Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day in the Life of a Librarian (part four)

Today I'm working from home! My library is a little unusual in that librarians don't have desk hours (at least at the location I work at). Consequently, on days like today, when my apartment building has no heat (we're getting a new boiler because our heat has been out several times lately), I can stay home, answer emails, do a bunch of lesson planning, etc. while also making sure that my cat and pipes remain unfrozen.

The benefit of being in my job for over a year now is that I have already taught many of the classes I'm teaching for this semester. Consequently, it's mostly just a matter of updating materials and making sure I'm familiar with what I should be teaching. Unfortunately, in the case of CAP115 (introduction to research for the advertising professional), that means completely redesigning the handouts with new questions because resources change. I finished nearly all of that, although I'll need to do some extra updates tomorrow.

I also did some committee work (contacting a librarian about featuring her library in our annual newsletter), a little purchasing, and clearing out my email box. I know that last one sounds like it isn't real work, but when your email box was as full as mine was, it's a necessity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Day in the Life of a Librarian (part three)

Today has been an adventure, so this post will be a little less organized. Things I've done today:

Helped a faculty member access a digital version of a USGS publication. He's on sabbatical in Europe and was having some trouble. Now I'm trying to figure out what the heck is going on with our subscription to Tectonics. The dates listed are not matching up with what we actually have access to and I don't know why. Luckily we have people who take care of that (I love our ERMS team! Really! A lot!). [This is for my geology liaison duties]

Also uploaded my powerpoint slides to google docs this morning. I have to teach at 430, so I practiced that a few times, reorganized a slide or two, and am about as prepared as I can be. Which is as much as I can hope for. [Political Science!]

Filled out some paperwork to get reimbursed for my plane ticket and conference registration for ALA. Super exciting, I know.

Then I had a minor panic attack because I got a response from our state librarian that they had chosen Friday afternoon for our meeting to discuss the future of the federal depository program in Michigan. Apparently, I am kind of an idiot when it comes to dates, and interpreted Friday to mean this Friday (as in tomorrow) rather than the first Friday in February, you know, that day I said I was available. I was freaking out because I have 4 classes to teach next week (which I need to plan and update) and personnel reviews next week (so I need to spend a bunch of time making sure I am familiar with not only the portfolios but also the questions everyone is raising). Oh, and my boyfriend's birthday is next week, so I need to make sure I have something good planned (he already got his present, but I'll take him to dinner too or something). Then, I realized I was an idiot, updated my supervisor, and chastised myself for being dumb.

To finish the day out, I taught a library session for an International Political Economy class. It's a fun class and I've taught for it several times. That ran from around 430 - 515, and then it was home to my cat, boy, and a hot spicy bowl of noodle soup.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Why I don't think Grand Rapids is dying.

Edited at 4:34 to add comparison to national data and clean up the beginning, because apparently people are actually looking at this. Look to the end for my opinion.

Let me start off by saying this is all a bit squishy since I'm not technically using comparable data. [What, you say, your data isn't comparable! Then why are you arguing this! -- well, it's because they haven't released the 2010 data yet, so I'm forced to compare two different surveys. It's close enough for little old me, but this disclaimer is so that none of you come back with beautiful statistical analysis telling me why I'm an idiot. Also, most people don't even know that you can't compare them, so I'm a victim of my knowledge.] Also, I did this very quickly, so I will fix/modify/update/elaborate as needed.

I'm looking at data from the 2000 Census and the 2005-9 American Community Survey. Please leave a comment if you want me to explain the differences or where the data comes from, I'll be happy to oblige.

  1. Yes, unemployment is up (7.4 vs 4.2), but more people are in the labor force (68% in the 2005-9 ACS vs. 65.8%).
  2. More people work in Management, professional, and related occupations (30.6% vs. 29.2%). Professional,scientific, management, administrative, waste management (10.4% vs. 8%) and educational and health industries (23.8% vs. 21.4%) than they did in 2000. These tend to be less prone to economic turmoil than the traditional manufacturing.
  3. Median household income is up ($39,322 vs. 37,224) as is median family income ($46,779 vs $44,224). Per capita income? Also up! ($20,196 vs. $17,661)

  1. Percent of population over 25 with at least a high school education has increased (81.8% vs 78%).
  2. With a Bachelor's or higher? Up to 27.1% from 23.8%.
  3. Graduate/Professional degrees are also up (8.9% from 8%).

How do we compare to the country as a whole? Well, the US also saw an increase in educational levels (high school = 84.6% from 80.4%, Bachelor's = 27.5% from 24.4). And an increase in labor force participation (65% from 63.9). Income levels have increased more/faster than in Grand Rapids, but there are a lot of factors to consider here (and which I'm not dealing with at this time of day - I'm a little brain fried after tracking almost 80 years worth of health care reform legislation for a student). Anyway, here are the US income levels to compare with what I've shown for GR:
median household: $51,425 from $41,994
median family: $62,363 from $50,046
per capita: $27,041 from $21,587

So, long story short, Grand Rapids is indeed below national averages in terms of income. None of this is shocking, since we were below average in 2000 as well. What? You mean we don't make the same as people in NYC or DC or LA? (I should also point out that our cost of living isn't even comparable - my apartment in NYC would be $1800+, in GR? Less than $700.) But we're about at par for the other things. Our labor force participation is higher than national average, meaning everyone hasn't given up on working (that number goes down when people stop looking, rather than when they stop working).

Now, my personal story: I'm not a Grand Rapids native. I'm actually from Syracuse, NY and I went to college in NYC and Pittsburgh. I moved here to take a job at Grand Valley as their government documents librarian (this is why I know about not comparing Census surveys!). I love it here. The people are nice, they take care of each other, there's a strong local scene that supports small businesses, and the cost of living is great! I'm looking to buy a house and stay here, so I do have a vested interest in the city not being prematurely labeled dying. I do agree that the city is changing, and that change is painful. I'm sure some people will say it's easy for me to say we aren't dying, that I haven't lost my job, and you're right. But I think that the standards used by Newsweek to define a dying city are terrible. Population change does not equal death. It equals change, contraction, and probably broken dreams (take a look at all the foreclosures), but cities have survived worse.

Day in the Life of a Librarian (part two)

Getting Started

As usual I checked email and made some tea when I got in. Then I saw the ominous email from circulation telling me that if I didn't return that overdue board game sitting in my office (it was from an event we held a few months ago) I was going to be charged something like $100. So. That got returned. Contrary to popular belief, librarians often don't return books on time.

Research Survey

Reviewed the text of a survey I'm conducting to find out how people use government documents at Grand Valley. Need to email the person in charge to add one little thing, but other than that, it's great! Now to put together my package of materials to have sent over to the office that actually generates the emails and sends them out. This is a project I've been working on for almost 6 months and that required me to go through IRB approval. It was really challenging, but I'm excited to see what I come up with. I'm also excited that I have something I'll be able to write/publish about.

Lesson Planning

The rest of my morning will probably be taken up by lesson planning. We are just starting to get into the busy part of the semester for library instruction, so the next two weeks are going to be very busy. I'm going to try to get two political science classes planned, and review the presentation I made for our 100 level writing class. We all share instruction and I have one on Monday.

Library Guide Maintenance

I'm in charge of several library guides, including twin guides for International Relations and Political Science. They're a little weird because the guides are exactly the same, unless I made a mistake and forgot to update one of them. Consequently, I have to go in on a regular basis and double check. It is not my favorite task, since it's tedious, but it's absolutely vital. Otherwise I start having broken links and very confused students.

Reference Question

I got a really good reference referral from our health sciences librarian. I don't get to do much research with congressional documents, so this was fun and challenging. A student wanted to compare Obama's health care reform to previous iterations including Clinton and FDR. So I got to wander through websites and presidential libraries and databases looking for bill text. I did find it, which is fun, although she also contacted a colleague who got back to her faster, so technically it was all for naught.

Grand Rapids is Dying!

My city was named one of the top 10 dying cities by newsweek. Everyone has been freaking out. So I wrote a blog post showing that, based on a bunch of other indicators, Grand Rapids (the city) is probably doing no worse than the country as a whole. Sometimes being a government documents librarian is explaining where numbers are from and that they aren't as simple as they might seem.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day in the Life of a Librarian (part one)

This post is part of the Library Day in the Life, round 6. It's a collection of short paragraphs I'll write over the course of the week describing what I do!

Getting Started

The drive in today was a bit of a challenge. Nothing too bad, but it's winter in Michigan, so the roads weren't great. That's the biggest drawback to the university I work at - it's located basically in the middle of nowhere so no matter what you have a ~30 minute drive. Normally I take the bus, but when it's in single digits, I don't want to wait outside.

This morning I did a little more set up in my new cube - bringing in some snacks and tea, and my new hot water pot! We had a colleague move on to another position (we're all really happy for her! it's an amazing opportunity), so there was a cubicle shuffle. I now have an amazing view out the window, so I can actually see the trees and falling snow. Quite lovely. After that, I answered some email, including scheduling 2 more library instruction sessions with one of my favorite professors (he can always be relied upon to ask me in AND tell me that I've really helped his students!).

Then, our new librarian came in (well sort of new, she worked here a few years ago, and has come back). It's her first day, so there have been lots of visitors welcoming her back and generally chatting. Then a quick trip downstairs to grab a cookie (we have a few birthdays this week, and people will generally bring something in for the staff to munch).

Collection Development

I decided to spend the morning finishing up some collection development decisions. I'm in charge of Political Science, International Relations, Geography, and Geology (as well as Government Documents), so I purchase a variety of materials. Today I had to finish going through Choice Reviews, check if we already owned the book (or if we had access through EBL, one of our vendors), and then sort the book into one of my purchasing folders. I remember being in grad school and wondering how librarians chose what to buy, and honestly, sometimes we just make educated guesses. I look at what classes are being offered, what my faculty are interested in, what topics students have contacted me about and what other institutions are buying. It's an inexact science, but it certainly is interesting to see what's being published. I especially enjoy it because I studied political science as an undergraduate.

Library Instruction

On Wednesday I have my first library instruction session of the semester, so I need to update the powerpoint presentation I used last year. This is a 300 level class on international political economy, so we cover a couple of important resources, as well as how to write an annotated bibliography (which technically is the responsibility of the writing center, rather than the library, but I'm not going to quibble). That only took about an hour, so now I wait for confirmation from the professor that I'm covering what she wants. The rest of my day will be taken up reviewing some materials for the next class I'm teaching and doing some basic lesson planning.

Friday, January 14, 2011

"A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous." -Ingrid Bergman

Isn't that a great quote? Unfortunately, my finding it has more to do with the awfulness of this week than with the wonderfulness of wanting to kiss someone. Long story short, I gave my wonderful boyfriend mono.

Infectious Mononucleosis

Photo: Ed Uthman, "Infectious Mononucleosis." May 12, 2006, via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

This is somewhat hilarious because I warned him MONTHS ago that there was a good chance he'd get it from me. You see, unknown to most people, you continue to shed the virus basically for the rest of your life. I caught mono from a college boyfriend who had it several years earlier, so I knew it was possible, but I still feel terrible. So this weekend will be spent taking care of him while I try to get over the last of MY terrible, awful, no good, very bad cold.

The good news is, the condo has a showing this afternoon (the boy and his cats are coming to spend the afternoon at my place). And we're supposed to go take a look at another house this weekend.

So basically, life is boring. But also busy and confusing.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

"Love and a cough cannot be hid." -George Herbert


Photo: Taku, "Home Sick." February 24, 2007 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

I started to feel sick yesterday, but I was sort of hoping that it was just some allergies or being tired. Nope. I woke up today with a pretty impressive cold - the kind where I start scaring the cats with my coughing. I'm hoping that a bunch of sleep and fluids, along with the promise of getting back home to boy and assorted cats will get me through tomorrow's 6am flight with a connection in Ohio.

But no matter how sick I am, I'm still excited about bringing some east coast specialties back to my midwestern boyfriend. I'll be bringing bagels (for New Year's brunch) and half moon cookies (a NY thing - sort of large cakey cookies with half chocolate and half white frosting). And then waiting for me in his fridge are some hotdogs, Syracuse salt potatoes, and baked beans from a local company. I'm thinking we need to have an indoor winter bbq to help deal with the standard seasonal blahs.

It's already 5pm on the 11th day I've been back in my hometown. I'm definitely ready to go home, but I will miss my family as well. I still have five days off, which means that I will hopefully be healthy by the time I have to get back to work, and I might even be able to do some cleaning and organizing. If nothing else I'd like to get my clothes organized and weeded to make getting ready for work a little bit easier.