New Haven Memories Brought to You by Testing WordPress Plugins

I’m testing WordPress plugins that manage media files and through the course of my testing, I came across a cache of photographs from two websites ago (thanks, Tumblr import!) that narrate part of my life in New Haven. They are primarily outtakes from two years working at Yale. Looking through the photos is a nice diversion as the semester comes to a close.


I’m embedded in course called Race, Racism, and Power with Vanessa Rosa that includes an assignment known as ‘Dear Data.’ In ‘Dear Data,’ students generate data visualizations of their readings several times throughout the semester. They use numbers, drawings, dotted lines, and other forms of visual communication to frame their posts. This assignment is modeled after the project and book by Gioriga Lupi and Stefanie Posavec.

The assignment interrupts what I think of often naturalized and calcified conceptions of what ‘data’ is or is not. It creates space for new forms of engagement with course readings and for student interactions. It’s one of the best things about my work and I am already looking forward to incorporating more examples and framing for the future!

This semester, the students wanted to stage and exhibit and I’m excited to share that some their posts are on view in the atrium of the library until 19 December 2017. I’m excited to celebrate the opening of the exhibit and to share the zine they created tonight at 7 pm.

The students’ energy around this project was infectious and spirit lifting. Come and see their work if you can. I’ll plan to post some other photos here soon, but here are some tweets from Vanessa as a start.

And finally, some photos from the opening itself:

The Bank Stops Here or Revising my Commodities Session in Environmental Studies 100

As the librarian for Environmental Studies, I have the pleasure of teaching a VERY exciting research session for Environmental Studies 100. Students enrolled in this course must research and write a short paper outlining the lifecycle of a commodity. Students choose a range of commodities from beef to iPhones.  This is a challenging assignment as many of the students enrolled are first years who have yet to undertake an interdisciplinary research assignment like the one before them.

The class is on the large side at the College; typically there are about sixty students in a large lecture hall. I teach two sessions in one week while half of the class tours the campus from an ecological prescriptive. There is a lot of ground to cover with the students; this project demands that they use multiple research databases, open web resources, and trade publications. We have to cover what the difference is between these types of sources. I have to show them ALL of the databases that might be most beneficial to them while they research their commodity. Frankly, this assignment intimidated me.

icon-calendar For the past three or so years, I lectured outlining every contingency they might need. I was their knowledge bank and they were eager to make withdrawals. Their eyes expressed fear and many of them would meet with me individually after the session to get additional help. I met with a lot of students individually and I began to notice some patterns about our interactions:

  1. Their commodity topics were far too broad.
  2. They needed reassurance.
  3. They were confused about how to toggle from one discipline to another.
  4. They needed reassurance.

icon-edit Every year, I vowed to make improvements, but I struggled to figure pinpoint where I could improve without sacrificing time to show them ALL THE RESEARCH OPTIONS.

icon-lightbulb-o This year, I had an epiphany after reviewing my Trello cards from past years where I make small notes to myself about what went well and what did not go well. The students needed time together to narrow their topics into more digestible ones. In one one one meetings with students, I would often help them locate a New York Times article or an article from a trade publication about how boots are made and distributed and show the student the clues in these articles that generate the search terms they need to complete the research for their assignment. Why do this in one on one meetings when I can do it in groups during class? Further, I could collocate ALL the sources into a course guide and encourage them to apply the lessons learned in their groups with the resources in the guide and encourage them to follow up with me later.

icon-wrench This also led me to revise my course guide and examine it with a more critical eye. While I could prepare them for ALL THE CONTINGENCIES, I realized that this would lead to information overload and if I wanted this to be a resource of use, I needed to trim down the guide to make it more user friendly. I also added some prompts to the guide to help students learn to read different sources different to extract the information they needed to complete their assignment.

I came to class this spring as a facilitator. The students would review the guide at the start of class, break into groups, read an article with the prompts on the guide, discuss the prompts and answer some questions. Finally, they would report back if they could narrow their topic from BEEF to something more specific like ‘GRASS FED LOCAL BEEF.’ The students appeared to be less befuddled and overwhelmed.

icon-thumbs-o-up In the end, I only met with two students outside of class this year. The revision made for some bumps during the seventy-five minute session, but I am better prepared to refine the guide and prompts for next spring. I am grateful that the banks stops here and that I can share authority with the students instead of lecturing to them.


Zotero 5.0 is Here: Giving ‘My Publications’ a Spin

icon-pencil-square-o Zotero 5.0 is here! I will not go into a release notes deep dive, but I wanted to write a few words about the new ‘My Publications’ feature, but first, a few quick notes:

  1. I’ve been a Zotero user for so long that my username is my secret shame; it is identical to the Yahoo! account I used in 2005/6 barely out of undergrad.
  2. Due to limited storage, I eliminated many citations I no longer needed from unrealized writing projects to ‘maybe later’ readings to books I wanted to buy for library collections I no longer support. It felt good to part ways with those items and enjoy Zotero 5.0 with the essentials.
  3. I did not collect the citations of published works, so I reflected on how much I’ve accomplished since 2005 when I was in a history graduate program unsure of my future.

Bullet three is a lead into some quick thoughts about the new feature ‘My Publications’ that allows users to syndicate their publications on their Zotero profile page. Mine was bare; I did not have an ‘about me’ nor did I have a photograph of my myself. It was yet another reminder of my caropinto2004 self.

This is a screenshot of Caro Pinto's Zotero profile with links to publications, a biography, and a photograph of Caro Pinto
It Me. Sans Followers.

icon-clock-o Fast thoughts on ‘My Publications:’

  1. Easy to save citations from around the web/repositories/libraries and move them into the ‘My Publications’ tab.
  2. You can assign a creative commons license that allows for people to peruse your publications and share files. Or if you’ve published in a journal where you cannot share freely, you can hold copyright and just display the citation. I felt like it was a healthy audit of how many items I’ve published can be distributed with a Creative Commons license and how many cannot. I’ve learned a great deal about considering the terms of publication over the last five years and I still have a ways to go, but I am more or less happy with my ratio of sharing versus not.
  3. Many items will auto import metadata that might not totally jive with the reality of your citation. I had to make a few adjustments from ‘web page’ to ‘blog post’ and ‘blog post’ to ‘journal article.’ It’s a gentle reminder to us all that COMPUTER is not infallible.
  4. Sadly, you cannot create custom fields for ‘My Publications.’ I wanted to add some of my book reviews to my page and sadly, I could not find a ‘book review’ category nor the space to create a custom field from the stand alone version. Perhaps there are other workarounds.
  5. I imagine this will be a useful teaching moment for Zotero workshops…

Teaching a Mid-Career Librarian New Tricks: Becoming an Art Librarian

I’ve loved art since my early, awkward adolescence. I remember the first time I saw a Picasso in person. I will never forget feeling lost in a large Rothko canvas. I felt all the feelings and did not know why. It was not for a lack of trying; In middle school, I owned a copy of a book called Abstract Art that I tried to read in fits and starts without success, but lost myself in the photographs of the art works.

I went to Mass MoCA for the first time during the fall of my first year at Smith College and returned several times during my four years. One of my main regrets from my undergraduate years is that I did not take any art history classes; they intimidated me. Nonetheless, I spent quite a bit of my senior year wandering the stacks of the Hillyer Art Library thumbing through art books looking.

Until recently, I decided that poetry was not for me, but really it was because I felt like there was a joke I did not understand. I felt the same way about art history; I believed that I was not sophisticated enough to understand why I was looking at and believed I lacked a facility with language to make critical judgments. It wasn’t for me or so I thought.

I kept going to museums and began to recover from my impostor syndrome. Now, I read poetry and peruse Artforum. 

In December, I became the art history liaison. I embraced the chance to collaborate with the College’s art museum and to select art books. It was also the opportunity to learn about a new discipline with fresh eyes and an open heart.

My journey began in January; I met with Valley colleagues and began to request books and journal articles on the UNC-Chapel Hill’s INLS 749: Art and Visual Information Management syllabus. I reviewed research guides from different universities and colleges to familiarize myself with the main research tools and foundational texts. Finally, I joined the Art Libraries Society of North America (ARLIS/NA) and began reading back issues of the association’s journal Art Documentation.

I learned a lot about artist books from reading Johanna Drucker’s The Century of Artists Books (while there is no singular definition, I can say that Ed Ruscha’s Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations is a stellar example). I learned the difference between an auction catalog, a catalogue raisonné, and an exhibition catalog. I made of list of major journals in the field. I followed the College Art Association on Twitter. I began to unpack how the academic study of art differs from connoisseurship. I read histories of the fine arts in the United States. I learned that art history grew exponentially between 1940 and 1960. I read E.H. Gombich’s The Story of Art. 

This is a stack of books I read to learn about being an art librarian next to my stuffed Totoro

I mulled one of the questions posed in Griselda Pollock’s seminal 1981 text, Vision, and Difference: “is adding women to art history the same as producing feminist art history?” I immersed myself in black contemporary art through Kimberly Drew’s digital projects. I bought an amazing book at African-American artists in Los Angeles.

I wanted to do a mini research project about an artist, so after I read Ariel Levy’s profile of Catherine Opie in The New Yorker in March, I requested several books of her photographs, watched a documentary about her process on PBS, and poured over her oeuvre.

I poured over texts aimed at students. The History of Art: A Student Handbook offered a useful frame, “Art Criticism and art appreciation are near neighbors and both are ways into art history.” It helped unpack the difference between art appreciation and art history as a discipline, “art history is the term employed to denote the discipline that examines the history of art and artifacts…the history of art is what is studied and art history is the cluster of means by which it is studied.” I began to understand how art history is “about a historical process.” I discovered that there are many research methodologies for students to pursue from comparative analysis of different works to social context analysis. I started to teach some research sessions including one on Chinese art.

Caro Pinto and a stack of art books

Above all, I enjoyed myself. I loved reading about art and developing new tools for looking artworks of art more critically. My training as a historian helps contextualize much of what I look at and how I approach teaching students about how to do research, mainly, to make them all believe what I could not believe at age twenty, that the study of art is for all of us.