Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Are You Called?

Regarding the most recent hoop-de-doo about what to call ourselves. I never stopped using the term "librarian." Rather, I think the definition of that term should be continually updated. I am happy that AASL gave credence to this! If you want to tack another word before or after, as in "school librarian," or "teacher librarian," go ahead with your labeling self! As for me, I am happy to just have a sign outside my door with that one word on it, a relic from my days in a school and a gift from a former student assistant.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hopping on Bandwagon: 101 in 1001

OK I am going to take a stab at this project. Click on the entry title to go to the original website. The challenge is to come up with 101 things that you would like to do in the next 1001 days. People are posting lists, revising them, and generally having fun with this. So I am gonna give it a whirl. BUT I do not plan to list all 101 today. I will START and then post in with updates till I get my list. For now, I am just going to list as many as come to mind in 10 minutes. I am setting my timer, and here goes:
1. Make a list of 101 things.
2. Lose ten pounds.
3. Jog at least 3X week.
4. Adopt a dog to be a playmate for lonely one dog, Son.
5. Get a letter to editor accepted by Austin TX paper.
6. Get at least one more letter printed at Houston Chronicle.
7. Average blog activity increase to 3X week.
8. Meet my childhood best friend for lunch.
9. Get a colonoscopy.
10. Update Shelfari and keep it current.
11. Create videos for all classes I am currently teaching.
12. Paint designs on my guest house.
13. Get new heating system house.
14. Never go more than 3 weeks without visiting Dad.
15. Recruit 250 new students for SHSU LS program by fall term 2010.
16. See that all faculty positions for LS department are filled.
17. Revisit Crater Lake and go out to the island in the middle.
18. Reconnect with old high school friends.

OK that's my 10 minutes worth of listing. CYA on down the road!

Friday, January 15, 2010


On Tuesday of this week I set out for Boston with a pretty lousy attitude. Here are things I was saying to myself:
I don't want to go!
It's too cold there!
I have too much to do here at home!
I want to stay warm and snug in my crooked little house!
I am already behind in getting my courses online, I have a column deadline coming up, I need to spend time with my Dad, and the phone in my office is ringing off the hook. And the emails! Students have questions at the beginning of the term and they need quick answers! I am already being pulled in too many directions!
What happened to the holidays anyway! Christmas should not be over yet! I want my holidays back!

Then when I got to Boston I felt much the same. It was really, really cold on Tuesday, by a Texan's standards. I think the high was 26 or so. And it snowed. I came before all my trusty cohorts and so was alone. Alone and grumpy. Not a pretty sight. However I was on a mission, that of finding and interviewing as many candidates as possible for the positions we have open at SHSU. We need new people now! I ventured down to the job placement room and set out to read vitas. We already had some interviews booked, but my vow was to find more. I was pleasantly surprised at the variety and quality of the grads up for review in the near future. I found a number of people I would like to visit, and went back to my room with renewed vigor. The rest of the evening was spent visiting websites and sending out invitations. I found my grumpiness begin to fade. The next morning I was greeted with a nice batch of emails and phone messages from the folks I had contacted. I spent the early part of the day scheduling meetings. In the afternoon I met up with my colleague, the inimitable Dr. Teri Lesesne. All my grumpiness faded away. It is not easy to be grumpy around Teri! We compared notes, visited with one very promising young man who is clearly headed for a stellar career, and relaxed over supper. Thursday was a blur of interviews. We had people scheduled every hour in the morning, with an even tighter line-up in the afternoon.We we also pleased to be able to add two more faculty members to our interview panel in the afternoon, Dr. Tricia Kuon and Dr. Holly Weimar. At the end of the day we had talked with 12 job seekers. Not all of them are interested in our program, as some preferred public librarianship or other areas.. But to a person, their enthusiasm, idealism, and obvious talents were inspiring. After the interviews, we braved the cold and walked down to Copley Square for a little shopping, followed by a great supper back at the hotel. I was hanging with two of my favorite people, Dr. Holly Weimar and Dr. Tricia Kuon. My transition was complete. I had moved from grouchy to chipper. Finally this morning I talked with three more candidates. I feel that naming names is a bit of a violation of privacy, but I have definitely met some people who will be BIG NAMES in the field of librarianship in the future. It makes me feel great to see such able and eager new librarians entering our profession. So to those I interviewed, kudos! You will all do well!

As for me, I decided to stay in tonight and have a quiet supper and try to assimilate my week's experiences. I did get out this afternoon and walked over to Boston Common. Nancy Pearl got photo ops with the ducklings in the park, as well as some fun-in-the-snow shots, and I will post one pic here.I even did a little shopping on Charles St. and picked up a sweater jacket marked way down that will be a nice memento of my trip. One thing I know for sure is that I am very, very glad I came to Boston. I really knew all along that would be the case. I am happy to be returning home but feel much the better for meeting and spending time with all the great people, both candidates and colleagues. The lesson I re-learned is: Don't be such a stick in the mud! Venture out of your comfort zone, face up to the fact that you are not indispensable in your job and routene, and allow yourself to have learn new things and also fun now and then!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

VIP 'O the Day: Bernie Poole!

I have been meaning to honor and describe outstanding leaders in librarianship and technology in my blog, and decided to kick off with someone who is wonderfully generous and altruistic. Kudos to Bernie Poole! For years he has been GIVING AWAY the fruits of his hard labor to educators and other users of his website, EdIndex:
Other people seek remuneration for their work in creating and compiling books, tutorials, etc., but Mr. Poole cheerfully shares his resources online. If you are not familiar with his site, visit today! When you go, spend time exploring all the offerings. I thought of him today because he posted to EDTECH listserv to let folks know that he will soon be posting tutorials for Microsoft Office 2010 to his site. He already has great tutorials for Office 2007, Office XP, and earlier versions. To get to them easily, go to the site linked here. Look in the left hand frame on the page. Click on Online Books. Voila! There are thorough, easy-to-understand tutorials. Also provided at that page are downloadable copies of his book, Education for the Information Age. This book is great for self-guided study or for staff development. Additionally, I have used it students in our beginning technology class for MLS students. Did I mention it is FREE??? As good as the tutorials and book are, they are only a few of the great things to be found at Mr. Poole's website. He has other wonderful resources. Don't miss the dropdown menu on his page that leads to more information and links. Finally, he is also active as a columnist for Education World. I am not sure how long he has been active at this site, and have to admit that I had not found him there before today, at

But I am glad I did! There you will find a nice selection of his writings. Mr. Poole did retire from full-time teaching at Pitt last year, but it appears that he will continue to favor us with his writings, tutorials, and other resources. You will be doing yourself, your colleagues, and your students a big favor if you check in on Bernie Poole right away, tag him as a favorite of yours, and continue following him in the future.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Who Are YOu Anyway?

I got to thinking today about identity. How should I present myself online, and what advice should I offer to students? Several years ago, when I was just starting up with Web 2.0 environments such as wikis, blogs, and twitter, I went to a workshop and was told that you should not use pseudonyms for such environments if your purpose is to communicate professionally. Having your name out there in cyberspace, connected to your job, areas of expertise, and interests is a good thing, said the presenter. I guess there is a little irony here, but I do not remember who it was that said this. I do think it is good advice though! I really like my last name, which is my 3rd, and in some ways my favorite. I love my maiden name, Fitzgerald, but it is long and not subject to puns. My 2nd last name was Herring, and though I did have some fun with fishy puns, it is my least liked name. Then I became a Bell and suddenly the world of puns and allusions opened up for me. My door mat says "Ring My Bell." and my answering machine messages say "Hello, You just rang the Bells." Since my first two initials are M.A., for Mary Ann, I have been known as Ma Bell for years. I even think that calling myself mabell has helped people remember me and my blog/wiki etc. when we meet face to face.

The real reason I am thinking about identity today is not because of my own choices, though. It is because of identity-related peeves I want to share.
  • This morning I got a voice message that seemed to be from a business or service. The speaker very clearly stated her phone number, but her delivery of her name and the name of the company was unintelligible. I played through the message a couple of times. I would have disregarded it completely, but she mentioned Texas Library Association conference and since we have a booth there, I wanted to be sure I wasn't missing something important related to that. It turned out to be from an "alternative" housing booking agent and NOT something I was about to use. But because of the poor message, I would not have been inclined to do business with the company regardless of purpose. I resent when voice message are unclear and take excessive time to decipher.
  • Lousy phone message are certainly not limited to business/sales/promotions. Many more come from job applicants, colleagues, students and prospective students. Anyone who is calling about a professional matter should speak clearly and slowly and repeat contact information more than once. This seems so obvious that it should not have to be pointed out, but I suspect every person who works in an administrative or helping position can attest to how often people seem fail to present themselves well via phone.
  • Since I am venting, I am also going to go into the choice of email names for professional use. Many, many years ago, I got a hotmail address. I wanted it for personal use, and even then I wanted to use my own name. I tried entering "mbell," but was prompted to add more characters. So I got the bright idea to just stick some X's on the end for space fillers. Thus my name went out to the world as: mbellXXX DUH!!! By the next day I had a plethora of pornographic messages. Obviously I had not made a good professional choice, unless you count the world's oldest profession. Nowadays, I see students with cutesy names and cringe a little. ittybittybooboo may be fun for friends and families, but I really think that when you present yourself professionally, you should use a more professional moniker. I also think that when you describe yourself in terms of a non-professional role, you diminish your effectiveness. Thus does not confer much respect. Furthermore, I am going to stick out my neck and say that religious or patriotic labels make me cringe a little as well. does not resonate with me, nor does
  • Here's the thing. It is easy to acquire and use several email accounts. If you want to communicate with like minded people with an email name that broadcasts your beliefs, do so and hooray for the 1st Amendment. If you want a cute and humorous name for family and friends, go for it. I do that also with my bell-puns. Just have an account with an appropriate name for your grown-up business and professional communication.
    End of vent. I feel much better now. Oh and my most-used email is:

Thursday, January 7, 2010

St. Anthony Where Are You?

I wish I could be compensated for time spent looking for misplaced items. I could retire! Trailing behind me there is a long train of lost objects that goes back to my childhood. Included are multiple pairs of glasses, rings, bracelets, books (of course) and countless other items. I guess the problem is exacerbated by my age, but it is really hard to say because I have always been a loser (of stuff). Since I became a full time computer geek, the problem has become worse. I cannot think of a single gizmo that is not accompanied by at least one losable cord, cable, or peripheral. If there is a computer tech or librarian out there who does not have a drawer filled with cords, cables, cards, remotes, connectors, and other appurtenances, I would like to meet him/her. On second thought, no I wouldn't. Such a being would be far too smug for my taste. Right now I am looking for the power cord for my Kindle. I know it is white. That helps. I know it has a little squished down connector on the end that plugs into the reader. That doesn't help, because I STILL CAN'T FIND IT! Right now I am petitioning St. Anthony big time. If you are not already asking this saint for help, I can attest to his power. Several years ago a friend introduced him to me when she lost the diamond out of her wedding ring at a sidewalk restaurant in New York. She frantically searched and then said the following prayer:

St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around
Something's been lost
That needs to be found!

After repeating this, she reached into her pocket. There was the diamond! It had evidently snagged on the threads in our pocket and then nestled there awaiting discovery. I am not making this up. A day or two later, on the same trip, I lost a nerdy ear ring, a little gold abacus which had I bought at the Museum of Fine Arts. Trudging back to our dorm that night, I looked down right outside the front door and saw something bright winking up at me. Yep, it was the ear ring. It had been lying there for hours, evidently getting stepped on a few times because it was a little scratched and bent. I liked it even more that way!

Back in my full time school librarian days, I had a box filled with objects I was afraid to throw away. One of the things I promised I would do before leaving that job was going through that box, get rid of old items, and label the others. And I did it. I had to summon courage and throw away a lot of stuff including Apple IIc cards, remotes form long retired monitors, VCR's, etc. I am moved to wax nostalgic for a minute when thinking of those good old Apple IIc's. Remember when you could just pop the lid and monkey around in the innards? I LOVED that. It made me feel so....powerful. Ah well, in actuality I was pretty organized at school. I had an aide and student assistants to help me, and I was committed to getting things right in the library. Incidentally students are great at this! Every once in a while I liked to turn some of my tecchie assistants loose with the box of mystery items and challenge them to match them up with their parent appurtenances. Bribing with candy is a great motivator but really kids liked this job was a bit like hunting for Easter eggs.

As a prof, for a number of years I had a special day in our beginning tech class called "equipment day." Among other things, I talked about the problem of keeping up with connectors, etc. My motto for students was "Label your cables." The other admonishment code everything. If librarians follow these two maxims they will have greater success in keeping things together. Using velcro attachments for remotes also helps a little bit, but the labeling and bar coding are crucial.

Alas, I did not practice at home what I preached at work and in the classroom. That is why I am in my present fix. I know exactly what the Kindle cord looks like. Labeling it would be nice, but it would not fix my present dilemma of WHERE THE *&*&^%#%# IS IT ANYWAY? Contributing to the present problem is the fact that I boxed and moved everything out of my study last weekend in order to pull up carpet and get down to the hardwood floor. The result of that is more than worth the effort. And I am 99% sure I will find the cord when I get around to unpacking the boxes and restoring order to the room. The silver lining is twofold: First, needing the cord will inspire me to unpack and set up things again. Second, looking for lost things almost always yields one positive byproduct of such a search: I always find other stuff I have been looking for!

PS Anybody have additional tips for keeping up with stuff?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Do I Write Like a Guy???

I just tried out Gender Genie, for which the maker created an algorythm that analyzes a writing sample and tells whether the author is male or female. I used a blog entry first and then an opening to a recent article. Both times Genie said the stuff was WRITTEN BY A MALE!!! Both times!

I think the GUY who wrote the algorythm is sexist! Reason being words that are said to be "male" vs "female." Personal pronouns are judged to be "female," for example. Creepy! Bleh!

UPDATE: OK I wrote this several days ago. Then I did read a little more about it online and found it was actually more for fun than for real, and that the creator agreed it had no more accuracy than flipping a coin. But, he added, it was a fun approach for people to take to analyzing their writing. I am now officially forgiving him. Give it a try and see what you get. One blogger cautioned not to use this tool to help you pick out potential dates if you are picky about gender.

Oh and one more thing...this time about me. When I was told I "write like a guy," I had a teeny bit of a good feeling. As if that were a COMPLIMENT. The same thing happened to my daughter recently when a fellow musician told her she "played guitar like a man." She was playing slide at the time. She admitted feeling a little bit good about that, too. So there is sexism out there regarding the creative arts, and I am not immune myself.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Does Internet Communication Reduce Face to Face Contacts? Nah and Double Nah!

I have been thinking today about one cliche that absolutely does not hold true for me. Several years ago there was a lot of hoo hah about how the Internet isolates people. The premise was that people were online all the time rather than communicating ftf (face to face), that the art of conversation was dying, that cell phones and computers were turning people into cocooning hermits, yadda yadda. Not so for me! And I bet it isn't true for you either. My experience the last two days is a case in point. Yesterday my dear old dog, Ringo, got sick. Something he ate, I thought, and told myself he would get better like he had always done before. But no, not this time. As the afternoon wore on, he just got worse, My vet does not keep weekend hours but I talked with someone about the emergency clinic in the next town. By the time I got back to Ringo from that call, he was gone. Since losing my husband to cancer and since my daughter lives in Oregon, my household has been just me and the guys, furry guys, for a number of years. I still have my fearless cat Willie, who is intrepid despite only having 3 good legs, and my new guy, a 2 year old lab/cur mix named Son. Still when Ringo was gone I had no one to talk to. That is a lonely feeling. After getting him to the emergency clinic to be dispatched for cremation, I returned to a dark house. I did not really feel like talking to anyone other than my daughter, and turned down an offer for a late supper. After a while I posted to Facebook about my sad news and in no time I had over 20 messages, some from friends and students who knew my old pal, and some from people I have never even met ftf. While surfing the net during the day as I tried to gauge the severity of Ringo's symptoms, I found a number of support groups for people who have lost beloved pets. I don't think I will sign on with one of those, but have in the past benefited from groups supporting caregivers for cancer patients and also for one helping people struggle through the doctoral dissertation process. So if you ask me, the Internet HELPS rather than hinders communication. I feel very fortunate for all my friends, both virtual and real-time. So much for the silliness that online communication detracts from face-to-face. They are two different things entirely, and often one augments the other.