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Jul
25

The poster session turned out very well, although I was (like most people) a little worried about it. Our brochures were done well in advance of the presentation, but Elizabeth had trouble getting the poster to print–which was a shame, because she was very dedicated to the particulars of its design. It was clear that many people were nervous about the presentation aspect of the poster session. In that regard, I was happy to have had lots of conference presenting experience. The photos and videos of the ALA conference looked quite similar to NCTE , right down to the setting this year–I’ve been to both NCTE and MLA (modern language association, that is) in that very convention space.

But I digress. The most valuable thing I took away from classes this week was getting to know some of the people with whom I will be collaborating during my coursework at SU. We all have to collaborate on our jobs, whether in departments, on committees, or in collaborative projects, so it’s good to remind us the importance of coming up with a strategy for discussing, compromising, planning, and allocating work. I was lucky to work with two different groups who were able to figure that out quickly. I know of other groups in which some members failed to contribute meaningfully, which is unfair and frustrating.That will be trickier when we have to manage our work from a distance.

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Jul
25

I make these sandwiches for parties (always a hit), for light summer dinners, and to pack in lunches. They take very few ingredients, but the combination is greater than the sum of the parts:

1 baguette, cut into 4-5″ inch long pieces (and sliced lengthwise) for little sandwiches

1 ball fresh mozzarella

good pesto (homemade is best)

sliced tomatoes

Spread the inside of each piece length of bread with pesto. Make each sandwich with a slice of fresh mozzarella and a slice of tomato. If your garden is overflowing with basil, you might tuck in a few extra leaves into each sandwich. That’s it!

Pile these on a pretty platter for an impressive presentation. Nice with a redskin potato salad dressed with olive oil and lemon, with a side of good olives, such as kalamata. Really nice with fresh lemonade or sangria.

Jul
24

Our discussion of rights and the library today had me riveted. I am really interested in the negotiation of rights, and I found our discussions stimulating and thought-provoking. I also found the speakers really interesting. One of the issues my school is currently dealing with involves the best use of space available, so I really enjoyed the discussion about the evolution of the space in Bird Library. In my work setting, teachers and librarians advocate for the creation of social space for students, but administrators seem more interested in controlling such space. Regardless of the creative solutions we have come up with for making our current social spaces more inviting (such as having gaming systems in the cafeteria, converting in-school suspension space into a quiet study lounge, creating a “senior foyer” with access to the adjacent Shakespeare garden), our ideas are shut down because administrators are concerning with policing the spaces. Our building has ironically become somewhat hostile to students.

I like to think that becoming a librarian will allow me to continue participating in what I think are critical arguments about privacy. I agree with comments made in class: students seem willing to compromise on privacy, but I’m not willing to give it up for them. In my SUPA ETS 142 courses, we discuss theories of Author/ity, as well as theories about the governance of human behavior. It is always eye-opening for students when they first encounter Foucault’s essay on Panopticism (from Discipline and Punish). They begin to realize that they are always under observation and that they modify behavior (even in subversive ways) under this gaze. When 17 cameras were installed in our building for “safety” purposes, students started getting in trouble for doing things like flipping the camera off. We organized a little disobedience. Sometimes students will show the camera a sign that says: “I’m not doing anything wrong.” (My teaching partner and I posted Shepard Fairey’s “Obey” image all over our rooms–on the television, the podium, the computer screen, the flag holder–our students got it after Foucault.)

Oh, what a world. What a world!

Jul
23

My parents taught me this recipe years ago, which can be thrown together in the amount of time it takes to cook the pasta.  It’s delicious, and easy to modify. It’s a favorite with my kids.

1. Put the water on to boil.

2. While you wait, chop up a couple of tomatoes. Chop or press two gloves of garlic. Crumble 1/2 pound of feta. Grab a handful of kalamata olives.

3. When the water comes to a boil, toss in one pound of angel hair pasta. Cook until al dente.

4. Drain pasta, and then put it back into the pasta pot. Drizzle in enough virgin olive oil to coat, and toss in the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Serve with coarsely grated romano cheese.

This is delicious with good bread and a simple salad, or a nice greek eggplant dip. We like it with a sturdy glass of chilled Retsina (a white wine that tastes like paint thinner, unless you are greek–in which case, you will have a second glass!).

Jul
23

My favorite part of today’s experience was our trip to the library for the talk on rare books and the visit to the preservation room. I can’t believe I actually held a medieval text in my own hands, or that I was this close to a sumerian tablet (which was not imprisoned in a glass museum case).  Prof. Lavender’s discussion was fascinating, and I regret that by specializing in School Media I will never get to take his class.

My group worked hard on our poster project last night, during lunch, and well into the evening. While I feel we are quickly becoming experts on school library selection policies and censorship issues, I’m a little concerned that we won’t be able to adequately communicate that knowledge within the limitations imposed by just a brochure and poster. One of my teammates, Elisabeth, set up a google.doc for us, which we used to collaborate on our brochure draft. In my job, we often write collaboratively using wikis and word or publisher documents stored on the server in shared folders, but I had never used google.docs before. I missed having “track changes” editing option to show the work each of us has contributed to the text (and to test out the various versions), but it is a nice option for this project.

Now I’m exhausted and ready to knock off for the evening. I listened to the end Obama’s press conference on the way home. I’m so concerned about the health care initiative passing, but I have to say the most surprising bit I heard on the drive was Obama’s response to the question posed about Skip Gates’ arrest. What a smart and brave response–so full of truth.

Jul
21

I make this when I need something fast and delicious:

1. Slice an eggplant into 1/2″ rounds. Salt lightly and let drain.

2. In the meantime, slice 1/4″ rounds of fresh mozzarella, one slice for each slice of eggplant.

3. Slice tomatoes into 1/4″ rounds, one for each slice of eggplant.

4. Pick some fresh thyme and oregano from the garden to sprinkle on the eggplant.

5. Pat the eggplant dry. Brush each slice with olive oil (both sides) and grind on a bit of pepper.

6. Grill each slice until it becomes a little soft. Turn over, and layer the cheese, tomato slices, and herbs on top. When the cheese begins to melt ever-so-slightly, remove from grill.

This is delicious with some good bread, a glass of red wine, and perhaps a side of white beans with fried onions and sage.

Jul
21

Today’s discussion of copyright issues could not have been more relevant to me. I work as a writer and researcher for a company that creates customized curricula for school districts. I am currently working on a particularly challenging project, which involves writing a Global Humanities curriculum for District 79 in NYC. (This is the district for incarcerated and suspended youth.)

Part of the project involves working with Bedford-St. Martin to create a custom anthology for the unit. If you have never worked with publishers before, let me tell you, they live in a different world than the rest of us! We are not allowed to use ANY web sources, because permissioning presents so many challenges–which is why I was so very interested in Creative Commons and in running advanced google searches for material that can be used for commercial purposes. At this point, my project manager has been skittish about even using Project Gutternberg pieces, so I’m at my wits end.

To make matters more complex, Bedford requires us to provide hard copies of any pieces we wish to include in our custom anthology–including works they have already published in their own excellent anthologies! Really. I am not kidding. When I submit hard copies of a text (even something copied from a Bedford text) someone at Bedford will read the hard copy and type it over (after dealing with copyright issues). It’s crazy, and wildly inefficient. Apparently, Bedford’s own work is not readily available to its editors in digital form.

That said, I have been wondering just how long copyrights and intellectual property rights will last. At what point will the digital age render intellectual property rights irrelevant? I must ask Larry Lessig about that…..

Case in point:  My children (ages 11 and 13) have recently gotten into old X-Files episodes, which we have been ordering from Netflix. Tonight during dinner, we watched an old episode together. One scene opens with a close-up of a diver statue at the bottom of an aquarium. I hadn’t seen this episode in years, but I DID just teach The Graduate in my film class last semester. That shot of the diver statue is incredibly famous in The Graduate, and the X-Files clearly–and in a very cheeky way–referenced it. However, they changed its significance. In the film, the statue underscores how trapped Dustin Hoffman’s character feels in the literally black-and-white upper-middle class suburban world into which he has graduated. In the X-Files episode, the statue references the last thing a character saw when his crooked cop partner drowned him in his own fish tank.  So, plagiarism? Copyright infringement? Parody? Tribute? Maybe any of those, but certainly not coincidence.

p.s. Pet peeve issue of the day (I’m sorry!): So many speakers have said “alumni” when they really mean “alumnus.”  Alumni is the plural form, and “alumnus” is singular. Thus, I am an alumnus from the University of Delaware, but my husband, Joe Biden,  and I together are alumni.

Jul
21

I was really most interested in the discussion of searching that occurred in the last half of class today. I’ve developed a number of searching exercises for my writing students to get them to question and test the validity of various online sources, but I feel they really need help in basic searching skills. Although our librarian gives workshops on how to access our subscription databases—and how to conduct quality searchs–most students end up relying on google, because it’s comfortable.

I’m also a little overwhelmed, perhaps because I’m new to library science. My partner for tonight’s searching assignment works in a library, so she was very helpful in demystifying the process. Right now, I feel like I learn something and almost immediately forget it, which is frustrating, because I know that what comes tomorrow will be built on what we have done today.

Jul
20

Group projects can be challenging when there’s conflict, or when only a few members are willing to pull their weight. Thank goodness there was no such unpleasantness this weekend. I loved my amazing group for the 601 “Here’s my problem and I solved it” project. Carolyn, Mike, Penny, and Steve (listed alphabetically, in true librarian fashion) made the experience exhilarating. I’m often frustrated when I serve on committees where there’s resistance to true innovation and change.  Our group was so dedicated to the task. I liked  working on the Troy Library problem because it’s a real problem affecting real people, and we collectively came up with creative ways to solve the problem–and some of those solutions had a simple elegance to them that I find appealing. (By simply adding a drive-up drop box, Troy Library’s problems could be partially solved–so inexpensively.) We ought to visit Troy as a group to pitch our solutions to the library director and board (and to ADM, with whom we could partner to patent our design!).

I found it a little disorienting–but also very interesting–to be working with people outside of my profession. We all had different skills and approaches to bring to the table, which eliminated the kind of cripplingly myopia so unfortunately common in the (literally) departmentalized world in which I currently work–and perhaps common in the worlds in which we all work.

My group took on an authentic, complex problem and literally solved it overnight. And we were all impressed with each other’s skills and abilities. Steve set up an organizational scheme on our white board and had us almost immediately mapping out a visual plan for our presentation. Carolyn accessed data, answered clarifying questions, and brought in suggestions we might not have otherwise considered. Mike was a technical wizard, impressing all of us with his ability to translate our words and ideas into a stunning visual display. Penny served the role I so appreciate in groups: she asked the “but” and “what if” questions necessary to test the validity of an argument. She and Steve were great at helping us focus, tweak, and edit out the superfluous material. And all members were wryly funny in a way that showcases canny intelligence (and makes a tough deadline bearable).

Jul
15

As an English teacher (particularly of students enrolled in SU Project Advance courses), I devote a great deal of energy to teaching responsible, effective research methods for developing  and supporting  inquiry, analysis, and argument in student writing. This chapter provided an eye-opening perspective on the whole concept of research.  Powell opens the discussion by attempting to differentiate between “true” and “library” research (p. 168), a distinction which is difficult to discern because the two forms are closely related.

What Powell does, then, is categorize and describe “early studies that were methodologically sound and that made important contributions to the development of the LIS profession” (p. 169). Some of these methods, such as surveys, ethnographic studies, and content analysis were very familiar to me, as the such are used in many fields of study. The part of the essay I found most interesting and useful, however, was the last section, which discusses research reports and the rationale for using research to improve and grow libraries and librarianship.

In searching for articles on social networking and libraries (as part of the broader assignment to which this blog belongs), I was struck by the vast number of publications devoted for library science.  As I began reading sample essays in order to choose one for my reader response, I noticed that many pieces reference each other, which means that research in the field is constantly being read, analyzed, and applied by scholars and other professionals in the field. That’s very different from the research I currently read and use in teaching literature, and in many ways library-oriented research feels more like a living organism with immediate applications. The essay I ended up using for the assignment in fact used surveys and previously published research to determine the best course for introducing social networking and libraries to college students who already use Facebook or MySpace. While the conclusions in the essay were admittedly preliminary, they could definitely be used to serve the purposes menioned in Powell’s chapter, such as improving service to those who use the library (in this case, college undergraduates) and in the growth of the profession, which in Powell’s words “needs to build on the most current knowledge–knowledge that is based on solid research, not merely assumptions, rules-of-thumb, and past practices” (p. 176).

I was surprised, however, by Powell’s statement that “[r]esearch in LIS is still relatively young” (p.177). It seems ironic that libraries–the very source for accessing many research materials–would not be taking full, historical advantage reseach to improve the resources and access they provide. However, it is encouraging that all trends point up, and that vital research is going on everywhere in the field, particularly related to technological advances.

Powell, R. (2008). Research. In Haycock, K.  & Sheldon, B. E. (Eds.), The portable MLIS : Insights from the experts (pp. 168-178). Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.