Library Carpentry Instructor Training

Last month I attended the Portland Library Carpentry Instructor Training, co-taught by Belinda Weaver and Tim Dennis, with helpers John Chodacki and Juliane Schneider. This was the first “Train the Trainer” session for librarians, covering some basics of educational psychology and instructional design, and is the first step to getting certified as a Software Carpentry AND Data Carpentry instructor. Thanks to csv,conf,v3 and the California Digital Library for sponsoring this program!

Tweets can be found under the hashtag #porttt. You can also read Juliane’s recap of this and related events. We had a lot of fun learning and getting to know each other. Personally, much of it felt like a condensed review of ACRL’s Immersion Program – Teacher Track. Hilariously, I sat next to Shari Laster, who also was in that same program 4 years ago with me!

Since I flew in early on Day 1 of the training and out late after Day 2, I wasn’t expecting to do much exploring around Portland. But lucky for me, Veronica Ikeshoji-Orlati and I got into some great discussions over post-Day 1 drinks and decided to continue chatting over dinner. We ended up walking all over town, ate at a decent sushi place (where I had ramen, which was only ok), and then capped off the night with ice cream at Ruby Jewel.

Brian Avery was the only other participant from Salt Lake City, and he’s a professor at Westminster. We got a chance to talk on our way to the airport, and I learned about some really cool initiatives that he’s working on, especially with respect to teaching reproducibility to undergrads. I’m hoping he’ll give a talk about it sometime during this upcoming academic year at one of the programs that I’m working on here at Eccles Library (more on that in another post later).

Library Carpentry lessons are created and improved upon by volunteers so Mozilla Global Sprint was the perfect event to organize people for further development. Belinda spearheaded the Library Carpentry Sprint, which happened on June 1-2. Check out the Gitter channel where we communicate. Unfortunately, I was overwhelmed with my regular work duties that I didn’t get a chance to do any actual work on it! Betty Rozum at USU invited me to join their local meetup and I was able to via Google Hangouts for a short time, which was a lot of fun. When I finally have some free time, I’m planning to go back and figure out how I can build on where others have left off.

I have a few more steps to complete before I’m officially a certified instructor, but I already feel like I’m part of the community and am eager to start teaching some of the lessons under the banner! Also, I want to build on this project in particular: Reproducible Research using Jupyter Notebooks. But that’s a topic for a whole other post…


Teaching ggplot2

titleslide_ggplot2Last week I gave a short presentation to a math class on advanced graphing in R with ggplot2. Click here to view the updated presentation:

I think the session went well overall. The students are masters and PhD candidates who are interested in learning more statistics and applied math. Their course textbook uses R for basic graphing and the professor thought it would be nice to introduce more advanced graphing. While I don’t know much about multilinear models, I do know a thing or two about advanced graphing in R.

One hitch: I’ve never taught R or ggplot2 before. I use it in my work at the library, but teaching it is a whole other animal. I spent a week pondering the best way to show how ggplot2 is superior to base graphics. Other constraints included time (50 minute class) and students bringing their own installations. Ultimately, I decided the best way is to show comparisons and then allow time for them to try it for themselves.

Post-session things I learned, including feedback received:

  1. Prepare a structured exercise. I let them loose and they needed more direction so the updated presentation has a couple slides.
  2. Post the slides ahead of time. This was actually not very easy to do since WP doesn’t host HTML files and Dropbox makes you download the file…
  3. Presentation only took about 20 minutes. So for future presentations, I threw in a couple more slides after the Exercise slide about even more advanced graphing.

This presentation would probably fit pretty well in a lunchtime tech series, much like Eccles Express from a few years ago. I can see making a series of short presentations around using R. Maybe a breakdown like this?

  1. Setting Up to Learn R
  2. Basics of Using R (this one might need to be split into two parts)
  3. Basic Graphing in R
  4. Advanced Graphing in R
  5. Writing in R Markdown

New LaTeX Guide for the Health Sciences

It has been a while since I’ve blogged anything. Let’s start small and introduce my latest project: LaTeX for the Health Sciences!

But first, a small step back — I just started work as a Research Associate at the Eccles Health Sciences Library in the University of Utah [Health Care] on Sept 3. Projects are abundant and the work is meaningful so I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be part of this dynamic landscape. [Backstory: In July, I resigned my position at Dartmouth and moved to Salt Lake City for a new life with my husband.]

One of major reasons I was hired is to provide LaTeX support. I have experience developing and teaching workshops on LaTeX, and the general sense is that there is an unfulfilled need here, perhaps with bioinformatics.

I’ve developed a general plan:

  1. Build a resource guide [done]
  2. Promote the guide [ongoing]
    1. On social media
    2. To groups that may use it
  3. Update guide as needed [ongoing]
  4. Figure out who in health sciences needs support [next step]
  5. Develop systematic approach to teaching LaTeX

I have materials from my previous workshops but everything needs to be tailored to a particular group in order for it to be meaningful and useful. One of the most useful documents I have found so far is Tomás Aragón’s Practical LaTeX for Public Health and Medicine. It’s given me some good insights about which groups may be interested in having this support.

For now, if you know anyone looking for LaTeX help, send them my way!

Email Outreach — Summer 2014

It’s that time of year again! We received lists of new majors and minors and I have dutifully sent out my outreach emails. If you didn’t receive one from me, please drop me a line!

The subject line should read “Hello! I am your librarian” and contains information about what I can help you with and how you can reach me. If you made it to this page, you have found me 🙂 But please do stop by my office and say hello. Plus, grab a piece of chocolate between classes.

As a side, I emailed 95 majors and minors this year for mathematics and computer science. Last year, I was covering 3 departments and emailed 91 students. If you’re looking for help with emailing en masse, please see last year’s post on mail merging with MS Office.

Reflections on the Value of Libraries

Today’s VOX (formerly known as the D2U) featured a story about the increasing enrollments in CS. One paragraph stood out to me because it equated the importance of learning CS with learning how to use the library.

Dartmouth’s computer science program dates back to the early 1960s, when Professor Tom Kurtz and Professor John Kemeny, who later served as Dartmouth’s 13th president, proposed that the College build a computation center. The two wrote that “whether a student will ever use a computing machine or not, his life is likely to be affected by such machines, and hence, he should know something about their capabilities and limitations. In this sense, contact with electronic brains is as essential as learning to use the library.”

Read the whole article here. I wish the writer cited his source because I’d love to go find it in its original context.

But back to thinking about what value there is to learning how to use the library in today’s world where information is so easily accessible, which leads to information overload. How do you deal with the abundance of information to find the few pieces that are important, relevant, and reliable?

Librarians teach information literacy, which is a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. As an example, we work with most Writing 2/3 or 5 classes to introduce first year students to using a research library, including all the logistics. We don’t just find materials for you to use, we also pass our skills onto you. You learn the little tips and tricks to effectively search the online catalog or specialized databases, and discover the various tools to help you organize references and digital files. As you progress in your studies and declare a major, you’ll get to know your subject librarian.

If your question/need is related to information, we can help!

That means we also support scholarly communications — research dissemination, publishing, copyright, etc. A few of us also actively support science communications through workshops on writing with LaTeX, crafting an elevator pitch, creating a poster presentation, etc.

There’s so much more to the library than a place for books and study space. I’ve only highlighted a small piece of what we do so Ask Us!

Geeky Valentine Cards

originally posted on the DCL Facebook page

Thanks to Sarah Smith, who was such a good sport about putting together the heart-shaped one (the back left card) at the last minute. I had set the letters right to left the first time and she fixed it in no time.

The original sketch for the front card looked like this:

V-DayCardIdeaShe took the idea and made it so awesome! We saw about 12 people come through the workshop and print off a bunch of cards. We hope more people will be interested in participating in the Book Arts program and print some more cards!

And we’re looking for ideas for the next science-themed letterpress workshop!