April 5, 2015

traveling west on I-40

early spring is as colorful as late autumn:
the highway flora is putting on new clothes
winter’s browns and greys displaced by greens
and oranges and reds and purples

further west, the road gets curvier and trees,
more hardwood that evergreen, more long-legged,
evergreens shorter, bushier

the baby mountains start to appear,
along with their mothers and fathers –
majestic, protective, persevering

I can feel my brain starting to bend
to the mountain curves. I switch the sound
from talk radio to jazz. A Love Supreme
takes me all the way to my mountain home

Pre-thoughts on SLA2015

So I am reviewing my blog posts from SLA 2014 and thinking about a game plan for Boston and The Revolution and SLA 2015.  Already having studied the schedule of internal conference events, now I am thinking about the outside stuff, the pieces that make the experience complete.

What’s really different this year? Well, last year I was a student, stumbling my way through the newness of everything. This year I am a SLA conference veteran AND a LIS graduate (barely, commencement is May 16th).  So maybe I am a little bit smarter.

Some key takeaways/carryovers from last year: 1) stay at a bed and breakfast some distance away from the conference site – it’s way cheaper and you see more of the city; 2) pay attention to the scheduled events but know that the most interesting conversations take place between meetings, in the hallways, at the coffee line, at free breakfasts, and in the exhibition hall; 3) develop a game plan in advance for meeting and chatting with vendors – they can tell you a lot about how the field is changing and where the industry is headed; 4) be sure to schedule some down time, some “me” time in the middle of the conference – go to a museum, better yet, a library, and catch some live music, at a bar or a pub or a concert hall; 5) take plenty of business cards but more importantly, scribble notes on the cards you receive, something special about the person; 6) make it a point to look up folks you met in Vancouver – need to build on those relationships, maybe even send out emails prior to the conference; and 7) take a deep breath and enjoy the time away from home, or school, or the new job, or whatever the thing is you left behind.

getting back on the blogging track…

Too much happened in life since my last post and it knocked me off my blogging routine. There was the flight home for a poster presentation at a conference, reunion with family and friends and LIS classmates, three snow storms (two in Cullowhee on either end of the Washington trip, and one in Washington) that were all somewhat disorienting.  Then my car’s alternator died on the way home from the airport two hours away, sparking a week-long sort of obsession/discussion that involved three cars (the old one, the rental, and the eventual new one (it was time, on many levels)).  Still working to resolve disposal of the old car. She served us well for 13 years, and I am not inclined to simply abandon her for blue-book cash without knowing that she will end up in a good home with decent people for her new owner

So I am climbing out of the hole and back to some semblance of normality.  A bit behind on my #MOOCMOOC reading and studies.  Catching up with Seymour Papert today.  I did manage to plow my way through a couple of interesting books while waiting in airports in Greenville, Chicago and Washington, riding on DC subways, and on the actual flights themselves.

Ashley Kahn’s A Love Supreme (Hunter Library) treats/analyses/ explains the John Coltrane Quartet signature piece by the same name, exploring the evolution of the musicians, individually and as a group, and the development of the music, from swing to bebop to avant-garde and presenting a picture, in the process, of the social and cultural turbulence of the period from 1955 to 1965.  (Accompanied by several listenings to the actual music on Youtube).

George Monteiro’s The Presence of Camoes (also borrowed from Hunter Library) was an appropriate choice after reading aloud the Camoes Sonnet #271 at a poetry event a couple of weeks ago on campus.  Monteiro shows direct and indirect influences of the 16th century poet on British, America, South African, and other Portuguese poets.  Most interesting for me were the chapters on Poe, Melville, Dickinson and a series of South African poets.  Will definitely read it again, though my next read in this vein will be The Presence of Pessoa by the same author.

OK, sports fans, that is it for now.  Planning to do some #MOOCMOOC readng at the laundromat this morning, and at home this afternoon.

Peace, y’all.  A luta continua!

Catch up post for the week – Friday, February 13

Tuesday.  AdobeConnect GoToMeeting with HR mgmt grad students.  Walked them through the HR Libguide, pointing out the research aids and search syntax features that are standard to most of our libguides, but highlighting the special features for their course work, the tab covering case studies, a prospective page on evidence-based HR mgmt, the dynamic news feed of HR news articles.  The students provided good feedback, so I think they were paying attention, but the next time I do an online session I am going to make better use of the built in feedback features, as well as appointing one student as the “skeptic question asker” to keep everybody on their toes.

Wednesday.  The Romance Languages Department had a poetry reading with a slight Valentine’s Day theme.  Students and faculty were invited to read a poem in a Romance language, so of course I signed up to read a poem in Portuguese.  I chose Camoes sonnet 271, and practiced all night Tuesday to get my r’s rolling appropriately!  It was well attended and about 18 people read poems in Spanish (mostly), French (one) and Portuguese (mine!).  It was so much fun!  Glad I participated.

So, it’s Friday night, and I just got home from the WCU candlelight vigil for the three students who were killed in Chapel Hill a couple of days ago.  Sad event.  Folks are saying that the Muslims have had their Trayvon Martin moment. We are all Trayvon Martin. Thinking people need to think about what’s going on. It may be just a matter of time before domestic terrorists and domestic terror criminals set their aims on targets that look more like themselves.  Good piece by Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker  http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/guns-chapel-hill-myth-american-vigilante

At the Grammy’s, Prince said “Albums—you remember those? They still matter. Like books and black lives, they still matter.” Happy he included books.

#MOOCMOOC Google hangout tonight on anarchist pedagogies.

Conservative journalist attacks MOOCs – ModPo Army circles the wagons

One Carol Iannone of the National Review took it upon herself to launch a poorly researched attack on MOOCs, entitled, “MOOCs Can’t Teach.”  We heard about it and, well, you know, we couldn’t just let it stand.  Here is my contribution to the fray:

rdmaxwell • 15 hours ago
Dear Ms. Iannone: I haven’t read all the comments, so please forgive me if I mention something that has already been mentioned. I am struck by your title” MOOCs Can’t Teach.” It suggests that somehow, non-MOOC courses do teach and that therefore, MOOC’s are somehow defective or inferior to non-MOOC courses. But as anyone who has ever taught a course (or imparted any type of information) can attest, courses and course delivery systems do not teach, teachers teach, and even more significantly, the most recent research suggests that learners, properly motivated, teach themselves. Others have dealt with the internal points of your argument. I challenge you to enroll in a well-run and carefully designed MOOC course, like ModPo (Modern and Contemporary American Poetry). If you are in close proximity to others taking the course, and if you attend the weekly meet-ups, and if you are near enough to catch a live webcast or two in Philadelphia, and if you participate in the twitter chats accompanying the weekly live broadcasts, and if you write your essays and participate in the peer review of at least four other essays by your colleagues, and if you watch the videos and participate in the forum discussions, then, by the end of the tenth week, Ms. Iannone, I predict even you will learn more than you previously knew about poetry. And you will be a better person for it. So I join the chorus in inviting you to sign up for ModPo. Then you can write an article about MOOCs with some degree of authority.
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taking a break from academic stuff and posting to the blog about other things…

So, I went this morning to a meeting of the Cullowhee Revitalization Endeavor (CuRvE) at the Cullowhee Cafe.  Without planning, I ran into two librarian colleagues (librarians are so multidisciplinary!) and my newest friend from the Cullowhee Community Garden. CuRvE is planning some good stuff for the neighborhood, highlighted by a proposed river park as a stimulus for economic development.  I am all for it!

Speaking of which, I made a stop at the community garden last week to get a plot for the spring.  I think we’ll start with 15′ x 15′, plant some greens (25%), some vegetables and vine melons (50%), and some wildflowers (25%).  Went to Lowe’s after the CuRvE meeting to pick up some fencing material and some seeds (plus already had some heirloom seeds I picked up several weeks ago on my maiden journey to Cherokee.

Speaking of which, you KNOW I spoke to the guy about feasibility of setting up a couple of beehives in the vicinity of the gardens.  To my surprise and delight, he was all for it, and in fact, already had offers of hives and whole colonies, but didn’t know anybody who wanted to be the beekeeper.  Estamos combinados!

p.s. Let me add.  Made a crock pot deer stew last weekend that was sooo yummy and tasty! Lasted all week and I have had my fill of it but there are two serving left.  Taking one for the team…

So, for next week, a sonnet by Luis de Camoes, Sonnet #271:

A formosura desta fresca serra,
E a sombra dos verdes castanheiros,
O manso caminhar destes ribeiros,
Donde toda a tristeza se desterra;

O rouco som do mar, a estranha terra,
O esconder do sol pelos outeiros,
O recolher dos gados derradeiros,
Das nuvens pelo ar a branda guerra;

Enfim, tudo o que a rara natureza
Com tanta variedade nos oferece,
Me está (se não te vejo) magoando.

Sem ti tudo me enoja, e me aborrece;
Sem ti perpetuamente estou passando,
Nas mores alegrias, mor tristeza.

And the translation:

nature camoes

Love this article, both for its relevance to my work and for its pertinence to #MOOCMOOC

Service Learning as a Transgressive Pedagogy, Angela Leonard

#MOOCMOOC 01222015

Save this space for readings and tweets review tonight


Somewhere between catching up on the readings for the MOOC Prometheus Unbound, and getting ahead in the reading for the new MOOC on Hybrid Pedagogy, I penned this response to a co-worker I interviewed who asked me, after the interview, for my thoughts about the foundations of my strengths and areas of expertise outside librarianship.  With her permission, I am sharing that here.

“Sorry to be so late getting back to you. Friday afternoon was pretty crazy!

In my youth, I actually considered foregoing college and going into bakery management straight out of high school. Then the ill-timed Russia wheat deal and the OPEC oil embargo (and perhaps a bit of faulty mgmt) eventually put our bakery out of business (mid 70’s), so I gave up on that plan and went to college a year late. My first major was electrical engineering. Then I changed to biology. Then changed back to electrical engineering. Then changed to economics and then to agricultural economics. All the changing burned me out, so I quit and joined the Navy, where I enrolled in the Nuclear Power program. After six years of engineering training crammed into two years, I reported to my first boat, the USS Hammerhead, a fast-attack submarine, and after two years, transferred to the new Trident class boat, The USS Michigan. I spent three years on the Michigan before finding my way to get back to college, to Florida A&M,  where I did a double major in economics and naval science (with a whole lot of mathematics squeezed in! In fact, had I taken two more courses and done the admin paperwork, I probably could have finished with a triple major!).

So that is the foundation of my strengths (and weaknesses). Everything between then (1987) and now (with the exception of meeting Filomena in London in 1995, definitely a preordained event) is just a footnote, or perhaps several pages of footnotes. I love poetry, love to read and write it. I love the Psalms, and I can still recite from memory Psalms 1, 23, and 100 even though my parents had me memorize them before first grade. I love the sea, and miss all the feeling contained in quote, “Oh Lord, thy sea is so vast and my boat is so small.” I am learning, during this monastic phase of my life, that I really enjoy cooking, making a pot of something to last me three of four days. I worked at a public library during high school and knew then it was all I wanted to do, but it has taken all this time for me to get back to it.

Wow, may I post this to my blog?

Happy MLK Day!


2015: New job, new courses, new sets of interests.

So, I’ve been meaning to crank this blog post out for several weeks, since moving to the mountains in late November, in fact. But you know how moving is, stocking the place, discovery every day, new habits, etc.  Today I woke up early with a mission. Took a long, hot Saturday morning shower, got dressed, put on my Martinho Da Arcada apron, and got started with the crock pot dish of the upcoming week: pot roast with carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and whole jalapeno peppers. Once the crock pot composition was completed I was starving for breakfast, pancakes with fresh blueberries inside and on top! But no, no, delay gratification. Let’s post to the blog!

OK. This blog post, and subsequent posts, are going to be a combination of ideas, a reflection the state of things right now. Maybe later we will unpack it all. Maybe not. So here it goes. Not necessarily in this order, the relocation, the new job, the new MOOC(s) on poetry and critical pedagogy, the new monastic lifestyle, and new research interests. First, though, I want to take a quick look at the new job and how I ended up at Western Carolina University in the North Carolina Smokies.

It was all very random. But it didn’t start the way one might expect. A job announcement on the CUA LIS listserv and on INALJ.com that advertised a summer internship at the Federal Reserve research library caught my attention. I applied online, submitting my resume, list of references, and a cover letter. Ironically, I interned at the Fed in 1986 as an undergraduate in the then section called Mortgage and Consumer Finance, where I conducted a research project on the future feasibility of adjustable rate mortgages. The chief librarian phoned and invited me in for an interview a few days later. It was four blocks away. The interview went well and they offered me the internship. I started in mid-May.

In early June I flew out to the Special Libraries Association conference in Vancouver. More about that in a previous series of blog entries that start here: https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/2014/06/10/sla2014-day-one/

In late June, the announcement for the Western Carolina University (WCU) librarian position came out. I received it through three channels, the ILI listserv, the CUA LIS listserv, and INALJ.com. Largely on a whim, but with some interest because it was in my home state, I went to the website and applied. At this point, I had applied for literally dozens of library jobs, academic and non-academic positions, in the DC area, in Virginia, in North Carolina, and in Tennessee, all in anticipation of completing my coursework and comprehensive exams by late summer 2014.  Permanent jobs. Temp jobs. Contract headshop jobs (hated to do this because of the high differential between what they charge the client and what they pay the librarian. But I did it. You know who you are.). Most got a non-response. A small percentage got lukewarm responses.

Then, the second week in July, still on the Fed internship, I got an e-mail from the WCU search committee about scheduling a Skype interview. Now it’s getting interesting, but it’s my third Skype interview and I know that foreplay doesn’t always result in a marriage proposal, so to speak. But I say yes, and we do it. If nothing else, it’ll be a good professional development opportunity, I tell Filomena, I tell myself.

The WCU Skype interview went well, I thought. But I was overcome with second guessing and self-doubt because I hadn’t managed to make it to 2nd base on any of the previous Skype interviews. In the interim, I attended the annual conference of the Society of American Archivists, igniting a new set of professional and scholarly interests.  It was a great conference, that concluded with ThatCamp, my first. I loved it! Here is a blog post from the conference: https://raymmaxx.wordpress.com/2014/08/15/blogging-saa14-save-this-space/

I was mildly but delightfully surprised when I got a phone call and an email the following week inviting me to Cullowhee for a face-to-face interview.  Filomena was very busy with a project she was working on, so I saved the news until she was less occupied with work, coinciding with a two week vacation in Lisbon. Again, I didn’t have a strong feeling that I’d get the job, but I convinced us both that going down to NC for the interview would be a learning experience in itself. In Lisbon, we managed to get a special tour of the Mafra Library, an amazing 17th century library described by some as Europe’s first Enlightenment library.  Don’t miss it if you visit Portugal. Here is a link to their site:   http://www.palaciomafra.pt/en-GB/Library/ContentList.aspx 

I flew into Asheville on September 11. We (my host and I) made the hour drive to Cullowhee. It was love at first sight, the fall foliage, the mountains. All day interviewing the following day was exhausting. I had a good feeling but I wasn’t sure, I wasn’t certain I did well enough to get an offer. But I had a good feeling. Upon return to DC, I e-mailed my professors at CUA to tell them how it all went, where I thought I had performed strongly, and where I had definite weak areas.  Here is a note I wrote to my Cullowhee host:

Dear           ,

I am still processing everything from Thursday and Friday and hoping to do a blog entry, but wanted to get back to you with a thank you note and initial thoughts.

Thanks again for hosting me and setting the whole interview up.  I know these things require planning, logistics, etc., and lots of work.  It is quite an investment, especially when you still have your normal work to get done.  So I just wanted to express my appreciation for your efforts.

 I wish I had boned up more on collection development and on actual business information sources but I also think the core courses I took gave me the foundation to quickly learn whatever specific parts I need to grasp.  CUA has a course in University and College Libraries that would have better prepared me, but just like the other course in Business Information, neither was offered during my time there.

All the librarians and staff were so friendly and open and willing to engage. Several complimented me on the presentation and I was happy to get that feedback because I wasn’t sure how it would be received.  I enjoy doing those types of things and hopefully that came through.

And of course, the place is beautiful, the scenery, the mountains, even the campus – all clean and pristine and beautiful.  All that adds quality to life!  

I hope this works out, you guys like me, and I get an offer.  But I already feel very fortunate just having gone through the interview experience. So whatever the outcome, I am chalking this one up as a win.

Well, thanks again.  I will look forward to hearing from you.  Also, whatever the outcome, I hope to bring my wife down this fall to see the beautiful mountain scenery as the leaves change colors.

Best regards.


Several weeks passed. In the interim I continued to apply for jobs, mostly in DC, had phone interviews and even got a face-to-face interview for a temporary, 6-month fill that I didn’t really want. Then, the first week of October, my prospective department head phoned me and offered me the job. I was ecstatic! Filomena and I packed the 2002 Ford Focus and drove to Cullowhee the week of Thanksgiving.  The faculty/staff newsletter gave me this nice introduction:  http://thereporter.wcu.edu/2015/01/state-department-retiree-joins-hunter-librarys-reference-department/