The Love of a Dog for Her Bag

Yeah, I know I said I was going to blog every day this week about what an informationist does, but to be honest, I started reading a really good book and the blogging just didn’t happen.  I will certainly regale the internet with more tales of the research informationist life at some point, but right now I’d like to tell you about Ophelia and her bag.

Some of you reading the blog may be viewers of Ophelia Cam, which is essentially a live webcam of my dog sleeping soundly for nearly the entire 9-10 hours I’m at work every day.  Those of you who view Ophelia Cam may have noticed that my floor is littered with dog bones, toys, and what looks like a large pile of material.  That is actually Ophelia’s bag, and she loves it.

Ophelia and her bag.

Ophelia and her bag.  She normally doesn’t like being in photos, but she was happy to pose with her bag.

Ophelia’s bag is a large tote bag that I sewed for myself before I went to yoga school in the mountains outside of Boulder, Colorado.  I needed something that was large enough to hold a yoga mat and various other stuff that I would need to carry around with me, and since I couldn’t find anything that fit the bill to purchase, I designed and made my own.  A few weeks ago I had the bag out to carry something in, and in the middle of cleaning up the house, I set the bag on the floor in the living room.  In that time, Ophelia found the bag and adopted it as her own.

The bag has multiple purposes. One, it is useful as a place to bury things.  Because we are urban, apartment-dwelling folk, Ophelia and I lack a yard.  For a dog with a strong urge to bury things, this has been rough.  Ophelia has destroyed several dog beds and also ripped up a very nice set of sheets in an attempt to bury her bones, evidently not realizing that a bed does not functionally work the same way as, say, a pile of dirt.  However, the bag has proven to be an ideal hiding spot for various and sundry treasures that Ophelia inexplicably feels the need to hide.

Secondly, the bag is like home base for Ophelia during games of catch.  Ophelia is a very smart dog, but I have tried and failed on multiple occasions to teach her how to return a ball to me after I throw it.  She will sit across the room and stare at her ball, barking and chomping at it in frustration, while I implore her to bring it over, yet she just can’t quite get the concept.  However, she has a natural instinct to return the ball to the bag.  Realizing this, I now simply place the bag near me when I went to play catch with her, and our problems are solved.  She drops the ball on the bag, and I can reach down and grab it and our game continues uninterrupted.

The other nice thing about the bag is that when I have to take trips and Ophelia goes to stay with someone else, I can put all her stuff (food, food bowl, toys, blankie, etc) in the bag and take it with us.  We have only traveled once since Ophelia fell in love with her bag, and I was too embarrassed to explain what the bag was for and that it should be laid out on the floor for Ophelia to interact with. 🙂

A Week in the Life: Tuesday

Tonight, your friendly research informationist almost didn’t get around to posting a blog because I just now finished getting caught up on some work (but to be fair, there were a lot of interruptions from the resident pup, who never gets tired of playing Squirrelly or chasing the ball, even when mom is working).  However, I promised a full week of updates, and I’m not about to stop after only one day.  So, for those inquiring minds who want to know, here’s what I got up to today.

  1. Attended the weekly meeting for my department, which is called Research, Instruction, and Collection Services.  Basically we catch each other up on the various goings-on in our department.  Though there are only 6 of us, we are all crazy busy fiends, so it’s nice to have an hour a week in which we find out what everyone is up to.
  2. Gave an orientation and overview of library services to first year students in the psychology graduate program.  It was a small group, but they were very interested in what I had to say, which is always nice, and had lots of questions.
  3. Went to a meeting about the UCLA Library’s Affordable Courseware Initiative, which is a program in which we’re offering grants to professors who update their course syllabi to offer free/open access/low cost alternative to textbooks and other paid course materials.  Rather shockingly and disconcertingly, the price of college textbooks has risen 812% since 1978.  By comparison, the consumer price index has risen around 250%.  With tuition also increasing significantly in the last few years, particularly in California, students are being hit pretty hard financially.  This initiative is designed to help mitigate some of those costs.  A similar program at UMass Amherst resulted in $750,000 savings for students from a $20,000 initial investment, which is a pretty good ROI if you ask me.  So it will be interesting to see how this all goes at UCLA.
  4. I’m the chair of the committee for speakers for the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona/Northern California and Nevada Medical Library Group Joint Meeting that is coming up in July, so today I worked on getting together some information and sending some emails for that.
  5. Continued more work on NIH Public Access Policy as described yesterday.  Every time I send an email to the NIH Manuscript Submission System help desk, I feel like starting it “hello, it’s ME AGAIN!!!”  But the nice thing about doing this work is that people are genuinely happy to have the help and the results are pretty immediate.
  6. Continued the work on the NCBI course as described yesterday.
  7. Answered a gazillion more emails.
  8. Finished some ordering for my public health funds (yay!), but I still have a lot to do on my other stuff.
  9. The whole department cornered one of our coworkers who was celebrating a birthday today and sang Happy Birthday to him.  🙂
  10. Filled out paperwork for upcoming travel, of which there is quite a bit.  I never knew librarians traveled so much, but I have been on the road pretty often this year.  I think between September 2012 and August 2013, I will have taken about 12 business trips.  And there is a LOT of paperwork that goes along with all of it.  But I’m super lucky to be able to go to some very interesting meetings and take some very cool courses.

A Week in the Life of a Research Informationist: Monday

So recently my job title changed from Health and Life Sciences Librarian to Research Informationist, which is pretty cool, except that now instead of people assuming I spend my day shelving books and thinking about the Dewey Decimal System, they basically have no idea what it is I do.  I’m pretty sure my friends and family have absolutely no idea what I do for a living.  In fact, I’m not sure my co-workers even really know for sure.  One of my colleagues suggested I ought to write about what a research informationist does, and since I haven’t blogged here in ages, I thought this would be a good time to spread the word of what a research informationist is/does.  Right around the time I thought I should write this blog series, another research informationist, the lovely and talented Sally Gore, beat me to it by writing about it on her blog.   But hey, you can never have too many research informationists talking about their awesome jobs, right?

With that, I give you the activities of my Monday.

  1. I spent a lot of time helping several people trying to figure out the NIH Public Access Policy.  To vastly simplify, I would summarize the policy by saying if you get NIH grant money, you have to make your articles that come out of that funding available in PubMed Central (PMC), the open access repository of the National Library of Medicine.  In truth, the policy and the myriad different things you have to do to comply with it are quite complex.  NIH has recently announced that they would start enforcing the policy by delaying grant renewals to researchers who aren’t in compliance, so this means that I’m getting a lot of calls from people who are having to catch up on five years’ worth of article submissions.  In theory, I like this policy and I think it’s really important in getting medical literature to clinicians and researchers who wouldn’t be able to afford it otherwise, but in practice, it’s really confusing for people because there are so many different ways you can comply and also lots of ways things can go wrong.  I would like for it to be a lot easier for researchers to get their work into PMC so they and their staff don’t have to spend a lot of time freaking out about this.  However, in the meantime, I help a lot of people who need to figure this stuff out and in so doing have become more of an expert on the policy than I ever wanted to.
  2. I’m working on a couple of search strategies for researchers who are writing systematic reviews.  These are articles that essentially summarizes the body of literature on a particular question.  This is nice because a busy clinician can then just read one article instead of having to go find the hundreds or thousands that are relevant to the question. Plus, when you gather a lot of data and consider it all together, you can get a better sense of what’s really going on than if you just had a small sample.  However, identifying all of the relevant literature is pretty challenging, so it’s useful to have a librarian/research informationist help out as an “expert searcher” or as I like to think of it, a “PubMed whisperer.”  Putting these searches together is pretty time-consuming, plus I help the researchers manage the workflow of analyzing the articles that my searches turn up.  So today I helped out some of the researchers I’m working with on those articles, including getting them set with using Mendeley, a very cool citation management program.
  3. I’m a member of the Medical Library Group of Southern California and Arizona and the chair of their blog committee, so today I had to do some work with getting some entries up on the blog.
  4. Another one of my responsibilities is collection development, or buying stuff for the departments to whom I am the liaison librarian, which include public health, psychology, and some others.  I’ve been so busy that I’ve kind of been putting off my ordering, so I have to find a lot of stuff to buy in the next couple weeks.  You’d think getting to spend lots of money on books would be great, but it is less so when it’s in the context of work.  Plus, I can never find exactly what I want.  For example, my public health students ask a lot of questions about two fairly obscure and relatively specific topics: water consumption and usage in the context of health care, and food deserts (urban areas where it’s hard to find healthy food so people end up eating junk food and whatever they can get at convenience stores).  So I wanted to buy some books that would help them out with this, but it’s harder than you’d think!  This project will be carried over to tomorrow.
  5. I’m taking a very cool online/in-person course called Librarian’s Guide to NCBI.  The course covers some bioinformatics tools that are particularly relevant to people doing work in genetics and molecular biology.  As a research informationist, I think it’s important to be able to provide a high level of specialized assistance to researchers, so learning more about these tools is essentially adding some more stuff to my toolbox. I did the first week’s module today (although it’s the second week, so I’m already behind).  Most of the material in this first lecture was stuff I pretty much already knew, but I played around a little bit with some of the tools and searched around a bit in NLM’s Gene database.
  6. I manage our four library school graduate students who work on our reference desk, and today we had our monthly training session.  There’s really a lot you need to know to work at the reference desk of a busy biomedical library, and these students do a fantastic job, but the learning is never really over.
  7. Email.  I answered a gazillion emails.  The email never ends.

I did some other random stuff, but that’s the main stuff I did today.  Phew.  🙂