Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Of Effigies and Insults at UK

I try to keep politics off of this blog. Mostly because I consider myself a moderate and can fall to either side depending on what the issue is, which tends to confuse, unnerve, and annoy people. But this is different. At the University of Kentucky, an effigy of Barack Obama was found hanging in a tree, startling students, staff and faculty on their way to classes and work this morning.

This hits me personally - I worked at UK for years, got my MLS there, and consider Kentucky (where I also did my undergrad work at Centre College) my true home. Given Kentucky's deep and problematic history with race relations, I was always very proud to point out the strides the state, and especially the University made towards the goal of respecting and appreciating diversity. University President Lee Todd sent the following email to the entire campus:

From: President Lee T. Todd, Jr.
Sent: Wednesday, October 29, 2008 12:15 PM
To: (all of campus)
Subject: Campus Incident on October 29, 2008

Unfortunately, this morning an effigy of Senator Barack Obama was discovered hanging in a tree on campus. I am personally offended and deeply embarrassed by this disgusting episode. This is not reasonable political expression; it is just malicious. And it is unacceptable.

On behalf of the University of Kentucky I apologize to Senator Obama and his family. I will personally assure them that this is not who we are as a University or as a state.

As President of the University of Kentucky, I feel outraged and hurt. I am outraged because we work very hard, every day, to build bridges across the divides. Diversity and inclusion are among our most precious core values. Episodes like this serve only to erode our confidence in and respect for one another.

Regardless of your political opinions or the candidates you support, a University such as ours must be a place where spirited discussion can take place, but within the bounds of civility, common sense, and respect for the views and feelings of others. We have insisted - and we will continue to insist - that we as a University and as a state rise above hatred and acts of malice or ignorance. The line separating civil discourse from unacceptable behavior has been crossed, constituting a clear violation of the University's code of ethics, and possibly constituting criminal acts, which would also violate University regulations. Such acts will not be tolerated. Those found responsible will be subject to the full force of university, state, and federal rules and regulations.

There is an on-going investigation into this incident, which includes federal authorities. If you have any information that would assist in this investigation you have a responsibility to contact the UK Police Department (257-1616).

I am utterly impressed by his unconditionally disgusted response, heartbroken that this sort of thing would happen on a university campus where dialogue is meant to be fostered in a creative and intelligent atmosphere, and happy that every single former coworker, staff member, and student who has mentioned this to me is uniformly horrified and hopes that the country won't use this incident to reflect all of the people of the state, or the feelings of everyone at the University.

We can't help what our neighbors, friends, or fellow citizens do, for the most part. But we can control our responses to these things, and I'm proud of my Kentuckians for standing against this sort of childish, hateful, and useless demonstration.

Open note to the perpetrators: if the best statement you can make about a political candidate is based solely on the color of his skin, I feel very sorry for you. If your goal was to foster the sentiment that a black man in office would be too 'dangerous' and create unrest in the country, I tell you this: whomever I *do* vote for, I am not going to not-vote for a candidate out of fear. That's how elections take place in oppressive regimes, and I refuse to bow to such low tactics or allow that to happen to me in my own country. You are likely not ashamed of what you did, but it's enough for me that the rest of us are ashamed to call you one of our own.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Colleen Has a New Job

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's official. As of January 5, 2009, I will leave my position as reference & instruction librarian here at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and take up my new position as Assistant Head of Access & Delivery Services at North Carolina State University.

Give me a moment as I say Woo!

Setting aside the unfortunate - but funny - moniker of AssHead, this is a great opportunity. NCSU Libraries are known for not just treating their employees well, but for implementing cutting-edge services, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that. The Head of ADS is Mary Carmen Chimato, who is generally recognized as a big bucket of awesomesauce in library services, and I'm excited to get to work with her. Susan Nutter has made great strides in making the NCSU Libraries a priority for the university. I'll get great management experience and be able to work with a team of active, engaged library folks. I also hear that Raleigh and NC in general are wonderful places to be as a young professional. All around, this is a huge opportunity for me, and I'm thrilled about it.

On the other side, I'm sad to be leaving UTC. This has been the best library system I've worked for to date, with a group of staff that are truly a team, providing excellent service while faced with a declining resource pool. The year-plus that I've spent here have been the most productive of my career, and they've been the most pleasant. having worked in a few environments at this point, I can say that one as supportive, as funny, and as flexible as the one we have at Lupton Library is extraordinarily rare, and I'm reluctant to leave it behind. It has been a real treat to work with the folks here, and I hope I run into them often during my future in LibraryLand.

For now, though, amidst various deadlines for papers and journal articles, I will be flipping out about finding an apartment (which is already mostly done), moving, figuring out how to get a new license and plates, and everything else that goes along with getting settled somewhere new. I'll be here in Chattanooga until late December, and in Raleigh shortly thereafter. If you're in the Raleigh area, be sure to holler at me, since I need to make new friends!

Internet Librarian Preliminary Report

Yes, I know, IL08 is over, but I haven't blogged it at all. Mostly because it wasn't worth fighting over the one cord in the hotel room (really, Monterey Marriott? No wireless for customers? And charging for the 'net? Fail) and the wireless at the conference was patchy, and I rarely carry my laptop with me.

Initial report? Huge success. Our preconference workshop went over pretty well to the 10-12 participants, though they were sort of quiet (as opposed to us raucous presenters. Put Kenley Neufeld, Courtney Stephens, myself, Laura Carscaddon and Jezmynne Westcott on the same panel and you get so much energy it makes the rest few the planet look like they're on Valium). The presentation Rudy Leon and I gave on bridging the gap between the 1.8 user and the 2.0 world got good reviews (at least from the folks I met), and some lovely observer left me a note full of nice feedback that I now have tacked up on my office wall. Given that these were my very first actual speaking presentations on a national scale (I don't count the poster session at ALA), I think I did pretty well. Hooray for not falling on my face in front of the people I respect most in LibraryLand!

The best part of the conference for me, aside from all of these brilliant, active librarians in one spot, was getting to "meat" my online network. Believe it or not, my witty, brilliant, funny, inspiring and productive people are even more spectacular in person. Social networks like twitter and friendfeed made me much less shy about approaching people and saying hello and lent a great personality aspect to the conference where folks showcased their professional talents.

More from me on IL later, but if you run a search on Flickr for IL08 or IL2008 (and various variations of Internet Librarian 2008), you'll get a good feel for how things went down in Monterey.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Kill an Avatar, Get Jail Time?

I'll report on IL08 here shortly (it was a great conference!), but for tonight, before I mosey on over to bed with Otto in tow, I wanted to post a link to this story out of CNN (via AP): "Woman Arrested for Killing Virtual Reality Husband." Apparently a Japanese woman, upon finding her Avatar in the game "Maple Story" suddenly divorced, hacked into her ex-faux-husband's account and murdalized his avatar. He complained to police, and she was arrested and transported 620 miles to be detained for the crime.

Tonight I will likely be dreaming of all the World of Warcraft Horde suing the pants off of my former roommates, who ganked them whenever possible (though sans hacking). I wonder what a Tauren would like like in a suit, or a Night Elf in cuffs...

Friday, October 17, 2008

Off to Internet Librarian

Okay, all, I'm off to Internet Librarian in the wee hours tomorrow. (Oops, that reminds me: must print flight schedule.) I am currently in scatterbrain mode and trying to remember everything from the office that I need to take with me. I'll likely go mostly dark while I'm there, since my cell only does regular old texting and no web shenanegans, and I don't like hauling my laptop around unless I have to. If you want to get ahold of me, you can call/text me.

Things have been crazy around here lately, what with a packed-full instruction schedule, various other librarywork goodness, some publication proposals that were accepted and need to be fully written, and coursework. happily, the MFA is between semesters until next Residency in November, so it's just the MA classes hounding me to death right now. (This may put me in danger of losing my academic-elitist, intellectual label, but I do so despise Heidegger, with all of my Being.) My desk looks like a library exploded on it, my apartment desperately needs a thorough cleaning, and Otto the Wunderhund is going to love doggy playtime while he's boarded because I've been too pooped to pop lately. That and some interesting career decisions (to be blogged soon, I swear) have all had me feeling like life is up in the air in a ridiculous fashion.

But, as ever, I love it. Librarianship as a career never lets me stagnate. I may be exhausted, but it's better than being bored. More from me as I'm able over the next few days, I'll be back in Chattanooga on Thursday the 23rd.

Monday, October 06, 2008

New Drop-Deadlines

With Internet Librarian coming up, I've been running around like a chicken with my head cut off a bit. I have finally resorted to making another drop-deadline list that carries me through the end of this semester, and my stomach sank a bit in the realization that no, I will not be going to Lexington for Thanksgiving, since I have far too much to get done. (Happily, an awesome librarian pal I have who has roots here in Chattanooga has invited me to partake in her family's holiday, so I won't spend it solo.)

For those of you who don't keep up with me in various other places online, the 3rd shift job at the gym lasted a whopping 5 weeks before I admitted my failure and need for sleep. However, I've also come to the conclusion that taking a full load for the MFA (16 hours), as well as two classes for the MA in Lit (in addition to my full time librarian-chasing-tenure gig) is too much. I took one MA class last semester, and that was a level of stress I could manage - this semester has been too much with an extra class. (Particularly since it's a Lit Crit class where we've been reading Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Marx and Saussure - I enjoyed these fellows much more in my Political Theory classes. But it's been a lot of work.)

Add to the above my enthusiasm and acceptance for Internet Librarian (come to our prefconference! Come to our presentation!), my article proposal just accepted for Urban Library Journal, an upcoming MFA semester that involves writing my critical thesis, and the fact that homegirl has not seen hide nor hair of an actual vacation since a three day weekend I took in April, and you have one very, very exhausted person.

My drop-deadlines. Some of them are not so scary (ENGL 552 is a poetry workshop and relatively light on work), some of them make me cringe (ENGL 527 is that Critical Literary Theory class that is whupping my behind). I am rather resenting the MFA for stealing a week and a half of my life in November (though admittedly the residencies are usually the highlight of my semesters as a writer, and I know this), as well as for making the whole first draft of the critical thesis due in the very first packet. That seems rather mean.

But, I'll get it done. I always do. And then I'll feel all warm and fuzzy that I got to check things off a list, move closer to two different degrees, and get something (or two somethings) published in Libraryland. I've only run it through the end of this semester so far because there are some things up in the air for next semester, including that the English department here has offered to let me teach a section of Freshman Comp. More on that in the future. Drop-deadlines below, with the scary ones bolded to emphasize the scaryness.

Drop Deadlines

10/15 – ENGL 552 revisions due, Essay 1 due

10/17 - 10/23 – Internet Librarian, Presentations

10/29 – ENGL 552 long poem due

10/29 – ENGL 552 grad paper (15-20p) due

10/30 – ENGL 527 7-10p paper due

11/1 – draft of LJ article – self-imposed deadline, email LBC

11/5 – ENGL 552 essay 2 due

11/12 – ENGL 552 portfolio due

11/14-11/23 – MFA residency

12/1 – Urban Library Journal article due

12/4 – ENGL 527 20-25p paper due

12/8 – ENGL 527 final due

12/11 – MFA draft critical thesis due (30p) in packet 1

12/31 – Collection Development Round 1 (self-imposed deadline)

Thursday, October 02, 2008

On Luck and Effort

Driving into work this morning, I found myself ridiculously annoyed at a radio commercial marketing a packet on study skills. The ad said, "Do you wish you were one of those lucky parents whose child gets good grades?" Sitting in traffic, I mulled this over, and came to the conclusion that my good grades (and my sister's, and my brother's) had nothing to do with mom and dad's "luck." It had to do with - - brace yourself - - good old fashioned hard work. (Okay, and the threat of an ass-whupping if we didn't make the grade.)

Now, naturally, some children are better at school than others. I was one of the lucky ones - I'm simply a good test taker. My sister was not so lucky - she had to work her ass off for her good grades. My brother fell somewhere in between. But it was still not a matter of my parents being "lucky." My parents worked their asses off - we were mid-to-lower middle class on Long Island. We never went on family vacations, because those funds were spent on nutritious food (we never had fast food) and school supplies. My parents were a constant presence, asking what we had done in school that day, peering over our shoulders as we did our homework. Our questions were never just answered, since Mom's answer of first resort was always "Look it up" or "check the index," and it was made very clear that just as my parents had to go to work to support the family, the hours we spent in school each day should be considered a similar sort of 'work,' and it was our responsibility to get it done well.

Neither of my parents went to college. Mom started, but dropped out when she got married. My dad went to trade school - he was an electrician. Dad rarely helped with homework because he worked such long hours, early and late, but he was a great help when it came to learning circuits in high school physics. Mostly, though, the way we got good grades was knowing that much as our parents had jobs, school was *our* job as children. My parents made it clear that non-performance wasn't an option, though there were different avenues for help if we needed them, such as tutors or extra books. This is to say, it's not like we were brought up in the Ivory Tower, though I merrily reside there now. We are regular folk, swinging between hard-put and okay in the middle class.

The idea that "luck" is the reason kids succeed is a dangerous one. It implies that there's no responsibility necessary, no labor-intensive oversight, and it's selling a product that allows parents to abdicate responsibility. Per a recent conversation with a good friend on this advertisement, I laughed out loud when she said, "Give kids good genes and educate them. That's not luck. If you have a fetal alcohol baby and don't buy them books, what do you expect?"

All kidding aside, though, it isn't luck. It a matter of time and diligence. Framing the discourse on student achievement as a matter of luck cheapens the work done by many parents and educators, and cheapens the student's own effort. It is not a matter of "luck" when a new college student succeeds or fails - it is usually a direct correspondence to how much work the student has put in and what sort of a support system the education system and their parents or home life have provided them. "Luck" has no place in education - let's leave it to the leprechauns and lottery folks, and recognize that work is what it takes to succeed.

Edit/Late Addition: I would argue the same goes for our work in LibraryLand, too.