December 29, 2011

Stephanie's Favorite Songs, 2011

As always, it was a good year for music! I've completed my favorite song list of 2011 and posted it on Spotify.

The full list, in song order, is below, with a few annotations here & there.

Foster The People – Pumped Up Kicks A great song to kick off the collection, it also kicks off a short gun-themed set. Note that the collection ends with a gun-themed song too.
Imelda May – Johnny Got A Boom Boom
Danger Mouse – Two Against One (feat. Jack White) Danger Mouse's Rome CD was amazing - I chose 2 songs for this collection, but there are many more great songs too.
Chris Difford – Like I Did Good for all the rock-loving parents out there, and quite a lovely tune too.
Diego Garcia – Under This Spell I'm guessing Amy's Leo will like this one.
Gomez – Options
Imelda May – I'm Alive Sounds quite a bit like Nick Lowe; and each of the 3 Imelda May songs here sound different from each other.
Nick Lowe – Shame on the Rain Yeah, I should have included his song "I Read A Lot" but this fit better.
The Steep Canyon Rangers – Atheists Don't Have No Songs Steve Martin is amusing here. This song kicks off a short (and hopefully not-too-offensive) religion set.
The Dirt Daubers – Wake Up, Sinners
Eliza Gilkyson – 2153
Eleanor Friedberger – Heaven
Emmylou Harris – Big Black Dog A great sing-along song, whether you have a dog or not. It's fun for cat lovers too.
Iron & Wine – Tree By The River How can you not love a song with this lyric: "I mean the world to a potty-mouth girl, with a pretty pair of blue-eyed birds." ?!
Danger Mouse – Black (feat. Norah Jones)
Sarah Jarosz – Annabelle Lee
Robbers On High Street – Second Chance Thanks to Amy for alerting me to Robbers on High Street; this isn't the song she first recommended, but it's quite a fun song anyway.
Garland Jeffreys – Rock On The first of two covers; I want to pair this one with Spiders & Snakes.
Imelda May – Tainted Love The start of this song makes me think of the Waitresses, which surely was intentional.
Noah And The Whale – Just Me Before We Met My favorite line: "don't be shy; be brave little champion."
Peter Bjorn And John – Tomorrow Has To Wait
Angus and Julia Stone – Big Jet Plane Lolhusband doesn't like that there is only one lyric here, but I love how it sounds.
Thomas Dolby – Road To Reno It's been a long time since he's had a new album, and this was worth waiting for.

If CDs were more than 80 minutes, we'd have more songs here ... but these are the cream of the 2011 crop.

December 12, 2011

Macro Monday: Beach Rose

This is neither cognitive nor librarian, nor, really, science ... but it's pretty and I like it. I'm thinking about participating in Lisa's Chaos Macro Monday (today's are stunning!), as I really like taking close-up photographs of flowers and other pretty things.

(Beach Rose, taken in Bar Harbor, ME. ©swb, 2008)

November 08, 2011

College Students @ the Library

A recent ethnographic study assessed how college students use the library for research projects and study needs. The results are worth your time to read if you expect students to do library research: basically, students rarely ask librarians for help.

USA Today summarized the study in August (College students rarely use librarians' expertise), and here's my summary of their summary.

The ERIAL (Ethnographic Research in Illinois Academic Libraries) project was a 2-year, 5-campus ethnographic study on how students use their campus library.

The researchers found that students "tended to overuse Google and misuse scholarly databases" -- they didn't understand sources (neither Google nor library databases), nor did they know how to find good articles.

Worse — in my view — when students went to use a library database, 50% of them used databases that a librarian "would most likely never recommend for their topic." (I've experienced this myself). Students "showed an almost complete lack of interest" in getting help from a librarian — despite all of the above.

Instead, students consult with faculty who:
  • Tended to overestimate students' research skills
  • Didn't require a visit to the library to start their research
  • Had low expectations of librarians
  • Had a sometimes limited ability to teach students effective search strategies and resources
The study also notes that it is difficult for faculty and librarians to put themselves in the place of undergraduate students who don't know how to do library research. No library theory of mind here!

My prior reading of the library literature suggests that the best way to overcome students' disinclination to use the library is for faculty to require them to use the library as part of their research. Students are more willing to follow faculty suggestions than anything else regarding library use, so if you require them to consult with a librarian, they are more likely to do so. This is particularly true, other research suggests, for students of color.

If you want your students to improve their research and use better articles in your classes, please encourage them to visit one of the libraries on campus. Better yet, ask your subject librarian to come to class and work with your students as a group to improve their library research. I consistently hear from my faculty colleagues that my sessions improve the quality of articles students find, so having a librarian speak formally to classes is A Good Thing.

For More Information

September 26, 2011

Why We Get Fat, with @GaryTaubes

The People's Pharmacy radio show is one of my favorites: Joe and Terry Graedon interview interesting scientists who speak intelligently about their topic (my recent listens included asthma and searching for health information online)

I was particularly impressed with their August interview with Gary Taubes, author of the 2011 book Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It. I had read his 2002 New York Times magazine article "What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?" and it was great to hear him discuss the fat vs. carbohydrate controversy in terms of the current obesity epidemic.

Taubes is a great science writer who can explain complex topics simply and clearly. His New York Times magazine pieces on sugar (2011) and fat (2002) are relatively easy -- if very troubling -- reads.

I first became aware of The People's Pharmacy folks, Joe and Terry Graedon, at the 2011 Science Online Conference. I enjoy their 2011 book The People's Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. I suspected I would like their radio show ... but I didn't realize I would come to include it in my "favorite science podcasts" category. Thanks, Science Online, for continuing to give the gift of science!

Brief Bibliography of Gary Taubes' Work

August 08, 2011

Sports & Psychology

Pain, vision, and prosthetics ... the August 8 issue of Sports Illustrated covers it all, with a sports twist. Yes, I am ready for some football, which is why when I saw Nnamdi Asomugha on the cover of the library's issue of Sports Illustrated, I picked it up. I kept reading David Epstein's great "special report" on Sports Medicine.

The most interesting, cognitive science-ly speaking, is this: The Truth About Pain: It's In Your Head, by Epstein. In which he talks about how stress-induced analgesia (SIA) -- "the temporary absence of pain" due to stressful events -- manifests for athletes. Hint: it helps cyclists get to the finish line after a long race up a very steep hill.

Also of interest to cognitive science folks is Epstein's article It's All About Anticipation, in which he explains why MLB hitters can't hit softball pitches. It's not because they're too slow, but because the hitters are so unfamiliar with softball pitchers' pitching style. There's a neat sidebar about visual acuity and high performance athletes: most can see at 20-15, but some can even see at 20-9 -- vastly better than the majority of folks whose acuity has been tested.

Epstein does a nice job explaining the science correctly and understandably.

royalty-free image from stock.xchng.

July 06, 2011

Just a Ding? Good overview of concussion issues in the NFL

Andrea Goetschius, one of my student colleagues at the University of North Carolina School of Journalism and Mass Communication, wrote a terrific case study called

"Just a Ding? The NFL Responds to Research on Football-Related Concussion" (summary & links; pdf)

It's a terrific overview of the concussion issues the NFL and its players have been facing for the last few years. It starts with the first cases of CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) that neuropathologist Dr. Bennet Omalu, discovered during the autopsies of three former NFL players. It chronicles former WWE wrestler Chris Nowinski's interactions with the New York Times' Alan Schwarz, as well as his founding of the Sports Legacy Institute at Boston University. Throughout, Goetschius chronicles the NFL's response, ranging from the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury (MTBI) committee to the revamped Head, Neck and Spine Medical Committee.

There are also four pages of citations, which provide more information on all of these issues. I've read most of the articles Goetschius cites and she's done a great job of synthesizing all of them into a 9-page case study.

And the Arthur W. Page Society* agrees with me: they awarded Goetschius's case study the Grand Prize in its 2011 Corporate Communications Case Study Competition (all papers in this year's competition look interesting!). *The Arthur W. Page Society is "a professional association for senior public relations and corporate communications executives."

If you're interested in the topic of concussions and NFL players, this case study is worth a read.

May 09, 2011

What is the Self?

Recommended: The Guardian's Science Weekly podcast on April 4. Alok Jha interviews philosopher Julian Baggini, who talks about the latest thinking in neuropsychology on what it means to be "me". Baggini interviewed Daniel Dennett and others for his new book Ego trick : in search of the self. Jha and Baggini play some of the interviews on the show. Great show!

May 03, 2011

More on Embodied Cognition

Ginger Campbell interviews philosopher Lawrence Shapiro about his new book, Embodied Cognition, on the March 25, 2011 episode of the Brain Science Podcast. Shapiro writes about his new book on his website:
I lay out the various research programs within embodied cognition, critically assessing the arguments for and against their claims. I conclude with some remarks regarding the prospects of embodied cognition and its place in relation to traditional cognitive science.
Ginger does a nice job of getting Shapiro to provide a balanced introduction to embodied cognition in the podcast. You can listen to the podcast or download the transcript (pdf) at the Brain Science Podcast website.

April 27, 2011

David Eagleman on Time and Synesthesia

Burkhard Bilger had a great piece in the April 25, 2011 New Yorker entitled David Eagleman and Mysteries of the Brain. In it, Bilger discusses Eagleman's fascinating work trying to figure out how we think about time. Eagleman goes to a Zero Gravity "ride" to see if he can measure how our sense of time slows down when we are afraid (he can); he also goes to London to see if drummers' brains are more precise about time than "normal" brains (they are).

Our general perception of time seems to be influenced by emotion:
When something threatens your life, [the amygdala] seems to kick into overdrive, recording every last detail of the experience. The more detailed the memory, the longer the moment seems to last. “This explains why we think that time speeds up when we grow older,” Eagleman said—why childhood summers seem to go on forever, while old age slips by while we’re dozing. The more familiar the world becomes, the less information your brain writes down, and the more quickly time seems to pass.
For more on this story, read the transcript of Bilger and Eagleman's chat session, Ask the Author Live: Burkhard Bilger on Time and the Brain. It's all fascinating!

Shortly after I read the New Yorker article, I was going through itunes, pruning some of my podcasts. I found a January 2010 episode of Australia's terrific All In The Mind in which Natasha Mitchell interviewed David Eagleman, in a show entitled: The afterlife, synesthesia and other tales of the senses. Eagleman talks very little about time, but quite a bit about synesthesia. If you want to know more about numbers having colors, or names having taste, give this show a listen.

March 21, 2011

Google Scholar & You

Here are answers to some Frequently Asked Questions about Google Scholar. I often get asked what I think about Google Scholar, so I wrote a post on my library's blog in response -- and have referred several students to it. I figured it was worth sharing with the wider community, so here it is again, in slightly modified form.

Q. What is Google Scholar?
A. Google search for scholarly articles, books, theses on a variety of topics, heavy on science & social science. Good for international materials.

Q. What do you think about Google Scholar?
  • easy to search
  • quick
  • good for citation searching (who's cited this article)
  • good coverage for international / non-English topics


  • can be hard to track down full-text of articles (see below).
  • no clear description of scope or scale of their holdings (are they a science search engine? social science? what neuroscience journals are included? how far back is the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience indexed?)
  • full-text may be from author's website -- which might or might not be the same as the published version
  • some metadata is wacky, leading to incorrect citations (see Peter Jacso's 2009 article on "ghost authors")

Q. How do I get full-text of articles I find through Google Scholar?
A. This is a huge question -- and it's easier to answer for the UNC community than for scholars at large. For UNC, use this link for Google Scholar and look for the "find article @ UNC" link to the right of the search results. UNC Library staff have activated "Find @ UNC" within Google Scholar to facilitate easy access to content available at UNC.

If you're not at UNC, but you are affiliated with a university, check Google Scholar Library Links page -- it's possible that your library has set up a linking system similar to what the good folks at UNC have done.

If you're not affiliated with a university, you may be asked to pay for an article you discover with Google Scholar. Check with your public library to see if they will request articles for you via Interlibrary Loan.

Q. What is "Find @ UNC"?
A. Links article metadata to article full-text if available through any UNC-licensed databases (using the OpenURL standard). If the article is in a 2008 issue of Journal of Communication, "Find @ UNC" knows that we have that issue available online through the publisher.

Q. Hey, that doesn't work for me!
A. It won't if you're off-campus and don't have the magic URL. If you have a UNC ONYEN, are off-campus, and want to use Google Scholar, use this link:

Q. Hmmm. I don't want to rely on Google Scholar so much. What else can I do?
A. The UNC community has many reliable, scholarly search engines for just about every topic. Those are listed on the Park Library home page. Your state library probably has some excellent academic search engines -- see what NC Live offers to North Carolina residents with a library card; Connecticut residents should check out

For More Information

March 09, 2011

Share Your Data!

NiemanLab is trying an experiment: in a blog post called Share your data! Tell us how your readers arrive at your site: search, social media, the front door?, they are asking readers to do just that. Joshua Benton states what libraries know, that there is a lot to be learned from sharing information (his actual quote: "there’s lots to be learned from seeing how one site’s audience compares to another’s.") and asked readers who run a news website to post answers to 4 questions:
  1. What percentage of your traffic comes from search engines?
  2. What percentage of your traffic comes from
  3. What percentage of your traffic comes from
  4. What percentage of your site’s visits begin on your front page?
The comments are chock full of interesting data.

I'd love to see similar data for libraries! I recently attended Paul Signorelli and Char Booth's ALA TechSource webcast on the Role of Web Analytics in the Library (post-class post and discussion) and am looking more carefully at my data.

I was initially very surprised to see that about 29% of my website's traffic comes from Google. But after knowing that and watching students navigate to my website during reference encounters, I see that instead of bookmarking the page, they just Google "park library jomc" or a variation. Mystery solved.

My challenge to you: read Benson's post, and then come back & post your library's analytic data. Respond to these questions, for the last 30 days:
  1. How do people get to your website & in what %? (This is called "Traffic Sources Overview" in Google Analytics.)
  2. Top 2-3 search terms to used in search to get to you.
  3. What are your top 2-3 pages?
(thanks to the Daily Tar Heel's Sara Gregory for tweeting her response to the this post)

March 02, 2011

Embodied Cognition

I mentioned Embodied Cognition briefly in my talk at SILS yesterday so thought I would post a bit more about it here. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy has a nice definition, which begins: "Embodied Cognition is a growing research program in cognitive science that emphasizes the formative role the environment plays in the development of cognitive processes."

What sparked my interest was this article in the January/February issue of Scientific American Mind: Body of Thought by Siri Carpenter which includes these tantalizing tidbits: "...a rapidly growing body of research indicates that metaphors joining body and mind reflect a central fact about the way we think: the mind uses the body to make sense of abstract concepts." Carpenter cites some interesting examples, two of which stand out to me:
  • Just in the past few years studies have shown that holding a hot cup of coffee or being in a comfortably heated room warms a person's feelings toward strangers ...
  • [T]hat sitting on a hard chair turns mild-mannered undergraduates into hard-headed negotiators.
Fascinating stuff!

library note: this article is not freely available on the Internet, but it is available to UNC and other institutional subscribers to Scientific American.

March 01, 2011

"User Services" ... or helping people in an academic library

My thoughts on User Services, or providing services to patrons in an academic library are many ... and I've just discussed them with students in Barbara Moran's Academic Libraries class at UNC's School of Information and Library Science. Notably, I am an embedded librarian, which is to say that I work where my patrons work. The Park Library is on the second floor of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, making contact with students and faculty very easy.

Beyond the location, I think about this work in terms of who I am helping, and so have organized the talk around these constiuent groups:

  1. Undergraduate patrons. They are first because they are so numerous! The School of Journalism and Mass Communication has roughly 800 undergraduates, and I work with them in many ways:

    • Instruction. In the academic year 2010-2011, I have taught or will teach a total of 33 classes, reaching about 600 students. Courses include Case Studies in Public Relations, African American Newspapers, History of Broadcasting, Law of Cyberspace, Magazine Writing & Editing, and Undergraduate Honors. I've taught two entry-level classes for MA and PhD students. You can see the full range at my course guides page.

    • Face-to-face / synchronous reference. I get most of my reference business from faculty referrals or from having taught students in class. The majority of the questions are in person, but several come via our LibraryH3lp chat sessions. In the calendar year 2010, my staff and I answered almost 800 in-person or chat questions from users, mostly reference, but many directional and technical questions as well. I detailed my theories of reference back in 2008, and they're still holding up.

    • The Library's website is an important component of my outreach, especially to undergraduates. I redesigned the website in summer 2010. It was intended to promote material I think undergraduates should use most (like Academic Search Premier and Communication & Mass Media Complete) -- I used a green star on the main page to highlight the really important databases.

    • I promote the library via Twitter and least 85 undergraduates following me back. Check out my Twitter favorites for a sense of the library promotion I do via Twitter.

    • I do my best to make the library a comfortable place to study, allowing food and beverages and offering PCs, Macs, wireless along with tables for solitary or group study.
  2. Faculty colleagues. I collaborate with my faculty colleagues quite a bit on teaching the courses I mentioned above.

    • I make it a point to attend faculty meetings and other gatherings of faculty. I want to be available in case they have questions for me. Often I see someone in the hall who says "oh, I've been meaning to ask you about Blah Blah Blah," and I know it's my presence that reminds them of their information need-- and the question gets answered. Additionally, it's important to be aware of what they are thinking about. It's good to know about new hires, because I can do collection development in a new area (always fun), and it's useful to know about curriculum changes or other elements of their daily work life. My role is to think about how I can help them do their work better or more efficiently.

    • I've been intrigued by conversations with John Dupuis, who blogs at Confessions of a Science Librarian. We've been cyber buddies for a few years and have met at two ScienceOnline conferences in RTP. Dupuis recently blogged about stealth librarianship, whereby we infiltrate (my word) ourselves into the work lives of our faculty colleages. Dupuis strongly believes we should step away from being so library-focused and "collaborate with faculty in presentations" and "...we must make our case to our patrons on their turf, not make our case to ourselves on our own turf." There are some interesting additional opinions at the In the Library with the Lead Pipe blog: Lead Pipe Debates the Stealth Librarianship Manifesto.

    • John's challenge to SILS students is: comment on his blog (at a mininum) or write your own manifesto.

    • I would like to collaborate with my faculty and publish in the JOMC literature about how librarian / faculty collaborations can be effective. This is one of my 2011 goals!

  3. Fellow librarians. That said, it's important to collaborate and cross-pollinate with our librarian colleagues as well. I was happy to have the time and energy this year to participate in Library Day in the Life #6 (see my #libday6 tweets here). I reported my daily tasks for my fellow librarians and was pleased to read about their daily tasks as well. I also participated as a way of demonstrating that librarians don't just sit quietly in the library and read and shelve. Some of the tasks I did that week:
    • Staff meeting
    • Future tweeting via Hootsuite
    • Met with a professor about teaching her PR Campaigns students to improve their research skills
    • Resolved a question regarding delivery of SRDS Circulation, an annual publication about newspaper circulation
    • Showed a student how to use RefWorks
    • Showed a student worker how to prepare serials for binding
    • Tried to figure out PubMed for the PR Campaigns class.
    • Got help with PubMed from a fellow UNC librarian also participating in libday6.
    • Met a fellow Mount Holyoke librarian at UNC who was also participating in libday6.
    • Weeded some of our book collection
    • Looked at long-term web analytics for library website.

  4. The Boss. I give my boss (Jean Folkerts, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication) all of the above information and more. I want her to know what I'm doing and what my staff are doing. I prepare gobs of data for her, which is how I knew how many reference interactions we had in 2010 and how many classes I've taught so far this academic year. Want more data? In 2010, we circulated over 1,400 items, and our patrons requested over 700 titles from libraries elsewhere on campus. My assistant (JOMC graduate Megan Garrett) has added over 1,800 titles to the catalog in the last year. There's more data still, but I'll stop now.
The overarching theme of my services to patrons is: be where users are and stand ready to help them. I offer help in person or in class, as well as through the library website. Further, I promote the library, and back it up with solid work. I talk-talk-talk about the terrific services we offer and I back it up by offering terrific services. It's an awesome job!

February 14, 2011

ScienceOnline11: Scientific American Mind

Fun stuff in the #scio11 swag bag, deconstructed:
  • My favorite item in the ScienceOnline swag bag was the free issue of Scientific American Mind. I'd read several issues, but not in a few years, and it's a great accompaniment to breakfast.
  • Thanks to the free issue, and the reminder of how much I enjoy it, I have started a personal subscription -- so thanks, @sciammind.
  • Happily, the UNC Library subscribes to the online edition of Scientific American Mind, but -- call me old-fashioned -- I still like to read some things in print.
Here are some news briefs / articles that might tempt you to check out Scientific American Mind:
If you want to see other items in the #scio11 swag bag, check out Joe Kraus' great annotated video. Thanks so much to the Conference's generous sponsors who made the conference possible. The wifi was amazing and was a model of how wifi should be made available at conferences everywhere!

February 04, 2011

Go Team! Ill-Will to the Other Team!

Here's some interesting neuroscience research to ponder as you watch the Superbowl this weekend.

In the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science, Mina Cikara and colleagues studied baseball fans' reactions to play of their & their rival's teams and have shown that "the failures of an in-group member are painful, whereas those of a rival out-group member may give pleasure—a feeling that may motivate harming rivals." As a long-time NY Football Giants fan, this is not a surprise to me.

Frankly, I was most entertained by the methods they used to elicit fans' pleasant and painful feelings. They tested "die-hard" Red Sox (n=11) or Yankees (n=7) fans. To determine die-hard fan status, the authors asked participants to
correctly identify photos of three Red Sox players and three Yankees players that we selected, as well as the position of a fourth player we selected from each team. Participants also had to give extreme responses to questions regarding how they felt about their favored team and how they felt about their rival team (scale from 1, love them, to 10, hate them).
The stimuli, illustrated at right, involved several plays, yielding four possible conditions: favorite team's (let's call them the Red Sox) success against the rival team (ok, it's the Yankees); Yankees' failure against the rival team (both of these, are, of course, subjectively positive); favored team's failure against the rival team (subjectively negative) and the rival team's failure against a neutral team (the Orioles. How did they get to be neutral, I wonder?). This last is the "pure schadenfreude" condition -- which is both amusing and so true.

The study's participants "rated the subjectively negative plays as significantly more angering and painful than the plays in the subjectively positive and control conditions." (emphasis mine). When the authors followed up with the participants two weeks later, the fans indicated that they were 'significantly more likely" to heckle, insult, threaten, and even hit a rival fan than an Orioles fan. Yikes! (tho', if I'm honest, this is not news to me).

To me, the methods were as entertaining as the conclusion, so I'll leave the conclusion to the folks at Psychological Science's Daily Observations, to ensure accuracy:
When the rival team hit a home run against the favored team, the brain’s pain network was engaged. Most strikingly, participants who showed the greatest pleasure when watching their rival fail were also the most prone to say they might act aggressively, even violently, toward a rival fan. These results establish an initial neural link between social-mediated emotion and socially-directed action.
Please note that I do not advocate sports violence in any way. Also note that I chose my team in the above example purely at random and in no way wish harm to the New York Yankees or their fans. As for the Superbowl: go Steelers! go Packers!

For More Information

January 31, 2011

ScienceOnline11: ScienceWeekly Podcast

I really enjoyed #scio11, also known as ScienceOnline 2011. Here is another of the neat things I learned:
Science weekly comes out Mondays, so listen to it today!

January 27, 2011

Takeaways from ScienceOnline 2011

I really enjoyed #scio11, also known as ScienceOnline 2011, held in North Carolina's RTP for its fifth year. ScienceOnline is an informal conference of scientists, students, educators, physicians, journalists, librarians, bloggers, programmers and others interested in the way the World Wide Web is changing the way science is communicated, taught and done.

I'm going blog some of the things I enjoyed about the conference over the next few weeks.
  • I went on a pre-conference tour of UNC-TV also in RTP. It was fascinating to see all the wires and boxes. The highlight was a full-size stuffed Cookie Monster, but also interesting were seeing Roy Underhill's set for the Woodwright's Shop and a 1954 TV camera.
  • Thanks to our tour guide Charlie Allen, also known as UNC-TV's chief engineer.
Overall, the conference reminded me how much I enjoy science. I never worked as a scientist, and now that I'm no longer a science librarian, I have strayed a bit -- but I do love science. My New Year's resolutions this year includes: incorporate more science into my life.