January 2010

I work at a small, private college that neither has the staff nor the resources to create a full-blown Information Commons. So, we compromised and merged our IT Department Helpdesk with the Reference Desk. We now have a couple of trained IT students who work at the Reference Desk/Helpdesk who can answer computer related questions and help students with Reference questions when I’m not at the desk. We now have two separate phonelines: one for Helpdesk and one for Reference. So now patrons have a number to reach a live, human being with their IT questions. This new arrangement has been working very well, and it has given me a chance to become cross-trained on IT issues. Colleges/Universities that see a need for such a merger may want to give it a try.


I recently discovered matcha green tea from reading Dr. Weil’s blog.  I have loved green tea for years, but I was intrigued by his blog posting on matcha tea, so I went out and bought (it costs $15 for a canister) some at the Dobra Tea Room in Burlington, Vermont.  Matcha is the green tea used in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony.  Matcha green tea is unique in that it has the consistency of a fine powder as it is made by grinding up the tea leaves into a silky powder.  So rather than steeping the tea in a bag or tea ball, you dissolve it in water and therefore consume the entire tea leaf!  This, of course, means that you consume all of the benefits of green tea leaves.  According to Dr. Weil, “thousands of scientific studies confirm what the ancient Chinese knew through simple observation – green tea is perhaps the most healthful beverage human beings can consume. Studies either strongly suggest or confirm that the antioxidants in green tea can reduce LDL cholesterol, promote fat burning, reduce the risk of several forms of cancer, and alleviate depression.”  Matcha green tea definitely tastes more grassy and earthy than steeped green tea, but it has superior health benefits.

Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary. 
~Chinese Proverb

Check out this video of Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, making matcha tea.

The ALA Learning Blog has a great entry on how to engage learners.  Jesse James Garrett, a user expereience designer for real-time Web software, suggests thinking about the following four factors when teaching/presenting:

  • Perception (Senses):  Engaging through sight, sound, smell, etc.
  • Action (body/kinesthetic): Engaging through movement and physical action.
  • Cognition (mind): Engaging through thought, reflection, logic, imagination.
  • Emotion (heart): Engaging through emotion, feelings.
  • In a nutshell, a good user experience = a good learning experience.  This advice, of course, is related to the now familiar notion of what is considered good teaching, and that is active, engaged learning.  Most people cannot stay engaged (and therefore continue to learn from) someone who is simply lecturing and talking at them for very long.  In order for the learning to continue beyond the first 10 minutes, a teacher/presenter has to engage the learners by using visuals, emotional stories to illustrate a point, and perhaps encouraging physical movement (doing), and time for reflection.  This is not an easy task for a teacher/presenter, but I’m going to try to keep these four factors in mind during my teaching.

    More and more libraries are creating Facebook accounts to reach their patrons.  We haven’t created a Facebook account for the Alumnae Library yet, and an article about millennials and their addiction to Facebook makes me wonder if it’s a good idea.  I witness this addiction with students on a daily basis:  whenever I see  students writing a paper or doing research at one of the reference computers, they ALWAYS keep their Facebook account open and continue to toggle back to it throughout their time spent at the computer.  Librarians are simply trying to reach their patrons where they already are so it makes perfect sense for them to create Facebook accounts to disseminate information, but I wonder if we are also encouraging the growing problem of ADHD and cultivating greater “continuous partial attention“.  Perhaps college campuses will have Facebook Anonymous (or FBA) groups forming throughout the country in the near future.  According to the New York Times article, some high school students in San Francisco have already formed one–amazing.  I think Facebook is a wonderful tool to keep in touch with distant friends and family, but, unfortunately, it has become an unhealthy obsession for young people.  When students’ grades are affected by spending too much time on Facebook, I’d say it’s time to take a hiatus.

    And here’s an article about a survey conducted at the University of New Hampshire that found that students’ grades are not affected by social media.  Perhaps it’s simply a matter of maturity:  college-age students are better able to manage their time or perhaps have to because college is much more demanding than high school?  I’d say more surveys and studies are needed.

    The holidays are over, and the new year has arrived.  The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to develop an exercise routine.  My advice:  keep it simple, or you simply will not stick with it.  I suggest doing a form of exercise that you enjoy and will be able to maintain throughout your life–no matter how old you are.  Brisk walking is my favorite exercise, but you might also try biking or swimming–all forms of exercise that are highly effective and gentle on your joints.

    Develop a regular time and place for your exercise, and this way you will be more apt to stick with it.  A regular 30 minute daily routine is much more effective than only exercising when you have lots of time.

    What’s my routine?  I get up early and start my day with about 30 minutes of gentle yoga followed by alternating abdominal strengthening exercises every other day and a few free weight exercises (including push-ups) on the other days.  And I try to get out for a brisk 30-45 minute walk at least 5 days a week.  This is a fairly simple routine that I will be able to maintain throughout my life.  Yoga is great for the mind, body, and spirit.  Addominal exercises help to protect your back.  Strength training exercises with free weights keep your muscles strong.  And walking briskly keeps your heart fit.  Develop a routine that will maintain your whole body–inside and out.