Category Archives: Uncategorized

Come work with me!

From the job posting: The Indiana University Bloomington Libraries seek a creative and enthusiastic individual to join the Department of Teaching & Learning as Learning Commons Librarian.  Working in a highly collegial library, the Learning Commons Librarian is responsible for collaborating with library and university partners to envision, develop, and sustain student-centered academic support in the Learning Commons, a dynamic 24/7 environment that fosters learning, research, writing, and use of technology in a collaborative atmosphere. The Learning Commons Librarian will build upon the department’s initiative of integrating information literacy into co-curricular environments by capitalizing upon partnerships with librarians, teaching faculty/instructors, and campus units to provide a rich learning experience for students in the Learning Commons, with an emphasis on addressing targeted needs of undergraduates.  The successful candidate has the unique opportunity to help shape the department’s direction by imagining and developing new ways of integrating information literacy into a flexible environment that supports active learning.  Candidates who have knowledge and experience with student engagement, pedagogical practices, and collaborative leadership will be given the highest consideration. This is a tenure-track position reporting to the Head of the Department of Teaching & Learning.  The Indiana University Libraries are committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce.  We encourage all employees to incorporate fully their diverse backgrounds, skills, and life experiences into their work and towards the fulfillment of our mission. More information available here. 

I am not on the committee for this job; however, I will be working closely with this position as a member of the Teaching and Learning Department. I’m happy to answer questions!

Dorodango

Earlier this week, I went to an engrossing presentation by Christopher Nunn. Chris is a community educator in Indianapolis, and his heart belongs to arts education. I attended at the invitation of the head of our Education Library. I have to say, if you’re a teaching librarian, making friends with the Ed Librarian or the School of Education in general is a great strategy for creating your own community of practice and accessing professional development opportunities. 

The description of the workshop was very intriguing, although I have to say that the trajectory of the talk was different than I imagined based on the description. Chris primarily talked about the ideas that have inspired his teaching and learning journey, which were in themselves intriguing. A number of ideas have stuck with me, and I have a few readings to follow up on.

The first thing that strikes you about Chris is his presence in the classroom. Only one other time have I encounter a teacher who is as present in a classroom as Chris. He explained that one of his foundational ideas comes from Bill Pinar who said, “I be with my students.” I be with my students. He was certainly present to this workshop and as a result time seemed to suspend. I took the invitation to be as well, and felt more engaged in observation and excited about creating than I have in a long while.

He talked about how art is not in the completion of a piece, but in the process of making it. That in order to be present with our students as they are figuring things out, we must first explore and wrestle with materials. This is art. A number of participants brought prototypes of their work to show, and in this conversation Chris introduced his own prototypes – dorodango

A dorodango is a traditional Japanese craft of school children. They are balls of mud that have been shaped and polished until they resemble stone. The dorodango Chris brought were of variable size, somewhat lumpy, often cracked, and completely captivating in their tactile imperfections. He developed a process of making dorodango that is more consistent and reachable for the classroom. The process begins with a piece of clay which is rolled in the palms. The first thing he says he learned about dorodango is that they may be the original fidget spinners. Give a group of preschoolers balls of clay to roll and every single one will listen with full attention to whatever you have to say. I can certainly believe it, because when he pulled out a bag of clay and invited us to begin our own dorodango, the atmosphere of the room immediately changed to one of intense focus.

In Chris’s method, the dorodango is kept in a baggie and taken out a few times a day to roll between your palms. After a few days, it develops a crust, and after a week or so you can begin polishing it by rubbing it on your sweater. I immediately felt focused and at peace while rolling my dorodango between my palms – free to think and wonder but not overstimulated. It has been a great thing to grab this week when I’m feeling stuck. It is interesting that after I mentioned feeling “sloppy in the muddy process” of figuring out creative outlet for all the knowledge I’m accumulating recently, I find myself in an illuminating encounter with mud. Literally.

I’m still working on my dorodango. As you can see it is not shiny yet, but it is something – an imperfect object and a perfect representation of art, of creativity, of making. And so, I will continue to make my dorodango, just as I will continue to wrestle with the library materials, spaces, and processes in order to be with our students as they are learning.

Upcoming

It is, perhaps, last minute to mention that I will be presenting (along with my fabulous colleague, Amy Pajewski) at the New York Library Association conference on Friday, November 10th. We’ll be doing a redux of a workshop we first presented at LOEX way back in May 2016 that emphasizes strategic outreach. Description:

This workshop introduces participants to use personas in the outreach process and identify target markets to provide concrete solutions for users’ needs. Effective outreach is built on the principle that not everyone cares about everything. Simply distributing posters or blasting social media ignores one of the central tenets of marketing: Differentiation. This workshop will begin by introducing participants to the use of personas in the initial outreach process. Groups of participants will use guided inquiry to define the real-world struggles of target audiences and identify real solutions to those problems that can be adapted for any institution. Participants will create a framework for developing outreach initiatives and growing partnerships that can be taken back to their institution and enacted immediately.

I also owe a big thank you to everyone who generously voted for my conference proposal for The Collective. Our proposal was accepted! I’m particularly excited about this conference because it emphasizes active learning and skill-building in its presentations. My colleague, Leanne Nay, and I proposed a session titled “Common Ingredients, Unique Perspective: Library Instruction Meets Test Kitchen.” Here’s the short description:

Inspired by the Great British Baking Show, this session uses a similar format to encourage experimentation, adaptation, and flexibility to promote outside the box thinking. Through three fast-paced challenges, participants will use common ingredients and unique perspectives to quickly iterate various possibilities for the library classroom. Participants will work in small groups using crowd-sourced instructional scenarios to create at least three new instructional ideas to adapt and implement at their unique institution.

Hope to see you there!

 

Tips for new places

bean blossom bridge

I’ve been in my new job for about three months now. It’s a difficult (invigorating!) fact of academic life that a new job most often means a new place to live. The logistics of such a move are not insignificant and are more complicated now than the last time I did such a thing, as a single, twenty-something. One of the realities of moving to a new city is needing to find “your” places again – the gas station with the free air pump, the grocery store with your favorite products, the coffee shop with the best vibe, or whatever those places are for you. You also need to rebuild your network, finding the people in the know and hopefully identifying kindred spirits. Here are some strategies I’ve employed for trying to settle myself in our new city:

  1. Find an opportunity to play music. This is always the first thing I look for when moving to a new place. Thanks to the Jacobs School of Music, a playing opportunity emerged for me very quickly here. I’m currently a member of the Southern Indiana Wind Ensemble, wherein I had my first audition in many years. The repertoire is fun, the leadership is strong, and the people are nice. I couldn’t ask for more!
  2. Get food acquisition sorted. For me, this starts with the Farmer’s Market and food co-op. Indiana is in a very different frost zone than upstate New York, and delightfully so. We gorged ourselves on Indiana peaches for the first six weeks. I think the baby liked them best of all. Food co-ops are also a great place to scan fliers and find out what else is going on in town. We’ve set ourselves up with a fall/winter CSA and we’re excited to be eating farm fresh produce up through Christmas.
  3. The local library. Nuff said.
  4. Facebook groups. Any more, I use Facebook almost exclusively for the groups. I sought out a number of local groups of use to people with young children and I’m learning a lot about local amenities.
  5. Instagrammers and Instagram hashtags. You can glean a lot about a place by following people on Instagram, from great places to hike and get coffee to what’s ripe in the Community Orchard.
  6. Other librarians. I lean heavily on other librarians for guidance and recommendations. If at all possible, ask to be connected with local people whose concerns are similar to yours. I benefitted immensely from insight and recommendations from other librarians with young kids.

Invariably, moving to a new place and starting a new job means a certain period of time feeling a loose ends. For me, it often means a period of time saying “yes” to lots of things in the short term that I may not be saying “yes” to in the long term. I don’t consider this a bad thing. How will you know if it’s right for you if you don’t try? How will you know what path to take if you don’t move a few steps forward? This time it has also meant feeling bloated with consumption of new knowledge and sloppy in the muddy process of figuring out what a productive outlet of that knowledge is. That is, until I remember this handy blog, wherein I may create and reflect to my hearts content, however small and insignificant. And so I find myself here this rainy Friday afternoon, working to put an imperfect something out there in the hopes of returning to a practice that has reflected my professional life until now.

If you’re still hanging in here with me, I hope to see you back in this space again soon.

Strength through Unity

Just popping in quickly to recommend this wonderful, thought-provoking comic by Maia Kobabe. I learned a lot about the root of the word “fascism” and have been thinking ever since about the world our children will see as “normal.”

On a related note, you can go here to quickly and easily comment on the FCC’s new rules about net neutrality. It took less than 5 minutes.

I struggle with knowing what to do, how to balance the very real concerns of my daily life with what’s happening in the world. I’m not perfect, but today I spoke out. I hope you do the same.

Adventure On

I’ve always tried to frame my life as an adventure. From the mundane-yet-challenging-with-a-baby (We’re going on an adventure to the grocery store!) to the scary-yet-thrilling (I’m going on an adventure to a third world country!), I try to choose to meet life with an attitude of excitement and anticipation, even when underneath I’m often feeling a lot of conflicting emotions. In truth, I’m feeling a lot of conflicting emotions right now, but oh, the adventure! The adventure! You see, I have accepted a new job as Undergraduate Education Librarian at Indiana University-Bloomington.

It is not easy to think of leaving Paul Smith’s College. This has been a wonderful place to be, for so many reasons. I’ve learned, grown, and gained a tremendous amount from diving head-first into the adventure that was coming here in the first place, not the least of which was gaining a husband and a son. But it is time to find our next adventure and I’m so, so excited to join the incredible faculty of IU. I look forward to the next years, where I hope the adventure continues.

Collection Development Survey

Part of the restructuring of librarian responsibilities that’s happened around here in the last two years involves liaison work and collection development. Previously, our (now retired) director did all of the collection development work and I did all of the liaising. These days, both of those responsibilities are distributed into a more formal liaison program with boundaries that are still a bit fuzzy. I coordinate the liaison program but not collection development although collection development is a responsibility of liaisons.

I am liaison to two of the most difficult programs on campus in terms of library-faculty relations, Culinary Management and Business and Hospitality. I don’t know how things run for other places, but here it’s like pulling teeth to get any feedback from the faculty on collection development. Asking for lists generally produces less than 20 recommendations per year. Simply opening the door and saying “let me know how I can help” has a predictable result. And I find that simply opening the floor to feedback generally doesn’t produce anything actionable. So what’s a liaison to do?

I had an idea to sort of prime the opinion pump. Rather than asking for a full blast of all the opinions ever on the library’s collection development, I would be like a magician directing the faculty’s attention where I wanted it to go. First I asked myself what I wanted to know and what action I was hoping the resulting data would indicate. Then I designed a short survey that looks something like this:capture

The full survey contains 5 books purchased for that department in the last few months and asks for directed feedback on those books. It also contains three short questions at the bottom, asking faculty how often they use library resources, how often they recommend students to the library, and if there is anything they would like us to do differently in purchasing resources. It’s meant to be deployed in person, on paper, at the beginning of a department meeting, to be collected at the end. Basically, I’m hoping to entice direction from the faculty without asking them to approve book lists.

By carefully selecting the books to cover a range of topics and interest levels, I hope to have more information on what kinds of books the faculty would like us to purchase. Asking about library usage will hopefully provide jumping off points for future conversations. And, of course, providing room for open response will allow for any opinions that might be lurking under the surface. Deploying in person, on paper, during a set time period will hopefully mean that the surveys will be filled out. And, fingers crossed, we will have data that we can use, however minimally, for this spring’s collection development binge.

I can’t promise that the books will get checked out, but it’s a start.

 

Presentation Season

A quick and dirty short list of the places you’ll find me over the next 6 months.

  • Graphic Design of Maximum Engagement. Webinar for Minitex (statewide system based at University of Minnesota). March 24th.
  • Everything in its Right Place: Effective, Strategic, Differentiated Outreach. Interactive workshop with Amy Pajewski at LOEX. May 6 or 7.
  • ACRL Immersion Program Track. Champlain College. July 24-29.

I’m so thrilled to be presenting an interactive workshop at LOEX. As Amy and I were brainstorming ideas for a presentation, it became very clear that neither of us was excited about presenting on outreach in a traditional format. We certainly wouldn’t turn down the opportunity, but the proposal was a real chore. Once we started thinking about our presentation as a workshop, everything snapped into focus and came together easily. We went from feeling obliged to put in a proposal to truly excited at the possibility of bringing this content to you. Here’s the short description:

Effective outreach is built on the principle that not everyone cares about everything. Simply distributing posters or blasting social media ignores one of the central tenets of marketing: Differentiation. This workshop will begin by introducing participants to the use of personas in the initial outreach process. Groups of participants will use guided inquiry to define the real-world struggles of target audiences and identify real solutions to those problems that can be adapted for any institution. Participants will create a framework for developing outreach initiatives and growing partnerships that can be taken back to their institution and enacted immediately.

And Immersion. Oh, how excited I am for Immersion. Something about this year and that program was just so obviously saying “Meggan needs this.” Thankfully they agreed. Many, many things are shifting and changing on campus, and what I learn from this program will form the cornerstone for how our library operates and integrates from now on. I can’t wait.

Challenge and Change

I like to think that I’m pretty good at change, or, at the very least, not change-averse. I may not be the earliest of technology adopters, but I’m always up for an adventure. Although many changes in the last few years have been overwhelmingly positive in my personal and professional life, it has been a challenge to my ability to wrap my head around the sheer volume of change. Here are few highlights from the last year:

  1. I got married! Admittedly, I found the wedding planning process to be… not the most fun I’ve ever had, but I’m thrilled to proceed with the business of building a life with my new husband. Incidentally, I’m also changing my name, which you will see reflected in this website. Personally, I find the double letters in Meggan Press to be very satisfying.
  2. Speaking of name changes, our college is also pursuing a name change! It’s not official official yet, but it’s certainly created quite the whirlpool among the campus community.
  3. The proposed college name change came on the heels of a tempestuous year, most of which I did not talk about here. In the last year or so, my college has declared financial exigency, laid off 20-ish percent of its already lean faculty and staff, and hired a new president, quickly followed by a new leadership team including provost (whom I am proud to say I had a hand in hiring as a member of the committee), chief marketing officer (a position that, shockingly, has never existed at our institution), vice president of enrollment (position has been largely vacant for the last 2 years), and vice president of business and finance (also vacant for about 2 years). My boss is retiring, which started some reorganization in the library and educational resources, which allowed us to hire a Student Outreach Librarian and also means that I have a “new” job and a “new” boss.
  4. I’m the Teaching and Learning Librarian! I think of it like the Provost of the library. While job duties between librarians are somewhat fluid here – we all pitch in to help where needed – my areas of leadership will be in curriculum, instruction, and faculty liaison-ing. It’s my old job, shifted sideways and deepened. I’m thrilled to be able to largely design my own job and also to shift jobs within my institution, something that I wasn’t sure was possible given the relative size of the college and library.
  5. We added a new person to our team! I’ll introduce our new Student Outreach Librarian when the time is right, but I’d like to report that I’m absolutely over the moon with our new colleague and I cannot wait to get stuck in to making the library even more awesome than it already is.
  6. I’m teaching FYS again this fall! I almost didn’t do it. My experience of last fall was significantly colored by an unusual and upsetting student “event” that came after final grades were posted and lasted into the early weeks of the spring semester. Frankly, in the shadow of that event, I wasn’t feeling great about what I had accomplished or my desire to do it again. Most of my feelings about the class were colored by that final experience. I knew I wanted to teach FYS again, but wasn’t sold on the idea of doing it right away. After a bit of time and some encouragement, I saw the benefit of teaching in consecutive years. It’s easier the second time, they say. You can be sure I’ll report back on that wisdom. I’m keeping my theme of “Cultivating Resilience” but I’m changing things around a bit. It has new texts (featuring readings from Carol Dweck’s Mindset) and a new project (problem-based learning for the win!) and, of course, new students and new personalities to navigate. I’m excited and also nervous. Seems about right.

And, so, you see where my head has been the last months. It seems absurd to say “now that things have settled down a bit” in proximity to the start of fall semester, but truly that is how I feel. Now that things have settled down a bit, I hope to spend more time in this space. I have another post idea lined up, but, well, you know how change can be. While sometimes you can see change coming, you can’t always predict people’s or institutions’ reactions to it. In many ways, I feel a kinship with my FYS students who are asked to consider their resiliency and personal and community responses to challenge and change. Hmmm, how might I incorporate that into class…..?

What’s changed in your life recently?

Brace yourself….

ygritte-meme-snow-already-came

 

This post is brought to you by the fact that I scraped an inch of snow off my car this morning before heading to work. I’m going to have to start remembering to get up early to do weather-related chores before I can leave the house. I’m not bitter about winter. Living in the North Country, you have to embrace it or you go crazy. I am, however, slightly traumatized from last year after waking up for weeks on end to temperature in the -20 to -40 range. Here’s what I do to make working life in the frigid north just a little bit better:

  1. Forced heat is rough on my body. I recently purchased this travel humidifier and set it up in my office. My skin, nose, and office plants are happier for it. Plus I can take it with me when I stay in overly-dry hotel rooms. Humidifiers also can help keep you from getting sick.
  2. Due to office placement right next to the front doors of the library and an overly complicated heating arrangement, it can get really cold in my office. Scarves, shawls, and all things snuggly and wooly are my best friends. I keep an emergency shawl in my office drawer that I can use if I forget a scarf or I can use it as a blanket on my legs if it’s really bad.
  3. One word: Ponaris. If you suffer a chronically bloody nose for 6 months out of the year like I do (TMI? Sorry.), you need to get Ponaris. I have used saline gels in the past and they do make me more comfortable but since Ponaris is an oil it helps to mend the problem and last longer than the gels.
  4. I use coconut oil on my face and body when winter sets in for real. Only a tiny bit alleviates dry skin almost immediately. It soaks in quickly and doesn’t feel greasy or thick at all. Coconut oil is readily available in most grocery stores and is sold with the cooking oils. It’s hard and white but melts readily at skin temperature and also tastes fantastic in peanut butter cookies. Just sayin’. One container will last you many winters (I did say just a tiny bit, right?) or one winter and a few batches of peanut butter cookies.
  5. I’m a little sensitive about getting sick this year. Libraries are surprisingly filthy places filled with lots of people. Germs are inevitable, but after I ended up with both strep throat and mono AT THE SAME TIME last spring, I’ve been really jumpy about working to stay healthy. I usually rely on a combo of Airborne and Cold-Eeze when I’m feeling something coming on. My aunt swears by Buried Treasure Acute Cold and Flu, which she sent when I was sick in the spring. It didn’t work wonders for me at the time because mono, but it did give me a burst of energy after taking it. I’m keeping a bottle around this winter and we’ll see how it does.
  6. And, since I’ve already admitted to putting cooking oil on my face, I may as well fess up to one other out-of-the-ordinary thing I’ve been doing to stay healthy – fermenting foods. Now you know my secret. I may look like your average librarian but underneath I harbor hippie tendencies. Probiotics are a known component in an active immune system and fermented foods give you a boost. Yogurt is a good place to start but has a limited range of bacterial strains. I’ve been making and drinking kombucha for a few months and I love it. Also, fermented dilly beans from the summer. I’m not a huge fan of sauerkraut but I’d like to try my hand at kimchi.

What do you do to take care of yourself at work or home in the winter?