January 28, 2010

Librarians & Scholars

One of my ScienceOnline goals seems to be happening: scientists and librarians are improving their (intraspecies?) communication. Several folks have blogged or FriendFeeded about the interaction between librarians and scientists. What really got me going today was Greg Laden's Do you think libraries and librarians are important?, which, happily, has been retweeted many times - mostly by scientists & other science folks.

Naturally, I think libraries & librarians are important to a variety of scholars, including scientists. I believe librarians have a perception problem -- many non-librarians think we sit around and read all day, go around shushing people, and date-stamp books. We do some of that occasionally, but we also do much more. I wrote this in response to Greg's question:
What we librarians are NOT doing well is communicating what we have to scientists & other scholars. We are also NOT making our material easy to use, the way Google is. Some of it is admittedly more complex than what Google is doing, but some of it is legacy systems (and mindset) left over from the days when the librarian was not the last person in the world you'd ask for help with research.
So, what's the solution? We must be where our scholars are. This can be done a few ways: "embedded" librarians who spend a good deal of their work time with their scholars, in their departments, at their meetings, working with their scholar peers. If this is not possible, and even when it is, we should also make it a point to engage with our scholars online and at conferences.

I am extremely fortunate to be truly live among my researchers at UNC's School of Journalism and Mass Communication, as my office / library is right in the middle of the School's building, and I attend faculty meetings, see folks in the hallways, and otherwise spend most of my day with folks I am trying to support. I casually mention my research interests (usability, interaction of undergraduates with library materials, cognitive science) in conversation, and I listen to them discuss theirs. This interaction establishes that I am (moderately) scholarly myself, and it helps me integrate my scholars' & students' interests into the library.

It is not possible, or even desirable, for every librarian to be embedded with their departments in this way. There are other activities that can achieve the same goals, such as holding office hours in a department, attending receptions for faculty and students, and spending time physically in the presence of the scholars whom we are supporting.

Additionally, we should make an effort to engage with our scholars online and at conferences. There were several librarians at ScienceOnline, as John Dupuis notes, and I believe that we generated a lot of good conversations with scientists, journalists, and others about how librarians can help further their work. I know of at least one instance where this prompted a scientist to seek out a librarian at his home institution, and I'd guess that it's made many non-librarians realize some of what we can offer.

Finally, we librarians should be reading blogs and tweets of the scientists and/or scholars whom we support. This costs no money, and takes as much or as little time as you have to devote to it. By being in the conversation, we are starting to change the way scholars think of librarians -- one scholar, and one librarian, at a time.

ScienceOnline Posts about Librarians & Scientists

January 18, 2010

9 Take-aways from ScienceOnline10

Jonathan Eisen, aka @phylogenomics had a great post today entitled Top 11 things I learned at Science Online 2010 (#scio10). I wanted to blog about the conference myself but was stuck as to how to get started, and I thought I'd follow @phylogenomics' lead. I'll expand on some of these topics in future posts.
  1. Getting the Science Right, subtitled "The importance of fact checking mainstream science publications — an underappreciated and essential art — and the role scientists can and should (but often don’t) play in it" offered great insight into several different ways fact-checking is done (or not done) and how long it can take. It was great to hear experiences of the three speakers, Rebecca Skloot, Sheril Kirshenbaum, and David Dobbs.
  2. My presentation with Dorothea Salo on helping scientists find information was not incredibly well-attended, but between us, Dorothea and I made a big difference for a few people.
  3. The energy of bloggers, twitters, and science geeks was impressive and inspiring. It was a small conference (~250 attendees) and folks seemed eager to connect with all sorts of other attendees. This led me to be ...
  4. Motivated to start blogging again. It's been a hectic several months, including a 700-mile move, starting an awesome new job, and a 700-mile road trip to see the friends from whom I'd recently moved away. I foresee having a bit more time in the coming weeks, so I pledge to blog more - maybe once a week or so.
  5. The difference in writing styles in blogging, tweeting, and other kinds of writing. Blogging is harder than tweeting, srsly. Reading blogs is different from reading tweets, and also different from reading dead-print media such as magazine articles. Reading journal articles and books is different still. While this is obvious, it was good to talk about it.
  6. The value & simplicity of video. Lots of attendees were documenting the conference with Flip cameras. After seeing the ease of using the video cameras, and the immediacy of the message they conveyed, and a great session by Mary Spiro on video storyboarding, I was intrigued.
  7. Google Sidewiki sponsored a contest for a Flip camera for the most sidewiki annotations during the conference. Since I had achieved a modicum of interest in video (#6 above), I decided to explore Sidewiki. I'm glad I did, as it seems to have a lot of potential for libraries (about which more later, as in #4 above).
  8. Meeting tweeps, previously known and unknown, in person. Also, finally meeting a mutual friend after several years of mutual friendness. In both cases, meeting in person was greatly facilitated by prior connections, and good conversations started almost immediately. Next year, will meet even more previously-known tweeps.
  9. Speaking of next year, plan to stay in conference hotel. I live 30 minutes away from the festivities, and that was about 25 minutes too far. I was reminded of how difficult it is to attend a conference while living at home, as there is a disconnect between home life and conference life. Both would have benefited from my staying at the conference hotel for at least one night.
Take-away for all of you: if you're interested in the intersection of science and online activities, consider attending ScienceOnline2011.

January 11, 2010

ScienceOnline in Real Life

Finally I'm going to ScienceOnline! I wanted to go 2 years ago, but didn't have the nerve to sign up. I wanted to go a year ago, and although I found the nerve to sign up, I didn't go because I would be moving shortly and couldn't add One More Thing into my busy spring schedule. Now that I'm living in the Triangle, I'm going to ScienceOnline -- without even the hassle of a plane trip. Yippee!

As I read more about the workshops, program sessions, BlogMedia coverage and browse the list of participants, I get more and more excited. If you haven't heard of ScienceOnline, here's what excites me about it:

1. It's about science and collaboration, very broadly defined. I first heard about some of the folks involve at scio10 (as it's called) at the 2007 American Society for Information Science & Technology conference (which I blogged), and I realized that not only were some librarians doing cool stuff with technology, but some scientists were too. Jean-Claude Bradley impressed me as he talked about using wikis with his chemistry students; Bora Zivkovic neatly delineated different reasons for science blogging; and Janet Stemwedel talked about the value of blogging in the scientific process. Not only are scientists learning cool things about how the brain and mind work, but they are talking about it - so I was hooked both intellectually and technologically. I expect to witness and even participate in the science & technology at scio10.

2. Some cool librarians are attending. My e-buddy John Dupuis has collected a list of library people at Science Online 2010 at his great blog Confessions of a Science Librarian. I look forward to meeting him and some other science librarians I've met online over the years. Dorothea, who blogs as The Book of Trogool and I are doing a session creatively titled Scientists What can your librarian do for you?, with an accompanying wiki. I hope we get some good discussion and even learning as we try to give science folks the scoop on Libraries. If you can't attend, and you're a librarian or a scientist, check out Dorothea's slides as they are clever and informative.

3. A nice mashup of my interest in science, as evidenced by the "Science" in Cognitive Science and journalism, as evidenced by my new gig as librarian for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina.

Here are just a few of the sessions I want to attend ... tho' I'll probably only make it to half of these:
But really, it's 4: Awesome sessions for the science nerd at a level that a science aficionado can understand; advanced degree helpful but not required.