Category Archives: Libraries

clocks and bombs

I sat down to work on a pile of reading, projects, and writing this morning, and saw that my twitter feed was lighting up over… something. I clicked a few links. My heart sank.

Ahmed Mohammed, of Irving, Texas, a 14 year old who loves making and building, has been arrested because he built a clock at home and brought it to school and, in essence, insisted it was a clock rather than “admitting” it was a bomb. Because it was a clock. He was arrested because we are apparently incapable of believing, now, as a country, that a Muslim student who loves to invent and tinker and explore mechanical concepts would build something that’s not a bomb.

Irving 9th grader arrested


He was arrested — we arrested a 14 year old 9th grade boy — while wearing a NASA tshirt.

As a human being, as an American, as an educator, as a maker, as a parent, this horrifies me. We’ve allowed ourselves to become a nation that flinches at the idea of a Muslim boy tinkering and inventing. We’ve allowed ourselves to permit our schools to punish creativity and initiative when it comes from people around whom we’ve built a profile of suspicion and mistrust. We’ve allowed ourselves to believe that the right reaction to innovative and energetic exploration, when committed by the “wrong” people, is to arrest them. To arrest a boy. For building a clock.

I don’t want to live in this world. Fortunately for me, I’m in a position to do something about it.

I work at a college that welcomed more than 1100 returning students who self-identified as a cultural minority, out of a population of 4000. I work at a college that has prioritized creativity in our teaching, learning, and experience. I work at a college that is putting substantial institutional time and resources into inclusive excellence in all that we do. I work at a college that is expanding its Center for Diversity at the same time that it’s created a Center for Applied Learning. I work at a college at whose daycare my toddler sat down to breakfast with other 2 year olds of multiple ethnicities and religions.

I work at a college that will help change this world for the better.

I work at a college that would welcome Ahmed Mohammed into our ranks, and make sure that he had access to opportunities to create, invent, be mentored, be encouraged, and be celebrated. We would invite him to participate in our Ideas Competition. We’d help him find an internship with a company that values inventors. We’d link him with an alumni mentor and build a support network. We’d task him with being an ambassador to others from underrepresented groups who might be interested in science, technology, inventing, entrepreneurship.

We’d help him grow, and become his best self.

I don’t want to live in a country that would do anything else.

I particularly don’t want to live in a country that would arrest him for being curious and creative, and learning. That’s not my America.

it’s better than Word

My new favorite work toy is Canva. Let me show you why.



I made all of those with Canva, to seed into the College Libraries’ Facebook page, or to post in the building. Each one took me moments to do. Upload image, drag, drop. Search for an icon, drag, drop. Type, click, resize, color. You can use Canva for Work and set a Brand Profile, which offers you their templates already styled to your color choices. You can do all sizes, and download as .pdf or .jpg or .png.

And unless you choose to use their paid graphics, it’s all free.

So go forth, librarians, and do better than Word.

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…

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?