More than just productivity: The Productivity Project

51Pi1JKgDpL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Within the first chapter of The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey spills the beans on the three ingredients to productivity: Time, attention and energy. He says the balance of these leads you to accomplishing your goals. And if you flip over to the back cover, you’ll find Bailey’s top four recommendations for becoming more productive. But the value of Bailey’s book is not in knowing these factors, but following along on Bailey’s journey and absorbing the lesson that productivity has more important benefits than getting more done every day.

But don’t worry, Bailey does spend some time giving you tips on how to get more productive. Each chapter closes with a challenge that aims to both drive home the theme of the chapter and begin actively working on your productivity. His truthful anecdotes endear you to him and his process, while making you feel that the goal of becoming more productive is something you believe in wholeheartedly. I say that because I grabbed the book not because I wanted to read it, but because I wanted to increase my knowledge of the types of books available in the 600s. By the end, I’ve found myself implementing and valuing many of the lessons Bailey’s imparts. Continue reading

Authors, Bats, and Space: Library programming lessons for (and from) a beginner

As I mentioned back in early August, I’ve been trying to relaunch my library’s adult programming. Since then I’ve held two programs, set up a third, and sketched out ideas for 15 or so more. I’ll probably learn so much more as time goes on, but I thought I would record some of the lessons I’ve learned so far. Remember, I’m a beginner, so don’t laugh when it comes to my relative ignorance. I will say that I had nightmares about both thanks to all the stress. This has made it really difficult to get excited about planning events, but really I just have to learn to stop putting so much pressure on myself. As Woody Allen says, “80 percent of success is showing up.” Just by having programs, I am calling our programming at least an 80% success, especially since we had roughly zero last year. While it is up to me to get that number as high as I can, it’s nice to rely on at least some measure of success just by having an event for people to show up to. Now I only have 20 more percent to go to reach my lofty goals for myself, so wish me luck!Woody-Allen1 Continue reading

HLSDITL: Day 2

This post is part of the Hack Library School’s Library Student Day in the Life week. For those of you who are here because of that, thanks for visiting! I’m an online University of Maryland MLS student, the social media manager for UMD’s iDiversity organization and a library clerk on a public library’s reference desk. Come back every day this week to learn more about what it’s like to be a MLS student. And be sure to visit the LSDITL page for a list of everyone participating this week. And read all of my HLSDITL posts here.

Sorry for the late post, friends. Affordable Care Act training, that special project I mentioned at work and schoolwork have conspired to leave me scrambling today. Speaking of schoolwork, I figured I might share what a week in grad school usually looks like for me. Like most online students, I take two classes per semester. This semester I’m taking Ethics and Evaluating and Planning Library Programs. All of my classes have the same general format: Read the readings, respond thoughtfully in discussion posts that should include citations and a few long papers/assignments sprinkled throughout the semester which are meant to evaluate the students grasp on the subject. Discussion are what set online classes apart from on-campus ones. Discussions are what make online classes great, even if they are also what makes them so difficult and time-consuming (read more in this post). In the past year I’ve found that splitting work over the course of a week works best for me:

Graduate school involves reading…LOTS of reading. That’s why it is so great to find time to read something I wanted to read, instead of what is assigned.

  • Monday is generally spent looking through the modules (which hold links to readings, discussion posts and assignments for the week) to discover what readings I need to get through to prepare for the week. Each class generally requires reading at least one chapter from a textbook and several other articles or webpages (these include videos, blog posts or program FAQ pages). I usually get through the textbook first, taking notes either by pen or in a Google doc.
  • Tuesdays are the days that I usually put my first discussion posts up. Generally, discussions involve several postings over the rest of the week where we respond to each other. However, most teachers put some sort of prompt on the board and I use Tuesdays to respond to that prompt. Today, for example, I post on three separate boards which required an analysis of three articles chosen by classmates (three classmates each week offer their article critiques for us to read and respond to), a response to two articles on metadata assigned by the professor and a discussion of Google Books and the HathiTrust project.
  • Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays are spent reading my classmates’ posts and responding to the one’s that pique my interest. This means that I check in four or five times a day and write 5 to 10 (or more) posts in those three days. There are 35 people in the class and somewhere around 30 -40 new (and often lengthy) posts to read for each class. It can be a huge task just sifting through all the back and forth and finding time to jump in with an in-depth post of my own (i.e. “I agree with you” is not an option for posts).
  • Saturday is usually spent double-checking to make sure I didn’t miss a discussion (there are usually 2 to 3 separate boards per week in my planning class, though only one in ethics) and preparing for the in-person small-group discussion for my ethics class. Discussion posts tend to die down by the end of the week so there isn’t much to respond to by this time.
  • Sunday is as much my break day as I can give myself. My ethics small group can only meet on Sundays, so I do meet with them via Skype for an hour. But generally I try not to do much so I can not do homework on at least one day a week. I usually spend this day trying to read what I want to read (currently I’m re-reading all the Harry Potters, cause I’m that librarian).

Keep in mind that all this happens while I work my part-time job, spend several hours a week hunting and applying for a second job, and reading books I plan to review on this blog. It can be difficult to juggle, but setting and sticking to a schedule for yourself really helps. Poor organization skills are the downfall of many a student. But treating schoolwork like a job makes it easier to hold myself accountable. This also means that when I get a good grade on my midterms or finals, I try to “pay” myself, even if it’s only with a pint of beer at my favorite pub.

Cooking sidebar

So I know this blog is supposed to be about my journey into librarianship. I’ve tried to share some of my thoughts on what I’ve been learning, my experiences in a public library and my hopes for the future – both mine and the future of the field. I know that it at times has strayed into book review territory, but I justify that with the fact that while librarianship is now about many things, it is still about books. But I’ve avoided sharing with you my love of a single activity that has little to do with libraries. But as I considered posting about how I managed the stress of the two hardest classes of the entire program being crammed together into one summer, I realized that cooking is actually a huge part of my life as a library student. When I need to unplug from stress of writing 20- to 30-page papers, I cook. When I can’t quite synthesize a thesis from an idea that’s only half-formed, I cook while the smart half of my brain thinks.

It’s not just for those of us in school, either. Often I relax after work by cooking. Or, the day before my big job interview, I also cook to ward off the nerves. So, cooking really is a large part of my life, and a big part of what helps me stay a positive, optimistic librarian. So, I’d like to share a quick recipe that everyone should make right now. It screams fall and is also happens to now be my favorite cookie ever. EVER.

Pumpkin snickerdoodles

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles
from Sweet Pea’s Kitchen

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

Adjust the oven racks to the upper-and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt and pumpkin pie spice; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg and beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin puree and beat at medium speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.
Place the remaining 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon for rolling in a shallow bowl. Roll a heaping tablespoon of dough into a 1½-inch ball, roll the ball in the sugar mixture, and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, spacing the balls about 2 inches apart
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, until the edges are set and just beginning to brown but the centers are still soft and puffy, 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets about 5 minutes; using a wide metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack and cool to room temperature.

Time marches on

When people hear that I’m pursuing my MLS online, most people assume that it’s a bit of a cop out. Obviously since I’m not going to normal classes in a brick and mortar setting, I’m not putting in as much time as my on-campus peers, or so the suggestion goes. I’m here to say that such assumptions are just plain false. I would say we have to put in just as much time as our peers, if not a little bit more in the form of self-policing and posting on discussion boards.

timemarchesonLet me explain. In a classroom, discussions are organic. They take little effort to follow and it merely takes a raised hand to add your two cents to what some one else has said. And when the class is over, the discussion ends. Online discussions are different. As asynchronous discussions, you have to check in multiple times a day, read every post and hunt for the ones that you have the ability to comment on. And since the discussion doesn’t ever stop, it can go on far longer than the three hours a week on-campus classes traditionally meet. This alone can eat up a lot of time, but there are other factors at play.

For me, I learn best hearing a lecture while taking notes. Readings tend to be peripheral to my learning process. For online learners, this has to be the opposite. Some teachers don’t post audio lectures, or even annotated PowerPoint documents.  My Organization of Information teacher just posted the PowerPoint document from his on-campus course without realizing that most of the explanatory information that he tells students during live lectures is missing from the file. Instead, we have to focus on readings, try to analyze PowerPoint for the hidden information and, sometimes, do outside research to figure out exactly what the professor was trying to say. For on-campus students, the answer is (again) a mere raised-hand away.

Which leads me to the most important quality online learners must possess to be successful: The ability to learn independently. Learning takes time. That’s why classes are measured in credit “hours.” But online classes don’t fall within these traditional measures. Instead students must schedule “class hours” for themselves, while juggling multiple weekly and monthly deadlines for everything from big assignments to weekly discussion posts.

It’s difficult to be a graduate student. It takes time and effort. But to be an online graduate student you have to be even more committed to the end result than on-campus students. On-campus students are reminded every day they set foot on campus that they are students and that they are working toward a goal. Without that constant reminder, online students can become lost. And without reminding yourself constantly of what you will be getting out of this degree, time will march on without you. If that happens, you will suddenly find yourself at the bottom of a black hole of unfinished assignments and looming deadlines.

And that’s why online degrees are just as difficult as on-campus degrees, if not more so. But, it’s worth it. To finally have the degree and be qualified for all the dream jobs I am so close to having…Yeah, it’s worth it.