Friday, January 23, 2015

Scholarship as Conversation: The Response to the Framework for Information Literacy

This piece is cross-posted at ACRLog.

The Association of College and Research Library's (ACRL) Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education (pdf) has gone through three drafts, and was sent to the ACRL Board of Directors for approval earlier this month.

It was possible to do an excellent job of teaching information literacy (IL) under the old Standards, and that remains the case. It was also possible to do a lousy job. Nothing has changed. The same is true of the Framework; some campuses will thrive under it, while others will not. In all these instances, neither the Standards nor the Framework was or is sufficient or necessary to successfully teach information literacy.

And yet the discourse around the third and final draft should make many academic librarians pause. Conversations in blog posts, listservs, and social media reveal straw men, ad hominem attacks, and a lack of understanding of educational psychology and pedagogy, among other issues. Observing these discussions, we should reflect on how we interact with each other to create knowledge regimes and epistemic communities (1). Here I will focus on blog posts.


In the last few months, we've seen an Open Letter from some New Jersey academic librarians, since signed by others, ask the ACRL to not sunset the Standards, as well as a fierce rebuttal from two academic librarians in New York City, among other works.

The former accuses the ACRL Framework Task Force of being "tone deaf to the politics of Higher Ed." It also lacks any evidence of information literacy "success," however defined.
  • What did information literacy look like in New Jersey academic libraries prior to implementing the Standards, and how have the Standards helped? 
  • Who did these Standards work for? Librarians? Professors? Administrators? How, and why, or why not? 
  • What would change in New Jersey under the Framework? 
The answers to these questions go unmentioned.

In addition, the Open Letter mentions the political stakes for a shift from Standards to a Framework, but fails to show what those stakes are. I would very much like to hear more about this. (For what it's worth, at my place of work I will spend my meager political capital elsewhere, as the administration prefers the American Association of Universities and Colleges IL rubric, and I believe there are many roads to information literate Damascus.)

Maybe the Framework is "tone deaf to the politics of higher education." But maybe the politics of higher education are tone deaf to what educators, librarians included, are trying to accomplish in classrooms and on campuses. No doubt that politics is powerful, more powerful than academic library and information science (LIS) professionals, but given what I see of said politics, I'd much rather be against it than with it, and some push back is healthy.

Meanwhile, Ian Beilin and Nancy Foasberg mount a powerful defense of the Framework in a rebuttal to the Open Letter:
The Standards understand information as a commodity external to the student; something that can be obtained and subsequently “used.[i]” When we look at information in this way, we are thinking of information literate students as consumers who must choose among many options, like shoppers selecting goods from among those placed before them in the market. The Framework instead aims at a more social understanding of information and information literacy. Most notably, it uses the explicit metaphor of a conversation, but it is also interested in the ways that authority is constructed and the ways that information artifacts are produced. Research is thus framed as an interaction among people rather than a choice among artifacts.
Yet their article maligns standards everywhere with the specter of Common Core, a case of guilt by association (though to be fair, the Open Letter mentions Common Core first). To Beilin and Foasberg, the move to return to the standards is "a conservative, backward-looking disposition," never mind that one reason Common Core is so reviled in some circles is how radical it is.

Writ large, their defenses of localized learning and the role of theory in library and information science inadvertently expose Threshold Concepts (TCs), mentioned only once in their article, for what they are: a loose collection of pedagogically unsound and empirically untested practices. To wit:
  • If localization is a worthy goal of the Framework why do Threshold Concepts come from a Delphi study as opposed to individual institutions? 
  • To what extent are these Threshold Concepts like, and unlike, Standards?
  • Theories gain acceptance when tested. What are the tests for Threshold Concepts? Where are they? (2)
It is interesting that an article so focused on theory should ignore the theoretical issues that make up the bedrock of the Framework.

Responses garnered from the most recent feedback form (pdf) that accompanied the third draft in November showed that, of the 206 surveys received,
• 91% were satisfied with the opportunities to provide feedback to the Task Force on drafts of the Framework
• 67.4% support the new Framework
• 63% were satisfied with the proposed definition of information literacy
• A majority of respondents were satisfied with the new frames (satisfaction ranged from 71% for Information Creation as a Process to 83% for Scholarship as Conversation).
I do not know if 206 responses is a good number or not, but one jarring realization to emerge from this process is that while many academic librarians are faculty and/or instructors on their campuses, we lack a grounding in educational psychology and pedagogy. (3) How else would we have come to either embrace or tolerate Threshold Concepts?
“What do you wish your students were able to do?” “What kind of work do you think they could create?” “What do they come to this school being able to do?” “What does a graduate of X college look like?”
Those are questions one library director asks faculty at her place of work. (4) They are good questions, but neither Standards nor a Framework makes those questions possible. If the current discussion has enabled or validated one to ask them at a place of work, that is excellent, but as I see it, those questions were always there for the asking. There is nothing in LIS education that prevents this discursive formation under the Standards, or before their adoption in 1999.


The upcoming ACRL meeting at the American Library Association Midwinter meeting in Chicago will have a spirited discussion on the Framework, featuring the Board of Directors and a question and answer session. Because scholarship is indeed a conversation, at least part of the time, it is my hope that the discussions provoked by the above links, including those in the footnotes, shed some light on how librarians and information professionals interact to create knowledge and knowledge practices in the profession. I think we can do better. I will not be able to attend Midwinter, and I hope it's free of some of the discourse we've seen leading up to this point.

Meanwhile, absent a set of Standards, or a Framework, strong work in information literacy will continue to take place.


(1) "Knowledge regimes are sets of actors, organizations, and institutions that produce and disseminate policy ideas that affect how policy-making and production regimes are organized and operate in the first place." John L. Campbell and Ove K. Pederson, "Knowledge Regimes and Comparative Political Economy," 2007 (pdf).
On epistemic communities, see Wikipedia.

(2) The Women and Gender Studies Section of ACRL will be the first to test this Framework.
Again, I point to Darrell Patrick Rowbottom's "Demystifying Threshold Concepts," Journal of Philosophy of Education (2007), in which he argues that one can test for abilities, but not concepts; that it is empirically difficult, if not impossible to show multiple conceptual routes to the same ability; and that thresholds differ from person to person, among others.
See also, Lane Wilkensen's "The Problem With Threshold Concepts," Sense and Reference, (2014), and Patrick K. Morgan's "Pausing at the Threshold," portal: Libraries and the Academy (2015).
A similar critique can be applied to Task Force committee member Troy Swanson's defense of the Framework; instead of shoehorning Standards into lesson plans and learning outcomes, we can now do the same with Threshold Concepts.

(3) Again, see Dani Brecher and Kevin Michael Klipfel's "Education Training for Instruction Librarians: A Shared Perspective," (2014) and Kimberly Davies-Hoffman, et al.'s "Keeping Pace with Information Literacy Instruction in the Real World," (2013), both in Communications in Information Literacy.
For a good example of how educational psychology can effect academic librarianship, see Jessica Olin's "Not Mutants nor Ninjas nor Turtles, but Teenagers," Letters to a Young Librarian, (2015).

(4) This footnote is not present in the ACRLog version. The library director in question feels misrepresented by my use of the questions she asks, and has commented as such on the ACRLog version of this post. Please note that she asks these questions having thought that the ACRL Standards did not serve her teaching or her community, and that she thinks the Framework is a better vehicle for teaching information literacy. Read her post.

My previous writing on the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education:

The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: My Thoughts
Ethics, Copyright, and Information Literacy, Letters to a Young Librarian
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Some Initial Thoughts
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Beer and Music, Music and Beer: 2015 Edition

I wasn't enamored with new releases in 2014. I can't remember a year I thought was weaker, though maybe 2009 comes close, so let’s focus on what’s really good about 2014:

  • ageless wonder Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds wonderful version of “Mermaids” live in Prospect Park, 
  • the live return of Slowdive
  • the album returns of Godflesh and The Vaselines, 
  • the weirdness of Dean Blunt, Caribou, and Aphex Twin (I’ll have whatever they are having), 
  • The Wu-Tang Clan rapping (well) together again, 
  • Michael Gira and Swans continuing “comeback,” 
  • Ghostface and AZ on multiple tracks together, 
  • the concept and execution of Kreezus, Killed by Deathrock, Vol. 1 (aka, the best reissue of 2014), and 
  • Run the Jewels being an actual rap group.
My top albums, in order:

1) Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow: There are moments of pure, liquid joy on this album, and in 2014, that’s enough.

2) Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else: An alt-country album with a song called “Verlaine Shot Rimbaud” is something I am interested in.

3) Makthaverskan - II: Maja Milner has some Debbie Harry in her voice, and none of the icy composure, in this loose, cathartic album.

4) TV on the radio - Seeds: They’re back, albeit slightly poppier, and with stronger vocals.

5) Los Campesinos! - A Los Campesinos! Christmas: You know the drill; whenever they release an album, it gets slotted about here. Even if the album is a seven-song EP.

6) The Men - Tomorrow’s Hits: Rock. Action. Not a wasted note on this album.

Tier Two, in alphabetical order:

Alcest - : French metal band goes shoegaze, with sexy results.

Alvvays - s/t: Jangle so hard there’s a love song to Archie Moore on this album.

Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Beck - Morning Phase: A worthy sequel to Sea Change.

Cloud Nothings - Here and Nowhere Else: Seething post-grunge.

The Coathangers - Suck My Shirt: A sleazy mix of garage punk, early ‘80s Sunset Strip rock, and jangle.

D’Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah: The “Chinese Democracy” of R n B is exists, with an album of jazzy, slinky, brittle funk that sounds both loose and composed. So maybe more like the My Bloody Valentine of R n B, then.

Eagulls - s/t: Just as much emphasis on the “punk” as on the “post.”

Eternal Summers - The Drop Beneath

Fear of Men - Loom: There’s a Stereolab-fronted-by-Nico vibe here that’s quite nice.

Have a Nice Life - The Unnatural World: I saw a publication refer to this music as “shitgaze,” which made me want to cry. But I guess that’s shorter than calling it shoegaze/post-hardcore/post-rock.

The Horrors - Luminous: Now they’re making songs that would play during the edgiest scenes in John Hughes movies. Yes, that’s a compliment.

Mogwai - Rave Tapes: They continue to mellow, but are no less fine, like a barrel-aged stout.

Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds in Country Music: Alt-country gives way to psych-folk freakouts on what’s maybe the 2014 album with the most staying power.

Trust - Joyland: I got a lot of recommendations for EDM in 2014, and the most Teutonic of them was the best, dark and brooding.

The Vaselines - V for Vaselines: No signs of rust here. Weird, weird power pop, same as it ever was.


Lydia Loveless - Wine Lips
Freddie Gibbs and madlib - Shitsville
War on Drugs - In Reverse
The Horrors - I See You
The Fresh and Onlys - Animal of One
Lust for Youth - New Boys
Parquet Courts - Pretty Machines
Sturgill Simspon - The Promise
Total Control - Flesh War
The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Food for Clouds
Mogwai - Remurdered
Against Me! - True Trans Soul Rebel

Beer (either new to the DC market in 2014, or new to the brewery, in no particular order):

via Untappd
Jester King Viking Metal - They're calling this a Gotlandsdricka, which is then aged in gin barrels. Smokey, spicy, gin-y.

Hill Farmstead-Cambridge-Kissemeyer Arctic Saison - Lemony deliciousness.

3 Stars-Millstone Brandy Lyn - a 60/40 blend of beer and cider that's perfectly balanced and blended. Light malts, nelson sauvin hops, apples, and brett all shine.

Great Raft Reasonably Corrupt - Schwartzbier is a hard style to get right, and I'm not being a homer when I say this is great.

Off Color Troublesome - Kinda Gose-y.

Oakshire Hermanne - Vinous, bright, and sour.

Anderson Valley Gose - Either the regular or blood orange version. I'm not picky.

Deschutes Black Butte 26 - An imperial porter with the kitchen sink in it, including pomegranate molasses and cranberries. I love that I can walk into a grocery store and buy this.

Adroit Theory Brandy barrel-aged B/A/Y/S - It seems like it's not a year-end beer list unless these guys have a barrel-aged stout on it.

Virtue Ciders Sidra de Nava - I can't wait for these guys to distribute in DC.

Lost Rhino Bacterium Blondus - Their first attempt at a sour was so good they didn't even have to blend it, they just bottled a barrel.

Albermarle Ciderworks Gold Rush - My favorite all-purpose apple now has a cider.

Additional shouts to the entire state of Virginia, which is killing it. Devils Backbone, 3 Brothers, Strageways, Hardywood Park, cideries... to DC Brau's Alpha Domina Mellis, which is Hopslam for people who know better.

I've done this before, and I'll do it again:

2014 Edition
2013 Edition
2012 Edition
2011 Edition

Friday, December 12, 2014

The (Third) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: My Thoughts and Survey Feedback

Feedback on the Association of College and Research Libraries' third draft of the Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education is due today. It will most likely be the last round of feedback the ARCL solicits before various committees and the ACRL board vote on the document. You can view the third draft here. Your thoughts are welcomed, via a survey, before 5pm US Central time. Mine are below.

First, let's compare two definitions of "information literacy," one from the third draft, the other from the second. 


In terms of style, I am partial towards the latter, from the second draft. I prefer a paragraph to bullets and I don't care for bolding some of the text. What I do like about this new definition is the final bullet point. 

The next set of survey questions concerns the frames, and they have come a long way. A positive way. I have been critical in particular of the Information Has Value frame. I like it much more now, and the Dispositions in particular are robust. All the same, dissent is important, and I advise members of the Information Literacy Taskforce, ACRL committees, and board to read and reflect on what Lane Wilkinson has written about the frames.

The main issue I have with these updated frames is now Searching is Strategic, an aspirational statement for anyone who's spent time at a reference desk. Searching can and should be strategic, but elsewhere the framework notes that the research process is messy, and even the dispositions for this frame note the role that serendipity plays in searching. Instead, I would like the committee to rephrase this as "Searching is Exploration," as was the case in previous drafts.

In terms of responsiveness to previous feedback, both Threshold Concepts and metaliteracy are fait accompli here; neither was ever seriously up for debate, and a scholarly cottage industry is already being built around these terms, the former of which is largely unproven and takes advantage of a lack of educational pedagogy (pdf) in Library and Information Science education, the latter of which adds jargon to an already crowded language.

I hope members of the Information Literacy Taskforce, ACRL committees, and board read and reflect on Patrick Morgan's critique of TCs. Replacing standards with a framework should not be an abdication of expertise and authority on the part of the ACRL, and that organization should attempt to combat this perception.

A few stray thoughts:

The Framework opens the way for librarians, faculty, and other institutional partners to redesign instruction sessions, assignments, courses, and even curricula; to connect information with student success initiatives; to collaborate on pedagogical research and involve students themselves in that research; and to create wider conversations about student learning, the scholarship of teaching and learning, and the assessment of learning on local campuses and beyond. (1)
This opening, via assessments, trial and error, or other methods, could have, would have, should have been done already by institutions with robust IL programs.


The real promise of this framework remains its ability to spark conversations between librarians, faculty, and administrators, roles, and most importantly, people, who are all too often disconnected on campuses, be they physical or virtual. The success, or failure, of the framework depends in large part on our ability, as librarians, to take this document to our communities and spark those conversations.


At my place of work, the administration seems committed to using the Information Literacy Rubric from the American Association of Universities and Colleges.


Please see also, my previous writing on the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy in Higher Education.
The (Second) Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: My Thoughts
Ethics, Copyright, and Information Literacy, Letters to a Young Librarian
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Some Initial Thoughts
The Draft Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education: Survey Feedback

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

This Is How I Work

So it's come to this, I'm participating in what's basically the chain letter of blog posts. First Megan Brooks called me out on twitter, then Jessica Olin tagged me in her blog post. So, here goes. I'm Jacob Berg, and this is how I work.

Location: Washington, DC.
Current Gig: Director of Library Services at My Place of Work, a small, Masters degree granting university.
One word that best describes how you work: Width.
I'll explain. At present I am the sole full-time library staff member, and we have six part-time staff members, three of which are librarians. The other three are in MLIS programs. For the fall 2014 semester, I've been a solo librarian, solo staff member, for more than half of your average "normal" 8:30am-5:30pm, Monday-to-Friday work week. We're hiring, so help is on the way, but in the meantime, I spread myself thin. Circulation/Access Services, Reference, Instruction, Systems Administrator, Cataloging, Webmaster, and more. Thus, width, not depth.
Current Mobile Device: iPhone 4S.
Current Computer: An HP Compaq tower at work, a MacBook at home.
Current Tablet: Second generation iPad.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Why?
  • Google's suite of apps comes in very handy. We use the calendar to schedule part-time staff; g chat to keep each other up to date in real time; forms to record reference and circulation statistics; and docs to collaborate. 
  • Outlook. Our students have gmail, and for some strange reason, faculty and staff continue to use Outlook. Emails, scheduling, creating tasks,... it's useful, but I bet I could live without it.
  • Dropbox. Very useful for moving documents and other digital items around from one place to another, making it easy to work from multiple computers. 
  • Evernote. Pretty much anything I read that I think will be useful at a later date gets saved in Evernote with tags. As a librarian, I have an impressive controlled vocabulary. I also use Evernote to digitize pen-and-paper note taking at meetings, though sometimes I take notes on a phone or tablet. The paper must be yellow. Always has been, always will be. 
  • Twitter. I can't afford to go to every conference I'd like to. Library twitter is like a 24/7/365 conference. Articles, blog posts, and other useful items get shared. There's networking, there's inside jokes, there's gifs. 

What’s your workspace setup like?
I have a wall-mounted second monitor and when combined with a hospital bed table, they turn my workspace into a standing desk. I get to work just before 8:30 and sit until about 10, then I stand until lunch, and stand again after lunch.

My office is just off the main room of the library, with close proximity to the reference desk (yay) and copier/printer/scanner and fax machines (boo).
I have a white board that is very useful for planning and mapping.

I grew up taking the 1 to the 7 to go to Mets games. That's my happy place, even if the team is a never-ending source of frustration. Plus people bring their kids in to the building, and they can play with the trains.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack?
Can I take a moment here to note that I abhor the term "life hack?" It's awful.
Anyway, as soon as you find something that's useful, do something with it so that you can find it later. In library-speak, make it discoverable. Evernote does the job nicely for me. Your milage may vary.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?
I use the native Notes app on my phone and tablet, as well as tasks and flags in Outlook. I get satisfaction from crossing stuff off or checking it off.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?
I have a 160GB iPod classic. I had dreams that maybe Apple would come out with a 320GB version, but instead they're killing it off. I like music, a lot.

What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret?
I like to think that because of the wide array of roles I've had in libraries and my interest in both theory and practice, I do a good job of seeing the big picture and focusing on the details.

What do you listen to while you're at work?
Our local National Public Radio station, WAMU, in the morning, at least up until about 1pm or so, and then music after that, either via Spotify or my iPod.

What are you currently reading?
Longform journalism, because truth is stranger than fiction.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator is meaningless, but I vacillate between INTJ and INFP. I think I was more introverted ten years ago than I am now.

What’s your sleep routine like?
I try to be in bed by 10:30 and I get up at 6:30am.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions.
Public librarians, people with non-traditional, flexible hours; people who work from home; and fellow library directors. If that's you, please share.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I write a fair amount about the interplay between structure and agency in librarianship. I wonder if it started with my dad telling me it was better to be lucky than good. Now you know where I get my sardonic wit from. I think about luck, what it means, who has it and who doesn't, a lot.

Friday, November 7, 2014

American Libraries Live: Open Access

On Thursday, November 6th I participated in a live Google hangout put together by American Libraries Magazine on open access publishing and libraries with Emily Puckett Rodgers from the University of Michigan and Melanie Schlosser at The Ohio State University Libraries. Here's a program description.
Scholarly journals are increasingly becoming digital, experimenting with new publishing models such as Open Access (OA) and incorporating multimedia into their formats. In addition, the process of research continues to evolve because of mandates from funding agencies to publicly share research findings and data. For a candid discussion of what OA is (and isn’t), join us for “Open Access and Libraries,” the next broadcast of American Libraries Live. (Source)
The gist of what I said:

  • I like the Budapest Initiative definition of open access, "unrestricted access via the Internet to peer-reviewed scholarly research," but would add that in order for something to be open, it must be found. "Discoverability" should be a concern here. 
  • There was a question about "corruptability," shady practices involving author's fees and the like, and while those issues exist around lesser OA journals, those same issues are present in lesser paywalled journals as well. I don't think there is an "OA problem" as much as there is a "peer review problem." 
  • While open access is seen as more of an issue for academic libraries, people use public libraries for research as well, and many public library systems don't subscribe to packages of peer-reviewed journals and articles. OA is a tremendous help here. Also, people use public libraries to reskill and open educational resources (OERs), be they Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) or open textbooks, are no-cost solutions, provided public librarians are aware of these resources. 
  • Regarding educating people on open access, I again discussed how zoos and aquariums transitioned from being places to see animals to having conservation and environmental awareness embedded into their institutional fabrics. I want to see libraries do the same thing. At my place of work open access is one of the first things you see on the website, and we've worked with faculty to bring OERs into the classroom, replacing more expensive textbooks. We can, and will, do more. 

Puckett Rodgers and Schlosser had very smart, important things to say as well, and not just about what I discussed above. Below we talk about promoting resources, federal policies, integrating OA into traditional library work flows, discoverability, and more.

My caption contest submission: "The Infinity Gauntlet will be mine!"Also, about two-thirds of the way through the hangout I made a joke about not apologizing for cross-posting on listservs. See if you can find it.

There was a lively discussion on twitter using the hashtag "allive," which I've Storified. Enjoy.

Elsewhere on this site:
More Thoughts on Discovery, Plus a Poster
From Here to Discovery
Open Access: A World Without Vendors
The Price of Scholarly Materials, Politics, and Access
Another World is Possible: Particle Physics Goes Open Access
The Library as Aquarium, or The SOPA Post
There's more under the open access tag.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

On "Pitching" and What Goes Unmentioned

I'm not sure if a few recent articles constitutes a trend, but I have noticed pieces imploring librarians to get better at "pitching" ideas to their funders, be they administrators, boards, or communities, among others.

While I understand that asking for things is a skill, I, like many librarians, find it somewhat unseemly. In no small part, this is because I view libraries not just as a public good, but as being, morally good, even though there's ample evidence that as an institution, institutions, they, we, are not.

Nonetheless, in the current political and economic climate, at least in the United States, funding is often hard to come by. Public libraries face shrinking budgets while institutions of higher education are subject to the same whims if they are public, and, when taken as a whole, continue a dangerous dalliance with neoliberal policies.

These pitching articles are very much agent-based, and are within the neoliberal locus. They focus on the need to pitch, without taking into account the structure, the political and economic milieu in which libraries and library staff find themselves. Given this structure, sometimes even the best pitches can fail and fall short, and that should be noted by authors.

So if you're writing one of these articles, I want to know details. What did you pitch, to whom did you pitch it, and what strategies and sales tactics did you use? Moreover, have you pitched something at a given time and failed, only to retry it later and have it work? What changed? Again, I get that pitching is a skill we library staff should have, but I want to move past it being "good," I want to know when it works, why it works, where it works, and how it works. I want to know who has had success with it, and who hasn't. Is there something like best practices for this? Can it be replicated? Can pitching move from anecdotes to social science?

Here, I'll start:

I have some experience with pitching, having successfully advocated for a discovery layer and link resolver. It took me well over a year to from the time I started lobbying the administration, our IT department, the university president, some deans and faculty, and the business office. I first brought it up to our then-provost at a time when my place of work sought to expand enrollment by more than thirty-three percent (33%) over five years. I mentioned, and cited, the library's role in student success and retention and led people through how our community went about using the library for research, and how that would change (in short, fewer clicks, less friction) under a discovery layer and link resolver. I invited stakeholders to meet with vendors, giving our campus partners some ownership of the process. I used powerpoints. And it worked.

But sometimes it doesn't. I ask for more full-time staff in much the same way; how I pitch is how I pitch. We're still in that five-year plan. Student success and retention remain concerns. Armed with memos and data from other libraries, I presented, and continue to present, my case to the administration. And I fail. But it's not me, and I write this as much for myself as anyone else. It's because full-time staff are more expensive than a discovery layer. Much more expensive. And that's structure. And it's missing from too much of what's written in and about libraries.

There's too much agency, too much bootstrapping, too much of what is basically the respectability politics of library advocacy ("if only I had pitched better!"). And while that's important, sometimes it doesn't matter how well you pitched, because it's not up to you. And if you want to wallow in nihilism about it, I understand that impulse. I've done it. I'll do it again. But I'll also get back up, and try again.

So what works for you, dear reader? Think about not just how you pitch, but when and where as well, and please let me know, because I always want to be able to navigate structures, when possible.

Elsewhere on this site:
Libraries as Structure, Libraries as Agents: Late Capitalism Edition
Exit, Voice, and Loyalty in the Academic Library
Toward a Unifying Field Theory of Librarianship, Or Not

Friday, October 31, 2014

Slowdive, Live at the 930 Club, October 22, 2014, Washington, DC

Pic via
Solo librarianship has taken its toll on the blog, but I did write up a review of Slowdive's concert in DC last week.
Slowdive seems, on record, to float away, barely tethered to pop and rock history, a contrast to other other shoegaze acts that make up the “big three,” My Bloody Valentine and Ride. MBV was and is rooted in the Beach Boys, 1960s girl groups, and the Brill Building sound, and Ride wouldn’t exist without the jangle of The Byrds and the mod scene of the late 60s. Slowdive only hinted at MBV’s guitar squall and Ride’s nod to influences, instead crafting slight, ethereal songs on Just for a Day, eventually becoming so ambient that the group recorded with Brian Eno, and dissolved while working on the experimental Pygmalion. 
In concert, however, the group rocked, combining the best of all worlds. “This is a pop song,” announced singer-guitarist Rachel Goswell, before starting Souvlaki’s lead track, “Alison,” and so it was, clearly indebted to The Byrds, as was concert opener, “Slowdive.” Torrential sheets of guitar–I counted over twenty-five pedals between Goswell, Neal Halstead, and Christian Saville, all of which got a workout on “Crazy For You”–filled the venue, grounded only by Simon Scott’s expert drumming, which focused on snares and hi-hats early in the set. Bassist Nick Chaplin alternated between the traditional rhythm section and threatening to blast off with the guitarists. 
Befitting the shoegaze moniker, the vocals were buried in the mix at times; one could barely hear Halstead’s flat, slightly nasal voice and Goswell’s was sometimes reduced to coos, especially when she contributed to the three-guitar attack. Saville turned the solo on “Souvlaki Space Station” into a slide guitar clinic, an alt-country, sci-fi, spaghetti western that exploded into ambient noise. Even the dream poppy “Catch the Day” and the hushed, folky “Dagger” got workouts, drenched in reverb and delay. 
Unlike MBV’s live struggles last year, Slowdive didn’t show many signs of rust. Goswell joked with Halstead throughout, and the only false start was corrected without tension. The band live-premiered the b-side “Albatross,” a post-rock song that follows the “loud-quiet-loud” formula they helped to pioneer. 
In 2013 I saw MBV live. This year I saw Slowdive. It’s your move in 2015, Ride.
Per usual, the full review is cross-posted over at Midnight to Six. Do check it out, and see how Slowdive compares to My Bloody Valentine, who reformed, toured, and recorded last year.

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