CommComm posted on August 16, 2010 01:49

We've got a newbie roaming the stacks and hallways. Katie Lobner, a recent graduate of  the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has planted her Clinical Informationist flag at the Welch Library.

Yours truly, Alonzo, has the hot scoop on her arrival. Katie credits her fascination with librarianship to a New York Times article ( http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/08/fashion/08librarian.html) from 2008. I asked Katie, who calls Wisconsin home, about her transition to Baltimore in terms of becoming an urban adventuress. "I do dislike the MVA (dept. of motor vehicles) experience," (she gets no argument there!) "but I like all the quirky little neighborhoods". Ahhh yes, we Baltimoreans have cornered the market on quirky. We eat quirky for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

Regarding the overall Welch/Hopkins experience Katie confesses that "the lines of communication are open and it's definitely a team effort." Were truer words ever spoken. When asked about what, particularly, she enjoys about being a Clinical Informationist Katie stated "I like tackling projects where people don't exactly know where to go next". As I got a little bit nosier she said that what she's most startled by is that "people often don't expext you to help them, and seem genuinely surprised when you do". She also gleefully noted that "a patron who comes back for more help is a very reqarding interaction."

Katie's Mom and Dad have been around to help with her settling in. And, from her the sound of things she's making her way to a variety of eateries and places-to-go spots. We both shared a smile about the wait-time for the Blue Moon Cafe (on the weekend---fuggetaboutit!), the tasty food factor of The Diz and the nooks and crannies of Charles Village.

Now, Katie's lived in other places,  she's been a little bit here and there, so don't go stigmatizing her about Wisconsin being in the middle of nowhere (it's not). And don't go making jokes about cheese (who doesn't love cheese). These are childish, juvenile attempts at humor. I tried both and they just don't work. 

 


CommComm posted on August 10, 2010 20:45

The Welch Library had an all-staff meeting on July 29th, and Nancy Roderer, Claire Twose and Blair Anton presented a number of questions pertaining to the current and future status of the library. Included in their talk was a mention of the interviews and articles generated by Nancy, Blair and Claire along with the papers that have been presented at a variety of places (Peru! For one). Needless to say, the "long arm of the library" is now accumulating a very healthy measure of public relations attention, both local and national. For those unable to attend the meeting, or for those who are curious about what Nancy, Claire and Blair addressed, here are the list of questions.

 1.  Is Welch implementing a new model of librarianship

 2.  How do we know that this is what the library’s users want?

 3.  What’s an informationist?

 4.  What do informationists do differently with regard to providing services?" 

 5.  Give examples of services informationists have provided that are more in-depth.

 

 6.  What challenges do the informationists face with regard to users’ perceptions?

 

 7.  Where are we on reducing the paper collection and the number and size of physical library spaces?

 

 8.  Is the new model working? 

 

 9.  Will library services and jobs continue to change?

 

 

 


CommComm posted on July 28, 2010 23:27

Hey Everybody. Just thought I'd give some casual updates since we're in the dead of summer. So off-the-cuff, here's what I know: Christina Wissinger has moved, and is now near the back wall in the East Reading Room, in 206. She's right up the way from me. Just like Victoria Goode, Nora Smith and myself---we've asked her to maintain a very serious demeanor at all times, and if she can't---we're sending her back from wince she came. 

Marie assigned several interns to clean out the closet at the top of stairs on the 2nd floor. I think they found mummy relics and old copy cards. The mummy relics are priceless, but we're probably gonna hold onto the copy cards. I told the interns to organize a union. That Marie, she's such a hard task mistress. (That's not true) I think the last time Marie raised her voice the world was still flat.

Vivian McCall is getting some much-deserved R&R.

James Tucker loaded an entire dashboard into one of his cars. Saved himself $1,400 bucks. This was in the heat of the heat wave. Case you didn't know, James is a whiz-bang with cars. Just listening to him makes me think I'm car-smarter than I really am.

Tony Street enrolled to take some classes---I forget where---but he was sweating his final grades, which I assured him he didn't have to do.

Next door neighbor Nora seems to be working on a "very, very in-depth search". She's been doing this search for months and months. "Everytime I think it's done it pops up again." She's like Pacino in the last Godfather movie, "just when I think I'm out---they keep pulling me back in!" Nora seems to have a new "laborious search groan" for every day of the week. 

Blair and I compared our recent times in Chicago and came away with the following: We both love it there. Of course, Blair seems to be a closet CHICAGO CUBS fan. This is funny because how can anybody in good conscience admit they're CUBS fans. The last time they won a World Series Marie raised her voice (and the world was definitely flat).   

Alonzo's (dat me) is having a play produced in Chicago, it opens September 28th, and runs for 7 weeks. Lucky fella that I am. It's called "Zulu Fits," and it'll either be great or it'll be not great. Who needs middle ground---I'm no Hobbit hiding The Ring. Or was that Middle Earth? You get the picture. It's all or nuthin at all.

Victoria Goode is now Communications Committee Chair. She's headed up to New Hampshire for some R&R. Home, sweet Home. I think she just wants some home cooking. Whenever you mention her family restaurant, "The Puritan Backroom" she seems to enter a zen-like steak. I mean---zen-like STATE.

Well, that's what I know for now. The other day I read a caption about "Comic Sans". Comic Sans is the font I use for the blog. It read "if I ran a lemonade stand I'd use Comic Sans to advertise". I think their point was that---Comic Sans reflects a juvenile or childish nature. But here I am, Comic Sans and all. Alonzo fights maturity every chance I get.

 

Alonzo LaMont 

 

 


 

Debbie McClellan sat down with Alonzo (dat me) and talked about her time at Hopkins, from start to finish, as it were. We did most of this in the quietest place we could find. The mail room in the basement of Welch.  

Debbie McClellan has more than just fond memories of the Welch Library-she has a great deal of respect for the people working here. And that respect seems to have been there from day one.

“When I was a graduate student I was really in awe of the library. I was so impressed with the Welch, and the thought that I would ever be associated with it was a tremendous honor. I consider it a real  privilege to have worked here.”

“From the very beginning, I felt like I belonged because everybody made me feel very welcome. I was able to do things I liked to do: I was able to spend half my time teaching and the other half doing editing for people. So it’s been nice because the one thing feeds the other. I get all my good and bad examples from the editing I do for people, and that helps the teaching.”

When I asked about her future as an officially retired person….

“I’m going to continue to do editing. But what I’m really looking forward to is being able to have the time to travel with my husband. My youngest child is starting college, my daughter just graduated from a college in New Jersey. My husband plans to work another 4 years, till our youngest gets out of college.  Then we’ll really be free to get around.

“When I started doing editing, I felt the work was what I was really meant to do, because there aren’t many scientists who also like to work with words. I wouldn’t say I was literary--I’d say I was someone who cares about communication, and writing, and what I enjoy doing is taking the science and translating it so that the authors end up saying what they really meant to say. A lot of what I do is reading something for the scientific sense, and then trying to figure out what the author really intends. I have to try to get inside the head of the person who’s writing, because I want to make sure that their words convey just what they intended, in a clear way. AND I want to make it sound like they wrote it.  

“When an author says to me, ‘I like the way it reads now,’ I know I’ve begun to do my job; when that person doesn’t need my help any more, I’ve actually done it.

“I’ve always been a person who liked to help people, but I like to stay in the background. I learned very early on that doing science WAS NOT my thing, but helping other people get their science across to the rest of the scientific community WAS. I was telling a student the other day that I’m almost a scientific great-grandmother by now because I’ve worked with two, sometimes three “generations” of students from the same research lab. I’ve found my clients by word of mouth; I’ve never advertised anywhere except the Editing Referral Service here at Welch. I guess I’ve had about 170 clients by now, and I’m currently editing more than 100 documents a year.”  

On her vast network of national and indeed international clientele who utilize her editing service…..

“I have people all over the world that I work with, and everything’s done by e-mail.”. Debbie was very excited by the possibility of actually meeting (face-to-face) the people she’s worked with. “My dream someday is to go around the world and visit my clients and the many countries where  they live.” 

Debbie mentioned the challenges she encounters in managing the accounting aspects of being paid by different universities where different rules for banking apply, especially in Europe. “I get W-2 statements from Sweden, and all I can read on them is my name and ‘kroner’. More and more universities require you to fill out form after form. I’ve been doing work for a research center in D.C., and not only did they send me lots of forms, but I had to sign a 3-page contract, and one of the stipulations was that I had to have a million dollars in liability insurance in case anybody ever sued me if I said something wrong. I guess what they were worried about was  big operations using subcontractors. (Debbie laughs) That’s not me--I don’t ever subcontract stuff.”

When asked what she wouldn’t miss about coming to work, Debbie mentioned, “The thing I can REALLY LIVE WITHOUT is my commute.” Bike-riding Alonzo notes that if he’d gotten to Debbie sooner, she’d be on a bicycle sailing back and forth to work! Ok-OK, so I’m dreaming—it’s a LONG pull uphill on the way back to Catonsville!!

“I always tell people that my first priority is my teaching. I tell my clients, I’ll get your document done as soon as I can, but only after I’ve met my teaching commitments.” However, this seems a tad tricky in the editing business because, as Debbie says, “the key operative phrase is always---I need this tomorrow.”

Debbie observed that “this business of public speaking has always been a very, very difficult thing for me. So I tell myself, “Look, you’re not a performer, but you have something to say that people seem to value. So get up there and say it. And if your delivery’s not perfect, don’t worry about it, because people want to know about the content. I find it very fulfilling when I give a lecture and people are out there nodding in response, and I see the light bulb go on. They get it.

“One of the neat things I’ve discovered about teaching is that things that students were publishing 15-20 years ago as brand-new, experimental procedures in medicine are now practices that, years later, have become  standard of care in the field--they’re something that everybody knows or everybody uses. It’s thrilling to see the progress of science.

“My students have been wonderful. The sense of scientific camaraderie that I’ve seen in my graduate-level classes is terrific. I love to hear them commenting on each others’ writing, making important suggestions about the research or the writing that I could never have made myself. I have learned so much from my students!”

One of good things I came away with after speaking with Debbie is that she respects her craft, and she is proud of what she’s done and how she’s managed to do it. Not everybody gets to go down that road. Whether it’s for a job, or your own personal life---how many of us can hold their head up and breathe in that whiff of internal satisfaction? OK-OK, put your hands down, it’s not a test. Anyway, I’m not going to get sappy about Debbie, she’s already told me what a softie I’ve been. All I’ll say is that--- she’ll be missed.

 

Alonzo LaMont

 


CommComm posted on June 19, 2010 00:21

I just want to offer this up early, it's actually a bit premature. As most of you may already know our Debbie McClellan is retiring. We sat down to talk about the many highlights and observations of her long career at Hopkins. Part of maintaining the blog is meeting and talking to people at Hopkins that were previously---for me---usually off the radar. Hadn't really spoken to Debbie that much. But sitting down with her was such a delight. She graciously volunteered so much of her past and present. I can't say I ever remember speaking with anyone who was just so thankful and respectful for her career, and for her job that brought her so many friends, acquaintances and colleagues and took her to so many '.places' She values her teaching and editing with such a heartfelt sincerity. Talking with Debbie pushed all those emotional buttons you never think will get pressed during those 9-5 hours. And all it took was an informal chat down in the basement of Welch. My goodness. Real life always springs up when you least expect it.

 

The interview should be posted sometime next week, but I wanted to share this story she told me at the very end. She said the last time she'd been interviewed it was with a reporter from the Newark Star-Ledger. She was working in a lab at the time, and the interviewer was TICKLED by the presence of real, live honest-to-goodness lab mice. So, he precociously went over to touch one and like a kid at the monkey cage---YEOW! He was a mouse-bitten man. Luckily, there were no animals present during our interview. Alonzo don't play that.

Alonzo LaMont

 


As of July 23, 2010, PD/PIs will be unable to enter citations manually into eRA Commons and must use My NCBI’s “My Bibliography” tool to manage their professional bibliographies.

In the interest of easing investigators’ bibliography management, improving data quality, and ensuring compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy (http://publicaccess.nih.gov/), eRA Commons has partnered with the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/) to link NCBI’s personal online tool, “My NCBI,” to Commons. My NCBI offers an online portal—“My Bibliography”(http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/myncbi/)—for users to maintain and manage a list of all types of their authored works, such as articles, presentations and books. [See entire press release at http://nexus.od.nih.gov/nexus/nexus.aspx?ID=470&Month=06&Year=2010 ]

• For more information on how investigators should handle the upcoming changes, see NOT-OD-10-103 (http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-10-103.html)

• For a step-by-step guide on how to set up a “My NCBI” account and access “My Bibliography” see http://era.nih.gov/ncbi/how-to_steps.cfm

• You can also see the National Library of Medicine tutorial “Using My Bibliography to Manage Compliance with the NIH Public Access Policy” http://www.nlm.nih.gov/bsd/dist_edu.html for more details.


CommComm posted on June 15, 2010 00:30

This is a fabulous place to see Shakespeare. It's outside, you can sit back and enjoy a little vino and the trees and the darkness become a special character. Just a summertime suggestion, sez I.

Baltimore Shakespeare Festival - Home.mht (2.39 mb)

 

Alonzo LaMont

 


CommComm posted on June 10, 2010 23:54

The article from INSIDE HIGHERED is also featured in USATODAY.

Embedded librarians Johns Hopkins ahead of curve - USATODAY_com.mht (656.75 kb)


CommComm posted on June 10, 2010 19:53

I spoke with Dongming Zhang, Associate Director for Advanced Technology and Information systems at Welch, about the future Welch Online Integrated Information Service Portal (the integration of MyWelch and Welchweb). Specifically, I asked what were the reasons behind the move. Dongming said that “the user interface is really out of date. The technology that’s available---Web 2.0---provides so many different ways for access. Essentially, we wanted to provide 3 components to our users: 1) better interfaces, 2) better technology and 3) more integrated access for a better user experience”. Dongming and I chatted about the current generation of computer users being more tech-saavy than the previous generation of babyboomers. As we spoke, I mentioned Victoria Goode and her MLA presentation on this very subject.

Dongming stressed that “ATIS (Advanced Technology and Information systems) must have a better understanding of our user’s needs. Over the past few years the communication with our users has intensified. There has been a process of transformation. “ I found myself in complete agreement with Dongming’s assessment and I relayed to him how, previously, the process of having remote access was a tad difficult, even daunting. Working at the Circ desk patrons would call in and sometimes be at a complete loss with regards to configuring their home computer to access Welch journals and databases. Having given remote access a “test drive” last week I can safely say this is no longer a hurdle.

Dongming had a few more thoughts, “a strong electronic collection does not mean strong user access. You have to improve the access, and you have to promote it. Knowing our user’s behavior equals improved service. We intend to serve, not just our established community, but allowing---say, the person who just arrived on campus---the same opportunity to have their needs met. We intend to serve more user’s, support the Informationists and to recognize how vital is our online collection.”

I joked that he sounded alot like my chit chat with Nancy Roderer. Dongming joked back, “that’s because we’re both on the same page”. Dongming said that we could see the prototype of the integrated Information Service Portal by the end of August, and realistically he expects that near the end of the year the actual production will roll out.  

 

Alonzo LaMont

 



CommComm posted on June 7, 2010 00:16

Sorry for the inconvenience to one and all, the link was badddddddddd. But VOILA! I cutted. And I pasted. And I clicked my heels like Dorothy hoping to get back to OZ. And magically......we now have "The 10 Most Disturbing Scientific Discoveries" magically appear. BEHOLD.

 

Science can be glorious; it can bring clarity to a chaotic world. But big scientific discoveries are by nature counterintuitive and sometimes shocking. Here are ten of the biggest threats to our peace of mind.

1. The Earth is not the center of the universe.

We’ve had more than 400 years to get used to the idea, but it’s still a little unsettling. Anyone can plainly see that the Sun and stars rise in the east, sweep across the sky and set in the west; the Earth feels stable and stationary. When Copernicus proposed that the Earth and other planets instead orbit the Sun,

… his contemporaries found his massive logical leap “patently absurd,” says Owen Gingerich of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It would take several generations to sink in. Very few scholars saw it as a real description of the universe.”

Galileo got more grief for the idea than Copernicus did. He used a telescope to provide evidence for the heliocentric theory, and some of his contemporaries were so disturbed by what the new invention revealed—craters on a supposedly perfectly spherical moon, other moons circling Jupiter—that they refused to look through the device. More dangerous than defying common sense, though, was Galileo’s defiance of the Catholic Church. Scripture said that the Sun revolved around the Earth, and the Holy Office of the Inquisition found Galileo guilty of heresy for saying otherwise.

2. The microbes are gaining on us.

Antibiotics and vaccines have saved millions of lives; without these wonders of modern medicine, many of us would have died in childhood of polio, mumps or smallpox. But some microbes are evolving faster than we can find ways to fight them.

The influenza virus mutates so quickly that last year’s vaccination is usually ineffective against this year’s bug. Hospitals are infested with antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus bacteria that can turn a small cut into a limb- or life-threatening infection. And new diseases keep jumping from animals to humans—ebola from apes, SARS from masked palm civets, hantavirus from rodents, bird flu from birds, swine flu from swine. Even tuberculosis, the disease that killed Frederic Chopin and Henry David Thoreau, is making a comeback, in part because some strains of the bacterium have developed multi-drug resistance. Even in the 21st century, it’s quite possible to die of consumption.

3. There have been mass extinctions in the past, and we’re probably in one now.

Paleontologists have identified five points in Earth’s history when, for whatever reason (asteroid impact, volcanic eruptions and atmospheric changes are the main suspects), mass extinctions eliminated many or most species.

The concept of extinction took a while to sink in. Thomas Jefferson saw mastodon bones from Kentucky, for example, and concluded that the giant animals must still be living somewhere in the interior of the continent. He asked Lewis and Clark to keep an eye out for them.

Today, according to many biologists, we’re in the midst of a sixth great extinction. Mastodons may have been some of the earliest victims. As humans moved from continent to continent, large animals that had thrived for millions of years began to disappear—mastodons in North America, giant kangaroos in Australia, dwarf elephants in Europe. Whatever the cause of this early wave of extinctions, humans are driving modern extinctions by hunting, destroying habitat, introducing invasive species and inadvertently spreading disease.


Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/The-Ten-Most-Disturbing-Scientific-Discoveries.html?c=y&page=1#ixzz0qJFIhGyz

See full size image

4. Things that taste good are bad for you.

In 1948, the Framingham Heart Study enrolled more than 5,000 residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, to participate in a long-term study of risk factors for heart disease. (Very long term—the study is now enrolling the grandchildren of the original volunteers.) It and subsequent ambitious and painstaking epidemiological studies have shown that one’s risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, certain kinds of cancer and other health problems increases in a dose-dependent manner upon exposure to delicious food. Steak, salty French fries, eggs Benedict, triple-fudge brownies with whipped cream—turns out they’re killers. Sure, some tasty things are healthy—blueberries, snow peas, nuts and maybe even (oh, please) red wine. But on balance, human taste preferences evolved during times of scarcity, when it made sense for our hunter-gatherer ancestors to gorge on as much salt and fat and sugar as possible. In the age of Hostess pies and sedentary lifestyles, those cravings aren’t so adaptive.

5. E=mc²

Einstein’s famous equation is certainly one of the most brilliant and beautiful scientific discoveries—but it’s also one of the most disturbing. The power explained by the equation really rests in the c², or the speed of light (186,282 miles per second) times itself, which equals 34,700,983,524. When that’s your multiplier, you don’t need much mass—a smidgen of plutonium is plenty—to create enough energy to destroy a city.

6. Your mind is not your own.

Freud might have been wrong in the details, but one of his main ideas—that a lot of our behaviors and beliefs and emotions are driven by factors we are unaware of—turns out to be correct. If you’re in a happy, optimistic, ambitious mood, check the weather. Sunny days make people happier and more helpful. In a taste test, you’re likely to have a strong preference for the first sample you taste—even if all of the samples are identical. The more often you see a person or an object, the more you’ll like it. Mating decisions are based partly on smell. Our cognitive failings are legion: we take a few anecdotes and make incorrect generalizations, we misinterpret information to support our preconceptions, and we’re easily distracted or swayed by irrelevant details. And what we think of as memories are merely stories we tell ourselves anew each time we recall an event. That’s true even for flashbulb memories, the ones that feel as though they’ve been burned into the brain:

Like millions of people, [neuroscientist Karim] Nader has vivid and emotional memories of the September 11, 2001, attacks and their aftermath. But as an expert on memory, and, in particular, on the malleability of memory, he knows better than to fully trust his recollections… As clear and detailed as these memories feel, psychologists find they are surprisingly inaccurate.

7. We’re all apes.

It’s kind of deflating, isn’t it? Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection can be inspiring: perhaps you’re awed by the vastness of geologic time or marvel at the variety of Earth’s creatures. The ability to appreciate and understand nature is just the sort of thing that is supposed to make us special, but instead it allowed us to realize that we’re merely a recent variation on the primate body plan. We may have a greater capacity for abstract thought than chimps do, but we’re weaker than gorillas, less agile in the treetops than orangutans and more ill-tempered than bonobos.

Charles Darwin started life as a creationist and only gradually came to realize the significance of the variation he observed in his travels aboard the Beagle. For the past 151 years, since On the Origin of Species was published, people have been arguing over evolution. Our ape ancestry conflicts with every culture’s creation myth and isn’t particularly intuitive, but everything we’ve learned since then—in biology, geology, genetics, paleontology, even chemistry and physics—supports his great insight.

8. Cultures throughout history and around the world have engaged in ritual human sacrifice.

Say you’re about to die and are packing some supplies for the afterlife. What to take? A couple of coins for the ferryman? Some flowers, maybe, or mementos of your loved ones? If you were an ancient Egyptian pharaoh, you’d have your servants slaughtered and buried adjacent to your tomb. Concubines were sacrificed in China to be eternal companions; certain Indian sects required human sacrifices. The Aztecs slaughtered tens of thousands of people to inaugurate the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan; after sacred Mayan ballgames, the losing team was sometimes sacrificed.

It’s hard to tell fact from fiction when it comes to this particularly gruesome custom. Ritual sacrifice is described in the Bible, Greek mythology and the Norse sagas, and the Romans accused many of the people they conquered of engaging in ritual sacrifice, but the evidence was thin. A recent accumulation of archaeological findings from around the world shows that it was surprisingly common for people to ritually kill—and sometimes eat—other people.

9. We’ve already changed the climate for the rest of this century.

The mechanics of climate change aren’t that complex: we burn fossil fuels; a byproduct of that burning is carbon dioxide; it enters the atmosphere and traps heat, warming the surface of the planet. The consequences are already apparent: glaciers are melting faster than ever, flowers are blooming earlier (just ask Henry David Thoreau), and plants and animals are moving to more extreme latitudes and altitudes to keep cool.

Even more disturbing is the fact that carbon dioxide lingers in the atmosphere for hundreds of years. We have just begun to see the effects of human-induced climate change, and the predictions for what’s to come range from dire to catastrophic.

10. The universe is made of stuff we can barely begin to imagine.

Everything you probably think of when you think of the universe—planets, stars, galaxies, black holes, dust—makes up just 4 percent of whatever is out there. The rest comes in two flavors of “dark,” or unknown stuff: dark matter, at 23 percent of the universe, and dark energy, at a whopping 73 percent:

Scientists have some ideas about what dark matter might be—exotic and still hypothetical particles—but they have hardly a clue about dark energy. … University of Chicago cosmologist Michael S. Turner ranks dark energy as “the most profound mystery in all of science.”

The effort to solve it has mobilized a generation of astronomers in a rethinking of physics and cosmology to rival and perhaps surpass the revolution Galileo inaugurated on an autumn evening in Padua. … [Dark energy] has inspired us to ask, as if for the first time: What is this cosmos we call home?

But astronomers do know that, thanks to these dark parts, the universe is expanding. And not only expanding, but expanding faster and faster. Ultimately, everything in the universe will drift farther and farther apart until the universe is uniformly cold and desolate. The world will end in a whimper.


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