You know you’re a real blogger when, no matter how absurdly busy the rest of your life is, the thing you can’t do that you miss the most is blogging. It’s been a crazy almost two months and isn’t looking to get any better in the near future. Isn’t it funny when you look back on other times of your life when you thought you were busy and realize how wrong you were? I hope I won’t ever look on this time the same way, because I hnestly can’t imagine feeling more stressed.

First, I was one of the four libraries taking part in RAILS this year. RAILS stands for rubric assessment of information literacy skills and it’s a great IMLS and Syracuse University-funded study to explore the use of information literacy rubrics and develop best practices. The lovely Megan Oakleaf was the PI. For my part, I had to get IRB approval, get 125 student work samples, develop a rubric, get 10 disciplinary and library faculty members (I had 5 of each) to spend a day rating 100 pieces of student work, and to organize the rubrics into a random order through a very specific and time-consuming protocol. I also had to spend an extra day after Assessment Immersion in Nashville working on a joint rubric with the other librarians involved in RAILS, which ended up dragging on through Google Docs over several months. It was an exhausting process, but an amazing learning experience. It was interesting to see how librarians and disciplinary faculty viewed student work — what they valued and didn’t — and what parts of the rubric I’d originally created we ended up changing. It was great to get disciplinary faculty thinking about how to assess information literacy. Most of all, I feel much more comfortable developing rubrics that can effectively rate student level of skill in specific areas. There is a real art to creating rubrics. It’s difficult to get something that doesn’t require a tremendous amount of subjective judgment (which is why we use rubrics in the first place) and to develop something for more than just yourself.

I also got two grants this year, which was a big first for me (getting grants wasn’t a big thing at my previous library). The first was to work toward building a culture of program-level assessment at my library and to report on it at a conference. I made some small progress towards that and will be presenting on building a culture of assessment at LOEX of the West in June. Since travel to LOEX of the West won’t eat up the whole grant, I’ll be spending part of the money on building a library of books on assessment of student learning and program-level assessment for library faculty. If you have any suggestions for great books on information literacy assessment, assessment in higher ed, or activities in which students could demonstrate learning, please share in the comments.

The second grant I received was to do an ethnographic study of the research habits of returning/non-traditional-aged students at PSU. We have money to do it really well — hiring grad students, etc. We’ll also be working with an anthropology class (my liaison area) to recruit students to work on the study as part of their final project. I’ve seen so many ethnographic studies that have looked at the typical undergraduate, but with 40% of PSU’s undergrads (and a large portion of our grad students) being of non-traditional age, it’s critical that we understand their needs as well. I’ll be working with my wonderful colleagues Emily and Molly on this and I couldn’t be more excited. Fortunately, this won’t happen until the start of the next fiscal year (and we have the whole year to spend the funds), so it was only the application that bogged me down.

I’ve also had a couple of things published. My FIRST peer-reviewed article came out in February in Library Hi Tech. It’s called “Participatory technologies, pedagogy 2.0 and information literacy” and you can access it for free in PSU’s IR. Here’s the official citation if you want to grab it from Library Hi Tech’s site:

Meredith Farkas, (2012) “Participatory technologies, pedagogy 2.0 and information literacy”, Library Hi Tech, Vol. 30 Iss: 1, pp.82 – 94. Published version available from publisher website at:

I also published a Tips and Trends white paper on “Research Guide Technologies” in my work on the ACRL Instructional Technologies Committee. The guides this group has developed recently and that are in the pipeline are fantastic resources for librarians looking to get more familiar with instructional technologies.

I’ve got a bunch of conference presentations coming up and I hope I’ll see some of you at them. A 4-hour preconference at the Oregon Library Association Conference about online instruction and training + a panel there on the ACRL Immersion experience. A presentation at the Oregon Virtual Reference Summit. Then LOEX of the West. I’ll be on the LITA Top Tech Trends panel this summer at Annual. And then, I’m going to NEW ZEALAND!!! I’ll be giving a keynote at the LIANZA Conference in September, which I am insanely excited about. Don’t be jealous, though. I’ll be bringing a 3 year old on the trip, so I’d say that pretty much cancels out the awesomeness of being in NZ. While it’s not really how I envisioned going to New Zealand, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity nonetheless. And on the way home, we’re going to spend some time in Hawaii which I’ve never been to either.

And finally, and certainly not least, I bought a house. We found a pretty-darn-close-to-perfect house in a neighborhood which is full of young children, adorable dogs, and neighbors who hang out outside and talk to each other. My son loves the neighborhood though he’s anxious about the change and his new room (getting him to bed has been fun). Given the state of the market in the town in which we were looking, I’m immensely grateful for our luck. We just moved in a week ago, so are still in that garage full of boxes/putting everything in its place/discovering problems with the house/etc. mode.

It’s funny to feel lucky and insanely stressed at the same time. I know it’s good stress, but it is becoming a bit overwhelming and I’ve had moments where I’ve just laid in bed ruminating on all the stuff I need to do instead of sleeping. I don’t mind bringing work home physically, but when I bring it home emotionally — when it prevents me from enjoying moments when I’m not doing work — I know something has to change. I definitely need to find ways to better manage my time (i.e. say no) next year. It’s always hard at a new place, especially on the tenure track. You’re figuring out what is important to do and what you can say no to. I’ll get there. At least I hope so.