Back to the scene of the crime.

Last summer I got hit by a car while riding my bike outside the Colorado Convention Center. I was headed home from work when a car started to pull toward the curb – and into the bike lane. My left hand collided with the car’s passenger side view mirror. The mirror was smashed, my hand was cut, and I toppled over.

I watched bright red blood drip from my fingers onto the sidewalk. I had a white kitchen towel in my backpack, so I wrapped my hand in it. The driver asked if I was okay. I asked for her license and insurance. Strangers put my bike in their minivan and took me to the hospital.

The nurse in the ER frowned at me. She asked why I hadn’t washed my hand right away.

“Uh, I got hit by a car. And then I came here.”

She made me wash my hands thoroughly. I sucked air in through my teeth.

Once my hand was clean, another nurse came in and examined the wounds. No stitches necessary. He smiled. “Skin is the best band-aid,” he declared, delicately placing my flayed flesh in bandages.

After I was released, I went to the bar near my apartment and ordered a whiskey soda. I wiggled my mummy fingers at the bartender and showed off my ER admission bracelet. We laughed. Eventually the lacerations healed and left scars.

I later learned from the insurance company that the driver was an exhibitor. She was unfamiliar with the area. She didn’t see me.

The week after I got hit, the city installed a barrier between the car lane and the bike lane to protect cyclists.

I guess I just had bad timing.

Life must be a circle because I’m headed back to the Colorado Convention Center this weekend for ALA Midwinter. As a member of the 2018 Stonewall Book Award Committee for Children’s and Young Adult Literature, I’ll be sequestered all day Saturday to deliberate titles under consideration for the award. I expect it will be a less traumatizing experience than the last time I was there. I hope. The winners will be announced at the Youth Media Awards on Monday at 8am Mountain time. You can watch the livestream here.

(Unsolicited advice: if you are lucky enough to serve on a book award committee, get a PO box. Thank you, publishers. I’m sorry about all the books that never reached me because I moved three times.)

As I prepare to head back to Denver, I’m stuck thinking about the shape of things. About lines and intersections and parallels. About where I was and where I am.

I left Tacoma. I lived in Denver for a year. Then I moved back to Washington. Sometimes I call it a slingshot move. Or a boomerang. A bounce.

When I lived in Denver, I rode my bike and got hit by a car and got scars.

This weekend, I know I won’t be able to stop myself. I’ll circle back. I’ll check the sidewalk for my blood stains.

I’m going to a conference for librarians. But I’m not a librarian anymore.

I work at the same college where I was a librarian for four years. I have the same e-mail address, the same employee ID number. But everything else is different.

What is the shape of the universe?

Is it a circle, or a triangle, or a spiral?

My ex-husband e-mailed me out of the blue last week. He’s selling the house we bought together when we were married.

Part of his message said, “I’m sorry.”

When we were married, I got a job as a librarian in Puyallup. But we owned a house in Portland, two and a half hours away. So I got an apartment in Puyallup and I drove 392 miles every week to go home on the weekends. I spent a lot of time on Interstate 5. After a year of my weekly commutes, I got a tenure-track job. We got divorced.

Now I live in Seattle and I work in Tacoma, at the same college that hired me six years ago.

I spend a lot of time on I-5.

But now it’s different. I come home every night to my husband. We eat dinner together. He makes pasta sauce from scratch and listens to jazz. After dinner, I read The Odyssey out loud while he drinks Coke floats with vanilla ice cream.

Sometimes when my husband holds me, he says, “I like your shape.”

It always makes me laugh. What is my shape, exactly?



Did you know the ACRL Oregon/Washington joint conference has been held annually since 1981? A little history lesson from University of Puget Sound Science Liaison Librarian Eli Gandour-Rood, ACRL Washington chapter President:

I am happy to share that some digging into our respective chapter archives revealed that the Oregon ACRL chapter, started in 1975, held its first two day conference at Menucha in 1980, followed by the first joint conference in 1981 with the newly-formed Washington chapter (founded in 1980). All records indicate that the two chapters have been holding joint conferences in alternating years ever since; the first meeting at Pack Forest appears to have occurred in 1983.

(Received via e-mail, 25 October 2017)

My favorites from this year’s 37th (!) #acrlpnw at Pack Forest in Eatonville, WA:

Favorite session: “Contemplative Pedagogy: An Ancient Solution to a Modern Problem” with Heather Newcomer (Olympic College) and Nicole Gustavsen (UW Bothell/Cascadia College). Heather and Nicole reminded me about the importance of breathing. Their session illustrated that a 1-minute breathing exercise at the beginning of an instruction session can help students feel centered and focused. I also loved learning about the Contemplative Practices Tree.

Close second: “Built to Last: Integrating OER into Your Library’s Framework” with Candice Watkins and Jennifer Snoek-Brown (Tacoma Community College). Candice and Jennifer highlighted how much labor goes into OER work, and how the Library can be a role model for other faculty on campus for integrating open practices (right down to adding open licenses to the work that librarians create).

Favorite poster: “Revealing and Concealing Information: Arising Tensions in Using Geoinformation Services for Academic Research” with Leah Airt (Seattle Pacific University). I am really excited about Leah’s research which looks at the practical and ethical implications of using Google Street View in lieu of direct observation in research, especially in the study of gentrification, disaster recovery, and urban planning.

Close second: Penelope Wood presented a poster about team-building across Library departments at UW Bothell/Cascadia College through sharing communal lunches. The unique feature of this program was that folks across departments prepared lunch for each other—rather than each person bringing their own brown bag lunch, one person made lunch for two other coworkers and brought enough to share. Feeding one another brought people closer!

Also really great: “Just in Time Assessment: Flexible peer observation during classroom instruction” by Laura Dimmit, Caitlan Maxwell, and Chelsea Nesvig (UW Bothell/Cascadia College).

Favorite mealtime conversation: Sitting across from Amy Hofer at dinner on Thursday night, I asked her how to respond to librarians whose only OER outreach is pushing resources from the Library’s collections. She shrugged. “It’s not OER,” she said. “But it’s still a good thing.”

Favorite format: The fail talks! These were quick, seven-minute lightning talks about failure. Topics included technological failure in information literacy instruction (made meta by slides not loading during the talk), assessment mishaps, student advisory groups disbanding, and the dangers of trying to get student feedback using rolling white boards.

Favorite panel that I moderated:Changing Tides: Exploring Current Trends in Information Literacy Programs” with Lizzie Brown (CWU Ellensberg), Ryan Randall (College of Western Idaho), Dani Rowland (UW Bothell/Cascadia College), and Megan Smithling (Cornish College of the Arts). These four folks graciously agreed to discuss the information literacy programs on their campuses, and their answers highlighted the varying approaches to integrating information literacy in different contexts.

You can find more information about the fabulous sessions at the ACRL WA & OR 2017 Joint Conference Program website.

Disclaimer: As of October 2017, I am the new ACRL Washington chapter Web Manager, replacing Nicholas Schiller. These views reflect my own personal opinions and are not intended to represent the ACRL Washington chapter Board in any capacity. I would also like to clarify that I was not involved in the selection of sessions or the planning of the 2017 conference.

Tell me it’s more than a t-shirt.

On Friday, January 20th, I was on my way to Atlanta for the American Library Association Midwinter meeting, and I was looking forward to two things: staying with my friend Jessica and filling my suitcase with free books.

Things I was not looking forward to included: crowds, long lines for the bathroom, awkward exhibit hall interactions where vendors try to force stuff into my hands, and dragging aforementioned free books across the convention center.

I did not anticipate that the highlight of ALA Midwinter would be Carla Hayden touching my arm.

I also did not anticipate that I would completely lose all respect for Neil Patrick Harris before leaving Atlanta.


Let’s back up a second.

There’s a reason they call ALA Midwinter a “meeting” instead of a conference. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the deep inner workings of librarianship in America today, the Midwinter meeting is when the professional association for librarians conducts its organizational business. This means that librarians meet with their colleagues from around the country and give updates or make decisions about their agendas for the year. There are a lot of sub-groups within ALA, including Divisions (like the Association of College and Research Libraries), Round Tables (like the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table), and Offices (the Office for Intellectual Freedom is probably the most well-known since it promotes the Banned Books Week observed by libraries around the country every year). This doesn’t include all of the committees and task forces within these groups.  Approximately 5,000 librarians attended Midwinter this year, and most of those folks were there to fulfill their service commitments to the organization.

For me, the most important meeting at Midwinter was the CHOICE Editorial Board meeting. I’ve been a member of the CHOICE Magazine Editorial Board since 2014, but I hadn’t met most of the other Board members in person. We had a great conversation about CHOICE’s initiatives with Open Educational Resources (OER), their successful webinar series, the new ACRL-Choice app, and other exciting developments for 2017.

Before I explain why I won’t be watching “A Series of Unfortunate Events” any time soon, let me mention a few other Midwinter highlights:

Proof of our #critlib meat feast.

So what did Neil Patrick Harris do?

Harris was our closing session speaker at Midwinter. He was there to promote his new book, The Magic Misfits, which should have been a simple task, but he managed to simultaneously disrespect Muslims, the deaf, and trans people all in one joke. Bravo, sir.

Harris’s session was interpreted by two ASL interpreters: a person in a hijab and another person in a suit jacket. Harris decided that it would be funny to flirt with, joke, and harass the interpreters rather than let them focus on their work. For example, he mentioned that Lemony Snicket didn’t like his new book, so he wouldn’t be asking him for a pull quote.

“Wait a second,” Harris said. “Let me see how you sign ‘pull quote’.” He paused and turned to the interpreter in the hijab.

The interpreter repeated the gesture, hooking her fingers and pulling them toward her chest.

“Oh, that’s right,” he said salaciously. I barfed a little in my mouth. Somehow, it got worse.

A few moments later, while Harris was distracted by a question from the audience, the interpreters switched places with one another. The interpreter in the suit jacket was busy signing when Harris noticed the switch and made the joke,

“That’s what was under there? Wow.”

In just a few painful words, Harris managed to:

  • Insult the person dressed in a hijab, stoking Islamophobic fears that there’s something “hidden” under their clothing.
  • Insult both of the interpreters’ gender presentations. Hyuk, hyuk, men don’t look like women, hyuk.
  • Distract the interpreters, yet again, from their important work of serving the people in the audience who needed them to interpret.


The worst part was the laughter.

Everyone laughed.

A room full of librarians thought this joke was funny. My stomach sank. I was disgusted.

It was hard to watch as librarians hustled out of the theater, his die-hard fans in a hurry to get in line for him.

Seeing folks pour to the exits before he was finished, Harris joked, “Why’s everyone leaving?”

“Because you made fun of the interpreters!” I yelled, loud enough for all to hear. Harris  paused. Then he let out a half-chuckle, trying to feign disbelief, and said, “What? No way! I wasn’t making fun of them.” He jerked his thumb toward the interpreter in the suit jacket. “He’s cute!”

Whatever and ever, dude. I walked out. And whatever and ever to all the librarians who laughed at his joke, waited in line, and fawned over him.


Later, at the airport, I overhead a woman in a “Library Folks in Solidarity with…” t-shirt bragging about getting her tote bag signed by Harris, and the moment burned itself into my brain. What is solidarity to you, I wondered? Just a goddamn t-shirt?






Library Assessment Conference 2016, the day after: Next steps

I started out my last day of the Library Assessment Conference sharing biscuits, poached eggs, and strong coffee with Maoria Kirker, Instructional Services and Assessment Librarian at George Mason University, and fellow alum of the 2013 ACRL Immersion Teacher Track program in Seattle, Washington, where we met. I admire Maoria for lots of reasons: she’s sharp, funny, energetic, dedicated to student learning, and constantly reflective of her own practice as a teacher. We have a lot in common, and it’s no surprise that we’ve even applied for the same jobs.


Maoria and I both share strong identities as educators. “I really feel like I’m an educator first,” I told her, which lead to an interesting discussion about how we describe what we do.

“I say that I’m a teacher,” she said to me. “I always say that first. When they ask what I teach, then I explain that I’m a librarian and I teach college students research skills and concepts.”

Her response made me pause. When people ask what I do, I always say that I’m a librarian–but why do I say that, if what I really believe is that I’m a teacher? Do I feel like I would be taking ownership of a word that isn’t really mine? Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve always wanted to be a librarian, and the teacher part came second, after some convincing that being a teacher wasn’t a bad thing. Librarian was a word that always had a positive connotation for me, and teacher, well, that’s a tough one. I felt a lot of shame in school (how is that children, whether labeled “smart” or “dumb”, end up feeling ashamed?) and resisted seeing my teachers as allies. I never thought that being a teacher was a positive thing. Until I learned I could be a teacher in a library, I didn’t think a teaching career was possible for me. It was a powerful revelation.

yesiamalibrarianMy Halloween costume.

I left Arlington yesterday afternoon after attending two more sessions, glumly eating a boxed lunch, and chatting up Paul Bracke about the state of library leadership today. I brought home a new tote bag (of course ) and a long list of next steps. In no particular order, I need to:

  • Continue my own research agenda. The papers and posters presented at LAC16 affirmed that my approach to information literacy and student learning assessment are valid, and I was inspired by presentations like Ann Medaille’s, who studied students’ drawings about their research process, and Anne Grant’s, who was inspired by the Framework to develop student-centered one-shot instruction that included having students write their own LibGuide.
  • Clarify my thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. I was extremely flattered by the people who stopped me and asked about some of the (half-formed) thoughts expressed in my tweets & blog posts, including my position on disaggregated data in student learning assessment, card swiping, and longitudinal tracking of individual students. I have a lot more to say, but I have to figure out how to say it first, and the informal conversations I had were wonderfully helpful in pushing me to refine and synthesize my positions.
  • Apply to the Institute for Research Design in Librarianship. I know it’s unlikely that I’ll be accepted (as I learned from Kristine Brancolini‘s presentation, they received 250 applications for 60 spots), but I think this would be an incredible opportunity to define and implement a broad-scale information literacy research project. (Although, as I also learned, they could fill an entire IRDL with just information literacy projects, and they need diverse applications representing different library services and functions!)
  • Develop my quantitative and qualitative research skills. For the past few years, I have had an intense focus on developing my pedagogy and information literacy instruction capacities, and I have not done much (if any) formal research. I was disappointed by some of the projects at LAC because I felt like the research wasn’t very strong, but I recognize my own deficits in this area and I’d like to improve my skills. Thankfully I’m at an institution that provides classes in these areas, so I can take advantage of that sometime in the next year.
  • Follow up with people who are doing great work, including Rachel Gammons and Lindsay Inge at the University of Maryland, Katie Fox with Colorado State Library, and AJ Boston at Murray State University.
  • Send thank you cards. It’s just a good habit. I met some really nice people, and I’d like to send them a brief note expressing my gratitude for them.

Yesterday, Luke Vilelle from Hollins University presented about the assessment efforts at his library. Hollins is a very small university with fewer than 700 undergraduates, all women, and the library has a tiny staff (nine people by my count). The audience was clearly impressed when Vilelle shared that their library chooses and assesses outcomes annually, generates regular reports, and even maintains a simple but effective dashboard of “Library Stats” available on their website.

A participant in the audience stood up and asked, “How do you do all this assessment with such limited staff? How do you have time for anything else?”

Vilelle chuckled. “We just get it done,” he said. It was a good reminder for all of us that, no matter the size or scope of our institutions, whether we have fifty librarians or just one or two, we can make good things happen by choosing a direction, delegating tasks, and pitching in.

The word that came to mind for me throughout the conference was habit. What are the habits in your workflow? What do you do every day, every week, every month, every semester, every year? If you do something on a regular basis (count the number of instruction sessions taught, study how people use your space, run reports of your database downloads, reflect on reference interactions, assess student learning samples, etc.), then it’s less onerous. The path forward with library assessment isn’t just buying more software (although Tableau has plenty of new fans now), hiring someone called an Assessment Librarian, or writing outcomes–it’s making the work a habit for everyone, at all levels of your library, and showing them that their habits yield positive results, internally and externally.

– – –

Missing out on: Dr. Cornel West speaking on campus today–the line was too long and my brain was too full.

Seeing tonight: Moonlight.

Ready for: Whatever’s next.