The price of competition

Nittany Valley Half Marathon

Nittany Valley Half Marathon, 2010

This is the kind of post I should probably write as a note on Facebook rather than a blog post – but, as mentioned in my last post, Facebook notes lack organization. So, even though this isn’t about libraries, I have this blog and this post doesn’t fit anywhere else, so here it is.

I write a monthly column about running for my local newspaper, so I think and write a good bit about the sport, but I don’t know that I have time or energy for yet another blog. I used to co-write a running blog for the paper, but when they switched blogging platforms, our old posts got erased and we never started up a new blog.

I originally wrote the following as a letter to the editor of Running Times, but I’m not very prompt about reading my magazines. By the time I had read the article and drafted a letter, the next issue was already in my mailbox.

The no-frills races Pete Magill is nostalgic for (“The Price of Competition,” Running Times, November/December 2012) are still here. Last weekend, I ran the Nittany Valley Half Marathon in State College, PA. It has a measured 13.1-mile course with mile markers and four water stops. The race director’s brief speech as 700 runners toed a line in a field was something along the lines of, “Run that way and watch for cars.” Chip timing ensured accurate times. For all this plus a t-shirt, I paid $25. If Magill is worried about losing a non-refundable fee, you can even register the morning of the race, although you might not get a t-shirt. The race is small, but it has attracted some very good runners. In 2011, local runners Luke Watson and Rebecca Donaghue used it as part of their preparation for the Olympic Trials marathon. The race quietly donates proceeds to a local charity.

There are plenty of other races like this out there. If you want to run with thousands of other people in a big city, expect a spectacle. If you just want to toe a line and see how fast you can run, check your local running club’s race calendar. It’s a lot more fun than running by yourself with your Garmin.

Facebook killed the blogosphere?

I don’t blog here as much as I used to. Part of it is just life and work taking up a lot of my time, and part of it is the energy that goes to the other blogs I contribute to.

Another part of it, though, is the other outlets I now have access to.

A post by Aaron Stanton about using Facebook as a personal blog got me thinking about this. If I just want to share a link without lengthy commentary, I can post it on Twitter or Facebook. (A good portion of my Facebook posts are public, so feel free to subscribe – or friend me if you know me.) If I want to start a discussion, I increasingly find LinkedIn groups or Facebook better places to do it than this blog. I use these outlets to share things I think are interesting, or to refine my thoughts on a topic.

I also don’t read blogs as much as I used to. I find links on Twitter and Facebook, and I follow discussions on LinkedIn. When I do read blogs, I’m more likely to follow a link to a post from Twitter or Facebook than from my feed reader.

That said, and despite the title of this post, I don’t think blogging is dead. It has changed significantly, though. Back when I started blogging (in 2003), if you wanted to publish something online, blogging was the way to go. My blog was primarily professional, but a lot of personal and silly things got posted there as well, because there was nowhere else to post them. Now there’s no reason to write a whole blog post just to share a photo of my dog. Overall, I think my blogging has improved. It’s more focused and thoughtful.

Microsoft “education”


Photo by Stephen Downes

I’m making a poster (to be presented on Tuesday at the Pennsylvania Library Association conference), and was researching examples of timelines when I stumbled across a Microsoft tutorial on creating timelines in Word. The tutorial is intended for teachers. Here’s hoping teachers are only taking Microsoft’s advice about using Word features and not about how to do research.

The tutorial’s narration begins:

Start by researching your subject on the Internet..

OK, not the worst advice in the world, but why does Microsoft feel qualified to tell teachers where to do their research? It gets worse, though, when the tutorial shows teachers how to place images in their timelines:

Find the image you want on the Internet, then right-click and select copy…

I’m sure Microsoft won’t mind if I just right-click and take a bunch of images from their website to illustrate my poster. Right?

Truly DIY libraries

Little Free Library

A Little Free Library made from a newspaper box in Seattle. Photo by Josh Larios.

Lots of stories have been popping up lately about the Little Free Library movement.

Back in March, Lane Wilkinson wrote a blog post on Sense and Reference about what institutional libraries can learn from these DIY libraries.

More recently, my dad shared an article from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Little Free Libraries in the Atlanta area.

I first stumbled across a DIY library in a park in Madrid about 10 years ago. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of it, but it was a small stone structure with a shelf for books.

Earlier this week, BBC News posted an article about a rather large free library run out of a man’s house in Manila.

Clearly, in the Manila case, the DIY library is helping to fulfill a need that is not filled by institutions. Altanta is a very different case, though. Are DIY libraries popping up there because the public library system isn’t fulfilling people’s needs? Or are people just looking for something more local and more social than their local branch library? Or, perhaps, do people harbor a secret desire to be librarians?

One thing is clear: people like to share books.


Some thoughts on SLA

Elections for the SLA Board opened today. I’m a candidate for Division Cabinet Chair-Elect. (If you don’t know what that means, you might want to read my post, What is Division Cabinet?)

If you are an SLA member, please take the time to learn about the candidates and cast an informed vote. Over the past few months, all of the candidates answered a series of 5 questions on the SLA Blog. I’ve enjoyed reading my fellow candidates’ thoughts about SLA.

Here are my answers to the 5 questions:

1. What sort of advice would you give to professionals, both newly minted and more seasoned professionals, who might be interested in nontraditional career paths?

Advice to someone interested in a nontraditional career path

2. When did you first join SLA? What made you decide to join then, and why do you still belong today?

Why I belong to SLA

3. What is the newest “techie” gadget that you have/would like to have, and how do/would you use it to improve the work relationship that you have with your primary clientele?

The only gadget I need

4. How has your work with SLA over the years helped you grow professionally and personally?

SLA, for everything I didn’t learn in library school

5. SLA is an international organization. How can SLA involve and reach out more to members outside of North America?

Making SLA truly international


Goodbye RSS?

I’ve noticed that I’m using RSS feeds less and less often lately. Sure, I still have hundreds of feeds in Google Reader, but I’ve gone from checking them daily to weekly to I can’t remember when I last checked them. It’s not just because I’m busier. I’m getting a lot of the information I used to get via RSS from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. I used to look for the bright orange RSS icon to follow blogs, but now I look first for the little Twitter bird or the Facebook F. I’m just starting a new blog project (more on that soon), and I suppose I will need to create Facebook and Twitter accounts for it.

It seems I’m not alone – and this change is not without consequences, according to Ken Varnum at RSS4Lib. We’re moving from an open standard to mediated discovery. And it’s not just that people aren’t using RSS. It’s becoming more and more difficult for the consumer to find.

Ironically, I did find Ken’s post using my RSS feed reader.

How do you follow blogs?

Meet the candidates for SLA Board

The SLA election is coming up. Have you met the candidates yet? You can meet me and the other candidates for the SLA Board in a series of webinars. The next one, tomorrow, will feature the candidates for division and chapter cabinet (including me).

Register and submit questions for the candidates on the SLA site.

A special library on an organic farm

I was trying to sort through some old emails this morning, and found a really old one (a year and a half old!) from Eric Schwarz about an MLIS student’s visit to a special library.

The library in question is that of Rodale, a publishing company. The name was instantly recognizable to me as the publisher of Runner’s World and Running Times.

Rodale’s library is located at its headquarters in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, on what was initially J.I. Rodale’s organic farm – a suitable location for a health and wellness library.

This is why I never make much headway in deleting old emails.

What is Division Cabinet?

SLA 2012 DSOC breakfast

Having breakfast with my Social Science Division colleagues during SLA 2012

At the SLA conference in Chicago last week, I mentioned to everyone I met that I am a candidate for SLA Division Cabinet Chair-Elect. Many people responded by asking me what Division Cabinet is. I tried to explain it as best I could, but now that I am home I thought I would take the time to write up my understanding of it in more detail.

The Division Cabinet is comprised of the chairs and chairs-elect of each of the divisions. Divisions are units of SLA based on areas of interest, e.g. Social Science, Business & Finance, Competitive Intelligence. SLA also has geographically-based chapters, and chapter presidents and presidents-elect meet in the Chapter Cabinet. As needed, the Division and Chapter Cabinets meet together as the Joint Cabinet. The Cabinets meet twice a year, at the Annual Conference and the Leadership Summit.

The Division Cabinet Chair presides over the meetings of the Division Cabinet, and the Joint Cabinet at the Annual Conference. (The Chapter Cabinet Chair presides over Joint Cabinet meetings at the Leadership Summit.) The Division Cabinet Chair is a member of the SLA Board and brings actions of the Division Cabinet to the SLA Board. She or he also advises division leadership, assists in planning leadership activities and training, and represents division concerns to the SLA Board and staff.

At the conference, I was also often asked why I decided to run for this position. The short answer is that I accepted a nomination. The long answer is that I’ve always thought divisions are one of SLA’s main strengths and division programming is what keeps me coming back to the Annual Conference year after year (every year starting in 2002, in fact). I see the Division Cabinet Chair as an advocate for divisions in SLA and would be honored to be selected for that role. I also see being on the board as a way to give back to the association that has given so much to me.

If you are interested in SLA governance, I encourage you to attend the Leadership Summit, held each year in January or February. Next year’s summit will be held February 6-8 in a location to be determined soon. Most unit leaders attend, but you don’t need to have a current leadership position to attend.

I also encourage you to read the documentation in the governance section of the SLA website. You can read position descriptions and learn about all of the outstanding board candidates. (We got to spend a lot of time together at the conference, and I really enjoyed getting to know all of them.)

How to present a poster webinar recording

If you missed the webinar last week, a recording is now available from SLA Social Science Division.

This was the first time I’ve presented a webinar. I owe a big thank you to the session organizer, Maya Kucij, who was also new to this. She spent quite a bit of time reading documentation and testing software with me. I’ve got a small list of things I would do differently if I present another webinar, but overall it went well. I did miss the little cues you get from talking to a live audience – but I also didn’t have any distractions while I was talking. Using polls to ask the audience questions gave me some feedback about who I was talking to, and also reassured me that they were still listening.

I’m really glad to see so many SLA chapters and divisions using the SLA GoToMeeting account to present webinars. For chapters, it opens up programming to members who have difficulty making it to in-person meetings. For divisions, it allows for year-round programming and benefits members who can’t attend the annual conference. It also provides opportunities for chapters and divisions to collaborate on programming.