Time Management: Get Organized without Getting Bogged Down with Details

This is a re-post of an article I wrote for my alma mater’s blog a few weeks ago. Focusing on time management (my arrow to the knee) was difficult. My mind goes a thousand miles a minute, making multi-tasking a natural go-to. However, multi-tasking isn’t always the best approach. Below, I talk about many of the tricks and tools I’ve learned over the years.

Midterms are over, finals are almost here, and your mind is a battle ground between the necessary productivity, and the completely unhelpful spring fever, senioritis, or the age-old “summer-is-so-close-i-can-taste-it” restlessness- or all three at once, which is always a trip. When I was working towards my Bachelor’s degree, I was definitely one of those kids that had caffeine being pumped into my body via an IV (no, not literally…unfortunately)-which is something I heartily do NOT recommend. I was on track to graduating early, worked full time at a local coffee shop, had a student job at our library, and was in roughly 6-7 musical ensembles, all on top of my course load. In grad school, I worked full time on top of full time classes. Now out of school and in the professional workforce, my time is still a rare commodity. Work, various volunteer & semi-professional musical groups, roller derby training…I’m still one of those people who doesn’t like to turn down an opportunity. (or, doesn’t say “no” enough…it’s still up for debate.) Regardless of what your life & schedule looks like- because i’m sure I’m nowhere near as busy as some- making time for everything that needs to be done is never a fun, or easy task.

Time management, working/writing on the go, finding time to research, was difficult in college & grad school. Thanks to some great mentors, smart friends, and the occasional Buzzfeed article (no, not the one about the corgi beach party), I made it through, adding bits here and there to my bag of tricks. That’s why I chose this subject for my third article. I wanted to highlight tips & tricks I’ve collected over the years, which made balancing a full schedule without sacrificing sleep, social time, or sanity seem a whole lot easier. Just remember that everyone has different tricks to keep them motivated, whether it’s the carrot on a stick mentality, or the complete lock-down strategy, so if none of these work for you, don’t worry! I hope I’ll at least share some online tools that prove to be useful. (And to make it easy, anything I like to in the article I’ll also provide in list form at the end, so you don’t have to scroll through the whole thing just looking for a single link.)

Physical Space

At the risk of sounding like a Hallmark card (or your grandmother), an uncluttered desk makes for an uncluttered mind. The less distractions are on your desk, the harder it is to get distracted. Whenever I have a huge project to get done, a lot on my plate at once, or both, the first thing that helps is to re-organize. Take 5-10 minutes, declutter, reorganize, and streamline your work area.

Organize

  • Lists! I love lists. I have lists on and about everything, everyday, all the time. I’m a list-maker. I’m not suggesting that you fall off the cliff side and join me in list-omania, but a to-do list can be your best friend for organization. The reasoning behind this is simply that when you can see everything that needs to get done, it’s easier to see the finish line approaching, and it’s harder to accidentally forget a task. I start with a list of everything that needs attention, prioritize it, and those with the closest deadlines are the ones I tackle first- they’re the red letter days. Then I’ll organize my list in decreasing importance from there.
    • The Kanban method
      • Recently, I’ve started to use this method of scheduling my to do list, and it’s made a world of difference. It helps me visualize my workflow, and see my daily progress as i tackle the tasks on hand. (It’s also very easy to put up and tear down. Currently, mine is made up of 3×5 cards & scotch tape above my keyboard.)
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    • Pomotodo
      • Since most of my work has to be done on the computer, an easy way to keep me on task is this app. Available (for free!) on all platforms, Pomotodo is a great way to break up your tasks into manageable bites, as well as make it easy to track your productivity level and workflow. Have you ever sat at your computer for hours on end and feel like you’ve gotten nothing done? Based on the Pomodoro technique developed in the 80s, Pomotodo breaks up your work sessions into 25-30 minute time slots, setting off a quiet buzzer when it’s time for you to take a 5 minute break. This helps your focus to stay fresh, and your mind to avoid that mentally exhausted sludgey feeling that always happens after you’ve been straining and concentrating on one task for far too long.

Declutter

  • Minimizing distractions is most of the time impossible with the daily bustle of life, but your work space should be familiar, comfortable, and clean. I don’t mean physically clean all the time- my sister’s metal smith studio is a whirlwind of organized chaos- I mean clean of unimportant or potentially distracting things. Television, cell notifications, internet sites, etc., can all occupy focus that could be applied elsewhere. (I actually just put my cell phone on night mode before writing this article.)
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    • Internet blocks
      • Sites like Cold Turkey, Freedom, Dark Room (for Windows), and WriteRoom (for Mac), are great sites that block access to pages you don’t want to distract you. This is great for assignments where the internet is necessary (which is essentially all assignments), but you don’t want to risk the pull of social media. Google Chrome several extensions like StayFocusd and Site Block in their app store, as does Firefox (called Leechblock)

Noise

  • There’s an increasing amount of studies that have to do with the mind, focus, and music or background noise. Personally, I prefer ambient noise, instrumental music, or a combination of the two as I work.
    • Noisli
      • My newest find and now favorite background noise generator, Noisli has ambient noise that range from the classic white/black/grey noise to a babbling brook, thunderstorm, train tracks, and the clinking & murmur of a busy coffeeshop. I have this app installed on my Chrome browser both at work and at home, and typically play this in the background in addition to some mood music.
    • Coffeetivity
      • Another ambient noise generator, this is great if you want the feel of a bustling cafe, but could do without the visual stimulation (or the money spent on coffee and pastries- a personal weakness). Being able to choose from several different noise types – lunch time bustle, early morning stillness, etc., is really great.
    • 8tracks
      • 8tracks is a very old favorite of mine. I strictly used 8tracks playlists when I was writing my undergrad thesis. (I actually still have that collection of playlists.) On 8tracks, users are able to upload playlists that they’ve created. They range from pop & rock, to focus and creativity. You can customize your search down to an extreme, which is fantastic. Be careful though, it’s easy to get caught up in finding great music. I’ve found that happening to me many times.

Mental Space

Organizing your mind is just as important as organizing your physical workspace. I’m talking to myself as well as you when I speak of the importance of mental organization. I am one of the worst at this part of organization. My thoughts often look like the room of keys from The Sorcerer’s Stone, zipping and flying about at no pattern at all.

Re-center yourself

  • Often times, it’s easy to get caught up in the franticness of meeting your deadlines, and this, in turn, will hurt your productivity and focus. Before I sit down and start a project- however large or small, I take anywhere form 5 to 10 minutes to stretch and loosen my body. Being physically uncomfortable is distracting, but so is being too comfortable. I’ve accidentally fallen asleep during an assignment far too often for me to like to admit.
    • Yoga
      • I didn’t discover how helpful yoga was to both my mind as well as my body until after grad school, unfortunately, so I’m going to join the cacophony of voices singing the practice’s praise in hopes that you don’t make the discovery too late. Engaging my muscles requires my mind as well as my physical strength, and elongating my ability to focus has everything to do with elongating your body, so to speak. There are hundreds, if not thousands of focus enhancing yoga videos and stretches available, but my absolute favorite is this one, from Yoga by Adrienne. Only 10 minutes long, it doesn’t take a chunk out of your day, nor does it require lots of experience in yoga. (I am the furthest from being familiar with the exercise, and I’m also probably one of the least stretchy people on this planet.)
    • Headspace
      • Meditation is fairly hard for me, honestly. As I said earlier, my mind is a beehive of thoughts, so quieting it is a bit difficult. There’s an app called Headspace that is amazing at introducing the practice of meditation into your life. Unfortunately, it isn’t free, but signing up gets you 10 free sessions to help introduce you to the exercise of meditation.
    • Momentum
      • Momentum is a free (yay!) and easy way to keep up your momentum throughout the day. Instead of the “new tab” page on your browser, Momentum greets you, displays the time, weather, an inspiring quote, and your main goal for the day, all set against the backdrop of a breathtaking photograph. You can also add a small todo checklist that you can update and change throughout the day.
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Listen

  • When I was in college, I’d frequently battle headaches, back aches, and sometimes insomnia during or after a project. Restlessness and stress induced anxiety were plagues, and it was only til I started working with my body instead of fighting against it that I saw results.
    • Light
      • One of the first things I changed was the amount and type of light I worked in. I made sure that my area was well lit with either natural or warm light instead of the harsh blue light that is emitted from your computer screen and some lightbulbs. A free app called Flux is free and downloadable on your computer- Mac or PC- to help reduce the blue light coming from your monitor. Immediately, I noticed that my eyes weren’t getting as tired as quickly during an assignment.
    • Stretch
      • Just like resetting your body with a quick yoga session before beginning, taking breaks intermittently to stretch, take a quick walk, or just move will help keep your body from being restless. I usually try and take a 5 minute walk or stretch break every 45 minutes to an hour.
    • Write it down
      • Far from making yet another list, if pesky thoughts keep popping into your head and interrupt your productivity, write them down. This will make it easier to wipe them from your mind and focus on later.
    • Wake up!
      • I am THE furthest from a morning person. In fact, my sister posted a meme about the terrors of me before my coffee just a few minutes ago. However, I’ve noticed that over the past few months, I’ve been waking up naturally around 6, 6:30. On the days where I feel lazy and go back to sleep til my alarm goes off, I found myself dragging, unfocused, and lackadaisical. The days where I listen to my inner clock and wake up, I’m more relaxed, focused, and productive throughout the day. Part of this I blame on my cat, who promptly meows for food at around 6:15, but I also give credit to a great alarm clock app that I found. Called “Progressive Alarm Clock,” It’s in the app store for around $3, and is the best purchase I’ve made for my iphone. Instead of jerking you awake with a song or harsh sound, it uses Tibetan singing bowls to gradually lift you from sleep by increasing the volume, making for a much more welcoming morning alarm.

Articles, Sources, & Quotes:

When compiling resources and first beginning this article, I talked to a couple of the busiest women in my life on how they were able to keep focused on the job, at home, or on the go. I know that my way of keeping myself focused is unique to me, so I wanted to get other perspectives as well.

Articles & Resources:

Increase Productivity-Buzzfeed- Tactics, methods, and tricks for keeping the drudgery of the work week at bay. This article is more focused on work methods and mental tricks than helpful resources and tools.

Apps, Apps, Apps-Buzzfeed- While a few of the apps and sites I mentioned are on this list, there are many I didn’t mention that could be extremely helpful! I was actually recommended a few of them from various friends and acquaintances over the past few years.

More Apps!- Buzzfeed- Seeing a trend? I love Buzzfeed’s listed articles because of the quick and easy to read format that they’re shown in. This article is less focused on productivity, and more of an app-based show and tell, but there are a couple listed in here that are pretty fantastic tools!

Study Music – Growing up on the “Mozart Effect” for studying had its pros and cons. This article provides a brief overview of a few instrumental-based music genres and how the brain reacts to them.

Music & the Mind. In contrast to the article I mentioned above, this study breaks away from the previously praised school of thought (such as the Mozart Effect) where it was said that music with words is distracting and inconducive for productivity.

Kanban method – An easy, visual way to see your to do list, prioritize your workflow, and a great encouragement to get things done. It uses a production flow method that was first developed by the Toyota company, and applies it to every day tasks.

Pomotodo – An app that uses the Pomodoro technique to optimize your time and focus by breaking down your work day into 30 minute segments.

Cold Turkey – There’s a free and a subscription based version for Cold Turkey. It allows you to block out different kinds of sites for certain periods of time, although you can only schedule blocks of time if you buy the second tier of the subscription service. Still, this is a great app to streamline your internet use if you find yourself getting too distracted by clickbaits and social media.

Freedom – This is free, available on all platforms, and makes it very easy to block any potentially distracting websites, apps, etc., from your internet browser without needing to get rid of your internet access altogether.

Dark Room – This is the perfect tool to fight writer’s block with. DarkRoom clears your screen and monitor of distractions, making freewriting clean, minimalistic, and at the center of your bullseye.

WriteRoom  – WriteRoom is the Windows compatible style of the DarkRoom site & app.

Noisli – A simple, minimalistic ambient noise generator. You can create combinations of sounds (such as rain, a crackling fire, an ocean tide, or coffeeshop noises), or just stick with one sound.

Coffeetivity – Another ambient noise generator, this has sounds that are usually associated with more social settings- the clink of silverware and dishes combined with voices murmering at a coffeeshop, the bustling sounds of a streetside cafe, etc. If you excel at working with the sounds of people around you, but get too distracted with people watching or those really great scones in the pastry case (I am SO guilty of both of these), this is a great sound tool.

8tracks – A playlist based website where users can upload and make their playlists public. It does away with your need of spending time tailoring a playlist to what you need, because you can combine any amount of descriptions, criteria, etc. to find your perfect playlist. (ie- “instrumental” “study” “classical” or “traditional celtic” “instrumental” “focus”)

Yoga for Focus – Yoga by Adrienne is one of my favorite youtube yogis. She uploads videos regularly, and best of all, you don’t have to be a veteran to follow her sessions. This 10 minute video is perfect for getting your body stretched out and set for a study session.

Headspace – This app is great for learning how to meditate easily, without the frustration of trying to do it on your own or in a class. Unfortunately, it isn’t free, but signing up gets you 10 free sessions to help introduce you to the exercise of meditation. The audio sessions usually last around 10 minutes, which is perfect for a pre- or post-study session.

Momentum – This app replaces the ‘new tab’ page with a calming photo and a daily reminder of what you want to get done. So, every time you open a new tab, you’re greeted with the Scottish countryside, the sunset over the Sahara, instead of the blank, grey screen.

Flux – Flux dims or lightens your screen according to the time of day. The later in the day it is, the less blue light is emitted from your screen, being replaced by a warm pink or orange tinged light. It’s not as harsh on your eyes, and you don’t find yourself getting a splitting headache after staring at your screen for 8 hours a day. It’s free, and works on both Mac & PCs.

Quotes:

Anna: actress, tarot reader, woman-of-all trades-  “Well, I have ADHD so the best one I’ve found is keeping a notepad or post it nearby so I can write down things that pop into my head in the middle of a task. Otherwise, I go off to do them instead and forget all about the original thing I was working on… My planner also has a to-do list section where you put 3 that you need to get done to move yourself forward and then the rest are additional. So you can prioritize instead of getting overwhelmed. I’m using Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map planner…her whole philosophy is focusing on how you want to be feeling and building your schedule around that rather than thinking about what your goal is like, make your goals to feel ____ and then build a system to get yourself there”

Jenn: event organizer, actress, social media fiend-  “I definitely keep a to do list, as well as write stuff on my calendar so I don’t forget and I can prioritize/know deadlines.  I like the to do list with the check boxes because checking stuff off makes me feel more productive.  Our database at work has an alarm feature so if I’m remembering to contact a customer about something months later, I can set a digital alarm reminder.  Declutter is a big thing too.  I don’t keep my desk cluttered (especially at the end of the day.  If it gets messy throughout the day, I make sure to pack everything up neatly so I come in to something other than chaos in the morning).  I have trays specifically for different things I’m working on so I can prioritize that way.  I make sure to clean out my email every so often to make sure only the important things stay (so things are easier to find).  I like to focus on one task at a time (I can multitask like a pro but in terms of finishing something, I like to finish one project before I start another – because my boss is always throwing things at me to do.  Most of which are not time sensitive.  I do spend like the last hour of my day on something else if I’m in the middle of a project, just to mix things up and to make sure to get at least a chunk done of the other thing)”

 

My Saturday night is better than yours…

A good book always needs a good soundtrack. To check out what I’m listening to, click here!

I’m on the final pages of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series that I started this past October. It’s SO amazing- wonderful characters, phenomenal plot, brilliant use of word play and descriptors…positively fantastic.

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Reading Resolutions

On the coattails of this year’s mayonnaise, all-purpose baking flour white Oscars (which is completely ridiculous, but I can only sanely handle one major equality issue per post without going completely postal), I stumbled across an article written by the author Catherine Nichols’ article, Homme de Plume, in which she discussed an experience she had in submitting one of her manuscripts under a male pseudonym. (inspired by these studies from PNAS and NEBR.) Her experiment had astonishing, disheartening results. After sending out 50 copies of her manuscript & cover letter, two requests were sent back in return. In stark contrast, when she sent 50 copies of the exact manuscript & cover letter pair, it was requested 17 times, a far cry from the 1 in 25 track record it had while under a female author’s name.
Now, I’ve always known that writing and publishing has been a male dominated world, but it wasn’t until i read the article and started doing some extra digging that I found out exactly how skewed it was.

Women, world-wide, have been found to be: 1. more well read than men, and 2. more avid readers than their male counterparts. (See various studies done by The Telegraph, NPR, and Pew Research Center) However, women continue to make up 40% or less of the authors, critics, reviewers, and publishers (See this study done by Vida). Far from a new development, this has, unfortunately, been the case since the beginning. An article that is now almost 20 years old has reached internet fandom over the past several years after the magazine it was originally published in digitized it. “Scent of a Woman’s Ink,” written in 1998 by by Francine Prose in Harper’s Weekly, attacked the idea of “gynobibliophobia” or, the illogical dislike of a novel merely because the hand that held the pen was female.

Fortunately or unfortunately, the writers of the past were only too glad to express such ideas. If Norman Mailer didn’t exist, we might have had to invent the man who could utter, in Advertisements for Myself, history’s most heartfelt, expansive confession of gynobibliophobia:

I have a terrible confession to make—I have nothing to say about any of the talented women who write today. Out of what is no doubt a fault in me, I do not seem able to read them. Indeed I doubt if there will be a really exciting woman writer until the first whore becomes a call girl and tells her tale. At the risk of making a dozen devoted enemies for life, I can only say that the sniffs I get from the ink of the women are always fey, old-hat, Quaintsy Goysy, tiny, too dykily psychotic, crippled, creepish, fashionable, frigid, outer-Baroque,maquillé in mannequin’s whimsy, or else bright and stillborn. Since I’ve never been able to read Virginia Woolf, and am sometimes willing to believe that it can conceivably be my fault, this verdict maybe taken fairly as the twisted tongue of a soured taste, at least by those readers who do not share with me the ground of departure—that a good novelist can do without everything but the remnant of his balls.

Few critics have so boldly advanced this testicular definition of talent. More often, a male writer’s true opinion must be extracted from the terms he uses to describe his female colleagues, from Walpole’s calling Mary Wollstonecraft a “hyena in petticoats” to Southey’s dismissing the enraged Charlotte Brontë as a daydreamer. In our century, Edmund Wilson complained that “this continual complaining and having to be comforted is one of the most annoying traits of women writers. . . . ” More recently, a piece by Bernard Bergonzi in The New York Review of Books began, “Women novelists, we have learned to assume, like to keep their focus narrow,” and in an essay on Katherine Anne Porter, Theodore Solotaroff referred to Porter’s “bitchiness” and “relentless cattiness,” terms used, perhaps too rarely, to scold mean-spirited male writers.

Continuing, she provides the reader of anonymous samples of works written by various sexes as a test- can you really tell the gender of a writer by the words on a page? (spoiler: you can’t)
To be up front and honest: I, too, even as recent as a year ago, was quite gendered in my reading, declaring to a group of friends that I just never ended up liking books written by female authors, regardless of if I knew who’d penned it or not. Looking back, I saw my error in judgement: the women I’d been reading were all from the same genre or two, so of course the writing style was semi-comparable.

These are the reasons why my 2016 resolutions is a list of one: each book I pick up must be written by a woman. Not only will this introduce me to amazing writers I’ve yet to discover, but it will also be a way of showing the disparity in the letters. However, this is only putting my small, handheld, and somewhat dim spotlight on just one of the issues in publishing. Disparities between cisgender & transgender, able & disabled, and the cultural divide is still extremely apparent. I’ll site Vida’s 2015 study again, where they conducted studies on WOC, sexuality, trans women, and authors with a disability in publishing as a whole. (For those who’ve never heard of Vida, they are a research driven organization aimed at increasing attention to women’s writing and gender equality in literary culture.)

We grew up with the phrase, “never judge a book by its cover,” so why isn’t that true for the author? You’re opening their book, not their legs. You’re being wooed by their writing, not the author themselves.

 

Sources- A List:

http://jezebel.com/homme-de-plume-what-i-learned-sending-my-novel-out-und-1720637627
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/apr/07/male-writers-continue-dominate-literary-criticism-vida-study-finds
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2015/jun/01/books-about-women-less-likely-to-win-prizes-study-finds
Books about women don’t win big awards: some data
http://harpers.org/archive/1998/06/scent-of-a-womans-ink/?single=1

Walk MS, Kansas City 2016

A friend of mine was diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis early this year, just months after receiving her MS in Criminal Justice & Criminology. Meeting her at roller derby practice, I was in awe of her strength & perseverance. She was instantly a source of laughter and light, and when I found out she had been diagnosed with MS not a month prior to our meeting, I wanted to help in any way that I could. So, when she invited me to join her team for Walk MS, I did so instantly.  This year is the first time I’ve ever participated in a fundraising walk of any sort, and I’m ecstatic to be lending my hands and pocketbook to the cause.

MS is unpredictable, commonly disabling the diagnosed because the disease attacks the central nervous system and disrupts the flow of information within the brain, and between the brain and body. MS is different for everyone, and that makes it all the more challenging to solve. The first Walk MS event was in 1988, and since then more than $920 million has been raised for research and programs to improve the lives of people living with MS. Today, there are treatments where there weren’t any before, and the dream of ending MS is becoming a reality. But there is still so much to do.

I’d love for your support as I join my teammates- an amazing group of men and women- in walking in this fundraiser, our hearts and minds joined together with one common goal: conquer the disease that has affected so many people around the world. Every cent raised will drive ongoing, ground-breaking research, support life-changing programs, and encourage a loving, supportive community for those who need it most.  The cool thing about donations is that any dollar amount helps, $1, $100, it’s all about the heart. I’m so excited to be walking with a great group of men and women united for one cause. Our team, the Auto(immune)bots, is full of strength and heart and determination to show our support of those diagnosed with the disease, while yelling our defiance in the face of MS itself.

If you have a moment, check out our team page here.

If you have more than a moment, I would greatly appreciate any amount donated to our cause.
http://main.nationalmssociety.org/goto/AutoImmuneBots_Emily

 

Live long, read often,
Em

 

 

Happy World Book Day!!!

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As a librarian, World Book Day definitely sits at the top of my “favorite random holidays” list (others include: World Nutella day- Feb 5. Bourbon Day- June 15. International Coffee Day- Oct 1, and Hobbit Day- September 22…).

In honor of this most esteemed holiday (which you should celebrate by going to your local bookstore and picking up a new good read!!), I wanted to share some of the great finds that I’ve stumbled across during my wanderings at work! My library is a private library that focuses on science, engineering, and technology, which you can read more about it from my blog post here, or here! We have around 45 miles of shelves filled with academic and professional journals, books, maps, folios, military and industrial standards, government documents, just about anything you can think of! Our rare book collection is also stunning, and I could go on and on until I’m old and grey about that, so I’ll just keep this narrowed down to the fun things I’ve found while hunting the stacks!

Currently, I’m working on curating a temporary collection of books that compliment our upcoming exhibit on the history of ornithology and bird watching as a hobby. From field guides to beautifully illustrated folios, there are books about every bird imaginable! (These adorably expressive owls are photographs from this great book!)

Of course, if you’re going to learn about owls, you may as well pick up some seasonal tips on reindeer handling. (this would definitely come in handy when we move to Finland if our favorite millionare Oompa Loompa gets elected…)

Copy of IMG_8986

Of course, never a pessimist, I’m planning a parade for when he ISN’T elected, and what better source to turn to than a 1956 parade design book?

A woman with vices that extend beyond horrible puns, nutella by the spoonful, and buying books in unnecessary amounts, I enjoy a good cigar now and then… (more “now” than “then” … hey, it’s a vice, right?!), so when I stumbled across this piece written in 1947, discussing the history of pipes and smoking tobacco, I have to say I was excited. It’s now semi-permanently sitting at my desk (Sssh…)

Another facsimile (a book that is an exact copy of the original. This is used especially in cases of handwritten or rare books) that found its way to my desk (not ashamed) is good old Geoff. Oh Geoffrey Chaucer…wait, why is a complete copy of his works, IN THE ORIGINAL ENGLISH, sitting on a shelf in my engineering library…oh well. The tome keeps me company now, making my desk look marvelously important (even though I rarely crack the binding…that semester of Chaucer & Old English in college left me scarred. SCARRED).

 

Of course, sometimes books aren’t that nice to you…Watch out, or they’ll crush you mercilessly.

But as always, it’s a love/hate/love relationship. We love them. We hate waiting for the sequel. We love the antici … pation for the sequel…so keep on being a bookworm! It’s the best kind of worm there is!

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*cough* NERD

BUT WAIT. THERE’S MORE.

NO World Book Day would be complete without random, yet interesting-and-could-probably-be-a-question-on-Jeopardy facts!!

  1. Did you know that the first movable type was invented in China by a man named Bi Sheng, around 1040? That’s nearly 600 YEARS before Gutenberg’s press!
  2. The world’s oldest library, located in Fez, Morocco, was founded by a woman. The al-Qarawiyyin Library is a part of a complex that includes the library, a mosque, and the world’s oldest University. Fatima El-Fihriya, a Tunisian businessman’s daughter, pledged her entire inheritance towards founding a university and library in Fez. The university opened in 859, and has been in continuous operation since its doors first opened. The library has been closed over the past 4 years, undergoing extensive renovations, and is slated to open this May!
  3. The first book to ever be published in America is believed to be a Puritan hymnal from around 1640, now called the Bay Psalm Book. It went up for auction in 2013, set at $30 million.
  4. JRR Tolkien, author of the famous Lord of the Rings series and its numerous companions, was an Oxford professor, linguist, and all around nerd. He was semi-fluent in over 10 languages, and created several for his famed fantasy series  (all of which were based on Germanic languages), he also worked on reconstructing and reviving existing, but long-dead languages as well, such as Medieval Welsh and Lombardic.
  5. The longest book ever printed is thought to be Artamène/Cyrus the Great, a medieval text that measures a whopping 10 volumes, 13,095 pages, and over 1 million words. On the page, the book is written by Frenchman Geroges de Scudéry, but scholars now accredit it more to his sister, Madeleine. If you’re curious, a project was launched to digitize the work here, thanks the the Institute of Modern French Literature! (Here’s a list of some more of the longest books ever published.)

 

 

Two things I love: Star Wars & feminism.

Actually, there are three things: badass women, Star Wars, & feminism.

Even though Lucas didn’t do a very good job writing in women (other than Leia, lines from the entire original trilogy spoken by women could be combined into a single video that lasts less than 1:30). However, Leia herself is one of the single most badass women in the galaxy, and when Abrahms’ Rey was introduced, she rivaled my affections for Leia, something I never thought could happen…

Therefore, the combination.

shoot like a girlwarvotecatcallsstupidityfragile masculinitydead shotkitchen my assNYMF reyfeminist

So, sometimes I write…

This fall, I joined a group of alumni in a blog series created by my graduate school’s Center for Career and Professional Development (or CCPD, if you don’t have enough time to twist that off of your tongue). While not a lengthy project, it’s been a blast, and I have about two more articles to write for them.

The first was a piece discussing all of the lessons I’d learned while job hunting, moving back and forth (and back and forth) across the country, and just good job seeking advice I’d been given or learned the hard way. From keeping track of job applications to preparing to move, to comparing cost of living and salary calculations, I tried to cover it all. Now, I know that I didn’t cover it all, but it’s the thought that counts (as grandma always said). If you want to read that article, you can click on this link here!

However, this past month, my second piece was published (check it out in its entirety here!) on a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart- libraries. Since the introduction of the personal computer, societies at large have been leaning towards digital formats more and more, until the last few decades or so was dubbed “The Digital Age.” In fact, we’ve gotten so dependent on digital media, technologies, and formats, that over the past ten or so years, the necessity of libraries has been called into question (*wince).  As a member of the generation that never knew a time without technology, we’ve often been accused of not appreciating or respecting solid formats- books, vinyls, the tangible, not the terabyte. Obviously, that’s a gross miscalculation, and far from being correct. Printed media has seen a rise in the past 5 years, with the all-hailed ebooks seeing a sharp drop in popularity. In fact, this phenomena has been reported all over the world, and not just in the US. Despite these numbers, I am consistently asked a variant of the same question whenever I mention my profession: “How are libraries going to be kept around since everything is going digital?” The answer is simple: libraries aren’t going anywhere. Libraries have always been a keystone to community organization, education, and activity. Their roll won’t change, only expand.

So, in contrast to my first post, this one ended up being more biographical than educational (although, I could argue that learning ANYTHING about libraries is educational). Growing up, I was more prone to pick up a book than a Barbie, and while I adored the outdoors, it was rare to find me unaccompanied by a book or two (even if it usually reeked havoc on the poor pages eventually). Books caught me from the beginning, and it should have been a warning sign that I would be doomed to being a librarian, but my adolescent mind was set on being a pilot. (or a Naval strategist. or a forensic scientist. or an Egyptologist.) So, despite being nicknamed after Shirley Jones’ character, Marian “Madam Librarian” Marpoo, from The Music Man, at age 4, I doggedly set off after my soaring (literally) dreams, books clutched under my arm like a safety blanket. However, little did I know it, but I wasn’t anywhere near the path that would lead towards a cockpit (or a lab, or a tomb for that matter), but actually strode along in the dead center of the road that led to call numbers and card catalogs. 

Naturally, when sorting out post-college career plans, I gravitated towards the library sciences & the associated professions: archivist, curator, museum researcher, librarian. Libraries had always been an integral part of my childhood (see previously mentioned nickname “Madame Librarian”), and books were in my blood. By the age of 16, I’d amassed a library that filled 3 six foot tall by 3 feet wide bookcases (roughly 48 feet of linear storage), and the ONLY thing I was worried about while prepping for college was what to do with the books when I left for school. (Of course, I am once again reunited with my library after being away from home for 6 years, but I digress.)

The true point of this article is to really hammer in, drive home, make the concept stick, etc. the fact that books are forever, technology is fleeting. The printed page is far from dead; it is, in fact, quite virile and thriving. An article from the NY Times (Alter, 2015) written in September of 2015 talked about the drop in e-book sales as print sales rose. Now, whether this is due to the amazing increase in the creation of adult coloring books or not…I cannot say. As an owner of several of said coloring books (the cuss words one is quite fun), I can happily say “wheee!” whilst being careful not to upset the organized piles of colored pencils placed carefully around my sleeping cat (who, in true cat fashion, has taken up the most prominent position on my bed, regardless of the project I am working on).

I will forever be in love with the written word, and while I do adore the newest shiny gadget as much as the next girl, give me the smell of a book over the zing of a hot computer any day. The issue with society waxing eloquent about the fall of print and rise of processors can be summed up in one question: How many copies of Beauty and the Beast (or insert your own album here) do you own? Personally, I have it in four formats: cassette tape, CD, an itunes download on my phone, and a digital remastered version I bought on my computer. Now, take older albums: Guns ‘n Roses, originally released on vinyl, had to go through three different formats in order to be played on iphones today (I’m choosing to forget that ill-fated ‘minidisc’ that came before CDs); or The Beatle’s albums, who survived 8-tracks, vinyls, and a plethora of now outdated and virtually unplayable formats.

We can thank hipsters for reviving the record player and the reemergence of vinyls onto the current music scene.
HOWEVER I WILL CONFESS RIGHT NOW IN ALL CAPS THAT I AM INSANELY JEALOUS OF ALL OF MY FRIENDS WITH RECORD PLAYERS. …i want one…

At the library where I work, we have files on microfilm, microfische, and countless cd-roms that are unusable, their contents lost to us, because of the format on which they were digitized. Digitization is constantly changing, and if you’re in that field, bravo! you will forever have a profession because with every new form of technology, the one after it will render its predecessor completely irrelevant, creating a vicious cycle of “update/digitize/update/digitize” when over on the bookshelf is the original content, still  printed and available for anyone anywhere to pick it up and use it at a moment’s notice.

People don’t realize that a library’s existence isn’t to merely provide entertainment to the community. While this is a large part of what we do, it isn’t the only thing, and it isn’t the most important thing. *gasp. did a librarian just say books aren’t the most important?!* Yes, I did, and this is why: Libraries are the community’s heartbeat, nervous system, the backbone; they are everything vital that a healthy community needs. A community without a library is like a body without a mind. The library fosters learning, imagination, innovation, and most importantly: life. Paula Poundstone, actress and comedienne, struck a serious note when saying: “The truth is libraries are raucous clubhouses for free speech, controversy, and community.” When the Digital Age dawned, both academic and political communities began to question the relevance of public libraries. In reality, with economic inequality at an all time high, the need for accessible, free programming has never been stronger.

Studies show that children from poor economic backgrounds develop literacy skills at a slower rate than those from middle or upper class households. Statistics by the Literacy Project Foundation have found a direct correlation between low literacy levels and low income. If we as a society ever hope to increase the quality of life for our current and future generations, we need look no further than the library. Its open doors provide attainable knowledge for children, immigrants, and every-day curious minds alike.

The library is a necessity for those who don’t have access to educational, professional, or research tools. It offers services such as early and adult literacy programs invaluable to ESL households, free internet and computer access for those seeking employment, a warm and quiet environment that can mean life or death for the homeless, after-school activities, and an uplifting environment that fosters a love of learning and reading in youths. These free programs are a library’s best weapons in the battle to better society.

Libraries have transformed themselves to meet the needs of their surrounding communities. They have strengthened their role as the very backbone of civilization and provide much needed refuge and guidance for future generations.strengthening their role as the very backbone of civilization, and providing much needed refuge and guidance for future generations.

 

 THAT is why the library is always going to be necessary, needed, and valued.
There will always be books, there will always be librarians to keep them.

 

Sources

“The Plot Twist.” 22 September 2015. Alter, Alexander. NYTimes. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/23/business/media/the-plot-twist-e-book-sales-slip-and-print-is-far-from-dead.html?_r=0

“E-books slow as Print Sales Rise.” 02 Nobember, 2015. ConnexiconFrance. http://www.connexionfrance.com/printed-book-sales-rise-slow-growth-ebooks-17396-view-article.html

Illiteracy Statistics. Literacy Project Foundation, via National Institute for Literacy. http://literacyprojectfoundation.org/community/statistics/

“Closing the 30 Million-Word Gap.” Bayliss, Sarah. July 9, 2015. School Library Journal. http://www.slj.com/2015/07/standards/early-learning/closing-the-30-million-word-gap-up-front/

“Key to Vocabulary Gap is Quality of Conversation, not Dearth of Words.” Sparks, Sarah. April 21, 2015. Education Week. http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/04/22/key-to-vocabulary-gap-is-quality-of.html

Dear Presidential Candidates

The more accurate title of this post should be “Dear Mr. Santorum,” but each of the GOP candidates have been guilty of this at one point in time.

However, this is focusing on last night’s circus of a GOP “debate.” Between Trump trying to insult his way into the Oval Office, Fioria apparently not knowing how to fact check her statements or supporting media, and Carson showing that one doesn’t have to be completely intelligent to become a neurosurgeon…It’s a mess. Unfortunately, the “not my circus, not my monkeys” ideal cannot be applied, since all of these goons are attempting to win a bid for the President of the United States. (this time, my threat of moving to Canada is a very real idea)

Last evening, Santorum, a candidate who is far from a front-runner in the rat race, made several statements that belittled the idea of women serving in combat arms positions, claiming that they are too emotional and weak to handle the stress. To be frank, he’s dead wrong, and this is my response to his statement.
Continue reading “Dear Presidential Candidates”