusive, ever-shifting algorithm or hire someone to kill a chicken over your server and the traffic would likely be the same.  However, I’m in the pipe dream stage of proposing some sort of partnership.  Fact: Google already returns results based on a user’s location.  What if Google also showed results from the local public library’s catalog?  The user could determine via search results if and how that item was available, and not only have access to deeper and more in-depth results than your average search but also be turned on to the fact that his or her library is full of awesome stuff.

How would this happen?

  1. Libraries partner with Google and Google helps figure out how to access specific catalogs based on location;
  2. Libraries make their bibliographic files available to web crawlers and Google finds it in their hearts to give these results a high page ranking;
  3. Library of Congress makes their metadata public so that searchers can use Google as a kind of open access WorldCat, choose a relevant resource and then figure out how it’s available to them;
  4. Probably a million other ways smarter people than me have already thought of, but I’m just finishing up my first semester of library school so bear with me.
Also, for this to really actually work and provide a smooth user experience, social login has to be bigger than just using facebook to watch movies (I know it already is – almost all startups today rely on FacebookConnect – I’m just using hyperbole).  To access resources directly from Google search results (when, btw, many libraries still don’t link directly to them from a catalog), a digital identity that knows what an individual does or doesn’t have access to via institutions he or she is a part of will soon start becoming a reality.  Just sayin.

Anyway, what’s in it for everyone:
  • Google: Access to library-standard metadata, better information results for the user (which is after all their beeswax, right?)
  • Libraries: Getting their resources out there to their users (again, beeswax), increasing their visibility (and most likely user base) exponentially
  • Users: More, better resources, getting plugged in to a deeper source of information, improving information seeking skills

Really, there are scores of benefits on every side of this deal, as well as just as many cons that haven’t occurred to me yet.  But we live in a time where you think of something that’s going to be awesome for the user and then try to make it happen, so I’m composing a letter to Google’s Cambridge office, and also Bing, which is looking for niches where they can outdo Google.  Because why not?

PowerPoint makes me vom!

So I sort of figured that it was self-evident that if you were in grad school, you had some sense of how to impart information to a group of people. Grad school = interest in being a professional something -> telling multiple people at once that you know something about something in a way that hopefully impresses them.

In addition to other things they should not do in grad school because it is tacky, like asking when an assignment is going to be handed back, wanting to know if something is going to be on an exam or talking about undergraduate theses, some graduate students just present terribly unimpressively. We’re talking amateur hour: texty slides, reading excessively, going over time, inappropriate attempts at humor (genital humor! Seriously!) … man, I do not even know how some of these people walk around in the world, let alone how they will become professionals.

I have a leg up, I acknowledge; I have taught, and while shy, enjoy being the center of attention when I think I have something sharp to say, which is often. Still, watching some of these presentations is just a little unreal, and I would think that, if you’ve put the thought into getting yourself into a position where you might be presenting in exchange for credit, cash or credibility it would just be absolutely crystal clear that this kind of behavior is heinously outmoded. Hopefully I will school them with my eye contact, relaxed conversational demeanor and Prezi prowess and they will figure it out.

cultural production i look forward to consuming this summer

While my first semester of working toward my MLIS is nothing like working toward my MA in literature, as the weather gets warmer I do feel a familiar desire to just bombard my eyes with blockbuster after blockbuster with little to no need to connect to my brain at all.  Here are the things I am pretty much just ecstatic to have the free time for this summer.  Basically in this exact order.

First things first: Howard and I have tickets to the Big Apple Circus for next Friday!  When I was little, my family and I used to go every year, and now that I live in Boston their tent signals the start of summer.

Big Apple Circus

Thor.  Looks awesome.  My aunt said I could take my 8-year-old cousin.  I told him the “elephant in the safeway bag” joke* the other night – he got the answer almost immediately, but didn’t understand it.  My aunt and uncle chuckled over it in sort of a “wow, you just told my kid that right in front of me” way – he brought up the subject of swears, I swear!  And I just figured that is what an older cousin is for – and then explained it to him.  He laughed so hard he almost threw up, maybe a little bit because it’s a decently clever joke but probably mostly because he knows it’s just on the verge of not allowed.

X-Men First Class.  Looks awesome.  Hopefully can talk my dad into going to see it opening night, Howard and my last night in San Francisco.  Either that or a matinee on the way to the airport.

Dave Eggar’s Zeitoun.  Non-fiction, so not technically cultural production (or maybe it is?  I’m notoriously bad and self-conscious about official vocabulary), also not a blockbuster (my definition of blockbuster = more explosions than content that might win some sort of award), and also I am currently technically reading it but will have to put it aside to finish final assignments.  And, obviously, see Thor.

The cover of Dave Eggers' Zeitoun.

Walter Simonson’s Thor Omnibus.  HOW LONG TIL THE LIBRARY GETS THIS I CAN’T WAIT.  Also probably all the library’s other comics.

Cover of Walter Simonson's Thor Omnibus

Probably just, you know, all of Smallville.  Ten seasons?  No problem!  Summer’s pretty long!

Tom Welling as Clark Kent

Friday Night Lights: Season 5.  Obviously.  Tim Riggins is in jail though; weird.  Also, rewatched Wolverine: Origins recently – he does not totally suck as Gambit in the way I remembered!  So that’s nice.  Does look washed out in those prison duds though.  And no Tyra because she’s Wonder Woman now, and baby Grace still has too big a forehead, and Landry has a huge neck now and will be gone!

Friday Night Lights

Aaaaand the rest of this show.  Only seen the first episode – honestly, the racy parts sort of freak me out, but the scary, violent and dog-related parts are pretty great.  They didn’t really have the technology for awesome explosions then, but they did have swords!

Yep!  I will be reading this too.  So much for “not connecting to my brain” – great in theory, but after a couple days I just need to think about exciting things like the Digital Public Library of America and Library 2.0.  That’s all!

The cover of John Palfrey's Born Digital

*A: How do you fit an elephant in the safeway bag?

B: [Some variation on] I don’t know, how DO you?

A: Take the “s” out of “safe” and the “f” out of “way.”

Tips: think about it, and say it out loud.

where the ideas are

Another work post.  And on a Friday, no less!  Internet forgive me.

I’m writing today after a slight dip in internet productivity because one sentence from my last post has been just digging deeper and deeper into the center of my mind:

I wish I could figure out how to get to where the ideas are.

An interesting result of a google image search for “where the ideas are”:

Sort of an animal lover's version of Escher.

Obviously, Google is at the center of the labyrinth of ideas.  Basic level: intuitive berry picking as the foundation of information access.  Larger picture: everything in the cloud, copyright (and sometimes privacy) bedamned.

As Ned Potter explains in this gloriously short presentation (also, sweet app dude), librarians are no longer “gatekeepers of knowledge” (which inherently implies a hierarchy of users who, depending on the librarians’ whims, may or may not deserve access to the information they’re seeking – I seen it) and have to be more like Gandalf, sort of freezing the water as it comes out of the firehose so that people don’t explode when they try to drink it.  Made that one up myself, guys!

Enough jargon.  Basically, I am on an intellectual quest to find

where the ideas are.

Oh, is it here? PSYCH! Just a baby and David Bowie.

I feel significantly closer after a library meeting yesterday where we discussed Amy Edmonson’s Strategies for Learning from Failure.  The central concept is, as it was at NETSL, will be at MLA next week, and most likely will be in a talk to any group of two or more people in or about a library for the foreseeable future, try ANYTHING but nothing.  And reward for trying, even if it doesn’t work.  While I wasn’t sure what the response would be from the director and assistant director, the round table was overwhelmingly positive, and we were told explicitly that it’s better to own your failure and ask forgiveness than to be hesitant to try.

Basically I took this to mean that I have permission to try new things, and to create my own little space where some ideas are.  I started by putting together my own standing desk (awesome, by the way, especially when I can listen to music out loud and sort of dance a little bit).  It’s a good start, but I will certainly still keeping an eye on John Palfrey, Ned Potter and a few other David Bowies of the biblioblogosphere.


Don’t forget that it’s National Library Week!  Check in at your local public library or your institution’s library to see how they’re celebrating.  Pictures from Slate’s slideshow tribute.

Last Friday, I attended my first library and information science conference.  It was pretty neat; I talked to some new people with whom I have a profession in common, made some observations, had several embarrassing moments (mentioned later), and got to hear John Palfrey talk about the idea of both information and generations being “born digital” as well as the Digital Public Library of America project, which is just incredible.  Gave me a new perspective on my job, the field, and the way I participate in both, which ultimately is the entire point.

Libraries: intellectually hybrid spaces by nature.

I did feel, though, that I was being talked about rather than talked to.  The first speaker of the day showed a video that was basically infographic after infographic on how people are accessing information now compared to several years ago, and the ages of people accessing it.  I got really excited, thinking, “that’s me!  That’s the way I do things!  Everyone here is excited to be part of this, too!”  The first thing he said after he showed this video was: “Frightening.”  Library directors applauded the technical services staff (old school term: “catalogers”) there for generally being the “most forward-thinking, adaptive” people in the library, and yet everyone was still repeatedly scolded for not anticipating the needs of a “born digital” generation.  Librarians, who tend to deem themselves “nerds,” were encouraged to work closely with – and hire more of – the “geeks.”  Which is great, and they can’t go wrong following that kind of advice.  But what about me, basically born with an Apple in my mouth, a freakish kind of nerd/geek hybrid?  I feel too young and inexperienced to be spoken to or taken seriously (which is partially my insecurity, partially the field, which seems to have very little faith in the abilities of LIS students/recent grads to participate in any real change), but also that I have valuable insight I can’t seem to give away.  So mostly I just tweet about it and wish I could figure out how to get to where the ideas are.

Old-school card catalog. Now we use the internet and these go in peoples' living rooms (like ours!)

And now for the embarrassing moments:

  1. My coworker told me that the conference would be full of “300-pound women and 94-pound men,” and that “no one would notice if I came in my pajamas.”  So I wore jeans and a plaid shirt.  I would say the majority of people were women of average size in professional dress – one or two people in jeans, one other girl in a plaid shirt.  Geeky guys, but no kilts, which, having worked for Apple, was really weird for me.  Then again, my nametag labelled me an LIS student, so no one took me seriously anyway!
  2. I went out to get my coworker – who doesn’t walk too well – a cup of tea before the after-lunch speakers.  I came back in while they were presenting an award, and as I was making my way back to my seat with the tea, everyone clapped and looked at me, all “Whoa, that girl in the plaid is getting an award!  Was I wrong about her!”  Then I sat down, with my tea, and the real lady – a 300-pound woman in pajamas – went up on stage to accept it.