17 July 2008

Information Overload, or, Summer in Vermont

Perhaps it is the daily swims in Lake Champlain.

Or the fact that I want to be or am trying to get back to hiking/running/biking/swimming/gardening or just plain smiling in the sun.

Whatever it is, I am feeling a bit overloaded by all the information that has been coming my way lately.

The diagnostician in me is strongly considering whether it is my Google Reader.

Admittedly, my Google Reader is my web homepage so I see it first thing and all the time. Part of me really likes that. If I have a moment, I can scan the news. I can keep up with a lot of things at once. I can manage information. I can be effective while hopefully being efficient.

But then there is the other part of me that feels overwhelmed by how much comes across my Reader. Not so much because I don't want to know it all or because depressing things happen (which they do), but more so because I just don't have the time to do something with all the information that I view, review, and collect. How many articles or blog posts get starred or delicious-ed (is that verb?) for blog posts but don't end up on my blog? A lot. How many thoughts run through my head as I read and make connections between my course, information literacy, libraries, technology, innovation, or just things I think about? Too many.

It reminds me of the look many faculty give me when I show them RSS. Or the look students give me when we do our first database searches. It's a lot to take in. And you have to be prepared for all of that information, all of those options, all of those thoughts that are going to start shooting up out of nowhere. It is too much when you are looking for something easy. I mean, who knew that trying to keep up on what is going on in the world would be so exhausting? Or overwhelming? It just goes to show that the world is truly a big place, no matter how small it appears on the screen.

Another admission: when I go home, I turn off. Like I said, I garden, bike, run, play with Rigi (my dog), cook, and most importantly, swim in the Lake everyday. And of course, that is when my best thoughts come to me. I think back to my dad, who always carried a notecard in his pocket so he could write ideas down when they came to him. He was ready for those epiphanies, those connection, those bursts of clarity.

Where am I going here? Perhaps that I am more than aware of the tradeoffs I make in order to be the kind of summer-lovin Vermonter I am. And sometimes those tradeoffs are difficult to manage. Sometimes, I wish I could put my head down and write, read, and think about the incredible things others think about or say. Sometimes, by the time I seem to get to it, it seems passe. Sometimes, I just take it in and it comes to me as I run or swim and then runs or swims away. That's hard for me as both a teacher and a librarian. I want to capture, examine, analyze, and discuss ideas.

But that is when the person in me, the person who lives in a state that has six-month long winters, just has to watch some thoughts go on. For capturing later. The good ones, the important ones, the good ones will stay, I hope. In the meantime, my tomatoes need tending.

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