Shelf Reading – Burden or Blessing?

Shelf reading. It has to be done – and you often gotta do it yourself. I’m currently more than halfway through shelf reading our Arizona state and local collection here in Government Documents. I confess that I hated shelf reading at first! But after getting through a few thousand documents, it’s gotten faster and easier to see what’s out of place. (Of course, after thousands of documents, I would hope that it would!)

She does not look thrilled.

I think one of the problems I had with shelf reading is keeping the call numbers in my mind as I shuffled through the books. In an academic library, call numbers are LONG! The massize size of many academic library collections necessitates using LC call numbers, allowing the level of detail contained in each call number to be very high.

But your short-term memory has a limited capacity to accommodate these long numbers. Your mind can only keep about seven pieces of information (plus or minus two) in your working memory at any given moment. Here in GovDocs we use a modified version of SuDoc call numbers in our state and local collection, which gives you numbers like GV 10.8 M31 973/05. More than seven pieces of information there? Yes.

And the lifespan of those seven pieces of info is only between 15 and 30 seconds. Space out for a second while shelf reading and it’s gone, and you’re flipping back and forth between books, wasting time. Talk about frustrating!

With practice you can get a little better at keeping more information in your mind. But I’m excited about technology making shelf reading obsolete. This computer science professor came up with an app to shelf read for you – the catch is that each book must have a QR-like code on its spine.

Meanwhile, do what I do or what this library director does. Turn shelf reading into a Zen experience by treasuring it as a quiet moment in your day.

Procrastinating and Productivity: Start your semester right!

It’s Spring! (Semester, anyways). Classes are starting today at ASU and NAU! They start Wednesday at UA. How about your campus? I know I’m excited to have students on campus again! But this is also an important moment to take stock of what you’ve accomplished this academic year – because it’s now half-over!

If you’ve got projects you’ve been sandbagging, here’s a book for you: Still Procrastinating? The no-regrets guide to getting it done (links to book review). I love that this book identifies the various types of procrastinators: thrill-seekers, indecisives, self-saboteurs, perfectionists…which kind are you?

Here’s a lot of productivity tips from the Unclutterer blog: how to keep your New Year’s resolutions, how to unclutter your to-do lists, and how to stay on top of everything! I know my to-do list just keeps getting longer.

If you’re thinking about revamping your infolit teaching, here’s a great review of the latest Project Information Literacy report, titled “Learning the Ropes: How Freshmen Conduct Research Once They’ve Entered College.”  TL;DR: They’re overwhelmed with information, so keep it simple!

It’s fall! Work smarter, not harder

By now, your workload is probably hitting overtime. It’s fall! The students are back, the freshmen are lost, the instructors are in a tizzy. How do you intend to manage your workload? Don’t let it take over your life!

illustration by metagramme
Look at that beard. This dude is mellow. Are you?

The time is now to set good habits for the entire semester. If you don’t manage your work conscientiously, you are likely to fall into a pattern of inefficiency and, let’s face, despair. (cue dramatic music!)

Workaholics aren’t heroes. They don’t save the day, they just use it up. The real hero is already home because she figured out a faster way to get things done. – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, Rework (Medium)

Matt Steel at Medium shares his workaholic story in his post The Abundance of Slowness. He offers a philosophical reflection on a culture that values working long hours over working smart, and challenges you to change your perspective.

One quick change you can make now to reduce your daily burnout is to limiting the number of decisions you make in a day to lighten your cognitive load. Little decisions add up – and before you know it you become mentally fatigued. Routinize your day to reduce your decisions so that you can focus better on what matters.

Now that you’ve decided to commit to working smarter, here’s a 90-minute Plan for Personal Effectiveness. The secret is setting aside a block of time each morning to do NOTHING else but work on something that really matters to you. Shut off your cell, ignore the phone, and just work without distractions for a full ninety minutes.

What do you do to stay sane? Leave a comment below!