Linda Hall Library Travel Fellowship: A Librarian Meets with Other Librarians for Research Assistance

This is my second dispatch from my virutal travel fellowship series. You can read the first one here .

As a research & insruction librarian, I encourage students to make appointments with me to talk about their research. I advertise that I can help them with key word searching, database selection, subject heading deep dives, topic therapy, reading strategies and general 'I am rooting for you' cheerleading. I try to present myself as friendly, knowledgeable, and non-judgemental. However, I often wonder if there is more I can do to simulate such a meeting when I talk about them in my insruction sessions. I've also heard students tell me that they 'don't want to waste my time' or 'that they haven't done enough reading to know about their topic.' I smile and tell them the only preparation I require is an open mind and heart. (Note, I also learned a lot about barriers students experience to meet with librarians from a research project led by my colleague Julie Adamo we are working on article(s) from our data analysis.)

Fast foward to earlier this fall when I, a librarian, make an appointment with two other librarians to talk about my own research. I tried to take my own advice and prepare for the Zoom meeting with an open mind and heart, but reader, I will tell you, I was worried that I was wasting their time with my project. All of a sudden, I had boundless compassion for students who feel intimidated by meeting with a librarian. I related to it in an entirely new way. After over ten years of working with students, faculty, and researchers, I find myself removed from how vulnerable it can feel to meet with someone about your research. I suddenly saw the other side of the threshold I long crossed. It can feel intimidating to talk about your research as it develops, to share a rough draft of your thought process. In my case, I realized my initial research directions led me to new and additional questions.

This all subsided once Jaime, Jason and I started to talk. The act of talking about my research with other people as opposed to thinking to myself or writing down thoughts in a notebook helped me refine some of my ideas and get some help with some sources to evlaute for my project. Jaime and Jason know the rare books collection well and could connect me to sources I would find useful . My session with them wasn't just about locating the stuff, but talking about my ideas and testing my own internalized assumptions. Research is a social process. I felt more connected to my project after talking to them, a feeling I hope I impart on my students.

Jason Dean and Jamie Cumby are stellar and so are their Twitter feeds.

Linda Hall Library Travel Fellowship Day 0

Yesterday marked the first day of my virutal travel fellowship at the Linda Hall Library in Kansas City. I'll write more about my Day 1 activities in a near future post. I first wanted to talk a bit about my project and the efforts that went into making the first day a success.

Over the course of my nearly seven and a half years of working at Mount Holyoke, my job changed a lot. We un-merged our roles as the result of a multi-year reorganization effort transforming me from a broad scoped instructional technologist and librarian into a research and instruction librarian. The narrowing of my portfolio is a relief; I can focus my energy on collection development, deeper engagement with student research, and teaching information literacy courses in my liaision areas. Speaking of liaision areas...

When I started at Mount Holyoke, I supported German Studies, Asian Studies, Spanish, Latina/o/x & Latin American Studies, Critical Social Thought, and Environmental Studies. Over the last four years, I've subtracted some of the language and culture departments adding Art History & Architecture, Geology & Geography with some brief stops in the visual and performing arts. Over the last few years, I reflected a lot about what was working in my consultations and my teaching and what needed some deeper engagement.

Some thoughts:

A major may be interdisciplinary but that doesn't erase displinary norms often embedded in courses. Those disciplines use certain types of style guides to structure their arguements, consider eveidence in different ways, and even use active and passive voice to convey meaning. This implicit knowledge can be challenging for students to learn when it is not directly unpacked. I've started to actively talk about those issues in my consultations and teaching, but, as ever, there's more to learn.

I the librarian need to learn more about the history of disciplines I myself have not studied to better support my students and faculty. I need to take the time to learn this implicit knowledge. I often have questions as I am engaging with content and felt like I need time and tools to answer them, but I have not had the time or space to do that work.

How can I incorproate these lessons learned in my teaching in dynamic ways? Even before the pandemic, my teaching was shifting towards facilitation, creating opportunities for the pedagogy of surprise, small group work with students to engage with materials without me lecturing, and creating more space for faculty to be my classroom partner. Nonetheless, there's more I can do.

So, last winter as my partner applied for writers' residencies, I wondered if I, too, might apply for a travel fellowship of some kind. Thanks to the amazing Jason Dean's Twitter feed, I discovered that the Linda Hall Library offered travel fellowships, so I decided to see if my project goals might align with their fellowship program. It did! And here I am working on my fellowship from home.

Next Up: A Librarian gets some research help from other Librarians

.txt made my Wednesday

Since August, I've been teaching in Zoom. I often utilize the chat to share prompts to generate discussion and set up active learning activities. I wrote up prompts in numbered lists in Google Docs to copy and paste into the Zoom chat, however, my prompts trasnferred as block texts instead. This was not ideal.


I blocked off some time to experiment with other ways to copy and paste numbered lists into the Zoom chat. On a recent Wednesday, I wrote up my prompts in a numbered list with some spacing for readability in a .txt file. During class, I copied and pasted my prompts into the chat and lo and behold, my numbered lists with space for readability carried over successfully.


This is certainly not earth shattering, but this tiny tweak made my most recent teaching experience smoother.

I’m Still Standing

What a wild time to be alive!

Just dipping into this internet world to share some random thoughts about living during the pandemic.

I struggled over the last few months to find a work from home set-up that met my needs. After a few months of 'making it work' with different make-shift set-ups, I bought a Ready-Desk and it's proven to be extremely helpful during my classes because I can fully embody my authentic teacher self, Coach Caro.

Life in Zoom is at times strange and exhausting. I often feel like I ran a marathon afterwards; I am trying to slow it down; build in moments of silence, create longer pauses for people to speak. Silence somehow feels interimidble in Zoom, but I am working to counter that instinct and make my classes and meetings breathe a bit more. I am overjoyed to see groups of students and sometimes their pets.

I am all for participants in my info lit classes or other meetings to choose to not be on camera. It can be tricky to negotiate because faculty/facilitators might have other norms that conflict. For myself, I've learned that I process information better when not facing the camera, but listening actively and utilizing the chat when I have questions.

I'm missing my faraway friends, so I've been rotating diffrent photos as desktop backgrounds to remember advenures with my pals. A low-key morale boost everyday.

Not avoiding the obvious; it's not the status quo. I try to share where I am in time and space, 'morning in Northampton.' I also find opportunities to incorporate my cat into interactions when he might be invited. That also being said, I'm working hard to not say, 'normal times' but pre-pandemic.

After many years as a dedicated Chrome user, I found myself switching to Firefox for better browsing performance. Like many others, I've experienced internet woes and my switch to Firefox made some measurable improvements. It also prompted me to review my add-ons and I rediscovered One Tab. Teacing online demands that I toggle between looking at Zoom and looking at my notes which are in a Google document in my browser, so rather than opening up another browser window to review my materials, I tuck all of my tabes into OneTab to review later.

Finally, my cat is an excellent co-worker.

Accessible Canned Responses

I love canned responses in Gmail; they save me brain bandwidth and time every single day. In a given year, I can have anywhere between 12 and 20 canned responses in circulation. At the end of every academic year, I update them. This is a classic example of a stitch in time saves nine.

I updated my canned responses in haste last summer and I did a lot of editing of them on the fly during the year. For example, I spent the entire academic year deleting a duplicate signature from hundreds of emails promising myself I would revisit this issue in May. When I started assessing the state of my responses in Gmail, I discovered Google enhanced the canned response feature. LifeHacker published a post about the redesign at the end of March. The enhancements they describe made sorting my response library much easier.

As I was cleaning up my templates, I suddenly realized I could take this opportunity to make my emails more accessible. A few months ago, representatives from the College's Tech Access Committee did a short presentation at a Library All-Staff about Quick Tips for Accessible Information. They even provided us with a handy one sheet with 9 takeaways. I hung up that sheet on my bookshelf and thought 'I can do some of this stuff in the summer!' Well, summer is here and I'm happy to report I made a few small changes that I think will pay huge dividends.

  1. I made sure all of the text in my emails were Sans Serif and that the font size was 'normal' instead of small.
  2. I amended my hyperlinks so they describe the contents of the destination instead of saying 'here' or ''
  3. I stopped using color to communicate information and meaning; I italicize instead.
  4. Rather than terrible unformatted lists, I added numbers or bullets.

Finally, I put 2019 in front of all my template names so my tired brain will remember in August that I did, in fact, edit these templates. In 2020 when I once again prune my canned response library, I will be able to see what I've edited much faster than recalling which template I did or did not edit. And they will all be more accessible.