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Ryan P. Randall

Instruction Coordinator & Faculty Outreach Librarian at the College of Western Idaho ∴ Literary, media & cultural studies ∴ Web Editor at In the Library with the Lead Pipe ∴ Sous les pavés, la plage ∴ We are, as always, stubborn, stoked, and petrified - GY!BE

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Weekly Whaaa…?


Craig Eley’s Jekyll logbook theme

Perhaps it was due to participating in the #critlib chat on reflection, moderated by Lisa Hubbell? Perhaps it was because I miss using DayOne, which I slowly abandoned after they changed how they sync the files? Perhaps it’s just that I’ve gotten really used to using Jekyll, and this is another interesting use of that familiar technology?

In any event, I started using Craig Eley’s “Trophy Logbook” theme for Jekyll over the holidays and really appreciate it so far. I even submitted My First Pull Request™, helping organize the tags alphabetically with Liquid rather than strictly chronologically. (I’m going to try to help figure out how to sort by tags frequency, but that’s on the back-burner for probably at least another week.)

If you’d like to try journaling with it—or if you’d just like to give Jekyll a try without your first attempt being public—Eley’s theme works quite well. Craig explains in his Medium post that it’s designed to use tags to track people’s name and categories to track places. For my own use, I’m doing that, but also tracking regular topic tags with the simple blunt strategy of adding 0- before the tag, so they’re all sorted prior to the names. So instead of just writing meta in the tag field, I’m writing 0-meta. I don’t track physical locations very often, so I’m mostly using categories to track the media I watch or read. I’ve started putting some reading notes in there as well. I’ve been hankering for a place to put reading notes, and having the option of using both the work’s title and topic tags seems like a very promising set-up for them.

This theme uses Jekyll plugins that make it incompatible with Github Pages—not a bad thing, unless you’re exhibitionist enough to want your journal rendered publicly. If you want a private place to store your journal and perhaps write to it from a different device than your computer, GitLab lets you have private repos for free.

Bonnie Stuart’s posts on Antigonish

Bonnie Stewart’s last two articles, “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” and “Antigonish 2.0—the plan”, are giving me some hope and optimism about how librarians and other educators can advocate for everyone in our communities in the next few years.

Bryan Alexander’s We Make the Path by Walking group read

The first of Bonnie Stewart’s two above articles mentions We Make the Road by Walking, a book by Myles Horton and Paulo Freire. If you haven’t already notice how much of a touchstone Freire has become among instruction librarians, Joshua F. Beatty presented an excellent paper at the 2015 CAPAL conference, which he has open-access here.

Bryan Alexander up some of the activities on an online group read of We Make the Road by Walking in “Reading Horton and Freire in 2017”. I’m going to have a busy semester with a lot of reading, but I’m aiming to read this book as well. It’s important to not just acknowledge, but also learn from, histories of what works domestically. Horton’s Highlander Folk School certainly has a history to learn from.

Meredith Farkas’ “Never Neutral: Critical librarianship and technology”

It’s great to see that Meredith Farkas’ article on the impossibility of neutrality and the harm perpetuated by failing to advocate for our patrons is reading the readers of American Libraries Magazine.

It’s short and worth reading in its entirety. Here are a couple excellent quotes that resonate strongly with my week-to-week work:

Librarians may not be able to change Google or Facebook, but we can educate our patrons and support the development of the critical-thinking skills they need to navigate an often-biased online world. We can empower our patrons when we help them critically evaluate information and teach them about bias in search engines, social media, and publishing.

We are not doing our job if we remain neutral when it comes to library technologies. Accepting many of the technologies available to support our missions means accepting technologies that are biased, not accessible, not protective of the privacy of our users, and not easily usable by some of our patrons. A commitment to social justice is a commitment to equal access, which is at the heart of our professional values. We are not being neutral when we advocate for our patrons, but we are being good librarians.


Lisa Hubbell

Glad to hear the #critlib chat got you writing more. I find I’ve been doing more writing my hand, digging deeper than I had been last year. Spelling out some of my assumptions helps me to see what is and is not useful, and to think through other possibilities. But I rarely go back to previous entries, other than skimming each journal as I complete it. Do you find that tagging facilities returning to or building on what you’ve written already?

Ryan Randall

Hi Lisa—I really appreciate the #critlib chat you hosted! It definitely helped me get back into writing journal entires, rather than just having keeping a monthly file with daily to-do lists. So thanks again!
Tagging and search are the main reasons I now do my journaling & other note-taking electronically. Even when I used to do a lot of my writing in physical notebooks I’d keep with me, I’d often put a few keywords at the top of a page, since that would help me find things later much more easily. Now that I think about it, maybe that keywords-on-paper practice is because one of my middle school teachers had us do Cornell notes for a while?
Anyways, since I already did that in my pocket notebooks, making text files with easy search or tagging tools feels like an extension of what I’d do on paper—plus I don’t have to fret that I’ll look all my ideas if I wander away from those bound pieces of paper. (I have my text files synced to Dropbox, so I don’t have that anxiety, and I can edit or refer to them on my phone. Since I already enthused about all this in my post for the chat you lead, I won’t geek out about it again any further.)
These "Weekly Assemblage" posts are about as close as I’ll get to a public journal, and I started doing them in part so that I’d have a way to search by tag. If you’d want to try tagging text files yourself, I used Simplenote briefly years ago and remember it having tags. Even if you don’t find a program that has specific tag functionality, a pretty established syntax for making tags in text files is to add a "@" to the front of the word, so it’ll look like @tag or @pedagogy. The Taskpaper syntax is what gave me the idea for the "0-" I used in my electronic journal; sadly Jekyll really restricts the punctuation you can use for tags, so "0-" seems like the next best thing.
I think maybe the reason I like tagging so much is because I’ve always had a porous memory & a propensity for getting distracted. Even though I call my writing a "journal," it’s just as much reading notes, jottings of cool things I write down to allow myself to research later instead of being distracted by in the moment, or a commonplace book. My notebooks have always been a jumble of all those things. Rarely, I will write mostly to articulate my thoughts, and that kind of writing-to-think sounds a lot like what you do with your journals. Maybe we each develop the practices that we need?

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