Monday, March 31, 2008

With Only One Eye

In the class I attended last weekend, we discussed how data, information, knowledge and wisdom form an information hierarchy where each layer adds certain attributes over and above the previous one. I have a concern here as I believe wisdom encompasses far more than data, information, and knowledge. Wisdom requires being aware of when and how to apply knowledge. It also requires experience and intuitive understanding and more.

Among the Sioux there is a saying, “The white man ….sees with only one eye’. That is because the white man is taught to see only with the mind—facts—and he forgets to combine or add that imaginative and moral aspect of nature which alone makes facts meaningful and beautiful to human beings.

From: Bunge, R. (1987). Language; the psyche of a people. In Our Languages, Our Survival. University of South Dakota: Bismark, Vermillion, S.D.

Friday, March 28, 2008


I've been asked how I can afford to go to so many library/archive conferences and the answer is: I can't. I am very selective about the conferences I decide to attend, I give preference to those in which I will be presenting or at least, would consider presenting at at a future date, and then I only go if I can obtain a scholarship to pay most of, if not all, my expenses.

Next week I'll be in New Mexico presenting a paper at the Institute for American Indian Research's (IfAIR) Indigenous Graduate Students Conference, Planting the Seeds of Our Research. If I had not been awarded a very generous scholarship which pays airfare, hotel, and meals, I would not be attending.

Next month I'll be on a panel discussing the Protocols for Native American Archival Materials at the Northwest Archivists Conference in Alaska. I'm paying for this trip by using some scholarship funds I was awarded. Again, if it weren't for that scholarship, I would not be going to this conference.

If you are seriously interested in attending conferences then pick a few you think you would really enjoy and which fit in with your career goals and interests and begin looking for ways to finance them. There are many scholarship and grant opportunities if you look and are willing to apply.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Red Leather Diary

The Red Leather Diary: Reclaiming a Life Through the Pages of a Lost Journal (HarperCollins, April 8, 2008) by Lily Koppel.

Kept by Florence Wolfson Howitt in the 1930's, the diary was found in a steamer trunk in a dumpster outside the author's apartment building. The journal reveals what life was like for Florence in 1930s New York—-horseback riding in Central Park, summer excursions to the Catskills, and an obsession with a famous avant-garde actress. It has nearly two thousand entries, written in faded black ink, covering every day from 1929 to 1934.

The book's author, a New York Times reporter who has found her niche writing about the hidden characters of New York, such as Manhattan's last typewriter repairman, set out to find the owner of the diary with her only clue being the inscription on the frontispiece--"This book belongs to Florence Wolfson" and found her, now 90 years old.

A New York Times article can be found here

Wales and Dust

Here's a link to an archives conference, Archive Fervour /Archive Further Literature, Archives,and Literary Archives to be held in Aberystwyth, Wales this July. A keynote speaker will be Professor Carolyn Steedman who teaches history at the University of Warwick and whose research interests include the construction of self-identity. She is the author of Dust: The Archive and Cultural History.

An SAA review essay, published in American Archivist (Vol. 66, No.2, Fall/Winter 2003) includes this:

To begin with, Dust is heavily steeped in the academic brew of postmodernist semiotics. For the gleefully uninitiated, semiotics involves seeing human experience, in all its minute expression, as signs or symbols. The word “refrigerator” does not identify an appliance, it connotes humanity’s desire/need to safeguard food stuffs.

Yes, I can relate to this. The Ojibwe word for freezer translated into English means "stingy box". I found a copy of this book at the university library and began reading it. My favorite sentence in the book is this one, which can be found on page 81:

The Archive is (the) kind of place that is to do with longing and appropriation. It has to do with wanting things that are put together, collected, collated, named in lists and indices; a place where a whole world, a social order,may be imagined by the recurrence of a name in a register, through a scrap of paper, or some other little piece of flotsam.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Oregon Historical Society Field Trip

Our archives class visited the Oregon Historical Society again, this time so that students could give reports about the collections they had examined.

Our instructor, Mary Jo Pugh, talking with Robyn.

Special thanks to Senior Archivist, Geoff Wexler, for making arrangements to open the reading room for us, retrieving the collections we examined, and granting me permission to take these photographs.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tools and Users, Part 2

Here's a follow up on one of my previous posts. It's a comment recently published in Information Wants to Be Free

To do a better job of preparing LIS graduates for the 21st century we need to equip them with the ability to be self-motivated and adept at learning technology skills. I don’t think it matters whether you can set up a wiki on your own server or use a free web-hosted service. I’d like LIS graduates who understand when and why a specific technology makes sense to meet users’ needs (and when it doesn’t) - and how to go about making good implementation decisions. The technology tools will always be changing. Many of them can be self-taught (as you indicated). Where we might fail our LIS students is not in letting them graduate without an HTML course, but in not providing them with good analytic and learning skills - and a thirst for “keeping up”.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Planting the Seeds of Our Research

I have been informed that I am one of six students selected to receive a scholarship from the Institute for American Indian Research (IFAIR) which will allow me to attend the Native American Graduate Students Research Conference, Planting the Seeds of Our Research, and present a paper on the power of stories and how they can be used to introduce Native students to tribal archives. This conference will include graduate students from the United States and Canada and the papers presented will cover all disciplines. The conference be held at the University of New Mexico, April 3-4.

Along with the research sessions, the conference will include keynote speaker Dr. Gerald Vizenor, student talking circles, an indigenous evening social and give away, and tours of research programs. Indigenous professors at the University of New Mexico will also comment on the papers presented in panels and sessions at the conference. I am honored to have received this opportunity and proud to be able to represent Emporia State University and SLIM.

Here the title and abstract for my paper.

The Power of Stories: Using Constructivism and Sense-Making to Introduce Native American Students to Tribal Archives

While the focus of information sharing and communication is shifting to a social bookmarking, web.2, technological, Internet, and digital viewpoint, the human-to-human, face-to-face, storytelling, oral ways of connecting families and communities remain powerful and compelling. Both constructivism (constructing our individual knowledge of the world by experiences and then considering the meaning and value of these experiences), and sense-making, (a continual process of making sense of a body of knowledge when there is a gap by gathering information and looking for patterns and connections), are influenced by cultural constructs. Both of these theories can be utilized as effective tools to make tribal archival repositories meaningful to Native American students by effectively connecting thought with emotion.

Tribal archives are like elders who protect and share our stories; they honor our ancestors, bridge generations, and share knowledge, thus preserving the history of our people. Recognizing Native American learning styles, including the use of storytelling as a teaching technique as well as language which is picture and emotion based , are techniques which can be utilized to help Native American students begin the process of recognizing that tribal archives places where we can connect with each other through time and space, providing us with a vibrant view of our history through records, letters, treaties, oral recordings, and photographs.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

L-Net and Meebo

Every week I answer questions on L-net at the Oregon State University Library for two hours. L-net is an online, chat reference service provided by Oregon librarians. I answer questions both for both academic and K-12 students so I usually get a nice variety of questions. Today I answered questions about medieval clothing, who were the major actors in Shakespeare's time, how hot air balloons work, how the Swiss and U.S. Constitutions are the same and different, and when the Vietnam Paris Peace talks were held.

I've been told that many of the academic librarians don't particularly like doing L-net but I do as I not only learn about many new things I'd never thought of before, I'm also learning how to conduct good, quick reference interviews. I think part of why they don't like it is because some of the younger students are sometimes rude. My method of dealing with this is to ask them to please be polite and then just continue on and answer their questions. I've found I'm often successful that way and we are able to complete our sessions.

The questions, too, aren't usually as difficult as the ones university students ask using Meebo on the library's webpage. I usually do the Meebo when I'm working a shift at the general reference desk. I enjoy those as well, and as I don't have the luxury of backup librarians on Meebo as I do on L-net, I have found myself juggling three or four complex questions at a time and that is certainly challenging!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Archives World and the Library World

I am comfortable in and relatively knowledgeable about both of these worlds, but sometimes I forget that others are not. I was in a small group of archivists the other day and, in the course of the conversation I told one who I know is also comfortable in both worlds how honored I was that Loriene Roy had added a comment to a post I'd written for the SLIM-Oregon Student Chapter of the ALA blog about a webcast of a lecture she'd given at the Library of Congress entitled Guiding Our Destiny.

One of the archivists listening to this conversation looked confused. "Who's Lori and Roy?", he asked me. "It sounds like a Las Vegas lounge act." I was taken aback at first and then realized that he, as an archivist, wouldn't know that Loriene Roy is the current President of the American Library Association. He doesn't need to know that. It's not really a part of his world.