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.

Weeknote 47 (2020)

I had a staycation last week. It took me two days just to catch up on email I received while I was gone. And the only reason I was able to do that in two days is because I had booked the days off as meeting-free so I could attend an online conference.

Said conference was the 2020 Indigenous Mapping Workshop. I was not able to attend many of the sessions but the ones that I did rekindled my affection for web-maps and inspired me to make two proof-of-concept maps.

The first one is of bike parking in my neighbourhood. The location and photos were collected using a web form through Kobotoolbox.

I then downloaded a csv from the site and paired with this leaflet-omnivore powered map.

Bike parking in my neighbourhood

The second map I made was a more mischievous creation in which I used Mapbox Studio to rename the world.

Other things I did this week: chair our monthly Information Services Department meeting, selected a set of duplicate books as part of a larger weeding project, ordered a lot of books using ExLibris’ Rialto, did a LibraryChat shift, contributed to some collection management work, did some OJS support, attended several meetings, and wrote many emails.

One day I would like write a piece that applies the concept of technical debt to library services / the library as an organization.

I didn’t do much reading this week but I did read one article which I think has an exceptional title: Public Libraries Are Doing Just Fine, Thank You: It’s the “Public” in Public Libraries That is Threatened

This is a project that is close to my civic interests:

Introducing the Civic Switchboard Data Literacy Project!

We’re pleased to announce the receipt of an IMLS Laura Bush 21st Century Librarian Program Grant, which will support the next piece of Civic Switchboard project – the Civic Switchboard Data Literacy project! This project builds on the Civic Switchboard project’s exploration of civic data roles for libraries and will develop instructional materials to prepare MLIS students and current library workers for civic data work.

Through the Civic Switchboard project, we’ve learned about common barriers to entry that libraries are navigating with civic data work. We regularly heard library workers say that they feel unqualified to participate in their civic data ecosystems. With this barrier in mind, the Civic Switchboard Data Literacy project will build and pilot instructional material that MLIS instructors can integrate in coursework and that can be used in professional development training in library settings.

Weeknote 45 (2020)

Some things I was up to this past week:

  1. I registered for the Indigenous Mapping Workshop which will run Nov. 16-18;
  2. had meetings pertaining to servers and surveys;
  3. attended regular meetings including that of the University Library Advisory Committee, Leddy Library Department Heads, my bi-weekly meeting with Library Admin, and the WUFA Grievance Committee
  4. uploaded another batch of ETDs to the repository
  5. uploaded another batch of final edits to the OSSA Conference repository
  6. ordered books that have gone missing from the library (including Steal Like an Artist natch) as well titles to support the School of the Environment
  7. discussed APCs, video streaming, and the potential structure of the new Leddy Library website with various colleagues;
  8. and did an evening shift of our LiveChat Research Help service.

I don’t think I’ve said this publicly but the weekly updates from the CARL e-alert newsletter are excellent and are put together so well. From last week’s alert, I learned of this amazing project:

Community members living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) have been the focal point of countless scholarly research studies and surveys over the years. Up until recently, this research has remained largely out of reach to participants and community organizations, locked away in journals and other databases that require paid subscriptions to access. Community members have said they would benefit from access to that data for evaluating program and service effectiveness, for example, or for grant writing.

The recently launched Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal (DTES RAP), a project led by the UBC Learning Exchange in partnership with UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, is designed to change that.

The DTES RAP provides access to research and research-related materials relevant to Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through an easy-to-use public interface. The portal was developed in consultation with DTES residents and community organizations through focus groups and user experience testing, and in collaboration with a number of university units.

New Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal takes collaborative approach to Open Access (UBC)

I love that this collection is centred around the needs of those who have been studied and not the needs of the researcher.

And not to center my own work but (BUT) I was hoping to explore similar work during my last sabbatical but for a variety of reasons, it did not come to pass.

No Weeknote update next week because I’m taking a staycation!

Weeknote 44 (2020)

This is my third week of weeknotes and I have to say that the format is agreeing with me. I did a quick search online to see if any other librarians have adopted this particular format and I couldn’t find anyone from the librarian profession so I have yet to become an influencer (*snerk*). I did find a data scientist from the House of Commons Library who employs the practice quite well. This is consistent with my hunch that the weeknotes format is still largely an expression of UK civic computing types.

Many people use weeknotes to report on their last week’s activities as its originator intended…

Started on the blog of design company BERG a few months back, Weeknotes detailed what they were up to that week, what had been going well, what hadn’t. They were just blog entries, updated weekly, nothing more remarkable than that. Except they struck a little chord with people — and other companies and individuals started doing the same thing.

Russell M Davies: On the structure of time, WIRED UK, 28 May 2010

For what it’s work, this is what I’ve been up to during the past week: worked with our cataloguing team to process a detailed shelf-reading list of our theses and dissertations, met with a small group of scholars who are working on establishing a new journal on our OJS system, helped a student with a thorny research question, collected and delivered a bibliography of works for the university’s anti-black racism office, worked on a draft statement of publication ethics for two of our OJS journals, worked on the reference chat schedule for the month, worked with colleagues on a potential survey, attended several online meetings, researched how we could promote our collections using online book-carousels, uploaded some of the final manuscripts of the OSSA conference, uploaded a batch of ETDs into our repository, and answered a truckload of email.

I’m not sure if I’m going to report on my workings every week. I’m more interested in using the weeknotes format to help me keep up with my reading.

Speaking of which, this morning I spent some time with the latest issue of portal: Libraries and the Academy which has a variety of articles that touch on the role of the library liaison and of digital scholarship.

I saved for later this excerpt from Survey of Digital Humanities Online Guides in Canadian Academic Research Libraries:

In The Digital Scholar, Martin Weller argues that new digital tools are “necessary, but not sufficient, for any substantial change in scholarly practice” that they might help to bring about.8 His contention is that for these technologies to be truly transformative, three factors must converge: digital content, networks, and openness. When high-quality scholarly content can be shared digitally via online networks without legal restrictions, we enter an era of scholarship—digital scholarship—that differs substantially from the traditional one. An amplification of the scope of available academic content and the ability to instantly publish and share one’s content online challenges the fundamental assumptions about the nature of scholarly practice. Along this line, Robin Goodfellow and Mary Lea define digital scholarship as “the relatively recent invention of cross-disciplinary groups of individual scholars … who have begun to use technology to disseminate their own work outside the formal academic publishing system.”9

For at least the last twenty years, the academic library has been licensing collections of digital objects from commercial vendors for the private use of those only belonging to the campus. The work to maintain these collections is considered the work of a electronic resources librarian and is not considered digital scholarship. Expanding a bit from what I read from the above, digital scholarship is used to designate labour that is dedicated to the transformation of scholarship by making available collections of material openly licensed on the Internet and structured for use and re-use at both the item level and at the level in which the collection itself is data. As a scholcomm librarian, I particularly like this framing.

Also, as a scholcomm librarian, I appreciated and enjoyed this presentation on the promise and peril of transformative agreements by Brianne Selman.

? Happy Hallowe’en! ?

Weeknote 43 (2020)

This was the week that I planned to remove myself as much as possible from my regular working responsibilities and reconnect with my chosen community of Access 2020 which is the GOAT of conferences, in my books.

This did not happen.

Instead, I ended up working on a variety of management-related responsibilities and caught what Access sessions I could, asynchronously. I mention this not as a consideration for myself as some sort of martyr but because middle management work is work that can be devalued by both librarians and administration.

I was able to watch the opening keynote. Jessie Loyer’s talk on indigenous language revitalization through the lens of technology was everything an opening keynote should be: welcoming, questioning, challenging, and illuminating.

I also want to give a special shout-out to Shelley Gullikson’s “Web librarians who do UX: We are sad, we are so very very sad”.

IMHO: Leadership/management/librarians must understand that charging individuals with the responsibility of the library website without the authority to make those changes without consensus or vote taking from librarians is nothing less than the abject rejection of professional expertise of UX librarians.

I say this as a former UX librarian who also found a relief from sadness in Scott Pilgrim .

Another Access presentation that I very much enjoyed was Amy McLay Paterson’s What is a Library Website, Anyway?

The library website is many different things to many different people, but in the academic context, it is primarily thought of as a research portal. But Paterson suggests that considering the library as a contribution to student success should not be completely overshadowed.

Later in the day, after I had watched Amy’s presentation, I tried to catch up on some of my reading and found this article — Creating a Student-Centered Alternative to Research Guides: Developing the Infrastructure to Support Novice Learners — that rhymed with some of concerns Amy raised earlier.

Ruth L. Baker (2014) suggested that LibGuides could be used more effectively if they were structured as tutorials that guided students through the research process. Such guides would “function to reduce cognitive load and stress on working memory; engage students through metacognition for deeper learning; and provide a scaffolded framework so students can build skills and competencies gradually towards mastery.”28 In one of the few studies conducted to assess the impact of research guides on student learning, Stone et al. (2018) tested two types of guides for different sections of a Dental Hygiene first year seminar course. One guide was structured around resource lists organized by resource types (pathfinder design) while the second was organized around an established information literacy research process approach. The results showed that students found the pedagogical guide more helpful than the resource guide in navigating the information literacy research process. Stone et al. concluded that these pedagogical guides, structured around the research process with tips and guidance explaining the “why” and the “how” of the research process, led to better student learning.29

Jeremiah Paschke-Wood, Ellen Dubinsky and Leslie Sult, “Creating a Student-Centered Alternative to Research Guides: Developing the Infrastructure to Support Novice Learners“, In the Library with the Lead Pipe, 21 Oct 2020

I take some comfort from the conclusions above.

Recently I was asked to give a 3 hour lecture to a small class of graduate students from the University of Windsor’s Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research. I found that I needed some form of scaffolding to frame the information I was about to present or students (and I) would feel terribly lost. I opted to structure the class around work of The Open Science Research Cycle, based on Jeroen Bosman and Bianca Kramer work on academic workflows at https://101innovations.wordpress.com/workflows/.

In a perfect world, my set of H5P slides of The Open Science Research Cycle would be finished in time for the last day of Open Access Week, but here we are.

Weeknotes : 42 (2020)

“Weeknotes are blogposts about our working week”

Web of Weeknotes

Having a set regular writing schedule seems to work for me. Since 2016, I send out a small set of recommended reads, games, and other things every Saturday morning via a TinyLetter to around 200 people. Since August of this year, I’ve managed to send out weekly updates of local civic matters every Monday. I’ve been meaning to write more regularly about library things, so it would make sense to start writing weeknotes here. I’m going to aim for every Friday.

I quite enjoyed the latest Secret Feminist Agenda in which host Hannah McGregor discusses matters of academic mentorship with York Associate Professor and Associate Dean, Lily Cho. I liked how this discussion brought up the existence of the recalcitrant mentored – those students who does not recognize their abilities or do not see themselves in a particular role. But what I particularly appreciated in the conversation was Cho’s remarks that it is either necessary to detangle closeness with mentorship or we need to reimagine closeness. Her insights into University Administration are also worth a listen.

To file under ‘high citations numbers does not always mean a great paper’ is this thread:

Last week I stumbled upon this video that alerted me that a plug-in for Zotero called Zotfile exists that allows for highlighted text from PDFs to easily imported as a note.

This prompted me to revisit the Zotero plug-in page where I learned of a bunch of extensions that I wasn’t previously aware of.

The Zutilo extension appears particularly useful.

There are lots of videos in this inaugural Librarian of Things Weeknotes.

So I may as well include this fine one