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The Wider World: How Do You Keep Up?

Posted by Tegan Kehoe on August 5, 2014 in The Wider World |
On my first day at Tufts, when all of the new students were sitting in the sweltering heat in the Gantcher Center, one of the speakers of our matriculation ceremony said to us, “From this point forward, you are behind.” He explained that in academia, there will always be more journal articles we need to read, lectures we need to attend, and so on, and that’s okay, and it will be that way our whole careers. He cautioned us not to get too far behind, but reminded us it is not a sign of failure if we are behind.
Optimistic words.
I find that in the parts of my Tufts life and professional life that aren’t part of “academia,” this may be even more true. Museums are constantly changing, and museum professionals are constantly trying new things and studying what works and what doesn’t.  How do you keep up? Well, I’m not an expert, but I am someone with a bit of practice at trying to keep up, so here are my tips.
  • Decide what you definitely don’t need to spend time reading. In my opinion, a blog post published on LinkedIn is  more likely than not a reach for internet clout on the part of the author, rather than a real contribution to a discussion. That just goes for the blog posts, however; LinkedIn discussion forums can be valuable.

 

 

  • Use social media to your advantage. I am going to scroll down my Facebook feed a couple times a day anyway, so it’s a good way to keep up with what’s happening at museums I care about and museum organizations that are doing cool work. Personally, I frequently find twitter overwhelming because there’s just so much there, but I follow all my favorite museums, NEMA, Museums Re:Blog, and others on Facebook, and then I get the short version of the news as it’s happening.

 

  • Keep track of blogs and other feeds with a feed aggregator (rest in peace, Google Reader). My current favorite is “The Old Reader.” It has the features I like, such as toggling between “show all” and “show unread,” and the option to mark something as read just by scrolling past it. It also has the option of using Spritz, a third-party speed-reading tool that I enjoy using occasionally. “Spritzing” mixes up my reading routine and helps me stay focused rather than letting my mind wander while I skim articles. The makers of Spritz also offer a bookmarklet so you can use their tool on any website; I have found it easier to use on some sites than others.

 

  • Whether it’s news in the field or something you’re reading for a class, it’s always a good idea to pay attention to how you are reading. Simple learning tricks such as reading the table of contents first, and reviewing chapters or sections  that are less important to you by reading the first and last few paragraphs, can go a long way to sorting through the massive amounts of information out there. I strongly recommend the modern classic How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren for an in-depth treatment of these and other strategies.

This post is geared towards keeping up with information by reading, partly because a large portion of media related to our fields is print-based, but also partly because I’m a fairly visual learner, and I’m much less likely to listen to a podcast or watch a video than I am to read a blog post. If you have tips for the audio-inclined, or any other thoughts on how you keep up, I encourage you to share them in the comments.

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