May 11th, 2013 by Maura A. Smale · 2 Comments
One of my college experiences that I’m most grateful for is the opportunity I had to do my academic work in a wide variety of libraries and other spaces. These days my research and writing mostly happens in two locations: my office, sometimes before the library opens (though my office is in a very quiet part of the library, so even with the door open it’s never loud), or at home, where I have a laptop and vary my workspace slightly based on the time of day (mornings are sunny in the living/dining room, afternoons sunnier in the bedroom where my desk is). I know I can work in other places — my laptop is heavy, but not too heavy to take to a public library (we have so many wonderful library options in NYC), a coffee shop, etc. — but usually I don’t. Those places always seem so far away, and I have a hard time convincing myself to spend time and money commuting just to vary my study location, especially when I only have a few hours for that work.
But college was different. I was reminded of this not too long ago when I learned about a nifty libraries promo at the University of Chicago. They’ve made a set of small buttons with the name of each of the 6 libraries on campus. (Full disclosure: I had a radio show in college so these buttons also make me happy because they remind me of my youthful DJing and show-going days.)
I tweeted a photo of the buttons which sparked a quick conversation with friends and other alums about the places we studied. One of my favorites as an undergrad was Harper Library’s reading room, a very traditional space with high ceilings, tall narrow windows, dark wood tables, and bookshelf-lined walls. I loved Harper — it was the perfect environment for sustained reading and taking notes (from what I understand it’s now no longer a lending library but remains a study space). For more utilitarian, everyday schoolwork I went to the Regenstein, the main humanities/social sciences library on campus (also where my friends hung out). By third year I had a locker and a favorite carrel just adjacent; my then (and current) partner worked in the coffee shop on the lower level. If I had serious, uninterruptable work to do I’d sometimes go to Crerar, the science library. It was farther away from my dorm (and then apartment) than the other libraries, and it’s main advantages were that it was utterly silent and it was unlikely that any of my friends would be there, so I wouldn’t be tempted to socialize when I should be studying.
I’m a librarian so of course I love libraries, that’s no surprise. But as we’re heading into finals I’m reminded again about space: finding adequate space for academic work (and how lucky I was to have so many options). I walk through the library and students are everywhere. Every seat is filled, at carrels and tables, and students are even perched on kickstools in-between the stacks — though to be fair, many of them are seeking electrical outlets, which are occasionally located on pillars throughout the stacks. I love to see the library so full, but worry that we don’t have enough space for our students or enough different types of space.
Space is a luxury, it’s true, and City Tech has a small campus in a dense part of Brooklyn. What can we do in the libraries on our space-constrained campuses? Are there small steps we can take to ensure that students have the space they need to do their academic work? That’s one of the things my research partner and I are thinking about and grappling with right now as we write up our study of CUNY students’ scholarly habits. I’ve been cheered to read about a small academic library that established a silent study room — might there be space for something like that at our library? Could we rearrange or remove stacks to create quiet and less quiet zones? I’m looking forward to pulling together (and sharing!) these recommendations from our research.
March 10th, 2013 by Maura A. Smale · 3 Comments
As my research partner and I have been wrapping up our research project I’ve been thinking about all of the data we have that we’re not going to use for the book we’re in the midst of writing. We have transcripts from interviews with 178 students and 63 faculty; we have photographs from 60 students and maps and drawings from over 100, as well as syllabi and assignments from faculty. We have a LOT of data. And then I read a great post not too long ago by art historian Renee McGarry on a similar theme, about the objects she’s researched that haven’t made it into her writing.
Such is the nature of research, though maybe studies like ours, in which we started by asking open-ended questions of the participants, are more susceptible to it. It’s good to have lots of data from our study, certainly better to have too much than too little. We’ve ended up with some “extra” data: stuff that’s not necessarily relevant to our plan for the book. It’s not a ton of data, certainly the minority. But sometimes I get a little sad when I think about it. Collecting data is time-consuming; we spent 2 years traveling around CUNY talking to students and faculty, experiencing, just a little bit, the commuter scholar lifestyle of our students. I’m also a no-leftovers, waste not want not kind of person, so it pains me a bit to think of the insights from interviews and images that we won’t include in the book. Our participants shared so much with us, and I want to be sure that we do justice to them and their stories.
But those data aren’t necessarily irrelevant either; they all say something, even if those somethings don’t fit into the narrative we’re weaving together for the book. We can return to some of them–the side conversations and explanations, the material culture in photographs and drawings that doesn’t primarily speak to students’ lives as scholars–later, after the book is finished, and analyze them further. To this end I’ve started a list of the very beginnings of ideas I have about some of the information we gathered, ideas that don’t work for the book but could turn into something else, maybe. The list has made me feel a bit better about the data left behind. It’s not going away, it’s just waiting, patiently, for us to have a chance to think on it more thoroughly, and to give it the respect and consideration it’s due.
July 29th, 2012 by Maura A. Smale · 1 Comment
Library tourism! Do all librarians love it? I think signs (probably) point to yes.
Last month we took a quick vacation to visit family and friends in the Midwest and had the chance to indulge in some library tourism, too, in a visit to the new Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University of Chicago. Even if you’re not a library nerd you may have heard about Mansueto: last fall Wired ran a short piece about it last year when it opened.
Lots of large research libraries have run into trouble storing their collections in recent years as their available shelfspace has filled to capacity. Some of those libraries contract with offsite storage facilities, typically a good ways away from the campus, which deliver requested books daily. At the U of C they decided to turn the tennis courts next to the enormous Regenstein Library (the main non-science library on campus) into an onsite storage area…using the power of robots!
Mansueto is not tall aboveground but cuts an imposing figure nonetheless: a broad glass oval-shaped dome on the lawn. The dome encloses an incredibly quiet reading room and a preservation and conservation laboratory (very cool, like the visible science exhibits at natural history museums), divided in the middle by the circulation desk. But the real secret is below: a book storage system that reaches 50 feet down underground and uses robotic cranes to retrieve items requested by readers. The robot library of the future!
Unfortunately there weren’t any tours happening on the day we visited, so I can’t share any crazy robot photos with you, but there are some cool videos on the Mansueto website if you’d like to check out the robots.
I felt a little guilty even walking around the space — it was really quiet, and I think we got the stinkeye more than once as we tried to tiptoe around. The reading room has long tables with lighting and outlets and I could instantly see myself getting lots of work done in that kind of space. Have I mentioned how quiet it was?
There were also a few study rooms — essentially glass cubes with a desk and chair inside. They’re really beautiful.
It strikes me that these glass cubes might be a good solution for libraries that want to add study rooms in spots that weren’t originally designed for them. For example, at City Tech we have a 2-story library with one long wall of windows. We’ve been thinking of doing some rearranging so that we could accommodate more study rooms, but we probably don’t want to put them along the windows because that would restrict the amount of natural light that the rest of the library gets. A glass cube study room could go anywhere, even in the middle of a room. As @lwaltzer and the U of C responded to a tweet of mine, we could call them thinkquariums or think tanks!
May 4th, 2012 by Maura A. Smale · No Comments
A couple of weeks ago I went to see a band I’ve loved for ages play a show. They don’t play live much — one of them lives in Brooklyn and the other in London — and it was a sweet treat to hear so many of my favorite songs. They played one song in particular that I really like and haven’t heard recently when I listen to their CDs on my computer or phone. After wondering whether it was a new or unreleased track, a bit of digging revealed that I do actually own the album that includes the song, and in fact the album itself is in my Itunes. But Itunes had been skipping over it, as if it didn’t even exist. Somewhere after some update Itunes had decided that I don’t have the rights to listen to it anymore, because my partner had bought the album for my birthday a few years ago, and Itunes was pegging it to his account rather than mine.
Once I figured things out it wasn’t hard to get the album back into my regular listening rotation. But this small annoyance illustrates a bigger issue: the problems created by digital rights management (DRM). Today is the International Day Against DRM, advocacy initiated by the Free Software Foundation. The FSF’s Defective By Design campaign seeks to eliminate the restrictions to digital media use imposed by DRM. While DRM is intended to combat piracy and other illegal uses of music, ebooks, movies, software, and other media, it also restricts uses that seem perfectly reasonable from a user’s perspective. And while (as the website notes) DRM has become much less prevalent in music recently, other media are still very much affected.
DRM is an enormous thorn in the side of academic, public, and other libraries. Cory Doctorow’s article in the Guardian yesterday, which discusses scifi publisher Tor Books’ decision to stop using DRM on its ebooks, covers many of the issues around DRM well. Some that are most pressing for libraries include:
With the proliferation of ebook formats the landscape is cluttered and complex, and it can be difficult to determine which ebooks can be read on which devices. This hurts libraries and readers immensely. Like many libraries we’ve acquired lots of ebooks recently which seems like good news for our students and faculty on the face of it: we’re a small physical space and our readers have long commutes, so ebooks could be super useful. But the barriers to actually getting that content on your device are so high, requiring many confusing steps and sometimes including downloading additional proprietary software. While my colleague Allie Verbovetskaya created an awesome handout to guide our users, I still worry that it’s just too much to bother with.
Number of Users
One of the wonderful things about digital media is that it’s easy to allow multiple, simultaneous uses. This is a feature, not a bug, but DRM seeks to restrict multiple uses. Don’t get me wrong: writers write, publishers publish, and I believe that both deserve to get paid for their work. But I think there’s something wrong when I have to wait 6 wks to read an ebook from my public library because someone else has it “checked out,” or when only 1 student at a time can read an etextbook because the publisher’s price for a license that supports multiple readers is prohibitively expensive. There has to be a better way.
So Happy Day Against DRM! Learn more on the Defective by Design website, which includes a guide to DRM-free media and other great resources:
And for more on library-specific DRM issues, check out the Readers Bill of Rights, Alycia Sellie of Brooklyn College and Matthew Goins’s wonderful project:
March 22nd, 2012 by Maura A. Smale · No Comments
Recently we were at housewarming party for our friends and one of their son’s games caught my eye: Rivers, Roads, and Rails. It’s a simple matching game consisting of cardboard tiles each depicting a combination of a river, road, or rail segment. Players start with 7 tiles and go ‘round placing tiles to match the segments on the floor. The instructions in the box were sketchy, so we added that if a player can’t place a tile, draw from the facedown pile, place it if you can, and keep it in your hand if not. The game is physically lovely as well: the cardboard tiles are thick and sturdy, and the illustrations are pretty and whimsical.
Interestingly, we couldn’t convince any of the kids at the party, aged 2-10, to play the game with us, so gameplay involved 5 of us, all adults. And a rollicking good time was had by all: we found ourselves telling little stories about the segments and associated pictures on the tiles, and ended up being more interested in the possibility of connecting every tile to the board than of someone winning (we had decided that the first person to place all tiles in their hand was the winner).
One aspect of Rivers, Roads, and Rails that I really enjoyed is that the game board is created in the process of gameplay. Carcassonne, one of my favorite board games, uses the same mechanic: players draw tiles with segments of cities, roads, and fields, then place their pieces (called meeples) to claim features, each with different point values. The game ends when the last tile is placed and whomever has racked up the most points is the winner. It’s a fantastic game: the basics are easy enough to grasp to make it fun for beginners, but there’s also real strategy possible which keeps more experienced players engaged.
But what does any of this have to do with the library? I’ve been thinking lately about ways to incorporate more games and game mechanics into my library and information literacy instruction, and speculating on the possibilities for games that could help our students with their research assignments. Because the mechanic described above, which I like to think of as “we make the board by playing” (a riff on the title of a book designed for first year experience coursework called College: We Make the Road by Walking), is so interesting to me, I’ve found myself considering how to use it in research instruction.
In some ways the experience of building a game space as you play the game is very similar to the process of doing research for an assignment: you begin with some parameters (taking your turn or coming up with a research topic), you take an action (draw a tile, start your search [engine]), you figure out what to do with what you get (place your tile, use or reject your search results), and then you adjust accordingly the next time around. In a tile matching game the landscape shifts with every turn, just as it does in the research process as topics broaden or narrow, and the iterative nature of research means that the sources we find mold and change our topics, which feeds back into how and where we search for sources.
It’s all very well to point out the similarities between the research process and a tile matching game, but how can we actually use that to help students learn how to do research? I’m not convinced that creating a game to teach research competencies that is itself separate from students’ research needs, most often determined by the requirements of the research projects assigned in their courses, is the best way to proceed. But I wonder whether the research journal connects well with the tile matching mechanic?
Sometimes students are required to keep a journal of their research process, which they may have to hand in along with their research paper, presentation, or project. At its best the research journal forms a kind of story of the journey students take as they do research: the hesitant beginnings, wrong turns, forks in the road, unexpected shortcuts, and (hopefully) the successful outcome of completing the research needed to finish their project. And we hope that students find it useful to reflect on their own research process, and that they begin to understand the iterative nature of research, that it’s not just a straight line from point A to point B. What if we asked students to create a game that tells the story of their research rather than keeping a research journal? Would students achieve the same goals of recording and reflecting that they do with a traditional research journal? I’m not sure, but I’m considering giving it a try the next time I teach my department’s research and documentation course (and I’ll report back if I do).
October 23rd, 2011 by Maura A. Smale · 7 Comments
I’ve been an open access publishing advocate ever since I first wrapped my head around what’s often termed the scholarly communication crisis. To briefly sketch out an admittedly complex issue: researchers write and peer review articles, journals publish them (without payment to the researchers), and libraries buy back the journals at prices that have increased a staggering amount over the past 30 years. I was late to the OA advocacy game, and am somewhat ashamed to admit my utter ignorance of the economics of scholarly publishing when I was completing my degree in anthropology many years ago. But when I went back for my degree in library and information science it suddenly became so clear that the current subscription journal-based system of publishing academic research is not working anymore, not for the libraries with shrinking budgets, not for the researchers who want to share their work with as wide an audience as possible, and certainly not for the taxpaying-public who are funding many research studies yet cannot access the articles about their results.
Open Access Week begins tomorrow, the 5th year for this international advocacy event. In honor of OA Week I’d like to share my personal open access pledge. It’s not original — lots of other scholars and researchers are doing it, from institutions like Harvard and Kansas State and Oberlin, to library faculty members at Oregon State University and Gustavus Adolphus College, to individuals like danah boyd and Jason Baird Jackson. It’s a small step, but I’m convinced it’s the right thing to do, both for my own research and my participation in the broader scholarly community.
1. I will not submit articles I have authored or co-authored to any closed, subscription-based journals.
2. I will not undertake peer review for any closed, subscription-based journals.
3. I will not join the editorial board for any closed, subscription-based journals.
4. I will not accept the editorship of any closed, subscription-based journals.
5. I will make my own research and scholarship available online wherever possible.
As I was tooling around online tonight I found a nifty website called Open Access Pledge where everyone can make a pledge to support open access publishing. If you’re interested, head on over and sign up, it only takes a moment. And get ready for Open Access Week: there are lots of great events right here at CUNY — check out the Open Access @ CUNY blog for more details.
April 5th, 2011 by Maura A. Smale · No Comments
A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with a nonlibrary colleague about the arrangement of books in our libraries. At my library (maybe at all CUNY libraries?) we shelve the bound volumes of journals and magazines alphabetically by title in their own area, right next to the unbound periodicals. But my colleague remembered that at the library he used when he was in graduate school the bound journals were shelved by call number in the stacks with the rest of the books. He appreciated the opportunity for serendipity that this arrangement allows: when searching for a book in the stacks you could easily stumble upon a journal you hadn’t known about.
We started to speculate about using smartphones and augmented reality to virtually shelve the periodicals in the stacks in our own libraries. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could walk up to a shelf, scan the call numbers with your phone’s camera, and the list of journals and magazines in that call number range would pop up on your screen? I kept thinking about this later that day and spun it out even further. What if, in addition to periodicals, other information about the library’s collections in a specific call number range could be displayed:
- books that are currently checked out, with their due dates (and a link to place a hold on the book)
- journals that are available in the library’s article databases (and a link into the databases)
- ebooks in the library catalog (ditto link)
- books from other CUNY libraries
- video, audio, and other multimedia
That’s a lot of information for a user interface to accommodate on a small screen. Maybe each type of item could be displayed in its own layer, and toggled on and off as desired? We could even get cute and display the information on a little book image, right down the spine.
I think what seems most attractive about this to me goes back to the notion of serendipitous discovery. Librarians talk lots about the possible loss of serendipity with the move to digital reading, and augmented reality or something similar could be one way to address this issue.
And speaking of serendipity, not long after that conversation (and associated speculation) the news of an augmented reality shelfreading app sped ’round the libraryverse. This app, developed at Miami University, scans a bookshelf and locates books that are out of call number order, making short work of an otherwise fairly dull library task.
Then I went to the ACRL National Conference last week, the biennial gathering of academic librarians, only to find that QR codes were everywhere, from posters (including my own) to presentations. QR codes are not new, of course, but this is the first time I’ve both used them (ask me how many poster URLs I snapped!) and thought about the ways that they could help folks find information in our libraries.
We might be closer to Rainbow’s End than we think, at least in libraries.
February 12th, 2011 by Maura A. Smale · 3 Comments
Last month this blog post on the New York Times website made the rounds of my Twitter stream. Apparently evidence is growing that too much sitting can be harmful to our health, even for those who exercise regularly. I’ve been reading about the benefits of standing desks for a while now, and this was the push I needed to give it a try. Plus, that fat cat was really scary.
I can’t justify buying a whole new desk, so I set to figuring out how to rig a temporary standing desk at home and at work. Home is somewhat easier because my primary computer is a laptop. We have lots of big, big books, and it turned out to be no trouble at all to pile a bunch of books on the dining room table and pop my computer on top. Here’s what it looks like:
But most weekdays I’m in the library, so I wanted to try a standing desk at work, too. Lots of books there, of course, but I can’t just take books from the stacks to pile on my desk. Enter some extra metal journal holders that were sitting on the shelves in my office when I moved in last semester. As it happens, when you place 4 of them next to each other and turn them face down, they make a perfectly sized surface for my computer keyboard. Another two together fit the mousepad and mouse. Then I pull up my computer monitor and tilt it back slightly, and my temp standing desk for the office is all set:
In some ways the work setup is even better than the pile of books at home, because the keyboard is close to the edge of the journal holders which encourages me not to drop my wrists as I type.
Both setups are easy to put up and take down quickly, which is important because one thing I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks is that I’m not ready to move to a standing desk full time. Certain things are more difficult to do while standing, like eating while working or writing in longhand (though the latter would likely be easier on a real rather than temp standing desk).
But I’ve found that I really enjoy having the option to stand or sit while I work. Standing seems to make it easier for me to focus on certain tasks, like sustained work on a project. On the other hand, if I’ve been running around between meetings and teaching and other stuff, it’s nice to sit down for a spell.
January 28th, 2011 by Maura A. Smale · No Comments
For the past 3 years librarians in many different libraries and countries around the world have collaborated on the Library Day in the Life project. Library workers blog, tweet, or post photos or videos to shine a light on what it is that we do all day. So far I’ve never participated — the project takes place in January and July, at times that aren’t during the regular CUNY semesters. I’ve always felt a little odd about joining in because I don’t really consider the days this week to be typical for me.
But I’ve been quiet on this blog lately, so I thought this might be a good year to jump in. My plan was to chronicle yesterday, but then we got 15″ (or was it 18?) of snow and the college closed (I took my kid to the park instead). So I’m going to try and reconstruct Wednesday’s work happenings.
I should note that most weeks during the semester I teach at least a few classes or workshops for students or faculty, though that varies from week to week. I also spend time at the Reference Desk, though not as much as I teach. And the meetings tied to the semester calendar haven’t started back up again yet either. So with that caveat…
On Wednesday I got into work at about 9:15, a little late for me (I had a routine doctor’s appt). Usually I try to get to the library by 8-8:30 and spend the time before I officially clock in working on research + writing. I’m most focused in the morning and I find that I’m most productive (especially with difficult tasks like writing) if I stick to this habit. Doesn’t always work out, but I’d say I keep to the plan more often than not.
Once my day officially started I triaged (answered, filed, deleted) email for about an hour. I also posted my handout on our staff wiki from the morning not-really-a-retreat we had in department the prior day. The theme of the non-retreat was productivity and connectivity, and we spent lots of time discussing email management techniques and how to use our new staff wiki for information we all need to access. I tried to use some of these email techniques this morning — while I’m not an inbox zero person I do try to keep my inbox relatively clear. I was bad about clearing out my sent mail folder last semester so I’m making a special effort to keep that manageable now.
Then I ran some errands around campus. First I went to media services to drop off a request for a media cart for our Web 2.0 Happy Hour faculty wine & cheese program in March. Next I took the handout and worksheet to the campus copy center to be copied for our English Composition I library instruction sessions, a required component of that course. Finally I headed to the grants office to pick up and drop off forms, and checked in to confirm that a grant I’m submitting is complete.
I don’t remember exactly when I had lunch, but it’s usually no later than noon. Most often I bring my lunch and eat at my desk (boring, I know). Probably did a quick email check and looked at my Google Reader briefly, too.
Next I spent some time crunching data from the surveys we ask students in our English Comp I sessions to fill out. Since we’ll be giving the survey to students during the Spring semester I didn’t spend too much time running the numbers now, but I like to take a look before the new semester begins to see if there are any unusual comments. This time a student requested additional materials for help with using the library from home, which dovetails nicely with our plans to create more online video tutorials and guidelines.
I also checked in on our faculty feedback form responses from last semester’s English Comp I sessions. Frustration in dealing with plagiarism was mentioned a couple of times. Unfortunately we don’t have time to discuss plagiarism thoroughly in our sessions (they’re only 75 minutes), so I emailed the instruction library faculty to pick our collective brains about strategies for helping to address the plagiarism issue.
After that I played around a bit with Zotero in advance of a faculty workshop I planned to co-teach this morning (but instead I was home with a sick kid — too much sledding?). I’m a bit sheepish that I haven’t used Zotero much in the past, and I’ve liked having an excuse to become familiar with it. I’m particularly excited about the collaborative features, which I think will come in handy for several projects I’m working on right now.
Next I made some coffee and prepped materials for our department curriculum committee to use to crossgrade student assignments as part of the collegewide assessment committee work I’m involved in. I’m on a few college and university committees and I genuinely enjoy most of my service work. It’s been a nice way to learn more about how things work and helps keep me thinking about how the library fits in with the broader institutional mission.
After putting in a request to CIS for student email addresses for a pilot program we’re trying this semester, it was back to email. I’ve been making the effort to keep my email to discrete chunks rather than checking constantly all day (I turned off notifications), but sometimes it’s difficult.
I headed out for home shortly after 5 today, when the library closed. During the semester we’re open later and I tend to stay a bit later, too. I try not to do too much work at home in the evenings, but I had a couple of time-sensitive things to get done this week. One of the students in my class last semester asked me for a recommendation so I wrote that up for her. I also did some formatting tweaking on the preliminary report of last year’s fieldwork that my research partner and I recently finished writing.
And that’s about it for this day. Next week this will all change, but I love the busy beginning of the semester after the (relative) quiet of January.
October 15th, 2010 by Maura A. Smale · 1 Comment
This year my research partner and I are expanding our qualitative study of student scholarly habits, so this semester I’m taking one RT day a week for fieldwork. We spent some time over the summer working on a preliminary analysis of last year’s data, and it’s great to get back to collecting data and interviewing students again. Though my field days can be long and tiring it’s completely fascinating to learn about students’ lives at school and beyond.
Last year I collected data at my own college (City Tech), but this year I’m working at another CUNY school: City College. I expected that the surroundings and students would be different — many of our programs at City Tech are unique in CUNY, and CCNY has grad students, while we don’t at City Tech. But I hadn’t anticipated the many other ways that fieldwork would be different this year.
In a sense I’m like a new student. I don’t know where anything is, though posting fliers to recruit students helped me start to internalize the layout of the college. CCNY has a much bigger campus than City Tech, so at the beginning of the semester I constantly underestimated the amount of time I needed to get from one place to another. Sometimes the cafeteria is so crowded that it’s hard to find a spot to eat lunch. I can’t ever seem to find an outlet to charge my phone and netbook when I need it. And until I scored a guest wifi password last week I was (guiltily) jockeying with students to use computers in the library (I have trouble typing lengthy emails on my phone).
Like many CUNY students, my commute is long: 1+ hrs each way, whether I come from home or from work. I need to carry what sometimes seems like a ridiculous amount of stuff: reading material for the commute, notebook, consent forms and instructions for students, disposable cameras (sometimes), voice recorder, netbook, stapler, tape, lunch, water, jacket (and–perish the thought–sometimes it rains, so add an umbrella to the list). A colleague in the library has graciously offered to let me stash my outerwear at her desk when I’m up at City, but it’s so different from last year, when I could meet students at my own desk.
As I’ve interviewed students I’ve found that I’m learning a lot from them that’s not only great project data but also immediately useful to me. Where are the best bathrooms in the NAC Building? What’s the quietest spot in the Cohen Library, esp. during the very crowded afternoon hours? What’s the best food in the cafeteria? Where are the working electrical outlets?
It’s interesting to consider my own experiences as project data. I’ve kept a research journal since last year so I can keep track of how things are going in the study. Last year it mostly included personal thoughts and notes about best practices for data collection method, but this year my journal could be an additional data source, too.