In brief, Ango is a three-month period of intensified zen practice that began in Japan. It would sometimes be observed twice a year, fall to winter and spring to summer. Treeleaf annually observes a 90-day Ango from fall to winter, roughly September to December. This is my second Ango with them and I find it to be a lovely practice. In essence, everyone commits to intensifying their practice individually, and then we all support each other along the way.
Some examples might include longer daily meditation periods, donating to charity, letting go of a certain attachment, participating with sangha activities such as the annual precepts study, zazenkais, and so on.
This can be challenging for me, especially while in grad school! In fact, I had reservations at first… how am I going to fit this all in? Do I really have time for these commitments? These questions and reservations melted away as I actually began Ango this month. I find I am grateful for it once I do it. It gives me reason to pause and pull myself out of the rush I all too often get swept into. It opens doors for me to get to know the sangha better. Overall, it reminds me the importance of observing our practice that is beneficial in so many ways.
Here I am, soon to enter my fourth semester in Kent State’s MLIS program. If all goes as planned, this is my half-way point to finishing my degree.
It has been excellent so far, and I am looking forward to what is to come. I have to admit that working 40 hours a week at a library and doing 2-3 graduate level courses about library-related work can push me to the edge of burnout on occasion, but in the end I feel I am in the right place.
I took three classes over summer session: one on data fundamentals, one about internet technologies in which I got to work with some new web development concepts (to my pleasant surprise!), and a survey-type course on information institutions and professions (the last of my MLIS required core courses).
I picked up a lot from all of these courses. In particular, my favorite was learning how to work with RESTful APIs on a basic level and incorporate JSON into dynamic web builds. I have a lot of background in web design, and a little in web development, so I wasn’t sure if I would pick up anything new. However, the course was excellent. It has even given me an idea for a new web project I would like to work on when I have time. I might share more on that soon.
Moving forward I plan to dive deeper into metadata, information organization, and hopefully take a special topics class on linked data if Kent offers it this coming spring semester.
Anyway, I think of this blog often and always look forward to tossing an update in when I can. Both work and my studies have been quite hectic lately!
From approximately April through December of 2020, I had the pleasure of serving as co-chair for my library’s Strategic Planning Coordinating Committee. It was an amazing experience. A lot of work and exhausting at times, yet energizing in so many ways. Our sub committees consisted of one that focused on stakeholder research, one on environmental scanning, and a third that was tasked with using data unearthed by the other two committees to collaboratively write a draft of the strategic plan with library staff.
This was an entirely staff-led process. For me, the energizing aspect of this approach came from the genuine passion that everyone brought to the table. The care and hard work everyone put into the process was inspiring! The end product feels authentic, and I am confident it will provide real guidance over the next three years.
My co-chair and I learned so much during the process, and are excited to have opportunities to share share and discuss with others that might be considering a similar endeavor. You can read a news article about the strategic plan here University Libraries Announces Strategic Plan. The public facing page that contains the strategic plan is available here University Libraries Strategic Plan 2021-2023.
So far we have shared a poster presentation at ACRL 2021 (see below). We also have some other plans to expand upon our knowledge from the process and engage with others in the broader library community — but more on that later!
My second semester in Kent State University’s MLIS program just wrapped up. This semester my focus was on People in the Information Ecology and Research and Assessment in Library and Information Science.
People in the Information Ecology was a very interest journey. The whole semester amounted to three individual literature reviews on a chosen user group, ending in a larger synthesis of these three into a larger holistic literature review. My focus was on the international student in the United State of America. It was a considerable amount of work, but well worth it. I learned so much about information seeking behavior and information needs for this user group. I have plans to share some of what I learned in this blog soon.
My Research and Assessment in Library and Information Science course was a good opportunity for me to fine tune and expand my understanding of research methods and techniques. In my Communication Science undergraduate program at Ohio University, the capstone was a fairly significant semester-long research project, which itself had a preparatory prerequisite research techniques course. Thanks to this, i already had a pretty solid foundation on some of these topics. Even so, it was a very good exercise and really did expand my knowledge quite a bit in this area. The course culminated in a research proposal. I took the opportunity to explore a research project that I might try to pick up someday that aims to explore if there is a connection between pre-college public library patronage and lower academic library anxiety among first-year college students. More on that soon as well.
It was a good semester and I am looking forward to the next! I hope to have time to engage a little more with my blog here over summer. I am taking classes but not quite as heavy of a course load as usual.
I now realize that a 40-hour-a-week job, side jobs, and grad school leave little room for much else. I am still keeping up on the site, though. I look forward to sharing some insights that I have been having about libraries. Hopefully soon! For now, I shall just keep the site updated on the backend and try to post a little something here and there as time allows.
I am on the cusp of my second semester of Kent State University’s Master of Library and Information Science program. I did not blog much during my first semester, in part because I still had work to do on this site and in part due to an uncertainty of whether I would be adding “journal-like” entries here.
Well, just this past week I finalized some important aspects of this blog theme (support for comments and some design fixes) and I have also decided that informal posts here might benefit me better understand my experience — so here I go.
Last semester consisted of two courses: The Information Landscape and Information Organization.
The Information Landscape was essentially a survey course of information organizations. It was a good chance to learn more details about pathways in this field. There were plenty of moments where it felt like it bordered on busy work, but it really came down to getting out of it what you put in. Above all, the course was a great chance to meet other students and network a little. There were two separate group projects running at the same time, which necessitated a lot of group meetings and communication beyond Blackboard and email.
Information Organization was an outstanding course. Starting off there was a heavy focus on information organization theory. About midway through we began to learn about various metadata schemas and knowledge organization systems. This course really opened my eyes to how amazing metadata science can be, so much so that I have considered taking more metadata courses when the opportunity arises.
This coming semester I will take Research and Assessment in Library Information Science and People in the Information Ecology. Looking forward to getting back at it and one step closer to the MLIS! My plan is to blog a little more regularly now that the site is mostly wrapped up.
After some consideration, I decided to share my application essay for Kent State University’s Master of Library and Information Science program. Their prompts were thought provoking, and the end product serves well to capture how important libraries have become in my life.
My life journey is intricately woven into the library world. As a young-adult patron, my local public library was a regular haunt of mine. Later, thanks to a glimpse behind-the-scenes at a part-time job, this appreciation became a passion for librarianship. This application to the Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) program at Kent State University is the culmination of this passion. The impact libraries have on critical issues in their communities is dear to me, I aspire to develop an understanding of library work beyond first-hand experiences, and my time spent in online learning environments and broad work experience could bring an engaging perspective to the classroom. I know deep down this the right path for me.(more…)
Part of my passion for librarianship is in the core principle of freely available information for all, indiscriminately and without censorship. I cannot put it in better words than the analogy found in the following quote:
“…when properly diffused (manure) enriches and fertilizes; but, if suffered to lie in idle heaps, it breeds stink and vermin. It is the same with […] knowledge.”Poor Man’s Guardian, 1834
An educated society is a resilient society. With the power of information, communities can become better critical thinkers and therefore better to one another, better to their environment, and live fuller lives.
Since shikantaza is a central part of my zen practice, I like to spend time exploring different postures for my seated meditation.
I am a runner, and variants of the lotus position are all hard on my knees (especially the morning after a long run). From what I understand, some people are well suited for it, others are not. I am fully in the latter camp of folks. Notice I said “variants of” there. Full lotus? Not a chance!
When I began noticing knee pain from sitting half lotus, I decided to make a couple meditation benches. These provide a comfortable way sit seiza that isn’t hard on the knees. I do not consider myself very experienced with woodworking and was still able to knock each bench out over the span of a weekend. If you are interested, checkout this excellent tutorial over at Instructables. I modified mine a bit to better fit my 6′ 2″ frame, but other than that I followed the plans very closely on the first one pictured below, sans cushion.
After making the first meditation bench I made a single, center-leg version with left over lumber. I use it for camping trips and other outdoor meditation opportunities since it is lighter and easier to carry around.
Both benches serve me well, and I still use them from time to time. However, I wasn’t quite done exploring different ways for me to sit for zazen. I felt the need to keep experimenting to determine if sitting with only a zafu would ever be sustainable for me. Enter Burmese-style posture.
The Burmese posture is sometimes referred to as the “easy posture”. Below is one of my favorite videos describing how to sit in this posture.
Interestingly, Burmese-style posture is something I had tried very early on that didn’t quite feel right. It could simply be a change in my body from sitting regularly, or perhaps early on I just wasn’t quite getting the right elevation. Either way, I am glad I tried again and encourage others to as well, especially if you have trouble doing full lotus. With this posture, I do not feel like I am damaging my knees, or over straining sore legs after a run, and my back is completely comfortable for longer sits. If anything, it feels good! Like a nice, extended stretch.
All of this said, I personally feel it is also important to not have an over attachment to sitting posture. Questions of “am I doing it right?” can get in the way of practice. That is our, as they say, executive “I” passing judgement and can quickly get in the way of good practice if one obsesses over it. The main point is to find a comfortable position so that we can focus on the practice. Jundo Cohen, the Zen priest of Treeleaf Sangha, has actually held zazenkais in which everyone reclines for zazen. Their sangha has some members who have major health issues and must recline for zazen. Having everyone do so is a way of showing support and a establishing a good atmosphere for everyone. The point is not to injure ourselves, the point is to practice.
Although it is an excellent mediation posture, full/half/quarter/whatever lotus is a bust for me. If you find yourself struggling with sitting in lotus positions, I highly recommend giving the Burmese style a go. Failing that, see if you can find someone with a meditation bench that you can try out. Even if you are not the crafty type, you can find benches for a reasonable price online.
In my view, what it all boils down to is that finding what posture works best is a very personal and important part of zen practice. Otherwise, thinking not thinking can turn into dwelling on discomfort.
Born, then a whole season gifted
Shades of green
Frigid starless nights
Now brings the color of rest
A full season’s gift
Pirouetting for a passerby
Or a gassho, perhaps?
No yearning for the ground
No yearning for things as they are, were, or someday might be
Just one with the anchor
…and one with the breeze, who will soon set free
Gifted a whole season
At the pivot of nothingness
One with all, all that is and all that will be