video games and date nights

Sometimes, my job is super fun. I just sent this draft title and abstract off to our campus life staff for my participation in the student leadership conference in two weeks.

Learning from video games and date nights: How to plan backwards

We’ve all figured out how to get from home to a restaurant and then to the movies in time for the 9:30 show, and the NPCs in video games are always totally focused on defending against whatever you’re trying to accomplish, no matter what you do. So if we can teach an AI how to stop a pixelated hero and we can all figure out how to have time to buy popcorn before a movie, why can’t we get our organizations to plan an event or reach a goal? Probably because you’re planning forwards, and the best way to get from point A to point B is actually to plan backwards. I’ll share a bit about how to make that work.

The Horde’s results

My interns presented their exhibits to a group of librarians, faculty, and campus colleagues today. I couldn’t be prouder of them. At least one of them is going into a library grad program following graduation, and all four of the others hope and plan to.  (They’re not all seniors, so they have time…)

My charge to them was pretty straightforward: dig through the College’s online history resources, which I linked here, and find me “interesting stuff” that could go into a timeline of the College’s history. I told them that as they researched, I was sure they were going to find a theme that was interesting to them, that they were passionate about, or curious about… and that I wanted them to follow it. And then, in addition to the files of things that are fodder for the timeline, they each made an online exhibit in Omeka, which we are just starting to use for archives exhibits.

Given that I gave them free rein to do what they wanted, did very little hands-on assistance (but offered a lot of guidance), and generally trusted them to go forth and be awesome, I’m very pleased. We’ll polish and edit some of these this summer, and probably look for places to expand and focus in others, but overall this is a great start from my small horde of undergraduate interns. We met as a group every Friday at 3, and they made every week a better at the end of it.

So please enjoy this little preview of the kind of work I intend to spend a part of my summer digging into as we prepare for our college’s bicentennial!

Alexander Dumas: Potsdam State Teacher’s College During WWII, and Potsdam State Teacher’s College During the Vietnam War

Paul Halley: Learning Liberal: A look at SUNY Potsdam’s Strong Beginnings in Liberal Arts

Natalie LoRusso: Women’s History at SUNY Potsdam

Katrina Rink: Sororities, Fraternities, and Honor Societies

Emma Trevena: Architecture on the SUNY Potsdam Campus

(And now that I’ve posted this we’re having a problem with Omeka. But the pride remains!)

Want to come work with us?

SUNY Potsdam College Libraries are pleased to announce that we’re hiring two new members of our team. The formal bits:


Information Literacy Librarian

SUNY Potsdam seeks a service-oriented, intellectually curious librarian to join our Information Literacy instruction team in support of the learning, research, and outreach needs of the College Libraries community. This is an ideal opportunity for a librarian interested in the blend of tradition and experimentation, and for an individual whose interests lie in joining a small academic library committed to supporting teaching and learning in a dynamic and transparent working environment.

For a full position description and required qualifications, see:


Metadata and Subscription Resources Librarian

SUNY Potsdam seeks a service-oriented and intellectually curious librarian to serve as Metadata and Subscription Resources Librarian (MSR). Reporting to the Director of Libraries, the MSR Librarian will provide leadership and vision for the Libraries’ management of licensed and subscribed content. As a part of the Collection Development team, and as supervisor to 4 FT Library Clerks, the MSR Librarian will be responsible for licensing, subscribed, and open access content, including access, discovery and maintenance of online and subscription resources. Access will include management of URL resolvers, discovery layers, and other access tools for online resources.

This is an ideal opportunity for an experienced technical services librarian interested in the blending of tradition and experimentation, and for an individual whose interests lie in joining a small academic library committed to supporting teaching and learning in a dynamic and transparent working environment. The successful candidate will be excited by our professional transition away from traditional library cataloging and toward metadata creation in support of print and digital collections, and eager to engage in new opportunities, creative applications of technology, and sustainable project implementation. The MSR Librarian will leverage a strong interest in information users’ values and needs to work with existing traditional cataloging systems in support of the teaching, research, and access needs of the College community.

For a full position description and required qualifications, see:


As a bit of context, in the last 8 months we had three early-career librarians move on to other opportunities very quickly and all unexpectedly, so we’ve been operating on a very tight staffing budget this semester. It’s been hard, but it was useful in that it showed us where our strengths and weakness really are.

So, instead of just rehiring the three previous positions when hiring was authorized, the librarian team instead sat down and debated about what we wanted and needed. That conversation wasn’t just about what we wanted and needed from new colleagues, but about what we wanted and needed from ourselves. In the end, two of our librarians reorganized their own responsibilities, and we redefined these positions, creating two where there once were three, setting aside some responsibilities done by the previous folks in anticipation of future hires, and generally charting a new path forward.

If that sounds like a place you want to work — one where we think about what we do, make adjustments when they seem smart, and adapt on the fly to our ever-changing circumstances — take a look at the ads. We’re good people who are passionate about what we do, and we hope you are, too.

But please, always: look at a map and see where Potsdam, NY really is before you apply…

When good enough is just right

Cooking dinner after work used to be my favorite way to decompress from the day, and express some love in my husband’s direction. I’m a good cook, and I love food, and I love the process of cooking. The knife work, stove work, assessing flavor profiles, all of it. I just love it. Today, as I sped through the grocery store after work because we’re out of milk AGAIN and the baby who is actually a toddler can’t go to sleep without her bottle, I stopped and snapped this photo, because damn.


That’s a whole lotta prepared food, right there. Gwyneth and I had fish sticks, peas, and sweet potato tots for dinner tonight, and my “cooking” involved putting frozen things on a cookie sheet in a hot oven, and other frozen things in water in a microwave. Nothing about that feels like a reflection of the things that excite me about cooking, or the way that I feel like food is an expression of things that I value about homes and family and caring and attention and craft… but at the same time, everything about it is reflective of my values.  I conceded the point to the realities of my life and reprioritized around those realities, and I bought a whole bunch of convenience food — but I did it my way. Highest quality available. Frozen not canned. Organic when possible. Veggies and fruit above all else. And some comfort food joy mixed in (woohoo single serve Stouffer’s mac and cheese! TOTS!).

What’s this got to do with my professional life and this blog?

Nothing, and everything, just like above.  At the request of the college president, I’ve recently formally taken on an additional set of responsibilities; I am now the Director of Applied Learning* for the college, in a newly created Center for Applied Learning, jumpstarted via a generous endowed gift from an alumna and her husband. There’s a whole lot wrapped up in that new appointment, and it’s an amazingly cool opportunity to make a real impact on the educational experience of our students, and to help support our faculty as they build our academic program. In writing the pitch to the donors, I had a whole timeframe outlined, a list of projects, an approach, a plan…

And then there’s contact with the enemy, as they say. Turns out there’s a big SUNY project happening simultaneously. So we received the gift, we got the campus initiatives formally started, and we hit the ground not just running but sprinting towards a May 1 deadline for a SUNY all-campuses project in which we need to define Applied Learning for our campus, assess the parameters by which we will decide if an activity meets our definitions, and propose a campus commitment for our Applied Learning work.

Plan? Staged rollout? Thoughtful strategic planning? HA. Concede the point to the realities of the situation, reprioritize, and convene a committee, write a report, submit it to stakeholders, and get it done  NOW NOW NOW — and do it our way.

Plan or no plan, our values are intact. The Director of Experiential Education, Toby White, had shepherded the project up to this point, and his leadership has kept us moving steadily in the right direction. With his help, we identified and convened the committee in record time. The stakeholders we’ve invited into our first advisory committee have impressed the hell out of me. This is a new way of thinking about what we do — we do internships, and service learning, and study abroad and away, and student research, and field experience, but we don’t think about them as a unified set of things. Instead of arguing about the validity of this new principle and approach and mandate from SUNY (which would have been an expectable if non-optimal response), they are grabbing onto the heart of the questions and, despite our short time frame and abrupt beginning, really attacking the complexities of defining, in a unified way, something that we just do, in fifty different ways, in distributed modes, across all of our departments and schools.

We’re doing it fast, and we’re doing it a little uglier than I would prefer, but we’re doing it well. We might be eating packaged food, but it’s tasty and nutritionally balanced. We’re not doing it “right”, but we’re honoring who we are. And sometimes that has to be good enough. Right is not always right, even when you know you’re right. Good enough is sometimes good enough, so long as it’s true and honest and real.

And, as always, I’m impressed with my colleagues and my campus. So very, deeply, impressed. I may have four jobs, and I may have eaten fancified tater tots for dinner, but they were tasty tater tots and my four jobs are more satisfying than I have any right to ask for.


*That means my official titles currently are: Director of Libraries, Director of College Archives, Director of Bicentennial Celebrations, and Director of Applied Learning. I maybe have too many jobs, and those titles don’t encompass all the things I’m actually doing for the College, but they’re all really cool and who am I to back down from a challenge?

What if we redefined making in libraries?

In my last post about What Ifs, I asked “What If we adopted the maker movement as part of campus movement towards creativity and innovation?”

That question has come up in two different venues for me this week, one driven by an administrative opportunity and a second originating with a faculty member. In the administrative context, a member of our campus advancement team asked me how all of this “making stuff” fits into the vision of an academic library. And in the faculty context, I’m helping a teaching colleague figure out what equipment would best meet his needs and goals around innovative educational technology, specifically for 3D printing. And then the SUNY Council of Library Directors email list yielded a discussion of 3D printing and whether or not SUNY libraries charge non-affiliated folks for use of library printers…

And so here we are.

“What If we adopted the maker movement as part of campus movement towards creativity and innovation?”

I say this.

Libraries have always been about making things. Traditionally, in our information world that was based in print publications, paper indices, and reference librarians who were experts on local collections, libraries were where you “made” written academic work. You did research, and you gathered the information you needed, and you wrote a paper or a speech or  report. You typed it, you printed it, and you turned it in. And we don’t think of that as “making”; it’s just “doing academic work.” We are still doing that academic work, now, in our world of online information, searchable full text databases, and librarians who are experts on broad collections of information resources. Our students are still making things in this context, writing papers and turning them in.

At campuses like mine, though, which has a 199 year old School of Education as well as the 129 year old Crane School of Music, our students have also always made more than straight-up academic work. They make — have always made — lesson plans, classroom manipulatives, and visual teaching aids. They make music,  composing and performing. And in our School of Arts and Sciences, they make art — still, moving, dramatic, and 3D. They make scientific breakthroughs, and they make new creative written fiction and nonfiction works. They make computer programs, and they make business proposals. They make public health surveys, and they make archaeological discoveries.  The act of education, and the act of learning, are acts of creation. And we create — have always created — far more than just the written academic work that we default to in our thinking of what libraries facilitate.

Libraries, and the information access we facilitate, do more than help students write papers. We help them create those lesson plans, those musical works, that art, that science, that creative writing, that programming, those proposals, those surveys, and those discoveries. Information access underpins every tangible product to come from education, and libraries have a place of pride, centered in information access, in the heart of academia.

So why should we not also have a place of pride in more modes of making than just writing, typing, and printing? Why should we not also be facilitators and supporters of other types of making?

What if, instead of a building that contains a computer lab to facilitate online information access, research and technology support services, print information collections, and collaboration space, we were something more?

What if we were a building that contained a computer lab to facilitate online information access, research and technology support services, print information collections, collaboration space… and also a video, audio, and digital object creation lab, an arts-sciences-business-creativity fabrication lab, a GIS and data visualization lab, an IdeaPaint white box, interactive display galleries to showcase all the kinds of making going on in our communities, and … whatever else comes next?

What if?

Jenica Rogers. I thought that you were driving, but you've given me the wheel.

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