Monday, September 27, 2010

Meat Locker #1: Roadkill Retread

I've decided to do a regular column about my (and my teammates) experiences in roller derby, which I'm calling "The Meat Locker."

Yes, I know about the derogatory alternative use of this phrase, but I'll be damned if I'll let a few misogynistic douches who might use it that way own the term. 

Anyways, some details: I'm "Roadkill" - current fresh meat for The Hellions of Troy roller derby league. I've been on skates for a total of about 2 months. Before that, I skated maybe 2-3 times in my life.  Needless to say, in the first couple practices I was a bit unsteady on my (rented) wheels. I fell down A LOT, and I think that may have played a part in the meat name I was given... :-)

I can say this with authority: confidence plays a HUGE roll in how you do in practice. If you're new to skating or even just to roller derby, most of the positions and drills will feel very awkward at first. You are using muscles that most other sports just don't use. I run on a regular basis and am in decent shape overall, but I was (and still am, only less so) totally out of derby shape!  Did I say I fell A LOT yet? :-)

But I believed in myself; I knew with practice and hard work, I'd pick it up evetually. The coaches and vets are also very supportive, so that helped! So my "game" has seen vast improvements. I still have a long ways to go, but I'll get there.

My hope is to bring some of the excitement I feel in playing this sport to these posts, so I hope you'll follow along. Lots more to come about the game, the struggles and strategy, the after-parties, and I also plan to snag some of my fellow meat for interviews and their own thoughts. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Newest Playthings

Pressed for time this week, so a quick list of the newest toys/tools that I've taken at least a passing fancy to:

  • Greplin: it's a personal search engine for your social networks and email! You can search all your GMail, GCal, twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook posts, Dropbox and Evernote (this one req's a Pro acct tho) items at once.
  • Weebly: for creating a quick, professional looking site in a flash. I used it to create a "Save the Date" page that includes an embedded Xtranormal video on it for an upcoming conference I am helping put together.
  • Dragon Age: Origins: one of the best RPG video games ever made. I bought this for the PC a while back but got distracted and didn't get far into it. Now that my PS3 and Wii are gone via a recent burglary of my apartment, I have more time to go back to PC games (silver lining)! This is a must play for any fantasy RPG or D&D fan (but get the PC version rather than the console, if possible).

    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    New Podcast: The WGIL Room

    Two super-smart fellow SUNY librarians, and myself have started a regular podcast called "The WGIL Room," where we discuss issues surrounding library instruction, information literacy and emerging technologies. I just launched the blog for it yesterday, so take a look, give it a listen, subscribe (iTunesU hopefully also coming), and tell us what you think of it (bearing in mind it's a work in progress!):

    The WGIL Room podcast

    Wednesday, September 8, 2010

    Learning Pains

    1. via Flickr CC license, by the Comic Shop
    2. via Flickr CC license, by Gomisan

    For the last 90 days or so I've been immersing myself in the world of roller derby via twice a week, increasingly more physically and mentally intense, basic skills practices. During this time as Hellions of Troy "fresh meat," I've come to realize how effortless many of the veteran derby girls make the sport look. The reality is that each and every one of them has poured volumes of sweat and hard work into first learning the basics (it's far more than just knowing how to skate around), and then getting comfortable with a fairly high level of strategic thinking on top of the physical effort required to be successful in actual bouts. In short, I've been working my ass off and I still have a long way to go before I get into bouts! But to me, the effort, and the camaraderie I am experiencing with my fellow fresh meat as we struggle together, is half the fun!

    To relate this back to libraries:
    This is probably my curmudgeonly, old school self talking here, but in some respects, many new (and even veteran) college students seem to have a misconception about the level of effort needed to learn and do effective research (if they even recognize that they need to learn in the first place). The Google and Smartphone Age we're currently living through (and just now, Google's Instant Search feature is launching!) has, I believe, helped add to the mass-illusion that all information is at our fingertips and that one can somehow magically translate this into real learning and knowledge with little struggle or critical thinking. Not to say that Google and smartphones aren't great tools or that older generations didn't arrive at college with similar slacker attitudes and misconceptions.

    But I wonder how many students, at any educational level, are told (or given the opportunity to discuss the possibility) that they will need to work hard and think hard about how to get comfortable doing academic and professional level research? I run into too many students unwilling or unable to grasp the concept that good research is hard work (especially at first), for me to believe many are.  Research is far more involved than doing a simple book report, or typing in your research question in a Google search box, downloading some results and writing a paper from that and a textbook.

    Can we, as librarians, help instill in our users a sense of pride in learning information and digital literacy skills, without scaring them off  into the often misinformed, commercially-biased arms of total Google and FOX News reliance? Can we as academic librarians help build communities of "fresh meat" information literacy learners that will help and support each other to ensure they all succeed? This is something I need to think long and hard about myself...

    Thursday, September 2, 2010

    Fitting In or Being Tied? (A Rant)

    Below are some member comments excerpted from the excellent ACRL report, Futures Thinking for Academic Librarians: Higher Education in 2025.

    I agree with almost everything that is said in this quote except for it's underlying argument that we need to ensure our place in academia; that we need to make sure librarians "fit" into the learning process:
    Libraries will need to reconsider what their relevance is in the research process. We need to start considering what our ‘deeper meaning’ is to researchers to ensure that we fit into this new model. I feel strongly that we will have a role - it will look different from our role now, and we need to be careful not to cling to past practice for nostalgic reasons. (in response to the prospect of open peer-review becoming a norm, p. 10)
    If we are at the point where we need to justify our existence, is it already too late? Isn't there a danger, when our focus is on justifying our existence and changing primarily for the sake of ensuring our existence, of losing touch with our core values and mission, in the process?  I certainly don't have the answers, but I would argue academic librarians for the most part already fit and will continue to evolve their role, along with the rest of academia, as we've been doing for more than a century. Instead, we need to do a better job of collaborating with and promoting our skills and value within academia (note: there are other quotes scattered within this report that argue this same point).

    Another quote in response to an increase in non-traditional students:
    This scenario gives libraries an opportunity to play a larger role in the teaching function of the academy. We have a lot to offer the changing face of the university. (p. 12)
    By the way, the description of a non-traditional learning model in this section is almost exactly the same as the current model/mission at MPOW (SUNY Empire State College Mission Statement).

    Again, I agree with the message here. However, working at an institution at the cutting edge of this non-traditional learning model, I can state there is a danger that the crucial role of the librarian in the learning process will be forgotten or tossed aside. I hope this is only a function of MPOW, as there has never been a traditional bricks and mortar library here. But the low perception of our value here (we are mostly considered IT staff with no faculty status and can't even have the word "librarian" in our official title) does make me a bit nervous for the profession in the distance learning arena. Librarians here have always lived inside the often isolating cocoon of IT, and the fact that we have no building and no books, perhaps prejudices our faculty and administration to assume the online library and the teaching of information literacy skills somehow just run themselves.

    Recently, in meeting with my nursing faculty (they are the best!), one noted that some faculty in other disciplines seemed to have no idea that there were only three of us serving the entire college. To put that in perspective, we are three FT librarians serving approximately 20,000 non-traditional students and more than a thousand faculty!