Letter from the Editor

Greetings from sunny Philadelphia.Judith Currano

The month of May has come and gone, and with it the thousand-and-one tasks of the head of an academic chemistry library: giving and grading final exams and term projects, assigning grades, writing budget reports, and enjoying the ever-popular career review season. As I type the last corrections on the last page of the last administrative report and hit the “send” button, the summer opens its doors enticingly, saying, “Come in! Here, there are no classes to teach, no assignments to grade, and very few undergraduates requiring information skills training as they set about their lab reports! You finally have… spare time!”

I rejoice. Spare time to work on my projects: it is what I’ve been dreaming about since January! As I walk through the enchanted doors of summer, however, I start to notice the shadowy corners that I had not seen from the outside. I find that summer harbors surprising denizens: things I didn’t have time to do before, things I tried to avoid by being “too busy,” and things that just seemed like a good idea at the time. Lurking to the left are three papers that I started in the fall with the best of intentions but have yet to finish. An unfinished research guide about evaluating information hides to my right, and, when I look up, I am startled to see my research project on what and how chemists read threatening to fall from the ceiling. The phone rings; it is the colleague to whom I faithfully promised a presentation for an upcoming symposium, and she is calling to collect. “But wait!” I cry. “I’m not interested in any of this anymore! I actually want to find out whether or not group work enhances student learning of the material, and I’m sure that the answer to this question will necessitate a complete restructuring of my syllabus….”

The challenge of summer is to air out the dusty corners, critically examine their inhabitants, and perform some soul searching to determine what needs to be done and what does not, what is still interesting and what has outstayed its welcome. And so, I will sift through all of these things to do that I have discovered and invented. I will order them and begin to take a stab at them, feeling a distinct sense of accomplishment when each one is erased from the white board in my office. After all, the three months that stretch gloriously before me will, all too quickly, melt away to be replaced by the structure and rigor of another academic year.

Of course, this only describes my summers. Some of you may have tidier corners than I. Your summer projects may already be piled in neatly-prioritized stacks waiting for you to attack them. Perhaps you do not even have stacks at all; maybe your inbox is empty by the end of each day, and your outbox is filled with tidy little packages. If this is the case, I envy you, and, like all envious people, I cannot help but wish to disrupt your process just a little bit.

As disruption, I offer you this issue of the Chemical Information Bulletin with a bumper crop of features. For those who did not attend the national meeting in San Francisco and for those who missed talks by running back and forth between the various meeting hotels, seven diligent authors have transcribed the details of their symposia so that you can refresh your memory and be inspired with food for new projects. If you enjoy the subject of food, I invite you to chew over the past and future of the CINF luncheon with Svetlana, and, if the history of our division and discipline interest you, you will enjoy Wendy’s historical musing, hopefully the first of many. Finally, just in case your work has not been disrupted enough, Bob Buntrock presents another fine book review of a recent CINF-inspired ACS Symposium Series volume, and you can decide whether or not it belongs on your “to read” list.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I simply must learn whether group work has pedagogic value or if, as my students seem to think, it is merely a new method of torture devised by instructors in the name of active learning… right after I finish that presentation that I promised to give!

Until next summer.

Judith N. Currano
University of Pennsylvania

currano@pobox.upenn.edu