Friday, December 28, 2012

Just Give Me A Smile

The mere act of smiling may cause you and the people around you to be happier. [fn 1] The Declaration of Independence stated that all people “are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights … life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” No one is guaranteed that they will be happy, but we have the opportunity to actively pursue happiness.

When we see a smiling happy baby, we are immediately cued to be happier ourselves. Two days ago I was traveling by train back to Chicago. As soon as we walked into the train station, we heard a toddler crabbing, not the cry of pain or discomfort, but the cry of “why in the world are we waiting in this line?” We saw a big line of people waiting to get to the track for our train and so we went to the end of the line. The crying toddler was directly in front of us. I was thinking, “I wish that the toddler would shut up.” I wondered what I can do to save the crowd from suffering. The father was trying to comfort the child without success. I was not sure if the mother was there or not.

The poor father was not succeeding. Then my librarian-teacher training kicked in. Many times on in shul (synagogue) I have found children with sour faces and asked them if they cold smile for me. It usually works. They sometimes just give “fake” smiles and sometimes even laugh and have “real” smiles. I approached the toddler, being careful not to undermine or excite the father and said, “Excuse me, excuse me, I don’t have enough smiles. Would you please give me a smile?” The child was so surprised that she stopped kvetching. She stopped annoying her father and those waiting in line. I reached into my bag and gave her a copy of my colorful business card and told her, “I don’t have enough smiles, please send me some of your extra ones.” She played with the card as if it was a toy for the next five minutes until it was time to go on the train. I told the people in line, “It’s OK I used to be a children’s librarian.”

I have no idea if their final destination was Chicago. I did not hear any crying on the train. No one said anything to me including the parents.

It is always better to wear a smile, than a frown. I only wish that I could have steered her to a book.


1. Articles that deal with smiling.

Philippen, Philipp B., Frank C. Bakker, Raoul R. D. Oudejans, and Rouwen Canal-Bruland. 2012. "The Effects of Smiling and Frowning on Perceived Affect and Exertion While Physically Active." Journal Of Sport Behavior 35, no. 3: 337-353.  In this study Phillppen et.el. demonstrated that physical facial expressions of smiles can help be a motivator in physical (sports) activity.

Baumgardner, Jessica. "Try These Two Minute Stress Solutions." Prevention 64, no. 12 (December 2012): 100-107.  In this article Baumgardner say that smiling can reduce stress.

Kraft, Tara L., and Sarah D. Pressman. "Grin and Bear It: The Influence of Manipulated Facial Expression on the Stress Response." Psychological Science (Sage Publications Inc.) 23, no. 11 (November 2012): 1372-1378.  Kraft reports that smiling helped reduce stress.  Subjects had lower heart rates.

Nagle, Jacklyn E., and Stanley L. Brodsky. 2012. "Good Witnesses Don't Smile (Much)." Jury Expert 24, no. 5: 18-20.  Nagle talks about the proper time and circumstance for a smile in court room.    Inappropriate smiles will make the testimonies less likely to be believed.  A polite smile shows sincerity and credibility.   

Comments received

Dec. 30, 2012
Good, smiling is a healer.
Posted by Lillian Oats 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Memory, Music and Beans : Judging a Science Fair -- 4

On Tuesday December 18 I was a science fair judge for the fourth time. By now I have grown to expect what a high school student can do for science fair experiments. Many of the experiments were variations on a theme. I still can’t understand what kinds of guidance the teachers are offering. No one teaches these students how to design experiments that can have good statistical results. I said to myself that I did not want to see another experiment on growing beans.

Cuneform tabletAs I walked in the aisles looking at exhibits one impressed me, but since I was not judging that exhibit I did not even read his board. What impressed me was the picture of cuneiform tablets. The tablet similar to the one illustrated here was a commercial document. I should have examined the experiment more carefully. Some of the story boards just had paste-up of sections of their papers. Some had hand-written titles; while others were computer printed. Some had pictures; other just words. Last year I remembered some presentations included realia connected to their experiments. This time I don’t remember anyone with an exhibit that included realia.

25% of the scoring rubric is for how well the students orally present their experiments and results. One 10th grade girl was very good given that she only arrived from China three months ago. Most of the other 10th graders had exhibits based on research they did in 9th grade. Her name started with and “X” and so I asked her to pronounce her name. Sorry, I can’t remember it and I’m sure that I did not pronounce it correctly. Some of the students had well rehearsed presentations and others were more conversational.

Several students did experiments on music and learning. They wanted to know if background music or even a single tone could affect memory or learning. This could have implications for classroom and individual learning. This is not a new query. In a Winter 1985 article “Background Music and Context-Dependent Memory,” published in The American Journal of Psychology (Vol. 98:4) Steven M. Smith writes:

Background sound is a ubiquitous characteristic of our everyday living environments, ranging from industrial noise to public noise to relative quiet. Background music, for example, can be heard in stores, restaurants, office buildings, homes, and automobiles, even by those who do not use the type of portable music-playing devices that can be taken virtually anywhere. Such background music often plays a part in our everyday memories; for example, people are often reminded of long-past events when an old song is heard on the radio.

These students should have read Smith’s article in order to learn that the musical genre (classical, rock, hip hop, etc.) should not be a variable but rather, music and white noise should be tested against a control consisting of quiet. Most of the students using music labeled soft, calming music as classical. They never heard of full active, orchestral music. One experiment tested a single pitch as a way to improvement memory. One tested age as factor in memory with all of the older subjects related to her.

All of the experiments used too few subjects and trials to obtain significant results. For example one student wanted to test whether to size of a parachute affected the time for descent. He used three different sized parachutes and dropped a weigh from a second floor deck of his house. He concluded after three trials of each size (total of 9) that the bigger the parachute, the slower the descent. He couldn’t complete more trials because the parachutes wore out after three trials. He did not time the descent time for no parachute.

Since the scoring sheets did not have much about the experiment other than the titles, I had no idea that the students investigating road salt use and use of grey water in irrigation were testing growing beans. They concluded that salt was not good for plants and grey water would kill the plants.

I asked all the students about their use of library resources. Several reported using the databases from their school or public library. Very few used books and most had poorly formatted bibliographies. Even those who claimed to use a citation generating program such as Easybib ( ) for help with citations had significant errors. The program is flawed; frequently it reports, “n.d.” or “n.p.” for no date or publisher when the data is quite clear. When I use Ebsco and other academic databases they give citations in several styles. I warn the students that any citations are merely advice. The students still need to make sure the citation is correct according to the style guide and their teacher.

A student investigated the absorptive properties of paper towels, cellulose sponges and a Sham Wow. ShamWow is a super absorbent towel promoted in infomercials. The student never explains what the ShamWow is and spelled it as “Sham Wow.” He carefully cut the experimental materials and measured how much canola oil each absorbed. He found out counter to his hypothesis that sponges were best. Jokingly I asked, “Did you have to get up oily in the morning to do the experiments?”

At the end of the day I was tired and I hope that some of the students learned something from their efforts.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

New President Interview -- Part 14

Where Has the Leadership Gone*

Q: I just heard that a friend of yours in another college has resigned his presidency. You were appointed at about the same time and you worked with him on several strategic projects. Do you know what happened? 

A: I can’t tell you the details because we have not discussed them. Mr. LP grew up in the same city as the college. I met him after I moved here and we served on some community projects. He and I are alumni of the same undergraduate university, but he started several years after I graduated. His masters degree was in business and has worked in many aspects of higher education since then. He did not hold a doctorate. This was his first position as a college president. He was and still is dedicated to improving education and offering more opportunities. He has the mind of an entrepreneur and has strived to push aside the mishugas (craziness) in educational higher administrations. He tried to build a team, but had the rug pulled out from him when the board forced the vice-president to resign a few weeks earlier. The vice-president had worked for the college for more than 40 and was a great source of leadership and institutional knowledge. While the official messages said that she was retiring and moving to New York, at beginning of this term she said that her long term plans did not have retirement scheduled until the summer of 2014. I can only speculate that the board had a different idea of how to run a college than the administration.

Q: Does the college have a plan for a transition?

A: According to the public information, they have made plans for interim administrators. I can only speculate as to their effectiveness. Interim administrators are usually caretakers with little incentive for innovation or long term improvements. I hope the faculty is still able to do their jobs and the students don’t notice any disruptions in services.

Q: Why does someone with such great promise resign after such a short time?

I don’t know what went on behind closed doors. I know that the president of that college’s board came from the business world, not higher education. Business people and government leaders have a different idea of success than educators.  The college has a lot of pressure to increase graduation rates without sufficient analysis on the reasoning behind the statistics. The statistics did not control for students who take a course or two for self-improvement or just to transfer to their home university. Those students never intended to graduate, yet the accounting system calls them credit students. In our college they would be “non-matriculating” students.

I can only tell you why some people resign after only 18 months in a job. There are usually pressures that are private and not discussed wit the public in order to allow the parties to save face and not air the “dirty laundry” in public.
1. They are not a good match. That means the personal vision, experience, or temperament does not fit the organization.
2. The supervisor or administration is toxic. In a job I had early in my career I found out the dean was having IRS trouble with how he filed his tax return. The IRS was took him to court. That was just one sign that the administration was toxic. Every one of the administrators had serious flaws in the way they dealt with students and the supervising authorities. They even stopped payment on a payroll check after I deposited it. I left before the school year was over.
If one sees illegal or unethical behavior, run for the exit and don’t look back.
3. Lack of vision. The job of a president is to set the stage so that the organization can move as a team. If the faculty refuse to work as team, sometimes a leadership change is required. You see this in sports. If the team is losing too many games, then the manager or coach is fired so that the team can take a new direction.This is not the right answer for education or business.  When the academic team is not working, the workers have to change.  That means leading and educating them toward better performance or changing the personnel.

If you can’t build a team, take drastic action to turn the efforts back on the team and institutional goals.
4. An offer one can’t refuse. Sometimes lightning strikes and president gets a call to community or national service or another college makes an offer that can’t be refused. When this happens the board should feel proud and honored that someone else recognizes their treasure.
5. Health, personal or family reasons. These are totally beyond the control of the college and we have to respect them. The college should do whatever they can to make the transition easier and perhaps leave the door open to return when the situation is resolved.
6. Lack of good judgment. If the president has breached their contract, committed a crime against the college, or did something seriously wrong against the college, the board should ask for an immediate resignation. I have heard stories of deans who made public negative remarks against their institutions and the next day they were asked for their immediate resignation. One must always act professionally and watch what you do and say in public. Presidents are the public face of the institution. They must set an example of their actions and words.
Human behavior can be difficult. Much of the time the president needs to make the needs of the organizations more important than personal concerns. Sometimes there is just a line that you can not cross. The president’s job is to build consensus and create the atmosphere for team work.

Q: What is team work?

A: Team work is the action of working as one to get the job done. Teams don’t just happen. Individuals need training and guidance to work together. They need goals they can believe in. While the individual and his/her rights must be respected, the needs of the organization must take precedence. However, the needs of the organization must include ways to help the individual prosper. If the individuals are respected and rewarded, they will work harder for organizational success. When the organization succeeds, all the members succeed. Every member of the organization's team needs a role they can be proud of. The accomplishments of the individual are shared with the team and the accomplishments of the team reflect on its members.

Q: Thank you very much.


*Part fourteen of an imaginary interview with the president of the College. Note this is just for your information and edification. Any connection to a real college president is strictly coincidental.

Note: Based on comments and further investigations,  this article was revised on Dec. 16, 2012.

 Comments received from Don Metzer-Smith on Decemebr 15, 2012. (Included with permission.)

Thanks for sharing this incredibly pertinent blog on leadership in academia.
Of course, the conversation applies to all facets of our society, and not just the scholarly ranks. I particularly liked the part where it was acknowledged that leaders of industry and public policy making (I might add) are not always a good fit for a university. Being from Indiana, "I am holding my breath" regarding the presidency and ascension of Mitch Daniels to Purdue's leadership. We shall see, won't we? 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stuhlman and the iPad – 2012 Follow up – 2

Since last week’s article on the iPad I had an opportunity to attend a class given by Apple on using the iPad in the education market. While most of the consumer marketing for the iPad is aimed a making the iPad a fun computer, the educational uses for the machine are huge and generally not reported in the general or computer media. During the class we learned about many kinds of applications including, productivity (ex. KeyPoint and word processing), media (ex. Electronic books and periodicals), educational games (such as exercises and learning activities) and communications (such as e-mail, web browser, and Web-Ex)

Educational uses in the classroom from elementary school to the college include educational games and text books.  Text books could be interactive and include audio, video and Internet connections. 

There are some great  uses for the iPad.  I love reading e-mail and using other programs that only require a hand gesture or taps to navigate. This is much easier that using a mouse and a click. However, typing and sending e-mail is harder than typing on a full sized keyboard.

No machine is perfect. The reason Apple or any other company has multiple machines is that people have differing needs. Many desktop computers are made to be multipurpose machines. Portable machines from the earliest Compaq luggables to the smallest handheld computers of today, computer makers have to compromise on something. Sometimes the compromises are tradeoffs made to save space or costs. Sometimes the smaller size means the computer costs more than a similar desktop. That means the consumer has to decide what they want to live with when purchasing a machine. Computer makers decide if they offer more features, ports and buttons and hope to encourage sales or save money? Use an expensive material to make the machine more rugged or a less expensive alternative? Sometimes a company will add extras such as multiple USB ports, an Ethernet connection, or HDMI ports in hope that the consumer will be encouraged to buy their machine. I can not fault a computer for leaving out those ports, but it does make a less attractive package. I also have no idea how much adding a USB port increasing the cost. I do wonder why a $300 machine has the extra ports and the $400 or $500 Apple is missing them. Why is the Apple power cord a mere 40” in length when my mouse cord and headphone cords have much longer and convenient cord lengths? Since at retail a one meter USB cable costs less than $0.74 from a Chinese supplier, Apple should be able to double the cable length for less than 50 cents.

Consumers like to get extras. Extras help convince them to spend money and feel like they are getting a bargain. Netbooks and laptops frequently offer VGA, HDMI, USB, and Ethernet ports as well as card readers and sometime optical drives. If an iPad owner wanted to connect the iPad to an external monitor or projector there’s Apple TV, a $100 black box. The other computers come with that connectivity. Ok, I’m probably comparing unequals. Laptop computers may cost as little as  $200 to more than $1200. The $1200 computer is not in the same league as the iPad. The Samsung Galaxy, an Android operating system tablet, is in the same price range as the iPad and it has a memory card slot and one USB port. They weigh about the same. They are going to compete on the operating system features, screen size, look and feel, applications, and how well the make the consumer feel about the purchase.

In an article published online last month, “iPad Mini Reality Check: 10 Reasons to Not Buy This Tablet” Don Reisinger [fn 1] gives his reasons for not buying the iPad Mini. He could have used similar arguments to not buy any limited function machine. He did not say that the machine is poorly made or the customer service was poor. He didn’t say purchasers would regret wasting their money. I agree that for the features Apple products are overpriced and have too many proprietary connectors and features. I feel uneasy using an operating system that only runs on one company’s machines. It is as if there are no checks and balances with company specific systems and hardware. Apple’s iStore which requires Apple’s approval for applications is both a good and bad point. While approval insures the products will work, I have no idea if creativity is limited to the kinds of products that Apply wants the market to sell.

Reading e-books on the iPad is easy both as a procedure to find the book and for the eye to view. The Retina display is stunning.
The illustrations above are screen shots of books. I had to search the Internet for instructions to make the shots. The instruction book on the iPad that I downloaded for free does give instructions for saving screen shots, which is a built-in feature, but they misspelled “screen shot” making the search fail.

The bottom line is – if someone would give me an iPad to use, I would use it. If I had to buy a portable computer I would weigh the options and features that I want and need in a machine. However, I would probably buy a non-Apple product if I had to spend my own money.

Dec. 16, 2012  -->  I just discovered a serious flaw with the iPad.  I have some video files on my PC.  I wanted to transfer them to the iPad.  I can't just plug in the iPad to a USB port and copy.  The only ways to transfer the files involve uploading the files to cloud service or use a wi-fi transfer utility.  Those processes would take several hours.  With my Android based under $70 machine all I have to do is plug in the thumb drive and start viewing.  I don't even need to copy them to the computer.

1. Reisinger, Don. “iPad Mini Reality Check: 10 Reasons to Not Buy This Tablet” Posted in eWeek Nov. 15, 2012 Retrieved on Dec. 10, 2012.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

This week in reference Dec. 7, 2012

Since I have moved to mostly doing cataloging, I’ve had very few reference questions that are amusing, challenging, or otherwise worth writing about. Most of the questions are quite routine; however, last week provided some reportable incidents. It’s too bad that when you read this you can’t hear the tone of voice and therefore will not be as amused as my audio audience.

The College has the only physician’s assistance (PA) program in a community college in the area. It is a rigorous program that requires incoming students to have basic education course work of almost as many credits as an associates degree, some prior health science work (such as medic, nurse, etc.) and dedication to complete the program and serve the public. A potential student came in for advice concerning what to read. Since it was not immediate clear why she wanted the basic science books and how I could help her, I asked questions to try and get her to focus her search. As part of a project to catalog medial books and work with the health science faculty I have been reading their departmental web sites and talking with faculty. I knew that the PA program is highly selective. Most of the programs at the College are open enrollment. Finally the potential student asked, “Does the Library have any medical books?” I answered, “Thousands.”

A staff member came to the Library office suite looking for some pictures. First she went to an office of someone who not only does not work for the Library, but has never even said hello to any of the Library faculty or staff. I didn’t even know he could talk until he attended as a guest a meeting of the assessment committee. On course he knew nothing about the picture. Overhearing the conversation I went out of my office and offered help. She wanted pictures from the College president’s office. Not knowing exactly which pictures, I showed her the place we had pictures. She said, “Oh no, I wanted the big pictures that were on the wall.”

I suspected that the pictures were in the storage room. I offered to take her there. She asked, “How far away is the room?” I told her that the room was on the other side of the Library. She said that she was not wearing “flats” and couldn’t walk that far. I immediately looked at her feet and saw shoes similar to ones in the picture. She said that she would some back the next day. As far as I know she has not yet come back. I related the story to a fellow library and he couldn’t believe someone would be working in such impractical shoes.

The public relations person from the College sent an e-mail on Thursday after I left wanting some pictures for a College retrospective. She was sent a reply that I would be able to help her on Friday. On Friday I sent her an email telling her the library is only open until 2 PM. Since she was at another College,17 miles away and using public transportation, she would need about 1.5 hours to get to the Library. I told her that the archival pictures are in unorganized boxes and it would take several hours just to get them in a condition for her to examine them. I couldn’t even choose them for her, because I didn’t know what she was trying to accomplish and what ideas she had and because the scanner only took memory cards that that Library did not have. She said OK and would see me on Monday at 9:30. I said, “Sorry, the Library will be closed on Monday and no faculty will be in the building until January 7” She wanted to speak to the department chair. I answered, “Sorry, we don’t have one. She resigned her chairmanship.”

Another example of not having the staff time to do all we are asked for.

It’s winter break. I’m going to be spending my time studying and writing about management. If any of you have examples of how organizational management that works well, please share the stories with me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Stuhlman and the iPad – 2012 Follow up

Tablet or not to tablet is not the issue.  The issue is how to we want to receive or deliver content.  In December of 2011 I had a chance to use an Apple iPad and wrote two blog articles about how I felt about the computer.  This weekend I had the opportunity to try an iPad 4 with 32 GB of memory.

Some of the issues that I had last year disappeared when some readers guided me and I had a chance to experiment with the machine.  I am still disappointed with the lack of included documentation.  Sure many of the features are simple and intuitive, but why should I have to experiment with every feature/  Why should I have to guess what the settings mean and the result of one choice or another?  For example I wanted to see it I could type in Hebrew.  In the settings I tried "General"  In the first screen there are 10 choices; none were were for other languages and there is no clue that other choices exist.  Since I know this is the game Apple plays, I scrolled to find 7 more choices.  I selected "International" then "Keyboards."  Under "Keyboards" I added another keyboard from the choices that included several versions of English and several non-Latin alphabets.  Chinese, Japanese and Korean are included.  I choose to add Hebrew and German keyboards.  It was easy only if one knows what to look for.  Returning to my e-mail program to type a message I found the keyboard had an icon shaped like a globe.  Tapping this icon allows easy switching between keyboards and languages.  The iPad has voice recognition software for dictating an e-mail  Some of the results are great, but the lack of a non-destructive backspace makes editing tedious.   Voice recognition worked with German, but had more errors than English.  

Security is very tight on this machine.  One has to enter the Apple ID and/or password for  installing any app and for Facetime.  Every time I wanted to read an issue of Time Magazine, which I own a subscription, I had to enter an ID multiple times.  It was hard to tell if I made a typo or the system was having problems.

I still have questions as to whether a tablet computer of any kind is a tool or a toy.  If I wanted to walk around the library or campus and access the library catalog or databases, it would be a powerful tool.  If I wanted to make a presentation to show on a larger monitor or projector, it would be useless because there is no way to plug in another device.(However, I read that Apple iOS has the ability with a program AirPlay to transmit a signal to other devices.I did not see this option on my device.) I have seen lots of people use the iPad to take notes at a meeting.  I used it to take notes and check my e-mail during a meeting, however, that does not convince me this is more than a toy.  Some companies even market tablets for their ability to play games, view videos, read books, and other diversionary activities.

I can view video from Internet sources, but not from any plugin device.  The pictures are stunning and very clear.  When I read a magazine with pictures or see a video, it is almost like being there.  However, several video sources, such as Hulu and CBS) that I can get for free on my desktop PC are not available on mobile devices.   

Apple does seem to create an emotional connection to its users.  People stand in line to buy their new products and people feel good while using their products.  For me Apple products are over priced, over hyped, and still in search or a sweet point for serious use in the library, academia, or business..