Anxieties on Multiple Fronts…

Confused by decisions

As the world continues to reopen and take cautious (or hasty) steps toward a new normal, we are surrounded on all sides by competing voices, expectations, advisories and theories.

Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions listed by Richard Saul Wurman in his book,  “Information Anxiety 2”?

  • “I find myself frequently bemoaning the fact that I just can’t seem to keep up with everything going on.
  • I feel guilty whenever I think about all the reading that is piling up in my inbox, my briefcase, my ereader and desk.
  • Everyone else knows all about the topics that I don’t.
  • I have a fear of “missing” critical information when I’m searching.
  • I’m so busy finding all the information sources, I don’t have time to read and digest what I’ve found.
  • I have difficulty efficiently sorting through all the “noise” of information I receive to identify the nuggets of information I am seeking.”

If any of these sentiments sound familiar, you may be joining the growing crowd of individuals who are suffering anew from “information anxiety”(IA) in this brave new world of ours.  Information anxiety is the cost we experience when information overload occurs.  Wurman defines IA as “the ever-widening gap between what we understand and what we think we should understand. It is the black hole between data and knowledge, and what happens when information doesn’t tell us what we want or need to know.” 

Baldwin and Robertson (“The Dark Side of Information: Overload, Anxiety and Other Paradoxes and Pathologies”, Journal of Information Science 35(2) 2009, pp. 185) says IA is more than just a reaction to the volumes of information that we are faced with on a daily basis. Also adding to our stress is the difficulty experienced when trying to locate information when needed  as well as the inability to use and understand the information that is already available. Sometimes, they assert, the information may be incomplete, but just as often the problem may be that the information obtained is disorganized and gathered in a piecemeal fashion from a number of different resources.

Carol Tenopir (“Online Information Anxiety”, Library Journal  115(13) 1990, p 62) relates the effect of IA to the challenges faced by librarians, stating, “With access to hundreds of bibliographic, directory, full-text, numeric databases online, the fundamental problem of today isn’t finding information, it is filtering and helping users make sense of all we find.”

So what does this mean to us as librarians? Even as some voices are declaring the brick and mortar library (and its librarians) superfluous in this age where individuals can consult the Web for all their information needs, we also see a refocused attention on the issues of information overload and information anxiety (along with every other type of anxiety) in business, academia and the general population as we all struggle to cope with the deluge of conflicting information this pandemic has created.  And people are stepping up to address the issues.  They call themselves information experts, business consultants, social media gurus and productivity coaches just to name a few titles. The underlying concepts they are applying, however, are very familiar to librarians. They are simply applying and adjusting them to address the information environment of today: a world connected by information streaming from many different media forms at a faster pace than ever before.

We need to repackage our very capable skill sets and redefine what this new world imagines a librarian and a physical library to be.  Our users need us as never before.  We need to come together, all our creativity and skills in hand to meet the new challenges that are now before us.  We are supremely equipped, socially distancing appropriate, to join our virtual hands and meet the needs of our users with the united knowledge and expertise of our profession as never before.

Brave (?) New World


lonely dogAs the days continue to pass, many are dealing with the stresses of our new world.  We are all dealing with varying degrees of loneliness, disengagement and wondering what lies ahead as we traverse these new ways of living in our world.  Like our pictured pup, the way forward may seem a little uncertain without many signposts to guide our way.

Experts offer us countless ways we can cope while “Staying Home During the Pandemic,” and offer “Tips for How to Stay Happy in Troubling Times.”   Some talk about the difficulties of  couples dealing with COVID-19 cabin fever, others just want to know “How to Reduce the Stress of Homeschooling on Everyone.” Psychology Today even offers us “70 Ways to Cope with COVID-19 Anxiety,” and The Psychologist offers this sobering look at “Grieving at a Social Distance.”

Those of us in the educational world have the added challenge of meeting the needs of many of our displaced students who, without their desire or consent, found themselves abruptly shifted to the world of online education. In addition to course content, graduate students are also faced with uncertain or suspended research assistance positions, the need for extending their current funding and the necessity to extend their time-to-degree deadlines. Their detailed thesis and research plans may be a total wash as access to research subjects, labs, specialized archives and libraries are limited or in some cases impossible.  Even those with all they need to continue their work are often confronted with new, heavier family responsibilities.  APA offers these helpful suggestions to those doing research during this difficult time: “Conducting Research during COVID-19 pandemic.” While good ideas, it far from answers all the questions still out there for students going forward.

So what will our Brave (?) New World after COVID-19 look like?  Devon Price muses on “What will Post-Quarantine Trauma Look Like,” and the latest issue of the open-access, peer-reviewed journal Population and Economics by Lomonosov Moscow State University (Faculty of Economics) offers a place for discussion on the impact of the pandemic on the population and economics, both from the perspective of Russia and worldwide. Inside Higher Ed offered three post-pandemic predictions in their article “Teaching and Learning after COVID-19.”  But everything is still very much in the beginning stages as we all grapple with the world in which we now find ourselves.  Stay tuned.  It won’t be a boring adventure for sure!

 

Photo Credit thanks go to : By Zahra Alijani – Own work, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64396613

Book Review Redux: The Mindful Librarian

I am doing something I do not normally do on this site.  Given the state of the world and the upside-downness that many librarians are facing during this COVID-19 crisis, I am reposting a review of an excellent book I reviewed last year:  The Mindful Librarian.  I hope it helps some readers take a deep breath and recenter over the coming days.

Blessings from academicpkm.org.

One particularly reflective book that I have read recently is The Mindful Librarian (by authors: Richard Moniz, Joe Eshleman, Jo Henry, Howard Slutsky and Lisa Moniz. Published in 2016. ISBN: 9780081005552.}

To quote from the back cover: ” In an academic environment of rapid change and doing more with less, librarians are increasingly challenged to manage stress, remain resilient, and take a proactive approach to complex issues that affect our profession.”

The book is geared to academic librarians or the solo school librarian, and addresses the topic of mindfulness in education, with special emphasis on higher education.  They begin with a grounding chapter in the concepts of Mindfulness, how it began, the science of mindfulness and some resources for further exploration of the mindfulness concept. The authors then explore the use of mindfulness concepts specifically in the broader field of education, and then the specific field of the undergraduate research process. In particular, one of the authors discusses in some detail his program for “creating a more mindful research paper.”

The focused application of mindfulness techniques to the field of librarianship begins in earnest in the fourth chapter and continues through the remainder of the text.  We have chapters on mindfulness and the ACRL Framework for Instruction, mindfulness and reference services, mindfulness when building relationships with faculty and mindfulness in library leadership positions. The final chapter tackles how mindfulness can enhance the solo librarian’s experience.

The authors draw parallels throughout between mindfulness concepts of staying in the present moment and deep listening  to the core tenants of librarianship. The authors share that “Deep knowledge about yourself enable you to be consistent, to present yourself authentically, as you are.”  These are key attributes that help build rapport with others and increase our ability to be approachable to those we serve.

I liked the wealth of recommended reading sections at the close of each chapter. I loved Tim Ryan’s quote (p 52): “The goal of mindfulness is to make you more focused and aware, so your mind and body can be in the same place at the same time.”

I also liked the author’s perspective of seeing the research paper as a journey with each stage important.. rather than a rush to the finished product. Lao Tzu (p 53) says “nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” The book is peppered throughout with many such insightful quotes that would take me far too long to share them all, and would rob you, the reader, from the joy of finding them yourselves when you read this worthwhile text.

The chapter on reference services had a number of role-played examples of the mindful, and not-so-mindful librarian and his/her interactions with students that makes for entertaining reading.

Don’t skip over the chapter on leadership, even if you have no intentions of ever being a member of your library leadership team.  There are a number of insights that apply to librarians at all levels of an organization specifically about mindful communication, and how you also practice leadership from the middle of the organization as well.

How is your burnout meter running right now?  While the final chapter of the book is focused for the solo librarian, a valuable discussion of librarian burnout, a hot topic these days, can be found in this chapter. All said, The Mindful Librarian is a lovely way to restart the new year and new semester world we find outselves in today in a more thoughtful, connected frame of mind. Enjoy!

Links Roundup #48: Highlight Manager, Content Curation, Facebook Security, Google Translate and Podcast Recommendation

saddle and ropeHighlight Manager 

As e-books continue to become more mainstream in academia, the nifty features that allow researchers to record notes and mark quotable passages bring up some additional problems when trying to integrate those items into our citation systems.  Enter  the Note Hound Study Companion.  Created by Graeme Summers, this online highlight manager works with PC or MAC using Chrome browsers.  While originally created to work with Zotero, it now integrates with all the major reference managers. APA, Harvard and MLA bibliographic styles are supported. Notes can also be sent to Word, Google Docs, OneNote and Evernote.

Consider Scoop.it

So we’ve heard about content curation now for ages, and many of you may have even dipped your toes in the world of Scoop.it before.  Even if you have not, you may want to give this tool a second look. Disclosure: There is both a free version and a paid version.  I’ve only used the free version which limits the topics you can “scoop”.  Here’s a quick, getting start guide to give you an overview:

How You Can Edit and Organize Your Content with Scoop.it.

Making Facebook Even More Secure

The folks at Wired recently released their most recent Guide to Facebook Privacy Settings.  Privacy settings seem to change faster than the GNP, so this is a helpful summary.

Google Translate adds new languages

In a Google blog post, author Isaac Caswell, a Software Engineer for Google Translate, announces five new languages now available on the Google Translate product:  Kinyarwanda, Odia (Oriya), Tatar, Turkmen and Uyghur.    Both text and website translation is available.  This brings the total number of languages supported by Google Translate up to an impressive 108 languages.

Teaching in Higher Ed Podcast Recommendation

We’ve talked several time about Bonnie Stachowiak and her Teaching in Higher Ed blog & podcast.  She reached her millionth download recently and Ed Tech included her and her podcast as one of the top 30 Higher Education IT Influencers.  If you haven’t found her yet, check out this sample post where she identifies her top 19 episodes of 2019.

Trello Tips

The systems engineering librarian in me was drawn to this article on the Trello blog: The Kaban Way: How to visualize progress and data in Trello. The Kaban Method was a Japanese technique first developed for streamlining Toyota Production.  It was developed by Taiichi Ohno and is one of several lean processing system techniques still used in businesses today who want to look at their processes in a new way in order to develop some productivity improvements.  Pairing this technique with Trello makes a lot of sense to me, so I was pleased to see this how-to get started article that I could share with all of you.

Book Review: When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing by Daniel Pink

cover of the book One aspect that individuals interested in personal knowledge management find fascinating is time.  The productive use of it, the seeming scarcity of it, ways to lengthen it and just the best way to squeeze more into our days. Enter Daniel Pink with his book, When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing. While not a new book (it was originally published in 2018), it was an instant New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal bestseller and worthy of taking a second look at if you missed the initial release.

Pink spends the first part of his book explaining that timing is not an art, but a science, based on well researched theories of circadian rhythms which cause us to follow the same general cycle each day no matter our age, nationality or time zone. Pink assimilates research findings from psychology and biology and neuroscience to help extrapolate scientific knowledge into practical applications to help us all live more successful and productive lives in a way that complements our natural rhythms.

For example, Pink discusses the common progression of team-based projects, where early brainstorming and false starts in the wrong direction are often looked at negatively.  Instead, Pink suggests, consider this just an expected part of the project cycle, recognizing research has shown that teams generally gain greater focus and momentum slightly after the midpoint of a project so this earlier “slow start” is actually much more on target than it appears.

Part three of his book changes the focus to “Synching and Thinking” and centers around ways to energize groups to improve overall results.

Pink’s book includes engaging stories and each chapter has a practical “Time Hacker’s Handbook” section of strategies and suggestions for implementation. His engaging delivery makes this a quick read.  Take a look at the video below for an interview with the author.