Living in a digital world, part 6 — end-of-year review posts

The reopening of the Library in January meant digging my way through my inbox, checking in journal issues that had piled up in the intervening weeks. The colleague who delivers the mail had filled the box as full as possible and left the rest on my desk.  Normally, as I prepare the tables of contents for distribution, I browse and find at least one or two articles of personal interest to me. At least three periodicals had December or January issues with “best articles of 2011” or “most important x of 2011”, and as these articles traditionally provide good synopses of 2011 from different perspectives, I had expected these issues would provide rich and intriguing content.

They didn’t.

Instead, I found myself trotting over to Google Reader (which I still use as I am still evaluating some of the options SES suggested in “Google Reader Fail”) and scrolling. It was a mixed bag, but there were some very good and helpful year-in-review style posts that might have been otherwise overlooked in the first month of the year, when suddenly one realizes that there are hundreds of new e-mails and thousands of new posts and one really needs to invest in a better strategy to manage information overload.

Now that February is giving me a chance to breathe, I wanted to share the few end-of-year review posts that I think are not to be missed.

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Fall Rituals: A “New” Year

The New Year is significant in many cultures.  When I lived in Colombia a whole set of rituals accompanied “El Año Nuevo”, including wearing yellow underwear for good luck and walking your suitcase around the block on New Year’s Eve to ensure travel opportunities in the coming year.

Here in North America, the new year is the turn of the calendar year, a time when we traditionally make (and shortly thereafter break) resolutions.  In China, the New Year occurs in late January/early February and traditionally marks a time of celebration, reconciliation, and hope.   Perhaps because I have spent most of my life in schools,  first as a student and then as an educator, my “new year” really begins in September.

I’m not one for resolutions really.  But there’s something about September that invites introspection.  What do I want to accomplish this school year?  That one’s easy – finish the dissertation.  With the cooler weather, it will soon be time to store the bike and kayak.  How will my fitness goals change?   How about work/life balance?  There’s one that eluded me for most of my working life.

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No electronic resources? No problem!

Image of book, computer keyboard and monitor

Image cc license from Flickr user ambro91: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ambro91/2850477049/

On average, at least once per week, a library patron asks me about electronic resources, generally looking for access to full-text commercial databases such as those available through ProQuest and EBSCO or log-in information to use archives for individual online journals.

After working in much larger and better funded libraries, I was accustomed to having online full-text databases as a matter of course.  Staff members have similar expectations, based on their experiences as educators and students or staff at larger international organizations.  When I first started receiving this query, I felt compelled to be apologetic and self-effacing — I’m terribly sorry, I would say.  I understand this is very inconvenient — as though I were entirely responsible, through some error or misjudgement, for this oversight or absence.  I felt sheepish and embarrassed by the fact that our institution could not provide access to materials that could support the work of staff because I had always assumed these resources were indispensable and assured.  With the experience and confidence I gained over the past year, my response has changed.  While I do still apologize, if only to be polite, I quickly explain why we do not have these resources (no budget) and then give more attention to the alternatives.

My new tactic? “No electronic resources? No problem.”

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Tool Tweaks: Making the Most of Google Reader

In a previous job, I gave training courses to different groups, and the most common presentation I was asked to give was one on e-mail alerts and RSS feeds and the benefits that these tools can offer.

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