Category Archives: Professional Development

Bias Bound?

Photo 3

So, I was constructing a child’s bishop dress over the weekend and became introspective (as you do).

As a librarian, I teach people how to evaluate content for its credibility, which often translates into the author not showing bias or opinion. While some professors do allow non-objective sources in their assignments (as long as the point of view is noted), most want their students to rely on peer-review articles that have no bias, or slant.

One of the last things you do on a bishop is apply the neckband. This is made from a strip of fabric cut on the bias, on the diagonal of the fabric’s weave. Because the threads cross on an “x” instead of a “+”, it has flexibility and elasticity.

In sewing, knowing if your fabric is on-grain or on-bias is essential to creating something beautiful, lasting, and functional. A grainline marking can be found on every commercially-produced pattern piece.

Given that fabric can be distorted by pulling on the bias, I can understand perhaps why this word was chosen to denote personal opinion that might sway or influence a writer toward a certain conclusion.

The thing is, bias is as beneficial to sewing as on-grain. It allows binding to curve around necklines and armholes. It creates gorgeous evening gowns that flow around the body.

The dress that started this all, if not a curvy evening gown…

Look inside the collar of your favorite button-down shirt. Odds are good that one side of that neckband is on-grain, while the other is on bias. That gorgeous pointed collar stands up and curves around your neck because of the bias side. The grain side keeps it in-form and undistorted. In women’s trousers (and many men’s), you’ll find the same thing on your waistband. Bias has flexibility; grain has strength. By laying them against each other, you can have the benefits of each without weakness.

Which brings me back to research and information literacy. It’s so easy to default to the idea that opinion, or bias, is bad, objective is good. That’s only showing half the picture. We rarely talk about the value of opinion and that it can also be credible, if you evaluate the source just like a journal author.

I don’t know how to go about this. In the end, we help patrons (students, in my case) fulfill their information needs, often outlined by a professor.

But are we truly making them information literate, or just teaching a bias against opinion?

Librarians Rock

Well, that went well. No, really, it did. The annual Alabama Library Association annual convention has come and gone yet again. Thankfully, it was in Birmingham, which meant minimal travel and expense. It also meant constant hopping between work and the hotel (on the opposite side of town from my house), which was also fine. There’s nothing quite as annoying as sitting around a generic hotel room with nothing to do and bad lighting.

I had two main goals for this one – renew contacts and let them know I had changed jobs over the holidays, and a poster session. Both goals were achieved, I think. My poster session was about cross-training in the office for improved empathy and communication, and you can learn more by clicking on the tab Osmosis in the Office above. Some of you helped me with ideas for resources, and thanks!

I was also renewed as chair of the Education Committee. This was appreciated because all the family stuff this past year delayed me from really being an active leader. So, I’m glad to have a second shot at doing some interesting things and providing professional development opportunities to the librarians in our state.

Leaving the Door Open

My first article in a series called The Balancing Act was released today over at Librarian Lifestyle. This introduction to the world of FMLA and work leave policies is pretty general but should give y’all an idea of what the following articles will include. It was inspired by my own experience applying for FMLA protection and tenure extension related to a medical crisis of my mother’s.

In researching what to do, which in turn led to a literature review, I found it was difficult to locate hard and fast advice about the federal process or the internal policies. It seems like the majority of claims made in this nature are related to maternity leave, so that is what the research addresses. But as our parents age and as we age (or the unexpected happens), I think it important to know how to translate the legalese and not be intimidated by ‘no one here has ever done that before’. If you are interested in contributing to this article series, as a professional or from personal experience, please contact me at msthomas [at] samford [dot] edu.

The Audacity of Help

It’s alive! Librarian Lifestyle, a new digital magazine imagined and realized by Karen Holt (University of Texas – Austin) is now online. I will be contributing a series of articles on work/life balance issues and the policy issues therein.

This first article, though, is on the importance of building professional relationships. Whether you are a mentor or a mentee (or a Mentat, if that’s your thing), you can benefit from talking to someone you don’t already know. Check it out, then let me know what you think.

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