Deep Work

It is exam week and I know many of you are panicked and short on time. Maybe you navigated over to our page in between checking Instagram, research, and reading the news. That happens, but now it is time to STOP and focus on one cognitively demanding task at a time. Cal Newport defines this type of work as “deep work.” If you are interested, we have his eBook Deep Work in the collection. TLDR, take a look at this much shorter synopsis of the book by Nina Semczuk.

Essentially deep work is all about working without distractions. It is mindfulness- or doing one task at a time. (Btw- we have a mindfulness exercise on the Finals Fest entry just below.) Just like any new task, you have to practice this to improve. You can practice mindfulness in short bursts using our video, so that you can engage with mindfully doing your school work, or…doing deep work, same thing.

That’s all well and good, but you are busy. Most of you work. Many of you have kids. Your time is precious and sleep little. All the more reason to make sure you are only doing schoolwork when you have the time to do that. Enough potatoes, let’s get to the beef, here is how you do deep work:

  • Avoid social media (for now)

I’m painfully aware of how hard this is and will age myself when I say that I’m hopelessly addicted to Facebook. I’m a big fan of a Chrome plugin called Block Site. This plugin will allow you to add a list of blocked websites during periods of deep work. It will also set a timer for you to do deep work in cycles of time, defaulting to two sessions of 25 minutes with a break in between. How much can you get done during two sessions of 25 minutes? I wrote this blog entry during that time; that’s how much.

Another thing you can do is uninstall (or never install) social media from your phone. You’ll still be able to mindlessly scroll on your computer, but it will curb some of the impulse to “just check” and allow your mind to focus.

  • Prioritize your time

“What’s important is seldom urgent, and what’s urgent is seldom important.”
Dwight Eisenhower

I just learned that President Dwight Eisenhower was not only our 34th president, but a master of time management. This matrix was created based on the above quote as a method for you to triage what is worthy of your time, and what should be delegated to someone else.

The Eisenhower Matrix

The Eisenhower Matrix: Introduction & 3-Minute Video Tutorial. Eisenhower. (2017, February 7). https://www.eisenhower.me/eisenhower-matrix/.

During final exams, you’ll want to spend your time and energy on that upper-left-hand part of the matrix. Work on the tasks that are the most important AND urgent. You’ll want to avoid the tasks that are less important AND less urgent. There simply isn’t time; delegate these tasks to someone else.

What might this look like in practice?

-To focus on the most important AND urgent, make a list of all of your final projects. Do them in the order of deadlines.

-Avoid all tasks that are less important AND less urgent. If you are able, have someone else make dinner. If you live alone head to the drive-thru. Don’t worry about cleaning and just do the basics to remain hygienic.

-Try using an app to help you sort out important, less important, urgent, and less urgent tasks

  • Set aside time to do the work

Set aside time to do your work, and then set a timer. Avoid doing any other tasks during that time. You probably won’t be able to do long stretches of time and that’s okay. Actually block out time on your calendar, or planner. It might be late at night and that’s okay too.

Lastly, you’ve got this. You are already doing something so hard, by going to school during a pandemic. By simply finishing finals, you deserve tremendous round of applause.

Virtual Finals Fest, Spring 2021

“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.”


― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again


This is an image taken from an old map that reads, "hic sunt dracones." This is Latin for "here be dragons."
Here be dragons

The only thing between you and the end of the semester is finals. Here be dragons– or a metaphor for unexplained territory. The library is here to help you through these uncharted waters with our Virtual Finals Fest, Spring 2021! This semester we have complimentary coffee to make you tense, ASMRs to help you relax, a group study room, fantasy study spaces, and more. Remember that once finals are done, you’ve slayed a dragon…so to speak.

This is an image that reads complementary coffee. It is a pun with the coffee

Complimentary Coffee

We have some complimentary coffee for you. Since we can’t serve you real coffee, we have a recipe for the perfect cup of joe for you to make at home. Btw- we have a very important poll- how do you take your coffee; I mean caffeine? Do you prefer a cup of coffee, tea, pop, or an energy drink?

ASMRs

Last Finals Fest we had ASMRs with a fireplace to provide you with some cozy background noise and warmth. Now that it is spring, we wanted something more appropriate for the season. Here is an ASMR that you can use to block out noise and provide quiet. Isn’t This a Lovely Day (To Be Caught in the Rain)? Enjoy the sounds of rain from the comfort of someplace with a roof.

Virtual Study Rooms

We have a virtual study rooms available for you during the week of finals. We have one study room that is open to all and the rest are dedicated spaces for different departments. Study rooms are open on a first-come, first served basis and will not be monitored. You and your study buddies can access them through these links:

Biology Virtual Study Room
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/wtg-wnss-zvy
Phone Numbers(‪US‬): +1 617-675-4444‬ PIN: ‪748 483 318 2514#‬

Chemistry Virtual Study Room
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/uea-pkts-gzw
Phone Numbers(‪US‬): +1 617-675-4444‬ PIN: ‪952 619 761 4660#‬

Dental Hygiene Virtual Study Room
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/rao-epcb-nfp
Phone Numbers(‪US‬):+1 617-675-4444‬ PIN: ‪842 601 927 1144#‬

Math Virtual Study Room
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/ytp-grox-wjd
Phone Numbers(‪US‬): +1 617-675-4444‬ PIN: ‪419 853 779 6861#‬

Nursing Virtual Study Room
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/ayf-hhbr-yra
Phone Numbers(‪US‬): +1 617-675-4444‬ PIN: ‪539 777 046 6887#‬

Virtual Study Room
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/qap-dntj-sis
Phone Numbers(‪US‬): ‪+1 617-675-4444‬ PIN: ‪887 537 381 4716#‬

Tutoring:
Do you need help with your English class, or writing help? Please contact the Writing Center. Need help with math tutoring? Please contact Hala Elashmawi or Maysoon Alissa to make a tutoring appointment.

Games

Help us put together this puzzle. Here is the full picture to help you:

This is an image of the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin's library.
Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room

Or this one. We won’t share the image here. You’ll need to complete it to read an encouraging message from the Student Government Association.

Mind Full, or Mindful

There’s an old saying that you should strive to spend 30 minutes daily in nature, except when you are busy; then it should be an hour. The same is true of mindfulness. When you think you don’t have the time is when you need to practice it the most.

This video is here whenever you need it and you can return again and again. We also have a handout to guide you through the exercise in that will be in the video.

To Help You Procrastinate

Sometimes you need a break to de-stress. We don’t have any puppies this year, but we have some live cams of animals. While we can’t promise each there will be something cute every time (they are live after all), you’ll just have to keep coming back. Enjoy these sea otters at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here is a live cam of fish at the Shedd Aquarium or just hours of hypnotic and calming fish. These ducklings at Botany Pond at the University of Chicago are always fuzzy and cute.

Which is your dream library?

We wish we were in the library now too. Since we can’t be together, we might as well imagine that we can study anywhere in the world. Here are some 360° pictures of libraries known for their beauty. Take a look and give a thumbs up or down.

New York Public Library, New York, New York
The Stephen A. Schwarzman Building is the New York Public Library’s main branch location. You probably know the lions on the outside of the building even if you’ve never been inside. This is the main reading room.

Trinity College Dublin’s Long Room Library, Dublin, Ireland
If this one looks familiar, it is because it is the same library as in the puzzle above. This is the Long Room at Trinity College Dublin. This room dates from the 18th-Century and contains the oldest books in the collection.

Royal Portuguese Reading Room, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Want to read the largest collection of Portuguese texts outside of Portugal? The Royal Portuguese Reading Room in Rio De Janeiro has 350,000 texts and is stunning to boot.  

Tianjin Binhai Library, Tianjin, China
Libraries aren’t just repositories for old things, they also serve as modern meeting spaces. This modern library was just built in 2017 to serve as part of the cultural center in the city of Tianjin. Spoiler though, most of those books on the shelves are only images and the actual books are elsewhere.

The Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Alexandrina, Egypt
The Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt contained one of the most important collections of the ancient world, until it burned. The modern Bibliotheca Alexandrina was built close to the original site. You can view it here.

YOU could be a winner:
Thanks for attending Virtual Finals Fest, Spring 2021. The raffle has now ended and the winners notified. Don’t worry though, this page will be here for you to revisit.

Library HELP!: a monthly blog to help you student

Algorithm Literacy

This month I want to talk with you about something called algorithm literacy. If you have a phone in your pocket, use social media, Gmail, or have ever Googled something, this post is for you.

What is an algorithm and why should you care? The math people already know what an algorithm is, so this is for everyone else. (For the record, I’m someone with math anxiety, and will do my level best.) Below is the official definition from the dictionary, but in plain language, an algorithm is a set of instructions for solving a problem.

“algorithm, n.” OED Online, Oxford University Press, March 2021, http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/4959. Accessed 29 March 2021.

What does an algorithm look like in practice? Algorithms answer to your Google searches. Algorithms rank your search results and decide which content to display based on your previous behavior. I have a flowchart below that demonstrates an algorithm. The chart answers, “If this, then that.” If you are curious, you can read a little bit about Google’s approach to ranking your searches in this link. Anyone who has compared Google results with another person knows that your personal results vary, and this is where the trouble begins.

(image entitled “Icebreaking Routine” EDIT: courtesy of Trigger and Freewheel)

When we search for something on Google, most of us think that the information we receive is the definitive answer. What if I told you that someone Googling the same thing in a different part of the country with different political beliefs got completely different results? Google (and Bing, Safari, and everybody else) track your every move on the internet. They feed you results according to your previous search history. The more searches you give them the better they can give you exactly what they think you want. The same thing happens on social media. This creates what we call a filter bubble where my worldview is validated by my Google searches. I only see friends that already agree with me. Tech companies keep their algorithms top secret, and this lack of transparency means that they can better manipulate you. How are we supposed to know fact from fiction, especially when we are being manipulated?


I conducted an experiment with some of my FB friends. (I’m an older New Millennial and you can pry my side part and emojis from my cold, dead hands.) I asked people to Google some controversial topics and take screenshots both of the autofill and of the results. I will show some of those searches and you will see that the results are still different even with the caveat that we had a small sample size and everyone knows me.

Here is the first search. I asked them to take screen shots of the search, “Abortion is.” Many results are similar, but not identical. Some are very different. This example has the autofill feature in Google.

Here is the second search. I asked them to take screen shots of the search, “Is climate change.” Here the results are similar, but formatting different. The contrasting results are below.

Here is the third search. I asked them to take screen shots of the search, “should guns.” Use the sliders to see two contrasting results. Note that the advertisements are quite different. The contrasting results are below.

Since these individuals all know me (and we probably already share a filter bubble on Facebook), our answers are not as different as I would have liked, but they are different. Imagine though a situation in which a 35-year-old, white, male truck driver from Portland, Maine gets different search results than a 35-year old, white, male food truck driver in Portland, Oregon. Both are the same demographic, have similar jobs, and even share the name of a city, but they don’t share the same filter bubble. They are then fed different information, which furthers different worldviews. This creates an “us versus them situation” and reinforces prejudices.

What can I do about this?

The first step to understanding algorithm literacy is understanding that algorithms inform everything you see on the internet. This means that you will probably be fed websites that already confirm what you believe. Your own biases are reinforced as you are paired with likeminded individuals, giving the impression that nobody else exists. You have to recognize the problem to fix it.

The second step is understanding that if a product is free, you are the product. You exchange connections on social media for your personal information. For most of us, this is a tradeoff we can live with, but for others it isn’t. Deleting your account is one option- and anecdotally, everyone I know who did it is happy with their decision. Another is removing those apps from your phone to curtail your use and give them less information. Another strategy is to opt out of personalized ads. This video details how to do this on Facebook. Pick and choose which options work best for you.

Another option is to be mindful about your search engine choice. You can always try using a search engine like DuckDuckGo, which doesn’t track your movements. While not a perfect solution, it might be worth trying and seeing what you think.

Big tech is powerful and their algorithms are not transparent to those outside the company. Like other industries, big tech has a monopoly. While the United States is friendly to monopolies, it doesn’t help that many of our elected officials don’t understand social media. On the other hand, you are savvy about algorithms, so contact your elected officials to complain.

Practice what you preach and be careful about what you post on social media. Be mindful of your own filter bubbles. If you want to learn more, check out the Podcast Rabbit Hole about the role of YouTube in the creation of the Alt-Right. Talk about algorithm literacy and how Google search results can be skewed. Ask a librarian if you have questions and remember, the library won’t track you because we respect your privacy.

The internet can be a force for good, but only if it is regulated, and we are savvy consumers. I found this research guide useful in learning more about algorithm literacy and many of my tips were taken from it. 

Library HELP!: a monthly blog to help you student

A Midterm Reflection

The end of February/beginning of March is a hard time of year under better circumstances. We are over winter, but winter isn’t over us. It is staying light after 5:30, but the weather is still too cold to be enjoyable. That’s under better circumstances, which is far from current events. I recognize that those of us who have been stuck inside for almost a year are the lucky ones.

Since this is a hard time, let’s take stock of the semester so far. Let’s reflect on it as midterms are quickly approaching. I’ll post my personal reflections below and I invite you to participate yourself. Writing can help you sort out your feelings in general. I’ll briefly reflect below and then there’s a spot to add yours too.

I’ll give you a writing prompt so that you aren’t staring at a blank page:

What three words best describe your semester so far?

Here are mine with explanations:

Ritardando: Music was my undergraduate degree. A ritardando is a gradual slowing down of a musical tempo. I started the semester caught a little off-guard, but then jumped in the deep end. Things were going well and if anything I was typing quickly to stay warm. Now that we are nearing a year of the pandemic, I’m struggling, and gradually slowing down.

Focus: I’m struggling to focus and needing to double down on strategies to keep the wheel moving. I’m also trying to give myself permission to be a little scattered.

Grace: I had a baby last May. My work has been decent, but not pitch perfect. I need to give myself some grace for working during the pandemic. For putting on pants and opening my laptop. For showing up. I will give myself some grace and a pat on the back for doing “the thing.” That’s enough.

Now it is your turn. How’s it going there? What three words best describe your semester so far?

I’ve created this Jamboard for you to add your three words if you are comfortable. If you want to write, but don’t want to share, by all means do that. This link will go to a private space to sort things out.

Library HELP!: a monthly blog to help you student


Study Tips from a Nerd
Growing up I desperately wanted to be cool. I thought that by wearing the right jeans (Guess at the time this picture was taken) or watching the right shows, I could somehow purchase the good graces of the cool kids. It didn’t work.

At some point I stopped trying and slowly accepted that I was a nerd. I played the viola in orchestra. I liked to read and study. Peers aside, I liked school. As a result, I learned a thing or two about being a student that served me well. These study skills took years to acquire and would like to share those skills with you. As a side note- I did my library science degree online, so I learned how to be an online student.

My friends and I sometimes had to study and practice under some pretty subpar circumstances. One friend practiced her flute in the barn and I in the garage. I once studied in an unfinished attic. You shouldn’t strive for this. The point of this blog entry isn’t to shame or encourage you to “make things happen” no matter what. I wanted to share some things that work for me. The fact that you are doing the thing even under these circumstances is quite enough. As always- take what works for your life and leave the rest. Here is my advice from one online student to another in no particular order.

  • Image of a to do list
  • Image of an old fashioned alarm clock
  • This is an image of an hour glass
  • Gif of a cartoon typing on a computer while sitting in a skillet over a flame.
  • Image of a man putting his finger to his mouth to shush someone
  • Image of incense
  • Gif of Snoop Dogg saying, "You gotta read the syllabus."
  • Image of stressed out man over his laptop
  • Image of group working together
  • Stephen Colbert flipping through notes
  • Gif of Bill Murray asking for help.
  • Gif of Darth Vader and a storm trooper reading Star Wars books at the library.

Interested in reading more? Cal Newport talks about the paradox of productivity in the modern office. We have more technology to make tasks easier, but what if this is just creating more make-work? Check out his article in Wired. We also have some of his ebooks, including, Digital minimalism Choosing a focused life in a noisy world.

Virtual Finals Fest, Fall 2020

As the character Arthur Dent says in the book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, “Don’t Panic. It’s the first helpful or intelligible thing anybody’s said to me all day.”

The library has your back as you study for finals. Much like the spring semester, Finals Fest will be virtual. Everything you need to access Finals Fest will be on this page, get a cup of something warm, sit back, and relax because you’ve got some studying to do.


Need something to calm your nerves while you study? You’ll find this video comforting and before you know it, you’ll have studied through the whole thing!

Schedule:
Most of these events can be accessed at any time during this virtual event, but we do have a couple of things that will be on a schedule.

Tutoring:
We have tutoring sessions available over Google Meet for writing and Zoom for math. All you need to do is click the links to enter the session and a tutor will be there to help. Sessions are first come, first served.

Writing Tutoring is available during the following times on Google Meet:
Friday, December 4th, 12:00-2:00
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/rqo-kojo-sds

Monday, December 7th, 12:00-2:00
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/end-dvid-aty

Tuesday, December 8th, 12:00-2:00
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/jcf-iiot-ovq

Wednesday, December 9th, 12:00-2:00
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/dku-mknh-qaz

Thursday, December 10th, 12:00-2:00
Meeting ID: meet.google.com/ygy-uqvj-mvn

Math Tutoring is available during the following times on Zoom:
Monday, December 7th, 11:00-12:00
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/95930586525?pwd=VUR1QlJBQUtydVd1OGpkeUZJNW1qQT09
Meeting ID: 959 3058 6525
Passcode: aeqM97

Tuesday, December 8th, 11:00-12:00
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/95930586525?pwd=VUR1QlJBQUtydVd1OGpkeUZJNW1qQT09
Meeting ID: 959 3058 6525
Passcode: aeqM97

Wednesday, December 9th, 11:00-12:00
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/95930586525?pwd=VUR1QlJBQUtydVd1OGpkeUZJNW1qQT09
Meeting ID: 959 3058 6525
Passcode: aeqM97

Thursday, December 10th, 11:00-12:00
Join Zoom Meeting: https://zoom.us/j/95930586525?pwd=VUR1QlJBQUtydVd1OGpkeUZJNW1qQT09
Meeting ID: 959 3058 6525
Passcode: aeqM97

Among Us
We needed something fun to celebrate the end of the semester. We’ll be playing Among Us together. Be sure to download it from your play store of choice or here and be ready to enjoy as a group via Google Meet Wednesday, December 9th, 7:00:
meet.google.com/zzz-uuea-ofg
Password to join is: IEQAJF


Mind Full, or Mindful:
There’s an old saying that you should strive to spend 30 minutes daily in nature, except when you are busy; then it should be an hour. The same is true of mindfulness. When you think you don’t have the time is when you need to practice it the most.

The video is there whenever you need it and you can return again and again. We also have this handout to guide you through the exercise in that will be in the video.

Mind Full, or Mindful?

Just for fun:
This semester has been hard. All the more reason to do something enjoyable to celebrate.

This year we can’t cuddle dogs, but we do have
this playlist of animal videos just for you.

What is your scariest holiday tradition?
Since we can’t be together in the library and put this question on our blackboard, answer the question, “What is your scariest holiday tradition?” on this Jamboard.



YOU could be a winner:
Thanks for attending Virtual Finals Fest, Fall 2020. The raffle has ended, but the rest of this page will stay here for you to visit whenever you need some cheer!


Archive News

DSC00483
Prairie State College Archive Room

Prairie State College’s 60th Anniversary Celebrations are continuing throughout the College, various Community Events and in the Archives. This month’s theme is old College artifacts such as mugs, flags, logo designs and banners. If you are interested in seeing how the College’s Original Flag, Logo and Banner looked like and other knick knacks, the Archives will displaying them in Room 1222 during the month of November.

Prairie State College Banner
Original Prairie State College Banner

Prairie State College Mug
Prairie State College Mug

 

Prairie State College Original Logo (3)
Original College Logo