Weeknote 48 (2020)


First off is this recommended read from the November 17th issue of The New Yorker, The rise and fall of getting things done by Cal ‘Deep Work’ Newport. As Newport himself describes his work,

It’s not, however, really about David Allen’s productivity system, which longtime readers (and listeners) know I really admire. It’s instead about a deeper question that I hadn’t heard discussed much before: Why do we leave office workers to figure out on their own how to get things done?

With the notable exception of agile software development teams, companies in this sector largely leave decisions about how work is assigned, reviewed, and organized up to individuals. We promulgate clear objectives and construct motivating corporate cultures, but when it comes to actually executing these tasks, we just hook everyone up to an email address or Slack channel and tell them to rock and roll. This has led to a culture of overload and fragmented attention that makes everyone involved miserable.

I don’t want to spoil the conclusions of this article, but I will tip you off that I’m filling this article away in my notebook about visualizing workflow.


I discovered this work from CARL’s e-alert newsletter, Thinking Politically About Scholarly Infrastructure (A.J. Boston, LPC Blog – Fellows Journal, November 12). Parts of it hit a little too close to home for my liking…

I’m sure I’m being unfair in my stance. To capture a diverse constituency, a big-tent approach can be effective. Compromise can cause cynicism about our politics, but sometimes a little progress can be better than a lot of regression. That’s the story I’ve told myself, at least, while making my daily compromise as a ScholComm librarian who manages our Elsevier-owned institutional repository service, Digital Commons. My school contracted with bepress (then an independent company) shortly before hiring me to manage it, and my values felt fully aligned as I made the pitch across campus to deposit green OA manuscripts there. But that feeling changed with the announcement of Elsevier acquiring bepress in August 2017 (MacKenzie, 2017).

Since 2017, the Digital Commons service hasn’t worsened, but the premise that many customers initially bought into, of supporting an independent platform in the scholarly communication ecosystem, has eroded. And what do people do when they face a deterioration of goods and services? For A.O. Hirschman (1970), there are three choices (which later scholars have revised upon): exit, voice, and loyalty. In my case, exit seems out of the question: a diverse constituency of groups on my campus have now integrated the software, and a swap would be overly-costly and damage relationships in the process. I don’t know whether I’d categorize what I am doing now as voice or loyalty, but what I do know is that there is a strong glimmer of recognition when Sen. Harris walks her fracking-issue tightrope, or when grant-funding institutions rock the boat just lightly enough that it doesn’t risk a capsize.


Also from aforementioned e-alert,

AAP and CCC End Georgia State ‘E-Reserves’ Copyright Litigation (P. Anderson, Publishing Perspectives, November 12)

After a 12-year fight, the Association of American Publishers and Copyright Clearance Center have declined to pursue any further appeals in their lawsuit against Georgia State University regarding their reliance on fair use in making materials available via e-reserves. Read more @pubperspectives 

I used to refer to the Georgia State E-Reserves case as an example of selective enforcement of copyright by publishers in which educational use of works behind an authentication system was vigorously challenged in court, while rampant open distribution of works under copyright via Academia.edu and ResearchGate was ignored for years.


I only read the headline and the abstract of this article but I am sharing it anyway because I liked the conclusion that Tyler Cowan [ht] drew from it: Open access improves the quality of citations.


Earlier this week Hugh Rundle published a blog post called Empathy Daleks that gave me life:

Her studies indicate that diversifying the authors, perspectives, representations and examples in standard textbooks is not simply “more inclusive” or “just” in an abstract way (though that would be good anyway). Students who feel they belong — who feel validated as members or potential members of a profession or academic discipline — are more likely to succeed and complete their degrees. That is, Lambert suggests that diversifying the authors and even the examples or hypothetical actors in university textbooks by itself has a positive effect on completion rates, engagement, and student satisfaction with courses. Amy Nusbaum shows in a recent article that OER is an effective way to accelerate this, because with licenses allowing “remixing” of content the examples used within open textbooks can be updated to suit local needs without having to rewrite the entire text….

But it was Lambert uttering the magic words about diverse texts improving “student success” that suddenly felt quite subversive. To understand why, we need to interrogate what universities usually mean when they talk about “student success”, and particularly the infrastructures universities have been building around it.

Hugh Rundle, Empathy Daleks, November 23, 2020

And on that note… I liked this tweet about university rankings some days ago.

Speaking of society-focused agendas, while I was doing some of the more rote collection development tasks this week (reviewing lists of duplicate titles, finding missing titles that were of need of replacing), I listened to a number of episodes of Terry Greene’s Getting Air: The Open Pedagogy podcast and I enjoyed them very much. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and spending time with some of the guests on his show and it is such a treat to hear them speak about the careful thought and thoughtful care they put into their work of teaching.

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